I have backpacked all over Southeast Asia, but I actually never made it to Laos!
I decided to pop up to Luang Prabang in Laos to see what was going on since my Southern Africa trip’s flight had a very random, week-long stopover in Southeast Asia before heading back to Europe.
Thanks to AirAsia, I found an ultra cheap flight from Bangkok to Luang Prabang.
It was a quick flight and saved me hours of sitting in a bumpy bus.
The arrival was absolutely gorgeous with the large, quintessentially East Asian rolling hills with the sunset as a backdrop outside my airplane window.
This was my first time solo backpacking in Laos and I was eager to see how it is similar and different from the other Southeast Asian countries I have had the opportunity to visit.
Luang Prabang is a well-worn travel destination and so I won’t just repeat what every other travel blog has said a million times. I’ll just highlight some of my own experiences and some tips that may help any other solo backpackers going to Luang Prabang.
Consider this to be a tips for solo female travel in Luang Prabang guide, but anyone could find it helpful.
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #1: Airport Stuff
First tip: If you don’t want to wait an hour in line for your visa I recommend sitting in the front of the plane or running like hell once you get off.
I mean, it probably wouldn’t be worth applying for a visa beforehand since that would require waiting around a consulate.
My visa was $36 USD, be sure to have USD with you.
I had to wait in line for my Laos visa for an hour and the bureau de change in the airport was just about to close by the time I got out.
They even turned some people away without changing their money!
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #2: Transportation from the Airport
Another tip: taxis from the airport into town seemed to be set at around $6 USD.
If you walk pretty much one minute from the airport to the road in front of the airport you can find a tuk tuk for like $2 USD.
Even walking from the airport is completely possible.
Since I lost my debit card earlier in the trip and my cash was extremely limited, I decided to take the nice long walk to the airport before my departure. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Thankfully I packed light!
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #3: Where to Stay if you don’t want to lose your mind…
I stayed at the Kounsavan Guest House which was in a great location and was an absolutely gorgeous wooden home in the local architectural style.
It was also practically the cheapest place available, which I needed. You can expect to pay $7.50 to $8.50 a night if you book online.
I will address this in another post, but this hostel was a total party hostel. It’s great for meeting people if you are outgoing.
But even in just a handful of days there, I saw cliques of friends form and drama ensue. It felt like middle school.
It was ridiculous and dumb, especially when a group of shirtless backpacker dudes started yelling at a local woman who asked them to put their shirts on when walking around the streets. Sigh.
Some may thrive in those conditions but I wasn’t in the mood. Ok fine I’m an old, miserly woman and was not going to get sucked into drama during my solo backpacking trip to Luang Prabang.
It’s a big hostel, but I guess my main criticism aside from insensitive guests was that oddly there seemed to never be enough places to sit.
There are a zillion guesthouses and hostels in Luang Prabang. See some more here.
If you want to spend a long time there, maybe book a few night in one online and then wander and find your perfect, less crazy guest house and book on the spot.
A lot of guesthouses don’t require you to book online in advance. You can just walk up and make a booking.
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #4: Food
I was happy enough wandering around Luang Prabang. The night market was nice to stock up on little souvenirs.
This is definitely touristy but still it was nice to drink the sugar filled fruit smoothies and wander around.
Multiple people in the hostel got sick from the grilled fish being sold on the streets. It looks delicious but I wouldn’t risk it…
If you are eating the amazing street food, make sure it hasn’t been sitting out for a long time.
There’s a popular place where backpackers like to eat from big buffets just for a few bucks. All the hostels will recommend that you go there.
Then you go back to your hostel and a lot of the guests from the hostel are hogging the bathrooms with food poisoning.
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #5: Safety
When I was backpacking in Southern Africa just before arriving in Laos, my main rule was not to walk around after dark.
But you definitely CAN walk around after dark in Southeast Asia! It felt SO weird to wander over to a corner store by myself at night when I first arrived.
Southeast Asia is one of the best solo female travel destinations.
Solo female travel in Luang Prabang is definitely easy, fun, and safe.
I met women traveling alone to Luang Prabang who rented motorbikes and explored the whole countryside alone.
I met women who traveled all over on public transportation alone.
Even I wandered all over Luang Prabang alone during the day and at night and never had a problem.
Of course, normal street smarts apply. Don’t have valuables hanging all over.
Using this a slash proof bag for my valuables gave me peace of mind…sometimes people on motorbikes ride up to tourists, cut their bag straps, and zip away with the bag.
But nothing like that ever happened to me.
Aside from street smarts, since Southeast Asia is a huge party destination just be vigilant if you are drinking alcohol around people you don’t know well.
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #6: Giant Spiders and Leeches
Giant spiders and leeches? Yes! But I swear you shouldn’t worry.
I went to the Kuang Si Falls and really enjoyed it. It is easy to find people waiting on the main street with large tuk tuks waiting to go.
You could take a whole Tuk Tuk alone but there are so many groups of travelers going every day that you should just find some and go with them.
I went with a group from the hostel and paid 35000 Lao Kip, and then you have to pay the 20000 Kip entrance fee.
If you go near the end of the day you can swim in some of the magnificent pools all by yourself.
It feels magical but check yourself for leeches afterwards. If you have a leech, holding a flame near it will make it let go.
I didn’t get any and since I didn’t hear any other tourists squealing it seemed like it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Hike up the mountain and go up the cool staircase that is basically part of the waterfall.
Just watch out for the enormous spiders…the largest I have ever seen that aren’t tarantulas.
The kind you have nightmares about.
Solo Backpacking in Luang Prabang Tip #7: Things worth seeing/doing
The Kuang Si falls were my favorite thing I did there, but I also liked the Lao Red Cross Massage. It’s a no frills massage parlor where the money is donated to the local Red Cross.
It seemed pretty popular and the workers were nice. No funny business.
When I went, all the workers giving massages were men. The masseurs were very professional, but I thought I should mention that since not everyone may feel comfortable in that situation.
Don’t forget to visit some of the magnificent temples or the royal palace. My favorite part of the temples were the spectacular paintings inside of them.
If I could go back to Luang Prabang…
I would have splurged even a few dollars more per night on a nicer hotel that had a nice balcony along the Mekong and spent my days reading and drinking tea.
Luang Prabang was wonderful, especially at night with the gorgeous old wooden buildings lit up by the warm streetlights.
I wouldn’t say it is the greatest destination in Southeast Asia, but I think it was well worth the trip.