Situated between the mighty Mekong and the Nam Khan rivers, this UNESCO world heritage site stuns travelers with golden tipped temples where studious young monks reside, sprawling markets laden with Hmong handicrafts, French influenced bakeries, and enough surrounding natural beauty to continuously satisfy any traveler’s desires. With a more sophisticated flair than other Southeast Asian volunteer destinations, this northern city in Laos attracts a diverse range of volunteers, both in terms of age and travel priorities, all eager to further explore Buddhist culture. Choose a volunteer program in Luang Praband and join dozens of other curious explorers like you!
Volunteering in Luang Prabang
Volunteer placements in Luang Prabang often focus on community development, but placements can take many forms.
Most volunteers will find themselves immersed in the world of teaching English to both eager Buddhist monks and other community members. As Laos emerges as a growing tourism hot spot, it becomes increasingly appealing for Laotian people to learn the English language for both career and personal aspirations. Volunteer organisations in Luang Prabang will typically accept volunteers with or without teaching experience, and some will even train volunteers to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and mentor them throughout their time volunteering in Laos.
In addition to teaching, women’s empowerment projects are growing in popularity in Luang Prabang. Unfortunately gender equality is still an ideal and not a reality in Laos. Volunteers can work with female only classes and workshops that focus on career development, self esteem builders, and general group bonding activities.
Volunteers are not expected to know how to speak the Lao language, however some volunteer organisations will offer a general introduction to the language. If volunteers want to take more language classes while volunteering in Luang Prabang they are available. Volunteer programs in Luang Prabang range in duration from a few weeks to a few months.
Life in Luang Prabang
Life in Luang Prabang starts at 5:00 a.m., when the monks rise to walk the streets collecting alms for the day, a mesmerizing tradition to take part in. The day typically continues with a visit to the market or a slow breakfast along the banks of the Mekong River.
Luang Prabang is used to travelers passing through, and thus is very tourist friendly. Finding a pharmacy, cheap guesthouse, cozy café, or knowledgeable travel agency are all easy tasks. That being said, Luang Prabang is still culturally conservative; volunteers should dress modestly and must never talk to or touch monks that they pass by on the streets. The local culture is very strong in Luang Prabang, and volunteers should spend time reading up on the traditions and what is considered offensive before beginning their volunteer work.
Daily life usually starts at 7:30 a.m. for volunteers, and teaching begins at 8:00 a.m. In general, volunteering in Luang Prabang is an all-day event, with a mid-day pause for lunch. Weekends are free for exploration however, whether to the Kuang Si waterfalls or the Pak Ou caves. There are a range of activities to take part in, such as cooking classes, boat rides, temple visits, or treks into the local forests to spot Laos’s range of wildlife.
Costs & Affordability
Volunteer program fees generally cover all basic needs: accommodation, all meals, training, and daily transportation to your volunteer project in Luang Prabang. If volunteers want to engage in outside activities or eat at local restaurants, there are numerous options, from more upscale choices to incredibly budget friendly locations. A local street side feast will cost little over $2, while a more international café will be around $6.
For volunteers worried about covering the cost of volunteer programs in Luang Prabang, fundraising is a perfect option. Fundraising can be done independently, with the aid of an educational institution, or through an established online platform.
Accommodation & Visas
Volunteers can expect to stay in affordable guesthouses typically utilized by backpackers. Rooms are generally shared, though some volunteer organisations in Luang Prabang do offer accommodation in a private room. Most rooms will come equipped with mosquito nets, wardrobes, and either a private or shared bathroom.
Volunteers will need to purchase a tourist visa upon arrival in Laos. Visas will cost around $30 to 40, and last for a duration of 28 days. If you are volunteering in Luang Prabang for longer than 28 days, you’ll need to renew your visa for an additional cost of $78. Renewal can happen twice before volunteers will need to travel to a neighboring country (typically volunteers choose Thailand), and enter back into the country on a new visa.
Benefits & Challenges
Adjusting to Luang Prabang’s more conservative culture may take a bit of time. Volunteers should be prepared to adjust some of their own habits in order to fit into the norms of Laotian culture.
Volunteers who plan to volunteer in Luang Prabang between the months of March and November should come prepared to experience periods of extreme heat.
Joining a volunteer program in Luang Prabang means you’ll gain a richer understanding of both Laos and Buddhist culture and a variety of skills and experience that will be useful in any of your future endeavors. So, why not volunteer in Luang Prabang?