A hidden gem of Southeast Asia is the best way to describe the country of Laos.
Most of the people who find themselves exploring cannot help but have a genuine surprise as they discover this heavily forested and lush nation that sits right in the middle of the region.
Another surprise that they got is how expensive Laos is, especially if you will compare it to the cheaper countries of Vietnam in the east and Thailand in the west. A relatively poor nation, Laos relies mainly on imports and this explains why things seem more expensive than what is expected for a Southeast Asian country.
If you have plans to explore Laos anytime soon, one of the very first things you should do is to list down your possible daily costs.
Before anything else, Laos makes use of LAK or Laotian Kip as their official currency. Every $1 US dollar is equivalent to about 8,000 LAK so you will surely feel like an instant millionaire. The prices listed in this guide are in US dollars for easier comparison.
The cost of a visa on arrival at Laos starts at $30 and this will depend on the passport you are holding.
There are countries such as Canada that charge more, topping the list at $42 for each visa.
Laos doesn’t have any railways so you can only choose between the minivans and the buses to go around the towns and villages of the country.
For longer distances and daytime journeys, there are night buses you can take so you can save on your accommodation expenses.
For instance, the bus that runs from Luang Prabang to Vientiane can take about 10 hours with a price ranging from $10 to $20 which depends on the specific company you are using.
There is also a bus service run by the government that comes at a cheaper price although you might want to avoid this because of the constant delays and breakdowns.
Most of the towns in the country are just small enough that makes them perfect for strolling.
A noticeable trend here is putting the bus station several kilometers outside the town that requires you to ride a taxi or Tuk-tuk.
If you ever meet other travelers during your bus ride, try asking if you can share a Tuk-tuk and lower the cost as a group to enjoy the best deal.
Make sure you also agree on the price before hopping in. The very first quoted price is often twice the amount of what it really should be so put on a smile and be firm with your haggling.
In Vientiane, the capital of the country, there is the Jumbo, a slightly bigger version of a Tuk-tuk, or anything similar to avoid tiring out your legs if you want to travel further.
These modes of transportation will not cost you more than $2 to $3 for each journey. Once again, don’t ride yet before you agree on the price.
Another great news is that the streets of Laos are fairly quiet unlike most cities and you can also hire a bicycle if you want to have a unique way of exploring.
Vientiane and Luang Prabang have international airports with regular flights to nearby countries from budget airlines of Lao Airlines and AirAsia.
Since Laos is just getting started in welcoming visitors, there is still a limited range of options for accommodations mostly found outside the larger cities and towns.
Double rooms in a hotel or guest house with air conditioning can cost you around $15 to $32 a night for your Laos trip in a 2-week period.
There are also private rooms available for about $5 or less if you choose a fan as an air conditioning alternative.
The dorm rooms are much cheaper which depend on the number of location and beds of the hostel, with the price ranging from $2 to $3 or higher.
If you would prefer something that is higher end, you can search for hotels in the scenic Vientiane or Luang Prabang.
If you like something more luxurious, you can find rooms priced at $200 or more per night in private resorts.
For those who will venture to the countryside, you might want to look into a homestay with the locals to have a real Laotian experience. It is the perfect way to have a direct contribution to the economy of the ethnic tribe or village.
If you will be booking in yourself directly with a homestay, it might cost as low as $10 a night for accommodation, food, and drink which depends on the location.
Make sure you also consider the transportation cost to get to your homestay.
If you are going to book a homestay with the help of a tour company or agent, the price starts from $20 a night depending on the locations visited and activities included.
Cost of food and drinks
It is a bit trickier to find delish street food in Laos compared to nearby countries, not to mention that the prices are higher, with a full meal costing you $3 or higher.
Thanks to the influence of France on the country, you will find lots of bakeries that offer pastries and filled baguettes priced at $2 to $3.
There is also a variety of restaurants and sit-down meals with some exceptional Indian and French options available at tourist spots of Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Prices for each dish start at about $6 while drinks start at $1 to $2 in places more crowded with tourists.
The national beer of the country is Beer Lao and one large bottle starts at as low as $1. You can also indulge in homebrewed Whisky Lao.
Despite being technically illegal to sell, you can find it anywhere and one whole bottle only costs you $1.50. It got an acquired taste but will surely hit the right mark.
Hopefully, this guide has given you some important pointers of the things you can expect for you to plan your Laos trip better and make the most out of your money during your visit.
What is the best currency to take to Laos?
The official currency in Laos is the Kip but when thinking about bringing cash with you to Laos I would recommend you to only bring US Dollars since it’s easy to exchange into Kip just about everywhere.
Is there WIFI in Laos?
In the bigger cities, you’ll find WIFI just about everywhere.
But it is a lot harder to find WIFI to connect to when you’re visiting villages and cities that don’t get many tourists.
How do I pay in Laos?
Cash is king when it comes to paying in Laos. Sure, when dining at fancy restaurants or staying at big hotels then you’ll have no problem paying using Visa or Mastercard, but everywhere else you should make sure to have cash.
How many days should you stay in Laos?
Most people that visit Laos agree that 2 weeks is about the perfect time to visit and most people recommend the same places to visit and they are:
- Vang Vieng
- Luang Prabang
- Kong Lor
- Don Det
Is Laos tourist-friendly?
Yes, Laos is tourist-friendly but you should always be smart when traveling. For example, you should not leave money or anything else that is valuable out in the open in your hotel room.
You should also keep in mind that the people that live in Laos like to drink and drive so be extra careful when you’re out at night.
Rates when calling?
You should always check the local carrier rates when using your phone in Laos before visiting. Most of the time it’s a lot cheaper to get a local SIM card when visiting Laos.
Many of the newer phones allow you to have 2 SIM cards so that you can use them both at the same time.