Luang Prabang is one of the most charming cities in Southeast Asia and a highlight for any visit to Laos. Calling it a city seems a bit of a stretch as it feel more like a big country town. And within the UNESCO World Heritage protected zone, some parts feels like it hasn’t changed for a hundred years.
Luang Prabang is on a peninsula with no through access, so traffic has been naturally controlled. The old town area is very compact, and you can walk anywhere in the town. No matter where you stay you will be able to see everything easily enough.
Having said that there are a few distinct areas in Luang Prabang which you might want to consider when picking the best area to stay in Luang Prabang.
The old town is the highlight of Luang Prabang and the most obvious starting point. This can be defined as the area within the the Luang Prabang peninsula, which is bounded by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. This is within the UNESCO World Heritage zone, and there is an abundance of historic villas, mansions, and commercial buildings that have been converted for tourist purposes. The most historic vats (temples) are in this area, and it’s where you can see the monks lining up for the morning alms.
Given its world heritage status, most of the accommodation here is in the boutique end, though there are some budget options. The budget guesthouses are slightly more expensive than in the other areas, so look outside if you are choosing by price. Namsok Guesthouse is a good budget guesthouse option in this area.
Oui’s Guesthouse is a homely guesthouse on the Nam Khan riverfront near the tip of the peninsula.
Frangipani Guesthouse and Spa is in the centre of the old town near Wat Sene.
Pack Luck Villa is a cute little hotel between the main street and the Mekong.
[Pack Luck Villa.]
Sakkarin Villa is on the main street near the end of the peninsula.
Mekong Riverview Hotel is in a heritage property facing the Mekong River, not far from where the Nam Khan River meets the Mekong. Check the room type when you are booking if want a view of the Mekong.
Villa Santi Hotel is a boutique hotel in a renovated royal mansion. It’s set in a lush tropical garden in the back streets of the old town.
AVANI+ Luang Prabang is a 5-star resort hotel on the main road, opposite the tourism centre. It’s a big property, yet unassuming for its location.
[AVANI+ Luang Prabang.]
Between Phothisalath Rd (the main road) and Khem Khong (the Mekong road) there are numerous little roads that are lined with budget guesthouses and home stays. When I first visited Luang Prabang I just walked around here until I found a place. You can still do that if you want to travel old-school, but these days it’s easier to book in advance as many of them are online.
Chao Fa Ngum Road (pictured here) is a typical guesthouse street, with Phashoke Guesthouse being an example of a guesthouse not bookable online.
[Phashoke Guesthouse on Chao Fa Ngum Road.]
While there are plenty of guesthouses, it still feels residential and not overly touristy. Most of the tourist restaurants and cafes are on the riverfront. There are many ramshackle restaurants overlooking the Mekong River, making it an ideal place to sit and have a drink.
The cheapest rooms are usually a simple private room with shared bathroom. If you are just backpacking around Southeast Asia saving every dollar then these are a good option if you want a private room for a change.
The Mekong Sunset Guesthouse is a basic budget guesthouse that is right on the riverfront. There are dorm beds and private rooms available, and some rooms have a balcony facing the river.
[Mekong Sunset Guesthouse.]
My Lao Home Hotel is a midrange hotel set in a UNESCO-protected property, and is close to such sites as the night market, the Royal Palace, and Phousi Mountain.
[My Lao Home Hotel.]
While not exactly riverfront, on the other side of the main road I stayed at the Lakangthong 2 Friendly House, which is a friendly and well-maintained budget guesthouse. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the old town area, and it’s in a more residential area. It felt like the kind of area you would live if you were staying here for a while. See my review here.
[Lakangthong 2 Friendly House]
Nam Khan Riverfront
Another budget guesthouse area is around the Nam Khan river. This area has more of a backpacker vibe to it, with bars and western food cafes alongside hostels and cheap hotels. It’s no Khao San Rd or Pub Street though, so don’t worry if you aren’t into noisy streets. Like the Mekong guesthouse area, it’s easily walkable to all the sights. And unlike the Mekong side, there is no riverfront road here, so there are only a few actual riverfront properties.
Y Not Laos Hostel is one of the popular hostels in the area that offers cheap dormitory accommodation.
Chansavang Guesthouse is a 2-star hotel which offers comfortable rooms at a budget price.
Villa Namkhan River is a small 3-star hotel in a villa featuring seven rooms.
[Villa Namkhan River.]
For a luxury stay with a riverfront view Kiridara Villa Visoun is as riverfront as it gets.
[Kiridara Villa Visoun – Image via Agoda.]
Other places to stay
Outside of these areas I would only recommend staying if you have your own transport (such as if you were travelling around Laos by motorbike), or if you want to stay in one of the luxury resorts.
While the AVANI is close to town, most of the luxury resort hotels are a bit further out. They would usually offer shuttle services in this case.
One of the most popular places outside the immediate city is the Kiridara Villa Mekong. It has a pool overlooking the Mekong, and with only three rooms it sells out fast.
[Kiridara Villa Mekong – Image via Agoda.]
The Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao is another luxurious resort outside the city centre, on a hill overlooking the town. Being outside the historic area affords it more space, with the hotel feeling more like a private estate.
[Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao – Image via Agoda.]
Search for more hotels in Luang Prabang.