Can the $4 Mui Ne sand dunes tour in Vietnam really be any good? At that price I felt it was worth investigating further, so off we headed to a busy stretch of coastline just north of Saigon to see the (not quite) world famous sand dunes near Mui Ne. I can’t really answer the above question yet because then you’ll stop reading, so I’ll ramble for a while and try to build some tension before the big reveal.
The Mui Ne Sand Dunes Tour
At 80,000 VND (roughly $4), the Mui Ne sand dunes tours are a steal. Obviously if you suck at bargaining you’ll pay a lot more, but 80,000 – 100,000 is the norm. The lesson here is to get good at bargaining — you’ll get eaten alive all over Vietnam otherwise. You can’t expect red carpet service on a $4 tour, but we were picked up on time and got relatively comfortable seats in a jeep type vehicle. The driver was friendly enough too — so far so good.
The Fairy Stream
The first stop on the tour was at a place called the Fairy Stream. We joined a procession of tourists walking barefoot through the shallow water. It was actually pretty cool, and much prettier than the photos below will have you believe. At the end there were some rocks to negotiate and a small waterfall to look at — it’s not the most amazing place but it makes a worthwhile addition to the Mui Ne sand dunes tour.
Boats in the harbour
Next up we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking a bay full of boats. Again, it’s not the most memorable of places but it’s a nice view all the same. I’d like to write more about it but I’m drawing a blank — you get out of the jeep, look at some boats, take a photo or two and move on.
The White Dunes
Located 30 km from Mui Ne’s tourist strip, the white sand dunes are why most people book this tour. We arrived at the edge of the dunes and were given the option of renting an ATV to tear around on. This is obviously where the tour operators get the bulk of their money. We decided to walk, and before long we were all alone and surrounded by sand. We strayed off the main route but eventually made it to where most of the tourists were congregating.
The dunes are pretty impressive and we had heaps of fun exploring them. It’s not on the same level as the Sahara or Peru (which we had visited earlier in our trip), but Southeast Asia isn’t exactly packed with deserts, and these coastal dunes are about as good as you can hope to see in this part of the world.
The Red Dunes
The last stop on the Mui Ne sand dunes tour is at the red dunes for sunset. These dunes are a lot closer to the tourist strip and you could easily cycle there. It was a lot busier and a lot dirtier than the white dunes, but we managed to find a quiet (and clean) spot to relax. It’s nothing to write home about (which, ironically, is kind of what I’m doing now), but it’s a good end to the tour.
Mui Ne Sand Dunes Tour: The Verdict
We really enjoyed the Mui Ne sand dunes experience. We’ve seen better sand dunes, but this kind of scenery is a rare sight in Southeast Asia. There are plenty of interesting stops and it’s unbelievably cheap, which makes this tour easy to recommend. It doesn’t matter which travel agent you book your tour through either as they all seem to go to the same places in the same vehicles. Just make sure to bargain hard and confirm which places the tour includes.
Mui Ne Beach
For a lot of people, Mui Ne is the first stop (after Saigon) on their Vietnam journey. Most people stay along the 10 km stretch of beach known as Ham Tien and there are great deals on offer. We got a really nice room for $10 and ate some delicious meals (tuna steaks with passion fruit sauce were a highlight) for less than $5 a dish.
The beach is nice enough and it’s easy to find a quiet place to sit. In general, Vietnam’s mainland beaches aren’t going to blow you away, but if you’re looking for a cheap few days by the sea they do the job. Head to Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines instead if you’re looking for postcard worthy beaches.
It takes around five hours to travel between Saigon and Mui Ni and you can book it at any travel agent in Saigon (remember to bargain though).
Would you like to see the sand dunes near Mui Ne? Let me know in the comments below!
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