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South East Asia is a backpacking hub, no doubt about it. Booze flows, full-moon parties rave and sometimes, just sometimes, you get to float down the Mekong river in an inner tube, getting pulled into wooden shacks as you go down for free shots and plenty of buckets – welcome to tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos. A place quite like no other. So….

tubing in vang vieng

What is tubing?

It has more legitimate definitions elsewhere but in Vang Vieng, Laos it involves you renting a tire innertube for the day, heading down to the Mekong river, and floating down the river past the various bars, rope swings and diving boards. Each bar offers free shots to entice you in, as you float down the river, some Laotian guys will throw you a rope, you grab the rope and get pulled into the bar. Order some drinks, and carry on down the river. Absolute madness.

tubing in VangVieng

Some tips when tubing:

  • Don’t buy a wet bag there, they cost a couple of dollars but they don’t work. Put your camera in one of these bad boys and say goodbye to your camera!
  • To rent the tube you need to pay around $6 with another $6 deposit. You don’t get the deposit back if you bring it back late at night, which you will. So be aware.
  • The first 4 bars are the most popular, and they’re all within a couple of hundred metres of each other so you don’t even need a tube, you can easily swim that section. If I was to do it again, I’d prob give the tube a miss.
  • People honestly die here every year so just be careful. Most people die from being so drunk they pass out and drown in the river OR showing off and doing crazy rope swings into shallow water. Don’t be that guy.
  • Lay off the drugs! There’s so many mushrooms, opium and weed kicking around here you’d almost think it’s legal – it’s not. But that’s not where my advice stems from, after 4 buckets and 6 beers before 5pm, the last thing you need when you’re trying to swim is imaging huge sharks attacking you and aliens kidnapping you. If you have to dabble, don’t don’t it when tubing.
whats is tubing
A standard menu in Vang Vieng

Is there anything else to see and do in Vang Vieng?

Besides getting ridiculously drunk? Yes actually, although 99% of the people you see here won’t know about it! Check out the blue lagoon, a beautiful area to chill, eat a bit and jump in the crystal clear blue waters – really nice. Also, the scenery around the area is breathtaking, so rent a scooter ($6) and spend a day exploring.

blue lagoon vang vieng
The Blue Lagoon, Vang Vieng

* How to get to the Blue Lagoon: This can be quite tricky! Either get a tuk-tuk to take you (about $13) or rent a bike and drive yourself. If you drive yourself, which I’d recommend, prepare to be fooled by Blue Lagoon imposters! Drive out of Vang Vieng, cross a bride (pay $2) and keep going straight, straight, straight – ignore all the signs for other Blue Lagoons until you finally reach it. You won’t have had to take any majore turns, just keep going straight and you’ll know by the restaurants, other tuktuks and tourists when you’ve actually made it to the real one!

How long should you stay in Vang Vieng?

In my opinion, 2 days – one day to explore, one day to tube and then get out as soon as possible! It’s great, crazy fun but one day really is enough. So many people spend (waste?) a week or more here, doing the same thing every day and if that’s your thing, then by all means stay longer. But in my opinion, you didn’t come to Asia just to get drunk with a load of other white people (at least I hope you didn’t!).

Tubing in Laos
Me on the way to the worst hangover known to man

How do you get to Vang Vieng?

From Luang Prabang to the north it’s about a 6 hour bus ride. You can take the local bus ($11, 7-8 hours) or the tourist bus ($15, 5-6 hours).

From Vientiane in the south, it’s only 3 hours away. Again you can take the local bus ($10, 4 hours) or the tourist minivans ($12, 3 hours).

You can book these tickets yourself at the bus station or at any of the 10 zillion booking agent stalls in Vientiane or Luang Prabang. It works out cheaper to go through an agent, the commission they earn is less than the taxi fare for you to get to the station and back to book it for yourself. You can generally book on the same day you want to go, but doing it the day before is better if you’re on a tight schedule, just in case it’s full.


In conclusion folks, Vang Vieng seems like a sort of rite-of-passage for the south east Asian backpacking crew, it really is great fun but it’s not the real Laos, that’s for sure. So enjoy it, go crazy but don’t linger, go and see the real Asia after you’ve got your booze hit. Happy travels!


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13 thoughts on “Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

  1. Pingback: 5 Things to Do In Vang Vieng That Aren’t Illegal – the distracted wayfarer.
  2. Pingback: 5 Things to Do In Vang Vieng That Aren’t Illegal – the distracted wayfarer.
  3. hey! I need advice 🙂 I’m a solo female backpacker and I’ll be visiting Vang Veng in September for 2-3 nights. Any recommendation on where to stay thats backpacker friendly?

  4. My boyfriend and I were in VV December of 2012 and a few months prior to our visit they had shut down and bulldozed all of the bars along the river due to too many deaths and drunks.
    For other alternatives. (I agree.. we did not backpack to drink and party).The caves in Laos are simply amazing. For most of them all you need to pay for is parking if you drive yourself (about $1-2USD). However, one of the caves we went to had a “guide” who demanded we pay him a tip at the end of the tour.
    As for food, the sandwiches are incredible. There are numerous sandwich stalls along the streets and we even had a favorite sandwich lady we would go to every night.

  5. If I ever make it to VV I’ll make sure to give tubing a try, and have a shot, maximum 2…luckily I can have fun without drinking myself silly…and most likely head over to the Blue Lagoon 🙂

  6. Great blog as usual Johnny. We got back around 8pm with our tubes and got $4 back. We chilled at a restuarant opposite the tube shop and the food and service was awful. The Other Side Restaurant was my favourite x

    1. thanks Kim, my tube never made it back to say goodbye to my deposit! I think the food, service etc is pretty terrible throughout VV to be honest. They know the backpackers are generally too drunk to care so everything else suffers :S

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