How to Visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam

Nothing Familiar Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

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.  Below we breakdown how to get to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the best adventures without a tour guide, and exploring the famous Vietnam caves. 

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

Phong Nha Ke Bang Vietnam

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.  

Traveling Vietnam by Bus

Train to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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.

How to Travel in Vietnam Nothing Familiar

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. 

How to Get to Phong Nha Vietnam

Motorbike to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park 

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. 

How to get to Phong Nha

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. 

Phong Nha National Park Hotel

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. 

Phong Nha Ke Bang

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.

Paradise Cave

5 Tips for Visiting Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

1. Due to its remote location you should plan to spend at least 2 to 3 days exploring Phong Nha.  We’ve covered how to get to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the beginning of this article!

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.

Visiting Phong Nha Vietnam

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.

Phong Nha National Park

Dark Cave

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.

Dark Cave

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.  

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Eco Trail

Paradise Cave

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

Things to Do in Phong Nha

Botanical Gardens in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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.  

Exploring Phong Nha Vietnam

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.

Vietnam Cave Tours

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.

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Village

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.

Exploring 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!

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Travel

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.”

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park Village Bong Lai Valley

Two Epic Sunset Spots in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

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!

Sunset Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

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! 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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

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Phong Nha National Park Vietnam

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! 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are always there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Vietnam Travel

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