After getting cozy and comfortable at Lao Heritage Hotel, I set excitedly off to the streets of Vientiane to start visiting the sights. Unlike Pakse, Vientiane is many times larger, sprawling and streets are a lot busy. Tuk-tuks rules the streets here and my first foray with them was a hard (and expensive) at first but I learned to adapt as always and learned to travel the way the locals do and somehow minimize how the drivers here charge on a tourist basis.
Blame it on excitement really, that I forgot to read some warnings from Lonely Planet Laos about different kinds of Tuk-tuks here in Vientiane. Tuk-tuks are like a smaller hybrid tricycle and jeepney. These three wheeled vehicles are ran by a motorcycle and can take 3-6 passengers at the facing rows at the back. It’s one mean machine that’s also used as cargo vehicles by the locals as well.
There are actually 2 types of Tuk-tuks here in Vientiane as I found out. The first one are the Tourist Tuk-tuks which are usually stationed and are in waiting at the side streets of Vientiane. When you ask them how much to go to a certain destination, they would usually have this laminated price list with an accredited association and fixed prices. Their prices are ridiculously expensive as I found out. At least a double on how much a local would pay. My tip is to avoid them if possible, if not try to haggle or walk away. If these tuk-tuks are desperate they’ll give you a “discount” which you can still haggle with until it’s a little above the local price and disregard their price list altogether.
The second one are the Wandering and Market Tuk-tuks. These are best hailed away from those stand by tourist tuk-tuks as sometimes they’ll get angry at them. They charge a little above the local price and you can haggle as well. I also usually walk towards the Market Area where there are Tuk-tuks on standby as well charging on local prices. Another tip is to always bring a piece of paper or your cellphone to show your preferred price. Some drivers know only very little English so it’s best to show them the amount on paper or your cellphone.
Much of Vientiane is actually walkable even the sights and wats. The only places that the tuk-tuks are needed from my opinion are visiting Pha That Luang, the Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan), Japan-Lao Friendship Bridge, the Wattay Airport and the northern ans southern bus stations. Bikes are also highly recommended, cheap and convenient. Bikes can be rented for 10000 to 30000 Kip depending on the rental shop and type of bike you would be renting. Most of them would also require that you leave your passports there so a photocopy of your passport would be recommended.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.