Here is a short review of the hostels I stayed in while in Laos from in November 2008. Prices were between 50-70,000 Kip, about 5-8 USD, for a 'single' room (often with two beds, or one double bed) with fan and sometimes with a shared bathroom, sometimes with an ensuite bathroom; hot water was usually available with one of those electric heater things. Twice I was able to knock off 10,000 Kip off the price of a 'double' room (with two beds) by asking for a discount because I was alone. (For Malaysians, 1RM = apprx. 2300 Kip; so a room at 60,000 Kip would be RM26).
For this price you get a basic room with no frills, although often there is a towel, bottle of water and soap provided. None of them had particularly nice views (apart from in Vang Vieng) or anything else of particular note. Some places offer breakfast/food, but most did not have food. If you want to go cheaper, you have to look for dormitory rooms which are available, but not as common.
Generally the rooms and bathrooms were clean, and staff helpful and friendly - although the general lack of much English prevented much interaction. The bare switches and exposed wiring in bathrooms made me nervous occasionally. Laundry services were usually available (7-10,000 Kip per kilo), but the clothes never came back ironed, were damp once and also had a t-shirt missing once (they found it when I asked for it). In short, don't expect too much from the laundry service.
I mostly used the Lonely Planet guide and Travelfish to help decide where to go, but in the countryside I just had to take whatever there was.
Vientiane - Mixay Guesthouse
On Th. Nokeo Khumman, this guesthouse is conveniently located near the river and the centre. It was being renovated when I stayed there. There were two 'zones' with different prices (one dollar difference), I got the cheaper one though I'm not sure what the difference was. I got a single room with no window, fan, and shared bathroom for 6 USD; the room had a bed and a cupboard, the bathrooms were OK. Free coffee, tea, cake and fruits were available downstairs in the morning.
Travelfish review here; Lonely Planet review here.
Vientiane - Pathoumphone Guesthouse
On Th. Manthatulat, this is also close to the river and the centre. It cost 6 USD for a room (knocked down from 7 USD); the bathroom was OK but not kept clean all day and the room pretty dingy. There was a wide veranda useful for hanging out, and shoes were not allowed (which is always a good idea). I only stayed one night and left early in the morning to catch a plane, so I don't know if they had breakfast or food.
However, I can't recommend this place. There were bed bugs when I went there! Having bed bugs does not mean the place is dirty (they'll survive fine in very clean places); they can come from other travellers or in different ways, and can be very difficult to get rid of - so my sympathies are with any hotel that finds themselves with bedbugs. However, the reaction of the receptionist when I told her (she tried to convince me it was ants), would make me avoid ever going here again.
Kutsambath - Pheth Dao Heuang Guesthouse
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