Why go to Laos ?

 

You will find here the results of our backpackers' survey as well as comments on some aspects of Laos.

We asked backpackers who had traveled in Laos for more than two weeks already to answer the followings.


Do you like Laos ?  97% of the backpackers surveyed (69) say yes !
(same)

A near unanimity of backpackers liked their experience in Laos. But how they liked it largely depended of their itinerary : usually, the more off the track, the best time ! If you are of a solitary kind but lack imagination, you are prone to be disappointed !

 

Would you happily come back ? 90% of the backpackers surveyed (69) say yes ! (up)

Laos is rather small yet it offers so much potential of evasion, adventure and human contacts that it would certainly require a few visas... But, for a minority of travelers, Laos has been lost to tourism already (or will be soon)...

 

Would you recommend Laos ?  93% of the backpackers surveyed (69) say yes ! (up)

Most travelers would generously tell their friend about Laos. But again, will Laos be able to cope with mass-tourism ?


We also asked them to rate the followings :

The tourists attractions        Backpackers : 11.83 /20 (up)
A small rate which reflects the fact that, with the exception of Luang Prabang, part of the Unesco's Heritage List, Laos is rather empty from tourist attractions. There aren't any grandiose monument nor temples (some nice ruins in Champasak though) and even less museums worth the trip. In fact, Laos does not need any attractions : it is the attraction ! People do come to Laos for the full country package...

The city scenery       Backpackers : 12.99 /20 (down)
Actually, you may wonder whether there are any real city in Laos as even the capital Vientiane somehow look like an overgrown village with a few old colonial houses and a very laid back atmosphere. Luang Prabang is even nicer and relaxing.

The natural scenery         Backpackers : 17.82 /20 (down)
Nature is indeed the real attraction of Laos. The North of the country offers breathtaking mountainous sceneries spotted with minorities villages while the South boost very scenic islands on the Mekong river. As for Luang Prabang (again !), it boost one of the nicest waterfall seen in Asia.  

The cultural opportunities        Backpackers : 14.61 /20 (down)
Again, it is not so much about visiting monuments here than sharing the simple way of life of the local people & numerous tribes and feeling the touch of nature. And the more off the tourist path, the bigger the rewards !

The food         Backpackers : 11.48 /20 (up)
No, Laos is not a food paradise ! But you do not starve either. The are no variety but what you get is usually tasty. Soup noodle is the most commonly offered dish, with fried rice coming at a close second. Sticky rice (some sweetened by bamboo cooking) is also famous. As for traditional cuisine, the offer is usually limited to laap meat dishes. Good snacks or desserts are more difficult to get : barbecued meat (of all kind) are on offer everywhere while roosted bananas makes for a cheap bite.  

The infrastructures         Backpackers : 9.04 /20 (down)
A non surprising low rate as traveling in Laos is not always a funny experience. But it is always an adventure : bad roads (sometimes impractical after heavy rains), weird uncomfortable vehicles, crowded buses, late departures,... There is a good aspect to all this : things can only improve ! And things actually do improve as quite a few roads are being upgraded...

The cost of living and traveling        Backpackers : 15.77 /20 (up)
Laos is one of the cheapest place to visit in Asia but it is not as cheap as it used to be. All together, be prepared to spend around $7 per day, more if you drink beer (drinking lao lao would be cheaper), less if you share the accomodation with someone or use dormitories. The North is globally cheaper than the South.

The safety        Backpackers : 16.81 /20 (up)
There does not seem to be any personal safety worry while touring Laos, that is if you except a mental breakdown while on a crowded bus with no view...

The cleanliness        Backpackers : 12.58 /20 (up)
Off course, your perception will depend of where you are coming from, Singapore or India. Laos is certainly not clean as locals do not bother yet to go for the rare dustbins but it does not seem to bother backpackers too much. Sides of traffic roads are full of plastic bags but the small paths around the countryside are quite spared. Market areas are quite a sight but kitchen in restaurants are reasonably clean. And, as for the roads, things can only get better...

The pollution        Backpackers : 14.38 /20 (same)
Being a rather undevelopped country of villages, Laos is not really affected by industrialist pollution yet. Dust from the road is abundant but it is a natural one... 

The Shopkeepers' attitude        Backpackers : 15.54 /20 (up)
Not pushy and honest, it would be a real pleasure to shop in Laos if the shelves had more varieties to offer. Tuk-Tuk drivers will of course try to charge you more but that is the tradition of their job. Every bus which stop in a village is assaulted by snacks salesgirls but this is more a photographic opportunity than a cause of annoyance. In the north, some tribes salesladies are however real annoying with their opium or bracelets offers. Ignore them. 

The Minorities' attitude        Backpackers : 16.57 /20 (down)
(down)
All North Laos is populated with tribes people. They do not wear their traditional costumes very often now on (except as a marketing tool to sell you handicraft or opium) so it is difficult to tell them apart. I personally found them slightly less hospitable & friendly than the Lao people in the south but who cares ? There is however an evidence : you will need to leave the crowd to fully appreciate them.

The Laos people's attitude        Backpackers : 16.81 /20 (up)
Basically the same perception as the above : friendly, hospitable, smiling and helpful. This generality being said, do not expect joy & dances just because you show up. You may actually have to initiate the contact with a smiling & loud "Sabaidy !". And off course, learning a few Lao sentences would not harm...

Entertainment        Backpackers : 6.81 /20 (down)
The lowest rate of the survey for what is really not a good reason to visit Laos : if you fancy night life & disco, you apparently got the wrong plane ! This being said, nobody prevent you from entertaining yourself with fellow backpackers and a few shots of lao-lao (A great St Patricks days was organized for example in Don Det), as long as you respect the country's custom of course... 

Shopping        Backpackers : 11.94 /20 (same)
Actually, whether for food, basic necessities or souvenirs, there aren't too much to write about. Big bazaar markets are more of a tourist attraction than a shopper paradise but you will usually find what you need. Food stores all look similarly empty, except at bordering town like Pakse or Savannakhet as a lot of goods are imported from Thailand or Vietnam. As for souvenirs, minorities area should do the stuff with some very colorful bags or jewelry. But this is definitively not Thailand !

Generally, the country        Backpackers : 17.10 /20 (up)
An overall excellent rate ! Yes, obviously, despite its default and lack of cultural attractions, Laos is a great destination for backpackers ! But there are different ways to experience & appreciate it : for worries free (except a few transport thrills) & banana pancakes, follow the flow of travelers. But as visiting Laos is above all a natural and human experience, you should make the effort to visit a few "untouched" areas. 

Value for money        Backpackers : 15.42 /20 (up)
Laos is certainly cheap but the recent prices increases have put it on the same level as Thailand. And, off course, being more developed and used to tourism, Thailand delivers slightly more. But then, Laos people & wild sceneries are unique & priceless...


Give your opinion !  If you have traveled in Laos for more than 2 weeks, please participate to our surveys !

Compare Laos with other countries in the Asia Section

 


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