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Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is located on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. With a population of over 900,000 people, it is the most populous city in Laos. During French rule, this city was the administrative capital of the country. Today, it is Laos’ economic center due to its fast economic growth over the last several years. Unlike most other capitals in the world, Vientiane has a laid back atmosphere that makes it feel like the small town that it is. In recent times, the tourism industry in the city is flourishing thanks to the beautiful colonial buildings, centuries-old Buddhist temples, and interesting museums that the city boasts. This has led to a building boom in the city; new developments are springing up and many of its old buildings are having a major makeover.
Renters can choose between bungalows (one-story brick houses), two-story (or more) detached houses, shophouses, and townhouses. The most popular type of house for foreigners are bungalows or detached houses. These types of houses usually come with three to five-bedrooms, as well as large gardens, offering plenty of privacy and space for its residents. Both bungalows and two-story detached houses are available in traditional-Lao style or contemporary, modern design. The contemporary style is more popular with foreigners and is constructed using modern materials.
Townhouses in Vientiane are similar to townhouses in other parts of the world. They are rows of uniform homes that have two stories, sometimes taller. Each townhouse unit is independently owned. However, they share one or more walls with the other units besides them. Shophouses are structures that consist of shops on the ground floor and residential property on the first floor. However, many shophouses in Vientiane have been renovated entirely as residential properties.
The most popular part of Vientiane is the central area near the Mekong River. It is home to the city’s best cafés, restaurants, and bars. It is also home to numerous important landmarks in Vientiane, such as the Presidential Palace and Lao National Cultural Hall. The Mekong Riverside Park, a green park along the Mekong River, is also worth a visit. It has a magnificent statue of the King, and at night, it is filled with street food stalls. Not far from the central area, visitors can find the most important structure in Laos, Pha That Luang. Originally built in the 3rd century, this stunning golden temple is considered as the symbol of the country and the icon of Buddhism.
Although the cost of living in Vientiane is relatively affordable for most foreigners, it is not by any means cheap. The city’s economy has been growing significantly in the last 20 years. This has improved the standard of living in the city and has led to prices increasing. The official currency is Lao Kip (LAK) and 1 USD will get you around 9,255 LAK.
Most people in Vientiane follow Theravada Buddhism, and the culture and etiquette in the city are heavily influenced by Buddhism values. The official and most widely spoken language is Laotian. Although French and English are spoken and understood to some degree, it is better to learn some common Laotian phrases before relocating to Vientiane.
To stay in Vientiane for a longer period of time, foreigners are required to apply and obtain a visa. Several visa types are available, but most foreigners apply for the 30-day business visa (NI-B2) or longer-term visas for experts (C-B1).