Motorcycle Travel Guide: Laos

Welcome to the Laos Motorcycle Travel Guide! This biking guide is packed with information for motorcycle travellers looking to ride in Laos. You’ll find info on road conditions, routes, paperwork, borders and a bunch of extra tips and tricks to help you on your way.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel Laos


Laos Motorcycle Travel Guide

Welcome to Laos! The landlocked country in the heart of Southeast Asia is one of our absolute favourite places in the world. It’s a beautiful slice of rustic beauty with incredibly friendly people, jaw dropping landscapes and out-of-this-world riding. It also has a rich history, takes influence from the days of French colonialism, but also has a horrifically sad past as it’s the most bombed country in the world. 

Out of the 80 plus countries we’ve travelled through in the world, Laos is in our top five and one of the few we’d ever consider settling down in! You’re going to love riding a motorcycle through Laos and we hope this guide will help you make the most out of your trip there.

If you’re interested in our ride there, check out our Loving Laos Life blog post


To enter Laos with a foreign vehicle you will need a passport, visa, temporary import, International Driver’s Permit and your vehicle registration document. If you are bringing a motorcycle into Laos from one of the countries in the ASEN network (Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam), then you do not need to obtain a temporary import. 


Laos grants a 30-day visa on arrival at land borders and airports for citizens of most countries. There are 15 countries who are entitled to visa exemptions as well. Check this Wiki link to see which category your country falls into.  

The visa costs around 30USD, you will need a passport photograph and the address of where you’re staying (you can enter any hotel address, you don’t need to book it). The visa can be extended twice and up to a total of 90 days. You can only extend every 30 days and have to visit an immigration office to do so.

Bear in mind that the visa on arrivals are not multiple entry visas. For multiple entry visas you will need to apply for a visa from a Laotian embassy before entering the country. These tourists visas are valid for 3,6 or 12 months. 

Laos temporary import

You will need a Temporary Import to enter Laos. The TIP is provided at the border crossing and is valid for the same amount of time as your visa. If you extend your visa, then you can extend your TIP at any custom house for around 3USD. 

Motorcycle insurance for Laos

You can get Laos motorcycle insurance at the border. The insurance is third party vehicle insurance only. You should of course consider taking out personal travel insurance from your home country before you travel to Laos.  The country isn’t renowned for its medical care, so if you have a serious accident in Laos, expect to be moved to Thailand for treatment. That will undoubtedly cost a pretty penny so make sure you have good travel insurance cover. For more information check out our comprehensive article.

 International Driver’s Permit

You do need an International Driver’s Permit to ride in Laos. It’s worth getting one before you travel as many of the Southeast Asian countries require it. You won’t be asked for it at the border, but it’s worth having in case you get stopped by police. 

Laos’ borders

Laos is landlocked and bordered by Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. Entering Laos from these countries is straightforward and the border crossings are simple and easy to get through.

For more information on riding in one of the neighbouring countries, check out our dedicated guide pages:

When to go

Laos has two seasons:

  • Dry season is from October to April
  • It’s hottest from March to June
  • Wet season is from May to September
  • It’s wettest in August and September
We recommend January and February for riding. 

Accommodation in Laos

You’ll find plenty of accommoation in Laos, especially in the main citie and tourist areas like Luang Prabang and the 4,000 Islands. However, cheap accommodation can get booked up quickly, especially in peak seasons. So if you’re planning on staying put for a while and need a base, we recommend checking the iOverlander app and using to find cheap options in advance.

Our experience motorcycling through Laos

If you’re wondering what it’s like riding a motorcycle in Laos, have a read of our round the world motorcycle travel blog. Here’s our Laos motorcycle adventure story.

READ MORE: Motorcycle Travel Blog: Laos


There used to be safety concerns with travelling around Laos, especially on the northern roads where drivers would carry guns in case of attacks. But this is unheard of now and Laos is a safe country to travel through.

However, unexploded ordnance (UXO) is a very real issue for Laotians and foreigners alike. 

Laos is the most bombed nation in the world after the US dropped over two million tonnes of cluster bombs on it from ’64-’73  during its ‘Secret War’ to disrupt supply lines to the Vietnamese. It killed one-tenth of Laos’ population. 

This was despite Laos being officially neutral. If you’re wondering just how many bombs that is, then it’s equivalent to an airplane full of bombs being dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for nine years straight. It’s more than all the bombs dropped in the whole of WW2 combined.

But the problem still continues as 30% of those bombs failed to detonate (around 80 million) and they still kill and maim people in today (20,000 since the war ended). Removing these bombs is still a huge and ongoing project in Laos. So do be very careful to not go off-piste or leave marked and used trails, especially if off-roading.

If you’re concerned about safety and motorcycle security while travelling, check out these two guides for tips.


Roads in Laos

The roads in Laos are fairly decent. You will find smooth tarmac for the most part especially on main connecting roads. But there’s plenty of construction and large patches of poor asphalt. Take care when riding in Laos as the driving is manic. The fast main roads are two-lane carriageways and cars will overtake by coming head on into your lane. They flash their lights, which in Laotian means I flashed my lights so if you don’t move out of the way it’s your fault.  

Also, be careful of the countless wildlife darting into the road. The main roads are lined with shacks, shops and homes and so children, pets and cattle regularly run out into the road. It’s not worth riding fast in Laos considering the constant wildlife and poor healthcare system. 

The best riding roads in Laos

Laos has a fantastic mix of beautiful roads and insane off-roading. The best roads and off-road trails are located in the north of the country. We have a dedicated guide for the best riding roads and routes in Laos for you to check out here:

READ MORE: The 5 Best Things to do in Laos on a Motorcycle

Motorcycle rentals and tours in Laos

Renting a motorcycle or going on a tour in Laos isn’t as easy as it is in Thailand, especially if you’re after a larger capacity motorcycle than your average Lifan or 125cc scooter. If you want to rent a motorcycle to explore Laos, your best bet is to rent one from Vietnam or Thailand and cross the border.

If, however, you’re specifically interested in off-roading, there are a number of excellent options in Luang Prabang in Laos’ north. 

You will need your passport, International Driver’s Permit and Driver’s licence to rent a motorcycle. And you should have your own personal medical travel insurance as well.

Check out our rental and tours section below. It’s a directory of great companies around the world. Have a look at the Laos page, but also check out Thailand and Vietnam too.  

READ MORE: Recommended Motorcycle Rental and Tour Companies

Buying a motorcycle in Laos

If you’re not planning on riding your own bike to Laos, and you don’t want to rent a motorcycle or join an organsied tour – then you do have the option of buying a motorcycle in Southeast Asia and selling it after. However, Laos isn’t the best place to do that, but you can buy a motorcycle in Vietnam or Thailand and easily cross the border to Laos! This packed and comprehensive guide below explains everything in more detail. 

READ MORE: How to Buy and Sell a Motorcycle in Southeast Asia

Riding gear for Laos

Riding gear in hot, humid and wet southeast Asian countries is always a tricky question and it depends on your take on ‘All The Gear All The Time’ (ATGATT). The weather can be stiflingly hot and muggy one minute with torrential downpours the next. Because of the heat, the country is full of inexperienced tourists riding in flip flops and ending up red raw and bandaged from head to toe. If you’re travelling through the country on a motorcycle (and not just pottering around on an island) it’s worth wearing proper gear, especially considering the driving standards.

If you’re after proper gear then we recommend mesh lined kit. Thailand is a great place to buy cheap and decent bike gear, or you could always bring it with you from your home country. It’s best not to go for lined gear and especially nothing pro laminate as it won’t be breathable. 

Many motorcycle adventure suits have removable waterproof and thermal layers. You might as well take those layers out and chuck them because you’re not going to want to take your jacket off, zip a liner inside it and then put it back on.

Go for cheap fully mesh jackets and trousers like these for men and these for women. And carry a cheap and cheerful set of throw-over waterproofs in case of bad weather.

Here are a bunch of guides that will help with picking the right motorcycle gear for your travels.

Top tips and advice for riding in Laos

  • Local SIM cards are cheap and easy to buy from the many, many road side phone shops. Just give them your phone and let them work their magic. The data coverage is pretty good. Even if you don’t need to check Facebook, it’s worth having data in case of emergencies.
  • Keep your wits about you on fast roads, animals and livestock running into the road is a real danger. 
  • Be careful riding off-piste in Laos due to the unexploded bombs from the Vietnam war. 
  • Check iOverlander and Maps.Me for lovely and cheap guesthouses dotted around the company. Visit our Top 5 Apps for Motorcycle Travellers guide for more info. 

Read more on motorcycle travel in Laos and Southeast Asia 

We hope you enjoyed this Motorcycle Travel Guide for Laos. Here’s some more articles on Thailand, Southeast Asia and Travel Guides that you may find useful.

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Are you planning a motorcycle tour in Laos or Southeast Asia? Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. 

17 thoughts on “Motorcycle Travel Guide: Laos”

  1. Next year I will live in Thailand and I want to buy a 125 cc motorbike there. With that I want to visit the neighboring countries. But I read on many sites that the motorbike must be a minimum of 300 cc to enter Laos and a 125 cc is not allowed. Is this correct?

    • Hi Eric,
      Thanks for your message. It’s great to hear you’re moving to Thailand and looking to do some tours to neighbouring countries.
      Unfortunately, I can’t give a definitive answer to your question. I have heard of a 250cc minimum rule for bikes entering Laos, but I don’t know if this applies to vehicles registered to the ASEAN network. It may be best to ask on the Facebook group: ‘Thailand – Regulation affecting overland travellers on foreign vehicle’. This group is in the know and may be able to answer your question if someone has recently crossed. Hope this helps.

    • Hi Eric, we are living in Thailand and just came to visit Laos last week. We have a Honda Africa Twin 1.000cc and we had absolutely no problem to cross the border in Chiang Khong/Huay Xai.

      • Hi Flo, thank you very much for posting this comment and updating the page with helpful info! Greatly appreciated!
        Have a great time on your travels,

  2. hey guys ..i am thinking about motorbike trip around Laos in february, which month have you been there ? i would like to know how bad is burning season at north of the country in february,because in february 2019 i have been in Chiang mai and it was really bad .btw really nice blog 🙂

    • Hi Milan, great to hear you’re planning a trip to Laos!
      We actually rode there in February and it was the perfect weather! It’s nothing like Chiang Mai (which is absolutely terrible in burning season). Didn’t notice any smoke at all actually. I’m sure you’ll have an awesome time there.
      And thanks for your kind words! Much appreciated 🙂
      All the best,

  3. Hi Andy, Thinking about Laos mid August to Mid September but see that it is the wettest part of the year. Can you add any commentary on the difficulty of travel during this time. Thanks Bruce

    • Hi Bruce, thanks for your comment. Yeah, you’re right, August is going to be very wet and so will September. I would get in touch in Chris Corbett from Laos Adventure Tours and ask him, he’s there 365 and would be able to advise best. You can find his detailed on our Recommended Rental and Tour Companies in Laos
      Hope this helps and that you have a great trip!

  4. What a great site!

    I was thinking I’d buy a bike and ride it around Laos. But do I buy it in Thailand or Cambodia and ride it into Laos, or do I buy it in Laos? Any thoughts/suggestions?

    • Hi Jeff, thanks for your comment – and it’s great to hear you’re planning on riding through Laos!
      Great question, we actually have a dedicated guide for this that explains the pros and cons of buying a bike in Thailand and Cambodia (as well as Vietnam and Laos). I believe it will answer all your questions. Here’s the article: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Motorcycle in Southeast Asia
      Hope this helps, and if you need anything else, just shout back on here.

  5. Hi Andy,thanks for the great content!
    Do you have any recent info on people crossing land borders from Vietnam to Laos? I want to cross it with my bike soon at Na Meo (which according to reviews I read is the border with least struggles) but apparently there’s issues since a couple of months due to additional paperwork needed. I cannot find reliable info online and also local people – even Vietnamese customs at the Na Meo land border – know that there is some paperwork but they don’t know what exactly is needed or where to get it. They just say that the issues are not to leave Vietnam but entering Laos, as it’s a ‘Laos thing’ and I shall ask travel agents. Any clue what I need and where to get it? I asked several Vietnamese people and all confirmed it’s NOT the temporary import permit, as this only applies to cars and clearly not to motorbikes.
    Any ideas? Warm regards – Marc

    • Hi Marc, thanks for your comment. That’s interesting! No, I haven’t heard of any changes implemented in the last couple of months about new paperwork requirements for Laos.
      I would contact Chris at Laos Adventure Tours – you can find his info on the Laos Motorcycle Rentals page and ask if he has any news on this as he’s the man in the know.
      Hopefully your crossing goes smoothly, but please do report back on here either way with any updates as i’m sure that’ll help other readers in future.
      Cheers and all the best,

      • Hey there, quick update:
        Got through without problems at Na Meo today, from Vietnam into Laos.
        Vietnamese side said ‘you cannot go through if you don’t come back’ – I said ‘I’ll come back’ and they let me through. On the Laos side, showing the blue card and 100k LAK at customs got me the official document that I need to keep until I leave the country.
        This evening, I talked to a restaurant owner on the Laos side who complained that ‘something changed recently’, and there’s way less people passing by this village by motorbike than half a year ago. So it really seems to be an issue not only for selected travelers but also heavily impacting local businesses – very sad to hear.

        Documents I had with me but which have not been asked for: excerpt of TIP regulation showing it applies to cars only + PoA of former (Vietnamese) bike owner with a confirmation that I can do whatever I want with the bike incl. crossing borders. The former was my hope to defend myself against a ‘scheme’ of border officers and regarding the latter, I had read online that it helped one traveler to cross the border. When I asked at the Laos embassy in Hanoi, the dude had no clue what I was talking about and said I should leave and talk to immigration, it’s their businesses. I didn’t understand but he clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with this topic. Chris said he’s keeping away from border crossings and recommended contacting a travel agent (which I had done some time ago but they weren’t of great help as they wanted to sell me a guided tour through Laos…)

        I hope this helps and encourages more people to try their luck. But to be honest, I am unsure if it was luck with the border agents or my very old bike or the fact that I had arrived just before lunch break that made them let me pass without issues – unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what’s the real story as nobody seems to be able to tell you, not even the officials.

        • Hi Marc,
          Apologies for the late reply, it’s been a bit crazy this end.
          That’s absolutely brilliant you got through with no problems. Sad to hear about locals suffering from this change and it’s a shame there’s no clear cut information on it.
          But thank you so much for coming back with such a detailed update, I am sure this will be super helpful for anyone considering crossing between Vietnam and Laos on a motorcycle.
          Thanks again and all the best to you,


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