Vientiane ( Vieng Chan) is the capital of Laos. Compared to the hectic, bustling capitals in other Southeast Asian countries, Vientiane’s deliciously relaxing atmosphere makes it feel like the small town it is. After you’ve done the round of temples, the best thing to do here has always been to wander down to the riverside, relax with a cold Beerlao – the national beer – and watch the sun set over the Mekong.Of course, the booming tourism industry is changing this by slowly but surely bringing the excesses of Thailand and China to this formerly sleepy city. Just like any other Southeast Asian capital/major city, Vientiane is experiencing a building boom. Even its Presidential Palace is having a major makeover-addition and a new convention centre has opened recently.Settled since at least 1000 CE, Vientiane became an important administrative city of the Kingdom of Lan Xang (“million elephants”) in 1545. Ransacked in 1828 by the Siamese, Vientiane experienced a resurgence when it became the capital of the French protectorate, a position it kept after independence 1953, and was unchanged after the communist revolution in 1975. Today Vientiane is the largest city in Laos, with an estimated population of 210,000 in the city itself and some 700,000 in Vientiane Prefecture.Vientiane is stretched out on the north-eastern bank of a bend in the Mekong River. From the river bank inland, the main roads running parallel to the river are Thanon Fa Ngum, Thanon Setthathirat and Thanon Samsenthai. The central district, Chanthabuli, contains most of Vientiane’s government offices, hotels and restaurants. Vientiane’s widest boulevard, Thanon Lane Xang, runs from the Presidential Palace (now used for government offices and for state receptions) to the northeast around Patuxai, the Victory Gate, towards Pha That Luang, the That Luang Stupa, the most important religious monument in Laos.Vientiane has a typical tropical savannah climate with a distinct wet and dry season. Rainfall measures 1.660mm (65.3 inches) on average every year and humidity is high year-round. The drier and cooler season runs from November to March and is characterised by clear skies and pleasantly warm temperatures. Nighttime and daytime temperatures hover around 16C (60 F) and 28C (81 F) respectively. Cooler air masses from the north may arrive at any given point and push temperatures below 10C (50 F), but very rarely below 6C (42 F). The all-time record low stands at 0C (32 F) and snow has never been reported. The wet or rainy season lasts from April to October and is characterised by sweltering heat and freak thunderstorms. Daytime temperatures hover around 32C (90 F) and nighttime temperatures hover around 24C (75 F), while humidity is very high (84%). The best time of the year to visit the city is late December to early February.A visa on arrival is available for most nationalities at Wattay Airport, the Friendship Bridge and Tha Naleng train station. Bring US$25-42 plus a US$1 in cash (depending on your nationality). Some nationalities do require a pre-arranged Laos visa from a Lao diplomatic mission abroad. A passport photo may be required (was still asked for as of April 2018)

Airport: VTE Wattay International Airport Cities in Laos

Country: Laos