Against a backdrop of jungle-clad karst and vivid-green rice paddies, the mountain town of Vang Vieng, in Laos, has shaken off its past reputation for unbridled backpacker excess. Yet, it remains an active traveller destination par excellence – from exploring limestone caves and tubing on the slow-flowing Nam Song River to rappelling down waterfalls, swimming in the Blue Lagoon and rock climbing, outdoor adventures abound. Good budget accommodation is just as plentiful – book the best hostels here via Culture Trip.
Just metres away from popular restaurants and bars, this three-storey hostel is at the north end of town, right on the busy main street. The comfort of its guests is paramount at this crimson-walled, stylish place: there are personal reading lights and power sockets, plus a women-only dorm and a 24-hour desk ready to book your next outdoor adventure. The guest lounge with pool table and table football adds to the sociable vibe without it being a crush-a-beer-can-against-your-forehead party hostel.
Despite the name, the atmosphere at this abode is anything but regimental – see the mural-bedecked common areas, where guests gather to strum guitars, hold impromptu singalongs or trade travel tips. Bicycles dangle from the ceiling in the breezy restaurant area, where guests queue up for the complimentary buffet breakfast. Here, the former-restaurateur-turned-hostel-owner dishes up an Italian-Vietnamese melange during the day and free vodka shakes come happy hour. Private rooms vary. Some are windowless, while those looking out over green spaces get snapped up very quickly; book ahead.
Its name notwithstanding, this four-storey hotel at the north end of town is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the main shopping street and bars and restaurants in the centre, and it’s particularly convenient for Vang Vieng bus station. The monochrome rooms, arranged around a large outdoor pool with whirlpool tub, range from doubles to more spacious affairs aimed at families of four. A multi-bed dorm (with lockers and privacy curtains) accommodates backpackers, who get access to all hotel facilities.
A block from the river, this wallet-friendly Art-Deco hotel comprises a selection of voguish, spacious rooms, largely shielded from street noise in spite of its location on the bustling main street. Appealing touches include Lao textiles on beds, walk-in rain showers, parquet floors and a large outdoor pool. The staff are welcoming and very responsive, and proximity to a clutch of restaurants is a bonus. Top tip: ask about the rooms with mountain views from their balconies; they are well worth the extra splurge.
If the motorcycle fumes of central Vang Vieng and the late-night karaoke serenades in the bars do not appeal, this boutique hotel overlooking a citrus-green pool is an excellent alternative. Run by siblings, it exudes a minimalist aesthetic: tiled rooms look out either over the countryside or the inner courtyard. The placement of the property, across the river from town, means a few minutes’ extra walk when you’re in search of somewhere for dinner, but the tranquil setting makes it worthwhile, and there’s an excellent restaurant on site.
This serene hotel stands amidst lush tropical gardens of orchids and bougainvillea on the town side of the river. Its fan-cooled pink adobe bungalows all look good, with dark-wood floors and furnishings, snug interiors and mosquito nets. The al fresco restaurant serves a fine mix of French and Lao dishes with a side order of river views, while the terrace is a favourite for sundowners as well as people-watching, as frequent boat tours depart from in front of the hotel.
Walk through the manicured grounds of this elegant French colonial property at twilight in order to properly appreciate the misty karst views from the pool sundeck. Tranquillity reigns in the high-ceilinged lodgings, each room tastefully decorated with hand-embroidered textiles and artefacts from Laos’ ethnic groups; the suites do the trick with wrap-around balconies and river views. Traditional Lao dishes and local coffee are stars at the on-site restaurant, and you can soak away the day’s adventures at the traditional herbal spa.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Regina Beach.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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