Before you can buy stuff at the markets, you'll need some money. US$ and Thai baht are widely accepted but the exchange rates vary. As of May 2009, there are a small number of ATM's accepting Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and Eurocards. These ATM's are situated in Sisavangvong Rd just near the end of the Night Market. The ATM's dispense currency in Lao Kip. If you arrive by plane, there is a bank at the airport which is open during a few hours of the day, so don't count on changing there. Also, their rates are significantly worse than the banks in town. There are a growing number of money changers, located on Sisavangvong Rd or in the permanent markets further East. One is next to the ATM near the Night Markets, another is about 50m further North along the street, located out the front of one of the first restaurants (looks like a little tollbooth/shack). The rates offered may vary, so shop around before you change.
A night market (on Sisavangvong Road) caters for the tourists with every kind of souvenir you could want. Particularly good are the duvet covers, cushion covers and pillow sets. They can even make one up to the dimensions you require the next day. It is well worth a look and the hawkers are very pleasant to deal with. However the quality of goods and their design is much higher elsewhere. You can, however, barter in the night market, often for prices at 60% of the original quoted price. Laotian asthetic sense is quite evolved in its own way. For instance check out ockpoptok, a silk/wall hanging store.
Day markets are along Setthathirat Road.
- Scarves, wall hangings, "Beer Lao" T- shirts, watches and other local crafts from the small Hmong market or the regular evening market, held along the main street. The market closes rather early (10 p.m.) and usually gets going around sunset, or a little before. The vendors sprawled on the ground with portable lamps is an interesting sight. These are mostly minorities (many Hmong).
- Weird cast-off Chinese goods at the local market.
- Laos t-shirts, various local handicrafts, sewable flags, and scrapbooks for your tickets and other items are also available here.
Books can be a travelers home away from home and a way to escape heat/boredom/long bus rides. However, several book stores operating in and around the area that sell photocopies to unsuspecting travelers. These bookstores will frequently charged the cover prices (i.e., the printed on the book RRP prices) in kip or dollars for a photocopied book, or even for a second hand book in poor quality. Often they will claim these books are "genuine" books encased in plastic (so you can't inspect them), and then upon purchasing them you find out they are often poor quality copies (particularly the case with travel guides). You should have every right to inspect any book before purchase, and flaunting copyright laws is basically illegal. Also, many second hand books (even in poor to very poor quality) have prices in kip plastered over the top of the RRP for the book, so as to mislead you. The best advice is to ask for less than half of the RRP of the book (depending on the quality, as it is basically second hand) and bargain from there. For photocopies, if you do buy them, insist on checking them as many times pages are missing or pages are basically unreadable. As they are copies, they should not really be purchased, but to give you an idea, books in Vietnam or Cambodia cost about $1-2USD to produce for your average 300 page Lonely Planet country guide book.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.Based on a work at Wikitravel.org & Traveldudes.org.