How to get to Phong Nha

The most recommended ways of getting to Phong Nha from the North, i.e. Ninh Binh or Ha Noi and also getting to Phong Nha from the South by train, bus, plane, taxi, or motorbike. There are also a number of buses that run from as far as Hanoi to Phong Nha, but to be honest, the “Sleeper Bus” is a bit of an oxymoron.

Please be aware that all suggested bus, train and airline companies, and their agencies, operate entirely independently of us. The following information is given in good faith, and we accept no responsibility for the service provided by the airlines, Vietnam Bus tickets, 12go.asia, or the ramifications of the express train.

By Ben Mitchell. 13 years experience in Central Vietnam.

Train Travel Tips

Unfortunately, unlike in Japan, Germany and Austria, train schedules cannot be guaranteed but considering that there are houses nearly on the tracks; buffalos, lunatics on motorbikes and trucks illegally crossing the reunification express’s line at many points along the way, it does pretty well. Therefore, if you plan to join in a tour, we advise that you do not arrive in Phong Nha on the date your tour is meant to begin. There are plenty of “real Vietnam” do it yourself activities available or simply have a rest by the pool and take in the scenery on your arrival date.

Bus Travel Tips

Most bus drivers are pretty much insane which even seems to be the prerequisite of their employment.
The roads through Vietnam while being normally dangerous take on a whole new level of chaos after the sun goes down.
This night time Chaos is amplified by a factor of 10, a month either side of TET (New Year), by any public holidays and by the summer months in general. Having traveled on the overnight Buses between Hanoi and Phong Aha, we choose now, not to, due to both our own experiences and those negative experiences of many of our guests over the last decade.

The intercity companies stop in Phong Nha Village. Therefore, the bus option is becoming a popular choice among travelers, as it saves on the additional transfer required from Dong Hoi (closest train station and airport to Phong Nha). Not the best as measured by safety or comfort, but the cheapest.

How to get to Phong Nha from the North of Vietnam?

Hanoi to Phong Nha/Hanoi to Dong Hoi

TRAIN from Hanoi to Dong Hoi (closest station to Phong Nha)

Cost: 700k NVD for 2nd class sleeper
Travel time: 10 hours

The day Train from Hanoi to Dong Hoi is an enjoyable way to travel, and see a bit of the scenic countryside as it directs rural Northern Vietnam rather than being on Highway 1 on a bus hemmed in by an infinite urban shopscape stretching for 1000’s of km.

The night train, while not as luxurious as in more developed parts of the world, is at “Hilton Travel” level in comparison to the oxymoron – the “sleeper bus”.

The most comfortable purchase is a ticket in a soft-sleeper cabin. They’re 4-bed cabins, so there is enough room to sit up or lie down. A hard-sleeper cabin does not provide enough room to sit up, and there are 6 beds per cabin.

Overnight trains are also a good option to get somewhere to sleep for a night, that way you avoid missing out on another day of activities. Also, you can take a quick nap once you get to Phong Nha and get comfortable in your accommodation.

We recommend the following overnight trains from Hanoi to Dong Hoi:

Train No

Departs

Arrives

SE3

SE1

7:30 PM
10.20 PM
05:20 AM

07.49 AM

We recommend the following daytime trains from Hanoi to Dong Hoi:

Train No

Departs

Arrives

SE5

SE7

09:00 AM
06.00 PM
07:15 PM

04.22 PM

If you choose to arrive in Dong Hoi by train on the same morning the tour departs, please make sure you take the train number SE3 and have the private transfer arranged with us in advance. We’ll do our best.

BUS from Hanoi to Phong Nha (or Hanoi to Dong Hoi)

Cost: 300k VND
Travel time: 9h 30m

Earlier we explained why we believe the bus is not the safest or the best option, but the choice is yours.
If you want the Bus from Hanoi to Phong Nha/Dong Hoi, we recommend the Hung Thanh Bus company. We have a good relationship with them and they look after our guests the best.

Hung Thanh Bus company can be bought on Bookaway.com

  • Coming from Hanoi, you can catch Hung Thanh Travel Bus that departs at 7:00PM from Ha Noi to Phong Nha and costs VND300,000/person.
  • You can book the bus in person at Hung Thanh Travel Bus office at 287 Tran Khat Chan St. or calling the number Tel: +84 24 3633 7575
  • or at 162 B Tran Quang Khai St., Tel: +8424 392 74284 (working time 8:00AM – 10:00PM)

 Camel Travel Bus

  • You can also catch Camel Travel Bus which is, however, not as good as Hung Thanh Travel.
  • Camel Travel bus departs at 7:00PM from Ha Noi to Phong Nha and costs VND320,000/person.
  • You can either book in person at the Camel Travel Bus office at 459 Tran Khat Chan St.,or call Tel: +84 24 8585 0555 (working time 8:00AM – 10:00PM).

Hoang Long Bus Company from Hanoi to Dong Hoi can be bought on 12go.asia.

  • The cheapest and the least favorable option, use it as a last resort!
  • Departs from Hanoi Nuoc Ngam Station.
  • Arrives at Dong Hoi

The sleeping bus is usually pretty well air-conditioned, and occasionally has wi-fi, when it is working. There is a small toilet at the back of the bus, that is best avoided at all costs. They also make a stop along the way, near Ninh Binh, where there are basic toilet facilities that would under normal circumstances, be best avoided too. At that stop, they sell inedible food and sell little plastic bottles of water with which they put straight in the ocean when you have quenched your thirst. Try and carry a reusable bottle of water and best pack some snacks for the trip. The Buses also pick up and drop off in Ninh Binh.

Plane from Hanoi to Dong Hoi

Cost: $60-$100
Travel time: 1h 25m

The fastest and often most convenient mode of transport is to the plane. Hanoi to Dong Hoi, for example, is just a 1 hour and 25-minute flight. Don’t forget to factor in the time traveling to or from the airport (up to 1 hour from Hanoi Old Quarter and from 40 mins to 2 hours from Dong Hoi airport).

  • It is best to check the Bamboo Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, Vietnam Airlines or JetStar websites ahead of time to ensure a seat on an available flight on your desired travel dates. Bamboo Airways is the cheapest airline with the ticket price starting from 1,420,000 VND ($61).
  • There are also several weekly flights from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Dong Hoi.
  • If you choose to fly, then you will have to book a transfer from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha.
  • We arrange daily pick up and drop off private transfers to and from Dong Hoi airport, Phong Nha’s aviation gateway, located 40 mins away, by request.

How to get to Phong Nha from Ninh Binh?

TRAIN from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha

Cost: 500k VND for 2nd class sleeper
Travel time: 8 hours

We especially recommend an overnight sleeper train SE19 as this way you can get some rest and not lose the day for traveling.
The 4-bed cabin has enough room to sit up or to lay down and allows you to get some well-deserved rest without missing anything the next day.

Train No

Departs

Arrives

SE5

SE7

SE19

11:21 AM
08:22 AM10:25 PM
07:22 PM

04:21 PM

06:24 AM

BUS from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha

Cost: 275k VND
Travel time: 12 hours

Hoan Long Bus company can be booked on 12go.asia. (phongnhafarmstay@gmail.com)

  • Bus pick up point is at ĐL Thanh Xuân Restaurant.
  • Drop-off point in Dong Hoi
  • Note: Hoang Long services are dirt cheap for a reason – this is an extremely ‘local’ operator and you should not at all expect western standards. Buses could be oversold or late and the drivers may feel like smoking or playing loud music for the entire journey. WiFi, toilets and air conditioning may or may not be working depending on your luck.
  • If you want to travel like a local, Hoang Long is the operator for you! No one is going to hold your hand and tend to your every need or really care if you complain that a family of five has spilt over into your seats. On Hoang Long, the staff is focused on keeping the bus moving towards its destination and little else. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Queen Cafe Bus Sleeper can be booked on Baolau.com

  • Pick up point at Đức Tuấn Hotel, Văn Lâm, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình Province.
  • Drop-off point at Central Backpackers Hostel, Phong Nha.

Hey Travel Sleeper (Tam Coc-Phong Nha) can be booked on Baolau.com

  • Pick up point at Bến Đò Tam Cốc, Ninh Hải, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình
  • Drop-off point at Nam Anh Hotel, Phong Nha

 

How to get to Phong Nha by MOTORBIKE from Northern Vietnam?

If you do a motorbike tour of the country, make sure to visit Phong Nha with its versatile activities. Also, plan to stop at such off-the-beaten-path destinations as Mai Chau or Pu Luong, it’s definitely worth it!

Over a few days by riding the motorbike along the Ho Chi Minh Trail you will have a chance to see unexplored areas and the “Real Vietnam” scenery.

I would, however, more highly recommend the journey to the south via Khe San unless your objective is to do the whole country, by motorbike. If traveling by bike, I’d suggest the detour to Pu Luong. A beautiful spot, and not so busy, yet. 

How to get to Phong Nha from the South of Vietnam?

Hue to Phong Nha

Definitely one of the easier journeys to take when considering making the journey out to Phong Nha. You have the option of taking a train, bus, or a private taxi!

TRAIN from Hue to Phong Nha

Cost:200k VND for soft seats
Travel time: 3 hours + 1hr30min public bus ride (70000Vnd)

While the train doesn’t go directly to Phong Nha per se, it does make a safe and lovely ride for 3 hours north to Dong Hoi. Where, after arriving you’ll have to decide whether to take the public bus or hire a taxi. When given the options we always urge our guests to use the train as much as possible as it’s much safer than the buses in Southeast Asia. The public bus runs smoothly after you’ve taken the train to Dong Hoi, so we’d suggest taking this route over any other.

BUS from Hue to Phong Nha

Cost: 150k VND + depending on what company you take
Travel time: 4hrs

If you’re looking for the affordable and most direct route possible and in the fastest amount of time, we’d recommend this for you. Anything over 250k VND means you’re paying too much.

Private car from Hue to Phong Nha

Cost: 2,500,000 VND
Travel time: 3-4hrs

The premier way to travel up here if you’ve got the money and resources. Highly recommended if you’re traveling in a group of 5 or more!

How to get to Phong Nha from Da Nang (or from Hoi An)

TRAIN from Da Nang/Hoi An to Phong Nha

Cost: 250K – 300k Vnd for soft seats
Travel time: 6 hours

Train Station is in Dong Hoi City, about a 50-minute drive away. The train is scenic and far more comfortable than the madness on the buses. Best trains leave Da Nang at lunchtime arriving at Dong Hoi around 6 pm. Then, you can grab the local bus from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha that will take about an hour.

BUS from Da Nang/Hoi An to Phong Nha

Cost:270k VND (sleeper bus)
Travel time: 7 – 8 hours

While we don’t usually recommend buses as they can get a bit crazy at times, we do recommend the sleeper bus from Hoi An. This bus will take you right to the center of the town and best of all you can get some rest after you’re done sightseeing in Hoi An all day. This is for all the travelers coming through that are on a strict time schedule, allowing them to get some rest.

Private car from Da Nang/Hoi An to Phong Nha

Cost:3,250,000 VND (140usd)
Travel time: 7 hours

The price listed above is for a 3 person 2 bag sedan. Anything more than that and the price will go up a bit each item added. It’s a long ride so if you’ve got the resources to do so, this could be one of the more comfortable ways to get out to Phong Nha.

How to get to Phong Nha by MOTORBIKE from Hue/Hoi An/Da Nang?

I love motorbikes, especially that they are so affordable and accessible in Vietnam. It’s a cracking way to see any part of the world and it so much fun. Motorbiking in Vietnam gives the rider freedom not experienced by other guests. En route to Phong Nha, you’ll pass incredible central Vietnam history such as the Vinh Moc Tunnels, Ben Hai River, and Hien Luong Bridge History Museum.  Between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha it’s far more scenic than the high van pass and still off the beaten path at the moment.  Tacon airbase the old Khe Sanh base combat museum. While the hotels in Khe Sanh are very average, it’s not the reason you’re visiting there. It’s the scenery that’s out there and the adventure along the way.  2 day trip with narrow and windy. It’s dangerous, but if you’re experienced it’s worth it. If not, we’d recommend you riding on the back of a bike with a licensed Vietnamese rider. On your bike adventures operate these one-way tours as do local Vietnamese bike riders booked throughout.

  • **Be Careful to avoid accidents and be licensed in order to make the most out of your travel insurance should you have an accident.

You can rent 150cc motorbikes and check out some of our great itineraries, in particular, check out the run between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha which is simply epic!

Dong Hoi to Phong Nha

The railway station and airport are located in Dong Hoi and some of the bus companies drop you off in Dong Hoi as well. So how to get from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha?

Bus from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha

Dong Hoi airport and the bus station are located about 30-minute walk from each other so if you are can potentially just walk to the bus station. Alternatively, just take a taxi for 25-30k VND. From the bus station catch a local bus that departs every hour and costs 40k VND, the journey would take about 1-1.5h.

Taxi from Dong Hoi to Phong Nha

The taxi either from Dong Hoi airport or the bus station should not cost more than 400k VND. Taking a taxi would make for a much more pleasant journey and will take 30-40 minutes from door to door.

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