4000 Islands, Laos – The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need
4,000 Islands, Laos is the kind of place where you can truly forget it all and find your zen while taking relaxation to the next level. In general, Laos moves at a pace that’s far slower than anywhere else in Asia and the 4,000 Islands is no exception.
Many people never make it past the northern capital city of Vientiane (there really is a lot to see and do in Vientiane!), which I think is a bummer. Especially since the south is far more off the beaten path with an abundance of breathtaking mountains, plateaus, and waterfalls that will drop your jaw in awe.
The mighty Mekong River is a glorious sight in itself and is an integral part of life in Laos as it runs through the entire country. At its widest point emerges a unique riverine archipelago of islands known to the locals as Si Phan Don, which translates to 4,000 Islands.
During the rainy season, many of these little islands live beneath the surface, while in the dry season you can almost count up 4,000 islands. Most of these islands are unlivable or uninhabited, however, 3 of them have small rural settlements.
Each populated island has its own authentic personality and charm, which can make it difficult to decide which one is best. That’s why this is the only essential guide you will ever need for 4,000 Islands, Laos. In this article, I’ll give you an overview of each island so you can find your perfect island oasis.
Known for wooden riverfront bungalows, hammocks all day, a slower pace, heartwarming people, and unpaved roads, a trip to 4,000 Islands, Laos will help to reset your meter. Grab a good book and be prepared to chill.
How to get to the 4000 Islands, Laos
There are a couple of different ways to get to the 4,000 Islands depending on where you’re coming from. Being nuzzled up next to the Cambodian border makes it a popular first stop for those traveling south to north.
Cambodia to 4000 Islands
If you’re coming from Cambodia, the best way is to travel through Kratie and Stung Treng in NE Cambodia. I took this route in reverse and didn’t have any troubles. The border crossing here is sleepy and quite painless. You can organize a combo bus ticket from any major city in Cambodia that will include the bus ticket, minivan in between and then a boat to the island of your choice. From 4,000 Islands to Phnom Penh cost me about $28 USD, I’m not sure of the cost in reverse.
For more info on transportation to and from Cambodia check out this extensive article written by a local Don Det guesthouse owner. He has an array of info about the islands and some really descriptive maps.
North Laos to 4000 Islands
If you’re coming down from the north of Laos then Pakse will be your first destination. Pakse is the largest city in the south and has an international airport. The fastest route would be to fly to Pakse and then catch a bus from there to 4,000 Islands. Pricing will depend on where you are flying from. I personally like to price check and watch flights using skyscanner.com.
The most common transport is a night bus from Vientiane to Pakse. It’s best to book a VIP sleeper bus which will take about 10 hours. These buses can be a bit awkward if traveling solo because the sleepers are double beds that are shared between 2 people. However, the beds are decently comfortable and there are minimal stops. They leave around 8 pm and the cost is roughly $20 USD
Some people choose to stay one night in Pakse to break up the journey. Pakse doesn’t have a ton to offer but it’s a nice place to stock up on snacks, money and anything else you may want for your 4,000 Islands stay.
Insiders Tip: If you do stay a night in Pakse, make sure you check out the pizza at La Terrasse.
From Pakse, there is a tourist bus that leaves in the AM around 8 from the South Bus Terminal. It includes the bus ride to Nakasang as well as the boat to the islands and costs around $7 USD. You can purchase tickets at the bus terminal, any accommodation or from a travel agent in town.
If you’re interested in booking online then check out 12goAsia, I’ve had a lot of success with them for land travel.
When you arrive at the bus station in Ban Nakasang it is wise to use one of the ATM’s right outside the bus station because there are no ATMs on the island and exchanging money can be very expensive. You can also purchase sim cards or top-ups from many of the little shops here.
Head towards the water at the end of the road and you will find the little blue ticket office where you will need to show your combo ticket or purchase your own ticket. Boats leave as soon as they are sufficiently full. Hopefully, you have a rain cover for your bag as it can get quite wet in these little boats because they are completely open to the elements.
Make sure before you board your boat that they are headed to the island of your choice. There are 3 islands with tourist activity and they are Don Khong (largest but least visited), Don Det (party island) and Don Khon (quiet with gorgeous waterfalls).
Currency and Money on 4000 Islands
Laotian Kip (LAK) is the local currency. It’s a closed currency meaning once you exit the country, no one will exchange it, so keep that in mind before leaving. Laos is definitely a cash country, so plan on bringing money to exchange or have a bank card for withdrawals.
Since there are no ATMs on Don Khon or Don Det island I suggest withdrawing a large sum before heading off. There are places on the islands where you can exchange money but it will be at a hefty rate. If you’re only headed to Don Khong, then you’re in luck because they now have 2 ATMs on the island.
Common Mistake: I ended up staying on the islands longer than anticipated, as many people do, and I ran out of money. I had to catch a ride into Nakasang and back just to visit the ATM. Needless to say, it was a costly visit to the bank ($5 USD).
I’m a budget backpacker, but I still enjoy good food and cold beer. Just to give you an idea of how much money you should bring to the islands, below is my breakdown of money spent for 1 week in the 4,000 Islands.
- Accommodation (8 Nights): $90
- Food: $100
- Beer: $17
- Misc (coffee, shakes, water, snacks): $11
- Laundry: $4
- Bicycle (1 Day): $1
- Motorbike (1 Day): $9
- Waterfall Entrance Fee: $4
- Boats: $8.50
- Massage: $12
Total spent for 8 nights in 4,000 islands = $256.50 USD
Getting Around Town
Getting around the 4,000 islands is fairly easy. There is absolutely no traffic and you’ll hardly see any other people while you’re out exploring. You can rent a bicycle or a motorbike to wander around or you can just walk. There are no tuk-tuks or public transport because it’s simply unnecessary.
To get from island to island you can use the public water taxis that can be arranged at the boat docks, any accommodation or from travel agents.
- Bicycle Rental- $1.25 per day
- Motorbike Rental- $9.75 per day (plus gas)
- Water Taxis- $1.75- $2.50 depending on where you’re going
4000 Islands – Which one suits you?
Hearing the words 4,000 islands can seem a bit overwhelming when trying to pick which one is best for your travel style. Luckily, there are really only 3 islands that have tourist accommodations which makes it a little bit easier.
Everyone has different ways of traveling and things they expect for their next vacation. If you’re looking to truly relax and slow down, then 4,000 islands is definitely the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a luxurious getaway with 5-star Michelin restaurants… well you’d best look somewhere else.
Each island has an abundance of charm and the people of Laos are full of love and smiles. No matter where you end up, you’re in for a real treat. I’ll break it down for each island though so you know what to expect.
Don Khong, 4000 Islands, Laos
Don Khong (not to be confused with Don Khon) is the most northern and also the largest of the 4,000 islands. However, it’s also the quietest and the least visited, which in my opinion is half of its charm and is what draws most people in.
It’s also the easiest one to get to because a few years back they built a bridge that connects it to the mainland at Ban Hat Xai Khoung. From Pakse, you can catch a songthaew (local shared taxis) from the South Bus Terminal which will take you across the bridge and drop you at Muang Khong where most accommodations are located and should cost about $4 USD.
Another option is to take a boat across from either Ban Nakasang or from the boat landing at Ban Hat Xai Khoung. Either of these boat rides cost about $1.75 USD.
Where to stay in Don Khong, 4000 Islands
Don Khong is a sleepy, laid back island with extremely friendly locals. Being that it is the least visited it has fewer accommodation options than the other two islands. The island itself is about 18 km long and 8 km wide with a population of about 60,000 people.
There are two villages, one in the west called Muang Saen and the other in the east called Muang Khong. Most accommodations are in the village of Muang Khong, it’s where the bridge to mainland is located, boat landing, travel agents exist and the few restaurants are.
If you are wanting to stay on the less populated east side there aren’t any options for booking ahead of time online. If looking to stay in Muang Khong on the west, Agoda.com has most of the properties listed. It’s not necessary to book ahead unless you’ve found one you absolutely love because they rarely hit full capacity. With that being said, here are a few of my suggestions. Prices range depending on the time of year.
For the budget traveler – Kong View Guesthouse $5-10 USD per night
This lovely little guesthouse is the farthest on the main street from the boat dock making it less visited amongst backpackers who are tired and lazy. It is run by an adorable grandmother who speaks almost no English. The rooms are basic but clean, the wifi works, there’s a hot water shower and the upstairs restaurant has a fantastic Mekong view.
For the mid-range traveler – Mekong Inn $20-30 USD per night
This gem is most popular for its lovely deep pool to escape the hot days in. The inn is run by a Canadian- Lao who has returned home as part of her retirement. The Wifi only works in the dining area which can be a real drag, but the complimentary breakfast is spot on. Try the fluffy pancakes and you can thank me later!
For the big spending traveler – Pon Arena Hotel $40-50 USD per night
The draw of this place is definitely the gargantuan infinity pool and restaurant overlooking the Mekong. They have more expensive rooms with huge balconies riverside or they have less expensive rooms in a building directly across the street. Breakfast is included, the rooms come decked out with TV, air con, mini fridge plus more and the staff all speak good English.
Where to eat on Don Khong Island
Almost all of the guesthouses and hotels on the island have restaurants. Some are better than others. Breakfast is usually included, which only leaves you to fend for yourself for lunch and dinner. Most of the food is going to be the same with a mix of local and western food. Below are a few different spots to check out.
Sabaidee Restaurant – Asian, Vegetarian Friendly
A multi-purpose place with homestay, English school and restaurant. The owners are a very sweet local couple who have a passion for children. They teach local kids English for free. The food is good, the service is friendly, prices are fair plus you’re supporting a great cause.
Fasai Restaurant – Asian
Some of the kindest and most friendly people on the island. The food is good, the fruit is always fresh, the BBQ’d fish is really tasty and you’ll want to come back tomorrow. The service is some of the best. They have great presentation and their timing is far better than most places in Laos.
Rattana’s Restaurant – Asian
Cheap, tasty local food with decent service, however, they do seem to run out of several things on the menu so don’t get your heart set on anything before ordering. Great spot overlooking the Mekong River though. Dinner and a view!
What to do in Don Khong, 4000 Islands
Don Khong is a beautiful, quiet, palm-fringed island with very little to do. Most people come armed with a few good books, but if napping in a hammock is your jam, then you’re going to be in heaven. When you get tired of napping you can check out some of the following activities.
Stop by the tourist center – It’s beyond me why there was a need for a tourist center in a town so sleepy. However, they do offer a free map that is convenient if you plan on renting a bicycle or motorbike to explore.
The center is opened Mon- Fri from 8 am-4 pm. You might have to wake the hired help though if you have any questions.
Check out the Muang Khong Market – Only open from about 6-11 am but worth a stop in. It’s a great way to shop like a local and check out the vibrant island life. They have farmed and foraged food, fresh fruit, and fish. Located in Muang Saen village.
Don Khong History Museum– Housed in a two-story 1935 colonial style home that was built by a former mayor. Quite possibly the smallest museum in the world but still fun for a quick stop in. They have instruments, animal traps, old photos, and original furniture.
Open Mon- Fri 8 am – 4 pm less than $1 USD to enter
Tham Phu Khiaw AKA Green Mountain Cave – This cute little cave full of vulgar buddha images and broken pots is a lovely walk about 2 km north of Muang Khong. The trail is marked by a blue flag.
Ban Hin Siew Tai Palm Sugar Trees – Palm sugar trees litter the island and if you’re visiting from Nov- Feb during sugar season than you will see plenty of farmers climbing the trees twice a day to collect the sweet juices to boil down into sugar.
Wat Jom Thong – This is the oldest temple on the island and is located in the far north. It is said to date back to 1805. Most notable for the mythical Hindu creatures along the roof and gables.
Wat Phu Khao Kaew – Said to be built on ruins from the pre-Khmer era which makes it a holy spot amongst locals. Home to a large golden reclining Buddha.
Volunteer at Sabaidee Bamboo School – If you have some free time and enjoy teaching, head over to Sabaidee Restaurant and Guesthouse and help teach some English to local kids. The owners are the sweetest and really appreciate any help you can offer.
If you’re interested in volunteering you can get more info on their website.
Take a water taxi over to the nearly deserted Don Som island for the day – There’s even less to do and see on this island, but if you’re interested you can arrange a water taxi for about $6 USD from the Muang Khong boat landing. This will be a real blast into the past and you will get to see local life as it has been for thousands of years.
Rent a bicycle or a motorbike and explore on your own – Most hotels and guesthouses rent bicycles or can arrange for a rental to appear upon request.
- Price for a bicycle- $1.25 per day
- Price for a motorbike- $9.75 per day (plus gas)
Insider Tip: If you only have a few days on the island and want to see all the sights in one short day then I suggest renting a motorbike from one of the guesthouses in town. Everything can easily be seen in one day.
How to get to Don Det or Don Khon
If you decide to continue farther south to explore the sister islands of Don Det and Don Khon (which I suggest you do), there are two different options for getting there.
The southern islands are about 25 km away. Hands down, the best option for getting there is to take a direct water taxi for about $4.75 USD. The water taxi leaves from Don Khong Guesthouse every morning but it’s best to arrange the day prior.
The cheaper option is to take a boat to Ban Hat Xai Khoung ($1.75 USD) then a songthaew to Ban Nakasang ($1.15 USD) and then finally a boat to your island of choice ($1.75 USD). I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of hassle and definitely not worth the saved pennies.
Don Khon, 4000 Islands, Laos
Don Khon (not to be confused with Don Khong) is by far my favorite of the 4,000 islands. It’s small, quiet, rural and charming. The accommodations are cheap, the food is good and the people are fantastically friendly. It’s full of rice fields, old locomotives, free-roaming animals, jungle and waterfalls.
Staying on this island feels like being a part of a giant family. You just can’t deny the homey feel it gives you. The locals make an effort to connect with you by learning your name and always saying hello as you stroll by, while the children will stop you in the street for a game of football.
With riverside bungalows, several restaurants, and small shops for daily goods and some of the best sunsets around, it’s just one of those places you never want to leave.
To get there from Ban Nakasang it’s about a 20-minute boat ride and costs around $1.75 USD.
Where to stay in Don Khon, 4000 Islands
Don Khon is the second largest of the three inhabited islands, it’s a bit underdeveloped and still only has a handful of accommodations-all of which are congregated on the north side near the French bridge.
Accommodations are more expensive here than on Don Det but seem to be slightly cheaper than Don Khong. I guess this would be the all-around mid-range island. Prices range depending on the season.
For the budget backpacker – Somphamit Guesthouse $5-10 USD
Centrally located in the tourist area of the island with riverfront wooden bungalows that are simple and practical. They come equipped with private bathrooms, hot water and your choice of aircon or fan. Enjoy and relax in a hammock on the patio while swinging over the mighty Mekong.
For the mid-range traveler – Dokchampa Guesthouse $15-30 USD
This was my favorite bungalow of my SE Asia travels. The immaculately clean bungalows sway over the edge of the Mekong in a way that offers sublime tranquility. These large structures boast a queen size bed and a bug net with no holes. The decks offer 2 comfy loungers, a hammock, and a desk, which I sat at every morning reading and working. It was also a sensational spot to watch the sunset.
The room I was in had a bonus twin bed in a cubby tucked away, a private bathroom with hot water as well as aircon. The back deck offers one of my favorite sunset spots around. It was blissfully comfortable and the owners were knowledgeable, helpful and kind when I needed things. The only thing I can say is that I wish their restaurant was open year round.
For the big spending traveler – Sala Done Khone $50-100 USD
Sala Done is the cream of the crop when it comes to accommodations and there is truly none like it. It offers several different styles of rooms ranging from an old heritage home, floating bungalows on the Mekong, traditional Lao stilted homes and their less popular Ban Din rooms that tend to feel a bit dark and stuffy.
The property comes equipped with a large pool, their restaurant overlooking the river rivals for the very best sunset views and complimentary breakfast in the AM. All the rooms are fully loaded with comfortable decor, tea/coffee maker, mini fridge, hot shower, and aircon. You may never want to leave and that’s ok because they’ve got everything you’ll need.
Where to eat on Don Khon Island
Don Khon restaurants are a step above the rest of the islands. There are a few real gems that absolutely stand out and will probably warrant a return visit. There are a lot more options to choose from than on Don Khong and the quality is far higher than the other islands.
The Gardens – Asian, Vegetarian-Friendly
By far my favorite restaurant and place to eat on the island. It’s on the not-Mekong side of the road so you miss the view but you will not be sorry. The gardens are run by a fully interactive family who all seem to play a part.
They have excellent recipes that are made fresh to order in their outdoor attached kitchen. It’s made with diligence and love so it can take longer than expected, but I promise it’s worth it. Everything I ate here was exceptional, don’t leave without having their indulgent mango sticky rice for dessert.
Insider Bonus: The Gardens also have a massage parlor next door where they perform traditional Laos massages that are professional and affordable.
Nok Noi Restaurant – Asian
This is a lovely spot right next to the old French bridge that has a gorgeous patio overlooking the Mekong that is great for sunset cocktails and dinner. The staff is friendly and attentive while the food is tasty and cheap. They have nice lounger mats for hanging out with a cold beer for the sunset!
Our Kitchen – Asian, Vegetarian-Friendly
A newer restaurant with rave reviews. With friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere, you’ll feel right at home. The ingredients are fresh, the recipes original and they make their own sausages which are a real treat. They bake fresh bread and pizzas in their pizza oven and are open for all three meals.
Things to do on and around Don Khon, 4000 Islands
We know that the motive for visiting Don Khon island is to simply relax, lay in a hammock, read a book and drink cold beers at sunset. However, if you’re like me then you get a little stir crazy after a few days of that.
The island is fairly small, about 4-5 km long, and you could easily bike around the whole island in a short day. There is plenty to see to keep you busy for at least a day or two. So, here are a few ideas to keep you moving.
Take a boat trip to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins – This is a must when visiting Don Khon. These special little creatures are some of the last 100 left in the world. They are amazing river dolphins on the brink of extinction. A boat trip doesn’t always guarantee you’ll be able to spot these rare beauties, but most skippers know where to take you.
The boats can hold up to 4 people and they leave from Ban Hang Khon on the opposite side of the island from the tourist strip. It’s best to rent a bike to get there.
Price for a one-hour boat trip for $4-10 USD
Insider Note: No dolphins are touched, fed, disturbed or held captive here. You only get to see from a distance. Don’t forget your fancy camera lenses.
Check out the old steam locomotives– Another blast from the past when you see these old trains from the 1800s. Back in the day, the French created a track that would stretch from Cambodia to China and cross over the mighty Khone Phapheng Falls.
This railway was the first in Laos and was known as the Don Det-Don Khon narrow gauge railway. This project was short lived and now the jungle has reclaimed most of the tracks. Definitely still worth a visit. The history and some old photos are posted for information.
Kayaking – Rent a kayak and get out on the water. You can rent from many different guesthouses along the main strip or check with one of the many tour agents. If you want to join a group or get a guide, there are a range of different options, just ask.
Rent a Kayak for the day- $1 USD
Rent a bicycle or motorbike– I know this is repetitive, but it really is the best way to explore. I will warn you though that in the rainy season the roads turn into mini swamps so you might opt for the motorbike. No one likes to bicycle through swamps. Also, it’s a great way to scoot on over to check out the party life on Don Det.
- Price for a bicycle – $1.25 per day
- Price for a motorbike – $9.75 per day (plus gas)
Visit Khon Pa Soi waterfall – A smaller set of falls with a very dodgy bridge crossing. Most people skip this falls because it’s a bit harder to find and definitely off the beaten path. What I loved about this area was that I was nearly alone. I walked around the river edge and through some beautiful overgrown jungle paths.
The old suspension bridge crossing is thrilling at the very least. Also, worth noting is a tiny little restaurant near the sketchy bridge cooking up local food with cold beers.
Li Phi Waterfall AKA Somphamit Falls– These are a must see, all age crowd-pleasing, jaw-dropping set of falls. The grounds are visually stunning with countless viewpoints, a restaurant, a bar, beach and plenty of space to walk and explore. Price to enter is about $4.25 USD and you could easily spend an afternoon here and catch a phenomenal sunset.
Check out Wat Khon Tai Temple – A Buddhist temple with a very unique and ornate stupa.
Get a massage – remember that amazing restaurant I told you about called The Gardens? Well, this is also the location of the local spa. The room is clean and tranquil and the massage therapists are knowledgeable and professional. Price for a 1-hour massage $13 USD.
Never miss a sunset – Doesn’t really matter where you go, but try not to miss a sunset here because they are simply stunning.
Have you been wanting to check out the party island of Don Det? Don’t worry it’s only a quick jaunt across the old French bridge and you’ll be transported to another world.
Don Det, 4000 Islands, Laos
Don Det is a bridge and a world away from Don Khon. They couldn’t be more different in terms of comfort, style, and atmosphere. It’s a backpacker’s utopia with art, cheap bungalows, bars aplenty, nightly music and in general just more noise.
It seems that more backpackers are flocking here since the cleanup of Vang Vieng. There’s not nearly as much debauchery going on here, but if you’re looking to enter another dimension you can find “happy” shakes, pizzas, salads or whatever else your heart desires.
It’s the smallest of the three main islands, but because of its growing popularity, it has a much larger variety of accommodations and restaurants to choose from. It’s not all parties and youngsters enjoying gap year here though, there’s also a much quieter side as well.
Where to stay in Don Det, 4000 Islands
There are a lot of places to stay in Don Det. So many that you really don’t even need to book in advance, especially during low season. If you can handle waiting on booking a place, you will get a cheaper price if you simply show up and ask about rates, then negotiate.
There is a sunset side(west) and a sunrise side(east). Almost all the bungalows have a balcony with a hammock to enjoy them, so it just depends on which one you prefer. The island is small and walkable on foot, meaning you won’t be far from anything- no matter where you stay.
I promise it’s my last time saying this, but prices range depending on the time of year
For the budget backpacker – The Last Resort $5-10 USD
Centrally located on the sunset side of the island and the ultimate go-to spot for budget backpackers. It has an extremely laid back, beach and hippie vibe. The teepee accommodations are unique and fun but obviously, there’s no balcony with a hammock. Feels more like camping in a garden and that’s what makes it so charming.
For the mid-range traveler – BABA Guesthouse $20-30 USD
On the northern tip, sunrise side of the island is this clean, comfortable, contemporary gem. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated. The staff are kind, helpful and can offer any info needed on things to do and tours to book. The restaurant has huge balcony areas that stretch out over the Mekong serving a variety of Asian and Western foods.
For the big spending traveler – Little Eden Hotel $40-70 USD
Little Eden feels more like a holiday getaway than any other accommodation. Most popular for its ginormous swimming pool and its riverside restaurant. The rooms are spotless, spacious and about the closest, you will find to luxury. It is also located on the north sunrise side of the island.
Where to eat on Don Det Island
Don Det definitely caters to its more popular crowd of backpackers and mostly offers Western favorites. I found the food on Don Det to be mediocre at best, but there are a few worth noting here for you to try. If you’re striking out or want some more authentic local food, then I suggest you head back over to Don Khon.
Mama Leuahs Restaurant – European, Laos, Thai, Vegetarian-Friendly
A very eclectic mix of food that somehow flows really well. The portions are large, the prices are unbeatable, ingredients are fresh and the staff are simply lovely. Massaman curry is truly exceptional and the “no-name” app is a great starter. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would venture to say that this is the best restaurant on Don Det.
Kea’s Backpackers Paradise Restaurant and Bar – Asian, Vegetarian Friendly
The sunsets here are awe-inspiring and almost always get a standing ovation. If that isn’t enough to keep you coming back then the food certainly is. The vibe is more laid back and sometimes the service can be slower than a sloth but it’s almost always worth the wait. The Lao mojito is a real stand out and they are widely known for their fish and chips.
Jasmine Indian Restaurant – Indian, Asian, Vegetarian Friendly
I’m a huge Indian food fan. Mostly because I’m a garlic naan addict and the naan here does not disappoint. The establishment is clean and the staff are extremely friendly. Other notable favorites are butter masala, tikka masala, and the mango lassi.
There are more restaurants here than on any of the other islands. Tripadvisor does a good job of collecting reviews if you want a head start.
What to do in Don Det, 4000 Islands
Being that Don Det has become so popular, there are a few more things to do than there is on the other islands. Don’t get too excited though, because it’s really not that much. For the most part, it’s a lot of the same- hammock swinging, book reading and beer drinking with a few added bonuses.
Take a leisurely stroll around the island – If you walk really slow (think: sloth) it might eat up a whole day. This is a really great way to get a look at local life. You’ll pass chickens, geese, rabbits, kittens, and puppies. As you walk out of the tourist villages you will start to notice more children playing in the street, women sitting around picking herbs while giggling, old grandmas rocking babies and teenage girls hanging the family laundry. Life is slow here, take it in.
Take an all-day kayaking tourv- This can be done from Don Khon as well but it’s far more popular on Don Det and you can join a group. The tours leave in the early AM and either go to see the Irrawaddy dolphins or over to the Khone Phapheng Waterfall, the largest falls in SE Asia. These are long all day trips and they leave from Don Det village in the north.
Price for a kayaking tour – $ 20-25 USD
Rent a kayak and go it alone– Peace, solitude, tranquility. Maybe you can settle the debate and count the islands.vAre there really 4,000?
Price for a kayak for the day – $1.15 USD
Rent a bicycle or motorbike – There really isn’t a need to rent a motorbike to get around here, a bicycle will suffice. However, if you want to zip over to Don Khon to check out the falls or have a really great meal than a motorbike wouldn’t be a bad idea.
- Price for a bicycle- $1.25 per day
- Price for a motorbike- $9.75 per day (plus gas)
Do some fishing – Is there anything more relaxing and fun than fishing? If you’re interested I would head on down to the main boat landing in the north and ask around to some local fisherman. That way you can get a more authentic experience and I bet they know where to catch some really great fish.
Disclaimer: I don’t actually know the price for this. If it was me, I would try to negotiate for around $6 USD. But that’s just me.
Float the Mekong on a tube – This is the activity that gave Vang Vieng its bad rep and the reason for its demise. With that being said, It can get bloody hot in Laos and I can’t think of any better way to cool off than being submerged in the river. Grab some beers, make some friends, bring a hat, slather on sunscreen, just don’t go past the French bridge. Otherwise, you’ll be on a dangerous fast track to Cambodia.
Price for a tube for a day – $1.15 USD
Watch a movie at an open-air cinema – Every couple of days the Last Resort does movie showings in their makeshift outdoor cinema. There is almost always a lively crowd and you’re bound to make friends. More drinking and chatting than movie watching, but who cares.
The schedule is loose, so don’t get your hopes up before you stop by. Showings between 6-10 pm during the high season Nov-April. Especially convenient if you’re staying in a teepee here.
Lay all day long in a lounger at the pool – There are only 2 pools on Don Det Island, which is 1 more than there is on Don Khon. How about that for a win? Little Eden has a giant pool that you can visit for $4.50 USD. Long Island Guesthouse has a smaller but still notable pool that you can visit for $3.50 USD.
Nightlife on Don Det Island
It’s not that I failed to mention this for the other two islands, it just simply does not exist. Don Det is just a little more hip, there are actual bars and people stay up past dark.
I guess I should mention now that Don Det has an active curfew at 11 pm and everything (and I mean EVERYTHING), shuts down. As long as you’re being respectful about noise, no one will stop you from sitting on the banks of the Mekong and drinking a few beers after curfew. After all, there isn’t a police force here.
The north side tends to be about the party and has more going on, while the south side is much tamer. Here is a list of popular nighttime hangouts:
Adam’s Bar – Usually playing some kind of romcom or comedy movie during the day roping people in for all day binges. You can find darts, sometimes live music (if you’re lucky), Xbox 360, wifi, plunge pool, and a DVD lounge. They also serve Western food, shakes, and snacks.
The Friends Bar – Are you a lover of the show Friends? This might be your new favorite spot. All day and all night they binge-watch Friends, nothing else, just Friends. You can’t expect much but they do have comfy cushions on the ground.
One More Bar – I wouldn’t actually call this a night time hang out spot, but it does have a bar in its name, so there’s that. However, this local guy is making his very own ginger beer here and it’s absolutely worth mentioning.
The Reggae Bar – Or at least that’s what I called it. It’s very distinctively a reggae bar, you know what I mean. Lots of comfy cushions and lazy backpackers all around.
Weather in 4000 Islands, Laos – When should you visit?
The weather in southern Laos, 4,000 Islands is dependent on the time of year. There are two distinct seasons, dry season and monsoon season. The temperature ranges from a high of 95 to a low of about 70 and an average humidity of 80%.
The dry season is from October until April with December to March being the high season. You can expect hot days, almost no rain and higher prices in accommodations, tours, and restaurants.
Monsoon season is from May to September with the months of June and September being the slowest months for tourism. During the monsoon season, the rain and thunderstorms are very unpredictable. It rarely rains for longer than a few hours, sometimes it doesn’t rain at all and the temperatures can be quite high. July tends to be the wettest month of the year.
During monsoon season you can expect very low prices on accommodations, tours, and food. Some of the restaurants will close for the low season, but there will always be a handful that do stay open.
What to bring to 4000 Islands
By no means am I going to write you a packing list here, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning that you should consider when packing for the islands.
Snake Bite Kit – Now don’t freak out, this isn’t a huge problem and you’re not facing a scene from the movies Anaconda or Snake Island. However, there are snakes on the islands. Be warned and possibly prepared with a snake bite kit- they’re cheap on Amazon.
Rain Jacket & Umbrella – These things are only necessary during the monsoon season, but a light jacket never hurt nobody.
Malaria Meds – South Laos does have a high risk of Malaria, unfortunately. I know everyone has their own opinions about taking meds and I’m not going to share mine. Just know the facts, that is all.
The Center for Disease Control breaks it down pretty well on their site.
Money – I can’t stress enough how inconvenient it was to have to take a boat trip to an ATM when I ran out of Kip. Don’t be an idiot like me. Visit the bank or take out cash in Nakasang before boarding your boat to the islands, you’ll thank me later. Also, if you’re headed into Cambodia next, make sure to exchange your leftover Kip before you cross the border, otherwise consider it a souvenir.
Sunscreen – It gets bloody hot out there, so pack some sunscreen. You would be lucky to find any on the islands and if you did it would most likely be expired and cost you an arm or a leg.
Flashlight – After dark, it can get real wild without street lights. It’s always best to have a torch to light your way home, especially during monsoon season when the roads turn to swamps.
Lock – If you’re staying in cheap accommodation on Don Det, I would advise bringing an extra lock. There has been some reported theft in the past. Don’t blame the locals though, sadly enough it’s typically other travelers.
Where in the 4000 Islands will you go?
Si Phan Don, 4,000 Islands, Laos is one of the most chill, laid back, hippie havens that I have ever visited. It’s amazing to think that a landlocked country could offer such blissful island life. It’s a place that will test your patience with its slower pace and lackadaisical demeanor. Life will simply and effortlessly pass by without you noticing, while the calm people and peaceful atmosphere take you away from it all.
My question now is, which one will you pick for your next getaway? I’m curious to know, so comment below!