Your Ultimate travel guide in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Water Lilies in Hang Mua, Ninh Binh.
Water Lilies in Hang Mua, Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is well-known for it’s cultural and natural attractions. And considered as the home of Vietnam’s largest Buddhist worshipping complex (Bai Dinh Temple), and other interesting destinations like parks, caves, monuments, and rivers.

I stayed here in Ninh Binh for 3 days and 3 nights and I had so much quality time the entire trip. I took this trip adventure slowly that’s why I spent a day in every destination.

Let me tour you around this province and give you the ultimate travel guide to enjoy your trip. Read along.

How to get here?

If you’re coming from Hanoi like me, all you need to do is go to Ben Xe Giap Bat (Giap Bat Bus Station) in Giai Phong, Hoang Mai, Hanoi. There are buses there going to different provinces in the North and Central Vietnam. You can ask the locals there which bus you should take to go to Ninh Binh?. Luckily, a very friendly local ticket officer approached me and showed the bus going to the province.

It will only cost you 70,000 VND ($3.00) for a one-way ticket to Ninh Binh. The bus ride will take you 2 hours and they will drop you at Ben Xe Ninh Binh or sometimes at Big C in Le Dai Hanh, Thanh Binh. Same thing if you’re going back to Hanoi.

Before arriving, I’ve already contacted a motorbike rental company so that I can monitor and manage my time for the whole trip. At the same time, I can control every activity at my own pace.

By Motorbike

It costs me around 140,000 VND ($6.00) per 12 hours, but if you’re going to rent it for 2 to 3 days they will let you have it for a night and a new day will start again in the morning the next day. Confusing right? Hahaha. Me too I had confusion when I had this. Because I thought it’s for 24 hours but no.

For example in my case, I rented it on Sunday morning, at 9am and I need to return it at 9 pm on the same day (Sunday). If I’m only going to rent it for a day. But since I rented it for 3 days and a half, I can use the motorbike From Sunday 9 am, the whole day of Monday, until 9 pm on Tuesday. I hope I made this thing clear. Hahaha. 😊

If you’re still confused, please don’t hesitate to contact Ms. Lee at +84 0914793589 for more details. Feel free to visit their website too at Ninh Binh Motorcycle. 🙂

This is the motorbike I rented for 3 days. It’s a Yamaha Nouvo

Where to stay?

I’ve stayed in 3 different places during this journey. Since my goal is to visit 3 destinations in Ninh Binh (Bai Dinh Temple, Trang An Grottoes, and Hang Mua). I spent the whole day and a night at each destination.

Starting off with Bai Dinh Garden Resort and Spa. It’s a mid-scale resort hotel with 20 rooms. And I considered it as the hidden paradise in Ninh Binh because of its surroundings (tall and green trees, plants, and flowers).

Bai Dinh Garden Resort and Spa's main entrance.
Bai Dinh Garden Resort and Spa’s main entrance.

(See the article Hotel Review: Garden Resort and Spa for my whole experience in this property.)

On my second day, I moved to Trang An Valley Bungalow which is just a few kilometers away from my next stop, The Trang An Grottoes.

This place is very unique, because of the bungalows lined up next to a stunning cliff/limestone mountain. It has a lake on-site as well where you can feed and catch a fish. A quiet and ideal place to escape the noise of the city and feel the lifestyle in the province.

Trang An Valley Bungalow.
Trang An Valley Bungalow.

(See the article Hotel Review: Trang An Valley Bungalow for my experience here.)

Lastly, the Tam Coc Charming Bungalow. What I like about this place are the environment itself and the laid back vibe. They only have 7 bungalow-inspired guest rooms which gave you privacy and a place to spend quality time. And the outdoor pool is just perfect after a very exhausting day of trekking.

Tam Coc Charming Bungalow.
Tam Coc Charming Bungalow’s Deluxe Double Room

(See the article Hotel Review: Tam Coc Charming Bungalow for more details.)

Places to Visit in Ninh Binh

Bai Dinh Pagoda

In Vietnamese, Chua Bai Dinh is a compound that consists of old and new Buddhist temples. It is considered too as the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam which is very well-known for Buddhist pilgrimages from across the country.

Bai Dinh Pagoda covers a temple area of 539 hectares including the ancient and new temples around the place. This complex also offers a breathtaking panorama view from the top of Bao Thap or Stupa.

I paid 80,000 VND ($3.50) for a 2-way-electric car service. But visiting the Bai Dinh Pagoda doesn’t need to pay anything. Opening hours 6:00 am and closing at 9:00 pm. If you want to enter the Bao Thap or Stupa you need to pay 50,000 VND ($2.16) which I think not worth it unless you’re there to pray.

Dress Code

One more thing, please be aware of their dress code. Wear the appropriate ones and avoid revealing clothes such as skirts, short shorts, and leggings. Moreover, wear a rubber or any comfortable shoes you have as you will climb and walk a lot here. See the map below for your reference.

Ctto: Hanoi explore travel
Chua Bai Dinh's entrance.
The entrance to Bai Dinh Complex. This is the place where the electric car will drop you.
The 22-meter-tall Bell Tower of Bai Dinh Pagoda complex.
The 22-meter-tall Bell Tower of Bai Dinh Pagoda complex.
Fairy Lake inside the Bai Dinh Pagoda complex.
Fairy Lake inside the Bai Dinh Pagoda complex.
Bao Thap or the Stupa in Bai Dinh Pagoda.
Bao Thap or the Stupa in Bai Dinh Pagoda.
One of the sacred temples inside the Bai Dinh complex, the Buddha Dharma Lord Temple.
One of the sacred temples inside the Bai Dinh complex, the Buddha Dharma Lord Temple.

Trang An Grottoes

Trang An Grottoes is one of the eminent tourist spots here in Asia which is rich in archaeological proofs preserved like animal bones, pottery, human remains, and a lot more.

There are 3 main tours here in Trang An visiting a lot of caves and temples while you’re in a lazy and calm boat ride.

First, Route 1 – 9 caves and 3 temples. Second, Route 2 – 4 caves and 3 temples. And Third, Route 3 – 3 caves and 3 temples.

Route 1

I chose this route because it is perfect for those who like exploring historical and geological sites like me. Each boat allows a maximum of 4 people. You will also have to wait for other guests to start the tour. But don’t worry if you’re traveling alone, I’m sure you can easily find other guests to go with your boat. Just tell to the boatmen your Route number and they will look for people who chose the same route as yours. The price ticket is 200,000 VND ($8.65) and each route will take 3 hours.

Trang An's main entrance.
Trang An’s main entrance.
One of the 3 temples you will see on Route 1.
One of the 3 temples you will see on Route 1.
Boatmen waiting for their guests.
Boatmen waiting for their guests.
The last leg of the Route 1 tour. Credit to our boatman who took this photo. :)
The last leg of the Route 1 tour. Credit to our boatman who took this photo. 🙂

Hang Mua

This is my most favorite adventure among the other destinations I’ve been to. For me, Hang Mua offers the most picturesque and scenic landscape out of the other places in Ninh Binh.

I started trekking around 5 am so that I can witness the spectacular sunrise from the top. Unfortunately, it’s quite foggy during that day that’s why the view was not clear. There will be 500 steep steps in total and will only take you about 15-25 minutes to reach the top of the mountain. Time varies with the fitness level of the person.

I only drove with my motorbike from my hotel to Hang Mua and went straight to the ticketing office. It will cost you 100,000 VND ($4.32) per person and there will be a parking space for motorbikes that will only cost you around 15,000 VND ($0.65) per motorbike until you finished the tour.

The Dragon entrance where the trekking to Hang Mua's peak starts.
The Dragon entrance where the trekking to Hang Mua’s peak starts.
The famous spot of Hang Mua where you can see the Tam Coc river.
The famous spot of Hang Mua where you can see the Tam Coc river.
Hang Mua's peak.
Hang Mua’s peak.
Hang Mua's peak from afar.
Hang Mua’s peak from afar.

Tips

  1. Visit any of the destinations in the morning. Because visiting these places in the middle of the day would be a lot hotter that may cause you sunburn and there will be more tourists. But if it’s fine with you to make sure to bring hats or umbrellas, and sunscreen to at least protect you from the sun.
  2. Bring at least a liter or two of water especially in Trang An Boat tour which will take you 3 hours.
  3. Bring snacks too if you’re the person who got easily hungry. But make sure you put your litter in your bag or throw it in the trash bin afterward.
  4. Leave No Trace. I saw a lot of vandalism in Hang Mua and I felt sad about it. As if the people who made those were really proud of writing their names. Take only memories and leave only footprints.
  5. And lastly, take it slow and enjoy your time in Ninh Binh!

Note: Regrettably, The Phim Truong Kong Skull Island was removed on the tour and no longer available since September 20, 2019. Authorities said they have plans to construct an alternate replica instead to avoid potential damage to the place. (source: Ninh Binh authorities)

To find more tour ideas in Ninh Binh, Vietnam check this site out!

Go ahead! Unplug! Let your thoughts wander!

Ninh Binh's Rice paddy.
Ninh Binh’s Rice paddy.

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