Prices in Laos have shot up in recent years but they’re still good value.
A cycle tourist staying in budget hotels and staying away from touristy restaurants should do fine on 10 euros a day or even a bit less. As a couple, we found 15 euros a day allowed us to have a beer most nights and occasionally spend a bit more on a meal or hotel. There are plenty of temptations in Laos, from adventure tours to good food, so consider adding an extra margin to your budget for splurges. Getting you and your bike on a bus can easily eat up a day’s budget as you’ll have to pay anything up to half the ticket fee for your bike to ride as cargo.
Getting money is a lot easier than it used to be. ATMs are now popping up in the main cities including Pakse and Savannakhet in the south. You probably shouldn’t rely entirely on ATMs. They are prone to breakdowns. Bring at least a third to half of the cash you’ll need in U.S. dollars or Thai baht. You can bring Euros too but they’re not as common. Many guesthouses will change money but the standard street rate of 8,000 kip to the dollar given in hotels is nearly 10 percent below the dollar’s true value. You’ll do better by going to a bank. The rate for Thai baht in guesthouses is nearer the official exchange rate so if you have a choice between swapping dollars or baht in a hotel, use the baht.
Typical costs for Laos are hard to list because they vary wildly between the capital Vientiane and the countryside, tourist areas and those where foreigners hardly go. This is our best attempt at picking the most common value for a few things.
Some typical costs in August 2008:
Bungalow on the river – 15,000-20,000 kip
Bottle of Beer Lao – 8,000-10,000 kip
Bowl of noodle soup – 7,000-10,000 kip
Bunch of bananas – 2,000 kip
Bus fare Savannahket to Vientiane – 85,000 kip (110,000 kip for VIP bus)
Can of soda – 4,000-5,000 kip
Double room in budget hotel – 50,000 kip
Eggs – 1,000 kip each
French baguette – 4,000 kip
Fruit shake – 3,000-5,000 kip
Hour of internet – 5,000-8000 kip (up to 30,000 kip in remote areas)
Iced coffee – 3,000-5,000 kip (up to 14,000 kip in Vang Vieng)
Litre bottle of water – 1,000 kip
Som Tam Papaya Salad – 3,000-5,000 kip
Tire inflation – 1,000 kip
Western meal – 25,000-40,000 kip