a guide to free fun in Luang Prabang, Laos

People come to Southeast Asia for a variety of reasons: the gorgeous natural landscapes, the exotic food, the unique cultures, and, it goes without saying, the low cost. Months in certain destinations can cost you as much as days or weeks other places, especially if you’re a tight budget traveler. Despite the already low cost of Laos, I’m always looking for the best deals and free attractions, events, and general goings-on happening in the city.

This post is a guide to free fun in Luang Prabang for those looking to stretch their pennies farther while enjoying this UNESCO Heritage Site. There are a variety of things to do in LPB that cost nothing {and next to nothing}. I’ve done every activity on this list, and ran it over with my friends so that you could have the most comprehensive guide possible.


KEEP READING TO FIND MY FAVOURITE NO-DOLLAR THINGS TO DO IN LUANG PRABANG


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LEARN ABOUT “THE SECRET WAR” AT THE UXO Museum

The UXO Museum is a must for visitors to Luang Prabang. Did you know that the United Stated bombed Laos more than any other country in the world? Probably not. Don’t feel bad. I didn’t either my first trip to Laos. That’s when someone suggested I take a peek at the UXO Museum and get the lowdown on the war no one talks about and how it’s still affecting Lao people. My eyes were opened, though fighting back tears. The museum is free, though a little out of the way nearer to Wat Manorom and not close to the “tourist” side of town. It’s highly educational and immensely important.

Watch Chang in an open air cinema

As the evening air hits Luang Prabang and most tourists are heading to the night market, I whole-heartedly suggest heading towards the Sanctuary Hotel where they play Chang, a black and white film made in 1927 Laos about a village and their encounter with elephants, at their open-air cinema. The film is free and the hotel staff set up mosquito lamps to keep away the pesky critters. You are encouraged to order something off the menu, but there are beverages and snacks for a very reasonable 10,000 kip {just over USD $1}.

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Visit local temples

Many, in fact most, of the temples around Luang Prabang are free to the public. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately and that you watch your noise level. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO Heritage Site, so the locals are doing their best to protect the traditions and culture of LPB. There are wooden plaques in front of most temples now {a new addition since my last stay} giving brief instructions. Monks and novices might come up to you and try to practice their language skills, just remember to show your respect and don’t make physical contact.

CHECK OUT THE MEDITATION EXHIBIT

While it’s not the most exciting thing to do, it is culturally relevant and sheds some meaningful insight into the importance of meditation in Buddhist culture. Spoiler alert: it is the most important. Take some time to view the gallery of beautiful portraits shot by a professional photographer in collaboration with the monks and novices themselves, and make sure you read all the little plaques. The Meditation Exhibit is near Le Banneton on the main road and sits on temple grounds {read: dress appropriately}. It takes no longer than 15-20 minutes out of your day, but it’s a fun and free way to escape that hot, thick Lao air in the middle of the day.

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Volunteer at Big Brother Mouse

Big Brother Mouse is a free organization with opportunities for those wanting to volunteer their time to do so. Basically, it’s a building off of main street where you can come and go as you please and have conversations with students who need help with language practice— everything from English to Spanish to French to German and Chinese. Sometimes, students will come in needing help with math or science homework. If you want to give back, but aren’t sure how and don’t want to pay high volun-tourism fees, Big Brother Mouse is ideal! Please dress modestly, as some of the local students seeking tutoring are novices and monks from local temples.

TAKE THE FREE BOAT TO YENSABAI

I’ve never actually been to Yensabai, but I have taken the free ferry to the other side of the Nam Khan provided by Yensabai. Cheeky, huh? The wooden boat is free and, while the ride only lasts a few minutes, it’s a different way to see the lesser-visited side of Luang Prabang. This part of Luang Prabang is practically undiscovered by tourists, so it’s especially good to get lost in {just make sure you don’t actually get lost, no one can last forever out in this heat}.

BOOKS AND TEA

BOOKS AND TEA

ENJOY Movie night at Books + Tea

Books + Tea hosts a movie night every night at 7:00 PM in their upstairs loft space. The movies rotate, and you can find out what’s playing for the week ahead by stopping by and looking at the sandwich board outside the front of the store. Grab a floor pillow, order a wine or mango sticky rice, and enjoy a film. It’s the closest thing Luang Prabang has to a cinema. Okay, let me be real, while it’s technically a free movie night, you are “encouraged” to purchase something off the menu. Who doesn’t love a snack with their film though, right?!

CATCH A SUNRISE AT THE TOP OF MOUNT PHOUSI

While you have to pay a small fee to see the top of Mount Phousi in the day, if you get up early enough in the morning {think before sunrise}, you can climb up to the top of the mountain for a killer sunrise view of the peninsula. Bring your camera and a water bottle, and please, please, please dress conservatively— Mount Phousi is home to a temple.

MEDITATION EXHIBIT IN LUANG PRABANG

MEDITATION EXHIBIT IN LUANG PRABANG

PEOPLE WATCH + WINDOW SHOP At the night market

While most night market visitors are looking to haggle their way to a nearly-free souvenir to take home from their travels, I like to go for the people watching. Even better, I like to sit at the end of the night market near Indigo House and watch the coconut pancake vendors do their thing while the tourists do theirs. It gets hot and swampy in the summer months, even at night, so I prefer to people-watch at the night market during the rainy season or off-peak months, like September, when it’s a bit less crowded and a bit cooler. You can always grab a coffee from Indigo and head to their rooftop deck to watch the set-up and tear-down of the market, which makes for a very cool timelapse.

SPEND THE WEEKEND AT SANAKEO HOTEL POOL

The Sanakeo Boutique Hotel pool is free to the public on the weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday, you can go for a dip in their plunge pool. There is a full service restaurant and cafe with special and promotions that rotate. While the food is a bit expensive, you can always get a fruit shake and enjoy splashing around without buying a meal.

YOU CAN FIND ALL THESE FREE ATTRACTIONS IN YELLOW ON THE MAP BELOW

WATCH THE HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2017 ADVENTURES IN LAOS


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