• Luang

Luang Prabang

Lao People's Democratic Republic

In so many ways, Luang Prabang is like a breath of fresh air. For starters, there’s the air itself—and plenty of places to enjoy it in the lofty hills and rivers surrounding the city. Culturally, it’s also in a league of its own. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and former mountain kingdom, the city is home to more than a thousand years of history and an intoxicating mix of Buddhist, Shan, Khmer and French culture. Today, its past is still evident in its red-roofed temples, rich cuisine and refined arts, making it one of South-East Asia’s most enchanting and photogenic cities.

Luang Prabang is a destination that is best savoured at a leisurely pace, so allow yourself plenty of time to soak up the laid-back atmosphere. Indulge in the city's exquisite temples and museums, along with handicraft shopping, massages, cooking classes and delicious cuisine. The legacy of French colonial rule is still evident in the crumbling mansions and quaint cafés and bakeries, and it’s easy to feel as though nothing has changed for over a century. However, it’s the visual beauty of Luang Prabang that leaves the biggest impression: think jaw-dropping sunsets over the misty Mekong, or the sight of several hundred monks in saffron robes lining up to receive alms. If you have time, an exciting day-trip to nearby caves and waterfalls or an overnight stay in a remote hilltribe village all make for a memorable adventure.

Why Go?

Luang Prabang is one of South-East Asia's most enchanting cities, with an ancient royal past surrounded by stunning countryside.

When to Go

November to January is the best time to go, when temperatures are mild and the weather is dry. The rainy season lasts from April to July and again from September to October, which usually means a brief cleansing shower most afternoons, but otherwise lovely weather. Avoid visiting in March, when hot temperatures and illegal slash-and-burn farming tactics usually results in the city being shrouded in haze.

Average Temp

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

High °C

27

31

33

34

34

32

32

32

32

31

29

26

Low °C

14

15

18

21

24

25

24

24

23

21

18

14

High °F

81

88

91

93

93

90

90

90

90

88

84

79

Low °C

57

59

64

70

75

77

75

75

73

70

64

57

 

Book to Pack

Black Buddha by Richard Waters, a thrilling murder-mystery against the backdrop of modern-day Laos.

  • Haw Pha Bang, Luang Prabang
  • Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang
  • Mekong River sunset
  • Luang Prabang, Laos
  • Wat Xieng Thong temple
  • Mekong River in Luang Prabang
  • Buddhist monk procession in Luang Prabang
  • Mekong River sunset
  • Kuangsi Waterfalls

Things to Do

  • Try your hand at the ancient art of silk weaving or hand-dying with workshops at OckPopTok, an award-winning textile gallery and crafts centre.
  • Pick up some of Lao’s masterful cottage-industry souvenirs at the Handicraft Night Market, held every evening along Th Sisavangvong, or eye the fresh produce and food on display at the daytime Phousi Market.
  • Be awed by the graceful beauty of Wat Xieng Thong, a classic Laotian monastery that is one of the country’s best-known and most captivating.
  • Admire the splendours on display at the Royal Palace Museum, the former Royal Palace built by the French in 1901.
  • Rise before dawn and witness the daily procession of Buddhist monks as they receive alms in one of Laos’ most sacred traditions.
  • Treat yourself to a traditional Laotian spa treatment that consists of pressure-point massage and gentle stretching, followed by the application of warm herbs using a fiercely-guarded recipe.
  • Take a day trip to the sacred Pak Ou Caves, two mystical riverside grottos crammed with thousands of Buddha statues.
  • Visit the Kuang Si waterfalls, a stunning series of cascading emerald pools that’s perfect for a refreshing dip.
  • Sign up for a cooking class and learn to prepare traditional Laotian dishes such as sticky rice and Lao chili paste.
  • Get involved in one of several vital community projects such as Big Brother Mouse, which promotes literacy by distributing fun and educational books to the rural villagers and hilltribes.
  • Marvel at the beautiful clothing, household objects and artefacts belonging to Laos’ myriad ethnic hilltribe groups, on display at the excellent Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre.
  • Embark on a countryside adventure, including hill trekking, mountain biking, kayaking and elephant riding, arranged via several tour agencies in town.

Related reading: Our guide to Luang Prabang's best restaurants

Sunset over Luang Prabang, Laos
Kuangsi Waterfalls

Getting There

NOTE: Travel information such as flight, train, bus and boat schedules and fares are subject to constant change. The information below is intended as a basic guide only; please check with the relevant companies/authorities before planning your journey.

By Air

Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ) serves domestic routes as well as a small handful of international flights to Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai), Cambodia (Siem Reap) and Vietnam (Hanoi). Taxis (approx. US$6) and Tuk-Tuks (approx. US$3) are easily available for the short ride to town.

By Boat

Visitors travelling from Northern Thailand can consider taking a slow cargo boat (about US$25) or a luxury cruise (US$250-500) along the Mekong River, with a travel time of 2 days. The boats depart from Huay Xai at the Thai border close to Chiang Rai, with an overnight stop in the village of Pak Beng. Despite the long travel time, the journey is a rewarding one and popular with many international travellers. Speed boats are also available but are best avoided due to safety concerns.

By Bus

Luang Prabang is connected to Vientiane by regular buses. However the long travel time (10 hours), poor bus conditions and winding, mountainous roads make this journey best left to hardcore backpackers.

 

Getting Around

By Tuk-Tuk

Tuk-tuks can be easily hailed along the main roads and in town for around 5,000 kip per person.

 

By Bicycle/On Foot

With its quaint streets, small size and (slightly crooked) grid system, Luang Prabang is easily explored on two wheels or on foot. Most hotels and travel agencies rent bicycles for approximately 10,000 kip per day.

By Boat

Longtail boats along Luang Prabang’s main pier can be rented for a half or full-day excursion to the Pak Ou caves (2 hrs) or nearby villages along the Mekong River. Prices are about 400,000 kip for a return trip.

The Essentials

Visa Requirements

All visitors to Laos, with the exception of ASEAN nationalities and Japanese citizens, are required to have a visa. For most nationalities, this takes the form of a visa-upon-arrival, which can be obtained at the airport or border crossing for US$35. We advise checking with the Laos immigration authorities for a list of eligible nationalities.

Currency

Laos uses the Laotian Kip (LAK), which can be difficult to buy or sell outside of the country. Prices are sometimes quoted in USD (US$). As a general indication, US$1 is roughly equivalent to 8,000 kip. Visit xe.com for current exchange rates.

 

Health & Safety

Crime is generally rare in Luang Prabang, although snatch-thefts from bicycles or motorbikes are becoming increasingly common. Laos laws prohibit sexual relations between unmarried foreigners and nationals with a stiff fine of up to US$5000 if caught, and many hotels will not allow foreigners to take local girls into their rooms. Tourists should take care to wear long pants or a sarong and to cover their shoulders as a sign of respect when visiting temples.

Like most of South-East Asia, Laos enforces strict drug trafficking rules that include the death penalty for offenders.

Mosquitos can be a concern depending on the time of year, as they can carry dengue fever and possibly malaria. Use mosquito repellent when outdoors especially during dawn and dusk. It is not advisable to drink tap water; bottled water is cheap and readily available. 

Responsible Tourism

Laos is a religious and conservative society, and visitors should be aware of social norms. Kissing and hugging in public is generally frowned upon, as is wearing revealing clothing; especially when visiting temples and religious sites. Monks are forbidden to come into contact with women, and so ladies should refrain from touching them. Sadly, the sacred procession of monks in Luang Prabang becomes more of a tourist attraction with every passing year -- just remember that monks are revered members of society in Laos and should be treated with respect.

A Buddhist monk in Luang Prabang

Learn the Lingo

Lao is the official language of Laos. Basic English and French are also spoken in urban areas.

Hello – sabaidi

Thank You - khàwp jai

What is your name? - jâo seu nyãng?

How much is this? - anh nee thao dai?

Excuse me / sorry - khãw thôht

Do you speak English? - jâo wâo pasa angkit dai baw?

Goodbye - la khãwn