Going river tubing in Vang Vieng has since long been one of the most popular activities for backpackers in Laos. While tubing was notorious for it’s alcohol-drenched dying tourists (27 dead in 2011 alone!) back in the day, it is a different story now. The government has taken strict measurements to make this activity more safe and assure you’re still having a good dose of fun. They removed the dangerous swings, zip lines and decreased the amount of bars open by the river throughout the day.
Nowadays, tubing can now be enjoyed by almost anyone and it’s a lot of fun whether you decide to take it easy or get mildly hammered.
Tubing in Vang Vieng – The Basics and When to Start
Tubing is literally an activity, where you put on your swimsuit and ride a river in a tube. Well, that’s the scaled down version of it. In Laos, it means tubing down the river, stopping by river bars and drinking beer from about 11am to 8pm. So eat a big breakfast, apply some sunscreen, buy a few cans and head down the office. You won’t need any fancy camera gear for this one, just your phone or GoPro. It’s a perfect way to either relax all day or get hammered. We chose the relax part with a few beers.
Start at 11am. It took us 5 hours to tube down the river, with two stops included. The first at a bar, where we played beer pong and the second for lunch. The time on river depends on the season (stream) and how many stops you will make. But count on this being a minimum of 2 hours activity.
Keep in mind that you can have this experience with either Yellow tubing or a Red tubing. We did the yellow one since it’s the fun, bar hopping one. Red is more calm and family friendly, but also makes for a slightly duller experience. I think Yellow is not so extreme anymore, so this is what I would personally recommend.
How to find a tubing place
Once arriving to Vang Vieng, you definitely see a few signs for tubing offers at various offices. We made our arrangements directly with the hotel, that way the pick-up service was free and took us straight to the tubing office on the day of the activity. If you decide to look around yourself, just walk on the main street and ask at various tourist offices. We booked an hour before leaving, at 10am.
The hotel arranged for us to go tubing with what might be called ‘Interesting River Tube’. Not sure of the name, you will see Laos is still a little unorganized. You won’t see this marked on a Google Map, but I will show you the exact location on the marker below. It is just opposite of Roung Nakhon Palance and next to a M Mart. I would recommend them, the price was good and the service straight-forward.
How much does it cost
Pick up from hotel and the ride to the river was free of charge when booking through this place. After you are finished tubing, you can opt to walk back to the tubing office or take a tuktuk for up to 20,000 kip. We decided to walk, since it was only about 15 minutes.
- Tube Rental: 60,000 kip per person ($7 USD)
- Tube Deposit: 60,000 kip per person ($7 USD) which will be refunded if you return the tube by 8 PM. We didn’t have to put any deposit down though, this possibly depends on the amount of people renting for the day.
What to bring tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos
Bring as little as possible. Keep in mind that whatever you bring will get wet, unless you have a dry bag.
- Copy of your Passport – we took a photo of the passport on our phone and showed them. They only need the passport number.
- Dry Bag or Waterproof Phone Pouch – we had just a small waterproof proof phone pouch and in there we kept the phone and cash.
- Cash – Take enough to pay for the tubing and whatever you plan on spending on drinks and food while on the river.
- Sun protection – You will float down a river in sun for the most part of the day, so make sure you don’t get a terrible burn!
- Swimsuit – this might be an obvious one, but we did see people who came wearing regular clothes. I had shorts with me (which I expected to get wet) to put on for the walk back in town. You don’t want to be one of those tourists who struts around the town in bikinis. It’s not cool and the locals hate it.
- Beers – while the bars are fun, it’s even more fun to just bring a few of your own cans and open them while tubing. Bring a plastic bag for trash with you, it’s not cool to throw things in the river.
Remember to have fun when you go tubing in Vang Vieng in Laos, but don’t go to any extremes. At the end of the day you are on a river and no immediate help can come there if anything happens. Drink responsibly and within your own limits.