A Digital Nomad in Luang Prabang

Hong Kong Outdoor Escalators Video
February 20, 2012
Photos from the Road: the Gower Peninsula
February 27, 2012

I’ve written previously about my quest to become location independent and posted Using Chiang Mai as a Remote Workplace last year after stopping temporarily to work there during my travels through Southeast Asia. I wanted to continue to write about places that are well suited for digital nomads to set up shop temporarily.

This time around I’m using Luang Prabang, Laos, as my workplace.  Here’s how the ancient Lao capital stacks up as a remote office.

WiFi Access

Almost every guesthouse in Luang Prabang has free WiFi, and there are plenty to choose from. If you feel like taking your laptop or Kindle Fire to a café or bar, many offer free wireless internet as well. The WiFi speeds throughout the city are acceptable to do most kinds of online work. The only thing that delayed me was uploading videos to YouTube. Luang Prabang is not as well wired as Chiang Mai, but it’s good enough that you won’t be left frustrated most of the time. Some of the cafes are situated along the rivers, so chances are you’ll have a nice view behind your laptop monitor.
lemonade view at Utopia

City with a village feel

I like to think of Luang Prabang as a big village. I wrote a recent piece about what it’s like in Luang Prabang. It’s quiet most of the year, but the high season (Nov-March) can be busy. Still, the majority of back streets are serene with palm trees high above. Monks are walking around at all times of day and the multitude of monasteries around town are the real working things. There are plenty of eateries (but most lack Lao food) and enough bars to keep a digital nomad at ease. Luang Prabang does lack an afterhours nightlife (except for the Bowling Alley) because of a city-wide midnight curfew.
IMG_0495

Distractions

I found Luang Prabang a suitable place to focus and accomplish my daily tasks. There were few distractions in my day-to-day routine. If you need to take a break, the city is excellent for walking. You can stroll through the temple grounds and hear monks chanting, get a coffee and read the Bangkok Post, walk along the riverside, stop at a chic wine bar for a happy hour tipple, watch the sun set over the Mekong. If you get hot, take a dip in the Nam Khan River.
Nam Khan River and bamboo bridge

Inexpensive living

Very basic double rooms in a Luang Prabang guesthouse start at around 40,000 kip ($5 US). Prices double in high season. Sandwiches and basic meals of fried rice and noodles can be bought for 15,000 kip ($2.15 US). A coffee usually goes for 10,000 kip ($1.25) and the same for a 640ml Beer Lao.

Alternatives to Luang Prabang

Amenities throughout Laos are minimum, but continue to grow as more and more backpackers pass through on the Banana Pancake Trail. Surrounding towns in northern Laos may be more remote and peaceful to get work done, but connections to the internet will be fewer and slower. Vang Vieng has decent connections and facilities but the backpacker self-indulgence and debauchery may be a distraction. Vientiane could make a nice base for a digital nomad.
novice monks walking in Luang Prabang

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 15 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Google +, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

12 Comments

  1. Michael Bugno says:

    These pictures are AMAZING! It looks so beautiful and peaceful. I think I might want the life of a digital nomad for 2 weeks or so. Is the Banana Pancake Trail as delicious as it sounds?

  2. Ash says:

    I was just there in LP last November and I have to say the constant state of peace u find yourself in is something that you cant explain – it has to be experienced for yourself to understand.
    I have been considering places in SEA to work on my own digital nomad stuff from (2 months in Philippines, i dont recommend it) and arrows still seem to be pointing mostly to Chiang Mai.
    Would you agree with me in saying that LP is probably a little too expensive to stay for an extended few months if your on a fairly tight budget? (especially if you re planning on a few months, u prob want a bit more than just a bed in a dorm etc…)

  3. -I agree. Minimal distractions in LP so I could concentrate on work. Definite plus.

    -Thanks for the tip on the Philippines. What was the problem? The internet connections or distractions?

    -Chiang Mai is really hard to beat. No argument against it.

    -I think you could live in LP for about $10-15 total per day in a private room. Might be harder in the high season.

  4. Ash says:

    Yeah definately hearing you re: LP in high season- Lots of property being bought in the outer suburbs at the moment!

    I just found the Philippines to be alot more frustrating and hard work than in mainland SEA in respects to dealing/working with the locals and was really hard to find steady internet/electricity connections in the types of places you would most want to be ie: beach locations etc.
    Also i found the food to be of a significant lower standard and less to choose from which gets a bit annoying if you re doing extended stay there.

  5. Kaitlin says:

    Thanks for this, Stephen. Do you have any recommended places with particularly strong wifi connections? We just arrived, but things seem a bit spotty and pretty slow. If you happened to find a cafe or bar with a good connection, I’d be grateful if you could share!

  6. Hi Kaitlin, We usually headed to Arthouse Cafe (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g295415-d1654341-Reviews-Arthouse_Cafe-Luang_Prabang.html) when we needed reliable internet. Nice coffee and food there too, not to mention the nice riverside location.

  7. […] started this series with a Digital Nomad in Luang Prabang and Using Chiang Mai as a Remote Workplace. Read those to get an idea of other good places to live […]

  8. Gen says:

    Hi Stephen, thank you so much for this post! I realise it’s a couple of years old now but I’ve just spent 2 weeks in Hoi An, and as much as I’ve loved it the internet is really unreliable and it’s set me back a bit in terms of how much work I was planning to do on my website here. I’m trying to decide the next stop and Luang Prabang is definitely on the list. Thanks for posting this and helping with my decision making 🙂
    Gen

  9. Hi Gen,
    I’m not sure that the internet will be that mch more reliable, but it’s worth a try, because Luang Prabang is a nice, relaxed, inexpensive city to work from for a few weeks. Give it a try and you can move on after that. The most popular place to work online is probably Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is on many digital nomads circuit either before or after LP. Good luck with your pursuits and let me know if you have any other questions or are looking for more places to work from.
    -Stephen

  10. Charlotte says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I just wanted to give another point of view about LP. After reading your post, in January 2015, we decided to move from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and work there on our digital project. The connexion was really – REALLY – bad. That was impossible to work, even sending a simple email was a pain. We tried different spots in the city and I think things have changed a lot over the last 2 years. There are much more people now visiting the city and unfortunately the network cannot sustain so many connexions. Also, I found that the staff didn’t really like it when you stay and work in their cafe. I felt I had to order many drinks or food to justify my presence. Coming from Chiang Mai (the paradise for digital nomads), that was a shock – for me and my wallet.
    Also, the city is now super touristy and becoming polluted / very expensive.
    I just thought I would let your readers now in case they are travelling in the region for their digital project.

    Thanks anyways for your lovely articles! 🙂

  11. Hey thanks for the valuable updates and information, Charlotte! I really appreciate it and so do the readers. Good that you gave LP a try but sorry to hear of what it’s becoming.

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