Laos is full of adventurous things to do and filled with ancient buildings and unique cultures. But all of those things do not exist in the capital of Laos. Vientiane is a bustling city filled with busy traffic, modern buildings and paved roads. It’s definitely busier than I ever imagined, especially after traveling in Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. Both towns are so chill and slow-paced. If you’re using Vientiane as a transit point to the next destination during your Laos backpacking trip, here is a 24-hours Vientiane itinerary to help you plan a day there.
Many travelers asked, “how many days do I need for Vientiane?”. Well, in fact, most people stayed in Vientiane for one day or two days max. There aren’t many things to do there compared to other towns. Due to the fact that a large portion of Laos’ lands deemed unusable because of the ordnance buried below, the government seems to focus all their economy on the capital city.
In Vientiane, you can find transportation to each and every town throughout the country, as well as sleeper buses to Bangkok, Hanoi, and other neighboring countries. Vientiane is often used as the transit point from Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng to Pakse and Si Phan Don in Southern Laos.
Enough talking, let’s dive straight in and see what you can do in 24 hours in this one day Vientiane itinerary!
- 1 Worship The Pha That Luang (Best of Vientiane itinerary)
- 2 See The Patuxai Monument
- 3 Visiting COPE Visitor Centre
- 4 Watch the Sunset Over Thailand in Chao Anouvong Park
- 5 Shopping in Vientiane Night Market
- 6 Alternative – Be Amazed in Wat Si Saket
- 7 Alternative – Take a Walk in Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan
Worship The Pha That Luang (Best of Vientiane itinerary)
Pha That Luang is probably the most well known Vientiane attraction of all time. The golden stupa stood elegantly under the sunshine, and the reflected golden ray just amazes everyone who passed by. You could say that it’s the landmark of Vientiane.
The stupa is believed to have enshrined a breast bone of Buddha. Pha That Luang was built back in 1566, right after Vientiane was made the capital of Lan Xang Kingdom. During the invasion of the Siamese army in 1827, Pha That Luang, along with most parts of Vientiane city was destroyed. It wasn’t until the 1930’s when the French rebuilt the stupa to its original design.
Do you know that Pha That Luang was submitted to the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites list?
If you’re visiting in November, maybe you’re in luck to see the That Luang Festival, which takes place for three days during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. You’ll see huge crowds of locals visiting and paying tribute to the stupa, as well as giving alms to the monks.
Since it’s that famous, you should also expect crowds of tourists in the compound. Chinese and Korean tourists have been flooding Vientiane for the past few years. The number of Korean tourists also surprised me because I never expected so many Koreans in this country.
There are accommodations throughout the city, so if you booked your hostel far away, you might need to walk to get there. Tuk-tuks are ridiculously expensive in Vientiane, just for your info.
The entrance fee to Pha That Luang is 10,000 Kip per person, and the stupa is open from 8 am to 4 pm. Note that there will be a lunch break from 12 pm to 1 pm, you can’t visit between this time frame.
See The Patuxai Monument
Patuxai Monument is yet another landmark of Vientiane city, which was built between 1957 to 1968. Patuxai, which translates to ‘Victory Gate’ was erected to remember those who fought for independence from the French army. It’s an attraction not to miss in your Vientiane itinerary.
The monument was constructed using the funds from the US, which was meant to be used for the expansion of the airport.
The architecture of the monument was heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism religions. If you look up to the ceiling of the monument, you’ll find various craftings and arts of the Hindu gods, like Brahma and Vishnu.
On top of the monument, you’ll also see 5 towers. Four of them occupying the corners while the tallest tower lies in the middle. You could pay a fee of 5,000 Kip per person to climb to the top for the view of the city.
There is also a sign in the monument stating that the construction was never completed due to the country’s turbulence history.
However, the compound is more than just the monument. If you walk further in, you’ll also find a fountain, built using the funds donated from the Chinese government. There are loads of benches so you can easily just sit down and have a rest.
The entrance to the compound is free but you would have to pay 5,000 Kip to climb the monument.
Check out how you can travel from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng all by yourself here!
Visiting COPE Visitor Centre
COPE is an organization with a mission to help people with disability to walk again using prosthetic legs and provide them physical rehab support.
Upon entering the visitor centre, you’ll be amazed by how well the decoration the interior is. There are information boards all around the displayed items, and loads of prosthetic limbs to see.
The main thing about this visitor centre is how well they presented the history of the Secret War. If you didn’t know it yet, the US army dropped more than 2 million tons of ordnance bombs into the land of Laos from 1964 to 1973. This makes Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in modern history.
The bombing was intended to destroy the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was used to transfer the army and military supplies from Northern Vietnam to Southern Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Up to a third of the dropped ordnance bombs did not explode, and therefore buried inside the land of Laos. When farmers try to plow the land and accidentally hit the ordnance, or setting fire on top of the buried ordnance, the bomb exploded. These accidents happen frequently for the past few decades and rendered many Laotian people disabled. And that’s where the COPE comes into play.
In this visitor centre, you’ll also learn about how the other partner organizations dispose of these unexploded ordnances in the rural land of Laos. There are free documentaries to make learning more interesting.
I highly recommend paying a visit to COPE Visitor Centre to learn about Laotian history, and to donate some funds to help the organization. The entrance is free!
One thing I didn’t like is the way they treat different types of visitors. I’m not trying to complain, but the staff is very more likely to approach western visitors and explain things to them without asking. They didn’t even show me the donation box when I was leaving, and they never even looked at us or said things like ‘thanks for visiting’. Just saying.
Check out this guide to the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos!
Watch the Sunset Over Thailand in Chao Anouvong Park
What’s a better way to end your day other than watching the sunset? Well, watching a sun setting over another country, in this case, Thailand!
The Mekong River by Chao Anouvong Park and the entire Vientiane city acts as the border between Laos and Thailand. At the park, if you walk closer to the Mekong River, you’ll find yourself a wide stretch of beach. There, you can find yourself a seat and watch the sun setting slowly over the opposite country’s land.
We didn’t know that the opposite was Thailand until we actually looked at Google Maps afterward.
After watching the sunset, then it’s time for dinner and shopping in the Vientiane night market!
There is a handful of food court and food stalls over at Chao Anouvong Park. When I was there, my friend and I were surprised by the numbers of waiters surrounding us.
Once we had a seat, the waiters and waitresses from all the surrounding stalls came over, and put their menu on our table. None of them understand English, and it was extremely awkward and uncomfortable. We had at least 6 menus on our tables and surrounded by 6 people at least. But it’s an unforgettable experience anyway.
If you prefer a better experience, there are loads of restaurants around as well!
Shopping in Vientiane Night Market
Vientiane Night Market is the largest in the country. I was amazed during my visit. It literally took me more than an hour to fully explore everything this night market has to offer, and I’d say you should add this to your Vientiane itinerary.
In this night market, you’ll find plenty of food stalls, but they are not the main highlights. The clothing stalls are. There is a huge variety of clothing to choose from, and they are all cheaper than those you find in other towns like Luang Prabang or Vang Vieng. You might need to negotiate a little bit to get a more satisfying price.
Vientiane Night Market is also a perfect place to buy souvenirs back home because there are quite a lot of foreign tourists there.
The only thing that bothers me is the beg-packers begging for money on the street. And the most disturbing thing is that these beg-packers always get more donations from the locals than the disabled locals on wheelchairs.
Vientiane Night Market is open every day from 5 pm to 11 pm. I highly recommend you to visit this night market!
Alternative – Be Amazed in Wat Si Saket
Located at the intersection of Lane Xang Road and Setthathirat Road, Wat Si Saket is the only temple in Vientiane to maintain its original form despite the Siamese invasion in 1827. It was built in 1820 near the Royal Palace by King Anouvong, the last king of Vientiane.
The historic temple houses more than 10,000 images of Buddha in different mudras. The temple was further restored in the 1930s.
The entrance fee is 5,000 Kip per person, and it opens daily from 8 am to 4 pm, with a lunch break between 12 pm to 1 pm.
Alternative – Take a Walk in Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan
If you still have a lot of spare time and decided to venture out of town, then consider adding the Buddha Park into your Vientiane itinerary. Buddha Park, also known as Xieng Khuan is located 25km southeast of the city.
The sculpture park contains quite a number of Buddha statues and Hinduism images. Although it’s not a temple, it’s sometimes referred to as Wat Xieng Khuan. ‘Wat’ is a temple in the Laotian language.
The park was built back in 1958 by Luang Pu Bounleua Sulilat, who later moved to Thailand and proceeded to create a similar park, called Sala Koeku in Nong Khai. Here, you will enjoy a temporary escape from all the bustling vibe of the capital city.
The only downside is the lack of information boards to tell more about the sculptures and the meaning behind them.
To get there, you’ll have to hire a tuk-tuk, which will cost around 200,000 Kip. Find a few travelers and share the ride together to split the bill. The driver will wait for you at the entrance of Buddha Park until you’re done with your visit, then drives you back to your accommodation.
The park is open every day from 8 am to 4.30 pm. The entrance fee is 5,000 Kip per person, and an additional 3,000 Kip if you bring your camera, pretty weird right?
What do you think of this one-day Vientiane itinerary?
Hopefully, this article helped you in planning your one-day transit in Vientiane. Not sure for you, but Vientiane is not much of my thing if compared to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. A full day was pretty enough for me to explore. Let me know what you think of this Vientiane itinerary in the comment section below! Till next time, enjoy Laos! Check out my 3 days Luang Prabang itinerary and Vang Vieng itinerary too!
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