2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
First published 26th June, 2006
As the most popular tourist destination in Laos, Luang Prabang is filled with a wide range guesthouses and hotels to choose from. Finding one with the right blend of comfort, style and value can make or break your visit.
At backpacker level, guesthouse prices can fluctuate wildly, reflecting seasonal tourist density. A US$3 bargain room can rocket up to $7 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 ($7-$20), although the marginally higher price range eliminates the interest of many die-hard backpackers. The majority of the others in the area range from $3 to $7 per room although prices tend to vary widely from day to day, depending on recent capacity.
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 ($6-10). Silichit offers decent rooms (around $7) and Sok Dee has a plethora of size and price variations in their expanding mini-empire ($6-$18).
By the Nam Khan
This narrow alley is a popular tuktuk 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 Aphay. The two Merry Guesthouses are family run and clean (from $2), but there are a number of other very cheap, basic establishments surrounding them.
Options in the flashpacker and midrange fields are fairly limited in Luang Prabang, with guesthouses covering the $15-$50 price range relatively few and far between. 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.
Flashpacker Central: Ban Mano and Ban Visoun
Once the tourist heart of Luang Prabang, this area is a little out of the mainstream but still holds a number of decent guesthouses and amenities. One of the best is the recently done up Jaliya, which has clean sizeable rooms in the $10-$15 range. Also worth a mention are Villa Ban Lao, on stately, sprawling grounds ($15-40), Sabaidee Guesthouse ($6-25), and the Rama Hotel, which is popular with tour groups ($20).
Boutique hotels in the old quarter
The promontory that 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 midrange guesthouses catering for those looking for a little more style and comfort. 3 Nagas is undoubtedly the pick of these, upholding traditional heritage style in attractive modern rooms (from $105).
The Apsara, with its fabulous fusion restaurant is located on the Nam Khan boulevard and is featured in the Hip Hotels guide for its funky, old world style ($55-75). Sala Prabang, looking out over the Mekong, boasts tasteful, if not spacious rooms (from $35). Also check out Sayo ($15-50), Senesouk Guesthouse ($30), Xieng Mouane Guesthouse ($15-35), Sok Xai ($25-35), and Pack Luck ($15-35). Quiet and peaceful, yet humming with daily life, even if you don't stay here this area is mandatory for an exploratory stroll or bike ride.
Top end Travellers
Travellers on a higher budget can choose from many locations. Centrally, there is The Banyan Tree's Maison Souvannaphoum (from $170++), or if you're after something a little more boutique, try Satri Lao (from $90). The Pansea Hotel chain runs La Residence Phou Vao, Luang Prabang's finest hotel. Far surpassing the others in elegance and comfort, this is the place to stay if you're after something special (from $126). Several hotels with extensive grounds are to be found on the outskirts of Luang Prabang: The Grand Hotel (from $80) and Villa Santi Resort and Spa (from $150). These generally supply a regular transport service into town.
As the result of Luang Prabang's growing popularity as a tourist destination, the number of guesthouses and hotels is increasing almost daily. For more extensive coverage, see our Luang Prabang listing.
Story by Caroline Gaylard
Related readingA litany of scams: Laos and Vietnam
Southern Laos by scooter
Muang Ngoi Escape
Luang Prabang escape
The Gibbon Experience
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