How to get to Phong Nha

One of Vietnam’s most impressive national parks has both benefitted and suffered from the isolation of its location. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park sits inland, pressed up against the border with Laos, a world away from the coastline which many tourists cling to when travelling the country. Improved roads have made it much easier to reach the secluded destination, but the best way to get to Phong Nha from the north or centre of the country still eludes many tourists, and a quick glance at the distance and required time allowances, unfortunately, mean that a lot of tourists miss out on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Phong Nha - Ke Bang Cave

With this guide on how to get to Phong Nha, we hope to bring the beauty of its magnificent karst rocks, world-beating caves and serene rivers that little bit closer to you.

1. How to get to Phong Nha from Hue

The most popular way to get to Phong Nha is from the ancient capital of Hue. Despite the four-hour drive time, there are many Hue to Phong Nha day trips that leave early and arrive back late, giving you about four hours to explore the caves and take a serene boat ride down the river.

1.1. Hue to Phong Nha by Tour

Although it takes over four hours to travel between Hue and Phong Nha, the way is littered with relics from Vietnam’s troubled pass, making tours a very interesting option for history buffs or anyone wanting to expand their understanding of the American War. On the way, Phong Nha day trips usually visit historic sites strewn across the country’s DMZ and around, including the Hien Luong Bridge over the Ben Hai River – the exact point at which the country was cleaved in two. Slightly longer tours might pass the Vinh Moc Tunnels, where an entire village hid underground near the DMZ, and the veterans’ cemetery, where the unfortunate soldiers are still remembered.

Phong Nha Cave in Quang Binh Province

Once arrive at the cave, tours will have lunch and head out on rowing boats down the Con River. Passing underneath the gorgeous slanted entrance, visitors will enter and explore the three accessible chambers of Phong Nha Cave, before having free time to explore the magnificent stalactites and stalagmites on the dry banks of the river inside. With the benefit of one of these Phong Nha tours, you will hear of the cave’s importance during the war, where the North Vietnamese Army would stockpile their weapons, treat their wounded and rest up for the continuation of a 3 or 4-month trek to the South along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Best day tours to Phong Nha from Hue:
- Hue - Phong Nha Cave Full Day Tour
- Paradise Cave Tour from Hue

1.2. Hue to Phong Nha by Bus

There are no local public buses between Hue and Phong Nha, but tourists find many of the company buses to be efficient, cheap and easy to navigate. The most reliable service is offered by the Tan Nhat Bus, which leaves at 07:00 from 1A Hung Vuong Street and arrives to Phong Nha at 11:00. The bus costs 250,000 VND ($10.75) and can be booked either online or with the travel company in Hue.

1.3. Hue to Phong Nha by Train

Phong Nha Cave explorers

Though there is no direct train from Hue to Phong Nha, it is possible to get the train from Hue to Dong Hoi, followed by a bus or taxi onwards to Phong Nha. The Reunification Express runs between Hue and Dong Hoi and costs the same regardless of which of the five services you take. Amongst these five options, you have a choice between a ‘hard seat’ and a ‘soft seat’, the former being about $12 and the latter being about $17. From Dong Hoi, jump on the B4 bus from any of the bus stops around the city, pay about $3 for the ticket and sit back for the 90-minute journey to Phong Nha.

1.4. Hue to Phong Nha by Motorbike

The 220km distance to Phong Nha from Hue is traversable by motorbike, which takes the same time on both of the two roads that connect the city and the national park. The Ho Chi Minh Highway features much better views and less traffic, so we strongly advise following that road up. On the way, you will pass lakes and mountains, as well as the perfectly spaced-out towns of Dong Ha and Dong Hoi, which can be used for rest stops.

2. How to get to Phong Nha from Ninh Binh

Despite the distance of about 400 kilometers between Phong Nha and Ninh Binh, there is not much in the way of developed tourist facilities south of Ninh Binh and north of Phong Nha. A 7-8 hour journey is unfortunately unavoidable, but it does enhance the overall feeling of reward when the feat is accomplished. Given the other large distance between Phong Nha and Hue, the caves actually act as a great rest stop on any northern Vietnam tour between Hanoi and Hoi An.

Phong Nha Cave entrance

2.1. Ninh Binh to Phong Nha by Bus

The eye-watering travel time between Ninh Binh and Phong Nha puts many potential visitors off attempting the journey, but the option of a sleeper bus makes this a much more realistic idea. Buses usually leave in the evening, around 9 pm or 10 pm, and arrive very early in the morning, around 4 am or 5 am. While this is not ideal, most companies will drop you off on the main road and you will be free to walk to your accommodation– you may even be able to check in straight away if the room is free.

Queen Café is one such bus service from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha, leaving at 20:30 from no.46, 27 Thang 7 Street in Ninh Binh City and arriving outside Thien Phu Hostel at 04:00 the next day, costing about $ 20.

2.2. Ninh Binh to Phong Nha by Train

Son Doong Cave Expedition in Phong Nha

Like from Hue, trains to Phong Nha only go as far as Dong Hoi, where you can disembark and head out on a bus or in a taxi to the caves. There are three services of the Reunification Express, all offering a smooth passage from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha:

1. SE5 (Departs at 17:51 and arrives at 08:27)
2. SE7 (Departs at 08:26 and arrives at 23:05)
3. SE19 (Departs at 23:10 and arrives at 12:32)

The train prices depend on the types of seats (hard or soft) and berth cabin (hard or soft) from $35 to $68 cost and provide safe passage on a calm route towards Phong Nha. The SE19 sleeper train is particularly appealing because of its arrival time around sunrise in Phong Nha, meaning those awake early enough can enjoy the sight of a bright red sun rising above the undulating karst landscape of the area.

2.3. Ninh Binh to Phong Nha by Motorbike

If you are thinking of taking the drive from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha, then you will need a decent motorbike capable of withstanding a few steep inclines. Again, there are two options and again, the Ho Chi Minh Highway is the much more preferable one for scenery, if not for time. It takes roughly 9 hours to traverse the Ho Chi Minh Highway, which may seem like a long time but actually pales in comparison to the arduous trekking journey of the NVA during the war.

Ride a motorcycle to Quang Binh

The beauty of driving the Ho Chi Minh Highway is in the surroundings and the off-the-beaten-track atmosphere of the road. By skirting the edge of Cuc Phuong National Park and making stops at Xuan Lien Nature Reserve, Ben En National Park and the gorgeous Thanh An Tea Hills, drivers can enjoy a very scenic route with very few fellow tourists.

3. How to get to Phong Nha from Hanoi

As the capital of the country, Hanoi has some of the best connections for travelling to Phong Nha, in spite of the two destinations being about 500km apart via the Ho Chi Minh Highway. 

Exploring the magnificent cave of Quang Binh

3.1. Hanoi to Phong Nha by Bus

Hanoi lies just two hours north of Ninh Binh and therefore uses the same routes and bus companies as its southern neighbour. The Hung Thanh Bus runs overnight from Hanoi to Phong Nha, taking about 10 hours and costing around $ 17 (bookable from 162B Tran Quang Khai Street). Other companies like Camel Travel, Hung Long and Queen Café all operate similar routes between $10 and $20.

3.2. Hanoi to Phong Nha by Train

The train from Hanoi to Phong Nha takes roughly the same amount of time as the bus, but arrives in Dong Hoi rather than Phong Nha, meaning another bus or taxi must be taken, which may add another hour. If you are in no rush, then this might be a viable option, as the train is much safer than the bus and it is usually easier to sleep, depending on what seat you book. For a train from Hanoi by Tourist Train, you can opt to travel horizontally in a 4-berth cabin (About  $58) or a VIP Berth(2) cabin (About $135). You can book tickets online, at your accommodation, at a travel agency or directly at the central train station in Hanoi.

3.3. Hanoi to Phong Nha by Motorbike

The Best Road Motorbike Trails in Quang Binh

This route is exactly the same as the one from Ninh Binh, except for the 2 hours it takes to drive down to Ninh Binh from Hanoi. To shave an hour off the journey time, it is possible to take the QL1A, passing Thanh Hoa and Vinh on the way, but sacrificing much in the way of scenery.

3.4. Hanoi to Phong Nha by Flight

With the services of Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport, it would actually be quicker, if not cheaper, to take a flight to Dong Hoi, followed by a bus to Phong Nha which is 1 hour far away.

Another way is to take a flight to Da Nang or Hue where you can spend some time for sightseeing and head to Phong Nha in a 3-7 hour bus/private car. Overall, this may still come to about 7 hours, but it has the bonus of going over the Hai Van Pass, one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world.

Don't hesitate to contact Incredible Asia Journey to make your Phong Nha tour more hassle-free with authentic local consultation!

Build Enquire WhatsApp