Shelley and I just got back from our 9-day trip to Laos on Wednesday, and we had an awesome time! Much to my pleasant surprise, despite articles like this that have come out over the last several years, it is still relatively ‘undiscovered’ by the masses when compared to other great travel destinations. In fact the officer in Houston who checked our passports at immigration upon our return to the US said something like “I’ve heard good things about Cambodia, but Laos??” He seemed utterly bewildered that anyone would actually want to go there. I gave him a quick line about it actually being quite a beautiful country, but he didn’t seem to buy into that. Oh well, good for us that so many people still overlook this small, land-locked country in Southeast Asia. The longer it stays that way, the better!
And why do I say this? Well, for one, we tend to get more enjoyment visiting places that aren’t TOO full of tourists yet. It’s just so much more special of an experience when you can visit a place in relative peace. And this goes for everyday things like visiting a simple café that the locals frequent or going to a locals’ street market just as much as it does for going to the major, must-see sites.
Also, when it comes to trying to travel inexpensively, the classic economic law of supply and demand certainly comes into play. Generally speaking, whenever a place gets more popular with tourists the prices tend to go up. I’ve seen this happen time and time again with different travel destinations over the years. So one of the keys to stretching your travel dollars is to find places that you will really enjoy but have not become too popular yet. If you pay attention to that and current currency exchange rates (a whole other topic for discussion!) I guarantee you that you’ll get much more value from your hard-earned travel dollars.
And this doesn’t mean that you will have to visit places that might not be as fun to visit. Quite the contrary. As I have already alluded to, Laos is an excellent example of being able to have an amazing time on very little money. It’s still the most laid back country I have ever gone to. It has beautiful, old Buddhist temples to visit and gorgeous natural scenery to enjoy. And it likewise has very reasonably priced accommodations and delicious, inexpensive restaurants.
For example, in the heart of Luang Prabang which is my favorite little city in all of Asia, we stayed at a simple yet clean and comfortable guesthouse in a great location for only $20 per night. And this was in high season. Likewise in Vientiane, the capital of the country, we had a mouthwatering, French meal for lunch one day for the whopping price of $10.13 for the both of us. And on our last day in Vientiane we went to an herbal sauna where we each got one-hour body scrubs, one-hour terrific, body-melting massages and all the time we wanted in the saunas. We both thought it was one of the most enjoyable set of spa-like treatments we had gotten anywhere in the world, and it only cost us like $12 each. I can’t imagine how much something similar would have cost us here in the States.
The only potential major drawback for visiting a country like Laos as far as costs are concerned is the price of actually getting there and back. It is pretty darned far away from the states, and it doesn’t have an airport that is a major travel hub. So if you were to have to actually buy your ticket it would seriously cut into your budget. However, if you properly play the airline point game you can get your airfare practically for free, and this is exactly what Shelley and I did. Because of this and because Laos is still extremely inexpensive we spent WAY less money on our trip than most people spent on a typical 3-day getaway somewhere in the US while we were gone. Not only was our trip 3 times as long, guess who likely had more fun?