Staying in Vientiane will cost you more than accommodation elsewhere - expect to pay from 5.00 in the capital and about 1.75 in the country for a basic room. In a flashier tourist hotel you'll pay from about 15.00 a night, up to around 60.00 . An average meal will set you back less than 2.00 . All up, you could get by on 8.00 a day, but that's for the rockiest of rock-bottom budgets. If you want air conditioning, hot water and foreign food, you'll be paying between 25.00 - 75.00 a day.
The Lao kip is the only legal currency, but Thai baht and US dollars are regularly accepted, particularly in the cities. Often you'll be asked for kip for cheap purchases, baht for mid-range buys, and dollars if you want something expensive. In Vientiane you'll be able to change most major currencies, but in the country you should stick to US dollars or baht - you may also have trouble with travellers' cheques outside the capital. Banks will give you a better rate than moneychangers, and you'll get more for travellers' cheques than cash. If you're running low, the BCEL bank in Vientiane (tel: 213 200; cnr Th Fa Ngum and Th Pangkham; open daily) has an ATM which allows cash withdrawals from international credit cards.
There's no need to tip in Laos, except at upscale restaurants where around 10% is expected. If you're buying things in markets or hiring a vehicle, always bargain; at shops it's usually worth a try. Keep it low-key: Laotians are generally gentle hagglers.
Copyright 2010 Lonely Planet Publications , all rights reserved, used with permission