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Vientiane, Laos

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 23, 2023

Summary: The approximate population of Vientiane, Laos is 790,000. People describe Vientiane as a laid-back city with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals. Expats love the low cost of living, the abundance of outdoor activities, and the easy access to other parts of Southeast Asia. The weather in Vientiane is generally hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from an average low of 68°F (20°C) to an average high of 95°F (35°C). The average cost of living for an expat is relatively low. A one bedroom apartment can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 per month, while a two bedroom apartment can cost anywhere from $300 to $600 per month.

What do I need to know about living in Vientiane?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Vientiane, they said:

"Things here run very differently. It's slow and has to be done a certain way. It's best to go with the flow. Come here with an open mind and you should be ok! Don't expect much of a nightlife as there isn't one," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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What do I need to know before moving to Vientiane?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Vientiane, they said:

"No advice. Depends on your style of life. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado in a cabin with no electricity, running water, and snowed in 3 months of the year," said another expat in Vientiane.

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How do I meet people in Vientiane?

When we asked people living in Vientiane about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"It all depends what you are interested in. For women there is WIG (Womens International Group) who do various activities. There are many sporting clubs (Rugby, Australian Football, etc). A volunteer group called Paws for Thought who focus on animal welfare in Lao. Most are advertised in the Vientiane Times OR on facebook/internet.," explained one expat.

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What should I bring when moving to Vientiane?

People living in Vientiane were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"1. Heavy socks, jackets, and sweaters 2. Hand tools: electric drill, electrical 3. M/C jacket, helmet boots, gloves," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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Will I be able to find a job in Vientiane?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Vientiane, they reponded:

"There aren't a lot of career opportunities here. Most wouldn't come here UNLESS they already have a job in Lao ready to go. I guess the main industry would be in mining," added another person living in Vientiane.

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What is life like in Vientiane?

When we asked people living in Vientiane what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"For Lao people, all of the above! For many foreigners here it's mostly spending time getting to know Lao, visiting its more popular places, socialising etc. It all depends on what you want to do and spend most of your time on. For my family it's sport, socialising and seeing what Lao has to offer," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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What do expats in Vientiane appreciate most about the local culture?

"Laid back friendly people. Appreciative of anything you do for them. Respectful of elders," said another expat in Vientiane.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Learning Lao, shopping at the market for food, making sure the family is happy, getting my sense of direction (which is terrible)," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

"Getting set up visa wise and continuing learning process of the culture and language," said another expat in Vientiane.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Vientiane accepting of differences?

"I think people here are quite accepting of differences. Some are open to it. A lot of the older people though not so much. As long as you come here with an open mind and are respectful of Lao customs and beliefs etc then you shouldn't have a problem," explained one expat living in Vientiane.

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What are the schools in Vientiane like?

"Dont. I never took my child there despite being a teacher there and being eligable for a 50% dicount on tuition. I’ve recently, and happily, resigned from KIS . If your children are attending the school, you most likely are unaware that it is the worst school in Laos. Despite its super inflated prices, it lacks basic safety precautions such as a fire alarm (or even a practiced or understood fire escape route) despite a recent fire. Its owner cheats/tries to scam parents and cuts corners at every available opportunity . These practices include : charging upwards of 400,000 for photo copies of textbooks that everyone knows costs pennies, charges students 1.50USD a day for a completely unsanitary lunch and nearly inedible lunch that consistently makes its eaters sick and consists of the shittiest version of Cow- Peak known to man…kind of like bone soup….it has recently removed specialist art teachers from the primary levels , as well as library period – basic necessities of an INTERNATIONAL school – it pays teachers the exact same salary it did in 2005 despite increasing inflation and ignores the experience and credentials of its teachers, in fact the owner has openly stated that she prefers complete subservience in teachers to qualified teachers who provide input regarding the students well being, moreover she has openly stated that she will happily replace any teacher, no matter how qualified, with a totally unqualified one, if that teacher questions her judgement in any way (no matter how detrimental it is to learners or teachers). Go ahead and ask about the teachers credentials. Despite there being over 100 teachers there at this point there are only 4 working computers for them to create and print materials for their students with….All of these corner cutting practices continue despite ever increasing enrolment (over a 1000 students at this point) and therefore greater profit….Moreover, the deputy director has been openly abusive to both students and teachers, and the head of TESTING has openly boasted of beating his own children, and has proven himself incapable of writing a grammatical sentence (he also submitted such brilliant ideas as requiring nursery school children -1 to 2 years old- to take a paper exam and forcing teachers to work 12 months of the year )…If you would like documented evidence of any of these claims I will provide them in person…If you aware of all of this and still send your children there, you clearly have no regard for your childs education or well being…," said another expat in Vientiane with children at Kiettisack International School.

"If you are paying out of pocket, this is the most cost effective school in Laos and Thailand. The teachers are tough and don't hand out good grades. They give great input. It's not a pay-and-pass school. Kids are expected to work. After Grade 6 its all English. Pre-6 is 50/50 Lao/English. The main reason I moved from Thailand to Laos is because I found a cost-effective school with a good curriculum and teaching staff in my price range. Yes. I'd consider enrolling my child in this school," remarked another parent with kids at Kiettisack International School in Vientiane.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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