I’m currently working on the new edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations and am getting some help from some fellow travelers in updating prices for places I haven’t been to in a while, like Laos.
Fortunately, Laos has not been completely overrun yet and it’s still dirt cheap. Sure, the vendors are inheriting the Vietnamese communist ways and trying to “soak the rich foreigners” every chance they get, but patient bargaining will usually get you to the right level or at least close.
One of the features of my book that reviewers always seem to like is the “What you can get for a buck or less” section. So here’s the current rundown for Laos. A buck or less for: a kilo of laundry, a ferry ride across the Mekong, a filled breakfast baguette, two cups of coffee, three servings of freshly made and spicy six-chili papaya salad (som tam), two gigantic pineapples, four hands of bananas, a big beer in a store, a half-day bike rental. I have to check whether three grilled rats on a stick has risen to over 8,000 kip…
The dollar has declined some since my last edition came out. Plus as in every country around the globe, higher fuel and food prices have taken their toll and many things have risen in cost as a result. Two can’t eat a street stall for a dollar anymore, but a big filling bowl of pho at a stall or market will still only set you back 60 cents. Plus a block or two from the tourist zones you can find cheap eats nearly anywhere. “Even in Vang Vieng where there were very pricey options all around there was also a street with cheap restaurants.”
My correspondents noted that there are indeed plenty more tourists than when I wrote the last edition and you can spend a lot more these days on meals and hotels as a result if you want. But you don’t have to. The good news out of more visitors is the infrastructure keeps improving. Getting between the popular spots is not nearly as painful as it used to be.
Here’s their budget guestimate based on keeping a spreadsheet of costs for close to a month.
“It would probably be around $30-40 a day for two people traveling on a minimalist budget for 15 days and $25-35 a day if they spend about a month in the country, since transport costs are averaged out over more days then. On a higher budget (so, for example, taking a $30/night hotel in places where they exist like Luang Prabang, Tadlo, Tad Fane, Vientiane), nicer meals, a few tours, we come up with anything from $60-80 a day for a 15 day tour of Laos to $50-70 over a month. ”
That’s still a screaming bargain. Good thing too, since “the largest bill we’ve seen so far is a 50,000 note—about $6 U.S.”
Spend some time in Laos if you’re in Southeast Asia. It’s still a lovely place and you don’t have to go very far to get way off the beaten path.