Vientiane, Laos

Sleepy and languid by East Asia standards, Vientiane, Laos will surprise you with its diversity of cuisine, quirky sights, friendly locals, and sense of ease.

Ihave yet to come across another city for which travelers have such divergent opinions. How you interact, as a visitor, with Vientiane, and your ultimate perception of this place very much depend on your own experience and perspective.

In this way, your opinion on Vientiane may have much more to do with you, personally, than the city, itself.

I first approached Vientiane via a long bus ride from Luang Prabang, and approached Laos, in general, on the heels of four months of budget backpacking through China, India and Thailand. For me, the laid back and friendly nature of the Laos people and culture was a breath of fresh air after struggling for months with aggressive peddlers, aggravating taxi/tuk-tuk drivers, and relentless hustlers.

Of the six national capitals my wife and I traveled through during that time, Vientiane was the only one we knew absolutely nothing about, and at just over half a million inhabitants, it was by far the smallest.

We literally had zero expectations and found Vientiane a most agreeable place.

For you, Vientiane may represent a relaxing foodie paradise a world apart from the materialism and go-go-go of better known Southeast Asian capital cities, or it may represent nothing more than a boring backwater, depending on your point of view.

If you visit expecting to find French-colonial charm and evocative Buddhist temples on par with Luang Prabang, you may well be disappointed.

If you come expecting to find a fast-paced, maddening, cosmopolitan mega-city comparable to Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll also likely find yourself disappointed.

If, however, you come to Vientiane with few preconceptions, an open mind, and an adventurous spirit, you will likely find yourself well-rewarded for doing so.

We’ve attempted to put together a guide for visitors to Vientiane based on our own experiences living in and traveling through this unique city. We’ve hosted a number of visitors, with more on the way in the next couple of weeks, which has resulted in the bringing together of a lot of information that we would like to share with you. We hope this guide helps answer questions of what to do in Vientiane, where to eat and drink, where to stay, and how best to approach this often overlooked corner of Southeast Asia.

We think we have a unique perspective to lend, given that we’re not only living (and working) here, but visited as backpackers four years prior. Compared to other foreigners we’ve met living here, it also appears we may be a bit more curious and more willing to explore than a lot of folks, even with a toddler in tow.

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive travel guide, but rather a modest offering of our favorite Vientiane experiences, along with some helpful tips. Enjoy!

Keep Reading » Vientiane

Hiking Phou Phanang
This day hike in a National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area might be as close as it gets to a true Vientiane-area hike.
20 Fun Day Trips from Vientiane
An expat's handpicked list of worthwhile day trips from Vientiane for visitors or long-term resident. We'll help you get out of the capital and explore this fascinating corner of the world!
Vientiane DOs & DON’Ts
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Lao Zoo: What I Wish I Knew Before Visiting
The Lao Zoo may just be the most misunderstood zoo in Southeast Asia. The national zoo of Laos isn't even really a “zoo” at all, but something far more interesting.
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Are you concerned about Lao Airlines safety and reliability? Here's what you need to know from two Lao Airlines frequent flyers to make an informed decision for your next trip (or move) to Laos.
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20 Essential Facebook Groups for Vientiane Expats
Vientiane can be a tough nut to crack for newcomers. Here are 20 game-changing English-language Facebook groups to help you get the most out of living in this unique and perplexing city.
Buddha Park: The Hidden Gem of Greater Vientiane
Looking for something a bit different to discover around Vientiane? The mysterious “spirit city” of Xieng Khuan (commonly known as Buddha Park) is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
How to Get To and Around Vientiane
Laos' laid back capital, Vientiane, is not a major travel hub and doesn't yet have a lot of public transport options. Here's what you need to know for getting in and around the city.
Vientiane, Laos

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