Phong Nha: How to Get There is Part of Your Adventure

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Lauren Tracy

Last Updated: February 23, 2024

Are you planning a trip to Phong Nha in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province? Let’s journey to Phong Nha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province. Known for its dramatic limestone karsts and expansive cave systems, Phong Nha is a haven for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. Perfect for trekking and exploring or simply sitting back – sipping your coconut, and admiring the incredible view!

These geological wonders have been formed over millions of years and provide a fascinating insight into the planet’s history. As a result, they attract adventurers, scientists, and even filmmakers (as it was the setting for King Kong).

This guide will navigate the various transportation options to reach Phong Nha. Whether flying to Dong Hoi Airport, taking a scenic train, or driving, we’ll help you make your journey to Phong Nha an integral part of your adventure.

Why This Article Is Essential

Phong Nha is a remote area in Vietnam that offers a wealth of adventures and wonders to discover. Since there’s no grab car, railway station, or airport in Phong Nha, you’ll need to reach the nearby city of Dong Hoi if you want to travel by air or rail. However, you can also opt for other modes of transportation, such as taking a bus or private car from neighboring destinations like Hue, Da Nang, or Hoi An. Read on for essential transportation options, travel tips, and local accommodations to help you plan your adventure effectively and make it unforgettable.

Understanding Where Phong Nha Is

Phong Nha, nestled in the scenic Quang Binh Province of Central Vietnam, is a destination that stands out even in a country known for its natural beauty. This region, characterized by its stunning coastline and remarkable topography, is a geographic marvel waiting to be explored.

how to get to phong nha
Motorbikes are recommended when going to Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

Quang Binh Province stretches along Central Vietnam’s coast, offering an enticing mix of pristine beaches and dramatic mountain landscapes. But the inland area, where Phong Nha is located, truly captures the imagination. Here, the landscape transforms into a labyrinth of limestone karsts, dense jungles, meandering rivers, and vast caves, including the world-famous Son Doong Cave – the largest cave passage in the world by volume.

Whether traveling by air to the nearby Dong Hoi Airport, taking a scenic train ride, or driving through the winding roads, the journey to Phong Nha is as mesmerizing as the destination. Each route offers a different perspective of Central Vietnam’s diverse geography, from its serene beaches to its rugged inland terrain.

Phong Nha – How to get there?

The Gateway to Phong Nha Town: Dong Hoi City

how to get to phong nha
A route to Phong Nha by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot.

Your journey to Phong Nha will often begin in Dong Hoi City, a charming coastal town located near the caves and natural wonders of Phong Nha. As we navigate the different travel options, remember that Dong Hoi City is your gateway to this adventure. Whether starting from major cities, traveling by rail and road, or arriving by train from Northern Vietnam, we’ve got you covered.

Fly from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi Airport (Nearby Phong Nha)

Take the direct route: If you’re planning a trip to Phong Nha from major cities like Ho Chi Minh City or Ha Noi, Dong Hoi Airport is the closest airport to your destination. Located just 45 minutes from Phong Nha by car, Dong Hoi Airport offers a convenient and hassle-free way to reach this beautiful destination. Note that Dong Hoi Airport is not accessible from Da Nang International Airport, so it’s better to fly from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Note: there are a range of local airline companies to choose from but Vietnam airlines is your best option.

Take the train to Dong Hoi Station (Nearby Phong Nha)

After arriving at Dong Hoi Train station (the closest train station to Phong Nha) – some travelers may also choose to spend the night in Dong Hoi at a seaside resort if they aren’t pressed for time – and some choose to only do a day trip to Phong Nha. However – if you’re a nature lover it’s highly recommended to stay in Phong Nha. There are multiple options for train travel, depending on where you are coming from.

Rail Travel from Nearby Southern Cities – Da Nang and Hue:

Traveling by train from southern cities like Da Nang and Hue offers a scenic and relaxing way to reach Phong Nha. The nearest major train station to Phong Nha is in Dong Hoi, from where you can take a taxi to reach Phong Nha, approximately 45 kilometers away.

  • Da Nang to Dong Hoi: Trains from Da Nang to Dong Hoi typically take about 6 to 7 hours. The journey is known for its beautiful coastal views, especially as the train crosses the Hai Van Pass, offering a stunning overlook of the South China Sea. For an improved train option from Da Nang to Dong Hoi, consider the SE22 train, which departs Da Nang in the mid-morning and arrives in Dong Hoi in the early afternoon. This schedule allows you to enjoy the coastal views in the morning light and reach Dong Hoi with enough daylight to settle into your accommodation.
  • Hue to Dong Hoi: A shorter journey, taking about 3 to 4 hours. This route passes through picturesque rural landscapes and alongside the lagoons and waterways of Central Vietnam. From Hue to Dong Hoi, the SE4 train departing in the late morning and arriving in the early afternoon is a good option. This timing provides a comfortable journey through the rural landscapes of Central Vietnam, ensuring you arrive in Dong Hoi not too late in the day.
  • Booking and Schedules: Tickets can be booked online, at the station, or through travel agents. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. There are several trains daily, with options ranging from budget to more comfortable sleeper and air-conditioned cars.

Train from Northern Destinations in Vietnam (Hanoi and Ninh Binh)

Hanoi to Dong Hoi:

The train journey from Hanoi to Dong Hoi is a fantastic way to travel, taking around 10 hours. It’s a perfect choice for those who want to save a day for exploring and enjoy the landscapes of Vietnam at a leisurely pace.

Hanoi to Dong Hoi Train Options:
  • SE7 Train: Departs at 06:00 from Hanoi, arriving in Dong Hoi at 16:21. This is a good option for those who want to enjoy the scenery during the daytime.
  • SE5 Train: Leaves Hanoi at 09:00 and reaches Dong Hoi at 19:22. Suitable for travelers who prefer to start their journey later in the morning.
  • SE1 Train: This is an overnight option, departing from Hanoi at 19:30 and arriving in Dong Hoi at 05:35 the next morning. Ideal for travelers looking to save on a night’s accommodation.
  • SE19 Train: Another overnight choice, leaving Hanoi at 20:10 and arriving in Dong Hoi at 06:24.
  • SE3 Train: Departs Hanoi at 22:00 and reaches Dong Hoi at 07:25. This is the latest departure among the options, suitable for those who want to spend a full day in Hanoi before traveling.

Travel Tips: Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons. Try to choose a soft sleeper for maximum comfort. The train departs in the evening and arrives in Dong Hoi the next morning, making it a practical overnight option.

Ninh Binh to Dong Hoi

From the historical city of Ninh Binh to Dong Hoi, the train journey takes approximately 7 hours. This route is a scenic trip through rural landscapes and traditional Vietnamese villages.

  • SE7 Train: Departs from Ninh Binh at 08:22, arriving in Dong Hoi at 16:21. This daytime journey allows you to enjoy the Vietnamese countryside and is perfect for those who prefer to travel during daylight hours.
  • SE5 Train: Leaves Ninh Binh at 11:21, reaching Dong Hoi at 19:22. This option is suitable for travelers who wish to start their journey later in the morning.
  • SE1 Train: An overnight train departing at 21:49 from Ninh Binh and arriving in Dong Hoi at 05:35 the next morning. This is an excellent choice for saving on accommodation and enjoying a restful night.
  • SE19 Train: Another overnight option, leaving Ninh Binh at 22:25 and arriving in Dong Hoi at 06:24.
  • SE3 Train: Departs at 00:13, and arrives in Dong Hoi at 07:25. This is the latest departure, good for those who want to spend a full day in Ninh Binh before heading to Dong Hoi.
Train Travel Tips: 

As with traveling from Hanoi, booking a soft sleeper berth in advance is advisable for a comfortable journey. The train schedule is convenient for travelers who wish to enjoy a full day in Ninh Binh before departing for Phong Nha.

Arrival in Dong Hoi Station: Upon reaching Dong Hoi, you’ll find taxis readily available for the journey to Phong Nha. The drive is about 45 kilometers, offering a glimpse into the beautiful landscapes of Central Vietnam.

hanoi train street
Hanoi Train Street – Photo by VIA Ambassador Lavonne Bosman

Road Travel from Nearby Southern Cities (Da Nang and Hue)

For those who prefer road travel, buses and private cars offer flexible alternatives to reach Phong Nha. Additionally these options may be quicker as you don’t need to stop in Dong Hoi.

Public Buses: Regular bus services connect Da Nang and Hue with Phong Nha. To travel from Hue or Da Nang to Phong Nha, several bus companies offer services, ensuring a comfortable and convenient journey. Here’s a quick suggested list of bus companies:

  • Recommended Bus Companies from Da Nang: Techbus VN, Grouptour, Hey Travel, and Queen Café. The journey takes about 7.5 to 8 hours and costs approximately $14-17 per person. These buses provide direct services to Phong Nha, making them a convenient option for travelers.
  • Suggested Bus Companies from Hue: Hung Thanh Bus Company and The SinhTourist, which offer direct bus services. These buses typically take around 4 to 5 hours and provide a straightforward way to reach Phong Nha directly from Hue.
  • Private Taxi or Car: Renting a car or hiring a taxi provides more comfort and flexibility. The journey from Da Nang to Phong Nha takes about 5 to 6 hours, while from Hue it’s about 4 hours. The route along the Ho Chi Minh Highway is particularly scenic, with less traffic and more natural beauty compared to the coastal highway. You can also stop off at Vinh Moc Tunnels en route and enjoy more flexibility.

Both train and road travel offer unique experiences and opportunities to see the Vietnamese countryside up close. Whether you prefer the leisurely pace of train travel or the flexibility of a road trip, each option provides its own set of advantages for your journey to Phong Nha.

Pro Travel Tips: Train, Plane, or Road?

Authors Suggestion

As someone who has traveled extensively in Vietnam, I understand that deciding on the best mode of travel between destinations can be daunting. That’s why I’m here to offer some expert suggestions. 

  • If traveling from Da Nang to Hue, I highly recommend the beautiful train route. Alternatively, you can opt for a private car to have more flexibility to explore the sights without stopping in Dong Hoi and heading directly to Phong Nha. 
  • Flying from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi Airport is also convenient. 
  • If you have more time, consider taking the overnight trains Vietnam Railways offers from Ninh Binh or Hanoi.
  • You can pre arrange pickup from your hotel or homestay in Phong nha if you give them your flight or train arrival details in  Dong Hoi for peace of mind.

Ultimately, your decision should be based on your personal preferences and the amount of time you have available. 

Stay & Experience Phong Nha

Local Insights and Stays

Discovering Phong Nha Town and Phong Nha Village is integral to your adventure. There are a range of accommodation options, including the comfortable Phong Nha Farmstay, budget-friendly Central Backpackers Hostel, and luxurious Victory Road Villas. Many of these places offer pick-up services from Dong Hoi City if you contact them in advance.

Discover our Top Picks for Accommodation in Phong Nha.

Once you’ve arrived in Phong Nha, it’s time to explore the stunning attractions and caves in the area. We’ll guide you on how to reach Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, Dark Cave, Phong Nha National Park, Tu Lan, and the hidden gems of Bong Lai Valley. Whether you prefer motorbike tours or the solo route – check out our informative guide on getting around the attractions in Phong Nha.

Discover Phong Nha Cave Tours and Experiences

Phong Nha is full of incredible tours and experiences. Discover a range of tours, from cave exploration to cultural experiences, on your next adventure in Phong Nha!

phong nha how to get there
Wooden boat trip along the Son River into Phong Nha Cave in the Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. Photo by Pen_ash

Adventure is Calling!

Embark on an exciting journey through the lush and exotic jungle of Phong Nha, where you will witness a diverse range of flora and fauna. Explore the intricate and awe-inspiring caves deep within the jungle’s heart. As you venture further into the caverns, you will be surrounded by stunning rock formations shaped over millions of years. 

To get to Phong Nha, you can opt for various modes of transportation. You can fly from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Dong Hoi, the closest airport to Phong Nha. From there, you can take a taxi or transfer to your hotel in Phong Nha. Alternatively, you can take a train to Dong Hoi Station, an overnight journey from Hanoi or Ninh Binh, or a quick scenic trip from Hue or Da Nang. You can also hire a private car from nearby cities such as Hue, Da Nang, or Hoi, which offers more flexibility and stops. Lastly, you can take a bus directly to Phong Nha, the cheaper option. Although getting to Phong Nha may require some extra effort, it is worth it to experience this incredible destination.

phong nha tra ang tour 9 - Phong Nha: How to Get There is Part of Your Adventure
Phong Nha – Tra Ang Tour by Vietnam Is Awesome

Common Questions about how to get to Phong Nha, Vietnam

How do you get to Phong Nha?

The most practical route to travel from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Phong Nha is by air. To reach Dong Hoi, you can choose from several airlines like Vietjet Air, Bamboo Airways, or VietjetAir. Once in Dong Hoi, arranging transportation to Phong Nha is necessary. This final leg of the journey can be covered by car, bike, or local buses.

What is the closest airport to Phong Nha?

The nearest airport to Phong Nha is Dong Hoi Airport, located in Dong Hoi Town, approximately 40km away. The journey from the airport to Phong Nha typically takes around 45 minutes by car or bike and a bit longer if you travel by local buses. Although Dong Hoi Airport is an international facility, its primary connections are with destinations within Vietnam.

Is Phong Nha worth visiting?

Phong Nha is a must-visit destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers. The region is renowned for the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, home to some of the world’s most spectacular caves, including the colossal Son Doong Cave. The park’s rugged mountains, lush forests, and dramatic cliffs offer a stunning backdrop for exploration. Phong Nha is truly a paradise for those seeking adventure and natural beauty.

Etienne Bossot ft quang binh - Phong Nha: How to Get There is Part of Your Adventure
Discover Quảng Bình on your feet will feast your eyes with epic landscapes. Photo by VIA Ambassador Etienne Bossot

How many days do you need in Phong Nha?

To fully experience the beauty and adventure of Phong Nha, it’s recommended to allocate at least three to four days. This duration allows ample time to explore famous caves like Phong Nha Cave, Paradise Cave, and Dark Cave. Additionally, it will enable visitors to engage in outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking, ensuring a well-rounded and memorable experience.

Ready to embark on your Phong Nha adventure? Book your Phong Nha Cave Tour with Vietnam Is Awesome today. Your journey begins here, and every step is part of the adventure!

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Lauren Tracy
Head of Content & Communications - Vietnam Is Awesome
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Lauren has been living in Vietnam for the past 8 years. Her passion for the travel industry and wealth of experience has led her to become the Head of PR & Communications at Vietnam Is Awesome.

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