Surround by rugged limestone mountains, Ninh Binh is only a couple of hours from Hanoi and has breathtaking scenery. It can be done on a day trip from Hanoi or you can easily spend 3 or 4 days exploring the local countryside.
It’s completely understated and it’s rival, Ha Long Bay, wins the tourists time and time again. But if your looking to get off the beaten path or your lucky enough to have plenty of time to do both, Ninh Binh is a perfect stop in your Northern Vietnam itinerary.
We had grand plans of hiring a bike and cycling for miles and miles around Ninh Binh, but our legs were still hurting from Sapa so we took the lazy option and got a taxi. Although, if we could have been bothered, the roads in and around Ninh Binh were quiet and flat, they would have been good for cycling.
Ninh Binh town was very nice but nothing we haven’t seen before. The main attractions close to Ninh Binh are Tam Coc and Trang An, we visited both, keep reading for info:
Tickets are 390K per boat, if you’re traveling alone, try to buddy up with someone to share the cost. The ride is around 2 hours and they allow 2 people per boat.
You can also walk Tam Coc for free. There are a few different routes, took us a while to find the first one, see photo below:
A taxi from Ninh Binh cost 80K each way, it’s around 10 minutes in a car.
Tickets are 200K per person, the boat ride is around 3 hours. They put 4 people in a boat and they just pair you up randomly, so there’s no need to try and find a friend on the way in.
A taxi from Ninh Binh cost 110K each way, it’s around 15 minutes in a car.
If your scared of the dark you will probably favour Tam Coc, Trang An has way more caves and they are tighter and darker. It’s not as bad as it sounds but I think you should still know about it before you go.
From Hanoi’s old quarter, take the No.8 bus to Giap Bat station, google maps has all the bus stops listed. It costs 7K/pp each way and takes around 30 minutes. It comes every 10 minutes all day.
From Giap Bat station take any bus to Ninh Binh, there will be people trying to get you on there bus, which is fine, we jumped on the first one and it cost 70K/pp, travel time is around 2 hours. There’s no fixed schedule but buses are regular all throughout the day.
To get back to Hanoi, go to the main bus station in Ninh Binh (Ninh Binh Bus, Lê Đại Hành, Thanh Bình, Tp.) and take any bus back to Giap Bat, then the No.8 back to the old quarter.
Where To Stay:
We chose to stay in the centre of Ninh Binh for easy transport to everything. The Queen Hotel was absolutely perfect, we only paid £16 per night and it was spotless. Breakfast was cooked to order and there were a few good restaurants right on the doorstep.
If you want to be closer to the attractions then Tam Coc has more options than Trang An, it also has plenty of restaurants and shops.
Where To Eat:
A few doors down from the hotel is Sole Food Restaurant, the chicken curry is out of this world, so is the sweet and sour carrot and potato curry. Portions are massive, but they can give you a takeaway carton for any leftovers.
Ninh Binh is very much Ha Long Bay on land and if I had to chose, I’d still visit Ha Long Bay first, that’s not to say that we didn’t absolutely love Tam Con and Trang An, they were certainly worth the effort!