Known for its party scene, in recent years Vang Vieng has reinvented itself as the outdoor capital of Laos. Now an adventure seekers paradise, the destination is all about hiking dramatic mountains, kayaking through rapids, hot air ballooning through the natural scenery and practising yoga moves in the serene rice fields. So if you’re like me and your partying days are behind you, check out this list of epic things to do in Vang Vieng (other than drinking) that should be added to your Vang Vieng itinerary.
Things To Know Before You Visit Vang Vieng Laos
How to get a Visa for Laos
Whilst it’s possible to get an e-visa before arriving in Laos, the Laos visa on arrival is the quickest and cheapest way to get a Laos tourist visa. This can be obtained if you are arriving at either Luang Prabang airport, Vientiane airport or 25 other border checkpoints surrounding Laos. The visa on arrival for Laos is available for most nationalities and only requires 1 passport photo and US dollars for the application fee. The Laos visa on arrival fee varies between 30 USD to 40 USD depending on your nationality (UK and US citizens are currently $35) plus 1 USD for the visa service fee. Tourist visas in Laos last for 30 days.
What Currency Does Laos Accept
The currency in Laos is the Lao Kip, and the exchange rate is approximately 9000 LAK to 1 USD. There are plenty of places to exchange money in Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng, however they offer different rates dependent on the bill, $100 bills will get a better rate than smaller bills. To counteract this as much as possible, bring larger denomination USD bills with you and shop around for the best exchange rates. It is also possible to exchange GBP, EUR and other major currencies into Laos Kip.
How to get to Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng can be reached from Luang Prabang or Vientiane. The minivan from Vientiane to Vang Vieng costs 50,000 LAK and takes four hours to reach Vang Vieng. The daily departure times are every hour from 7am – 4pm. The minivan from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng takes around 5 hours, costs 110,000 LAK, and runs 3 times a day.
When to Visit Vang Vieng in Laos
The best time to visit Vang Vieng is during dry season from October to April. This is the most popular time to visit Laos, meaning increased prices but there are also more things to do in Vang Vieng during this time, including tubing, kayaking and hot air ballooning.
If you do decide to visit in the off-peak months of May to September, during rainy season, be prepared for heavy downpours, and a lack of water sports as the Nam Song river flows too strongly. However, during this time the rice paddies in Vang Vieng are incredibly lush and beautiful, and you can still do activities like indoor yoga when it rains in Vang Vieng.
How Long to Spend in Vang Vieng
You can stay anywhere between three to five nights in Vang Vieng, depending on how much time you want to spend relaxing. However, three nights allows enough time to see and do most of what this beautiful spot in the Karst Mountains has to offer.
What to Pack for a Trip to Vang Vieng
As well as the usual holiday packing list make sure you don’t skip the following packing essentials for Laos:
- Clothes that cover your shoulders and knees so you can visit the Buddhist temples in Vang Vieng.
- Trainers or hiking boots, so you can explore the Karst Mountains.
- Swimming costume to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls and rivers throughout Laos.
- Waterproof gear, to enjoy the water sports on offer without worry. (These can be purchased in Vang Vieng for some of the cheapest prices I’ve seen around the world e.g. 10L waterproof bag for 45,000 LAK ~ $5 USD, a waterproof phone case 10,000 LAK ~ $1 USD
- Bring a European plug adapter with two round pins for Laos
- The roads in Laos aren’t built for wheeling suitcases on, so bring a good quality duffel bag.
- Travel insurance that covers the adventurous things to do in Vang Vieng
13 Epic Things to do in Vang Vieng
1. Hiking in Vang Vieng
Nam Xay is the best viewpoint in Vang Vieng, and if you only have time for one hike this should be it. The starting point of the hike is located close to Blue Lagoon 1 and takes only 15 minutes to reach by tuk tuk from Vang Vieng town centre. It is possible to hire a tuk tuk to take you there, wait for you to complete the hike and then drive you back for 150,000 LAK (~16 USD) total, which can be split between all passengers making it very affordable.
The Nam Xay hike in Vang Vieng has an admission fee of 10,000 LAK per person which is just over $1, and is used to maintain the trail. Nam Xay is open from 6am to 6pm daily, and involves an ascent of 350 metres. This only takes an average of 25 – 30 minutes, so whilst it is taxing it doesn’t last long and is suitable for most. Just ensure you wear trainers or hiking boots (not flip flops), and bring a bottle of water.
Nam Xay viewpoint has a bamboo platform at the top where you can enjoy the views as well as two motorbikes that have been placed in the perfect spot for photos. The viewpoint is usually very misty in the morning so I would suggest visiting just before sunset between 3.30 – 5pm when the weather is cooler and there is a golden glow across the Karst mountains. Just make sure you leave enough time to get down before the trail closes at 6pm.
Note: if you visit during dry season from October – April, expect to get very dusty whilst hiking in Vang Vieng – just scroll down to see how messy we got (luckily laundry is super cheap in Vang Vang!).
2. Hot Air Balloon Vang Vieng Laos
One of the cheapest places in the world to take a hot air balloon ride is Vang Vieng in Laos. Prices are around $90 for a 30 – 40 minute balloon ride, compared to the hefty $350 price tag for a hot air balloon ride in Bagan, Myanmar. Balloon flights take place at sunrise and sunset and fly over the serene Nam Song river, dramatic Karst mountains, and lush Vang Vieng rice fields.
3. Visit the Rice Fields in Vang Vieng
One of the best Vang Vieng attractions is the rice fields located at Vieng Tara, on the opposite side of the Nam Song River. The best way to reach the rice fields is by crossing the free bamboo bridge which is located close to Amari Vieng Vang. The walk to Vieng Tara takes around 20 minutes from the town centre but check which bridge you are crossing as many of them are NOT free.
4. Blue Lagoon Vang Vieng
There are currently four Blue Lagoons in Vang Vieng, that have been numbered in order of when they were discovered. However as another two secret lagoons have recently been found there will soon be a total of six Blue Lagoons in Vang Vieng.
The latest additions, Blue Lagoon 3 and Blue Lagoon 4 are the least visited, but are highly recommended instead of the popular Blue Lagoon 1. Each of the lagoons have an entry price of 10,000 LAK per person, and tuk tuks from Vang Vieng centre will happily take you on a lagoon hopping day trip. Just remember to bring a towel and your waterproof dry packs.
5. Paramotoring in Vang Vieng
One of the best ways to explore Vang Vieng is from the sky. There are affordable hot air balloons in Vang Vieng but if you’d prefer an adrenaline kick, take to the skies in a paramotor.
Paramotoring is a unique experience in Vang Vieng, that lasts around 20 minutes. The price is similar to hot air ballooning, but the experience is priceless.
6. Tubing in Vang Vieng
One of the most popular things to do in Vang Vieng is tubing. This usually takes place along the Nam Song river but there are opportunities to skip the booze fuelled activity and try tubing in Vang Vieng in a quieter setting.
We joined a day tour in Tham Nam that encompassed tubing, zip lining, kayaking and a visit to Blue Lagoon 4 (four of the most epic things to do in Vang Vieng!). The action packed day tour was located only 20 minutes away from the town centre, and included pick up and drop off, making it the more efficient and affordable choice compared to doing each activity separately. The tubing took place in the Tham Nam water cave, where we were given headlamps and helmets so we could explore the inside of the cave whilst floating through the tunnels. A far cry from the alcohol fueled tubing experience that Vang Vieng has been known for in the past.
7. Ziplining in Vang Vieng
The lush green countryside of Vang Vieng in Southeast Asia is perfect for zip lining. Tham Nam has nine ziplines of varying lengths including a Superman zipline all the way down to the water cave and is easily one of the most exciting things to do in Vang Vieng.
8. Kayaking in Vang Vieng
If you’re wondering what to do in Vang Vieng, kayaking is an absolute must. We did a 5 km route along the Nam Song river through some light rapids all the way to the banks of our hotel, Amari Vang Vieng. Along the way we witnessed local fisherman catching seafood and paddled past the rural areas of Vang Vieng.
9. Try Outdoor Yoga at Sunset in Vang Vieng
During the dry season, a daily outdoor yoga session takes place on a wooden platform in the rice fields in Vang Vieng. Booking isn’t required, just head to the Silver Naga Hotel before 4pm to walk with the rest of the group to the rice paddies across the river. The outdoor sunset yoga session lasts for a 90 minutes and costs 80,000 LAK, for this unique experience.
10. Visit the Buddhist Temples in Vang Vieng
Luang Prabang in Laos is known for its spirituality but Vang Vieng also has plenty of ornate Buddhist temples dotted around the town and along the roadsides. It is one of the top things to do in Vang Vieng for free and I can personally recommend visiting Wat That, Wat Kang, Wat Si Sou Mang and Wat Simixay Yaram, all within walking distance from Vang Vieng town centre.
11. Try the Mango Sticky Rice in Vang Vieng
After become a little obsessed with Mango Sticky rice in Luang Prabang, I hunted down the best place in Vang Vieng for the desert. Happy Mango Thai restaurant is centrally located and serves amazingly fresh Thai food at incredibly cheap prices. I can recommend the Chicken Pad Thai with a double helping of their famous mango sticky rice. You won’t be disappointed!
12. Sample the French Pastries in Vang Vieng
Situated close to the Post Office, Restaurant Luang Prabang Bakery is the perfect place to tuck into a variety of freshly made French pastries. As well as serving coffee, there are tropical fruit shakes and a hot menu for lunch and dinner.
13. Get a Laos Massage in Vang Vieng
During my eight days in Laos, I had four massages (they were just so cheap compared to home!). However my favourite experience was at Smile Massage and Spa, just around the corner from our hotel, Amari Vang Vieng.
I chose the 90 minute Laos massage which was on offer for 81,000 LAK (approximately $9 USD) and if I had another night in Vang Vieng I would have happily booked in again! Smile Massage and Spa is open daily until 10.30pm, and I suggest booking ahead of time.
Where to Stay in Vang Vieng
We spent three nights staying at Amari Vang Vieng. A riverfront hotel, located in the centre of town and within short walking distance of all the shops and restaurants. It has all the amenities you would expect and acts as a great base for exploring the town and making the most of all the adventurous things to do in Vang Vieng.
Amari Vang Vieng has one of the best pool views in Laos (especially for sunset) and the hotel offers buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and an extensive dinner menu, as well as a gym to burn off all those extra calories!
Want to visit more of Laos?
- Luang Prabang is the most visited city in Laos and only five hours away from Vang Vieng. There is plenty to do in Luang Prabang including visiting elephants at Mandalao.
- Don Det is one of the 4000 islands located in the Mekong River and is one of the most beautiful islands in Asia.
- DiscoverLaos.Today, is a new travel portal supported by the Laos Tourism Board, that includes tours and activities from all over the country.
Disclaimer: We were kindly gifted our tubing, zip-lining and kayaking day trip so we could experience DiscoverLaos.Today for ourselves. (As always opinions are my own).