On all our trips to Vietnam over the years Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park had somehow eluded us. Once we finally made the trip, we took a look around and couldn’t believe we hadn’t visited sooner! The landscape is straight out of a dream with massive mountains that stretch along the river, bright green rice paddies for as far as you can see, and deep sprawling caves below the earth. Now we can honestly say a trip to Vietnam won’t be complete with going to Phong Nha-Ke Bang! Below we breakdown how to get to Phong Nha, the best adventures without a tour guide, and all the epic things to do outside of the famous Vietnam caves.
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How to Get to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha is located in Central Vietnam. The two closest major tourist hubs from here are Ninh Binh and Hanoi in the north, and Hue to the south.
What typically deters travelers from making the trip to this part of Vietnam is how far out of the way it is from the other travel destinations.
For example, when going from Hue to Hanoi by flight, train, or overnight bus, you’re actually skipping out on what we consider one of the most beautiful areas.
So whether you’re traveling north or south through Vietnam let us breakdown below how to get to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
→ Traveling in Vietnam: Pros & Cons of the 5 Best Travel Options
Bus to Phong Nha Vietnam
Traveling to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park by bus is the most popular and direct route while also being the cheapest option.
Buses take around 5 hours from Hue, 10 hours from Ninh Binh, and cost roughly $13-18 USD. Most backpackers opt for an overnight bus which is unlike any other way to travel in Vietnam.
Train to Phong Nha Vietnam
Taking the train is a great option over the bus, but it comes with a warning. The prices vary dramatically depending on the class and cart you book. Also, the train station is in Dong Hoi so you have to factor in a 500,000 VND hour long taxi ride to Phong Nha from there.
Flight to Phong Nha Vietnam
You should know there is also a small airport in Dong Hoi near the train station. At the time of writing this there are direct flights daily from Hanoi. However, if you want to continue south by flight you will have to actually return to Hanoi, and then proceed from there.
Motorbike to Phong Nha Vietnam
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is a popular stop for travelers riding a motorbike from the north to the south of the country. It is said that between Hue and Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is one of the most beautiful rides in Vietnam.
Where To Stay In Phong Nha National Park
Ultra Luxury – Victory Road Villas – Set right on the river, these beautiful villas are the most upscale place to stay in Phong Nha National Park. Each room is built with western design and a flair of local tradition.
Fun Vacation – Phong Nha Farmstay – This one of a kind accommodation is located just outside of town in a secluded part of Phong Nha. Here you can enjoy the beautiful scenery, on-site restaurant, and free bicycles.
Budget Travel– Diep Le Homestay – This was where we stayed before our journey to Phong Nha Cave! Diep Le gives you a front row view at breakfast to the gorgeous river, and also has rooms facing the mountainside to the back. The staff is super friendly and is more than willing to set up any activities or tours for you.
Hostel Stay – Central Backpackers Hostel – If hostels are your thing then you’ll love the atmosphere at Central Backpackers! The property features hammocks, a pool, full bar, and is the perfect jump off point to all the famous caves in Vietnam.
What to Do in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
You could easily spend days, if not weeks exploring Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park! Honestly, after four adventure packed days we left still feeling like there was so much to see and do. Below we will go over the different Vietnam cave tours, and best things to do in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.
Guided Tours vs. Self-Exploration
There is a common misconception that you can only experience Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park on an organized tour. While it is true that there are some caves that you need to hire a guide to visit, that isn’t true for all of them.
We recommend exploring for a few days on your own before shelling out $100+ USD for a one day tour. That is unless there is a specific cave that you can’t do on your own. If you are interested in guided Vietnam cave tours we heard great things about the company Jungle Boss.
Tips for Visiting Phong Nha Vietnam
1. Due to its remote location you should plan to spend at least 2 to 3 days exploring Phong Nha.
2. Make sure to have an international drivers license as well as your home countries license when renting a motorbike in Vietnam. It is not uncommon for travelers to be stopped and checked, and you risk paying a hefty fine if you don’t have the right paperwork.
3. Fill up your tank when leaving Phong Nha village as there is no gas in the park. If you’re close to running out your best option is to head to Paradise Cave and try to buy a bottle of gas from one of the vendors.
4. Ask your accommodation for a map of the area to get a better understanding of the park.
5. Always have cash on you to pay for your park entrance fees. There are several ATM’s located in Phong Nha town.
Inside Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is free to enter and drive around. From Phong Nha Village you can loop through the park while stopping at the different attractions.
The entire loop from town is 65 km (40 miles) and is doable in either direction. Again, to go inside the park is free. However, you will have to pay individual entrance fees for each place you stop and see.
Cost: 450,000 VND / $19 USD
Time Needed: 1.5 Hours
As one of the most popular caves in the area, Phong Nha’s Dark Cave is perfect for adventures lovers.
If you couldn’t guess the name comes from the fact that there are no lights inside the cave to illuminate it. Unlike other Vietnam cave tours, the only only source of light is natural inside here.
This is the most expensive cave that you can visit without a guide, but it’s well worth the price of admission. Get ready to zip-line into the cave, kayak through, and even get a little wet!
Visit early to avoid the tour groups and make sure not to take any valuables with you inside.
Nuoc Moc Eco Trail
Cost: 180,000 VND / $8 USD
Time Needed: 1 Hour+
Take a relaxing walk through nature as you explore Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park on the Nuoc Moc Eco Trail. Wooden walkways, small trails, and pure nature is what you’ll find on this gorgeous stroll.
You can pack your own lunch or grab food at the open air restaurant. Also, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit on a hot day so you can jump into the cool river.
Cost: 250,000 VND / $11 USD
Time Needed: 2-3 Hours
Out of all the self-guided Vietnam cave tours and things to do in Phong Nha, Paradise Cave was our favorite! The cave is massive and none of the photos we saw prior did it any justice.
Walking on the long planked walkway only made us question the size of Hang Son Doong Cave which is also located in Phong Nha Vietnam.
Seriously… If Paradise Cave is this big then what does the largest cave in the world look like? If you decide to visit here make sure you’re ready for a solid 2-3 hour workout.
The climb to Paradise Cave is an endless series of steps, ramps, and exploring in the most active way possible.
→ Paradise Cave Vietnam: How to See the Epic Caves in Phong Nha
Cost: 40,000 VND / $1.70 USD
Time Needed: 1+ Hours
Take a stroll through nature and dip in the fresh water at the Botanical Gardens in Phong Nha Vietnam. This is the perfect place to slow down and really enjoy your surroundings.
You can choose a quick 40 minute walk through the jungle, or go as far as a three hour trek. When the weather is in your favor and the streams aren’t dried out you will also find beautiful waterfalls along the way.
Phong Nha Cave
Cost: 150,000 VND / $6.50 USD + Boat Cost
Time Needed: 2.5-3.5 Hours
While Phong Nha Cave is inside the national park the only way to access it is by boat from the center of Phong Nha Village. This is one of the most popular things to do in Phong Nha as it is perfect even for families with young kids.
When booking your tickets choose between a one, or two cave tour combined with Dong Tien Son. The tour starts out with an amazing 40 minute boat ride down the river in between the mountains.
You’ll then enter Phong Nha wet cave by boat and float right through the miraculous rock formations! If you choose to do the second cave as well then you’ll have to make the climb up the 500+ steps to Dong Tien Son.
Assuming you have an extra hour in your day doing both caves is definitely worth it! They’re located right next to each other, and are both completely different and unique experiences.
→ Paradise Cave Vietnam: How to See the Epic Caves in Phong Nha
Exploring In & Around Phong Nha Village
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and its tremendous caves might have been what brought you to this part of Vietnam. Yet, you should know there are plenty of other things to do in Phong Nha outside of the park!
When the sun starts to give way in the late afternoon it’s the perfect time to jump on a motorbike, and catch a different glimpse of the country. Here’s a breakdown of the rest of Phong Nha Vietnam and what to expect on your visit.
Phong Nha Village
This is the main part of town with stores, restaurants, and plenty of bars to enjoy. The boat jump off for the Vietnam cave tours is from the village as well as everything else you may need.
North of the River
Not many travelers venture to the north of the river when looking for things to do in Phong Nha, but it’s an awesome place to explore. Hop on a motorbike and spend a few hours weaving between the local villages and cornfields of Phong Nha Vietnam.
South of the River
To the south you can ride freely and even off the main road into the rice paddies. It was on a random night here that we came across one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen in Vietnam!
Bong Lai Valley
Just 10km outside of the main town sits Bong Lai Valley. This area is up and coming for travelers, offering everything from the Dong Soi Agritourism Farm to the Duck Shop, and the small but rightfully named “Pub with Cold Beer.”
Two Epic Sunset Spots
Hands down, two of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve EVER seen were in Phong Nha Vietnam. For the first one head to the river where home stays, small pop-up bars, and snack shops fill the river bank. Here you can watch the sun set over the bright green mountains.
Our second favorite spot was outside of town in front of Palafita Bungalow. From this angle you’ll be able to catch the sunset over the endless rice paddies with the mountains in the distance!
Have any questions about how to get to Phong Nha, or want to give more advice about Vietnam cave tours to future travelers? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this post!
Brigitte & Jake
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Check out all our Vietnam articles to help plan your trip! We cover everything from the best Vietnamese food to 50 travel tips & how to get around. You can also find our Northern Vietnam and Southern itineraries as well as an amazing 1 month route!
Vietnam Travel Planning
Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Vietnam!
Flights: For cheap flight deals check out Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we found flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc for $20 USD and Vietnam to Thailand for less than $50!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Get Your Guide is an amazing place to find fun activities all over Vietnam! There is everything from a Hanoi Cooking Class and market tour to a Mekong Delta Pagoda & rowing boat trip, and even the Phu Quoc Cable Car Ride with three island snorkeling tour!
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