Vientiane: Laos’ Tiny Capital

Vientiane is a small capital city in Southeast Asia with nowhere near the same excitement as Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh. Travelers will typically be stopping in Vientiane while on their way to another city in Laos or applying for visas, and if you find yourself here we wouldn’t recommend more than 1-2 nights. There isn’t a whole lot to do unfortunately, but we had a few days to wait while our visa to Vietnam was processing so we found all the best restaurants and were pleasantly surprised at how good some of the food was. Be prepared to splurge a little since street food is limited.

Best Eats

1. Makphet

This restaurant provides training and work opportunities for marginalized youth, with all tips going back to the staff for education funding. We loved that several of the dishes were available in half-size portions so we could try a lot more. Make sure to order the pork and pumpkin laab, this was our favorite laab dish we ate in all of Laos.

2. Pimenton

Nick took me here for a lovely meal on my 29th birthday. It’s definitely pricey but worth every penny. Must try’s are the white bean soup, pork chop and duck prosciutto. They also make a great espresso martini, if you’re too full for dessert.

3. Laos Kitchen

The laab and grilled chicken were our favorites.

4. Chokdee Cafe and Belgian Beer Bar

When you’re looking for western food and beer, this is the place. You’ll get great service and huge selection of Beligan beers and food options.

5. Naked Espresso

Nice coffee, smoothies and good wifi when you need to pass the time.

Most cities in Laos have enforced curfews in the evening so don’t expect much nightlife. There are a few bars scattered around the city that shut around 11pm and if your lucky you might meet a local who will take you to an after hours bar but this certainly isn’t the place for partying.

The city is quite small and Tuk Tuk’s are incredibly expensive for foreigners so walking everywhere is recommended. The Mekong River runs through town so you can have a stroll near the river, the capital building is located just outside of the backpacker district and within walking distance are the many Buddhist temples scattered around town. If you have time, make sure to visit the COPE Center to learn about the Secret War and continued effects of undetonated bombs located all over the country. There is plenty to learn about how NGO’s are supporting local communities with prosthetic limbs and the effects of this type of warfare in various regions throughout the world.

If you are using Vientiane as a jumping off point, hotels and tour companies sell VIP and local bus tickets to just about anywhere in SE Asia, with price lists outside so you can compare companies and cost before booking.

Accommodation cost more than we would have liked to pay. A relatively clean, basic private room averages $20/night with most hotels/guesthouses charging much more. Don’t bother booking anything before you arrive, there are plenty of guesthouses in one area that you can browse to find the best price for your budget.

Happy travels!

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