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Top 7 Tips for Tubing in Vang Vieng

Disclaimer: drinking and tubing in Vang Vieng is a dangerous combination which can result in injury and/or death, and shouldn’t be attempted by anybody – it is awesome fun though!

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Tubing, in case you didn’t know yet, is the act of going down a river on the inner tube of a tractor.

Now, I am considered to be something of a pro in the tubing circles, as I have now tubed on two continents. Coming to Vang Vieng after doing tubing in Guatemala (multiple times), I knew what to expect. And I was so wrong. Tubing in Lanquin was a simple thing, you got a tube, you got beers in a sack, you got a tuk-tuk to take you to the start of the river, and then you just enjoy the ride.

In Vang Vieng, you get your tube, you get a tuk-tuk to the river and then you party!

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So I’ve gathered here the top 7 tips for novice tubers in Vang Vieng:

1. It’s all about partying

It’s not so much about tubing as it is about partying. There are lot of bars along the river with the best ones at the beginning of the river. There are free shots of local whisky usually and cheap buckets. Lots of the bars also have rope swings and waterslides you can use to jump into the river. The rope swings are good fun!

When the time comes to move to the next bar, you get in the river on your tube, go along the current trying to steer and paddle to the next bar, but don’t worry, bars have people throwing ropes at the tubers, so they can then pull you in if you are in danger of missing the bar.

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2. Keep your common sense with you – It can be dangerous

This is Laos, so you can forget about health and safety. Lots of this stuff wouldn’t be allowed back home, which does make it fun. It’s like a waterpark, but for adults. However, with the free shots and buckets, common sense often goes out of the window or down the river in this case and people do injure themselves, and deaths are not unheard off. I woke up with quite a few impressive bruises of my own.

The risks come from using the rope swings and waterslides. Especially in the dry season the water is quite low, which means you might hit the rocks at the bottom of the river. In the rainy season the danger is more the amount of water going thru the river, which means the current is surprisingly strong. With some Dutch courage, people sometimes do stupid things and drown.

However, people should be allowed to do what they want, and if you get hurt, it is your fault! You decided to drink and tube, knowing it’s a dangerous combination, so you shouldn’t go crying about it!

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3. Get a waterproof pouch

You will get wet. End of discussion, but you can buy small waterproof pouches very cheaply in Vang Vieng to store your money. You can also buy bigger waterproof bags, which is what we did, but the bag wasn’t quite as waterproof as promised, and my trusty old ixus passed away after a few hours on the river as I poured half a liter of water out of the “waterproof bag”. It had served a long and distinguished career, so maybe it was time for it to go. RIP. I think it’s time for one of those new waterproof cameras.

I wouldn’t recommend taking anything else except enough cash to the river, leave that iPhone back to the hostel. That being said, on retrospective, the waterproof bag has proven to be pretty waterproof in normal conditions, so I think it just wasn’t designed with waterslides and rope swings in mind.

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4. You don’t need flip flops

You’ll mostly be in a bar or on your tube so there is no point bringing flip flops or shoes. They’ll just get lost in the river or in the bar, or you’ll just have to worry about them. So leave them at the guesthouse.

5. Don’t put on your best clothes

In one of the last bars everyone got spray painted, so well, I’m sure you can figure out from that. My boardies still have some red paint on them.

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6. Start around noon

You get your tube from one of the two tube places in town; it costs 60.000 Kip and includes a tuk-tuk to the river.

Most people start between noon and two o’clock. At this time you’ll have a party in the first two bars. Then you move to the next bar along with the other people. If you want to actually make it back to the town on your tube, then you want to make sure you get moving before it gets dark. There are three reasons for this, tubing in the night can be dangerous, you will be very drunk and lastly there won’t be any tubes left if you are the last to leave.

7. You don’t need a tube

There are two companies renting tubes in Vang Vieng, and at any time, only one of them will be open as they work in a cartel. Let me explain, to rent a tube costs 60.000 Kip, if you return it after six pm (which probably over half will do), you have to pay 20.000 Kip extra. And if you lose your tube you’ll have to pay 50.000 Kip extra, and of course there is a 50.000 deposit, so they will get their money from you.

Now, the 60.000 Kip rental for the tube is ridiculous and in no way justified, if there were free competition on the tube rental, the price would be around 15.000 Kip, as that it is what a tube rental costs in South Laos in Dot Det for example.

The first bars are really close to each other; you can get there with the tuk-tuk and just walk to the second bar or take the boat to the first one. After that, you can just tag along to someone else’s tube to float to the next one (or walk). And come back by tuk-tuk.

In Conclusion

So what I recommend, get a tube on the first night, do tubing, get back reasonably early so you still have your tube (and you can always then party back in town, plenty of places for that). Then go again next day, this time without the tube.

And if you get bored of tubing, there are also other things to do in Vang Vieng; like waterfalls and caves.

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Any other tips for tubing I’ve missed here?


  1. The tubing I could do — the drinking? Probably not — a little too old I think. :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Bizarre Sights of VietnamMy Profile

    • Come on man, age is just a number… I managed to do it 😉

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun!! I’d better do it before I get any older 😉
    Aleah | recently posted..Visit the Lonely Sentinels of the Sea in Northern PhilippinesMy Profile

    • It’s good fun! Definitely worth going 😉

  3. Hei mahtava blogi ja upeita kuvia! Jotain hyötyä saikkupäivästäkin, kun on aikaa surffata ja lueskella muiden reissuista samalla kun suunnittelee omaa. Nautihan Aasiasta!

    • Kiitos! toivottavasti saat hyviä ideoita reissuun! :)

  4. Mental. Have heard so many bad things about it but does look like fun!
    Cole @ Four Jandals recently posted..Bruges Cathedral – Weekly Hump Day PhotoMy Profile

    • It can be dangerous for sure, you do have to keep you wits with you, but it can also be great fun!

  5. I LOVED my tubing experience so much when I was in Laos last time. I even started a website about it. Ha!

    That bee alcohol stuff looks pretty mental, was it good? Have to keep my eyes open for that next time! Sorry to hear about the camera :(
    Stuart Edwards recently posted..5 Amazing Things to do in Laos!My Profile

    • The bee alcohol was pretty good actually, quite sweet, which I suppose isn’t that surprising!

      • I’ll have to get my hands on some next time. It looks like a bottle of chilli oil or something!

        Heading back to Vang Vieng in February – I literally can’t WAIT!
        Stuart Edwards recently posted..The Dangers of Tubing in Vang ViengMy Profile

  6. It is awesome! Top tips here, mate – everyone needs to keep their heads even just a little bit on the river.
    Simon recently posted..Chiang Rai has a beach?! (And wild weather)My Profile

    • Yeah, it’s good fun, but you better keep your wits with you! :)