We need to be accessible by phone while in LP (the grandparents will be at home in California with our son), and I'm wondering if it would be easier/cheaper to purchase a phone/simcard in Hanoi vs. LP itself. Any advice? Thanks!
Ask your guest house/hotel to have a tuk tuk take you to a local market. Get a used one and have them activate the sim card for you and install some minutes. Probably $30 US tops. Give them your new number when you call your folks.
Going to the market is something a lot of people like to do anyway, photos and unusual food items.
Yes it is possible without speaking Lao. However there are also many phone shops around town which sell used phones,
Another possibility is to buy a copy phone. Some of them are of decent quality, and you can get an i phone 4 for about $90. The latest Nokia is also available.
A third possibility is to buy a new real phone. They are all unlocked and are cheaper than in many western countries.
Glomer there is a very high probability that anyone you buy a phone from will speak a few languages, the first couple being some sort of Chinese. Last guy I bought a phone from spoke better English than I speak Lao, that's not saying much but I hardly ever speak English to Lao people.
I like the extremely simple, durable as in bomb proof, Nokia. Wish it worked here.