The city of Luang Prabang is one of Laos’ most important heritage sites and is sure to be a place that tourists won’t want to miss while on a visit to the country. This Northern Laotian gem has a long and rich history and beautiful Buddhist architecture that make it an unforgettable experience.
To help tourists prepare a trip to this unique destination properly, this guide explains how to travel to Luang Prabang as well as what visitors might expect to see in the city. It also details when to go to Luang Prabang and advises on the most important essentials to pack.
How to Travel to Luang Prabang as a Tourist
The most important first step to remember before traveling to Laos as a foreign tourist is to get a Laos visa in advance. A visa is absolutely essential for most overseas visitors and will need to be obtained before travelers can enter the country.
The state now offers a simplified process of accessing an eVisa for Laos whereby tourists can apply online as little as 3 business days before traveling. The electronic visa, however, can only be used at specific border crossing points, and applicants should check these first before applying.
Once visitors are prepared to travel to Laos, they will be able to get to Luang Prabang by one of a number of transportation methods:
Reaching Luang Prabang by Air
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to reach Luang Prabang is by air. The city has an international airport, which is served by most major carriers in the region.
The majority of the direct flights traveling to and from this destination are from other domestic locations in Laos and major cities in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok or Hanoi. There are unfortunately no long-distance direct flights to Luang Prabang.
Getting to Luang Prabang by Road
For travelers already exploring the Laotian landscape, it could be easier and more cost-effective to travel to the city by road. The journey to Luang Prabang from Vientiane by bus however, is approximately 10 hours. The road conditions on the trip are also less than ideal and can be quite bumpy at times.
Arriving to Luang Prabang by Boat
A further option available for tourists is boat travel. Luang Prabang’s position on the Mekong River makes it a great destination to travel to by river transport. Boats traveling to the city depart from Huay Xai frequently and visitors have the choice of either a 2-day journey by slow boat or a faster 6-hour trip by speedboat.
Why to Visit Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang’s name literally means “Royal Buddha Image” and the city has been an important gathering place for faithful Buddhists for centuries. The settlement itself dates back as far as around 700CE when it served as a capital for the proto Lao state.
The city sits on a peninsula at a meeting point between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, making it an important strategic point for military and trade over the years. Today it is best known for its impressive architecture and magnificent natural wildlife.
Where to Go in Luang Prabang
There is a lot to see on arrival in Luang Prabang. The city is home to more than 33 beautifully preserved gold-lined Wats (temples) as well as monasteries and French colonial constructions. Nevertheless, that’s far from the only cultural experience it has to offer guests. Some of the most unmissable sights to see whilst on a visit include:
- The Royal Palace
- Wat Xieng Thong
- Kuang Si Falls
- Mount Phou Si
- Handicraft Night Market
- Buffet Street
When to Travel to Luang Prabang
The best time to plan a visit to Luang Prabang is during the dry season of November to February. Whilst the city can be visited all year round without too much inconvenience, the weather in Laos varies quite dramatically during the year with very hot spring weather and heavy monsoons occurring in the latter half of the year.
What Tourists Should Pack for Luang Prabang
There are many items that tourists should remember to pack for Laos in general. However, there are some considerations that prospective travelers should make especially before they set off to Luang Prabang.
Firstly, it’s important to be mindful of cultural sensitivities. Visitors should pack light but long clothing that covers the legs and arms. This is especially important when visiting temples, as those not conforming to the correct dress code may be denied entry.
Visitors should also ensure to have the correct vaccinations for Laos before visiting the area. Additionally, the region around the Mekong River has a slight malaria risk and therefore travelers should remember to come prepared with appropriate anti-malarial medicine.
A tourist visit to Luang Prabang is well worth it. It showcases some of the most spectacular cultural and historical treasures that Laos has to offer and is a sight that travelers to the country won’t want to miss.