As the cultural and economic center of Laos, life in Vientiane can be fast-paced and exciting, particularly in the central districts. The city is also home to one of the most dynamic suburban areas in the world, comprising villages and farmlands. The cost of living in Vientiane is comparatively low, with rental and food costs amounting to much less than more affluent areas of the continent, making life particularly comfortable for expats seeking to relocate.
The central districts of Vientiane — Chanthabouly, Hadxaifong and Sikhottabong — are home to numerous bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, museums and more, with the outlying areas providing a more sedentary, relaxed way of life. Vientiane is also home to the prestigious Lane Xang Golf Club, situated just 14 kilometers away from the Friendship Bridge. The Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort is situated 60km to the north, and features an international standard golf course, a casino with over 60 table games and a 185-room luxury hotel popular with international visitors and expatriates.
Although lively, the night life in Vientiane is slightly more conservative than neighboring cities in the Philippines or Thailand. High quality restaurants are plentiful, and many of the city hotels have in-house night clubs that cater to the needs of local elites and foreigners.
Beyond this, there are a number of popular pubs and discotheques that offer a variety of Thai, Lao, Asian and Western pop music, live music and karaoke. Venues typically close at around 1:00, with peak periods hitting around 23:00. There are numerous recreational and sporting facilities within the central district, including a number of day spas, bowling alleys and swimming pools to keep expats entertained.
Vientiane’s Talat Sao Morning Market is an interesting place to find everything from handicrafts and clothing to electronic products, jewelry and books. The city center is also home to a number of small malls populated with shops selling basic provisions, cafes, food courts and bars featuring bamboo-thatched beer gardens. Expatriates wishing to furnish their homes will find plenty of fine hand-crafted Mandalay furniture on offer in stores across the city.
Healthcare needs in Vientiane are met by Mahosot Hospital, a 24-hour clinic that provides treatment for serious illnesses and medical emergencies. For non-emergencies that require a discussion with a doctor or general practitioner, the French Medical Center (which is situated within the French Embassy) offers consultations for a small fee.
Treatment for minor ailments is typically sought by visiting a local pharmacy — the majority of pharmacies are staffed by English-speaking pharmacists and treatments are largely available without prescription. Some hotels in the city also offer rudimentary medical assistance for conditions of low severity, such as sickness bugs or fevers.
One of the most important considerations for anybody with a family in mind is education. Vientiane is home to the National University of Laos; one of the most prestigious university campuses on the continent. Established in 1996, the university offers a diverse smattering of courses ranging in everything from social sciences to architecture, and is home to some 26,000 students each academic year.
The development of the Information and Communication Technology department has been credited with helping the city to advance both technologically and economically at an exponential level in the space of two decades. The university currently employs nearly 2,000 staff in a variety of teaching and administrative roles.