Nong Khiaw (Nong Kiau or Nong Kiew) is a beautiful rustic little town on the bank of the Ou River in Laos. It is squeezed in between some of the most fantastic limestone mountains north of Vang Vieng.
Many travellers pass through on the way up river to the even more isolated Muang Ngoi, but Nong Khiaw has a plenty of charm, a decent range of accommodation, plus conveniences such as 24 hour electricity and a connection to the road network for those interested in exploring the surrounding area.
Buses from Udomxay are scheduled 1 time daily if passengers enough (3-4 hours) to Nong Khiaw but may not run on time, or at all, during the low season (depending on passenger numbers). It is possible to negotiate a fare on either the Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang bound bus and disembark at Pak Mong (where the highway turns south). From here a tuk-tuk will take you the last hour or so to Nong Khiaw for around 30,000 kip per person.
Buses from Nong Khiaw:
The bus/minivan station in Nong Khiaw is on the edge of town on the western side of the river.
To Luang Prabang and Udomxay run daily at around 09:00 & 11:00 price 45,000 Kip. 4 hrs.+ -
To Luang Prabang by Minivan leaving at changing hours and costs 50,000 kip per person.
To Luang Namtha you have to take the bus to Udomxay and than change the bus which gives you a quite late arrival in Luang Namtha. It cost 40,000 kip to Udomxay
To Muang Khua or Phongsali you need to go to Udomxay (11:00) as well, change bus
To Vieng Thong and Sam Neua (near Viengxay and Vietnam border) the bus starts originally from Luang Prabang and you have to be on call around 12.30 +!
The buses run hardly ever on time. Buy your ticket in advance and leave your name! Private minivan to Luang Prabang can cost as low as 500,000 kip. especially if drivers have empty returns.
Over the course of the last couple of year a number of tour operators have opened their tour office in Nong Khiaw so there is suddenly something more to see. They will bring you out for various trips, hikes, river tours, bamboo raft workshop, village stay. Some of the tours can be found online. 
Pha Tok Caves, (about 2km outside town on the far side of the river from the boat landing and bus station). This cave set high in a limestone cliff sheltered villagers and Pathet Lao fighters during the Second Indochina war. The caves are accessed via steep concrete steps, and inside a few signs identify points where command posts were stationed. Entrance fees are collected at the bottom where you can also borrow a torch. The trail to the cave passes through many rice paddies and a small section of jungle. If you ask the people at the "ticket desk", you should be able to arrange a boat ride back to Nong Khiaw from a local. For 2 people in the very small canoe type longtail boats that can seat max 2 people plus driver the price is around 50,000 kip. 5,000 kip. edit
Be careful with "guides" who try to show you the second (there is 2 caves there) cave after you visit by yourself the first one. He will ask to you tips (50'000-80'000kip) for is help (that you don't need for sure). To see the second cave by yourself take the little pass at your left when you are at the entry of the first one.
Walk around the village enjoying the village feel with great views over the Nam Ou river. There is a small temple complex in the centre of town.
Walk or bicycle on the dirt road behind the Riverside resort for some scenic views and nature.
Rated one of the best hikes in Laos is the is the "100 Waterfalls" trek operated by Tiger Trail and Fair trek initiative 
Some of thier treks go to the interactive culture lodge.
Green Discovery Laos is Laos' pioneer in Adventure Travel and Ecotourism since 2000. They offer far more than 100 unique tour programs all around the country, involving trekking, kayaking/rafting, cycling and rock climbing.
Phone Travel is the only tour agency in town run by local people. Located just in front of Sabai Sabai massage. They can organize a range of activities and treks. Recommended are the bamboo rafting (one day) and the trek to Sop Jam village with Mr Mang as your guide (2 or 3 days).
Rent a mountain bike and push eastwards to remote Khmu and Hmong villages. Since there are is a lot of going up and down it makes sense to rent a mountain bike.
Across the street from Delilah's restaurant (on the main street next to the bridge) there is a small bike rental shop which rents decent mountain bikes for 30,000 kip per day (feb 2015).
Riverside Guest House rents mountain bikes for 50,000 kip and city bikes for 10,000 kip.
Go for a herbal steam bath or massage at Sabai Sabai (20,000kip).
Take the steep trail up to the viewpoint for a wonderful 360° view on the nearby valleys. Access off the main road (look for signs or ask). It costs 20000 kip (bottle of water included) and takes 1-1.5 hours to reach top.
Fantastic sunset view but bring a torchlight to come down cause it's not very easy descending.
In case you plan to do the hike in the morning, you will be able to see at the sun rising from the clouds covering the surroundings of the river each morning.
Next to the bridge, there are several small beaches where tourists can enjoy the sun and cool in the Nam Ou river.
The few small shops on the main street cater more for locals than tourists, and offer little more than basic necessities.
Money can be changed near the boat landing - Youth travel agency or over the Bridge at Riverside Guest House. Riverside can also offer cash advances on credit cards.
New Bank in Nong Khiaw. In March 2012 a new bank opened on the main street in Nong Khiaw, it offers good exchange rates., accepts Traveller's cheques and there is an ATM in front of the bank. There is also a BCEL ATM by the east end of the bridge, near the Riverside resort turnoff.edit
CT Bakery, (next to the bridge on the opposite side of the river from the bus station and boat landing). offers fine views from its riverside terrace and WiFi access. Lao coffee here is particularly good.edit
Delilah's, (on the main street just before the bridge). Offers a selection of everything home made including ice cream, bread, soups and salads. No MSG or additives used. Laos western fusion cuisine with a creative twist. Free WiFi access for customers. December 2013: Now open and run by Hobbes, who does the baking. Excellent breakfast and chocolate cake!edit
Deen restaurant, (100m after the bridge on the right), ☎ (856-20)22148895. Indian - Lao, Indian chefs serving very good food. Range of vegetarian options available for 12,000/dish, while meat dishes are approximately twice that. Has free WiFi access. Added internet cafe.edit
Mackana, (across from Deen Restaurant). Has both Lao and Western food, including a whole page of German breakfasts (which the menu says they learned from a German friend). Nice sandwiches, but be careful if ordering "tofu" that you actually get tofu and not meat. Also, with the advertised cappuccino containing an expresso shot with fresh local milk - while it does have nice froth, is actually a packet mix. edit
Nong Kiau Riverside Eco-lodge, (on the Eastern side of the river (across the bridge from the post office)). Offers very good Laos, Asian, and Western food. Beautiful view over the river. Prices a little higher than other restaurants nearby.edit
Sabai Sabai, ((In front of the Wat)). A selection of Local Laos foods in a nice atmospheric setting.edit
Sengdao Restaurant. (beside the bridge on the western side). Hot & cold drinks from 5000kip, mainly Laos food. Average price for food is 20,000kip.edit
Sunset Restaurant. Reasonable prices for the food, and river viewedit
Vinag Restaurant, (40m after the bridge heading east). Dodgy owner with different prices menu that is better to check before especially being on budget. She tried to sell a steaky rice take away for 15,000 kip each and sandwiches for 20,000 (instead 10,000) even complaining after we shown her the menu. Again, dodgy people lose customers. Better to check the bill if you want to give it a try.edit
Morning Dew Restaurant. (80m down the road from the bridge ,just past the Wat) Excellent Lao and Western food at cheap prices. Open for breakfast through to dinner. Made to order baguettes, Lao coffee and cold beer also on offer. Friendly English speaking owner "Dith" is a great source of local info.edit
Vongmany Restaurant. Awesome food and a very good value. The chef learned how to cook from her grandmother as a child and learned modern techniques from a Luang Prabang culinary academy. The only Happy Hour in Nong Khiaw, with some good food and drink specials.edit
NoyMany, (Your first right turn after crossing the bridge). Exceptionally clean restaurant offering gorgeous views of the surrounding limestone kasts. Huge menu with authentic Lao options and international cuisine. The mango sticky rice and Laap are well prepared and taste excellent.20000k. edit
Chennai restaurant, Nongkhiaw (Opposite to lintong guest house), ☎ 020-95746407, . 7am to 10pm. Chennai restaurant is the only place to get real Indian food in nongkhiaw. Serve north & south Indian food with pure veg and non veg dishes. Excellent tasty food. Friendly owner.25,000-40,000 kip. edit
Namlin Restaurant, (east side of the bridge,about 7 minutes walking, passed the Wat and a few houses, on the left hand side). 7am to 10pm. Name after the young little daughter of the very friendly owners, this nice little place is passed all the restaurants and a few houses, where you think there is gonna be nothing else. Great tasty food at a little price, try the Lap, a typical Lao food, made with love by the wife. On the way to the cave, you can stop on your way back to cool down yourself with a nice on demand fresh squeezed orange juice or an excellent fresh fruit shake. Probably the cheapest place to eat in Nong Khiaw.10,000-20,000 kip. edit
Alex Restaurant, In front of NoyMany (down dirt road towards Meexai Guesthouse). Long time favourite with tourists. Small menu, with delicious Laos and Western food. Fantastic and friendly hostess. Great homemade pie.edit
Cold Beer Laos are served everywhere in local restaurants. The small shops sell cheap but decent Lao Lao in unlabeled bottles, probably homemade.
Coco Home Bar & Restaurant. 8am - 10:30pm. Bar & restaurant serving authentic Thai and Western dishes by Thai chef. Full range of cocktails, mixers and shots. Movies shown at 8am, 12pm & 6pm everyday on big balcony with river-mountain views. Two raised chill out huts and a comfy hideaway inside. Free WIFI, satellite TV, message board and blankets available. edit
Hive Bar, on the western side of the bridge (Passed the bridge, you take the small road on the right, behind the main road). Nice outside terrace with passionfruit plants growing as a rooftop. The Nong Khiaw cocktail is not on the menu but definitely needs to be try, a invention of the very friendly owner, made with local herbs. He will make your drinks at your taste if you like them stronger, you just need to ask! Free Lao whisky shots at arrival. You can also choose the music you want to hear. Everything will be made to welcome you and make you feel comfortable and happy. Happy hours between 17h30 and 19h30 ( Big Lao 10,000 kip and cocktails 30,000-40,000 kip)15,000- 50,000 kip. edit
Bamboo Paradise - has both rooms and bungalows with private hot showers. Bungalows have river view. Free WiFi. Basic restaurant. Mind that the rooms have no bars on the windows and the mosquito net can easily be removed so take care of your cash. 60,000 kip (December 2014) negotiable to 50,000.
Lin Tong Guesthouse - After the bridge 100m on the right. Mobile: +856 205 437 7098 or +856 9 813 3308. Value bungalows, close to all the restaurants. Friendly owners, English and French spoken. 40,000 kip bungalow (shared bathrooms, 70,000 kip bungalow (inside bathrooms).
Meexai Guesthouse - very clean, modernly built guesthouse on the eastern side, with inexpensive rooms. The great views have been blocked by new building project (guesthouse by Sunrise Bungalows), some of the views still left on the far end corner of the house (room 5 upstairs, room 10 downstairs). Hot showers, real toilets (not squat toilets), decent size bathroom. Spacious rooms with tall ceiling but could really use more amenities inside the room, i.e. only one small table provided. Free, pretty reliable WiFi accessible in all rooms except a few that are furthest from the router and cannot pick up a signal. Bungalows were 70,000 kip in Feb 2012 and 50,000 kip in May 2014. Friendly owner. Note that she consistently estimates laundry weight higher than it should be (at 10,000 kip / kg) so ask her to use a scale rather than her own guesstimate.
Nam Houn Guesthouse - guesthouse on the eastern side, has river view bungalows and non-river view bungalows (for a cheaper price). Wifi only in lobby. Some with attached bathrooms with hot shower. 40,000 kip in the low season
Nam Ou River Lodge -  Small and cozy guesthouse located on the more quiet side of town behind the school (between the boat landing and the bus station). Friendly owner that speaks English well and rooms have wonderful river views. 90,000 kip with a private bathroom. Can be haggled down to 60K in low season. Free wifi. Small bar with simple food. Possible to book rooms online at Agoda and Booking.com.
Sengdao Chittavong Guesthouse, (Next to the bridge on the western side). checkout: 12:00. Clean, cozy bungalows in beautiful garden with great mountain view. Hot water, good mosquito nets, no wifi.80.000. edit
Sunrise Bungalows, (Next to the bridge on the eastern side). Solidly-built wooden bungalows with hammocks offer great river views, although the attached bathrooms are rather primitive. Run by a very friendly older couple, they are never to shy for a short chat. 30,000 to 60,000 kip. edit
Sunset Guesthouse - on the eastern side. Basic rooms at 50,000 kip, bungalows with private bath at 150,000 kip. Food quality varies depending on who is making it. 100,000 kip for bungalows with private bath in low season, as of June 2012.
Phulisak Guesthouse - on the eastern side. All rooms at 50,000 kip (October 2012) all with private bath, TV, wifi in room & fan only. Rooms are bright & clean. Water (hot & cold) is available for free. No food is supplied here but there are three restaurants within 1 minute. Not much of a view but this is an excellent cheap option.
Nong Kiau Riverside - Along the river on the eastern side. Overlooking the river, it's the best upmarket choice, featuring big bungalows with kettle, private balcony, deckchairs and attached bathrooms with hot water. Rooms at 240,000 (single)- 350,000 (double) kip including breakfast (eggs, baguette, jam, fruits, tea/coffee). Free wifi access in the restaurant area. Rents mountain bikes, and can set up a range of transportation or tour options. Great restaurant.
The bus station is located on the west part of Nong Khiaw about a 10 minute walk from the bridge/boat landing. If possible you should always check times/prices with the bus station ticket office prior to travel.
You can take a public boat to Luang Prabang; the trip takes approximately 8 hours and costs 110,000 kip per person. Purchase tickets at the office near the boat landing (near the bridge). The boat won't leave until all seats are filled - either 12 or 18. As of mid-April, the boat left at 11:00. Alternatively, you can arrange a private boat. Riverside Eco-lodge will arrange it for 1.5 million kip for the entire boat, or you can ask around. Takes only about 6 hours by private boat which makes fewer stops with less waiting time, and you can make as many stops as you want on the way. (Important note: this service has seemingly been discontinued due to the construction of a dam on this part of the river. It is strongly advised to verify the existence of this boat before intending to travel this way. Update 14/5/2015: According to Oudomxay's Tourism Office slowboats no longer operate on this route.)
Boats that go up the river to Muang Ngoi Neua leave regularly in the high season until 15:00 –takes 1 hour costs 25,000 kip. In low season there is one boat definitively at 9:30 and another at 14:00. Some of the boats continue to Muang Khua
Boats on the Nam Ou:
To Muang Ngoi the public boats leaves around 11.00 and around 14:00.
The price is around 25.000 kip.
Private boats coat 300,000-400,000 kip one way, but can be cheaper if the person driving needs to go anyway. Speedboat do not operate anymore.
To Luang Prabang
Public boats are not so common but normally start at 11:00-12:00The road offers a much faster way to go but less interesting. A private boat down to Luang Prabang (6-7 hours) would cost about 1 to 1.3 million kip. It’s recommended to get a small group together and share the cost as the trip is worth it. You can leave your name at the boat station! If it runs like a public boat you are supposed to pay around 150,000 Kip per person (4 times the price of a public Minivan) In high season there are normally enough people to go.
Speedboat to LPB costs 1 million kip and takes 2.5 hrs. (up to 6 persons)
Further on the Nam Ou to Muang Khua
The boats leave around 11.00 if there are enough people to fill it. A charter cost about 1.1 million kio, and takes about 6 hours. Visit the boat landing and pass by a few times to check if there are some/enough people. Speedboats to Muang Khua costs 1 million kip and, and takes 2.5 hours. Especially the part north of Muang Ngoi is extremely picturesque and worth visiting/cruising through. You can do that also with a day cruise from Muang Ngoi in a small boat.
Remember: In Laos even the public transportation is mostly privately owned and drivers stand in a queue to grab the next job/drive. So if there is no profit, they won’t go! If travelling alone you might be waiting for the next boat or busload of people to turn up.