Vientiane, LaosWelcome to Vientiane, Laos – a city that embodies ancient traditions amidst modern developments. From ancient temples to bustling night markets, Vientiane has a unique charm that sets it apart from other destinations in Southeast Asia. In this travel guide, we will take you on a journey to discover the mystical side of Vientiane – a city that is still relatively unknown to many travelers. Whether you’re interested in exploring temples, tasting local cuisine, or just soaking in the local culture, Vientiane has something for everyone. So sit back, relax, and let us guide you through this mystical city.
Getting to know Vientiane
Welcome to Vientiane, the mystical capital city of Laos. Located on the banks of the Mekong River, this city is known for its rich history, fascinating culture, and stunning natural beauty.
Founded in the 14th century as a Khmer trading post, Vientiane has been shaped by centuries of colonization and influence from neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Today, it is a melting pot of unique traditions and customs that draw travelers from all over the world.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Vientiane is its laid-back atmosphere. Unlike other bustling Southeast Asian cities, it moves at a slower pace, allowing you to truly soak in all its charm.
With a range of attractions, including ancient temples, historic landmarks, vibrant markets, and delicious cuisine, Vientiane has something to offer any type of traveler.
Getting to know Vientiane
|Currency||Lao kip (LAK)|
Visitors to Vientiane can expect to be greeted with warm hospitality and a laid-back atmosphere that is hard to find elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The city’s unique blend of cultures and traditions make it a must-visit destination for any traveler.
Top Attractions in Vientiane
When it comes to discovering the charm of Vientiane, Laos, exploring the top attractions is a must. From ancient temples to cultural landmarks, there’s plenty to see and do in this mystical city.
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang is one of the most iconic landmarks in Vientiane, and it’s a must-see attraction for any traveler visiting the city. This golden stupa dates back to the 16th century and is considered a national symbol of Laos. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains, the stupa is a sight to behold.
Also known as the Victory Monument, Patuxai is another significant landmark in the city. This towering monument was built in the 1960s to honor those who fought for independence from France. Visitors can climb to the top of the monument for stunning views of the city.
Wat Si Saket
One of the oldest temples in Vientiane is Wat Si Saket, built in the 19th century. This temple features a unique blend of Lao and Thai architectural styles and is home to thousands of small Buddha statues. The temple’s tranquil atmosphere is a perfect place for contemplation and reflection.
For those who want to experience something unique, a visit to the Buddha Park is a must. This outdoor park is filled with over 200 statues of Buddha, as well as Hindu deities, demons, and animals. The park’s iconic 40-meter reclining Buddha statue is a popular spot for photos.
These top attractions in Vientiane are just a taste of what this city has to offer. Exploring these landmarks will give you a deeper appreciation for the history and culture of Laos.
Experiencing the Local Cuisine in Vientiane
One of the best ways to truly experience a new destination is through its food, and Vientiane, Laos is no exception. The local cuisine is a delicious fusion of Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese influences, with its own unique twist. Here are some must-try dishes and where to find them.
Bang Bang Salad
This refreshing and flavorful salad is a staple in Laos cuisine. Made with green papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, and herbs, it’s a healthy and delicious option that can be found at many local restaurants and street food vendors.
Also known as sai oua, this savory sausage is a popular street food snack in Vientiane. Made with pork, lemongrass, and chilies, it packs a flavorful punch. Head to the food stalls at the night market to try some.
This spicy minced meat salad is a Lao specialty that shouldn’t be missed. It’s typically made with pork or chicken, and mixed with an array of herbs and spices. Check out restaurants like Kua Lao to taste the best larb in town.
Khao Jee Sandwich
This Laotian-style baguette sandwich is perfect for a quick and satisfying lunch. Stuffed with grilled meat, pate, pickled vegetables, and herbs, it’s a delicious blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors. Visit the stalls at the Morning Market to grab one to go.
These are just a few of the many delicious dishes to try in Vientiane. Be sure to also sample some of the famous Lao sticky rice, and wash it all down with a refreshing Beer Lao.
Exploring Nightlife in Vientiane
Looking for a fun night out in Vientiane? You’re in luck – the city offers a variety of nightlife options for travelers of all tastes. Whether you’re looking to dance the night away or just enjoy a few drinks with friends, Vientiane has plenty of options to choose from.
Bars and Pubs
If you’re in the mood for a casual night out, head to one of Vientiane’s many bars or pubs. One popular spot is the Scandinavian Bakery, which offers a relaxed atmosphere and live music on weekends. Another option is Bor Pen Nyang, a stylish bar with an extensive cocktail menu and outdoor seating. Beer lovers won’t want to miss out on Chokdee Café, which has a range of local and imported brews on tap.
For those who prefer a livelier scene, Vientiane has several nightclubs to choose from. One of the most popular is Marina Bay, which is known for its energetic dance floor and international DJ lineup. Another option is Zao, a trendy club with a rooftop bar and stunning city views. Alternatively, head to Malibu Club for a more upscale experience – this club features VIP tables and bottle service.
Looking for a unique way to spend the evening? Check out Vientiane’s night markets, which offer a lively atmosphere and a chance to sample local street food. The Vientiane Night Market is one of the most famous – here you can find everything from handcrafted souvenirs to tasty snacks like grilled meats and sticky rice. Another option is the That Dam Night Market, which offers a more local flavor with its mix of food stalls and live music.
No matter how you choose to spend your evenings in Vientiane, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes. With its vibrant nightlife scene and friendly locals, this city is the perfect destination for anyone looking to have some fun after dark.
Getting Off the Beaten Path in Vientiane
Vientiane might be a small city, but it is full of hidden gems that are worth exploring. If you have some extra time during your trip, make sure to get off the beaten path and discover some of the city’s lesser-known neighborhoods, markets, and attractions.
1. Visit the That Dam Black Stupa
While many tourists flock to the iconic That Luang Stupa, the lesser-known That Dam Black Stupa is just as fascinating. Legend has it that the stupa was once covered in pure gold, but it was stolen during a Siamese invasion in the 19th century. Today, it remains a popular spot for locals to gather and relax.
2. Wander Around the Talat Sao Market
Talat Sao Market might not be as famous as the city’s Night Market, but it’s a great spot to explore if you want to experience local life. Here, you’ll find everything from fresh produce and meat to clothing and handicrafts. It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat.
3. Explore the COPE Visitor Center
The COPE Visitor Center offers a unique and eye-opening experience. The center is dedicated to raising awareness about the lasting effects of unexploded bombs from the Vietnam War. Visitors can learn about the history of the war and its impact on Laos, as well as the ongoing efforts to clear unexploded bombs from the countryside.
4. Take a Cooking Class
If you’re a foodie, consider taking a cooking class to learn more about Laotian cuisine. There are plenty of classes available throughout the city, where you can learn to make traditional dishes like laap and sticky rice.
These are just a few of the many off-the-beaten-path experiences waiting for you in Vientiane, Laos. Don’t be afraid to explore and discover the city’s hidden charm.
Where to Stay in Vientiane
When planning a trip to Vientiane, choosing the right accommodation is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Luckily, there are many options available for all types of travelers.
In this section, we’ll highlight some of the best areas to stay in Vientiane, along with recommendations for budget and luxury accommodations.
Best Areas to Stay in Vientiane
The most popular area to stay in Vientiane is the city center. Here, you’ll be close to many of the top attractions, restaurants, and nightlife spots. Other recommended areas include the riverside, where you can enjoy scenic views of the Mekong River, and the embassy district, which is more peaceful and residential.
Wherever you choose to stay, be sure to book early, especially during peak travel seasons like winter and spring.
|Chanthapanya Hotel||City Center||$25-30/night|
|AV Hotel||City Center||$20-25/night|
|Le Luxe Boutique Hotel||Riverside||$30-35/night|
If you’re on a budget, there are many affordable accommodations available in Vientiane. Some popular choices include Chanthapanya Hotel and AV Hotel in the city center, and Le Luxe Boutique Hotel along the riverside.
|Settha Palace Hotel||City Center||$200-250/night|
|The President by Akaryn||Embassy District||$150-200/night|
|Green Park Boutique Hotel||City Center||$100-150/night|
If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, you’ll find a variety of high-end hotels in Vientiane as well. Some top choices include Settha Palace Hotel in the city center, The President by Akaryn in the embassy district, and Green Park Boutique Hotel in the city center.
No matter where you choose to stay in Vientiane, you’ll find a warm welcome and plenty of options to suit your preferences and budget. Happy travels!
Transportation in Vientiane
Getting around Vientiane is relatively easy, and there are several transportation options available to travelers.
Vientiane has a limited public transportation system consisting of buses and tuk-tuks. The buses are cheap, but their routes can be difficult to understand for non-locals. Tuk-tuks, on the other hand, are more expensive but they offer a more versatile and convenient service. It is recommended to negotiate the price before starting a journey to avoid any issues later.
Taxis and Private Drivers
Taxis and private drivers are also available in Vientiane. Taxis can be either metered or with a negotiated price, while private drivers are more flexible and can be hired for longer trips or as tour guides. They can be arranged through hotels, travel agencies, or online platforms, and prices can vary depending on the length of the journey and the type of vehicle.
Motorbikes and Bicycles
Renting a motorbike or bicycle is also an option for travelers who prefer to explore the city on their own. However, it is important to note that traffic in Vientiane can be chaotic, and road safety standards might not be up to western standards. It is therefore recommended to wear a helmet, avoid rush hours, and follow traffic rules.
Whatever mode of transportation you choose, be sure to keep your belongings safe and secure, especially in crowded areas.
FAQ about Vientiane, Laos
As with any travel destination, there may be some questions you have about Vientiane, Laos that were not addressed in the previous sections. Here are some frequently asked questions that may be helpful:
Is Vientiane, Laos safe?
Yes, Vientiane is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. However, it’s always important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Petty theft and pickpocketing can occur in crowded areas, so keep an eye on your belongings.
Do I need a visa to visit Vientiane, Laos?
Yes, visitors to Laos need a visa. You can apply for a visa in advance at a Laotian embassy or consulate, or obtain a visa on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Visas on arrival usually require payment in US dollars or Thai baht, so be sure to have cash on hand.
What is the best time of year to visit Vientiane, Laos?
The best time to visit Vientiane is from November to February, when the weather is cooler and drier. March to May can be very hot, while June to October is the rainy season. However, travel during the off-peak season can also offer lower prices and fewer crowds.
What is the currency used in Vientiane, Laos?
The official currency of Laos is the Lao kip (LAK), but US dollars and Thai baht are also accepted in many places. It’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand for small purchases and transportation.
What is the main language spoken in Vientiane, Laos?
The official language of Laos is Lao, but many people in Vientiane speak English, especially in tourist areas. Learning a few phrases in Lao can also be helpful and appreciated by locals.
What are some important cultural customs to be aware of in Vientiane, Laos?
As in many Southeast Asian countries, it’s important to dress modestly and remove your shoes when entering temples and other religious sites. Lao people are generally friendly and hospitable, but it’s important to show respect and avoid causing offense.