Float down the Mekong

Vang Vieng in Laos


This small town in central Laos owes its fame to the surrounding mountains, bohemian traveller vibe, and the fact that you can hire a rubber tube and float down the Mekong for hours. Bank side river bars pump Bob Marley, Jack Johnson, and other chillout favourites attracting “floaters” with long poles, swing slides, and cheap but excellent Beer Lao. It can take up to fours hours to make your down the river, making friends all along the way. Once word got out about Vangvieng a few years ago, the tiny village exploded with guest houses and restaurants, but no matter how big it gets, nothing will take away the experience of gently floating amid the wonderful nature of Southeast Asia.

Length of Trip : 2-3 nights. One day for the tubing, another to soak up the atmosphere.

Cost :
Laos is a backpacker's dream, and the price is usually right. The two rental companies are in the centre of town, opening at 8am and closing at 8pm. It costs about US$7 for a tube, which includes a ride to the start. There's another US$7 (60,000 kip!) as a deposit, which is returned if you return the tube before 8pm, otherwise you lose 20,000 kip (about US$2.50).

Best time to go : December to May is dry season and the current is slower. It gets faster (and a little more challenging ) in May to October.

Wheelchair friendly : No

Family friendly : Yes, but the town is definitely something of a backpacker party scene.

Where to eat :
Lots of cheap dining with tasty SE Asian fare. Try:
Banana Restaurant
Café de Paris
Kangaroo Sunset
Room 101 is the main late-night party location

Official Site :
Check out VangVieng.biz for more information about visiting the town.

Where to Stay :
Champa Lao
Phongsavan Bungalows
Sengkeo Guesthouse

Getting There :
There are buses, mini-buses and shuttles leaving from the capital of Vientiene and the popular temple town of Luang Prabang. It takes about 3 and half hours by mini-bus, about 4-5 hours by public bus from Vientiene. From Luang Prabang, it takes about 6 hours, and you'll need to catch a tuk-tuk from the bus station to the centre of town. More info here.

Note from Robin :
As you can see in the video, quite a lot has changed. This experience is better suited for budget travellers, but then, so is Laos. Rent your tube in the morning to maximize your time on the river. Remember, all the slides and swings are at your own risk, especially if you're drinking (and given the circumstances, it's difficult not to refresh on the excellent Beer Lao). Link up arms and legs with fellow travellers and make it a social adventure. And please, watch out for the "Happy Shakes" served up at the sunset bars. I don't know what's in them, but I deeply regret ordering one to find out.