Laos Travel Guide
Located between Thailand and Vietnam and in the heart of Southeast Asia, Laos is an often overlooked and underrated tourist destination. Waterfalls, hiking trails with extraordinary views and temple hopping make this country a truly unique destination and is a perfect addition to your South East Asia route. We visited Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. I would recommend you spend 10 days in the country if you plan on doing the same.
Laos will treat you with beautiful nature, cheap food and good value-for-money accommodation. But be aware that they still promote horrible things, such as elephant riding and caging birds for releasing for ‘Buddha’. Even though it’s easy to turn a blind eye to what is happening I would encourage you to tell the locals who work in tourism that you do not support animal torture. That is the only way to see a change in the future.
And since there is so much beauty to see in Laos it would be a shame to promote it for wrong reasons. Be aware of your surroundings and count your money after paying for something and make sure to take the paper ticket if you paid for an entrance. We’ve noticed that scams are, unfortunately, quite common here and have seen it happen more than a handful of times during our travels through the country.
Things to See and Do in Laos
- Hike to Nam Xay Top
- COPE Center
- Buddha Park
- Temple Hop in Luang Prabang
- Vientiane Night Market
- Kuang Si Falls
- Go Tubing
- Hot Air Balloon in Vang Vieng
Typical Costs When Travelling
Accommodation – Laos is a low-budget destination, so be prepared for good value for money ratio here. A dorm room will cost you $4-6 USD per night and a mid-range hotel $20-40 USD. We decided to ‘splurge’ a little here as luxury comes as cheap as $40 USD per night.
Food – We noticed quite a big difference between restaurants and street food here. Street food cost as little as $1.70 for a chicken baguette, while in a mid-range restaurant it would cost about $6. If you plan on eating fancier expect to spend $13-20 USD for a meal per person.
Transportation – To and from major cities (most transport between big cities will be about 5-10 hours) ranges between $5 and $20. We took vans from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. They were uncomfortable and the drivers were awful, but for now, it’s the best you can get. In each city, we opted to walk/cycle though. The tuk-tuks are expensive ($25 for a 45-minute ride is a stretch for SE Asia) and motorbike rentals want your passport (DO NOT give them your passport, unfortunately, scams occur often).
Suggested daily budget
$20-32 USD. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a good hotel, eating out local/mid-range, and bargaining for price of transportation Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!
1. Walk The tuk-tuk’s and motorbike rentals are quite pricey here. Since the streets are calm, opt for walking instead.
2. Street food It is significantly cheaper to eat at market stalls than a restaurant.
3. Bring Cash ATM’s in Laos tend to charge even ‘border-less’ cards. There is also no standard fee, so in some places the charge can be as high as $7 per transaction.
4. Your own itinerary Plan your Laos adventure yourself. All the sights are convenient and in our time there we didn’t need anything booked by someone else. No need to pay those extra agent fees.
When to visit Laos
While the most popular time to visit is November to January, you can visit Laos all year around.
We visited Laos in its rainy season (May) and while it was slightly more overcast it didn’t rain that much at all. I would add the rice fields were brown, not green though – in case you plan on taking pictures with lush green fields.