Rustic Pathways | Laos
97% Rating
(7 Reviews)

Rustic Pathways | Laos

With over 10 years of experience working in Laos, Rustic Pathways has developed programs that expose you to traditional culture and off-the-beaten path sites not accessible to the average tourist. Take an elephant conservation course, work in the sticky rice fields, and learn about the Hmong culture from the Na Som villagers. These programs range from one to three weeks, giving you plenty of time to learn, explore, and experience this beautiful country.

“Laos is magical. Without fail, each time I drive on deserted country roads or float down ancient rivers to secluded villages the stunning scenery takes my breath away. Traces of colonial history and war remain at every turn, but there is also a palpable, hopeful, momentum from the people for the future. Laos is at a crossroads, and now is the time to come explore.”
--Tara McCarney, Laos Country Director

Locations
Asia » Laos
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
Language
English
Housing
Guesthouse
Hostel
Hotel
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
Cost does not include international airfare.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    94%
  • Support
    97%
  • Fun
    97%
  • Value
    97%
  • Safety
    99%

Program Reviews (7)

Default avatar
Riley
Male
San Diego
Other

Come With Nothing, Go Home Rich - Thailand and Laos

10/10

In the summer of 2016 last year I had a life changing experiences going on the Come With Nothing trip in Thailand and Laos. This was my first Rustic trip and service trip in general so I had no idea what to expect for the next 3 weeks of my life. The focus of this trip was to come, as you can guess, with nothing, or very close to it. We were allowed 5 personal items and a backpack with a change of clothes. The rest of what we needed for our month long trip was purchased in night markets with a small amount money provided from Rustic. The trip was long and challenging, but worth every second. We visited three villages, a new one each week, one in Thailand and two in Laos. The majority of our service focused on building and constructing various things for each villages needs. We built everything from dormitories for school, bathrooms and water tanks, and even walls for an entire school.

In addition to our service work, we were able to immerse ourselves in the culture by staying with local villagers, visiting museums and temples and trying new cuisine. We got to go on a beautiful two day boat ride through the Mekong river right when we got into Laos which stopped at villages and markets. In between our two villages in Laos we got to go on an amazing bike ride through the city we were stopping at and get authentic Thai massages. And at every village we got up at 4-5am to hike up and see the beautiful sunrise.

My favorite memory was at the end of the trip, we walked a three hour hike straight through a rain forest to one of the most amazing waterfalls I've ever seen. We brought bathing suits and it was an memorable and fantastic way to end the trip with friends.

This trip impacted my life because unlike some other trips, you really do get to experience what its like to live like a local. The community service is intense, but you never get tired when you know you're doing something that truly makes a huge difference in these peoples lives that you're sleeping in the same houses with.

I cannot recommend this and any Rustic program enough, they will truly change your life and the way you see things, just like it did to me.

How can this program be improved?

Offer more space so more people can experience this awesome trip!

Default avatar
Cory
Male
16 years old
California
Other

Rustic Pathways Laos + Thailand Adventures!

10/10

I went on the Southeast Asian Adventurer trip from July 4th - July 21st, and the trip to mostly Laos and some Thailand was more impactful that I could ever thought it would be. The trip to get there was long yet meeting and bonding with some of my future closest friends was well worth the time. Some activities we did included: kayaking, hiking through a dense jungle only to go zip lining and stay in a treehouse for the night, hang out in bungalows, relax on beaches, bike through cities, and drinking a whole lot of Oreo milkshakes. My trip mates and leaders made these unbelievable activities even more special. One of the things that brought my mates closer together was the group mindset of disconnecting from technology to connect with people and this new country we're all in. I remember the deep talks we shared while voluntarily helping the staff of the Rustic Laos base house make dinner, and the lessons and experiences we shared together. I highly recommend going on these trips with an open mind and a relaxed attitude. Coming back I feel more adventurous and really try to put my phone away in a situation where you can be bonding with people and creating new memories. Some little things I wished I knew before the trip is just bring clothes, shoes, and a backpack you really don't care about because they get N A S T Y, trust me. Also, really don't worry about having no friends because you will make them. I swear I came in LAX thinking nobody would like me but from plane ride 1 we were already a squad. Anyways, the trip was overall a life changing experience and I highly recommend going if you are undecided. hmu on my insta if you have any questions @corybeizer. :)

How can this program be improved?

it's all good ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Default avatar
Maizy
Female
16 years old
California
Other

In Love with Laos

10/10

This summer, I embarked on my second volunteer-abroad trip with Rustic Pathways. I was originally drawn to Rustic because of the high levels of organization that can be seen just by visiting the website. Rustic has an amazing user-friendly website that matches its in-country experience. Another thing that drew me in was the sheer amount of programs that Rustic offers. There are so many countries and programs that it is almost impossible to choose just one! Thankfully, there are travel advisors that you can chat with on the website to answer any questions you may have and offer some insight into the programs.

The programs themselves are put together in such a way that even if you are volunteering, you still get to do a good amount of sight-seeing and adventuring. It is a great mix of work and play, and the program schedules are designed keeping in mind the levels of exhaustion that come with international travel. The program leaders are truly amazing and all connect with the students so well! Students from all over the world travel with Rustic, so you are sure to meet some interesting people all from different countries and different backgrounds! I traveled alone on both of my Rustic trips, which was an amazing experience, because I got to meet all new people in a new country all by myself, but it is also okay to travel with a friend, as it can be comforting to have something familiar in an all-new environment.

Rustic provides an amazing experience that would be very hard to experience alone or with another company, because Rustic is so ties into the communities that they work with, providing a welcoming and immersive experience. Some of my favorite memories from my trips with Rustic are of the homes that we had the experience to stay in while staying in rural villages, and being able to interact with the villagers. Rustic also works with local staff to truly immerse you into the culture of the country you are visiting, and it also provides you a wonderful connection with other locals.

Personally, I look forward to a new Rustic trip each summer, and my expectations are always exceeded by Rustic. Every Sumer I get to experience an entirely new place with a group of friendly strangers that make my time with Rustic a time I will never forget! Rustic is absolutely an experience I would recommend to anybody who loves to travel, loves to help out in their community or others, or just wants to meet some new and extraordinary people.

How can this program be improved?

The only thing that could make this program better is to extend it!

Default avatar
Elena
Female
18 years old
Luxembourg
Other

Sticky Rice Service Adventure

10/10

A high school service project had been on my agenda long before I was old enough to partake in one, and when the time came around for me to finally book one, I did about five months of research into different organisations before choosing the program I did with Rustic Pathways. I was drawn to Laos because of its level of poverty and destruction after the Vietnam war, as well as its beauty that had been reported by people who had visited it. But it was really the program that Rustic Pathways offered that I was the most drawn to. Rustic Pathways had seemed the most organised, the most well thought out, and the most established organisation out of all those that I had looked at. And when the time came and I flew over, all of that was confirmed.

The work that rustic pathways does globally is so meaningful that I was taken aback several times on my trip. It is a genuine organisation that serves not only the students it takes on its trips, but also its staff, whether they are local to the country or international. Something that truly stuck out to me was that Rustic often funds the university education of local staff who cannot afford it, for example, those who work at the base house, or those who come from a Lao boarding school that is funded by the Rustic Foundation. This holistic approach to community service, taken on in all elements of the company, is something that has never ceased to amaze me.

The trip itself was a life-changing experience. It was the perfect balance of being able to stay in the houses of locals and take part in service projects that are determined by the community itself (we helped in building a school and a water tank) as well as having the chance to see the place that we were working in, having adventures through hiking up mountains or trying street food at the Luang Prabang street market. I have countless photographs of the smiling children that my group genuinely bonded with, and look back at them while smiling helplessly. On our rest time between service projects which allowed us to do some site seeing, I can recount a moment where I was sitting on a slow boat on a peaceful day on the Mekong river. I was filled with an indescribable feeling of happiness as I reflected back on the 5 days I had had in the village of Na Som, looking out at the beauty of scenery around me with the most amazing group of students and leaders around me. I cannot say I have felt like that so strongly ever before. The organisation of the trip was phenomenal, with never a stressful moment, everything moving smoothly, yet all the while it being very flexible.

Going alone, I had also been nervous that the trip may not have been what I wanted or that I may have felt uncomfortable at times. However, I can assure anyone looking into having a meaningful, adventurous, beautiful service-based travel experience, that you will not go wrong by using Rustic Pathways. After so much research and such a beautiful time in luscious Laos, I can only confirm that Rustic Pathways does the most amazing job at achieving what it sets out to do. I returned to my home homesick for Laos and the people I met along the way.

How can this program be improved?

Make the second village homestay longer to allow the same kind of bonding experience as in the first - but otherwise nothing at all!

Default avatar
Anne
Female
17 years old
United States
Other

Sticky Rice Service Adventure

9/10

Once I had decided that I wanted to travel for the summer, I had trouble choosing which program to go on! I wanted something adventurous, a little unordinary, and meaningful, and the Sticky Rice Service Adventure was exactly that. There were so many great experiences, one being the community service. First, the community service was challenging, but so rewarding! The children of the village would come up to us and hold our hands everywhere we went, tried to learn English from us and help carry water from the creek as well as playing with us in the water! I really felt a sense of accomplishment when we finished. Also, the amount of interesting activities really gave the program balance. My favorite day was when we went for a hike in the jungle to this beautiful outlook of the entire valley. Then we went kayaking and shopping and got massages! Another fun day was exploring lagoons and jumping from tree branches in to water! In addition, I loved the boat and swimming by the lake resort, the bike rides in Luang Probang, the amazing lunch on the indigo farm (and so much more) really made the trip fun. I also made it a point to communicate with the villagers (mostly through our leaders as translators) to get their perspective on cultural issues like women's rights, the role of the mentally ill, religion and poverty. Those communications helped me to understand the generosity of the Hmong community as well as all those in Laos. None of that would have been possible without our leaders, who all were amazing in respects to their kindness and attention to safety. If you're thinking about traveling to Laos, GO! You will fall in love with a country that embodies ideas of forgiveness, generosity and hospitality!

How can this program be improved?

The only things I can think of would be it's okay to bring a friend, as long as you mix with the other group as well and maybe more one on one contact with the villagers during a free lunch would be meaningful. Also, as an athlete, I definitely underestimated how hard the service work is so just be prepared to do your best and work hard!

Default avatar
Amanda
Female
17 years old
Montreal

Come With Nothing; The Mekong Expedition

10/10

This past summer I went on this trip with 16 other teenagers from around the world. It was truely an amazing experience that I am so grateful to have gotten. If you are a person who is looking to discover a new culture and way of living, if you are not afraid to push your comfort zones to the edge, if you want to learn about the rich history of a beautiful country and not afraid to get your hands dirty mixing a lot of cement, than this trip is for you. If you are thinking about doing this program, do it. You won't regret it. My one piece of advice to you is to ignore the packing list that Rustic Pathways offers for this trip and follow the description instead. Go with a carry on sized bag with bug spray, sunscreen, toothpaste, a toothbrush, underwear, running shoes and money. Buy everything you need in the local markets and Rustic Pathways will provide you with a bag

Default avatar
Bliss
Female
19 years old
Stuart, Florida

Come with nothing, go home rich: Mekong Expedition

9/10

This summer, I embarked on my incredible adventure to Laos and Thailand with only a backpack of necessities. I honestly can not summarize the amazing experience into words, but here I will try. This program is, in my opinion, the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding of all programs that Rustic Pathways has to offer in Southeast Asia. Right from the start, I felt comfortable and welcomed into my group of 16 teenagers who all shared interest in impacting the world, and demonstrated humility, integrity, and compassion. My group dynamic definitely set a positive tone for my entire journey, and I felt so blessed to have shared this experience with my new best friends. My leaders were super prepared with medical skills, and I always felt comfortable talking to them, no matter what the topic was. They trusted us to not do dumb things, which I think was important because this is an independent and personal adventure. The local staff were friendly, and it was fun to teach each other new words and aspects of our cultures. I felt safe knowing that I was accounted for and looked after, as we traveled through some slightly risky areas, especially in Laos. I was extremely grateful to be able to experience the realities of world travel while still never feeling threatened or in danger, which I think is something Rustic Pathways has truly perfected.

At first, I was nervous about how far my comfort zone would be pushed during this trip, as I was flying across the world with only a few belongings and I didn't know anyone beforehand. However, my group turned out to be a wonderful support group, and we all helped each other push our limits, learn, and grow from life outside our comfort zone in a painless way. Of course, there were times while we lived in our homestays, in sometimes extremely rural villages, where I felt uncomfortable, but every experience was worth the lesson that it taught me, and helped me grow in my awareness of the global community. I think the like-mindedness of people who choose to send themselves halfway across the world with just 5 things is a really important aspect of this program, and group dynamic can influence the entire trip a lot.

We visited 3 different villages, one in Thailand and two in Laos. We spent 4 to 5 days in each village, which i felt was a long enough time to build relationships with the locals and learn their individual cultures. Our homestay families were welcoming, and I will honestly never forget their hospitality. I enjoyed how much we learned about the rich history in Laos, which was so important to truly understand their way of life. I was so excited to learn about how these people, especially in the most isolated village, lived without influence of modern technology, and it was amazing to work alongside them while we built soccer goals, a fence, and a sign for their school. The service was often challenging, from mixing cement or laying bricks for a wall, to digging/hoeing dirt to transport to our worksite, or digging a long trench to lay pipes for water transport. At some points in the most rural village, I felt like there were more impactful projects that we could be doing, but I always kept it in perspective that the village asked us for specific things that they needed help with. I knew that whatever we were doing, they were really grateful for. It was awesome to spend time with villagers, learn a bit of their language, and share our vastly different cultures.

The travel days between Thailand and Laos were long, but never boring. I was really glad that we took alternate means of travel instead of just days of travel in a van. Our two-day boat ride down the Mekong was gorgeous, and I was never bored, even when stuck on the boat for 8 hours a day. The website really plays up the boat ride, I think, because we didn't stay on the boat for 2 whole days straight. We stayed in a hotel between the boating days in a small river town. Every place we ate at was beautiful and on the water almost always, and I felt safe in our hotel rooms even when they were pretty rustic. I was actually glad that we didn't stay in very high-end or nice hotels because I think it added to the experience and made it more memorable. Laos is definitely the most consistently beautiful country I have ever visited, and every simple view out any window was breathtaking.

By the end of the trip, everyone was pretty sick from either exhaustion or a virus. A few kids got food poisoning, and a lot of us got colds, fevers, or rashes. I know on a lot of these trips, getting sick or hurt is almost unavoidable, but Rustic always seemed pretty diligent about getting kids to hospitals if they need to see doctors, and they paid for medical bills for kids who had doctors visits. I suggest bringing day/nighttime cold meds, advil or tylenol, and a few packages of tissues (because you never know when you'll need them). We were able to shop for clothes & other random items at least 4 times during the trip, either at supermarkets or night markets, but I was surprised by how little I needed on a day to day basis. I also suggest buying something like a fanny pack while you're over there because mine was truly a life saver: I kept all my necessary items in it (passport, phone, hand sanitizer) and I was never worried it would be lost.

Overall, I strongly suggest pushing the limits of your comfort zone and trying out this challenging program. I see things in a new light since I've gotten home, and I wouldn't trade this new attitude for anything. I would love to discuss the program further if anyone is seriously interested.

How can this program be improved?

I think the service projects in some of the villages could have been planned better so we had more to do. In one of the villages we were supposed to build bathrooms, but the group before us had already finished them. I know it's very hard to plan how long things will take with different groups, but if some of the service projects were planned better, they would have felt more impactful.

About The Provider

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Travel and volunteer abroad with Rustic Pathways to one of many exotic locations.

We take students on unique, rewarding, and safe programs to some of the world's friendliest and fascinating countries. Immerse yourself in a new culture, work on purposeful community service projects, and expand

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