- Travel Topics
We spent days in Laos. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
Laos is a pretty difficult country to travel around. It’s surprisingly…large. Or maybe it just takes forever to get anywhere – yeah…that’s it. We definitely spent more time in Luang Prabang than we planned and had to rush through the south a bit. We also wanted to venture up North into the more remote areas where there’s supposed to be great trekking but when it came time we just couldn’t stomach the 10+ hour bus ride. Still, we liked our route a lot and felt we got a good feel for the country.
Our trip to Laos started off on a bit of a wrong foot. When we headed to Muong Ngoi and felt just how unwelcoming the locals there were we just couldn’t understand what everyone had been saying to us about how friendly the Laotian people are. As soon as we got into Luang Prabang this changed and from there on out we truly felt that the people were genuinely friendly and always offering up a welcoming smile.
Overall this was by far the most laid back country we had visited. It generally felt like time moved slower, people were more relaxed, and there was a lot more hammock rocking and beer Lao drinking spotted here. As one guide told us, Lao PDR really stands for Lao Please Don’t Rush.
It’s definitely a conservative culture and you should know that when you enter it. You will see some signs that caution you about what clothes are appropriate to where and how to behave respectfully. Sadly, we saw many tourists/backpackers completely ignoring this and I think this somewhat accounts for the hostility we felt when we first arrived in the North.
While the food is not as tasty as Thailand and the temples not as impressive as Cambodian, Laos was just a really pleasant country with a lot of really beautiful scenery. Don’t be afraid to go here, it’s really a gem.
In Laos one of the main dishes is the laap – a minced meat salad with lots of herbs. This was one of our favorites. It’s served with sticky rice and together forms a filling meal. The fresh herbs really pop and the laap itself is not greasy so many for a light yet protein rich meal.
In Luang Prabang there is a 10,000 kip ($1.25) vegetarian buffet at the night market which I thought was down right awful. Completely bland flavorless food which you eat simply for the sake of filling up. Who knows how many nights the serve the same food even, it’s hard to believe the sell off all the food every night. We saw tons of backpackers eating the the buffet, but after one night of trying it, chose to sample some of the other dishes the night market has to offer. Even though this is the cheapest way to stuff yourself, I think it’s better to pay a bit more and have a tasty meal.
Our best experience was our day hanging out with a whole class of university students in Luang Prabang on their activities day. The organizers, Ken and Noy invited us after we helped them with their English at Big Brother Mouse and we spent a full day with them by the river participating in various activities. It was a great opportunity for us to interact with the locals and have some fun. They were all incredibly friendly and curious, as were we.
Worst rip off:
Our worst rip off was probably the tour we took to the Plain Of Jars. I asked the man at the hostel what the price was only to found out later that he quoted me significantly higher than everyone else on the tour (and to think, I specifically didn’t haggle with him because I didn’t want to be “one of those” tourists). Anyways, I went back later and demanded the difference back and we got into a verbal altercation that resulted in us leaving our hostel. Oops.
Within the city you can pretty much walk everyone as they are pretty small so buses are not needed, or just rent a motorbike or a bike.
No trains in Laos!
No cabs either!
Laos has been the most difficult country to get around in to date. The buses take hours, usually at least 5, to get pretty much anywhere. The roads are awful and extremely windy. Definitely bring tablets to help with nausea no matter how tough you think you are. Or sleeping pills. Or hit yourself on the head with a mallet so you don’t have to be up during these rides.
Fairly useless in most cases.
We never really had an issue with a lack of public facilities, most restaurants seem to have them available.
We found Laos to be incredibly safe. Most things shut down at night to be honest.
Lao food seems to be a bit of a mix between Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian aka kind of general South East Asian but generally good.
This is a cash country.
Internet is generally available in Laos and cafes can be wifi spots.
We were pleasantly surprised with how picturesque Laos really is. With the mountains in the backdrop and rivers in the foreground the views were lovely. The roads to get to these places are incredibly windy but with motion sickness pills we never had any issues. The 4000 islands and Vang Vieng areas are particularly picturesque and a must see.
We didn’t do any Couchsurfing or meetups in Laos.
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up?
$28 per person, per day.