Travel Costs: Laos

Laos was a funny country for us. We’d planned to spend two weeks (not long enough, I know!), but David came down with the flu so we ended up staying in Chiang Mai a little longer. In the end, we had about eight and a half days in Laos. There were parts we loved, there were parts we hated, but how much does a week in Laos cost?

travel costs laos

It all depends on your travel style, but we’re what I’d call your average travellers. We’re not scrimping on a budget backpackers, but we travelled for three months which meant we weren’t throwing away cash.

How much did we spend?

Total Travel Costs for Laos

Total Spent: $634.42 CAD over 8.5 days.

Average daily travel costs for 2 people: $75.51 ALL in

Transportation:  711,000 Kip / $100.75 CAD / 16% of our budget

Songthaew (tuk tuk) prices were all over the shop in Laos. Vientiane was the worst offender where we ended up spending more to get from the city centre to the bus station than we did to get from the bus station to a town called Kasi – A SIX HOUR DRIVE AWAY. I know I look gullible, but come on! I feel justified in pointing out that this bus cost us $6 per person, so it’s not like we were willy-nilly throwing our cash away, but I would negotiate hard with the songthaew drivers.

Food and Drink:   1,741,000 Kip / $246.70 CAD / 39% of our budget

I’ll admit it – Laotian food was not my favourite cuisine in Southeast Asia, and you had better drink beer. There were many places we went where there was no liquor – sad Victoria. The one night I tried for beer was the epic evening of hugging the toilet cursing Beer Lao. Moving swiftly on… restaurants in Vientiane were not cheap. They were not far off North American fast food prices for an average quality of food.

travel costs laos

Sites:  59,000 Kip / $8.36 CAD / 1% of our budget

I can’t argue with the cost effective cultural sites. The Buddha Park? Less than a dollar per person. Patuxai (a.k.a. the Laotian version of the Arc du Triomphe)? Less than a dollar for both of us! The COPE Museum? Free! Donations welcome of course.

travel costs laos

Activities:   872,000 Kip / $123.56 CAD / 19% of our budget

Considering how many activities we did, I’m actually impressed this is only 19% of our budget. Beyond everything, my favourite thing we did was learning to ride motorbikes in Kasi with Uncle Tom. Correction. I learned, but David already knew what he was doing. This was worth it’s weight in gold and Tom is such a great guy. You know that he’s just earning an honest living and is saving up to visit his kids in Wales. Love him. This budget line also included tubing down the river in Vang Vieng and renting bicycles to visit the overcrowded Blue Lagoon.

travel costs laos

There were some odd hotels in Laos. Like… unfinished ones… with people in them…

Accommodation: 1,070,223  Kip / $151.65 CAD / 24% of our budget

Our accommodation averaged about $13-17 a night which I honestly think was too much. What you have to remember is that Laos was touted as the cheapest country we’d visit. Rooms for $5. Food for $1. Bus tickets for $3…. these are genuine prices we’d seen advertised. 2011 prices, grant you, but prices. Oh what a difference three years make.

Laundry:   24,000 Kip / $3,4 CAD / 1% of our budget

We had laundry done once.

The "free" bamboo bridge across Nam Xong river

The “free” bamboo bridge across Nam Xong river

Budget Takeaways?

I got the impression that in the late 2000s Laos saw a huge influx of tourism and therefore raised their prices for transportation, accommodation and food and drink. Tourist prices, I’ll note, not local prices. That said, $75 a day is still extremely reasonable for two people, but we had planned to budget $55 a day for two, based on our research. We ended up about a third more on our budget than planned – eek!

You can definitely do food cheaper than we did. There were a few days where there was either no option, or we were fed up with scams/buses/exhaustion that we did the ultimate budget-no-no and threw caution to the wind. Pizza dinner!!! Wine!!! Budget be damned!!!

Bad travellers. Bad.

Finally, above all else GET OUT OF VIENTIANE. This capital city is ridiculously overpriced without offering the cultural value you’d expect. Get out into the countryside and you’ll get closer to a reasonable budget.

Visited Laos recently? What did you think of the prices? 

Visiting Vietnam? Find out how much we budgeted.

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2 Responses to Travel Costs: Laos

  1. zascha February 23, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Thank you for this post. I’m heading to Laos myself at the end of the year, so it’s nice to hear people’s different opinions – especially when it comes to budgets.

    • Victoria Smith February 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      No problem, Zascha. I’m glad you find it helpful. How long are you spending in Laos? I hear Luang Prabang is phenomenal (we missed it sadly, darn flu!). We never discovered Southern Laos, but there are plenty of great blog posts out there on the 4000 Islands and the coffee plantations.

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