The best way to get around Luang Prabang is by tuk tuk. The tuk tuk has various incarnations throughout Asia. In Laos, it's usually a motorbike with a welded wheeled, covered flatbed with parallel benches in it.
Rather than sitting on a bench in the flatbed, with your knees by your chin, it's recommended to stand on the flatbed bumper, grip a metal bar and surf the tuk tuk. This was my friend Devin's idea and a brilliant one at that as it turns an uncomfortable tour of Luang Prabang into a thrilling breeze catching ride.
Tuk tuk rides are very cheap in Luang Prabang - it shouldn't cost more than two dollars to travel between the city's two furthest points. Travel insurance to cover any resulting injuries from surfing the tuk tuk is inexpensive as well.
Flights within Laos are fairly cheap but you miss the beauty of the countryside. Luang Prabang was $55 US and Xieng Khouang was $35. Visa-on-Arrival (good for a 15 day entry permit stamp only) is available at the airport - price is USD30 (payable in USD).
The Airport is on Airport Road which is across the Nam Khan River 5 km from town. You can hire a moto or taxi to take you to town.
When arrive Ban Pak Ou ... walk down to the river you will find some boat there. We payed 10,000 kip ( 1 us dollar ) for crossing the river and that boat wait for us nearly 1 hour to take us back too.
Because we didnt wanna take Boat to Tham Ting ... we hired jumbo in front of the hotel at Sakkarine road ... round trip to Ban Pak Ou ( and then crossing MeKong river by long-tailed boat to the the cave : ''Tham'' means 'cave' ) 800 bahts = 20 us dollar
Luckily I was in the front seat so I didnt get any dust along the way.
So I have heard that they have not had a good track record but the flight was 45 minutes and the alternative was to drive on a windy road that can make most people sick to their stomach. The ticket was like $100 from the capital there.
The slowboats take you to Pak Ou Caves. You can also take the fast boats, which zoom up the river, they are noisy and loud. Plus you have to wear crash helmets and life jackets. The slowboats are much more relaxing and take a longer to reach the caves, but well worth it. You can catch the slowboats on the Mekong river bank.
Luang Prabang is a small town and can easily be discovered by foot. All of the temples are within walking distance of the town centre. If you need to get from A to B a little bit faster, consider renting a bike for a day. Every hotel rents bikes. For trips into the surrounding area, such as Khuangxi Waterfall, rent a jumbo or tuk-tuk. As the waterfall is quite far away, prices are relatively high from a Laotian point of view. Sharing the tuk-tuk with others makes it cheaper!
As I was short of time, I decided to fly to Luang Prabang from Chiangmai in northern Thailand rather than take the traditional 2 day boat ride from Chiang Khong. The flight takes about an hour to reach Luang Prabang International Airport. You can fly by Lao Airlines or Bangkok Airways. For Lao Airlines, there is only one flight available on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. I got my ticket one day before the flight but that was during the off-peak season in June.
It is cheapest to fly to Luang Prabang by Lao Airlines from Chiangmai. The ticket cost about US$70 dollars . I paid 2805 Baht for it. Try to get the tickets from Lao Airline Office directly as it is cheaper this way. I have asked several travel agencies but the prices they quote me are much higher, between 2900 to 3,300 Baht.
Remember to keep 500 Baht for the International Departure Tax from Chiangmai International Airport.
Seeing so many Jumbo in Luang Prabang really put lots of smile on my face because I keep reminded of Visa** Card Advertisement by Pierce Brosnan & Zhang Ziyi.
If you want to feel like "Bond", you can catch one of this Jumbo and you need not to pay by Visa credit card unless you actually cause major damage to Jumbo by going into really off the beaten track.
The Jumbo is a cross between a motorbike and a pickup end.
Extra note about the Ads (extracted from the Net)
The Visa advertisement was filmed in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 200 crew, 100 actors, and 100 vehicles were present on location.
The plot involves Mr. Bond (being driven), trying to get to an appointment with Ms. Zhang Ziyi. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in a traffic jam and decides to take the 007 route by jumping into a confused local's scooter car. Honking all the way, Bond eventually ends up wrecking the car. He uses his Visa card to pay for the damage.
I have to cut short my Laos trip due to some stupid crash with one unplanned business trip to Beijing. Instead of tour the whole Laos, I only managed to do the easy half.
Since my trip is cutting short, my mode of transport also changed from inexpensive road/river transport to flying into Luang Prabang. Of course the flight schedule also bothering me the most.
How do I move my fat ass from Kuala Lumpur & finally arrived at Luang Prabang?
1) Kuala Lumpur - Bangkok (AirAsia)
2) Bangkok - Chiang Mai (Thai Air - Executive Class, transit at Chiang Mai) Sh!t man, economy class ran out
3) Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang (Thai Air) - see pic
We got tickets on a tourist bus from Vientiane to Luang Phabang. I forget the exact price, but it was reasonable. It was a little office next to a restaurant called Kawp Jai Deu.
The bus itself was big and comfortable and it made a couple of rest stops, even a lunch break. That gave us the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs abit. We were also able to see the Lao countryside as we passed villages of all different kinds.
There was talk of Route 13 north being unsafe, but we encountered no problemsat all. In fact it was simple, convenient, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. There's nothing like descending down the sie of the mountain and getting an eye opener of Luang Phabang sprawled out in the misty valley.
In my humble opinion, walking is one of the best ways to gain a sense of place. Unfortunately, some places are not made to be explored by foot. Happily, though, Luang Phabang is definitely not one of them. In fact, exploring by foot is one of the finest ways to get around. Avoid doing it mid-day mid-April though, you risk passing out in 100F+.
We rode on a speed boat down the Mekong River from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, the boat had 10 people on board and was very, very cramped and also loud. The trip took 6 hours and we were stiff and sore by the time we arrived, but i must admit i enjoyed it. Next time i'll catch the slow boat though (this take 2 days). We paid 1200 baht at Chiang Khong, Thailand (across the river from Huay Xai) and despite what some publications say, Loa visas are available on arrival at Huay Xai
Yoy can rent bikes for not more than 10.000 Kip (less than 1 US $) for a whole day. We hired them in Phounsab Guesthouse but the quelity could be better.
We're too tall for these Asian bikes with their small frames.
Jumbos are like a cross between a small pickup truck and a motorcycle or a more meaty version of Thailand’s Tuk-Tuk. You can put a fair amount of people in them though to charter one on your own is not the cheapest option of getting from point A to B. We paid 80,000 Kip ( about ten dollars) for a one hour trip to the village of Pak Au. The driver waited for us while we wandered around the small village and made a boat trip over to visit the caves.