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Budget Guide To Laos

Still Cheap But No Longer Cheapest

On the way to 4.000 Islands

On the way to 4.000 Islands

Type Of Travel

Our two trips to Laos could not have been more different from each other. In June 2008, we were on a Round The World Trip (one year), and therefore on a somewhat tight budget (between Backpacking and Flashpacking). In November 2014, Gilles accompanied his father on his “Bucket List Trip”, which meant a pleasant mid-range type of travel. And this becomes clearly visible in the very different expenses we had on each trip …

Itinerary & Time Of The Visit

In June 2008, we spent one month in this charming country. We crossed the border from China on foot and started in Luang Nam Tha, where we trekked Luang Nam Tha National Park, then headed for popular Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng & Vientiane. Some of the lesser-known places we visited were Phonsavanh & the Plain of Jars, Kong Lo Cave, Pakse & the Bolaven Plateau and last but not least 4.000 Islands. We then moved on to Cambodia overland.

In November 2014, Gilles accompanied his father on his “Bucket List Trip” during 10 days in Laos, focusing more on well-trodden paths: Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Phonsavanh and finally Luang Prabang.

Global Budget

In 2008, during our Round The World Trip, we wrote: “Laos is the cheapest country we have been so far, even far cheaper than Bolivia! We honestly did not think it was possible. Even though we significantly upgraded our standard of living, we spent only 23 Euros a person per day during the month we were there. One could actually travel on a daily budget of less than 15 Euros and still be able to see a lot!

Things have changed, and if Laos is still a country where you can travel on a budget, it is no longer the cheapest country we have experienced.

In 2014, the main difference made the choice of accommodation: we opted for pleasant, locally owned mid-range guesthouses, which are significantly more expensive than backpacker hostels. Also transport was more expensive, as we twice chartered a car, from Vang Vieng to Phonsavanh & around Phonsavanh for 2 days. Last but not least, we always took a guide and enjoyed a few activities (like a quite expensive Quad Tour in Vang Vieng). As a conclusion, we would no longer have succeeded in spending as little as 23 € a day, but backpacking would have been incomparably cheaper than the 67 € we spent per day in 2014.

Costs per Person per Day in € 2008 2014
Long Distances’ Transport €   5,60 €   8,20
Short Distances’ Transport €   0,50 €   2,60
Total Transport €   6,10 € 10,80
Hotels €   6,00 € 31,50
Restaurants & Food €   6,00 €   8,50
Drinks & Going Out N.A. €   2,40
Every Day Life (& Souvenirs) € 2,80 €   0,90
Total Living € 14,80 € 43,30
Visits & Tours €   2,40 €   7,40
Activities N.A. €   5,30
Total Tours & Activities €   2,40 € 12,70
Total Country: € 23,30 € 66,80

Hostels & Hotels

As soon as you upgrade to Mid-Range Guesthouses, the price climbs significantly. Nonetheless, for 31,50 € a night (always single rooms), we had a very pleasant level of comfort…

City (2008) Name Type of Accommodation Type ofRoom Price per Night (€) Evaluation(1 to 5 Stars)
Luang Nam Tha Manychan Guesthouse Hotel Double Room €   4,80 N.A.
Luang Prabang Villa Phatana Hotel Double Room € 16,70 ****
Phonsavanh White Orchid Hotel Hotel Double Room €   8,00 N.A.
Vang Vieng Elephant Crossing Guesthouse Hotel Double Room € 28,00 ****
Vang Vieng Thavisouk Resort Hostel Double Room €   8,00 ***
Vientiane Villa Manoly Hotel Double Room € 20,20 ****
Pakse Sala Champa Guesthouse Hotel Double Room €   9,20 ***
Tad Lo (Bolaven Plateau) Sipa Seuth Guesthouse Guesthouse Double Room €   4,80 N.A.
Don Khong Pon’s River Guesthouse Guesthouse Double Room €   8,00 N.A.
Don Khon Pan’s Guesthouse Guesthouse Double Room €   4,80 N.A.
City (2014) Name Type of Accommodation Type ofRoom Price per Night (€) Evaluation(1 to 5 Stars)
Vientiane Hotel Khamvongsa Hotel Single Room € 33,33 ****
Vang Vieng The Ehephant Crossing Hotel Hotel Single Room € 37,50 *****
Phon Savanh The Hillside Residence Guesthouse Single Room € 25,00 ***
Luang Prabang Muong Lao Riverside Guesthouse Guesthouse Single Room € 32,04 ***

Restaurants & Food

Food is cheap in Laos, and even if we went to food stalls to enjoy street food, to local restaurants and at times also to more touristy places to sample some international cuisine, this budget is relatively low.

City (2014) Name Type ofFood Type ofMeal Price perMeal (€) Evaluation(1 to 5 Stars)
Vientiane Tucky Wonton Noodle Soup Lunch Food Stall €   1,50 ***
Vientiane Lao Kitchen Dinner Restaurant €   6,00 *****
Vientiane iPho Lunch / Dinner Restaurant €   4,00 ****
Vientiane Makphet Lunch Restaurant €   9,50 *
Vientiane Food Stall Up-River Dinner Food Stall €   5,30 ***
Vang Vieng Elephant Crossing Dinner Hotel €   6,00 *****
Vang Vieng Elephant Crossing Lunch Hotel €   2,50 *****
Phonsavanh Sanga Restaurant Dinner Restaurant €   2,50 ***
Phonsavanh Restaurant Plane of Jare Site 2 Lunch Food Stall €   1,60 ***
Luang Prabang Phousi Restaurant Garden Dinner Restaurant €   3,90 *
Luang Prabang Xieng Thong Noodle-Shop Lunch Food Stall €   1,10 *****
Luang Prabang Lao Lao Garden Dinner Restaurant €   4,70 ****
Luang Prabang Tamarind Lunch Restaurant €   5,70 *****
Luang Prabang Bamboo Tree Dinner Restaurant €   9,40 ****

Drinks & Going Out

We had a drink almost every night, might it be a Beer Lao or a cocktail (each time one). This did not massively influence the budget, though…

City (2014) Name Type ofPlace Type ofDrink Price perDrink (€) Evaluation(1 to 5 Stars)
Vientiane Noy’s Fruit Heaven Fruit Juices Fruit Juice Bar €   1,80 ***
Vientiane The Drop Zone Cocktails Expat. Bar €   3,50 **
Vientiane 95′ Wines Cocktails Expat. Bar €   5,00 ****
Vang Vieng Elephant Crossing Beer Hotel €   1,50 ****
Phonsavanh Savan Restaurant Beer Restaurant €   1,00 **
Luang Prabang Lao Lao Garden Cocktails Expat. Bar €   2,75 *****


Transport is cheap in Laos, as long as you travel on public transports. Chartering a car is comfortable, but also extremely expensive. We would only recommend doing this if you have a very good reason to do so, as private vehicles are not faster than public transports, but more flexible and more comfortable.

From (2008) To Type of Transport Distance (km) Duration (hours) Price(€)
Luang Nam Tha Round Trip Scooter 80 4 €   5,00
Luang Nam Tha Luang Prabang Bus 320 9 €   6,00
Luang Prabang Phonsavanh Bus 310 8 € 10,00
Phonsavanh Round Trip Scooter 140 4 € 12,00
Phonsavanh Vang Vieng Bus 220 7 €   8,00
Vang Vieng Vientiane Bus 150 4 €   7,00
Vientiane Pakse Plane 680 2 € 54,00
Pakse Round Trip Scooter 220 7 € 20,00
Pakse Bolaven Plateau & Back Scooter 260 7 € 18,00
Pakse Wat Phu Champasak & Back Scooter 120 4 € 10,00
Pakse Don Khong Bus 130 3 €   4,00
Don Khong Round Trip Scooter 70 2 €   7,00
Don Khong Don Khon Boat 15 3 €   3,00
Don Khon Round Trip Scooter 30 3 €   5,00
From (2014) To Type of Transport Distance (km) Duration (hours) Price(€)
Vientiane Vang Vieng Bus 160 4 €     6,00
Vang Vieng Phonsavanh Privat Taxis 235 6 € 110,00
Phonsavanh Luang Prabang Mini Bus 265 7 €   13,00

Tours & Activities

As soon as you leave tourist hubs, tours & activities become much more expensive, as it is far more difficult to find fellow travelers to share costs. There again, we advise against chartering a car or a tuk tuk and to rent a motorbike or a scooter instead, which might save you a lot of money…

Splurge At Reasonable Costs?

True, mid-range guesthouses are significantly more expensive than hostels, but all in all you can find pleasant accommodation for a very reasonable price.

The same applies for restaurants, where you can enjoy really good food. Why not sample some international cuisine after a while, to accommodate your palate with something familiar…

Reduce Costs?

You can save a lot of money on accommodation in Laos, as the comparison between our trip in 2008 (Backpacking) and 2014 (Mid-Range) clearly shows.

Moreover, a great way to cut costs and to enhance your mobility and flexibility is to rent a scooter or a motorbike once in a specific area (like Phonsavanh, Pakse, Luang Nam Tha, …). There is no need to be a very experienced driver to tackle the road conditions there. Just be careful and do not overestimate your driving skills if riding a scooter is something new to you!

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