A stop along the road while travelling north or south through Laos, Vang Vieng is a small town known for it’s boozing and tubing down the Mekong. Even though it’s small, it’s completely dedicated to backpackers. Restaurants boasting cheap food and drinks and endless Friends re-runs line the streets and offer some great backpacker vibes. Definitely worth the stop to split up the 9-10 hour drive between Luang Prabang and Vientiane.
How to Get There
We booked minibus tickets for 125,000 kip from Luang Prabang which included our tuk tuk to the minibus station. The trip is a winding mountainous 6 hour drive and it was nice to be in a minibus instead of a regular sized bus, especially since the prices were comparable. The minibus also had A/C which was great. We were dropped at a bus station about 2 km from the center of town, and crammed 13 of us into a tuk tuk for 50,000 kip each ($8 CAD).
Coming from Vientiane the trip is about 4-5 hours of equally mountain terrain, so it’s nice to split up the ride and spend a day or two in Vang Vieng. Our minibus cost us 60,000 kip ($10 CAD), but we spent a little more to leave later in the day (almost all of them leave before 1:30pm). You can easily find one for 40-50,000 kip if you’re flexible on departure time.
Where to Stay
- Vang Vieng Chalern – We stayed at a very basic hostel that we had booked ahead of time because we knew we were arriving late. It ran us 80,000 kip ($13 CAD) and included wifi. If we had booked in person it would’ve been closer to 60,000 kip. You could easily find places for cheaper, but we were only staying one night and arrived late so we went with it. Our friends did NOT book ahead and were still able to book a place upon arrival! You can book online here.
What to Do
- Tubing the Mekong – Sort of a backpacker right of passage for anyone travelling though Laos, tubing the Mekong was super fun. We got together with a group of friends we had met earlier in our travels and found the tubing rental place. It’s right near Viang Vilay, at the east end Kangmuong St. after it splits. You’ll see the stack of inner tubes and faded sign. It’s 55,000 kip for a tube plus a 60,000 kip deposit you get back after returning the tube. Make sure to be back by 6pm to get your full deposit back. They offer dry bags but they don’t look very reliable. If you want to keep your phone or wallet dry we’d recommend to bring your own. Honestly try to leave as much as you can behind, you’ll be wet, intoxicated and floating down a river which makes you very prone to broken/lost valuables. If you have at least 4 people you get a free tuk tuk ride up to the starting point near an organic farm. It was a dreary rainy day and fairly early, so we pretty much had the river to ourselves. We started off with some free shots from the first bar then hopped into our tubes to check out the river. The river was pretty high because we were there in September, so the current took us fairly quickly down the river. We were reeled in to the first bar with ropes attached to floaties and had an awesome time. Even though it was just the seven of us they opened everything up which included beer pong, ping pong, basketball, mud volleyball and bocci ball. A beer was 15,000 kip and it came with a free shot of Lao Lao whiskey. All of the bars are clustered in the first part of the river, so make sure you’re not too eager to adventure out until you’re ready for a nice float to the finish. It’s virtually impossible to miss the finish spot, there’s a big sign and a bunch of guys to flag you down with megaphones. From there its a short walk back to the rental place to return the tube. Even though there was only seven of us, we had a great time having the bar all to ourselves and floating down through some spectacular scenery. We could imagine it being even more fun with a bigger party atmosphere though!
Where to Eat
- Tons of restaurants line the streets, all offering very similar menus and prices. We chose where to eat by which restaurants looked the most comfy and were playing our preferred episode of Friends. Pick a place, get some fried rice and you’ll be golden. Safe to say you can’t go wrong here.
P.S. Photo credit goes to our lovely friend Marlie!