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1. Frequently Asked Questions – General

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1.1. Caving & Camping

  • 1.1.1. 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.

  • 1.1.2. What is the weather like in the cave and jungle?

    In Winter (November - next February), sometimes there are cold waves that last around 5-7 days or more, and the temperature could go to 8-18°C (47-65°F). When the temperature goes below 18°C (65°F), you will cross the river or go along the river inside the cave by boat, raft.

    From March to May, most of the time the weather is cool. It can be hot and cold on some days.

    In Summer (June - August), the temperature is around 32-38°C (90-100°F), so you can enjoy swimming in the river, stream, and inside caves. The temperature inside the cave usually keeps at 18-23°C (65-73°F) in Winter, and 22-25°C (71-77°F) in Summer.

  • 1.1.3. 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 accuweather.com 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.

  • 1.1.4. Do I need to know how to swim for your tours?

    Oxalis offer different types of tours. 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 1 day and 2 days, or Son Doong. You do need to have basic swimming skills for any Tu Lan tour. Life jackets will be provided by Oxalis and your tour guide and safety assistant can assist you in the swimming portions.

  • 1.1.5. 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 an abseiling part but our internationally qualified guide & porter team will support you to have a safe & interesting experience.

  • 1.1.6. 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 the 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.

  • 1.1.7. 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.

  • 1.1.8. 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.The porters will carry these items to camp for arrangements.

  • 1.1.9. 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.

  • 1.1.10. 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.

  • 1.1.11. 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.

  • 1.1.12. 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.

  • 1.1.13. 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.

  • 1.1.14. 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.

  • 1.1.15. How long is the 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.

  • 1.1.16. 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.

  • 1.1.17. 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.

  • 1.1.18. 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.

  • 1.1.19. 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.

  • 1.1.20. 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.

  • 1.1.21. 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.

1.2. Packing

  • 1.2.1. 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. We absolutely recommend bringing extra warm clothes in winter (mid-November to mid-March). 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.

  • 1.2.2. 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 trail runs, 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.)

  • 1.2.3. Will I be able to change my footwear for river crossings to keep my feet dry?

    You cannot change your footwear for river crossings because wading takes place a lot during the trip. Please expect your feet to be wet for most of each day of your tour.

  • 1.2.4. Do I need a backpack?

    You will need a medium-sized backpack (25 liters) that contain your personal items: water, camera, sunscreen, bug spray, head torch that provided, etc. It’s also great if it can fit your helmet in (since you won’t need to wear it until reaching the cave). 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.

  • 1.2.5. 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. 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 backpack at least, due to the humid conditions in the jungle and cave, especially in the rainier months of February – early April.

    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.

  • 1.2.6. 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.

  • 1.2.7. 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.

  • 1.2.8. 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.

  • 1.2.9. Should we bring our own water bottle?

    We will offer you the use of a 1L bottle at departure point. The water bottles will be refilled on tour with the use of our water purifier pump.

  • 1.2.10. 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.

  • 1.2.11. 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.

  • 1.2.12. 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.

1.3. Hygiene & Bathroom

  • 1.3.1. 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. The toilets are designed with a seat atop a steel frame over a bucket, with a large tarp around it for privacy. 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.

  • 1.3.2. 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.

  • 1.3.3. 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!

1.4. Travel & Transportation

  • 1.4.1. What do you recommend anything for me to do if I arrive in Phong Nha early?

    Please refer to our website online to see a list of the activities and places we recommend. Click here: Phong Nha Travel Tips.

  • 1.4.2. Is there somewhere to change money in Phong Nha? Is there an ATM?

    If you need to change money in Phong Nha, you can try visiting AgriBank, located near the center of Phong Nha Town. Their hours are 8 – 11 am and 2 – 4:30 PM Monday-Friday (closed on weekend and all public holidays). They can only exchange USD, and the USD bills must be in perfect condition. In addition, you can visit the SacomBank or Vietinbank ATM in town. It is best to plan ahead and bring some VND with you prior to your arrival in Phong Nha.

  • 1.4.3. 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. Please find official information about Vietnam Visa here: xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn.

    Please note that the VOA only applies for those 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.

  • 1.4.4. Are there international airports in Vietnam?

    The busiest international airports in the country are Tan Son Nhat Airport (Ho Chi Minh) and Noi Bai airport (Ha Noi). Both these airports have direct flights to Dong Hoi, Quang Binh (located 45 km from Oxalis office ).

  • 1.4.5. How do I get to Dong Hoi/Phong Nha?

    Dong Hoi can be reached by plane with Vietnam Airlines from either HaNoi or Ho Chi Minh City (other carriers are available on flights from HCMC).

    You can also take an overnight train or bus from HaNoi which are both quite convenient, though it can be difficult or more expensive to arrange train tickets before arriving in Vietnam. You also have an option to take the train, bus or private car from Hue, Da Nang or Hoi An. 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 online for more information regarding travel to our region.

  • 1.4.6. 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.

  • 1.4.7. 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.

1.5. Medical & Fitness

  • 1.5.1. 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.

  • 1.5.2. 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 medical clinics or hospitals.

  • 1.5.3. 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.

  • 1.5.4. 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.

  • 1.5.5. 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.

  • 1.5.6. 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).

  • 1.5.7. 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.

  • 1.5.8. 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.

  • 1.5.9. 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 at the last minute, as we have a strict Booking Conditions 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 medical insurance is compulsory.

  • 1.5.10. 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.

  • 1.5.11. 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).

1.6. Photography

  • 1.6.1. 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.

  • 1.6.2. 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 smartphones), 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 smartphones (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.

  • 1.6.3. 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.

  • 1.6.4. 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.

1.7. Booking Condition

  • 1.7.1. 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.

  • 1.7.2. 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 for 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.

  • 1.7.3. What is your cancellation policy?

    Regarding Adventure Tours and Expedition Tours other than Son Doong Cave Expedition: If a written cancellation request is received and acknowledged more than 7 days before tour departure, a full refund will be processed. If a written cancellation request is received and acknowledged less than 7 days before the departure, there will be no refund. Regarding Son Doong Cave Expedition, a written cancellation request has to be received and acknowledged more than 90 days before the tour departure, you will be charged the specified fee. More details at Booking Conditions.

  • 1.7.4. How far in advance should I book my tour?

    Environmental conservation and sustainable environmental practices are visible on every tour of Oxalis. Therefore, we organize small groups at a time and limit the total number of visitors allowed each year. We recommend booking your tour as far in advance as possible, as our tours fill up quickly.

    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 contact us by email at: [email protected] for further explanation.

  • 1.7.5. 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.

2. Son Doong Expedition 4 Days FAQs

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2.1. Caving & Camping

  • 2.1.1. What is the difficulty level of the expedition?

    The Son Doong Cave Expedition is considered difficult (highest level) and you must be physically active with regular trekking experience. Please check the Adventure Level section on the Son Doong Expedition page for more detailed information of what you have faced during the trip.

  • 2.1.2. There’s a famous photo online where a man is rappelling/abseiling into the cave, isn’t that how we enter?

    That picture (while breathtakingly beautiful) was arranged only for National Geographic, and it took several days to set up the shot. You will not abseil into the cave. Also, that photo was taken at one of the dolines, not the entrance to Son Doong. The entrance to Son Doong is a darker and more mysterious-looking place, but equally beautiful.

  • 2.1.3. How high is the Great Wall of Vietnam?

    You will need to climb 90m in total to conquer the Great Wall of Vietnam.

  • 2.1.4. How do I climb up the Great Wall of Vietnam?

    There are three stages of climbing up the Great Wall of Vietnam. You will climb the first vertical section using a fixed steel ladder then keep climbing using ropes in the next two sloping sections. You will be equipped with safety harnesses at all times during the climb and will be clipped to a safety line controlled by our safety team.

  • 2.1.5. What if I feel tired while climbing on the Great Wall of Vietnam?

    If you get tired, you can take a rest by sitting in your harness for a few minutes. Our safety team will approach you to help you out. We will arrange a break time between the climb (halfway up) for everyone to rest.

  • 2.1.6. How many miles or kilometers will we be walking on the trek?

    The entire trek is more than 30km but it’s impossible to answer exactly how much will get covered each day due to the many mountains and boulders that you must scramble over and around in the cave.

  • 2.1.7. I heard some parts of the tour have big drops and could be quite dangerous?

    As with any adventure in the world, there are risks. However, safety is our top priority and there will be 7 safety team members looking after 10 guests. If you are nervous at any time, someone will always be with you.

    You will need to take extra care in certain places because although the path is wide, you will pass some big drops. This is why we expect people to have previous trekking experience and decent balance. We don’t recommend this tour for those with an extreme fear of heights or exposed routes.

    It’s critical that you always follow the instructions of your guide team so you are aware of the safest places to walk and also of any areas that are off-limits. Never wander from the group in the jungle or cave, especially without informing your guide team who will be able to assess any risks for you. This is a full adventure tour, but your well being comes first.

  • 2.1.8. What happens if I begin the tour and then find that I am not fit enough to continue?

    Anyone who is unable to comfortably complete any stage of the first day of trekking will be turned around to Phong Nha and will not be permitted to continue the expedition. If you or a member of the cave expert/tour guide team decides you are physically unable to continue at this or any point, you will be escorted back to the trailhead at the top of the road and your tour will be considered concluded.

    Your accommodation on the last night and your transfer to Dong Hoi will still be provided for, but any costs of extra accommodation will be your responsibility. We also cannot provide an alternate tour free of charge should you need to return to Phong Nha earlier than scheduled, but we would be happy to give you recommendations for what to do in the area.

    We hope you understand, and we encourage you to be in your best physical condition to enjoy the entirety of the tour.

2.2. Packing

  • 2.2.1. Why do I need foot powder on the tour?

    Because your feet are often wet, especially on the first and second days, which can cause a painful fungal infection on your foot. The use of anti–fungal foot powder can help prevent that.

  • 2.2.2. What are wet wipes used for?

    Wet wipes are very important, especially at Campsite 1 (Day 2) and Campsite 2 (Day 3) in Son Doong cave where water supply is very limited and necessary for cooking and drinking. The wet wipes will help you clean yourself while bathing facilities are very limited at campsites.

  • 2.2.3. What items do I give to the porters? How do I get them to them?

    The porters will carry your extra clothes, extra boots if you have them, and your toiletries. You should have this packed in time for the briefing, and our staff will deliver it to the porter team that night.

  • 2.2.4. Can I leave my luggage somewhere while I’m on an expedition?

    You can store your luggage at our office. For any small valuables such as phones, laptops or wallets, please put them in another plastic bag with your name signed on the tape around, then we can secure them in our secure storage room. We will not be held responsible for items which are left inside your big bags. Also, do not bring with you anything of major value such as expensive jewelry.

  • 2.2.5. It says on the packing list that I need a head torch for camp, can you be more specific?

    Please bring with you a head torch to be used around camp. It does not need to be expensive or too bright, just bright enough to read in your tent and make your way around the campsite. The caving headlamps we supply you for the day must not be used around camp as they are far too bright and we have limited battery power. Please note that a handheld torch/flashlight does not take the place of a headtorch.

  • 2.2.6. What do I need to bring with me to the briefing?

    Please bring a signed copy of the Release Form, your packed plastic bag of extra items which the porters will carry for you, the footwear you plan on wearing on the tour, and any questions you may have for your guide team.

  • 2.2.7. Can I bring my own alcohol with me?

    We don’t encourage bringing your own alcohol because it’s heavy to carry, and because the tour is quite enjoyable without alcohol. If you do bring alcohol, you will either need to carry it in your daypack or it will need to fit within the 7 kg allotted to you which the porters will carry.

    We don’t condone excessive alcohol consumption and if you are found to be drinking heavily, a member of your guide team will ask you to slow down. If you continue to consume alcohol irresponsibly, you may be removed from the tour at the discretion of your guide team. We have a strict no-tolerance policy for recreational drug use.

  • 2.2.8. Do I need to bring my own sleeping mat?

    We will provide 2 sleeping mattresses for you, but if you would like to bring your own mat such as a Therm-a-rest, feel free to do so. If you bring your own mat, it must fit in your plastic bag which the porters will carry for you. Your plastic bag may not exceed 7 kg.

  • 2.2.9. If I wear contact lenses/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.

2.3. Hygiene & Bathroom

  • 2.3.1. Will there be places to take a shower?

    There will be places to take a wash on a number of days during the trek, but you will not always have the opportunity to wash at the campsites. Therefore, we recommend you bring a lot of wet wipes to clean yourself at camp (a lot = no more than 100). We require that you only use soap/shampoo which is biodegradable & environmentally friendly.

2.4. Travel & Transportation

  • 2.4.1. I do not have much time and will arrive directly from an international flight; does this present a problem?

    Yes. If you’re travelling from the US/Europe, you should spend at least 2-3 days getting acclimatized and overcoming your jetlag prior to your trek. This is especially true if you will be arriving in the summer months, as it takes some time to get used to the intense heat from May – August. We have seen in the past that those who arrive directly from an international flight are very tired, unaccustomed to the humidity, and quite slow for the first few days. To get the most out of your trip, please arrive into Vietnam several days early. This is also helpful in case of international flight delays, which have caused customers to have to cancel their tour last minute. There’s plenty to do in Phong Nha if you arrive early and would like to proceed directly here.

  • 2.4.2. Is there any possibility that the trek may be delayed due to weather and I would miss my outgoing flight?

    This has never occurred before but you must accept the possibility that it could happen. If extremely heavy rains cause the river to rise, you could get delayed in the cave up to 24 hours (don’t worry, we have emergency supplies). To prepare for that unlikely but possible event, we suggest at least a few days extra in Vietnam prior to an international flight in case the trek is extended/delayed due to adverse weather. Since domestic travel is generally less costly to cancel or rearrange, you can have your outgoing domestic travel scheduled for any time after the end of the tour (however we take no responsibility if you need to rearrange travel plans for any reason).

2.5. Medical & Fitness

  • 2.5.1. What if I'm not fit enough to complete the tour? What happens if I get turned around?

    Customers are expected to make it to Son Doong entrance without assistance. Anyone who cannot do so will be turned around. 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 Adventure will not be responsible for any additional expenses incurred by customers (transportation, accomodation, etc).

  • 2.5.2. I have a medical condition that I’d rather not tell you. What if you don’t accept me based on my condition(s)?

    Most medical conditions will not exclude you: please be completely upfront about whatever condition(s) you have so we can be best prepared to accommodate you. Please, do not lie on your medical form. If you have a condition that’s possible to accommodate, we will do everything we can to do so. If you have a medical condition that might preclude you from our tour, then we need to know ahead of time so that we can make an informed decision as to whether or not we think you’d be able to complete the tour, before you arrive. We are days away from any hospital and need to know your accurate situation.

    If your health status changes between when your booking is approved and when you join us here, it is your responsibility to advise us of that so we can review your booking if necessary. Be advised that this tour is not for those with limited outdoor/trekking experience, those in poor medical condition, nor is it for children or expectant mothers.

2.6. Wildlife

  • 2.6.1. 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.

  • 2.6.2. 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.

2.7. Photography

  • 2.7.1. Anything else I should know?

    This is a group tour, and not everyone will want to focus on photography, so please be patient, and respect other members of the group. You will need to work as a team to get the best images.

2.8. Booking, Terms & Conditions

  • 2.8.1. What is your cancellation policy?

    You can see details at Booking Conditions.

  • 2.8.2. What is your policy for tipping at the end of my expedition?

    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 store workers. Therefore, a tip would be very welcome. Some customers do not tip, some customers tip 5 – 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.

3. FAQs about other tours

...

3.1. Phong Nha National Park

3.2. Tu Lan Experience 1 Day

3.3. Hang Tien Discovery 1 Day

  • 3.3.1. Is it possible to do this tour if I arrive in Phong Nha on the same morning? Where does the tour start?

    All our tours start in Phong Nha. We recommend you arrive at least one day or one night prior to the tour’s departure, so you will have lots of time to rest, prepare for the tour or explore the beautiful village.

    If your schedule is tight and you reach Phong Nha early on a morning bus (4 -5 AM), you can do the tour on the same day which starts at 07:00 AM. We will pick you up from the bus office or your hotel if you have booked.

    If you travel by train to Dong Hoi City, please choose a train which arrives at Dong Hoi by 6 AM at the latest and you have a private transfer arranged in advance with Oxalis Adventure (VND 640,000/4-7 seater car – 50 minutes driving) to ensure you are on time for the tour. Please advise your sales consultant if you would like this service.

  • 3.3.2. Do you provide pickup from Dong Hoi?

    All our tours start and end in the small town of Phong Nha, located about 50 minutes 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 640,000 VND one way for a 4-7 seat car. Please advise your sales consultant if you would like this service.

  • 3.3.3. I am claustrophobic, will this be a problem? Are there any tight squeezes in the cave?

    As Hang Tien is a very big cave, there are only one or two narrow places (0.8 - 1 meter in width and a few meters in length), where you will walk with care, you don’t need to crawl.

  • 3.3.4. I normally trek wearing sandals without any problems. Can I wear them on this tour?

    In our experience, due to the diverse terrain we don’t recommend you wear sandals on our tours. We suggest you wear trekking boots or shoes which cover all of your feet and have good grip to do the tours, as the terrain is rocky, slippery and sometimes muddy.

  • 3.3.5. Can I depart after the tour from Phong Nha or Dong Hoi?

    The tour finishes in Phong Nha between 18:30 – 19:30 depending on the weather conditions and the group’s speed.

    Then you can choose to leave for Hue/Da Nang/Hoi An by sleeper bus departing from Phong Nha between 19:45 – 20:00. If your next destination is in the north of Viet Nam, a sleeper bus departs from Phong Nha at 21:00. For more detailed information, kindly visit the guidance at Arrival and Departure.

    If you would like to take the train from Dong Hoi, it’s best if your train departs after 20:30, your flight takes off after 21:30 and you have a private transfer arranged in advance with Oxalis Adventure (VND 640,000/4-7 seat car – 50 minutes driving).

3.4. Tu Lan Cave Encounter 2 Days

3.5. Hang En Cave Adventure 2 Days

  • 3.5.1. Do I need to know how to swim to join this tour?

    You do not need to know how to swim for this tour, but it does involve river crossings with water up to your waist, so be prepared to get your shoes and trousers wet. If you like to swim, you are welcome to enjoy the large natural pools located next to camp within the cave.

  • 3.5.2. Is this a good tour for photography enthusiasts?

    This is one of our best tours for photography enthusiasts. We recommend bringing a tripod and a wide-angle lens if you have it to best capture the beauty of the cave. You’ll get great shots of the campsite on the beach (you can take photos from the cliffs above) and in late December to early March, you can photograph amazing sunbeams when the sun is shining.

  • 3.5.3. Will we encounter any dangerous animals during the night inside the cave?

    You are unlikely to come across anything dangerous inside the cave. The cave is home to thousands of swifts in the nesting season, and there are many bats year-round. Please note that the bats do not carry rabies or other infectious diseases and are harmless. We ask that you respect them (and all wildlife) by not touching them or disturbing them in any way.

  • 3.5.4. Why is this tour ranked Adventure Level 3 when it’s just a 2-day tour?

    This tour is ranked Adventure Level 3 due to the long trek it takes to get there and back. The trek is about 10km each way and includes an enormous hill at the beginning and end of the tour. The last hour and a half coming up the hill at the end of the tour is the hardest part of the trip.

  • 3.5.5. Can I arrive in Phong Nha on the morning of the tour and depart Phong Nha immediately after the tour?

    Yes. This tour starts with pickup between 8:00 – 8:30 am in Phong Nha. If you plan on arriving on the morning of the tour by night bus/train, please make sure that you will be ready in the area before 7:30 am.

    The tour normally returns to Phong Nha around 5:00 – 5:30 pm the following evening, so you would be able to depart by night bus/train to head either north or south. If you choose to travel by flight, please make sure your flight departs no earlier than 7:30 pm.

    Please check our Arrival & Departure guide for further information on buses and trains.

3.6. Hang Va Expedition 2 Days

3.7. Hang Tien Endeavor 2 Days

3.8. Wild Tu Lan Cave 3 Days

3.9. Hang Tien Exploration 3 Days

3.10. Tu Lan Expedition 4 Days

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Whether you prefer long treks, camping in a cave, sleeping under the stars in the jungle, swimming underground in river caves, explore the huge dry caves or just taking an exploratory day trip, Oxalis Adventure Tours can provide the right amount of adventure just for you.

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2 day tour

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