Ninh Binh Travel Guide
Looking for a Ninh Binh travel guide? Look no further. Still trying to figure out if you should even stop by Ninh Binh? You can put that to rest too because a trip to Vietnam isn’t complete without seeing the magnificent landscapes Ninh Binh has to offer.
So without further ado, here’s your travel guide to Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
Ninh Binh is about a two-hour train or bus ride from Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. Many travelers starting in Hanoi usually plan on taking the overnight train to Hue, Vietnam. Ninh Binh is one of the stops, so it’s not out of the way at all. Though it’s very close to Hanoi, it has a completely different feel. Even the people are different, always waving and yelling out “hello!” when you walk or drive by.
As just mentioned, it takes about two hours by train. The train leaves from Hanoi just minutes from the backpackers area – the Old Quarter. You could easily walk there, depending on where your hotel is. Hanoi’s train station is located at 120 Le Duan Street. Where to buy train tickets in Vietnam? You can do this at your hotel, and they’ll settle it all for you. Or, if you’d rather do it yourself, you can just show up at the train station and purchase them at the ticket counter. You can also book them on websites like Vietnam Railway’s website or Seat61, which might actually be cheaper.
If you’re traveling from Hue, then it’s the same case. Just stop at Ninh Binh before heading to Hanoi!
The most convenient way to get to Ninh Binh by bus is by asking the front desk workers at your hotel. They’ll book you an open tour bus, which basically means you’ll be with other tourists but not on an actual tour. That’s good because I find that most tours suck. The upside to taking this route is that the bus will pick you up directly from the hotel, which makes it extremely convenient. The cost is 100,000 dong. 2 hours.
You can also get the cheaper public bus that leaves from Hanoi’s bus station Giap Bat. The cost, however, isn’t much cheaper. Around 70,000 dong. And it’s possible you might have to pay extra for luggage. This bus takes about 3 hours.
Car or Taxi
The most expensive route is to just hire a car or catch a taxi. The cost is around 2,000,000 dong for a taxi. I’m not sure about hiring a car, but the hotel front desk, once again, would be able to help you with this.
Where To Stay
The three areas you’re interested in is Ninh Binh city, Tam Coc, and Trang An. Ninh Binh city is going to have more hotels and restaurants, obviously, but I’m warning you, the actual city isn’t very scenic. It’s a bit dull, but that’s not why people travel to Ninh Binh. They go to see Tam Coc and Trang An, just minutes away from Ninh Binh city. You can stay near Tam Coc and Trang An, but there are fewer options. If you stay in the city, you can just rent a motorbike for cheap and see these places yourself. Which brings us to the next topic . . .
What To Do in Ninh Binh
A Ninh Binh travel guide isn’t complete without a list of things to do. Two days is enough to spend in Ninh Binh, and you can enjoy yourself at a very low price.
My favorite moments traveling in Vietnam all include motorbikes. For 100,000 dong plus around 30,000 for fuel. So if you’re traveling to Vietnam, get out of your comfort zone and rent that bike. Don’t let the traffic in Hanoi scare you off! It’s not as hard as you’d think, and the traffic in Ninh Binh, especially once you get away from the city and into Tam Coc and Trang An, isn’t bad at all. Renting a motorbike also gives you complete freedom to explore the Ninh Binh countryside, something that is so breathtaking you’re going to want to pull over and just stare in wonder at the mountains and workers in the rice fields.
Trang An is a lot less touristy than Tam Coc and also includes a boat ride down a scenic river for about 150,000 dong. Along the way are caves to explore, the same as Tam Coc. But there’re more! This experience takes a couple of hours, so be sure to wear sunscreen if it’s a sunny day! You can also just drive your motorbike or bicycle around, looking at the scenery. Just up the road from the boat ride is the ancient capital of Ninh Binh province, Hoa Lu, and it’s free to explore!
You can also take the boat ride here, but you’ll probably see more tourists. The cost for this one is about 120,000 dong, and there are fewer caves. Again, just ride or walk around the Tam Coc area admiring the beauty. In my opinion, the scenery around the Tam Coc is better than that surrounding Trang An, mainly because there are a lot more rice fields.
Work in a Rice Paddy
Around Tam Coc, a lot of the workers would wave at the tourists, trying to get them to join them. I’m warning you, it’s dirty work and involves standing in a good foot of muddy water. But it’s a good way to meet the friendly locals and see what their day-to-day life is like. You’ll gain so much more respect for them. And even if you don’t want to join, you can just watch and admire their hard work.
For 100,000 dong, you can walk up 500 steps to the top of one of the mountains, or shall we say peak, and see what Tam Coc looks like from above. The walk is difficult, but it’s very much worth it from the top. Everything looks so much cooler from above, I think. If you’re a traveler like me who flies camera drones, then this is the perfect spot to take off and get some even more extraordinary pictures and videos. You can see my drone video above to get a taste of what Ninh Binh looks like.
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Ninh Binh other than these, so two days is enough time to stay here. But whatever you do, don’t skip this place! And again, I can’t recommend enough, rent a motorbike (or even just a bicycle) and just drive around admiring your surroundings. It’s such a peaceful place and a good break from busy Hanoi.
Where to Eat
There are tons of restaurants, both western and Vietnamese. Just beware that around touristy areas like Tam Coc, the prices are going to be a more, and some of the food may not be as good. I wish I took a picture of the hamburger I got at a restaurant near Tam Coc. I also wish I remembered the name of the restaurant. Oops. But the beef was the size of a quarter! It was pretty much nothing but bread for 80,000. Disappointing. As always, street food is a lot cheaper and very tasty.
This is your basic Ninh Binh travel guide. If you plan on taking a boat ride, I’d recommend not doing both but choosing only one. I prefer fewer tourists, so I’m inclined to go with Trang An.
Are you heading to Ninh Binh? Just got back? Was your experience as amazing as mine?