Digital nomads and alike are always looking out for their next stop and having lived and worked in six countries myself. I thought I would share the pros and cons of living and working remotely in Vientiane, Laos.
I am all for inner happiness, location independent and things that bring me smiles. Whether that’s a cozy place to rest my head, warm locals or good food. It’s all the little things that make the journey special and unforgettable if they offer bad WIFI! (we tend to remember bad things over good things and all)
Update: I recently went to Don Det in Southern Lao and now you can read about it here. Perfect place to escape the chaotic S E Asia and find some calmness and tranquillity.
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 and fast facts –
Sabaidi – Hello
La – Bye
Bopengyang – No Worries
Hong noa yu sai- Where is the toilet?
Offical Language- Laotian
Area- 237.000 Km2
Population- ~7 million
Currency- Kip (LAK)
Country code- +856
Timezone- UTC +7
Getting around- I recommend discovering Vientiane on foot to let the vibe set in. Then there is some public transportation option. More about it below.
If you need to book your accommodations, I have got a $55 discount with Airbnb for all my subscribers, get it here.
Without further ado, let’s begin with the Pros.
- 1. Local People
- 2. Networking
- 3. Apartments
- 4. Food
- 5. Opportunities
- 1. Slower phase of life
- 2. Internet
- 3. Nature
- 4. Phone data
- 5. Public Transportation
- Time to wrap!
- What I used to take these photos:
- Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Digital Camera
- Accessories For Canon GX7 Mark ||
- GoPro HERO4 Silver
- Accessories For Go Pro Hero 4
- SanDisk 64 GB Memory Cards
- All-in-One Memory Card Reader
- Let me know in comments if you –
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 otherwise nothing. So, you do what you got to do – small talk. There were couple cafes I would go to do my work in the daily basis and just after few days, I was treated like a friend than just a customer which meant I didn’t have 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 an invitation to exclusive family dinners, boat racing after party etcetera. Overall, 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 have its own list of pro and cons and deserves a different post in its own right. What I’m trying to say is I 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 are not many places to hang out and that works to 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 degrees of separation and all). I had been on the road constantly for a couple of years 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 the small towns.
That brings us to no 3. Early on I was on the go-go-go travel, always on the move but it has 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 there. It also helped that most landlords understood and communicated in English.
Oh and some apartments come with overlooking view of the city and FREE maid service! I rarely made the 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 (USD).
It doesn’t need an introduction. That’s life!
Vientiane offers a 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, and good food. 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 the cinema hall to his new cafe! That explains Senglao’s retro look with the 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 sipping 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 overlooking 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 such as 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 like restaurants, SEO and marketing consulting company, mobile apps etc.
Casually walking to a 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 straightforward person and don’t like to sugar coat things. So, I will say (write in this case 😋) how it is – the answer is painfully slow. For digital nomads, it’s definitely a no. It shows connected 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 were 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.
Unlike its neighbour countries Thailand or Vietnam, Laos is a landlocked 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 for the sim card and bundles but little info regarding the data use. I paid $15 AUD for one and let’s just say it was a rip-off.
5. Public Transportation
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 a taxi driver who picked me up from the airport. That was handy but I read they have an app called Via via for cabs like Uber in Vientiane now.
Time to wrap!
Vientiane is shy but once you get to know the place and its people, it will open up to you and you will have fun immersing into something different. Personally, I am 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.
Heading to Don Det in 4000 Islands next? You can read about it here. It is a gem for nature seeker and beautiful sunsets and hammock awaits you!
Recently I also went to Pakse, the biggest town in Champasak province in southern Lao. I covered where to stay in Pakse. Read more about it here.
What I used to take these photos:
This has been my favourite Camera so far. I love how my pictures come out crisp and colourful. It also has a screen which is useful when v blogging. You can check out what I meant on my Instagram which is here.
Accessories For Canon GX7 Mark ||
Check it out here
This is the good old Go pro that I take with me everywhere. I recommend it because it is small, lightweight and waterproof. I have had made many memories with this trusted item and looking forward to more.
Accessories For Go Pro Hero 4
Check it out here
I have been using SanDisk since my first camera which was back in 2009. They build quality memory cards. I recommend getting at least two, just in case something happens to one of them.
Do you think it’s a hassle of plugging your camera into your computer? This memory card reader will fit cards of all sizes and make an easy transfer to your computer. The reader supports all popular SD memory card formats, including SD™/SDHC™/SDXC™ memory cards, UHS-I SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and microSDHC™/microSDXC™ memory cards. It is also compatible with the latest UDMA 7-enabled CompactFlash cards.
Let me know in comments if you –
- have any questions? or have you lived in Vientiane before? What was your experience?
- are you living there now? Have anything else to add so you can help others too?
- are wondering about the best cafes in Vientiane? You can read more about it here.
- Where to go after Vientiane? or on your visa run? Check out a secret village called Kalaw in Myanmar. Read about it here.
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- If you need to book your accommodations, I have got a$55 discount with Airbnb for all my subscribers, get it here.
Alternatively, you can check prices and book it through trusted Agoda, or Booking.
- Whatever you do, book the cheapest flights through most trusted sites such as Skyscanner or Momodo.