Introducing the city

£1.00 | 10,500₭

GBP | LAK

Gasoline £0.75 | 7,869₭

One-way ticket £0.29 | 3,008₭

Beer £0.79 | 8,246₭

Main Course £1.74 | 18,273₭

About Vientiane

Embracing a slower pace of life, Laos' capital provides an alternative and laid-back atmosphere when compared with other major Asian cities.

Laos' historic capital of Vientiane is little bit like Marmite - you'll love it or hate it. But if your first impression points towards the latter, remember they say that if you try something enough times, you may end up liking it. So given the cool, calm and collected approach of this former French trading post, it may take time to truly appreciate this city's cultural beauty.

With the largest population in Laos at around 750,000, Vientiane has a lot to offer. In recent years, Laos' tourism industry has grown significantly and the country's capital, with an array of old Buddhist temples, cultural attractions and its French-inspired architecture, has profited greatly. The hustle and bustle of neighbouring capitals are a distant memory here, where a vibrant atmosphere is still retained in areas such as the old quarter and the riverside night market without the chaotic vibes of a Hanoi or Bangkok. But whether you think you'll love or hate it, first you'll need to try it.

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Weather

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When Should You Visit?

January and February are the best months to visit when there is little rainfall and temperatures are more bearable than in the months ahead.

Vientiane experiences warm weather all year round, an average high temperature sits above 25 degrees Celsius. The coldest months are December and January where the average lows drop below 20 degrees Celsius. The hottest month of the year is April and the wettest month is August. Rainy season falls from May to October and November to February are the driest months.

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Travioor top tips

Shopping
Small Money
Massage

Insider Info

  • If something hasn't got a set price attached to it or hasn't got a bar code, most of the time you'll be able to get a better price than first quoted. Haggle (don't be too hard and smile) with locals to get the best bargains in shops and at the market.
  • Low prices mean you'll be better off carrying small change because taxi drivers, shop owners and stall vendors may not necessarily have change for large notes (or at least they'll say that).
  • To relax head for Lao Herbal Steam Sauna and Massage, outside Vientiane's centre. This open-air traditional house provides an alternative to the massage shops and spas within Vientiane and still offers great value for money.

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Food and drink

Main Course £1.74 | 18,273₭

3-Course Meal £18.20 | 191,154₭

Cappuccino £1.68 | 17,622₭

Beer £0.79 | 8,246₭

The Scene

Food centres around steamed, sticky rice. It clings to itself which makes it easy to eat by hand the way Laotians do. Traditional dishes are typically noodle, rice or soup based like khao piak sen (a pork or chicken broth with white noodles) and khao soi noodle soup. The som tam (papaya salad) is a crunchy, spicy, refreshing choice on sluggish hot days.

There is also an international food scene. Restaurants are plentiful down on the Mekong River and range from Chinese to American. European influence is extensive (like the baguette vendors on the streets).

After you've finished eating, order a few glasses of the cheap local beer - Beerlao. Head downtown for bars and pubs.

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History

Vientiane’s Story

The original meaning of Vientiane is sandalwood which comes from Pali, a sacred language of Buddhism.

Since the 10th century, Vientiane has been conquered by many including the Khmers, Siamese, Vietnamese and Burmese. Things began to look better for the city however when, during the middlle of the 16th century, the king moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane and started to build some monuments and temples such as the iconic That Luang. During the late 19th century, the French then moved in to colonise Laos as part of their Indochina plan cementing Vientiane as the capital. Many temples and buildings were rebuilt as a vast number of them were destroyed during Siamese attacks prior to the French conquering the city.

In the last 20 years, Laos has see an increase in tourism, most notably during the last five or six years, and Vientiane has slowly managed to establish itself on the south-east Asia circuit.

Language

Sába̖ai-di̖i | Hello
Khàwp ja̖i | Thank you

Lao

Vientiane has a regional dialect but any Laotian should be understood. In fact some Thai and Khmer will be useful if you haven't had time to pick up any phrases although it pays to deliver some local and practised dialogue. The intertwining histories of many southeast Asian countries is obvious through the languages, as is the European presence - older generations speak French. In tourist areas a basic level of English is spoken. Try these out and don't forget the Sampeah greeting (palms together, fingertips touching eyebrows and bow slightly):

  • Goodbye: Sôhk dii der
  • My name is...: Kháwy seu...
  • Excuse me: Khãw thôht

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Need to know

+856 Dialling Code
191 | 195 Emergency Services

Get The Low-Down

  • Cover yourself appropriately before entering temples.
  • Be aware of potholes or damaged roads, especially at night. Many buildings have protruding metal rods and if you're careless these can snag clothes and give nasty cuts. 
  • Mosquitoes are a real problem in Vientiane. A bug spray with 50 per cent deet is an absolute minimum.
  • There are extremely strict drug laws .
  • US Dollars or Thai Baht are widely accepted.


VISA INFORMATION

Find out about the visa requirements for Laos here.

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Travioor Recommends

1. BUDDHA PARK

Walk the Buddha Park outside Vientiane and view the 200 statues and sculptures. Entrance is 5,000 kip and cameras will set you back an extra 3,000 kip.

2. COPE

The ongoing impact of American bombs in Laos starkly contrasts with the gardens and temples surrounding the city. Contemplate the COPE visitor centre in Buddha Park.

3. CYCLE

Cycling Vientiane is a tranquil affair. Pick up a conical hat which really keeps the heat off and glide past the Patuxai Victory Monument and other sites of the city.

4. CURFEW

Although the government stipulates an 11 p.m. curfew, few places adhere to it. However, if there is any trouble, breaking this rule may become an issue.

5. WAT HO PHRA KEO

This historic Buddhist temple built in 1565 was once home to the Emerald Buddha and stands as a top attraction in Laos.


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