Introduction to Vientiane
Vientiane, situated on the Mekong River situated close to the border with Thailand is the capital and largest city of Laos. Vientiane attracts many tourists every year mainly due to its abundance of spectacular Buddhist monuments and temples. In comparison to other capital cities Vientiane, in comparison is very laid back and underrated. Without the hustle and bustle of other south east asia cities, you’ll find plenty to tour at a pace of your own.
Getting To Vientiane
Vientiane is best accessed by its International Airport, Wattay International airport which is located only a few kilometers from the capital. Vientiane has daily flights from Singapore and Bangkok and is served primarily by 4 airlines. These include Lao Airlines, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines and China Eastern. A return flight from Singapore can be found for as little as SGD400 (USD330), and a flight from Bangkok from as little as SGD300 (USD245). With the airports close proximity to the capital and no need for a major transportation system, the capital is best accessed by car, taxi or tuk-tuk.
The weather in Vientiane has clear clear seasons. A wet monsoon season and a dry season. The wet monsoon season is from April to October. The Dry season from November to March. The temperature in Vientiane is hot and humid all year round with temperatures varying between 16 and 34 degrees Celsius.
The official currency of Laos is the Laotian Kip . In most places in Vientiane, there is little preference between using the local currency and Thai Baht and USD. Whichever currency you use, you will most likely get your change in kip.
The Kip comes only in notes and there are no kip coins. Make sure you take enough cash or travelers cheques as ATM’s are difficult to find. If you do find one you may find it doesn’t accept some of the popular worldwide cards such as Plus or cirrus. For changing up currency there are a few kiosks operated by the local bank. Most hotels and restaurant do not accept all the cards you would usually expect. Worldwide brand hotels will take Visa, MasterCard and AMEX. IT is advised to check with your hotel before you travel.
With limited public transportation services, tuk tuks and taxis are the only real choices for traveling around Vientiane. Even with less traffic than other capital cities of the world or even south east asia, you’ll find getting around Vientiane isn’t quite as easy as you’d think. This is because there a not a lot of English signs as most of them are in either Loa or French. Being a small city, your never going to end up a million miles form where you wanted to be. Keep a written list of the places your visiting and your hotel and you’ll only ever be a short tuk tuk ride away if you get lost.
Most visitors to Laos can obtain a visa on arrival.
Citizens from the following countries are NOT eligible for a Visa on Arrival:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Jordan, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya ( Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ), Mozambique, Nauru, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Syria ( Syrian Arab republic), Swaziland, Tonga, Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Requirements for Visa On Arrival:
1-Passport with at least 6 months until the expiration and at least one full blank page.
2-Completed and signed Application form, available from wither the customs area at Wattay airport or available online or provided to by your airline on board the plane.
3-2 passport sized photos
4-The Visa fee payable
Visa Fee- The Visa fee ranges from USD$20-40 depending on which country you are from.
Visa Exception – A Visa on arrival is not required for ASEAN member countries and also Japan, Mongolia, Russia, South Korea. The Visa exception is also avaiable to diplomats from certain countries.
While there are a number of clinics and hospitals in the Vientiane vicinity is is recommended that if you need medical care beyond simple presciptions it is worth traveling over the border to udon thani an hours bus ride away which is a major city with a population of over 1.5m where medical care will be far more advanced.