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Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos, is the most fun you will ever have without taking your clothes off.
Well, I would say that, but I actually saw a guy go off one of the rope swings while naked, so I guess that’s out the window!
Needless to say, tubing in Vang Vieng is one of the greatest parties on the planet and a mandatory stop on the Southeast Asia backpacker party trail.
The concept of Vang Vieng tubing is simple: You rent an inner tube in town for 55,000 kip (about $7 USD) plus a 60,000 kip deposit ($7.50), which includes a three-kilometer tuk-tuk ride to the start of the tubing route.
Once you arrive, turn right and walk ten minutes down to where the bars start. The first one is Q Bar. From there, you can grab a beer or bucket and, when you’re ready to move on, throw your belongings into a dry bag and float down the river to the next one! The Lao boys will throw you a soda bottle attached to a rope and haul you in.
The bars are filled with great music, dancing, beer pong, big $2 beers, free Lao Lao shots, buckets galore, and tons of rope swings and slides.
People write all over each other’s bodies with markers and paint, and everyone seems to outdo each other to see who can be the most offensive. And there are SO, SO, SO many good-looking people around!
You can tube all the way down the river, which takes a few hours, but you’re likelier to end where the tuk-tuk dropped you off in the morning. A tuk-tuk back costs 10,000 kip per person ($1.25). You need to be back before 6:00 PM to get your full deposit back.
At night, people move on to the bars in town. The party never ends in Vang Vieng!
Vang Vieng: Built On Partying.
The town of Vang Vieng has completely given in to backpackers. Walk through the town and you’ll find dozens of bars playing episodes of Friends and Family Guy on a loop, stores selling fake Ray-Bans and tubing t-shirts, and street vendors with pancakes and burgers.
Many consider Vang Vieng to be a “paradise lost” – it used to be nothing more than a sleepy Lao town in a breathtaking natural setting. I admit that these people have a point. But to be quite honest, as a twenty-something backpacker with a penchant for the nightlife, the Vang Vieng of today is my idea of paradise.
There are lots of quiet towns in Laos if Vang Vieng isn’t your cup of tea. Try Nong Khiaw or Muang Sing.
While the model detailed above is the typical tubing itinerary, don’t think you have to stick to it –
You can tube while sober. I did that and had a great time.
You can tube solo. I did that as well, and made a lot of friends.
And you can tube without tubing.
Here’s a secret: Tubing without tubing is much more fun than tubing with a tube.
Of course, you should go tubing in Vang Vieng at least once. Or a few times. But simply going to the river without a tube and walking from bar to bar is cheaper and a lot more fun.
The party is determined by the people who go tubing without tubing. The crowd naturally moves from bar to bar, but by 6:00 PM – when the tubes are due back – the party has only made it to the third bar or so.
Go tubing without tubing and you’ll spend less money, have more fun, meet more people, and stay longer!
Dangers of Tubing
Every year, a few people die while tubing in Vang Vieng. I witnessed one near-death myself. This is mostly because people get blackout drunk or do mushrooms and then go on the rope swings.
Make sure you drink moderately. Don’t swim from bar to bar. Avoid the swings if you’ve had a lot to drink. And remember: if you do drugs in Laos, you’re an idiot.
In an upcoming post, I’ll further discuss the dangers of tubing in Vang Vieng.
My Experience Tubing in Laos
I loved every minute of it.
I stayed in Vang Vieng for five days, then moved on to Luang Prabang with my friends. After two days, I decided to come back – and stayed for another ten days!
I went tubing eight times in total: four times with a tube and four without, once sober, and three times solo.
I even got offered a job at one of the bars, which I considered (especially since the only duties were to party and make sure everyone was having a great time), but I turned it down – I couldn’t get sucked into Vang Vieng any more than I already was.
Check it out in live action: here’s a video I took from the tube!
Tubing in Vang Vieng is unbelievably fun, and if you’re a fan of cheap Ray-Bans, attractive people or day drinking in the slightest, get yourself to Vang Vieng immediately!