A visit to the capital city of Laos, Vientiane gives a perfect opportunity to see and do plenty of things. This wonderful city is set on the calm waters of the Mekong River to create a magnificent backdrop. This small city has seen a lot of growth in recent years as Laos has made itself more welcoming to tourism and foreign investment.
While in this city, the traveller on the Laos tour packages gets to admire the quiet beauty of Vientiane or head to the Mekong to watch the local fisherman work. For the more active adventures, a trip to the Phou Khao Khouay National Park for the day is certain to appealing to travellers interested in wilderness with perfect treks through the jungle trails. Plus, for a relaxing tour of the local area, why not hire a bicycle for the day and stop for a delightful bowl of pho on route.
The city centre is laid out with plenty of one way streets that are boarded to the south by Quai Fa Ngum and the Mekong River, to the north by Samsenthai Road, to the west by Chou Anou Road, and to the east by the Presidential Palace. The compact nature of the city makes exploring the night market and Mekong relatively easy by foot.
The most favourable time to visit the capital of Vientiane on the Indochina tour packages is during November to March, which is seen as the dry season when the weather is most pleasant and cool. The temperature in most parts of the country starts to increase from March to May, and throughout the hot season the temperature can reach over 40º C. The weather starts to cool from May to October when the rainy season starts, but this can cause problems for travellers on the roads or wishing to explore a lot of local attractions.
How to get there
The local airport is Wattay International Airport, which is approx 3.5 km from the centre of the city. On arriving at the airport, the trip to the city is easily completed by minivan at $8 or taxi at $7.
Many travellers arrive in the capital by flying Bangkok to Udon Thani in Thailand, then using the bus service to pass through the border and into Vientiane. This is more cost effective than booking an international flight to Vientiane.
Other options include a train journey from Bangkok to Udon Thani, and from there a connecting shuttle train that crosses the border into Laos.
Even though Vientiane has seen a lot of growth in recent years and a significant increase in road traffic, it is still very manageable to get around the city by walking or cycling.
Where to stay
Vientiane has plenty of places to stay with a lot of low-cost hotels and guesthouse listed in the Laos travel guide to meet the needs of virtually all travellers.
A stay at the Hotel Khamvongsa gives guests the opportunity to relax in one of the finest hotels in the capital city. This family-owned hotel isn’t overly glamorous or flashy, but still has a nice selection of amenities available to guests within the affordable price range (under $10). This is a very relaxing place to stay to get a break from the noise of modern life elsewhere.
Mixay Guesthouse is one of the finest budget-friendly (under $10) places to stay in Vientiane and is appreciated for its English-speaking and friendly staff, cleanliness, and balanced pricing. The features and amenities in the rooms can vary, with the most basic rooms including a fan but no en-suite bathroom.
Lani's House by the Ponds is in a quiet part of town and based in an attractive old Loa house that is rich in handicrafts, paintings, large photos and antiques. This guesthouse costs in the region of $20 to $50 per night and perfect for the guests interested in the old style house, and not the more recent developments.
Eat and drink
The cafe and bakery scene in the capital is quite impressive with plenty of high-quality cafes available in many places throughout the city streets in Vientiane. There are some fine cafes for the tourist interested in perfectly brewed coffee and croissants. Other great attractions to the local cafes include the free Wi-Fi and air-con.
Also, there is a lively street food scene to explore on the Laos tour packages that serves up plenty of local dishes, but for the travellers that prefers to sit and eat in a restaurant; there are many outstanding choices available.
In a quiet corner of town, the Pha Khao Lao restaurant is a perfect destination for the traveller that wants to try the local Lao and Thai dishes. With its frangipani trees, lanterns, wooden deck and back garden terrace, this restaurant is able to create a wonderful ambience.
Vientiane is a great place for picking up elaborate handicrafts, such as couture-quality textiles, jewelery, home-furnishings, arts, and hill tribe silks, which is widely available in the city.
Travellers to the capital also get to explore several markets where it is possible to buy crafts and ornaments, as well as fresh produce. The preferred areas to go shopping are in the region of Setthathirat and Samsenthai streets.
Things to see and do
Vientiane is well-known for its impressive attractions that are able to benefit from a laid back atmosphere.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
The Buddha Park (also referred to as Xieng Khuan) is approx 25 km from the capital city and makes it possible for travellers on the Indochina tour packages to admire over 200 religious sculptures and statues with many including the more elaborate design. One of the largest Buddha’s stands in the region of 40 m in height. The entire collection of statues is very detailed and impressive, and the park was built back in 1958.
Lao National Museum
A visit to the Lao National Museum gives the perfect opportunity to learn more about the local culture and history of Laos. This museum is based in an old colonial French building that is rich in artefacts, exhibits and photographs that depict the live of the country from prehistoric times to modern day. Some of the exhibits relate to the Vietnam War, French colonial period, the Siamese invasions, as well as artefacts like Khmer sculptures and dinosaur bones.