Set at the confluence of two rivers that almost surround the city, and beneath a temple-topped hill, Luang Prabang is a wonderful patchwork of traditional Lao wooden houses and hints of European architecture; reminders of when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. Golden-roofed wats, decorated with mosaics and murals of the life of Buddha, sit under the gaze of wrap-around teak balconies and 19th century shuttered windows. All of this is set against a backdrop of verdant greenery and rugged mountains.
One of those small cities with atmospheric and charming personalities, Luang Prabang has topped the Top City category in Wanderlust's annual (popular choice) travel awards several times in recent years (2015, 2012, 2011, 2010).
As a visitor, you cannot help but be amazed by the tidiness and cleanliness of perhaps the most charming city in all of Southeast Asia. With UNESCO so closely involved and a largely responsible group of local business owners, the pressures of mass tourism development have been held at bay, but for how much longer remains to be seen. Restaurants along the main street tend to be expensive and aimed at luxury tourists, whilst lower cost venues are along the banks of the Mekong.
Luang Prabang rose to prominence as the capital of the first Lao kingdom (Lan Xang - land of the million elephants) from 1353 onwards. The city owes its present name to the Pha Bang, a revered Buddha image (now in the Royal Palace Museum) which was brought to the city by King Visoun during the golden age of Lan Xang in the early 1500s.
The fragmentation of the Lao kingdom at the end of the 16th century saw Luang Prabang become a militarily weak independent city state paying tribute to the surrounding kingdoms. Ultimately the 1887 sacking of the city by the Chinese Haw led the Luang Prabang monarchy to accept the protection of the French, whose influence led to the construction of the many fine colonial villas that sit harmoniously alongside the traditional Lao architecture.
The city fell into decline in the latter half of the 20th century following the reluctant withdrawal of the French, and the 1975 revolution which brought an end to the Luang Prabang monarchy. The relative poverty of newly-independent Laos perhaps helped save Luang Prabang from the ravages of 20th century city planning.
Haw Kam, Luang Prabang
The reopening of Laos to tourism in 1989 resulted in a remarkable turnaround in the city's fortunes, as crumbling timber houses and colonial mansions were sensitively restored and transformed into immaculate guesthouses and boutique hotels. In 1995 the city was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Vietnam Airlines offers flights from/to Hanoi and Siem Reap. Vietnam Airlines' pricing scheme is somewhat questionable, with tourists paying higher prices on last-minute tickets.
The new airport opened in 2013 and is much larger, clean and fairly quiet for an international airport.
Visa-on-Arrival is available at the airport. The price is variable based upon your nationality, with USD35 being typical, with an additional USD processing fee. You need a passport picture to obtain a visa. If you don't have one, they'll scan your picture from your passport and charge you an additional USD1. Ensure you have USD otherwise you will need to use the ATM outside the front entrance or exchange money at the exchange counter. Exchange rates at the airport are reasonably competitive with the prevailing outside rates, unlike a lot of other international airports.
ASEAN nationals do not need a visa to enter Laos for stays not exceeding 30 days.
Visa extensions are possible at the Immigration Office opposite the Rama Hotel. The price is USD2/day plus a USD2 form fee. The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form (in Luang Prabang they do this for you) and come back in the afternoon for your extension.
Taxis into the city cost about USD6, whether you are by yourself or with 3 other people. There is a taxi counter just outside the arrival hall.
As of June 2015, you are required to buy a taxi ticket for 50,000 kip per person for a seat on a shared van taxi into the city. There are tuk-tuks driving down the main road which charge about 20,000 kip for one person into the city. If there are a couple of you then you can get a better price. Most guesthouses can organise pickups for about 100,000 kip.
From Hanoi, Vietnam, one could take a 30 hour bus for VND850,000 (December 2013) to Luang Prabang. Just ask any travel agency or hotel receptionist, not many offer this service, but you can find it if you try hard enough.
Highway 13 connects Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane in the south and via Highway 1 to the north. Highway 13 is asphalt and in relatively good shape during dry season all the way to Vientiane. Simply put, it is long, bumpy, and winding road trip. The road resembles of a lunar landscape and there are endless potholes due to poor quality surface, the top layer eroded to reveal the gravel underlayer, which causes a bumpy ride. Though there have been incidents of violence along this stretch of road in the past, presently it is safe.
Upon arrival at a bus station, there will be tuk-tuks that will cram in as many tourists as possible for a flat 20,000 kip (10,000 kip after negotiation and pointing to the information panel from the bus station displaying the tuk-tuk fees for the city-centre, Feb. 2015) to the city centre, which is near the Royal Palace. Many tourists alight here, but if your hotel is not nearby you can request that the driver take you to your hotel at no extra charge, as long as it's within the historic part of the city.
There are three bus stations, each a little bit out of the city, which serve different directions. Tuk-tuk drivers know which bus station to go to for which destination. Ask around for bus schedules.
Tickets can be bought at every travel agent in the city, which makes more sense than buying them at the bus station as there is only a difference of roughly 20,000 kip, which pays for the the tuk-tuk from place of accommodation to the bus station (impossible to walk), so it nullifies the gain. Pick those agencies which absorb the shuttle ride from the fare quote as others do not. Compare first before biting the quote. Book tickets in advance, particularly for "VIP" buses as they have reserved seats, and you don't want to end up sitting next to the toilet. If you have a preference for aisle or window seat, ask for a seat before the toilet (i.e., between the toilet and front of the VIP bus) where the seat numbers are predictable. The seat numbering jumps a couple seats after the toilet (which is located in the middle left of the bus), and what should have been an aisle seat number becomes a window seat number and vice versa.
Boats ply the Mekong to and from Huay Xai at the Thai border, stopping in Pakbeng where you can catch overland connections towards the northeast and the border with China. The trip takes 2 days (both days about 9 hours) by slow boat, or 6 bone-rattling hours by speedboat. There are also operators now offering 2-day "luxury" cruises.
Expect to spend the night in Pakbeng if you're taking a slow boat (the safest option), or to arrive in Luang Prabang deaf, shaken and either exhausted or exhilarated from six hours in a speedboat. There is also a twice-weekly "one day comfortable boat" between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai, but the cost is significantly higher.
Slow boats leave every day, the last one at 11:00 (if there are enough people [who are slow getting through Laos immigration] boats will leave up until approx 12:30). The trip from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai costs at least 250,000 kip. The trip to Luang Prabang from Huay Xai costs around THB1000 /220,000 kip or 110,000 kip to Pakbeng. Be sure to retain your ticket stub as they check again when you board again at Pakbeng.
Make sure you stock up on food and drink before travelling as the on board prices are practically double (20,000 kip as opposed to 10,000 at a restaurant). Many guest houses at Pakbeng sell small, but somewhat pricey, packed lunches for the onward journey.
In Huay Xai take a tuk-tuk from the border crossing to the boat landing (10 km, THB100 per passenger) and purchase your tickets at the boat landing because all the tour agencies in the city charge a commission, and agents usually don't have reliable information about the quality of the boats. It is common to have to switch to a different boat in Pakbeng, so you may end up in a boat of higher or lower quality for the second half of the journey. The two day boats have nice comfortable car seats, and so it is no longer necessary to purchase any cushions.
You can buy a Huay Xai to Luang Prabang ticket from Huay Xai guesthouses but at the Port you can only buy a ticket to Pakbeng. When you board the Luang Prabang boat after the night in Pakbeng, a registered ticket seller will come around checking 'through' tickets and selling tickets for that day's travel to LP.
The slow-boat is generally packed, so much so that there may not be enough seats to go round. If you insist before leaving, plastic chairs may be added for the benefit of the unlucky late-comers. Arriving early will mean a longer day, but most likely a better seat, towards the front and away from the incredibly loud engine (maybe take ear-plugs just in case). The best seats are located near the captain as they allow access to large open 'doors', however, this area can get cramped with locals and their belongings or alternatively with shouting, Samsong-drinking party-backpackers while the few locals are shoved in the back. Please consider to give up or at least share your seats for the elderly.
The slow boat trip proceeds at a pleasant 20-30 km/h and offers nice views to the nature and village life on the banks of the Mekong river. Most of the passengers are foreign tourists. Occasional locals take the boat only for short hops between the river side villages, but prefer to take the bus for the full distance from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. So you won't be able to observe many local boat travellers, the boat ride offers just the usual sight of tourists drinking Beerlao but is a great way to meet other tourists and discuss route plans and travel info or get very sick of them.
Previously the slow boat stopped right in the middle of the city. But now the official slowboat pier is ~7 km out of the city and everyone is then forced to take a tuk tuk. If you do not wish to participate in this you can gather a group of people and start walking to the city on your own (turn right from the boat landing). The tuk tuk drivers will follow you and within 50 m the price will drop to 15,000 kip per person. Walking a little further will probably drop the price even more since in about 250 m you will come across a busy road (turn right to go to Luang Prabang) where it should be easy to get transport. If you do not find transport on the road itself then there is a petrol station about 500 m further where there are always tuk tuk drivers filling up.
When you disembark the slow boat it is a very steep combination of stairs and earthen bank to the road. A tourist fell backwards with the weight of her backpack and broke her leg in May 2015. You might be approached by a tout offering to take you into the city for a very inflated price. What he's doing is very dishonest as he will carry your backpack to the road and then demand payment, and then you still have to buy your 20,000 kip tuk tuk ticket at the office on the road to get into the city.
There is an agency (Bo-Sapphire) in Huay Xai which offers trips from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang. Tickets which are sold by local agencies and hotels in Chiang May include minibus transfer to Chiang Khong (Thai bank), border/Mekong crossing to Huay Xai and the slow boat ride as described above. Tickets are collected by the driver when you enter the minibus in Chiang Mai and you will be left with no proof of payment and services included. The minibus will drop you at a very dirty "hotel" in Chiang Khong with damaged buildings, urine-stained bedsheets, and disgusting meals. Consider walking around the city to find a better place. If you book the "B" package which includes accommodation in Pakbeng you will find that breakfast, lunch package, and transfer to the pier is not included although you paid for it but are not able to prove. Phone numbers and email address displayed on the company's stand at Huay Xai immigration counter and on their buses are defunct. So you cannot contact them.
If you choose to travel on the speedboat (a light canoe with a very powerful engine), a crash helmet and life-jacket will be provided, but once you have taken the trip you will realize they are mostly show only and will not help you if something goes wrong. Regardless, it is not recommended you travel in a speedboat without this safety equipment. It is also recommended that you make your bags as waterproof/water-resistant as possible and wear a rain jacket. The boat can generate quite a bit of spray, plus any showers you might encounter along the way will sting like needles against any exposed skin. On sunny days, sunscreen is invaluable as there is no roof/shade on these speed machines. The journey to Huay Xai can be reduced to as few as 4 hours in the wet season, with a lunch stop at Pakbeng. However, some consider this means of transportation less safe, especially in the dry season when boats travelling at 80 km/h come within a few metres of exposed rocks. Earplugs are strongly recommended. Those concerned about their environmental impact may want avoid speedboats, as they are heavier polluters than the slower options. Speedboats run on LPG with boats stopping regularly to get supplies (8 bottles required per trip) and it is not overly comforting to the weak-hearted to have two full bottles at the front of your boat as you negotiate 3 m diameter whirlpools to avoid m rocky outcrops almost close enough to touch. Travel agents in Luang Prabang will sell the tickets for 320,000-370,000 kip, you will need a minivan to take you the 10 km north to the fast boat pier. Unless you're an adrenalin junky, look for other transport options.
The third option is to take a "luxury" cruise. The major operators are Luang Say and Nagi of Mekong. Both operate two-day cruises to Hauy Xai that stop in Pakbeng for the night. A third player, Shompoo Cruise, has now entered the market. Although the journey takes as long as taking the slow boat, these operators offer vastly superior facilities and equipment than public slow boats, and you should be prepared to pay a premium for it. Tickets for all three operators can be bought at most travel agents in the city.
Prices are approximately 220,000 kip for a slowboat, 280,000 kip for a speedboat. 3,000,000 kip for Luang Say, 1,200,000 kip for Nagi of Mekon and (both including a night in a hotel) and 640,000 kip for Shampoo. There are reports that prices for Luang Say and Nagi of Mekong can be bargained down.
There is no public boat service to Vientiane, but it may be possible to do the trip by private tourist boat when the water levels are high enough. Read more about fast and slow boats in the Laos country guide.
Alms Ceremony, Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang, taken from across the street in early May 2011.
Designated as the first UNESCO listed site in Laos, the city itself offers a treasure trove of discoveries. Simply meandering down the streets can be rewarding in itself. The peninsular section of the city is glutted with well preserved temples. This latest of Laos tourism videos, sanctioned by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism, will give you glimpses of Luang Prabang:
Alms ceremony — monks at dawn (05:30) collecting alms of rice from kneeling villagers and tourists, who form the majority, along Sakkaline Road near Wat Sensoukharam. Just look for the long row of rice baskets and stools that have been laid out for tourists who have paid for the privilege of giving alms. Seeing these tourists, who make up the majority of the alms-givers, seated on plastic stools participating out of fun rather than sincerity definitely reduces the authenticity of the moment. To make things worse, some are dressed inappropriately: please, if you want to give alms, at least cover up and do not show the monks your cleavage. If you are white, please keep a distance from the monks so people can take authentic photos without a European backpacker getting in the way. Ask your guest house host to assist you the day before in preparing if you'd like to get up and give alms in the morning. Please note that the alms giving ceremony is one which, while picturesque, is not without its detractors. Unscrupulous local merchants have used the eagerness of tourists to participate in a local tradition as a means of making easy money, and sometimes sell unsuitable, stale and even unsafe food. This has resulted in monks falling ill after having consumed the offerings, and resistance to continuing the tradition. However, the government has made it clear that the monks have to continue the tourist pageant or risk being replaced with lay people clothed in saffron robes in order to keep up appearances, and thereby maintain tourist revenue. So if you wish to participate in this ceremony, prepare the food or fruit yourself, and avoid giving food of unknown quality. Another problem is the photography: while it looks nice on your collection, think about how it must feel for the monks to have hundreds of tourists photographing them every day. Some lowlifes even stand right next to them, flashing them in the eyes. Strongly consider only watching this old tradition from a distance instead of using it as a tourist attraction, as this may detract from the beauty of the ritual - both for locals and tourists alike. You can always download a picture of it somewhere on the net for your collection.
Haw Kham — the former royal palace and now national museum, 30,000 kip, no photo/video/bag/shoes allowed, free locker. Open 08:00-11:30 and 13:30-16:00 every day except Tuesday. There's also sometimes local drama or dance performances in the adjacent theatre. In August 2011, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, there were performances at 18:30 of "Search of Princess Sida", a royal ballet, with prices from 80,000 to 150,000 kip. It's important to check the timings and plan the visit accordingly.
Phou Si/Chomsy Hill — the main hill in the city from which you have a good view of the whole area. It's not a very steep climb from the bottom and sunrise and sunset are the most sensible and rewarding times to go up. There is a near-panoramic view from the top. There are 2 entrances from ground level: 1 on the north along Sisavangvong Road, facing the Royal Palace, and another one on the East, on Sisavang Vatthana Road. The northern entrance has about 130 steps up to the ticket counter, and another 190 steps to the top. Even folks with low fitness levels should be able to complete the climb, although it can be tiring for the unfit. The eastern entrance is longer than the northern one by a factor of 2 or 3, and is hence less steep and has more points of interest along the way, which are perfect excuses for stopping for a breather on the climb. Entrance fee 20,000 kip.
Sunset on the waterfront — take a walk along the Mekong, or sit and enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants and watch the sun sink into the horizon. If having dinner, make sure to bring some mosquito repellent or wear long trousers. Mosquitoes love stationary targets.
Vat Xieng Toung — the oldest monastery in the city and one of the most beautiful. Opens from 06:00-18:00. Entry fee 20,000 kip. One entrance on the road along Mekong river, the other on the by-lane off the main road.
Vipassana temple and park — this golden temple, highly visible from Phou Si, is a shrine for Buddhists who practice Vipassana meditation.
Elephant Village Sanctuary & Resort, Ban Xieng Lom (Office on the main road, Sisavangvong Road), ☎ +856 71 252417 (email@example.com), . 07:00-21:00. Ensures the support and survival of (currently) 14 elephants. They are kept away from abusive work and cared by veterinarians. They make sure that the elephants are well cared for and they seem to be very well looked after. Basic elephant rides, or 1 or 2 day mahout course where you learn the commands to control the elephant, and you also can wash it in the Namkhan River.edit
Nam Ou Elephant Farm, Ban Pak Ou (Close to Pak Ou Caves, on the bank of the Nam Ou River), ☎ 20 22 350 157 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 07:00-21:00. The Nam Ou Elephant Farm is a sanctuary with a connection with Sayaboury Elephant Conservation Centre; two of the Mahouts were trained by the centre. There, people will get the opportunity to learn about the Asian elephants, feed them & ride them. There are strict controls in place including no more than 1 hour per ride with a maximum of 2 persons on 1 elephant; and note the farm restrict rides to a maximum of 2 trips per day per elephant.edit
Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, (inside Kuang Si Waterfall park). Run by Free the Bears, an organisation that rescues endangered Asiatic black bears from poachers and bear bile farms. The sanctuary does not receive any money from the waterfall park admission and relies on donations, so support them by buying T-shirts and other merchandise from their shop. Feeding time is around noonedit
Kuang Si Butterfly Park, (300 m before Kuang Si Waterfalls), ☎ +856 20 9823 7466. 10:00-17:00. Opened in January 2014. Total of 2,800 m² of landscaped gardens, orchids, 900 m² of netted butterfly garden, free natural fish spa (those little nibbling fish that feed on your skin), European bakery, good coffee/tea. Best visit on sunny days.30,000 kip. edit
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls. 08:00-17:30. A large multi-stage waterfall, accessible by boat or truck hire, some 29 km south of Luang Prabang. You can rent a motorbike to transport yourself there. Parking your bike at the entrance costs 2000 kip. There are food and tourist stalls outside the waterfalls. It is worth putting a whole day or more aside for seeing this because it is a great place to relax and meet others. There are multiple pools at different levels, all of which are reportedly safe to bathe in, and are extremely picturesque. Shared tuk-tuks to go there charge about 30 to 50,000 kip. The cheapest seems to be near slow boat pier, though you can get them for 40,000 kip near JoMa Bakery. You may have to wait until the tuk-tuk fills up. Tuk-tuks are legally only allowed to take six people, and there is a checkpoint at the falls, so some drivers may try to get a 7th person in the front seat. A private tuk-tuk will cost you around 150,000 kip after some haggling. Drivers will try to show you some documents that quote 200,000 kip or more. Ignore it and insist on your price. Try and go with 5 people and insist on 30,000 kip each. Drivers should wait for 3-4 hours for you at the waterfall gate area. Make sure your 150,000 kip includes transport there and back. Bargain, bargain, bargain. Just remember that there are dozens of tuk-tuks around, so you have the advantage. If on your own, propose 30,000 kip, and if you have the patience wait until he finds more people. A seat in a mini bus costs 40,000 kip, more if booked through travel agent. Be careful of leeches in the water, especially if you climb to the top of the top of the falls. There is a lot of leeches in the water.Admission, 20,000 kip. edit
Pak Ou Caves. The famous "Buddha caves" are north of the city on the Mekong and can be reached by road (approx 1h) or river boat (around 1.5h). Alternatively, you can hire canoes and a guide for the day, which will allow you to view the beautiful scenery and visit the caves without throngs of other tourists. It's also possible to finish the trip at the "whisky village" where the local Laolao rice spirit is made. Those caves were used as a storage unit to keep the damaged Buddha statues (it is considered bad luck to throw them away, so they are often stored in caves) and were made a tourist attraction; if you ever been to any cave before, it is not worth a dedicated visit as you're likely to be disappointed. There are two caves: one on the entry level and another, the upper caves, on top of the hill, a very steep climb. A torch is recommended to see the upper cave, and will be given on entrance. Ticket for a round boat tour to Pak Ou Caves (with stop at the whisky village) costs 65,000 kip (Jan. 2015) per person and can be purchased at the pier (first boat takes off at 08:30 but the ticket office is open at 8). If you book a "half-day tour Pak Ou" at the local tourist office, make sure if the entrance fee is included in the price, or the whole "service" to be provided is just selling you a boat ticket with surcharge; in the latter case, just go to the pier (at Mekong river, easy to find) and buy the tickets yourself. Simply cross the river for for 3,000-5,000 kip, walk up the hill and turn to the right crossing the primary schools to find your way to the caves.edit
Tad Sae Waterfalls. Stepped waterfalls which are not as big as Kuang Si, but very beautiful. You can bathe there, and elephant rides are also available. Though the most people stop at the main waterfalls near the entrance, you can walk alongside the streams for couple of miles and find more waterfalls. You must take a river boat 10,000 kip per person (each way) to reach the place. Motorbike/Bicycle parking is 5,000 kip. If arriving by motorbike from Luang Prabang, get on route 13 south (towards Vientiane), and there will be a left turn after the 372 kilometre highway marker, right after a petrol station. There isn't much of a sign; if you reach the 371 kilometre highway marker, you've gone too far.Admission, 15,000 kip. edit
Zip-line next to Tad Sae Waterfalls, . A 20 platform zip line, total length of all segments of which is claimed to be over 1000 m long. Located next to Tad Sae Waterfalls. The price is from May 2013: USD35. edit
Tad Thong Waterfall and Nature Trail, (6 km from the city centre, off Route 13 south to Vientiane). The waterfalls are not as spectacular as the Kuang Si but there is a paved 50 minute walk through the jungle through a forest of huge trees dotted with picnic areas. Closed for many years but now open. Water from the falls cascades into a big lake that you can swim in. A natural location with not many tourists, but there is a restaurant. Go by tuk-tuk, minivan, or rent a scooter or bicycle. The last 2.8 km of the road there is unpaved, quite rocky and a little steep in places, so if you're driving on your own, make sure you're comfortable off road. Note: as of August 2014, some of the pathways are in a bad state of disrepair and/or flooded, and you will need to get your feet wet at least once to get to the end of the path.edit
Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Centre. On the banks of the Mekong just 2 km south of Luang Prabang city, it offers an informative free tour to all visitors. Operating as a fair trade traditional weaving centre you can take classes in bamboo/textile weaving, dye your own silk, draw your own batik, or just relax at the Mekong garden cafe. Free tuk-tuk departs daily from both Ock Pop Tok shops in the city: 10:00, 12:00 & 14:00.edit
Traditional Arts and Ethnology CentreA small but perfectly formed museum dedicated to the ethnic cultures of Laos. Find out more about the groups that make Laos unique and so enrich your visit to Luang Prabang. Located at the foot of Phousi Hill behind Dara Market. Sometimes closed for exhibition changes, so please check in advance. Open Tuesday - Sunday from 09:00 to 18:00. Closed Mondays. 25,000 kip entry.
Garden of Eden. It is a very nice jewellery shop in a small wooden hut on the Nam Khan riverside right next to the Dyen Sabai restaurant. The quality of the products is way better than the stuff you can buy at the night market. The owner Nic will give you a free jewellery class if you buy one piece from her shop (phone: 071410456). To get there you can use the free boat service from the restaurant or take the longer way over the bridge.edit
Garavek Traditional Storytelling Theatre, . A small theatre on Kounxoua Road, close to Wat Xiengthong, performing a selection of traditional Lao stories - legends and folktales of Luang Prabang. The stories are told in English, with the live musical accompaniment of khene (a traditional Lao instrument), most evenings at 18:30. It is recommended to reserve a seat in advance.edit
Angsana Spa, Rue Chao Fa Ngum (at Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, near Nam Phou Fountain), . 09:00-22:00. Get pampered at the Angsana Spa in Luang Prabang. Professional international spa with Asian inspired treatments including massages, facials, body scrubs, manicure, pedicures. Set in a private spa garden.edit
Backstreet Academy, ☎ +856 20 5819 9216, . 09:00-18:00. An alternative tour experiences platform, they enable locals to offer authentic and unique activities to tourists such as silk weaving, wood carving workshops, paper stencilling, traditional music instruments and even a course where you can make your own knife or crossbow with local craftsmen. A social enterprise, they work with many underprivileged people who either serve as hosts or facilitators. The facilitators will pick you up from your hotel and translate for you. These facilitators are usually young students looking for work to pay for their education. Transport is provided for most activities in Luang Prabang. A great way to interact with local people and take in the culture and have something memorable to bring home.100,000-200,000 kip. edit
Banana Boat, . Better Boat Trips. There are many sites around the city best explored by boat. Mekong boat trips to Kuang Si, villages, sunset cruise and guided trip to Pak Ou Cave. Comfortable touring boat with padded seats, toilet, life jackets, experienced captain and drinks/snacks.edit
Big Brother Mouse. A helping organisation devoted to encouraging literacy in young adults and has premises off the main street, down a side street next to 3 Nagas restaurant. Depending on sponsorship and volunteers, it welcomes tourists Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00-11:00 and 17:00-19:00 to help with English conversation and reading practice. They publish and distribute books in Lao and English. Consider buying some books to take as gifts to village children as you travel through Laos. They also have a branch in Vientiane.edit
La Pistoche (Bar and swimming pool), Ban Phong Pheng Village, . 10:00-22:00. 2 swimming pools, 2 bars and one water slide. If you are looking for a refreshing break from the heat, after sightseeing or an exhausting bicycle tour, jump into the pools or enjoy excellent cocktails. Happy Hours on cocktails 12:00-19:00. It costs 30,000 kip for entrance fee and you have to leave a deposit of 50,000 kip for a bar tab, if you don't order anything you get the 50,000 back.20,000 kip Entrance (+50,000 kip bar tab deposit). edit
Lao Red Cross Massage, (Wisunarat Road, in front of Wat Wisunalat.). Massage, 09:00-21:00; Sauna, 16:00-20:00. A traditional Lao sauna and massage that is popular with locals in the afternoon.1 hour massage, 40,000 kip; sauna, 10,000 kip. edit
Lenou's Library, . Lenou started a library and children's English tutoring centre in his house a few years ago and since has been steadily expanding services with help from some volunteers. Lenou sometimes organises dinners on the NumOu river by request and generally seems to appreciate a helping hand. This is a good way to experience the local culture and experience the Laos village life without a tour bus.edit
Music For Everyone School (MES), (First street on the right after crossing the old bridge, look for the sign after crossing the bridge.), . An amazing organization ran by the incredibly inspiring and friendly Mr. Max. This school provides free music classes to Lao children and teens. Volunteer are enthusiastically welcomed to drop by, to either play with students or help with any kind of skills they may have. An amazing chance to help and connect through the passion of music.edit
Rent a Motorbike. At USD20-25 per day the price is high for SE Asia, riding around the surrounding areas of Luang Prabang is a fantastic way to see the countryside. Fuel for the whole day will cost around 15,000 kip. Typically, they will keep your passport so make sure they know when you are leaving and how to recover your passport.edit
Spa by Burasari, Kingkitsalat Road, Ban Khili (Burasari Heritage Hotel), ☎ +856 71 213331, . 08:00-22:00. The only high end spa located within the peninsula/old town. Numerous treatments using only natural ingredients: massage, Thai massage, detox packages, mani/pedi, scrubs, waxing. Set in their luxurious spa suite.edit
Heritage House of Luang Prabang, (Behind the Xieng Muane Temple, near the Ethnic Culture Exhibition hall), . Monday to Friday, 08:00 - 12:00 & 13:00- 16:00. If you are interested in cultural heritage, architecture, history and would like to know more about current urban projects of Luang Prabang this place might be perfect for you. The friendly stuff from the Information Center would be glad about any type of volunteering: from short-term to long-term up to your opportunities.edit
Gym, Manomai Road (Next to to Xangkham Hotel). With exercise machines, boxing, ping-pong table and free weights, limited cardio equipment. Mixed male and female membership.15,000 dong each visit (Oct 2014). (19.8806,102.1316)edit
This is an enjoyable way to gain insights into Lao culinary methods and traditions. There are three substantial cooking class providers in the city, all attached to popular restaurants, using Lao chefs/instructors. They differ somewhat in style and content, but all start with a tour of the local food market and include transport and copies of their recipes and other information about Lao cuisine. Participants sit down to eat their dishes afterwards.
The Terrace is a restaurant overlooking the Nam Khan river and they offer private classes anytime of day in their outdoor kitchen. For USD35 you choose 4 dishes you'd like to make, includes a market tour and recipe booklet. Restaurant located on Kingkitsalat Rd (Nam Khan river road), Ban Khili, in front of [ Burasari Heritage]. Contact details: ☎ +856 71 213331.
Tamnak Lao is situated in premises to the side of their main-street restaurant. They offer both day and evening courses (10:00-17:00, 250,000 kip, & 17:30-20:30, 200,000 kip). ☎ +856 71 254670. For day classes, there are 2 mandatory plus 5 optional dishes to choose from (choose only 3) for a total of 5 dishes plus demonstration only on how to cook sticky rice and Lao chilli paste. Variation is not much as 4 of the 7 dishes presented require eggs. Instruction is no-nonsense and very fast paced but Mr. Lee, the instructor, is very helpful if you need help. It starts with demonstration then hands on.
Tamarind: a taste of Laos has a restaurant along the Nam Khan river, but you are taken to and from the rather lovely gardens by the water a short ride from the city for their classes (09:00 to 15:30, 250,000 kip). Contact details: , ☎ +856 20 77770484.
Bamboo Tree, formerly Tum Tum Cheng, is now located on the Nam Khan river beside Tamarind. Offers a half-day course for USD38. Classes have more of a demonstration orientation, with participants helping instructors with various tasks. ☎ +856 71 252019. All courses can be booked at the relevant restaurants.
Some of the hotels and guesthouses in the city also offer small or private cooking classes for their guests.
Maison Souvannaphoum, 4 star hotel. Private class: visit the market with the chef and get hands on learning about how to cook your choice of 3 local dishes. Contact details: ☎ +856 71 254609
Residence Phouvao, 5 star hotel. Visit the market, and assist the cook with a couple of recipes in the garden of the hotel.
Hotel de la Paix, 5 star hotel. Visit the market, and learn a couple of local recipes.
Amanataka, 5 star hotel. Learn and cook on a "back to roots" kitchen, located in a rice field (Living Land).
Panorama of Luang Prabang. This view features the Nam Khan river on the left, and the Luang Prabang airport on the very far left
Living Land Farm offers a "Rice Experience" Tour, or you can just stop by this farm, which is right outside of the city on the way to the waterfall. If you stop by without a tour, they will still show you around the farm, pointing out the organic vegetables and rice and showing you the traditional tools they use to process rice. Contact details: .
Thai baht and US dollars are widely accepted but the exchange rates vary. There are some ATMs accepting Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and Eurocards. These ATMs are situated mostly in Sisavangvong Road near the end of the Night Market. The ATMs dispense currency in Lao kip and generally allow a maximum withdrawal of 1,000,000 kip with a charge of 20,000 kip. Multiple withdrawals are allowed to a daily maximum of 5,000,000 kip. If you arrive by plane, there is an ATM and a money changer at the airport which is open for a few hours of the day, so don't count on changing there. Also, their rates are significantly worse than the banks in the city.
For Malaysians, it is best to change money to baht, where the rate is MYR10 = THB100 or more, then change the baht to kip in Laos. This is because they give not so good rates in Laos for Malaysian ringgit.
There are a number of money changers who generally do not offer good rates, and are located either on Sisavangvong Rd or in the permanent markets further east. One is next to the ATM near the Night Markets, another is about 50 m further north along the street, located out the front of one of the first restaurants (looks like a little tollbooth). The rates offered may vary, so shop around before you change. It maybe better to stick with official money changing services at a bank which are easily found. There are reports of scam by using money changers to take cash advance. They will charge you more in US$ with different exchange rate than written, and even after complaining it's not possible to cancel the transaction.
Beware also of money changers giving you 1,000 kip notes instead of 10,000. The notes look similar.
Also, beware of Vangmisay Money Changer in Ban Choumkong. Always remember to count your money in front of the money changer immediately after the transaction. Avoid Vangmisay at all costs.
The Night Market (on Sisavangvong Road) caters to tourists with every kind of souvenir you could want and closes at about 22:00. Particularly good are the duvet covers, cushion covers, and pillow sets. They will custom manufacture one to your dimensions in one day. It is well worth a look and the hawkers are very pleasant to deal with and amazingly non-pushy by Asian standards. Traders range from young children to the elderly who usually make the items they sell. Good-natured bargaining is advisable, but don't obsess over this and ruin your experience as well as giving the trader a bad day. It should be understood that the quality and design of goods is lower in the market than in the legions of increasingly chic shopss in the city.
There may well be some souvenirs available made from endangered animals. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (starfish, etc.), fur, feathers, teeth and other products. This is the best place to buy lower end souvenirs and hone your bargaining skills.
The Lao aesthetic sense is quite evolved in its own way, and this can be seen in the higher-end shops:
Ma Te Sai, Ban Aphai, Luang Prabang, ☎ +856 (0)71 260654, . A fair trade shop selling handicraft and products from villages all over Laos. Specializes in handwoven, naturally dyed cotton. Supports local artisans. The motto is: From the Village, For the Village. Ma Te Sai can also organize handicraft and weaving village tours.edit
Ock Pop Tok, 73/5 Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang, plus 2 other shops in the city, ☎ +856 71 253219, . An ethical trading company with superb galleries. Also runs classes and visits to village weaving facilities.edit
TAEC Boutique, Ban Wat Sene (on the main street across from Hotel Villa Santi), ☎ +856305377557. 09:00 - 21:00. Artisan-made textiles, jewellery, basketry and carvings from Yao Mien, Akha, Kmhmu, Tai Daeng, Katu and other ethnic minority groups of Laos. A fairtrade shop of the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre. TAEC works with over 600 artisans in 33 villages across Laos. edit
Several book shops sell photocopied books, and so it's worth checking the copies as pages can be unreadable or even missing. Also, such copies may be illegal in your country.
Book Exchange The Tamnak Lao Restaurant Book Exchange has a very good selection of books. The exchange operates on a "one for one" basis plus 20,000 kip, and all books are also available for purchase. All of the money raised by the book exchange goes to buying provisions for the Luang Prabang Government Orphanages and ethnic high schools . It is located in the lane next to the Tamnak Lao restaurant.
During lunchtime, which is around 12:00 to 13:30, the dry summer sun can be scorching. To spend time comfortably while waiting for the sun to mellow at around 15:30, hang around at the public library across from the national museum about 4 or 5 buildings along. There are English language newspapers issued months ago still in circulation. Or surf the net for free from the six Internet stations.
There are no McDonald's restaurants or any other multi-national fast food outlets in Luang Prabang, or elsewhere in Laos.
Restaurants line Sisavangvong Road and the roads along the Mekong and Nam Khan. Food runs the line from standard SE Asian backpacker fare to more traditional Lao dishes, including buffalo sausage, right up to very high quality French cuisine.
There are also numerous market stalls for cheaper food, including baguettes, crepes, and pancakes. Stalls along an alleyway between the night market end of Sisavangvong Road and the Mekong offers superb Lao street food at bargain prices.
The much recommended street-food market located east of the Tourist Information building as posted on PBS Gourmet.com, said to be one of the must-see street food markets in SE Asia is quite disappointing though. A dozen or so buffet dishes per table-stall is offered at 15,000 kip (as of February 2015) per plate. They are displayed in aluminium basins with no warmers and by the time it's 20:00, the food is cold (however most vendors are more than willing to heat up your food in a wok, after which it's a lot more palatable). The taste is also bland, nothing outstanding or super noteworthy more than any indifferent buffet offerings in other parts of the world. Also, one must contend with a barrage of flies. Basically, if one sees one table, one has seen it all. However, there is large range of salad items and because everyone is packed into the tables to eat, it is a great way to meet other travellers.
While the buffet tables are the cheaper way to eat, be wary of the hygiene and note the distinct lack of local customers which is an indicator of the standard of food on offer. You'll never encounter fatter flies elsewhere in SE Asia. For a bit more, a tasty alternative are the grilled fish, chicken legs, and buffalo sausages sold just before the main "buffet" area. Delicious and worth every overcharged kip. Even tastier if you are tired of fried rice from the dozens of cafes that have sprung up on every corner.
A large Beerlao should not cost more than 10,000 kip, and 8,000 kip for the small dark variety, pretty much standard throughout the country. Most riverside places offer the same prices for beer and generally the same foods. Prices of food can vary wildly, though. Shop around and don't be shy about asking prices directly if anything is unclear.
Probably the one dish most recommended is the Lao version of fried spring roll: vegetarian at 3,000 kip, or pork at 5,000 kip per piece.
The bundles of dried seafood snack have a texture is like chewing salty paper.
Local specialities include:
French baguettes and other bakery items.
Local watercress, which is very peppery.
Fried dried seaweed with sesame seeds dipped in a chili sauce.
Buffalo steaks and sausages.
Luang Prabang Khao Soi: spicy clear mince and noodle soup which is very different from the Chiang Mai version. Try a great one at the crossroad to the night market for 15,000 kip
The Terrace, Kingitsarath Road (on the Nam Khan River, in front of Burasari Heritage Hotel). 07:00-10:00. Lovely restaurant with full river view in a classy, elegant setting. Extensive menu offers delicious Thai and Lao dishes, large portions and reasonably priced wine by the bottle. The ambience in the evening is beautiful. edit
Elephant Blanc, Rue Chao Fa Ngum (in Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, across from the Nam Phou Fountain), ☎ +856 71 254 609, . Menu features delicious Thai, Lao and Western dishes in historic Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, a French colonial building once the home of the Prince. Lovely ambience surrounded by tropical garden. Open for lunch and dinner. Excellent friendly service. Sometimes they do a 10-dish Lao tasting menu with a performance of traditional Lao music and dance. edit
Tangor, Rue Sisavangvong (on the main street), . Asian food and regional flavours with a French twist. Tangor has a prime location on the main street. The menu is small but excellent and fresh. Try their signature ceviche. A selection of imported beers, nice cocktails, wine by the glass, great Indochina decor and ambience. edit
Cafe de Laos, Main Street (beside Wat Sene, opposite Scandanavian Bakery). 06:00-18:00. Cute cafe with a huge range of coffee beans all grown in Laos. The only place in Luang Prabang to have siphon-brewed coffee. They also serve good value breakfast sets and lunch, cold drinks, TWG tea. Great location on the main street beside the temples. Free WiFi. edit
Opera House Restaurant/Wine bar, Shakarin road (on the main street, 100 m after night market), . 14:00-23:30. The lao-Italian cuisine very good,try thier meatball with lemongrass or Lasagna prepare by Italian chef are so yummy. A good spot to sit on the terrace or street-side tables and enjoy a drink while watching people go by on the main street.A lot of choices for Wine or cocktail drinks, Good service and friendly staff. edit
Nang Ae Restaurant (ຮ້ານອາຫານນາງແອ), Opposite to Dara Market (Right at the corner of the busy Dara Market intersection). 05:30 to 20:00. - There is no written English name but very easy to spot since it located right at the intersection opposite to Dara Market. Local restaurant, very good Lao/Thai "fast food" and sandwiches at fair prices. English menu available. Try their omelet over rice and noodle soup. edit
Delilah's - Chao Fa Ngum road, Two blocks from post office.across the street from Vat Hosian Voravihane. Delilahs offers fair prices, delicious food, and monthly specials- head on up to the second floor for comfy seating. English spoken and polite attentive service.
Le Banneton - Opposite Wat Sop, Sisavangvong Road. Authentic French bread, tarts, pastries and cakes. Their pain au chocolate is buttery and delicious. The tarte citron is divine. Prices are in the upper range but you get what you pay for.
Big Tree Cafe - Consistently well-prepared Western food and authentic Korean food. Under the big tree on the Mekong River. Good service and free Wi-Fi.
Dyen Sabai, Ban Phan Louang | PO BOX 805, Luang Prabang 06000, Laos, ☎ +856 20 55 104 817, . High Season 0800-2300, Low Season 1200-2300. Asian and Laos food. Try the Laos Tasting Platters or Barbecue (Sindad) and enjoy the view of the Nam Khan river from the bamboo garden. With a variety of seating, good music, Free WIFI and board games. edit
Blue Lagoon Restaurant, (beside National Museum), ☎ 856 (71) 25 36 98, . Offers Luang Prabang-Lao highlights and Swiss classics as well as a variety of snacks and fresh salad. Moved to a new location in 2014 and the new restaurant is stunning, with secret garden setting and air-conditioned indoor dining room as welledit
Boulevard Restaurant, ☎ 071 25 48 81. A new al fresco-style restaurant under the same wing of New Daraphet Villa behind JoMa Bakery. For those wishing a quiet meal be warned the owner has recently brought in sound equipment and a new acoustic guitar for music enthusiasts to jam. The restaurant has 2 sides for both proper dining and casual drinking. Serves decent draught Tiger beer and a good atmosphere.edit
L'Eléphant- Around the corner from Saffron Cafe. A lovely restaurant with a unique mix of Laotian and French cuisine. The food is extremely good, but has its price. It is directly in front of a small guest house, and not far away from Les 3 Nagas hotel and Villa Santi Hotel. The ingredients are of the highest quality, ranging from French Camembert to Laotian lemon grass and river weeds. Has a great ambience, but the menu is both pricey and some items do not justify their price tag.
Hmong Night Market (vegetarian & vegan) - One food stall says vegetarian and the other "végétalien" (vegan). Approximately 5,000 kip for a plate. Popular with budget visitors but not an option for those looking for tasty food. Cash only. Eat at your own risk as hygiene standards are questionable. Market is open 17:00-22:00.
The House - Luang Prabang's only Belgian restaurant and bar. Excellent price-quality cuisine. It has an appealing range of Belgian beers, cocktails, and wines. Known for its lasagne, beef stews, delicious fries and curries. Recommended for vegetarians. Conveniently situated at the Nam Khan riverside of Mount Phousie, a few minutes away from main street and night market. A green bamboo garden with fairy lights: very popular and good ambience. Staff are very attentive.  +856(0)71.255.021 [email@example.com]
Joma Bakery Cafe, (Near the post office at the end of the night market.), ☎ 071-252-292. 07:00-21:00. The best cafe in Luang Prabang (doubtful). Enjoy their original Bagel Egger (bagel, egg, ham, cheese and mayo), Nanaimo bars, Oat French Toast, the best Reuben in SE Asia and best coffee in Lao. Offers free Wi-Fi, air-con on both floors and free full-menu delivery service from 07:00-19:30. Great music and very friendly staff. Overly expensive Starbucks copycat, lacking the distinctive charm of many other cafes in Luang Prabang.8,000- 43,000 kip.. edit
Lao Lao Garden - Attractively designed bar/restaraunt notable for its Lao-style barbecue, in which you and your friends cook pre-prepared meat on a barbecue mounted in the centre of the table. A backpacker favourite and becomes busy in the evenings with loud club music. If you prefer to cook your barbecue in an atmosphere of quiet contemplation there are other BBQ options along the riverside.
Nava Mekong Dining Cruise- Nava Mekong is the exquisite dinning cruise of Luang Prabang. Dining on the on the side of the mighty Mekong is a recommended thing to do when visiting Luang Prabang.
Pizza Phan Luang, (50 m up the road from Dyen Sabai across the bamboo bridge/free river crossing), ☎ 020-5692-2529. 17:00 to 22:00, Tues. - Sun.. Comfort food at its best, Pizza Phan Luang is a new comer to Luang Prabang (opened in Jan. 2013) serving up thin and crispy pizza in their wood fired stone oven, since Sassa closed in 2011 they are one of two dedicated pizzerias. The menu is intentionally simple and in-season fruit are provided after the main. The owners are passionate about food and prepare their own dough daily. The resident cat strangely does not eat pizza.40,000 - 60,000 kip. for a large pizza.. (19.891485,102.141657)edit
Un Petit Nid - Biblio Bistro. Very relaxing bistro serving excellent Lao and Western food in nice atmosphere. Watch out for the kittens. Try the Orlam with spicy wood. Good vegetarian menu. (19.894717149999998,102.14083575000001)edit
Rosella Fusion Restaurant - Clean and well-cooked food. A small place (blink, and you'll miss it) that looks like a fruit shake place. Locally owned by a Lao who trained at Amantaka Restaurant. Possibly the best steaks in the city, certainly great cocktails. Slow service, but worth it.
Saffron Café - (around the corner from L'Elephant restaurant in Wat Nong village) - The best coffee in Luang Prabang, which comes from the surrounding mountains. The banana shake macchiato is also recommended. Delicious fresh baked goods such as their cinnamon swirls and banana muffins go quickly. The granola and salad wraps are good.
Scandinavian Bakery- Serves Western quality breakfasts, burgers and pizzas. Food must be paid for before eating. Delicious Italian-style pizzas.
Shakes & Crepes- a no name place serving delicious shakes for 5,000 kip and fantastic sweet crepes starting from 7,000 kip. In front of Croissant d'Or on the main street.
Tamarind - On the banks of the Nam Khan river next door to Apsara, specialises in introducing Western tourists to Lao food, so the dishes are offered with explanations and the menu is full of information. Traditional Lao food in sampler format. Platter combinations of dips,salads etc as well as set menus. Only a small wine list but good range of fruit drinks. Popular cooking classes in a garden setting. Sells food products, recipe books etc.
Viewpoint café and restaurant, Mekong Riverside Road, Xieng Thong Villag (Next to Mekong river view hotel), ☎ +856 (0) 71 25 49 00 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 7-23. Viewpoint café offers you a fantastic view added to your breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is easy to eat a long breakfast in silence here and in the dinner at night the place has changed and gives you a cozy place with palm trees as your roof. High quality Lao and Western foodedit
Be sure to buy a small (or big depending on your needs) backpacking-sized plastic bottled water. Bottled water is more expensive than other South East Asian countries, but still cheap by western standards. Expect to pay 3000 kip for a small bottle or 5000 for a large. To reduce plastic waste, you can refill your bottles as you go along from your hotel's/guest house's or tour agent's office water dispenser.
If you can't find one along the backpacker's area, go to the lobby of the Phra Lang Phra Lao, a separate building besides the National Museum, beyond the huge King Sisavangvong statue, and re-supply. The water dispenser is at the righthand side at the far end of the corner from the entry door. There is also an available toilet with no charge. Or ask at any shop or agent.
There are a number of places to drink around Luang Prabang, though the late-night club scene is pretty much nonexistent. The liveliest and busiest bars are in a small cluster between Mount Phousi and the Nam Khong.
Luang Prabang's status means that curfews are strictly enforced here: bars start winding down at 23:00 and close at 23:30 sharp. The only permitted late-night options are outside the main part of the city: a discotheque patronised mostly by locals and a ten pin bowling alley.
If you do plan on staying out after hours, check the arrangements with your guesthouse first to avoid being locked out.
If you're simply looking to relax and enjoy the river views, most riverside restaurants have tables outside where you can sit back with a beer or two.
Books and Tea L'Etranger - downstairs is a book shop/swap and upstairs is a bar selling drinks and cake in a room covered in cushions for lazing around and reading. Movies everyday at 19:00. A tad greedy and unfriendly on the book exchange business. Definitely overpriced. They even charge you for reading one of their used books on spot.
The Bowling Alley Changed its location to stand close to the Chinese Provincal Hospital, 2 km out of the city. Serves Beerlao and whisky well into the early hours of the morning to a raucous backpacker crowd, and also happens to be a bowling alley (20,000 kip per person per game after midnight). Even the addition of lanes doesn't seem to have dented the emphasis on drinking. This is invariably reached by crowds of people sharing tuk-tuks, which cluster around the bottom end of Phousi Rd around the time the bars close.
Hive Bar, Phousi Road., ☎ 020 5 999 5370, . closes 23:30 sharp. Open from 07:00. until curfew. Hive Bar is an established and highly popular watering hole in the heart of Bar Street. Built in a traditional Lao house hive bar also has a lighted dance floor, planted front terrace and a large enchanting back gardens. There is an extensive drinks menu including the popular Hive Red Laolao cocktails that are 2 for 1 everyday. Cold draught BeerLao is available in mugs, jugs or towers. The kitchen serves full diners but also offers popular bar snacks including smoked BBQ chicken wings, burgers, pizzas and the famous “Bacon on a stick”. Hive Bar is also home to the ETHNIK Fashion Show and B-Boy Hip Hop shows.edit
Icon Klub, . Artful little bohemian bar serving both classic and creative cocktails to a great playlist. Indoor and outdoor seating. Chess, guitar and occasional poetry nightsedit
Lao Lao Garden and the adjacent Lao Lao Bar, Phousi Road.. closes 22:30. Popular with the backpacker crowd - in addition to their acclaimed food, it is marketed as a place to "drink like a fish for the price of water".edit
Mekong Sunset Beach Bar - The place to go to watch the sunset. Located at the river mouth of Nam Khan and Mekong, you have to cross the bamboo bridge behind Wat Xieng Thong and walk 3 min. Very simple but unbelievable. Floods in the wet season.
Utopia, (by the Nam Khan river - follow the signs from near Hive Bar). 08:00to 23:00. Aims to be a relaxing garden by day and tropical jungle lounge by night, when it fills up with backpackers. Gorgeous views along the Nam Khan River. One of the best located bars in Laos and creatively decorated. The food and shakes are great, especially the burgers. Cocktails are on point, too. Caters to backpackers wanting to chill, but other than the beer there is nothing Laoatian about this place with a clichéd backpacker facilities including board games, scatter cushions, giant Jenga and volleyball court. Free and fast Wi-Fi.edit
RedBul Bar/Restaurant (RedBul), Kingkitsarath Road Luang Phrabang (in front of Lao lao Garden), . 17-23:30. Fun and simmering, Red Bul Bar in the heart of Luang Prabang bar area has the potential to be the only bar you are going to want to visit throughout your entire stay in the city. Even if you wind up staying for months. It has all you could ever ask of a bar, excellent drinks (and cheap) and food (hamburger, french fries and more), fun people and and great vibe. Free Wi-Fiedit
Recently there have been (Sep 2013 and Jan 2014) multiple reports of rental scam in Luang Prabang where the rented scooter is stolen in the city by the renter, be warned about it. Take your own locker and do not leave your passport as a deposit.
Monk Alm Ceremony Scam
A scam operates during the early morning alms ceremony preying on unsuspecting sleepy tourists. When watching the procession of the monks, beware if one or several Lao ladies approach you encouraging you to give food to the monks as they walk along the street receiving alms from Buddhist pilgrims. The Lao ladies, who aren't themselves Buddhist, will give you a mat, and rice to give to the monks. (The rice is often poor quality and disrespectful to the monks). When the ceremony is over, they will take you to a nearby temple and encourage you to bow to a shrine or statue of Buddha, and then ask you to pay for the rice they gave you. They can insist on receiving very large sums of money before letting you go.
If you want to give to the monks, it's best to ask your hotel to organise it for you, but if you aren't Buddhist, it is respectful to watch quietly from across the road and refrain from participating.
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Over 400,000 kip
Luang Prabang has the best selection of accommodation in Laos, with something to suit every budget. There is everything from tent sites under a roof for 20,000 Kip per night up to super luxury hotels at USD1,500 per night.
Don't expect all the facilities that can be found in Vietnam or Cambodia - aircon, cable TV, internet - in Luang Prabang for USD12.
While the big chains have yet to make an appearance, there's plenty of "boutique" accommodation, although this heavily overused word runs the gamut from quirky to luxury. Most of the lanes and alleys all through Luang Prabang have places to stay, with a large selection also found in the lanes south of the Post Office. Free Wi-Fi is quite commonplace in Budget guesthouses.
Sokdee Guesthouse. Super-friendly, family ran guesthouse in excellent location. 120000kip for double or twin room, good wifi and breakfast. Very helpful staff. Just a few feet from the Mekong, walk to Palace and Night Market 5 minutes. e-mail email@example.com
Chitlathda Guesthouse has two parts with decent clean twin/double fan rooms 70,000 kip (December 2014 Highest Season), and 3-bed A/C rooms 90,000 kip (August 2014). Free Wi-Fi and water.
Cold River Guesthouse. run by a local family. It's directly on the Khan River. Low-season cost is 80,000 kip per night. Free filtered water and bananas are available. On Saturdays they'll serve free home-cooked dinner.
Halolao Backpackers, 222 ban that luang. basic clean rooms with fan, cold and warm water, good window mosquito nets. Staff is friendly and helpful. Free coffee and tea in the morning. Free Wi-Fi in lobby and sometimes in rooms (bad coverage). Double room with bathroom for 100,000 kip per person. A bit hard to find, near to NamPhou, behind of Suvarnaphoum Hotel, in front of Muong Thong Hotel. If you come from main road Sisavangvong Road, leading the way to Joma Coffee, passing by this coffee shop and then you will see Suvarnaphoum Hotel and Nam Phou, turn left into the second small street count from Suvarnaphoum Hotel main door, and you will see Halolao backpackers after 2 minutes walk.
Luang Prabang Backpackers Guesthouse, next to the Nam Khan river's motorcycle/bicycle bridge (a 10 minute walk away from the bustle of the night market). It offers clean and comfortable dorm beds for 40,000 kip per person (includes free breakfast and coffee). The guest house is run by a nice local family who, if you're lucky, will provide you with delicious Lao BBQ and Lao whisky now and then. Free Wi-Fi, cable TV and filtered water. Update: As of February 2015, this place doesn't seem to exist any more
Levady Guesthouse in a lovely side street 50 m off the main street. Nice family, wooden rooms and floor, bike rental, absolutely tidy. Double rooms with fan and private bathroom US$7, no Wi-Fi.
Mala Dressmaker & Watthat Guesthouse. This is a traditional Lao-style home which has 3 rooms upstairs all with self contained bathrooms and two new cheap rooms downstairs with bathroom. Free Wi-Fi, drinking water. Price is 50,000-120,000 kip per room. Washing 7.000k/kg, coffee, breakfast. There is a dress shop in front where you can have clothes made, repaired or modified. 30 m walk down to Mekong river,if you walk up to watthat temple turn left two block to night market. Ban watthat village, house n: 2/15 Wat That Road. email: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph:+856-20 5567 1180 and +856-71 254859.
Villa Merry 2 Low season prices from around 50,000-75,000 with bathroom outside which is great if you are on a budget. But they also have something a bit more private with bathrooms inside and some rooms with aircon. There is also a more luxury selection of rooms right next door which are very reasonable as well. If you are backpacking and on a budget though, the lady who owns it is very friendly and will happily get you into the right room. There is also a coffee shop inside that I think is also owned by her, (KK Coffee?) which has amazing coffee from a professional machine and beer lao and so on. All in all a really welcoming place and although not luxury, it is certainly worth it for the atmosphere and staff etc. Great location as well, about 5-10 minutes from everything. Ph: +856-20 5230 2277 email: [email@example.com]
Mojo Cafe and Guesthouse, offers rooms for 2-3 people with air-con and Wi-Fi included in the deal. The cafe plays hosts to jazz and blues every night from 20:45-22:30 and provides a classy, upbeat environment to listen to have a glass of wine or a the classic tall-boy of Beerlaos.
Phasith Guesthouse Rooms from 80,000-120,000 kip a night for a large room with air conditioning. Rooms feature an en suite balcony. Located right around the corner from Utopia Bar, Lao Lao, the Hive lounge Bar in the upscale nightlife area. Five minutes walk from the Night Market. Free Wi-Fi, free coffee/tea. The large almost verandas make it decent for what you pay, but better value and service can be found elsewhere.
Sean Sa Ngop Guest HouseBasic double bed rooms with hot shower, fan, sky TV, mosquito net. Have the school on your right hand side.(School near the Dara Market) then take the first right turn and walk down. Bounchaleurn Guest House on your right hand side (it's a landmark). 60,000 kip for the double room.
Somjith Guesthouse (856-71) 252 756; (856-20) 7777 4883; Email somjithG_H@gmail.com Clean room, attached, or shared bathroom, fan or air-con, free Wi-Fi (but a bit unreliable sometimes), laundry service 8,000 Kip/kg. Clean, private room with 2 beds, ensuite bathroom, air-con, fan, cable/satellite TV is 100,000 kip per night (July 2014).
Spicylaos Backpackers Hostel 4/4 Ban Thongchalern, 300 m south of Dara Market. Phone 856-71212500. . Backpacker-friendly hostel with 5 clean dorms and shared bathrooms. Free computer with Wi-Fi, free refilled drinking water, free movie room, free snake whisky, cable TV and common area, free games and table tennis, showers. Good place to meet other backpackers and friendly staff. 30,000 kip per person. They also run a reputable tour agency for the areas around Luang Prabang, and daily return transport to the Kuang Si falls for 30,000 kip (+20,000 kip entry fee). There doesn't appear to be any cable TV or movie room anymore though (February 2015).
Sysomphone Guesthouse (+856-71) 252-543 Located in Banvisoun 22/4 street, off Vatmou-Enna Rd. Have the Lao Development Bank on your left, walk straight till the T-junction, turn right, then take the second left into the small street and Sysomphone is at the end. Has a good view of Nam Khan River behind the guest house and is just around 10 min walk to Sisavangvong Road. Friendly and helpful family/owner. Free bananas, water and Wi-Fi. Owner has good information, prepares free dinner once a week for guests, has sticky rice if you stumble across dinner, collects guests' photographs in an album, and shares his knowledge of the Lao people and the country if asked. Rooms with shared hot-water bathrooms 40,000-50,000 kip. A newer, cleaner building in the back has fresher rooms for 70,000 kip.
VannaPhone Guest House located 10 minutes away from the airport and about 4 minutes from the city. Ranging from US$10-US$15 (depending on what room you choose). Acceptably sized rooms with fairly small bathrooms. Noisy if you choose the rooms located close to the street but if you choose one of the new back rooms it is OK.
Vong Champa Guesthouse. centrally located in a small alley on the Mekong river front near the night market, cheap (double 80,000 kip), quiet, brand new and spotlessly clean. Double is 70,000 Kip now w/bathroom attached, not so clean anymore (December 2013).
VongPrachan Guesthouse, Wisunalat Road, Ban Visoun, Luang Prabang, Lao (in a side street off Wisunalat Road opposite Wat Wisunalat), ☎ (071) 260236, mobile (020) 5557-0055. checkout: 12:00. Nicely decorated clean rooms, free Wi-Fi, pretty quiet. 10 May 2013: 150,000 kip or US$20 for a double room with aircon, fridge, TV, electric fan. Furniture, parquet, stairs made of very beautiful redwood. Looks almost new. Exact GPS coordinates: E102.13873, N19.88635US$20. (N19.88635,E102.13873)edit
Xayana Guesthouse and X³ Capsule Hotel. Guest house in a Lao-style villa in the protected zone. Dorms from US$4 or 30,000 kip, rooms from US$8. Clean dorms with bathroom/showers inside. Movies are shown in the evening. Extra services are quite expensive. (valuable storage in safety box for 20,000 kip, laundry service 18,000 kip. There are cheaper laundry services nearby though).
The Sokdee Residence, Ban Vatnog Village, ☎ +856 20999956 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 1200; checkout: 1100. . Friendly, family ran hotel in excellent location. walking less than five minutes walk to The Royal Palace and the night market. Delightful, Modern rooms. Good WIFIUSD25-60. edit
The Chang Inn, 93 Unit 03, Sakkaline Road, Ban Phonheuang Village (beside Wat Sene), ☎ +856 71 253 553 (inquiry@BHLPQ.com), . This charming heritage inn has a premier location on a quiet section of the main street beside the temples, just steps to the Mekong River, the Nam Khan River, the restaurants and 5 min walk to the night market. Wake up to the sight of hundreds of monks collecting morning alms in front of the hotel. Comfortable bed, new linens, elegant decor, nice toiletries, back garden courtyard. Lobby has a Cafe and Wi-Fi.USD40-90. edit
Manichan Guesthouse In the old city, down a leave street. Belgian Run. Homely place that fits the location perfectly. Super clean, friendly, 'coffee corner' terrace was lovely. perfect location for all the sights and offered a really discounted rate for the low season. They also won the tripadvisor certificate of excellence in 2012 which was well deserved in our opinion. http://www.manichanguesthouse.com/ Ban Pakham Unit 4/143 Luang Prabang Lao P.D.R. 0305141273
Villa Suan Maak, ☎ +856 71 252775, . Quiet, gardened guest house with around a dozen rooms. Nice and clean. Family who are running the show are very accommodating. Hard wood floors, big comfortable beds and well maintained rooms make the comfort to cost ratio very good.edit
Prasith Guest house, (on Chaosisouphan Rd between Mt Phousi & Nam Kham River), ☎ +856 71 260 420 (Email). Local family run guesthouse in a well kept restored old building. Building faces back stairs/entrance of Mount Phousi. Central location. The nicely decorated clean rooms have en suite bathrooms with either balconies or gardens attached. Free Wi-Fi, bottled water, bananas provided. Family is friendly and invites guests to join them when they make family trips to local attractions.edit
Soutikkone Guest House, (Central location near the night market and an Indian Restaurant). Large, clean rooms with a very hot shower, good Western-style toilet, and mosquito netting on the windows/door. Very nice wooden floorboards as well. The staff speak English.A room costs US$25. edit
Bouakham Chanthasack Guesthouse. checkin: 1/2/2014; checkout: 5/2/20014. A brand new, beautiful high end guesthouse on the Mekong river front near the night market. All rooms have bathrooms and air conditioning, clean and nice,.Double rooms for US$45. edit
Hotel De Lyon, (out of the ciy near the airport,). New 24-room hotel built in "Lao-Colonial" style. Free airport and city shuttles.$US45-60. edit
Jade Hotel, Phu Vao Road. Modern hotel in an old protected Chinese-style building. Flat-screen TVs, free airport transfers.US$30-70. edit
Manichan Guesthouse, (Near the Night Market, centrally located), . Peaceful environment. "Lao-Colonial" style house with wooden floors and homey feel rooms. Private and shared bathrooms with hot, separated showers. Has a balcony with city view. Belgian-Lao management. new and clean in green, Free coffee corner including breakfast buffet, Air-con an optional extra US$4.Low season: US$7–15, high season: US$12–30. edit
Merry Swiss Lao, (Located near Mt). Phousi not on the main street side, but the other side. Rooms have private bathroom and air conditioning.Room was US$35-40 per night. edit
New Daraphet Villa. Traditional Lao villa in the heritage zone which has been turned into a boutique hotel. Large terraces and lots of flowers. Airport transfer included.US$30-60. edit
Sabaidee Guest House, 70 Thammikarat Road, . There are lots of good guest houses along here this one is good value around US$25 for a double en-suite room with breakfast included. There's a good laundrette just opposite the entrance.edit
Sita Norasingh Inn, ☎ 020 56896161 (email@example.com), . Nice place for the price. Private balcony in the second floor rooms, nice bathrooms, beautiful wood floors and furniture. They reply quite quickly through email so you can book them easily through there. Directions can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/kf7suuz130,000-160,000 kip high season. edit
Thony 1 Guesthouse, Ban Visoun, Chao Chomphou Rd (Just head for Wat Visoun Temple which is very close by. From the temple just look towards the Nam Khan River and you will see the guesthouse), (firstname.lastname@example.org), . This converted family villa located along the banks of the Nam Khan river. Rooms with river view & family rooms available.Only 10 minutes walk to the night market and historic centre. Ranging from US$22-$35. edit
Villa Meung Lao. Guesthouse located in the city centre, close to the Royal Palace and the morning market. Rooms offer air-con, television, Wi-Fi (that is sometimes unreliable) and free water.Doubles from $25-30. edit
Tha Heua Me Guest House :, . This family guesthouse is located in the city centre, close to the main attractions. Each morning at dawn, the orange-dressed Buddhist monks walk just a few metres away from the terrace for the alms giving ceremony. Newly opened in October 2011.edit
Amantaka Set on a large garden estate, Amantaka is housed in graceful French colonial buildings just south of Phousi Hill. Airy and elegant throughout, the décor and furnishings reflect the city’s French colonial history. Rates from USD850 per night.
Ancient Luang Prabang On main street next to night market. No room numbers - names like "tiger room". Rooms not quite up to standard for this price - no shower curtain and cleverly designed taps to ensure a wet floor, no bedside table, no reading light. However clean and comfortable. Friendly staff and no charge for airport transfer. Wi-Fi is free in the hotel and downstairs cafè.
The Apsara, ☎ +856 71 254670 (email@example.com), . A quite wonderful hotel in a restored colonial building overlooking the Khan river on Kingkitsarath Road. All rooms are decorated with local fabrics and furniture and very much in keeping with the hip and funky image of the hotel. Try to stay in the original building if you can. Superb French/Asian restaurant in the lobby.USD75-120. edit
Burasari Heritage, ☎ +856 071 213331 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Burasari Heritage opened in 2012 bringing luxury accommodation to the heart of Luang Prabang's old town. The newly renovated and restored building overlooks the river and features a beautiful garden, lounge area, pool table and spa - Spa by Burasari. The traditional architecture has been preserved, using Lao textiles and antiques, while the rooms have been stylishly updated with chic, romantic touches. Some rooms have balcony with view to the river. Free minibar, Wifi, toiletries and bicycle use. Breakfast is served on their terrace on the river. edit
Hotel Villa Deux Rivieres, 43/02 Kingkitsalath Rd, Ban Khili, ☎ +856 20 7737 8575 (email@example.com), . 17 rooms in 5 luxurious villas in the centre of Luang Prabang set around small gardens. Decorated in traditional Lao syle yet equipped with most modern facilities. USD85-260. edit
Kiridara.  Beautiful hotel on the outskirts of the city, with views overlooking Mt Phou Si and the hills surrounding Luang Prabang. The relatively large rooms offer very comfortable beds. The infinity swimming pool has great views, and sometimes masseuses from the spa will offer complimentary 5 minute massages to people lounging by the pool. The spa itself offers a range of massages and herbal steam baths. Small gym onsite. Double rooms start at $112/night.
La Residence Phou Vao. Amongst the city's prime hotels, this resort nestles amongst landscaped grounds and gardens, and has picturesque views over Phou Si and the city. The property has a traditional Lao spa and a restaurant offering both indigenous and French cuisine. Regular shuttles are provided and boat trips arranged. An Orient-Express Hotel.
Les 3 Nagas Hotel. a nice colonial hotel with 7 rooms on one side and 8 on the other. The restaurant is fairly cheap, but the rooms are rather overpriced. There are a few executive suites, the most costly coming with their own set of stairs. But beware: your nights may be troubled as there is a cockerel that sings every morning at the hotel at about 03:00.
Lotus Villa, ☎ +856 71 255050 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A 15 room Laos-colonial villa in the quiet area of the UNESCO precinct. The clean rooms, decorated by local artisans, are centred around a lush tropical garden, includes breakfast and internet/wifi.US$ 60 to 180. edit
The Luang Say Residence, ☎ +856 71 260 891 (email@example.com), . 5 pavilions holding 20 pioneer suites and the main residence comprising 4 Explorator suites all spread out across grounds with beautiful rolling mountains surrounding our picturesque boutique hotel. All bookings include breakfast and Wi-Fi.US$ 200-350. edit
Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel, (across from the Nam Phou Fountain), ☎ +856 71 254 609 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . is the former residence of Prince Souvannaphoum. The hotel is a charming blend of French colonial architecture and Lao motifs. It features the original building and a more modern Garden Wing, each room has a private balcony. Spacious rooms with great amenities including small and clean swimming pool, tropical garden, restaurant, hearty breakfast, bicycles and an Angsana Spa. The service is stellar - the staff will address you by name. Perfect location: within walking distance to all the attractions but far enough from the noise and traffic. edit
Mekong Estate, ☎ +856 71 212929 (email@example.com), . The first holiday villas and residence services in Luang Prabang. The five French-Lao colonial villas have a prime location on the Mekong River, only a five minute drive from the city centre. Villas range in size from 2 bedroom to 4 bedrooms. Mekong Estate has sweeping sunset views of the river, a 25m long swimming pool and gardens. All villas have balconies, kitchen or kitchenette and housekeeping. Daily or weekly rentals available. Experience what it's like to live in Luang Prabang.edit
Mekong River View.  A beautiful boutique hotel with a personal touch, located on the tip of the peninsula, at the very end of the old town, on the UNESCOs World Heritage Area. The view you have from the rooms and Café/Restaurant is the meeting of great Mekong River and Nam Khan River. The hotel is quiet and peaceful with the beautiful former Royal temple Wat Xienthong as your neighbour.
The Grand. an atmospheric set of comfortable neo-colonial buildings on the site of Prince Phetsarath's old residence. Many rooms have idyllic views of both the Mekong River and the hotels gardens and ponds. Located around 4 km from the city (a regular shuttle boat and bus service runs for guests), this hotel is enables the discerning tourist to escape from the hum of the city. During the winter season, breakfast is served outdoors on a terrace with spectacular views of the Mekong River and the surrounding hills that emerge from the morning mist.
Santi Resort & Spa, Villa Santi Hotel & Resort, Sakkarine Road, PO Box 681, Luang Prabang, Laos, ☎ (856-71) 252157, . This boutique hotel features 23 rooms and 2 suites, all decorated in a royal Laotian theme. edit
Sunset Villa by Burasari Heritage, Ban Saylom Village (From the centre, take Phothisalath Road towards Phosi Market.), ☎ +856 71 213331 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . On the Mekong River, just a 5 min drive from the city centre. The villa features Lao-French colonial architecture, terrace, gardens, kitchen, a swimming pool, stunning views of the river and mountains, bicycles and Wi-Fi. Experience Indochina living.edit
Villa Le TamTam, . Superior Guest House conveniently located in a quiet street just a minute walk from the city centre. Excellent service and peaceful atmosphere. Full breakfast included. $US55-80.
Villa Maly.  Another Luxury Boutique Hotel in Luang Prabang. Villa Maly was a former Royal Residence. The property is a blend of traditional Laotian architecture with echoes of its French colonial past. Internet and Breakfast included. US$190-300.
Hillside - Nature Lifestyle Lodge, ☎ +856 20 58777038 (email@example.com), . Surrounded by protected area, mountains and pristine forests. 12 km from Luang Prabang. Guided and self-guided walks to waterfalls and ethnic villages. Mountain bikes available. They have a very nice swimming pool. Charming double and twin bungalows in the tropical garden, and a family bungalow. Organic garden, restaurant with homemade food. USD55-65. edit
Kamu Lodge is in a remote location on the Mekong River north of Luang Prabang in an ethnic Kamu village and offers sustainable and socially responsible tourism accommodation.
Zen Namkhan Boutique Resort is located at 13 km south from Luang Prabang. In the high season rooms cost USD100 and villas US$145 per night, with one larger family villa at USD195. They also have a Japanese bath, and Lao & Thai massages are available. Treking and kayaking can be organised, and there is an elephant camp near by. ☎ +856 00 555 71120
By boat on the Mekong to Pakbeng (slow boat 110,000 kip as of 11/2014), Huay Xai (slow boat 220,000 kip June 2012) and then cross to Chiang Khong in Thailand. The slow boat pier is ~7 km, or 20 minute tuk tuk ride, away from centre - just behind the airport. Scam : smaller look alike small boat will claim they are the small boat going to Pakbeng for 110 000. When you arrive in the morning they will ask you 60k / person kip to go to the pier for a 10 minutes boat ride (the boat driver will say that it takes 40 minutes).
Vang Vieng is the next stop on the backpacker circuit for many.
Hanoi by long distance bus (make sure you have the Vietnamese visa beforehand.), 360,000 kip, 24 hours direct bus
You can buy the ticket to Hanoi from a tour agent, or you can walk to the Southern Bus Station (30 mins walk) and buy it yourself for cheaper. You shouldn't buy the ticket at the station itself, but opposite the station you'll see some buses waiting and there will be an office of the Naluang Travel Company. They are the ones that operate the buses, so if you buy anywhere else the ticket will be more expensive.
Also note that they claim to sell a ticket to Hanoi at the Northern Bus Station and for only 150,000 Kip, but this will take you only until the border and then you'll be left at the mercy of the local drivers who can charge you any amount, since you're in the middle of nowhere. Don't mistake the Northern bus station with the Southern.
It is preferable to buy tickets to next destination, say Vientiane at tour agents (12-hr trip and not 9-hr as what agents are touting, a total of 13 hours including the 1-hour meal time and as quoted as of Feb. 2012 at 150,000 kip for a seating bus and 165,000 kip for a sleeper bus - both include air-con and meals). For seating buses, there is no built-in toilet and so it's advisable to go before the journey as the stop-over at the restaurant is 4 hours away, and the last, the destination station. Check though, because not all tour companies offer free pick-up from a passenger's residence in the quote price. The southern is about 3 km away from the tourist area, and tuk tuk costs about 20,000 kip. The northern bus station is about 5 km.
When on a night trip to Vientiane, it is preferable to bring along a neck pillow to lessen the impact of the rough trip.
Nong Khiaw minivans with hotel pickup cost 65,000 kip from agencies and would likely be cheaper (40,000 or 55,000) when buying directly at the bus station.
Chiang Mai - this new bus direct to Chiang Mai started on 20th January 2012 and costs 1,200 Baht one way. The journey is via Udomxai and Luang Nam Tha before being transported across the Mekong by boat and continuing to Chiang Mai. Total journey time is 18 hours. From 2013, the bus will use the new Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge from Huay Xai to Chiang Kong and the fare will rise to 1,500 Baht.
Vang Vieng - the air-conditioned so-called VIP bus costs approx 150,000 kip, and is the same price as the Vientiane bus. Mini-buses leave from Vang Vieng at 09:00 and cost 100,000 kip. The mini-bus station is just north of the city. The trip takes 6-7 hours (not the 5 that travel agents advertise). Route 13, along which the bus travels, passes through the mountains and twists and turns uncomfortably for most of the journey. This is not a trip to make on a full stomach or if you are feeling queasy.
Vientiane - air-con VIP reclining seats bus costs 150,000 kip while air-con VIP sleeper bus costs 165,000 kip if booked through an agent. VIP bus takes 11-12 hours, not the 9-10 hours claimed by many dishonest travel agents. Hotel pickup 1 hour before departure is usually included, but do double-check. Express bus (no aircon) bought at the station is at 110,000 kip. Tickets purchased in Vientiane to Luang Prabang are more expensive than those purchased in Luang Prabang.
The bus follows via routh 13 south is a relentless bumpy ride because the road is curvy and potholed. Comparing pluses and minuses for VIP sleeper/VIP seat to Express for night trips, not much difference. At night there is no need for air-con, and it will be unlikely you can sleep, even on a sleeper bus because of the shaking and rattling as the bus drives along rough, rocky roads. Those prone to motion sickness should know (or better avoid) that this trip travels a winding, mountainous road.
Muang Xay - takes about 5 hours. Costs 40,000 kip and points onwards, such as Luang Namtha, is done by public minibus only. Big backpacks are carried on the roof. Reservations are usually not necessary, just take care to go early in order to secure a good seat.
Luang Namtha - takes 8-9 hours and costs 90,000 kip. Parts of the road leading from Oudomxay (intermediate stop between Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha) are still under construction and are quite bumpy (as of Nov 09). Direct local bus via Muang Xay at 09.00. Otherwise take bus to Muang Xay and change there.
Nong Khiaw - 3 hours away by public bus from the Northern Bus Station or 8-10 hrs by boat for about 110,000 kip. From there boats connect to scenic Muang Ngoi Neua.
Huay Xai - up to 15 hours away. Public buses leave at 09.00 (arrive 12 midnight) or 17.00 (arrive 08.00, normal sleeping bus, not sleeper). Costs 135,000 kip. VIP buses leave on alternating days, tickets purchased at the Northern Bus Station will cost 35,000 kip less than those purchased at an agent in the city.
Phonsavan - bus takes about 8 hours and costs between 95,000 to 105,000 Kip leaves Southern Bus Station around 8.00am. The public bus stops at Phou Khon around 13:00 for lunch. Minibus takes around 6 hours and leaves at 09:00. You can take a tuktuk from the city centre (around 15,000 kip) to the bus station for the public bus. You can also buy your ticket at your guesthouse and arrange to be picked up and taken to the minibus station (140,000 kip) You can stay on the minibus until it unloads the local people in the centre of Luang Prabang though tuk-tuk drivers may try to make you get off earlier at the bus station.
The south bus station is located approximately 3km from the city on Road 13 , just after the stadium and the Chinese Market.
facing to it there is a BCEL ATM, and a second private bus station- Naluang Travel Company - from there the minibuses depart - and you can buy a ticket.
These are the times posted at the station. They don't necessarily all go...
Try to not buy a ticket at the station but get on the bus and barter with the driver's assistent. 110,000 kip for a local bus is a rip-off, especially if you just want to go half the way to Vang Vieng.
Don't believe travel agents who claim 9-10 hour journeys. The VIP buses are huge, and crawl along the mountain roads at 25 km/h, crank along flat roads at 40 km/h, and make numerous stops for various reasons. Mine took 11.5 hours. Honest agents will tell you the truth, but many will dishonestly claim 9-10 hours. Travel agents will include a mini-bus/tuk-tuk hotel pickup 1 hour prior to departure, but best to double-check.