Pin It

Laos Wrap Up – $28 Daily Average Per Person

We spent  days in Laos. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.

Schedule 

  • Luang Namtha 1 day
    • While there are many hiking and trekking activities in the Luang Namtha area we only stayed for one night, after crossing the Lao border before making our way elsewhere. The town itself is just a small strip but the surrounding area is supposed to have some nice trek to see various hill tribes and the mountains.
  • Nong Khiaow 3 days
    • Small riverside town in Northern Laos, said to be somewhat off the beaten path though you will plenty of backpackers and tons of gueshouses/bungalows all over the place. Very relaxed vibe. We spent one day doing the 100 Waterfalls trek (highly recommended) and one day walking out of the town into the countryside to see some caves and nearby villages.

view of the river Nong Khiaow

  • Muong Ngoi 1 day
    • Further up river from Nong Khiaow and only accessible by boat.  This village has been taken over by guesthouses and bungalows, and unfortunately the vibe we got from the locals was less than welcoming. Laid back village with some caves nearby.

scenary Muong Ngoi

  • Luang Prabang 8 days
    • Incredibly picturesque little city with quiant architecture and pleasant riverside views. Temples, museums, cute restaurants/cafes and nice areas to walk through. Near by Kuang Si waterfall makes for a nice day trip. Highly recommend volunteering at Big Brother Mouse where for two hours every night you can help locals with English practice.

architecture in Luang Prabang

  • Phonsavan 2 days
  • We were here to see the Plain of Jars and learn more about the Secret War in Laos. Temperature feels significantly cooler as you are up in the mountains here. Worth a trip to out here.

plain of jars Phonsavan

  • Vang Vieng 3 days
    • Once made famous through the tubing and crazy all night parties set up for backpackers, this small riverside village has started to go back to its roots. Many of the tubing bars have been shut down and therefore it seems less backpackers are interested in heading there. Overall very picturesque with the karst mountain peaks. Blue Lagoon just outside the village is a nice day outing.

View over the river Vang Vieng

  • Vientiane 4 day
    • The capital city which can be done in a day or two. A couple musueums in town and a Buddha Park on the outskirts. We were there over the Lao New Year period so everything was closed but we spent our days wandering around, getting soaked and participating in the New Year’s celebrations.

celebrating the new year

  • Konglor Cave 2 days
    • Amazing 7 km long river cave. Long bus from Vientiane and we arrived in the afternoon so spent the night in the village 1 km away from the cave and then went to the cave in the morning. Not much else to do in the area.
  • Pakse 2 days
    • Feels like more of an industrial city, Pakse doesn’t have too many key attractions but can be a good jumping off point for trip to nearby ancient ruins of Champasak or starting point for a motorbike loop of the area.
  • 4000 islands 4 days
    • We loved our time on the 4000 islands. We spent 1-2 nights on the larger island of Don Khong where we rented a motorbike and did a loop around the islands and just observed the laid back life. From there we went to Don Det, more of the backpacker island and rented bikes one day to go to Don Khon and see the waterfall there. Very picturesque and relaxing setting. Perfect way to end our trip to Laos.

Don Khong_4000 islands

Would we do it the same way? 

 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 Route

Our Impressions

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.

Bests And Worsts

Best food: 

laap in Laos

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.

Worst food: 

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.

Best experience: 

the group

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.

Bucket List Activities: NONE

Tips For Traveling

Transportation

Local Buses

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.

Trains

No trains in Laos!

Cabs

No cabs either!

Long Distance Buses

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.

Student IDs

Fairly useless in most cases.

Public Facilities

We never really had an issue with a lack of public facilities, most restaurants seem to have them available.

Safety

We found Laos to be incredibly safe. Most things shut down at night to be honest.

Food and Restaurants

Lao food seems to be a bit of a mix between Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian aka kind of general South East Asian but generally good.

Credit Cards

This is a cash country.

Internet

Internet is generally available in Laos and cafes can be wifi spots.

Nature

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.

Accommodations (8000 kip = 1 USD)

  1. Luang Nam Tha: Zuela Guesthouse 80,000 double private bathroom, fan, wifi in room
  2. Nong Khiaow: Riverview Guesthouse 80,000 double, fan, private bathroom, wifi
  3. Muang Ngoi: Phenvasavan Guesthouse 50,000 double  fan room, private bathroom (electricity only from 6-10pm)
  4. Luang Prabang: Liberty Guesthouse 130,000 A/C tv, private bathroom, good wifi in room, fridge in room
  5. Phonsavan: Nice Guesthouse 80,000 fan, tv, wifi in room, private bathroom DO NOT STAY HERE (they cheat customers on tours)
  6. Vang Vieng: Malany Hotel 130,000 A/C tv, wifi in room, breakfast included, private bathroom
  7. Vientiane: Mixok Guesthouse 130,000 a/c room, tv strong wifi in room, private bathroom
  8. Konglor Cave: Konglor Eco-Lodge Guesthouse 60,000 fan room no wifi, private bathroom
  9. Pakse: Lan Khan Hotel 90,000 small double a/c fan tv private bathroom wifi only in lobby (very weak)
  10. Don Khong – Don Khong Guesthouse 80,000 double ac fan tv private bathroom

Finding Couchsurfers

We didn’t do any Couchsurfing or meetups in Laos.

Cost Break Down

We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:

  • Entertainment – Mostly sightseeing.
  • Food and Water – Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks (little things we bought in the middle of the day, chips, ice cream, etc).
  • Gifts – For couchsurfers, usually a bottle of wine or some chocolates, sometimes treated to dinner.
  • Transportation – all forms but not including any flights in and out of the country.
  • Utilities – Things like lockers for bags, pay phones, small purchases like detergent.
  • Accommodation – All hotel/hostel/guesthouse stays

So where did we end up?

$28 per person, per day. 

Lao CostsWould we go back to Laos? YES!

If you enjoyed this article, join others and get free email updates!

3 Responses to Laos Wrap Up – $28 Daily Average Per Person

  1. Wow it really is cheap to travel in Laos. And the sights are so beautiful. I love the photo of sun rise over the river.

    Salika Jay June 27, 2013 at 2:47 AM Reply
  2. I can’t get enough of your wrap-up posts. It’s so refreshing to see all the information right there for you.

    Also, I think this post might just have persuaded my wife and I to add Laos to our rtw trip!

    Chris Raybould June 27, 2013 at 5:07 PM Reply
    • Definitely a fan – if you have any questions let us know!

      Dave and Vicky June 27, 2013 at 5:37 PM Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>