Savannakhet is a charming old town with its unique culture and nature experiences, relaxed Mekong riverfront and great food. Plus, this town is well located to make it a convenient place to visit on the Laos tour packages for those on their way to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (5 km) or the Dansavanh/Lao Bao border crossing with Vietnam (240 km).
Many of the peaceful streets have picturesque, but crumbling hundred year old buildings that date back to the region's heyday when acting as a trading outpost for the French. There are many different communities living here, including Western expats, many Vietnamese residents and plenty of Thai visitors.
The surrounding area to Savannakhet mostly consists of large areas of forest that has several Natural Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs) nearby. For the traveller interest in ecotourism, a visit to Savannakhet is certain to appeal. Plus, this area is great for the mountain biking and trekking trips.
The climate in Savannakhet is generally high year-round with the dry period likely to last from November to February. The warmest month of the year is April when the sun is quite intense and can make exploring sights on the Indochina tour packages difficult. The rainy season lasts from May to September (August is the wettest) when the weather is still pleasant, but may make it more difficult when it comes to exploring the sights. The temperature is the coolest during the month of January.
How to get there
There is a large airfield relatively close to the town with flights provided by Lao Airlines. The main flight routes include Da Nang, Bangkok, Vientiane, Pakse and Savannakhet. The bus is also a common route for tourists to reach Savannakhet.
Savannakhet is a relatively small town which makes exploring by foot a very practical option. It is even possible to walk right across town in less than an hour. However, the option to hire a bicycle for the day is certain to give the more relaxed option to get around. It may be worth buying a local map of the area because there are only a few road signs to let you know where you are.
The cost of hiring a bicycle for the day is in the region of $2-$4 per day. The quality of the bikes can vary, so it pays to look around until able to find the nearest descent model. Other transport options to get around include motorbike rental which costs about $10 per day.
Where to stay
The accommodation in Savannakhet isn’t the most appealing. The Laos travel guide lists several family-run spots that are adequate and clean, but there is not really a standout guesthouse. But, if the accommodation is chosen wisely there is the chance of getting a place that is relatively quiet and clean.
A stay at the Boualuang Hotel is quite new and offers the spacious rooms over two-stories. The cost per night is $10 to $20 which can give the desired level of cleanliness, comfort and functionality. The cost of the stay varies with the size of the rooms, with the smaller rooms having a lot less amenities on offer.
Located centrally in town, the Souannavong is a well maintained and family-run guesthouse. The cost to stay in this guesthouse is under $10 per night, which includes a nice lobby area with TV and couches, as well as Wi-Fi that is effective throughout the building. The larger rooms are upstairs and have a quite lived in feel.
The Savanbanhao Hotel is another of the accommodation options that is relatively cheap ($8-$10 per night) and gives access to clean and spacious rooms.
Eat and drink
Savannakhet offers a great mix of food with a choice of western, Vietnamese, and local Lao fare to try on the Indochina tour packages, while there are a few French and Japanese eateries.
One of the finest places for delicious, yet cheap food is the Savansai market, which is located near the bus station. Cheap dishes like Vietnamese noodle soups and spring rolls or Lao-style sticky rice and sun-dried beef are everywhere, while it is also a great place to try the fresh fruits.
The street food scene is found at the Talaat Yen plaza which starts to appear from 5 pm and serves up plenty of local specialties, such as phorn ba (spicy fish soup and vegetables) and gaeng kathi (coconut curry with pumpkin).
Also, the tourist-oriented establishments and local-style restaurants are widely available throughout town with plenty serving the spicy and delicious Lao food.
Savannakhet has a variety of relatively small shops on the main city roads that offer a fine selection of goods. Highlights include Laotian coffee, hill-tribe products, silverwares, fabrics, antiques and art. There are also several markets in the local area, including the Savanxay Market, which is a short distance from the bus station. This market is quite large with plenty of stalls selling handicrafts, meats and fresh greens, while there are a few stalls selling the freshly prepared food.
Things to see and do
Temples in Savannakhet
There are a few temples in Savannakhet for the traveller to explore with Wat Xaiyaphoum the most notable; it is the oldest in town and constructed in the mid 1500s.
Other temples in the local area include Wat Sayamongkhun which is located between Senna and Phetsarat Roads. Elsewhere is the Wat Rattana which is near the Leena Guesthouse which is a quite relaxed and pleasant Lao temple that is worth a visit when on the Laos tour packages in the local area.
The Dinosaur Museum is rich in rare stones and fossils with plenty of the artefact descriptions written in English, although to get the best experience and learn the most it benefits to let one of the English-speaking curators speak about the T-Rex teeth or partial tangvayosaurus skeleton. Also, it is possible to view maps that indicate the exact locations of the finds.
Savannakhet old town
The Savannakhet old town has plenty of buildings dating back to the early 19th and early 20th centuries with Chinese and French influences. Most of the two-storey buildings have cracked green or blue shutter-style doors, with faded exterior walls and galvanised tin roofs. A walk in the old town is certain to appeal to the travellers that love to photograph the old and unique buildings.