Central Vientiane is entirely accessible on foot. For exploring neighbouring districts, however, you’ll need transport.
There is a city bus system, but it’s oriented more towards the distant suburbs than the central Chanthabuli district. Most buses leave from Talat Sao bus station; to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge costs US$0.40.
Small motorbikes are a popular means of getting around Vientiane and can be hired from several places. The cheapest are from outside the Douang Deuane Hotel (Th Nokeo Khumman) where 110cc bikes cost US$5.50 a day, but we can tell you from experience that they’re notoriously unreliable (we took back four in one day!). Much better Japanese bikes are available from PVO (214444; Th Fa Ngum; per day US$7). They also hire the best 250cc bikes, usually Honda Bajas, for US$20 a day, less for longer hire. Recommended.
Car taxis of varying shapes, sizes and vintages can often be found stationed in front of the larger hotels or at the airport. Some of these (usually the newer models) are fitted with air-con and meters and wear a ‘Taxi Meter’ sign. The meters, however, are ornamental only – you’ll still have to negotiate the fare, which will be higher than in a naturally cooled jumbo. To call a taxi, try Lavi Taxi Company (350000).
A car and driver costs about US$30 to US$40 per day as long as the vehicle doesn’t leave town. If you want to go further afield, eg to Ang Nam Ngum or Vang Vieng, expect to pay more.
Cycling is a cheap, easy and recommended way of getting around mostly flat Vientiane. Loads of guesthouses and several shops hire out bikes for between US$0.50 and US$2 a day; you won’t need a map to find them.