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Vientiane

Photo © joshester

Travel Guide Asia Laos Vientiane Province Vientiane

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Introduction

Vientiane

Vientiane

© All Rights Reserved ejgalang

Vientiane, the Laotian national capital is a quiet city by Asian standards, despite being the busiest city in the country. Situated on the Mekong river, the city is a blend of French colonial architecture and gilded temples. The city first became a capital in 1560, when it was the capital of the kingdom of Lan Xang. In 1828 it was ransacked by the Siamese, who controlled the city for over a hundred years. When the French eventually took control of the city in the late 19th century, it became the capital of the French protectorate of Laos, a position it retained after independence.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Central Vientiane
  • Muang Sikhottabong
  • Muang Chanthabuli
  • Muang Saisettha
  • Muang Sisattanak

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Sights and Activities

  • Buddha Park - Open: 8:00am-4:30pm daily. Entry: US$0.50 admission and US$0.50 for a camera. Also known as Xieng Khuan about 24 kilometres southeast of the city centre, has a large collection of Buddhas and Hindu deities.
  • Haw Phra Kaew - Location: Th Setthathirat. Open: 8am-Noon and 1:00pm-4:00pm daily. Entry: US$0.50 admission. It is a former temple, now museum and small shops.
  • Lao National Museum - Location: Thanon Samsenthai. Open: 8:00am-4:00pm daily. Entry: 5,000K.
  • Patuxai - Location: Th Lan Xang. Open: 8:00am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday and 8:00am-5:00pm Saturday and Sunday. Entry: US$0.50 admission. The local take on Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Climb the stairs to the top for views of the city.
  • Pha That Luang - Open: 8:00am-noon and 1:00pm-4:00pm Tuesday-Sunday. Entry: US$0.30 admission. A Golden Buddhist stupa - the most important national monument in Laos.
Vientiane

Vientiane

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  • Talat Sao Morning Market now partly is the Talat Sao Shopping Mall. Although the AC is a blessing on those hot days, the market stalls out side are where the bargains are.
  • That Dam is a large stupa
  • Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan
  • Wat Si Muang - On the same road as Wat Si Saket just around 1km further down the road (Th Setthathirat leading to Tha Deu road). Wat Si Muang is one of the most important and well known temples in Vientiane and Laos. It is the home of the city’s founding pillar and the start of many significant processions, including the Wax Castle procession during That Luang festival.
  • Wat Si Saket - Location: Corner of Th Lan Xang and Th Setthathirat. Open: 8:00am-noon and 1:00pm-4:00pm. Entry: US$0.60 admission. It is a buddhist wat originally built between 1819 and 1824.
  • Wat Sok Pa Luang is a buddhist temple

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Events and Festivals

  • That Luang Festival (Held in early November on the morning of the full moon) - Procession between Pha That Luang and Wat Si Muang as well as firework shows across the city.
Vientiane

Vientiane

© All Rights Reserved TdM Sud

  • Bun Nam River Festival (Held in October at the end of Buddhist Lent) - Boat races are held on the river and stalls and games line the streets around the river banks. Fireworks and lanterns are a common sight as are lotus leaves abnd flowers floating down the river.
  • New Year - International New Year is held on 31st December, Vietnamese Tet-Chinese New Year is held in February and Pii Mai (Lao New Year) is held in mid-April. During each celebration the riverbank is where the action is at.

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Weather

Vientiane has a hot and humid tropical climate. There are two seasons. The rainy season lasts from May to October while the much more pleasant dry season lasts from November to April. During the rainy season there is about 200 to 300 mm of rain a month and the high temperatures, averaging around 33 °C during the day and around 24 °C at night, makes this time the worst for a visit. Winter is much more pleasant with days still close to 30 °C and nights a nice 15 to 18 °C. March to May can be very hot, with temperatures close to 40 °C sometimes.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max28.4 °C30.3 °C33 °C34.3 °C33 °C31.9 °C31.3 °C30.8 °C30.9 °C30.8 °C29.8 °C28.1 °C
Avg Min16.4 °C18.5 °C21.5 °C23.8 °C24.6 °C24.9 °C24.7 °C24.6 °C24.1 °C22.9 °C19.3 °C16.7 °C
Rainfall7.5 mm13 mm33.7 mm84.9 mm245.8 mm279.8 mm272.3 mm334.6 mm297.3 mm78 mm11.1 mm2.5 mm
Rain Days12481518202117921

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Getting There

Vientiane

Vientiane

© All Rights Reserved TdM Sud

By Plane

Wattay International Airport (VTE) is located 3 kilometres outside of the city. There are only a limited number of airlines servicing the airport, including Thai Airways International (Bangkok) and Vietnam Airlines (Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh). AirAsia now provides a budget option for travellers with flights heading to and from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Finally, Mandarin Airlines has flights to Taichung on Taiwan and China Southern Airlines flies to Guangzhou.

Lao Airlines is based at the airport and has connections to Siem Reap, Kunming (also with China Eastern Airlines), Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Hanoi, as well as a number of domestic destinations including Luang Prabang, Houei Sai, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Pakse, Xieng Khuang and Savanakhet.
Lao Air (other airline!) serves Samneua, Phongsaly and Xayabouly.

By Train

Since 2009, there are four shuttle services a day from Nong Khai in Thailand, to Tha Naleng, about 10 kilometres from Vientiane and reachable by shuttle bus from the morning market. The shuttle trains are timed to connect with overnight trains to and from Bangkok, with around 90 minutes buffer time at the Thai side of the border for buying tickets and immigration.

By Bus

  • The Northern Bus Station serves all points north of Vang Vieng, including China and also has a few buses to Vietnam
  • The Southern Bus Station has buses to Vietnam which normally stop here. Serves all points south of the capital within Laos.
  • The Talat Sao Bus Station serves as the local bus system to the surrounding villages and neighbourhoods as well as Vang Vieng. The Thai-Lao International Bus also arrives and departs from here.

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Sleep

Budget

There are numerous guesthouses in Vientiane. These are a few of the popular ones.

  • RD Guest House provides dorm rooms. (Location: 037/1 Rd, Nokeokoummane)
  • Sabaidy Guesthouse (Location: 203, Setthathilath Road, Mixay 12)
  • Vayakorn Guest House (Location: 91 Thanon Nokeo Kumman)
PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Inter City Hotel, Mekong River View24-25 Fa Ngum Road, Unit 5, Ban Wat Chan Chanthabury DistrictHotel-
Rivertime Ecolodge ResortThadokkham VillageHostel85
Phoungchampa Hotel88 Chao Anou rd Ban Wat Chanh Chanthabuly, VietianeHOTEL-
Parkview Executive SuitesLuangprabang road Sikottabong District VientianeHotel-
Sinnakhone HotelFrancois Ngin,Ban MixayHotel81
Naphavong Backpackers HostelChao Anou Road Ban Haisok, Cahnthaboury DistrictHOSTEL75
Xaysomboun HotelKhounbulum Road, Sisaket Village Chanthabuly Distric, Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.Hotel-
Naphavong PlaceChao Anou Road Ban Haisok Chanthaboury District, VientianeGuesthouse85
iHouse Residence72/6 Pangkham Road, Water fountain/Mekong River Vientiane City CenterHOSTEL70
Funky Monkey HostelFrancois Ngin Rod,Ban MixayHOSTEL80
Vientiane Backpackers HostelNo. 13 Norkeokoummarn Road Ban MixayHOSTEL76
Vientiane GuestHouse044/19 Chao Anou Road Ban hai SokGUESTHOUSE-
Sihome Backpackers Hostel026/04 Sihome Road Sihome Village VientianeHOSTEL-

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Keep Connected

Internet

Most provincial capitals have internet access, particularly those that a more popular with tourists. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane rates are usually very reasonable at about US$0.50 to US$1.50 per hour. In more remote towns where competition is low, rates are a fair bit higher at around US$3 to US$6 per hour. If you're looking to save a bit of money, it's best to save your emailing until you reach the larger towns and cities.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for Laos is 856. To dial out of the country, the international access code is 00. There are plenty of public phone booths in Laos but these are pretty useless as phonecards are no longer sold and the technology is rather archaic. For long distance calls it's much better to use a post office or internet cafe. The best place however is the local Telecom Office.

Mobile phone users can use their own GSM mobile phone in Laos. Roaming tends to be expensive, so if you're planning on using your phone a fair bit it may well be worth buying a local SIM card and purchasing prepaid minutes. SIMs are normally around US$5 and both Lao Telecom and ETL have good network coverage.

Post

For the best postal services, send your mail from Vientiane as the post in the provinces is less reliable. In general it takes anywhere from 1 to over 2 weeks to send post to/from Laos. Post offices generally are open from 8:00am to 5:00pm, with some having shorter hours on weekend days as well. If you are going to Thailand, post from there as it's more reliable and faster. If you are worried about sending home valuable items there is a Federal Express office inside the main post office in Vientiane. You might also check possibilities with companies like DHL, TNT or UPS.

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 17.9689
  • Longitude: 102.6137

Contributors

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Vientiane Travel Helpers

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