Laos Costs and Review
See our general tip page here. Note the costs here do not include external flights, vaccines and insurance etc – this will be detailed at the end of the trip.
|Food (not beer)
|Entertainment (inc beer)
|Nights in paid accom
|Total per night
Laos was completely unknown to us, and prior to the trip we probably never heard of it. Of the countries we have visited, it is probably the least developed and the poorest we’ve seen. We entered from the south and the first few days were quite disappointing as we didn’t really find anything exciting or really that interesting to us.
To be fair, the 4000 Islands would have been interesting and some old Khmer ruins would have been worth a look had we not come straight from Cambodia.
Laos’ unique factor is being so undeveloped, with most backpackers wanting to go trekking and seeing old tribes. This isn’t something we’re comfortable with, so whilst these opportunities were abound, they weren’t for us.
Once we got to Vientiane things started getting better. We very much liked Vientiane and we thought Vang Vieng was a superb fun place,even for us, though many non-mass-drinking backpackers hated the place. We enjoyed the fun elements as well as the scenery which was stunning, though fair to say it isn’t an authentic town! Luang Prabang was nice and chilled and the boat trip to the Thai border was also nice and relaxing.
We’re glad we went from south to north – the other way round would have had the nicer elements first and then ended on a low…
In Laos, you do get the feeling you are being over charged for a lot of things – silly things like maps and temple entry are at European prices, and pretty much everything is chargable. Of course there are reasons for this.
So we liked some of what we saw, but for our particular taste, Laos didn’t have a huge amount to offer us, though there were some unbeatable and unrepeatable experiences like the elephants at Luang Prabang and the fun in Vang Vieng…
We spent just over £40 a day, though we didn’t skimp on anything, and even had the luxury boat ride to Thailand. In addition we stayed in an expensive (but nice) guesthouse for a week in Luang Prabang. If you were on a budget you could easily knock off £5-10 without changing too much, and possibly more if you had cheaper food and accommodation.
Probably hard to spend too much more…
Keeping small change (notes) loose is a good idea so you don’t get you wallet out. Be wary of having “stuff” on display, or things dangling, as there are so many mopeds snatch-crime would be easy to do and hard to catch.
For us, we’d say we had no security issues – though we stayed alert throughout.
- ATMS: ATMs in most towns, and in the first town near a border crossing. Annoyingly most ATMs restrict you to 700,000kip or 1m kip per withdrawal which means you pay more charges 🙁 ANZ allows 2m withdrawal but not many ATMs around
- Currency: Most big items priced in USD (e.g. trips and sometimes accommodation), whereas smaller items priced in kip. 8000 kip=$1.
- Landry: Most places around 5-10,000kip per kg
- 7/11: None – local shops only, but water etc similar price everywhere.
- Transport: TukTuks are typical – negotiate first. Avoid tourist minibusses as they put 20+ in busses meant for 16. (+luggage!). VIP busses (big) were okay for us. Easily arranged near any guesthouse.
- Chemists: Rare
- Food: Street food easy to access but maybe not the most exciting.
- Language: Knowing Yes, No helps – but English ok for normal stuff.
- Power: mains plugs everywhere so charging stuff is trivial (socket adapter may be needed, and of course make sure charger is 110/240v!).
- Internet: Wifi available in most guesthouse we used and in many bars/cafes in main towns. Internet cafes and PCs to borrow also available free/cheap. Limited away from big towns.
- Toilets: Western style in all guest houses and in most “good” public places, there may only be one in a row so look. Worth carrying toilet paper though seldom needed.
Stuff we took and didn’t use
(see our packing list here)
- Towels – they were provided by every guesthouse, even special beach towels
- Mozzie net – only needed in one place, and it was already provided.
- Loads of clothes – you only need 4-5 sets of undies – laundry is so trivial to do you do not need to carry as much as us.
- Spare batteries for stuff – power so available we kept things charged
- Main padlock – all guest houses had normal locks
Things we’d change
Savannahkhet isn’t worth visiting, and Pakse only is if you want to veg a bit and do some tourist waterfalls and the like. For us, the North of Laos was far nicer and maybe the south wasn’t worth going to. Perhaps an alternative loop route to/from Vietnam would be more fun – e.g connecting Hanoi and Hue via Laos – and Vietnam doesn’t have much between Hanoi and Hue to visit.