Pulling into the mountainous town of Phong Nha-Ke Bang you will be greeted with the town sign perched at the top of a karst mountain and endless green jungle and forest. Designated as a UNESECO world heritage site in 2003, this remarkable place is home to one of the largest, most extravagant cave systems in the world. Home to places like Paradise Cave, Son Doong Cave (The Worlds Largest Cave), and Dark Cave (Hang Toi), there are plenty of tour or solo adventure experiences you can take to make the most of your time in Phong Nha.
The cheapest, most fun way to explore the area and visit the caves is by renting a motorbike for the day and touring the caves by yourself (only having to pay a small entrance and parking fee to get in, around $5). If you would rather go on an excursion, talk to your hostel or hotel and they can help you book cave exploration tours. Just be mindful that you should expect to pay a more for this kind of experience.
The price of renting a motorbike is around 100,000 VND per day ($4.50 USD) but advise that the condition of the bikes are not all the great. Make sure to take pictures or a video of your beforehand so you won’t be scammed for any “damages”. The area is so much fun to explore on your bike and the single lane roads make it so there safe with no traffic. In each of the cave parks, there is parking available where you will pay a small fee (~20,000 VND).
Activities in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
As you can already guess, a majority of your activities will revolve around visiting the cave systems and motorbiking around to see the beautiful scenery of karst mountains. If you're looking for something a little different and more eco friendly, Hai's Eco Conservation Tour is a great activity too immerse yourself in the wildlife and jungle scene. Since you'll be riding around on your motorbike a lot, another cool spot is the Botanical Gardens where you can park your bike for 4000 VND and explore the vegetation.
Lastly, if you have the extra couple days in your itinerary and extra money to spend in Phong Nha, an incredible overnight (or multi day) experience that you can do is to camp at one of the sister caves of Son Doong, either Hang En or Tu Lan. Prices vary depending on the length of time you spend at the cave, but the experience has you out in the Vietnam ecosystem camping next to blue pools illuminated by the sun's rays. For any adventure junkie, this is an must do experience.
Phong Nha Cave Boat Ride
Visit the Local Public Caves (Paridise, Dark, and Phong Nha)
Food in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
There are plenty of cheap eats available in Phong Nha that offer traditional Vietnamese and Western style food. Choose from one of the many as the Phong Nha Veggie Box, Bamboo Cafe, and Underground all have great vibes and food to refill the batteries after a long day of cave exploration. If you're looking for a good bar that's on the river side, Bomb Crater Bar is a great place to catch a drink and relax next to the calm flowing river. For more options, click here.
Accommodations in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
The town of Phong Nha has a majority of its accommodations located on a single street, while there are homestay locations out on the farm side in Bong Lai Vally. Due to the limited amount of hostels and hotels, we recommend booking a couples days ahead of time during the high season (March-May and September). If you are looking for a hostel that is off the radar of any booking websites, Easy Tiger is an accommodation that has everything from a restaurant and bar to a pool out back where you can relax and enjoy a cold one. For bookings, contact them at either (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0232 367 7844).
Another option is to stay at the Phong Nha-Tuan Garden House which is highly rated and provides a jungle inspired atmosphere with live animals roaming amongst the visitors. It also offers beautiful views of the mountains, BBQ facility, on-site restaurant, and roof top terrace to enjoy sunsets. For more options, check out the map below to find great deals.
Traveling from Phong Nha-Ke Bang to Hanoi
By Bus: Arguably the longest bus drive that you will take on your backpacking journey, the 9 hour ride from Phong Nha to Hanoi is less than to be desired for. There are plenty of horror stories of people having passangers smoke on buses, bus drivers who drive at fast speeds, and smelly passengers. With all that being said, we would recommend taking the Camel Travel Bus, which departs overnight from Phong Nha at 9pm and will arrive in Hanoi around 6am. You get what you pay for with how cheap it is, but just as long as you can keep a positive mindset you'll be fine. You can buy tickets in Phong Nha at Phong Nha Backpacker Hostel, which is across the street from Easy Tiger and where the bus will pick you up from. Thankfully, the buses are air-conditioned and have a small toilet. WiFi is pretty dodgy on these overnight buses so we wouldn’t bank on it being available. Price: From $14-16 USD
If you have more time in the country and wish to see other options of getting to/from Phong Nah, click the link here to see what the schedules are for traveling by train or air.
We hope you enjoyed this itinerary post on Phong Nha and continue reading on to see what's next in either Hanoi or Hue!