We stayed 17 days in Laos and budgeted $40 per day for two people, which we came close to – ending at $41.03 per day. However, we were stuck in Don Khon for 4 days without access to an ATM, which meant a few days of spending only $20, which brought our average down. In general, Laos is a country that’s easy on your budget. A more realistic number would be somewhere between $45 – $50 for 2 people.
Exchange rate: 7945 LAK = $1 USD (April 2012)
After bragging about our wonderful Schwab card with no ATM fees in the Thailand update, karma intervened and we promptly lost the card. We shelled out for ridiculous fees through Cambodia and Vietnam until my parents could bring our new card to us in Thailand.
Below, you can see a breakdown of our 2 weeks in Laos by category:
|Visa On Arrival x 2 (plus bribes)||$76.00|
(All numbers are only daily spending for two people, items like visas, fees, activities and food can be split in half to get a per person amount. The numbers don’t include airfare or other transportation to the country.)
- For lodging, we stayed in guesthouses. Accommodation is very cheap. We were able to get aircon in nearly every place and never paid more than $23 per night. While we’ve haven’t stayed in a dorm room yet (knock on wood) we did share a room with a fellow Chicagoan we met on an overnight bus. This can be a great way to save on accommodation.
- Food was also cheap. Simple dishes like noodle soup can be had for as little as 10,000 kip, and we spent around $12 per day on food for the both of us.
- Transportation included quite a few overnight buses, a two-day motorbike rental for the Bolaven Plateau and a few tuk-tuk rides.
- Activities consisted of the Kuang Si waterfall, temple in Luang Prabang and bike rentals.
Laos is a beautiful and friendly country that’s also easy on your budget. The best part is interacting with the friendly locals which doesn’t cost a thing! There is plenty to do and experience and Laos is a country that should be on any budget traveler’s list.
Budget Travel Tips for Laos
- You can get cheaper bus tickets at the stations instead of through the tour agents on the street.
- If you go to Laos during the New Year, prepare to spend a little bit more on accommodation, alcohol, water bottles and/or squirt guns and maybe some extra clothes you don’t mind getting dirty!
- Motorbike rentals are more expensive than surrounding countries–and most locals won’t rent them out in Luang Prabang. Renting motorbikes was our favorite way to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Laos and highly recommended..
- When in doubt, the noodle soup will never disappoint!
Dave from A Couple Travelers says
Thanks for the update!
What are the options if you lose your schwab card, I mean, what if your parents didn’t bring you another one? Can they ship it to you? What if you’re not in a place long enough to wait, ship it ahead of you?
Were you interested in CSing at all but were not able to find any places, or not interested because accomodation is already so cheap?
What has been your experience with motorbikes? Did you know what you were doing before, or first timers?
Sry for all the questions but we’re leaving in 1mth!
Schwab card: They can ship internationally, but said it took at least 8 days, and we were in Cambodia at the time which has a reputation for lost mail. I suppose you could ship it ahead if you know a guesthouse you’ll be staying at and can arrange it with them ahead of time.
In Southeast Asia, accommodation is so cheap you don’t need to couchsurf. We tried to do it once, but the particular host seemed shady and his profile disappeared from the site right before we were about to arrive. We would try it again if we found the right place, but not in Asia.
We LOVE motorbikes! I want one at home after how much we drove them in Thailand and Laos. Close to zero experience, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly. We were even driving semi-automatic ones by the end of the trip. Next time we’re there it’ll just be manual transmission. They’re cheaper and more fun to drive. I love the freedom of being able to drive wherever you want for pretty cheap ($5–9 per day)
Dave from A Couple Travelers says
awesome, I’m going to use this as proof for Vicky that motorbikes are an option. Thanks!
Honestly I was terrified at times on the back of the motorbike, I always rode on the back and held on tight (sometimes with my eyes closed) – but Josh loved driving and I trusted him to get us there safely.
They were a lot of fun and we would rent them as much as possible – but they still make me nervous!!
Motorbikes definitely make me nervous especially considering that Dave has never driven one before! If I do eventually trust him to take us for a ride I too will be holding on tight with eyes closed! Thanks for all the tips, too bad you had a bad experience with couchsurfing – definitely want to stay away from the shady types.
Just take it slow at first! If you’re starting in Thailand, you won’t have any problems. We learned in Bali in rush hour traffic! It was nuts, but if I can do it, Dave can do it. 🙂
Greg Goodman says
Great post. I have a huge list of my budget from my trip a few years ago and wish I had done something like this. One thing I would ask on your lack of ATM…you weren’t tempted to use one of the “charge my credit card and get cash back” places? In the end, their fee is usually no more than the fee that the combined ATM and my bank back home charge on any withdrawl…
Thanks Greg. In Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam we couldn’t use our credit card as often as we could in other countries. I wasn’t aware of any places where we could charge and get cash back, but I suppose we never asked!