Luang Prabang is a beautiful city, filled with charm and history. It’s no surprise it’s becoming an increasingly popular stop for backpackers and holiday makers. Whilst the small city is flourishing as a result of the increased revenue the tourist industry provides, there is one less desirable side effect: the rising food prices in the area. As the number of people visiting is increasing, so is the cost of food, making it harder and harder to find a backpacker-friendly meal. After spending three months in the former Royal Capital, here are my top 8 cheap eats in Luang Prabang.
So, Bamboo also made it into my favourite secret spots in Luang Prabang, and for good reason. This little restaurant is really popular with ex-pats, however not all that many backpackers find it, as it is just a little in the wrong direction from the main tourist spots. The restaurant has really great food starting at 15,000Kip, which is amongst the cheapest options in town. The portion sizes are good, too. They’ve also been known to deliver – ask your hotel to put the order in for you. Just be sure to ask for the Bamboo restaurant opposite Wat Visoun as there is another, slightly more pricey, Bamboo Restaurant in town. Try the pork palo with rice and soup, it’s delicious.
Luang Prabang has a KFC?! No, I’m afraid if you’re looking for an absolutely authentic western food hit you won’t find it here. There are, however, a few “KFC” stands around town. They are street vendors using a table, a deep fat fryer and another marker pen sign informing everyone that they are a indeed a KFC restaurant. As you can guess, they only sell fried chicken. And, if you’re only selling one thing, you have to make it well, and they do. A bag of chicken will cost just 25,000Kip. We often went via the baguette stands, picked up a couple of plain baguettes, added butter and made an incredible fried chicken sandwich. Sometimes I wonder why none of my clothes fit very well any more, then I remember doing things like this.
Located in-between Wat Visoun and the primary school, on the same road as Bamboo, there is a small restaurant with a crepe stand next to the road. Although I’ve never actually been able to find a name for it, their food is great. The crepes start as 15,000Kip for one filling, and 20,000Kip for two fillings, I like the tuna and cheese. They also have a small menu with fried noodle and rice dishes. My favourite thing about this place, though, is the 5,000Kip homemade yoghurt they sell.
Located between Books and Tea and Lao Lao Garden, this place always has a steady flow of hungry diners. And its popularity doesn’t simply come from it’s location amongst the bars, the food is also fantastic. They have cheap Namkhong beer, good curry and the best Pad Thai in town. Many a night we would debate where to go and somehow end up here, without either of us really making a decision, it’s just such an easy option. There were also endless nights we would sit on the deck at Villa Merry 1 and decide to cycle up there, pick up a couple of portions of fried spring rolls and bring them back for everyone to enjoy by the side of the river. Thinking back to our three months here, those nights might be some of my favourites.
So far as I could tell, this little gem didn’t have an actual name, just a sign saying “Thai Food” written in marker pen. It’s on the main road on the peninsular, opposite the school. As you walk down the road at lunch time, the smell from their open kitchen next to the pavement will entice you in. Hungry or not, the aromas coming from that kitchen will have your stomach rumbling. The service can sometimes be a little slow, but it’s worth the wait. Meals here are definitely backpacker friendly, in both price and size.
You’ll find this place on tripadvisor, with a huge list of positive reviews, so there’s not much new information for me to provide here. It is really popular with travellers, hence the reviews, and locals alike. They also offer take away which is pretty great. The price is good, and the food is great, the portion sizes, however, are a little on the small side. They have some pretty funky fried pasta fusion type dishes that are surprisingly good. I’m not sure if they are just being creative with the pasta, or if no one has ever told them how to cook it, though.
The night market is filled with buffet stands offering a cheap bowl of food. Depending on when you’re there, a bowl from the vegetarian buffet will cost between 10,000-15,000Kip, and you’ll never finish a full bowl! We often got one loaded bowl from the buffet, and then a piece of chicken each from the meat stands next door. Bit of a tip – anything left over at the end of the night is put back out the next day, so you need to get the timing right. Aim to get there after yesterdays leftovers are gone and before the new stuff has been sat out for too long. I found about 7.30 to be a pretty safe bet. There are also loads of other stands offering Chinese dumplings, burgers and Luang Prabang sausages. My advise would be to take a walk down the food alley and follow your instincts – not all of the food is great, so just see what looks good to you and give it a try.
This restaurant can only be considered a cheap eat if you don’t mind going veggie for the night. It’s a fantastic Indian curry house that is famous amongst ex-pats as being one of the best spots for dinner in town. The service is great and the staff are lovely. A veggie curry with a naan bread will cost just shy of 30,000Kip, whist a meat curry costs around that without any bread. Tripadvisor reviews will tell you about the owner, who can be a little on the grumpy side. We ate here almost once a week whilst we were in Luang Prabang and never had any trouble. The younger guy that usually works front of house is really friendly, but I suppose you should watch out for the older owner if he’s there.
That covers all of my favourite cheap eats in Luang Prabang. There are loads more of cheap places, too, these are just the ones I liked the most. What are your favourite cheap eats in Luang Prabang?