How to Get from Hoi An to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
Situated approximately 340 kilometres apart, the journey from Hoi An to Phong Nha is a long but very manageable one. A mishmash of complicated cave networks, historic mountains, winding lakes and green jungles, Phong Nha is brimming with natural beauty. A ‘must-see’ destination in Vietnam, yet until recently Phong Nha was something of an undiscovered gem. So, why has it recently become so popular? Because of the establishment of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
In this article, Hidden explores the various ways to get from Hoi An to Phong Nha (and vice-versa). As varied as they are exciting, we pick apart all the available options, including a 70-minute seaplane trip, a nine-hour train and a two to three-day motorbike adventure. The scope of attractions en route to Phong Nha is huge!
- Why Visit Phong Nha
- About Phong Nha
- Quick Guide Hoi An to Phong Na
- Seaplane from Hoi An to Phong Nha
- Bus from Hoi An to Phong Nha
- Private Car from Hoi An to Phong Nha
- Train from Hoi An to Phong Nha
- Motorbike from Hoi An to Phong Nha
- Hidden’s Thoughts
Why Visit Phong Nha
This stunning landscape is a 1,233 km² protected area in north-central Vietnam bordering the Hin Namno Reserve in Laos. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, the park is home to the oldest mountains in Asia, formed approximately 400 million years ago. Its most famous cave is Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, discovered only in 2009! The park is also renowned for its beautiful underground rivers and rich wildlife including tigers, black bears and elephants. It should be said that the park’s is more than just a place of extreme beauty. It holds many important historical and cultural relics such as sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and Tam Co Cave (Eight Girls Cave).
Phong Nha is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the exotic nature of Vietnam. Leaving the overly busy, tourist filled cities behind.
About Phong Nha
Phong Nha lies directly between Hanoi and Hoi An, 500km south of the nation’s capital and 340km north of Hoi An. It used to be one of the poorest regions in the country and while tourism has aided the local economy, its development and growth are still very slow. This is partly due to Phong Nha’s major role in the American War, used as a staging point for the Ho Chi Minh Trail and training ground for the North Vietnamese Army.
As a consequence of this, Phong Nha was the target for extensive aerial bombing by the Americans. Russian and Chinese involvement added to this destruction, supplying anti-aircraft artillery to the Vietnamese to counteract American aggression. Phong Nha was one of the worst affected areas during the conflict and sadly a large number of unexploded ordnance (UXOs) remain today, causing harm and distress to the local population.
However, Phong Nha is still a safe place to visit and its lack of bars, restaurants or hotels in comparison to other tourist hotspots is refreshing. The Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park is a symbol of pride for the whole of Vietnam.
Quick Guide Hoi An to Phong Na
|SeaPlane||70 mins||6,960,000 VND (303 USD)|
|Commercial Air||Not advisable from Hoi An|
|Bus||8. 5 hours||280,000 VND (12 USD)|
|Private Car||6.5 hours||3,300,000 VND (142 USD)|
|Train||9 hours||327,000 VND (14 USD)|
|Motorbike||340 km / 2-3 days|
Seaplane from Hoi An to Phong Nha
Launched in July 2019, Hai Au Aviation offers a 70-minute seaplane ride from Da Nang to Dong Hoi. This is Vietnam’s only air taxi experience, providing you with an incredible opportunity to be one of the first people to take on this stunning adventure! This journey takes you over the breathtaking central Vietnamese coast and the famed Hai Van Pass, weaving through the forested Truong Son Mountain Range and the 24km long Tam Giang Lagoon. While you soar over Hue’s historic Citadel and Imperial Enclosure, expect to catch a glimpse of the former Demilitarized Zone just north of Hue.
Enjoy these superb views aboard the 12-seater Cessna Grand Caravan, one of the industry’s safest and most powerful single-engine aeroplanes. This rapid and exciting option comes with a somewhat to be expected price tag, costing 6,960,000 VND (303 USD) one-way.
Hidden Hint: The planes only operate on Thursdays and Sundays, so plan your trip accordingly to take this travel option.
To get to Da Nang International Airport from Hoi An, take a taxi or local bus which takes around 45 minutes. For more information on these options, check out our article on getting from Hoi An to Da Nang.
On arrival at Dong Hoi International Airport, take a bus or taxi on to your final destination. Expect to pay from 400,000 to 500,000 VND (17 USD – 21 USD) for a 45-minute direct local taxi from the airport to Phong Nha. Or get a short taxi to Nam Ly Bus station and a bus to Phong Nha from there. This is a much cheaper alternative but will take double the amount of time.
While the seaplane is a rapid way to get from Hoi An to Phong Nha, the same cannot be said for taking a commercial flight. While flying from Da Nang to Dong Hoi is technically possible, Dong Hoi only receives flights from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. This means you have to make a large detour to these cities before you can arrive in Phong Nha. Therefore making this journey is somewhat impractical when there are many other more convenient options available.
Bus from Hoi An to Phong Nha
Bus is the most popular option of getting to Phong Nha from Hoi An. Unfortunately, there are no direct buses, so you have to change in Hue (about four hours into your journey). However, this won’t cause you any problems as your bus operator shows you to the next bus.
Recently there have been complaints about bus companies such as Camel Travel and Queen Cafe arriving in Phong Nha much later than expected. Sometimes even dropping people off in Dong Hoi (which is 45km away!).
Hidden Hint: There have recently been reports of buses not leaving until they have enough passengers on the bus to make the trip worth their while. Be prepared for some delays
Hidden’s Preferred Bus Operators – Hanh Cafe and Sinh Tourist
For this reason, Hidden recommends booking your journey through Sinh Tourist or Hanh Cafe. These are both well-known operators that run buses throughout the day. You can buy a ticket for the full journey to Phong Nha for 280,000 VND (12 USD) if you visit the Hanh Cafe office in Hoi An. This bus departs at 7.30.a.m and 13.30.p.m. On arrival in Hue, you continue your journey with Hang Thanh (a partner organisation) who drop you off in Phong Nha five hours later. Two separate tickets are required when buying online. Find tickets from Hoi An to Hue and from Hue to Phong Nha.
Sinh Tourist offers the same route with departure times from Hoi An to Hue at either 8:30 a.m. or 13:45.p.m. Find tickets here.
Private Car from Hoi An to Phong Nha
The journey from Hoi An to Phong Nha takes six and a half hours by car. A private car is definitely the fastest, most luxurious and comfortable way to make this journey. Having your own driver gives you the advantage of direct pick up and drop off at your hotel at whatever time suits you. It also minimises any potential stress as its a simple A to B journey, with no changes mid-way.
The price depends on how large a car you want, but expect to pay around 3,300,000 VND (142 USD) for a four to seven-seater car. This price includes petrol, road tolls and parking fees but excludes lunch and entrance fees to any attractions you stop at along the way.
For more information about this option, read our article on Hoi An’s private cars and transfer services.
Train from Hoi An to Phong Nha
Taking the train is a slightly more complicated operation as there is no train station in Hoi An or Phong Nha. This means while it is still possible to take the train, you need to split your journey up into various stages. First you need to get to Da Nang Train Station, via shuttle bus, taxi or local bus. This journey takes about 45 minutes and is relatively cheap, approx 20,000 VND (0.90 USD) if you take the bus. Check the timetable and book train tickets here.
The train from Da Nang to Dong Hoi takes six hours. It costs 247,000 VND (11 USD) for a soft seat or 317,000 VND (14 USD) for a sleeper berth.
Hidden Hint: Take train E10, departing at 10:03 a.m. and arriving at 16:04 p.m. as this lines up with the last two public buses to Phong Nha for the day.
After arriving at Dong Hoi Train Station take a taxi to Dong Hoi Bus Station. This is a very short distance away and should only cost 25,000 VND (0.8 USD). Once at the bus station you will (finally!) board the bus to Phong Nha. This last leg of your trip should take approximately an hour and a half and cost 35,000 VND (1 USD).
Hidden Hint: Take a Grab or FastGo where possible. These are basically Asia’s Uber! You simply book through the app – they are a fraction of the cost of other taxis!
Motorbike from Hoi An to Phong Nha
If you have time to spare and want a chance to see all the various attractions en route to Phong Nha this is another great transport option. Travelling at your own pace, you can soak up some of Vietnam’s hidden gems, vibrant history and diverse landscapes. It is a much more personal experience, which you can, of course, tailor to your own needs and timeframe.
However, this ride is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. It’s approximately 337 km from Hoi An to Phong Nha, along busy highways and or steep winding mountain roads. That’s a lot of difficult driving!
While you can technically drive the whole route in a day it’s inadvisable. The greatest thing about this drive are the beautiful photo opportunities at each turn, rushing your drive doesn’t allow you to make the most of this. You will also be exhausted when you arrive! Instead Hidden recommends spacing this large journey out over two to three days, allowing yourself to have the most comfortable and enjoyable experience.
If biking to Phong Nha is of interest to you, check out our article on motorbike rentals in Vietnam for more information.
Da Nang or Hoi An to Phong Nha via Motorbike Tour
For those seeking the adventurous route to Phong Nha, Onyabike’s three day motorcycle trip is the place to look. The tour travels through some of Central Vietnam’s most breathtaking and historic scenery, from the Hai Van Pass to Khe Sanh and the Vinh Moc Tunnels. As this is a pillion trip, you sit back and enjoy the ride with highly experienced guides at the wheel (although riding yourself is an option for experienced riders). The bikes are also something quite special as well, the Royal Enfield Himalayan 410cc will get you there and in some style. This is a premium trip with one of the best companies in Vietnam and costs 12,500,000 VND (543 USD). The tour can be booked in either direction and Onyabike do have the option to drive the bike yourself. Find out more and book here.
The Self Drive Highway Route
This is the fastest route from Hoi An to Phong Nha. You begin your journey following the QL1A national highway straight to Hue. This takes you over the famous Hai Van Pass and can take you as little as three to four hours or an entire day. Depending on if you explore all the sights and detours along the way. For more information on this first leg of the journey, check out our article on driving the Hai Van Pass.
If you are splitting the journey then Hue is the logical place to stop for the night. The next morning, you continue on QL1A, riding alongside the beautiful coastline all the way to Dong Hoi. Once you reach Dong Hoi, you turn inland and take the much smaller QL16 beginning your incline through the mountains. This road leads you directly to Phong Nha and should take about 30-45 minutes.
Hidden Hint: Phong Nha’s ‘Hollywood’ style sign in the hills means you certainly won’t miss your final destination!
You can also change the highway route slightly, moving onto parallel roads through either the mountains or along the beach. The coastal road along Bãi Biển Thâm Khê Beach and the inland QL15 past An Ma Lake are the most scenic detours.
Hidden Hint: If you are travelling in a group, download the map on more than just one phone as phone batteries are not always reliable.
Ho Chi Minh Road Route from Hoi An to Phong Nha
This is the longest but most panoramic route from Hoi An to Phong Nha. Head inland immediately, exiting Hoi An via the QL14, which is part of the Ho Chi Minh Road. Skirt the Laos Border, weaving through the spectacular forests, river valleys and mountains until you arrive at Khe Sanh. From here, continue on the Ho Chi Minh Road/QL15 the remainder of the way to Phong Nha. This route takes an absolute minimum of two days. It is certainly more challenging but offers a really authentic adventure ride!
Before embarking on this journey, we recommend you conduct thorough research. On both these routes, accommodation, restaurants, petrol stations and ATMs are few and far between. It’s best to mark where these places are before you leave to avoid being caught short.
Hidden Hint: Be sure to have phone data and a working sim in case you run into an emergency
Which travel option you choose to get from Hoi An to Phong Nha is totally dependent on your time and budget restrictions. If you are looking for a thrilling new experience, the motorbike or seaplane options are a fantastic way of seeing hidden parts of Vietnam.
The most affordable option is definitely the bus. It provides a straightforward way of getting to Phong Nha if you are in a hurry or budget-conscious. However, while the train is a slightly more complicated way of getting to Phong Nha it’s still a very economical option.
If you are travelling in a large group or family, sharing the costs of a private car may turn out to be great value for money. In addition to offering a great amount of flexibility and comfort.
Regardless of how you get to Phong Nha from Hoi An, you certainly won’t regret your visit to one of Vietnam’s relatively hidden, breathtaking gems.