Phong Nha, Vietnam

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Vietnam

If you are interested in trekking or traveling through Vietnam I’m sure you’ve heard of the world-renowned caving in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Home to over 300 caves including the largest in the world; it’s a phenomenal experience for any outdoor enthusiast!

For information on weather, budget, visas, vaccinations, currency, and more visit our page on Traveling Vietnam. 

About the Area

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in the north-central coastal region of Vietnam. This region covers over 2,000 square kilometers made up of mountains, limestone forests, lakes, rivers and the famous karst formations. These unique formations are what this park was put in place to protect. Three hundred caves have been discovered throughout the area with more being found on a regular basis. The largest cave in the world- Son Doong Cave was only recently discovered in 2009.

The park itself is breathtaking! The valley is filled with grazing land for cows and ox. The mountains are covered with luscious rain forests and flowing rivers. Many of the local Vietnamese people struggle financially due to the yearly flood.  It is so extreme in some areas that the water will rise up to 10 meters above ground level for up to one week at a time.

Because of this, most family’s have a separate floating home (a one room home built on top of water barrels) to live in during the flood. When the water is gone they are left with mud and debris from floor to ceiling in their larger family homes. You’ll notice that many locals cut and wrap large stocks of grass together to carry up the mountainside. This is to prepare for feeding their farm animals who retreat to higher ground during the rainy season.


How to Get Here

Bus

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Sleeper Bus Vietnam

The mountain village of Phong Nha is only accessible by bus or private car. A private car will cost 660,000 VND ($29.00 USD)  from Dong Hoi. The mountain roads are always winding so make sure you have Gravol to help with the motion sickness. A sleeper bus is the cheapest method but be warned that it will not be the most pleasant experience. Expect about 10 hours of narrow, winding roads on a jam-packed double layer bus. There is usually a toilet but whether you want to use it or not is a different story. The sewage on our bus was sloshing all over the floor of the restroom and many other travelers have told us similar stories.

The Hang Thung Bus Company

Hanoi to Phong Nha

  • Departure: 6pm (Hanoi Backpackers) 7pm (Bus Company Office)
  • Arrival: Between 4 & 5 am the next morning
  • Stops: Ninh Binh
  • Cost: 220, 000 VND ($9.75 USD)
The Hang Thung Bus Company

Ninh Binh to Phong Nha

  • Departure:  7pm Kinh Do Hotel or The Long Hotel
  • Arrival: Between 4 & 5 am the next morning
  • Stops: None
  • Cost: 220, 000 VND ($9.75 USD)
The Hang Thung Bus Company

Hue to Phong Nha

  • Departure: 4:30-5:00 pm (49 Chu Van An, Hue)
  • Arrival: Between 9:00-9:30pm
  • Stops: None
  • Cost: 150, 000 VND ($6.64 USD)
The DMZ Bus

Hue to Phong Nha

  • Departure: DMZ Bar at 2:00 pm
  • Arrival: 6:30 pm
  • Stops: None
  • Cost: 150,000 VND ($6.64 USD)
The Tan Nhat Travel Company

This company offers single and multi-day tours to Phong Nha from Hue, Vietnam. If you would like to avoid the hassle of planning transportation and accommodation this is a good option. Find more information here: Tan Nhat Travel.

Plane or Train

The closest international airport and train station to Phong Nha is Dong Hoi. From here you can book a private transfer in a 4- seat car for approximately 660,000 VND ($29.00 USD) each way. For a cheaper option, hop on the local bus which takes around 90 min. You can board the bus at Man Ly bus station or any bus-stop on Trang Hung Dao street with a blue and white sign. This bus departs Dong Hoi at 5:30 am, 5:45 am, 7:10 am, and once an hour on the hour from 8 am to 5 pm.


Trekking: What to Expect

The trails that make up Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park are somewhat maintained but since the forest grows so fast you will be challenged with avoiding branches and bushes. Some of the trails have bridges and ladders to help you scale mountain ledges or climb up a cave wall. Each trek will have a difficulty level which is important to keep in mind when you’re booking your adventure. Plan to be wading through rivers, swimming through caves, and sliding through mud holes. You WILL be getting wet so make sure to pack quick dry clothing.

The food that is served is delicious! The chefs, guides and porters work very hard to make sure you are well fed and accommodate any dietary restrictions. Some meals will be traditional Vietnamese dishes and some will be similar to American dishes. During the treks you will stop for at least two snack breaks per day.

The camps are semi-permanent and consist of an eating/common area with a large picnic table, a sleeping area with the tents, and an outhouse. The tents are all covered by a large tarp and have a drainage trench to protect from rain storms. The common area is where you’ll be eating breakfast, dinner, and enjoying a game or two before heading to bed. The outhouse has a bucket with a toilet seat on it and corn husk mulch is used to contain/absorb the smell. Remember to kick the bucket to scare any rodents away before you take a seat! The camps are all located along a river so water is available for washing but NOT for consuming. Filtered water is provided for drinking.


Where to Book Your Adventure

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

There are many companies that offer caving adventures throughout Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. We booked our 3 day/ 2 night Tu Lan Caving excursion with Oxalis Adventure Tours. They’re one of the larger outfits in town and have been around for a long time. They were absolutely outstanding and have thousands of 5-star reviews online. Some of the guides that work for Oxalis are even responsible for discovering a few new caves! The English speaking guides and the porters are all very knowledgeable and friendly.


What to Pack

Dress for the weather! The climate in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is damp and cool for most of the year.Bring a long sleeve sports shirt that is comfortable and capable of being wet for long periods of time. You will also want a quality pair of hiking pants that are lightweight and quick drying; same with socks. The reasons for long sleeve shirts and pants is to protect yourself from insects and poisonous plants. They will also help protect against sharp rocks when swimming. Obviously; you’re going to want to bring the basics as well: waterproof sunscreen, hat, etc. Be sure to pack a lightweight wool sweater and warm socks for the evenings as it does get chilly!

If you are doing a multi-day tour, the company will provide you with a waterproof backpack, a caving helmet, a life jacket, water bottle and a waterproof head lamp. They will also provide a small waterproof backpack that you can put your hiking belongings in. The porters will carry your overnight belongings. The “waterproof backpacks” aren’t completely waterproof so don`t pack them with expensive electronics. Leave the camera and cell phone at the Oxalis office and bring the GoPro instead.


Accommodation

There are a few hostels in and around the town of Phong Nha that are friendly and inexpensive. It’s a good idea to book a night before and after your multi-day caving trek to recuperate before traveling to your next destination.


Food and Drinks

The town of Phong Nha is fairly small but there are a few delicious places to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a drink.

Since the town doesn’t have a lot to do; plan to spend most your time exploring the caves, rivers, and wildlife that surround Phong Nha. Like all of our destination pages, please let us know if you have any questions! Check out Vietnam Travel Guide and Northern Vietnam for more information. We would love to hear from you and hope you enjoyed your time in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park!

Caving in Phong Nha National Park: Vietnam Travel Guide