Luang Prabang – Laos’ tourist gem

Luang Prabang – the ancient capital of Laos

Luang Prabang (or as it is also called Luang Prabang) is one of the most atmospheric and coolest cities in Laos. Not without reason you can fly here directly from major cities of almost all neighboring countries, tourist interest in it is huge, more than other places in the country. And the fact that Luang Prabang was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Laos, which is why here appeared a lot of interesting sights, temples.

Plus the city has preserved many colonial villas from the time of French colonization. This unusual mix of Asian and European is set against the backdrop of the majestic Mekong River and its tributaries (rivers seem to surround the city on all sides), as well as the tropical jungle.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang Laos

On top of all that, the city has repeatedly topped all sorts of ratings as the most charming place in all of Southeast Asia.

This post is the author’s guide to Luang Prabang with the best places to visit, ideas on what to do, recommended restaurants/cafes and useful information on how to get there.

Luang Prabang.

I wasn’t expecting anything special from the city (I wasn’t particularly impressed with Vientiane, the capital of Laos), but it managed to surprise me. Luang Prabang seems to combine the whole country in miniature, both in types of entertainment and recreation, and the atmosphere. And it is very relaxed here! We watched the sun set on the banks of the Mekong River, strolling leisurely along the promenade and sitting in a cafe overlooking the river, watching the sun slowly roll in over the horizon of the rainforest.

Mekong River photo

retro car photo

The official tourist slogan of Laos is “Just Beautiful” and Luang Prabang lives up to it! Here you can look into the majestic golden temples, visit elephant farms, botanical gardens, butterfly park, waterfalls and caves. About this in a little more detail below.

Luangprabang laos

Luang Prabang Old Town

Attractions of Luang Prabang

One of the famous features of Luang Prabang is the morning begging ritual for monks. It is an ancient tradition when at 05:30 in the morning the monks from small to large walk through the streets and collect food.

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Luang Prabang Monks

Unfortunately, the ritual has been turned into a tourist attraction, and the monks are not to be envied. Having already arrived in the morning, we saw many prearranged chairs for tourists. There are salesgirls who are ready to sell you rice or other products for the monks (as they say, not always fresh). During the process, a lot of people get under the feet of the monks, plus the tourists are not always dressed appropriately. The monks once complained, but the local authorities threatened to punish them.

luang prabang alms giving ceremony

Morning Begging on the Streets of Luang Prabang

Despite the overly touristy nature of all this action, it is really interesting to watch. Don’t be too lazy to get up in the morning and come to the main street.

Temples

Luang Prabang has a lot of temples, just like in our beloved Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Haw Kham or royal palace

Royal Palace of Luang Prabang

Phou Si/Chomsy Hill.

A small hill in the center of the city overlooking the surrounding area. Best to visit it at sunrise or sunset. Admission is 20,000 kip.

Xieng Toung Temple

The oldest monastery in the city, located near the confluence of the Mekong and its tributary. Entrance 20 thousand kip.

Xieng Toung luang prabang laos

Other Temples Just stroll along the main Sisavangvong Road and you’ll come across dozens of bright, shimmering temples.

Luang Prabang Temple

Luang Prabang Temple

luang prabang temple

What can I see in Luang Prabang?

The main attraction of Luang Prabang and its surroundings are the Kuang Si Waterfalls, located 23 km from the city. The waterfalls are tiered and quite large. There is a bear rescue center nearby, you can visit it too (early in the morning when bears are active). The entrance fee is 20 thousand kip.

There is also a butterfly park next to the waterfalls, entrance fee is charged separately (40,000 kip).

To get to Kuang Si you can either rent a bike or a car or take a tuk-tuk or a transfer from your hostel. For example, we had a minivan twice a day on schedule, cost 40 thousand kip per person one way (very expensive, of course).

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kuang si waterfalls price

Prices and schedule of waterfall tours

tuk-tuk luang prabang

These tuk-tuks go to waterfalls

Tad Sae waterfalls . Slightly smaller in size, but also quite beautiful. The entrance is 15 thousand kip.

Pak Ou Caves . The famous caves north of Luang Prabang, where there are many statues of Buddha (the local belief is to throw away – a bad sign, so they began to bring in this cave). To get to the caves is most convenient with a boat tour on the Mekong. The tour also includes a visit to the village of the local moonshiners.

In the surrounding area there are several elephant farms, where you can take a course mahout. There is no riding or other cruelty to the animals (as in many other tourist sites), you can still swim with the elephants and make spectacular photos.

Sunset on the Mekong River

Sunset on the Mekong River

Finally, a Luang Prabang classic – cruises on the Mekong River: short (the boat can be found at the pier in the center), for a day, two or more. But the prices are steep.

If you’re tired of the activities, spas and massage parlors are at your service, as well as Laotian baths. The offerings in the center are plentiful.

Laos Jungle

The River flowing into the Mekong

Hotels in Luang Prabang

The best place to stay is in the center, on the “finger” where the city bends the Mekong and Nam Khan, so you are close to everything. Good quiet places are on the waterfront, the cheapest places are far from the center. Here are selections of good hotels in Luang Prabang.

Best Cafes and Restaurants

You’ll find cafes and restaurants everywhere in Luang Prabang, prices vary widely. The most expensive establishments are on the main street of Sisavangvong Road, while on the waterfront, on the contrary, there are many simple cafes with a view of the Mekong and low prices. For me, a simple indicator is the price of the local beer BeerLao. In the simplest cafes it costs the same as in a supermarket (10 thousand kip), if 15 thousand, then the prices in the cafes are average, most likely.

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Here are a few cafes we visited and recommend:

Atsalin – is a little far from the center, but it’s worth the walk. Almost all dishes here are 15,000 kip, but big portions and really tasty. Best place we have ever visited.

Tamarind Tree Restaurant Mekong – Not a bad family cafe on the banks of the Mekong. They have cheap shakes and lassi (8 thousand each, while even the street stalls have 10 thousand at least), papaya salad for 8 thousand (very spicy!), chicken soup for 10 thousand. We ate like beanbags there :) I had to eat papaya salad, but it was good!

Mekong Luang Prabang

Restaurant on the banks of the Mekong

Good people good food good price (on google maps that’s what it’s called). Small cafe with cheap prices, took a chicken with cashews there for 20 grand, tasty.

Xieng Thong Noodle – a small noodle shop near the temple of the same name, very cheap and crowded. Open from 7 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Novelty Cafe is a stylish place on the main street, we had a latte (a large mug cost 20,000, enough for two). And they also have a dog George, but he didn’t want to talk to us, having run off somewhere to do his doggy business :)

Luang Prabang Market

How to get to Luang Prabang?

1. By Plane

There are flights to Luang Prabang Airport from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Pakse and some cities in China. As you can see, flying directly is not a problem, and it is probably the best option, at least one way (the roads in Laos leave much to be desired).

Domestic airline tickets are not prohibitively expensive, but significantly more expensive than comparable in neighboring countries. For example, to fly to Vientiane or vice versa will cost around $60. The easiest way to get here from Russia is via Bangkok.

2. By boat on the Mekong.

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A fairly popular option is to come to Luang Prabang by boat on the Mekong from Huaisai at the border with Thailand. There are two options: slow boat or speedboat. On a regular boat, the trip takes two days with an overnight stay in Pakbeng. As a rule, the main contingent are not even locals, but tourists, so if you’re looking for companionship – you’re here :)

Mekong Laos

Boats on the Mekong River

The trip on a speedboat is more fun (basically regular small boats with a motor, no roof), takes about 6 hours, it is recommended to have earplugs.

Another option for such a trip is to take a luxury cruise. It takes the same time as a slow boat, but the level of comfort is much higher.

The cost of a slow boat: in the neighborhood of 220 thousand kip ($25), speed boat – 280 thousand kip ($32), cruises – $140. The best way to buy tickets is from an agency, and it’s better to do it a little in advance. You will arrive at the pier, which is located 7 km north of the city, to get to the center by tuk-tuk will cost 15-20 thousand kip.

3: By Bus

From Vientiane there are at least 11 buses per day to Luang Prabang (they leave from the northern bus station, to get there from the center of the capital, catch bus number 8 for 5000 kip, or a tuk-tuk for 20-25 thousand kip).

Vientiane - Luang Prabang bus schedule

Vientiane-Luang Prabang bus schedule at the bus station in the capital

Bus schedule from Luang Prabang

Bus schedule from Luang Prabang

At the ticket office at the bus station, regular local buses cost 110 thousand kip, VIP – 130 thousand (but don’t be fooled by the word VIP). Overnight VIP buses are 150 thousand. In the city you can buy in advance at the many offices of travel agencies, with a markup. As a rule, the markup is not that big, but you can try to buy a ticket at the station before departure.

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Travel time, as many agents say, 9-10 hours, do not believe it – in fact the big bus is slow on the mountain roads, especially after Wang Vieng. Eleven hours minimum, so I suggest taking the night bus. Or, go to Wang Vieng first (the link tells you what to see there), stay there for a while and then continue the journey.

Tuk-tuk Laos

Local colorful tuk-tuks

In Luang Prabang you will arrive at the bus station in the south of town, it’s a long walk to the center, tuk-tuks are asking 20 thousand kip (standard price, so they don’t haggle willingly).

If you’re coming from the north of Laos, the bus will bring you to the northern bus station.

Map of Luang Prabang

Marked all the important points on the map of Luang Prabang

Use it ourselves and recommend to friends:

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