No longer is Vang Vieng the hedonistic jungle town it was once was. It is now a calm center for outdoor adventure, jungle hikes, and lazy days cooling off in the river. Once a crazy place dominated by wild backpackers, the city has been reborn. The center of town is now thriving, with boutique hotels and high-end restaurants replacing some of the party-laden backpacker bars that used to pack the waterfront. Vang Vieng has reclaimed its place as one of the must-see places in Laos and this guide will help you make the most of your visit!
Hostel prices – While there has been an influx of hotels built in the area, you can still find some pretty decent, no-frills hostels. Prices usually start at about 30,000 LAK for a 10-12 bed dorm, with private rooms ranging from 90,000-200,000 LAK. Free WiFi is standard, and about half the hostels in town offer free breakfast. Keep in mind that almost none of the hostels have kitchens, so you will need to eat out for your meals or find a local guesthouse with a kitchen. The Vang Vieng Camping Community has a large shared tent where you camp with other travelers. While cheap (under 20,000 LAK) it might not be for everyone!
Budget hotel prices – Most budget hotels average about 150,000 LAK per night for a private room (usually a twin or double). This generally includes free WiFi, a private bathroom, and air conditioning. If you’re looking for a hotel with free breakfast, expect to pay around 250,000 LAK per night. A hotel with a pool will cost closer to 400,000 LAK. In addition to hotels, Airbnb is a viable option in the larger towns and cities. Shared accommodation and entire apartments are very limited, however, you can rent a private room for 120,000-240,000 LAK per night.
Average cost of food – On average, you can expect to pay about 15,000-35,000 for street food. You can get a substantial breakfast of eggs, jam, and baguettes for about 24,000 LAK. Coffees or fruit shakes will run you about 5,000-7,000 LAK while a bottle of water will cost around 2,700 LAK. Western food will cost around 30,000 LAK per meal, and if you’re looking for something mid-range, expect to pay around 100,000 LAK for a meal and drink. Food from the local markets is relatively inexpensive, with a week’s worth of groceries costing between 150,000-250,000 LAK.
Transportation costs – To get to Vang Vieng, a bus from Luang Prabang will cost between 100,000-150,000 LAK. If you are coming from Vientiane, expect the bus to cost between 40,000-60,000 LAK. In the townl, bicycles can be rented for around 20,000 LAK per day and motorcycles for about 50,000-70,000 LAK per day. Be aware that there are lots of potholes in the roads, so avoid riding at night. There are some tuk-tuks around town, and 10,000 LAK will be enough to get you anywhere you need to go. If you want to hire a tuk-tuk for the entire day, expect to pay 130,000-150,000 LAK. Since the town is actually quite small, you also won’t have trouble walking everywhere.
Suggested daily budget – 200,000-250,000 LAK (25-30 USD) (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, doing lots of free activities, keeping your drinking to a minimum, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Stick to the local food – Western restaurants tend to be twice as expensive as the local ones and traditional fare is cheap and good. If you want to save some money, eat like a local!
- Don’t party too hard – While Vang Vieng isn’t the crazy place it once was on the party scale, skipping out on a lot of drinking is one way to go to cut costs. (Although you can get free drinks at Sakura before 9pm!)
- Limit your activities – Between tubing and rock climbing, exploring caves and riding hot air balloons, there is a lot to do in Laos. You’ll end up breaking the bank if you try to do everything, so consider picking your top activities and just doing them. Sure, you might end up missing out on something but that is better than going broke!
Top Things to See and Do in Vang Vieng
- Go tubing – This is definitely is a much more enjoyable experience now that they have regulated it and got ride of the drugs and excessive partying. You rent a tube in town, get taken to the top of the river, and float lazily back to town. It is a pretty relaxing trip down the river. Rentals will cost around 55,000 LAK, which includes your tube and a ride up the river.
- Try rock climbing – There are tons of options for you in Vang Vieng, whether you are a first-time climber or a professional. Adam’s Climbing School can show you the ropes (no pun intended). For a half day of lessons and climbing, expect to pay 180,000 LAK.
- Take a canopy tour – Located above the Water Cave, this zip line has you soaring above the treetops and caves. Many of the tour companies offer zip lining as part of an all-day adventure, so you can pack your adrenaline rush into a day trip! Expect to pay around 450,000 LAK for the day, which includes transportation and lunch.
- Check out the Water Cave – The Water Cave is one of the main attractions in Vang Vieng, combining caves, tubing, relaxation, and incredible mountain scenery. You actually tube through the caves, holding onto a rope that brings you downriver. Many day trips plan the tubing in the morning and follow it up with a picnic lunch. A tube and flashlight rental (it gets dark in the caves!) is only 10,000 LAK.
- Check out the Blue Lagoon – Located just 7 km outside of Vang Vieng, you’ll find a small lagoon, equipped with a rope string and plenty of tourists. While it does tend to get a little too crowded, it is a nice venture outside of the town and there is a big cave to explore too. While there are plenty of other lagoons around, I enjoyed the cave and the ability to meet so many other people at this one! Entrance to the lagoon is 10,000 LAK.
- Spelunk in some caves – Aside from the Golden Cave, there are plenty of other caves to poke around in if that’s your thing. Padeng, Ring, and Nang Oua Kham Caves are all interesting sites to explore. To get to Padeng and Ring Caves, you’ll have to cross over a footbridge and climb up some questionable ladders (so be safe!). The Nang Oua Kham Cave is a little farther and harder to get to, but perhaps even better than the Golden Cave at the Blue Lagoon. Admission is usually around 10,000 LAK, plus a few thousand more for a flashlight.
- Rent an ATV or go dirt biking – With an entirely different sort of tourist flocking to Vang Vieng, you cannot go far without hearing the roar (or seeing the plumes of dust) of ATVs racing around in the countryside. Prices will vary depending on what you rent and whether you are on a tour. For hourly rentals, expect to pay around 70,000 LAK for an ATV.
- Get high in a hot air balloon – Hot air balloon rides are offered during the dry season, which lasts from the end of October to around mid-May. Rides usually last about 45 minutes and it is one of the best ways to take in the breathtaking scenery of the area. Expect to pay around 415,000 LAK.
- Stuff your face – In town there are plenty of restaurants where you can grab a good meal. Somewhat surprisingly, there are some great Korean places and even a delicious Mexican restaurant call Amigos. For a decent mid-range meal, prices can be as high as 100,000 LAK so limit your gluttony!
- Climb Pha Poak – If you are looking for some stunning views, head out of town toward Pha Poak. It’s only a 30-minute climb, though it can be quite tricky so be sure to wear reliable footwear. If you can manage the jagged stones and rickety ladders, you’ll be rewarding with an incredible view.