There is not much to do in Dong Hoi but stare at the water and drink beer with the locals, but there are nearby beaches and caves where many hotels and tour groups operate tours. There are few tourists in Dong Hoi, so you will be greeted with many hellos. Nhat Le Beach is nearby, but the focus of the town is very much on the river and canals.
Dong Hoi had been a small village before Vietnam was divided during the time of the Trinh-Nguyen War (1558–1775), after which Vietnam was divided into two countries: Dang Trong (south) and Dang Ngoai (north) with the Gianh River as the frontier. Dong Hoi was an important fortress of the southern Nguyễn Lords. The Đồng Hới Wall was considered the barrier which protected the Nguyễn Lords from the attack by northern Trịnh family. The site of Dong Hoi today is just south of this boundary.
During the Indochina War (between the French and the Viet Minh in 1950s, the Đồng Hới airbase was used by the French to attack both the Viet Minh in north-central Vietnam and the Laotian Pathet Lao Army in central and southern Laos. During the Vietnam War, Đồng Hới was heavily devastated by bombardments from US B-52s due to its location near the seventeenth parallel and the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. The city was almost leveled and was rebuilt slowly after the war ended in 1975. The town was planned and rebuilt on a large scale especially after 1990 when it officially became the provincial capital.
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There are four distinct seasons in Đồng Hới. In the spring, it is cool, humid and foggy. The average annual temperature is 24.4°C, average rainfall varies from 1,300 to 4,000 mm, total sunshine hours per year is 1,786 hours, average annual moisture is around 84%. The city has a monsoon climate with three types of wind: southeast wind, southwest wind, and northeast wind.
It is rainy in the fall but the weather is comfortable with the temperature around 26 to 31°C. In the winter, due to the northeast wind blowing from the Chinese mainland, the temperature may go down below -18°C, and there may be slight rain. The highest precipitation gets highest level in August (118.4 mm), compared to just 38.9 mm in January. The best time to visit this city is from April to September when it's cool enough to go swimming.
From Hue, local buses take about 3–4 hours, and cost 80,000 dong (Mar 2012), departing from the Northern Bus Station. Tourist buses cost 4-5x the price: i.e., Sinh Cafe (400,000 dong), Mandarin Travels (300,000 dong).
Most buses will drop you off on Hung Vung, which is closer to town than the bus station. You can easily walk to a hotel from Hung Vung.
The Reunification Express makes a stop in Dong Hoi. The train station is 3 km from the city centre.
Dong Hoi Airport is 6 km north of Dong Hoi centre with flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
By foot. However, motorbike drivers will hassle you like anywhere else in Vietnam. The bus station and train station are a little far away from town, so if you have any bags, you will be better off catching a ride into town.
- Taxi Mai Linh, Quang Trung road - Diêm Hải - Phú Hải, ☎ +84 52 385 8585. They also have cars for hire.
- Taxi Đồng Hới, Hữu Nghị road - Phường Nam Lý, ☎ +84 52 384 1841. They also have cars for hire.
- Taxi Xuyên Việt, To 6 - Tiểu khu 10 - Phường Đồng Phú, ☎ +84 52 384 8484. They also have cars for rent
- Taxi Quảng Bình, Tiểu khu 14 - Phường Bắc Lý, ☎ +84 52 382 8282. They also have cars for rent
- Dong Hoi Citadel Gates. Only two gates and a moat remain of the citadel. You can climb up in the gates, but inside you will find syringes, burnt debris, and feces. Free.
- Tam Toa Church, Nguyen Du (On the riverfront). Tam Toa church is a bombed-out ruin. Only the facade remains, behind some iron gates. Free.
See also: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Blind Massage Therapy Center, 43 D Van An (At Ho Xuan Huong). Enjoy a massage by the blind while soft, sultry saxophone music echoes in the corridor. Not all the employees are actually blind, as they sometimes check and write text messages on their phones during the massage, but it has been claimed that they are all legally blind. Good energetic massage by properly trained people (apr 2014) 70,000 dong per hour (Apr 2014).
- Nhat Le Beach (Cross the bridge; the beach is about a 20 min walk from Dong Hoi centre). Although Nhat Le Beach is nearby, the focus of Dong Hoi is on the river. Accordingly, you will find the beach to be generally empty and abandoned, with just a few hotels, construction work, and piles of dirt. The beach is pleasant, but the current is strong and the waves often too powerful for swimming.
- Paradise Cave (Dong Thien Duong) (45 km northwest of Dong Hoi near the town of Son Trach in the national park. To reach Paradise Cave from Dong Hoi, travel past Phong Nha Caves on Ho Chi Minh Rd and turn left onto Ho Chi Minh (Tay) or when you see the sign "Thien Duong" on your left. Then travel another 20km until you see the sign "Dong Thien Duong".). A huge cave with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites of amazing size and shape. Paradise Cave is a rewarding trip, as it is not touristy and the spotlights are white, not coloured. The best way to get there is by motorbike as the scenery is amazing. Motorbikes and cars with drivers can be rented in Dong Hoi at many hotels. Booking a tour in Dong Hoi is possible as well and a very common way to see the caves. Paradise Cave takes around 2 hours to visit. 120,000 dong.
- Phong Nha Caves (45 km northwest of Dong Hoi near the town of Son Trach. To reach the park, take the Ho Chi Minh Rd and head northwest until you see a sign on a mountain indicating Phong Nha National Park.), ☎ +84 52 367 5110. Visit the largest and most stunning cave in Vietnam. The cave is nearly 55 km long but visitors can only access the first kilometre. Look out for pictures of the caves and learn the Vietnamese names (Phong Nha is the national park, not just the cave). Phong Nha Caves take around 3-3.5 hours to tour. 80,000 dong, boat for 320,000 dong (sharable with 14 people);.
- Anh Minimart (Siêu thị Thế Anh), 230 Lý Thường Kiệt, ☎ +84 52 350 0199.
- Dong Hoi Market (Chợ Đồng Hới), Trade Center, Me Suot road, ☎ +84 52 385 0057.
- Hieu Hang Minimart (Siêu thị Hiếu Hằng), 27 Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, ☎ +84 52 3840 969.
- Nam Ly Market (Chợ Nam Lý), Trần Hưng Đạo street, ☎ +84 52 382 4639.
- Nguyen Van Cu Bookstore (Nhà sách Nguyễn Văn Cừ), By the Dong Hoi Citadel Gates.
- 7th Heaven Restaurant, 39 Duong Van An St, ☎ +84 52 383 3856. Large menu featuring primarily Western food (steaks, burgers, grilled honey-chicken, etc.) and also Vietnamese and Thai selections.
- Dai Duong (Đại Dương), 71 Truong Phap, ☎ +84 52 383 3868. Vietnamese food.
- Hai Duong (Hải Dương), Truong Phap, ☎ +84 90 584 3295. Vietnamese food.
- Nhu Y, 11 Le Quy Don, ☎ +84 52 382 1280. Good Vietnamese food. They have English menu.
- Phu Cuong (Phú Cường), Truong Phap, ☎ +84 52 381 0114. Vietnamese food.
- QB Teen, 3 Le Loi St, ☎ +84 523 824-694. They have both Vietnamese and Western food such as pizza, pasta, burgers, and chips. Also very nice fruit shakes. Have English menu.
- Van Tue (Vạn Tuế), Truong Phap, ☎ +84 98 807 9879. Vietnamese food.
- Bar Hoang De, Nguyen Huu Canh St, ☎ +84 98 828 3003, +84 97 471 7777. Discotheque, cocktails, beer, coffee, fruit shakes.
- Club N. Phuong Dong, 179 Lý Thường Kiệt, ☎ +84 52 221 1111, +84 93 573 9999. Free Wi-Fi, coffee, fruit juices, fruit shakes, live music.
- Coco's Coffee Bar Classic, Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, ☎ +84 52 385 7373, +84 52 385 8788. Free Wi-Fi, coffee, fruit juices, breakfast.
- Mau Hong Hotel, Truong Phap St, ☎ +84 52 382 1804. Clean and cheap rooms, good location. Rooms with balcony overlook the river. Wi-Fi. US$8-15.
- Nam Long Hotel, 22 Ho Xuan Huong St, ☎ +84 52 382 1851. They have only 2 kinds of room, 1 double bed with balcony or 1 double bed and 1 single bed with window. All rooms have cable TV, fridge, air-con, and Wi-Fi. Owners speak decent English. US$10-15.
- Sun Spa Resort, Bao Ninh (5 km from Dong Hoi Airport), ☎ +84 52 384 2999. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. This is the only luxury resort in Dong Hoi. Many lodging choices, from rooms to 3 bedroom bungalows. 1,485,000-28,251,000 dong.
- Anh Linh Hotel, 38 Van An street, e-mail: email@example.com. Very good hotel. Staff friendly, accommodating and English speaking. Recommended as they are more customer oriented than most hotels in this price range in Vietnam (May 2014) 200 000 vnd.
- Beachside Backpackers, Truong Phap (Head out on Truong Phap along Nhat Le beach), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Budget accommodation - dorms and private rooms, beachside bar and restaurant, hammocks, kayaks, surfboards, volleyball. Bicycles and motorbikes available. >On the bus route to Phong Nha.
Locals maintain that Dong Hoi is a major stop on the heroin smuggling trail: the drugs come in by boat and trickle along to Laos. Although you don't often see traces in the town itself, maybe the rare needle or cracked syringe - just keep an eye out.
- Cuban-Vietnam Hospital (Bệnh viện hữu nghị Việt Nam-Cuba), Tieu khu 10 - Nam Ly Ward, ☎ +84 52 382 5105.
- Dong Hoi General Hospital (Bệnh viện đa khoa Thành phố Đồng Hới), Le Loi, Đức Ninh Đông Ward, ☎ +84 52 382 2185.
Buses to Hanoi cost around USD12–13.
Train connections are available northbound and southbound. For schedules see The Man in Seat 61. Tickets can be purchased at the train station--book a day ahead to make sure of a seat--or can be arranged through guesthouses with an additional processing fee.