Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Top Tips for Visiting Don Det, Laos

Don Det, the small island situated in the 4000 Islands, Southern Laos, is every 'off the track' backpacker's dream. Set in the heart of the Mekong River, Don Det is defined by cheap wooden bungalows, beautiful sunsets, luscious wildlife and the relaxing effects of the 'happy products'. Don Det is becoming increasingly popular amongst backpackers, and the hippie-like vibes that radiate through the island makes it the perfect spot to wind down and relax while travelling.
Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind before visiting Don Det.

1. Get money out before you get the boat over to Don Det as the card machine charge is high on the island.
The average card charge is 6% around the island which is pretty high. When you get dropped off at Nakasong (the mainland where you catch the boat from) you can withdraw money from an ATM there, which has a much cheaper charge. There is no ATM on the island and therefore restaurants and bars that exchange money will charge you higher.

2. Don't worry about booking accommodation before you visit - there are plenty of options that aren't even online.
Don Det is one of those places where its best to just turn up and see what is available. Most of the accommodation on Don Det isn't even online, and the ones that are can be expensive compared to the ones not featuring on Booking.com. You can stay in a private bungalow on the riverside with a balcony and hammock from just 50,000 LAK (around £4.50).

3. If you are arriving independently (not on the tourist bus) then make sure you arrive before it gets dark. If its dark, the boat may not be running to Don Det - and if it is you will be charged extra.
The boats that take tourists and travellers over to Don Det is a small wooden one with no lights, so, naturally, they like to take everyone over in daylight. If, for some reason, you arrive after it gets dark, be prepared to pay extra to be taken over or sometimes not at all.

4. Don't book to stay at the only hostel on the island unless you are happy to walk a long way in the heat with big bags. 
There is just one hostel on Don Det, and it is a fair walk down the island. If it is high season and you want to stay in a dorm with other travellers then I would recommend just sucking it up and doing the walk. If its low season, however, I would give it a miss. As it is much further away than other forms of accommodation, a lot of people don't bother going there and it can be extremely quiet in low season.

5. Make sure you take a first aid kit as there is no doctor on the island (there is a pharmacy, though!)
I learnt this tip the hard way when I got food poisoning on Don Det. There is no doctor on the island and in order to see a doctor you must get the boat back across to Nakasong (the mainland) which is not easy if you're in a very bad way. There is a pharmacy on the island that provides the basics - creams, hydration sachets and vitamins, but it is worth bringing your own first aid kit too.

6. Stay on sunset side if you want the best view.
Don Det is split into two different sides of the island - Sunrise Side and Sunset Side. Both sides are pretty self explanatory - you can watch the sun rise on one and watch it set on the other. The sunsets on Don Det are absolutely stunning and some of the best I have ever seen, so it is definitely worth staying on Sunset side for the best view. If you choose to stay in a little wooden bungalow with a terrace and hammock, it is the perfect setting to watch the sunset.

7. Unless you are a strong kayaker and have the appropriate information on the surrounding waters, don't go kayaking down the Mekong river alone.
Don Det is in the middle of the Mekong River and the currents can be pretty strong. If you want to go kayaking there is a tour that runs everyday in which you get a kayak, life jacket, a guide, and you get to kayak to the surrounding waterfalls and even do some dolphin spotting along the way. I would highly recommend joining this tour and not venturing out alone.

8. If you visit between January and April make sure you stay on the weekend as this is when the beach party is (there is one every Friday and Saturday night).
In low season it does not really matter when you visit Don Det - the weekends can be just as quiet as the weekdays. If you are visiting in high season, however, then make sure you get there for the weekend for beach parties, bonfires and a far more atmospheric little island.

9. Use the island as a chance to relax and take a break from busy travelling, especially if you have been on the go for a long time.
Don Det is known for being a super chilled out island. You'll find most people swinging on hammocks, relaxing in bars or going for gentle bike rides around the island. Everywhere closes at 11pm. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax and to reflect on your busy travels. And of course it is beautiful, too!

10. Don Det is a very remote island in the jungle so make sure you take some insect repellent as it is known for lots of bugs.
Make sure you stock up on plenty of insect repellent before visiting as the island does have lots of bugs. Most places that you stay at will have a mosquito net over the beds and if you opt for pricier accommodation with air con then you shouldn't have to worry at all. If you're out and about at night then that is when it can be the worst - so make sure you grab some repellent before going.

For things to do in Don Det, read my Things To Do In Don Det post!


  1. These are great tips, I haven't heard of this place before but it sounds lovely. 6% is a high charge but if they don't have atms you can see why they make the most of it

  2. Looks like such a beautiful place. Haven't heard about it before like how it sounds so chilled out and relaxing!

  3. Wow, that's incredible that you can get that kind of accommodation so cheaply.

  4. I can't believe how amazing the accomodation sounds, so wonder so many people go travelling in Asia x

  5. Wow this looks like paradise. It's a shame that they have a high rate for taking money out tho! But the accommodation cost sounds really good, I mean you would pay for that sunset alone! x

  6. The accommodation sounds so great and so affordable too! Looks like a beautiful place to visit

  7. It is so cool that you can just turn up at don det laos and decide there and then what accommodation you would like to stay in! x

  8. This place sounds amazing,the price for the accommodation is fantastic too x

  9. These are such good, practical tips for visiting!


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