too many charges for foreigners
I don't mind paying 1 or 2k kip for toilet charge as the locals built the toilets for a business and have to clean them and provide water, but it seems like in Vang Vieng these small charges can add up. There are several bridges in the surrounding area that can be crossed by m/bikes, but there is up to 10,000 kip charge. There is a charge to climb a hill, but no charge for the locals. What is the difference between a foreigner and a local climbing a hill or crossing a bridge ? Surely by visiting Laos we are helping the economy by spending out hard earned cash and i sometimes feel ripped off at these extra charges. I can understand that foreigners may pay more to see local temples, buildings etc but don't mind that, it's their country, they are poor so we cannot expect the locals to pay to see their own country.
From the bus station
When arriving from the bus station, you will be met by tuk tuks drivers telling you the centre is a long way off, it isn't you can walk (10 mins left along the road) or negotiate for a better deal, if the guy doesn't agree walk away and he will follow you with a better price.
Tourist traps everywhere
Vang Vieng is notorious for its many tourist rip-offs. These are roughly of two kinds: ominous fees and pay-more-for-extras. The first is especially obvious in the town itself. For all of the bridges, tourists have to pay a fee, except for those leading to the island bars. This might not sound too much like a rip-off, but it's really annoying if you have to pay it several times per day. Some might argue that people are only trying to make a living by that, but I don't agree as there are many other possibilities to earn money without ripping somebody off. The second is also a kind of ominous fee. When exploring the caves, you're first supposed to pay for the entry, then for the guide, then for special services that the guide provides (such as a flashlight!) and finally for whatever. In my case, I was asked for another 5 dollar after the cave trip although I had already paid more than enough. Remember that outside tourist towns like Vang Vieng, hardly anybody earns 5 dollar this easily. So it might be better to think about whom to give your money and not to just hand it over to those who make a living by ripping off visitors.
In addition to this, there are some caves which are merely small holes in the limestone hills. Still, some people want you to pay for them, too.
Unique Suggestions: Try to bargain, if the rip-off is too obvious. Leaving out the great experience of exploring some caves is not really an option, but you may ask others who've done it before which caves are a mere rip-off and in which there's actually something to see. Concerning the bridges, there's hardly an option to avoid the fee. You might cross the river in the dry season without a bridge, but at some time or the other you'll have to pay it. Maybe it's a good idea to really think about if you need to cross the river.
Fun Alternatives: There are basically two options: Either you go for it, or you don't. Vang Vieng is, as mentioned, a great place to just chill out. If that's not enough for you, you'll have to accept the traps.
In vang viang, I pay the most expensive toilet fare in my whole trip to use the toilet. The entrance cost 2000Kips!!!! is around RM0.8 for a few minutes used.. perhaps I should stay in the toilet for a longer time!
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Thinking of Khao San Road...
Bangkoks KSR is one backpackers hell. Thousands of tourists live there between the extreme noise, cheap beer, Western movies and willing Thai girls.
Vang Viengs main street begins to show the same manners. Lots of pizzerias, lots of bars where you can lay watching American comedies with the volume on full power. No one talks and everyone feels 'at home'
This isn't why I travel... I prefer to go to the end of town, have a beer with some locals and talk with them
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