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Luang Prabang...Absolutely beautiful countryside! The Mekong River, Pak Ou Caves, Luang Si Waterfalls.

Luang Prabang

My favorite part of the country. A wonderful little town on the Mekong River with some nice temples and the presidential palace, plenty of lodging and markets and restaurants. But, getting out of the town to the surrounding areas is the real highlight.  To the east are the Kuang Si waterfalls, to the west are the Pak Ou caves.

Getting there

There are 3 ways to get into and out of Luang Prabang.

The easiest, and most expensive, is by plane.  The airport is well served here with direct flights from Hanoi, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Prices can be quite affordable and sometimes under $50.  With more luggage, expect to spend closer to $100

By train

There is a new high speed train line (Laos China Rail) that goes through Luang Prabang down to the capital, Vientaine.  This seems like a very good way to travel, but as of 2022, it is still quite hard to buy a ticket as a foreigner. There are 3 ways to purchase...first, there is a ticket office in town that sells tickets 1-3 days ahead, but you cannot use cash or credit..  You have to use a local payment system, so it is not used by tourists. Second, you can go directly to the station to purchase, but the station is a 15 minute drive north of town, and the lines at the station will have you waiting for hours...yes...hours!  When I went, the line for same day travel was much shorter, but nearly all the tickets were already sold out, so you would be taking quite a chance.  Third is you can use a ticket service.  What this basically gets you is somebody else buying your ticket either at the office or station, and you pay a premium.  The downside here is that you will pay them for a ticket, and they will go get whatever is available.  So, you may not get the train or seating class that you wanted. 

If you choose this route, and get a seat, you will save money.  this option will cost $20-$30.

By boat or bus

These are the most affordable, and also the slowest options.  Taking a boat down the Mekong from Luang Prabang, or taking the bus...both options will take about 11 hours from Vientiane. Certainly a great money saving option for a back packer, but the least comfortable option. 

Getting around Luang Prabang

Getting from the airport will likely be a taxi ride. Expect to do a shared taxi as there are not enough taxis to handle the needs of everyone getting off the flight. There will be counters where you pay for the taxi, and get a ticket. in 2022, I paid about $9 US for the taxi into town. But, I only paid less than $6 back to the airport when my hotel called for a ride, and not in a shared taxi. So, I obviously paid a tourist premium on arrival.

After arriving in town, it is pretty manageable by foot. The area of town you will likely be visiting is less than a half hour walk to anywhere, and much shorter for most things.  It is when you want to get outside of town that you will need transport. Most tourists will join tour groups to places like the Kuang Si Falls. But, I rented a scooter for about $7 US per day, and spent about $3 US for petrol per day. I loved the options of having the freedom for just 10 bucks per day.  I can stop and go when and where I want.  

If you want to get around the edges of town, but not too far outside, you can also rent a bicycle.  There are not nearly as many choices for bikes as there are for scooters, but you can visit Thanaboun Bike Rental on Sasavangvong Road in the center of town. Keep in mind, this is a tough option for places like the falls. it will be a long, hot ride! Maybe stick with a scooter. 

view over Luang Prabang
Royal Palace Luang Prabang
Kuang Si waterfalls Laos
Wat Wisunarat Luang Prabang
Haw Pha Bang Luang Prabang Laos
Kuang Si waterfalls Laos
Pak Ou Caves Laos
ferry across Mekong at Pak Ou Caves Laos
Mekong at Pak Ou Laos
Kuang Si waterfalls Laos


Compared to the other capital cities in SE Asia, this is small and runs at a slow pace. But, the downside is that there isn't a lot to see or do here. 

If you do stop here and spend a little time, you will be comforted by the fact that there a ton of restaurants and markets.  And, the restaurants run the spectrum from French, to Italian, to Swedish and German, etc. There are clearly many expats here.

The waterfront becomes quite a lively place after dark, but during the day, your options are limited.  



Chao Anouvong Park 

Riverfront park that is also home to the Night Market. This market gets lively, it is literally a carnival atmosphere.   

Ho Phrakeo Museum

Just a couple blocks in from the river, this museum is a former temple, built in 1565 for the Emerald Buddha which is now in Bangkok. 


 Patuxay Park and Victory Monument

small park in the middle of the highway featuring an impressive arch. that is a 1960's war memorial. 

Pha That Luang

Historic 44 meter high gold Buddhist stupa with multiple levels inside a walled enclosure.

Getting around Vientiane

I took the easy way into town, and flew from Luang Prabang. But, including my checked bag, the flight was only $118 in 2022. So, that was worth it to me to avoid 11 hours on the river sitting on a wood plank. But, the cost of a slow boat would have been only $20-25 US. 

I can honestly say that if I ever return, I will likely take the slow boat on the next visit. Mostly for the experience  and the scenery. I wish I had done it the first time.

After arriving in Vientiane, the airport is about 6 kilometers from the center of town, so you will need a taxi. I paid about $8 US in 2022. 

You can, of course, rent a car while in town, but I never felt the need for one. After all, Vientiane isn't that large.  But, if you choose to do that, this capitol will be the easiest one in SE Asia to drive around in. 

Vientiane Laos
Pha That Luang Vientiane Laos
KIng Anouvong statue Vientiane Laos
Vientiane carnival Laos
fountain and Patuxay Monument Laos
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