A Whistlestop Tour

In ten days I travelled from Yangshuo in China to Chiang Mai, Thailand, arriving just in time for the New Year.

In Hanoi, I stayed in Rendevous Hostel for one night for $5, £3.40. It was a nice hostel and the dormitory beds were like I had never seen before. Each one was built into it’s own wooden partition, so it almost felt like you had your own space. This was pretty good considering we were sharing with 20 or more other people.

We went out for food in a recommended restaurant which was really nice for about £2 each. We booked a bus transfer to Catba Island through the hostel 400,000 Vietnamese Dong, about £12 because we had already travelling two days and wanted an easy ride. I think this is about double the price to do it independently but it is very easy.

Once in Catba, we stayed in an amazing little hotel called Catba Guesthouse for a measly $12 each for three nights, that works out at about £2.75 each a night. We shared a room as it was as cheap as a dormitory bed in the hostel, and much nicer to share with only one other person!

We rented motorbikes for 80,000 Dong (£2.40) a day and in three days we spent about £1 in fuel. We also paid 50,000 Dong (£1.50) each every day for a climbing pass at the local crag.

We spent about 40,000 Dong every morning on breakfast and coffee and around 30,000 for a sandwich in the afternoon. Evening meals were about 80,000 Dong per person. Beer cost around £1 per bottle.

The Owner of our Hotel was amazing. On Christmas Eve he hosted a Christmas Dinner for all his western guests for free. It was an incredible spread of local food and served with a seemingly limitless supply of beer. I thoroughly recommend it.

Our journey back to Hanoi was meant to be organised by Rendevous Hostel, but there was some confusion and we were forgotten from the pickup. In the end, The Catba Guesthouse organised our return for only 250,000 Dong (£7.50), almost half what we had paid in Hanoi.

I left Hanoi within a few hours of arriving back again for Laos. Again, I organised this through the hostel for 1.2 million Dong (!), about £36. The sleeper bus itself costs 850,000 Dong, but the bus station is a long way out of town. Given my tight deadline, I chose to go through the hostel and get the transfer included. In total I spent about £90 in Vietnam.

I didn’t mind the bus journey, although of course there is not much space. The border crossing went smoothly (helped along no doubt by the bus driver’s blatant bribes). My visa for Laos cost US $37 ($2 extra because it was the weekend!), about £25.

Once in Laos, I spent 60,000 Laotian Kip ($7 or £4.75) per night to share a twin room with Svetla (who I had met on the bus). I then spent 40,000 (£3.20) to get to the waterfalls and back again by minibus (definitely worth it) and 20,000 (£1.60) to get in. I spent a further 20,000 (£1.60) to get into the park in Luang Prabang and another 50,000 (£4) on a dress from the market. It is possible to eat for around 15-20,000 (£1.25-50) for most local food.

My largest purchase in Laos was for the slow boat to take me to the Thai border. This cost 280,000 Kip (£23). Again, I organised it through an agency as my time was short and I wanted everything to go smoothly. I stayed a final night in Pak Beng for a measly 30,000 (£2.50) for room (60k) shared with Alena who I met on the boat. We were charged a small stamping fee at the border (10,000 Kip) and then another 7,000 to get the bus across the bridge. In total I spent around £85 in Laos.

On the Thai side, I paid 200 Baht (roughly £4) to share a minibus to Chiang Rai with other people I had met on the boat. Once in Chiang Rai I spent 180 Baht (£3.60) on a dormitory bed and about £2 on a food and a beer that evening. It was a little stressful finding accommodation late at night and many places were only offering rooms for $50.

The following day, we got a bus to Chiang Mai for 160 Baht (£3). I spent about £4 on a rather extravagant breakfast before the bus left, but it was delicious! I finally arrived in Chiang Mai at 5pm, where Maddy met at the hotel. She kindly said I could stay for free in her twin hotel room whilst I was here as her Dad has treated her to that.

In total, from the UK to here I think it has cost me almost exactly £2,500. With that, I have paid for all my transport for 15,000km or so, all my accommodation for three months, all my food and everything else. The only thing that does not include is travel insurance, a further £500 with World Nomads which is valid for one year.

Considering Maddy spent £1,400 on a single flight to get here, I think £2,500 for three months of overland travel and plenty of adventures along the way is pretty bloody brilliant! 🙂 My budget for the full six months to the end of March is £500 per month inclusive of everything. Clearly I have spent most of that already, but I think I will be spending next to nothing in the next three months.


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