Ultimate Guide to Luang Prabang, Laos

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I visited Luang Prabang for 5 days in October 2015 and I completely fell in love with this town. It quickly became one of my favorite places in South East Asia.

In this article, I am going to talk about my experiences and share with you some travel tips and recommendations.

Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions you have!

General Info

Few cities on this earth are as charming and peaceful as Luang Prabang. I’m serious – this place lives up to every minute of its hype.

I spent 5 long days here, but it could have easily been 5 weeks. At the moment, I’m a little burned out from the last 3 months around Europe and the last week in Bangkok, so this place has been a perfect getaway for me to chill out and relax.

Luang Prabang is one of the biggest “hub cities” for backpackers roaming around South East Asia. Therefore, expect to see a LOT of them in town (mostly Brits, Aussies, Americans, Canadians, French and other Europeans).

The biggest downside about having lots of backpackers is the expensive prices (comparatively). Things like accommodations, tuk tuk rides, group tours and activities are more expensive than most other cities in SEA.   But on the flip side, it’s nice to meet other backpackers and English speakers after spending a long time on the road.

Luang Prabang is located at the intersection of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, in the north central region of Laos. The beauty and nature surrounding this area are as good as I’ve ever seen in Asia.

The town itself is very small and you will be able to do/see everything in just a day. That’s why you come here to relax and forget about real life.

Alright, it’s time for some quick facts:

Quick Facts of Luang Prabang

– Population: 50,000 (2013)
– Language: Lao
– Currency: Lao Kip ($1 = 8,000 Kip in 2015)
– Luang Prabang translates to Royal Buddha Image
– The Old Town Center is a UNESCO Heritage Site
– The city is recognized for its Buddhist temples and Monasteries
– During WWII, the city was occupied (at times) by Thailand, Japan, France and China
– The religion is predominantly Buddhism, and there are many famous Buddhist temples around the town

Things to do in Luang Prabang

As mentioned earlier, there is only a handful of things to do and the rest of the time you will spend relaxing.

At some point, I highly recommend renting a motorbike, so you can explore the surrounding villages in Luang Prabang. This was one of the best experiences of my trip around South East Asia!

Here are my top 5 Things to do in Luang Prabang:

1. Sunset from Mt. Phousi – Located in the center of town, hike up to the top of this hill to see the best view of the city for sunset. There is a cool temple at the top as well!

2. Dip in the Kuang Si Falls – Some 40 kilometers outside Luang Prabang are the Kuang Si Falls, and they are absolutely worth the trip. The water is so clean and neon blue, and refreshing to swim in. Take your camera, bring your swimsuit and spend 3-4 hours there.

3. Visit the Pak Ou Caves – These caves are a bit far north of the city, but it’s a nice ride along the way. I rented a motorbike and rode there all by myself (it took about an hour). The cave is filled with thousands of Buddha statues!

4. Kayak on the Mekong – You can rent a kayak and float down the Mekong river. Bring booze, bring your friends, and have some fun under the sun.

5. Eat at the Night Market – The night market is the central focus of the town, and it becomes electric every night when the sun goes down. Check out the hidden alleys to find some AMAZING food buffets for only $2USD! You can also buy all of your goodies and souvenirs in this area.

People and Culture

I had a hard time making Lao Friends in Luang Prabang, because I only met other backpackers. But from the locals who I interacted with at my hotel and at restaurants, they were really friendly and welcoming!   Their smiles are contagious and will just make you happy to speak with them – just like these cute little boys that I met in a small village!

Lao culture is pretty similar to Thai culture.   The languages are even similar! I was told that Lao people can understand Thai and vice versa. Something like Spanish and Italian.

Luang Prabang is known for its Buddhism worships, which can be seen by the many Buddhist temples and walking monks on the streets. In fact, every morning just before sunrise, you can see hundreds of monks walking through the streets collecting alms (money or food to give to the poor). It’s charming.

The Food

Lao cuisine is so good! If you like Thai food, then you’ll love Lao food. It’s pretty much the same style of food, but with a few different ingredients.

The #1 Lao staple food is steamed sticky rice, and it can be found everywhere. Try to eat it by hand like the locals do it!

Some of the other most famous Lao dishes are:

Larb – a spicy mix of marinated meat or fish with herbs/greens/spices

Papaya Salad – a spicy salad made from shredded papaya, greens, chili and lime

French-style sandwiches – Like Vietnam, Laos was a French colony and so the food is still influenced by France. Believe it or not, they have baguettes that are actually good!

Grilled Fish – You will see this from a lot of the street food vendors. They will throw the fish over rice and serve it steaming on a plate. But beware of all the bones in the fish!

Noodle Soup – Like anywhere you can find in SEA, the noodle soup is sour and delicious! So many flavors and so much happiness.

The Nightlife

The Nightlife in Luang Prabang is freaking awesome!!

First thing to know is that Beer Lao is the best beer in South East Asia, and it’s about $0.75 per bottle and it goes down like water!

My favorite bar in SEA is located in Luang Prabang – it’s called Utiopia and it’s the best place ever. I went there every night. It’s a huge bar that’s really chilled out with good music and loads of people. There is also a volley ball court with people playing at all times!

Every night, the bar shuts down at 11PM and literally everyone goes bowling!!! The bowling alley is the only thing open after midnight and it’s the best place to keep drinking, making new friends, and of course, bowl! It was really fun, and you shoudn’t miss out on this unique experience.

Another fun club is called Icon Club, but it’s a lot more expensive than anywhere else. But I guess you pay for what you get, because this place is really nice and it’s the only luxurious place to go out in Luang Prabang.

Other fun bars to check out are Hive Bar, RedBull Bar, and Opera House!

Final Words

Luang Prabang is one of the greatest places that I’ve been on planet earth, and I highly recommend paying a visit there. It’s one of those places that, once you leave, you’ll be itching to go back as soon as you can!

Don’t forget to book your hotels on this link 🙂  and have fun!


18 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Luang Prabang, Laos

  1. Hey Drew! Were you able to check out Vang Vieng at all? Don’t have a lot of time so wondering if it would be worth it. Thanks!

  2. Hey Drew
    Wow. 74 countries! That beats my 60 by a good margin! I don’t think I could spend 5 weeks in Laung, just not enough to do. But 5 days was great. wanted to share with you my Luang Prabang experience–
    Kuang Si Falls- getting there by bike lovely photos!!- which of course you did.
    and, also in the Luang Prabang area— Trekking Through Rice and Steep Mountains in Northern Laos
    And of course the Luang Prabang Night Market which of course you mentioned too! Great blog!

  3. Hey, I have heard that the Pak Ou Caves are kind of a tourist trap. Is this your feeling as well? Would you skip it if you had 3 days in Luang Prabang? Thanks!

  4. K.R.E.A.M. Kip Rules Everything Around Me. Is that still painted in the bathroom at the bowling alley haha?

    I agree though man, Luang Prabang is one of the coolest towns in S.E. Asia. Thanks for making me feel like I was right back there!
    I agree tho man

  5. Hi Drew! I pretty much follow you on all social media, I’m a huge fan of the blog. I was super bummed, however, to see that you were riding elephants in Laos. I’m assuming you may have heard it before that elephants go through extreme abuse in order to be ridden by humans. I would have hoped, being that you’re a responsible world traveler that you would have done research into more humane ways to interact with elephants, such as the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai?
    Once again, I love the blog and all the great pictures, but was hoping to spread the knowledge if you haven’t already researched any of it. http://www.dtravelsround.com/2015/08/11/truth-about-riding-elephants-in-thailand/ , this goes for any place that lets you ride elephants. Safe travels!

  6. Sounds like an amazing place. My best friend as a child was from Laos, but I’ve never been. The food looks amazing and I would love to take a dip in the falls, explore the caves and eat at the night market!!

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