Carry small change
Vientiane is relatively inexpensive, unless you plan to enjoy all your shopping and dining inside a hotel and upscale nightclubs. Sooner or later, you will find out that taxi drivers, food vendors and shop keepers don’t have change for your big bills. So, save a few headaches and make sure that you break the larger notes into a few smaller bills and coins.
Barter, but nicely
The first rule of Vientiane shopping: if there’s no barcode or set price, get haggling. It’s expected. However, instead of adopting a confrontational “give me it for this price, now!” attitude, try the gracious, smiley “what’s your best price, my friend?” approach. Why? Because a smile here goes further than a sneer. You could probably bargain 35% off, as a rough guess.
Security and Safety
Tourist locations are considered safe. Observe all normal precautions. Assistance should be obtained through your hotel.
No vaccinations mandatory however, if travelling to remote or border areas, vaccination against typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and Japanese encephalitis desirable. Outside of Vientiane, there is malaria risk. Adequate supplies of any prescription drugs should be carried as they may not be available locally. Comprehensive medical insurance recommended, including evacuation by air in case of emergency. Hospitals, particularly up-country, do not meet western standards.
Drink lots of water
This tip, of course, applies even to the Antarctic. Our unscientific rule of thumb: drink more than you sweat. Purified, bottled water is available everywhere. Always make sure bottled water is sealed.
Carry a photocopy of passport
Whether it be an impromptu demand from a local policeman or a request from security at one of the city’s swanky nightspots, carrying ID is a must in Laos. Instead of dragging your passport around with you, and with it the constant fear of losing it, take a photocopy.
Tipping is not customary in Laos. However, small gratuities may be given in appreciation for efficient, friendly service.