🖐 In this travel guide we’ll share all our experience travelling to Luang Prabang (& Kuang Si Falls), located in the central North of Laos. If this is your first time on Dronemade, we're a community of drone pilots around the world and thus like to share our travel experiences and how we see things from up there. Give a 👍 at the end of this post & feel free to share your experience or any updates you might have in the Laos Discussion Group. Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our knowledge & does not replace official sources & your research.
Luang Prabang is a highlight of Laos and a classic stopover thanks to its airport and central location between Chiang Mai, Thailand and Ha Giang Loop. Unesco heritage attractive town, you will find here all you need to rest, eat and shop which contrasts quite a lot with the rest of the country. Gateway to Kuang Si Falls and home to the Royal Palace, it has adventure and history for it with colonial style buildings well restored and true eye delight. We recommend to spend at least 2 nights in this wonderful place, time to re-set & enjoy a true Laos gem.
Where is it exactly & how to get to Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is located in the central North of Laos, 4h bus from Nong Khiaw, 6h from Vang Vieng or 10h from Vientiane, the town is isolated when it comes to road trips. Thankfully, its international airport removes most of this travel time connecting to all neighbouring major Asian cities. Its location makes it an ideal pit stop for the Kuang Si Falls, one of Laos' must do.
🛫 The easiest way to reach Luang Prabang is by plane. The international airport connects with Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Singapore making the city an easy stop between two countries.
🚢 A less famous way to arrive in style is by boat. Luang Prabang is on the Mekong, China and Thailand's getaway. It is however rare and hard to do thanks to the Chinese dams being built to provide electricity to the country (and themselves).
🚌 However, the cheapest way remains the bus. Dozens of night buses leave from all neighbouring big Asian cities such as Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Bangkok or Vientiane to end or pass by the cosmopolitan city. Additionally, hundreds of minivans connect with domestic destinations such as Vang Vieng, Pakse, Nong Khiaw, Muang XaiHua Xai or Savannakhet. Be aware that local vans will stop for every passenger, considerably lengthening your trip time.
✅ Good to know; If considering the road option tour agents and hotels will sell your tickets at the same price as the bus station, so there is no need to try and get a better price elsewhere most of the time.
💡 If coming from Vientiane, you can split your trip by stopping at Van Vieng which is a little less than half way in terms of driving hours.
What to do in Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is an UNESCO heritage city worth its certification. This place offers plenty of options which will suit most personalities and cravings. Buzzing life in the early mornings and late evenings, you want to make sure to give yourself a resting time around mid day as the city gets quite hot under the summer sun.
Dozens of brands and adventure gear shops are awaiting you on the town's two main streets. For those coming for less known cities of Laos, it might be shocking to see it all in this small place considering the little available elsewhere in the country. A noteworthy one is Chi Thanh Spirits and Wine Shop where you will find alcohols from all over the worlds and some wine bottles up to 50 years old for a bargain !
Morning Market; a full display of local products including live animals. You will find absolutely every fresh product the country produces or imports at high costs. If your hotel doesn't include breakfast, this is a great place to find a stall, and enjoy a coffee while looking at locals buying their next meals. Bargaining isn't really a thing here, if you buy a large quantity you can try but otherwise try to refrain yourself.
Night Market: a true oasis after the heat of day. Primarily designed for tourists, you will find gifts and souvenirs of all kinds to take home and give to your loved ones. We recommend to stop by the two artists that make useful objects out of bomb metal (Laos is the heaviest bombarded country in the world). Here again food is plentiful, yummy and cheap. Check our food recommendations at the end of this post to find the best Banh Mi of Laos 😋
Go to Kuang Si Falls
Perfect getaway to Kuang Si Falls, the city being only an hour drive away. Kuang Si Falls are one of the most iconic and must do attractions of Laos, but be sure to get there early. The falls open at 8 am and quickly fills up as you can bring a picnic and swim in some of the pools making it a popular family destination.
To get there, you can either jump on a minivan or your private tuc tuc or rent your own motorbike and drive yourself to Kuang Si Falls. Beware that some tourists have reported losses of their motorbikes because not parking in the paid area, this might be a scam from renting agencies looking to maximise their profits. We personally parked in the designated paying and controlled area and had no problems with our motorbikes.
Royal Palace an impressive monument used until recently by the royal family. You will need a couple of hours to visit the entire place as it also includes the royal family's cars and temple which are both worth a visit on their own. You will need long pants, covered shoulders and remove your shoes to visit this place.
Pak Ou Cave or Buddha cave because of the thousands of large and small golden Buddha statues in the cave. Brought by devotees far and wide, it has made the caves an especially holy place for pilgrims and a sight for tourists. Several boats depart from Luang Prabang, the trip lasts a few hours up the Mekong River
Visit the old part of the city (North West), this is the prettiest and oldest section with heaps of colonial buildings very well maintained and transformed into hotels or guest houses for most.
Need some outdoor exercise? Hike Phousi Hill and see the city from above. This is a short but intense climb that be done from one of the three entry points. A small fee applies, and best is to start the hike early in the morning so you're not facing the scorching heat from 10 am and also avoid bus tour groups that tend to spoil your serenity.
🚨 Please do not fly your drone from here or anywhere in Luang Prabang. The city's airport runway passes a few meters away from the hill and above most of the town when winds change - More info about flying a drone in Laos.
One of the three paths features a little cave temple and several Buddha statues along your way. These are in very good conditions and fairly impressive so make sure to have a look around for them while there.
Where to stay & eat in Luang Prabang?
🚪 There are several options from high end to backpackers, the city hosts it all. If you're not budget restricted, the 3 Nagas is the place to be. A real colonial gem in the middle of Asia, you will find most passing by celebrities staying there despite not being the most expensive and isolated hotel in town. On the budget side, Sunrise Riverside Pool Hostel which offers small backpacker rooms (4 beds) with breakfast included, tour activities and a wonderful outdoor infinity pool. A good all rounder alternative is the Saynamkhan River View, located in the old part of the city and next to the river, it is an old french colonial style hotel offering full facilities and great views.
If none of these suit you or are available, don't be too sad, there are a myriad of other accommodation offers just next to these and most seem quite decent too. We found them using our hotel price comparative tool to make sure we booked at the best price.
🍴 Dinner is best on the the night market's streets. From 5pm, you will find the best Banh-mi of Laos at the corner of Kingkitsalat and Chaofa Ngum roads. If you're up for something more consistent, then the Utopia Bar is the place to be. Make sure to book your table if you want to be on the panoramic outdoor deck. However, this place is a little overrated and cocktails are very weak in alcohol, you better stick to beer. For lunches, head to Mekong river side of town and relax on one of the panoramic terraces. In the heat of the day, you also have gentle women walking by with homemade pasta and rice dishes which are usually served in a banana leaf and to die for. If you're after a ☕ in style, then Viewpoint Cafe is the place to be, a fancy place that will welcome you in a pristine environment you even if you only intend to spend $2.
Can I fly my drone in Luang Prabang?
🚨 Be aware of the airline you purchase to travel as some main ones will only accept your drone on-board if its batteries are detached & placed in a firecase during travel time. Most airlines will have a battery voltage limit based on the recommendation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can find more info about a specific airline here.
🚨 The city of Luang Prabang is completely covered by an airspace restriction thanks to its airport located only 1km from the town's centre. Some travel guides will tell you its fine to fly above the Mekong or on the North side of the city, this isn't true! Air-planes are coming from all directions based on winds and the city is often covered with clouds making high visibility almost null, please be cautious and respect others by avoiding flying here as tempting as it can be.
✅ In every case you should follow the Laos drone rules and laws at all times. Note that these can evolve within months and its always a good thing to double check upon departure.
What to think of Luang Prabang?
Well we don't like to write this part of the story so we've put together some of our coolest pics. If you don't feel like seeing them before heading there, we get it and won't be sad.
✅ Please leave a comment or update the Laos Discussion Group when you receive news and/or gain experience in Luang Prabang! Have fun over there and make a lot of good memories! #luang #prabang #laos #travel #experience #city
Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information. It is your responsibility to seek advice from qualified local & relevant authorities for needed information about local drone rules and regulations.