Vientiane, Laos



Vientiane is a fairly safe city to visit in terms of crime. Probably a bigger hazard than crime for most visitors are the missing sewer covers on the pavements. Additionally, there are many loose stones that will tip if stepped on. Therefore, tread carefully and exercise extreme caution when walking at night.

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Bag Snatching
Bag snatching from guests sitting in front of cafes is becoming more common in Vientiane. Bags in the baskets of (rented) bicycles or mopeds, even when moving along, are also far from safe. Do not leave a bag in an accessible position. If your bag is snatched, immediately start shouting -the perpetrators rely on tourists reacting by silently trying to chase them without alerting the numerous police boxes. The thieves are often drug addicts.

Vientiane from the Patuxai by yeowatzup

To prevent the development of a sex trade industry, Laotian law bans foreigners from having sexual relations with Laotian nationals other than their spouses. This law is enforced by the village chief and (given the fines) the incentive to enforce is high. The penalty is USD500 for the first offence but could be much more. Furthermore, foreign offenders can face prison or deportation and the Lao woman prison. A Laotian prison is the last place anyone would want to be. 

If you take a girl to your room and she robs you, this law makes it almost impossible for you to make a police report and receive assistance. Foreign women should note that, while rare, Laotian police enforce this law on both sexes. Most hotels also do not allow foreigners to take local women (other than their spouse) to their rooms as it is officially prohibited.

Visiting a Temple
Long trousers and shirt sleeves are recommended when visiting a Buddhist temple (as well as a government office). Remember to take off your shoes when entering a temple building. Don't get in the way of worshippers and do not touch sacred objects inside. Speak quietly (if you have to) and a temple is not the place to share a joke or two. Always use your right hand when giving or receiving something from a monk. Foreign women adopting the traditional long sarong (siin) are very appreciated.

Buddhist monks in Vientiane by calflier001

Illegal Drugs
Illegal drugs are a problem throughout Laos and certainly so in Vientiane where even very young children can try to peddle "happy pills" to tourists. After declaring victory in the "war on opium" in 2005, it is not so much opium and heroin these days but methamphetamine that incurs the wrath of the authorities. Be extremely cautious of tuk-tuk drivers offering to sell you drugs, as they often collaborate with the police or police impersonators to "shake down" unsuspecting tourists. Penalties are severe with long prison sentences (five years to life) and even death.

They can be vicious, whether they're stray or just owned by irresponsible people who don't bother closing their gates. You don't need to be out in the suburbs to be attacked. Avoid anything but the most well-lit busy streets at night.  If you're bitten see a doctor, even if you've had a rabies vaccination before your trip as you will still need a booster jab.
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