Luang Prabang, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, sits at 700 metres above sea level at the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers.
Being Laos’ premier tourist destination and arguably Southeast Asia’s most beautiful heritage town, Luang Prabang’s entire historical section is dedicated to tourism, with everything from former royal palaces to over 33 Vats (temples), quaint shop-houses and sidewalk cafÃ©s.
This former Royal capital still remains the main centre for Buddhist learning in Laos and is the perfect location for spiritual contemplation.
Cascading waterfalls, scaling peaks and the milky-brown waters of the Mekong River provide ample opportunity to explore Luang Prabang. This small and peaceful town is one of the few places where you can allow yourself to wind down completely and just go with the flow.
Luang Prabang International Airport
Gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Luang Prabang, the cityâ€™s international airport is located just 4 kilometers from the centre of town. Currently the airport is only able to accommodate smaller aircraft but after a runway extension programme started in 2011 is completed in 2013 the airstrip will be appropriate for larger aircraft.
The terminal building is rather old looking and somewhat run-down but it is reported to be one of the friendliest airports in the world and the facilities are limited but adequate as it is unlikely you will be spending too much time on stop-over in Luang Prabang.
The airport hosts regular scheduled flights for Bangkok Airways, Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.
Arriving in Luang Prabang you disembark right onto the tarmac and walk straight into the customs clearance area. If you need to apply for a visa-on-arrival head to the signed desk, submit your application form (which you can download prior to travel), your passport, two passport photos and US$20-45 depending on your nationality. US, UK and European nationals are charged US$35.00 while people from Canada are charged US$42.00. Swedes pay US$31.00 and Australians can purchase the visa for US$30.00.
This must be paid in US dollars or Thai baht. The visa is good for 30 days. The application will only take a few minutes then you should go through passport control. The baggage claim area is just through passport control. There is only one luggage belt so you may have to wait a while for your baggage to come through. Be sure to have the baggage stub you received at check in to give the attendant before you can exit.
Once you exit the arrivals gate youâ€™ll find yourself in a car park and youâ€™ll see a currency exchange on your right. Please note that only major currencies and Thai baht are accepted here. You will also find a host of taxis and touts offering you a ride into town.
The departure procedure here is a little different from most airports. You will have to pass a security clearance when entering the airport before you find your check in desk. After checking in, you wait in the waiting area for your gate to open. When the gate opens you go through immigration passport control and enter another waiting area. From here you get a nice view of the planes and the runway.
Transport Options (how to get to your hotel)
When you exit the arrivals gate you will enter a car park where a hive of people are waiting to provide hotel pick ups and plenty of taxis await. The standard taxi fare into the city is US$5.00 and it is only a 20 to 30-minute journey.
Eating & Drinking
Beerlao (Beer Laos)
There is a restaurant located in the car park of the Luang Prabang International Airport so if you are hungry it might pay to eat here before checking in. In the departures lounge you will find one small cafÃ© in each of the two waiting areas. These cafes serve only basic snack foods as well as coffee, tea, beer and soft drinks.
In the first of the two waiting areas you will find only a small cafÃ©, an airlines office and the Bangkok Airways lounge. If you are a Bangkok Airways passenger show your boarding pass to the security guard and cross over to the lounge in the second waiting area. Passengers on other airlines will have to wait until their gate opens before crossing into the second waiting area where you will find only one small cafÃ© and a very small shop selling jewellery and various souvenirs of Laos.
Shopping and duty free
Shopping in Luang Prabang, Laos
There are no duty free shops at Luang Prabang International Airport only a very small shop in the international departures lounge which sells gem stones, jewellery and some souvenirs of Laos.
Luang Prabang Weather
Luang Prabang has a tropical climate typical of Southeast Asia with a dry season and a wet season. Found along the Mekong River, Luang Prabang enjoys warm weather year-round with temperatures ranging between 15Â°C and 38Â°C.
Best Time to Come
The best time to visit Luang Prabang is from November to March when the weather is more comfortably dry and cool. It can also get somewhat crowded, especially in January and during festivals so be sure to book ahead if travelling during this peak season.
Seasons in Luang Prabang, Laos
The northeast monsoon brings dry, cooler temperatures to the city from November to May, while the rains come with the southwest monsoon from May to October. Annual rainfall is 1300 millimetres. Even during the rainy season the downpours last for only short periods, making it possible to visit Luang Prabang any time of year. The Mekong River may get flooded during the wettest months of August and September. March to May is the hottest time of year, when high levels of humidity combined with the heat can make for some sticky days indeed.
Getting Around Luang Prabang
Outdoors Experiences in Laos
Luang Prabang is fairly compact and best explored on foot or bicycle, unless you want to get out of the heritage area and discover other off-the-beaten-path attractions. Most five-star hotels may offer scheduled shuttle service to/from the old city.
Otherwise, your option is limited to tuk-tuks (motorised three-wheelers, also called Jumbos), which can easily be flagged down. Whether just going from one place to another or chartering for an entire day, these tuk-tuks come in very handy. Always negotiate a price before getting in.
For crossing the river, you will need to charter a long-tail boat. To get to Pak Ou or Ting Cave, hire a boat in front of Vat Xieng Thong. Boats that go to Xieng Maen are in front of Vat Phon Xai (west of town centre). To get to Vang Vieng, charter a Jumbo and get to the Southern Bus Terminal.
Luang Prabang International Airport is about 4km north of the old city. To get to town, you have three options (in case your hotel doesnâ€™t offer free transfer service). Taxi and hotel shuttle service are both convenient but relatively expensive.
The hotel shuttle service may cost up to US$7 per person per trip, while the taxi is usually about US$7 per trip. You can locate a taxi stand right outside the arrival hall, while hotel shuttle is available on a pre-arranged basis. The cheapest option is a Jumbo tuk-tuk, which waits for passengers outside the airport gate. Thereâ€™s no bus service to the old city.
Important Phone Numbers
|Southern Bus Station (to Vang Vieng, Pakse, Vientiane)
|Lao China Friendship Hospital
|Luang Prabang Airport