A traveler comes to Laos expecting everything to be cheap but is surprised by high cost of goods and services associated with travelers’ needs. I was the same guy myself – everything from accommodation, transportation, food, drinking water and rentals is expensive in Laos, but there is one thing that’s not and that makes up for it – BeerLao. The national beer of Laos is what I would consider the best Beer in South East Asia. Some may argue that better promoted Singapore brewed Tiger is the best but I beg to differ.
There are many good brews a beer drinker can enjoy during his time in SE Asia – I actually liked Sihanoukville, Cambodia brewed Angkor Beer (except when purchased in places like Temple Club on Pub Street in Siem Reap where draught beer is diluted with water) but each time I felt like indulging myself, I shelled out for a bottle of BeerLao and had myself a real beer aficionado moment.
Since BeerLao is slightly on a pricier side outside of Laos, I mostly stuck with good local brews while visiting surrounding nations. A large, 640 ml bottle of BeerLao usually sold for an equivalent of $2.50 US in neighboring countries so I can admit I was pleased when I found out that the same large bottle of this fine beverage could be had for 8,000 Kip (roughly $1 US) in its home country. An equivalent of $1 gets you a measly can of beer elsewhere.
To compare prices – Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country so alcohol is heavily taxed (aka expensive) but certain areas, such as Langkawi island have been granted a duty free status so you can buy alcoholic beverages there for very cheap. Many travellers head over to Langkawi for that very reason yet they are not getting the real value for their money. One can of Tiger Beer on a duty free Langkawi costs 3.50 Ringgit which is more than $1 and it’s just a can. Large bottle of Beer Lao, which can be had for less in Laos than a can of Tiger on a duty free Langkawi is not only superior in taste, it also provides you with more beverage than you would squeeze out of the can.
How much you will pay for a bottle of BeerLao depends on where in Laos you are. All restaurants and bars in Pakse sell large bottles of BeerLao for 8,000 Kip but standard going rate in Vientiane is 11,000 Kip for the same. If you look around Luang Prabang, you may be able to find places that only charge 10,000 Kip per large bottle but as everything else, most establishment will have their prices unreasonably hiked up. Large bottles also cost 11,000 Kip on Don Det and other islands of 4,000 Islands.
Laos may be otherwise expensive for tourists, but what you spend on transport and accommodation, you save up on beer. Laos is a beer drinkers’ dream come true. Cheers!