Laos Budget Travel Guide

You wouldn't expect it, since Laos' tourism industry isn't as booming as Thailand's, but it's an amazing country to visit. I'm not sure why people don't visit it more, since it absolutely surprised me. It's filled with beautiful mountains, lush greenery, scenic rushing rivers as well as bustling cities. Not to mention, its French-influence makes their coffee and pastries incredibly delicious. 

Thankfully, Laos isn't as crowded as other Southeast Asian countries. Because of that, I found Laos' culture to be more well-preserved from Western influences. Unfortunately, it's one of the more expensive Southeast Asian countries. So, don't be surprised if your costs are higher. 

Transportation 

Okay, so their transportation system is outdated and kind of sucks. And by sucks, I mean it's a slow, dangerous and bumpy ride. The roads aren't too great and have many potholes. I also found the transportation system to be more expensive. For example, a three hour bus ride ended up costing around 50,000 - 60,000 kip. 

Mini-bus 

Taking a mini-bus is the fastest way to get to different cities. It's easy to book them at a guesthouse or a bus station. Booking at a guesthouse is more convenient since you don't have to make a trip to the station, but you'll be paying a little more (usually just 10,000 kip). If you book at a bus station, it'll be cheaper, but the buses might be full when you get there. 

Depending on your driver, these rides can be a little crazy as they get aggressive and overtake other cars with no hesitation. 

Tuk-Tuks

Getting around a city or to an attraction is easiest by tuk-tuk. They're everywhere, so it's easy to find one. Make sure to ask for pricing and bargain with the driver if you think it's too expensive. Asking other travellers to share a tuk-tuk with you can also cut down on costs. Just note that for attractions, tuk-tuk drivers will wait for it to be full before departing. 

Boat

Some towns will be located by the river, so you'll have the option of using a boat to get to them. We took the two-day slow boat trip from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. Depending where you are in Laos, some attractions will need a boat to get to them. Also, in northern Laos, you would need to take a boat to some villages. 

Here are some transit guides for the places we went to: 

  1. Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang
  2. Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw
  3. Nong Khiaw/Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
  4. Vang Vieng to Vientiane

Cities/Towns

Here are the travel guides to the places we visited:

Luang Prabang: A smaller city than Vientiane, but it has tons of activities to do. Kuang Si Waterfall is beautiful and worth the visit. 

Nong Khiaw: This small town in northern Laos has some pretty sweet views. It's nestled along Nam Ou river, surrounded by limestone mountains. 

Vang Vieng: This is the party central of Laos, best known for it's river tubing, caves and adventure treks. 

Vientiane: The bustling capital city of Laos is filled with delicious food. However, there aren't too many things to see. 

Food

Lao food is similar to Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, but with a twist. Here are some of the things we tried. 

Appetizers

  • Fresh Spring Rolls: Fresh greens, noodles and meat are wrapped in rice paper and dipped with a chili fish sauce. These are similar to the Vietnamese spring rolls, but have a different type of meat. Just be careful, since some of the ones we bought were a little dry because they've been left out all day. 10,000 - 15,000 kip. 
  • Spicy Green Papaya Salad: It's a fresh salad that's salty, sweet and spicy. It's made with green papaya, tomatos, fish sauce and chilies. 10,000 - 15,000 kip. 

Mains

  • Laap/larb with sticky rice: It's a minced meat (chicken, pork, beef or fish) salad with mint leaves, fish sauce and lime juice. We love it most with sticky rice. It's a good meal to share. It's usually 30,000 kip and 5,000 kip for sticky rice. 
  • BBQ meats: Meats-on-a-stick can be found everywhere on the streets. There's usually chicken, pork, beef, fish and sausages. Be careful with some of the meats being dry from being overcooked. It can range from 10,000 kip - 40,000 kip depending what you get. 
  • Riverweed with sticky rice: If you like seaweed, you'll probably like riverweed. It looks like a green mushy blob, but it's actually quite tasty. We tried it at our hostel, so I have no idea how much it usually costs. I haven't seen it on too many menus. 
  • Lao Sandwiches: We found these mostly sold on the streets in bigger cities. The ones sold in Vang Vieng seemed more westernized whereas the ones in Vientiane seem more authentic. Both are delicious. The cheapest ones are in Vientiane (5,000 - 10,000 kip) and the pricier ones are in Vang Vieng (10,000 - 40,000 kip). 

Desserts

  • Laos Coffee: Found pretty much everywhere. It's hard to be in Laos without trying it. Try the iced ones with condensed milk! 7,000 - 15,000 kip.
  • Rotee/Paratha: You can find this in other parts of Southeast Asia. It's our favourite street dessert. It's deep-fried and offers different fillings and toppings. Our favourite is banana and chocolate with condensed milk on top. 12,000 - 15,000 kip. 
  • Sweet Coconut Cakes: You can also find this in other parts of Southeast Asia. Usually found at street vendors, they are sweet, creamy and chewy snacks. 10,000 kip 

Costs

Laos is a little pricier than its surrounding neighbours, but don't let that deter you from visiting. It's still quite cheap. 

Our everyday budget ended up being 163, 000 kip per person. Note that we didn't do any tours since all of our adventures are self-guided. We also didn't drink that much, since those costs would add up, but we did get shakes/coffee most days. We like to share our dishes and do not eat more than two meals a day.

Transportation: Pricier than Thailand. 

Food: Pricer than Thailand. Eating Laos food is cheaper than Western food. 

  • 1.5 litre bottle of water = 5,000 kip
  • Bowl of noodles or rice soup = 15,000 kip
  • Laap = 30,000 kip
  • Sticky rice = 5,000 kip
  • Oreos (check the expiry date!) = 10,000 kip
  • Drinks = 10,000 kip

Accommodation: Guesthouses are the most popular form of budget accommodation. Although, it's cheaper if you travel with two people, since you can share the cost of the room. There aren't as many hostels with dorm style here, so your choices would be limited to only a few places if you're solo. Accommodation ranged from 60,000 kip - 120,000 kip for private rooms, depending which city we were in.

Overall, costs are cheaper in smaller towns (Nong Khiaw and Vang Vieng) and pricier in big cities (Luang Prabang and Vientiane). We found that it was better to hang out in smaller towns if you're taking rest or lounging days. 

Also, if you're looking to cut down costs, you can find accommodation and food that's a farther out from the city centre. 

Visa

You'll need a tourist visa to get into Laos. The prices differ depending on what your nationality is. However, I noticed Canadians pay the most at $42 USD. 

You can get the visa at the border crossing, so no need to worry about it beforehand. You can read more about our experiences here

Notes:

  • For accommodation, we usually look up a few places to stay before we head to the next city, so we know what to tell the tuk-tuk driver. You don't have to book in advance, as we never really had a problem with just showing up and asking for a room. If you're up for it, it's better to shop around for a room before committing online. But some days, the travel will tire you out and you'll go with the first place that's affordable and clean. 
  • If you stay in the city centre, most places have everything you need within walking distance. Only the bus station would be located far enough that taking a tuk tuk is worth the money. 
  • The people are friendly here. We've never really had a problem with anyone. They'll try to help you out if you're lost. Just be careful with people trying to scam you for money.
  • Transportation runs on their own time. Almost always, it's late. Usually it's because they're picking up other people. So, if you're planning to catch another bus after, you probably won't make it.
  • Be cautious if you're out late. Try to stay in groups to be safe. 
  • Always buy bottled water to drink and have spare toilet paper. Be prepared to squat at some washrooms - usually the rest stops on the bus. 

Happy Travelling!

 

Travel Guide and Tips: Vientiane

Vientiane is the capital city of Laos. Even though it's a big bustling city, there isn't much to do here unless you want see the architecture and food. If you want to see Vientiane, I'd suggest only staying here for a night or two. But you're better off somewhere else for activities. 

Things to do

1) Buddha Park

Buddha Park is a quirky place with a mix of Buddhist and Hindu statues. It doesn't make too much sense, but that's the best part about it. Walk around to explore the area and head up the giant pumpkin for a view of the park. 

To get there, take the Number 14 bus at the central bus station. It costs 6,000 kip one-way and takes an hour to get there. 

2) Patuxai Arch (Arc de Triomphe replica)

Located in the city centre is a replica of the Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Like the original, It even has the roundabout, but it's a lot less hectic. You can pay an entrance fee to walk up the stairs to see a view of the city. 

3) Pha That Luang Temple

The Great Golden Stupa is a national monument for Vientiane. There's a entrance fee of 5,000 kip to enter the gate to see the stupa. Other parts of the temple are free, so you can wander around and find the giant Buddha. 

4) Night Market

Opening at sunset, the night market has a mix of clothing, food and knick-knacks. Walk down the street if you want to find the food vendors. Some will have tables and chairs and others will just be the stand. 

Where to eat

Market by the bus station

Looking for cheap eats? Head to the markets across the bus station for a sandwich! They're only 5,000 kip. It makes a great breakfast or lunch. You can also purchase fresh fruits here too. 

Vieng Nem Nueng 

If you like Vietnamese Nem Nuong (sausage pork) and egg rolls, head here for lunch or dinner. It's pretty affordable at 20,000 kip per serving. The serving comes with noodles, nem nuong or egg rolls, fresh vegetables and dipping sauces so you can make your own lettuce wraps. It's makes a delicious and healthy meal. 

Where to stay

Mixay Paradise Guesthouse

It's a budget guesthouse with a feel of a hotel. The many employees work around the clock and are always there to help you out. They have free coffee and bread between 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. In the afternoons, if you sit at the tables, they'll give you a coupon for a free slice of cake and drink. They also clean your room everyday and give you fresh towels. 

  • Private room with fan and shared bathroom = 100,000 kip
  • Private room with A/C = 140,000 kip. 

Happy Travelling! 

Visiting Buddha Park in Vientiane

Buddha Park makes no sense, which is why I like it. It's a park filled with Buddhist and Hindu statues about 25 kilometres from Vientiane. It was created in 1958 by a shaman-priest who integrated Buddhism and Hinduism. So, you'll see themes of both throughout the park. 

The park itself isn't that big, but you can spend some time observing the 200 or so statues. Head up the pumpkin for a full view of the park. Note that the stairs are really steep and the ceiling is a little low. So if you're tall, you're going to have a bad time. 

How to get there

Taking the public bus is the cheapest way to get there. You'll need to take Bus 14, which is located across the street from the main bus terminal on the market side. It's a green coach bus. The ride costs 6,000 kip one-way and takes about an hour. The bus is pretty nice and has leather seats as well as A/C. You'll know when to get off because you'll see the iconic statues. 

To get home, wait at the bus station across the street from the park. There is a stand that offers cold drinks as well. The bus comes about every 20 minutes. 

Notes:

  • There's an entrance fee of 5,000 kip and it's 3,000 kip for a camera. If you ride a scooter there, there's a parking fee of 5,000 kip. 
  • The park is opened from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • You can also take a tuk tuk or arrange with a tour company to get there, but it'll cost more. 

Happy Exploring!

 

Transit Guide: Vang Vieng to Vientiane

As the capital city of Laos, Vientiene is filled with Buddhist temples and French architecture. It's bustling streets make it a perfect spot for travellers looking for big city comforts. 

How to get there?

If you walk around Vang Vieng, there are tons of shops offering bus tickets. Shop around for a decent price. We noticed most of the pricing was between 40,000 - 70,000 kip. It depends on the timing and what type of bus you take. We ended up taking a mini-bus for 50,000 kip. It was pretty late picking us up, so we had terrible seats. 

The bus ride was decent overall. The winding roads were very bumpy, but we've started getting used to it. We've come to accept that Laos roads aren't the greatest. The ride takes around three hours to get there with a short washroom and snack break. The ride wasn't too scenic, so feel free to use it as nap time. 

Happy Travelling! 

Travel Guide and Tips: Vang Vieng

Located in central Laos, Vang Vieng is a small town located by the river. It's known for parties, river tubing and adventurous activities. 

Things to do

1) Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham Cave

The beautiful blue water makes Blue Lagoon a popular attraction in Vang Vieng. There's also a tree you can jump off as well. We personally didn't like it too much because it was overcrowded. However, Tham Phu Kham Cave is amazing! There's a Buddhist shrine, but it was defaced when we got there. So please be respectful. You can rent a headlamp for 10,000 kip. 

There's an entrance fee of 10,000 kip. 

2) River tubing

This is the most popular attraction in Vang Vieng. Tubing costs 55,000 kip with a deposit of 60,000 kip. They drop you off upstream and pick you up down the river. It's the perfect activity for a lazy hot day. 

This used to be party central for backpackers, but now many of the bars along the river have closed down due to safety concerns. But don't let that stop you from having a good time! 

3) Caves

There's so many caves to choose from. Grab a bike and cross the bridge to the other side of the river. If you take a left and bike along the same path for Blue Lagoon, there are many signs for different caves along the way. If you take a right, then you'll head towards Lusi Cave - there's a lagoon in the cave, but it's pitch black. 

4) Adventure treks 

There's so many adventure treks to choose from: kayaking, caving, rafting, zip-lining, biking tours, tubing and visiting waterfalls. Head to any tour agency to learn more. 

5) Hot Air Balloon

For around $80 USD, you can go on a hot air balloon ride over Vang Vieng. Take a sunrise or a sunset ride for beautiful view. We heard it's about a half hour ride. It's also good to check the weather to see if it's hazy or not. 

Where to eat

Amigo's Vang Vieng

If you have a Mexican food craving, you can get your fix here. From tacos and quesadillas to fajitas and Chimichangas, Amigo's has it all. Try the supreme tacos and nachos! 

Luang Prabang Bakery

This bakery has everything you need: baked goodies, good atmosphere and reliable Wi-Fi. However, it does come with a price. A brownie cost us 30,000 kip and ice coffee was 20,000 kip. 

 
 

Food Stands

These can be found all over the streets in Vang Vieng. Make sure to try a sandwich before you leave. They're pretty filling and range from 10,000 kip to 30,000 kip. Fruit shakes are 10,000 kip. 

 
 

Local Restaurants

The local restaurants are pretty cheap. Fruit shakes are 5,000 - 7,000 kip and dishes range between 15,000 - 45,000 kip. The best part about them are the comfortable lounging tables you can sit at. They also play Friends re-runs all day, so we ended up spending a little too much time there. 

Where to stay

Dokboua Guesthouse

It's hard to beat the price for a private room at 60,000 kip. It's a small room with little space, but decent enough if you're on a budget. Just note that they advertise hot water, but our shower was cold. So make sure you check before committing to the room. 

Happy Travelling! 

Biking to Blue Lagoon and Tham Phu Kham Cave in Vang Vieng

Blue Lagoon is a popular attraction in Vang Vieng, with many travellers visiting every day. In fact, I noticed that Blue Lagoon gets too over crowded with tourists, making it unappealing and hard to enjoy. However, Tham Phu Kham Cave definitely makes up for it. 

How to get there

First things first, you need a bike. Head to any rental shop to pick one of these bad boys up. We paid 25,000 kip for ours. 

Cross the bridge by Vanphaxay restaurant and take a left turn going along the river. From here, the road is pretty rocky and you might see cow poop, so watch where you're biking. Head down the river until you reach the fork in the road. Keep right at the fork and cross the bridge. Look out for signs if you get lost.

Continue down the rocky trail along the river.

Cross the bridge here to continue.

From here, continue on the dirt road. Along the way, you'll bike past villages and the countryside with beautiful mountain views. There will be signs along the way for different caves, so feel free to check those out if you're up for it. Please keep in mind that you may be required to pay entrance fees at each one (10,000 kip). The bike ride is fairly easy since it's mostly flat with a bit of uphill and downhill. However, the roads are not well-maintained and the bikes aren't too great either. It might be wise to wear sunglasses to cover your eyes from the dust. 

The bike ride is approximately 7 kilometres one-way and takes about 30-45 minutes, depending how often you stop for pictures. Once you get there, there's a entrance fee of 10,000 kip. 

Blue Lagoon

We didn't really like this. It's a crowded river that's a beautiful shade of blue. There's also a tree you can jump off of too, which is pretty refreshing after the bike ride. However, we didn't stay very long. 

Tham Phu Kham Cave

This cave is spectacular and you should see it if you're in the area. Before you head up to the cave, there's a stand where you can rent a headlamp for 10,000 kip. 

Head up the steep rocky stairs to reach the mouth of the cave. Be careful as you make your way around because it can get slippery. There will be orange arrows to guide your way to the back of the cave. Once you get there, turn off your lights and take it all it. It's very serene, but scary if you're alone. 

NOtes:

  • Be careful of people trying to guide you in the cave. They expect a hefty tip. 

Happy Adventuring! 


Transit Guide: Nong Khiaw to Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng is a little town located in central Laos. Known for its wild parties, river tubing and numerous adventurous activities, it's no wonder that it's a popular destination. 

How to get there

From Nong Khiaw, we took a mini-bus to Luang Prabang. If you buy from the bus station, it costs 37,000 kip to get to the North Bus Station and 55,000 kip to get to the South Bus Station. We originally wanted to buy the cheaper ticket, but when we got there, it was sold out. So, it might be worth it to buy the ticket in advance from a guesthouse. We noticed that Delilah's Place sells it for 40,000 kip. Just note that the times vary for the bus. It leaves when it's full - earlier or later than advertised. The bus takes three - four hours get to Luang Prabang. 

Once we got to Luang Prabang, we ended up having to stay there one night because we wanted to break up the travel time. So, we booked a bus from our guesthouse at 8:30 a.m for 120,000 kip (including the tuk tuk ride to the station). Buying the ticket from the bus station is cheaper, but you might risk it running out of seats. The bus ride takes closer to four-five hours with a half hour stop for a food and washroom break. 

The bus ride is pretty scenic with gorgeous mountain views, but it's also extremely terrifying. There's one part where you drive along the mountainside with steep drops. The drivers can be very aggressive and pass cars on this road if they're driving too slow. 

We arrived in Vang Vieng in one piece!

Happy Travelling

Travel Guide and Tips: Nong Khiaw

The small town in northern Laos is probably my favourite. It's located by the Nam Ou River surrounded by limestone mountains. It's absolutely breathtaking, fairly cheap and filled with friendly locals. What's not to love? 

Things to do

1) Nong Khiaw Viewpoint

For a beautiful view, hike up to the top of the Viewpoint. The strenuous three hour hike is definitely worth the effort. There's a 20,000 kip entrance fee which includes a water bottle and a bamboo walking stick. 

2) Pha Tok Caves

Originally used as a hideout during the Indochina war in the 1960s, these caves have an interesting history. From the city centre, you can walk (45 minutes) or bike (20 minutes) to the caves. There are three caves you can visit, although the main one is much more impressive than the two smaller ones. There's a 10,000 kip entrance fee. 

3) Trip to Muang Ngoi Neua Village

The small village is located about an hour boat ride from Nong Khiaw. Some treks will offer to go there for a day trip. If you're looking to do it on your own, you'll have to spend a night there since there's no boat leaving from Muang Ngoi Village in the evening. However, I hear it's an amazing little village.

4) Different Treks

There's several different treks and tours advertised across the town. The popular ones are Tiger Trail's 100 Waterfalls Trek as well as the day trip to Muang Ngoi Neua (boat ride to the village, swimming in the waterfalls and kayaking back to Nong Khiaw). 

Food

Joy's Restaurant 

Located by Sunrise Guesthouse, this was our go-to restaurant for Wi-Fi. On top of that, the food was pretty tasty and cheap. Get the ice coffee with sweetened milk! 

Delilah's Place

Located on by the bridge near the post office, Delilah's Place was a great breakfast and dessert spot! They also have pretty cheap accommodation (55,000 kip for a private room) and dorms. 

Deen's Restaurant 

This was our favourite place to eat. Eating delicious Indian food is such a delight after eating Laos and Thai food for weeks. It's pretty affordable at 12,000 kip for a vegetarian dish, 24,000 - 26, 0000 for a meat dish and 8,000 kip for naan. 

Places to stay

Nam Ou River Lodge

A little farther from the city centre, Nam Ou River Lodge is a an affordable place to stay. It's 100,000 kip for a private room with a washroom. It's a spacious room with a balcony. It has a pretty nice view by the river and its pretty quiet in the area. The wifi is a little spotty, but decent overall. 

There's no restaurant associated with the guesthouse, so you'll need to head to the city centre for food.

Sunrise Guesthouse 

Located next to the bridge, Sunrise Guesthouse is also an affordable place to stay. It's 80,000 kip for a private room with a washroom (flush toilet) and 50,000 kip for a room with a squatting toilet. 

It's located in the city centre, with restaurants, bars and activities just a short walk away. However, the walls are pretty thin between the rooms, so it can get kind of loud. Joy's Restaurant is part of the guesthouse, so you don't have to walk too far for decent food, drinks or Wi-Fi. 

Happy Travelling!

Hiking to Pha Tok Cave in Nong Khiaw

If you're in Nong Khiaw, visiting Pha Tok Cave is another affordable activity. The historic caves were originally used as a hideout during the Indochina war in the 1960s. 

How to get there

About 3 kilometres from the bridge, the cave is located past the Viewpoint. After about a 45 minute walk, you'll reach a sign for Pha Tok Caves on your right. 

There is an entrance fee of 10,000 kip. Take the path to the right, which will lead you to a makeshift bridge. When I say makeshift, I mean it's a tree with bamboo railings. 

From here, if you head right, you'll make it to a smaller cave you can climb around. If you head left, you'll need to climb the small ladder over the fence to get to the main cave. From here, head up the concrete stairs to the large cave that people used to hide from the bombs. Make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp because it gets pretty dark. 

From the large cave, if you keep taking the trail left, you'll reach a smaller cave that you can climb around in. Although, we noticed that the trail isn't maintained as well. It's also much smaller than the first two. So, I wouldn't say that it's necessary to visit. 

Finally, try not to let anyone guide you, as they'll expect a 50,000-80,000 kip tip. 

Happy Exploring!

Hiking to Nong Khiaw Viewpoint

If you're looking for a budget-friendly adventurous activity, hike up to the viewpoint. It offers a beautiful view of Nong Khiaw and the surrounding limestone mountains. 

How to get there

Getting to the beginning of the trail is pretty simple. Head past the bridge (on the guesthouse and restaurant side), and you'll find arrows pointing towards the viewpoint.

The entrance fee is 20,000 kip and includes a bamboo walking stick and a bottle of water. Part of the entrance fee goes back to the local community for maintaining it. The trail is opened from 6 a.m. - 4 p.m. Please note that you shouldn't veer away from the trail as there are unexploded bombs in the area from the war. 

From here, the hike takes roughly 1 - 1.5 hours to get to the viewpoint or three hours round-trip. It's a tough hike that takes you uphill to the top of the mountain. Be careful of the rocks and roots. There is rope at certain tricky sections to help keep you balanced. 

The best time to go is in the morning when it's cooler and cloudy. The clouds should clear up by mid-morning, so you'll have a gorgeous view at the top. 

Happy Adventuring!


Transit Guide: Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw

Nong Khiaw is town in northern Laos located by the Ou River, surrounded by limestone mountains. It's a quiet town that offers beautiful views. 

How to get there? 

The best way to get there is to take a bus. It costs around 50,000 - 60,000 kip and takes between 3-4 hours to get there. The roads are pretty bumpy, so be ready for a rocky ride. If you get a window seat, you'll see beautiful landscapes along the way, which will hopefully make up for how terrible the ride is. 

We bought our ticket from our guesthouse for 80,000 kip, which included our tuk tuk ride to the bus station (20,000 kip). Just note that if you decide to purchase at the bus station, you might not be able to get a seat during high season (Dec-Mar). 

When you reach Nong Khiaw, you'll get dropped off at the bus station. It costs 5,000 kip for a tuk tuk ride into town. The bus station is only 2km from the city centre, so feel free to save the money and walk it. Once you get past the bridge, there will be an abundance of guesthouses and restaurants. 

We stayed at Sunrise Guesthouse for 80,000 kip for a room with hot water, wifi and flush toilets. There's also a balcony with hammocks to lay on. 

Happy Travels

Travel Guide and Tips: Luang Prabang

Located in northern Laos, Luang Prabang is nestled in the mountainous region by the Mekong River. Here, you can find temples, nature, delicious food and beautiful architecture. 

Things to do

1) Explore Kuang Si Waterfalls

As one of the most popular attractions in Luang Prabang, Kuang Si Waterfalls' beautiful blue waters make it a worthy sight to see. You can hike, swim in the pools of water or eat at one of the delicious restaurants. What makes it even better is that Tat Khuang Si Rescue Centre is there, so you can meet the bears. It's like a 2-in-1 deal! The best way to get there is to take a tuk tuk for around 200,000 kip for the ride - it's better to split it with a group of people. Admission is 20,000 kip. 

2) Pak Ou Caves Buddha Caves

Pak Ou Caves is advertised throughout the city, but we heard it wasn't that impressive. Located along the Mekong river, the caves were used to store damaged Buddha statues and have become a tourist attraction. You can take a tuk tuk or a boat to get there (200,000 - 300,000 kip for the ride). Admission is 20,000 kip. 

Grabbed this picture when we passed by on the slow boat. 

3) Hike up Mount Phousi

If you want to get a view of the city, hike to the top of Mount Phousi. It's a short 15 minutes hike up the stairs. There's a Buddhist temple at the top. Admission is 20,000 kip.  

4) Catch the sunset by the Mekong River

The Mekong River runs beside the city and is a short walk away. 

5) Shopping at Night Market

The night market starts around 5 p.m. and ends around 10 p.m. If you're looking to do some shopping, head here for the night. You don't have to go through all of it, since most of the stalls get repetitive after a while. Most of the items are fixed (reasonable) prices, so don't bother negotiating. I prefer this night market over the ones in Thailand, since you don't feel as pressured to buy anything. 

6) Visiting the Temples and Royal Palace Museum 

Spend the day walking around the city to visit some of the temples. You can also check out the Royal Palace Museum to learn more about Laos history and culture. Admission fee is 10,000 kip. 

7) Alms Giving Ceremony

The Alms Giving Ceremony is a sacred Laos tradition that takes place everyday at around 6 a.m. Monks will walk the streets of Luang Prabang and receive alms from the locals, usually in the form of food for their daily meal. Please note that this is a respected ceremony and you should follow the rules if you observe: dress conservatively (shoulders and knees covered), don't use flash and keep silent. 

8) Try Laos coffee at one of the many cafes 

As its main export, Laos is known for its high quality coffee. Head to one of the many cafes to try a cup! 

9) Visit Utopia for a drink and then go bowling

Looking to try BeerLao? Head to Utopia for a drink! It has a beautiful view of the river and affordable drink prices. Since the bar closes around midnight, most people head to the bowling alley after to continue their night. 

Where to eat

Street Alley at the Night Market

This is one of our favourite spots in Luang Prabang. It's an alleyway of street food. From BBQ meat on a stick to an all-you-can-fill-up-on-a-plate buffet (vegetarian for 10,000 - 15,000 kip), there's a variety of dishes to taste. Try the fish, it's delicious!!  

Where to Stay

Sok Dee Guesthouse

Located by the Mekong River, Sok Dee Guesthouse advertises affordable rooms with Wi-Fi, hot showers, free coffee, tea and water, laundry services as well as a free dinner the first night you stay. They have three routers, which can be spotty at times, but they're decent. They also advertise a Western manager who can show you the special spot at Kuang Si Waterfalls

  • Basic private room with ensuite washroom = 120,000 kip
  • Standard private room with ensuite washrom = 160,000 kip
  • Four-bedroom dorm = 70,000 kip

Happy Exploring! 

 

Exploring Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang

Kuang Si Waterfalls is the most popular attraction in Luang Prabang, and rightly so. Its beautiful blue water, makes it a worthy attraction to see. Head here to swim in the pools of water, hike to the top or meet the bears. 

How to get there

The best way to get there is to grab a tuk tuk. It costs about 30,000 kip per person (round-trip), but the tuk tuk will wait for enough people before leaving. The ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get there. The driver will wait at the entrance for you to return before heading back, so you'll need to agree on a time as a group. 

Once you get there, there will be restaurants and food stands if you want to grab something to eat. Head up road and pay the entrance fee (20,000 kip) to get in. 

Free the Bears

As you walk towards the falls, you'll pass by Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre where you can visit the bears. There are signs with information about the bears and the rescue centre to learn more. You can also donate to the cause by purchasing a t-shirt! 

 

Hiking up Kuang Si Waterfalls

As you continue to head down the path, you'll be greeted by various pools of blue water, waterfalls and signs that teach you more about the fauna. You can stop here to dip into the water for a swim. Just note that it's better to dress conservatively, or you'll be stared at. 

If you want to hike up to the top, keep following the path, which is past the bridge. It's a short 20 minute hike to the stairs from here. We never went up the stairs, so we have no clue what the view is from there. 

**If you want to see the secret spot, don't head up the stairs, but go past it to the other side of the water. You'll need to head down the rocks from here, until you reach a pool of water and waterfall. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the spot from the stairs. If you head behind the waterfall, there's a little cave.

Happy adventuring! 

Credit for the cute picture goes to our friend, Warren!



Transit Guide: Taking the Slow Boat from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang

So you want get from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos on your own? It's actually not that bad once you understand the process. Just note that it takes 3 days to get there with the slow boat. 

You can also arrange a tour to get there that offers to book your travel and accommodation (for only 1 night), which costs around 1750 baht from Chiang Mai. But we decided against it after reading some reviews. We also preferred to book our own accommodation. 

This is how we did it. 

Step 1: Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong

Chiang Khong is the border town of Thailand along the Mekong River. The best way to get there is to take a bus.

Head to Arcade Station in Chiang Mai where you'll need to go to Terminal 3. Buy a ticket to Chiang Khong from Green Bus. As a note, you'll need to take a number and wait your turn to buy your ticket. 

Grab a number to join the queue. 

They flag your bag and staple the number to your ticket. It's like coat check for your bag! 

They have a bus at 8:30 a.m. (266 baht) and 2:30 p.m. (261 baht) for the First Class seating. It takes about 6 hours to get to Chiang Khong. There's no space to bring your pack on the bus with you, so you'll have to place it in the storage at the bottom of the bus. We felt safe leaving it there since they ticket your bag. 

During the ride, they give you a small water bottle and cookies. 

Once you get to Chiang Khong, spend the night here. We stayed at Baan Rimtaling Guest House which offers pretty decent and cheap accommodation. It was 350 baht (total) for a private room with washroom. And on top of that, the room overlooks the Mekong River. 


Step 2: Chiang Khong to Huay Xai (Border Crossing)

The Guest House we stayed in offers a shuttle service to the Friendship Bridge border for 50 baht per person at 8:30 a.m. every morning. If not, it's 100-150 baht per person to get to the border crossing with a tuk tuk. It takes about 15 minutes to get there. 

Once you get to the Chiang Khong Border office, head inside and they'll need to stamp you out. It was a quick process for us. 

From here, you'll need to buy a bus ticket to cross the bridge to get to Huay Xai. It costs 25 baht per person for the ticket. 

 Chiang Khong Border Office

Chiang Khong Border Office

Bus to cross the bridge

Once you get to Huay Xai, you'll need to get your visa. Fill out the two forms and hand your passport over to them to make your visa. You'll also need 1 passport picture (we did ours in Khao San Road for 150 baht for 8 pictures). After they're done processing it, you'll need to pay for it. For Canadians, it's $42 USD. But please note on weekends, they charge an extra $1 as an overtime fee. So, it was actually $43 USD for us, or 1740 Baht. The prices for the visa vary depending what your nationality is. But I know Canadians pay the most. 

Apply for your visa at the right window. When it's ready, you can pay for it at the left window. 

Before you leave the border office, you can use one of the ATMs there to take out Laos currency (Kip). They also take baht as well, so if you still have baht you want to use, feel free! 

From here, you'll need to take a tuk tuk to get to the slow boats. It's 100 baht, non-negotiable and takes about 15 minutes to get there. 

Step 3: Taking the Slow Boat from Huay Xai to Pakbeng

Once your tuk tuk drops you off, head up to the ticket office to purchase your ticket. It costs 110,000 kip per person to get from Huay Xai to Pakbeng. Each ticket comes with a number that corresponds to your seat, so it's best to get there early to purchase. We didn't luck out, and were one of the last people to board. So, we were stuck in the engine room, which is loud, hot and smells like fuel. 

It's a 6 hour boat ride from here with a few stops along the way to drop off and pick up locals. It's a pretty neat ride. You'll see beautiful landscapes, wild animals and villages along the way. However, if you're low on time, I wouldn't recommend taking the slow boat since the scenery gets repetitive. 

The boat leaves around 11 a.m. and gets to Pakbeng around 5 p.m.

Step 4: Overnight stay at Pakbeng

Once you get off the boat, you'll be bombarded by people trying to get to stay at their guesthouse. Don't give into it. It's better to take a look around yourself to see if you like the room itself. We walked around to a few places and settled into Bounmy Guesthouse (100,000 Kip for a private room). The restaurant there has a gorgeous view where you can see elephants across river in the morning. 

Elephants across the river! 

Step 5: Slow boat from Pakbeng to Luang Prabang

Wake up early to get a head start on the day. You'll want to head down to the slow boat first to grab a good seat. The slow boat tickets aren't numbered, so you'll have the chance to pick your seat. You can leave your pack on your seat to save it before heading back up to grab breakfast and some snacks for the ride. 

The boat leaves around 9:30 a.m. and you'll have your chance to buy the ticket on the boat. The ride takes around 8 hours, so you should get there by 5:30 p.m. 

Just note that the boat drops you off 10 kilometres before Luang Prabang, so you'll have to take a tuk tuk to get into town. It costs 20,000 kip per person. The tuk tuk will drop you off at the city centre, right by the post office and night market. 

See, it's not so bad to do it on your own. 

Happy Travelling!