Long gone are the days of tubing in Vang Vieng you’ve probably heard stories about. The endless riverside bars, the neck-breaking slides and swings and the saddening amount of boozed up tourist deaths. It was no surprise that back in 2012 the government enforced a huge crackdown. All the bars bars, swings and slides were shut down and tubing on the river stopped. Well for a little while anyway.

Fast forward to today, tubing in Vang Vieng is alive and well again, and is something that still draws a lot of travellers to this little Laos town. In comparison with what I’ve read about pre-2012, I would say tubing is a slightly more chilled experience now. There are still bars, but less of them, and I wouldn’t say the emphasise is purely just on getting wasted, but enjoying time on the river too. Or maybe that’s just me getting old! So if you’re looking to go tubing in Vang Vieng, but aren’t sure how it all works, this short guide has everything you need to know.


Where do I rent a tube from?

There is only one place in town where you can rent a tube from now. As we did tubing on our last day in Vang Vieng we had walked past the shop a fair few times by then so knew where it was. But if you’re stuck as to where to go, the tubing shop is in the west side of town near the river, almost opposite from somewhere called Hallys Coffee. You can’t see it on google maps.

Tubing shop map Vang Vieng, Laos


How much does tubing cost?

As of September 2018, it costs 60,000 Kip (£5.40, $7) to rent the tube. Plus a 20,000 Kip (£1.80 $2.30) deposit which you’ll get back as long as you return your tube by 8 pm. If you’re not a strong swimmer you can also rent out a life jacket for an additional 20,000 Kip.

The rental cost also includes your tuk tuk ride 4 km out of town to the river. But only if there are 4 people or more. If there’s 3 people it’s 5,000 Kip per person, 2 people it’s 10,000 Kip per person or for 1 person it’s 20,000 Kip. When we went there was another couple also going tubing at the same time, so we just shared a tuk tuk with them.

However the tubing shop don’t rent out waterproof bags (we read they did), so either only bring things you don’t mind getting wet, or buy one of the bags from one of the many shops in town that sell them.


Are there any bars along the way anymore?

Yes, there are still bars along the river, but there can only be up to 4 open at a time. When we went our tuk tuk driver told us there were 3 bars open on that day. One at the beginning, one in the middle and Smile Beach Bar at the end. When we arrived at the tubing start point we actually took a little boat to the first one on the other side of the bank. With the other two bars, there are signposts over the river telling you which way to paddle. Once you’re approaching the bar people there will throw ropes out and pull you to shore.


How long does tubing take?

The overall time it takes depends on what time of year you go and how long you stay in the bars of course! We visited Vang Vieng at the end of the rainy season, so were told it would take 1 hour with no stops. However in dry season when the water is flowing much slower I imagine it could take double this time.


What time should you go tubing?

The tubing shop rents out tubes from 9 am – 4 pm. But if you want to spend time at each of the bars, then start between 1 pm – 3 pm. At this time the bars are usually busy and have more of a buzz to them. It is recommended that you finish tubing before sunset as the river becomes more dangerous when it’s dark. So if you are going tubing later make sure to bear this in mind.


Where does tubing end?

The last stop for tubing in Vang Vieng is Smile Beach Bar right in the centre of town. From there the tubing shop is around a 10 minute walk, so you can easily head back to return your tube after a few drinks at the bar.


What should I wear for tubing?

Although Laos is quite a conservative country, wearing your swimwear to go tubing is generally acceptable. However walking around town in your bikini or swimming shorts afterwards is not, so please don’t do it! Either take some clothes to wear afterwards in a waterproof bag or just do it in clothes you don’t mind getting wet.


Hopefully this guide has told you everything you need to know about tubing in Vang Vieng in 2018 and will help you plan it yourself too. Or if Vang Vieng doesn’t float your boat you can always check out Don Det and Don Khon in the 4000 islands, which are also great places for tubing and kayaking in Laos. Have you been tubing in Vang Vieng before? Let me know in the comments.


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