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Where to stay in Phong Nha - the best areas for travellers

| 06 Jul 2018
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Where to stay in Phong Nha - the best areas for travellers
06 Jul 2018

An independent guide to the best areas to stay in and around Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park and the types of accommodation available.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

There’s a homestay and guesthouse boom under way in and around Phong Nha. More and more travellers are working out that this is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.

We’re a little apprehensive about what lies ahead in terms of larger scale developments. For now though, you’ll most likely be staying in small family owned guesthouses that are comfortable, inexpensive and a nice fit with the Phong Nha experience.

Ho Khanh - the man who discovered the world's biggest cave.
Photo: Mark Bowyer Ho Khanh - the man who discovered the world's biggest cave is also a guesthouse owner.

 

 

The best areas to stay in Phong Nha?

First up, it’s worth noting that Son Trach is the official name of what has become known as Phong Nha town. People use both names - we do too. It’s a bit confusing.

Hotels and guesthouses are clustered around three areas, in town along the Son River, in the Bong Lai Valley around 8kms away and throughout the rural countryside.

 

On the riverfront - Son Trach / Phong Nha

Most travellers tend to stay in town along the Son River . There are dozens of small homestays and guesthouses.

There are a handful of standard Vietnam 2 - 3 star hotels and three backpacker hostels along the strip too.

Phong Nha’s only international hotel, Victory Road Villas, is also located on the river in this area.

Most restaurants are clustered near the backpacker accommodations - though the dining scene is limited.

The guesthouse strip runs almost 2kms and most of the nicer guesthouses are on the river away from the main cluster of eateries.

All the riverside places we recommend are a little away - around 1.5kms from the main centre and closer to Phong Nha Cave and the National Park.

You can check out our recommended hotels and guesthouses here.

Ho Khanh;s Homestay, Phong Nha
Photo: Mark Bowyer Ho Khanh;s Homestay, Phong Nha

 

The Bong Lai Valley

The Bong Lai Valley is a rural precinct around 8kms from Phong Nha town. The Phong Nha Farmstay set up near the valley long before the tourist rush and Ben and Bich from the Farmstay have made the valley a little destination in its own right.

If you’re staying more than a night or two, this a great place to be. Phong Nha’s rural life is well worth exploring as an add-on to the National Park. River swimming and tasty local eateries are also on offer in the valley.

We include Phong Nha Farmstay and The Pepper House Homestay in our list of recommendations here - both in the Bong Lai Valley area.

Bong Lai Valley scenes - Phong Nha
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bong Lai Valley scenes - Phong Nha

 

Rural homestays

The rice paddies and villages around Phong Nha are sprinkled with small guesthouses. Most offer scenic settings and good access to town.

 

What to expect from guesthouses and homestays in Phong Nha?

Homestays and guesthouses are pretty generic and the names are used interchangeably. Homestays are small hotels and guesthouses rather than family homes. - location and views are the main variable.

They should offer inexpensive adequate accommodation with private facilities, wifi, air conditioning and free bikes. Some have pools - which look a little incongruous in rural Vietnam. They are usually friendly, simple places to stay with owners who are engaged and helpful.

Guesthouses also offer local cooking - which is a highlight. Ask to eat with the family and you can expect delicious authentic country Vietnamese meals. They tend to provide travellers with a "tourist" version of Vietnamese cuisine unless you ask for the real thing.

We struggled to find places with any local design character. Many used too much concrete in their grounds and hadn’t considered things like air-flow, views and mitigating heat. It’s a shame because some simple design improvements could have made these places so much better.

 

International and upscale hotels in Phong Nha

There is only one international style hotel in Phong Nha. That’s Victory Road Villas. It’s a small hotel with huge rooms, a central location on the Son River and good facilities. Great for families. For more check our list of Phong Nha hotels here.

Victory Road Villas, Son Trach, Phong Nha
Photo: Mark Bowyer Victory Road Villas, Son Trach, Phong Nha

 

Budget and backpacker hostels

Backpackers are well looked after with at least 3 backpacker hostels on the strip. Easy Tiger, Nguyen Shack and Gecko backpackers are located close by one another close by town. Assuming they are not full, you can swing by and take a look at all three before choosing where to stay. Easy Tiger looks to be the biggest and seems to also dominate nightlife around town.

Gecko Hostel Phong Nha
Photo: Mark Bowyer Gecko Hostel Phong Nha

 

Day tripping from Dong Hoi

Dong Hoi is the nearest city to Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. It’s around 45kms away. There are lots of comfortable, inexpensive and unremarkable hotels in Dong Hoi, as well as beach resorts. The beach resorts are targeted squarely at the domestic market. The beach is OK - but if beaches are your thing, better to head out of town.

If you’re very short on time, visiting the caves and National Park from Dong Hoi may be a good option. It’s easy to book a car or a cab from Dong Hoi for the day. 

Alternately, if you have loads of time, you might find Dong Hoi a good place to stay for a couple of nights after visiting Phong Nha. It’s a pleasant small city and good base for forays along the central coast and into the local countryside. There are some nice beaches to the north and south of Dong Hoi.

Dong Hoi - 40kms away, is the nearest city to Phong Nha
Photo: Mark Bowyer Dong Hoi - 40kms away, is the nearest city to Phong Nha
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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