Vientiane, Laos Report of what it's like to live there - 10/31/18
Personal Experiences from Vientiane, Laos
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I have lived in many other countries and on several continents.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC. It takes over 24 hours to get there, usually though Tokyo/Bangkok or through Seoul. One can also travel through the Middle East and Thailand.
3. How long have you lived here?
A few months.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Our housing is excellent and spacious. Commuting time runs fewer than 20 minutes. Sometimes worse, but it's much better than other SE Asian cities.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There are a lot of small stores with a random assortment of western goods which makes finding things difficult. Stuff is around, but when/where is a challenge. The cost of western goods is also a lot higher. If you're willing to buy local products, it can be very cheap.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
None yet. We get most things on the local economy.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many restaurant options in Vientiane. There are also lots of food delivery and takeout options too.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There are many insects here. Ants, mosquitos, etc. It's a tropical environment.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use the diplomatic post system.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There are lots of options. Someone full time will likely cost between US$300 and 400 a month.`
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are gyms and a variety of sports available (volleyball, rugby, soccer, basketball, tennis, etc). There's even Lao baseball. If you look hard enough, I think you'll find it. Not too expensive as a general rule.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
It's mostly a cash economy. I haven't had any problems with ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are several options available.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's helpful, perhaps even very helpful, to have the local language, but it's not absolutely necessary. There are classes/tutors, but the language is challenging to learn.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Possibly due to the lack of paved roads, accessible parking.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I have only used taxis, and they are safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I would recommend an SUV due to the lack of paved roads and rainy season.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Installation takes two - three weeks.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use a local provider. It's worked quite well once I figured out how to do it.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes. No quarantine required. The fact that there are many dogs and cats roaming the streets makes it difficult to walk your dog.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
It's not easy to get a job on the local economy. The company will have to get a work permit for you. Some people telecommute.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are many, but I am not familiar with them.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It's too hot to wear suits regularly. Most people dress in business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not really. Petty crime exists, but it's better here than in most countries.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are concerns about the quality of health care in Laos. Most people will choose to go to Thailand. This fact makes emergencies stressful.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Unsure. I think its better than most major SE Asian cities, but there's not good data. The suspicion is that during the dry season, it will be worse because of the burning of trash.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I know of.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's hot, really hot, and sometimes rains.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are many private schools. The Vientiane International School seems to be the most reputable, but there are also other options that seem to be good as well.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
This is a work in progress in Laos. My recommendation is that families work with the schools to see how/if they can accommodate.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, but I don't have experience with preschools. The Vientiane International School has many after school activities.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
The Vientiane International School has many after school activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty large, and I think morale here is good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Going out to dinner, dinner parties, sports clubs/events. There are options, but you have to look for them.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's a good place for all as long as you don't mind living in a smaller city.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It seems to be.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The Lao people are great. Extremely friendly. It's a beautiful country, and I cannot wait to explore more.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Sitting along the Mekong and watching the world go by is a lot of fun. Biking on Sundays, when there is less traffic, is also fun.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There's some shopping, but again, Vientiane is a small city, so there are not a ton of options.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You get to know many people quickly because you keep running into each other. Commutes are very reasonable.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Dry-clean free items.