Okay folks, I know it was only last month but it seems like it’s been ages since I did one of these! Yes, we have a weekend somewhere and $100 to spend, and this time around it’s Vientiane, the capital of Laos that I have chosen for the challenge. Vientiane shouldn’t be too hard to keep down to $100 over two days because, as nice as the city is, it’s not chock full of things to do and see.
But it is lovely city and a great place to spend a couple of days. Whether a longer visit is worthwhile, I’m not so sure. You’ll want to like your temples, let’s just say that! Anyways, we arrived early morning by plane and leave the same way in the evening of day two. Getting there isn’t too hard but to find direct flights from further away than other South-East Asian cities is pretty hard, typically you’ll want to get into Singapore or Bangkok to transit to Vientiane. For the budget conscious, keeping in mind they are still finding their feet, I found Air Asia handy as when I went I transited through Kuala Lumpur. Even the country’s chief carrier, Lao Aviation or Lao Airlines as I think they are called today doesn’t fly further than Singapore.
The airport is not far away from the city at all, only a couple of kilometres, and a shuttle bus will get you in for $2USD. As far as transport is concerned although you will find local buses, keeping things tight for time you are more likely to want to use tuk-tuks or taxis. So for transport I would suggest we keep a solid $20USD aside as I feel that will comfortably cover us for our time in Vientiane.
Accommodation is the main expense in any city really. Now when I went there I stayed somewhere pretty gosh darned cheap. It would have been less than $10USD. However – I hated it and it simply was not worth a few bucks saved, and in fact I left it early the next day and moved to another place which was around $20USD a night – so still very cheap – but more than twice or even three times as good as my original hotel.
I would say budget $30 – $35 on your room to get yourself some air conditioning, a decent bathroom and breakfast as well (as prices are not what they were 11 years ago), however for $20-$25 I am sure you can still find something that will be everything you need it to be. Looking on Booking.com I am seeing a fair spread in the range of $17 – $35USD but I suspect that you will actually find better prices on the ground in Vientiane. If we generously give ourselves $35 for the accommodation, we are now up to $55USD.
I’ll go food next, which includes water (hopefully you get a couple of bottles of free water from your hotel as well). There are plenty of places to grab a meal for $5 or so, and if you want to drink, well, you might want to compromise slightly on the room. Back on the room – just look at the room before you take it. That’s the best way to ensure value for money.
Simple Asian meals – typical for the region – won’t set you back as much as western meals and probably are lot safer on the gut too. With breakfast hopefully rolled into our hotel price, we need two each of lunch and dinner. $25USD should cover it, we have now $20USD for sight seeing.
And the cheapest thing you can do is wander for free along the banks of the Mekong River, probably at dusk and watch the sun go down with its magnificent colours. One of the most iconic Vientiane monuments is the Patuxai Arch, this giant arch no doubt inspired by the Arch de Triumph in the middle of a long, wide boulevard. You can climb to the top for 5000 kip, a little under a dollar so it barely sets you back anything. Inside there is a market as well, and on the top the views of the city are great!
The Golden Stupa is the main temple to see in town, and I can’t quite get a read on the entrance with information online saying temples in Vientiane are 10000 kip, but another saying it’s only 5000 for the Golden Stupa. Let’s presume it’s 10,000 kip, we’ll call that $2 although it’s more like $1.70 but it’s always best to have some wiggle room. We had $20 left, we still have $17.
I really liked the mostly wooden temple Wat Ho Phra Keo, which would be another $2 or less. There is also Wat Si Muang, Wat Si Saket and no doubt others if you are really into your temples.
The National Museum is only a buck or so to enter, but perhaps the Textile Museum sounds more interesting. There is now a MAG Information Centre – these are the people responsible for removing land mines in Laos – open in Vientiane. It I think is free, I visited the one in Phonsovan when I was there and I highly recommend taking a little bit of time to learn about how it’s done and the difficulties and dangers faced by people prepared to take on such a responsibility.
We still would have a bit of money in our pocket, so why not check out the Night Market? Or the Golden Reclining Buddha near the Golden Stupa? There’s even an open air ‘Buddha’ Park which looks interesting – I did not get to see this. All will be $2 or less (obviously markets are free until you buy something).
Even though it’s not a city with a million things to do, it’s a great place because these monuments and temples are quite beautiful, and the vibe of the place is very relaxed because well, at around 1 million people to population of Vientiane doesn’t rival the big cities such as Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City of the region. It’s therefore much more relaxed and life flows at a slower pace. For reference, $1USD = 15500 kip approximately. Making the estimates I’ve given more expensive than in actuality. But then, right now, the USD is really high.
What would you include for 2 days in Vientiane? Do you have any budget advice? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for joining me today, take care wherever you may be in the world… and May the Journey Never End!