Located in Northern Vietnam is a province called Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is known for its stunning natural landscapes and historical sites as well as many cultural attractions. The area is often referred to as the “Ha Long Bay on Land” due to it’s limestone karsts that are very similar to the ones in Ha Long Bay Vietnam. To get a close up view of the spectacular scenery in the area, the Trang An Boat Tour is one of the best ways to do just that. Here’s what you need to know about the Trang An Boat Tour.
About the Ninh Binh Trang An Boat Tour
The Trang An Boat Tour is part of the Trang An Landscape Complex which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. Archaeologists found human activity in the area that goes back more than 30,000 years.
Trang An Ninh Binh has numerous cultural and historical sites, including the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, but it is the natural landscape of the area that is the main attraction. The Trang An Boat Tour takes you on a traditional sampan boat along the Ngo Dong River through caves and stops at several temples along the way.
Where is Trang An?
Trang An is located in the Ninh Binh Province just a few miles outside of the city of Ninh Binh. It’s just a 9 minute drive from Tam Coc and a 13 minute drive from the center of Ninh Binh. The boat tour area is circled in red on the map below.
How to get to Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is located just 90km south of the Vietnam capital of Hanoi. There are not any airports in Ninh Binh so you have to travel by either bus, train, private car, or motorbike.
If you’re coming from Hanoi, you can easily catch the train. A train ticket from Hanoi will cost around $15 (one way) and will take just a few hours to reach Ninh Binh. From there you can catch a taxi or use the Grab app to get a ride to your hotel. You can search for and buy train tickets in Vietnam at Vietnam Train Tickets.
Vietnam has inexpensive bus transportation that is operated by various bus companies throughout Vietnam. I’ve used 12go.asia to book reservations on buses throughout Vietnam. Just pick your starting location and then your final destination.
Depending on where you’re staying you’ll choose either Ninh Binh, Tam Coc, or Trang An. Make sure you check the reviews when your booking your bus. It’s hit and miss with the bus companies. Bus service is so inexpensive, starting around $5, and the ride from Hanoi is short at just a few hours that you might be willing to overlook some of the bad reviews.
If you plan on visiting Ninh Binh for just one day you might want to consider booking through a tour company. There are a lot of companies in Hanoi that you can book in person. As you’re walking around the Old Quarter in Hanoi you’ll see big signs in windows along the street with photos of the different places they go.
You can also book one yourself on Viator. You’ll book the tour, get meeting instructions, and come for the day. It will likely leave by 7 or 8 am and you need to plan for a 12 hour day. Find a tour that has the Hang Mua hike and whatever else you want to do while here.
You can also rent a car however, with gas and insurance, the cost and hassle might not be worth it. I think the other options are much more affordable and so easy to use. But, if you’re set on renting a vehicle or if you are planning on driving throughout Vietnam, then you can rent a car with any of the major car rental companies. Just make sure you have an International Drivers License. ONLY the person with the IDL should drive the vehicle.
Getting Around Ninh Binh
Once you arrive in Ninh Binh, you can either take a taxi or Grab, rent a motorcycle or a bicycle.
Taxi – Grab
A taxi or Grab will be the easiest option but will end up costing more if you plan to get multiple rides over several days. It’s still affordable and shouldn’t cost more than $5 but if you have to take several cabs a day then it will add up.
Grab is the equivilent to Uber. Just download the app and look for a ride. You do not need to enter any credit card info but you can if that’s easier for you. Most of the Grab drivers take cash. Just decide on a price for any taxi or Grab before you get in the car.
Renting a motorcycle or scooter is always our favorite option of transportation when we travel. It’s so easy to rent one and it shouldn’t cost more than $4-8 a day. You do not need to know how to shift gears on one. You’ll just turn the key and go.
You can also rent a bike for a few dollars. Some of the hotels or hostels have them for free if you’re staying with them. This will be the most affordable way to get around but you’ll spend a lot of time riding from place to place. If you only have 1-2 days in the area then you might not want to ride a bicycle to places that are further away.
How to get to the Trang An Boat Tour
Once you’ve figured out how you’re getting around you can make your way to Trang An. A taxi will know exactly how to get there. If you’re driving yourself then you’ll want to enter the address below into Google Maps.
Trang An Boat Tour Address: 7W39+7G5, Ninh Xuân, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình, Vietnam
How and where to buy tickets
Once you arrive at the complex, you’ll park if you’ve driven yourself and then head to the main ticket office. You will see signs for everything.
7am – 4:30pm
Hours of Operation
The Trang An Boat Tour is open from 7am to 4:30pm every day of the week. You’ll be able to avoid the crowds and have a much more peaceful boat ride if you show up as soon as they open.
When you arrive at the complex you’ll need to pay for parking if you’ve driven yourself. There’s a huge parking lot and a ticket booth. Parking will cost 15,000 VND for motorcycles and 10,000 VND for bicycles. If you’ve taken a taxi then you don’t have to pay any parking fee.
Tickets for the boat tour costs 250,000 VND per person. That’s about $11 per person. The boat has to have 4 people (plus the rower) on it so you might have to share a ride with others. The other option is to buy more tickets so that you have the boat to yourself.
Although there are three different boat routes the price is the same no matter which one you choose to do.
Trang An Boat Tour routes
The Trang An Complex has three different boat tour routes to choose from. Each one goes a different way than the others so if you choose to do multiple boat tours you’ll see something different each time.
Once you purchase your tickets you’ll walk through the ticket office building (it’s huge) and through an underground tunnel that goes under the road to the other side of street and to the boat dock. You’ll come to the boat rowers and get on the next available boat.
Trang An Boat Tour Route #1 will go through 9 different caves and stop at 3 different temples. The Tran Temple, is the “heart of Trang An World Cultural and Natural Heritage” and where you can learn about the Dinh Dynasty.
This is also the longest of all the boat tours lasting around 3 hours.
Trinh Temple > Toi Cave > Sang Cave > Nau Ruou Cave > Tran Temple > Ba Giot Cave > Seo Cave > Son Duong Cave > Khong Cave > Khong Temple – Bao Hieu Pagoda > Tran Cave > Quy Hau Cave
On Route #2 you’ll travel through 4 different caves and 3 temples. On this route you can learn more about the Tran Dynasty.
Lam Cave > Thanh Cao Son Temple > Vang Cave > Thanh Truot Cave > Suoi Tien Temple > Dai Cave > Vu Lam Royal Steps
You won’t get out at the last temple, the Vu Lam Royal Steps, but will only pass close by it.
Route #3 takes you through three caves and three temples. On this route is the Dot cave which is the longest cave at Trang An at 1km in length.
Trinh Temple > Dot Cave > Van Cave > Suoi Tien Temple > Dai Cave > Vu Lam Royal Steps
Which Trang An Boat Tour is best?
Route #1 will take you through the most caves and is the longest route. Route #2 has a good mix of 4 caves and 3 temples. And Route #3 has an even split of 3 temples and 3 caves with one of the caves being the longest at Trang An.
Route #1 is the most popular since it is the longest and has more caves that you pass through. They all have different temples and stunning landscapes so you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Best time to visit Trang An
The Trang An Complex is open year round. The best weather is during the drier months between November and April although December and January will be colder. It starts to warm up in March and there isn’t a lot of rain. By May and June it will be really warm and much more crowded but everything will be really green and blooming.
As far as the best time of day to take the Trang An Boat Tour, first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon are best. The morning will be more peaceful and less crowded, at least until the tour buses show up. The middle of the day will be the most crowded and if you’re visiting during the hotter months, it will be very hot. The afternoon will also be hot (in late spring through early fall) but the crowds will have mostly left by then.
Is the Trang An Boat Tour worth it?
Yes, the Trang An Boat Tour is definitely worth visiting! It’s so peaceful, serene, and beautiful and should not be missed. It’s one of the best things to do in the area.
Other Boat Tours in Ninh Binh
Yes, there are other boat tours in the area that you might want to take in addition to the Trang An Boat Tour. Both of these also take you on a scenic tour of the area.
Tam Coc Boat Tour
In Tam Coc, which is just a 9 minute drive from Trang An, you can take a 2 hour boat tour down the Ngo River through rice paddy fields and mountains. The landscape is just as stunning as Trang An, however the Tam Coc Boat Tour is not an UNESCO site and so it’s not as professionally run as Trang An.
There is a set price to ride but there have been reports of boat rowers demanding tips and even refusing to continue on until you’ve paid them money.
Van Long Nature Reserve Boat Tour
The Van Long Boat Tour is a 1.5 hour boat ride through a wetland area through caves and limestone mountains. It’s very popular with bird watchers as there’s a large variety of different birds that call the area home.
Other things to do in Trang An
There is so much to see and do in Trang An and the surrounding areas. You could easily spend 3-4 days in Ninh Binh and fill your days up with seeing all the sights.
Climb 486 steps to one of the best views in Ninh Binh. It’s not difficult at all and will only take about 20-30 minutes to reach the top. It costs just 100,000 VND and there are other things on the property to see so plan on spending about 1.5 hours at Hang Mua.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Much more than just a pagoda, this is Southeast Asia’s large Buddhist complex. There are many buildings and gardens to walk through including towers with ancient Buddhas, several pagodas and corridors with over 500 Buddha statues. It’s free to enter but you will have to pay for parking and you might want to pay to ride in an electric vehicle to get around. The complex is very large. Expect to spend 3-5 hours here if you want to see everything.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu was once the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries. The site is an important part of Vietnam’s history and is recognized by the Unesco World Heritage Site as one of the four core zones of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. It’s open from 7am – 5pm every day and costs just 20,000 VND to enter.
Essential Tips for the Trang An Boat Tour
What to wear
You’ll be getting in and out of the boat when you stop at the temples so you’ll want to dress comfortably. You won’t be getting wet, unless it’s raining, so you don’t have to worry about that. Wear comfortable shoes because there are some stops where you can climb up some of the mountains (super easy) to get some good views.
What to bring
Things to consider bringing depending on the weather are sunscreen, a hat, umbrella, raincoat, water, and snacks. Each route is 2-3 hours long so you’ll want to bring water. When you stop at the different temples there will be a place to purchase water and snacks if you need them.
There are toilets near the ticket booth and there are toilets at the different stops for the temples. Just make sure you bring toilet paper with you.
Where to stay
Although the largest town in the area is Ninh Binh, it’s not the best area to stay. You’ll want to be either in Tam Coc or Trang An which is close to all the main sights.
Staying in Tam Coc is my recommendation for the best area to stay in. It has a very small town feel but there are dozens of restaurants and bars to choose from to eat at. There are also a lot of hotels/hostels/homestays too. It’s the most popular area to stay in.
There are a lot of hotels in the Trang An area but they are more spread out. You’ll likely have a restaurant or bar at your hotel and maybe some nearby but you will need to either walk a while to get to something or take a taxi.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to book tickets in advance?
No, you do not need to buy tickets in advance at the Trang An Boat Tour.
Is the boat tour safe?
Yes, it’s very safe. The Trang An Complex is a UNESCO site and it is professionaly run. You’ll have to wear a life jacket on the boat although the water is not deep at all.
Which route is the best route in Trang An?
My personal opinion is that you can’t go wrong with any of the routes, however I would say that Route 1 is probably the best since it goes through the most caves and stops at the most important temple on site.
How much does it cost to go on the Trang An Boat Tour
Tickets are 250,000 VND (about $11).
What are the hours of operation at Trang An Boat Tour?
The boat tours operate from 7am – 4:30pm every day.
What is the best month to visit Trang An?
May is probably the best month to visit. Between late April to early June it starts to warm up and everything turns green and the lotus flowers are in bloom.
Is one day enough to visit Ninh Binh?
You can see 2-3 things in a one day visit but you would need about 3 days to see all the best things there are in the area.
Vietnam Travel Booking Resources
I like to use Booking.com to book my hotel stays. I find it to be one of the best platforms with low rates. Plus, the more you book with them you’ll earn further discounts.
Two of the best transportation services in Asia is 12go and the Grab app. Not all countries have Uber but Grab is very similar in Southeast Asia and makes it easy to catch a ride somewhere.
You’ll need a Visa when you visit Vietnam and the Vietnamese Government has made it really easy to apply online and print it out at home.