Vang Vieng is always the next destination for travelers in Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s known as a paradise for backpackers with a bunch of adventurous activities right at the doorsteps. But getting from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng has always been confusing travelers especially those who have just arrived in Laos. Today, we’ll look into the way of getting to Vang Vieng from Luang Prabang.
When I was planning my trip in Laos, I had a hard time deciding on the way to get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. There is so much information online, but it seems that most of them are different and spoken out of their own opinions.
I figured that I need a solid piece of information that could tell me directly how to get there, without doing much research on different posts in TripAdvisor and forums.
Okay, so as a ‘responsible and purposeful’ travel blogger (just kiddin’), I decided to find out the way and the details by myself and share it with my readers having fun in Laos.
So now, let’s dive in on how to get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng by yourself.
Bus or Mini-van to Vang Vieng?
If you’ve done some of the researches yourself, you’ll find that many travelers said they booked a bus ticket, but a mini-van came and picked them up instead.
A cramped, squeezed mini-van carrying 12 passengers with 12 huge backpacks. It was sort of like the Oreo biscuits packed tightly in the package. Not funny, I know.
So, to clear up your confusion, most of the transport that will be getting you from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng are mini-vans. I’ve met and talked to many travelers in Vang Vieng who came from Luang Prabang. All of them took the mini-vans.
I’ve read about some travelers who took the buses, some of them even complained that they wished they took mini-vans instead, I’m not sure why.
Check out this post if you’re looking for things to do in Luang Prabang!
So, in short, when you’re booking your ticket, make sure you ask which type of transport will you be taking on that day. Even if they tell you it’s a VIP bus, don’t expect too much. You might be thrown into a mini-van if there are not enough passengers to fit the VIP bus. And guess what, no refund.
But how to get your ticket in Luang Prabang?
Getting Your Tickets in Luang Prabang
Walking on the street in Luang Prabang, you’ll stumble upon a lot of travel agency offices selling tickets to nearby cities and cross-country bus tickets. Some even bring you to Hanoi or Bangkok.
Most hostels in Luang Prabang also earn a commission from purchasing tickets for their guests. So, if you want the easy way, just book with your hostel manager.
From what I found, all of these offices and hostels do have a slightly different rate. You might want to compare a few offices before making up your mind, especially if you’re very tight on budget.
The range of difference I found was around 20,000 VND, which is around US$2.5. Not a huge amount, I know, but it’s an amount you can save, possibly for a nice bowl of noodles in Victor’s Place in Vang Vieng. (Psst… It’s the best restaurant ever in Vang Vieng, go give it a try!)
The ticket price to get you to Vang Vieng is around 100,000 VND (around $12.5). Note that the price might fluctuate depending on which season you visited.
During the peak season, the prices might soar a little higher, and you can get cheaper tickets during the off-peak season.
Here’s a thing you should know. Most of the prices displayed on the board outside the office or hostel lobby are not updated. So if you want to know the price, the best and only way is to ask the manager for the price.
When I bought my ticket from my hostel manager, the price displayed was 110,000 VND, but I got it for 90,000 VND. Which I think is a pretty good deal, in my opinion after comparing several offices.
One more reason to buy from your hostel manager is that you have some grounds to negotiate since you’re already their paying customer.
Editor’s Note: Going for a Laos backpacking trip? Check out this comprehensive 6000+ words article here!
Road Conditions From Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
You’ve probably figured this out already, but the road conditions from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. Before we dive deeper into that, you should know that there are two routes to get to Vang Vieng – New Route and Old Route.
To summarize the comparison between these two routes, refer to the bullets below.
- New Route – Takes only 4 hours, but there are several parts which are very steep and unsuitable for big buses. Our mini-van driver was driving at around 30km/h at some points of the route. As for the scenery, I find that I enjoyed the sights surrounded by rainforest and limestone hills. Some small parts of the route are still under construction, and you’ll find some parts bumpy. The first half from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng was smooth and well-paved, though you’ll encounter bumpy rides in the second half.
- Old Route – Just wanna let you know that I’ve obtained these pieces of information online because I never took the old route. Did the homework for you. So, Old Route takes around 6-8 hours, offering a comparatively more scenic view. There are not as many descents and ascents in the old route though, so it’s more suitable for buses.
When you book your ticket, chances are you’ll be taking the New Route, because it’s faster and more suitable for mini-vans.
Check out this piece of conversation in Lonely Planet forum if you wanna know more.
You will definitely find this 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary useful!
Tips for Maximum Enjoyment
No matter which route you take, you wanna ensure that your ride is pleasant and comfortable. So, here are some tips you should bear in mind while taking the mini-van from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng.
- Remember to bring yourself a good quality plastic bag. It’s not for wrapping your water bottle, but to contain your puke, in case that happens.
- If you are aware that you’re not good with shaky and bumpy car rides, bring some motion sickness pills and consume them before you hop on the mini-van.
- Ask your hostel manager (or travel agency manager if you booked with them) on the order of passengers pickup by the driver. The earlier you board the mini-van, the better your chances of securing a good seat. The best choices would be the double seats on the left side of the van. Never pick the seats on the first row and the last row. The two rows in the middle are ideal.
- Your backpack might be squashed by other huge backpacks. The drivers have no mercy when it comes to squeezing backpacks, so don’t leave your valuable stuff or things you might need in your backpack!
- You’re very likely to share the mini-van together with those who are traveling to Vientiane. So, not all passengers are being dropped off at Vang Vieng.
Quick View on Vang Vieng
It left me a little ‘mind-opening’ when the driver dropped us off in Vang Vieng. There’s too much of a difference between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.
We spent our morning in the quiet, clean and developed Luang Prabang. And after a few hours ride, we’re at Vang Vieng with litters all over the road, heavy air pollution by dust, and holes on every meter of the road. I couldn’t even open my eyes wide open. (Even though my eyes were never wide open…)
Anyway, despite the pretty bad first impression Vang Vieng imposed on us, we enjoyed Vang Vieng more than Luang Prabang. There are a whole bunch of adventurous things to do in Vang Vieng.
To be frank, I could spend a week or two in Vang Vieng just to explore and digest everything.
If you arrived in Vang Vieng at noon, consider hiking Pha Poak Viewpoint, which is within walking distance from the Vang Vieng town area.
Here’s a guide for you if you’re planning to go tubing in Vang Vieng. Definitely check out my post on the things to do in Vang Vieng in the previous two paragraphs.
Among all the destinations I visited in Laos, I would say Vang Vieng left me with the most memories. I know you’ll enjoy Vang Vieng as much as I did, if not more than I did!
Now You Know How to Get From Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng
So that’s how you get from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. You don’t really need to book online tickets to do that, because you’ll save yourself some money and time if you booked with the instructions above. But if you insist to book online, then there’s no better platform than 12Go to get the best price for bus tickets! Anyway, I hope you find this article useful in planning your trip to Laos. Enjoy Laos, be safe, and happy traveling!