Vientiane, Laos

Getting Around

Getting around Vientiane is generally easy, as the traffic is far less murderous than in other larger Southeast Asian cities like Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Street signage is rather lacking though in the centre more and more signs are appearing. Where there are signs displaying street names, these are in Lao and French. The Lao word "thanon" on these signs is translated by the French "rue", "avenue" or "boulevard", in many cases without any apparent logic.
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Main street in Vientiane by Tevaprapas Makklay

On Foot
Vientiane is a small city and the centre can be quite comfortably covered on foot, at least in the cool season. This laid back city is located on the bank of the Mekong River and if staying near the riverbank, it's the perfect place for a stroll and watch the orange sunset. Out of the city centre there are few footpaths so walking can be uncomfortable.

By Bicycle
Bicycles are perhaps the best way to get around the city. Most guesthouses and hotels can arrange bike rental for around 10,000 kip per day. Although the city's flat terrain makes for good biking, one-way streets can be difficult to identify. You can usually choose to leave your passport, your driver's licence, about 1,000 baht, or a comparable amount of kip or US dollars as a deposit.

Despite the poor standard of local driving, cycling is fairly safe in the city because the traffic is quite slow. But take extra care when the roads are wet, because many are unsurfaced even in the city centre, and they can be muddy and slippery - innocent-looking puddles sometimes conceal deep potholes.

By Jumbos and Tuk-Tuks
Jumbos and tuk-tuks are motorcycle powered vehicles for hire and can carry up to 3-4 passengers. Jumbos (despite their name) are the smallest while tuk-tuks are larger vehicles. Short hops within the city shouldn't cost more than 10,000 kip per person for a shared vehicle. Trips starting from the city centre to That Luang cost 40,000 kip per vehicle, Southern Bus Terminal 60,000 kip and to the Friendship Bridge 95,000 kip. All tuk-tuk drivers carry a fare card for popular destinations but these fares are ridiculously inflated. Haggling or walking away can cause the fare to be lowered. 

Tuk-tuk in Vientiane by Ilya Plekhanov

By Bus
Rattly old blue-and-white buses and newer white minibuses connect the Vientiane's city centre to the suburban districts, but they are not equipped with air-conditioning and have no signs in English, although route numbers are usually, but not always, displayed on the front. The bus most likely to be of use to the casual visitor is Bus No. 14, travelling between Talat Sao Market and the Friendship Bridge, which costs 6,000 kip. At the Friendship Bridge, paying an additional 2,000 kip and transferring to a beat-up minibus will take you the remaining distance to Buddha Park, along a bumpy and unpaved road. The bus to Wattay International Airport goes near but not quite into the airport.

By Taxi
Vientiane has a small fleet of genuine taxis retired from Bangkok, usually found lurking at the Friendship Bridge, the airport or in front of large hotels. Fares are set by bargaining, so figure on around USD0.50 per km or US$20-40 to hire one for the day, depending on car type and distance.

By Car
You can independently drive yourself whenever and wherever you want, but be careful with local driving. In Laos there are lots of car rental companies, but if you are looking for a international standard and service, you can try Europcar (Asia Vehicle rental), located on Samsenthai Road (just 5 minutes from the Namphu Fountain).

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