Street in Luang Prabang, Laos

Getting to Lao pretty soon but unsure how to make this exotic travel enjoyable and memorable? Read on as we describe the basic things you need to do when visiting this country known as ‘The Kingdom of a Million Elephants Under a White Parasol.’

How to enjoy Laos best?

Street in Luang Prabang, Laos
Street in Luang Prabang, Laos

1. Learn to speak a bit of Lao.

2. Greet every people “Sabaidy” before you start talking. It would be considered impolite otherwise.

3. Forget what you heard about Laos two years ago: it is no longer dirt cheap, and the people are no longer “so friendly” and “so uninterested by money,” at least on the tourist track.

4. Avoid the tourist crowd: more and more tricky but so rewarding! There still exist plenty of opportunities to visit untouched villages, and, with the one month visa, most travelers are using the same route (the one described in Passplanet basically).

5. Use drug far away from any official: you wish that your smoke remains nobody’s business!

6. Do not give anything to the kids: no pen (they sell it back), no candy (it damage their teeth), and certainly no money! Too much damage has been done already by short-sighted tourists or even backpackers!

6. Bring a book for the bus station’s usual long wait

7. Travel at the back of the truck or tuk-tuk or, if a man, on the roof of the bus. For great views and relative comfort, your legs are better stretched outside rather than being crushed inside.

How to keep the low cost even lower?

8. Concentrate in North Laos as it is much cheaper than in the South. Also, getting off the track in remote villages should let you enjoy prices like they were three years ago.

9. Avoid the expensive speed boat. A lot of thrills if no rain, though.

10. Buy coffee or Ovaltine at any shop (around K6000 for small size) and prepare your drinks yourself using the free hot water of your guesthouse. You will save K2000 per glass.

11. Travel with someone as there is a poverty of a single room in the country.

12. Eat at noodle shops or food stall (K2000 for noodle soup or cold noodles) instead of western restaurants or guesthouses. An excellent way to meet local people as well.

13. Get free drinking water or tea (sometimes with ice) from most of the hotels (ask to drink what they drink, and you should see big water plastic containers) and food stall.

14. Stay sober: beer is relatively expensive at K5000. Lao-Lao, the local spirit, is cheaper at K1000 a shot. If there are several of you, you got hooked or wished to do like the local men, buy it by the bottle for around K5000.

15. But remember that enjoying a trip is sometimes or from time to time worth a little bit more. Backpacking is more about the bag than the money!