Laos is a wonderful country that is just waiting to be discovered on a tour of SE Asia. But, this lush, heavily forested country is not the cheapest to visit compared to neighbouring countries like Vietnam and Thailand. Laos is a country that depends heavily on imports, which mean the cost of things will seem higher than many would expect.
However, to help budget for the Laos tour packages, we have put together a guide of typical costs in the country to help plan your adventure. Also, the local currency in Laos is referred to as Laotian Kip (LAK).
Here is an overview of the cost of travel in Laos:
Laos is still relatively early in its journey to become a tourist destination, so the accommodation options beyond the larger cities and towns are quite limited.
A stay in a hotel or guest house with a double room and air-conditioning can cost in the in the region of $15-$35 per night. However, there are cheaper options, such as fan only rooms at about $5 per night.
For the budget-friendly trip to Laos, a stay in a hostel is the most cost-effective at around $2-$3 per night, but the cost will vary with the location of the hostel and the number of beds.
Beyond the low-cost options, there is the option to experience the luxury Laos travel with a stay in a high - end hotel in Vientiane or Luang Prabang. The cost of rooms in a private resort is likely to be in the region of $200 or more per night.
For the travellers that want to get the most authentic experience while in Laos, a stay in a homestay in the countryside is certain to appeal. Plus, this is a great way to give a direct contribution to a regional ethnic tribe or village. The cost of a homestay will depend on its location, but a likely cost is $8-$10 per night and includes a home-cooked meal and drink. Also, it is important to consider the travel costs to arrive at the homestay.
Laos does not have much in the way of railway infrastructure, so the most practical means of transport between towns and villages are buses or minivans. Over the long distance and for trips that take place overnight, the night buses are a perfect option to get to your next destination. Plus, they will also help to save on a nights accommodation cost.
For instance, a bus journey from Luang Prabang to Vientiane can cost in the region of $10-$15 (depending on the bus company) and will take about 10 hours to complete. Even though there is a government-run bus service, this isn't always recommended because it is blighted by regular delays and breakdowns.
Also, the main bus stations are located a short distance from the town limits, so you will need to hire a tuk-tuk to complete the last few kilometres of the journey. Once in town, you will find it is possible to walk around because the majority of towns in Laos are quite small.
When it comes to hiring a tuk-tuk, make sure to agree on a price before you get in the actual vehicle. If you don't agree a price beforehand, there is a very high risk of the price being a lot more than it should be. The cost of a standard or jumbo size tuk-tuk is in the region of $2-$3 per journey.
Other options to get around once in town are by bicycle, with many of the streets fairy quite so it can be relaxing to travel around and see the sights on the Laos customised tours.
For the longer distance travel, including flights to neighbouring countries, there are international airports in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Budget-friendly airline carriers in the region include Lao Airlines and AirAsia.
Food and drink
The street food scene isn't as impressive in Laos compared to what is available in a neighbouring country like Vietnam. Also, the meals in Laos can be a little more expensive. A full meal can start at about $3 or more. Tourists will notice plenty of bakeries in the country which have been influenced by past French occupation in the region and therefore serve pastries and filled baguettes at $2-$3.
The best of the sit down restaurants are located in the major tourist areas like Vientiane and Luang Prabang. They have several high-quality Indian and French options with prices starting at about $6 per meal and drinks at $1-$2.
The national beer is Beer Lao which costs about $1 for a large bottle. There is also plenty of places to pick up some home-brewed whisky at $1.50 per bottle. Even though the home brew is illegal to sell it is still widely available in many towns.
Excursions and day-trips
One of the most luxurious things to do in Laos is a slow and relaxing cruise on the Mekong River. A 2-day trip costs in the region of $150 per person which gives access to a decent quality berth, food and drink.
Alternatively, there is a public slow boat that is less luxurious but still a pleasant trip and costs in the region of $25-$30 per person, for a 1 to 3 day cruise.
For the tourist interesting in seeing the natural habitat of a few of the local wild animals, the Gibbon Experience in the north of the country is certain to appeal and can cost about $100 per day, but varies with the time of the year.
Getting access to many of the temples, waterfalls and parks is likely to cost in the region of $4 to $8.
Beyond the cost of things once you arrive in Laos, you also want to look at the cost of things that need to get organised before you arrive. A typical expense is certain to include a visa which can cost in the region of $25-$30 for a visa on arrival, but the cost can vary with the type of visa and the tourist's home country.