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Vang Vieng, Laos has often had a reputation for being a party destination and has made the headlines in the past, but thankfully it’s reputation has died down since new laws and regulations were enforced and I think it’s a great place to visit. It’s cheap, cheerful and has some great things to do.
Below is your ultimate guide to the the top things to do in Vang Vieng on a budget.
Getting to Vang Vieng on a budget is easy- you are in South East Asia after all! If you are coming from the capital (Vientiane), buses run every day and the journey takes around 3 hours, and if you are coming from Lubang Prabang, the journey takes around 4-6 hours.
The buses are fairly painless, cheap and basic. I can’t remember my exact price (Sorry!), but I know I paid something around 60,000 kip and we got a minibus instead of a “big bus” as the minibus was quicker! For more information on bus times and prices, I recommend you check out this article by the experts at Travel Fish.
The best time to visit Vang Vieng will depend on the season. The dry season is from November to March and temperatures are typically cooler, so easier to manage. March to May is considered the hot season and may make for an uncomfortable trip.
Finally, the wet season runs from May to October and sometimes rain and monsoon weather can make traveling around difficult. However, Bradley and I visited Laos in September, and we had no issues with rain. I guess it’s just luck!
Read Also: This awesome 3 week Laos travel itinerary
We stayed a total of two nights, and that was the right amount of time for us, however, I think if you wanted to take your time and relax then you could probably do three nights or four. It’s really personal preference, but we were on a timeline so we could only stay for a certain number of days. But if you want to achieve everything on the list of things to do in Vang Vieng, then I’d settle for a nice three nights.
All the hostels and hotels are pretty much located in a similar area and from the main bus stop it’s walkable to most hotels, however, your bus tickets typically will include a “shuttle” bus to the main tourist centre. Vang Vieng is pretty much built on tourism now, and therefore everything is close together. We can certainly recommend the hostel we stayed in “Army Barracks Hostel” if you are visiting Vang Vieng on a budget.
It cost us £7 a night each (at the time), it’s currently 9 pounds a night each, for a double room with private bathroom, aircon and breakfast. It’s clean, cheap food on site and cheap drinks, beds are comfortable too. You can also use my referral link to get 10% off if it’s your first booking with booking.com
One thing I will say is that they offer to book tours with them for the excursions (which I shall speak about next), but they are considerably more expensive than the travel agents in town and they ALL offer the same thing. :)
If you are looking for a little more up-market place to stay in Vang Vieng, then there are plenty of places on the riverfront which offer beautiful boats. Some hotels are only accessible by a little boat, so that makes for nice scenery!
I really enjoyed my time in Vang Vieng because we were able to do lots of really great activities, despite attempting to do Vang Vieng on a budget. It really is a budget-friendly destination (as is most of SouthEast Asia), but Laos is one of the cheapest places to get cheap thrills for adrenaline based activities. I’ve laid out below what we did...then I will tell you the price!
If you haven’t heard of tubing in Vang Vieng, then you must be living under a Laos related rock….(no that doesn’t make sense), but tubing is what gave this area of Laos it’s “party” reputation.
Tubing involves sitting in a tyre and floating in the water. Back in the day, people used to tube down the river and stop at each bar and get really drunk, but this led to deaths and regulations have been put in place meaning the majority of the bars are now closed. You can still tube down the river if you wish, but I think there is a lot less alcohol involved, but nethertheless, tubing in Vang Vieng is still possible.
It runs until around one hour before sunset, and the rivers weren’t very busy when we were there, but perhaps as the season picks up, it’s more crowded.
Rather than tubing down the river with alcohol, we did cave tubing, which is the same idea of floating in a rubber tyre expect going in a group into and through a dark cave.
You connect through by holding onto a rope and head in with a torch headlight. Now I don’t like dark spaces, and I don’t like not knowing what's underneath me in water. So, I was apprehensive about this, but I did it anyway. I wouldn’t do it again. If you like the thrill of being in the dark in a cave, in water, then yeah go for it! I’m glad I tried it, but once was quite enough for me.
That river I mentioned that you can go tubing down? You can also kayak down it. I LOVE kayaking, so this was absolutely wonderful. Brad and I shared a two-person kayak and we went down this beautiful river for miles and miles. We were with another group of people and we had lots of fun. The sun is HOT, so put sunscreen on, you are literally exposed to pure heat with no form of shade when on the river.
There are a variety of different places you can be taken to when you go ziplining in Vang Vieng as part of a package. We saw the first ziplining destination whilst we were in the caves, but this wasn’t where we had our adventure.
Halfway down the river we were told to pull into a bit of the river and this is the gem of a place were we ziplined. BTW, I should mention now, I love ziplining and anything that’s adrenaline related to heights. The thrill is just amazing, and this place was the best ziplining I had ever done in my life.
It had the longest and fastest zipline in Vang Vieng and I am putting the GoPro footage together so you can see what I am talking about! It’s all very regulated and safe, people double checked you were locked in properly etc and I felt safe.
Whilst in Vang Vieng, we didn’t see any waterfalls, but there are some that were recommended to us. Basically, we didn’t have enough time the first day, and our second day was spent doing all the adventure based activities I’ve listed above.
Kaeng Nyui is a beautiful 20-minute drive away from the centre of town on the east side of Vang Vieng. Once you arrive, it’s a simple five-minute walk until you reach the first of smaller waterfalls which you can swim in. Once you’ve had a dip, continue walking for another ten minutes and you will reach the main event. You can take in the 30-metre drop and the crystal clear waters make for a perfect swimming pool. It costs around 10,000 kips for entrance (this could change).
We never went to any actual caves in Vang Vieng because we were pushed for time (this is why you could do with three nights) But, this is one of the caves I would have liked to visit if we had time. If anyone has ever been, please drop a note in the comments section and tell me what you think!
The Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng is basically a big swimming area in natural water where you can take tourist pictures, swim, jump in, and swing on an in-water swing (see a picture!).
Honestly, it’s very nice, but it’s not very “blue”, and I hear there are other less touristy blue lagoons you can go to as well. However, I still recommend it as a visit, the temperature of the water was lovely, and the entrance is only 15 kip, which is just nothing. I liked it, but if you don’t like things that are clearly there for tourists, then you are going to complain.
TOTAL COST: So, I said we were doing Vang Vieng on a budget, so I’ll reveal how much all those above activities cost us: Cave Tubing, Kayaking, Blue Lagoon, Ziplining, Lunch, A few temples and transport to and from= $20 each.
Come on...That is NOTHING.
In England it’s around 40 quid or more just to do one zip line...we got to do 9 on one course! As I said, shop around the street for tours. They all offer a similar package, but will typically be cheaper than your hostel or hotel selling the same thing.
Since Vang Vieng is a touristy place, there are so many great places to eat food and drink! Prices vary, so if you are going to Vang Vieng on a budget, then you are probably going to be spending £3-4 on a dinner (more in other places), but lunch and street food are super cheap.
There are a string of stalls selling sandwiches for 2 or 3 dollars and there is nothing wrong with them. Supermarkets are also available for snacks etc. Out of all the places in SouthEast Asia that we visited, Laos was the most expensive in terms of food and drink.
The best way to travel around Vang Vieng is via your own moped which can be rented at various locations, or if you are doing a tour, tuk-tuk transfers will be included in your price.
The currency is Laos Kip and as of today, the exchange rate is “with Revolut. If you don’t know what Revolut is, you need to check it out now. It provides the best exchange rates on the market (the official exchanges rates), no commission, no fees, no nothing, there really is no excuse for bank charges abroad, you need to be using your Revolut Card and app. Trust me.
So there you have it, your very own guide to Vang Vieng in Laos and the things to do within it. Comment below if you've been or if you think we should include something else on this list! I know there is other things we probably didn't get time to do.