Pakse (Pakxe) is a city in the Champasak province of Southern Laos. It's one of the biggest towns in Laos and a major transport hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou or Si Phan Don you will probably have to spend some time here.
Pakse International Airport is kilometres north of town and offers scheduled flights to Vientiane, Siem Reap, Danang, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Min City.
Lao Arlines offer direct flights from Bangkok, Thailand, and shall operate direct flights from/to Hochiminh city.
There are flights from Vientiane and Luang Prabang to Pakse on Lao Airlines. Tickets can be booked online or through a travel agent.
Visa extensions are possible at the police station on Th. 10, just down the road from the Salachampa Hotel and Restaurant. The cost is US$2 per day plus a 5,000 kip “form fee.” The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo, fill in a form, and come back in the afternoon for your extension.
There is a regular slow-boat service to Si Phan Don. Departure is around 8 a.m., but check the day before. The boat landing is near the mouth of the Xe Don river. The service is reported to no longer be operating, but you can ask for a private boat, which is of course very expensive on your own but can be shared with others to lower the individual cost.
Pakse has 4 bus stations you might arrive at:
The Northern Bus Terminal (serving locations north of Pakse) is located about 10 kilometres northwest of the city centre (15.1700 105.7600). Transportation via songthaew to the northern bus terminal is sometimes available at the northeastern side of the market opposite the shopping center (please find out what days/times).
The Southern Bus Terminal (aka 8km Bus Terminal) is located 8 kilometres to the east of the city center (15.113957, 105.875482) (30,000 kip by moto to the centre, or 10,000 kip in shared tuk-tuk). Songthaews to Si Phan Don 40,000 kip per person.
The Kriang Kai Bus terminal (aka 2km bus terminal) has VIP buses and is the arrival point and departure point for the international bus from/to Ubon Ratchatani (3 hours 200 Baht) in Thailand.
Chitprasom "bus station" (aka VIP bus terminal) which is just the shopping center at the town center.
Transportation via songthaew to destinations outside of Pakse is available at Dao Huang market and the 8km market.
Most of the services you will use as a tourist are in walking distance from the city center. Further destinations within town will require a tuk-tuk ride or renting a motorbike. Tuk tuk rides charge per person and are about 3,000-5,000 kip for short rides and 10,000 to the further bus terminals. Songthaew transport within Pakse is almost non-existent.
Wat Luang, the biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakxe, and home of Buddhist Monk School. It is the best place to see a monk alm giving ceremony as you may be one of a handful of watching tourists as opposed to the multitudes at a similar ceremony in Luang Prabang.
Wat Phabad is the oldest and largest temple of Pakxe. It is believed to have a Buddha Footprint, from which its name is derived .
Ban Keosamphanh, a former French army camp, has the most beautiful green rice field of Pakxe and is home to the oldest market of Pakse.
Mekong Bank is the most popular place and night centre point of Pakxe.
- Big Buddha. In Aug 2011 a 'Big Buddha' temple complex was built across the river, adjacent to the Japanese bridge. More than a few steps to the top, a great view of the river and city.
There's not so much to do in Pakse itself; however, it is a good base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau where coffee fields and waterfalls galore await, the idyllic river islands of Si Phan Don, also known as 4,000 Islands, eco-tours, trekking and village stays in Sepian National Protected Area, the Angkor temple complex Wat Phou, and to the indigenous villages and waterfalls of the Tad Lo area of Lao Ngam district, Salavan province. Pakse itself makes for a great staging point for archeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons: 1) it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introduction to local archeology, and 2) it is an alternative to Champasak city as a staging point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts of as Laos’s counterpart to Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom: its the finest of its type outside Cambodia.
The museum is located close to the new market, 500 metres north of the banks of the Mekong.
It’s possible to organize a day trip to Wat Phou near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.
Rent a motorbike and head east toward 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: 5,000 kip per person and 3,000 kip for a 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 cafés on the corner near Nazim’s Indian restaurant. They charge around 6,000 kip per hour. The smart new Tour Lao Café on the southern end of the market plaza has WiFi.
As in Vientiane, there is also a proper bowling alley located in town. A 15- to 20-minute walk away from the centre or a short tuk-tuk ride away head down the main road and turn right toward 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 patroling there, especially later in the evening.
Pakse is a great place to get massage as there are a variety of places and they are all cheaper than massage in Thailand. Most of the massage places are aggregated just south of road 13 near the shopping mall.
- Style Massage. Style is pretty run down but one of the few places in town that explicitly offers head neck and shoulders. There's often a girl with a pink shirt out front. They do not wash your feet before traditional massage as most places in town do. 35,000/hr traditional 50,000/hr head neck and shoulders.
- Thanida Spa. Thanida massage has pretty good ambiance but pretty week masseuses. Expect texting and even phone conversations during your massage. Also expect soy milk, a funny tea, and a cold moist towel post-massage. 35,000/hr traditional.
- Dak Champa. Dak Champa is on the official Laos tourist authority map so it's easy to find. They have great ambiance and are very professional. You can choose a masseuse or masseur and they explicitly state no sex massage. This place actually seems to provide decent training for their staff so arrive with good expectations and you won't be disappointed. For deep-tissue ask for a masseur. 35,000/hr traditional 45,000/hr foot and head neck and shoulders.
- Keo Oudone. This place is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. It's located about 100 meters off of Road No. 14, on the same road that leads to a golf course. 30,000/hr traditional and 10,000 Kip to use their traditional sauna.
- Green Discovery Laos  is Laos' pioneer in Adventure Travel and Ecotourism since 2000. They offer far more than 100 unique tour programs all around the country, involving trekking, kayaking/rafting, cycling and rock climbing.
Enjoying the Mekong
There are several riverside restaurants/pubs, many playing live music in the evenings, lining the Mekong River that many visitors to Pakse unfortunately don't visit.
- BCEL Bank (on Th 11, just next to Wat Luang in the town centre) changes money, casehs travelers cheques, and does cash advance on credit cards. There is also an ATM in front of the building that now accepts most foreign cards. There are a lot more ATMs in Southern Laos these days. When heading south this used to be the last ATM until Stung Treng in Cambodia although food stalls on the Cambodian side of the border will gladly change dollars,kip, and Baht at unfavorable rates. There is now an ATM in Attapeu. All ATMs charge a 20,000-kip fee per withdrawal with a 1,000,000 kip per transaction maximum.
- The Lao Development Bank to the north of the city can exchange kip to dollars, vital if traveling onward overland to Vietnam. Across the road, directly opposite the bank is an ATM that accepts international cards such as Cirrus. There is a limit of 700,000 kip per transaction, although you can withdraw numerous times. Those who are heading to Cambodia should gather a few riels to tide you over for your first few hours in Cambodia from the Lao Development Bank at No.13 Rd. They close at 3:30 pm.
- There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found 500 metres south of the town centre near the Sedone River.
- The huge Talat Dao Heuang (New Market) is about 2 kilometres southeast 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 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.
- Daolin is on the main road No. 13 next to Sang Aroun Hotel. It is one of the best options in town in terms of its diverse menu (Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, and Western), reasonable prices, and good service. Daolin also serves ice cream, good coffee, including espresso, and pastries from LaoVida and occasionally pies from local guru Gerry.
- Dok Mai Lao is new to the food scene in Pakse, owned by a very gentle and kind, enterprising young Lao gentleman. The restaurant is a groovy little spot specializing in Italian food, with plenty of vegetarian options including eggplant parmegiani, for around 25,000 Kip for a plate of pasta. It is located two blocks away from the Daolin restaurant featured above, on the road perpendicular to Road No. 13.
- Pizza Boy, Th. 13 (Next to the Lan Kham Noodle House). Italian restaurant with pasta from 30,000 kip, pizzas 45,000–60,000 kip, espresso coffee at 7,000 kip and ice cream at 5,000 kip for a large scoop. . 30,000-60,000.
- Delta Coffee is on the main road No. 13 across the street from the Champasak Palace Hotel. It is one of the best Western food options in town, although it also has good Thai 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 onsite, in addition the their fine coffee; prices are reasonable, but service is questionable.
- Khua Pakse Lao-Thai Food is on the main road No. 13 next to the Champasak Palace Hotel and across the street from Delta Coffee. It is a good option for inexpensive and tasty Thai/Lao food.
- Restaurant Touy is located on the corner of Road No. 14. It is easiest to find if you take Road No.13 heading east of the town center, and then turn right at the street just before the Toyota dealership (two blocks past the roundabout). This restaurant serves good Thai food fast and cheap (phone: 020.9768.4933).
- Dornsokdee Restaurant, on the main road No. 13 south opposite to the museum and between IndoChina Bank and ANZ Bank. This restaurant is No.1 in the locale; it serves a variety of food, including Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese. However, the menu that makes this restaurant popular is Korean barbecue and sukiyaki, which is “cook it yourself” style.
- Jasmin Restaurant (Indian Food), Road 13 kitty corner from Royal Pakse Hotel. Jasmine is an Indian food restaurant that serves vegetarian dishes for 10,000 kip each. It is on road 13 and is very popular with falang.
- Nazim Restaurant (Indian Food), Alley from road 12 (From the intersection adjascent to Jasmin and the Royal Pakse Hotel, travel north 2 buildings until you see the Nazim sign on the right. Follow the dirt alley until you see the Nazim sign), ☎ 030 956 0809. Nazim is an Indian food restaurant that serves a variety of vegetarian dishes for 9,000-15,000 Kip each and meat dishes for 20,000-25,000 Kip each. Because of its new location (as of March 2013) it has had very few customers; however, it is worth locating. (15.12264,105.80003)
- Hasan Indian Restaurant, Thanon 24 (Just north of main Road 13), ☎ 020 5555 5624. Standard but tasty menu. Vegetarian dishes 13,000–15,000 kip, meat and seafood 28,000–35,000 kip, bread 5,000–10,000 kip. (+15° 7.19',+105° 48.6')
- Champady is located in the town center, half a block off of Road 13 on the same road that passed next to Jasmin Restaurant. They serve a variety of Thai and Lao food and some western options, including a nice hamburger (12,000 Kip) and big plates of chips/french fries (11,000 Kip. They also serve good coffee and other drinks. The service is good as well.
- Cafe Sinouk (Cafe Sinouk), No. 11 Rd (Very close to the Champasak shopping centre). Cafe has free wifi for patrons and fancy frappe drinks, cakes, and basic restaurant menu.
- Bolaven Cafe, South Rd 13 (opp. Sang Aroun Hotel), ☎ 020 9787 4632, . 08.00-20.30. Classy and comfortable, with a blue theme. Western and Thai/Lao menu, many locals come in for a cappuccino. Free WiFi. Excellent service and local coffee. Fair trade and organic labelled option.. 20,00–-30,000 for most dishes, with a complimentary coffee.. (15.1219,105.8)
- Na Dao is on the corner of Road No. 14 near the Japanese bridge. This is one of the fanciest restaurants in town, and was famous in Vientiane before the owner moved it to Pakse in late 2012. The restaurant serves French cuisine, and while it is fairly expensive by Laos standards, it is significantly less expensive than what it would cost back in France. If you're celebrating a special occasion or just looking to splurge one night this is the place. They're open Monday-Saturday, 10-13:30 and 16:00-22:00.
- Baguette stalls can be found along the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. A small paté baguette costs 5,000–6,000kip.
- 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.
- Louk Sai La, On the Mekong River about halfway between the bowling alley and the Japanese bridge.. 5:00pm to 11:30pm. Live music most nights, sitting on the Mekong River with great views of the Japanese bridge lit up at night, and almost always packed with locals. Along with plenty of beer, they also serve food.
- Katuad cafe, NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street. 7AM-9PM. Good cafe in the centre of town, and one of the only places in town with free WiFi. Coffee is local and good. They have no qualms about customers staying for a few hours, and may give you a free tea if you stay long enough. 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, and 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 15,000 kip
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 side streets. Prices in Pakse are high compared with the rest of the country, even with Vientiane.
- Arawan Hotel, Salakiew St (turn right at the Mekong Bridge, 500 metres 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. Cheaper rooms are US$35, but the deluxe rooms are worth the money.
- Daovieng hotel 2, 13 & 35 Road phonesay village, ☎ (031)214331, . Good clean rooms with air-con, fridge, and cable TV, all of which only work when your room key is in the power slot. Single rooms are quite small. Wifi is available in the lobby. Single/Double/Twin rooms were 100,000/130,000/150,000 kip as of 1/1/2013 100,000–150,000 kip.
- 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. Twin room with fan, toilet, and shower for 90,000 kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV, and fridge for 100,000 kip, Free WiFi but only at reception.
- Lao Chaleun Hotel, Th 10, ☎ 251333. Staff are accommodating, and single rooms, although tiny are immaculately clean. from 80,000 kip for a single with cold water attached bathroom.
- Noknoi Guest House, (On road 13 just one block after katuad cafe on the corner opposite a little supermarket), ☎ 031 251 100. Clean standard rooms, complimentary water and coffee. Dorm rooms for 30,000, private rooms with fan from 50,000 Kip, and air-con room with hot shower for 70,000 Kip.
- 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 rooftop restaurant. Room comes with good buffet breakfast. An economy room with ensuite bathroom is 200,000 kip. They can arrange tours to nearby sights.
- 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. 30,000 kip for the dorm; 45,000–60,000 kip for single or double rooms. WiFi an extra 10,000 kip per day, and laundry 15,0000 kip per kilogram. Also rent motorbikes, and can arrange a day tour to Boloven for 180,000–250,000 kip, depending on the number of persons. (warning: bedbugs)
- Sedone River Guest House, Th. 11 (left immediately after the bridge, first street betweeen Th. 13 and Th. 21, right on the Se Don), ☎ 212158. This guesthouse has friendly staff and a pleasant garden overlooking the Se Don. 50,000 kip for a fan room or 70,000 kip for an air-con room with hot water. These prices cover up to two people; you can pay 15,000 extra for a third. The air-con are large if a bit shabby. Cleanliness is middling; this isn’t a spic-and-span modern guesthouse but has a bit of a shabby character. Unfortunately due to the location by the river and the insufficient insect netting there are a lot of mosquitos. 50,000–70,000kip.
- 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 60,000–150,000 kip.
- Soutchai Travel, (From the downtown stoplight on Road 13, go one block east (away from the bridge) and turn right (Daovieng 2 is at this corner), then take the first left and go two thirds down that street. About a 10-minute walk), ☎ 212921. checkout: 12 pm. This small guesthouse has six upstairs rooms with ceiling fans that seem too hot during the daytime (although you can pay more to have air-con) but are very pleasant in the evening. Free Internet and WiFi. Laundry service. The bathroom with hot water is shared and on the ground floor. 40,000 kip.
Places to visit from your base in Pakse include:
- Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. Talk to Sabaidy 2 Hotel for information on a 2-3 day loop and other destinations.
- Tadlo - a village in Lao Ngam district, Salavan province, 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 As of April 2011, a ticket to and from Vientiane cost 210,000 kip per person when a one-seater bus is available (Kieng Kai bus company only), 170,000 kip to share a double with another stranger or 340,000 kip for double with lone occupancy if a one-seater/sleeper is not available, or you don't mind spending the extra Kip for the comfort. Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as Kiang Kai has been around longer and has not updated its buses. When traveling from Pakse to Vientiane, you might consider taking the Kiang Kai buses, as they will drop you off in the Vientiane town centre where their corporate office is located—a 2-minute walk from the Cultural Hall. All northbound buses, however, do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9 kilometres from the town centre. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the Kiang Kai terminal and buy ticket there, or wait and get dropped in town and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.
- Cambodia - Travel onward to Cambodia from Pakse is now possible (as of March 2011), with visa-on-arrival facilities now in place at the southern border with onwards travel to Strung Treng, Kratie, Phnom Penh, and even Siem Reap. Check transport providers carefully as some travellers have been reported being left at one destination, when they were booked for another.
Aug 2011, a single bus ride on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh, 13 hours, the fare is now 210,000 including tuktuk pick-up from hotel via agent (Laos Adventure travel www.laoadventuretravel.com). For thise wishingto arrange themselves: the bus station is more than 5 km to the east, which costs 20,000 kip by tuk-tuk and the bus fare is $US27. There is only one departure time which is at 8:00 am (although stated in the ticket as 7:30 am). However, others report the cost starts at 300,000 kips for the direct bus, but can be nogatiated to 260,000.
20 minutes on the last stop to the border, a fairly neatly groomed man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners that he tags along as he gets in the bus, he walks the aisle, announces that the border is near and those who have no visa should ready their $US30, distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to fill it up. Those who already have visa should still ready their $US6 (reasons unknown but it may be the price of the departure stamp on the Laotian side, the entry stamp on the Cambodian side plus the Cambodian immigration card to be filled up included in the passport). This expediter instructs everybody to stay in place in their seats unless they want to unwind and stretch. As soon as he collects them and the bus stops, off he disappears just the same way as he appeared. After 40 minutes, he comes up and returns the passports stamped, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled. One can actually do it by himself, however it is impossible to inquire about the wheeling and dealing going on due to communication problems, it is best to shut up. It would be wise to leave the processing to the agent as it means worry & hassle free.
Warning: For those proceeding to Cambodia by bus and making a pit stop at Pakse, dazed and just rudely awaken from sleep, do not ever be convinced to buy VIP bus tickets right away upon setting foot at the bus station. Guiltless tout/drivers will sales talk you to buy them at $US 75—a blunder that should have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. Or if you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 metres north where agencies line their main Street, you can proceed to buy the ticket or, better still, directly flag a tuk-tuk to the bus station to where the Cambodia-bound buses depart, and eke out an additional 13 hours of cramp-inducing trip.
Better still, if you have one day available, stay for the night (for 100,000 kip) and leave early morning. The best offer so far is by Laos Adventure Travel at Road 12, off their "Main Street" after a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang) for 210,000 kips or $US26 compared with the rest of agents starting at 230,000 kip and above.