Ninh Binh, located just 100 kilometers south of Hanoi, is a beautiful place to visit to experience some of Vietnam’s most incredible natural sights, and often hailed as Vietnam’s hidden gem.
An escape to Ninh Binh can be a wonderful day trip from Hanoi, or a two or three day retreat into the countryside, depending on the time you have available!
Top Reasons to Visit Ninh Binh
- Visit the beautiful Tam Coc karst landscape amongst the rice paddies which are comparable to Ha Long Bay.
- Get out of the city and into nature; explore Van Long Nature Reserve or Cuc Phuong National Park to see amazing flora and fauna.
- Sample the local cuisine – snails! If you don’t dare, there are plenty of other delicious Vietnamese dishes at Ninh Binh’s Cho Bop Market.
- Experience authentic Vietnamese village life outside of the main tourist cities and take a step back to relax.
Ninh Binh Weather: The Best Time to Visit
Ninh Binh, located in North Vietnam, has a subtropical humid climate with four seasons: winter (which is also the dry season), summer (which is also the rainy season), spring, and autumn.
The best time to visit Ninh Binh will depend on what you want to see: we recommend the period between May and July when it is harvest season, with the rice paddies beautifully gold and in bloom. This is also when the lotus flowers are in bloom (specifically mostly in June). Temperatures in June range between 26°C (80°F) and 33°C (92°F).
If you want to avoid the hot weather, we recommend September to October when it is a little less hot (between 22°C and 31°C, or 72°F and 88°F).
You can read more about Vietnam’s weather and the Best Time to Visit Vietnam.
How to Get to and around Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is most easily reached from Hanoi, and there are four ways to get from Hanoi to Ninh Binh: the bus, the train, a taxi, or a private transfer. The cheapest way to do this is the local bus, but we recommend taking a taxi or a private transfer with Asia Highlights to avoid the hassle, especially if you are traveling with kids or with a lot of luggage.
Travelling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by Taxi
You can arrange for a taxi from Hanoi to take you all the way to Ninh Binh, for the price of approximately USD 75. You can find ways to do this online, but you can also ask for help at your hotel to book a taxi. The journey will take approximately 2 hours.
Because you can fit up to 4 people in a taxi, this is a decent option for those travelling in a group of 3 or 4, those who don’t want to have to worry about how to find the bus or train, or those who want to get to Ninh Binh as quick as possible!
Travelling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by Private Transfer
Asia Highlights can arrange a transfer for you. All you have to do is let us know where you want to be picked up and dropped off, and we can arrange for a hassle-free, worry-free transfer, door-to-door.
Travelling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by Bus
Getting a bus from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is your cheapest option. The bus leaves from Hanoi’s Giap Bat Station, and tickets cost approximately USD 4 per person from there. The journey by bus can take up to 3 hours because there are sometimes other stops to make and traffic to deal with on the way.
Travelling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by Train
The final option is to take the train from Hanoi Railway Station to Ninh Binh Railway Station. This journey takes about 2 hours and 17 minutes, and costs USD 5 per person. The train station in Hanoi is close to the Old Quarter so this is also a convenient way to get to Ninh Binh if you prefer the train over the bus!
Travelling from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh by Bus
You can go directly from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh by bus, so there is no need to stop off in Hanoi first if you don’t want to. You’ll have to get to Halong City’s Bai Chay bus station, and from there you can get a direct bus to Ninh Binh for approximately USD 9. The journey takes about 4–5 hours.
Travelling from Hue, Da Nang, or Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh by Train
To get from a major city in the south of Vietnam to Ninh Binh, you can take a train. You can see prices and journey durations for these journeys below. Tickets for these can be booked online through a travel agency ahead of time, or your hotel will be able to help you if you are already in Vietnam.
|From … to Ninh Binh
||Approximately 12½ hours
||Approximately 14 hours
||Approximately 8½ hours
|Ho Chi Minh City
||Approximately 30 hours
How to Get Around Ninh Binh
The best way to get around Ninh Binh is by renting a bicycle and cycling around. Bike rental costs approximately 1 USD per day, and you can find them at either bicycle rental shops or at most hotels, too.
Motorbike taxis are also everywhere around Ninh Binh, and this is one of the easiest ways to get around the town and its surrounding tourist sites that are too far to bike.
Make sure you bargain ahead of your journey! You can also negotiate for the drivers to wait at your destination and then bring you back to your hotel. While you’ll pay a little more in this case, it’s worth it to secure your ride back home!
Finally, there are also taxis around or private cars for hire (ask at your hotel for these) if you prefer those to bikes or motorbikes.
Ninh Binh vs. Halong Bay
Both Ninh Binh and Halong Bay are beautiful, so luckily you really cannot go wrong with a visit to either!
The reason for comparison between the two is the karst landscapes and the luscious green peaks covering the beautiful scenery. However, the main identifying factor setting the two apart is that Ninh Binh’s karst peaks are surrounded by streams and rice paddies, while Halong Bay’s peaks are set in the oceans allowing for beautiful cruises.
The question you’ll have to ask yourself is whether you prefer to do a combination of hiking, boating (on a smaller boat), and walking, in a lesser-known tourist spot, which case Ninh Binh is the spot to go to. If you want to visit an internationally renowned World Heritage Site, go on a cruise on a larger ship, and swim from pristine beaches, then Halong Bay is your go-to!
If you do have the time, we recommend venturing out to both, because both are equally worth the visit!
Best Things to Do in Ninh Binh
There is an endless list of activities to do in Ninh Binh, leading of course with some of the most impressive landscapes!
Visit Tam Coc and Bich Dong Pagoda
Tam Coc is located just outside Ninh Binh’s town center and is one of the best natural destinations in the whole of Vietnam because of its incredible iconic limestone hills dotted throughout green rice paddies. Get a boat tour around the rivers flowing throughout, and you can also hike the surroundings!
From there, head on over to the Bich Dong Pagoda — a 15th century pagoda located on the side of a mountain for an amazing view. The caves behind the pagoda are also worth exploring.
Sample Local Cuisine at Cho Bop Market
There are lots of restaurants around Ninh Binh’s town, many of them serving the local specialty: snails!
If you don’t fancy those, you might find better options at Cho Bop Market in the town center. This market has numerous carts and small cafés selling Vietnamese dishes such as noodle soups and spring rolls, amongst others.
Explore Van Long Nature Reserve or Cuc Phuong National Park
There are endless nature reserves and national parks, but we recommend Van Long Nature Reserve or Cuc Phuong National Park (or both if you have the time!).
Van Long Nature Reserve is a wetland reserve popular with bird watchers, but you’ll also find monkeys and reptiles there.
Cuc Phuong National Park is slightly different as it is a tropical forest, but you will also find a lot of amazing wildlife there, as well as over 2,000 types of flora making it a hotspot for nature lovers!
Visit Phat Diem Cathedral
Located about 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside of the Ninh Binh town center, Phat Diem Cathedral is an impressive site with its mix of Vietnamese and Western architectural styles. Built in 1898, this cathedral was often referred to as the ‘Vatican of Vietnam’ during the colonial period.
Buy Souvenirs at Van Lan
If you want to get souvenirs to take home, we recommend heading to the nearby Van Lan village famous for its intricate embroidery. You can find pillowcases, bags, t-shirts, and more to take home to friends and family. Don’t forget to haggle!
Where to Stay in Ninh Binh?
Tam Coc National Park
While you can come down to Ninh Binh for the day (come in from Hanoi, visit Tam Coc, and likely head back to Hanoi after a walk around and boat ride), we recommend spending the night to get more of the incredible sights in and relax in the countryside.
When spending the night in Ninh Binh, we actually recommend staying in Tam Coc where you’ll find something for everyone! Either check out a beautiful over-water bungalow or a resort depending on your budget. Staying in Tam Coc is better than staying in Ninh Binh town itself, where there is little to see!
Ninh Binh Travel Tips
Before heading out to Ninh Binh, check out a few more of our tips to ensure your journey is as smooth as possible!
- Ninh Binh is definitely more off the beaten track than Hanoi or Halong Bay. Make sure you bring your necessities such as toiletries and medication as you likely won’t find what you need there.
- Be careful with what you eat. Make sure food (especially meat or fish) is cooked properly and make a point to visit busy restaurants where food turnover is higher.
- It’s best to bring cash along before heading out to Ninh Binh (both USD in small denominations and Vietnamese dong work) as there aren’t as many ATMs outside of the town center and they may not work. Tam Coc has no ATMs at all.
- Take care when you take a motorbike taxi or if you rent a motorbike. Also make sure you have a valid license if you rent a motorbike yourself (we’ve compiled 10 things to know before you rent a motorbike in Vietnam here.
- We recommend checking in with your hotel before setting off to find a certain destination in the area surrounding Ninh Binh and Tam Coc because Google maps isn’t very reliable there and the area pinpointed on the map might not be right.
Visit Vietnam with Asia Highlights
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