Cheap but great hotels in Luang Prabang and the capital of Laos
The service, food and the people are generally fantastic in Laos. It reminds us of what Thailand, Bangkok was 17 years ago, when we first visited. Unspoiled by tourists.
Friendly locals, good restaurants, no mass tourism but great accommodation for slim budgets. Nature, waterfalls and adventure tours. Enough entertainment not to get bored but also the place to lay back with a good book. While the capital Vientiane has chosen to move towards modernity with first shopping malls and big hotels emerging, Luang Prabang has tastefully preserved its traditional ancient look and bygone French flair. We liked the tranquil and rural quality of Laotian cities so much that we decided to stay in Luang Prabang all the way until it was time to disembark for our (rented) home in Japan by the end of September.
No need for booking.com
Before we arrived in Luang Prabang we booked a hotel through booking.com. Our first hotel ‘My Dream Boutique Resort‘ was 53 USD a night for a nice but small room, far from the main city attractions, making it necessary to cross the old communist bridge. Due to its good reviews online, it always sold out – despite the tourist-less rainy season and remote location.
In retrospect I can say that the selection of hotels on booking seem to be rather pricey for Luang Prabang and most with great reviews sell out fast, which is funny (or unfortunate) considering the extensive amount of decent places, especially cosy guesthouses, which are NOT listed on hotel-search-sites.
Find the perfect hotel
After our pre-booked hotel stay had expired, we walked around Luang Prabang on a mission to find the nicest place in town to accommodate us for two more weeks. Exploring the city by foot is very doable, the city is tiny and most guesthouses and hotels are close to the main shopping streets, providing for various budgets.
Walking around Luang Prabang will give you a decent picture of the price range for accommodation and room standard. We were positively surprised that you can get rooms in very nice hotels for around 40 USD, most have breakfast included in the price, free bicycles and free taxi rides to/from the airport.
The local places are even cheaper, 10-35 USD the night, they are more quiet with less rooms, no full blown staff system, yet sharing the same location of super expensive hotels. You can get fantastic rooms with a balcony, facing the river at a prime location, in the same manner as the luxury hotel next door, for a fraction of the price.
If you are shown a room you like, you do know it is unoccupied, which is a god opportunity to ask for a discount. (Do check on booking.com if the hotel is already listed and compare prices online as well!) We found many hotels almost (or completely) empty as we entered, leaving great possibilities to bargain. Especially if one is staying more days. Our typical question pattern would be:”How much is a room for the night?” followed by “And if we stay longer?”
What makes a great stay (for us)
- Spacious, clean room with good water pressure for the shower and hot water. (Do check, as this is not always the case in Laos.) We do carry our home with us and appreciate enough room to be able to unpack our stuff.
- Modern interior. We like the small but chic new boutique-like places with hip interior deco. Alternatively we look for a newly established/renovated, traditional looking place.
- Free bikes. The rental is 20,000 a day per bike in Laos so it really saves a lot of money if you like to use a bike to get around. The cities in Laos are perfectly suited for biking (the distances and low traffic is just right for cycling).
- Wifi. No internet means no work, no money, so we do check internet connection on the spot as well. However due to a general unreliability of wifi range in hotels, even if most hotels, restaurants and cafés do provide it in Laos, we bought a well working Laotian SIM card (the provider is Beeline – you can see ads everywhere in Laos).
- Mosquito protection. Some hotels will not provide mosquito nets. Definitely buy one if your hotel doesn’t have it, to protect yourself from malaria and the dengue fever. We got one at this store in Luang Prabang for only 55.000 kip.
Not important hotel amenities (for us)
- Breakfast. There are enough restaurants and a few hip looking cafés (like Joma – a small coffee shop chain in Vientiane and Luang Prabang) that provide western food and continental style breakfast. Lunag Prabang has many cheap restaurants in those old and charming French villas.
- TV. Do not need this device at all. Internet will provide for news and pretty much everything else to stay in touch with the world.
- Aircon. If the hotel does not have aircon (very rare), it is actually a huge bonus because it guarantees quietness. But most places (even the budget ones) serve noisy moldy AC air to tourists. It is the rainy season – it doesn’t get that hot – just let your body adjust and you will not need AC at all. You are more likely to get a cold when constantly switching from freezing rooms to the natural warmth outside. I am usually put off by the moldy and foul smells, bacteria and fungus being spread by aircons, plus the immense noise these monsters make for everyone.
Prices and pics of our hotels
First stay. My Dream Boutique Resort. 53USD per night/room with buffet breakfast. Free bikes. Far from the centre. Have to cross the old long bridge to get to town. Modern design. Wifi didn’t reach all rooms.
Showers are tricky in Asia. Chances are that you will come across one that clogs easily, the pressure can vary and hot water may not be stable. This one had a funny showerhead, with water coming through uneven, so that effectively only a few shower nozzles were of use.
Best gadget ever – dries towels and is the best clothes rack (if you like to leave your clothes lying around like my hubby).
Second stay. Ancient Luang Prabang. 40 USD per night/room with a choice of one breakfast set. Modern and trendy. Right in the centre of town, overlooking the night market. The rooms have zoodiac names. We had the rat room. Many Japanese tourists stay here, signs at the hotel are also in Japanese. A fantastic place to watch the alms giving processions from the balcony.
The shower pressure was excellent but the shower head was placed very upright – water would splash out the cube shaped opening (very funny!), if not held in the hand!
View from the balcony. Not only the monks would pass the street in the morning to collect their food but the night market would occupy the street in the evening as well!
Third stay. Mekong Charm Guesthouse. In the beautiful area by the river lined by old French villas, with a balcony and view on the Mekong river. Small, tranquil place (we were the only ones in hotel), for only 12 USD per room/night (after bargaining). No breakfast but many cafés around.
Unfortunately, the neighbours did have another daily schedule than hotel guests. Making fire for hot water and sticky rice at 5 in the morning, accompanied by Asian pop radio music was awakening – to change hotels.
Final stay for over ten days. Ammata Guesthouse (Vatong & Phonheuang district/the Lao say ‘village’). 25 USD a night. No breakfast. Spotless place, very jolly and accommodating Lao owners. Superb shower, nice wooden floor and wooden interior but no mosquito net, nor hook to hang one. We improvised and attached our own net to curtain rods.
We had the shared balcony for ourselves as the rainy season kept most tourists away.
You will often have to take off your shoes before entering hotel floors, dining areas etc.
VIENTIANE. We even stayed twice at AV Hotel. Superb location, quiet, new, with very spacious rooms and super friendly staff. The room was 40 USD per room/night and did include breakfast in buffet form.
Despite the bed being predestined to have a mosquito net, the hotel did not provide one. Good we brought our own from Luang Prabang.
View from our window.
I hope this is useful to you! Laos really did make our stay very enjoyable (especially after the strenuous hotels and service in China)!