Airport Review: Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Laos is not Changi Airport


Thai Smile Airlines WE 575 from Vientiane, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand.

the arrival

We took a taxi from the new Chinese-funded Vientiane high-speed train station on the northern edge of Vientiane. The 17-kilometre journey through heavy traffic still takes just under an hour, including a stop to see the Patuxai “Arc de Triomphe” war memorial, which resembles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. As an international airport, Wattay is located just three kilometers west of the central business district. Commuting from city hotels should be easy. In fact, you can practically walk.


Refurbishment works including the expansion of the international terminal, improvements to parking facilities and access roads were completed in 2018. The international and domestic terminals are adjacent. The entrance to the boarding gate is an escalator leading to the top floor. There is still only one runway, although that is enough for the few airlines that operate here.

check in

As is customary for international flights, my family and I arrived three hours before scheduled departure. But we came too early and had to wait another hour before the check-in counters opened. Due to the pandemic disruptions of the past few years, international flights have not yet fully resumed, and we were the only flight listed on the departures board, which meant that every non-employee at the airport was here on the same flight as us. Like us, many others arrived early, so when the desk opened, people would be scrambling to get in line.


We were among the first to check in, but a security officer found me shortly after our luggage disappeared off the carousel. Their security scanner found a spare battery in my bag. Can I put them in my hand luggage, he asked. It was all so pleasant that he was almost apologetic; I was just surprised by some of the items that were considered unsafe to stow in the luggage hold of an airplane – electric hair clippers, for example.

food + drink

I highly recommend that hungry travelers order food and drinks in the departure hall before going through immigration. Once inside these gates, there are few options. The small cafes at either end of the terminal serve coffee and croissants, are comfortable but have limited seating, just inside the lobby entrance, and there are a few more upstairs. There is a hot dog stand at the west end of the terminal and a mini market next to the post office in the center of the terminal.

retail therapy

If it’s the treatment you need, go elsewhere. There is a duty free shop and nothing else. There is also a souvenir shop upstairs. However, if you want to withdraw some cash, go to the currency exchange in the departure hall (not after you go through immigration).

kill time

There are no movie theaters. There are no waterfalls. There are no massage chairs. No wifi. This is not Changi. Bring a good book.


Probably the quietest international airport I’ve been through.

Our rating (out of five)


The author is a guest of the Minor Hotels group which includes the Anantara and Avani brands.

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