Caving & Camping
What is the difficulty level of the tour?
This depends on which tour you’ll be joining. Please refer to our Adventure Level pyramid for a breakdown of the differing levels of difficulty our tours provide. Detailed requirements for each Adventure Level can be found on each tour page.
What is the weather like in the cave and jungle?
Never forget you are deep in the jungle and the difficulty of our tours is also very dependent on the weather.
It can get very cold here during winter (November to February, 8 – 15 degrees Celsius) and very hot during summer (from June to August, 32 – 40 degrees Celsius), not to mention the jungle becomes very slippery and muddy anytime it rains.
In the caves, it usually ranges from 18 – 23 Celsius in winter (when a fleece and extra warm clothes are necessary) to 22 – 25 Celsius in summer, when shorts and t-shirts will suffice around camp.
Please note that all Tu Lan tours will follow an amended itinerary when the weather is extremely cold, and swimming will be limited or omitted if the temperature drops below 18 degrees Celsius.
How can I best prepare for a tour during late fall or winter?
Winters here (mid-November to mid-March) are not extremely cold but have an average temperature ranging anywhere from 8 – 15 degrees Celsius. It’s important to know what the weather will be like in advance of your tour so that you can be the best prepared and have the most enjoyable experience.
Check weather conditions carefully via http://www.accuweather.com/en/vn/phong-nha/418626/weather-forecast/418626 at least 7 days in advance so that you can foresee if you want to do the tour in the forecasted weather or not (refunds are only given when a written cancellation request is received and acknowledged 7 days in advance of a tour).
Bring warm and thermal clothes. You can even bring a thermal rash guard or springsuit (short wetsuit) for a Tu Lan tour if you would really like. If you bring a springsuit/wetsuit, you will have to be able to carry it by yourselves and our tour guide will direct you when to wear it and when to take it off.
Keep your head warm with a beanie (hat) and scarf while trekking and especially while sleeping, and please try to keep your hair dry when swimming (for Tu Lan tours). Beanies, scarves, socks, and gloves can be purchased for a fair price in the Phong Nha local market.
Change into dry clothes immediately upon reaching camp (Tu Lan tours, and also Hang En tours if it’s been raining) and take a hot drink from the porters to warm up your body once getting to the campsite.
Let your tour guide know if you feel cold or unhealthy, and don’t hesitate to ask for more sleeping bags.
How can I best prepare for a tour during summer?
Summers here are hot… very hot. Average temperatures range from 32 – 40 degrees Celsius. There is a high level of humidity as well so please be prepared ahead of time.
Check weather conditions carefully via http://www.accuweather.com/en/vn/phong-nha/418626/weather-forecast/418626 at least 7 days in advance to get the best idea of what the weather will be like during your tour.
Plan to drink lots of water before, during, and after your tour. Consider bringing rehydration tablets with you to help keep your salts balanced as you sweat; your tour guide will also carry some for emergency situations. Also, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink (go easy on the rice wine we provide!) because alcohol can increase dehydration.
Finally, don’t forget to pack a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and also long sleeves can be helpful to protect your skin from the sun. We recommend wearing long sleeves and require long pants even in the summer. While it may seem counter intuitive, it can actually help to keep you cooler and pants especially are a necessity to protect against elements like sharp rocks, prickly plants, insects, etc.
Do we have to swim, even in winter?
The following tours require swimming:
- Tu Lan 1-Day Experience
- Tu Lan Cave Encounter (2D1N)
- Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer (3D2N)
- Tu Lan Expedition (4D3N)
If you’re not comfortable with swimming, we provide rafts as an alternative. Please note that all Tu Lan tours will follow an amended itinerary when the weather is extremely cold, and swimming will be limited or omitted at tour guide’s discretion if the temperature drops below 18 degrees Celsius.
How long is swimming part? Can I get any support if I cannot swim?
Swimming requirements and lengths depend on which tour you join. Please refer to detailed itineraries on each tour’s webpage for exact lengths of the swimming portions. If you cannot swim at all, we recommend booking a tour with no swimming involved such as Hang En or Hang Va. If you have just basic swimming skills, your tour guide and porter team can assist you in the swim portions. All customers are required to wear a life-jacket while on tour, regardless of swimming abilities. As mentioned in the previous answer, we do provide rafts for guests that don’t wish to swim.
Do I need to know how to rappel/abseil for your tours?
You DO NOT need any prior experience in rappelling/abseiling. In Tu Lan Expedition tour, we do have abseiling part but our internationally qualified guide & porter team will support you to have a safe & interesting experience.
Do I need to provide my own helmet, harness, rope, or caving equipment?
No – we will provide for you all necessary caving equipment, including helmet, harness, and rope where necessary. We will also provide for you a high-powered head torch for your caving throughout each day, but please bring a small head torch that would be appropriate for around the campsite each night if you have one. Please check itinerary and packing list for your tour clearly to know what to bring. Regarding helmets, please do not place any GoPro mounts on our helmets as they increase wear and tear and void the manufacturer’s warranty.
How many miles or kilometers will we be walking on each tour?
It’s entirely dependent on which tour you take. Please refer to the Quick Facts or Adventure Level under each tour description to see the distance you will cover.
What is the cave floor like? Is it flat?
The cave floor is anything but flat. It is very uneven, covered in giant boulders, and very rocky. Please expect to be traveling on this kind of terrain.
I am claustrophobic, does this present a problem? Are there any tight squeezes in the cave?
In Secret Cave, there will be sections where you will have to squeeze and the ceiling will be close to your head. Secret Cave is visited on a private Tu Lan 2 day tour, Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer, and the Tu Lan Expedition. You may choose to wait outside with a guide assistant while the rest of your tour proceeds through this cave if you do not feel comfortable to venture inside. In all other caves, there may be a few places where you will have to squeeze vertically, but not horizontally.
What are the sleeping /bedding conditions like? Do I need to bring a sleeping bag or tent?
In all of our tours, you will be provided with a tent (single or double choices are upon request), sleeping bag with mattresses & pillow.
Where do we camp if it rains?
Regardless of rain, campsites will remain the same and there will be a tarp covering the sleeping site.
What activities will take place at camp?
Afternoon and evening activities will differ slightly depending on which tour/campsite you are at, but camp activities mostly involve getting settled into camp, eating dinner, and simply hanging out with your fellow travelers, tour guide, and porter team. You’ll be invited to sample traditional Vietnamese rice wine and you can choose to take part in games around the campfire, like card games, etc. Please also feel free to bring any small games along with you.
What kind of food will there be on the tour? Do I need to bring my own snacks?
There will be a wide variety of different types of food served on all of our tours, and plenty of it. We are able to accommodate those with most dietary restrictions or preferences, but please notify us ahead of time so that we are better able to make accommodations for you in advance. It is easy for us to prepare vegetarian food. However, if you are vegan or gluten-free, we are able to accommodate your eating restrictions at mealtimes (if you advise us in advance), but it is more difficult during snack breaks. Please bring some of your own snacks (trail mix, nuts, protein bars, etc.) to make sure that you have snack options on hand for extra energy when needed.
For those who eat Kosher/Halal, we are unfortunately unable to provide Kosher/Halal meat. If either of these dietary restrictions apply to you, please let us know. Most Kosher/Halal customers would choose to eat vegetarian for the duration of the tour.
If you have any issues with the food we provide while on tour (too spicy, etc), please inform us during the tour and not after the tour.
What if I am a solo traveler, can I join a group?
Solo travelers are most welcome and make up a large percentage of most groups.
How many people are usually on each join-in tour?
The number of participants per Adventure tour is subject to change at management’s discretion. There is an average of:
- 12 pax for Tu Lan 1-Day Experience
- 12 pax for the Hang Tien 1-Day Discovery
- 10 pax for the Hang Tien Endeavor
- 10 pax for Tu Lan Cave Encounter
- 16 pax per Hang En Adventure Cave Camp
- 10 pax for Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer
- 10 pax for Hang Tien Exploration
The number of participants per Expedition tour is set strictly and cannot be amended, specifically:
- 8 pax for the Tu Lan Expedition
- 10 pax for the Hang Va Expedition
- 10 pax for the Son Doong Expedition
These numbers are applicable to private tours as well.
Each tour also has a fixed number of tour guides and porters. In case a tour has more people or some special guests who need more support, we will arrange extra person(s) to ensure the safety of the group.
What sort of clothing should I bring on the tour?
While it varies how many sets you will want to bring depending on how long your tour is, we do recommend long sleeves and require long pants for the best protection in the jungle and caves. If you don’t have either, they are usually available for purchase at our Oxalis office. Please refer to the packing list (“What We Will Provide/What You Need to Bring”) specific to the tour you have signed up for.
Why must I wear long pants and long sleeves on tour?
We require that you wear long pants and we recommend long sleeves in order to protect yourselves in many ways. You may encounter sharp rocks, thorny bushes, stinging plants, mosquitoes and more in the jungle; therefore, long pants and long sleeves provide added protection against these elements.
Do I need to bring extra warm clothes in winter?
We absolutely recommend bringing extra warm clothes in winter (mid-November to mid-March), including a fleece, a beanie or hat, extra socks, and even a light jacket. Waterproof jackets are very useful during winter in rain/wind (but useless and therefore not recommended during summer). You could get lucky in winter and have warm weather but it’s best to be prepared, as it can be very cold on winter nights in the jungle. Temperature can range from 8 to 15 degrees Celsius.
Do I need a backpack?
You will definitely need a backpack for Hang En, Hang Tien, Hang Va, and Son Doong. The backpack will contain your water, camera, and personal items (personal medications, sunscreen, bug spray, etc). It’s also great if it can fit your helmet in (since you won’t need to wear it until reaching the cave).
For Tu Lan tours, we will provide you with a plastic floating backpack (not waterproof) to make it easier for you to wear while swimming, and a semi-dry bag for you to put your personal items in during the trek. The porters will carry your change of clothes to camp for you. The rest of your luggage can be stored at our office and we also have a locker to store valuable items.
Do I need a drybag?
We will provide you with a semi-dry bag for all tours. This bag will contain all items you’d like with you during the day (personal items plus a possible change of clothes for winter tours) and will be placed in the above-mentioned plastic backpack. All other clothes and belongings will be carried to camp for you by the porters. Your tour guide will have a dry box in which you can place electronics such as cameras and phones. Please do not place valuable items such as electronics or vital personal medication in the semi-dry bag, as Oxalis will not take responsibility for any leaks which may occur.
*For Hang En, Hang Tien 1-Day, and Hang Va, there are no mandatory swimming portions.
A drybag is still a good consideration because you will never know when there could be surprise showers during your tour, regardless of the month of the year. It’s a good idea to have a dry bag for your camera at least, due to the humid conditions in the jungle and cave, especially in the rainier months of February – early April, as showers are most common during that time. The river crossings are generally only knee-high, but if you are clumsy, you will be glad you’ve put your camera in a drybag.
Should I bring a swimsuit?
Please bring swimwear for Hang En, Hang Tien, and Tu Lan tours. We request that you do not wear your swimwear (especially bikinis) as you walk or lounge around camp, for the respect of our porter team.
Will I need trekking poles?
If you usually hike with trekking poles, please bring them with you, especially for Hang En. We do have a few sets available to borrow but cannot guarantee availability prior to your arrival.
What can I do with the things that I don’t want to bring with me on tour? Can I leave it at your office?
You are welcome to leave behind extra luggage at our office. Anything you choose to leave behind will get tagged and placed securely in our locked storage room, however please note that Oxalis takes no responsibility for luggage or valuables left behind. Please do not bring anything of major value with you as we will not be responsible for these items.
What sort of boots/shoes should I bring on the tour?
This is an extremely important consideration. The going underfoot is tough. Your footwear will get totally submerged many times a day on every tour (especially Tu Lan tours). There is a lot of scrambling over boulders so good grip and comfortable footwear is essential. It’s best to find a pair of shoes/boots with the softest and stickiest rubber possible, as this ensures the best grip. If you’d like to borrow a pair of our jungle boots, you are welcome to, but please note that they are minimalistic jungle army boots.
(Gore-Tex or waterproof boots are NOT recommended but, if you have a comfortable boot with a good grip and it happens to be Gore-Tex or waterproof, they are still acceptable.)
Will I be able to change my footwear for river crossings to keep my feet dry?
You cannot change your footwear for river crossings. Please expect your feet to be wet for most of each day of your tour.
Should we bring our own water bottle?
We can offer you the use of a 750 mL bottle which you can fill at our office. Otherwise, you can buy large (up to 1.5 L) bottles of water at many places within town. The water bottles will be refilled on tour with the use of our water purifier pump.
What can I buy in Phong Nha?
Long-sleeved trekking shirts, short sleeve cotton shirts, trekking pants, and bandanas can all be purchased at the Oxalis office (subject to availability). We don’t recommend relying solely on our merchandise in case we are out of your size or low on inventory. Some trekking equipment can now be purchased from a trekking gear and outdoors shop near the center of town. Otherwise, we only have a simple market here. Items you can find at our local market include things such as baby wipes, baby powder, socks, flip-flops, and hats. Please shop and pack accordingly prior to your arrival here.
What can I specifically not buy in Phong Nha?
Trekking shoes, specific personal medications, quality batteries, rechargers, and proper-sized backpacks all top the list of things that cannot be purchased here. Do not rely on buying anything here.
If I wear contacts/glasses, which should I bring on my tour?
If you wear contacts or glasses, please plan on wearing whichever you are most comfortable in on the tour, and bring the other as backup. Glasses can fog up in the humidity of the jungle or cave so some people prefer contacts for this reason.
GUIDES & PORTERS
How many tour guides and porters will be on each tour?
The number of tour guides and porters differs slightly for each tour. There is generally 1 tour guide per every 8 pax and one porter per every 2 pax, as well as a guide assistant on each tour. On the Son Doong Cave Expedition there are 24 porters per departure.
Do the tour guides and porters speak English? How many tour guides and porters will be on each tour?
All of our tour guides are fluent in English, with Vietnamese as their native language. Guide assistants are learning English so they speak a little bit, and the porters just speak Vietnamese. You do need to have a basic command of English (or speak Vietnamese) to join one of our tours so that you can understand your tour guide. This is for the safety of all customers and guides.
Will porters carry all of my stuff or will I have to carry it myself?
For all tours, the porters will carry your clothes for you and you will just carry any personal belongings you would like to have on you each day.
Hygiene & Bathroom
How will we go to the toilet in the cave?
We will provide for you a “compost” toilet at each campsite for you to go to the bathroom in (somewhat) comfort. There are also toilets at lunch stops on Days 2, 3, and 4 of the tour. The toilet has a western-style toilet seat atop a frame over a bucket, with a large tarp around it for privacy, and some of the most beautiful views in the world! The compost toilets work with the aid of dried rice husks. After doing your business, you will scoop rice husks into the bucket, and the rice husks serve to compost everything and eliminate any smells. Please be generous with the rice husks and scoop enough to cover all waste (don’t put anything but toilet paper in the compost toilets!).
At meals and at the toilets in the camps, an antiseptic hand gel will be available and you must use it to avoid getting sick! We also advise bringing your own antiseptic hand gel (preferably ethyl alcohol level of 70% or above, since this is not available to us here). Soap and water are also available outside all compost toilets.
Note: If you go to a bathroom and find that either the rice husks, toilet paper, hand gel, or soap and water are low or out, please notify your tour guide immediately.
How will I go to the bathroom if I’m not at a campsite?
If you cannot hold it until you reach a compost toilet, you may go to the toilet in an area of the jungle where no one can see you and far away from the river. Please do not leave behind any toilet paper that you use (we can provide you with sanitary bags at the start of your trek). Please place any other feminine hygiene products in these sanitary bags as well. The sanitary bags must be disposed of at the rubbish bins at the campsite.
What kind of toiletries should I bring?
Only the necessities please. These include toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, insect spray, and necessary medications. Ladies, please bring any feminine hygiene products that you may need on the tour with you from home. There are VERY limited options in the local market here and almost no option while on tour. Please pack accordingly for emergencies!
Travel & Transportation
Where do your tours start, and if I stay in Dong Hoi, do you provide a pickup from there?
Tours start and end in the small town of Phong Nha, located about 50 mins from Dong Hoi (which has the nearest train station and airport). If you are staying in Dong Hoi, we can pick you up for an added cost of 660,000 VND one way for a 4 seater car. Please advise your sales consultant if you would like this added service.
How do I get to Dong Hoi/Phong Nha?
Dong Hoi can be reached by plane with Vietnam Airlines from either Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City (other carriers are available on flights from HCMC).
You can also take an overnight train or bus from Ha Noi which are both quite convenient, though it can be difficult or more expensive to arrange train tickets before arriving in Vietnam. If you choose to book train tickets in advance, we recommend the following websites:
• DSVN: http://dsvn.vn (Official Vietnamese railway website; however not all pages of the website are translated into English. This website is the best reference for updated train schedules and ticket prices.)
• Vietnam Railways: https://vietnam-railway.com (Not the official Vietnamese railway website although it appears to be. Tickets will have a higher surcharge when purchased through this website.)
• Baolau: http://www.baolau.vn (They have great customer service via email and offer good prices but sometimes the system will not easily accept foreign credit cards.)
• Vietnam Impressive: http://www.vietnamimpressive.com (Also good customer service but at a very high surcharge on tickets)
You also have an option to take the train, bus or private car from Hue, Da Nang or Hoi An. If you arrive into Dong Hoi, please arrange a private transfer from Dong Hoi – Phong Nha for the price of 640,000 VND one way for a 4 seater car. You may refer to our Arrival & Departure Guide online at Arrival Departure Guide for more information regarding travel to our region.
What time will I get back at the end of my tour?
Please refer to individual tour itineraries to know what time each tour will return. Depending on the size and fitness level of the group, tours may finish earlier or slightly later than scheduled on the itinerary.
Can I book my departing transportation after I return from the trek?
We highly recommend that you book your departing transportation prior to joining our tour, especially if you have a strict schedule to follow. It can be very difficult to book buses, trains or planes from within Phong Nha as travel agency businesses are transient here. Furthermore, many times of the year, transportation books out weeks in advance and we cannot book anything for you directly. Please have your departure booked ahead or plan on being very flexible about your onward travel plans.
What do you recommend anything for me to do if I arrive into Phong Nha early?
Please refer to our website online to see a list of the activities and places we recommend.
Is there somewhere to change money in Phong Nha? Is there an ATM?
Your easiest option is to visit the SacomBank ATM in town. It is best to plan ahead and bring some VND with you prior to your arrival in Phong Nha.
If you need to change money in Phong Nha, you can try visiting AgriBank, located near the center of Phong Nha Town, only a few minutes away from Easy Tiger. Their hours are 8 – 11 am and 2 – 4:30 PM Monday-Friday (closed on all public holidays). They can only exchange USD, and the USD bills must be in perfect condition.
Do I need a visa for Vietnam and can you provide an invitation letter?
It is most likely that you will need a visa to enter Vietnam.
The Vietnam Visa exemption is granted to:
1. Citizens of Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Laos for visits of 30 days at the maximum.
2. Citizens of Philippines for visits of 21 days at the maximum.
3. Citizens of Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Russia and Finland for visits of 15 days at the maximum.
4. Citizens of Brunei for visits of 14 days at the maximum.
5. Citizens of France holding valid diplomatic or official passports for visits of 90 days at the maximum or several visits of 6 months at the maximum.
6. Citizens of Chile holding valid diplomatic or official passports for visits of 90 days at the maximum.
7. APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) Holders from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies for visits of 60 days at the maximum.
8. For those who travel to Phu Quoc Island – Vietnam : Foreigners and Vietnamese nationals bearing foreign passports who enter Vietnam through an international border gate and then travel to Phu Quoc Island and stay in Phu Quoc less than 15 days will also be granted Vietnam visa exemption. Passports must be valid for at least 45 days. After arriving in Phu Quoc Island, if visitors want to travel to other localities or stay in the island for more than 15 days, the immigration department will be responsible for issuing visas right on the spot.
If you have the time though, we highly recommend obtaining a 30 – 90 day visa so you have time to enjoy the beautiful country of Vietnam. There is so much to see and do!
Ultimately, please check with your embassy to see if Vietnam requires you to have a visa upon entrance to Vietnam. You will need to have the visa (or visa on arrival letter) ready to show to customs agents at both your departure and arrival airport.
We do not provide visas, invitation letters or visas on arrival (VOA), so please plan for this in advance independently. There are many online services available for a VOA. Oxalis has had good experience with or received positive feedback from the following services:
Vietnam Visa https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/
Visa To Vietnam: http://www.visatovietnam.com/
My Vietnam Visa http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/
VietNam Discovery Travel https://www.vietnam-visa.com/
Please note that the VOA only applies for ones who enter Vietnam by AIR, you may have a long wait at the airport to pick up your visa, depending on how many other international flights land at the same time as yours.
If you are planning to enter Vietnam by other transportation, please contact the Vietnam Embassy Worldwide for visa assistance.
I’ll be traveling around Tet Holiday, will this have any effect on me?
Yes! Tet is the most significant holiday in Vietnam. Transportation will be shut down for about 5 days during Tet Holiday, and transportation for about a week on either side of the holiday is often booked out months in advance. If you are traveling at this time, please book your transportation as quickly as possible or you may get stuck with no way to reach us or no way to depart. Also, the market will be shut for up to one week around Tet Holiday so you will not be able to purchase anything whatsoever in Phong Nha. Please plan appropriately if you choose to join us for a Tet Holiday tour.
Medical & Fitness
Do I need to know how to swim for your tours?
You do need to have basic swimming skills for any Tu Lan tour. While you will still get wet from river crossings, it is not required that you know how to swim for Hang En, Hang Va, Hang Tien, or Son Doong.
Do I need to have climbing skills?
While climbing skills are a great asset, it is not necessary to have any technical climbing experience to join any of our tours.
I have a medical condition. Will this stop be from participating in one of your tours?
Please alert us in advance of any medical conditions you may have so that we can discuss with our resident Safety Experts if you will still be able to join one of our tours. Be advised that our tours take place deep in the wilderness, far from Western medical clinics or hospitals.
Do I have to let you know about my medical condition?
Please declare any and all medical conditions to our team in advance, regardless of whether or not you may think it could affect you on tour. Our team needs to be adequately prepared for your safety, especially since our tours run so far from civilization. We will respect your privacy and keep your disclosures private (only necessary team members such as your tour guide will be advised).
What kind of shape do I need to be in physically in order to be able to be prepared for the expedition?
It is very important that you are an active person and that you are in good physical shape and health condition in order to join us for one of our tours. You should have recent experience trekking rough trails and camping in basic conditions.
Is malaria a concern in your area? Or do you recommend any vaccinations?
Malaria is extremely rare here; the only vaccinations that we would advise you obtain before your travels to our region would be typhoid and hepatitis A. However please consult a travel doctor in your area before joining us for final advice on appropriate medical preparation for your trip, especially if you are traveling to other areas in Vietnam.
What are the biggest medical concerns that I will face?
The top two concerns are dehydration and foot rot, a painful fungal infection. Regarding dehydration, please make sure to drink enough water while on tour, especially when under the hot sun. Rehydration tablets are a great idea to keep your sodium and electrolyte levels stable. Regarding foot rot, please take good care of your feet. It is important to dry your feet off when you get to camp and to apply anti-fungal or talcum powder if you have any. It’s best to wear flip flops or sandals around camp to let your feet dry. Foot hygiene is very important as foot rot can be very painful and debilitating. If you feel any blisters or sore spots developing on your feet, please ask for help before they spoil your tour.
Do you carry a first aid kit with you on the tour?
We will be carrying a comprehensive first aid kit. The most commonly used item is Iodine for minor cuts and abrasions. We suggest that if you have any cuts, grazes or leech bites, that upon reaching camp you use the Iodine antiseptic on all the above to stop any chance of infection.
If you have any personal medication you must be responsible for it yourself but we would suggest giving us any spare in case yours is lost/damaged. If you carry an Epipen or any serious medication(s), please advise us in advance so that we can put you in touch with our Safety Expert Team prior to your tour. They will be able to further discuss health & safety measures with you.
Should I bring any of my own medications?
Please bring any prescriptions or over-the-counter medications with you. Ours are just for use in emergency situations or if you run out. If you know that you need an anti-histamine or you regularly take an anti-inflammatory, please bring it with you. You should inform your guide team of any medications you are taking/carrying. If you are on any serious medications, please bring a set of spares and give one to a member of the cave expert team in the event that you lose or damage your first set during the tour. Also, please pack any vital medications with you in your check-on/handbag luggage when you travel, and keep your main set on you while on tour (instead of giving it to the porters to bring ahead to camp).
Do I need to bring my own water pump or water purification tablets on tour?
No. You do not need a water pump or purification tablets; your guide will have a high quality expedition water pump on him at all times for filtering water for you. Please do not fill your water bottle directly from the river! Instead, inform your guide when you need more water.
Can I drink the tap water in Phong Nha?
It is not advisable to drink the tap water here. In any restaurants, if you are served water, you will be served filtered water; ice will be made from filtered water as well. While out and about or in your hotel room, please only drink filtered or bottled water, and do not drink directly from the tap.
Can we try some kinds of jungle food/fruit while on tour?
We actually won’t be sampling any foods or fruits directly from the jungle because we cannot predict if anyone may suffer from any allergies of wild jungle fruits and foods. We can assure you that plenty of delicious food will be provided at camp.
Do I need to purchase medical travel insurance?
It is highly recommended that you purchase comprehensive medical and travel insurance to cover you for any unexpected accidents that may occur whilst on the tour, and this insurance should cover you for adventure sports including guided caving tours. Your insurance should also cover you flight delays or trip cancellations should you find that you cannot join us last minute, as we have a strict cancellation policy. We do not recommend any particular insurance provider but the following companies are ones which either customers in the past have purchased policies from or ones we have heard good things about:
World Nomads https://www.worldnomads.com/
Global Rescue https://globalrescue.com/
Regarding choosing a provider and a policy, you must research what best meets your individual travel needs. For foreign nationals aspiring to participate in the Son Doong Expedition, having a medical insurance is compulsory.
What kind of shape do I need to be in physically in order to be able to be prepared for a tour?
It is very important that you are an active person and that you are in good physical shape and health condition in order to join us for one of our tours. You should have recent experience trekking rough trails and camping in basic conditions. Refer to our Adventure Levels chart for more information as to what each tour requires of you physically.
What if I'm not fit enough to complete the tour? What happens if I get turned around?
Anyone who is not fit enough to continue, or who poses a safety threat to themselves or others, will be removed from the tour and taken back to Oxalis office. We maintain the right to turn around any customers who cannot follow safety, conservation, or trekking rules, and anyone who refuses to follow the instructions of the guide team. Customers who are turned around will not receive a refund of any kind. In the event of removal from a tour, Oxalis will not be responsible for any additional expenses incurred by customers (transportation, hotel, etc).
Will we encounter any dangerous animals in the jungle?
You are unlikely to come across anything too dangerous. The guide will always go first and a guide assistant or porter will always go last, so they would be first to spot any possible dangers.
You may come across a snake, but it’s a very rare chance of you being the first to see it. If you do come across one, do not play with it or attack it. There are poisonous snakes in Vietnam so do not take any chances. Spiders are not known to be dangerous in these parts of Vietnam. Caterpillars and centipedes can be irritating and sometimes dangerous so please do not touch these intentionally.
You are likely to encounter leeches. They are not dangerous, just irritating. We tuck our long pants into our socks and this stops the majority of leeches. If you are unlucky enough to have been bitten by one, you will bleed for a while and that’s all. They do not seem to carry any infections but we always use a precautionary antiseptic after it has stopped bleeding.
Are there bats inside the caves?
Yes, there are bats in all of the caves. Please note however that the bats do not carry rabies or other infectious diseases, and they are harmless. We ask that you respect them (and all wildlife) by not touching them or disturbing them in any way.
Where will I encounter leeches?
You shouldn’t find any leeches inside the caves but they are present in the jungle, mostly on tours into Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. This includes the Hang En Cave Adventure, Hang Va Expedition, and the Son Doong Expedition. You are unlikely to encounter any leeches on a tour to the Tu Lan cave system. Also, leeches are harmless and at most will give you an irritating bite. If you get any leech bites, let your tour guide know and he/she will apply an antiseptic once the bleeding stops.
What kind of camera and photography equipment should I bring on the tour?
Even if you are not an experienced photographer please bring a camera of some kind! For Tu Lan, most cameras can fit into the drybox which the tour guide will carry with him/her. If you have a large camera or long lens, please notify us in advance, as it may not fit into the drybox and you’ll need to make other arrangements for keeping it dry.
*Drones/quadcopters/flycams are NOT permitted on either join-in tours or photography tours.
How do I charge my camera?
The best option to keep your camera charged is to bring extra batteries or battery packs, and make sure that they are fully charged before your tour departure. For many cell phones (particularly smart phones), there are external charger/battery packs/power banks that you can find quite easily online in order to recharge your phone while in the cave. Many people like to bring their smart phones (even though there is no signal!) so that they can upload a few photos straight to social media or send a few pics to their friends immediately upon their return.
Is there Wi-Fi or 3G in the cave?
No. you will be off the grid for the entire tour, so enjoy it! No emails to answer, Facebook notifications to check, or voicemails to return.
Do you have any extra tips regarding cameras for this trek?
Please make sure you are familiar with any equipment you choose to bring, make sure that you have enough SD/memory cards for all the amazing photos and videos you’ll take, and make sure that you bring sufficient (fully-charged) battery packs for the duration of the trek.
BOOKING, TERMS & CONDITIONS
Why do I have to sign your Release Form?
We require customers to sign our Release Form to confirm they accept this is an adventure tour and they have to follow our guide’s instructions and safety rules. Customers also accept they have some responsibilities for their own safety.
What is your tour availability?
All of our tours are closed from early September – mid to late November due to heavy rains and subsequent flooding in our region. Our Tu Lan 1, 2 and 3-day tours are the first to re-open in mid to late November, pending weather. Hang En and Hang Tien will open in late December, pending weather. Hang Va and Son Doong expedition tours will open in early February.
Availability also depends on fluctuating demand for each tour, since we have limited spots per departure. It is advisable to book your tour in advance to secure your spot.
How can I check your availability?
You can view the availability for each tour on our website. There is a section Pricing & Availability at the bottom of each tour page. All available dates will be listed in bold. If you wish to depart for a tour on a date not listed on our schedule, you will need to book a private tour (pending availability).
How far in advance should I book my tour?
We recommend booking your tour as far in advance as possible (at least 2 – 3 weeks prior to your arrival), as our tours fill up quickly.
What is the difference in Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer (3 days) and the Tu Lan Expedition (4 days)?
The Tu Lan Expedition will venture much further into the jungle than the Wild Tu Lan Cave Explorer, and the expedition will also include abseiling, learning adventure skills, and much more intense jungle trekking.
What is the difference between a tour to Hang En and a tour to Tu Lan?
The tours are quite different:
Hang En involves a straight jungle trek for about 5 hours, and is then followed by the entrance to the cave. Hang En provides outstanding opportunities for brilliant photography, especially in the month of February where epic sunbeams are witnessed daily.
Tu Lan provides a slightly more adventurous experience as it includes a mix of jungle trekking, cave exploration, and swimming through river caves, which is a unique opportunity.
What is your cancellation policy?
Regarding Adventure Tours and Expedition Tours other than Son Doong Cave Expedition:
For join-in tours, if written cancellation request is received and acknowledged more than 7 days before tour departure, a full refund will be processed. If written cancellation request is received and acknowledged less than 7 days before the departure, there will be no refund.
For private tours and group tours, if written cancellation request is received and acknowledged between 45 days to 30 days before tour departure you will be charged a cancellation fee of 50% of total booking price. If written cancellation request is received and acknowledged less than 30 days before tour departure no refund will be provided under any circumstance.
Please refer to our Booking Conditions under the Cancellations section or contact us by email address at [email protected] for futher explanation
Outside of the initial tour price, what extra expenses might I incur when I sign up for this expedition?
Extra expenses that you are responsible include international flights, domestic flights/travel to Dong Hoi, travel to Phong Nha, any trekking gear you need to purchase, extra hotels, medical/trip cancellation insurance, and any tips you may want to leave for our team.
What is your policy for tipping at the end of my tour?
Your trip is made possible by a large team, including those you will see on tour such as guides, porters, cooks, and drivers, as well as behind the scenes crew including cleaning staff and stores people. Therefore, a tip would be very welcome. Some customers do not tip, some customers tip 10%, and some customers tip much more. We will collect any tips you’d like to leave on the return back to the office. The amount you tip should of course be based on the service and experience you receive. Tipping is not mandatory but highly appreciated.