Being the capital of Laos, Vientiane is busier than Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng but there isn't really too much traffic - nothing like Chiang Mai. It appears to be cheaper than Luang Prabang and a bit more expensive than Vang Vieng.

We came here because we found a cheap flight to Bangkok with Lao Central Airlines for 71 USD. Vientiane's Wattay International Airport is a mere 10-minute drive from city center - very small with just a few shops and restaurants. Once you enter the departure lounge, there are only a couple of shops and a small seating area.
vientiane tourist map There are easy to read road signs directing you to various tourist attractions. The majority of signs and even garbage cans are sponsored either by Beerlao, Pepsi, Beeline, or Lao Telecom.

Vientiane turns out to be pleasant enough with some attractions to visit for a few days, although most sights can probably be seen in a day or two. Despite not being the most beautiful city, it does have some not-so-impressive but okay sights and many decent and reasonably priced restaurants, especially near where we are staying.
Built in 1958, Buddha Park, or or Wat Xieng Khuan, is 25 km southeast of Vientiane by Mekong River, a 40-minute car ride with the last 10 minutes on a dusty dirt road. It's more like a sculpture park that's not very big but bizarrely interesting - we spent just under an hour there, which was more than enough time. It costs 5000 kip to get in, plus an additional 3000 kip for each camera.
Patuxai, Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe, costs 3000 kip to go up for a decent view of the surrounding area. The structure itself, although probably requiring some finishing touches, is nice enough if you don't look too closely.
Pha That Luang, a giant golden Buddhist mound recognized as the most important national monument in Laos, is a straight-forward half-an-hour walk from Patuxai, Vientiane's Arc de Triomphe. It costs 5000 kip to see the gold stupa up close. The surrounding temples with very interesting murals are free to visit.
Haw Phra Kaew, across from Wat Si Saket used to house the Emerald Budhha now in Bangkok. The temple is small with intricate carvings and beautiful columns, as well as bronze Buddha statues outside. It costs 5000 kip and you probably only need less than 20 minutes here. Opens from 8 am to 4 pm, with a lunch break from noon to 1 pm.
Wat Si Saket is a small Buddhist temple built in 1818 that hasn't been destroyed by the Siamese. Walls surrounding the tmeple showcase 2000+ Buddha statues, small and large. Admission is 5000 kip and 30 minutes here will likely be more than enough. Opens from 8 am to 4 pm, with a lunch break from noon to 1 pm.
The Vientiane Riverside Night Market is a large area worth a wander despite the Mekong river bank being disappointingly ugly due to construction and haziness. Lots of tents are set up at dusk selling mostly t-shirts and other clothing. Food vendors are also available along the road. By the river, you might find seniors grooving to music in large groups.

Khua Din Market by the Bus Station on Boulevard Khouvieng is more authentically local although a bit dirty-looking.