I had the opportunity to spend a year in Southeast Asia, including a whole month in Laos, a small country I truly loved for many reasons, such as its authenticity, the Laotians and its sublime landscapes. In the end, Laos is one of those Asian countries that is way less visited than Cambodia (known for the temples of Angkor), Vietnam (Halong Bay) or Burma (known for the famous pagoda and Bagan stupa). Laos is still a little off the beaten track, and many rather go to Vietnam or Cambodia. This article is in the same line as the ones dedicated to the budget for a French Polynesian or a New Zealand trip. In this article, I’ll provide you with everything you need to know to estimate your travel expenses in Laos. It is always interesting to have an idea of the cost of living in the country before leaving for your next trip there. If you are already convinced that your budget on site will not be a problem, you might want to know when to go to Laos, don’t you?
Other articles will follow about this country, especially the one about visiting Laos. Having spent quite a bit of time there, I could tell you what to see in Laos without worries!
Let’s be clear right from the start: whether you’re leaving for a month in Laos or only a week, the budget should not be excessive. Laos is one of those South East Asian countries that are generally very easy to visit, and which, like many others of its neighbors, does not cost much compared to our Europe standard of living. You can travel to Laos cheaply without any problem.
This article will be of particular help for those wishing to visit Laos by their own. However, there are a large number of travel agencies for going to Laos that offer tours throughout the country, for people preferring this type of travel.
As very often, I compartmentalize the travel budget in Laos into 5 main points of expenses.
1 – Going to Laos: the airplane ticket
2 – Transportation in Laos
3 – Accommodation in Laos
4 – Food in Laos
5 – Activities and leisure
As usual, we will add souvenirs, bank taxes when withdrawing money, etc. Well, you know it if you’re used to traveling!
Oddly enough (so to speak), getting to Laos is relatively more expensive than getting to Thailand. So, sure, Thailand is much more popular with tourists than what Laos can be. Also, it is funny to note that Laos is one of those countries that has a better-known city (Luang Prabang) than its capital (Vientiane). Finding a flight to Luang Prabang is therefore cheaper if you want to go to Laos on vacation.
To evaluate your travel budget to Laos, I’d say that you have two solutions for international flights:
- Either you don’t want to complicate things and you manage to find a cheap flight to Laos, most probably to the city of Luang Prabang,
- Or taking another means of transportation does not scare you (plane, bus, train) and in this case, the best option to visit Laos would be to look for a cheaper flight from where you live to Bangkok, and then leave Thailand to go to Laos. This second solution is a bit cheaper overall, even if it will require a little more travel time.
The figures below give some good ideas of prices to find a cheap trip to Laos.
Which brings me to the second point I mentioned above. Economically speaking, it is quite reasonable to focus on a flight to Bangkok and then find another means of transportation to cross the border. If you search carefully, you can fly from the main cities of Europe or US from 400/500$, and sometimes even less.
All you have to do is take a flight from Bangkok to Luang Prabang, which will cost about 50 to 70€. If you are on a budget during your trip, nothing prevents you from taking a bus from Bangkok to Nong Khai, border post of Laos, for about 500 Thb (a little more than 10€). This site works very well to compare prices of different means of transportation in Southeast Asia.
For me, you won’t find a cheaper way to go there from France. However, don’t hesitate to come and have a look at my cheap plane tickets page, which is updated every month, to see if I haven’t found a cheap flight to Laos!
To evaluate your budget during your vacation in Laos, transportation will obviously have to be taken into account. I’ll give price ideas either per day or per person.
From what I have seen, very few travellers decide to fly within Laos. It is however possible, but still much more expensive than other means of transportation, which are nevertheless longer.
Two internal flights are in my opinion interesting for those who really want to save time during their trip to Laos:
- Houeixay – Luang Prabang (or Vientiane),
- Vientiane – Paksé.
Prices vary but, overall, you can expect to pay 40€ one way for these two flights. The Paksé – Vientiane trip can be interesting, knowing that it saves you from spending a whole night in a bus (even if it’s very nice to sleep in a sleeper bus). Lao Airlines offers these plane trips.
It’s the real local means of transportation, and if you come from Thailand, you will laugh when seeing the Laotian buses conditions compared to the Thai ones. In general, you feel like you went 50 years back!
More seriously, bus travel in Laos can be a bit exhausting because of the duration, but it’s overall very easily done and by far the most economical means of transport in Laos.
Here are some ideas of prices for trips I personally did. As a reminder, 1 € = about 10 000 Kip.
- Savanhaket (Thai border) – Pakse : 40 000 Kip, 5h
- Pakse -> Ban Nakassang : 50 000 Kip, 2h30
- Package 4000 islands by boat then bus to Pakse – Vientiane (Night bus) : 180 000 Kip, 1 night bus (900 Km)
On a side note, one of the most beautiful trips I had the opportunity to make during my tour in Laos was the road leading from the small town of Muang Ngoy, in North Vietnam, to the city of Dien Bien Phu. The road meanders between beautiful rice paddy landscapes with an impressive fog. I have such good memories of it – a memorable trip!
Except for a small section of line outside Vientiane, Laos does not have a developed rail network. However, it is planned, to connect the neighboring countries.
As in Thailand, or in any other neighboring countries of Southeast Asia, you will have to systematically negotiate the price of a Tuk-Tuk ride. That’s the way it goes, that’s part of the local game.
Some ideas of prices of rides I did:
- Luang Prabang -> Kuang Si waterfall: 1h, 30 000 Kip,
- Nong Khiaw -> Ban Nayang: 30 Km, 50 000 Kip.
By Bike: the rental price per day varies from 15 000 to 20 000 Kip/day.
- Tour of Don Khon Island (4000 islands) : 20 000 Kip/day
By motorcycle: it is variable and especially negotiable when you rent one for several days.
- Rental for the Bolovens plateau, 4 days: 50 000 Kip/day
- Price of a liter of gasoline: 10,000/11,000 Kip.
By boat: Again, prices vary according to the ride and the boats. Some ideas:
- Ban Nakassang -> South of Don Det (4000 islands): 20 minutes, 20 000 Kip
- Boat trip between Luang Prabang -> Pakbeng: 165 Km (up the Mekong river), 130 000 Kip
- Nong Khiaw -> Muang Ngoi: 20 Km, 25 000 Kip
- Muang Ngoi -> Muong Khua (not far from the border in Vietnam for the passage through Dien Bien Phu): 5h, 100 000 Kip
Here is it, I hope that you will have a better idea of your travel budget in Laos thanks to these few ideas of transportation prices.
Like transportation in Laos, accommodation will generally not be really expensive. Of course, you can tell me that it depends on your usual notion of comfort… You’re not wrong.
To give you a little idea, I spent an average of 52 000 Kip/day to sleep (about 4€) over the month I spent in Laos. For this price, you have a double room in a guesthouse, and it’s the price of the room. It means only 2,5€ per day/person, which is not a huge budget, isn’t it?
At those prices, we globally had a double room in a guesthouse, clean, with fan and toilet. That was the most important thing for us.
Overall, prices start from 40 000 Kip (4€) per night and go up to 80 000 (8€), in the more touristic cities and areas.
Those looking for “nice rooms” in a more European standard will have to pay more than 100 000 Kip. But, between us, this is no point paying this price when you know you can find decent rooms for much less.
Another element to consider for your budget there will be the food-related expenses. Here again, just as in transportation or accommodation, eating in Laos truly is not expensive.
Some people find that Laotian food is similar to that of its Thai neighbor. In a way, it’s true. But I personally find that we eat better in Thailand. As very often, if you avoid the much-more-expensive tourist restaurants along with the large restaurants, especially in big cities, you should get by for not much.
Note that sticky rice (khao niao) and soups are among the Laos specialties. I personally ate kilos of this sticky rice up, cooked in a way which is typical of Laos.
Here are some price ideas regarding food expenses:
- A bowl of White Rice/Sticky Rice (the famous one): 5000 Kip,
- A packet of cake for breakfast: 3500 to 5000 Kip,
- A Coke in a street echo: 5000 Kip (8000 in a restaurant),
- A typical noodle/leaf/rice meal in a “local restaurant”: 12 000 to 15 000 (1 to 1,5€),
- 1 L of water: 3500 Kip,
- 1 soup in the street: 10 000 Kip,
- 1 Lao beer (local beer): about 10 000 Kip (the price of a meal…).
Some tips and tricks for traveling in the country: you will find very often in the big cities of Laos a night market, which is very good to travel cheaper. We often eat there for 10 000 Kip (1€) a large dish as much as you want.
As for the rest of my trip in Southeast Asia, I did not opt for paid activities. To tell the truth, it’s not like in New Zealand, where you have to pay whenever you want to do something…
Here are some price ideas of the visited places:
- Li Phi waterfalls in Luang Prabang: 20 000 Kip. Take the time to spend a few days in this city, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site -> a very popular area for tourists anyway!
- A boat tour on the 4000 islands to see dolphins: 100 000 to 150 000 for the boat, for 3/4 persons,
- Entrance to the waterfalls on the Bolovens plateau: 5000 Kip.
If you wish to plan your activities in the country before your departure, I advise you this website to compare many activities in Laos.
In the end, there are not a lot of places where we actually have to pay, and you take pleasure enjoying Laos, with its beautiful landscapes and this sweetness of life, strolling in the countryside by motorcycle, walking in villages, bathing in the rivers. We enjoy ourselves just as much! You want to know what to do in Laos?
Travelling in Laos: you simply enjoy the landscape and the local life in Laos.
When traveling around the world, we all sometimes seek not to miss unmissable areas in the country. Here are the few tourist areas of Laos: Vang Vieng (village known for “having a drink”), the Plain of Jars (archeological site), the Nam Ou river (famous for its descent in kayak or pirogue in particular), visit of the famous Golden Triangle, or of the Pak Ou caves.
In any case, leisure activities in Laos should not carry too much weigh in your budget.
Some personal advice, I very often recommend going and discovering the country from the North to the South, especially the mountainous region in the North of the country. In the dry season, you can easily rent a scooter or use local transportation to go up to the remote and preserved areas of the country. During the rainy season, things can get more complicated! You won’t blow your budget on “leisure” as such, but you can still have great experiences such as sleeping in a local’s house, discovering the lush vegetation of the north and meeting many ethnic minorities. You are a little outside of time there and, clearly, I advise you to mainly visit the rural areas. Change of scenery guaranteed! Lazing around on the banks of a small river is very nice and won’t cost you anything…
We get to the heart of the matter with my experience during the month spent there. I am going to talk to you here about my travel budget in Laos, by specifying you some points:
- Our month spent visiting Laos was included in a one-year tour of Southeast Asia. We were traveling in a very economical way (15€/day/person).
- Concerning transportation and food in Laos, we were mostly doing the most economical possible,
- We were travelling as a couple, which is often much cheaper than travelling alone (especially for accommodation),
- We have done very few paid activities, except visiting some temples and going back up rivers, for example,
- We often negotiated tuk-tuk prices, and systematically accommodation prices if we were staying more than 2 or 3 days in the same place.
Here is the average amount spent during these 28 days spent travelling in Laos, for 2 persons
Going to Laos does not require a very big budget and is almost identical to going to Thailand (within 1 or 2 €, as far as I’m concerned).
Now let’s talk about what will probably interest you the most: your travel budget to Laos. How much do you need to plan then?
The idea here is to give you a general idea for your trip to Laos. In fact, it is impossible to give you precise figures, as everything will depend on your way of travelling, your notion of comfort, where you will stay, how you will move around the country, or the activities you will do.
My advices are based on my own experience of a month spent in the country in an economical way, that is 23€ per day. We can almost use the same budget as the one for a trip to Thailand, except that prices to go to Laos could be higher.
For larger budgets, I’d tend to say about 30€ and 40€ per day.
All right, here’s an idea for 2 people:
- For economic budgets, based on our trip in Southeast Asia, let’s say that 700€ for a month for 2 people should be good for expenses there. If you choose the most economical solution to go to Laos from Europe, you can count 400€/person, passing through Thailand. Adding everything up, this makes about 1500€ for 2 people for a month in Laos, all included. We can say that it is the most economical, but easily feasible.
- For larger budgets (about 30€/day): If you choose to fly directly to Laos from France (for example Paris – Luang Prabang) and spend a little more there, you can count on 2000€ for the month.
- For those who wish to take some margin with a larger budget, leave with 2500€ for one month of travel in the country and it should be more than enough.
For shorter periods of time (even if I still wouldn’t recommend less than 2 weeks in Laos), and without plane ticket, you can plan about 150€ (economic mode) per week, 250€ to be a little bit wider, and 300€ to be even wider. Between us, if you manage to spend 40€ a day in Laos, you really have to do it on purpose, given the cost of living there.
So, I hope this article on the travel budget in Laos will help you to prepare your trip in the country. Don’t hesitate to contact me for any additional details on the budget. In any case, you will surely enjoy this trip off the beaten track. If you are preparing a trip to South-East Asia, the article on the travel budget in Thailand will also help you.
If you have already been to Laos, do these figures seem realistic or not? And so what did you think of the country?
See you soon, and above all: have a good trip!