How we totally blew our Laos budget

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"Laos will be cheap," we said, "we'll save heaps of money!"

We’ll be upfront and honest here; we’ve budgeted $70USD a day for our travels. This includes everything, including flights, transport, accommodation, food, other expenses etc. So you could say we are travelling tight, but this is the price you pay (pardon the pun) for 10 months travel around the world.

Being travelling tight-asses, when we were planning for our trip we purposely chose a route that would encompass cheap regions, including Southeast Asia, the Subcontinent and Central and Southern Africa. The first country we visited in South East Asia after Singapore was Laos.

The Common Wanderer_Unexpected costs of travelling Laos
The Common Wanderer_Unexpected costs of travelling Laos

We had this idea in our minds that Laos would be South East Asian style cheap. Street food, guesthouse accommodation and transport would be, you know, cheap cheap! From our research we assumed $50USD a day would be more than enough for our travels, similar to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

It turns out we were wrong. The unexpected cost of travelling Laos led us to spend exactly $70USD a day for our three weeks. After a week we were shocked and Mark (our fund manager) was going early grey. How were we spending so much? We tried to make a few revisions to our spending, including eating at street vendors, drinking only Beerlao (much to Miranda’s chagrin) and staying in cheaper accommodation. While this improved things slightly, we were still pretty much hitting right on $70USD per day

So what made Laos so expensive? Nothing in particular, it's just that everything was slightly more expensive then we had anticipated and gradually the little costs here and then began to add up.

To give you an idea, indicative prices include:

Accommodation

Private guesthouses - 100,000 Kip or $12.50 USD or Dorm - 50,000 - 70,000 Kip or $6 - $8 USD

 

Transport

100,000 - 200,000 Kip (depending on your destination) or $12.50 - $25 USD

 

Meals

15,000 - 30,000 Kip or $2 - $4 USD

 

Beer

10,000 Kip or $1.20 USD

 

Tours/activities

120,000Kip - 200,000+ Kip or $15 - $25 USD

Overall, in the grand scheme of things, Laos is not an expensive country to travel. It's just that in comparison with surrounding South East Asian countries, it is. Be aware, and add a little more Kip to that Laos budget of yours.

cost of travelling in Laos - markets
cost of travelling in Laos - markets

Our best tip to save money in Laos is to shop around for the cheapest version of the big items, whether it be accommodation, transport or tours. Generally, all guesthouses are the same in term of amenities, so look for the cheapest one before committing.

Organising transport through your hostel can also sometimes be more expensive, so head into town and visit an agent. Finally, if you’re looking at doing a tour, team up with other travellers to lessen the costs.

cost of travelling in Laos - cycling around don det
cost of travelling in Laos - cycling around Don Det

A side note, Laos is one country we were happy to spend a little more of our hard earned in. The people are humble and hard-working and the scenery was breathtaking. Check out our Temples and Chill: Laos Photo Diary to see what we’re talking about!

Have you been to Laos? Did you find it expensive like us or were we doing it wrong? Tell us in the comments below!


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