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Trang An Boat Tour Review: Everything You Need To Know

Trang An Boat Tour Review: Everything You Need To Know

A Trang An boat tour is one of the most popular activities in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. The 2-3 hour boat ride passes through caves, temples and limestone karsts. Tickets cost 250,000 VND per person or you can purchase the entire boat for 1,000,000 VND if you want a private experience.

In this guide, we are going to show you everything you need to know about the Trang An boat tour.

Our Trang An Experience

Two tourists about to leave on a Trang An boat tour in Vietnam
Mark and Kristen on a Trang An boat

We spent 27 days traveling through Vietnam in October 2018 as part of our 18 month trip around the world. During this trip, we stayed for three nights in the Ninh Binh region and took the Trang An Boat ride. It was one of our favorite experiences in central Vietnam. Read more about us.

To make planning easy for you, we’re going to walk you through how to get to Trang An, how to buy tickets and what you can expect on the boat tour.

About The Region

River and limestone karsts in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Beautiful scenery along the Trang An Boat Tour

Dubbed the Halong Bay on Land, this stunning region has been altered very little by human influence so you truly feel as though you’re a centuries old explorer discovering new territory before the world was fully mapped.

Ninh Binh was once the hidden gem of Vietnam, but it can no longer hold that title. The secret is out, and UNESCO declared Trang An a world heritage site in 2014.

Hollywood then swooped in and built a movie set on the Trang An complex to film Kong: Skull Island in 2017. As you can imagine, this had a huge impact on tourism in the area.

Today, the tour is more popular than ever and you can take a boat tour any day of the week from 7:00am-4:00pm.

Further Reading: The best things to do in Ninh Binh

How To Get To The Trang An Boat Tour

Use the map below to see directions from Tam Coc and Ninh Binh to Trang An.

  • Address: 7W39+7G5, Ninh Xuân, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình, Vietnam
  • Location: Google Maps

The Trang An boat tour is located within the Ninh Binh Province of Vietnam. It’s only 5 miles away from the popular tourist destination of Tam Coc and 6 miles from Ninh Binh train station. You can reach the boat tour by motorcycle or bicycle from Tam Coc or Ninh Binh. We hired a motorbike for the day from our hotel in Tam Coc and drove it to Trang An.

You can rent a motorbike for 100,000-150,000 VND ($4-6) per day. Fuel for a full day will set you back no more than $3. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle for 50,000 VND ($2) per day. Many hotels even offer free use of bicycles in Tam Coc.

It should take about 15 minutes to ride your scooter from Tam Coc town to the ticket booth for the Trang An boat tour. The roads are in fairly good shape and you’ll often find yourself cutting through gorgeous green fields with limestone towers sprouting up around you.

Travel Tip: If you’re planning to visit Hang Mua and Bich Dong the same day, it would be much quicker and more efficient to go by motorbike.

Getting To Ninh Binh Independently

A solo motorbike parked in parking lot
Our motorcycle parked for the Trang An Boat Tour

Are you planning to travel independently to Ninh Binh? Once you arrive at Ninh Binh train station, hire a motorbike right outside for roughly 150,000 VND ($6) and follow our map to the Trang An Boat Tour.

There are no airports close by so travel by plane isn’t an option. But you can take a bus from Hanoi and many other popular spots on the typical Vietnam tourist trail. We took a bus directly from Halong Bay to Tam Coc, Ninh Binh.

Use 12Go Asia to check the best available options for travel. You’ll find the cheapest and quickest options are typically by bus or train.

Further Reading: What to expect on a Vietnam sleeper bus

Best Ninh Binh Tours From Hanoi

Trang An parking lot with a few cars and buses
Entrance to the ecotourism trang an boat tour

Another option would be to travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh with Tam Coc and Trang An included as part of a full day organized tour with transport completely covered.

Most tours include entrances fees for the Trang An Boat tour, Mua Cave Viewpoint, Hoa Lu ancient capital and Bich Dong Pagoda.

Here are top rated tours from Hanoi to Trang An:

  • 12 hour day tour – Visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, experience the Trang An boat ride, climb up to Mua Cave and enjoy stunning panoramic views as you cycle around the gorgeous countryside of Ninh Binh.
  • Popular day trip option – Visit the Trang An cave complex via rowing boat, see the temples of Dinh King and Le King, enjoy a buffet lunch and climb up Mua Cave with an english guide.

Motorcycle And Bicycle Parking

The parking lot for motorbikes and bicycles at Trang An
Parking area for the Trang An boat tour

The Trang An complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means there are no scams when it comes to parking for your boat tour. If you’ve already been to Mua Caves or the Bich Dong Pagoda, you’ll know exactly what we are talking about.

You’ll park your bicycle or motorbike in a legit parking lot and pay a set fee that will be the same for everyone. There’s no worrying about bartering or concern about paying the same as everyone else. This structured parking system is one of the best reasons to choose the Trang An boat ride over the Tam Coc option.

A parking ticket valued at 15,000 vnd in Vietnam
Parking tickets for the Trang An boat tour

The parking fee for motorcycles is 15,000 VND ($0.62) and the parking fee for bicycles is 10,000 VND ($0.41). We also felt very comfortable leaving our motorbike parked which was a relief.

Once you’ve parked up, cross the road to the entrance. You’ll walk over a bridge and see boats to your right as they set off up the river towards.

Trang An Boat Tour Tickets

Entrance to the Trang An boat ticket counter with wooden fences for line markers
Ticket counter where you will need to purchase your tickets

Carry on walking straight towards the wooden rails and get in line so you can purchase your Trang An boat tour tickets. We arrived at 9:00am and there was no one in line.

By the time we left at 1:30pm, the ticket line was extremely long. If you want to avoid the lines, you should try to visit as early in the day as possible.

Buying tickets for the boat ride at Trang An is easy. We liked that the whole process was hassle free. Prices are clearly stated and there are no vendors trying to sell items to you.

Two entrance tickets for the Trang An boat tour in front of boats gliding down the river
Our tickets for the Trang An Boat Tour Route 1

A ticket for the Trang An boat tour costs 250,000 VND (about $11) per person. There is a 3 people minimum per boat so if you are a couple or plan to ride solo, you may be sharing the boat with another group.

If you want to want to have the entire boat to yourself, you can purchase all four tickets for the boat. Therefore, your total cost would be 1,000,000 VND (about $41).

A child ticket costs 120,000 VND (about $5), but if your child’s height is under 1m, they will receive free entry for the Trang An boat tour.

Once you have your tickets in hand, walk over to the dock and you’ll be escorted into the next available boat. You’ll have to wait in a line until the boat can be filled to either 3 or 4 people.

In our case, we shared with just one other solo traveler, a lovely woman from the Netherlands. Because there was no one else in line, they let us disembark with 3 of the 4 seats filled.

Trang An Boat Tour Routes

Many visitors experiencing the Trang An boat tour in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Many visitors in boats along the Trang An boat tour

Before you purchase a ticket and run to the boats, you’ll have to choose one of the three routes for your boat ride. Near the ticket counter you will find a map on a wooden board displaying the details each boat tour route.

The boat ride lasts about 2-3 hours depending on which route you select. Here is a simplified version of the three Trang An boat tour options:

  • First route – 9 caves and 3 temples
  • Second route – 4 caves and 3 temples
  • Third route – 3 caves and 3 temples

Each route is a little bit difference so we will explain each one below in detail. But the price is the same no matter what Trang An route you choose.

Route 1

A cave hidden cave under a limestone karst in Vietnam
A cave along the Trang An Boat tour

Here is what you can expect from the first route:

Trinh Temple – Toi Cave – Sang Cave – Nau Ruou Cave – Tran Temple – Ba Giot Cave – Seo Cave– Son Duong Cave – Khong Palace – Bao Hieu Pagoda – Khong Cave – Tran Cave – Quy Hau Cave

Highlights of Trang An boat tour Route 1:

  • 9 caves and 3 temples
  • Longest option with the most grottoes
  • Duration about 3 hours

If you want to see many caves and geological features such as stalactites, this is the route for you. We chose this first route and it was incredibly peaceful. However, if you are claustrophobic, you might want to choose route 2 or 3 because you will go through less caves.

Route 2

A single boat gliding through a cave on a river in the dark with one light shining in the distance
Gliding further into the caves with darkness surrounding us

Here is what you can expect from the second route:

Lam Cave – Thanh Cao Son Temple – Vang Cave – Thanh Truot Cave – Suoi Tien Temple – Dai Cave – Hanh Cung Vu Lam Temple – Kong Skull Island Film Set

Highlights of Trang An boat tour Route 2:

  • 4 caves and 3 temples
  • Medium length route
  • Film location of King Kong Skull Island
  • Duration about 2.5 hours

We like this route because it’s a good combination of caves and attractions. This route will also make a stop by the filming location of Kong: Skull Island. But this is usually the most crowded route because it’s a medium length route with a film location.

Route 3

Rocks and river view along the Trang An boat ride in Tam Coc
The surrounding scenery is a stark contrast to the dark caves you will experience

Here is what you can expect from the third route:

Trinh Temple – Dot Cave – Van Cave – Suoi Tien Temple – Dia Linh Mountain – Dai Cave – Hanh Cung Vu Lam Temple – Kong Skull Island Film Set

Highlights of Trang An boat tour Route 3:

  • 3 caves and 3 temples
  • Shortest length route
  • Dot Cave is 1,000m long
  • Duration about 2-3 hours

Take this route if you want to see less caves and experience more of Trang An’s gorgeous scenery. It’s the shortest route, but it features Dot Cave, the longest cave in the Trang An Landscape complex.

This third route is a good option for those who want to go through a very long cave, see the King Kong filming location and visit many spiritual sites.

Travel Tip: If you want to shorten your ride, you can opt to skip any of the attractions during your visit.

Caves On The Tour

View in front of wooden boat on a river with limestone rocks towering ahead
The front of our boat and a small cave up ahead

The moment your boat driver pushes away from the dock, let yourself relax and be consumed by unrivaled tranquility.

You are in rural Vietnam, venturing into areas only accessible by boat. There are numerous limestone rocks jutting out of the ground surrounded by water. Just imagine King Kong appearing from out behind one of them.

Expert boat drivers will guide your boat towards low hanging entrances to caves as the spectacular limestone karsts meet the water’s surface.

The drivers know exactly which angles and paths to follow through the caves. There are spot lights positioned in the caves to allow some visibility but not too much that it ruins the atmosphere.

A boat entering a cave with another boat ahead in line
Exploring one of the Trang An caves

There are 30 valleys and 50 caves throughout the entire Trang An complex, although your boat will only pass through 9 caves at the most. You can expect to see various species of birds, flora and fauna along the way. Beautiful lotus flowers are in bloom during the summer months too.

Each time you leave a grotto, you are met with stunning views of open waterways, vegetation and limestone hills sprinkled emerald green by trees.

This is a wonderful serene environment where it’s easy to forget the outside world. You will lose perspective of direction as the river meanders left and right.

Overall, we were impressed by how well our driver navigated the route and showed us points of interest throughout the entire journey.

Travel Tip: Our route 1 tour lasted about 3 hours which was a little too long for us. In hindsight, we would have chosen one of the shorter routes.

Temples On The Tour

Trang an temple with 2 bird statues stood at attention with incense burning in the middle
One of the temples along the Trang An boat tour

Along the way, you will stop at various temples. At these locations, you will be able to leave the boat and explore the surrounding areas.

Every time you leave the boat, be sure to see as much as possible. You’ll find small temples and pagodas. One temple in particular has a fairly difficult peak to summit if you enjoy a challenge.

At this summit stop off, there is a large stone staircase to walk up, which is hard work in the heat and humidity. We haven’t told you the name of the temple in order to keep your ride a bit of a mystery.

Granted, the view from the top is nothing to shout home about. However, once you descend and follow the path all the way around to the end, there is a small shrine where tourists leave food as an offering.

This climb is best done earlier in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day. Each time you leave your boat, the driver will row on alone and pick you up at another location a short walk away.

Boats heading down a waterway into a tunnel cave
A narrow passage along the Trang An boat tour in Ninh Binh

One such occasion the boat passes through a man made tunnel that leads under a towering rock. This is one of our favorite photos from the entire day.

Travel Tip: Be sure to wear appropriate clothing or bring a sarong to cover up for the temples at Trang An.

Tam Coc Vs Trang An Boat Tour

Three boats tied to a tree on the bank of a river
A secluded spot along route 1

There are often comparisons drawn between the Tam Coc and Trang An Boat tour. This is the question everyone always wants to ask when they visit Ninh Binh.

Personally, our research and experience from other visitors told us the Tam Coc boat tour is a prime scamming spot. We read many reviews and heard from fellow travelers about the boat drivers on the Tam Coc tour stopping mid journey and demanding a big tip or refusing to row back.

We liked how the Trang An boat tour was legitimately controlled due to its UNESCO status. So the advantage of the Trang An boat tour is that it’s regulated and hostility is minimized.

Additionally, Trang An is supposed to be a more scenic boat tour. We can’t confirm the claim as we didn’t take the Tam Coc boat tour but we can confirm Trang An is a beautiful complex to glide slowly around.

But the final decision maker for us was that the boat drivers at Trang An are treated fairly.

However, one of the downsides to the Trang An boat tour is that it’s not conveniently located right in town like the Tam Coc boat tour. So if you are short on time, Trang An might be difficult for you.

Further Reading: 30 key things to know about Vietnam

Tips For Your Boat Ride

A bamboo dock and a boat filled with visitors in Vietnam
A bamboo dock and visitors in a boat along the Trang An Boat Tour

We’ve covered everything you need to know in this guide, but here are a few tips to keep in mind for your visit to the UNESCO complex:

  • Trang An is open everyday from 7:00am-4:00pm. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have experiencing a lost world feeling with minimal people around.
  • Tickets for the boat tour are priced at 250,000 VND. You will be placed in a boat of 3-4 unless you pay for the entire boat.
  • Be sure to wear sturdy footwear. You’ll be climbing in and out of the boat all day plus a few of the temples have areas where you can explore with stairs and uneven ground.
  • Take as much water as you can fit into your day bag. You will be exposed for about 90% of the boat journey so you may also want to bring a hat.
  • You can use an extra set of oars in the boat. We helped row for part of our journey. It gave us such an appreciation for the men and women who do this everyday.
  • Tipping is appreciated. The man or woman who guides your boat will pick up another tour once your tours has ended. Although it is not required to tip, it’s a nice gesture and a small amount will go a long way to help the locals.

Looking for a place to stay nearby? We stayed at Tam Coc Dream Homestay and here are a few top rated hotel options for the region:

Tam Coc is a gorgeous rural town perfectly located among all the best things to do in Ninh Binh.

In Conclusion

So is it worth visiting the Trang An boat tour in Ninh Binh?

Yes! According to TripAdvisor, the Trang An Grottoes are the best thing to do in Ninh Binh. We agree with this rating because you will get to see one of the most attractive places in Vietnam. You should include this stunning UNESCO site on your Vietnam itinerary.

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We hope our detailed guide to the Trang An Boat Tour in Ninh Binh helps you enjoy your time in Vietnam!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the Trang An Boat Tour or Vietnam in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Braden

Friday 6th of March 2020

Love that hotel view! Looked like an incredible day!

Mark & Kristen Morgan

Friday 6th of March 2020

Thanks Braden! The boat tour was really relaxing and later that day we went up to the summit of Mua Cave for that view over the Ngo Dong river ... definitely one of our better days in Vietnam!