Should you visit Indonesia or Laos?When planning a trip through Southeast Asia, many travelers are deciding between which countries to visit based on cost. But cost should only be one factor when comparing Laos with Indonesia, because these two countries offer vastly different experiences.
Indonesia is a relatively inexpensive destination known for beautiful tropical beaches, exotic jungles teeming with wildlife, and large urban areas full of culture and markets. Visitors to Indonesia are often surprised at the number of activities to do and places to visit, as once they step away from the beach, they find historic temples, eco-tourism adventures, jungle and mountain hiking, and more.
Laos is one of the cheapest places in the world to visit, and is known for adventure travel, ecotourism, and its laid back atmosphere. For all of these reasons, and the low cost, it is very popular with the backpacking crowd. However, in recent years it has seen more of an influx of higher-end tourists looking for ecological wonders in the mostly untouched jungles of this tropical nation.
When is the best time to visit Indonesia and Laos?
Laos is warm year-round. The dry season is from October to April, and the wet season is in the summer months. However, don't expect the wet season to dump continuous rain on you, meaning that even in the rainier months travelers don't need to worry about the weather so much. Even still, the "high season" tends to be the dryer times of the year.
Why is Indonesia more expensive than Laos?Indonesia's economy is growing, as it is the world's fourth most populated country. While the cost of living is generally cheap compared to other Asian nations, the large population means that demands for goods and services is on the rise. Imported goods from China, Australia, and other larger countries can be pricey, as can imported food. While budget travel options are very affordable, luxury services can get expensive, especially in more touristed areas such as Bali.
Laos, being one of the poorest countries in the world, has lower prices for generally everything in the tourism industry compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors. Its reliance on backpackers for so long has also left the country with a large number of hostels and budget hotels, adding even more competition to already low prices. And as much of the country's economy is based on agriculture, this means that food is also fairly cheap. In some places, transportation can get a little pricey, but overall, Laos is just plain cheap.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Indonesia and Laos?
In the larger cities of Indonesia, it's possible to find a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, and activities at a variety of prices. Budget hotels and hostels are often found not far from high-end luxury hotels. If you want luxury, you can expect to pay a fair amount more for it, but it is still usually of good value and quality.
Laos is fairly consistent in prices all over the country, as everything is cheap. However, if you plan to do a lot of activities or tours, this can add to your budget. Tours into the countryside to visit the jungle or nearby wilderness areas tend to add more to the budget of travelers.
The cities and towns of Laos tend to be cheap due to the readily available food and accommodation options, as well as more variety and competition. In the countryside, prices can be very cheap, especially in off-the-beaten path locations.
If you're looking for more luxury, such as a nicer hotel or high-end restaurant, then expect to pay significantly more than the budget or mid-range options.
How you can save money when visiting Indonesia and Laos?Negotiate for prices, as locals often try to hike up the prices of food and services for tourists. Shop around and know what things should really cost before you commit to purchasing something.
Eat the street food. In Indonesia, small eateries known as "warungs" are everywhere in urban areas. They offer delicious food at a cheap price. Also, buying food at local markets is significantly cheaper than at restaurants or larger stores.
Flying between the islands of Indonesia can get expensive. Instead, pick just a few islands and stick to them, or look for the less expensive ferry boats. Use public transportation whenever possible.
Eat local, shop local, and stay local to save money. While Laos is not necessarily known for chains and large companies, they do exist in some places but are more expensive. Chains are also common in the much larger Indonesia, so compare prices and shop around.
Travel slow. Transportation is one of the highest expenses, so picking a destination and maximizing all activities while there will keep prices down.