This was the question we asked since we had decided to visit this part of Vietnam.
Ninh Binh is actually a province located 3 hours far from Hanoi, going southern. It is famous for its limestone mountains, rice fields and rivers.
Ninh Binh city or Tam Coc?
What is good to know from the beginning is that both of the cities are close to the main attractions. By taxi, motorbike or even bicycle.
I am just going to share my personal opinion about these cities. We heard so many pro and cons about this places. But because almost everywhere was mentioned that Tam Coc is packed with tourists we initially opted for an accommodation in Ninh Binh city.
Cat Ba island to Ninh Binh district
After 3 nights in Cat Ba island we decided that was time for us to move Southern. So we took again the bus from Cat Ba city to the port (about 1 hour), then a boat for 10 minutes and of course another bus from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh (a bit less than 3 hours). We had 1 stop and for all the trip we paid VND 270000/ person (€10.5/ person).
***If you want to read more about Cat Ba island check this out. 🙂
Once arrived in this region, the bus stopped first to Tam Coc so we could see how the place was looking like. It was far from being crowded, few restaurants and hotels were open and the atmosphere looked nice. But, our accommodation was not there so we headed to Ninh Binh city. There are no more than 9 km between these two cities.
Ninh Binh City
It is a big city that didn’t impress me at all. It looked organized, with no crazy traffic but what I couldn’t really feel was the Vietnamese vibe :P. No street food, no local restaurants and not a really good hotel to stay at a reasonable price. Again, it is just my personal feeling. 🙂
Therefore, we decided to go back to Tam Coc due to our flexible schedule. 😀 As it was a bit late there were no local buses available. So, the easiest option was to take a taxi.
Ninh Binh city to Tam Coc by Taxi
So, first time using a taxi in Asia. The internet is full of scammers stories but I think there are few “rules” we applied and it was ok.
- Use only registered taxi. You will see the company, prices and phone number
- Make sure the car has the “machine” and the driver turns it on
- Say clearly the location you want to reach
- Use a GPS or offline map to check if the driver route is correctly chosen
- Trust your gut
We used the green cabs. VND 125000 (€5) was the price we paid: VND 8000 and VND 11500/km.
Small and cozy, this is how I like to describe it. And was definitely not packed with tourists. We booked a cool big room for VND 174000/ night (€7/ night), rented a scooter for VND 80000/ day (€3/ day) and enjoyed the beautiful Ninh Binh area. We also found a nice local with delicious Vietnamese food.
For us Tam Coc is surely the best option to stay if you want to enjoy the charm of this region. Not sure how it looks like in the main season but in October was great 😀
Hope this article is useful for your future trips in Vietnam. Happy travels, guys!