Pakse (Pakxe) is a city in the Champasak province of Southern Laos. It's one of the biggest towns in Laos and a major transportation hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau or Si Phan Don you will probably have to spend some time here.
Pakse International Airport is some km north of town and offers scheduled flights to Vientiane and Siem Reap.
Lao Arlines offer direct flights from Bangkok, Thailand and shall operate direct flights from/to Hochiminh city, Vietnam from Oct 19 2010.
Tuk-Tuks and Motos will carry you to the town for US$1-3.
At April 2010, the airport is closed for construction works. If you want to fly from Vientiane or Luang Prabang to south you can go to Savannakhet. Don'tknow how long the works are, you have to check if the airport works or not
There is a regular slow-boat service to Si Phan Don. Departure is around 8AM but check the day before. The boat landing is near the mouth of the Xe Don river.
Pakse has two bus stations that mainly serve the locals. One serves traffic to the north and one to the south. The first is located about ten kilometers north of the city centre. The latter is located 8 kilometers to the south (4000 kip by moto from the centre). Getting to right station with tuktuk is easy if you just tell the driver which place you are heading.
"VIP" buses from/to Vientiane operate from near the Champasak shopping centre in the town centre. The journey takes about 10 hours and should cost around (April 2011) 170.000 /190.000 Kip depending on whether you buy the ticket in the bus station or at tour agencies.
There are a couple of "VIP" bus companies, two of the popular ones are Chitprasom and Kriang Kai. Chitprasom buses operate out of a station close to the shopping center near the town center. Kriang Kai (all sleeper buses)operate out of a private bus station 2 kilometers from the town center near an afternoon food market. As of April 2011, a ticket to and from Vientiane will cost 210K Kip per person when a one seater bus is available, 170K Kip to share a double with another stranger, or 250K Kip for double to be ridden alone if a one seater/sleeper is not available. If a single seater (210K Kip) is available, 340K Kip for a double seater/sleeper for either one or two person occupancy. Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as KK has been around longer and have not updated their buses. When traveling from Pakse to Vientiane, take the KK buses as they will drop you off in the Vientiane town center where their corporate office is, 2 min walk from the Cultural Hall, free of charge and save the 10K Kip tuk tuk ride into town. All northbound buses however do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9 kilometers from the town center. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the KK terminal and buy ticket there with KK, or wait and get dropped in town, and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.
"VIP" buses from/to Thailand via the Chong Mek border crossing take about 2 hours and charge US$5 (200 baht) to Ubon. There are also minibuses to the border only.
"Direct" buses are operated to Phnom Penh (12-14 hours, 27 $, change vehicles at the border at Dom Kralor, where Cambodian visa-on-arrival are issued). They are also more reliable than private minibuses (21$), drivers of which are known to simply abandon their passengers.
Actual single-bus cross-border services to/from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia are scheduled to start any day now — perhaps 2010.
This is a small town so walk around. Otherwise there are enough tuk tuks around. A trip to the market will cost around 5000 kip and US$1 to the bus station.
Wat Luang, the biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakxe, and home of Buddhist Monk School.
Wat Phabad, the oldest and largest temple of Pakxe, and believed to have Buddha Footprint, which its name derived from.
Ban Keosamphanh has the most beautiful green rice field of Pakxe, former French Army Camp, and homed to the oldest market of Pakse.
Mekong Bank the most popular place and night centre point of Pakxe.
There's not so much to do in Pakse itself; however, this is a great base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don.
It's possible to organize a day-trip to Wat Phu near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.
Rent a motorbike and head east towards Pak Song (Paxxong). The ride is pretty, and there are heaps of waterfalls to stop by near Pak Song. The Champasak Provincial Tourism Department puts out a nice few nice brochures including one on the Bolaven Plateau that details these including Tad Fane, Tad Champee, Tad Ueang, and Tad Pha Suam. Admission tends to be the same at every place, 5000 K per person, 3000 for the bike.
One waterfall not mentioned is Tad Sae, which is located off of Route 13 at a fairly large t-junction with a bunch of fruit sellers lining the road. Not as large as some of the others it nonetheless offers a beautiful place to stop and eat or hang out for a while. (Note that if you search for Tad Sae on the Internet you will be directed to the one near Luang Prabang which is *not* the same one here.)
These are several internet cafes on the corner near Nazim's Indian restaurant that charge around 6000k/h. The smart new 'Tour Lao' Cafe on the southern end of the market plaza has WiFi too.
As in Vientiane there is also a proper bowling alley located in town. About a 15-20 minute walk away from the center or a short tuk-tuk ride away head down the main road and turn right towards the big white building in the distance. It is not far away from the river so if you are over there already you can walk along there to find it. Be warned though that if you want a ride home you should negotiate a tuk-tuk to stay since you won't find many patrolling there especially later in the evening.
- BCEL Bank (on Th 11, just next to Wat Luang in the town centre) changes money, cashs traveller cheques and does cash advance on credit cards. There is also an ATM in front of the building that now accepts most foreign cards as of December 2008. There are a lot more ATMs in Southern Laos these days. When heading south this is the last ATM until Kompong Cham in Cambodia. However, there is now an ATM in Attapeu, though be warned they all charge a criminal 20,000 kip per withdraw ($2) with a 700,000 kip ($75) per transaction maximum.
- The Lao Development Bank to the North of the city can exchange Kip to US$, vital if travelling onwards overland to Vietnam. Across the road, directly opposite the bank is an ATM which accepts international cards such as Cirrus. There is a limit of 700,000 Kip per transaction although you can withdraw numerous times.
- There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found about 500m south of the town centre.
- The huge Talat Dao Heuang (New Market) is about 2 km south-east out of town on Road 13 near the Japanese bridge over the Mekong.
The restaurants are concentrated on the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. The variety is quite diverse for the size of the town. For a more genuine Lao eating experience have a look in the streets south of the main one.
- Delta Coffee is on the main road No. 13 across the street from the Champasak Palace Hotel, and is one of the best western food options in town, although they also have good Lao food, with a full range of pastas (20,000-30,000 kip), pizzas (35,000-50,000 kip), sandwiches, hamburgers (15,000-20,000 kip), and desserts baked on site in addition the their fine coffee; prices are quite reasonable and the staff friendly.
- Dornsokdee Restaurant, on the main road No. 13 South opposite to the museum and in between IndoChina Bank and ANZ Bank. This restaurant is the top no.1 in the local which serves varieties of food, Thai Foods, Vietnamese Foods, International Foods, and Local Foods. However, the menu that makes this restaurant popular is Korean BBQ and Sukiyaki which is 'cook it yourself' style that can make you enjoy travel time together with your friends or partner. The price of food is reasonable compares to the value of food, however, fried rice starts only 10,000 kip (US $1.30). This is the must visit restaurant that is recommended when you visit Pakse.
- Nazim Restaurant, on the main street next to the Phonsavan hotel, serves Indian dishes at about 10000-20000 Kip. Portions are small, food is OK. Plenty of vegetarian options.
- Jasmin Restaurant is next door to Nazim and serves exactly the same dishes at the same price.
- Baguette stalls can be found along the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge.
- Lan Kham Noodle House, directly below Lan Kham hotel serves enormous bowls of noodle soup with fresh herbs and salad. Price from 15,000 - 17,000 Kip. Open from approx 10AM, closes early. Used to be very popular with the locals, especially the government workers. Now, not so much Current clients are mostly the foreign backpackers and the Asian travelers who stayed in nearby accomodations.
- Royal Pakse Hotel Across the street and opposite corner from Nazim has a fairly extensive Lao/Thai and Indian menu also featuring Thai style sukiyaki with an a la carte selection of options to choose from.
- Korean BBQ(not real name) Walking down the main street past the BCEL ATM and turn right, walk down one block and turn left and you will find another 'cook it yourself' Korean BBQ style place on the corner. Featuring a more economical option than the hot pot above though the atmosphere inside can be overpoweringly smokey when busy, try to grab one of the few outside tables or come early/late.
- Cafe Sinouk (Cafe Sinouk), No 11 Rd (Very close to the Champasak Shopping Center). Cafe has free wifi for patrons and fancy frappe drinks, cakes, and basic restaurant menu.
- Enjoy the sunset with a beer lao at the Mekong River. Go to the French bridge and then head south along the Mekong. After having passed the Wat you come across countless places to have a drink.
- Lotty is a nightclub
- Katuad cafe, NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street. 7AM-9PM. Good cafe in the center of town. One of the only places in town with free wifi. Coffee is local and good. They have no qualms about staying for a few hours and actually will give you free tea after a while. 8-12000 kip.
- Le Panorama (Pakse Hotel), Bane Watlouang, Street N°4, ☎ +856 31 21 21 31, . 16.30h - 23.30h. The only rooftop restaurant in Pakse! On the 7th floor of Pakse Hotel, with a beautiful view over the town and the Mekong. Western, Asian und Fusion Dishes, especially created for the restaurant by the new french chef. Not cheap, but the view makes up for it, and you'll find probably the best pizza and western dishes in town! 40.000 - 85.000 Kip.
- Victory Hi Tech. Loud and dark local night clubs a couple of kilometres out of town down route 13. Packed with locals most nights and is about the only place in town you can kick on at until midnight. Beer Lao is 15,000K
Most hotels and guesthouses in Pakse can be found along the main street between the French bridge and the roundabout or a short way into its sidestreets.
- Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse, turn north off the main street at the crossing near the Green Discovery office. It's the only guesthouse in town with dorms (very basic). The shared showers have hot water. They also have basic rooms. 30k kip (4$) for the dorm - 45k kip / 60k kip for single or double rooms. Apparently being mentioned in the lonely planet completely got to these guys heads, as the rooms are overpriced, and they charge for everything extra, like keeping your bags while you check out the Bolevan plateau. They even charge extra for the WiFi. If you want you can rent a motorbike from here, among several other businesses around town.
- Pakse Hotel  (near the Champasak shopping centre) offers a broad range of rooms. A great hotel with nice rooms, good service, helpful staff and a lovely roof-top restaurant. An economy room for one person (with ensuite) was $US20 in January 2010. Can arrange tours to nearby sights.
- Champasak Palace hotel, the former royal palace on road 13 is probably the most upmarket option in town.
- Lan Kham Hotel, on road 13 opposite the Lao Development Bank is clean and surprisingly has an OK lounge downstairs with large stacks of "TIME" and "Newsweek" to help ease the boredom in Pakse. Twin room with fan, toilet & shower for 50,000 Kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV and fridge for 80,000 Kip.
- Arawan Hotel, Salakiew St (turn right at the Mekong Bridge, 500m down the road next to Secondary School), ☎ (856)3126034550 ([email protected]), . Good location, right on the banks of the Mekong River. Stunning views from the outdoor pool. Great if you feel like a bit of a splurge. They also offer cheaper rooms for US$35, but the deluxe rooms are well worth the money.
- Daovieng hotel 2, 13 & 35 Road phonesay village, ☎ (031)214331, . Good clean, smallish rooms with air-con and cable tv. wifi is available in the lobby. $10.
- Thaluang Hotel, Street 21, Bane Thaluang (Near intersection of Street 24), ☎ (856-31) 251399. checkout: 12pm. good location, helpful and knowledgeable staff, rooms are fairly old and could use some renovating (July 2011), air-con and hot water available, the most expensive room has four beds 60-150,000 kip.
- Noknoi Guest House, (On road 13 just one block after katuad cafe on the corner opposite a little supermarket), ☎ 031 251 100. Solid guest house. Clean standard rooms, complementary water and coffee. Some room for improvement but no deal breakers: woodwork is a bit rough, owners don´t really speak english and cable TV is there but the signal is very noisy. Rooms from 50,000 kip. Air-con room with hot shower for 70,000 in January 2011.
- Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. Talk to Sabaidy 2 Hotel for information on a 2-3 day loop and other destinations.
- Tadlo - a village with waterfalls and trekking opportunities.
- Si Phan Don - Also known as 4,000 islands, is less than 3 hours away. Relax here for a few days by the Mekong river.
- Vientiane - among other options, an overnight bus is available (2 people to a bed; snack, blanket, and pillow included). Possible to book this at Sabaidy 2 Hotel.
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Don't book a minibus service out of Pakse. We booked one from the 'Green Discovery' tour shop and were stranded in Krattie a few hours later with no passage to Phnom Penh until the next day. Book with a legitimate bus company if possible!!