2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses

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First published 9th October, 2008

As the most popular tourist destination in Laos, Luang Prabang is filled with a wide range of guesthouses and hotels to choose from. Finding one with the right blend of comfort, style and value can make or break your visit. Here's an updated-for-2008 version of our old story titled "What's a good guesthouse in Luang Prabang?"

Budget range
At backpacker level, guesthouse prices can fluctuate wildly, reflecting seasonal tourist density. A US$3 bargain room can rocket up to $15 weeks later. Few in this range take bookings, relying mainly on walk-in business. It's not uncommon late afternoon to see a stream of newly-arrived backpackers, fresh off the boat or bus, tramping the streets door to door. Competition can be fierce at busy times, so under those circumstances it's sensible to take the first acceptable option for the night and relocate in the morning if you wish to change.

Touts meeting buses and boats are often family members or guesthouse employees. While they obviously have an agenda, shyster antics commonly seen in other countries ("that one is full/closed, come to mine instead") are mercifully not in evidence. Check out their brochures and make a decision on the spot: they may help with transport, and you can always move on tomorrow. Common sense dictates however, that if there are a large number of touts, the town is probably not full, and you'll find a reasonable number of vacancies in town yourself.

There are three budget accommodation areas in Luang Prabang which are best to explore:

Behind the post office, Ban Hoxieng
This atmospheric residential area has narrow paved laneways crowded with large homes, many converted into cheap but comfortable accommodation. Close to the night market and inexpensive Mekong-side restaurants, it's just a small walk from the popular backpacker hangouts.

The pick of the bunch has to be Rattana Guesthouse ($12-$25), although the higher price range eliminates the interest of many die-hard backpackers. Good backpacker budget options include Somjith (from 50,000 kip), Tanoy (from 40,000 kip) and Nok Noy (from 50,000 kip), but there are a bunch of others in the same range should these be full.

Along the Mekong
Lining the road along the Mekong and in the small alleys running off it are a myriad of small, mostly budget guesthouses; some of the biggest offenders in the fluctuating price stakes. Bougnasouk is cheap and popular with a great restaurant, but next door is a noisy silversmith, so be prepared to wake early ($8-15). Sivilay offers decent rooms ($10-$30) and Sok Dee has a plethora of size and price variations in their expanding mini-empire ($8-$40).

By the Nam Khan
This narrow alley is a popular tuk tuk drop off point from the bus but some consider it to be a little far away from the tourist centre for comfort. It is, however, very convenient for access to the backpacker bars in Ban Aphai. The Merry 1 Guesthouse and Merry 2 Guesthouse are family run and clean (from 70,000 kip), but there are a number of other very cheap, basic establishments surrounding them.

Mid-level range
Options in the flashpacker and mid-range fields have multiplied in recent years with many options available in the $15-50 range. As they often fill up during the busy periods of December to January and Chinese and Lao New Years, it is definitely worth booking ahead. These guesthouses are usually contactable by email, fax or phone, and have reasonable English skills and a decent level of reliability when holding reservations.

Standouts in the crowd include Thong Bay ($22-40) and Khoun and Khone ($15-19) both of which have lovely bungalows on opposite edges of town. Back in the centre of things, Senesouk ($25-40) is classy and Lao Wooden House ($35-50) beautifully different -- both are fine choices. Another good choice is Xieng Mouane Guesthouse ($15-40) with its welltended garden and fine location.

Boutique hotels in the old quarter The promontory where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet is an enchanting quarter and holds a number of temples and stately old French colonial homes. Not yet overrun with tourist amenities, it has a handful of boutique hotels and mid-range guesthouses catering for those looking for a little more style and comfort. 3 Nagas (from $125) was the first big arrival in this area, but there are quite a few others to choose from now. Mekong Estate (from $555 per week) requires a minimum week-long stay and once you see the rooms you’ll need no further convincing, while The Chang Inn (from $80) is simply gorgeous. Another fine new addition is La Maison De Xanamkieng with quite modestly priced rooms (from $50).

Out of the old quarter lies Satri House (from $100), a fine retreat for those looking to stay off the radar.

Top end travellers
Travellers on a higher budget can choose from many locations. Centrally, there is Maison Souvannaphoum (from $190++). La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang's finest hotel, far surpasses others in elegance, comfort -- and price. This is the place to stay if you're after something special -- and especially if someone else is paying (from $254).

Travelfish Guides for Luang Prabang
This story was originally published in the Travelfish Guide to Luang Prabang. The guide includes detailed coverage of Luang Prabang, Nong Kiaow and Muang Ngoi and is easily the most up-to-date resource available in print. This Luang Prabang guidebook is available from the Travelfish store for US$5.95, or as a part of our Laos pack for $11.85.

Travelfish maps for Luang Prabang
We've a couple of handy maps for Luang Prabang -- one covering greater Luang Prabang and the other a more detailed map of the downtown area.

About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.

Read 1 comment(s)

  • I noticed that the Apsara is on the 2006 list but no longer on the list for 2008. Is it still considered a good place to stay in LP?

    Posted by heidi on 11th November, 2010

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