Centrally located in Southeast Asia, the beautiful country of Laos has become a favorite amongst budget travelers and for those who love the perfect mix of history, religion, natural wonders, and culture. Fellow traveler Selina told us all about her time spent in this unique country, and how it will give you all the feels…both good and sometimes bad!
“Laos is a charming country filled with spectacular mountains, rivers, and just pure raw beauty. From budget backpacker (like myself) to luxury traveler, Laos caters to all. It does have its ups and downs as any country in this world. For me personally, it is a love hate relationship. Certain aspects I absolutely love and others… well, I just can’t get past.”
Laos is one of the less developed, natural countries in Southeast Asia. It checks all the boxes in terms of countryside. There is an abundant number of mountains to climb, rivers to tube, waterfalls to chase, lagoons to frolic in, and French Colonial architecture to gawk at that will keep any visitor occupied for a lifetime.
“I strongly urge you to sacrifice your time and $25 to take the slow boat to Thailand from Luang Prabang. The journey allows you to truly appreciate the beauty of the country. Nothing but green lush mountains as for as the eye can see. I recommend visiting at least one, out of five, of the Blue Lagoons in Vang Vieng. Each one is unique in color and activities. On the way to the Blue Lagoons work up a sweat and hike up Pha Ngeun or Nam Xay mountain.”
“Laos is every budget backpackers dream in terms of value. On average, we spent $10 per person daily on food, $12/night for a private, air conditioned room, $10-20 total for activities, and between $10-20 for long distance transportation. I highly suggest renting a motorbike ($5-10) to get around locally. However, if you are not confident driving, one the tours are reasonably priced. The roads in Laos are something out of Mars. I would say we drove on paved roads 5% of the time. There infrastructure is none existent and don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry.”
“If you like to party, Vang Vieng should be at the top of your bucket list. In 2013 this small town was once a paradise for young and reckless adults who lived for drinking, watching re runs of friends, and tubing down the rivers. After several injuries and deaths, the government put a stop to the madness.”
“Although it does not carry the same dark reputation as earlier on, it is still the perfect spot of adventurous travelers looking to party. The liquor in Laos is untaxed, which makes it awfully cheap. I found prices as low as $1 USD for a 750ml bottle of the local whiskey. Local market venders also sell “homemade” liquors for very cheap… if you’re up for experimenting. Scout out restaurants and hostels as many give away FREE whisky shots between a certain time!”
As for the bad experiences in Laos, Selina had one problem in particular…
“the food. The Food in Laos is not good. It is bland, tasteless and sometimes down right gross. I’m not talking about the fact that they love bugs, testicles, intestines and organs, but the food is lacking flavor. Oh, and I hope you love noodles or rice because just about every meal is some sort of noodle or fried rice concoction. Western food is incredibly easy to find but not always what you expect. The local food isn’t that great, but at least it is cheap. Western food is priced at triple what you should be paying. You must remember, yes $6 for pasta and a beer is dirt cheap but in comparison to the average meal in South East Asia, you are being ripped off. Know how much a specific dish should cost before going out to eat.”
If you find yourself in the city of Luang Prabang, stop by the Royal Palace museum to see all of its art and artifacts! Here you’ll find French paintings depicting Laos lifestyle, a large gold, silver and bronze Buddha, a moon rock from the Apollo moon mission, and the Crown Jewels of Laos!
As we all know, traveling is not always glamorous and comfortable. A word of (important!) advice from Selina:
“Be careful of who you give your money too and make sure you get a receipt for everything. The people of Laos are not the friendliest. Aside from all the stares, you can expect to be treated as a second-class citizen. They will ignore you, talk down to you, and try and rip you off. Of course, not every person is like this, but the clear majority I encountered seemed to have it out for westerns.”
Need to know when to travel to Laos? Don’t go during the rainy season! And don’t let photos of Laos on Instagram fool you.
“My best advice would be to avoid rainy season all together in Laos (May to October). We aren’t talking a rain shower here or there… The rain does not stop for weeks on end. I’m talking from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Also, you know those blue lagoons and waterfalls you’ve seen pictures of on Instagram? Well forget about it. Expect a brown murky color from the extensive rain. From experience though I can vouch that blue lagoon 1 and 3 are still blue during rainy season.”
“Sleeper buses in Laos are also something to I would starkly avoid. The bus might have 40 seats but it sells 65 tickets and you have a stranger sitting on you for the next 24 hours. Yeah, not the “VIP bus with reclining beds and air-conditioning” that tour company sells you. They also display first degree discrimination. Seats are first come first serve. However, the bus driver forced seven of us foreigners to the back of the bus next to the toilet where two groups of three had share a three-sleeper bed. When I tried to move to an empty bed in the middle of the bus I got screamed at, yes literally screamed at. The air-conditioning is almost nonexistent which doesn’t aid to thesmell of the bathroom we were stuck cuddling next to.”
If you’ve ever visited a new place and have experienced the frustration that travel comes with, you know that in the end, it was usually worth the fuss. And everyone has their own personal experiences, which makes traveling so special and interesting. Selina has the best advice for anyone who wants to visit Laos, or any other place.
“Please keep in mind that these are my own opinions and experiences about the country. I highly encourage everyone to visit the country and form their own thoughts about the Laos.”
Follow Selina on Instagram for more photos of South East Asia and travel inspiration!