Should you visit Malaysia or Laos?Laos and Malaysia are two very popular countries on the typical backpacker route through Southeast Asia. Malaysia is more expensive, as it is a more developed and modern country compared to Laos and some of the other Southeast Asian nations. Malaysia also sees more visitors thanks to its tropical beaches, scuba diving sites, and cool highlands. Laos, on the other hand, offers jungle tours and great nightlife for budget travelers.
In general, Malaysia's economy is less driven by tourism than many other countries. This makes it easier to have a more "authentic" experience in Malaysia, as one can mingle with the locals to see how they live and work, as well as vacation along side them instead of having them provide a service for you in the tourism industry.
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 Malaysia 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 Malaysia more expensive than Laos?The prospering economy of Malaysia means that prices are generally rising. As the Malaysian people become wealthier, more domestic tourists are visiting other locations within Malaysia, resulting in higher prices than some of the neighboring countries.
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 Malaysia and Laos?
If you visit the most popular areas for tourists, such as some of the islands or the Cameron Highlands, you might pay a bit more for a rental car or a tour. Also, public transportation in some touristy areas can be a bit limited, leaving you to take a taxi or rent a car.
Compared to peninsula Malaysia, Borneo can be quite expensive. Although budget accommodation and cheap food are available, most people in Borneo choose to do a variety of activities. This is where the price starts to climb (but is well worth it). Depending on what you choose to do, Borneo can quickly become one of the more expensive places to visit in the area.
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.
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 Malaysia and Laos?Slow down. If you're rushing through the area you're going to spend more money. Transportation costs can be expensive so the more places you visit, the more money you're going to spend.
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.
Travel slow. Transportation is one of the highest expenses, so picking a destination and maximizing all activities while there will keep prices down.
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.