Go further off the beaten track in Laos, cruise down the Mekong river, connect with the locals at the homestay, then marvel at Angkor Wat and explore Cambodia's intriguing history before returning to Bangkok.
Whether it be our private air-conditioned buses, boat, train, or even tuk-tuk - you'll get the full Southeast Asia experience!
Knowledgeable local guides to provide invaluable support and insider insights and to assist with booking accommodation and activities at every destination.
These are the special off-the-beaten-track destinations on the route that make Stray stand out from the crowd. You can see them marked with a heart on the map because they're the places our travellers love.
25 nights’ shared accommodation in a variety of comfortable hotels, hostels, guesthouses, homestays and on an overnight sleeper train! Click 'Select Upgrade' to upgrade to a twin or single room.
6 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 2 dinners.
Top rated activities
From temples, to waterfalls, to nature encounters there so many awesome activities included in this tour:
- Overnight sleeper train to Chiang Mai
- White Temple entrance fee, Chiang Rai
- Mekong River 2 Day Slow Boat Cruise
- Mekong River Homestay Experience - includes meals, activities and donation
- Pak Ou Caves entrance fee, near Luang Prabang
- Half day Kuang Si Waterfall Tour and visit to Free the Bears rescue centre, Luang Prabang
- City highlights of Vientiane
- COPE Centre, Vientiane
- Buddha's Footprint temple
- Kong Lor guided boat trip
- Kong Lor National Park fee
- Buddist temple (Ing Hang)
- Tad Ngeuang Waterfall, near Pakse
- Cambodian Homestay Experience - includes accommodation, local activities and meals.
- Bamboo Train, Battambang
- Full day Angkor Temple Tour, Siem Reap
- S21 Prison entrance fee
- Phnom Penh Killing Fields
- Sunset river cruise, Kampot
Flexibility and 12 months to travel
You don't have to complete the Mekong Tour in 26 days, take your time and go with the flow! Freestyle Tours are flexible. You can hop-off at any destination along the route and spend more time there, then hop back on the tour with the next group that is coming through. It's really easy to manage your trip online using the Stray Mate Trip Manager. Your tour is valid for up to 12 months from first day of travel so you can hop, hop hop, as much as you like!
Not included: If you choose to hop off the bus you'll need to pay for additional nights accommodation. Optional activities and meals (other than the meals specified in the itinerary) are not included in the price.
Is this trip right for you?
✓ Do you want to explore with a group of like-minded travellers?
✓ Do you want to explore Thailand, Laos and Cambodia at your own pace?
✓ Do you want to immerse yourself in local culture?
✓ Do you want to visit some of those harder to reach, off the beaten track destinations?
The Mekong Freestyle Tour is a great choice for you!
Mekong - Freestyle Tour
Starts: Bangkok - or anywhere on the travel loop and finish where you started! Just let us know upon booking.
Departs: Tuesday & Saturday (View the Timetable)
Time: 3pm at the Stray Bangkok Travel Shop
Please note: Given the spontaneous nature of our trips, what we do each day might occasionally vary.
Welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in the buzzing Asian metropolis of Bangkok, Thailand. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to check out the vibrant markets and ancient temples that make up only a small side of this multifaceted city. Be at our Stray Bangkok Shop at 3pm to meet your Stray Guide and your new travel mates for a Welcome Meeting introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have before heading to the train station to board the overnight train to Chiang Mai. The overnight sleeper train is an experience within itself for those who have never been on one before, complete with lie flat beds and a restaurant carriage. It’s the most fun way to travel to Chiang Mai and get to know your new travel mates!
We arrive into Chiang Mai train station around mid-morning. As the largest city in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a popular place to hop off for many travellers and an amazing city full of endless activity options, such as Thai cooking classes, bike tours or Muay Thai kickboxing to name a few. Once a kingdom unto itself, there are over 300 Buddhist temples to discover and it is worth visiting the old walled city to see the Tapae Gate. In the evening, don’t miss browsing the famous night market to score a bargain or you can check out the lively music scene.
Seize the day by exploring this historically rich city or venturing outside the city to discover the natural beauty of northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is the perfect base for some of Thailand’s best guided hikes and treks, as well as the top spot for adventure activities like mountain biking, abseiling and whitewater rafting. Tonight, enjoy dinner at one of the many great restaurants, then take in a ladyboy show, Muay Thai boxing or head out for a few drinks with friends. Meals included: Breakfast
This morning we depart Chiang Mai to head for the Thailand-Laos border. We’ll make a stop near Chiang Rai to check out the famous and intriguing White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Wat Rong is a unique modern Buddhist temple that features some curious statues and murals that include images from Star Wars and The Matrix, Freddie Kruger’s head hanging in the trees and a giant Predator emerging from the garden. We stop here long enough to grab a snack, stretch our legs and take a few photos before we continue on to cross the border into Laos. Once in Laos we take a short tuk-tuk ride to the small town of Houay Xai, our stop for the night. Meals included: Breakfast
Leaving Houay Xai you’ll board our private slow boat to cruise down the Mekong River to the secluded village that will host you for an overnight homestay experience. Sit back and soak up this incredible journey as you wind your way through lush farmland, thriving jungle and rugged mountain scenery, drifting past water buffalo, locals fishing, and kids splashing in the shallows. We arrive in the village in the late afternoon. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become immersed in Lao culture, where you will get a taste of traditional Lao village life by staying with a family in their home and experience a special Baci (welcoming) Ceremony, a true highlight of the trip. Meals included: Dinner
See More moment: Experience a traditional Baci Ceremony performed to bring visitors to the village good luck and good health. This ancient ritual is said to protect you as you travel and is a heart-warming chance to connect across cultures.
Do More moment: Your contribution to the village funds annual projects to improve infrastructure and make a difference in this community.
We wave goodbye to the village and jump back aboard our private boat to head downriver to the famous limestone Pak Ou Caves. Pak Ou is an important pilgrimage site for Lao people, and here you will see thousands of Buddhist images that have been placed throughout the caves over hundreds of years. Back on board our boat a short trip takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage town, Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang has an old world feel that gives you the sense you’ve stepped back in time into a picturesque postcard setting. The fusion of French Colonial architecture with traditional Lao design set against a backdrop of misty mountains and lush green jungle makes this a truly majestic place. Meals included: Breakfast
Today you’ll visit the beautiful Kuang Si Waterfalls, where the turquoise water and calm pools offer the perfect chance to cool off. The lower pools are especially perfect for a refreshing swim. If you’re feeling fit, climb up to the very top of the falls to take in the view from the above. At the base of the falls, you’ll also find a rescue centre for the native Asiatic moon bears where you can watch them happily living in a safe environment. If you’re planning to hop off the bus, Luang Prabang is a great place to do so, with options to discover rural villages by cycling or trekking the area, take a traditional Lao cooking class, kayak the Mekong River, shop at the night market or, for culture buffs, visit one of the many beautiful temples. Meals included: Breakfast
It’s an early start as we head south through mountainous terrain on one of the most scenic journeys you’ll experience on the Laos travel route. Travel past hill-tribe villages, vast green valleys and rolling hills. Our journey today takes us to the little riverside town Vang Vieng, formerly known as the best place to take tubing trips down the Nam Song River to visit riverside bars and indulge in cheap booze. These days you can still go tubing, but now you get to enjoy the beauty of Vang Vieng's landscape without the sound of pounding bass in the background. Meals included: Breakfast
With its stunning natural scenery, Vang Vieng offers ample outdoor activities to choose from. We recommend hiring a bike to explore the town and visiting the Blue Lagoon, one of the best natural swimming holes in Laos. There are also great rock climbing and kayaking options. The fun doesn’t stop after an adventure filled day either! This evening check out one of several international restaurants for a taste of home or head to one of the bars to really get the party started.
Today we cruise through to the capital of Laos. On arrival in Vientiane your Stray Guide will point out the city’s main attractions, including Putaxai, Pha That Luang, That Dam, the Presidential Palace, and the COPE centre – a non-profit organisation that educates visitors and raises awareness for victims of UXO (Unexploded Ordinance) and the Secret War. After check-in at our centrally located accommodation, you are free to explore the city, get a massage, go shopping or people watch at one of the local restaurants by the river.
An early escape this morning takes us away from the crowds and south to Kong Lor in the Phu Hin Bun National Park. About an hour into the journey we visit Wat Prabat Phonsone, the ‘Buddha’s Footprint,’ a popular and important pilgrimage site for local communities. Arriving in remote Kong Lor with the afternoon sun, you’ll feel a sense of peace as you drive through the sleepy rural villages lined with crop fields and rice paddies and surrounded by stunning limestone karst mountains. Relax after the drive by popping down to the river for an afternoon swim, swinging in a hammock at your accommodation or sampling a delicious Lao meal at one of the little restaurants in the village.
Today, you’ll get the chance to explore the underground river that winds its way through a mountain, venturing deep into the abyss of the stunning 7km long Kong Lor Cave on a motorised canoe! Discover impressive columns, stalagmites and stalactites illuminated and protruding from the limestone rock as you travel by motorboat through this colossal cave system. This area is also a photographer’s paradise and a great place to get out and go trekking or just kick back to soak up the views over a cold Beer Lao.
See More moment: Stray are the only ones who’ll take you off the beaten track to experience Kong Lor Cave - one of the natural wonders of Laos.
We’ll break up the drive today by stopping in the small town of Thakhek, where there’s time to grab some lunch before we continue south. Before arriving in Savannakhet, we’ll stop to visit the Buddhist holy site Wat Ing Hang, reportedly built in the 16th century to honour Buddha’s visit to the area and housing one of Buddha’s bones. Set on the Mekong River as a border town with neighbouring Thailand, Savannakhet historically served as a key transit and trading post and is now the largest town in Southern Laos. The best things to do are wander along the waterfront and check out the fossil collection at the odd but intriguing Dinosaur Museum, then settle in a nice riverside restaurant for dinner.
Driving south this morning we head first for Pakse, then carry on to explore the refreshingly cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. The Plateau features a lush green landscape, fertile coffee and tea plantations, and many spectacular waterfalls, including the stunning Tad Ngeuang Waterfall where you can go for a swim. Pakse sits where the mighty Mekong River and Se Don River meet, so take advantage of the many restaurants along the riverfront for a meal served up with unbeatable river views.
From Pakse, we’ll carry on south to the backpacker mecca of Si Phan Don, otherwise known as the 4000 Islands. Here you can experience the laidback lifestyle and impressive natural beauty of Laos’s landlocked islands. The island of Don Det serves as a great base to hire a kayak or tube for floating down the river, taking a boat trip to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins, cycling across to the neighbouring Don Khone Island to discover the remnants of the only steam engine railway in Laos, and marvelling at the thunderous Li Phi waterfall.
Say goodbye to Laos – it’s an early start for the journey into Cambodia. A short drive will bring you to the Don Kralor Border where you will complete the immigration process and continue into Cambodia. Today your destination is the small, but vibrant city of Siem Reap, best known as home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Temple complex. Arriving in Siem Reap in the late evening there will be time to freshen up before dinner and drinks with your group along the iconic Pub Street.
After your first night on Pub Street, you’ll probably enjoy a free day to sleep in and relax at your accommodation. If you’re up for it, get out and explore more of the downtown area, which tends to be a bit quieter during the day when most visitors are out at the temple complex. You’ll find the heart of the city fairly easy to navigate by foot or bicycle. Finish the day by sampling traditional Khmer food and visiting the Angkor Night Market that’s open every night.
Today you depart Siem Reap early enough to arrive in Battambang for a late lunch. After lunch, we’ll visit a whiskey making village and learn about the local tipple, before checking out a village where they make a staple (but smelly) ingredient in most Khmer and Southeast Asian cuisine - fish sauce! Tonight, we’ll stay in another little village, outside of Battambang, located in the picturesque countryside. You’ll stay in a Cambodian family’s home, experiencing rural community life. You can wander through the village and nearby rice paddies and finish the day by enjoying a delicious traditional meal with your host family. Meals included: Dinner
No trip to Siem Reap is complete without a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor temples, a crucial part of the Cambodian national identity and one of the world’s most iconic landmarks. Ranked at the top of many ultimate travel bucket lists (including Lonely Planet’s), this awe-inspiring architectural wonder is the largest temple complex in the world. Embrace your inner Tomb Raider as you spend the whole day on a guided tour that will take you to highlight sites including the famous Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. Meals included: Lunch
Next up, we head for the bustling Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. With an edgy blend of harrowing history and modern development, Phnom Penh is incredibly important place for a number of political, economic and cultural reasons. You’re free this afternoon to get your first taste of this energizing capital city. Set out to explore the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and Wat Phnom, take a river cruise, shop for souvenirs at the huge Russian Market or see a living art performance at the National Museum.
Today, Cambodia’s history is bought to life with a tour of two of the most infamous attractions: the Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng S21 Prison. While it is a very sobering experience to learn more about the country’s harsh recent history and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, these are among the most recommended things to do in Phnom Penh. Afterwards, an afternoon drive brings us to the little riverside town of Kampot, where we’ll go on a relaxing sunset boat cruise on the Kampot River. Reflect on your day while absorbing the spectacular views of Bokor National Park and the Elephant Mountain as the sun sets over the calm waters.
You have a full free day to explore quaint Kampot. Visit the fascinating salt and pepper farms, go cycling or trek in the Bokor National Park or take a day trip to nearby Koh Tunsay (Rabbit Island) for some beach time. Tonight, we recommend sampling the exceptional regional seafood dishes at one of the many restaurants on the riverfront –the fried shrimp with green pepper corns is an absolute must try!
After a relaxing morning in Kampot, we return to Phnom Penh, where you’ll have the evening free. For something different, why not join the locals at dusk for an aerobic workout along the riverfront. Here you’ll find local ladies garbed in Western-style pyjamas, getting their groove on to Khmer techno music in order to burn a few calories. It may not be your most coordinated moment but will be good for a giggle (even if you’re just laughing at yourself)!
This morning we leave lively Phnom Penh and make an express return with your Tour Leader to Siem Reap on a public bus. After you arrive in the afternoon, make the most of your final evening in Siem Reap by shopping for souvenirs at the market or having one last memorable night out on Pub Street with your Stray group.
It’s time to say good-bye to Cambodia – the trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok is an unguided public bus connection which your Tour Leader will organise for you. To return to Bangkok you will be driven to the border town of Poipet to process through Thai immigration before the last drive on to Bangkok. Expect to arrive at the bus station in the evening. We hope you had a blast on your Stray adventure!
Mekong - Freestyle Tour
After a massive day of exploring, you're going to need your beauty sleep! Scroll through the gallery to see some of the places you'll stay on the Mekong Freestyle Tour.
Accommodation ranges from funky, urban hostels, to family-operated guesthouses, budget hotels and exclusive Stray Home stays.
Standard pricing is for Shared accommodation but you can upgrade to twin-share or your own private room if you wish!
- Shared accommodation: a mixture of twin-share, triple-share and dorm rooms.
- Twin-share: share with one other person. If you’re travelling as a couple, you can specify a preference for a double bed. Solo travellers who choose Twin-share will be paired with someone of the same sex.
- Single: your own private room
Please note: At the homestays in Laos and Cambodia, we stay with a local family in their home. As part of this experience private (twin-share and single) rooms are not available.
Need to Know
Some key details...
- Transport - All transport is included - you'll travel by bus (mostly private, air-conditioned buses with 24 seats), minivans, trains (Thailand only), boats (Laos only) and tuk-tuks.
- Guides - Stray employs local Stray Guides to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. Tour Leaders change from country to country so you'll have several different Guides throughout your journey if you're traveling multiple countries and if you hop on and off the bus - they're all absolute legends!
- Validity - This Freestyle Tour is valid for 12 months from your first day of travel and can be travelled once.
- Hopping on/off - Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route. The buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days.
- Travelling without hopping off - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel your tour in the number of days in the itinerary. There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday however we recommend allowing extra time to hop off.
- Departures - Buses run twice a week. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Booking Buses - Use Stray Mate (the trip manager portal) to book your travel - you'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is included for all nights of the itinerary. If you choose to hop off, you'll need to arrange, and pay for your own accommodation.
- Activities - Top-rated activities are included and if you want to opt for extra activities, your Guide can provide recommendations and assist with booking.
- Visas - You are responsible for obtaining the visas you require for the countries you are travelling in. Visa requirements vary depending on where you’re coming from and where you going, so we recommend that you contact the appropriate embassy in your country of origin to determine what you need.
- Travel Insurance - You must have a travel insurance policy to cover you for the entire time you are travelling with Stray. You will be asked for your policy details prior to starting travel.
- Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 18-35. You'll have people who have booked Freestyle Passes and Tours in your group, as the route is exactly the same, it's just the inclusions that are different.
- Group Size - Max 24, Average 9
- Unguided sectors - Some trips may include one or two unguided sectors as our local guides stay in their country of origin and bid you farewell to continue your journey with a new guide in the next country you're travelling to. Crossing the borders can be a bit of an adventure and your guide will tell you what to expect. In Stray Mate Trip Manager you can read the itinerary for each of these days to ensure your unguided sectors go smoothly.
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