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5 Reasons Not To Skip Vientiane - the capital of Laos


Is it worth visiting Vientiane? Lots of people visit Laos on the popular Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Vietnam route but most opt to visit Luang Prabang over the capital of Laos: Vientiane. 

But we really enjoyed Vientiane and think that you will too. Here are five reasons not to skip Vientiane:

1. BUDDHA PARK VIENTIANE


Fun day out? Check. Plenty of cool photo opportunities? Check check. Buddha park Vientiane houses over 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues which are perfect for taking photos with:



Two slightly misleading things though: firstly this is not a temple (it's a park), and secondly though they might look it, the statues aren't hundreds and thousands of years old.

The park was actually set up in 1958 by a priest-shaman who integrated Buddhism and Hinduism (hence why there are both Buddhist and Hindu statues). The statues are from around this time too and are made from concrete.




A final slightly misleading thing is this park isn't really in Vientiane - it's a 30 minute drive away and is on the border with Thailand. Most hostels and hotels will try and sell you day trips there - don't do it! It's the easiest thing in the world to take the bus there by yourself and costs a fraction of the price (plus you get to bus-people watch)! Find out more:  how to get to the Buddha Park Vientiane

Seriously, it's a fraction of the price. Hotels and hostels will offer you a trip for anywhere between $10 and $60, you can do it yourself for $1.50


2. NIGHT MARKET 


Night markets are a must for anyone and everyone visiting South East Asia - they're at night (duh) which makes the temperatures bearable and you can find some pretty cool/unusual things there. Nevertheless, there's a general census that once you've been to one night market, you've been to them all.  

However, we found the Vientiane night markets to be slightly different. Mainly because there was nothing really suitable for us to buy there (not that that stopped us). Most people are selling clothes - super thick clothes that un-climatised Westerners like us just can't wear. 

The upside of this (and another unusual thing about the Vientiane Night Markets) is that there are barely any tourists there at all - which is great: so don't go for the shopping, go to people watch. 


3. THE FOOD


We really enjoyed the food in Vientiane from the nice cream by the river to the yummy local restaurants. We tried Reunion Cafe and liked it so much we went back every day (we recommend the vegan chicken strips).





4. THE PEOPLE


We fell in love with pretty much every Laotian that we met, they were quick to laugh with (at) us and very sweet in general. 

Vientiane doesn't see too many tourists which is great as a) you don't have to put up with tonnes of annoying tourists and b) the locals are still kind and curious with foreigners - as opposed to fed up and annoyed which you sadly (though understandably) see a lot in South East Asia. 




5. THE CROWNE PLAZA


The Crowne Plaza was the perfect base for our trip to Vientiane: they serve an excellent breakfast in the morning (with quite possibly the most extensive range of foods we've ever seen at breakfast, from local Laos noodles all the way to baked beans and hash browns). This sets you up for a great day of sight seeing. 

Their beautiful infinity pool is a great place to watch the sunset. Overall, it's the perfect place to rest up. Find out more in our full review of the Crowne Plaza Vientiane or book your stay now 


But don't just stop at Vientiane, make sure you see the rest of beautiful Laos - here's a 2 week itinerary for Laos to help you plan 


USEFUL INFORMATION FOR VISITING VIENTIANE
Currency
The official currency in Laos is Lao kip. But you can also use US dollars and Thai Baht. Where these two are accepted varies a bit, and they will almost always give you change in Lao kip (sometimes dollars, but mainly Lao Kip).

We used Thai Baht on the bus and in a tuk tuk. We used US dollars at the night market, in a convenient store and at a restaurant.  

One restaurant we went to only accepted Lao Kip. 

Basically take Lao Kip or take it out when you get there, but if you only want to use US dollars or Thai Baht it won't be the end of the world.



Getting to Laos
We took a bus from Chiang Mai to Vientiane and when we left we took a train from Vientiane to Bangkok. Both of these journeys were fine (albeit ridiculously long). What shocked us the most was that we were super impressed with the Thai/Laos border at Nong Khai:


After the fiasco that was crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia we weren't expecting anything special, so were very pleasantly surprised by how easy and smooth the border crossing is at Nong Khai. Just follow these simple steps:


  • Stamp out of Thailand
  • Take the 20 baht bus over the friendship bridge
  • Fill in your Laos visa slip
  • Knock on the booth (don't wait in line)
  • Hand over your passport, the slip and $31 (Germans) or $36 (Brits) or however much it is for your country
  • Wait until they give you your passport back
  • Walk straight through.
Once you're through you can catch the 6000 kip bus into Vientiane (it's the number 14, the same bus you'll take to the Buddha Park).

It's the same kind of idea going backwards, stamp out of Laos, 20 baht bus over the bridge, stamp into Thailand. 

For those that don't want to take the bus/train and want to fly, we recommend Kiwi - the best flight comparison website ever - we love that site! 



Where to stay in Vientiane 
We recommend staying at the Crowne Plaza when you stay in Vientiane for many reasons, but for those looking for something a little different try:

Saibee - always wanted to have stayed five star but have never been able to afford it? Here's your chance at just £44 per night

Riverside - free wifi, free breakfast, great reviews and just £19 per night

Green Box - free wifi, free breakfast, not as good as Riverside but only £11 per night

Mixay - one of the cheapest places in Vientiane, just £6 per night

Airbnb - from home stays to whole apartments and everything in between, newbies get $30 off airbnb with this voucher


Travel Insurance
Last but not least, Travel Insurance, did we need it in Laos? No. Were we glad we had it? Always. Don't leave your country without travel insurance, that's just silly. 



CONCLUSION
There you have it, 5 reasons not to skip Vientiane plus some useful information for when you do get there. If you liked this article, please share it with someone else who you'd think would like it :) 

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ABOUTME

We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.

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