Vang Vieng Travel Guide
Once being known as a party destination for years, Vang Vieng has been reborn itself into an eco-adventure destination, attracting not just the usual backpackers but the adventurers and thrill seekers alike. Located halfway between capital Vientiane and UNESCO World Heritage site Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng town is now a calm oasis for enjoying nature, jungle hikes, and lazy days cooling off in the river, as a fun destination for a few days.
This quick Vang Vieng Travel Guide covers all of the town’s main areas of interest, things to do, when to go, where to stay and other necessary information for your good trip. Check it out with Laos Travel!
- 1. Quick facts of Vang Vieng
- 2. When to Visit Vang Vieng?
- 3. How to Get to Vang Vieng?
- 4. What to See and Do in Vang Vieng?
- 5. What and Where to Eat in Vang Vieng?
- 6. Where to Stay in Vang Vieng?
- 7. Travel Advisory
1. Quick facts of Vang Vieng
Having a long-lasting history since 1353, Vang Vieng was first settled as a staging post between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. This town was originally named Mouang Song, then renamed Vang Vieng under French colonial rule in the 1890s. During the 1964-1973 Vietnam War, the significant expansion of the town and its infrastructure occurred when the US constructed an air force base and runway that was used by Air America. Recently, the town has substantially grown due to the influx of backpacker tourism due to the opportunities for adventure tourism in a limestone karst landscape.
Geographical location & Topography: lies on the Nam Song River, about 130km north Vientiane, and the most notable feature of the area is the karst topography surrounding the town.
Population of the town: 25,000 people
Telephone Code: 23
Time Zone: UTC+7 (ICT)
Name variant: Vang Viang
2. When to Visit Vang Vieng?
According to the Köppen climate classification, Vang Vieng has a tropical monsoon climate, with a distinct dry season (November to March) and a lengthy and rainy wet season for 7 months (April to October). The dry season features the cooler temperatures with coolest months in December and January at an average low of 13.5 °C. The wet season is characterized by high amounts of rainfall, which peaks in July with an average of 840mm. The hottest months come from March to May with an average high of 34 °C.
Best time to visit Vang Vieng can be from November to February when the area’s weather is consistently warm and dry which is perfect for adventure activities. The average daily temperature is 25°C (77°F), however, they are quite cool if you are in the mountains. This is also the busiest time of year so you should expect higher prices and more crowds
3. How to Get to Vang Vieng?
3.1. Get in Vang Vieng
To get in Vang Vieng, you can take flight to Vientiane or Luang Prabang, then continue the land access to Vang Vieng which is located between these cities by Highway No. 13. It takes about 4-6 hours from Luang Prabang and about 3-4 hours from Vientiane. Due to the road condition, the journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng is not quite comfortable, however, the road between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang is mountainous and local village life that boasts amazing scenery along the way. The flatter condition for the road between Vang Vieng and Vientiane makes easier and shorter driving.
From Vientiane, there are several options of transport for your choice: buses, minivans, VIP buses, taxi. The costs range from 50,000LAK/ticket depending on the types of vehicles. The tickets can be purchased at almost every accommodation where you are staying, and should include transport to the bus station which normally locates Northern Bus Station.
It is same from Luang Prabang where you can take buses, VIP buses or minivans to get in Vang Vieng. There are 2 way options for the access by old road and new road. The old road is simply main route 13, taking longer time – about 6 hours or more by buses while the new road is widened and better paved to save the driving time much shorter (~ 4 hours instead) for private cars and minivans only. You can read more about how to get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng here.
All of above, private car/van is always the best choice of the comfort and flexibility. Of course, its price is higher at around US$150-200/way but you will get the best care with pick-up and drop-off service right at the door and stop on the way whenever you want (where possible and safety for traffic).
3.2. Around Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng is small town that everything is easily reachable by foot. To venture outside of the town, you can choose among bicycles, motorcycles, tuk-tuks or even ATV for some off-roading.
Bicycles are widely available and can be rented from your accommodations or a lot of different shops in the town at average price of 20,000 LAK per day for regular ones. For mountain bikes, the cost is slightly more, from about 30,000 LAK ($3.45 USD) per day. However, be aware that, the road condition to some attractions is not the greatest and it will be very muddy on rainy days so make sure that your rent bike can handle it.
Motorcycles are another popular choice to explore Vang Vieng and its surrounding areas. The rentals are from 50,000-70,000 LAK per day while petrol may not be included in the fee. So, remember to check the vehicle condition and the rental contract before signing. Also take extra precautions against the poor road conditions and busy traffic of buses, minivans and trucks.
Tuk-Tuks are also scattered around the town, but at less quantity. Paying 10,000LAK per person is enough to get you anywhere within Vang Vieng. If you would like to go further, a full-day hire will cost about 130,000 – 150,000 LAK per trip.
ATV is one of the best ways to see the stunning countryside around Vang Vieng. Cost will vary depending on what you rent, but for hourly rentals expect to pay around 70,000 LAK.
For adventure activities, it is better to book through travel agency for the best service and safety.
4. What to See and Do in Vang Vieng?
4.1. Visit Caves
As home to dozens of caves, there are some favourite names of caves to explore in Vang Vieng.
Firstly, Tham Chang Cave (or Tham Jang) is considered as the most famous one around the town which includes both nature value and history value. You need to walk across the long bridge built across the Nam Song River, then climb steep stairways up to reach the cave which is cool inside. A bonus thing here for you is a blue lagoon is swim in. The best time to visit will be in the morning to beat the crowds, especially during peak season.
Secondly, the spot that should not be missed is Tham Phu Kham Cave & Blue Lagoon. About 20 minutes west from Tham Chang, Tham Phu Kham is also a favorite cave in Vang Vieng with cave interest (flashlight is necessary to explore the cave with steep climbs) and some fun activities at nearby blue lagoon such as swimming, jumping off from the tree into the water. However, when the rainy season comes (June-August), the water color will be not blue. You can also find another blue lagoon named blue lagoon 3 with less touristy but further at around 1 hour from town.
The next two places on the list are Tham Nam (Water Cave) – Tham Xang (Elephant Cave). Called as Water Cave, Tham Nam is an approximately 500m long underground cave including some streams running through the mountainside which takes about 30 minutes to reach the end before turning back. In dry season, you can walk into the cave as the water level is low, while you will get inside the cave with a tube and a rope in rainy season due to high water level and strong flow which can be more difficult when the darkness covers everything. For those who love adventure, it is worth changeling one time.
With the special feature of the cave is an elephant-form stalactite, Tham Xang is called Elephant cave. This is small in size and not far from Tham Nam so taking combined tour with other should be more worthy than visiting itself only.
4.2. Experience Waterfall
Kaeng Nuyi Waterfall is the one that you can spend time when visiting Vang Vieng. Around 25-minute drive away from the center of town on the east side, this 30-m tall waterfall which is located in a park maintained by the villagers of Ban Naduang. Rainy season is the best time to visit the waterfall while the flow dramatically differs in the dry season. There are several smaller waterfalls that you can swim in.
4.3. Enjoy Adventurous Activities
Known as adventure paradise, Vang Vieng is great place for those who love active. There are many activities that you can much enjoy here. One of them is to Hike up to mountain viewpoints where offer you an amazing viewpoint of Vang Vieng. Some viewpoints in the list can be Phangern Mountain or Nam Xay. For the smooth hiking, you will need to wear proper shoes & bring enough water with you. Also be careful when towards the end the path can be muddy and slippery.
Another attractive activities include Tube & Kayak on Nam Song River. Settled on the banks of the river, your trip would not be completed without the experience the river first hand. Tubing can be arranged around the town while kayaking can be arranged as a part of day tour including lagoons and caves.
4.4. Amazing Balloon Over Vang Vieng
Enjoy amazing view by taking a hot air balloon flight over Vang Vieng will definitely be a relaxing way before your day of activities start or finish. There are 2 flight times per day for your choice, including sunrise flight (5:30am-6:10am) and sunset flight (5:30pm-6:10pm).
Operated in dry season, you should check the availability, condition and policy in advance before service.
5. What and Where to Eat in Vang Vieng?
Besides some excellent adventure activities which will get you close to nature, Vang Vieng also have some excellent foodie options and some great restaurants for your trip here. Although there is not too much of a foodie scene in this relatively small town, you still find a selection of choices for your own taste from homely western eats, delicious local favorites to other Asian inspiring food such as Thai and Vietnamese.
5.1. Luang Prabang Bakery
This is an extremely popular place at breakfast or quick bite for afternoon tea with a large selection of cakes, cheesecakes, pastries, sandwiches, excellent coffee and more. The environment is quite relaxing and centrally located on the road which leads down to the river. The only problem is its price due to not much options for breakfast in town.
Add: Sisavangvong Rd, 17/01 Choumkong Village, Vang Vieng
Opening hours: 7.00am – 10.00pm
5.2. Restaurant du Crabe d’Or
As a part of the Riverside Boutique Resort, the restaurant is known as one of the best restaurants in Vang Vieng which is certainly worth a visit if you are looking for a dining experience. It serves great tasting food which fuse the French cooking techniques with local favorites. You won’t regret having an evening drink and meal here while watching the beautiful sunset, but remember to book a table in advance to avoid any fully booked capacity for hotel’s guests.
Add: Ban Viengkeo, Vang Vieng
Opening hours: 7.00am – 10.00am; 12.00pm – 2.00pm; 6.30pm – 9.30pm
5.3. The Corner Hanoi Cafe & Restaurant
This is good choice for those who love Vietnamese food as well as vegetarian friendly and vegan options. Some of the most popular choices on the menu include “pho”, spring rolls, and Vietnamese coffee in a relaxed setting and nice staffs.
Add: 018 Vieng Keo Village, Vang Vieng
Opening hours: 8.00am – 10.00pm
5.4. Happy Mango Thai Restaurant
Located in the heart of downtown Vang Vieng, Happy Mango Thai Restaurant is a favorite of travelers visiting Vang Vieng, especially for Thai food eaters. Popular Thai dishes can be found in this restaurant, including pad thai, pineapple fried rice and mango sticky rice. Just one side note, that is an extremely busy restaurant due to its central location, delicious taste and affordable price. There are also many vegetarian options for your choice as well.
Add: Middle Street Town Center, Vang Vieng
Opening hours: 12.30pm – 10.30pm
5.5. Gary’s Irish Bar
This is a popular spot for young Western travelers from a day time restaurant to a full-on bar vibe. The bar serves both amazing food and drinks, and best of all are great service and friendly staffs. How could you say no to an Irish Pub in the middle of Laos, right?
Add: Ban Savang, Vang Vieng
Opening hours: 9.15am – 11.30pm
6. Where to Stay in Vang Vieng?
Although being a small town, Vang Vieng still has lots of accommodation options, and some hostels even come with pools or epic views of the mountains. Here are some good suggestions for your convenient stay while in Vang Vieng.
3* Silver Naga Hotel
Add: Ban Savang, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 822
3* Villa Vang Vieng Riverside
Add: Ban Viengkeo, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 460
3*+ Villa Nam Song Vang Vieng
Add: Ban Viengkeo Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 637
4* Riverside Boutique Vang Vieng
Add: Ban Viengkeo, PO 360, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 726-8
4* Inthira Vang Vieng hotel
Add: Ban Viengkeo, Vang Vieng
Tel: +856 23 511 088
7. Travel Advisory
– Gear and packing list:
Prepare suitable packing list according to your travel month.
+ Clothes and personal items: shorts, swimsuit (modest), T-shirts, flip-flops, sneakers, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, insect repellent, toiletries… Some warm clothes should be packed if you travel in December and January when the weather can be cooler, especially in early morning and late afternoon;
+ Small medical kit: band aid, earplugs, hand sanitizer, antibacterial cream…
+ Miscellaneous: plastic bags (great for laundry), universal charger / adopter (the standard electrical current used in Laos is 220 volts), water bottle with a purifier…
– Dos & Don’ts:
+ dress neatly when vising any religious places;
+ remove shoes, hats, and sunglasses before entering any Buddhist temples ;
+ don’t touch the monks, monk’s robe or someone’s head;
+ don’t raise the voice when you are at public sites;
+ don’t show public displays of affection or wear swimsuit/bikini to walk around as this is the impolite gestures to the community of Laos;
+ keep your eyes on valued personal items;
+ bring the copies of your personal documents along with you while outside;
+ don’t give money to child peddlers;
+ don’t contribute to the negative side of tourism (drugs or the sex industry) as Laos is strict about punishment for these things.
+ Reserve services as earliest as you can when planning the trip in peak season to avoid any fully-booked status or lower quality than you expect.
Hopefully this travel guide is helpful for your knowledge about the beautiful town of Vang Vieng. Whenever you plan a trip to Laos, please feel absolutely free to contact Laos Travel team and we will be more than happy to assist and bring you a memorable experience of Laos!