Formerly a sleepy backwater capital of an evenly backwater state, the capital of Laos, Vientiane, is a delightful and friendly city set on the swirling waters of the mighty Mekong River. The bustling capital is dotted with crumbling French styled mansions, bougainvillea – blooming streets and steaming noodle stalls. Travelers’ enclave is based around Nam Phu, the Mekong riverside and Setthariat and Samsenthai streets.
There are a lot of things to see, from Buddha Park to the Morning market and a rich selection of international cuisine – most pointedly French – you’ll slowly fall in love with the easy charms of this evolving backwater. Unlike Luang Prabang, Vientiane may not reveal its beauty readily, yet you must spend a few days visiting its unusual sights, snacking and quenching your thirst by a cup of Beer Lao at dusk by the river.
Despite a rise of hotels, bars and restaurants, the city still retains tree-lined dirt roads complete with peaceful temples and easy-going inhabitants. The pace of life, as in all aspects of the country, is best described as slow – yet you’ll soon feel at home here.
Things to know when coming to Vientiane
When coming to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, there are a few things you should know:
1. Visa Requirements: Check the visa requirements for your country before traveling to Laos. Some nationalities may be eligible for visa-on-arrival, while others may need to obtain a visa prior to arrival.
2. Currency: The official currency is the Lao Kip (LAK), but Thai Baht and US Dollars are also accepted in most tourist areas. It’s recommended to carry some cash in smaller denominations for local transactions.
3. Language: The official language is Lao, but English is spoken and understood in most tourist areas, hotels, and restaurants.
4. Climate: Vientiane has a tropical climate, with hot and humid weather. Pack lightweight and breathable clothing, along with sunscreen and a hat for protection from the sun.
5. Local Customs: Laos is a traditional and conservative country. It’s important to dress modestly, especially when visiting temples or religious sites. Remove shoes and cover your shoulders and legs when entering temples.
6. Temples and Monasteries: Vientiane is home to several beautiful Buddhist temples and monasteries. Make sure to respect the religious sites, remove your shoes, and follow any guidelines given by the monks.
7. Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks are a popular mode of transportation in Vientiane. Negotiate a price before your ride and make sure to clarify the destination to avoid any confusion.
8. Food: Enjoy the local cuisine which is delicious and diverse. Must-try dishes include sticky rice, laap (minced meat salad), and tam mak hoong (spicy papaya salad). Be cautious with street food and drink bottled water to stay hydrated.
9. Sightseeing: Explore attractions like Patuxai (Victory Monument), Pha That Luang (Golden Stupa), Buddha Park, and the Mekong Riverside. Renting a bicycle or hiring a local guide can be a great way to explore the city.
10. Safety: Vientiane is generally safe, but it’s always important to stay alert and take basic precautions. Keep your belongings secure and be cautious of pickpocketing in crowded areas.
Remember to research and plan ahead to make the most of your trip to Vientiane, Laos.
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