Ultimate Ninh Binh travel guide : Everything you need to know about traveling Ninh Binh

This ultimate Ninh Binh travel guide by David Nguyen, who has been travel to Ninh Binh hundred of time over the pass 10 years as a local guide of Hynam Travel is written mainly on the request of people who have seen the new Kong Skull Island movie and want to travel to Ninh Binh which was the setting, and it features other Karst Setting, for example; Tam Coc, Trang An, etc.

Ninh Binh is a good choice for eco tours It is not commonly known that they are all the same with the great Ninh Binh. A lot of places and experiences are available for you to explore. This Ninh Binh travel guide will have details on transport options, a list of destinations, to-do list, a recommended itinerary, where to get drinks and food and more valuable information.

From experience, it is possible to visit Ninh Binh on a budget because transport and accommodation are affordable and properly equipped. Try not to ignore it in the event of visiting Vietnam.

 

 

Ninh Binh travel guide map

                                Ninh Binh Travel Map – Right click and open in a new tab for full view

Table of Contents

Is Ninh Binh worth a visit ?

My answer is 100% YES. Ninh Binh is now becoming top attractions in Northern Vietnam with a short drive only 2 hours from Hanoi. In the near future, it will become a featured destination in Vietnam

Best time to visit Ninh Binh

 

Basically, it is a visit Ninh Binh all year round. However, if you a nature lover, I recommend seeing Ninh Binh from May to July. Because the harvest season is in May when you can see an awesome scenery of the yellow rice field when taking a boat ride along Tam Coc. During the summer, you can also see a magnificent view of lotus flowers blooming. Bear in mind, it is pretty hot during summertime over 30-degree celsius. 

In my opinion, September and October is the best time to see Ninh Binh because it isn’t too sunny and cool at this moment. It is a pleasant period of time to enjoy outdoor activities 

I suggest not to travel in August because of rainfall for the whole month. Check your weather forecast before your departure. You can also get some discount from airfare and hotels because of the low season. 

How to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi?

Hanoi is the closest tourist destination near Ninh Binh. There’s a lot of ways to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi

Hanoi to Ninh Binh by minivan

Traveling to Ninh Binh by minivan offered for tourists is the most convenient way because it is door to door service with pick up and drop off at your accommodation in both Hanoi and most of the well-known tourist attractions in Ninh Binh such as Trang An, Tam Coc. 

I recommend going with Ninh Binh Excursion limousine with comfortable seats. Ticket costs 200k. Booking is processed on VeXere 

Hanoi to Ninh Binh by private car, Grab or taxi

If you plan a day trip to Ninh Binh or an overnight trip to Ninh Binh and return Hanoi the following day, or going in a group of 4 persons above and money matter isn’t a big deal. then traveling by either Grab car, taxi or private transfer is a good choice. It’s about $20 to $22 USD per person. In my opinion, traveling with a private transfer arranged by your hotel in Hanoi is the best way because the driver is more experienced and you can see also other tourist attractions in Ninh Binh

Hanoi to Ninh Binh by train 

Best choices for those staying in Ninh Binh city because the station is located in the city. If you are staying in Tam Coc area, there is another taxi ride for 10 kilometres (6 miles) which costs 120k. There are several trains from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, depart at Hanoi Railway station. Please see the picture below for details. Among the choice, I recommend SE19 which departs in the evening. Ticket costs $15 USD per person

How to get to Ninh Binh from Phong Nha?

Ninh Binh is about 400 kilometres away from Ninh Binh. There are two options to choose from

Option 1 : Travel to Ninh Binh from Phong Nha by taking a sleeping bus

It takes around 7.5 hours by bus. There are now 4 companies offers sleeping bus from Ninh Binh to Phong Nha such as Hey Travel, Hung Thanh, Camel and Queen cafe. There are tons of reviews of mix good or bad one. If you are lucky, you’ll get a good bus, if not, it is always a case. 

Bus schedule from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh

FromT0Departure timeDurationCompany name 
Kinh Do hotel (Ninh Binh)Gecko hostle (Phong Nha)8pm7.5 hourHung Thanh 
Ninh Binh train stationNam Anh hotel8pm9 hour Hey Travel 
Ninh Binh CentralPhong Nha Backpacker8.30pm7.5 hourCamel Travel 

Option 2 : Travel to Ninh Binh by train

It takes around 10 hours to get from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh. A ticket costs around $26 per person 

There is a train station called Dong Hoi which is the nearest to Phong Nha. There are 4 options to choose from : SE2, SE6, SE8, SE20. I do prefer SE2 and SE20 because those two trains departing in the evening or midnight, you still have a full day to explore the city as well as arriving in Ninh Binh the next morning so you are able to save time to explore Ninh Binh

Stage 1: Phong Nha to Dong Hoi 

It takes around 1 to 1.5 hour to get from Phong Nha to Dong Hoi. A bus ticket costs around $3 per person

I recommend taking a night or midnight train. If you are taking a night train, you are able to take a local bus from Phong Nha. Alternatively, you can also take a taxi around $25 USD per person. If you are taking the midnight train, you’d better get to Dong Hoi around 6pm, hire a day use room in a couple of hours for having shower. You can also have dinner, enjoy a slow pace of walking along the beachside and explore Dong Hoi by night before getting to the station. 

Stage 2: Taking a train from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh

It takes around 9 hours to get from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh by train.

We recommend taking the SE2 sleeper train if you want to travel by night. When you choose to travel during the day, we recommend SE8 or SE12.

You can find several accommodations within walking distance from Ninh Binh railway station. Yet, we recommend continuing your journey to Tam Coc. This little village is 6km south of Ninh Binh and takes about 15min by taxi.

Train schedule from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh

Train numberDeparture timeArrival TimeDurationSoft Berth
SE2000.529.238 hours and 31 min $34
SE85.2113.348 hours and 23 min$34
SE68.3516.538 hours and 18 min$34
SE219.393.187 hours and 39 min$34

 

How to get to Ninh Binh from Halong Bay or Cat Ba?

The best way to get to Ninh Binh from either Halong or Cat Ba is to take a Dcar limousine with pick up and drop off at your accommodation. It takes from 3.5 to 4-hour drive via the Expressway. A ticket costs around 350k to 400k per person per way. 

Bus schedule from Halong to Ninh Binh

FromT0Departure timeDurationCompany name
Tuan Chau/Bai ChayNinh Binh7am, 12pm, 18pm3.5 to 4 hourNinh Binh Limousine – Dcar
Halong Image hotelNB Central hotel11.30am5 hourDiscovery Travel – Economy bus
Halong Fancy hotelTam Coc12pm5 hourFancy Travel – Shuttle bus
HalongTam Coc6am to 6pm (Every hour3.5 to 4 hourQuang Muoi Limousine
Hon GaiTam Coc7am, 12pm, 18pm3.5 to 4 hourThe Long

Bus schedule from Cat Ba to Ninh Binh

FromT0Departure timeDurationCompany name
Cat BaNinh Binh7.30am, 4.30pm4 hour and 30 minutesGood Morning bus – Dcar
Cat BaNinh Binh8am, 9am, 1pm, 4pm3 hour and 40 minutesCat Ba Discovery – Shuttle Bus
Cat BaNinh Binh8am5 hourCat Ba Express – Shuttle bus
Cat BaNinh Binh8am, 9am, 1pm, 3pm5 hourBC shuttle bus

How to travel around Ninh Binh

There is a lot of ways to get around the city. But I do recommend to use your own vehicle because the public transportation isn’t good enough. 

By motorbike – The best way

Ninh Binh motorbike rental

Ninh Binh motorbike rental service is available

The most reasonable way to commute and enjoy the landscape is by a motorbike. The bike costs 10USD per day and an additional 70,000VND to get gas and 5USD to get a guide (optional).

It is also the most affordable and fun. Almost all motels, hostels and hotels rent motorbikes. It is also advisable you inquire where the nearest gas station is. If you prefer a more environmental and quieter means of transport, a bicycle will be better, it costs 3USD per day. But you should remember to bring energy bars and extra water along.

Some guides claim that Ninh Binh distance can be walked mainly because of its small size and the close proximity of the attractions. The motorbike and taxi drivers make walking annoying though, because of their constant bugging. In the event that you are lodging in Tam Coc, you can stroll to Thung Nang, Bich Dong pagoda and Thai Vy temple

See more : Hanoi to Ninh Binh by motorbike

By bicycle

Bike for rent is available in most of the homestays, guest houses, hotels and resorts. If you are staying either in Tam Coc or Trang An, those places are ideal places for biking around because there is a very few traffic, which is safe for you. The cost for renting a bike is from $2 to $5 USD. 

I recommend taking the bike with a front basket so you can put your stuff on it such as bags, waters, umbrellas etc..

By grab or  private car

You can easily get a grab or a private car to get round. In my opinion, If you plan to travel a couple of places round Ninh Binh : 4-5 places, for example, a private car is a better choice because the driver are experienced so they can help with organising the trip, where to go first in order to save your time. A private car with a driver costs around $35 to $40 including fuel, parking…..

By walking

If you are staying in the Tam Coc area, then walking is a great choice to enjoy a low pace of travel and be able to see lots of tourist attractions around the region with a walking distance from your accommodation, for example, Tam Coc, Thai Vy temple, Bich Dong pagoda, Thung Nang…

Please bear in mind that, it is pretty hot during the summertime from May to August, the temperature might be up to 38-degree celsius at noontime so drink lots of water and take a good rest along the way

The famous tourist attractions in Ninh Binh

We recommend top things to do and see in Ninh Binh area with well-known tourist attractions which you can’t find in any other websites with such detailed information from personal experience of a local guide in Vietnam who travelled Ninh Binh hundred of times. 

The Area Top Attractions
Tam Coc

Tam Coc

Thung Nang

Bich Dong pagoda

Thai Vy temple

 

Thung Nham

Thung Nham bird park

Linh Coc Hai Nham boat ride

Trang An

Hoa Lu ancient capital

Tuyet Tinh Coc

Trang An

Mua cave

Van Long

Van Long nature reserve

Cuc Phuong national park

Bai Dinh

Bai Dinh pagoda

Galaxy Grotto

Going on a Boat Trip (Sampan boat ride) in Ninh Binh Area

 This is an incredible experience in Tam Coc or Trang An that offers boat trips along the river where you can witness the beautiful landscape, paddy fields, mountain cliffs and wet caves

Tam Coc  (Three caves)

Tam Coc Ninh Binh

Tam Coc boat ride in Ninh binh

195,000VND around $8 includes sightseeing ticket and boat ride (2 foreigners in one boat) which takes 1.5 hours on the river (round trip). You are recommended to take a boat ride in Tam Coc in May, there is absolutely amazing photoshoots with rice paddies field in yellow color. Speechless and mind-blowing.  

On the way back, you might stop at small bridge, instead of going back the pier and take a walk about 20 minutes along the pathway to Thai Vy temple.

Trang An Ecotourism site

Trang An Ninh Binh

Boat ride in Trang An

200,000VND around $8.5 includes sightseeing ticket and boat ride (4 foreigners in one boat )

There are 3 routes offered. 

Route 1 : Consists of 9 different caves and 02 temples (the first one is Den Trinh and Tran dynasty temples) within 3 hours trip if you are going to see these temples

Route 2 : Saint Cao Son temple – Vu Lam palace (Tran Dynasty dated back from 13rd century) – Kong Skull Island movie set. 03 hours boat ride and attraction visit 

This route consists of 4 gorgeous caves and 03 religious sites 

Route 3 : Dot cave – Suoi Tien temple _ Kong Skull island movie set with 03 hours boat ride and attraction visit 

This is my favorite route with scenic boat ride, explore the largest cave in Trang An area which is over 1 kilometer long with various shapes of stalagmites and stalactites, you might bow your head when cruising along the cave.  

Things to know during sampan ride in Trang An area

+ Do remember boat rower number which is written on the boat

+ Bring small changes of 2,000 or 3,000VND for washroom at some stops. 

+ Tipping isn’t compulsory. But if you are happy with a rower, tipping is recommended, 100.000VND for private boat, 30.000VND for a sharing boat with others. 

+ Keep the printed ticket carefully, you need it at check point

+ Avoid these period: Tet (Lunar new year of Vietnam), May Day, Western new year which is packed with people. Not a good time to go. If you are travelling in these period, take a boat ride in Tam Coc area instead

+ What to bring  : 2  bottled water, hat, suncream, a pair sung glasses, small changes 

+ If you are solo traveler or couple, you might have to wait until someone else going on the same route with you to fill up a sampan of 4 people. 

Van Long nature reserve – The land of King Kong

Van Long Nature reserve

Van Long nature reserve – The land of King Kong in Ninh Binh

With 3500 hectares, Van Long is known as the largest wetland natural reserve in Northern Vietnam, which is home to thousand species of animals and floras, especially  Delacour’s langurs which is in danger of extinction. This is an off the beaten track place for a sampan boat ride in Ninh Binh area.

Entrance fee : 20.000VND per person, 60.000VND for a boat ride (max 2 people) 

Duration : 1 to 1.5 hours boat ride

Set in the backdrop of stunning limestone mountains and paddy fields, you can enjoy spotting numerous species of birds and other animals as you meander slowly through the wetlands or take a sampan boat ride along the river for a more thrilling experience.

Dong Thien Ha (Galaxy Grotto)

This is an off-the-beaten-track destination in Ninh Binh. As far as I know, only some of the organised tours offer a trip includes this cave tour and there’s a few backpackers know about it. On the other hand, you can only find some travel blogs have mentioned it.To be honest with you, it’s the best place for taking sampan boat ride in Ninh Binh in my opinion. 

The landscape here is so much different from Tam Coc or Trang An. Firstly, taking a relaxing boat ride on a river then take a short walk to the main cave with amazing rock formation in various shapes with different colours which makes you feel getting lost in the real Galaxy. Take a few steps up is a big open small space which looks like heaven well where the earth and the heaven meets. You can also find some of the vestiges from Prehistoric man who had lived in the cave 7000 to 1500 years ago. 

Next, taking another boat ride to explore the other water part of the cave. There is a secret that if you beat on the different rocks, there are different sound also. I am sure with you, none of the travel blogs had mentioned it. 

The boat rowers are locals who have been living around the area. Takign a boat ride means you are giving back to local community

Notes : If you are happy with the boat trip, please leave a small tip for the boat rower at the end of the trip, around $1 to $2 per person. 

 

Bike trip in Ninh Binh area

 The path to Trang An and Tam Coc is quite level, so you can explore places via bike on your own. 

Cycling in Ninh Binh

Cycling in Ninh Binh is one of the top things to do

Biking route 1 : There is a route of 12 kilometers from Tam Coc pier to Hoa Lu ancient capital which take you travel along village path, you might stop at Mua cave area on the way for hiking to its top. 

Ask The Long restaurant which is right in the corner in front of Tam Coc pier for bike rental service, start in Tam Coc and drop your bike in Hoa Lu, which costs around $10 per bike. You might take a taxi or Xe Om (local motorbike taxi with a driver which costs around $6 per person back to Tam Coc). If you more adventurous, take a bike ride with the same distance back to Tam Coc area.  

Biking route 2 : Tam Coc pier – Thung Nham Eco tourism site : 14 kilometers round trip 

Just follow the main road to Bich Dong pagoda, take a left turn at T-Juntion about 150 meters from Bich Dong pagoda, keep riding for another 5 kilometers to get to Thung Nham bird park. You’re going to pay 100.000VND per person for entrance fee to Thung Nham, if you would like to see the caves. Boat ride in Thung Nham is at extra cost. 

Biking route 3 : Most popular route for lots of bus tours from Hanoi. Biking from Tam Coc pier to Bich Dong Buddhist temple and back. Total distance: 6 kilometers round trip 

Biking route 4 : Cycling along countryside path of Van Long nature reserve area from villages to villages. We recommend afternoon biking so you might combine with watching sunset which is really awesome! Total length : 7 kilometers

Hiking in Ninh Binh

A good place to check in is Hang Mua because of its unique bird’s eye view. Bich Dong Padoga is also an alternative

Eco Tours and Local Living Tour with Hynam Travel

Hynam Travel offer off the beaten track route with local living experience. We also focus on ecological tours in Ninh Binh to benifit local community. Join our trip to Ninh Binh you will have a memorable experience 

Ninh Binh Historical Tour

Hoa Lu – Former ancient capital of Vietnam

Hoa Lu ancient capital

Hoa Lu, the former capital of Vietnam dated back since 10th century

Known as the former capital of Vietnam, dated back from 10th century with 2 dynasties Dinh and Le (968 – 1009) will give you a bit of Vietnamese history in its temples and pathways. You will check out 2 historic temples dedicated to both kings Dinh and Le with the interesting architectural style and design dated back from 17th century.

You might hike to Cot Co (Flag Pillar) peak nearby where tomb of king Dinh Tien Hoang located to see a panoramic view of the temple its self, lush green rice paddy field and nearby villages or check out closeby village by keep walking pass by king Le temple to a village gate. 

Entrance fee : 20.000VND per person 

Tips

+ Dress appropriately (No short sleeves) 

+ Take off hats, rain ponchoes, sung glasses when entering the hall of ceremony

+ Keep silent or don’t make much noise

+ Don’t turn your back against King and god statues

+ Take photos without flash

+ Don’t beat the drum inside the temple. You might wake the guard up because he might be sleeping during noon time. 

+ Donation is welcome. Put small changes into a donation box

+ If you wear short pants, borrow a wrapped leg skirt at free of charge next to the ticket office 

Hiking in Ninh Binh

 A good place for hiking and wildlife studies is the Cuc Phuong National Park and hike Mua Cave

Cuc Phuong national park

Cuc Phuong national park

Trekking Cuc Phuong national park in Ninh Binh

Entrance fee : 60.000VND per adult, 40.000VND for endangered primate center and turtle conservation center. These centers are open up to 4.00pm only. 

Those interested in keeping active on their trip can take a hike to the Cuc Phuong National Park and experience the beauty of Vietnam’s native plant and animal species.

What to see and do in Cuc Phuong National park

+ Visit the Cave of Prehistoric Man – thought to date back 7500 years – where ancient artefacts were discovered

+ Hike back and forward 3 hours to see 100 years old tree

+ Check out Endangered primate rescue center and turle conservation centre

+ Bird watching. The national park is home to 308 rare species of bird

+ Jungle trekking to Khanh village with rocky cliffs. A real challenge for adventure traveller. Only available for a guided tour, you need to book with a travel agent in Hanoi or at the national park office. 

Tips

+ What to bring : Water bottled, Snacks and fruits, walking shoes, hats, insect spray, dep (a liquid medicine to stop leeches if it is a rainy day)

Hang Mua (Dance Cave) – Great wall of Vietnam

Mua cave Ninh Binh

Dragon peak at Mua Cave Ninh Binh

A real heaven on earth with majestic view of Tam Coc after climbing 500 steeped steps. 

Entrance fee : 100.000VND per person 

Tips

+What to bring : a drone to shoot cool video, lots of water bottled, sun cream, hat, walking shoes

+ May and June is the best time to see when it comes to rice harvest season. Photo shooting is absolutely amazing

+ Going for washroom before hiking because there is no toilet on its peak

+ Get the morning around 7.00am or 5.00pm in the afternoon to avoid the high heat. Only applied for summer from May to August. It is getting dark after 5.00pm in the Winter from Nov to Feb

+ Check out 2 peaks : main peak and dragon peak

+ Slippery walking when it comes to rainy days. Watch out your steps!

Bird Watching in Ninh Binh

You can also watch birds and other wildlife at Thung Nham bird garden

Thung Nham bird park

Thung Nham bird park

Thung Nham bird park Ninh Binh

Thung Nham is the perfect place to head if you wish to explore the natural beauty of this ecotourism zone – take in the panoramic views of this lush green landscape, and admire the grottoes and the limestone mountains. For those who love bird watching, you’d better see Thung Nham from 5.00 pm when the birds have returned after a day out. 

Entrance fee : 100,000VND per person

20.000VND per person for a sharing boat ride to visit But cave

30.000VND per person for a sharing boat ride to visit bird park

What to do and see in Thung Nham

+ Explore stunning limestone caves : Vai Gioi cave, Mermaid cave, Underwater palace 

+ Sampan boat ride to explore But (Buddha) cave with cool stalagmites and stalagmites

+ Bird watching by taking a flat bottom boat riding on bird garden

Van Long nature reserve

Bird watching in Ninh Binh

Birding in Van Long, Ninh Binh

Another place for bird watching in Ninh Binh, it is off the tourist trail attractions. Please see detailed information about the nature reserve below. 

The best time to see birds, storks in Van Long is in between December and February which is the wintertime in Vietnam when birds from other nearby regions coming over to be away from the cold weather. 

Religious Tours in Ninh Binh

Bich Dong, Bai Dinh pagoda and Phat Diem cathedral are also both important spectacles that religious visitors must visit on their travels

Massive Bai Dinh Buddist temple

Bai Dinh pagoda

Bai Dinh pagoda panoramic view

Known as the largest Buddhist complex in South East Asia, 1700 hectares includes old and new temple. 

Entrance fee : Free of charge

What to see in Bai Dinh pagoda

Bai Dinh Ninh Binh

Buddha statues in Bai Dinh Ninh Binh

+ Three reception gates with 02 bronze buddist guardian statues inside

+ Bell tower with a 36 tons bell which is the biggest in Vietnam

+ Worshipping hall of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva (Lady budda)

+ Worshipping hall of three period Buddha 

+ The corridor of 500 arhat statues (Arhat is a person a perfected person, one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana (spiritual enlightenment). 

+ Massive statue of Maitreya Buddha

Tips for Bai Dinh buddist temple

+ Take round trip electric bus for a 10 minutes drive each way, 60.000VND per person

+ Take care of your belongings when it comes to busy days just in case of pickpocket

+ Check out 13 floors tower with a stunning panoramic view of the pagoda on its top with an entrance fee for 50.000VND per person. It also preserves pearl like relic of Gautama Buddha from India in 2008

+ See massive happy budda statue on top of Dinh mountain

+ Dress appropriately when visiting the pagoda : cover up your shouder down below your knee

+ Walk along the trail if you aren’t able to walk on steps

+ Don’t get to the temple too late, anytime before 3.00pm is good. 

Bich Dong pagoda

Bich Dong pagoda

Bich Dong pagoda in Ninh Binh

Bich Dong Buddhist temples is known as one of the most famous religious sites in Ninh Binh area. Only 3 kilometers from Tam Coc Wharf, Bich Dong is a common tourist stop to visit for a day trip to Ninh Binh .

The pagoda was built by two Buddhist monks from Nam Dinh. They had been traveling around the country for propagating Buddhism. Admire the beauty of the pagoda, they decided to maintain and rebuild into 3 layered pagodas.

Ha Pagoda is the first one you will see and it is used as a Buddha shrine. Once you will enter the pagoda, you will be welcomed by statues and incense.

The first pagoda at the bottom for prayers offering incense with hundred years old Jack fruit and persimmon tree.

Next, climb 80 steps to the middle pagoda with amazing tile roof shaped like a boat which is very unique to Vietnam because the ancient Viet people used to travel by boat on a waterway.

Climb another 25 steeped steps to reach Dark cave with an old big bell dated back 17th century, you with see statues of Buddha in three periods: past, present and future.

Right outside the cave, the best view point for shooting cool photos of the pond, mountain and landscape.

Keep hiking, you will reach the top pagoda with a statue of the God of Mercy and two smaller shires for worshiping the god lf landlord and mountain.

Phat Diem Cathedral

Phat Diem Church

Chapel of Heart Phat Diem Stone Cathedral

This stunning cathedral is of particular interest as it incorporates both European and local style. Here, beautiful traditional pagoda rooves meet western gothic style walls.

Often touted as the most interesting church in the country, this cathedral is of particular interest to local and international visitors alike due to the blend of architectural styles. Recognized as a place of both historical and religious importance, the church was bombed in the war and completely restored and serves as the focal point for Catholicism in the province of Ninh Binh.

See also 

Phat Diem Cathedral

Boat ride in Kenh Ga 

Take a boat ride along Hoang Long river to visit Kenh Ga. A local floating village to learn more about local life, it is peaceful ambiance here.

Entrance fee : 100.000VND per person includes sightseeing ticket and motor boat ride. 

Tips :

+ Ask the boat rower to stop at Kenh Ga village and stroll around

+ Tipping for boatman is welcome around 50.000VND per person 

What to eat in Ninh Binh – Must-try food

Enjoy the local specialities with a list of must-eat below (along with local drink).

Yen Mac spring rolls have been prepared by locals for a long time now. A lot of restaurants and hotels inside and outside Ninh Binh serve this. The style of cooking this dish is quite intricate; mixing a little slice of rawboned pork and “thinh” (a type of roasted and ground rice), red and pink coloring, marinated with guava leaves and seasonings, which makes it storable for up to a week. It can be served with fig leaves, guava leaves, and scented vegetables in “nuoc mam” that is mixed with lemon juice, garlic, chili and peppers. When tourists are able to experience this delicacy, the meats oily taste and the fresh and buttery taste of the guava and fig leaves can be felt, along with the sweet\sour taste of the “nuoc mam”

Yen Mac Spring roll

Yen Mac Spring roll – Weird food to try in Ninh Binh

                                                                                                        Yen Mac spring roll

At times, you can notice duck stores along the roads which can be quite nice in the event that you have never eaten before in Hanoi. Lastly, dog meat is very popular in Northern Vietnam, but if you are an animal lover, you might not enjoy the food; nevertheless, it is a particular dish that must be sampled in Vietnam.

Goat meat: This is a must-try food when traveling Ninh Binh. Raised in stone karst mountains so that goat meat is a bit chewy. It can be cooked for various types such as grilled or steamed goat meat and rare goat in lime sauce

Burned rice topped with pork floss in Ninh Binh style (Com Chay)  : A typical Vietnamese food that people use burnt rice from the bottom of the electric cooker and deep-fried in order to make it crunchy. There’s a special type of soup to enjoy with “Com Chay” for its best taste. It is only available in the restaurants only. Next top with some pork floss (Ruoc) . You might buy it in Tam Coc, Hoa Lu, Trang An 

Com Chay Ninh Binh

Where to eat in Ninh Binh and top restaurants in Ninh Binh

Tips for enjoying food in Ninh Binh area

Ninh binh restaurant

Goat meat is a local speciality sold in lots of restaurant in Ninh Binh

  • Traveling outside of the Hanoi capital which is the best of the best food ever in Northern Vietnam, you should expect simple food in terms of taste and decoration. Don’t expect too low price than restaurants in Hanoi because it is also a tourist attraction.
  •  Some of the restaurants near the Tam Coc Wharf with a great location but the food may not that good. 
  • Try some “Thit De” (goat meat) which is might be a bit chewy and “Com Chay” ( Crispy rice with soup) which is local speciality.
  • If you like to try different food at affordable cost, there are two buffet restaurants called The Long and Duc Tuan right on the side of Tam Coc Wharf. Try to have lunch around 12.00pm in order to get good quality of food. 

Recommended restaurants in Tam Coc area

There is an array of choices for Tam Coc restaurants with good food and services at a reasonable price 

Spice Garden Tam Coc

Tam Coc Spice Garden

Tam Coc Spice Garden – A good restaurant in NInh Binh

This is a family run restaurant whose owner is a French speaking guide. If you are looking for good and tasty Vietnamese food, this is your perfect choice. 

A few of good food to take : 

Nom Hoa Chuoi (Vietnamese Banana blossom salad) 

Nem Ran (Vietnamese fried spring roll with pork) 

Ca Sot Me (Crispy fish with tamarind sauce) 

Cha Ca (Deep fried round fish ball)

Contact information : Mr Luong : +84 97 311 00 88

Location : From Tam Coc pier, take a walk around 7 minutes on the right-hand side on the way to Bich Dong pagoda. It will be on your left hand side. 

Type of food : Vietnamese and Western European cuisine

Eating Tips :

+ French speaking guests is highly recommended because the owner do speak French very well. 

+ Order a Nada bottle of beer (Nada stands for Nam Dinh province which is the hometown of the owner). It is something different type of beer that you don’t see in Hanoi area. 

+ If you would like to get more choice of food, order a set menu which is around $10 per person with 6 different courses. 

Bamboo bar and restaurant

Another family run restaurant about 200 meters from Tam Coc pier, founded by a Frech Speaking tour guide, mr Thai who has been working in tourism industry for years. His restaurant is famous for its Vietnamese cuisine. 

Aroma Indian Restaurant 

Locates nearby Tam Coc pier, serving Northern and Southern Indian cuisines as well as Halal food. 

Contact number : 0942 605 254

La Belle Vie on the way to Bich Dong from Tam Coc

The motel is managed by a beautiful family and the garden houses a restaurant. Most people try to book but they are almost always full so its better you book in advance. It has a very lovely setting even though it is located in the center of Tam Coc town, it has a doorway feeling. They also offer a unique mixture of Western and Vietnamese delicacies.

Father Cooking

Situated immediately beside the boat harbor in Tam Coc, this petite place is common with adventurers. Their prices are also very affordable and the food is impressive, in all it is a reasonable place to eat.

Good restaurants in Hoa Lu and Trang An area

Thang Long restaurant

If you are looking for authentic Vietnamese food in Ninh Binh region, especilly goat meat. This restaurant is your perfect choice. 

Location : On the way to Trang An from Bai Dinh temple, you’ll see the restaurant in an isolated area. There is a sign on the main road also.

Truong An restaurant 

Serving Vietnamese and European Western food. Clean and good Vietnamese food. 

Location : Closed by the T-juntion between Hoa Lu and Trang An near a small bridge

Top Restaurant Ninh Binh city area

Trung Tuyet restaurant : 

Useful info 

Address : 14 Hoang Hoa Tham, Trung Son,  Ninh Binh

Contact number : +84 94 935 88 85

Type of food : Vietnamese food, Vegetarian option is also available 

No 1 restaurant in Ninh Binh area ranked by Trip Advisor. Affordable price, good food, and clean. It is suitable for those who are going to have dinner before catching a night train in Ninh Binh or those who going on motorbike ride across Ninh Binh to the South. 

Duc Nhat restaurant 

Address: 12 Hoang Hoa Tham, Ninh Binh

Contact number : +84 91 876 56 49

Type of food : Vietnamese and Asian food, Vegetarian option is also available 

This is another family run restaurant offers authentic Vietnamese food with a big portion, a good value of money and friendly owner

SHOPPING GUIDE IN NINH BINH AREA

Ninh Binh shopping

Hand Embroidery in Tam Coc Ninh binh

There is a few places to shop around Ninh Binh. Check it out

Supermarket Big C Ninh Binh is one of the top shopping places in Ninh Binh with almost everything you need with a variety of items with price tag which is good for tourists because you don’t know how much it costs

Rong Market is the best place for shopping in Ninh Binh city area where locals often go. It is something like Dong Xuan market in Hanoi, you can shop various items from shoes, clothes, bags to food

For souvenirs and hand embroidery, Van Lam village near Tam Coc is a hand embroidery with lace village. There are items such as table cloth, bags, purses, curtains, , handkerchiefs, pillow covers, wall hangings. There are a few shops near Bich Dong pagoda offer pretty good rates. 

You can also find these products in a shop about 1 kilometer from Van Long nature reserve. This is less visited shops by tourists but you are a fan of hand embroidery, let’s check it out, there’s lots of cool stuff. 

Where to stay in Ninh Binh 

There are a few areas to stay in Ninh Binh : the city, the Tam Coc area, the Trang An area. Among these choices, Tam Coc area is the best and the most popular so far because there’s lots of restaurants, bars and also a countryside area with lots of beautiful landscapes around. 

Mid-range and Luxury Accommodation in Ninh Binh area

Hidden Charm hotel and Resort 

Ninh Binh hidden charm hotel – Mid-range Accommodation in Ninh Binh

Just 200 meters from Tam Coc pier, this 4 stars hotels and resort is the best in Tam Coc area with great location and service, good value of money. They do offer spa and massage service in order. 

Tam Coc garden

The best accommodation in Tam Coc area. It is located a distance from Tam Coc, the area is tranquil. It is situated near the rice fields, it has the usual tiled roofs, brick houses, gardens and flower orchards that give it a unique feel

Ninh Binh legend hotel 

Another 4 stars hotel locates in the outskirt of Ninh Binh city in a tranquil settings area with a view to the lush green rice paddy field and up-rising mountains 

Aravinda resort in Tam Coc

Brand new resort in Tam Coc area with stunning view of mountains, rice fields and river landscape. The resort has a bar, a restaurant, a spa. A great choice for those who would like a peaceful area.  

Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh

Located in incredible Van Long nature reserve area, the best resort in the region. The resort is half an hour drive Tam Coc and 45 minutes drive from Cuc Phuong national park.

The resort offers a variety of services and facilities: Spa and massage services, a restaurant with Vietnamese, Western and Asian food. There are swimming pools both indoor and outdoor if you want to cool off your self.

Take a walk around the area to enjoy fresh air, tranquil setting in lush green trees and plants. This is a perfect place for a great escape from bustle and hustle of Hanoi Old Quarter

Superior accommodation in Ninh Binh

The reed hotel

Located in the heart of Ninh Binh city. The hotel offers comfortable, spacious rooms, dining in 2 restaurants. This is the perfect choice for meeting and conference and business. 

Vancouver Ninh Binh hotel

Situated in a charming alleyway and tranquil settings, this family-run hotel is a perfect choice for shoppers. Luong Van Tuy is the heart of Ninh Binh, close to stores, shops, and markets 

Hang Mua Ecolodge:

☎ +84 37 8699330, This 3 star lodge is very attractive and is part of the Mua Caves along with the critically acclaimed Mountain Peak and Lying Dragon. There are free entrance tickets for its guests, and the breakfast cost is added to the price(US$45-US$80).

Tam Coc rice field resort

3 stars accommodation in Tam Coc area, 4 kilometers from Tam Coc Wharf, 1.1 kilometers from Linh Coc – Hai Nham boat ride and 2.6 kilometers from Thung Nham bird park. This is a perfect accommodation for those who like off the beaten track, tranquil setting and staying in a comfort.

 It is a very beautiful resort with a touch of personality that is situated in Tam Coc, and is also recognized by UNESCO’s world heritage. It gives tourists a wonderful view of Tam Coc and the rice fields from its rooms and restaurants. It is very serene and tranquil.

Chez Loan, Bich Dong

Road:☎ +84 948 577 322, This is without a doubt, the best known hotel in Tam Coc mainly because of the impressive personality of the manager, Mrs.Loan, who is also a Cordon Bleu. It is also situated in the rice fields and summits in an extremely serene place on the path between Bich Dong and Tam Coc.

Email:hotelchezloan@gmail.com 

Standard accommodation in Tam Coc area

Nam Hoa hotel 

The hotel is right next to a local market, 200 meters from Tam Coc Wharf, on the way to Thung Nang and Bich Dong. There is one onsite restaurant but there are a lot more around the area.

For example, Spice Garden Tam Coc is 1-minute walk from there. All rooms have open windows, free wifi, complimentary water bottle, tea, and coffee. This is also a popular hotels for travel agents in Hanoi. They do offer bike rental, money exchange as well at extra cost. 

Queen hotel

Address : 14 Hoang Hoa Tham street, Ninh Binh city

This hotel is perfect for the budget travelers and family trip to Ninh Binh area. All rooms are equipped with a working desk, wifi, hot shower, hairdryer and more. If you are a football fan, Ninh Binh Stadium is about 1 kilometer from the hotel. 

Ninh Binh homestay – Which one to pick?

As far as I know, there are over 200 homestays in the Tam Coc area so you have a plenty of choices based on your interest and budget

Chezbeo homestay

This is a cool homestay for nature lovers, a great place for taking cool photos shoots, especially youngsters, couples. The homestay is 1.1 kilometers from Tam Coc Wharf, 1 kilometer from Mua Cave. You can also order lunch, dinner at extra cost. Breakfast is included in the room rate. 

La Belle Vie Tam Coc Homestay

A popular homestay for travel agents serving Frech speaking market. The homestay offers private rooms, a garden with beautiful flowers, a playground, a restaurant, bar and sauna service. 

Buffalo Eco Garden

If you are looking for a tranquil setting area, away from all tourist trail, Buffalo eco garden is your ideal place. offer spacious bungalows in the middle of no where among rice paddy field and mountain. They do offer fishing, cooking class, cycling, spa services and more. 

Chez Hiep Tam Coc homestay

Tam Coc homestay

Chez HIep homestay in Tam Coc

Located in the alleyway, 300 meters way from Tam Coc wharf, the homestay offers bungalows and private rooms for guests. You stay in a local home, eat local food and experience a peaceful atmosphere. A great choice for budget travelers with a comfortable stay in Tam Coc. You also get free bike rental if staying here. 

Cheap and Affordable Accommodation in Ninh Binh

Tam Coc Homestay: It gives an incredible indigenous experience through the scenery and design, it is also affordable (6USD per nightbed). You can lose yourself in the rice fields, bamboo walls, palm roofs and a waterfowl lake

For extra comfort, lodge in Hoa Lu adventurer hotel, it is very tidy and has some free features like the hammock bed mountain views and fruit gathering, it costs around 7.5USD per night

Tam Coc bamboo Lodge: 8USD/ dorm night, and you get to stay in the cliffs, the rooms are also clean and there is free Wi-Fi, but the design leaves a lot to be desired

Tam Coc Bungalow: A view of a river, free Wi-Fi and breakfast, and it costs only 6USD per night

Ha Trang Hotel: it is cheaper, not fancy, no breakfast but Wi-Fi (4USD)

Useful Ninh Binh travel tips

  • The best way to get around Ninh Binh either by motorbike or bicycle. There’s lots of things to see along the way, especially local living and a stunning view of rural landscapes
  • Staying in the Tam Coc area or Trang An area is better than staying in the city. My favourite place is the Tam Coc area with lots of things to do as well as many restaurants, bars. 
  • Motorbike parking fee at the tourist attractions is from 5k to 10k
  • Taking the boat ride in Tam Coc or Trang An either in the earlier morning from 7am to 9am or afternoon from 3.30pm to 5pm to avoid the big crowd
  • There are three ATMs, two in Tam Coc and one in Trang An. You can withdraw around two million dongs which is equal to $90 USD
  • There are direct tourist bus from Halong bay and Cat Ba to Ninh Binh 

Travelling cost in Ninh Binh

The cost of travelling Ninh Binh is really affordable, even cheaper than Hanoi. The estimated cost for a day is around $45 USD. See the below table for details

ItemsCosts
Food14 USD
Drink4 USD
Accommodation12 USD
Motorbike for rent 7 USD
Fuel2 USD
Entrance fee12 USD
Total51 USD

Ninh Binh facts

Ninh Binh general hospital is the best public hospital in Ninh Binh but most of the doctors only speak Vietnamese so you may need an interpreter to help with communicating or if you are travelling on guided tour then your guide will help. 

There is a food market in Tam Coc Ninh Binh where you can check it out in the morning when locals go buy their stuff. 

Using grab for car and motorbike to get around Ninh Binh 

There are no Circle K stores in Ninh Binh city but there is an array of convenient stores in Tam Coc

You can shop for a FAKE North Face jacket in some stores in the Tam Coc area

Laundry services is available in your accommodation in Ninh Binh, you can’t find laundry shops in Tam Coc

Hoang Long is the biggest river in Ninh Binh

Travel reviews of Ninh Binh

In my opinion, Ninh Binh is one of the best places in Northern Vietnam for a day trip as well as multi-day trips. For sure, it is over your expectation with the awesome natural beauty of limestone karst mountains, fun outdoor activities, authentic local experience, hearty local food and more. It is now famous amongst both Asian and Western tourists. A visit to North Vietnam won’t be completed without a visit to Ninh Binh. 

Frequently asked questions for traveling Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh travel guide 2020
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Shopping guide in Ninh Binh

If you would like a hassle-free day, Hynam Travel offer days tour to Ninh Binh with cool, off the beaten path and local experiences. We will show you the best of Ninh Binh has to offer.

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