Digital nomads and alike are looking out for their next stop and having lived and worked in multiple countries myself. I thought I would share pros and cons of living and working remotely in Vientiane, Laos.
I am all about inner happiness, location independent and things that bring me smiles. Whether that’s cozy place to rest my head, warm locals or good food. It’s all the little things that makes the journey special and unforgettable if they offer bad WIFI! (we tend remember bad things over good things and all)
Beautiful Sunsets by the Mekong River, Vientiane Laos. what you can’t see here is 5 plates of food and chilled beer lao!
Now perhaps you didn’t know, Laos officially goes with the Lao PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) and unofficially it could mean “Please Don’t Rush”! Yeah life is pretty slow here in Vientiane the capital city of Laos. If you have been in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, you must have heard of Laos as well. It’s the next door neighbour many people skip so, if you haven’t heard of it, I won’t judge you. Hope this post will shed some light instead.
If you are considering Laos as your next digital nomad destination, here’s few must know words –
Sabaidi – Hello
La – Bye
Bopengyang – No Worries
Hong noa yu sai- Where is the toilet?
Without further ado, let’s begin with the Pros.
1. Local People
Local People are one of the reasons what makes each country either welcoming or wanting to leave as soon as you arrive. I found local people in Vientiane friendly if i were to initiate the conversation first other wise nothing. So, you do what you got to do – small talk. There were couple cafes i would go to do my work in daily basis and just after few days, i was treated like a friend than just a customer which meant i didn’t had to constantly order something to use my laptop and work there.
It felt comfortable and ultimately i ended up eating there more often. Some locals were too kind to offer invitation to exclusive family dinners, boat racing after party etcetera. Over all, lao people were nice and friendly once i got to know them.
As for my looks goes, i look as asian as one can get. So, in S.E.A. usually people automatically assume i am one of the locals which has its own list of pro and cons and deserves a different post on its own right. What i’m trying to say is i also met some locals who were racist and would ignore my existence because of my asian looks but I don’t care. I don’t even want to explore that thought so let me just end this with – Focus on who you want to be friends with and create great memories.
Never met a Sunset i didn’t like!
Vientiane seems like a spread out city but you will find it is easier to meet and connect with expats and fellow digital nomads. Reason being is there is not many places to hang out and that works in your advantage if you are new in the area and want to network. You can guess few places people would go like Vientiane Social, Easy Bar etc and turn up!
Most decent places are all in or around the city and most likely you will end up seeing the same faces now and again. There are also meet up groups, foreign governments and NGO/INGO workers who would go to the same bars. So chances are high someone you know will know them (we live in 6 degree of separation and all).
I had been on the road constantly for couple of months before i landed in Vientiane. So, it was refreshing to live in a home and to know a group of people that turned into friends. It is fun to live in bigger cities but something special about them small towns.
That brings us to no 3. I used to be always on the move but its been a while i have grown to love slow travel which means living and working in one place for at least 3 months. I had my doubts about apartments in Vientiane but i found leaflets and brochures were posted in almost all the cafes. So, you would just call and go for inspection. If you like it, pay the bond and move in. If not continue going for inspections. No drama here. It also helped that most landlord understood and communicated in english.
Oh and some apartments come with over looking view of city and FREE maid service! I rarely made bed and cleaned the apartment until one day cleaners didn’t show up and i saw millions of ants running on the floor. I hadn’t spill anything sweet; turned out house had invisible cracks and to compensate there was FREE maid service. Not everything is what it seems but yes easier to find apartments with beautiful sunsets view for $300-400 p/m.
It doesn’t need introduction. That’s life!
Vientiane offers variety of cuisines like any other capital cities. There are nice Pizza places, healthy smoothies, Lebanese, Japanese and what not. During my time in Vientiane, Senglao was the best place for digital nomads. Fast internet for work, great coffee, good food and is the same cafe i was talking about in No 1. I was there almost every other day so, one day i caught up with the owner as well. He used to own a cinema hall and when that didn’t work out, he moved the interior from cinema hall to his new cafe! That explains Senglao’s retro look with statue of Marilyn Monroe at the front!
I was also regular in Joma and Parisian cafe for work, coffee and sandwiches. I didn’t look deeper into co-working spaces as I was happy siping my coffee and working there!
But among all that, if you are in Vientiane you gotta try lao food. I miss that sticky rice, grilled fish, spicy chutney, yummy noodles and beer lao in a random tiny hut or over looking a Mekong river.
I get occupied with work but sometimes i want to give back. Not just to make myself feel better but also to spread the goodness in the world. I believe “giving” makes us feel more fulfilled than “receiving”. There are opportunities like volunteering to teach English, giving a hand in NGO or helping a local community.
If you are interested in making money, there are lots of opportunities as well. I’ve met expats now friends who are running successful businesses in Vientiane, Lao like restaurants, SEO and marketing consulting company, mobile apps etc.
Casually walking to cafe and had an interesting encounter with a local!
Cons for Digital Nomads:
1. Slower phase of life
This is not necessarily a con but Vientiane has this slower phase of life that might frustrate digital nomad in you at some point. No one’s in a hurry or rushing, everyone’s pretty chill and that’s all good but if it takes more than two weeks for your landlord to fix wifi
(even after that wifi doesn’t work) and your local co-worker takes ages to finish simple tasks then it starts to become a problem very soon. Maybe ask around if others have experienced this as well. But if you are on a visa run or just want to chill, then nothing is lit than Vientiane sunsets overlooking Mekong river.
That brings us to the second con. My first month out of three months, I had a horrible experience with wifi in Vientiane. I’m a straight forward person and don’t like to sugar coat things. So, I will say how it is – the answer is painfully slow. For digital nomads it’s definitely a no. It shows connect but it doesn’t work then it works but takes longer to load than paint to dry. I was always working from different cafes which was kind of nice as you can read above but after closing hours i couldn’t work as WIFI at home was nowhere to be found.
3. Too far from nature
Unlike its neighbour countries Thailand or Vietnam, Laos is a land locked country. Capital city Vientiane doesn’t have any beach nor mountains. You shouldn’t expect to beach bum here and if you want some mountain view you will have to go Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang. Buses take 3 -6 hours respectively but flights are available as well.
4. Phone data
90% of the time my WIFI at home would be playing hide and seek. I couldn’t get much done with limited hours of wifi in the cafes. So, I wanted to put some data on my phone and found there were multiple options of sim card and bundles but little info regarding the data use. I paid $15 AUD for one and let’s just say that’s the only time i felt ripped off in Vientiane.
Vientiane is not public transport friendly. You might see some tuk tuk in front of touristic places but that’s about it. There are no public buses or taxis unless you know the private driver or have their contact details. Fortunately for me, I’d kept the name card of taxi driver who picked me up from airport. That was handy. 2 months later now, they have an app called Via via for cabs like Uber in Vientiane.
Time to wrap!
Vientiane is shy but once you get to know the place and it’s people, it will open up to you and you will have fun immersing into something different. Personally i am a easy going and don’t like to complain about things too much but if online work is your priority you might want to reconsider your options. However, Vientiane has many other good things to offer that you might enjoy. Imagine stunning sunsets from your bedroom balcony, tasty food all around the town, friendly locals and fellow digital nomads all in one city.
Whatever you decide, happy travels x