Planning a trip to Phong Nha caves in Vietnam? Forget the organised tours and inflated prices, here’s how to do the world’s largest caves on the cheap. Backpacker style.
Hire a moped & a map
If you feel comfortable driving a moped, you can hire one for 100,000 VDN + petrol 60,000 VDN. This is the cheapest mode of transport and means you can beat the bus tours.
Be sure to ask for map as the caves aren’t particularly well sign-posted.
Dark Cave (350,000 vdn)
Leave early in the morning and drive straight to Dark Cave (aka Hang Toi), which takes around 40 minutes.
Dark Cave is an adventure lover’s paradise, complete with mud slides, a zip line, kayaking and even an assualt course! When you’re deep inside the cave – and covered in mud – switch off your head torch and experience complete and utter darkness. Not for the faint-hearted!
When you’ve dried off and have had something to eat, jump back on the bike and head to your next stop:
Paradise Cave (25,000 vdn )
Paradise Cave is the largest dry cave in the world and extends for 31km, although most visitors will only experience the first 3km. It was discovered in 2005 by a local man.
On entering, tourists descend down a magical wooden staircase that leads deep into the cave, past colossal stalagmites and jaw-dropping stalactites. If you want to explore further, consider booking an organised tour when you reach Phong Nha. It’s pretty expensive, but by all accounts, worth it.
Worth going early in the morning to beat the crowds, but we went at around 3pm and there was no one else in there!
Phong Nha Cave
If you want to stay a second day, you can visit Phong Nha cave which is a short boat ride away from the town. Its said scientists have surveyed 44.5 kilometres of passages, tourists are only allowed to explore the first 1500 metres by boat.
Prices are charged per boat – so the more people, the better. Unfortunately this doesn’t come with a tour guide, most of the drivers don’t speak English, so do your research before you go!
Where to eat in Phong Nha
After a long day exploring, you’ll need to fill your belly with delicious foods. We sampled most of the restaurants in Phong Nha, but these two stood out:
Bamboo cafe for its cosy fire, yummy hot chocolates and friendly staff. Great for a hot drink after a day on the road.
Why Not cafe is a great choice if you’re looking for cheap eats. They also play movies in the background so a nice place to chill. Plus the owner is super cute and friendly.