Visiting Vang Vieng alone is arguably the best thing to do while in Laos. It is reputable for its crazy party lifestyle, beautiful karst mountains, and stunning blue lagoons. Also nicknamed the adventure capital of Laos, you can find activities for all types of travelers.
Laos is a beautiful country; you can read more about why you need to add Laos to your Asia itinerary. Vang Vieng is the gem of Laos, and this is your guide to the best things to do while in Vang Vieng.
River tubing in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is famous for its river tubing, attracting many party-goers from across the world. This tubing fiesta was once so large and wild that it was closed down for being too hazardous. The tubing has since reopened in a more controlled state, or so they thought.
Prior to it closing down in 2012, the tubing began around midday starting north of the main town and included bar hopping past several bars throughout the day before finishing back in Vang Viang to party the night away.
As of today, the bars situated alongside the river alternate days in which they are open. On any given day, two of the riverside bars will be open and full of drunken tubers.
The river tubing is very easy to book, departing from many hostels and tubing operators in town. All you need to do once arriving at the starting point is to sit down on your tube and prepare for the party to come!
Once you approach the first bar, the locals will start throwing ropes out for you to grab onto and pull you in. The staff at the bars will drink and bar hop along the river with you throughout the day.
You can expect to partake in a lot of beer pong, rage-cage, shotgunning, and just about any other method of fast drinking you can think of. The bars are located within about 20 minutes floating between each other.
You can bar hop at your own pace, or entirely skip the bars if you wish to. Generally, everyone will congregate at the first bar and spend the rest of the day bar hopping together. Most people start tubing just after midday and will arrive back in town at around 5 pm or before it gets too dark.
Rent a bicycle
Unlike most other countries in South East Asia where you rent motorbikes to get around, Vang Vieng is fairly flat and beautiful to ride around on a bicycle. You can save money on a tuk-tuk by riding to the attractions each day.
Renting a bicycle is also a great way to slow down and enjoy the local communities as you ride along. There are hundreds of butterflies in Vang Vieng to stop and admire, as well as rice fields, water buffalo and puppies to stop and snap photos of. Renting a bike is by far the cheapest method of getting around in Vang Vieng.
While slowing down and enjoying your journey is a perk, it also means you can choose your routes and stop anywhere you want to along the way. When in a tuk-tuk, you have no choice to stop along the way to your destination, no matter how cute that puppy was that you just drove past.
The Vang Vieng Free alcohol
Honestly, the amount of free alcohol handed out in Vang Vieng is mind-boggling. You can find free alcohol every single night in Vang Vieng, starting with free shots for an hour, followed by free beer for an hour, followed by free mixed drinks for an hour, all unlimited, and all bottomless.
This is the progression of every single night in Vang Vieng! If you think I’m joking, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself (and let me know how you feel the morning after).
Kayaking the Nam Song River
Vang Vieng is situated along the banks of the Nam Song River. The river is well known by party goers for its fame as a river tubing bar hop. On top of the river tubing, the river is even more frequented by kayakers, often who have no idea how to control their boats.
Kayaking in Vang Vieng is fantastic to watch from the river bank as the boats drift sideways and backward down the river while their paddlers slap helplessly at the surrounding water. All jokes aside, kayaking down the river also makes a great way to see Vang Vieng from the water.
Hot air balloon
Vang Vieng is famously one of the cheapest places in the entire world to ride in a hot air balloon. The balloons fly twice a day, from 6:30 AM – 7:00 AM, as well as 6:30 PM – 7:00 PM. With the beautiful karst mountains reaching up from the flat surrounding land, there is no better way to see Vang Vieng.
Depending on the time of year, the flight times also allow you to see the sunrise or sunset over the Nam Song River.
Blue Lagoons in Vang Vieng
One of the best-kept secrets within the borders of Laos is the blue waters running through the country. Due to the almost white limestone mineral deposits in the rivers, you can find turquoise blue waterfalls and lagoons throughout the country.
In Vang Vieng, there are 5 blue lagoons, all popular swimming spots for tourists and locals alike. Blue Lagoon 3 is the largest and most popular, including a zipline course, viewpoint hike, jumping platform, and tubes for floating one. Lagoon 3 is about 20 minutes of dirt roads away from the center of town.
It is easy to gather a group of people and split a tuk-tuk out to the lagoon for a decent price. It is also possible, although not easy, to motorbike or bicycle along the dirt roads to reach the lagoons.
The 5th lagoon is smaller than the 3rd, and much more remote without tourist facilities or activities. While Laos is full of endless free alcohol, you still need to pay entrance fees for each lagoon you visit. Prices do vary throughout the seasons, but you can expect to pay around 30,000 Kip at the entrance of Lagoon 3, and cheaper for the smaller lagoons.
Hiking in Vang Vieng
Hiking in Vang Vieng is for the highly committed adventurers. Climbing steep karst limestone traveling only vertically for an hour.
Oh, did I forget to mention that it will be about 30 degrees Celsius? Maybe about 90% humidity too. The best part is, you don’t need to visit any waterfalls at the top, because you turn into a giant sweat waterfall of your own by the time you reach it!
There are several viewpoints and mountain huts you can hike to on the western mountains of the Nam Song River. When crossing the bridge over the Nam Song, you must pay a fee. The most expensive fees are for cars and larger vehicles. Prices drop with smaller transportation such as motorbikes, and with the lowest price being foot passengers.
So Why Visit Vang Vieng
Although you have to pay for all the activities you partake in while in Laos, you can make up for it in free drinks at the end of the day.
Laos is much like the rest of Asia in regard to having to pay for every single thing that you do, even using public toilets! The biggest difference is that Laos is much cheaper than other tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.
Vang Vieng is one of the top-visited cities in Laos, and yet is still such a gem with so many hidden secrets. Vang Vieng is a great place to go for some kick-ass parties, wild adventures, riverside relaxation, or simply exploring the Laotian culture. Cheap price, good life, what more could you want?