🖐 In this travel guide we’ll share all our experience travelling to the town of Vang Vieng, located in the centre North of Laos. If this is your first time on Dronemade, we're a community of drone pilots around the world and thus like to share our travel experiences and how we see things from up there. Give a 👍 at the end of this post & feel free to share your experience or any updates you might have in the Laos Discussion Group. Keep in mind that the content below is updated to the best of our knowledge & does not replace official sources & your research.
Reaching the town of Vang Vieng is necessarily a stopover from another Laotian city. Located between the cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, it is only reachable by road (soon by bullet train) and is located about half way between the two. The small town is the outdoor adventure getaway of the country, with several fun and sport activities suited for all fitness levels and group ages. You will also find here several options to relax and go shopping with a vibrant night market happening every day & night on the main street. Heads up, if you need any water sport gear, this is the place to get it from..
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Where is it exactly & how to get to Vang Vieng?
Depending on where you're travelling from, you can either start from Luang Prabang if you're coming from the North or start from Vientiane if coming from the South. (we personally arrived there from Vietnam, after visiting remote Muang Ngoy & historic Luang Prabang.
🚌 From Luang Prabang: you will need to catch a minivan or the 1 night bus service/day. Minibuses run every day at almost any hours of the day. They will usually pick you up from your accommodation place and drop you at Vang Vieng public bus stop or your hotel if on the way. The night bus departs at 8 pm every day but takes significantly longer due to the mountain roads it has to drive through (arrive around 2 am). The journey itself is just as beautiful as it is exhausting. Crammed in a minivan or undersized seats, you will find comfort in admiring the beautiful scenery (seat on the right side of the bus to have the best views) - Depending on your transportation preference, allow:
5h and 75,000 kips (US$8) for travelling by mini van
7h and 120,000 kips (US$13) for travelling by night bus (This price is for Luang Prabang to Vientiane, and if you decide to stop on the way, no discount possible "we tried").
🚌 From Vientiane: you will need to catch a minivan. Minibuses run every day at almost any hours of the day. They will usually pick you up from your accommodation place and drop you at Vang Vieng public bus stop or your hotel if on the way. The journey is a nice and mostly comfortable 4 h flat road journey that will cost you about 45,000 kips ($US5)
🚄 Bullet Train (2021): by then, you will be able to enjoy Chinese bullet trains to get in and out of Vang Vieng. Currently under construction, the ambitious project will link Vientiane to Kumming (China) passing through Vang Vieng, Oudomxay, Luang Namtha, Boten and Luang Prabang. Tickets should be more expensive than road options but you will gain significantly in time and comfort.
✅ If you're going straight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (or the other way around) then your best option remains the night bus. More comfortable (if you're under 1,75 m) and driving overnight, you will arrive in the morning to your destination. You can book most of your Laos transportation here (including the bullet train from 2021)
What to do in Vang Vieng?
As discussed a little earlier, this is town for outdoor adventures and sport activities. With several lagoons and a river flowing in its centre, it is the perfect place for water sport activities and relax in the sun during hot Laotian summer days.
Probably the most famous activity in town, tubing is a must do if you want to meet new friends in Laos and have a good time in town. You can choose between an 8 am or 2 pm start and opt for the relax or party cruise options. We personally recommend the last one for the simple reason that both cruises use the same river, just one stops at the floating bars where you can rest and have an (overpriced) drink.
Tours or tube rentals will cost you between 80,000 to 110,000 kips (US$9-11) depending on optional transport, times, etc. We recommend you take the full package and only worry about your personal belongings.
Take with you:
a copy of your ID (you're on a river the entire time..)
cash, bars will not accept credit cards
sunscreen, you wouldn't want to be hangover and sun burnt the following day
sunglasses, preferably cheap ones
towel and dry clothes along closed shoes to walk on rocks
a waterproof backpack (dry bag) to put all this in
You will find several day, half day and hour hikes all departing from the town's centre. Visit some of the caves or hike to the lagoons and go for a swim.
hike to Silver Cliff Lower Viewpoint: a rewarding challenging hike up straight to the surrounding cliff's plateau, this is a great sunset viewpoint. You will need good shoes to complete this one (drinks available for purchase onsite).
hike to Big Pha Ngeun Higher Viewpoint: as it name stands for, its higher.. so longer. This is a challenging hike that goes pass the Silver Cliff Lower Viewpoint giving an option to rest along your journey.
hike to Ban Na Duang: along the road, see locals and understand how things are done in a small village. Allow about 4h return as you will meet and greet a few locals on your way eager to welcome tourists exploring a little more than the city centre. Go a little further and reach Kaeng Nyui Waterfall to enjoy a swim.
Go swimming !
Most hotels and hostels have a pool but what you really want is to swim in the lagoons and there are a few to choose from..
Blue Lagoon and Phu Kham Cave: probably the nicest, you can either hike, cycle or join a tour to visit it. We recommend cycling; the entrance is 10,000 kips and you can enjoy an entire day along the water with a couple of slides and swing trees. The lagoon is transparent and filled with fishes so bring some food along to gather them around you.
Blue Lagoon 3: a little harder to reach (half of the road is dirt), this lagoon is more isolated and you will probably enjoy a little more the surroundings without kids splashing and screaming around you.
Blue Lagoon 2: we didn't have a chance to visit this one but have been told it is less interesting than the two mentioned above. If you're serious about lagoons, you can do all three in a day.
The river: safe and not too deep, there are several spots along the river where you can swim. Be aware of the rapids before getting in as the current can be quite strong at some points. This is the only free swimming spot in town.
Rent a bike for the day and cycle towards the West side of town where roads are flat and in pretty good condition. You can also rent a scooter to go further but if you only intend to visit a couple of lagoons and the surroundings, we bet you will enjoy your time more on a bike. A bike will cost you about 50,000 kips (US$6) a day vs a scooter 90,000 kips (US$10).
Rent a buggy
This is a very popular activity in town, go with your own guide or as art of a large group these bad boys will take you on a ride between the lagoons with stopovers for you to rest and enjoy a swim or two. We personally do not recommend this activity as it frankly disturbs everyone else and doesn't really help you enjoy the surroundings as you would by foot or bike. Allow about 200,000 kips (US$22) for a tour.
Vang Vieng has all you need for daily shopping and a very nice market (day and night). This said, shopping options are mostly for adventure and sports gear, if you were after fashion, you will be better of in Luang Prabang.
Where to stay & eat in Vang Vieng?
🚪 There are several affordable options, a couple of high end places in Vang Vieng and a myriad of backpacker places thanks to the popularity of tubing in town.
We recommend you check out Riverside Boutique Resort which probably offers the best views in town, just next to the river. If your budget is a little more tight, then Faraway Suites is your place to go. In the city centre, with a pool, it is a famous place to meet up and start your night out in town.
If none of these suit you or are available, don't be too sad, there are a myriad of other accommodation offers just next to these and most seem quite decent too. We found them using our hotel price comparative tool to make sure we booked at the best price.
🍴 You will have plenty of choices for food and drinks in Vang Vieng, but you just have to go a little outside to Sae Lao Project. Serving delicious food and drinks, this restaurant is a learning centre for locals to learn English and foreigners to provide volunteer help among the community. It is an excellent stop on your way to the lagoons. In terms of drinks, we love to refer to the River Tubing Bar, only "inconvenience" you have to tube down the river to get there.
Can I fly my drone in Vang Vieng?
🚨 Be aware of the airline you purchase to travel as some main ones will only accept your drone on-board if its batteries are detached & placed in a firecase during travel time. Most airlines will have a battery voltage limit based on the recommendation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). You can find more info about a specific airline here.
✅ Vang Vieng is away from any aerial traffic so its relatively safe for you and others to fly your drone around. Be aware that both towns are surrounded by tall cliffs and winds can be different as you pass one to another. Try to avoid flying above the urban places and stick to the river or surroundings given you a greater view of the town too.
✅ In every case you should follow the Laos drone rules and laws at all times. Note that these can evolve within months and its always a good thing to double check upon departure.
What to think of Vang Vieng?
Well we don't like to write this part of the story so we've put together some of our coolest pics. If you don't feel like seeing them before heading there, we get it and won't be sad.
✅ Please leave a comment or update the Laos Discussion Group when you receive news and/or gain experience in Vang Vieng! Have fun over there and make a lot of good memories! #vang #vieng #laos #travel #experience #outdoor #tubing #tube #sport #adventure
Disclaimer: Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information researched, we take no responsibility for any loss, harm or damage caused as a direct or indirect consequence of relying on this information. It is your responsibility to seek advice from qualified local & relevant authorities for needed information about local drone rules and regulations.
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