Travel Costs: Laos Budget Update


Many websites that inspired our own trip included budget information and we found it immensely helpful. So for those planning their own trip to Laos, here is a breakdown of what we spent for two people over 12 days in Laos, traveling down the Mekong from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, and onward to Vang Vieng and Vientiane.

The currency is Laos is the Lao Kip. The exchange rate as of February 2013 was 7909 kip to 1 USD (it was fun withdrawing ONE MILLION KIP from the ATM’s).

Spending Breakdown:

Activity $76.00
Food/Drink $241.29
Lodging $215.00
Misc. (slow boat to LP) $315.42
Transportation $58.13
Immigration $77.50
Grand Total $983.33 (USD)

This works out to about $82/day for two people. The biggest expense was getting from Northern Thailand down to Luang Prabang. We booked a private boat, but the public boat is only ~$30 US/person plus food and a room in Pak Beng at the overnight stop. Excluding this expense, say if you fly in to Luang Prabang, our expenses work out to about $56/day for two people.

A few notes on our spending habits:

  • For lodging, we booked private double rooms with air conditioning and private bathrooms at local guesthouses ranging in price from $10 in Vang Vieng to $35 in Luang Prabang (which included a huge breakfast), averaging $21.50/night.
  • For food and drink, we found prices slightly higher than in Thailand, mainly because street food wasn’t as prevalent.
  • The transportation figure includes inter-country transportation, a combination of buses, tuk tuks, and bicycle rentals. This excludes the Mekong River boat which we’ve classified separately since it included lodging and food as well.
  • The miscellaneous category includes our two-day slow boat trip (which included meals and accommodations), one load of laundry and a waterproof wallet for tubing down the river in Vang Vieng.
  • Immigration Fees included two $36 tourist visas and small fees for a departure tax and visa photos.
  • This includes only our spending in the country. It excludes our airfare here and upfront costs like immunizations, travel insurance, etc.
  • We were surprised by how upmarket and generally expensive things were in Luang Prabang. Vang Vieng and Vientiane were much less expensive overall.
  • We’re paying mostly in cash, but we’ve made a few deposits for things using our Marriott Chase Visa. They don’t charge foreign transaction fees and offer the best travel rewards, in my opinion.
  • Finally, I have to mention the Charles Schwab Investor Checking account that we opened prior to this trip. They refund all ATM fees, no questions asked. In our first month we received a $50 credit to our account for ATM fee refunds! There are absolutely no stipulations to opening one of these accounts other than also opening a brokerage account with them (that you don’t have to fund). I think everyone should have one. Here is a great post on travel cards that turned us on to the Schwab card.

Please drop us a line in the comments if you have any travel budget tips of your own.

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