Luang Prabang is the ancient royal capital of Laos. Its gorgeous and serene setting is perched on the confluence of the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. Leaving it almost completely surrounded by water and offering so many incredible things to do and see.
After many years of being closed, tourism in Laos was reopened in 1989. Shortly after in 1995, Luang Prabang was made the first UNESCO world heritage site within Laos. This has played a key role in keeping the tourism boom from igniting in this very clean and tidy little city.
With its ultimate laid-back vibe, it has been called the next Chiang Mai and has been labeled by many as the most charming city in Southeast Asia. Its visual charm stemming from the mix of traditional Lao wooden houses and French-influenced boutique hotels and architecture.
Whether you’re a backpacker on the SE Asia loop or a romantic couple looking for the ultimate zen getaway, there’s more than enough to keep you busy and entertained. With gorgeous waterfalls, cooking classes, hiking, caves, museums, and 33 gilded wats, there’s a little something for everyone.
With this guide, you’ll know exactly what to do in Luang Prabang. Including how to get there, how to get around, where to stay, all the delicious food you should try and everything in between.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 How to get to Luang Prabang
- 2 Visa on arrival
- 3 Sim Cards in Laos
- 4 Currency and Money
- 5 Getting around town
- 6 Luang Prabang Hotels
- 7 Things to do in Luang Prabang
- 7.1 Kuang Si Falls
- 7.2 Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center
- 7.3 Chase more waterfalls
- 7.4 Kuang Si Butterfly Park
- 7.5 Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden
- 7.6 Watch the traditional alms ceremony
- 7.7 Hike up Phousi Hill
- 7.8 Enjoy a sunset on the waterfront
- 7.9 Take a stroll through the night market
- 7.10 Pak Ou Caves
- 7.11 Take a traditional Laos cooking class
- 7.12 Check out the temples
- 7.13 Tour the National Museum
- 7.14 Relax with a massage or spa treatment
- 8 More to do off the beaten path
- 9 Where to eat in Luang Prabang
- 10 Nightlife in Luang Prabang
- 11 Pharmacy in Luang Prabang
- 12 Weather in Luang Prabang
- 13 What to bring when visiting Luang Prabang
How to get to Luang Prabang
There are 3 main options for getting to Luang Prabang from pretty much anywhere that I will discuss in this section.
The Luang Prabang International Airport had a major expansion in 2013. It is now a fairly decent size and is the second largest airport in Laos.
There are buses and minivans that leave from all major surrounding cities, as well as, some traveling as far as Hanoi or Bangkok.
For the fun-seeking more adventurous folks, there is the slow boat to Luang Prabang. Leaving from Thailand, this trip will take 2 days with a stopover in Pakbeng.
Let’s dig deeper, to see which option will work best for you.
Fly to Luang Prabang Airport
Luang Prabang International Airport is conveniently located about 5 kilometers NE of the city. The airport code is LPQ and they have seven airlines that regularly fly in and out.
I typically check on Skyscanner first to see what airlines are offering the best rates and then I hop over and purchase the ticket from the airline itself. This just cuts out all the extra third-party noise.
The major airlines that fly into this airport are Bangkok Airways, Laos Airlines, Lao Central Airlines, Thai Airways, Silk Air, Vietnam, Air Asia.
I have flown with Air Asia quite a bit and they are my go to in this part of the world. Be warned though, the seats are tiny and there is no leg room, but hey it’s cheap!
From the airport, it is a quick 10-minute ride into town. You don’t need to worry about booking transport in advance. There will be many taxis eagerly waiting to take you away. Just head to the taxi stand and it should only cost you $6 USD.
For a cheaper option just walk out of the airport and take a short walk to the main street where you can get a tuk-tuk for less than $2.50.
Bus to Luang Prabang
If you’re in any of the surrounding cities, the easiest and cheapest route is via bus or minivan. The prices are obviously different depending on where you’re coming from.
They have several different kinds of buses. Some are luxury sleepers and some are more run down old city buses. The minivans are typically in pretty rough condition.
The roads in Laos are interesting at best, it’s a very cavernous moon-like terrain, with uneven pavement and potholes the size of large ponds. Just be prepared ahead of time for a bit of discomfort.
Depending on how far you are traveling, some of the buses make stops for food and toilets but it’s never a guarantee so bring snacks and try not to drink too much before hand.
The best place to secure a bus ticket is through accommodations or travel agents. I personally just buy tickets from my accommodation because then they pick you up there and you don’t have to worry about lugging your bags around. #convenience
If you like to have everything booked in advance, then I would take a look at 12goAsia. They are the most reputable for online land transportation that I have found.
There are 2 Luang Prabang bus stations, north, and south. No matter which one you arrive at, you will be able to get a tuk-tuk into town. The cost should be about the same for both at less than $2.50 USD.
Slow boat to Luang Prabang
This is a common route for backpackers and budget adventure seekers. Typically people will arrange this journey from Chiang Mai through a travel agency. However, you could do it on your own from the Huay Xai port.
This is a 2-day journey. The slow boat leaves from Huay Xai on the morning of the first day and stops in Pakbang for the night. There are several different accommodations in Pakbeng, so no need to book ahead. Some packages come with accommodation included in the price.
The boats travel at about 20-30 kilometers per hour and you’ll be on the boat for about 9 hours each day. The seats are old bench car seats, so not terribly uncomfortable. They are not attached to the floor of the boat so they slide around which adds a fun element.
This is a commonly used transportation for locals as well as travelers and the boats do fill up, so try to make arrangements with a travel agent as soon as possible. If you DIY you run the risk of the boat being full, but they will probably still allow you to hop on without a seat.
For more info about the slow boat journey check out the full report on my website.
There is also a bone-rattling speedboat option that leaves from Huay Xai and takes 6 hours to reach Luang Prabang. This is by no means safe, so I’m not even going to go into details here.
Visa on arrival
Laos is a country that allows visas upon arrival at the airport and land crossings. The price varies depending on your nationality, but shouldn’t cost more than $40 USD.
You will need one passport photo to present with your visa application. If you don’t have one they can take one for you for $1 USD. Also, make sure that your passport is valid up to six months after entry.
The visa runs for 30 days. If you would like to extend it’s quite easy and costs $2 USD per day. You can extend through travel agents or at the immigration office in Vientiane. For more info about Laos visas check Lonely Planet’s site.
Sim Cards in Laos
I’m a solo traveler so I always get a tourist sim card when I enter a new country. It’s just my favorite kind of security blanket. It’s cheap and easy to get a sim when you arrive in Laos, so don’t stress.
There are plenty of stands in the airport that offer different sim cards, but you must have local currency to buy one, which I never have right when I get off the plane.
The cheapest option is to buy a sim once you get into town at any of the shops or convenience stores. I always ask my accommodation where the best place to purchase one is nearby.
There are 4 (Unitel, Laotel, Beeline, ETL) different cell companies offering tourist sims. I used and suggest Unitel. They definitely offer the best coverage for most areas and the prices are competitive.
The prices are different depending on how much data you want and for how long. I bought an unlimited data sim valid for 30 days for $11.75 USD. The other options valid for a week can be as little as $3 USD.
Currency and Money
Laotian Kip (LAK) is the local currency. It’s a closed currency meaning once you exit the country, no one will exchange it, so keep that in mind before leaving.
Laos is definitely a cash country, so plan on bringing money to exchange or have a bank card for withdrawals.
There are currency exchange booths at the airport as well as in town. However, the exchange rate you will get here is quite lousy.
I hate exchanging money and carrying large sums of cash while traveling so I just use ATM’s and withdraw local currency when I first arrive. I end up paying a bit in bank fees, but no matter what I do, there will be fees and this option leaves me stress-free.
With that being said there are several ATM’s at the airport and all over the city. It’s quite typical that the highest withdrawal limit is 2,000,000 kip which is about $253 USD. Each bank ATM is different for fees but an average fee is $40,000 kip ($4.75 USD).
Yes, the money game can be a costly one.
Getting around town
Luang Prabang is a pretty small town and you can basically get everywhere by foot, with the exception of the few places outside of town.
If you do need a ride anywhere, there are several colorfully painted tuk-tuks all over town cruising the streets looking for passengers. They can transport you anywhere in town for about $2.50 USD.
Many shops and guesthouses rent bicycles for about $2.50 USD. Due to the large amounts of money UNESCO has put into Luang Prabang, the streets and paths here are well paved and easy to ride on.
You can also rent a motorbike from several different places. Renting a motorbike here was the most expensive of all my SE Asia travels. It costs about $15 USD for 24 hours and the gas for one day will cost about $1.75.
Always remember to take pictures of the bikes before you take off to ensure you don’t get charged for past scratches and damages.
For the farther destinations, I’ll give you more options for transportation in their proper sections.
Recommended: Best Travel Tips for Visiting The Taj Mahal in India
Luang Prabang Hotels
There are hundreds of different accommodations from budget to splash out. No matter what it is you fancy, there is a perfect place for you. There are great spots in the busy heart of the town or places farther out for more serenity.
In the below section I’ll cover my top picks for each range: budget, mid, and luxury.
Downtown Backpacker Hostel
Located about a half a mile from the heart of downtown. This adorable, clean and social backpacker hostel is the best option for budget travelers.
It’s a great spot to make new friends with a beautiful garden, a large social area equipped with a pool table and serving free whiskey and vodka from 7-9 pm nightly.
They offer complimentary coffee, tea, and a breakfast with a great selection of food. The beds are comfortable, the bathrooms and building are clean, the AC works well and each bed has its own fan, light, and plug.
The owner is the sweetest man who is always smiling and wants nothing more than to make everyone comfortable and happy. He’s extremely helpful with things to do and where to eat in town.
Price per night for bed in a dorm room- $5 USD
Address: Ban What That What That road, 06000 Luang Prabang, Laos
Phone: +856 20 99 593 721
Sok Villa Namkhan River
This gorgeous newly renovated building boasts comfortable balconies with fabulous views of the river. Very large, immaculate rooms with beds so comfortable you’ll think twice about getting up. The rooms come equipped with kitchenettes and everything you would find in a classic apartment.
The friendly and chatty owners Jon and Anna are what makes this place so special. They are very kind and helpful with airport transport, tours, motorbike rentals and suggestions around town.
Located in a quiet neighborhood close to town offering a 100% perfect mid-range getaway.
Price: $55 USD for a double room with balcony and $70 for a split level apartment
Address: King Kitsarath Road, Ban Khily Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang 01000, Laos
Sofitel Luang Prabang
This French colonial fort built on a heritage site is the epitome of luxury. There is no other accommodation that can compare in Luang Prabang.
The flawless service, beautifully manicured and spacious grounds, giant pool, and large suites equipped with bathtubs will make you never want to leave.
The property is immaculate and gorgeous. Their library restaurant serves a fusion of traditional Lao favorites, as well as western classics. In the library, you can relax and read a book from their impressive collection of literature or enjoy a carefully mixed cocktail around the fireplace.
Guests can also enjoy a natural spa treatment or massage at the spa or join a cooking class to learn more about the culture and food of Laos. Sofitel is a well-known luxury chain that rarely disappoints.
Price: $425- $510 USD for a luxury garden suite
Address: Ban Mano, Luang Prabang 00600, Laos
Phone: +856 71 260 777
Things to do in Luang Prabang
There are many things to see and do. The relaxed vibe of the city is beyond welcoming. The streets are clean and the buildings are well kept making it the perfect spot to wander or kick back with a cocktail.
Spending 3-4 days is plenty of time to see the major sights, but there is enough to keep one busy for a week or longer.
Below is a list of some of my favorite activities in and around this beautiful city that offer some of the best of Laos. Including major tourist attractions, cultural experiences off the beaten path, shopping and much more.
Kuang Si Falls
Whenever someone asks me about top Laos tourist attractions, Kuang Si Falls is my very first response. This is one of the most beautiful and unique falls I have ever seen. The milky turquoise blue water is a sight that can’t be missed.
Tucked back in the jungle about 18 miles from Luang Prabang you will find this amazing set of falls. It’s a perfect day trip where you can relax and explore.
The falls are a 50-meter cascading drop that flows into 3 tiered azure swimming holes. Some of the pool and area are sacred so please only swim where you are allowed to.
You can swim in the crisp, cold water and get a free foot spa treatment by the nibbling fish. Or chill out at one of the mini picnic tables before taking an adventure on one of the many trails around the falls.
This is the top attraction in Laos and can be very crowded with tourists so be prepared to photoshop those gorgeous photos. The park offers a restaurant about midway up the falls serving traditional Laos dishes or there are small food stalls in the parking lot before you enter the park.
Hours of Operation- 8 am to 5:30 pm daily
Entrance Fee- $2.50 USD
Price to Park- $.25 USD
How to get there
- Rent a motorbike for about $15 USD and DIY. The roads are decent and the park is easy to find via google maps or Maps.me.
- Hop on a shared tuk-tuk (called songtaews) from anywhere downtown. It’s about $25 USD for the whole group, so the more people that hop on, the lower the price. 6-7 people can fit semi-comfortably and the driver will usually wait until full to leave.
- Join a group in a minivan for $4.75 USD. The only downfall is that you’re on their time frame and they typically only stay for a few hours which didn’t feel like enough time for me. You can book this from any accommodation in town.
- Hire a private tuk-tuk for about $20 USD- The driver will wait for you while you explore, however, make sure you make this agreement before parting ways.
- Take a boat ride on the Mekong that drops you at a pickup truck that will take you the last few miles to the falls. The best tour is by Banana Boat and the one that goes to Kuang Si is the BB01- Temples, Bears, and Waterfalls. This tour is a full day tour with several stops and is $58 USD.
Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Center
Now, who doesn’t love bears? They are so cute and their antics are hilarious. This rescue center is right along the entrance to Kuang Si Falls.
You can take a peek at the rescued moon bears lounging around in hammocks on your way to the falls.
You can spend as much time as you want here. Feeding is around noon and they have a bit of reading material scattered around if you want to learn more about the bears.
No additional charge to gawk at the bears, just don’t taunt them.
Hours of operation are the same as the falls- 8 am- 5:30 pm
Chase more waterfalls
There are a few other waterfalls in the area that are still beautiful but can’t compare to Kuang Si. If you’re looking for more waterfall action, then check out the two I included below.
Tad Sae Waterfall- You have to take a boat to get there and the entrance fee is $1.20 USD
There is also a 20 platform zipline that zips next to the falls here. It’s 1,000 meters long and the cost is $35 USD. Check out World Zipline for more info.
Tad Thong Waterfall and nature trail- Only good to see during the rainy season, with a 50 minute walk through the jungle to reach the falls. For more info check out Travel Fish.
Kuang Si Butterfly Park
Opened in 2014 by a Dutch couple who love butterflies. It’s located about 300 meters before you reach Kuang Si. It’s a great quick stop to include in your day trip to the falls.
Hours of operation- 10 am- 5 pm
Price for entrance – About $4.50 USD includes a 15-minute tour and info about butterflies
Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden
The first ever botanical garden in Laos featuring over 2,000 species of plants. A visit here is on the pricier side so most people skip it. However, the beautiful gardens are well kept and the staff is well trained and very educational.
Hours of operation- 8 am- 6 pm every day except closed on Wednesday
Price for entrance- $25 USD which includes a 15-minute boat ride
Watch the traditional alms ceremony
This is a traditional ceremony that takes place every morning at 5:30 am. Monks in their saffron robes will pass through the streets collecting offerings from the local Laos believers. The main street of Sisavongvang is a popular spot to watch.
This is a major tourist attraction and unfortunately there has been a bit of controversy around this event. Many tourists have been known to be very disrespectful by getting in the monks way for photos and stopping them for selfies.
If you’re interested in experiencing this ceremony please read this respectful guide written by The Common Wanderer, a travel couple who has a firm grasp on responsible tourism. Please respect the monks and what they are doing.
There have been many reports of scammers selling rotten rice to tourists to give as offering and the monks have gotten sick because of this. Consider preparing your own offering if possible.
Hike up Phousi Hill
You simply can’t visit Luang Prabang without taking a hike to the top of Mount Phousi. It dominates the heart of the city with a view from the top that is almost a complete 360 degree panoramic of the surrounding rivers and mountains.
It’s especially stunning for sunrise or sunset. Do be warned that it gets really busy for sunset and it can be a bit claustrophobic up there with all the selfie sticks and sweaty bodies. I suggest going up an hour early and securing a spot before the invasion.
There are 2 entrances to the top. One is on the east side on sisavang vatthana road, which has more scenery on the way up in my opinion. The other is on the west side across the street from the Royal Palace. Both routes have about 320 stairs to the top.
I suggest going up on the east and then down on the west side. If you go for sunset, this will drop you right into the night market, which is another sight not to be missed.
Price for entrance- $2.40 USD
Enjoy a sunset on the waterfront
For another amazing sunset, head to the waterfront. You will find all sorts of local and western restaurants littering the shores all offering great happy hour specials and amazing food. If you’re lucky you might even catch some live music.
There is also a decently paved sidewalk that wraps along the shore if you prefer to just grab a cold beer and enjoy the sunset vibes with more privacy.
Or if you’re wanting to take to the water to soak in the beauty then check out Sa Sa Sunset Cruise. Prices run about $10 USD (with free mojito) per person for a joint cruise.
Mosquitos can be quite pesky in the hours right before and after sunset. Make sure to put on some bug spray before heading out.
Take a stroll through the night market
I have been to far too many markets in my days of travel. However, the Luang Prabang night market really exceeded my expectations. It has a far more local feel to it because it is predominantly handicrafts made by the locals who are selling them.
It’s said by many to be one of the best night markets in Asia and for good reasons. It’s not overwhelmingly large making it easy to navigate. You can find such things as silk scarves, wall hangings, jewelry, wood carvings, intricately designed ceramics, silver items, colorful cotton dresses and much more.
The market is open every night and I enjoyed it so much that I returned 3 times during my visit. It is located on sisavongvang road in front of the Royal Palace.
Just an FYI always repeat the price back a few times to be clear. A common scam here is that the vendors will change the price once the money is in their hand, so be mindful of that.
Hours of operation- 6 pm- 10 pm
Pak Ou Caves
A slightly underwhelming cave north of Luang Prabang set on the Mekong River. Known amongst the locals as “buddha cave” because they have stashed old buddha’s here.
It’s against the Buddhist religion to dispose of old, broken or damaged buddha statues, so they are kept in this cave. Kind of like a buddha graveyard.
Most people visit the cave via tour that includes other attractions. Some go by boat along the river, others are by minivan.
You could also hire a taxi or rent a motorbike and DIY.
Take a traditional Laos cooking class
Food has a way of connecting people to culture. What better way to really become one with the culture than learning to cook the food traditionally.
I love food more than anything and cooking classes have always been my favorite. Not only do you get to cook and eat really great food, but you also get sent home with a recipe book. That way you can cook the deliciousness again for your friends and family back home.
There are a few different places to get involved in a cooking class. Below is pricing and links to a few of my top picks.
The Terrace at Burasari Heritage Hotel – With an outdoor kitchen, offering private classes starting at $35 USD
Tamarind: A taste of Laos- $30- $50 USD
Bamboo Tree- French/ Asian fusion flavors at $23- $30 USD
Many of the high end 5 star hotels offer cooking classes as well.
Check out the temples
There are about 30 different temples and wats within Luang Prabang. Seeing all of them would take a bit of time, but I do suggest trying to see at least a few. Their architecture and beauty are astounding and they are home to many monks and novices. Below are a few of my top picks.
- Royal Temple- also known as Haw Pha Bang located at the Royal Palace
- Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham- One of the largest temples and dates back to the 1780’s
- Wat Pa Phai- Gorgeous red and gold temple.
- Wat Mahathat- Temple of the great stupa originally constructed in 1548
- Vat Xieng Toung- Oldest and most beautiful monastery built in 1500’s $2.35 USD entrance fee.
To enter any temple, make sure you are properly dressed. Which means covering your shoulders and knees. Tripsavvy breaks it down perfectly in this article about proper etiquette for visiting a Buddhist temple.
Tour the National Museum
Visit the former Royal Palace now called Haw Kham and home to the National Museum. Situated on the Mekong River and facing Mount Phousi. This is a great way to learn more about the history of this old capital city.
Entrance fee- $3.5 USD
Hours of operation- 8 am-11:30 am and 1:30 pm- 4 pm Closed Tuesdays
Keep in mind that no photography is allowed and you will be asked to leave your bags and belongings in a free locker provided at the entrance. You must also remove your shoes and dress as if it were a temple.
Relax with a massage or spa treatment
I love getting massages no matter where I travel to. Each country and region does it differently and it’s great to feel the different techniques. Not to mention, it’s very cheap in Asia. Many of the high end hotels have spas on premise but below is my top pick in town.
Angsana Spa- 10 am- 8 pm Daily
More to do off the beaten path
There’s plenty to do to keep anyone entertained for at least a week in Luang Prabang. If you’re looking for less touristy spots then this section is for you.
Garavek Traditional Storytelling Theater– This 2 man show in a small intimate theater was one of my favorite cultural experiences here. A very entertaining storyteller goes through the history and culture of Luang Prabang while an old local man plays an instrument called the Khene.
The hour long show starts at 6:30 pm every night.
The traditional arts and ethnology center– A great place to immerse yourself in local Laos culture. For more info check out the website here.
The weaving sisters- Learn how to weave with these entertaining sisters from south Laos. Check out The Weaving Sisters Facebook page for more info.
Vipassana Temple & Park– Learn to meditate in the style of Vipassana.
Whiskey Village- visit this village where they are most known for their local lao lao whiskey.
La Pistoche- Feeling too hot in the Laos heat? Cool off at this gorgeous pool with a slide, food and drinks. Entrance is $3.50 USD with a $6 USD refundable deposit.
Living Land Farm- just come to visit or take an organized tour. For more info check out their website.
Go shopping- For great options check out these shops.
- Ma Te Sai
- Ock Pop Tok- also has a cafe
- TAEC Boutique
Nam ou Elephant Farm- Elephant sanctuary and resort.
L’Etranger- local tea shop showing English language movies every night at 7 pm. Must buy a drink. The coconut milkshakes are amazing!
Where to eat in Luang Prabang
You can definitely notice the French influence in much of the Laotian food here. There are many cafes and bakeries throughout the city and almost every breakfast is served with a french baguette.
Being a new up and coming hub for digital nomads, the number of expat owned restaurants and pubs serving western favorites is growing all the time.
Fun fact- There are no fast food chains in Laos. Or if there are, I never once saw one in a month of travel here. I thought this was amazing.
While you’re in Luang Prabang, I suggest trying orlam forest soup, Laos spring rolls, baguettes or any fresh baked goods, local watercress, coconut cake, buffalo steaks or sausages, mok pa (fish in banana leaf), fried dried seaweed with chili dipping sauce and Khao Soi.
You can find many of these items at the local restaurants or on the buffet street at the night market. Below are a few of my favorite restaurants in town.
Restaurants in Luang Prabang
Coconut Garden- This place has phenomenal food at good prices with friendly and quick service. The garden outback has the best seating, especially at night. Definitely try the spring rolls, I think they are the best in town.
Bamboo Garden- owned by a very friendly woman who loves food almost as much as she loves to chat. The staff are all lovely and the local food is very good. Try the larb, it’s delicious.
Amigos- As the name suggests, this is for my fellow mexican food lovers. Owned by a family with a passion for mexican food. They use fresh ingredients and you can tell. Start with the cheese dip, try anything with the pineapple pulled pork and top it off with a spicy margarita. You won’t regret it.
Pizza Phan Luang- No list of mine would be complete without a pizza place. This spot run by an Aussie serves delicious wood fired pizzas. Getting here is half the experience seeing as you have to travel across the Nam Khan River on one of the 2 very sketchy bridges. Good luck.
Tamarind- This is regarded as one of the best restaurants in town. It’s best to have a reservation because they are always full and turn many people away nightly. This is some of the most authentic Laotian food you will ever try, also the most expensive.
Dyen Sabai- this beautiful outdoor restaurant is also situated across the Nham Khan River, meaning you must cross one of 2 sketchy bridges to get there. Don’t worry, it’s all part of the experience. They have a great atmosphere, flawless food and extended happy hour.
Cafes in Luang Prabang
Joma Bakery and Cafe- Canadian owned western style cafe with locations in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. They have fantastic coffee, knowledgeable staff and yummy baked goods. There are 2 locations in Luang Prabang so no excuses.
La Banneton- Hands down the best bakery in town. Make sure you get here early because their melt in your mouth baked goods don’t last long.
Saffron Cafe- This cafe was established in 2016 and is right on the Mekong offering a great views. The coffee is outstanding. A bit pricey but worth it.
Nightlife in Luang Prabang
I wouldn’t consider Laos to be a very poppin nightlife destination but with the growing boom of tourism a few bars and pubs have opened to accommodate the night owls.
Most bars will close before midnight and most of the town goes to bed before 10 pm. The list below is your best bet for a good night out.
Lao Lao Garden and Bar– This place has an awesome jungle vibe in its multi leveled garden out back. They serve great Lao BBQ and have a couple of awesome cocktails.
Utopia- Without a doubt this was my favorite spot to hang out. Their only downfall is that they shut down at 11pm. This is the chill backpacker spot. I mean cushions on the ground with people lounging all over them, quiet corners with candlelight at night and some of the best Mekong River views. Food and drinks are pricey but you’re paying for the ultimate atmosphere.
The Bowling Alley- This is the only place in town, that I know of, that stays open past 11pm. Right around that time people start to flood in via tuk tuk from the other bars that have just closed. You have to be really open minded with this one because it’s a bit of a frat house type of environment. Dirty bathrooms, food that’s not even good when you’re drunk and cheap booze to keep everyone on a good level. Be warned and bring your own toilet paper.
Icon Klub– This bar has so much character, personality and atmosphere. It’s run by a hungarian Poet who’s charm breathes intoxicating life into the place. Great playlist and yummy cocktails. The only thing wrong with this bar is that it closes at 11:30pm.
Pharmacy in Luang Prabang
There are a couple of pharmacies in the city if you are to fall ill while visiting. I suggest the below one because the pharmacist is friendly, helpful and speaks great English. Nothing worse than trying to translate when you’re not feeling well.
Bouaphan Pharmacy– Sakkaline Road
Weather in Luang Prabang
The weather has 4 different seasons here. For the most part it is typically always hot and humid, so that can just be expected. Below is a breakdown of the 4 seasons.
Spring (March- May)- hot and humid with an average temp in the mid 90 degrees, and there is little to no rain. This is the the slower season for tourism so it’s a great time to catch some deals.
Summer (June- August)- Temperatures are more comfortable with the highs in the low 80 degree range. These months see the most precipitation with it raining about 50% of the time. This tends to be the second busiest time of the year with the lower temps.
Fall (September- November)– Temps range from low 80’s to 90 or so degrees and it rains about 35% of the time. Tourism is quite slow during these months.
Winter (December – February)– The very best time to visit. The temperatures are between 80 and 90 degrees and it almost never rains. Tourism is quite high during these months so expect prices for tours, transport and accommodation to be inflated.
What to bring when visiting Luang Prabang
Laos in general is a very conservative country. The woman typically are covered up with long pants and short sleeve shirts, sometimes even more.
Wearing short shorts, skimpy thong bikinis and spaghetti strap dresses is most likely going to draw a bit of attention to you, so bear that in mind while packing.
If you’re planning to visit in the cooler winter months then possibly pack a lightweight jacket. I guess it depends on where you’re from. Even in the coldest months in Laos, it’s hotter than my hottest months back home.
During the hot months I suggest cotton dresses and loose fitting shorts or pants. It gets very humid so anything tight will seem like a wetsuit. Lighter colors are best because they don’t absorb the heat.
I suggest a thin raincoat of the fold up type no matter what the season, just to be safe. You’ll want to have a parka and/ or an umbrella in the summer and fall months.
If you plan to visit the temples or take part in any religious ceremonies then make sure to pack some long pants and something to cover your shoulders and chest. I love to carry a large, thin scarf. That way I can just pull it out of my backpack and wrap it around my shoulders before entering a temple.
Sunscreen is a must have. It’s more expensive here then back home, so pack it with you to save a few bucks.
Mosquito repellent is also very important. You can find this here but it contains very little deet and doesn’t work all that well. Consider packing a repellent that has a decent deet content in it. Or look into some of the more expensive natural products that are on the market these days.
A decent pair of shoes. If you plan to do any hiking in or around the parks then make sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes. The trails can get quite slick, especially during the wetter seasons. I travel with a pair of Nike trainers and that has always been just fine for me.
So there you have it. With this guide you have all that you need for an amazing experience in Luang Prabang. Remember that life is slower in Laos and the pace is different. Sit back, soak it up, take a deep breathe of fresh air and Indulge in the simpler, calmer style of life. Enjoy!
About Julie Laughlin: Before hitting the road full time, Julie Laughlin was a taco slinging, craft brew pouring, master mixologist in Seattle, WA. Since following her dreams into the world, she has traveled to 12 countries and countless cities with just herself and 2 oversized backpacks. She is currently forging her way through SE Asia with a passion for food, culture, and adventure. Nothing can stop her now, and her passion for travel emanates as she inspires others through empowering stories, insider tips, and tricks, as well as hilarious mishaps. With her writings she will take you along as she searches for all the hidden gems of the world.
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