Although Vientiane does not pose risks of any contagious diseases, health in Vientiane is generally below standard compared to developed countries. The facilities in the city are a far cry from those found in the West or even those medical facilities found in the nearby county of Thailand. Health then becomes a primary concern when in Vientiane.
Unfortunately, not many restaurants follow standard health codes in Vientiane. For one, no actual health codes exist in the city and if there are any, they are not properly enforced. Visitors should then be wary in choosing dining places. Street stalls that sell barbecued meats are generally safe to eat as long as the meat or fish have been thoroughly cooked. What visitors should watch out for are food items that have not been cooked or items that are especially susceptible to bad preparation, such as sauces and the famous papaya salad. Although deemed a must-try in Laos, the papaya salad is served raw, which is not a good meal to munch on for visitors. Unless you’re dining in one of the more classy restaurants, it is best to stick to cooked dishes.
Water is actually the main culprit of various diseases and illnesses in Vientiane. Tap water is generally not safe either for consumption or for brushing your teeth. Bottled water is heavily available everywhere in Vientiane for an affordable fee so not having access to clean water is never an excuse. Ice should be avoided when eating along the streets.
Dengue fever, malaria, hepatitis and tetanus are some of most common diseases here. Should you ever catch some body inconveniences when in Vientiane, local pharmacies or the hotel concierge will be more than happy to direct you to the place to get the right meds. It is still best to bring along a first-aid kit and over-the-counter medications with you in the event that sicknesses may happen during your trip.
For medical emergencies or more serious illnesses, the Mahosot Hospital and Setthathirat Hospital can offer the most basic medical care services. The Mahosot Hospital has an International Clinic solely dedicated to aide foreigners or tourists who seek medical attention. Although the clinic offers more personal attention, you pay more for the services with the same doctors that work in the hospital and with the same equipment as well. Fortunately, the Centre Medical de l’Ambassade de France Medical and the Australian Embassy Clinic are two more health care facilities that continue to provide primary health care in the city.
Because Vientiane is not at par with international standards, you might be better off seeking treatment in Bangkok instead where there are good private hospitals with American and European-trained doctors. If you require serious treatment or surgeries, it might even be best to go back to your home country to assure health care of the highest quality is provided.
Most hospitals accept travel insurance, which is the best way to cover any unforeseen medical expenses. The cost of travel insurance may be minor compared to the potential health care expenses in Laos.
If you are planning to go to Vientiane, the best advice would be to consult a doctor at least two months prior to your travel date to discuss any possible diseases you should receive immunization against. Traveling should be headache and disease-free, which is why precautionary measures should always be exercised to maintain good health in Vientiane.