Alright, you’ve made your mind up and have chosen to witness the absurdness firsthand. How do you get there? It’s not easy, and the journey will be long, but the debauchery that awaits will be more than worth it.
Get to Laos
Laos is located smack in the center of Southeast Asia, landlocked by Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar. Most travel to Laos as part of a larger trip through the region and use an airport outside of the country for their connecting long haul flights. Bangkok (BKK) is the most convenient, but its also possible to fly into Hanoi (HAN) or Saigon (SGN) or others.
Once you’re in the region you need to set your course for Vang Vieng, Laos. There area number of choices depending on your time frame and budget.
Fly to Luang Prabang or Vientiene
By far the easiest and most comfortable option, short flights from any of the surrounding countries will save you a ton of time on buses, trains or boats and shouldn’t break your budget if you stick to Asia’s many budget airlines. I suggest checking Skyscanner since they include the budget airlines in their searches.
Coming from Bangkok, Thailand
Buses and trains connect Bangkok to Vientiane daily. Both options take around 11-12 hours so you’ve been forewarned. Buses leave from the Northern Bus terminal and trains can be booked online at http://www.railway.co.th
Coming from Chiang Mai, Thailand
From Thailand’s largest city in the north you’ll have a few options to choose from. It’s possible to book each leg on your own or to go through a travel agency or your guesthouse and save you the hassle. Buses go from Chiang Mai to the Laos border town of Huay Xai. From there you can bus your way through the winding mountains of Northern Laos, or, a far more common option, take a slowboat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang. Your choice.
Coming from Hanoi, Vietnam
If you’re coming overland from Hanoi, you have some long bus rides ahead of you. Direct buses can be booked in Hanoi to either Luang Prabang or Vientiene, but times will vary. People have reported anywhere from 24 to 30 hr trips so hunker down for the long haul.
A Visa on Arrival can be obtained at the border or airport and should run somewhere around $30, depending on your nationality. For some reason, Laos took after South Park and hates Canadian (they pay more). Bring 2 passport sized photos and US Dollars in order to save some extra money.
Home Stretch to Vang Vieng
From Luang Prabang or Vientiene, you’ll need to catch a bus or minibus the rest of the way. The road from Luang Prabang can take anywhere from 7 to 11 hours through winding mountain roads. Those susceptible to motion sickness should take caution. Vientiene, on the other hand, is a little closer with a estimated time of 3-4 1/2 hours and the road much more flat. Tickets can be bought at the bus stations, at any travel agency or through most guesthouses.