Vientiane is a charming and fascinating capital, with an interesting mix of Lao, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, French, and American influences. This delightfully friendly capital is somewhere between a big town and a diminutive city; the kind of place you might expect to encounter a legend protagonist.
Vientiane located on north-eastern bank of a bend in the Mekong River.
Area: 3.920 km²
Dial code: +856 – 21
Settled since at least in the 10th century. Vientiane became an important administrative capital of Lan Xang since 1563. After being taken over by Siem and French, Vientiane was revived by the communist revolution in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city in Laos, with an estimated population of 220,000 in the city itself and over 760,000 in Vientiane prefecture.
Vientiane features a tropical wet and dry climate (Köppen Aw) with a distinct monsoon season and a dry season. Vientiane’s dry season spans from November through March. April marks the onset of the monsoon which in Vientiane lasts about seven months. Vientiane tends to be hot and humid throughout the course of the year, though temperatures in the city tend to be somewhat cooler during the dry season than the wet season.
Best time to go
Best time to visit Vientiane is between October and April.
Banque Franco-Lao (BFL) on Lane Xang Ave, The only European bank in Laos, with branches in Nam Phu, Talat Sao, Sihom, Talat Sikai, That Luang. Nam Phu branch is open 7 days a week, from 08:00 to 20:30.
Phongsavanh Bank on Thanon Samsenthai is Vientiane’s newest and privately-owned bank and operates a currency exchange until about 20:30 on weekdays, and for shorter hours on weekends.
BCEL operates foreign exchange counters on the corner of Thanon Fa Ngum (the river promenade), Thanon Setthathilath (near Joma), Thanon Pang Kham as well as at at the Friendship Bridge, just past the visa on arrival pick-up window. This bank charges no commission, gives better conversion rates, and has longer opening hours than most local banks. BCEL also has an exchange counter.
Mahosot and Setthathirat Hospitals can treat common conditions but for anything more serious you’re better off heading to Thailand (see below) where there are good private hospitals with American or European trained doctors.
For emergency dental treatment you certainly do not need to go to Thailand; there is an excellent clinic just behind the Wind West Bar in Sihoum.
Mahosot Hospital is on the river (go to their “International Clinic” where you pay more and get more personal service, but from the same doctors that work in the hospital itself); Setthathirat Hospital is away from the city centre on the T4 Road.
Vientiane’s Wattay Airport (IATA: VTE, ICAO: VLVT) is 4 km west of the city.
There are direct flights to/from:
Bangkok (Thai Lan): Thai Airways, two flights daily (code share with Lao Airlines) and Lao Airlines, one. Bangkok Airways also operates one flight daily
Hanoi (Viet Nam): Lao Airlines, three times weekly and Vietnam Airlines daily.
Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam): Vietnam Airlines daily via Phnom Penh; Lao Airlines three times per week via Pakse
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia): AirAsia  daily.
Phnom Penh (Cambodia): Vietnam Airlines daily.
Siem Reap (Cambodia): Lao Airlines three flights weekly via Pakse.
Chiang Mai (Thailand): Lao Airlines six times weekly via Luang Prabang.
Kunming (Yunnan, West China): China Eastern Airlines operate four and Lao Airlines three flights weekly. Lao Airlines and the Lao Consulate both have offices in the Camellia Hotel, Kunming.
Singapore: Lao Airlines flies four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday.
Seoul (Korea): Lao Airlines flies Daily.
There is a US$10 departure tax for international flights, but this is being incorporated into the ticket cost so is not now payable in cash for most flights.
- Featured tours in Vientiane
- Main sight-seeing in Vientiane
- Local cuisine
Read more here: Highlight in Vientiane