Happy Nomad’s Guide for Laos — Eating, Sleeping, Ticket Escaping and More in Laos

— Do you wanna keep a low budget when travelling in Laos?
— “Yes!!”
–“How?”
–“Eh… Robbing banks?……”
–“No! Don’t do that! Although the Lao is a gentle people, you will still get into big trouble with such a crime.” 😉 😛
Let’s talk about something legal! at least more legal than robbing banks! Again all I say here is based on the experiences of myself and those travellers I met and you are very welcome to contribute your experiences by commenting! Perspective travellers and myself will surely appreciate that! 🙂

Eating
Unfortunately we human beings have to eat to stay alive…… 😛 😀 and that gives us a big trouble (and pleasure)! 😛 First of all, in Laos price of everything is relatively low compared to not only developed countries, but even countries like China and Iran. If you want to save more money, resort to cheap street food. In the night market of Luang Prabang, there is a stall with 0.5 USD all you can eat vegetarian food at dinner time! 😀 That’s the best deal I’ve ever found in Laos! Eat that when you can! 😀
Another way of budgeting on food involves mainly Buddhist Monasteries! You can go there and ask the novices/monks politely if you can eat there. If you happen to be with them during their meal time, provided that you are friendly enough and the novices/monks are also the nice ones (normally they are), they will actually ask you if you want to eat with them. Mind you, novices and monks do not eat after afternoon, so there is no dinner for them. However, if they are nice enough and have food in stock, they can provide you with food anytime, even in the evening. 🙂 They go to bed rather early, like 9pm, 10pm and they get up early, so it’s good to ask them before that.
Another powerful weapon for budgeting on food in Laos is Bananas! Yes! They are perhaps the cheapest fruit in this country! 🙂 You can find them sold everywhere! The quality varies, but they are generally quite edible and they stuff you. 🙂 Sometimes you can find wild ones, or those grown by farmers in the fields if you end up in some rural area, but in that case the taste is not guaranteed — they might not be ripe yet. 🙂
The cheapest food you can find in supermarkets are packages of instant noodles. You can eat them dry if you want (which I did all the time) and they are easy to carry in your backpack, so can be some easy snacks on the road.
In some rural area where people do not see many tourists, the gentle Lao people may even invite you to have meal with them if they happen to be having meals, so smile to people who are eating if you are hungry. 😉 😛

Sleeping
Hostels, or “guest houses” as commonly called in Laos are cheaper than in Europe, with price like 5-6 USD/night, where you can get a dorm and wifi. If you want to keep an even lower budget, sleeping outside is an option.

Since the country is generally safe, if you have a tent and a sleeping bag, or just a sleeping bag, you can sleep outside. In rural area, there are many shacks standing outside houses along the roads or in the fields where you can sleep. It’s better than sleeping on grass because if you sleep directly on grass, your sleeping bag can get wet by dew and that makes sleeping uncomfortable.
Another super powerful and perhaps absolutely necessary weapon for “wild sleeping” in Laos is a mosquito net or mosquito spray! I was there in the coldest and driest season, it was still more than 30 degree everyday and the mosquitoes aspired to devour every human being…… I did not have a mosquito net and my skin was bitten into a mosquito net….. 😦 Be prepared! 🙂
Monasteries are awesome places to stay! 🙂 The monks normally are helpful, gentle and understanding, many speaking some English since they are educated. You can ask politely if you can sleep there, either inside a room or simply outside in the yard. You can tell them that you are interested in Buddhism and you can do some labour work as an exchange. Beware that the monks go to bed early, 9-10pm and get up early 4-5am, so respect their schedule and also behave accordingly. Their morning chanting may wake you up at 5 am. While with novices/monks, do not touch them; females should not be dressed too sexily (come on, that will distract the monks! 😉 😛 ) and do not smile at them too much, be respectful! 😀
When I was in Laos, I slept in monasteries, on a school yard (a bit creepy… ), inside a truck, in a park and in a shack on the roadside. Never had a single problem (except with some ferocious dogs), but still take care of your belongings if you are tempted to do the same! 🙂

Ticket Escaping
It’s possible to escape tickets for most of the monasteries, especially in Luang Prabang. The most difficult one would be the big iconic golden pagoda (Pha That Luang) in Vientiane, which is the top 1 attraction in this city. I did not manage to sneak in because it was so well walled and guarded…… In most places the entrance fee is not high, 2 USD maximal. For sites withot a wall, such as the white pagoda in Luang Prabang, you can sneak in easily by going off the tracks, through the wilderness. 😉 Some monasteries have more than one gates and sometimes only one gate is guarded for charging entrance fee. Scout it first and then you might be able to get in and get out without getting through the gate guarded.

Couchsurfing
The almighty and totally lovely Couchsurfing does not really exist in Laos… Most members you will find in Laos, especially if they are local Laotian, either have reply rates of less than 5% or have not logged in for 5 months…… The only visible active memebers are mainly expats living there. That’s a pity…… God, I miss Couchsurfing!!! 😀

Beerlao
There is only brand of beer you can find in Laos — Beerlao! It tastes not bad at all and actually many travellers like it. Try it. Although I totally hate beers and hardly drink any alcohol, I did try it since it’s the cheapest thing in the pub where I went. I did not detest the taste. 🙂 Sounds very positive, right? 😀 😛

Busking
I did not see a single street performer in Laos…… Also the country is so poor that I don’t think that will work out… You do see beggars, very miserable ones…… They are the only people earning money on the street…… But who knows?! Surprises may happen if you try! 😀

Train Hopping?
Forget about it… This country does not have railway…… 😦 😀

Wifi
As modern travellers, even if we are on a low budget, we embrace wifi from time to time, to go on Facebook to inform loved ones that we are still alive and kicking! to check emails, to check maps if you do not have other means. It’s possible to ask in any cafe and restaurant if you can use their wifi just for a short while. Even if you are not their clients, normally it is ok.

What? What I wrote is not detailed enough… Ok, then you perhaps should check my previous posts in this blog under the category “Hitchhikers Never Die — Hitchhiking Trip in Laos”.

Shacks along the Road Where One Can Sleep
Shacks along the Road Where One Can Sleep
Having Food in A Monastery
Having Food in A Monastery
Wild Sleeping = Freedom
Wild Sleeping = Freedom

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