Vientiane is often looked over in many Laos travel itineraries because of the notion that it’s a “boring” place to visit. The sleepy city might not be the big and bustling hotspot that one expects of most country capitals but it still has its own unique and interesting charms; from educational museums, beautiful temples, and delicious local food. Vientiane is definitely a great venue for travelers who long for a more laid back destination, where they can explore with ease, admiring the stunning mixture of European and Lao architecture as well as historical landmarks – without the hassle of having to squeeze through a plethora of fellow buzzing tourists. In my case, Vientiane was my gateway to get to Luang Namtha, where I will be doing different adventures around Laos.
- 1 Laos Visa on Arrival
- 2 Laos Sim Card
- 3 Getting to the city from the Laos airport and vice versa
- 4 Places to Visit in Vientiane
- 5 6. Visit Temples in Vientiane
- 6 Nightlife in Vientiane
- 7 Where to Eat in Vientiane
- 8 Where to Stay in Vientiane
- 9 Mid-range Accommodations in Vientiane
- 10 Luxury Accommodations in Vientiane
- 11 How to Get Around Vientiane
Laos Visa on Arrival
Laos is a country which issues visas on arrival to many different nationalities, typically good for 30-days. They can be obtained upon arrival at the Wattay airport or at many land border entrance, as well as the Friendship Bridge and ThaNaleng train station. If you are a citizen of an ASEAN country like the Philippines, or countries like Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Switzerland, then you can visit Laos completely visa-free.
What are the requirements for a Laos Visa on Arrival?
Getting a Laos visa on arrival is fairly easy for most countries. This is all you will need:
- Passport-size photo
- Name of accommodation
- Payment for visa (varies from 30 USD to 42 USD depending on the country of origin)
- If you don’t have a passport photo, they can get one for you by photocopying your passport. This comes with a fee of 1 USD.
- Make sure to have USD with you when paying for the visa on arrival as it is the only currency they accept (the Lao kip is closed currency).
Laos Sim Card
The strength of mobile internet signal depends varies from province to province – some sims are faster in the northern part of Laos, and some faster in the south. Laos has five different sim card operators:
- Lao Telecome
- Planet Online (Only operates in a small area in Vientiane – not recommended if travelling all over the city)
What are the differences between the Laos Sim Cards?
If you’re planning to only stay in Vientiane, then Beeline and Unitel are faster. For coverage around the country, Laotel and ETL are more reliable. In order to ensure you have a signal or connection wherever you go, it’s best to buy multiple sims, especially when traveling in the provinces.
Because all telecom providers are to some extent owned by the government, the price packages tend to stay the same. You can get wifi for one day for as little as 15,000 kip, or 30 days for 60,000 – 260,000 kip. They have a variety of plans you can choose from, depending on your budget and data usage.
You can purchase your sim card at the airport upon arrival or any major convenience store in Laos.
I decided to go to Lao Telecom and I paid 60000 Kip (7 USD) for 7gb for 30 days. It worked well around Vientiane.
Getting to the city from the Laos airport and vice versa
Airport shuttle bus service
Laos offers an airport city bus service which is located in front of the International Arrivals exit. The service stops at major hotels and business areas, such as the Vientiane City Center and Central Bus Station.
The cost for a one-way ticket costs 15,000 kip or 2 USD. These can be purchased at the bus ticket counter in the airport or from the bus boy himself.
Like most major airports, taxis are available to ride just outside the building. You can purchase a ticket at the counter right in front of the International and Domestic arrivals exits.
A taxi ticket costs 60,000 kip or 7 USD.
Tuktuk or jumbo
You can ride the tuk tuk from the city to the airport for prices ranging from 30,000 to 55,000 kip. If you have a lot of luggage with you, however, then it’s best to just take a taxi instead.
Places to Visit in Vientiane
You have to visit this! The Vietnam War is a known event throughout many countries, but what many oversee is the fact that Laos, Vietnam’s neighbor, had also sustained a devastating amount of damage. The visitor center takes you through the effects of the bombings, both in the past and the results lingering to this very day – not just psychological effects but also the fact that there are still many bombs in Laos still yet to be detonated, posing a great risk to civilians. Thus, COPE, which stands for the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise, was established. It is a local charity which helps out the victims via many methods, such as providing amputees with prosthetics and giving financial aid to affected communities. The entrance is free but guests can support the cause by donating or purchasing some items from the COPE shop located in the same area.
You really do learn a lot – it’s a must visit even if it’s out of town. I walked here from the morning market, which was around a 15-minute walk. If you want a place to sit and refresh, you can visit the Karma café there too.
Opening Hours: 9am-6PM daily
Contact Details : +856-21-241972
Email Address: email@example.com
2 .Buddha Park
The Xieng Khuan Buddha Park is located around 25 km outside the city and takes 40 minutes to 1 hour in travel, but the journey is more than worth it. Though the park looks rather ancient, the truth is that it was built relatively recently in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat – a mystic, artist, shaman, priest, and sculptor all rolled into one. The park is filled with unusual and surreal statues of Buddhas as well as various gods hailing from Hindu practices. Some examples include a giant reclining Buddha towering at 40 meters, as well as a sculpture which depicts the journey through earth, heaven, and hell.
How to get to Buddha Park
You can ride the Bus 14 from the morning market which costs 8000 kip (~ 1 USD). Other transportation options include the tuk tuk and taxi. The entry to the Buddha Park costs 15,000 kip or 1.75 USD.
If you want a hassle free ride with a guide to explain to you about the area, you can book a Buddha Park and Lao Textiles tour and it includes a guide and a driver but it needs a minimum of 2 people.
There are food and drink spots in the area as well, in case you get hungry.
3. Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center
The Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center is a non profit organization run by Lao women with disabilities, started up to help out other women who suffer from similar afflictions. They give an opportunity for women with permanent injuries and disabilities to have an independent life via training in the vocational fields. Here, you’ll get to learn all about how life is in the Development Center, the history and objectives of the program as well as the beautiful handicrafts created by the Lao women who were empowered through it.
You can pass by this on your way to Buddha Park—my friend highly suggested a visit, but I was unfortunately not feeling too well at the time and needed to head back to the city, although I would have loved this.
Address: 100 Thadeua Road, Hadsayfong District, Vientiane 01000, Laos
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Information : +856 21 812 282
4. Textile Museum
Laos is a country known and visited for their beautiful textile handicrafts and silk woven products, a testament to the rich and developed culture of their ethnic groups who craft impeccable works like scarves, clothing, bags, wallets, and much more; not only as their source of livelihood but as one of the things that gives Laos their unique and incomparable heritage.
Visitors can gain an even more in-depth appreciation for their work by visiting the Lao Textile Museum, which holds a large collection of various textiles from different tribes. These are all kindly showcased by a local Lao family who owns the peaceful and homey building. Aside from the visual presentation of textiles, the museum is also quite educational—full of information concerning the differences in handicraft worksmanship between different Lao tribes as well as facts about weaving and its steps from start to finish—from silkworms to the dyeing process. You can even choose to take some textile-painting classes offered by the museum to try your hand at recreating the beautiful artworks of the Lao people.
Admission fee to the Lao Textile Museum costs 30,000 kip or 3.60 USD.
If you would like to combine this with Buddha Park, you can easily book a tour for Buddha Park and Textile museum with a driver and guide
5. Climb Patuxai Victory Monument
The Patuxai Victory Monument, also known as Victory Park, was constructed in order to give commemoration towards the Lao citizens who perished during the war against France in the fight for Laos’ independence. It is similar in composition to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, but imbued with Laos’ cultural influence with the addition of their unique designs to create something entirely new—a symbolism as to how the Lao people and their culture prevail even amidst foreign influences.
The monument itself is surrounded by grounds, with a garden that I found much prettier. You can climb to the top of Patuxai for 3000 kip or 0.35 USD where you will find a small market or gift shop. You don’t really see anything much, but it does give you an aerial view of Vientiane – I mean we all love doing roof tops anyway. Aside from nice views, the park is in general a nice place to stroll in the gardens and perhaps have a picnic or snack on the bench watching the world pass by.
Admission Fee: 3000 kip or 0.35 USD
Opening Hours: Monday–Friday from 8am to 4.30pm, Saturday–Sunday from 8am to 5pm
Location: Lang Xang Avenue, Vientiane, Laos
Tip: We cycled through the different sites of Vientiane, others were walking but if you have little time or if you want to hassle free way to tour, you can always book a city tour of Vientiane and see all the highlights of vientiane
6. Visit Temples in Vientiane
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang is one of the most important monuments in Laos, a giant gold-covered Buddhist stupa built all the way back in the 1500s. Its outstanding silhouette and historical relevance make it one of the defining symbols of Laos. It represents the religious roots of the country, having both Hindu and Buddhist influences. Aside from that, the stupa is also a symbolism of Lao’s history, given that the temple survived many invasions and attacks from foreigners throughout time and yet still stands tall and stunning to this very date, a true testament to Lao strength and national pride despite all adversity.
While there is an entrance fee, many choose not to enter and simply stand in the grounds and admire the beauty and relevance of the stupa.
There are many things you can do in Pha That Luang, such as roam the gardens, visit the buddha statues, and see many of the ancient sculptures. But even just seeing the temple from afar is more than worth the visit—it stands out beautifully no matter what the weather, quite a nice analogy for the country of Laos.
Admission Fee: Pha That Luang Costs 5000 kip or 0.60 USD.
Opening Hours: This is open 24/ 7
This is part of the Vientiane City Tour if you wish to secure a ticket, you can book here
Wat Si Saket
Wat Si Saket differs from most other temples in Laos because of its Siamese architecture reminiscent of wats in Thailand; beautifully made multi-tier roofs and symmetrical pillars. Inside you will find various Buddha statues and images made out of precious stones. Unfortunately, because the structures are not made to stand the weather in Laos, the wat is deteriorating in quality—so it’s best to visit as soon as possible and look at the art in its original form before restoration processes begin. Aside from the Buddhas, visitors can also opt to watch the morning alms ceremony wherein the locals give offerings to the Buddhist monks of the temple.
Admission Fee : Wat Si Saket costs 5000 kip for foreigners, or 0.60 USD.
Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 12pm and from 1pm to 4pm
Haw Phra Kaew
This beautiful temple was once the home of an emerald Buddha taken from the Siam Kingdom, and stayed there for years until it was taken back by a Siamese general and then destroyed. It was also where the king of Laos used to worship, and has now been converted into a museum which is home to many artefacts and art pieces with relevance to Lao history and culture. If you want to snack or take a rest, you can find many vendors outside the temple selling food and refreshments.
Walking around the garden and complex is completely free, but the admission fee to enter the Haw Phra Kaew museum costs 10,000 kip or 1.15 USD.
That Dam, also referred to as the Black Stupa, is one of the oldest still-standing structures in Laos dating all the way back to the 16th century. It is said that the stupa was once shining from top to bottom with a gold exterior and guarded by a seven headed snake or Naga from the Siamese! While the stupa itself might not look so impressive, it’s the history behind it that leaves an imprint on the memory, and many of the locals still hold That Dam to high regard to this very day, thinking of it as a protector of the city.
Opening Hours: Daily from 6am to 7pm
Wat Si Muang
Wat Si Muang is a popular destination in Laos which holds lovely Buddhist artefacts and designs. One interesting fact about the temple is that its name originated from a pregnant woman named Si Muang, who sacrificed herself to the gods during construction—thus, it is a frequently visited temple by the locals for blessings.
Opening Hours: Daily from 6am to 7pm
Wat Sok Pa Luang
Wat So Pa Luang is quite a modest temple when compared with the other grand and glittering ones listed above with over the top architecture. But what makes this temple special is that fact that there are meditation sessions held every Saturday, open to tourists and visitors where you can learn and meditate with the monks—it is both an educational and relaxing experience for guests as well as an opportunity for the monks in the temple to brush up on their English and other foreign language skills.
Nightlife in Vientiane
Visiting the Night Bazaar, also known as the Night Market or Chinese Market, is one of the most fun and exciting things to do in Vientiane at night, when stalls by the Mekong River are put up selling all sorts of goods ranging from textile goods, bags, and non traditional items like gadgets and running shoes. Food is also available, making the night market an all in one experience where you can shop till you drop and replenish yourself with some easy to eat Lao food right after. The night bazaar is open up to 9:30 in the evening.
If you’re looking for a more exciting way to participate in Vientiane nightlife, you can visit the Walking Street behind the Vientiane New World Mall for your dose of fun and excitement—it’s typically a place frequented by the locals, so you know you’re in for a good time. Like the night bazaar, you’ll find a plethora of different items for sale, as well as affordable street food, but the difference is the littering of bars and clubs in the area where you can have a drink or two and party the rest of the night away.
Where to Eat in Vientiane
1. M Park
M Park is a bar and grill food park at the heart of the city which is a chill place to hang out and have a variety of different food and drink from the selection of stalls, alongside live music from local bands and musicians. Plus, they close late at 12 AM, giving visitors lots of time to indulge and enjoy the festivities.
2. Indigo Café
Indigo is a nice cozy spot great for breakfast and beverages like coffee and tea, all at an affordable price. The coffee, especially, is the cafe’s specialty which is a frequently acclaimed menu item by guests. We tried the soup which costs the same as outside stalls, at 15,000 kip—all in all a really nice cafe, with relaxing ambiance as well as air conditioning and wifi.
Address: Phnom Penh Road, 01000, Rue Phanompenh, Vientiane, Laos (google maps)
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday from 7 am to 9pm
3. Tysons Pizza
This is one for the books! Yes, western food. Nam and I were craving for Western cuisine when we finally came upon this, and it seemed nice with a very cool and welcoming aesthetic to it. We really enjoyed our food a lot! I personally had a blue cheese burger for 52,000 kip (6 USD), but the crowd favorite is definitely their pizza, praised by many as the best pizza in the country—so if you’re having trouble on what to order, it’s a pick highly likely not to disappoint. Also, the owner is so nice it makes you love the place and want to keep coming back. He really takes the time and effort to say hello and converse with everyone, and I also met a Filipino staff member. Really liked the food in this place. Highly recommended.
Opening Hours : 11pm to 11am
Address: Google Maps
4.Once Upon a Time Cafe
If you’re looking for a chill place with cozy interiors to have lunch and coffee with friends or just sit back and do some work in a strong wifi zone, then the Once Upon a Time Cafe is a great place to visit. The wooden furniture and vintage decor calm you instantly upon entering – but glance up and you’ll see Disney princess dolls on the ceilings as decor, staying true to the cafe’s fairytale name. The coffee here is made with 100% Lao Arabica Coffee which gives you that distinct fruity undertone. As for food, they offer a variety of Western meals – like mushroom soup, crab burgers, and chocolate crepes to satisfy that sweet tooth. They also serve a variety of different vegan and vegetarian options.
Address: 286 Rue Dongpayna Saphanthong, Vientiane 0100, Laos
5.Coco and Co.
Even on the street the exterior of the Coco and Co. cafe is enticing, reminiscent of a small restaurant in the streets of Paris. And if you’re looking for a vegan cafe, then this is one of the best options in the city. They serve up both vegan and non-vegan options which make use of local ingredients – some examples being their refreshing mango salad, veggie-stuffed sandwiches, and vegan burgers. It’s also the perfect spot for dessert, a variety of coffees and pastries sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. You can dine indoors and enjoy the calm, tight knit ambience or at their outdoor chairs which boast a view of garden plants and greenery that further stimulate the appetite and add to the relaxing experience.
Address: Rue Setthathilath, Vientiane 0100, Laos
Where to Stay in Vientiane
Cheap Accommodations in Vientiane
For budget accommodations in Vientiane, you will typically find that guesthouses in the city are the most affordable option especially when compared to hotels, ranging from under 120,000 kip a night. Be sure to book one fast, however, because these can be filled up quick especially during the peak season – if you ask for a room in the late afternoon it might be too late. Do note that most budget guesthouses will have fans instead of air conditioning.
1.Barn 1920s Hostel (Check rates)
Barn1920s is a lovely place to stay in Vientiane given its relatively central location in the city as well as easy access to some popular tourist spots such as the night market. The hostel is designed with decor and music to give you Roaring Twenties vibes, making it quite the relaxing and picturesque location—you really feel like you’re right at home upon entering.
We stayed in the 4-bed bunk room and it was nice, complete amenities including sheets, towel, hairdryer, and even complimentary breakfast and wifi. The beds were solid and we had more than enough privacy with the availability of lockers and all. As for the facilities, they had a lovely courtyard and garden—truly a lovely place, especially for the budget. There are even free bike rentals in the hostel to make it easier for guests to get around Vientiane.
Address: Rue Phai Nam, Amon Village, Chanthabouly District, L, Vientiane
2.) Benacam Desk House (Check rates)
The rooms at Benacam are clean and comfortable, with complete bathroom amenities. They are equipped with a fridge and television – wifi is also available but can get quite slow. One pro about Benacam is that it’s very close to some popular tourist destinations, especially the Wats in Vientiane like Wat Si Saket, Wat Ong Teu, and Wat Chan. A typical double room without windows will cost you around 100,000 kip a night, the price varying depending on the season. If you want a simple guesthouse with decent accessibility to the inner city, then Benacam is a good choice to book on a budget.
Address: 145 Vatongteu Road | Behind Wat Ongtue Rd, Vientiane 0100, Laos
3.) Mixay Paradise (Check rates)
This is a more highly-reviewed counterpart of the Mixay Guesthouse which is located just one block away. It boasts proximity to Vientiane hotspots like Ho Pra Keo, Wat Ho Phra Keo, Wat Mixay, and local night markets. A double room with no air conditioning (fan only) will cost you around 100,000 kip inclusive of breakfast. There are also air-conditioned options available at Mixay Paradise at a slightly higher price. The rooms feature comfortable beds with mosquito nets, drawers to keep your things, and high speed wifi.
Address: Th Francois Ngin, Vientiane 0100, Laos
4.) Seng Lao Hotel (Check rates)
A bit pricier for a budget hotel, with their cheapest option being 115,000 kip for a single room, 190,000 for a double, and 260,000 for a triple. Clean rooms with air conditioning, television, refrigerator, and wifi. One plus about Seng Lao Hotel is their great customer service – come up to the staff and they’ll be more than ready to give you travel advice in Vientiane, both touristy and off the beaten track. Close to spots like the market on the river, Mekong Riverside Park, and lots of local restaurants.
Address: 47/1 Unit 12 Chao Anou Road, Vientiane 0100, Laos
4.) Youth Inn 2 (Check rates)
A higher quality counterpart to its nearby predecessor, Youth Inn. Very clean rooms complete with air conditioning, fan, and free drinking water. The lobby is equipped with relatively speedy wifi as well as a small cafe where you can have some of their in-house food and drink. A double room with fan costs 80,000 kip while one with air conditioning will set you back 100,000 kip. Very close to many religious sites, morning markets, and walking distance from the Mekong River.
Address: Francois Ngin Road, Vientiane 0100, Laos
Mid-range Accommodations in Vientiane
Mid-range priced accommodations in Vientiane will give you a budget range of 120,000 to 400,000 kip. You will usually find minimalistic hotels and completely renovated homestays in this category.
1.) Beau Rivage Mekong Hotel (Check rates)
The Beau Rivage is a newer hotel, a family-run business with great service and amenities. The rooms are all decorated differently – each with a quirky and homely flair that is easy to adjust to. The hotel also features free high-speed wifi, room service, laundry service, restaurant, and pre-included breakfast. It’s a bit further out of the inner area of the city but it makes up for it with stunning sunrise and sunset views of the Mekong River right in front of the property. And if you want to head to the city center with ease, they also offer free bicycle use – but walking there still takes a relatively short time of 15 minutes.
Prices range from 350,000 kip for a single room to 600,000 kip for a double.
Address: Fa Ngum Road, Ban Seetarn Neua, Vientiane 54120, Laos
2.) Chanthapanya Hotel (Check rates)
A hotel owned by the Chanthapanya family which gives you both the charm of a hospitable Lao homestay as well as the luxuries that come with a hotel. Rooms are spacious, equipped with a television, fridge, air conditioning, 24/7 hot and cold water, and high-speed wifi. They even have a fitness center, spa, pool and in-house restaurant, meaning you can take a fully relaxing vacation just within the hotel grounds. Aside from a wide range of different amenities and great service, the hotel also scores points for location – only several steps away from destinations like the night market, Nam Phou, and lots of delicious local restaurants. The hotel also offers airport pickup for your convenience.
A single room will typically run you 300,000 kip.
Address: No.138, Norkeokoummarn Rd., Van Mixay, Chanthabouli District, Vientiane 0100, Laos
3.) Souphaphone Guesthouse
Souphaphone Guesthouse markets itself as a “home away from home”, and it certainly succeeds in living up to those expectations. The Guesthouse gives you complete amenities, free fast internet access and extreme proximity to many of the wonders Vientiane has to offer. You’ll find that popular destinations like Ho Pra Keo and Wat Ho Pha Keo are just a stone’s throw away, alongside cozy cafes and art galleries. A double room will run you 170,000 kip.
Address: 145, Ban Wat Chan, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane 0100, Laos
Luxury Accommodations in Vientiane
Vientiane, like most country capitals, is host to a sizeable amount of luxurious accommodations. These are best suited for individuals with a budget of 600,000 kip and above.
1.) Green Park Boutique Hotel and Resort (Check Rates)
The thing that makes the Green Park Boutique stand out is the stunning contemporary Lao architecture of the resort – you’ll fall in love immediately with the glazed wooden interiors surrounded by greenery, leaves framing the turquoise pool in the center of the hotel. The availability of a pool, bar, gym, and spa make it a travel destination in and of itself. Aside from the amenities, guests will also be able to enjoy air conditioning and free WiFi access from their rooms. Some nearby sights to see are the Wat Si Muang, Vientiane City Pillar Shrine, and the Phat Tich Temple.
A double room will cost you 600,000 to 700,000 lao kip.
Address: 248 Khouvieng Road, Vientiane 9698, Laos
2.) Salana Boutique Hotel (Check Rates)
If you want a boutique hotel at the center of everything, then the Salana Boutique Hotel is one of the best choices when it comes to Luxury Accommodations in Vientiane. Located just opposite the hotel is the Wat Ong Temple, with the Mekong River and Night Market only a short walk away. But even inside the hotel you will find yourself enjoying every aspect, from the beautiful Lao architecture and motifs dotting the furniture, to their library bar serving a delightful selection of wine and drinks. Adding their top of the line restaurant and world-class service, the premium price is certainly worth it – 600,000 kip for a double room.
Address: Chao Anou Road, 112, Ban Wat Chan, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane 0100, Laos
3.) Crowne Plaza Vientiane (check rates)
Crowne Plaza is another luxury hotel at the heart of Vientiane, close to great local restaurants and nightlife spots. It has all the amenities expected of a 5-star hotel as well as restaurants which serve a wide selection of both local Lao and international cuisine – not to mention the popular Elephant Lounge where you can down some refreshing drinks from all over the world. If you want assured quality service and top-of-the-line amenities and rooms, then the Crowne Plaza is a wonderful luxury option. You can book a double room for 700,000 to 800,000 kip.
Address: 20 Samsenthai Road | Nongduang Nua Village Sikhottabong District, Vientiane 1000, Laos
How to Get Around Vientiane
A. Bike around Vientiane
If you want to bike around with the guide you can also book a Vientiane biking tour here
B. Tuk Tuk
Tips about Vientiane
- To get around easier, use Loca App — a ride-sharing app which is Laos’ version of Grab and Uber.
- The city might be a bit busy at times when it comes to the roads due to its being a capital city, especially on the weekdays. It might be a bit scary biking at times on those days but we felt okay on the weekends. If you’re a confident biker, however, it might be easier to get around even during the weekdays—and you’ll find that many of the locals get around on their bikes as well.
- Many locals speak English, way better than in Luang Namtha at least so it was pretty easy to go and ask around.
- They have a lot of western food available but if you haven’t tried out Lao food yet, you should go for it! It’s affordable and delicious.
- Dress modestly at temples, cover shoulders and knees as much as possible.
And there’s a list of great things to do in Vientiane! Has it all changed your mind about the supposedly “dull” city? Book a trip to the beautiful capital now and try out the mellow atmosphere of Laos’ quite underrated gem.