Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

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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.

Alternative Tubing

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!

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78 thoughts on “Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos”

  1. Agree that tubing solo and sober is nice. I tried it and was assaulted by Lao kids trying to swim me back to shore when I arrived back at Vang Vieng (and, of course, the demanded a tip for their services). It was so dramatic that they actually succeeded in sinking the innertube of this British fellow behind me, which ended up popping on a rock in the bottom of the river!

    I did get to see a herd of wild buffalo bathing in the river though. it was a truly awesome sight!

  2. Dang. I don’t drink anymore, I’m ugly and I already have expensive prescription ray bans.

    Looks like I ain’t going to Vang Vieng, but thanks for making me want something awesome I can never have, Kate! 😛

    -Rick

  3. okay, I might spend some time playing with our schedule and think about a return trip to Laos. Maybe it’s just seeing everyone hanging on in bathing suits thats appealing to me. How can the weather be so different just a small country away?

  4. All I can think when I watch this is “AREN’T THERE LIKE A MILLION SNAKES THERE??” and then I see you getting eaten by the snake in Anaconda.

    1. Actually, my friend Neil (aka Terrance) got chased by a snake in the water the first time he was in Vang Vieng. They killed it and gave it to him as a badge of honor — he threw it at people in the bars all night.

  5. It looks like SO much fun! (Except, you know, for the people who die from doing stupid things while drunk…) I looked at all your pics on Facebook, too – I’m going to assume you pretty much never stopped laughing! It looks ridiculous and awesome at the same time.

  6. This sounds like absolute paradise! I’m thinking I might have to take a trip to Laos while I’m in Thailand. I’m with you, I’m a 20 something who loves to party, so this sounds awesomeeeeee!

  7. Asking this question for a “friend” of course. Not that he wouldn’t have fun, but would my “friend” who may be in his early 30’s be totally out of place there, or could he swing it? no pun intended.

    1. Yep, Scott, your “friend” could get by. One of my good friends there was in his early thirties. Most people are in their early to mid-twenties — I actually felt like I was a bit older, but most people assume I’m around 22 or 23 anyway, so I doubt people saw me as old.

    2. I’ve been in Vang Vieng for only a day or so but it is really easy to make friends even as an ugly, solo, old guy 🙂 Last night I hung out with about fifteen twenty-somethings and had a great time. People here really are just up for a laugh.

  8. Who knew Laos was such a party country? I would have never expected it…

    One of my favorite things to do during my summers in Tennessee throughout college was tube down the rivers in the Smokies. In typical Southern fashion, your tube rental came complete with a BBQ feast before or after you tubed. Most people would rent a tube for themselves and a tub for their cooler of beer! I took my husband, a California native, there over this past summer, and we had the best time marveling at the rednecks that little pocket of the country attracts.

    Also, I like how you can pull off “hippie” just as easily as you can do “sporty.” The sweatbands are a good look for you!

  9. Vang. Fucking. Vieng. What a goddamn amazing place.

    I’m glad you got to enjoy it as well because I seriously cannot foresee it being around for the next 10 years.

    One of the best hangover cures = motobiking around the countryside and checking out the caves. A must do on a day off.

  10. Got to experience Vang Vieng a month ago and it’s surely everything you have described. Based on your pictures, the river have cleared up since it was brown when I was there.

  11. Hey Kate!

    Girl, that looks awesome! Glad to see that you are having a great time! 😉 Watch out for the snakes!

    Quick questions: What is the local beer there? What are buckets? I noticed you mention this a lot!

    Safe travels! I hope you are feeling better 😀

    Cheers,
    *Jessica

    1. Jessica, there are lots of great beers in Asia.

      In Laos, it’s all about Beerlao.

      In Thailand, there’s Chang (the cheapest), Singha (what I usually drink) and Leo.

      In Cambodia, the big two are Angkor and Anchor.

      So far in Vietnam, I’ve had Halida (my favorite), Hanoi and 333 (gross).

      Tiger Beer is in every country.

  12. Seriously, sounds like sooo much fun! All these awesome posts about SE Asia make me want to completely change my plans! Nothing is set in stone yet so we’ll see! 🙂

  13. Kate, you’re living the dream. I’m an Aussie currently working in Copenhagen and would love to go to this place. You mentioned you turned down a job working there. How would working there be? How is it there in August??

    Keep writing, much love

    H

    1. Hass, thanks for your kind words! It should be easy any time of year — bars are always hiring. I haven’t been in August, but if it’s anything like Thailand, that’s the rainy season, and the river should be flush.

  14. i was there 2 weeks ago with my friend and we had an amazing time. We met a lot of cool people and yes most of them are 20 something. The party ended at the 3rd bar because a lot of people are drunk already. We danced like a bunch of idiots! twas a blast! 😉

  15. Im going to asia in december for three months, was originally going for two but added another month so i could do loas. So glad i did now this place looks like my idea of heaven cant wait to get there and just chillax. This page is awesome by the way, keep the adventures flowing

  16. Hey y’all!
    I’ve been there 4 times and will be back ;-))
    I have friends outside Vang Vieng “proper” near the rice fields and quiet beauty…
    But the tubing is totally fun…and if you pay attention you can do the swings, the safer ones at least!
    But BEWARE of the water! Protect your eyes as I saw a lot of “pink eye”, conjunctivities from the bacteria in the water…I’ve been in the north (upstream) so I know what they put in there ;-((
    be sure to Chill at Jaydee’s…am I right??Crash

  17. I am so going to Vang Vieng!!! Thank you for taking the time to share this very insightful and entertaining piece on it!

    Can you recommend a place to stay?? Something close to the action but quiet so I can sleep well for my next day and night of drinking!

    1. Sod, I stayed at a great place called Dok Khoun guesthouse. Rooms have hot showers; some have in-room Wifi. Both huge treats! Think I paid around 60,000 kip per night — around $7. Everything in Vang Vieng is close together, but this place is close to everything I loved in town!

  18. Hi Kate,
    What about 4 x 40-50 year old females travelling our way around Asia. We are adventurous and like to have fun and drink our fair share. Maybe not as much as 20 somethings but still give it a good go. Love music and love to dance as well. I’m a bit of chicken and don’t like heights so I will probably not partake in the rope swings. But that doesn’t mean my girlfriends won’t.
    I read someone said the best thing for the next day was a motorbike tour. Any suggestions for these as well.
    Any feedback would be appreciated.
    Cheers, Robyn :o)

  19. This river goes up and down 3 feet (Im) depending on how much rain fell last night.
    That means the riverbed is deep one day, but full of rocks that will crack your skull and kill you the next.
    One look at the pictures of people jumping and slinging into this river made my blood run cold.
    You never, ever, ever do stuff like that in a rocky river.
    On top of that it’s a third world country with zero safety checks and balances. Encouraging people to come here and jump into this river off ropes and towers is clueless and criminally negligent. Please if you read this – spread the word that this place is a death trap. You will save someone’s life.

  20. I went tubing in Vang Vieng yesterday! Needless to say I’m not feeling that great today.

    What no-one ever seems to tell you is that it’s quite exhausting when the river isn’t flowing fast. It must have taken over an hour and a half to get back after the last pub – paddling all the way to get back in time to get my deposit back! Loved it though.

  21. 20 young deaths here in the last 12 months.
    Look at a typical photo here of a crowded bar totally full of kids.
    Then imagine them all gone.

  22. Hi Kate,

    What is the best time of year to go to the river. I am heading over in june 20th – july 4th. Is that ok to go river tubing. Will anyone be there?

  23. A report into the future of tourism in Vang Vieng found that many budget tubers were “oblivious to, or uncaring about, the types of social, economic and environmental impact they are associated with.” A master plan for Vang Vieng notes that local grievances include pollution, inappropriate behaviour of tourists and environmental damage. Go by all means, but try to show respect.

  24. Hey kate I’m
    Going June 3rd just checked the weather, looks very wet. U reckon ppl will still b tubing???

  25. Tubing sober is definitely the best way to do it!
    Sooo many people were like “What? You’re not drinking?!” But it’s great!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been tubing and got totally wasted, but you appreciate it much more when you take it a bit easier – I.e Don’t enter a Laolao drinking challange like I did! 😉

  26. Kate, i’ve heard that the Laos government have put an end to tubing in Vang Vieng – they’ve demolished all the bars along the river front and it seems that whole crazy party atmosphere has died away. I’m due to go to Laos in a couple of months and was wondering is it still worth checking out – anybody been tubing since authorities have clamped down on drinking and drugs?

  27. It’s April 2016 and I’m in Vang Vieng right now
    You can still go tubing but it’s part of an organised trip that usually includes kayaking, caving and trekking.
    The old druggy party scene is completely finished. Sure there is still kids wandering about in the backpackers uniform of fisherman pants and a vest with local beer name on the front but the majority of tourists here are Asian and most of the bars are dead. Come and enjoy the culture and scenery but if your after drunken mayhem your going to be disappointed.

  28. Absolutely love it! I am an Aquarius Water Baby, and always searching for water adventures. I have never been to Laos but I need to add that to the bucket list!

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