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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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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.
|Avg Max||28.4 °C||30.3 °C||33 °C||34.3 °C||33 °C||31.9 °C||31.3 °C||30.8 °C||30.9 °C||30.8 °C||29.8 °C||28.1 °C|
|Avg Min||16.4 °C||18.5 °C||21.5 °C||23.8 °C||24.6 °C||24.9 °C||24.7 °C||24.6 °C||24.1 °C||22.9 °C||19.3 °C||16.7 °C|
|Rainfall||7.5 mm||13 mm||33.7 mm||84.9 mm||245.8 mm||279.8 mm||272.3 mm||334.6 mm||297.3 mm||78 mm||11.1 mm||2.5 mm|
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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.
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.
There are numerous guesthouses in Vientiane. These are a few of the popular ones.
|Inter City Hotel, Mekong River View||24-25 Fa Ngum Road, Unit 5, Ban Wat Chan Chanthabury District||Hotel||-|
|Rivertime Ecolodge Resort||Thadokkham Village||Hostel||81|
|Phoungchampa Hotel||88 Chao Anou rd Ban Wat Chanh Chanthabuly, Vietiane||HOTEL||-|
|Parkview Executive Suites||Luangprabang road Sikottabong District Vientiane||Hotel||-|
|Sinnakhone Hotel||Francois Ngin,Ban Mixay||Hotel||81|
|Naphavong Backpackers Hostel||Chao Anou Road Ban Haisok, Cahnthaboury District||HOSTEL||75|
|Xaysomboun Hotel||Khounbulum Road, Sisaket Village Chanthabuly Distric, Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.||Hotel||-|
|Naphavong Place||Chao Anou Road Ban Haisok Chanthaboury District, Vientiane||Guesthouse||85|
|iHouse Residence||72/6 Pangkham Road, Water fountain/Mekong River Vientiane City Center||HOSTEL||71|
|Funky Monkey Hostel||Francois Ngin Rod,Ban Mixay||HOSTEL||77|
|Vientiane Backpackers Hostel||No. 13 Norkeokoummarn Road Ban Mixay||HOSTEL||77|
|Vientiane GuestHouse||044/19 Chao Anou Road Ban hai Sok||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Sihome Backpackers Hostel||026/04 Sihome Road Sihome Village Vientiane||HOSTEL||83|
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.
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.
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.
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