Information & Facts
There are two obvious seasons in Vientiane - the wet season from
May to October, and the dry season from November to April.
Temperatures in Vientiane are lower during the wet season,
averaging 73°F (23°C), with August being the wettest month. The
towns south of Vientiane along the Mekong River get the least rain.
The dry season has two distinct sub-sections: the cool dry period
from November to February, and the hot dry season from March to
April. Dry season temperatures in Vientiane average at 82°F (28°C),
and the hottest month is April.
Vientiane has a number of great places to eat. Many of the more
popular restaurants in Vientiane are centered around the Mekong
riverfront area, where tourists can sample local cuisine as well as
The local expat café culture tends to revolve around JoMa, a
local Scandinavian Bakery on Thanon Setthathirat. JoMa has a
selection of coffees, cakes and light lunches, as well as free
Wi-Fi internet access and a great vibe.
Lane Xang Hotel situated on Thanon Fa Ngum serves up a
delectable range of Laos cuisine while also staging traditional
Laos music and dance performances. Meals are cheap and the waiting
staff are enthusiastic and always ready to help you decide (or
explain) which Laos speciality you would like to order.
Laos Paris Hotel's L'Adresse de Tinay on Samensenthai road, a
short walk from the Nam Phu, is considered to be one of Vientiane's
best French restaurants. L'Adresse de Tinay has a small menu
complemented by a great wine list. Chef Tinay's tenderloin with
foie gras sauce is superb. Bookings are recommended.
Lao is the official language, but some English and French
The Lao Kip (LAK) is the legal currency unit, currently
available in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and
50,000 kip. US Dollars, Euros and Thai Baht are also accepted in
many places and are more convenient to carry than large stacks of
the local currency. Banks, hotels, and jewellery shops all offer
currency exchange services. For everyday expenses, carry a mix of
US dollars and kip. For larger items, or when the exchange rate
works in your favour, use US dollars. For local transport, street
food stalls and minor purchases, it is best to use kip. When in
rural areas, ensure you carry a supply of small notes as change can
be hard to come by. Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard
are accepted at most international hotels, many shops and
restaurants, and a few tourist-orientated establishments in Luang
Prabang and Vientiane - but in other parts of the country assume
that only cash is accepted. Travellers cheques can be cashed at
most banks in Vientiane and other major towns. Banks are open
Monday to Friday from 8am to 12pm, and then again from 2pm to 3pm.
In Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse and other major towns, ATMs are
available from which money can be withdrawn. Note that ATMs
distribute only Lao kip, with a maximum of around 1,000,000 kip per
Vientiane has a number of great shopping areas; however, the
city's shopping prospects tend to be dwarfed by those available at
Luang Prabang's Night Market. Shopping in Laos generally revolves
around silk and textile products.
The main shopping area in Laos' capital is the Morning Market on
Thanon Lane Xang and Xang Khu Vieng. This indoor market is best
seen early, before the day gets too hot. The stalls sell a variety
of products ranging from Laos textiles and Laos silks through to
electronics, jewellery and curios. The market generally operates
from 9am until 3pm.
The touristy area near the Mekong River has a number of small
boutiques and tourist shops selling silk, fabrics, weaves,
handicrafts and jewellery. Carol Cassidy's Lao Textiles offers
hand-woven Laos motifs of the highest standard. The shop can be
found on Thanon Nokeo Kumman. Nearby, on the same street, you will
find Mulberries Laos Sericulture Company, which is a non-profit
organisation operating throughout Laos and providing income for
many unemployed locals. Mulberries sells naturally-dyed silk
products while teaching locals about sericulture.
Around the corner, the Lao Women's Union runs a shop called The
Art of Silk on Thanon Manthatulat. This shop stocks a great
selection of cotton and silk weaves in a variety of designs.
Another great shop is Tshop Lai, which runs apprenticeship
programmes for socially marginalised and uneducated people in Laos,
teaching them to make soaps, shampoos and oil extracts which are
available for sale at the shop.
The Stay Another Day Laos booklet is an initiative by the
International Finance Corporation's Mekong sector, and aims to
promote sustainable tourism and development. The booklet is
available in Vientiane and lists tour agencies, local businesses
and shops that help to further sustainable tourism. Many of the
boutiques and shops listed in the book are not-for-profit
organisations helping to uplift communities.