Vang Vieng

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Vang Vieng (also Vang Viang) is a riverside town in Central Laos.


Once no one could ride a bus changing stations on the long haul between Vientiane at the Thai border and the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, it has managed to become a destination in its own right. Still not much more than three streets and a bus station, the main attractions are the river, laid back countryside and cave-filled rock formations. And to anyone who's been travelling anywhere in South East Asia, you've no doubt heard about "Tubing," an activity that dominates the town and its visitors. Originally opened up by hedonistic backpackers, the city's predominant ambiance is one of lethargy by day and debauchery by night: tourists sprawl out in the pillow-filled restaurants, termed "TV Bars," watching re-runs of Friends and Family Guy episodes until the sun goes down, and then party heavily until the early hours. Nevertheless, there is a growing number of more sedate foreign sightseers.

Get in

Vang Vieng is on Highway #13 between Vientiane and Luang Prabang - by bus (road and bus conditions permitting) about 6-8 hours from Luang Prabang, around 3-4 hours from Vientiane. Vip buses from Vientiane cost about 50,000 Kip. Minivans leave Vientiane all day and cost in between 70,000-80,000 Kip. The tourist bus and minibus to Luang Prabang costs 90,000 kip and 105,000 kip (Sept 2010) respectively. Tickets can be purchased at almost every guesthouse.

Get around

From the bus station:

Tourist buses will drop you off either at the old airstrip (from the Vietnam war, it's now just a giant gravel pad) or in front of a hotel on the main street in town. The airstrip is directly behind the main street, so in either case there is no need to take a tuk tuk or cyclo if you plan to stay in the main area of town. The island and bungalows along the river are about a 20 minute walk away.

Around town:

Vang Vieng is so small that everything is easily reachable by foot. If you want to venture outside of town, bicycles are widely available and can be rented from hotels or local businesses. You should not have to pay over 10,000 kip for a day's rental. For the more adventurous, motorcycle rentals are also widely available. It's quite easy to rent a motorcycle from a local business for only 30,000-40,000 kip for the entire day.

Several tuk tuks are also scattered around town. 10,000 Kip per person will be plenty to get to anywhere within Vang Vieng. To rent a Tuk Tuk for the whole day cost about 130,000-150,000 Kip.



Prices for tourist packages are quoted in both kip and US dollars. Restaurants, hotels, and pretty much everything else is priced in kip. Most places will accept kip, US dollars and Thai baht.

There are two ATM's that now take all major credit cards but are known for running out of cash. Some tourists have reported only being able to use cards on the Maestro (Mastercard) network.

The Lao Development Bank changes money at good rates and processes cash advances. BCEL will also do cash advances on credit cards.

The small shops scattered throughout Vang Vieng sell the standard assortment of snacks, trinkets, sunglasses, and bathing suits.


The numerous TV restaurants all have similar, if not photocopied with the name changed, menus. A selection of Lao, American, Italian, Chinese, and Thai, the food is fresh but often of indifferent quality and poorly executed. Entres average 20,000-45,000 kip.

For quick eats and late night snacks, numerous pancake and sandwich stalls dot the streets. But be carefull...the food has been in the heat allday so your stomach might feel a little bit funny later on!!!

Be aware that many restaurants offer "happy" shakes and pizzas. While this may be obvious to many, any food or drink with the words "happy", "special" or "ecstatic" will contain an undetermined amount of marijuana or Magic Mushrooms



There are now a couple of halfway-decent midrange "hotels" and attempts at boutique style residences.

Generally though, double rooms go for US$5-10, make sure you see the room (and bathroom!) before paying. More local, low-key (which is pretty low-key in Vang Viang to start with) places are by the market and more shiny set ups are on the main road. The party crowd tend to advocate choosing a bungalow on the island, but expect it to be quite noisy if you want to sleep during the night.

Most guesthouses have large TV-viewing areas, practically coated in the Southeast Asia signature triangular cushions, where they serve food. But be forewarned - you'll be hard pressed to find a place screening something other than "Friends". Alternatively CENTRAL BACKPACKERS shows a wide range of sitcoms including Southpark, Simpsons, Family guy and How I met your mother.

Get out

Local buses can be taken in the early morning from 06:00-10:00 to Ventiane, either to the central morning market (Talat Sao) or to the private bus station north of town. 30,000 Kip. Bus to the Thai border (Friendship bridge) goes frequently from Talat Sao.

Buses leave from the station in the morning and afternoon. VIP tourist (air-conditioned, genreally comfortable.) buses are easily booked from your hotel. If you are travelling to Vientianne, a 3 hour local bus (non air-conditioned, perfectly acceptable for short trips) departs several times a day for 36,000 Kip One Way

Another transportation option is on one of the day trips to Vientiane down the river by kayak. The trip should leave in the early morning, placing you in the capital by 6pm. For your belongings, dry bags are available or you can opt to place them in the accompanying van which will take them along. Expect to pay 170,000-220,000 kip but you may be able to find it for a cheaper price.

The bus to Vietnam from Vang Vieng and Vientiane can be a really unpleasant experience. Risks are that you get a ticket and the bus is so full that you have to sit in the aisle on plastic chairs or in the back on piles of luggage. It takes about twenty hours (many report longer durations due to being stopped at the border/mechanical failure) and it's not comfortable at all. Even if you get a seat it's not VIP as promised at many of the travel agencies in Vang Vieng. All this gives credence to this bus' popular name, the "Death Bus", a moniker that does not refer to the bus' safety, but rather to it's comfort.

Related Information

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