Last Updated on January 21, 2022 by Tina
I visited Luang Prabang, Laos in 2019 during my six weeks backpacking trip in some parts of Southeast Asia. Unlike other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, I didn’t know any tourist attractions in Laos. I went there without any expectations and I ended up loving the place so much I wanted to stay there forever. Thinking of visiting Luang Prabang soon? Here’s a Luang Prabang, Laos solo travel guide to help you plan your trip.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to book something is completely up to you. Using my links costs you nothing extra and will help in maintaining this blog. Thanks for your support!
Luang Prabang is a lovely town located in Northern Laos. It is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. In 1995, it was listed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List due to its well-preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the Lao traditional architecture and 19th and 20th-century European colonial-style buildings.
The town has a very chill vibe, a perfect destination for those who are looking for a place to relax and commune with nature. It is one of the most popular destinations in Laos and a place I would love to go back to someday. We were planning on going back to this place in May 2020, but the pandemic messed up our plans.
Never Miss An Update
Is Laos Open for Tourism Now?
Laos reopened for tourism last January 1, 2022. As of January 3, 2022, tourists from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the US, the UK, Thailand, and Vietnam are already allowed to enter Laos.
What are the entry requirements for Laos?
- Travelers planning to visit the country must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival. Proof of vaccination such as a vaccine certificate is required.
- They must have a health insurance policy with a coverage of at least US$ 50,000.
- Travelers must have a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours before departure from the first embarkation point.
- Tourists must pre-book a tour with tour operators that hold a Lao Travel Green Zone Plan license. Tours will take place in the approved destination for tourists. These are the major destinations in Laos: the capital city of Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Vang Vieng.
- They must also download the LaoKYC and LaoStaySafe applications before arrival, undergo an on-arrival PCR test, and remain at their accommodation until they receive a negative result.
Best Months to Visit Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang has high temperatures all year round ranging between 27°C (80°F) and 35°C (95°F). A lot of rain falls in the months of May to September. The warmest month is April and the wettest month is August. December is the coldest month and January is the driest. The best time to visit Luang Prabang is from November until February when it’s dry and the temperature and humidity are much lower compared to the rest of the year.*
Visa Requirements and Immigration
Visa regulations are based on your passport/nationality. Visitors from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, and Vietnam are eligible for visa exemption (free entry) in Laos for a certain period. Visitors of other nationalities may obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days for a fee. eVisa is also available to citizens of all countries except countries whose citizens are not eligible for visa on arrival. It is valid for 60 days from the date of issuance and its holders may stay for up to 30 days in the country. eVisa cost varies depending on the country and can be issued within 3 business days.
Filipinos are eligible for visa exemption in Laos and they are allowed to stay in the country visa-free for 30 days. You just need to have a valid Philippine passport with at least 6 months of validity.
According to the website of Visa Laos, foreign tourists may need a visa for Laos to enter the country from 2022. Check this link for more details.
How to Get to Luang Prabang
There are several ways of getting to Luang Prabang. You can get there by plane, by bus or by slow boat. Before the pandemic, the slow boat journey from Thailand is popular among backpackers as a way of getting to Luang Prabang.
As of the moment, the only available point of entry to Laos are the Wattay International Airport and the First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge in Vientiane. So if you’re going to Luang Prabang, you need to travel to Vientiane first.
Luang Prabang’s airport, Luang Prabang International Airport is located 4 kilometers from the center. It serves both domestic and international flights. Before the pandemic, several international and domestic airlines operate scheduled flights from Luang Prabang airport, including Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines.
There is no direct flight from the Philippines to Laos. You need to fly to Singapore, Thailand, or Vietnam first if you want to visit Laos from the Philippines.
Luang Prabang International Airport will open to tourists on Phase 2 of Laos’ reopening which will start on April 1, 2022.
By bus or van
Another way of getting to Luang Prabang is by bus or by van. There are bus and van trips from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. Before the pandemic, you can also travel by bus from Hanoi, Vietnam. The bus travel is 26 hours. I considered doing it in 2019 because it was much cheaper than a flight. In the end, I decided to take a flight instead.
By slow boat
Traveling to or from Luang Prabang on a slow boat is an experience that you must try if you ever go on a Southeast Asian backpacking trip. It is a journey of two days on the Mekong River, spending a night in the town of Pakbeng. If coming from Thailand, you start your slow boat journey to Luang Prabang from the town of Huay Xai. Read my post My Experience Taking the Slow Boat from Laos to Thailand to know all the details about the slow boat journey.
There is no Grab car or bike in Luang Prabang. If you’re staying within the city center, you can easily get around the town on foot. The town is so small and very easy to navigate, we used Google Maps only on our first 2 days there.
If coming from the airport, there are taxis available and their standard rate was 50,000 LAK from the airport to the city center.
If you know how to drive a motorbike and have an international driver’s license, renting one is a good option. There are motorbike shops and hostels where you can rent one.
Tuk-tuks are available in town if you need to go somewhere far. If you are planning on visiting Kuang Si Waterfalls, you can either rent a motorbike, take a tuk-tuk, or book a seat on a shared minivan. When I was there, I booked with Monk Tour Project Lao. It was the cheapest available at 25,000 LAK for a round trip. It includes hotel pick-up and drop-off at the night market after the Kuang Si Waterfalls trip. They can be reached through Whatsapp at this number: +8562054549293.
And if you want to visit the Pak Ou Caves, you will save 15,000 LAK if you take the public boat. The ticket office is located at the Mekong Riverside, just across Saffron Coffee.
Where to Exchange Money
Laotian Kip (LAK) is the official currency of Laos. There are money changers at the airport as well as at the center of Luang Prabang. However, when I was there, my flight was at night and we arrived there at 8:30 in the evening. The money changer was already closed. Good thing the shop selling sim cards is still open. I bought a sim card and paid in USD and asked the lady to give my change in LAK so that I’ll have money for the taxi to the hostel.
Do not exchange all of your money at the airport. From my experience, the exchange rate at the city center is way better. What I always do is exchange only enough to make it to my accommodation and to spend for a day.
When I was in Luang Prabang in 2019 I exchanged my USD at SSEN Mekong. It is located near the Mekong Riverside. It was the one recommended by my Chinese roommate at the hostel. He said it’s the one with the best rate and when I checked, they indeed have the best rate. The exchange rate there was 8,810 Kip to 1 USD.
I don’t remember if there are ATMs at the airport (maybe there are, I didn’t check), but there are ATMS at the center. I was able to withdraw there using my Metrobank card. According to a friend living in Vientiane, BCEL is better because they charge a lower transaction fee. You can withdraw up to 1.5M LAK with BCEL and the charge is 20,000 LAK. With ANZ, you can withdraw up to 2M LAK and the charge is 40,000 LAK.
Internet Connection in Luang Prabang and Where to Buy SIM Card
Free wifi connection is available in hotels and hostels in Luang Prabang. If you want to stay connected to the internet all the time, I recommend buying a local SIM card. They are very cheap and you can buy a SIM card at the airport or at any phone shop in the city center. I bought mine for 50,000 LAK at the airport. I don’t remember what comes with it, maybe it was unlimited data for 5 or 6 days. Because I had to top up the card with 10,000 LAK on my 6th day there (probably so I could have data on the slow boat journey).
Where to Stay in Luang Prabang
There are plenty of accommodation options in Luang Prabang, from backpacker hostels, mid-range hotels to luxury accommodations. I don’t recommend anything that I haven’t stayed on or was not recommended to me by someone I know. But you can check Agoda or Booking.com for accommodations in Luang Prabang.
When I was there, I was able to stay in two hostels, the Friendly Backpacker Hostel and Chill Riverside Hostel. Both are okay, although I like the Chill Riverside Hostel more. The common area has a view of the Nam Khan River. It is also where you eat your free breakfast and a good place to meet fellow backpackers. I made a lot of friends in this hostel and I highly recommend it for those who are looking for budget accommodation in Luang Prabang. Do note that hostels in Luang Prabang are not as fancy as those in Thailand or Vietnam.
For hotel in Luang Prabang, my friend stayed at Parasol Blanc Hotel. He said that it’s a nice hotel. Knowing him, he has very high standards when it comes to hotels so Parasol Blanc must really be a good one.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Luang Prabang depending on your budget. The Tamarind Tree Restaurant in Mekong Riverside was recommended to me by my friend. The food there is good and also affordable. If you are into street food, the night market has a lot of food options. There is also a night market buffet at the entrance that was always jampacked but I never got to try so I can’t tell if it’s any good.
For coffee shops, try Novelty Cafe, Saffron Coffee, and The Mekong Espresso. The Novelty Cafe is located near the night market while Saffron Coffee and The Mekong Espresso are located at the Mekong Riverside.
How Many Days in Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is a small town and two or three days is enough to explore it. That was my original plan when I flew to Luang Prabang. I was planning to spend a week in Laos, three days of it in Luang Prabang, and I was also planning to visit Vientiane and Vang Vieng. But I loved the vibe in Luang Prabang so much that I didn’t want to leave the town anymore. I ended up staying there for six days. (I would have stayed longer if I wasn’t meeting my friend in Chiang Mai).
What to Do in Luang Prabang
There are so many things to do in Luang Prabang that even if you decide to stay there for a week you wouldn’t get bored. Below are the things you shouldn’t miss if you visit the town. For a more detailed list, you can check out my post 14 Highly Recommended Things to Do in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Visit Kuang Si Waterfalls
Never ever leave Luang Prabang without visiting Kuang Si Waterfalls. It is the town’s main tourist attraction. It is a tiered waterfall and the most beautiful waterfall I have seen so far. Its waters flow down through a series of pools that you can swim in. I never got to swim there though because we were only given two hours to explore the area and I spent a lot of time watching the rescued bears in the Kuang Si Rescue Center. If you can drive a motorbike, I recommend visiting the falls by motorbike so you have unlimited time to stay there.
Explore the Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace Museum was originally a palace that was built for King Sisavang and his family in 1904 during the French colonial era. It has a visual display of the royal bedrooms, reception halls, and the king’s military uniforms and medals. The Royal Palace has a nice garden with a large pond.
Visit some of the Wats (Temples)
There are 33 temples in Luang Prabang and many of them are within walking distance to the Royal Palace. Temples not to be missed are Wat Xieng Thong, the most popular Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang that features a tree of life mosaic, and Wat Wisunarat, the oldest temple in town.
Visit the Night Market
There are plenty of night markets in Southeast Asia and for me, the one in Luang Prabang is one of the best. There are so many nice things there, from clothes to paintings to foods and souvenir items.
Climb Mount Phousi
Mount Phousi is a hill in Luang Prabang that is a famous spot to watch the sunset. It gets overly crowded an hour before sunset. There is an entrance fee of 20,000 LAK. While it is nice to be there during sunset, going there at night is a different experience too. There’s no one there at night, and you get to enjoy the view of the town at night from the top of the hill. But don’t go there alone, for safety reasons. Not that it is unsafe. But better take precautions. And you know what they always say, avoid walking alone in the dark, especially if you are a girl.
Witness Tak Bat
Another thing not to miss when in Luang Prabang is witnessing the Tak Bat. It is the Buddhist Lao monks’ morning collection of food in Luang Prabang. It is a daily tradition of locals paying alms to the monks and takes place from 5:30 AM onwards along the streets of Luang Prabang. Orange-robed monks carrying bowls line up in a single file to collect offerings in front of them. The monks line up in order of age, with the eldest monk going first.
Visit the Pak Ou Caves
The Pak Ou Caves are caves set in a limestone cliff at the point where the Mekong joins the Nam Ou River. It has over 4000 Buddha icons. Nearby villagers and pilgrims use these caves as a place for damaged and old Buddha statues. If you’re not going to try the slow boat journey to Thailand or the other way around, going on a boat trip to the cave is a way to experience the Mekong River. The boat trip to the cave takes 2 hours and has a stopover at a whiskey village.
Cross the Bamboo Bridge
There are two bamboo bridges in Luang Prabang, one at the intersection of the Mekong and Nam Khan River and the other near the entrance to Mt. Phousi. You need to pay an entrance fee to cross both bridges, the first costs 10,000 LAK while the second costs 5,000 LAK. The people collecting the tiny amount use it to rebuild the bridges because these bridges get washed out during the rainy season. Just like Mt. Phousi, I recommend crossing this bridge at night. The bridge near the entrance to Mt. Phousi has nice light at night. It’s very relaxing to hang out in the middle of the bridge while listening to the sound of the flowing water and enjoying the cool wind.
Is Luang Prabang Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Yes, Luang Prabang is a very safe destination for solo female travelers. I’ve experienced walking there alone at night and I never felt unsafe at all. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing it. And even if it is a safe place, still take necessary precautions. Use common sense.
I hope I was able to cover everything you need to prepare for your trip to Luang Prabang. You can also read my post Backpacking Southeast Asia Twelfth Stop: Luang Prabang, Laos where I wrote about how I spent six days in Luang Prabang and how much I spent during my six days there. You can also check out my highlights from my trip to Luang Prabang on my IG @tnadeperalta.
If you have any questions, feel free to write them down in the comments section. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. Follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. Happy travels and stay safe!