Your Guide To The Caves of Phong Nha, Vietnam

Whether you only have ten hours or two days in Phong Nha, our cave and city guide covers the everything you need to know about this city and the amazing adventures it has to offer. How much are ticket prices to the caves, which are the best tours to take, what are the recommended local restaurants, where should you stay, and how do you get around the city/to the caves? This is your personal guide to mastering this magnificent secret of Vietnam.

 
 

Welcome To Phong Nha

Phong Nha is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam, about 500 km south of Hanoi. Phong Nha is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves and grottos. A 2009 survey brought the total discovered length of the cave system to about 126 km, with many areas still not well explored. The Sơn Đoòng Cave, which was discovered in the 2009 survey by British and Vietnamese explorers, is considered the largest cave in the world. Even before this discovery, Phong Nha held several world cave records, including the longest river as well as the largest combined caverns and passageways.

The city of Phong Nha itself is a small, underwhelming city - home to only 1,000 residents. There is not a lot to do within the city itself and there are only so many bars, cafes and western “hang-out” spots for tourists. However this city and its caves are quickly making their rounds on blogger sites and tourist pamphlets - becoming a must see destination in Vietnam. So what are you waiting for?


When To Visit?

Best Months To Visit: February to June.
Hottest Months
- June to August, with an average temperature of 82 °F.
Coldest Months: December to February with an average temperature of 64 °F.
Monsoon Season
(Avoid this time of year): July to December.


Getting To Phong Nha &
Getting Around Once You’re There

Rent a motorbike (Our recommendation) from Hanoi or Hue and ride the The HCM Highway to Phong Nha (This route is much more scenic, much safer than Highway 1 (no asshole truck or bus drivers), and allows you to ride through jaw dropping, picturesque villages).
Rent a driver from the city you currently are in. This driver can get you there really fast via Highway 1, or very slow via the HCM Highway, where s/he will be more than happy to stop for pictures food, drink at any point you wish. Ask your hotel/hostel for their drivers contact information.
Plane: You can fly into nearby Dong Hoi and take a bus the rest of the way.
Train: There are several arrivals and departures at Dong Hoi daily from as far away as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but only a few hours from Hue or Danang or Hoi An.
Bus: -A local bus goes from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha for less than $2. It departs hourly from many bus stops around Dong Hoi. Look for the blue signs that say Dong Hoi - Hoan Lao - Phong Nha or Dong Hoi - Phong Nha - Trooc.
-Sleeper buses with Hung Thanh Travel, Camel Travel and Queen Cafe make stops in Phong Nha with an overnight journey between Phong Nha and Hanoi and an early morning departure to Hue and evening arrival from Hue.
-The DMZ bus operates a door to door service between Phong Nha and Hue. Departs Phong Nha at 06:30 for $20 and stops at Vinh Moc tunnels and Ben Hai River Museum on the way. Hue to Phong Nha departs early afternoon from Hue with no stops and costs 47 (from DMZ bar in Hue).

Getting Around The City & To The Caves:   Rent a motorbike:  There are a limited number of motorbikes for rent (as of now) and the prices will obviously be a bit steeper than elsewhere in Vietnam.   Bicycles : A popular way you can explore this tiny city, but we would not recommend riding them to any of the caves (far away, very hilly, and more work than its worth).   Taxi’s : Your last resort and are very expensive.  Tour Packages:  If you decide to pay for a tour package then you don’t have to worry about this at all, as the tour company/hotel/hostel will provide transportation.  Walk:  The city truly is small enough for you to just walk where you want to go (not to the caves of course).

Getting Around The City & To The Caves:
Rent a motorbike: There are a limited number of motorbikes for rent (as of now) and the prices will obviously be a bit steeper than elsewhere in Vietnam.
Bicycles: A popular way you can explore this tiny city, but we would not recommend riding them to any of the caves (far away, very hilly, and more work than its worth).
Taxi’s: Your last resort and are very expensive.
Tour Packages: If you decide to pay for a tour package then you don’t have to worry about this at all, as the tour company/hotel/hostel will provide transportation.
Walk: The city truly is small enough for you to just walk where you want to go (not to the caves of course).


The 10 Caves Of Phong Nha

Hang Son Doong - $3,000 + 1-2 year waitlist  - The world’s BIGGEST cave only discovered in 2009 and opened to tourism in 2014. This is a cave so big that a whole Manhattan city block, skyscrapers and all, could fit inside of it and it has immense and spectacular formations and dolines. The 4-day trek to the cave costs $3000/person. There is no other way to see Son Doong other than on the official trek, so if someone says that they will show you Son Doong, it is a scam, so beware.

Hang Son Doong - $3,000 + 1-2 year waitlist - The world’s BIGGEST cave only discovered in 2009 and opened to tourism in 2014. This is a cave so big that a whole Manhattan city block, skyscrapers and all, could fit inside of it and it has immense and spectacular formations and dolines. The 4-day trek to the cave costs $3000/person. There is no other way to see Son Doong other than on the official trek, so if someone says that they will show you Son Doong, it is a scam, so beware.

Hang En Cave - $250  - One of the largest and most beautiful caves in the world, on the same system as Hang Son Doong (the world’s biggest cave) and as this cave is close as you will get with out the hefty price tag and huge commitment of going on a Son Doong expedition. To see this massive cave involves a day trek through beautiful jungle and valleys, and through a minority village, and then an overnight stay camping in the “entrance to Neverland” or on a beach inside the cave and then a trek back the following day.

Hang En Cave - $250 - One of the largest and most beautiful caves in the world, on the same system as Hang Son Doong (the world’s biggest cave) and as this cave is close as you will get with out the hefty price tag and huge commitment of going on a Son Doong expedition. To see this massive cave involves a day trek through beautiful jungle and valleys, and through a minority village, and then an overnight stay camping in the “entrance to Neverland” or on a beach inside the cave and then a trek back the following day.

Hang Toi (Dark Cave) - $20 -  A real adventure cave, now very popular! There are no lights in the cave, and after zip-lining across the river, you swim through the cave with your head-torch leading the way, then explore a muddy side passage before kayaking back across the river. You can explore this spectacular cave on our National Park tour or independently. The other entrance to Dark Cave is many kilometers away in the Abandoned Valley and can be seen on the Abandoned Valley Trek. Hang Toi is a wonderful and very accessible example of the beautiful caves that are found throughout this region.

Hang Toi (Dark Cave) - $20 - A real adventure cave, now very popular! There are no lights in the cave, and after zip-lining across the river, you swim through the cave with your head-torch leading the way, then explore a muddy side passage before kayaking back across the river. You can explore this spectacular cave on our National Park tour or independently. The other entrance to Dark Cave is many kilometers away in the Abandoned Valley and can be seen on the Abandoned Valley Trek. Hang Toi is a wonderful and very accessible example of the beautiful caves that are found throughout this region.

Phong Nha Cave - $7   -  This was the first cave to be opened to the public and is seen by boat journey up the river from Phong Nha Village. It was used for shelter, as storage, and as a hospital during the American War, and there are still many scars from that time to be seen on its walls. It can easily be seen by yourself in half a day (we don’t run tours there), and is well worth a visit, especially for the journey in the traditional Dragon Boat up the river and through the cave.

Phong Nha Cave - $7 - This was the first cave to be opened to the public and is seen by boat journey up the river from Phong Nha Village. It was used for shelter, as storage, and as a hospital during the American War, and there are still many scars from that time to be seen on its walls. It can easily be seen by yourself in half a day (we don’t run tours there), and is well worth a visit, especially for the journey in the traditional Dragon Boat up the river and through the cave.

Hang Voi (Elephant Cave) - $10  - A dry cave located in the heart of the protected zone of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. The cave is extremely picturesque as sunbeams bring the jungle growing inside this cave to life – highlighting this majestic cavern. It is a short challenging but none the less rewarding walk to the entrance. This cave is visited on The Ma Da Valley 1 Day and 2 Day Treks.

Hang Voi (Elephant Cave) - $10 - A dry cave located in the heart of the protected zone of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. The cave is extremely picturesque as sunbeams bring the jungle growing inside this cave to life – highlighting this majestic cavern. It is a short challenging but none the less rewarding walk to the entrance. This cave is visited on The Ma Da Valley 1 Day and 2 Day Treks.

Paradise Cave -   $12  - If you are short of time and only have the chance to see one cave, this has to be the one. A truly spectacular cave, the first 1 KM can be seen by anybody, either on The National Park Tours or by visiting the cave by yourself. The longer 7 KM trek into the cave is one of the most incredible days you can have in the area but is only available as a guided tour.

Paradise Cave - $12 - If you are short of time and only have the chance to see one cave, this has to be the one. A truly spectacular cave, the first 1 KM can be seen by anybody, either on The National Park Tours or by visiting the cave by yourself. The longer 7 KM trek into the cave is one of the most incredible days you can have in the area but is only available as a guided tour.

Hang Vom & Hang Gieng Vooc  - A mixture of wet and dry caves first opened to the public in December 2018. Hang Vom is part of a cave system over 31 KM in length and is truly a sight to behold with its subterranean river and it’s spectacular rock formations, stalagmites & stalactites. These caves can be visited on either a 1 day tour and a very good value for money 2 day tour.

Hang Vom & Hang Gieng Vooc - A mixture of wet and dry caves first opened to the public in December 2018. Hang Vom is part of a cave system over 31 KM in length and is truly a sight to behold with its subterranean river and it’s spectacular rock formations, stalagmites & stalactites. These caves can be visited on either a 1 day tour and a very good value for money 2 day tour.

Tra Ang Cave  - A newly opened cave – Hang Tra Ang was only opened to the public in August 2016 and remains unspoiled by any touristic development. It is reached by a short walk through the dense jungle to a camp area before swimming into this cave to explore with a helmet, head torch and life jacket. Visited on The Phong Nha Jungle Boss National Park Tour and The Ma Da Valley Tour.

Tra Ang Cave - A newly opened cave – Hang Tra Ang was only opened to the public in August 2016 and remains unspoiled by any touristic development. It is reached by a short walk through the dense jungle to a camp area before swimming into this cave to explore with a helmet, head torch and life jacket. Visited on The Phong Nha Jungle Boss National Park Tour and The Ma Da Valley Tour.

Tu Lan Cave - $250  - Single and multi day treks can be organized to this interesting cave system in the north west of Quang Binh province (outside of the National Park zone). Experience camping in the jungle with local bushmen in hammocks around a campfire. One of the main reasons that Tu Lan isn’t in the UNESCO world heritage area is that it was discovered so recently, and remains pristine for jungle adventuring and caving.

Tu Lan Cave - $250 - Single and multi day treks can be organized to this interesting cave system in the north west of Quang Binh province (outside of the National Park zone). Experience camping in the jungle with local bushmen in hammocks around a campfire. One of the main reasons that Tu Lan isn’t in the UNESCO world heritage area is that it was discovered so recently, and remains pristine for jungle adventuring and caving.

Hang Va Cave  - This spectacular cave has unique formations that we previously unknown in the caving world. There is still speculation about how they were formed. This newly opened cave is one for the adventurers and it is seen on a 1 night 2 day expedition that includes another cave called Nuoc Nut.

Hang Va Cave - This spectacular cave has unique formations that we previously unknown in the caving world. There is still speculation about how they were formed. This newly opened cave is one for the adventurers and it is seen on a 1 night 2 day expedition that includes another cave called Nuoc Nut.


Where We Stay

Shambalaa Newly opened in April 2017, our goal is to offer a quiet and chilled out zone from which you can explore Phong Nha. We offer dorm beds, no private rooms, with brand new mattresses, pillows, sheets, etc. We employ good English-speaking staff who can give you lots of advice and talk you through our large range of the very best tours that Phong Nha has to offer.

In addition to this, we work side by side with Easy Tiger Hostel, and guests of ours are welcome to use all their facilities, including their swimming pool, table tennis table, pool table, Foosball tables, 09:00 information talk, large beer garden, free use of guest computers, open fires in the cooler weather, their hammock house and their gym plus a large social area filled with lots of awesome travelers to talk to!

We are very busy, and because we really believe that this area is very special, we like to encourage travelers to spend longer in the area.

So, What’s available? Mixed dorm rooms in 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 bed dorms. Please note we do not have private double rooms but if you come here we are happy to suggest alternative hotels that do!

What’s in each room? Each room has large, wide bunk beds, with air conditioning, fans, mosquito nets, lockers for your valuables, clean linen with a top and bottom bed sheet, plus a blanket. Each room has a bathroom with strong, hot showers, and a toilet. Each bed has a reading light and electrical sockets, so you can easily charge up your electrical devices over night.

What else is included? On site in Shambalaa Hostel we have a beautiful chill out area at the front, plus a roof-top terrace. We offer free water refills, free tea & coffee throughout the day and free bicycle rental, plus a free map so you don’t get lost! On check in you’ll get a towel and lock (if needed). Of course we have WIFI. We have a security guard onsite, plus CCTV for extra security.

What to expect? A chilled out atmosphere, helpful staff, lots of tours, advice and information, other restaurants and bars close by, close to Phong Nha Cave and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.

Shambalaa Hostel

Easy Tiger! (Sister hostel to Shambalaa)


So What's It Going To Cost?

So, What Did We Spend in 48 hours?

Hotel: $7/night (Average rate for a Shambalaa 6 bed dorm)
Food: $10 + Beer money (Maybe $15 in total per day)
Cave Tickets: $N/A (Depends on what you decide to do)
Transportation: $10 (We rented motorbikes for $5/day in a nearby city)

That's $54USD in 48 hours + additional costs for cave tickets.
(We spent $15 for tickets to the Phong Nha cave and the Paradise cave).

Where's Your Money Going?


Enjoy Your Trip!


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