Originally published on 9 Feb 2017. Updated on 27 May 2018.
Hot air ballooning was always a faraway bucket list item, something I’d do when I had lots of spare cash because let’s face it, it’s hard to justify paying $350USD for a 40-minute ride when my frugal self usually tosses up between a $2 or $3 dinner option.
You can imagine my joy when I learned that the world’s cheapest hot air balloon was in Vang Vieng, Laos. I knew then that I had to do it. We spent a few days talking to different companies and sussing out everything you need to know about organising your hot air balloon ride.
- Cheapest hot air balloon in Vang Vieng
- How much is a hot air balloon ride in Vang Vieng?
- What if I’m scared of heights?
- Is the hot air balloon ride worth it?
- What do I need to bring?
- What can I expect?
Cheapest hot air balloon in Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng Balloons is the only hot air ballooning company in Vang Vieng (at the time of writing). It offers hot air balloon rides, paramotoring and bus/minivan tickets out of Vang Vieng. Other tour companies selling hot air balloon prices are middlemen so they slap on their service charge.
It was a bit of work to find the company since it’s not publicly listed anywhere. See the embedded map below for the location. There’s a desk with some banners advertising a few different tours.
Chansouk is the main guy running things on the ground and we found him extremely helpful. He also speaks great English and is open to negotiating prices. Bookings for the following day usually aren’t a problem.
Vang Vieng Balloons
Times for ballooning: 6:30am, 4pm and 4:30pm (additional times depending on season)
How much is a hot air balloon ride in Vang Vieng?
Vang Vieng Balloons charges $90 USD (formerly $80 USD). Tour companies sell the hot air balloon ride as an intermediary so they also charge a commission. The cheapest rate you’ll find is the company directly and we recommend you to chat to Vang Vieng Balloons about discounts for larger groups.
What if I’m scared of heights?
I usually experience extreme physiological effects when my fear of heights is triggered. I get sweaty palms and tingles from my feet. My heart starts racing and everything starts to feel numb. It was really interesting that I didn’t feel any of these sensations during the balloon ride. I think this is attributed to the extremely slow floating and the basket being quite high. Also, the impressive views can be quite the distraction.
Is the hot air balloon ride worth it?
Absolutely. It was quite a surreal experience and getting a full bird’s eye view is really cool. If you’re after a ride with a lot of balloons in the sky, this isn’t the place. It isn’t going to look like photos in Turkey or Myanmar. At any time, you’ll only ever see a maximum of 2 other balloons in the sky.
With the lowest pricing point for this activity, it’s definitely the backpacker’s version of a luxury balloon ride. We felt safe the entire ride and really enjoyed the beautiful views of Vang Vieng. Going at sunrise is the better option as the afternoon rides are a bit too early for sunset.
What do I need to bring?
Clothing: Even though the morning can be a little cold, don’t dress for it. By the time you’re done, the sun will be warm so you just need a long sleeve or thin jacket.
Shoes: anything. I wore my thongs.
Camera: Since you’re getting a great aerial view, you don’t necessarily need something too wide. Your phone camera will suffice but if you want something to capture you in the hot air balloon, we recommend getting a GoPro and a selfie stick (yes, a selfie stick).
What can I expect?
This is what our experience was like. We arranged for a sunrise ride which meant an early morning wake up at 5:30 am. We were picked up by a tuk-tuk at 6 am and sped through the empty roads of Vang Vieng. We arrived to see the balloons being laid out on the ground.
Being the Lunar New Year, all the balloons are jam-packed. The first balloon leaves the ground at 6:30 am. We decide to go in the last balloon so that we have time to take photos and film the balloons over Vang Vieng.
As soon as the first balloon was set up, there was a lot of yelling. Random people were getting pulled into the balloon so our advice is that you decide which balloon you want to be in, grab your group and be ready to go. By 7 am, we had taken off and were in the sky within a couple of minutes.
Soaring through the sky in a hot air balloon
I am surprised that my fear of heights didn’t get triggered. We were 600m high but I didn’t feel the tiniest bit of anxiety. Rather, it was as if I was on a plane, slowly and calmly moving through the sky. Between snapping photos and filming, I enjoyed a few moments just appreciating the 360-degree view of Vang Vieng lit up by the sun’s glow and a haze softening the light. My moment was abruptly interrupted by continuous blasts of fire – no one tells you how loud this is. Regardless, soaring through the sky in a balloon is just pretty damn awesome.
We descended after 40 minutes, sweeping above the houses in the town below us. It felt like we were skimming the roofs and could touch them. We brushed past a tree and a team is ready below to catch the balloon. The held it down with their weight as we were told to jump at as quickly as possible for another group to jump in.
By 8:00 am, we were back in Vang Vieng, happy to have enjoyed quite a magical experience.
Now I get what the fuss is all about.
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Be sure to check out this post if you’re backpacking around Laos for some tips and trip ideas.
We hope that if you’re planning a trip to South East Asia, you make time for Laos and a hot air balloon ride. Let us know in the comments if you’ve enjoyed this experience before or if it’s something you’d be interested in doing!
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