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Best things to do in Vang Vieng – Laos

Discover the top things to do in Vang Vieng. This guide will help you plan an unforgettable trip.

Nam Xay viewpoint Vang Vieng at sunset in Laos

Due to a rapid increase in the number of tourists, Vang Vieng went from being a sleepy village around the end of the 90s to one of the wildest destinations in Southeast Asia, known for its “happy menus” and tubing on the Nam Song river.

After a series of accidents where several tourists died, the local government was pressured to put some limitations on wild parties. In the last few years, Vang Vieng has tried to rebrand itself as an adventure destination where you can spend some time partying but also rock climbing, kayaking, and exploring the numerous caves in the area.

Best time to visit Vang Vieng

Laos has two distinct seasons: dry and wet. The dry season spans from October to April, and the wet season from May to September. The hottest months are from March to July, and the rainiest are from July to September.

Different activities in Vang Vieng suit different seasons. For instance, you can only ride hot air balloons and enjoy the blue lagoons in the dry season. But if you want to see green landscapes and go tubing, you might prefer the early wet season.

Generally, the best time to visit Vang Vieng is from November to March.

How to get to Vang Vieng

vang vieng landscape

Getting to Vang Vieng is pretty straightforward.since the new Boten-Vientiane railway’s opening (part of the Kunming-Mohan line connecting China to Laos),

You can get to Vang Vieng from Vientiane or Luang Prabang by train and minivan. I only recommend the minivan/bus option if all the train tickets are sold out. Travelling by train is the best option in Laos (when it’s available).

Getting to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang by train takes about one hour compared to 5/6 hours by a minivan. If you leave from Vientiane, it also takes one hour by train and about 4 hours by minivan (if you are heading to Luang Prabang, check out my travel guide).

Where to stay in Vang Vieng

Being a backpacker’s paradise, there is no shortage of cheap accommodation in Vang Vieng. Most hostels cost a few dollars, and the mid-range options cost about 20$. The town is small, so almost all the guesthouses/hotels are close to the main road.

I recommend staying at the Riverside Boutique Resort if you have a slightly higher budget. It’s a beautiful structure located right in the centre of Vang Vieng, close to the main bridge on the river. After a long day riding your motorbike over dusty roads, you’ll appreciate the peace of the resort. The view of the swimming pool and the river in the background is also fantastic.

Here are a few more pictures if you are not convinced yet:

The staff is friendly and can recommend where you can rent a motorbike without getting scammed, and can book the train tickets.

Top Things to Do in Vang Vieng in 2 days

sunset in laos

The primary way to visit all the most exciting places in Vang Vieng is by renting a scooter. You can rent an automatic scooter or a manual motorbike (a cheaper option) for 24 hours or the whole day. Besides the price, the difference is that if you rent it for 24 hours, you won’t have to wait until the stores open in the morning to get one; you can instead start driving around very early before everyone else does.

One important thing to remember is that you should NEVER give your passport as a deposit for renting the scooter. The most common scam is from shops renting out scooters and making people pay to fix imaginary scratches when they return them. If you deposit your passport, you won’t get it back until you pay. I only had to provide the business card of the resort where I stayed in Vang Vieng.

In Luang Prabang, on the other hand, I had to leave a cash deposit and was scammed when I returned the scooter, but at least the shop didn’t have my passport, so they couldn’t blackmail me.

I’ve also heard reports about some backpackers who got their scooters stolen, so, just to be safe, I brought with me a chain lock. I’m not telling you these things to scare you but to save you a lot of trouble and avoid any issues.

If you can’t drive a motorbike, you can hire a tuk-tuk, but it will be much more expensive since you want the driver to wait for you in every place you visit.

After clarifying these issues, here are the top things to do and to see in Vang Vieng, Laos:

Explore and relax in one of the Blue Lagoons

Blue lagoons are a series of seminatural pools scattered outside Vang Vieng. Each one is organized with a few facilities. Generally, the lagoons closer to Vang Vieng attract more people. There should be about 6 of them, or maybe more, and I visited Blue Lagoons 1,2,3 and 6

The most popular is Blue Lagoon 1, and the most beautiful is Blue Lagoon 3: the water is the cleanest and quite far from the town, so it’s not too overcrowded.

Blue Lagoon 2 is also very popular since there is a vast area where people can relax in a lovely meadow. Blue Lagoon 6 is the most difficult to reach due to a very bad bumpy road, and the water is quite murky. But if you want to avoid people, it’s probably the best option. You’ll have to pay a small fee to access the Blue Lagoons.

Visit some of the many caves

phu kham cave

There are many caves in Vang Vieng, both near and farther away from the town. Most of them are located close to the Blue Lagoons, like the one you see above, called Phu Kham cave, right inside the Blue Lagoon 1 area.

These caves are a stark contrast to the disco caves I’m so used to in China: there is no artificial light, and some of them are also quite dangerous to visit due to the very steep hiking required to access them and the narrow tunnels.

Watch the sunset from the Nam Xay viewpoint

Nam Xay viewpoint Vang Vieng at sunset Laos

The most famous viewpoint in Vang Vieng is Nam Xay, which is located close to Blue Lagoon 1. The view from the peak is stunning, but hiking to the top is quite challenging. To access the trail, you’ll have to pay a small fee, and at the end of the 45-minute hike (sometimes it feels like rock climbing), you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view and a motorbike positioned there to take a few pictures.

This place is very popular, but it’s not the only viewpoint in the area. There is another one located close to the town and called Pha Ngern. I didn’t visit it, but it’s supposed to be even more challenging than Nam Xay. Let me know if you got there and if it’s worth it.

River Tubing in Vang Vieng

Despite the crackdown, river tubing is still a thing. If you are wondering what on Earth is “tubing,” here’s a short description: river tubing involves floating down the Nam Song River on a tube, stopping at various bars and attractions.

Today, most bars along the river have been closed, and tubing is much safer than in the past. Only a few agencies are authorized to run these tours, and you can find them walking along Vang Vieng’s main road.

Enjoy the view from a hot-air balloon

vang vieng sunrise

A few companies are running this kind of business, so don’t expect the sky to be filled with balloons like in Cappadocia. The most famous company (Above Laos) offers tours starting from 130$, which is an honest price. Book the ticket well in advance if you want to see the sunset.

Explore Vang Vieng from the river

vang vieng balloons

If tubing is not your thing, you can consider renting a kayak and slowly making your way out of town on the Nam Song River. There are plenty of tour operators in Vang Vieng that offer this service. Just walk around and find one that you like.

Final considerations

laos people in a vang vieng village

Vang Vieng is a tourist town where you can spend some days doing cool stuff. You can relax in one of the Blue Lagoons or spend your days hiking in the countryside. Just take your time to explore the area at your own pace.

Unfortunately, there is the occasional scam, which is widespread in Southeast Asia, but in my experience, the situation in Laos is not as bad as in Vietnam.

The most important thing to remember is the time of the year when you visit Vang Vieng. If you pick the wrong time (rainy season), you won’t be able to do most of the things mentioned in this travel guide.

Here you can find some more pictures I took in Laos. Here is my Nong Khiaw travel guide, another interesting place in Northern Laos.

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