Before it gets flooded with nonstop daily flights, before the biggest chains move in, before it goes live
The world’s largest magazine cover, you must experience Luang Prabang, Laos. Luang Prabang has long been known to the savviest travelers, offering a powerful and unique Southeast Asian experience with its unique location on the mighty Mekong River.
If dreamy sunsets, ancient temples, cheap street food and cold beers are a dream for you, this is the place to go, and you should get there early. Here’s everything you need to know before flying to Laos…
Citizens of most countries can easily obtain a visa on arrival for between $30-40, depending on your nationality. Just $35 for UK and US Citizens, FYI. Cash is key at the airport, and visas at the arrivals counter at Luang Prabang Airport will accept Lao Kip, US dollars or Thai baht.
The visa process requires an extra passport/visa photo, but if you don’t have one, you can pay a little extra (1/50 baht) and they’ll let you through.
Chances are, you will need to fill in visa-on-arrival forms in addition to the ones you get on the plane, so bring a pen to travel to fill out the forms quickly and easily and avoid a rush.
If you are from South East Asia, it is relatively easy to travel to Luang Prabang.
A good way to identify nonstop flights is to enter the LPQ (city code) into the destination field on Google Flights, then click “Direct only” and you’ll see dots for each location that offers nonstop service.
From almost any Asian city, you’re only one stop away, and you can even fly direct from Luang Prabang, so no matter where you’re coming from, you’ll probably want to make a stopover at the main hub to Laos.
There are quite a few direct flights daily from Bangkok and Hanoi, as well as some from Siem Reap, Singapore, Chiang Mai and Kunming. If you’re looking for an easy layover city, Bangkok, Singapore or Hanoi are your best options to fly to the US, Europe and beyond.
Luang Prabang International Airport is about 4 km from the old town, and many hotels offer free or low-cost airport pick-up services. Kind, indeed.
You can also find taxis and Jumbo tuk tuks outside the arrivals station, which will cost around $7-10 to your hotel in town – make sure to negotiate the price before you enter and make sure you have a printout, preferably at Laos your destination for ultimate clarity.
To explore Luang Prabang town, it is best to walk or bike, many hotels offer free bikes to borrow. Some hotels also offer free scheduled shuttle services to and from the Old Town.
No matter where in the world you are from, one currency that goes a long way in Laos is the US dollar. Carrying a combination of Lao Kip, USD and Thai Baht definitely works, but if you have to pick one, everyone seems to love the all-purpose dollar.
Thai baht is also very effective. Most hotels and upscale stores and restaurants use Visa and Mastercard cards, but cash is especially useful for any market shopping. If you’re reading this and it’s too late, there are ATMs around, especially in the old town.
For reference, the average price of a meal at a quality street stall is around 10,000 to 20,000 Lao kip, or around $1 to $2.
travel by walking
Laos is full of natural beauty, full of lush landscapes, spectacular mountains, waterfalls and exciting caves. Understandably, there is so much you want to see.
When hiking, be sure to stick to the trails or go with an experienced guide.
No, it’s not about money grabs: Between 1964 and 1973, more than 270 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos, about 80 million of which remained unexploded.
Don’t let this unfortunate fact put you off in any way, but it’s an important reminder before you have any wild thoughts about going off the beaten track.
The peak tourist season in Laos is from November to March, when the weather is slightly cooler, the air is at least (semi) dry, and there is very little rainfall.
However, if you can tolerate a little humidity, April to August can be a great time to visit Luang Prabang.
There are far fewer tourists around, which makes the town and popular attractions more charming, and as a side bonus, the hills turn a gorgeous emerald green, and almost everything looks great compared to the brown hues of the dry months.
Plus, like all great shoulder seasons, you’ll find better prices on hotels and tours.
If you’re on the great Google Fi network, you’ll be happy to know you’re getting service here, just like you do in most of the rest of the world. If not, there are plenty of 4G/5G sims for sale at the airport and scattered around town.
Most hotels offer more than decent WiFi, and despite what you may have read, you can use WhatsApp, Skype, Netflix and all your regular apps just like at home
. Granted, Netflix’s selection could be stronger, but you should have downloaded content offline anyway…
What are the best tips for visiting Laos?