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Vang Vieng

Health & safety

Dangers & annoyances

Drugs

With so many drugs washing around Vang Vieng it’s no surprise that the local police are particularly adept at sniffing out spliffs, especially late at night, and if you’re caught with a stash of marijuana (or anything else) it can be expensive. The normal practice is for police to take your passport and fine you US$500. If you don’t have much cash on you, you might be able to negotiate the fine downwards. But ultimately you have broken the law and will have to pay something. Don’t expect a receipt, and don’t bother calling your embassy.

If you must use opium, don’t mix it with too much else and certainly not with lime juice. We haven’t tested this theory (our dedication to research doesn’t go quite that far), but several Vang Vieng residents told us that at least one traveller has died after using opium and having an innocuous-sounding glass of lime juice! Sounds unlikely, but apparently/allegedly this mix has long been used by hill-tribe women who suicide as an ultimate act of protest against a bad husband.

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Most visitors leave Vang Vieng with nothing more serious than a hangover, but this tranquil setting is also the most dangerous place in Laos for travellers. At least five people have died around here in recent years from river accidents, drug misadventures and while caving. Theft can also be a problem, with fellow travellers often the culprits. Take the usual precautions and don’t leave valuables outside caves.

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