In August I will be heading off to travel through Thailand and Laos for seven weeks. Last week I went through my research on planning for a trip to Thailand, where I discussed my rough itinerary and how much things like accommodation, food and transport will cost. I will be spending a month in Thailand with my wife, before heading off to Laos for three weeks on my own.
As I only have three weeks and I don’t like to rush, I know that I won’t be able to see all of Laos, so I will focus on Northern Laos on this trip. From Bangkok I will travel to Nong Khai, Thailand, and head into Laos across the Friendship Bridge to the capital Vientiane. From there I will travel to Luang Prabang with a stop in Vang Vieng. I also want to head north to stay in Nong Khiaw for a few days before heading back to Luang Prabang. If I have time I will take the slow boat up the Mekong River to the Thai border at Huay Xai, where I will head back into Thailand to visit the Chiang Rai area. From there I can fly back to Bangkok to catch my flight back home. Travel Fish has a great destination guide on Laos.
From Bangkok I plan on taking an overnight train to Nong Khai and then take the new train across the friendship bridge to Vientiane, Laos. A 2nd class sleeper ticket costs 780Baht ($24AUD) and the shuttle train into Laos only costs 30Baht($0.90). Seat61 has a lot of good information on train travel.
There are no other train lines in Laos, so for the rest of the trip I will get around on buses and taxis etc. A bus ticket from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang seems to cost 80,000kip($9.50AUD) and takes 8 hours. A minivan from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw costs around 50,000kip($6AUD)for 4 hours while the boat costs 100,000kip($12) for 6hours. All up transport in Laos seems to be very cheap and there are plenty of options, even if it is a bit of an adventure in a songtheaw(pickup truck).
Guest houses in Laos seem to vary depending on the place you are staying in. I am generally happy as long as my room is comfortable, clean and quiet, so I will usually go for budget backpacker guesthouses, but don’t mind paying a bit extra for a nicer room. Private rooms (sometimes with aircon) in the cities seem to cost around 100,000kip($12AUD) per night, where as a bungalow overlooking the river in Nong Khiaw is only 50,000kip($6).
One of my favourite things about traveling is trying new food, so I always try to eat as much local food as possible. Like Thailand, food in Laos seems to be cheap. You can get street food for under 10,000kip($1) and restaurant food for only a few dollars. You can get bottles of local beer for 4000kip($0.50) and soft drinks and water for even less.
I’m not going to plan any activities until I get to each destination in Laos. I think most of my time will be spent wandering around the streets and exploring markets and temples. Some temples in Luang Prabang charge an entrance fee for tourists at 20,000kip($2.40AUD). A 1 hour boat ride on the Mekong River costs around 100,000kip($12). I always make sure that I have plenty of money put aside for any activities that I might want to do.
Citizens of most countries can get a 30day visa upon arrival in Laos, and as an Australian my visa will cost $30US. It seems that it is best to pay in US dollars, as you will end up paying more if you use Thai Baht.
Like Thailand, Laos looks like it will be a very cheap trip (if not cheaper), and one I am really looking forward to.