Average spent per day: $33.61
Total days in Laos: 17
As much as we tried, we never did warm up to the people in Laos. Our first impression was not good, considering we felt slightly scammed being forced to take tuk-tuks after being dropped off in the middle of nowhere from the longboat, even though our ticket clearly stated Luang Prabang as the final destination point. We arrived in Laos from Northern Thailand and had a great time joking with local Thais, but in Laos it felt as if we were never really welcomed. This improved slightly in Kong Lor Village, but in the bigger towns and especially the 4000 Islands it was hard to get so much as a smile from anyone. I know certain people will disagree, but many of the people we travelled with and talked to at the end of the journey felt very similarly.
The main dish that many people try in Laos is called Laap, a minced meat salad of sorts. Kyle had it and thought it was decent, but nothing to write home about. Some of the baguette sandwiches you can grab from the streets are tasty, but just watch out for the mayo – they love to load this on! Overall there wasn’t a lot of food that really stood out to us. If anything our favorite was the grilled fish we had in Luang Prabang for a few dollars.
Much of the population of Laos live in small villages dispersed throughout the country. Crossing the border from Thailand I felt as though I had stepped back in time, with wooden huts on the side of the river for shelter and people bathing in open water. That being said, we stuck to a well-trodden path throughout the country, and I don’t feel as if we really immersed ourselves in the Laos way of life. There were a few people, however, who gave the impression that it was every man for himself. Many people who tried to sell their guesthouses to us had no problem saying that everyone else’s was prone to burglary, and just generally not as good. Considering this was in mostly touristy areas, I can’t imagine smaller villages having this same mentality.
As per most places we’ve travelled, certain things were expensive while others quite cheap. We managed to find accommodation for as little as $3 each per night in Vang Vieng, and a meal for under $3 in Luang Prabang. Transportation ended up being our biggest expense, with the longboat to Luang Prabang being over $30. Considering how long it took to get anywhere, these prices seemed a bit steep for Southeast Asia standards.
Keep one very important thing in mind when travelling in Laos: it takes AGES to get anywhere. The infrastructure just isn’t there, and the roads are extremely windy (especially in the north). Don’t expect anything you search for in Google Maps to actually take the recommended time.
The Final Verdict
Out of all of the places we’ve travelled so far, Laos is one of the lowest on our list. The scenery was amazing, we met some great people, but the transport and Laotian culture grated on us. If I was to recommend Laos to people, I would say see the north, but only do the south if you’re ready for a lot of travelling with little in return. It was a very frustrating country to travel, and we were more than happy to see smiling Thai people greet us upon crossing the border on our way to Bangkok.