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A famous reputation and a wealth of history around tubing and its deaths cloud the beauty of modern-day Vang Vieng.
Backpacking Vang Vieng is a must-do for anyone backpacking South East Asia, along the Banana Pancake Trail.
There’s so much to this riverside town, it truly is the heart of adventure in Laos. But there are lots of questions which you may have before beginning your journey.
Luckily for you, I’m a full-time backpacker, and I’ve created this ultimate guide to backpacking Vang Vieng.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Where is Vang Vieng?
Vang Vieng is a relatively small town located in the heart of Laos – make sure you know how to pronounce Laos before heading to the country.
North of Vientiane, it’s a common stop along the Banana Pancake Trail. Vang Vieng used to be extremely popular in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s due to the tubing that took place down the river.
Along with riverside bars and clubs, it was the place to be to get drunk and club like never before.
This gave Vang Vieng an incredibly bad reputation (outside of the backpacking community) as there were hundreds of deaths over the years as a result of the tubing.
After a few years when tubing was banned completely, Vang Vieng fell off the typical backpacker’s route, this only helped Vang Vieng.
It allowed Vang Vieng to recover and reshape itself as a town filled with outdoor adventure. Now, Vang Vieng is becoming more popular again with backpackers, but for better reasons this time, with popular jungle treks and hiking routes, endless water activities and other great attractions.
There’s no better time for backpacking Vang Vieng than the present!
Why should I visit Vang Vieng?
As said above, Vang Vieng has found a new lease of life. No longer the party centre of Laos, the town is the adventure centre of Laos. There are so many opportunities to get involved in outdoor activities, surrounded by landscapes you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
How can I get to Vang Vieng?
If you are backpacking Vang Vieng, it is most likely that you are coming from either Vientiane or Luang Prabang. Here is a table of your possible transport options. As a backpacker, you will most likely want to choose the cheapest option, in order to save as much money as possible.
|Method of Transport||Approximate Cost||Approximate Time|
|Minivan||$10||1 ½ hour|
|Bus||$11||2 ½ hour|
From Luang Prabang:
|Method of Transport||Approximate Cost||Approximate Time|
Weighing up the time vs money balance, the best way to get to Vang Vieng is via a minivan or minibus. These are extremely cheap to get you from A to B. The best site to book these through is 12Go. However, it usually works out slightly cheaper if you book in person, usually at a local travel agent.
How long should I stay in Vang Vieng?
As always, this depends on you, the individual. It depends on how fast you like to travel and spend in each location. That being said, I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights. This should allow you to see most of everything there is to see in Vang Vieng. Backpacking Vang Vieng can be very different from backpacker to backpacker, it depends on how many activities you want to do.
Places to stay while backpacking Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is filled with amazing hostels, which is perfect if you are backpacking Vang Vieng. Hostels are a great way to save money whilst travelling, as they are extremely cheap to stay in! Here are 3 of the best hostels to stay in in Vang Vieng:
- Vang Vieng Freedom Backpackers Hostel
With ‘backpackers’ in the name, you know you are staying in the right hostel! This hostel is the highest rated on Hostel World, at an impressive 9.6/10. You know you are in for a great stay, and at a great price too! Only $5 USD a night- the perfect hostel for backpackers! Find out more here.
- Parkview Pool Hostel & Guesthouse
The cheapest hostel on Hostel World is only $2 USD a night! It’s also rated 8.9/10 so you are still staying in a great hostel- as it says- it has a pool! Vang Vieng is full of bargains, but this might be the best one. To put it into perspective, you could stay here for $60 a month- imagine how much you currently pay in rent! Find out more here.
- Vang Vieng Rock Backpackers Hostel
As their description says, a hostel “should be more than just a bed!” This hostel offers this- it is another great option for staying in Vang Vieng, at only $4 a night, and rated superb on Hostel World, it is one of many great hostels in the area. Find out more here.
Things to do while backpacking Vang Vieng
As you probably know by now, Vang Vieng is a town filled with adventure! There are lots of opportunities to get physically active here and explore this beautiful part of Laos. There are SO many things to do here, but this is a list of 5 of the best things to do if you are backpacking Vang Vieng:
- Climb up to Nam Xay Viewpoint
This is by far the best view you will see in Vang Vieng. It’s a view worthy of a postcard! Every way you look, 360°, it’s an out-of-this-world view. Take a look for yourself! If you are backpacking Vang Vieng, you’ll definitely find yourself up here at least once.
- Go kayaking on the river
Kayaking is fun at the best of times, but kayaking through Vang Vieng is one of the most surreal experiences you can have on a kayak. The views are unbelievable! You can even book tours to kayak to Vientiane (takes about half a day)! The river is amazing, you can do so many things on it but if I had to choose one, I would say to kayak.
- Visit the Blue Lagoon
Pictures can’t do this place justice. The water is so clear yet so blue at the same time. There are so many things to do here from swimming to ziplining, it’s a great place to relax. There are also some beautiful caves to explore! Definitely worth a visit.
- Walk through the Rice Fields
South East Asia is famous for its rice fields, and Vang Vieng is home to plenty! At Vieng Tara, there is a beautiful walk through rice fields, along boardwalks, surrounded by some beautiful hills and mountains. It’s like walking through a fairy tale!
- Make a trip to Pha Tang Bridge and Temple
Just outside Vang Vieng is a small village called Ban Pha Tang. It’s definitely worth the trip as it is home to a beautiful temple and a dreamy wooden bridge. It’s a great spot to feel the culture of Laos and embrace the South East Asian lifestyle.
Backpacking Vang Vieng: The Wrap Up
And that wraps up this guide to backpacking Vang Vieng.
It’s such a great part of Laos, and I would really encourage you to make the trip here.
It really is a town reborn and the sheer amount of things to do and see makes Vang Vieng worth a visit.
So get out there and get exploring this stunning riverside town!