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Laos With Kids

I visited Laos as a backpacker in my 20s and spent most of my time either tubing down a river in Vang Vieng or drinking beer in the cafes of Luang Prabang.  It’s still on the bucket list for our family but Bhupi recently visited with her husband and boys aged 3 and 5…

boat and driver at caves

Bhupi’s Itinerary

  • Vientiane 5 nights
  • Luang Prabang 4 nights
  • The hills 30-40 minute drive southwest of Luang Prabang 4 nights.

We went 22 September to 5 October. It was the tail end of low season and start of high season so still fairly quiet in terms of tourists/travellers. Some places (restaurants, museums) were closed and only just reopening in early October.

The weather was generally hot and humid though a bit cooler in the hills. Only one day of continuous rain (at the start) and otherwise occasional showers some days.

How did you book the trip? 

I booked flights and hotels booked separately. I used Skyscanner for the flights. Hotels were booked directly and came recommended by my husband’s expat, colleagues in Laos.

Laos is still very undeveloped (for us it was part of the charm and attraction) and things like the boat trips will not be for everyone as the jetties and piers are very makeshift – often precariously placed planks of wood – which can be tricky with little kids. It was very easy to organize all of the trips upon arrival via a combination of the travel/adventure places in the main street in Luang Prabang, our hotels and just rocking up.

What did the price include?

All hotels included great breakfasts and organized all our transfers at minimal cost. The hotels organized all our transfers in clean, air-conditioned cars.

Did you have to organize visa in advance?

No, visas are available upon arrival. For most nationalities they cost USD25-30 (use new notes) plus USD2 per person for photos if, like us, you haven’t brought your own.

How was the flight? Any tips?

We flew with Thai Airways overnight from Melbourne and had to change in Bangkok as there are no direct flights and all other airlines would require at least 2 changes.

The boys are seasoned travellers and love flying. I usually take a few books, toys and snacks to occupy them during takeoff and landing and otherwise they love unlimited (until they pass out) inflight kids tv! They travel with their own Trunkies and headphones which work really well for us. I usually pack toys, books, headphones and snacks in one Trunki and spare clothes, nappies, meds, etc in the other (in the hope I will never need to open it). It means they lug their own stuff (mostly) and I can travel light onboard.

Lao Cuisine

The local food was delicious and quite spicy! Quite similar to Thai food without the emphasis on seafood though you do get good river fish. Fried river weed coated in sesame seeds was surprisingly tasty. Luang Prabang sausage (not at all spicy) was a big hit with the boys. They also loved the local sticky rice – comes in a little lidded basket and is eaten with the hands.

International favourites like pizza, pasta, burgers, chips and sandwiches were readily available in Vientiane and Luang Prabang – they were also of good quality.

The French have left a great legacy of patisseries and bakeries. I had some of the best croissants and baguettes outside of France I’ve ever had.

VIENTIANE

The Hotel

We stayed at Chanthapanya Hotel which is a 15 minute drive from the airport.

The hotel is local style luxury and charm – lots of intricate wood carving, gold plating and water features – everywhere! Great, central location so could walk to several of the sights and restaurants easily even in the heat and humidity. It also had a pool which is hard to find in the city center hotels.

We stayed in a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom family suite which had spacious rooms, modern bathrooms and a large balcony.

Pool Chanthapanya Hotel

Great breakfast with a selection of buffet and a la carte options. Decent pool with shallow/kids area and poolside changing rooms. Room service was very limited – non-spicy noodles ordered for the kids came loaded with black pepper.

Activities in Vientiane

Mostly sightseeing at the Laos National museum, COPE center museum, various temples, Maicome hand woven silk factory (amazing seeing the women weave and spin their magic on old, wooden looms) and the Mekhong.

Vientiane - ladies handweaving silk Maicome

We got around using a combination of walking, tuktuks, taxis and the hotel shuttle service. The traffic, population and pollution in Vientiane are fairly light, especially compared to other Asian capitals, so it felt very accessible even with the kids in tow.

Food in Vientiane

Joma bakery and Le Banneton cafes (both also in LP and the latter bakes amazing pastries), Via Via (for proper Italian style, wood fired pizzas), Lao Kitchen and Pimphone (both for local food), Mix at the water fountain (delicious Thai food and lots of space for kids to run around).

LUANG PRABANG

The Hotel

We stayed at Villa Maly, a 15 minute drive from the airport.

The hotel is a stunning and stylishly renovated French colonial villa now a boutique hotel with a gorgeous pool. A comfortable 10 minute walk or 2 minute tuktuk ride from the old town. We wanted a nice pool which you don’t get in the old town. The boys loved the short tuktuk rides.

Pool - Villa Maly

We stayed in a large room and they provided an extra bed for the boys. You can also request cots.

There is a small, poolside spa for massages, lovely restaurant and beautiful pool (just the one though and it gets quite deep quite quickly after the steps). Not a facility as such but the croissants were amazing!

Pool & Spa Villa Maly

Activities in Luang Prabang

Sightseeing (on foot with a buggy) the breathtakingly beautiful temples, palace and stupa in the Old Town.

LP - Wat at Royal Palace

Sundowners and dinner at the Khan and Mekong river fronts (wear lots of insect repellant).

Sunset overlooking Khan from Ansara

The views across Luang Prabang from the Phu Si peak are stunning but there are a lot of very steep steps to get up there so one to do without young kids.

LP - Buddha statue on steps

Elephant rides and Tad Sae waterfalls booked through Elephant Village (at their office in LP’s main street – we chose them for their ethical approach to conservation). The boys loved riding bare back/neck on the elephants and playing with the gorgeous 16 month old baby elephant called Maxi.

Elephant village

Tad Sae waterfall was a dodgy, short boat ride along the Khan river (they have informal elephant rides at the waterfall but the mahouts use spikes…).

Mekhong river cruise to the Pak Ou caves (we just turned up and hired a private boat directly at the jetty). There are lots of steps to the upper cave but the boys just about managed them.

jetty to Pak Ou caves Pak Ou Caves

Food In Luang Prabang

Coconut Garden (good local and international food, great garden at the back for kids to run around), Belle Rive on the Mekhong river front and Ansara on the Khan river front (both better for Lao food).

sunset from Belle River

HILLS OUTSIDE LUANG PRABANG

The Hotel

Hillside Resort Pool

We stayed at the Hillside Resort which is a 40 minute drive from Luang Prabang Airport.  

These were rustic bungalows hidden away in the hillside.  We stayed in the family bungalow which has a large double and two single beds. It was a little rundown but didn’t matter too much as we didn’t spend much time there other than to sleep.

Hillside Bungalows 2

There’s no internet or tv so it’s a proper escape. Not for everyone but we loved our few days away from it all. Also the hillside location means there are lots of steps so it’s not buggy friendly.

Hillside Resort Hillside Pool

There is a beautiful, infinity pool with 360 degree hillside views. great local style massage, books and games (we rediscovered the joys of scrabble and connect 4) in the main bungalow/bar/restaurant. The food menu is a bit limited but a good mix of local and international favourites they were also very flexible about making changes for the kids.

Activities from Hillside Resort

The black bear sanctuary and Kuang Si waterfall in the same national park about 30 kms outside LP (HRLP organised a car and driver for us).

Local tribal villages of the Hmong and Khamu people (short hikes from HRLP).

How was the trip overall? What tips would you give to someone booking this holiday?

We loved Laos and had a great time. It was our first proper travelling trip with the boys where we did lots of sightseeing and activities instead of just a relaxing pool/beachside holiday. We tried to pace the activities (no more than one trip per day) and balance with lots chilled pool time.

Would you go back?

Yes, we would love to see more of Laos. Very friendly people, great food and gorgeous culture. For those with older (or no) kids there are lots of adventures to be had around Luang Prabang hiking, biking, tubing and kayaking.

4 comments

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  1. MummyTravels

    This is so interesting to read – I went to Laos a couple of years ago and followed a similar itinerary (though with less time) and loved it, it’s easily one of my favourite countries. I’d never really thought if it as a destination for young people kids though but actually there’s do much they’d love.

    1. Nicola

      Absolutely – I can’t wait to take the kids there

  2. Jayne

    Great post – thank you! We’ll be checking into the Hillside resort, Luang Prabang, in two days’ time. We’re doing a 6-month SE Asia adventure with an 8-yr-old and a 6-yr-old, mixing family hostel rooms with chill-out hotels. Inspired by this post, our reservation is a ‘reward’ for a hectic sight-seeing month in China, although Laos’ magic is already beginning to work in Luang Namtha…..

    1. Jessica

      Hi Jayne, there’s no date on your post, so I’m not sure when it went up, but I would love to hear more about your trip. We’re planning a 6 month trip through SE Asia, China and Mongolia with our (then) almost 6 and 9 year old girls. Any advice, observations, must packs? Thanks!

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