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Vientiane Travel Tips - Helpful hints and advice on local destination information

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This is one of the safer Southeast Asian countries to visit and its capital is decidedly laid-back. Crime levels are low although travelers should always be aware of pickpockets and busy roads. Reading up on the social conventions of the country is a must before traveling here.

Customs and etiquette

The whole country is a very conservative, communist society with deep rooted social conventions and a quiet, non-confrontational policy for the most part. Keeping shoulders and knees covered, particularly for women, is recommended, while removing footwear in temples and shrines goes without saying.

Eating in groups is done Lao-style, where dishes are placed in the center of the table and everyone has a plate of rice to spoon in small amounts at a time. Don't worry about tipping anywhere here.

Money

The kip is the Lao currency, which is solely made up of notes that go from 500 to 20,000 kip. US dollars and Thai baht can also (generally) be used in higher profile shops and restaurants, with change tendered in kip. ATMs are found in busy tourist areas, although they only accept the major cards, while only the big hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards. Changing money is best done at the bank-controlled exchange booths or at a bank. Vientiane is more expensive than anywhere else in the country, yet is cheap by Western standards. 

Weather

Vientiane experiences a subtropical climate, which has a wet and a dry season. The wet (between June and late October) should be avoided, especially for those who plan on traveling upcountry. November through May is the dry season, with December through February the nicest months. These are the busiest months, however, while March and April become boiling hot and are best avoided. 

Transportation

Most people get about on foot; at least those staying in downtown Vientiane. It is a compact city and most of the action is around just a few, close-knit streets and markets. For travel farther afield and at night, jumbos and tuk-tuks are always available, while bicycle and motorbike hire is also popular. 

Options for getting to the city from Wattay International Airport (VTE) include minibuses, jumbos, tuk-tuks and taxis. Minibuses are cheap and comfortable enough, while taxi coupons can be had in Arrivals and are available at a fixed price. Check with your hotel to see if they do shuttle pick-ups. 

Fast facts

Population: around 600,000
Spoken languages: Lao is the official language, while Thai is also widely understood and some citizens also speak French and English. 
Electrical: 220 Volts, 50 Hertz
Phone/calling code: +856 21