Ninh Binh Travel Guide
Ninh Binh is located in northern Vietnam with a variety of places to see and explore nearby on the Vietnam travel packages, such as the Bich Dong Pagoda, Hoa Lu (Vietnam’s old capital), Cuc Phuong National Park, and Tam Coc. It is approx 100 km south of the capital city of Hanoi.
The actual city is a quite uneventful place, but it is the striking landscape of limestone outcrops and lush-green paddy fields that are worth exploring. For the more relaxed travel experience it is possible to hire a motorbike or bicycle for the day and taking along a phrase-book and map to witness many of the colourful ranges and quiet roads throughout Ninh Binh.
Most of the attractions close to Ninh Binh city are within a quite confined space (approx 12 km) so easily reached by motorbike or bicycle. To fully see and appreciate the local scenery (karst formations, lakes, and rice paddies) it helps to travel by bicycle, while there is the option of going on a boat trip. Plus, there are plenty of back routes that make it possible to explore the less travelled areas.
A bicycle is easy to hire at most guesthouses and hotels for $1-$2 per day, while a motorbike is still very affordable at about $7 per day. Also, it is possible to go on the organized trip or with an English-speaking guide for the more relaxed travel experience.
Ninh Binh is a great place to visit year-round on the Vietnam tour packages. The temperature and humidity stay moderate and comfortable to make it very pleasant to explore the local attractions. But, to get the best views of the fantastic landscapes it can benefit to travel during the period March to October. At this time of the year the landscape is its most colourful with lush green paddy fields everywhere to see.
The weather throughout the dry season (November to March) is mostly cool and wet and regular occurrences of fog. The average temperature at this time of year is 19° C to 26° C with humidity quite high at 75-85%. The rainy season (April to October) sees a fluctuating temperature range in the region of 25° C to 32° C with July being the hottest month.
How to get there
Ninh Binh has a local train station that is within a relatively short distance from the bus station. The trains passing Ninh Binh are either en route to Hanoi or heading in a southern direction. There are usually 4-5 times heading in each direction on a daily basis. The journey from the capital is approx 3 hours with the cost in the region of $2-$4 with the ticket price based on the seating and class of train.
The bus service to Ninh Binh takes in the region of 2 hours to complete – although this depends on the route and type of bus. The bus leaves at regular intervals so there is rarely a need to wait for the next one. The bus costs about $2.50-$3.50 per person.
The easiest way to get around on arrival in Ninh Binh is by bicycle or motorbike which is available to hire from most of the guesthouses and hotels. Plus, most of the local land is quite flat so not too strenuous to ride a bike.
For the longer trips to places like Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Lu or Trang An, it benefits to go by motorbike taxi or taxi. Alternatively, organize a full package tour with a travel agency or private car hire through a hotel.
Where to stay
Ninh Binh isn’t a major city, but still has plenty of guest houses and hotels at the very reasonable prices. There are plenty of places to stay on Le Hong Phong, Truong Han Sieu and Luong Van Tuy Streets, while the low-cost places are often close to the bus and train station.
The Ngoc Anh Hotel is a family run hotel that makes a great stay for the budget traveller. It offers an all-round excellent service with clean rooms, hot water and Wi-Fi which costs in the region of $10 per night. Plus, the staff can help with organizing bicycles or motorbikes for rent, as well as planning a trip.
A stay at The Long Hotel on the Vietnam private tours is perfect for getting stunning views that stretch out over Tam Coc. This hotel has a high-quality restaurant attached with an extensive menu. The rooms are spacious and well-kept with features like free breakfast and Wi-Fi. The cost for a night at The Long Hotel costs about $30-$50 per night.
Eat and drink
The Ninh Binh is well known for its local specialty which is crispy rice (com chay) and mountain goat meat. Another local treat is Com Chay, which is pork and fried rice. But, with the increase in tourism in the local area, there are plenty of low-cost eateries that serve up the western dishes.
Ninh has a varied option when it comes to dining options. The local food stall scene in town is a popular choice with many of the traders offering great local specialties and a alcoholic drink. Also, for a great place to stop and relax with a drink, the Cafe Loc is perfect for a delightful cup of coffee or fruit shakes.
For the travellers on a tour, there are several large restaurants that are quote cheap. A great place to look at on Bich Dong Street is the Anh Dzung Hotel-Restaurant which is a popular choice.
Rong Market Ninh Binh is an authentic Vietnamese market experience with masses of stalls selling all kinds of goods that can make great gifts or souvenirs for family or friends at home. Some of the popular items include the everyday household items, clothes, flowers and fresh produce, as well as live poultry (pigeons, ducks, chicken, etc.) and seafood. This market is great to really soak up the local atmosphere while also enjoying a delicious bowl of noodle soup.
Things to see and do
Tam Coc is a relatively small town located in Ninh Binh that is certainly worth visiting while in the local area. Scenic and simple, Tam Coc is completely surrounded with rice paddies, mountains, and limestone outcrops, it is best explored on a relaxing row boat trip. There are plenty of places to buy food and drink, but the prices are quite high, so it may benefit to take along your own refreshments.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
A visit to Hoa Lu on the Vietnam family vacation makes it possible to explore the country’s former capital which is still rich in interesting history. A few of the great sights to explore include the tombs, pagodas and temples. Most of the monuments are located in a beautiful mountainous landscape that is easily reached. A great way to tour the ancient city is by hiring a good guide who will be able to give a detailed history of the region. Also, a tour of the local Hoa Lu area can be organized through a hotel or travel agency which costs in the region of $20 per person.
Trang An Grottoes
Trang An Grottoes offer a perfect opportunity to explore a unique cave system that makes a very interesting visit. A great way to travel to the grottoes is by row boat with the caves large enough to easily accept the boat. Many of the caves have lights to get a better view of the stalactites. This scenery in this part of Ninh Binh is quite stunning and makes a must-visit tourist destination on the Vietnam travel that easily takes up half a day or longer.
Cuc Phuong National Park
A visit to Cuc Phuong National Park is well worth the effort to the tourist interested in nature and the local wildlife. The park is in the region of 90 minutes from the centre of Ninh Binh, and makes a really good day-trip, or for those that want a more relaxed trip with the option to stay overnight in the park. A few of the great sights in the park include the primate centre and turtle centre. Many of the primates are rescued animals from other regions of the country. Plus, there is a botanical garden that is filled with endless stunning butterflies that are noticed while driving along the roadway.
Phat Diem Cathedral
The Phat Diem Cathedral is a stunning site that is located in an area of canals and rice fields and constructed with a great combination of Western and Eastern influenced architecture.
Van Long Nature Reserve
A visit to the Van Long Nature Reserve is quite similar to what is available with Tam Coc and within a short distance of the Cuc Phuong National park. To get to the nature reserve, it is necessary to take a 60 minute boat ride to really appreciate the natural habitat of the exotic birds. Plus, there are also plenty of endangered monkeys that have made this their home. This trip is very relaxing and great to watch the sunset while slowing moving along the river.