Cambodia vs Laos – Which Should You Visit?

Author Carina Klein
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Cambodia or Laos – Which South East Asia country should you visit? We say go Cambodia for Angkor Wat and the islands and to Laos for amazing outdoor activities and a relaxed vibe.

Cambodia or Laos – Where to go on your Next Trip?

The short answer is: Go to Cambodia for Angkor Wat and the islands and to Laos for everything else. Let us explain:

Cambodia vs Laos – General Comparison




Getting There




30 days on arrival

30 days on arrival




Best time to visit







10-15€ per night

5-10€ per night


Relatively expensive






Angkor Wat

Luang Prabang

Outdoor Activities

Snorkelling, scuba diving

Trekking, kayaking, caving,…


Siem Reap

(Vang Vieng)


Less chill

More chill




Cambodia vs Laos – Getting There

Getting to Cambodia and Laos by public transport

Both Cambodia and Laos are well connected to their neighbours by public transport. Popular bus routes include:

Getting to Cambodia and Laos by plane

Both countries are also very well connected to their Asian neighbours by flights. The major airports are:


  • Phnom Penh
  • Siem Reap
  • Sihanoukville


  • Vientiane
  • Luang Prabang
  • Pakse

If you want to travel from without Asia, it’s easiest to change planes in one of the major transportation hubs in the area like Singapore, Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur.

Picture of Border between Laos and Cambodia
Border between Laos and Cambodia

Cambodia vs Laos – Visas

As of writing this blog post, both countries grant a 30-day visa on arrival. Most popular land border crossings are well-organised and uncomplicated. Expect to pay some small bribes though.

Cambodia vs Laos – Transportation

All major travel destinations in Cambodia and Laos are well connected by public transport. You can either buy your tickets online or from one of the many travel agencies you’ll find everywhere.

You’ll find a decent network of buses, trains, tuk-tuks, and tourist transfers in both countries.

Be aware that the infrastructure in both countries is not as well developed as in their neighbouring countries of Vietnam and Thailand. Road conditions can be bad and travel times long.

Watch out if you book a night bus as a solo traveller! They have single and double beds –and you will have to share the double bed with a stranger. Make sure to book early and request a single bed if you want to avoid being in a tight space with a person you don’t know.

Cambodia Transportation

The main transportation hub in the country is the capital Phnom Penh. From here, you can reach all other destinations like

  • Kep, Kampot, or Sihanoukville on the coast.
  • Battambang and Siem Reap in the west of the country.
  • Kratie and Laos towards the north.

Worst road: Between Kampot and Sihanoukville.

Train connections are available between Phnom Penh and Kampot/Sihanoukville.

Laos Transportation

Laos is an elongated country. Most travellers traverse it from north to south or vice versa on a well-established route.

Worst road: Between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Take the newly established high-speed train here.

Train connections are available between Vientiane and Vang Vieng/Luang Prabang.

Picture of Tuk-tuk in Laos
Tuk-tuk in Laos

Cambodia vs Laos – Best Time to Visit

The dry season in Cambodia and Laos is between October and March.

Beware of the smoky season or burning season in northern Laos. Between February and April, slash-and-burn farming takes place. This may cause everything from haziness to hazardous air conditions making it dangerous and hard to breathe.
Picture of Smokey season haziness in Vang Vieng
Smokey season haziness in Vang Vieng

Cambodia vs Laos – Cost

Living roughly the same lifestyle, we paid

  • 20€ per person and day in Laos.
  • 40€ per person and day in Cambodia.

Laos is a super cheap country to travel considering to accommodation, transport, food, and activities. You get a lot of bang for your buck here.

Cambodia vs Laos – Accommodation

In Cambodia, we paid around 10-15€ per night for a dorm bed.

In Laos, we paid around 5-10€ per night for a dorm bed.

In general, we found the value for money to be better in Laos.

Cambodia vs Laos – Food

Cambodian and Lao food are very similar to each other. Both cuisines are also very similar to Thai food to give you an idea of what to expect.

Rice and noodles are a staple in both countries – Lao people even call themselves “children of sticky rice”. You’ll mostly find curries, soups, and stir-fries. The main difference might be the better availability of fish and seafood in Cambodia because of its coastline.

In both countries, you’ll find street food everywhere. Night markets are a great source of cheap meals and they are located all across the two countries.

Expect to pay

  • Less than 1€ to 2€ for a street food meal in Laos.
  • 2€ to 4€ for a street food meal in Cambodia.
Picture of Night market in Luang Prabang
Night market in Luang Prabang

Cambodia vs Laos – Beaches

Cambodia Beaches

Cambodia has both mainland beaches and islands.

Mainland beaches in Cambodia can be found in

  • Kep
  • Kampot
  • Sihanoukville

We have visited all three and must say they are a bit underwhelming.

Visit the Cambodian islands for a great beach time instead.

  • Koh Rong is the largest and most famous island in Cambodia.
  • Koh Rong Samloem s a backpacker paradise.
  • Koh Ta Kiev gives you Robinson Crusoe Feelings.

The islands can be accessed from Sihanoukville.

Laos Beaches

Laos is a landlocked country hence you will not find any ocean beaches. There are plenty of river beaches in Laos, e.g.

  • Mekong River - 4000 islands
  • Nam Khan River - Luang Prabang
  • Nam Ou River - Nong Khiaw

Additionally, you’ll find waterfalls, e.g.

  • Bolaven Plateau - Pakse
  • Kuang Si - Luang Prabang

And of course, there’s the option to go river tubing or lagoon hopping in Vang Vieng.

Picture of Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia
Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia

Cambodia vs Laos – Landmarks

The most famous landmark in Cambodia is Angkor Wat. It is a must-see place and belongs on your itinerary.

The two most famous landmarks in Laos are the UNESCO World Heritage town Luang Prabang and the Kuang Si Waterfall close to Luang Prabang which is often called the most beautiful waterfall in Asia.

Picture of Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Cambodia vs Laos – Outdoor Activities

Cambodia Outdoor Activities

Cambodia is not really known for its outdoor activities. There are some hikes you can do around Kampot and there’s also some brilliant kayaking in this area.

On the islands, you can snorkel or scuba dive.

Laos Outdoor Activities

Laos is a hub for outdoor activities. These are just a few of our favourites:

  • The Gibbon Experience in Houayxay.
  • Trekking in Nong Khiaw.
  • Everything in Vang Vieng from Tipsy Tubing to caving, trekking, and lagoon hopping.
  • Waterfall hopping around the Bolaven Plateau.
  • Kayaking around the 4000 islands.
Picture of Gibbon Experience
Gibbon Experience

Cambodia vs Laos – Nightlife

Cambodia Nightlife

We found the best nightlife in Cambodia in Siem Reap. Pub Street is a lively hub full of travellers and cheap beer.

The capital Phnom Penh was much quieter.

Laos Nightlife

We found the best nightlife in Laos in Vang Vieng. In the hub of tipsy tubing and backpacker culture, there are some nice bars with a good vibe.

The capital Vientiane is super sleepy. There is no nightlife in Luang Prabang. Because of its world heritage status, there is an 11:30 pm curfew. The place to party is the bowling alley a bit out of town.

Picture of Pub Street, Siem Reap
Pub Street, Siem Reap

Cambodia vs Laos – The Vibe

Disclaimer: This is the most subjective part of this blog post.

We loved the vibe in Laos. Our visit was hassle-free and super relaxed. All the locals we met were super friendly. At the more remote places, we were even asked to pose for pictures several times.

Cambodia on the other hand did not vibe as much. Tuk-tuk drivers, salespeople, and beggars (even children) were much more present and pushy.

Picture of Friendly locals in Laos
Friendly locals in Laos

Cambodia vs Laos – Travel Safety

We never felt unsafe in Cambodia or Laos – even me moving around solo as a woman. We also never fell victim to any scam (that we noticed).

The only annoying thing was the constant (when I say constant I mean every few seconds) offers of tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia.

On a side note: Malaysia was the only country in South East Asia where I did not feel safe as a woman.
Picture of Tuk-tuk in Cambodia
Tuk-tuk in Cambodia


Why visit Cambodia

First and foremost, visit Cambodia for Angkor Wat. Secondly, visit Cambodia for the islands. They are a much less touristy and off-the-beaten-path alternative to the islands in Thailand.

Why visit Laos

Visit Laos for a relaxed experience, fewer tourists, and friendly locals.

The prices are the lowest in the whole region. Taking a hot air balloon in Vang Vieng is one of the cheapest options worldwide.

Additionally, Laos is an outdoor lover’s paradise. When you want to go trekking and visit ethnic minorities, it’s a much less touristy alternative to Vietnam or Thailand.

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