Travel Costs: Laos

How much does it cost to backpack through Laos?
The Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Often overlooked on the backpacking trail in Southeast Asia, Laos is a diamond in the rough. It is the definition of laid-back travel, where days are spent reading in a hammock, discovering richly adorned palaces, or just watching the river float by as you enjoy a drink on a patio. This landlocked country is the idyllic place to sink your feet into, soak in your surroundings, and just enjoy a slower pace of life.

Itinerary

We entered the country from the Cambodian/Laos border in the south and made our way over to Si Phan Don (the 4,000 Islands). We stayed 1 night on Don Det, 5 nights on Don Khon, and 2 nights on Don Khong. Leisurely days were spent mainly eating and drinking sitting beside the mighty Mekong River. When we did pull ourselves away from our idle lifestyles, we rented bicycles and explored the islands.

Feeling refreshed and recharged after a week of practically doing nothing, we headed north to Pakse and stayed for 4 nights in a double room with AC. Again, we didn’t get up to much except spending most days at a great little café, meeting some amazing travelers (whom we’d continue traveling with for the next two weeks and dubbed “the family”), and taking a day trip to the Bolaven Plateau.

An overnight bus ride carried us north to Vientiane, where we stayed for 2 nights in a fan cooled, shared bathroom double room. In the capital, we checked out Wat Si Saket, the view atop Patuxai, shopped at the night market along Th Fa Ngum, picked up our visas for Thailand, and shipped a 4kg parcel home. With the travel family in tow, we bused it up to Vang Vieng and stayed for 4 nights in a fan-cooled, ensuite double room. We spent our days tubing, searching for the blue lagoon, and relaxing in the myriad of cafes and restaurants playing endless episodes of Friends and Family Guy.

How much should I budget for travel in Laos?
Starting down in the 4,000 Islands (Si Phan Don) we meandered our way north for 27 days in Laos. Map courtesy of ecotourismlaos.com.

We took a day bus up to Luang Prabang and stayed in a very cute guesthouse along the main road, Th Sisavanvong for 8 nights. One of our favourite spots on our trip, Luang Prabang was just the place to wrap up our time in Laos; we almost didn’t want to leave. While it’s become a bit of an upscale travel destination, luring travelers with boutique hotels in old French Colonial buildings, you can easily whittle away your days in the city. We visited the opulently adorned Royal Palace Museum, wandered the main city streets, got massages, and shopped for a lot of souvenirs at the night market.

When we finally decided we had to continue our journey, we enjoyed one last lazy experience in Laos and took the two-day slow boat to the Thai border, stopping in Pak Beng and Huay Xai. Meandering along the Mekong River was the perfect way to say goodbye to a marvelous time in the country.

Travel Costs

Once again, to breakdown our costs, I’ve split our spending into these categories:

  • Visas: the cost to get into the country
  • Accommodations: places we stayed
  • Transportation: everything from buses within a country and to another country, to bicycle/motorbike rentals, to ferry rides, and subway fares
  • Food: everything we ate and drank
  • Sites: entrance fees to museums, temples, ruins, day trips, overnight trips, cooking courses, and even a scuba diving course
  • Entertainment: seeing cultural performances, going to the movies, etc
  • Laundry: laundry was available everywhere we went for very affordable prices, we really didn’t feel like washing our clothes in the sink
  • Miscellaneous: all our souvenirs, massages, parcels shipped home, and toiletries

Prices are shown for two (2) people and are in Canadian Dollars, unless otherwise specified.

 

Laos: 27 Days, $53.37/day  ($1 CAD = 8,000 LAK)

 

  • Visas: $94.00 (USD)
  • Accommodation: $186.87
  • Transportation: $261.00
  • Food: $612.38
  • Sites: $60.75
  • Entertainment: $26.62
  • Laundry: $10.50 (we had it done 3 times)
  • Misc: $188.88
  • Total: $1,441.00

So in total, we spent $1,441.00 for 27 days, averaging $53.37/day.

 

Big-Ticket Item: Nothing, but as you can see, we ate and drank like kings.

Accommodations in Laos were the lowest we had on our trip. Our cheapest accommodation was our fan cooled, ensuite room on Don Khon (40,000 kip, or roughly $5/night) and our most expensive accommodation was our fan cooled, shared-bath room in Vientiane (100,000 kip, or roughly $12.50/night). But generally speaking, our rooms were between the 50,000-70,000 kip range.

Overall Impressions

By the time we reached Laos, we had already been on the road for over 10 weeks. We instantly settled in to the slower pace the country operated at and enjoyed simply eating and drinking Beer Lao. Laos was also the first country where we really bonded with other travelers and moved around the country with them for about 2 weeks. This contributed to getting out more in the evenings and unwinding with a few extra drinks than we had been before. It was a welcomed change, and one we could easily afford in the country.

Laos is a really special place with an incredible character. I highly encourage anyone traveling in the region to make it a stop along their itinerary.

 

Comments or questions? Leave them below!

This post is part of a 7-day series on travel costs through Southeast Asia. Tomorrow I’ll breakdown the costs for traveling through Thailand.