Phong Nha, Vietnam | Travel Guide
I discovered Phong Nha on my second trip to Vietnam, and I was only sorry that I didn’t discover it earlier. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003, the Phong Nha National Park is home of some of the largest caves in the world. And these caves are the reason why thousands of tourists go there annually. The park is relatively recent. It only began being explored by specialists in 1990 and was only open to the public in 2010. Since then, they have discovered caves so big that a full Manhattan city block, filled with skyscrappers, would fit in it. Three days is the perfect amount of time you would need to spend in Phong Nha, in order to discover its famous caves and appreciate the peaceful environment and breathtaking sceneries.
Check out this post for more info on Vietnam: Vietname | Guia e Dicas de Viagem
The Phong Nha National Park is located in the Wuang Binh province, about 298 miles south from Hanoi.
How to get to Phong Nha
There are 2 ways for you to get to Phong Nha: by bus or by train. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Here is some information about each one for you to be able to chose the one that suits you the best.
Whenever you can, chose the night buses. These allow you to travel during the night, while saving some money on accommodation somewhere. The night buses (or “sleeper buses”) depart from all the main cities in Vietnam allowing you to discover the whole country. They offer free wi-fi (sometimes…) and wc. You can even chose to acquire an Open Bus Tour ticket through one of the many travel agencies scattered throughout the country (online or in person). This ticket allows you to hop off the bus in any destination included in the itinerary, where Phong Nha is usually included. Whenever you feel like moving on to the next destination, just inform the travel agency 24 hours earlier.
So that you can have an idea: a night bus trip from Hanoi to Phong Nha takes about 10 hours and may cost around 300.000 VND, and from Hue to Phong Nha takes 5 hours and costs around 180.000 VND. I recommend that you check locally with a few travel agencies in order to get the best possible price.
The train ride is considerably more comfortable than the bus trip and it takes approximately the same amount of time as the bus. But, in reality, it isn’t that practical and it’s more expensive. The train stops in Dong Hoi, about 27 miles from Phong Nha. A train ticket from Hanoi to Dong Hoi is around 360.000 VND a 800.000 VND. You may chose from standard seats, hard sleepers (6 berths cabins) or soft sleepers (4 bed cabins and more comfortable mattresses, but more expensive, of course). One of the websites through which you can get the tickets is 12go.asia.
A taxi from Phong Nha to Dong Hoi is around 500.000 VND for a private car, 250.000 VND for 2 people, 175.000 VND for 3 people and 125.000 for 4 or more people.
Accommodation in Phong Nha
Phong Nha is a small village located at the entrance of the National Park and it’s the preferred accommodation place for most of its visitors. You can chose between a large variety of accommodation: hostels, guesthouses, hotels and even farmstays.
When I visited, I stayed at Duong Homestay, which I recommend. The rooms are basic, with a private bathroom, but comfortable. The view is amazing and the (cheap) price already includes breakfast.
One of the most famous hostels here (if not the most famous) is Easy Tiger Hostel. People that have stayed there say that the rooms are comfortable, and for what I saw when I was there, it looks like the perfect place to get to know other travellers (backpackers mostly) in case you’re into the whole party scene. I went there to have dinner and have a beer twice and I definitely recommend the vegetarian hamburger (delicious!!).
Check out mor accommodation options in Phong Nha here:
What to do in Phong Nha
Well, actually, caves, caves, and more caves to visit! But there are some places beyond caves worth visiting. To discover all these places it’s important that you rent a motorbike to be able to roam around freely. The rental price for a motorbike per day is around 80.000 VND to 100.000 VND. In case you don’t feel like riding a motorbike, you can always buy some tours that will take you around the park. I personally prefer to be as independent as I can, without any schedules! Below you’ll find a description of several worth visiting spots in Phong Nha as well as a map with their exact location.
Phong Nha Cave
The Phong Nha Cave is the cave that is closer to town and may be discovered by boat. When the boat gets to a certain point inside the cave you hop off to walk around. The tour takes 2,5 to 3 hours. You can buy the tickets for the boat and for the cave itself at the Visitors Center, a short distance away from the center of the village.
Boat ticket: 360.000 VND (to make it cheaper it’s better to find more people to share the boat with) | Cave entrance ticket: 150.000 VND
Dark Cave (Hang Toi)
Visiting the Dark Cave means that you’ll have to be ready for some zip-lining, kayaking and walking around in your bathing suit, inside a completely dark cave, where the only light illuminating the way is on a flashlight strapped to your helmet. Halfway in, you discover that the floor and the walls are filled with mud! It’s a great and sometimes weird experience, but really worth it.
Ticket: 450.000 VND (from 03/15 to 09/15) / 250.000 VND (from 09/16 to 03/14). The price includes the entrance ticket, safety equipment such as helmet, harness and more, kayak ride, zip-line, mud bath inside the cave and insurance.
It’s a long way from the cave’s enclosed area to the entrance itself. Reaaaally long. You can always pay 60.000 VND and take a ride on a buggy all the way to the top, but a little exercise never really hurt anybody, did it? The cave was discovered in 2005 and stretches for 19 miles, although most visitors only have access to 0,62 miles. You can always buy a special tour that gives you a more privileged view of the cave, allowing you to walk through 4 miles, dive into a subterranean river and have lunch. You can actually buy this tour through Phong Nha Farmstay for 2.650.000 VND for a minimum of 2 people.
Ticket: 250.000 VDN | Motorbike parking: 5.000 VND
Son Doong Cave
The largest and most recent discovery at the Phong Nha National Park. Son Doong Cave is considered to be the larget cave in the world, and some say that a whole Manhattan city block would fit in it. In case you have the budget for it, you can actually buy a 5 day tour, for 66.000.000 VND (around $3.000) with Oxalis Adventure Tours.
Only a few miles away from Phong Nha you find the Botanical Garden. A small lagoon where you can go for a dive, varied flora and a waterfall are the Garden’s main attractions. I must confess it didn’t really wow me but it was worth the visit.
Ticket: 40.000 VND
The Pub with the Cold Beer
The Pub with the Cold Beer is hidden among small villages that surround Phong Nha. As the name itself implies, cold beer is something to be found here, which you can enjoy while laying on one of its hammocks and enjoying the magnificent view from there. One other special feature for this Pub is the fact that you can actually chose and, if you’re willing to do it, kill a chicken for your lunch. I must confess that I went for vegetables when I was there… At the Easy Tiger Hostel you’ll find maps with its exact location.
Wild Boar Eco-Lodge
The Wild Boar Eco-Lodge is a farm in the middle of nowhere where you go to have something to eat and have a cold beer, while laying on a hammock and enjoying a fabulous view over the Bung River. The farm’s owners raise wild boars (hence the name), and you can tour the property if you like. You can access the farm by motorbike through a bumpy road (the access is easier during the dry season) or by boat which you can hop on next to the Pepperhouse Homestay. You can also check out the exact location at one of the Easy Tiger Hostel‘s maps.
I hope this travel guide helps you to discover Phong Nha. Have a nice trip! 🙂