Tubing in Vang Vieng has been one of the must things to do in Vang Vieng. As the town slowly develops due to tourism, tubing has been the main activity among tourists in this slow-paced town. It’s fun, it’s cheap and adventurous. So if you’re planning to go tubing in Vang Vieng as well, here’s my experience and advice of it!
Vang Vieng is a little different than most people would imagine. I started my Laos backpacking trip in Luang Prabang, a clean and developed cultural town. And when I continued to Vang Vieng, it’s so much of a contrast. The sky full of dust, bumpy dirt roads with holes everywhere, everything here seems old and abandoned in some way.
But don’t let that fool you! If you were to ask me which town is the best for adventure lovers, Vang Vieng is the first place to come into my mind.
Ready? Let’s dive in and go tubing in Nam Song River in Vang Vieng!
Introduction To Vang Vieng Tubing Culture
So it all started in 1998 when a guy named Sorangkoun, an owner of a guesthouse and mulberry farms in Vang Vieng bought some inner tubes for his volunteers. It was described as a cheap and ecological way to sightsee Nam Song River. And boom, the tubing activity was noticed, and immediately made into a huge attraction and rocketed into the top thing to do in Vang Vieng.
Locals started up their own business, renting out tubes to foreigners who’re already been visiting Vang Vieng, Laos for years. Of course, at first, there are numerous fatal accidents occurrence related to tubing. People drowning due to alcohol or drug overdose, hitting their head while accidentally bumping into huge rocks underneath, all sorts of accidents.
It was a lawless town, with young foreigners from richer countries having a party and getting wasted in Vang Vieng. 1 liter of Lao-Lao whiskey only cost one euro back in those days. And Vang Vieng is one of the world’s largest opium den. It was chaotic, with the ratio of foreigners to locals peaked at 15 to 1.
But things have gotten better when the Lao authorities began to take actions, amended and enforced the laws there to make things right. And in 2019, things have actually gotten a lot better.
Safety measures were taken, elder travelers started visiting, huge Korean tourist groups started flocking in, and many more. These made Vang Vieng into one of the most traveler-friendly destinations in Laos, if not entire South East Asia.
If you want to know more, this post by The Guardian will tell you more about the history of Vang Vieng.
Editor’s Note: See how you can travel from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng by yourself here!
Our Arrival in Vang Vieng
So how was it when I visited?
First of all, if you still think Nam Song River tubing is full of drunk backpackers, sunbathing on the tube with a beer on their hand, nope, that culture was long gone.
Of course, you’ll still find people like them in Vang Vieng but due to the wide variety of travelers there, you’ll meet a different kind of foreigners. Elder travelers, young Asian backpackers, Korean tour groups, and even small tour groups from Southeast Asian countries.
The tourism in Vang Vieng is dominated by Korean tour groups to the point that you’ll even find some shops with only the Korean language, with no Lao or English language at all.
But anyway, I never thought I’ll be going for tubing in Vang Vieng when I was traveling in Luang Prabang. From all the information I found online, tubing seems to be some activities for drunk people, and it just doesn’t click with me.
When I arrived at Vang Vieng and checked into Faraway Suites (the best dorm hostel in town!), I noticed the advertisement on the reception counter. Tubing for 3 hours for only 60,000 Kip per person? You’ve gotta be kidding me, I thought it was way more expensive than that.
Not only that, but there are also free ziplines, free safety jackets and a free whiskey bucket for a group of 4. And we had a group of 4 so we didn’t take much time before signing up for the tubing tour in the morning on the next day.
We were super excited.
Check out this 3 days Vang Vieng itinerary to plan your visit!
My Tubing Experience in Vang Vieng
Our tubing tour was at 8.30 am, but we were disappointed that they did not come on time. They were late for an hour, with a tuk-tuk and sleepy faces.
The guy later told me most travelers don’t go tubing in these early hours in the morning. I was curious, wasn’t the weather at its best in the morning? (That is, if you were not late…)
So after the tuk-tuk picked up the tubes from the warehouse, we journeyed through the dusty, bumpy dirt roads for 20 minutes, all the way north to a quiet riverside with a herd of cows drinking water from the river.
I guessed that was our starting point, but the thing that turned me off was the cow peeing into the river. I was like “Can you don’t do that in front of me? Do it somewhere else!”
But I understand, we’re interrupting them.
Anyway, we were quickly briefed about the safety measures and one-by-one, we took off from the riverside on our tubes, with a Laotian guide leading the way.
I wondered if he’s enjoying his job or not, since spending hours under the hot sun every day just doesn’t sound fun to me. But he seems to be enjoying it. Cool.
Check out this post if you love visiting or photographing waterfalls!
We were told that we will be tubing for an hour, but it took 1.5 hours in the end. I was a little ignorant (my bad) and didn’t put on any sunscreen. Ended up pretty badly, with sunburns all over my exposed skin.
Talk about regretting…
There are lots of things to be seen along Nam Song River. A herd of buffalos chilling themselves in the cool river, some collapsed wooden bars, construction of China-Laos railway, and tall trees along the way.
Splashing the river water to my friends was super fun until they took their revenge.
Oh ya, regarding the construction of the China-Laos railway, we noticed that the workers are directing the wastewater from the construction site into the river. That’s when we stopped splashing or cooling our body with the river water. Yucks.
The water was cool in January, almost as cold as the water in Blue Lagoon 1 & Blue Lagoon 3.
We did not stop all the way until the bar at the end of our tubing journey, after 1.5 hours. There were only two bars open. There was a zip-line, and we got our free whiskey bucket there, with a menu with lots of cheap Lao foods. We enjoyed ourselves a lot there, all of us 4 never tried zip-lining!
How Much It Costs For Tubing in Vang Vieng?
There are a lot of tubing offices in Vang Vieng so you might not always find the best deals. Some companies offer tubing tours up to 3 hours non-stop, but we decided that it was too long for us. We made the right choice.
For tubing over 3 hours, be prepared to pay over 100,000 Kip per person. And if you’re not sure, always ask, as some companies include the free time you have at the final stop.
Most tours include free-ziplining due to the strong competition there. But still, you still have to ask.
Basically, what you have to make sure is that:
- The tour includes zip-lining
- Safety jackets are provided at no additional cost
- Free whiskey bucket (for some who wanna try the Lao whiskey)
- Tuk-tuk transportation service, a lot of companies do not include the transportation cost in the package fee
What to Bring For Tubing?
For tubing in Vang Vieng, you basically do not have to bring lots of stuff because you simply couldn’t carry all of them onto the tubes. And it’s not safe to leave your belongings inside the tuk-tuk or with the company.
If it’s your first time tubing, here a list of things you should bring:
- Dry bag. I recommend bringing your own, but if you don’t have one, some companies will provide them with a small fee.
- Sunscreen. Extremely important because you’ll be exposed to the strong sun at all times. Sunburns will definitely ruin your next few days so don’t be as ignorant as I was.
- GoPro. Bringing your smartphone onto the tubes doesn’t sound wise because one mistake and your phone will be gone. If you’re bringing a GoPro, make sure it’s hosted with a floating accessory.
- Sunglasses to protect your eyes from the strong sun, as you will be facing the sky when you lie down on the tube.
Ready to go tubing?
Are you excited to go tubing in Vang Vieng? Hopefully, the travel tips above will be useful for your trip planning in Vang Vieng. I hope to hear from you again through the comments after you tried the activity! As usual, have a great day and happy traveling! If you’re up for hiking, then check out Pha Poak Viewpoint! And if you’re heading to Vientiane soon, check out this one-day itinerary!