We’re cheating and we suck at budgeting!
I keep quoting this figure of $41/day as our budget, that’s actually a lie, our budget for Laos is working out at a lot more than that, everything considered.
It’s cheap, but it aint that cheap!
There has been a lively discussion about budgets over on our facebook page and I’ve had a few people asking me about costs and expenses. I sat down with a pen and paper this morning and actually looked at the figures properly, we’re over, way over. We’re no good at this budgeting thing, we love our food and drink too much. I thought I’d show you where the money is going in Laos.
If you want to know what I had for breakfast, read on!
What you can buy on a $40 daily budget in Laos
We spend around $40 every day for a family of four, that covers all food, drinks and accommodation, it would be hard to spend more. It isn’t enough to cover all the extras, day trips, visa extensions, bus journeys and so on.
Accommodation is easy on the budget in Laos and the standard is great. Guest houses at our price point are pretty new and incredibly clean. Little Boo vomited all over the bed recently ( long story, we thought he had Dengue). Stripping the bed in the middle of the night revealed new, unstained everything, that was great to see.
We are paying 90,000 kip ( about $12 AU) for this room with air con, en suite, fan, TV and free wi-fi , the guest house is right on the river, it’s perfect.
How the food costs add up
Food is more expensive than Thailand. In Thailand you can get a meal for a dollar, you won’t get anything for a dollar here, the starting point is 10,000 Kip, but the portions are much bigger ( 7,000Kip = $1Au). For 10, 000 you can buy a cheese roti, a beer or a bowl of noodle soup, if you shop around.
Luang Prabang is a lot more expensive than Vang Vieng, but prices still start at 10,000.
You’re more likely to spend 15 to 35,000 on a main course. We’re finding that the portions are so big we can split them, so something like two Laos style green curry chicken soup, which comes with rice and is full of vegetables and chicken, feeds all four of us for 50,000 Kip ( $7 AU).
We’ve been splurging on breakfast, it’s our favourite meal of the day, something yummy like this Shakshuka is 20,000Kip (under $3 AU). Two eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic and fresh green chili served with a baguette, butter and jam. It’s huge, if I put one of those away I don’t need lunch, so we save by only having two meals a day. Everything seems to come with a baguette in Vang Vieng, in Luang Prabang they charge you extra!
An Asian dish will cost you around the same, I had tofu with ginger cashews and vegetables for breakfast this morning, yum!
The kids are happy with fried eggs, pancakes or muesli with fruit salad and yoghurt ($2-3)
A coffee or a fruit shake is a dollar or under (5-7,000), a large beer is 10,000, a glass of wine starts at 20,000Kip.
What our budget for Laos doesn’t cover
Transport is disproportionately expensive here.
The bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was 420,000 Kip ($60 AU ). The children payed full price.
The bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang was 285,000Kip ($40 AU). We got away with booking three seats instead of four.
The 30 day visa for Laos was $30 US each for the Australian passports and $35 US for the British passport.
To extend our visas for 2 weeks we payed $2/day each.
Daytrips were horribly expensive from Luang Prabang and negotiating with overly pushy tuk tuk drivers wasn’t easy, we seemed to haemorrhage money. $20 to get to the Buddha cave, extra to get the ferry, another admission to get into the cave, it added up really quickly.
Vang Vieng isn’t so bad, tubing and kayaking cost a bit ( $15each and $50/4 of us respectively), but mostly we’ve been walking and cycling, no expensive day trips here and the drivers are far more laid back.
These are big expenses, an under spend of a few buck on our daily budget isn’t going to cover them even though we spend days and days happily doing “nothing”. We’re not really being honest with ourselves or with you.
The thing is, we’re not very good at budgeting. If we’re under, or think we’re under, we buy an extra beer or three or splurge on cake, we’re not keeping a running total or accurate records.
Sorry if we’re misleading anybody. Our budget is incredibly low, but it’s meant as a daily living cost budget, something to aim for, we have extra cash tucked away if we need it.
Please don’t come to this part of the world as a family with a $40 budget for Laos and expect it to be easy, you’d struggle. It’s cheap, but not THAT cheap. Happy travels!