The mesmerising city of Luang Prabang in Laos, is filled with golden temples, vibrant night markets and lush turquoise waterfalls. Based between the Mekong River and Nam Khan River, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most spiritual cities in Southeast Asia. If you’re wondering what to do in Luang Prabang check out this travel guide and add these awesome things to do in Luang Prabang Laos to your bucket list.
Things To Know Before You Visit Luang Prabang Laos
How to Get a Visa for Laos
Whilst it’s possible to get an e-visa before arriving in the country, the Laos visa on arrival is the quickest and cheapest way to get a tourist visa. The visa can be obtained if you’re arriving at either Luang Prabang airport, Vientiane airport or 25 other border checkpoints surrounding Laos. The visa on arrival for Laos is available for most nationalities and only requires 1 passport photo and US dollars for the application fee. The Laos visa on arrival fee varies between 30 USD to 40 USD depending on your nationality (UK and US citizens are currently $35) plus 1 USD for the visa service fee. Tourist visas in Laos last for 30 days.
What Currency Does Laos Accept
The currency in Laos is the Lao Kip, and the exchange rate is approximately 9000 LAK to 1 USD. There are plenty of places to exchange money in Luang Prabang, however they offer different rates dependent on the denomination of the bill. $100 bills will get a better rate than smaller bills, to counteract this, bring larger denomination USD bills with you and shop around for the best exchange rates. It is also possible to exchange GBP, EUR and other major currencies into Laos Kip.
When to Visit Luang Prabang Laos
The best time to visit Luang Prabang is during the dry season from October to April. This is the most popular and expensive time to visit, but there are more things to do in Luang Prabang, like visiting Kuang Si falls and doing outdoor yoga.
In April, Luang Prabang celebrates Lao New Year by having a water festival. The celebrations last three days and the streets of Luang Prabang turn into one big water fight. You can expect to be drenched wherever you go, as water is said to bring joy, luck, happiness and safety in the coming year.
How Long to Spend in Luang Prabang Laos
You can stay anywhere between three to seven nights in Luang Prabang, depending on how much time you want to spend relaxing. However, four or five nights allows enough time for most of the things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos.
What to Pack for a Trip to Luang Prabang Laos
As well as the usual holiday packing list make sure you don’t skip the following packing essentials for Laos:
- Clothes that cover your shoulders and knees so you can visit the Buddhist temples.
- Swimming costume and water shoes to enjoy the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls
- European plug adapter with two round pins for Laos
- Backpack or duffel bag, as the roads in Laos aren’t built for wheeled suitcases
- Travel insurance that covers all the adventurous things to do in Luang Prabang
How to get to Luang Prabang Province
- Fly to Luang Prabang International Airport on several international carriers such as Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.
- Drive to Luang Prabang from Vang Vieng or Vientiane. Minivans from Vientiane to Luang Prabang cost 180,000 Kip and take 8 to 10 hours. Minivans from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang take 4 hours, cost 100,000 Kip, and run five times a day, 7am, 9am, 12pm, 2pm and 3pm.
- Cruise to Luang Prabang from Houay Xay in Thailand. A two day slow boat runs along the Mekong River to Luang Prabang and is often described as one of the best boat journeys in Southeast Asia.
How to get around Luang Prabang
The best way to explore Luang Prabang is on foot or in a tuk tuk. Rides are cheap but most places in Luang Prabang can be walked to in only half an hour.
Where to stay in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang has plenty of choices for accommodation, from luxury (often located far from town) to hostels. I visited Luang Prabang during peak season so opted for a mid-priced hotel that was centrally located.
MyLaoHome is set in a colonial house and is only a short walk away from the Luang Prabang Night market, the Royal Palace, Mount Phousi and the Mekong River. On top of that Luang Prabang International Airport is only a 20 minute drive away. Guests at MyLaoHome can enjoy complimentary breakfast, free WIFI, air conditioning and free water.
MyLaoHome has a 24-hour front desk which is great for organising massage treatments at the in-house spa (with an extra 10% discount for guests) and local tours and shuttle services around Laos.
Location: MyLaoHome, 4-5 Hua Xieng Village, Luang Prabang Laos
15 Best Things to do in Luang Prabang
1. Explore Kuang Si Falls
One of the most famous points of interest in Laos is Kuang Si waterfalls. Located 30km from Luang Prabang town centre, the cascading waterfalls are open daily from 8am to 5.30pm. There are several sections you can swim in so be sure to bring your GoPro and capture some underwater shots in the crystal clear waters of Kuang Si.
The entrance fee for the waterfalls is 20,000 Kip (approx. USD 2.25). There are plenty of minivans that run between Luang Prabang and Kuang Si Falls several times a day for 50,000 Kip for the return journey. Minivans stay for 2.5 hours which gives you plenty of time to explore the waterfalls, swim in the crystal clear water and visit the Moon Bear sanctuary, another popular thing to do in Luang Prabang.
2. Visit the Moon Bears
Whilst exploring the Kuang Si waterfalls, make sure you carve out some time to visit the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre and support the work the charity do to take care of more than 70 moon bears.
Many of the bears were destined for bile farms or kept illegally as pets. However since 2003, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre has been a safe haven for the moon bears, where they can relax in hammocks, play with new friends and live a safe, healthy life. You can support the rescue centre by purchasing T-shirts, making donations or joining a Bear Care tour – one of the most unique things to see in Luang Prabang.
3. Stop by the Buffalo Dairy Farm
Stop for buffalo ice cream on your way to, or from Kuang Si Waterfalls. Ask your minivan driver to stop at the small hut on the side of the road, selling traditional and seasonal flavours of ice cream (I recommend the lemongrass and coconut), as well as buffalo mozzarella, feta, ricotta, blue cheese, and yoghurts. There is an outdoor space to enjoy your snacks, and if you have more time join the 45 minute tour of the buffalo farm and learn about the work they do there for the local community.
Location: Laos Buffalo Dairy, Ban Muang Khay, Luang Prabang Laos
4. Hike Mount Phousi During the Day
High above Luang Prabang is the famous Mount Phousi. It is popular amongst tourists for its elevated sunset views of the Mekong river. Whilst the sunset experience is beautiful, I suggest going earlier in the day to enjoy Mount Phousi without the crowds.
If you can handle the heat, head up to the top of the mountain via the steeper, back route (not via the main entrance opposite the Royal Palace). The back route starts close to the Bamboo bridge, and has the same entrance fee of 20,000 Kip. This hidden gem of a trail, is relatively unknown and only used by monks and locals. The views are beautiful and the trail is filled with golden buddhas and temples, that you’ll likely get to explore all on your own.
5. Enjoy Sunset on a Mekong River Cruise
One of the best things to do in Luang Prabang, Laos is the Khopfa Sunset Mekong River cruise. The cruise takes place every evening from the pier outside the Belle Rive Boutique Hotel, and involves two hours on board the beautiful luxury boat, decked out with sun beds and hammocks. The Khopfa cruise is unique as it has several terraces with 360 degree views of the Mekong River and is one of the most affordable things to do in Luang Prabang at only $15 USD!
Location: starts and ends outside the Belle Rive Boutique Hotel, 99 Baan Phonhueang, Luang Prabang Laos
6. Try a Laos Cooking Class
Luang Prabang is known across Laos for its cooking classes. The half day cooking class at Heuan Chan Heritage House, is a great way to learn about traditional Laos cuisine as well as the local way of life. Classes take place in the garden of the Heritage House, using fresh ingredients and herbs grown on site. The cooking class includes authentic and traditional everyday Laos dishes, and after you’ve cooked your three course meal you can sit down and enjoy your lunch. Favourites from the menu we created, were the lemongrass stuffed chicken and the mango sticky rice for desert!
Location: Heuan Chan Heritage House, Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang Laos
7. Shop at the Night Market
The Luang Prabang Night Market is open daily from 5pm until 11pm. During this time the roads are closed to vehicles and hundreds of colourful red and blue stalls are set up along the main street in Luang Prabang. Up to 300 vendors sell a range of goods from food and drink to clothing, homeware and souvenirs. You can spend hours roaming the streets, feasting on the mini coconut pancakes and admiring the goods on sale. I bought a painting and eyed up a few cushion covers but didn’t have space for them as I was travelling around Asia for 17 days with only hand luggage!
8. Visit the Buddhist Temples in Luang Prabang Laos
There are 33 temples (or wats) sprinkled around Luang Prabang. Most are home to monks and can be visited fairly freely as long as you’re dressed appropriately and act respectfully. The best temples to visit are the Royal Palace Museum Luang Prabang and Wat Xieng Thong. Some have entry fees and are only open for a few hours a day so check before you visit, however I recommend heading over to any of the Buddhist temples at around 6pm so you can experience the monks and novices taking part in their daily prayers and chants.
9. Experience Almsgiving in Luang Prabang Laos
The daily almsgiving ceremony is a 600 year old tradition. It takes place at sunrise, beginning on the main street and spreading out to the side streets around the town of Luang Prabang. If you want to get involved, buy a pot of sticky rice from one of the local vendors, and find a spot on one of the empty stools to wait for the monks. Make sure you don’t make physical contact with the monks and dress appropriately with your shoulders, and legs covered.
10. Try Sunrise Yoga Outdoors
The best way to start the day in this spiritual town, is with a serene view of the Nam Khan river. Luang Prabang Yoga offer daily sunrise yoga classes at Utopia at 7.30am. Drop in classes are 40,000 Kip for one hour and mats are provided.
Location: Utopia, Ban Aphay, Kingkitsarath Road, Luang Prabang Laos
11. Experience Sunset Along the Banks of the Mekong River
One of the best free things to do in Luang Prabang is wander along the banks of the Mekong River at sunset. It can take half an hour to walk all the way along the riverbank, and the golden hues at this time of day are perfect for photography. There are also plenty of places for dinner and drinks along the banks if you want to stay awhile in one place.
12. Enjoy Dinner and Drinks at The Spirit House
One of the best things to do in Luang Prabang at night is to visit The Spirit House. With a sister restaurant in Vientiane, The Spirit House is known for its fusion of Lao and Western staples. The cocktail menu is the most extensive in Luang Prabang and I can highly recommend the National Day Martini, uniquely decorated with an edible Laos flag.
The Spirit House serves everything from tapas to salads, and wraps to buddha bowls. Portions are hearty, and dishes are designed to provide healthy food options for visitors. I can recommend the Kai Hin (crispy river weed specialty in Luang Prabang), the Moo Hom Paa (Laos version of pigs in blankets) and the meat and lemongrass crispy spring rolls.
Location: The Spirit House Luang Prabang, Baan Hua Xieng, Luang Prabang Laos
13. Volunteer at Big Brother Mouse
The perfect way to volunteer in Laos, especially if you are low on time, is to visit Big Brother Mouse. You can either help by purchasing books to be distributed to schools or by volunteering your time to help the youth of Laos practise their English, at the Big Brother Mouse drop in centre in Luang Prabang.
Located close to the Popolo restaurant, Big Brother Mouse is open twice daily from 9 to 11am and 5 to 7pm. You will be paired with young adults, monks, and novices who want to practise their English with native speakers, so this is a great opportunity for you to ask about Laos culture and share your own experiences.
Location: Big Brother Mouse, Phayaluangmeungchan Road Wat Nong, Luang Prabang Laos
14. Have a Traditional Laos Massage
Luang Prabang is a great place to get a cheap massage. The spa at MyLaoHome has opening hours from 1pm to 10pm and offers several different types of massage. I can personally recommend the traditional Laos massage, which is similar to a Thai massage, and costs 100, 000 kip an hour. Remember guests of MyLaoHome get an extra 10% discount!
Location: MyLaoHome Spa, 4-5 Hua Xieng Village, Luang Prabang Laos
15. Cross the Bamboo Bridge
One of the most unique things to do in Luang Prabang is cross the Nam Khan River on the rickety Bamboo Bridge. The bridge gets washed away each rainy season, and the 5,000 Kip crossing fee, helps local families rebuild the structure each year. On the other side of the Nam Khan river, is an open air restaurant with local dishes, including a delicious aubergine dip. The floor cushions at the restaurant are perfect for watching travellers and monks cross the wobbly bridge. A visit to the bamboo bridge can be accompanied by the hike up to the top of Mount Phousi using the back route.
Location: Bamboo Bridge over Nam Khan river, Kingkitsarath Road, Luang Prabang Laos