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Savannakhet (ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ, commonly abbreviated to "Savan") and more officially mentioned as "Kaysone Phomvihane" (ໄກສອນ ພົມວິຫານ, name of the district), is the capital of Savannakhet Province in Southern Laos. It is on the Mekong River. With an estimated population of 120,000 it is the second largest city of Laos. The city is the hub between west (Mukdahan, Thailand) and east (Vietnam), and between north (Vientiane) and south (Pakse).


Visitors to Savannakhet are often surprised by its old French colonial architecture and the friendly, sleepy atmosphere of the town which conserves many aspects of Lao traditional culture. The small but blossoming tourist sector offers various eco-trekking programs to the outskirts of town and to preserved forests and other places of interest in neighbouring districts such as Champhone). The welcoming and generous character of the local people might give you the sincere feeling of being happy to be a family member, very unlike the commercial character of tourist destinations such as Vang Vieng and Si Phan Don. Although recently a casino was established, Savannakhet has no night-life scene, which probably is the main reason why Savannakhet is not popular as a tourist destination among Western travellers.

The last two decades, dinosaurs have become a main theme of Savannakhet. The Dinosaur Museum and decorations in the streets reflect the history. Long after dinosaurs had left their last footprints, Savannakhet probably was founded in the 17th century by forty families who immigrated from Phonsim village (around 20 km to the east of town). It is said that the settlement at the Mekong riverside was called Tahae village and researchers assume that Buddhist temple Vat Xaiyaphoum is an important remainder of that era.

France expanded Indochina by obtaining the east bank of the Mekong after a border dispute in 1893. Initially The French used the Mekong River as the main artery of transport. Not many years later, a network of water transportation, post, and telecommunication facilities and a railway were completed. Also a road, connecting Savannakhet with Quang Tri (Vietnam), was built. In the 1920s and 1930s Vietnamese and Chinese started to settle in Savannakhet. Nowadays, the Chinese and Vietnamese still live in the same parts of the city, while other parts are still redolent of the French administration that was centred in the south part of town.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 29.3 31.4 33.5 35.0 33.3 32.0 31.3 30.6 31.1 30.5 28.8 27.7
Nightly lows (°C) 14.9 17.7 21.3 23.9 24.6 24.8 24.2 24.0 23.5 21.4 17.6 14.7
Precipitation (mm) 3.7 17.3 31.9 90.8 168.3 262.5 219.0 343.4 219.0 86.6 6.8 2.4


Recently an important chapter was added to the history of Savannakhet. The 1,600 m Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge II was opened in January 2007. The bridge connects Savannakhet (and Vietnam) to Mukdahan (Thailand). This bridge strengthens the reputation of Savannakhet as open for business. Foreign investors and NGO's are considered to be crucial for the development of the town and province.

The phone number you see in the city, 041, is unrelated to 042 on the Thai side (in Mukdahan). If you want to dial Mukdahan, Thailand, it is +66-42-xxxxxx, but if you want to dial Savannakhet, it is +856-41-xxxxxx.

Get in

By plane

Savannakhet has an airport (ZVK) not far from downtown. Lao Airlines which is the only domestic Laos carrier, runs some direct flights from and to Vientiane. Alternatively, Vientiane can be reached by flying via Pakse, a trip that totally takes 2.5 hours. One way to Vientiane costs around US$110. Round trips with Lao Airlines are not much less than double the one-way fare.

By bus

There is bus service from Vientiane to Savannakhet. For the time being it is the only way to practically get to Savannakhet from the capital. It is a 9 hour bus journey on a newly paved road. While the journey is long, it is an excellent way to see the local villages and lush countryside of Laos. Buses from Vientiane to Pakse, often stop in Savannakhet. There are two different types of buses that service the route from/to Vientiane:

There are also local buses from and to:


The Savannakhet bus station is ~2 km north of the town centre (16.5752 104.7525). ~50 baht for a tuk-tuk into the city.

Get around

The easiest way to get around Savannakhet is by foot or bicycle. Tuk-tuks are also available around the city and are an easy way to get to a specific location quickly. Be cautious about the fee for the tuk-tuk and always set the price before the ride. Because the minor roads of the districts around Savannakhet are often badly paved, a reliable cheap motorbike for rent in Savannakhet town might be hard to find.







There is a wide selection of small bars and cafes on the river front at the north end of town. For baguette (with jam, scrambled eggs or pâté) and roti (around 5,000 kip each) street vendors, head to Ratsavongseuk St.


Head to just north of the concentration of guesthouses and find some great restaurants with fondue or hot pot, chili-basil frog, etc. (30,000-40,000 kip)


Dao Savanh Restaurant




Many suburban guest houses (that are not in the list below) rent rooms mainly to (young) Lao people for short adventures which they won't risk to experience at home. They also often involve in drugs abuse. These guesthouses are not recommended.




Stay safe

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.