It’s not easy to know how much you will spend while backpacking in Laos. The country doesn’t follow conventional rules – it is less developed than other countries in Southeast Asia, but it is more expensive. Normally it is the other way around.
So, what will backpacking in Laos cost be per day? Per week? How much should you budget for travel in Laos? What should your budget look like for hostels? I will answer all of these below so you can budget for your upcoming trip to Laos .
During my three weeks of travel in Laos, I tracked all of my expenses in a spreadsheet. This detailed breakdown of expenses left me with key numbers like the average daily budget, budget per city, and average expenses in specific categories for the country. Check out the tables below to get an idea of what backpacking through Laos might cost you.
Parameters of My Laos Backpacking Budget
Before you dig into the numbers, there are a few things to keep in mind. I am a 26 year-old budget traveler who ate cheap street food and stayed in cheap guesthouses.
These numbers do not include any flights or anything I purchased before the trip. This is solely what I spent in Laos while I was there. Lastly, I was with a friend and we exclusively slept in private twin rooms at guesthouses. If you are alone and sleep in shared hostel rooms, you could spend less than I did; but if you are alone and you get private rooms, you will likely spend twice as much.
Please keep in mind that things like tours, alcohol, shopping, etc. are all discretionary categories. Some travelers might spend $0 there and others might spend thousands. I have provided my full expenses first and then the bare bones expenses next that exclude any discretionary categories.
Laos Expenses by City
Total Nights: 18
Total Money Spent: $762
Average Daily Budget: $42.33
|City||Nights||Total Expenses||Average Daily Expenses|
As you can see in the table above, Muang Khua was more expensive per night simply because the visa cost of $49 dollars was lumped in. You can read more about the cost of a Laos Tourist Visa here.
Some of the discretionary costs in here include $190 of shopping, shipping packages, and tours in Luang Prabang, a $15 tour in Don Det, and a 3-day motorbike loop in Thakhek. Obviously, all of these things have a big impact on the bottom line for a city because the amounts are so small in general.
You can keep reading below to see what the daily expenses were without my discretionary spending. Also, you can read more about the unexpected costs of backpacking in Southeast Asia here.
My Daily Expenses in Laos by Category
I categorized my expenses into 9 general areas as seen in the pie chart below. The categories include room and board, bus fees, food and water, alcohol, taxis, tours/tourism, shopping, visas, and toiletries. To clarify a few things, bus fees are the cost of getting to a city (i.e. the bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was included in Vang Vieng) and tours/tourism includes any organized tours, entry fees to museums or monuments, motorcycle rentals, and any fees to see touristy stuff like temples, tombs, etc.
Tourism, food & water, lodging, and shopping were the big budget items for me. I was sick the entire time I was in Laos, so for your budget, you might want to throw in an extra $40 for alcohol – I wasn’t drinking much. In an average day, you can expect to spend roughly $39 (excluding the visa fee) broken down as follows:
|Room & Board||$7|
|Food & Water||$9|
Of course, this will only hold true if you are similar to me in your travel style. I shopped a little in Laos, I ate exclusively street food, I slept in cheap guesthouses, I went on two organized tours, I walked a lot, and I drank alcohol occasionally. And to clarify, I was purchasing bottled water this entire time.
My Daily Laos Expenses Without Discretionary Spending Categories
I understand that some people might shop a lot more or go on organized tours every day, so here is a second daily breakdown that excludes the following categories:
Therefore, this budget should be the bare essentials of what a budget backpacker would spend just to get around, eat, sleep and generally exist in Laos (excluding the entry visa).
Total Nights: 18
Total Money Spent: $368
Average Daily Budget: $20.44
|Room & Board||$7|
|Food & Water||$9|
Planning Your Budget for Backpacking in Laos
I hope these numbers are useful to any budget traveler who is going to Laos. With this base budget of $19 per day, you can now create your own custom budget by adding the amounts you are willing to allocate to your own categories like tours, shopping, and night life.
It’s pretty crazy that I spent $762 in 18 days in Laos, while I only spent $1,322 in 42 days in Vietnam. Some of this is because of shopping and tours, but it does show you how much more expensive Laos is than Vietnam. On average, around $5 more per day without factoring in discretionary categories.
How Much Does it Cost to Backpack in Laos?
The answer is of course . . . it depends! You can make it cost however much you want based on your discretionary spending. I would say the absolute minimum you could spend is around $18 per day. But more realistically, it will be closer to $40 per day once you add in discretionary spending. If you are a classier traveler than myself, it might even be upwards of $100 per day. It just depends on your style and what you are trying to do on your trip.
If you have any questions on these numbers or a specific city, please feel free to comment below and I will get back to you quickly. Do you have your own budget experiences or strategies for Laos? Please share below!