Once a crazy party town dominated by wild backpackers, Vang Vieng has changed a lot in recent years. 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.
If you’re backpacking Vang Vieng, know it’s no longer the hedonistic jungle town it once was – it’s now a calm oasis for enjoying nature, jungle hikes, and lazy days cooling off in the river. (That said, you can still party hard here. It’s just not like the old days, which I think is a good thing.)
If you’re seeking outdoor adventure, explore the area’s cave system (including by tubing in a water cave), kayak Nam Song’s rapids, climb Pha Poak Mountain at sunset, or drive an ATV on the backcountry roads. When it’s time to cool off, take a refreshing plunge in the Blue Lagoon. For a small town, there’s actually a lot to do here.
This Vang Vieng travel guide will help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this popular backpacker spot!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Vang Vieng
1. Go tubing on the river
Tubing is definitely a much safer and more enjoyable experience now that the drugs and excessive partying are gone (in the past, people would get wasted and then go tubing, leading to all kinds of injuries and fatalities). Rent a tube, get taken to the top of the river, and then float lazily back to town. Rentals cost around 55,000 LAK, which includes transportation to the starting point.
2. Go caving
One of the most popular and most accessible caves in Vang Vieng is the Golden Cave (Tham Phu Kham) at the Blue Lagoon. Inside, there’s an aquamarine lagoon where you can cool off with a swim. Bring a flashlight so you can explore further into the cave (you can rent one there if you don’t have one). The Tham Chan Cave is another option, reached via an orange suspension bridge and a steep staircase behind the Vang Vieng Resort.
3. Rent an ATV or go dirt biking
ATVs and dirt bikes are really popular here. There are plenty of well-marked trails for off-roading fun. Prices vary depending on what you rent and whether or not you are on a tour. Expect to pay around 1,000,000 LAK for a half-day tour and around 250,000 LAK for a full-day rental.
4. Check out the Blue Lagoon
While it does tend to get crowded, the lagoon is a quick trip via tuk-tuk, and you can explore the lagoon’s cave too. Plus, it’s fun to watch people conquer their nerves as they jump from the highest branch of the tree hanging over the lagoon. The entry fee is 10,000 LAK. There are multiple blue lagoons these days, though most people still go to the original. For smaller crowds check out lagoon 2 or 3 (they’re just a bit further from town).
5. Take a hot air balloon ride
Hot air balloon rides are offered during the dry season (November-March). Rides usually last about 45 minutes and are one of the best ways to take in the mountainous scenery around Vang Vieng. Expect to pay at least 1,500,000 LAK. You can book directly through Balloon Over Vang Vieng or through a third-party company like Wonderful Tours.
Other Things to See and Do in Vang Vieng
1. Try rock climbing
There are several options for rock climbing in Vang Vieng, whether you are a first-time climber or a professional. Adam’s Climbing School will show you the ropes (pun intended). For a half-day of lessons and climbing, expect to pay around 380,000 LAK.
2. Check out the Water Cave
The Water Cave is one of the main attractions in Vang Vieng. You’ll tube through the cave while holding onto a rope with only a flashlight to light the route ahead of you. A tube and flashlight rental is only 15,000 LAK, but many tours plan the tubing in the morning and follow it up with a BBQ picnic lunch. A full-day adventure with Wonderful Tours Laos includes the Water Cave, zip-lining, and kayaking for around 865,000 LAK.
3. Climb Pha Poak
If you want stunning views, head to Pha Poak mountain. It’s only a 30-minute climb to the top where you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the area’s limestone mountains. Keep in mind that climbing in the dark is incredibly difficult and even in daylight it’s not for the faint-hearted with few ropes and some steep drops. Wearing appropriate footwear is recommended.
4. Go biking
Rent a bike and take a self-guided tour along Route 13’s paved roads through farmland, rice paddy fields, and jungle-covered mountains. Regular bicycles are available for around 20,000 LAK per day, while mountain bikes are available for around 30,000 LAK per day. Alternatively, hopping on a guided half-day tour costs around 750,000 LAK.
For more information on other destinations in Laos, check out these guides:
Vang Vieng Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels start around 45,000 LAK per night for a 10-bed dorm (or larger). Smaller dorms with 6-10 beds cost around 70,000 LAK while a four-person dorm is about 80,000 LAK. Private rooms average about 175,000 LAK per night for a room with an ensuite bathroom. Free WiFi is standard, and most of the hostels offer free breakfast too.
Keep in mind that almost none of the hostels have kitchens so you need to eat out for your meals or find a local guesthouse with a kitchen.
Budget hotel prices – Two-star hotels with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and free breakfast start around 93,000 LAK per night although properties on the river are more expensive. Guesthouses are more affordable at about 440,000 LAK per night.
In addition to hotels, there are lots of Airbnb options in Vang Vieng. Private rooms start from 200,000 LAK but average more like 425,000 LAK. There are very few full apartments or homes for rent, but if you find one, they start at 900,000 LAK.
Food – Food in Laos has many similarities to its neighbors and includes green papaya salad and laap (also known as larb), which is a minced-meat salad that is the national dish. Grilled meats, such as chicken, pork, and duck are also very popular, as is feu, the local version of pho.
Most street food and cheap meals of local cuisine cost less than 22,000 LAK, especially in the night market where you can find things like barbecued meats, spicy papaya salad, and noodle soup.
If you want to splash out on a fancy meal, expect to pay around 150,000 LAK for a three-course meal with a drink.
Beer is very cheap here, costing around 14,000 LAK. If you want a latte or cappuccino, expect to pay around 30,000 LAK. Bottled water is around 5,000 LAK.
If you have access to a kitchen, a week’s worth of groceries costs around 250,000-300,000 LAK for basic staples like rice, pasta, produce, and some meat.
Backpacking Vang Vieng Suggested Budgets
On a backpacker budget, expect to spend around 300,000 LAK per day. This budget covers staying in a hostel dorm, eating street food, drinking a couple beers, renting a bicycle to get around, and enjoying mostly cheap activities like cycling and swimming. Add another 15,000-30,000 LAK to your daily budget if you plan on drinking more.
On a mid-range budget of 650,000 LAK per day, you can stay in a private hostel dorm or Airbnb, drink more, enjoy lots of street food, take some taxis or tuk-tuks, and do more activities like go rock climbing or ATV riding.
On a “luxury” budget of around 1,800,000 LAK per day, you can stay in a hotel, eat all your meals out anywhere you want, enjoy lots of drinks, hire tuk-tuks or rent a motorbike/scooter, and do whatever activities you want. The sky is the limit!
Vang Vieng Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Vang Vieng, like the rest of Laos, is very affordable. As a popular tourist destination, prices here are a little bit higher than elsewhere in the country, but they aren’t going to break the bank. If you drink a lot, you’ll spend a lot of money but, otherwise, it’s very cheap to visit. That said, here are some ways to save when you visit Vang Vieng:
- Stick to eating local food – Western food is always more expensive than the local cuisine. While the prices aren’t that high, they add up. To save money, stick to the local cuisine.
- Don’t party too hard – While Vang Vieng isn’t the crazy party place it once was, skipping out on a lot of drinking is one easy way to cut costs.
- Limit your activities – Between tubing and rock climbing, exploring caves, and riding hot air balloons, there is a lot to do in Vang Vieng. You’ll end up breaking the bank if you try to do everything, so consider picking your top activities and just doing them.
- Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water here isn’t safe to drink. To save money and reduce your plastic use, bring a reusable water bottle with a filter. LifeStraw makes a reusable bottle with a built-in filter so you can be sure your water is always safe and clean.
Where to Stay in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng has lots of accommodation options. My suggested places to stay are the following:
How to Get Around Vang Vieng
It’s super easy to get around Vang Vieng on foot. The town is small, and if you’re here for adventure activities, transportation is generally included in your ticket.
Bicycle – Bicycles are a great way to navigate Vang Vieng and the surrounding area. It’s possible to rent a bicycle at lots of different shops in town, and sometimes at your accommodations. Regular bicycles are available for around 20,000 LAK per day, while mountain bikes are for about 30,000 LAK per day.
Motorcycles – At many of the bicycle rental shops you’ll also find motorcycle or scooter rentals. Rentals cost around 150,000 LAK per day. Most hotels/hostels can help you rent one so you don’t get scammed.
Tuk-Tuks – There are some tuk-tuks around town. 10,000 LAK is enough to get you anywhere you need to go. If you want to hire one for a full day, expect to pay around 150,000 LAK.
When to Go to Vang Vieng
November-March is the best time to visit Vang Vieng. This is when the area’s weather is consistently warm and dry. If you’re here primarily to do adventure activities, this weather is perfect. In the city itself, the average daily temperature is 25°C (77°F). This is the busiest time of year as well, so you can expect higher prices and bigger crowds.
March to May tends to be the hottest time of year, with temperatures soaring as high as 40°C (104°F). Humidity is high as well. July and August are popular months to visit Vang Vieng for European and South American travelers making the most of their holidays.
The rainiest times of year is September through October. This isn’t great for adventure activities as the area may experience flooding and the thick mud makes it difficult to get around. Plus, if you want to get out into the mountains, there’s a higher risk for landslides.
How to Stay Safe in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is a very safe place to visist. Since the government shut down most of the party tubing scene, safety has drastically improved. The town also doesn’t have the same amount of tourist traffic anymore, so petty crimes like pickpocketing are also more rare (but by no means unlikely). Just keep an eye on your stuff, especially at night when out at the packed bars.
As with many places in Southeast Asia, people and businesses might try to rip you off by charging you tourist prices. When in doubt, always ask your hotel/hostel staff how much things should cost so you don’t get scammed.
Be wary of people planting drugs on you. The scam involves someone planting drugs on you and then a police officer arresting you unless you can pay a bribe.
For other scams, you can read about common travel scams to avoid here.
When people get into trouble here, it’s mostly because they’re tangled up with drugs or the sex industry. Laos is strict about punishment when it comes to these offenses, so avoid them at all costs!
Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here. However, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). For specific tips, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs on the web that go into more detail.
When in doubt, always trust your instincts. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID, in case of an emergency.
If you experience an emergency, dial 191 to contact the police.
The most important piece of safety advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Vang Vieng Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Agoda – Other than Hostelworld, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
- SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
- LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
- Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
Vang Vieng Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Laos travel and continue planning your trip: