Are the Mui Ne sand dunes a place for a spectacular trip into a wonder of nature? Or are they just a cheesy tourist trap? Read on to discover the pros and cons of visiting the sand dunes in Mui Ne.
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Mui Ne, Vietnam used to be a quiet fishing village about 200 km east of Saigon. Now it is a bustling beach resort, which attracts Vietnamese weekenders from Ho Chi Minh City, Russian, Korean, and Chinese tourists, and a few backpackers on the Vietnam Open Bus Tour trail.
Aside from the soft sandy beaches and all the activities that go along with beach life, the list of Mui Ne things to do is a short one.
The other big tourist activity in Mui Ne is a Mui Ne sand dunes tour.
There are two sets of Mui Ne dunes: the white sand dunes and the red sand dunes. You can probably guess what colour each of them is!
The white sand dunes in Mui Ne are a vast expanse of white sand, sculpted into rolling dunes by the ever-changing winds.
The red dunes, despite their striking colour, are pretty but less impressive. Families with young kids will enjoy the chance to fling themselves down the red dunes on plastic toboggans though.
Most people visit on a group tour arranged at their Mui Ne hostel or hotel in Mui Ne and we did the same. But, as we found out, we would probably have enjoyed the dunes more if we had chosen differently.
Read on to find out if you should go see the Mui Ne Sand Dunes.
More Vietnam Travel Tips
Don’t miss our guide to the best Mui Ne hotels, our best travel advice for Vietnam, and transformational things to do in Vietnam.
Video Guide to the Dunes
Watch our video to get a glimpse of the beautiful sand dunes and find out what to expect from a Mui Ne Sand Dunes Tour.
Tips for Visiting the Mui Ne Sand Dunes
Take a Private Tour
For the best experience of the sand dunes, don’t book into a group jeep tour with all the other tourists. If you do, you’ll be stuck on someone else’s schedule and end up either waiting or feeling rushed (or both). Our tour started with 20 minutes sitting by the side of the road in Mui Ne — before sunrise — waiting for we-know-not-what.
The wait meant that the driver careened along the roadways and at dangerously high speeds to get us to the dunes for sunrise. We survived, just, but we also missed sunrise by about 20 minutes!
Later, we sat for half an hour at the end of each tour stop, waiting for a couple who decided to ignore the set meeting time and roll in whenever they felt like it. Super annoying!
Skip Sunrise & Sunset
Some travellers swear by their sunrise travel experiences. At touristy places like Angkor Wat, Mount Bromo, and the Mui Ne sand dunes, everyone feels compelled to gather at these appointed times to watch the sun do the same thing it does every single day.
For us, sunrise and sunset excursions always leave a bad taste in our mouths.
Yes, you get beautiful light and dramatic pictures. But you also get thrown together with hordes of other tourists who completely highjack and detract from the experience.
I’d rather have a better experience and worse pictures!
(I know that attitude is why we don’t have a million followers on Instagram but it’s true nonetheless).
Arrive about an hour after sunrise, when all the early tourists have gone home, and you get some of the world’s most impressive monuments to yourself. Despite skipping sunrise, we think our photos in both Angkor Wat and Mount Bromo turned our pretty well!
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Don’t Destroy the Dunes
A tour to the white sand dunes only costs a few dollars but what no one tells you is that when you arrive at the dunes, just before sunrise, you’ll have to pay an additional $10 for a Jeep to drive you across the dunes to the ideal sunrise-viewing spot. If you like, you can also rent a 4-wheel ATV to rip up the dunes.
First off, what a scam! You’ve already paid for a tour to the sand dunes and then you have to pay again? No thanks!
Second, and far worse, it’s so destructive to the landscape. Plants that live in sand dunes are extremely fragile and crucial to the health of ecosystem. Jeeps and ATVs driven willy nilly by mobs of tourists tear up the dunes and disturb the creatures that live there.
Even unrestricted walking across the dunes, like we did, is destructive.
We’d love to see better regulations in place so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. You can help by not renting a vehicle a the white sand dunes and being careful about where you walk.
How to Get to the White Sand Dunes
You can arrange a sand dunes tour at your hotel or hostel in Mui Ne, or at any of the many travel agents along Mui Ne’s main street.
Wondering where to Stay in Mui Ne?
Don’t miss our guide the best hotels in Mui Ne for any budget!
Half-Day Jeep Tour
As you can see in the video, we opted for the easiest and by far the most common option for visiting the white sand dunes — an organized jeep tour.
The half-day jeep tours run twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. They visit four places:
- The white sand dunes
- The Mui Ne fishing village
- The red sand dunes
- The fairy stream Mui Ne
Of these four, the fishing village is the most culturally interesting…
…whereas the fairy stream is pretty, if a little crowded on the weekend.
Group Tour vs Private Tour
You can either take a group tour or a private tour to the white sand dunes.
A group tour is for up to 6 people and costs between $3-10 USD, depending on where you book. Most of the Jeeps are well-maintained and comfortable. Ours was an old clunker, which was in serious need of a tune-up. If you have a smog mask, bring it!
A private tour will cost you about $20 per jeep (with driver). Though we went with a group, we soon wished we’d opted for the private tour, since we spent almost as much time waiting for our fellow tourists as we did seeing the sights. On a private tour, you can also decide what time to go.
Though sunrise gave us beautiful light at the dunes, it also meant that we were packed in with other tourists for the duration — not our favourite way to travel!
Motorbike rental in Mui Ne costs about $8, so if you can drive one, this is your best option for visiting the dunes. That way, you get absolute freedom to wander where you want when you want.
Be careful though, as we have heard awful stories from locals about the hazards of the main road through Mui Ne.
You can also hire an “easy rider” motorbike, meaning you ride and a local drives you. I wish we’d gone for this option!
Don’t miss our guides to solo travel in Vietnam and everything you should know before backpacking Vietnam.
The Verdict: Should You Visit?
Unless you’re in Mui Ne for a week or more, or you’re a sandscape fanatic, you can safely skip going to the sand dunes. There’s more than enough fun to be had on the beach, in the water, and poolside to keep you occupied in Mui Ne.
If you’re travelling with kids, just visit the red sand dunes in Mui Ne, which are more fun and much easier to get to.
If you do decide to visit the Mui Ne Vietnam sand dunes, follow our tips above for the best mindful travel experience!
How to Get to Mui Ne
How to get to Mui Ne from Saigon
The fastest way to do the Mui Ne Saigon route is by private transfer, though it is also the most expensive. It will cost you about $80 for four people, so can make sense if you’re travelling with a group.
For a mid-price journey for fewer than 4 people, take the train. It leaves around 4 times per day and takes about 4 hours. Train tickets cost around $23. The problem with the train is that you will need to arrange transportation between the train station and your hotel on both ends of the journey.
The cheapest (and most adventurous) way to get between Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne is by bus. Depending on the bus company you choose, the ride lasts between 4 and 5.5 hours. The busses are sleeper-style and relatively comfortable, so you can stretch out and enjoy the ride. Tell the bus conductor where you are staying in Mui Ne and they will drop you off in front of, or close to, your hotel.
How to Get to Mui Ne from the North
It’s easy to get to Mui Ne by bus from Nha Trang, a short distance to the north. Busses drop you off on the main street of Mui Ne. Just tell the driver or assisstant where you’re staying and they’ll tell you when to get off.
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♥ Happy mindful travels, Stephen & Jane
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