Laos in a Glimpse
Thailand promotes itself as amazing, Vietnam can well be described as bustling, Cambodia's Khmer temples are awe-inspiring, Myanmar's junta is barbaric... but the adjective most often applied to Laos is forgotten. Although there are a few grand (but relatively unheard of) attractions, those visitors who are drawn by the laid-back lifestyle and the opportunity to watch the sunsets on the Mekong will simply explain the attraction by revealing that the true meaning of "Lao PDR" isLao - Please Don't Rush.
Laos has three distinct seasons:
Some Laotians consider tourists as "cash cows", and whilst not as bad as in Vietnam they will take whatever tourists are willing to pay; however honest and decent Laotians far out number the dodgy characters, especially outside the main tourist areas. Hotels are of lower quality for higher prices than in Thailand or Cambodia, the dishes in restaurants are smaller and the tuk-tuks more of a rip-off. As can be expected it's worse in the tourist centres of Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng than in the smaller towns and villages.
A budget of US$40 a day is a good rule of thumb, though it's possible to get by on less. A basic room with shared bathroom can be as little as US$6 in Vang Vieng, rising to US$10-15 in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Meals are usually under US$5 for even the most elaborate Lao, Thai or Vietnamese dishes although western food is more expensive. A local bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng costs US$5; the slow boat from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai costs US$25.
Unlike in Thailand access to temples in Luang Prabang is not free, with an entrance fee typically being 10,000 kip.
Laos is more expensive than Thailand and Cambodia, as most goods, petrol & food is imported from Thailand and Vietnam. Also, some people, and especially tuk tuk drivers, consider 1 US$ as being equivalent to 10,000 kip, where as the official exchange rate is better.
Outside of tourist centres rooms can be as low as US$2.50 per night and even at Si Phan Don for US$5/night. A large bowl of noodle soup is around US$1, as are large bottles of Beer Laos. Excluding transportation, living on US$15/day should not be too difficult.
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