Shopping in Vientiane
- Vientiane State Import/Export Enterprises, Samsenthai Rd (Next to Phongsavanh Bank). A duty free, state-owned liquor store. Limited selection but the cheapest prices in town for popular brand name liquor by the bottle. This place is pretty good in terms of product authenticity but nothing is 100% guaranteed.
- Banks and money changers are plentiful in the city centre. Money changers give a better rate than the banks. The best rates are at the shops along Rue Lane Xang in the section north of the Talat Sao Morning Market.
- Credit cards are accepted by travel agencies and in better restaurants and shops, but many charge a non-negotiable 3% fee.
- BCEL (Corner of Fa Ngum Rd (the river promenade), Setthathilath Rd (near JoMa), Pang Kham Rd as well as at the Friendship Bridge, just past the visa on arrival pick-up window). Foreign exchange counters at various locations. This bank charges no commission, gives better conversion rates and has longer opening hours than most local banks.
- Phongsavanh Bank (On Samsenthai Rd). Vientiane's newest and privately owned bank and operates a currency exchange until about 20:30 on weekdays, and for shorter hours on weekends.
ATMs are plentiful, but often cause problems such as out of cash or "eaten card" and sometimes do not accept the major international credit and debit card networks. In addition, most have withdrawal limits of 700,000-2,000,000 kip and charge additional fees. For preventing such trouble, tourists should withdraw money only at ATMs at bank branches.
- ANZV. Allows withdrawals of up to 2,000,000 kip per transaction with a 40,000 kip transaction fee. Supports both Visa and Maestro. There are 2 branches in Vientiane. The first is at the main ANZV office located mid-way down Lane Xang. There are now also various ANZV ATMs, for example on the corner of Fa Ngum Rd and Rue Chao Anou and at various minimarts, like the City minimart and at some M Point marts.
- BCEL. Withdrawals are limited to 1,000,000 kip per transaction; however, you may make up to ten of these in one day. MasterCard and Maestro are accepted; Visa also. BCEL charges a fee of 20,000 kip per transaction.
- Joint Development Bank. Possible to withdraw up to 1,000,000 kip per transaction with a 30,000 kip transaction fee. Supports both Visa and Maestro.
- Chinese bicycles and mountain bikes can be found in the Morning Market (Talat Sao) and in a few shops in the surrounding streets. Prices for a single gear bike start at about USD50, Mountain bikes at about USD80. In the tourist areas, bikes are rented out for 10,000 kip per day (Feb 2012).
- Top Cycle Zone, 47 Dong Palan. The place to go if you want to buy a decent Western style bicycle or spare parts for one. Mountain bikes from USD350.
- Monument Books, Nokeo Kumman Rd (Next to the Vayakorn Guesthouse).Offers a good selection of English and French language books and magazines.
- Seng Lao DVDs (About 100 m toward the river down Chao Anou St from the Home Ideal department store, on your left). Vientiane boasts one of the best DVD shops in Southeast Asia, with 10,000 titles of quality European, Asian and US movies. Seng Lao has dozens of books displaying DVD covers: you browse the books, and list your choices on a piece of paper they provide, at 10,000 kip each. The nearby and better-marked Seng Dao DVD shop has inferior service and choice. Mind the possible consequences of importing large amounts of illegally copied DVDs into your country. 10,000 kip.
- Look for the Stay Another Day: Laos booklet for a guide to non-profit handicraft shops, sustainable manufacturing and other NGO stuff in Vientiane and elsewhere in Laos.
- The Art of Silk (Lao Women's Union), Manthatourath Rd, . ,M-F 09:00-16:00. Silk and cotton weavings in both traditional and modern designs. A local magazine says "phone before visiting, as there is no permanent staff." Free.
- Kanchana (The Beauty of Lao Silk) (Just off Samsenthai Rd on Chantha Kumman Rd, the road to That Dam). Traditional Lao silk weavings, hand-woven fabrics, textiles and clothing using natural dyes.
- Laha Boutique (Francois Ngin Rd). Naturally dyed textiles (mainly cotton) from the south (Savannakhet).
- Lao Textiles (Nokeo Kumman Rd). Founded 1990 by an American woman (Carol Cassidy), who now employs some 40 artisans, this firm offers modern cotton weavings using traditional motifs and. Some of their work has been exhibited in international museums, with this reflected in the price. They are not particularly welcoming to visitors, including a locked front door, a bell that needs to be rung to request entry and very prominent "No photography" signs.
- Mixay Boutic (sic) (On Nokeo Kumman Rd, with a second shop on Setthathirat Rd). They weave handmade textiles of the shop's own design on the premises, and you are welcome to watch. Beautiful wall hangings, not the cheapest in town, but well worth the price. Also on sale are shirts and skirts, scarves, cushion covers and anything made of fabric.
- Mulberries Lao Sericulture Company (Nokeo Kumman Rd). The sales outlet of a not-for-profit organisation that operates in about five hundred villages in Northern Laos, seeking to create income-generating opportunities. Naturally-dyed, handmade Lao silk products.
- TShop Lai, Vat Inpeng St, . Sells oils, shampoos, soaps, etc., made by Les Artisans Lao as well as honey and some nice handicrafts. Les Artisans Lao is a social venture allowing disadvantaged, uneducated and often marginalised people to receive apprenticeships.
Markets and shops
- Chinese Market (Behind Alina Hotel).
- Evening Market, ວຽງຈັນ (Off Asean Rd).
- Home Ideal, Samsenthai Rd (A 2 minute walk on the next street over from Phongsavanh Bank). A Chinese-owned shop, offering good foreign exchange rates. Large one-stop shop for assorted products from stationery to housewares, clothing to luggage. Prices are fixed and reasonable.
- Morning Market (Talat Sao) (Corner, Lane Xang and Khu Vieng Rd). 09:00-16:00. A large collection of indoor stalls selling, well, pretty much anything. There are two floors: the first floor sells mostly textiles, electronics (watch out as nearly all of them are counterfeit), and watches. The second floor has clothing, gold and jewellery. Depending on the product, you should negotiate. Discounts can vary from 10% to 33%.
- Talat Sao Mall, Lan Xang Avenue (ຖະໜົນລ້ານຊ້າງ). Has 3 floors and is the first public building in Vientiane with indoor parking. On weekends folks from the countryside come and marvel at the escalators (which, in one local magazine article, were referred to in English as "electricity ladders"), and at the bravery of those who venture onto them. The mall boasts a few cafés and a Thai-style food court. The front side of the market has space for parking. The toilets are not far from the entrance and can be used for a very small fee. Many vendors are Thais so they expect you to pay in baht, despite the signs urging you to pay in kip, and they also expect you to be typical dumb tourists who'll pay any price and still think it's a bargain. Souvenir tee-shirts, three for 200 baht. Almost of products here are mentioned in many newspapers or fake product report sites.
Most supermarkets offer groceries from Europe, wines from all over the world (thanks to the low taxation in Laos these are astonishingly low-priced considering the distances involved); dairy products from Laos itself and Thailand (milk, yoghurt), butter and cheese from Europe and New Zealand, and everything else one may need.
- City Minimart (On Samsenthai Rd opposite Wat Si Muang). Maybe the shop with the most extensive range of merchandise in the town, and somewhat cheaper than the shops in the centre.
- M-Point Mart. A relatively new convenience store chain, with at least five locations in Vientiane. Much like a 7-Eleven. Stop by around 18:00 and there will be a Thai food cart right in front. Has the best pad Thai in town. You can choose from pad Thai, fried baby mussels, fried rice, and mixed seafood platter. 15,000 kip per plate.
- Phimphone Minimart (On Setthathirat Rd next to JoMa). An almost a full-grown supermarket. This place will surprise you with the amount of Western stock it carries, but it is expensive, and the owners must make a nice profit on the exchange rate that they apply so it' advisable to pay in kip. A second shop with the same name (the owners are related, the shops are not) is on Samsenthai Rd / corner of Chantha Kumman Rd. Excellent, European-style bread is usually available (on Setthathirat), though the delivery schedule is a bit erratic.
- V-Shop (On Khun Bulom Rd netween Setthathirat Rd and Samsenthai Rd).Outside in front is a small café where they serve some of the best coffee specialties in town (Lao Mountain Coffee), shakes, fruit juices, waffles, doughnuts. Good for people watching on the edge of the Chinese quarter.