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Complete Guide To The Trang An Boat Tour In Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Complete Guide To The Trang An Boat Tour In Ninh Binh, Vietnam

The Trang An boat tour in Ninh Binh Province transports you to a water world where you will pass through dark caves and discover spectacular karst formations accessible only by boat.

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

Did you know that the Trang An boat tour is the number one rated thing to do on Tripadvisor?

We think it’s a very close call between the boat tour, the genuinely breathtaking 360 degree panorama from Mua Cave Viewpoint and the 300 year old Bich Dong Pagoda with fantastic bonus area.

Our detailed guide to discovering the Trang An Boat Tour will show you:

  • Where you can find the Trang An boat tour in Ninh Binh
  • How to get to the Trang An Boat Tour
  • 3 different Trang An boat tour routes
  • How to buy tickets and prices
  • A peek inside the Trang An Grottoes
  • Why you should consider Trang An over Tam Coc
  • Where to stay in Ninh Binh

Now, let’s climb aboard for the Trang An boat tour!

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Where Is The Trang An Boat Tour In Ninh Binh?

The Trang An Boat Tour is in Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. It is located just a few miles away from the quaint rural town of Tam Coc.

Zoom in on the interactive map above to look around the area. You can also click the blue arrows for directions from your exact location.

Ninh Binh was once the ‘hidden gem’ of Vietnam, but it can no longer hold that title. The secret is well and truly out as 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.

River and limestone karsts during the trang An boat tour
Beautiful scenery along the Trang An Boat Tour

How To Get To The Trang An Boat Tour

The cheapest and easiest way to visit the Trang An boat tour is to hire a motorcycle or bicycle and make your own way over. You can pick up a scooter for 100,000 – 150,000 VND (US$ 4-6) per day.

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

If you enjoy cycling or haven’t yet mastered the art of driving a motorbike in Vietnam, definitely go with the bicycle. Trang An Boat Tour is just 4.0 miles (6.7km) away from Tam Coc.

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.

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

Alternative Transport Options

If you don’t want to rent a motorcycle or bicycle, you have a few additional transport options:

1). Grab a local taxi in Tam Coc town and be sure to negotiate a price.

2). Ask your hotel owner if they can offer a guided tour or know someone who can.

3). Day trip down from Hanoi independently or through a tour.

The Trang An boat tour is easy to access by bicycle or motorcycle from Tam Coc downtown. You could also access the Trang An boat tour from the Ninh Binh train station if you plan to take a day trip from Hanoi.

On the interactive map below, we have included directions from Tam Coc as our recommended place to set up base.

In addition, we also added Ninh Binh train station directions to the 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.

Click on the map below to zoom or move around to help you understand your route so you can find the start of the Trang An boat tour.

Save ‘Trang An Departure Boat Ticket‘ or better yet if you can find the ‘parking lot for motorcycles‘ on the other side of the road, plug these into google maps when you have WiFi before setting off.

The distance to the Trang An boat tour is 4.1 miles (6.7km) from Tam Coc and 5.0 miles (8.2km) from Ninh Binh station.

Trang An parking lot with cars and bus
Entrance to the Trang An Ecotourism Park

How To Get To Ninh Binh, Vietnam

There are two ways you can experience the Trang An boat tour:

  1. Independent visit
  2. Booking a tour

We will discuss both options below to help you decide how you want to experience this beautiful part of Vietnam.

Getting To Ninh Binh Independently

If you plan to travel independently from Hanoi for just the day, once you arrive at Ninh Binh train station, hire a motorbike right outside for roughly 150,000 VND (US$ 6) and follow our map to Trang An Boat Tour.

But if Ninh Binh or Tam Coc is the next stop on your Vietnam adventure, you can either bus or train to Ninh Binh. Then grab a taxi to Tam Coc or alternatively, book a direct bus to Tam Coc.

We hopped on a bus direct from Halong Bay to Tam Coc. There are no airports close by so travel by plane isn’t an option.

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

Interested about the Vietnam Sleeper Bus? Don’t miss our legendary guide to taking the sleeper bus in Vietnam.

Best Tour Options For Trang An Boat Tour

Would you would prefer to travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh as part of a full day organized tour? Transport covering hotel pick up and drop off in Hanoi is of course part of a tour.

There are many excellently valued options that include entrance fees to Bich Dong Pagoda (free), Mua Cave viewpoint, Hoa Lu ancient capital, Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An Boat Tour.

Here are popular tour options for the Trang An boat tour:

  • Day Tour From Hanoi – Visit Bai Dinh Pagoda, take a boat to experience Trang An cave, climb up to Mua Cave and enjoy stunning panoramic views as you cycle around the gorgeous countryside of Ninh Binh.
  • Hoa Lu, Trang An Caves and Mua Cave Day Trip – Visit the Trang An cave complex via rowing boat, enjoy a buffet lunch, visit Hoa Lu ancient capital and climb up Mua Cave.
Parking lot for motorbikes and bicycles at Trang An
Parking area for the Trang An boat tour

Trang An Ecotourism Motorcycle And Bicycle Parking

The entire Trang An complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means there are no scams when it comes to parking for your boat tour. This is a great reason to choose Trang An over Tam Coc!

You will park your bicycle or motorbike in a legit parking lot and pay a set fee that will be the same for everyone. No anxiety worrying about bartering or if you paid the same as everyone else.

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

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

Choose Your Trang An Boat Tour Route

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

However, before you run for the boats, you will need to pick your route and purchase your ticket first. There’s a map on a wooden board displaying the details of each route.

Your three options for Trang An boat tour routes are:

  • 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 exaplin each route below.

Trang An Boat Tour Route 1

Here is what you can expect from the first route:

Habour – Trinh Temple – Dark Cave– Bright Cave – Nau Ruou Cave – Tran Temple – Ba Giot Cave – Seo Cave– Son Duong Cave – Khong Palace – Bao Hieu Temple– Khong Cave – Tran Cave – Quy Hau Cave – Habour

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 the 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.

A cave along the Trang An boat tour
A cave along the Trang An Boat tour

Trang An Boat Tour Route 2

Here is what you can expect from the second route:

Habour – 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 – Habour

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.

This route is a good option for those visitors short on time.

Trang An Boat Tour Route 3

Here is what you can expect from the third route:

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

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 is you want to see less caves and experience more of Trang An’s gorgeous scenery.

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: Depending on the tour route you choose, your boat ride will last about 2 to 3 hours. If you want to shorten your ride, you can opt to skip any of the attractions during your tour.

Entrance to Trang An boat tour wooden fences for line
Ticket counter where you will need to purchase your tickets

Buy Your Trang An Boat Tour Tickets

When you first arrive, 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 9am and there were no people in line at all.

By the time we left at 1.30pm, the ticket line was seriously jam packed. We don’t need to tell you to arrive early because the early bird sure gets the worm in this case.

Buying tickets is quite easy and we liked that the whole process was hassle free. Prices are clearly stated and there are no vendors trying to sell items to you.

Entrance tickets for Trang An boat tour in front of river and boats
Our tickets for the Trang An Boat Tour Route 1

Duration And Trang An Boat Tour Price

A ticket for the Trang An boat tour costs about 250,000 VND (about US$ 11) per person.

There are 3 people minimum per boat so if you are a couple or plan to ride solo, you may be sharing the boat with someone else.

However, 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 US$ 43).

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

The opening hours for the Trang An boat tour are 7:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Once you have your tickets in hand, walk over to the dock and you will be escorted into the next available boat.

You will be held 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.

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

What To Expect In The Trang An Grottoes

The moment your boat driver pushes away from the dock until the moment you arrive back 3 hours later, let yourself relax and be consumed by unrivaled tranquility.

You are in rural Vietnam, venturing into areas only accessible by boat. Limestone rocks jutting out of the ground surround the water. 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.

More than once you will be sure that either the boat will crash and capsize or you will hit your head. But you won’t. The drivers know exactly which angles and paths to follow through the caves.

There are spot lights positioned in the caves to allow vision but not too much that it ruins the atmosphere.

boat entering cave with a boat ahead
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 at the most.

While a tour time of 3 hours may sound like a long time, it will float away rapidly before your eyes.

You can also expect to see 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 by stunning views of open waterways, vegetation and limestone hills sprinkled emerald green by trees.

This is a wonderful serene environment where it is easy to forget the outside world for a few hours and remember how important nature is to us all.

Unless you’re able to navigate by the sun, you will inevitably find yourself utterly disorientated throughout the journey. 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.

trang an temple 2 bird statues stood to attention
One of the temples along the Trang An boat tour

What To Expect For The Trang An Temples

Along the way, you will also stop at three 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 will 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 in the humidity we guarantee you will find hard work. 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.

One such occasion the boat passes through a man made tunnel that leads under a towering rock.

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

Trang An Boat Tour Vs Tam Coc Boat Tour

There are often comparisons drawn between the Tam Coc and Trang An Boat tour. The question everyone always wants to know is which tour better.

Personally, our research and experience from other visitors told us the Tam Coc boat tour is a prime scamming spot.

We also liked how the Trang An boat tour was legitimately controlled due to its UNESCO status.

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.

The advantage of the Trang An boat tour is that it’s regulated so hostility is minimized. But the final decision maker for us was that the boat drivers at Trang An are treated fairly.

Additionally, Trang An supposedly is 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.

However, one of the downsides to the Trang An boat tour is that its 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.

Heading to Vietnam? Don’t miss our 30 key things to know about Vietnam before you visit.

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

Where To Stay In Ninh Binh, Vietnam

If you have a few days to spend in Ninh Binh, stay in Tam Coc. Forget the big industrial city Ninh Binh, you will be massively underwhelmed.

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

We’ve scoured the area for amazing properties across budget, mid-range and luxury options and listed the best of each for you to check out.

Tam Coc Sunrise Homestay (Budget)

Located downtown close to restaurants and Tam Coc boat tour pier, this budget hotel has a swimming pool, breakfast included and an exceptional 9.6 on

>> Book Tam Coc Sunrise here <<

Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow (Mid-Range)

Views over rice paddies to the front and limestone karsts directly behind from the swimming pool at Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow make it worth staying alone.

This bungalow is located perfectly just a few minutes walk out of Tam Coc town. Meaning you get a rural setting with amenities close by.

Each bungalow faces in towards a brick courtyard and the pool as its centerpiece.

>> Book Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalow here <<

Tam Coc Garden Resort (Luxury)

Perfectly located for a luxurious and peaceful stay in Ninh Binh, close to Bich Dong Pagoda and Tam Coc. Tam Coc Garden Resort was voted 2019 travelers choice on TripAdvisor and has a 9.4 on

The hotel is surrounded by paddy fields and looks wonderfully serene.

>> Book Tam Coc Garden Resort <<

View from dream hotel balcony in Tam Coc
Balcony from the Tam Coc Dream Homestay

Where Did We Stay In Ninh Binh?

We stayed at a small budget place called Tam Coc Dream Homestay. It’s centrally located in Tam Coc just a few minutes walk from the strip of restaurants and Tam Coc boat dock.

>> Book Tam Coc Dream Homestay <<

The owners were lovely and the hotel price included a buffet breakfast each morning.

We were able to hire bicycles and a motorbike directly at the hotel for a better price than it cost in town, which was a nice touch.

Plus, there are fantastic views from the upper balcony over nearby limestone karsts. We paid $US 10 per night when we stayed which was perfect for our budget at the time.

Mark and Kristen about to leave Trang An boat tour in Vietnam
Mark and Kristen during the Trang An Boat Tour

Tips For Your Trang An Boat Tour

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your visit:

  • Trang An is open 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 and you will most likely be placed in a boat of 4 unless you pay for the entire boat.
  • Be sure to wear sturdy footwear because you will be climbing in and out of boats all day plus a few of the temples have areas where you can explore.
  • Take as much water as you can comfortably fit into your day bag. Keep in mind, you will be exposed for about 90% of the boat journey so you may also want to bring a hat.
  • You will find oars inside the boat and you will be encouraged to use them if you want. We helped row for part of our journey and it gave us such appreciate for the men and women who do this all day everyday.
  • Please also remember, the man or woman who guides your boat will pick up another tour once yours 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.

Trang An Boat Tour Photos

This last section is filled with additional photos from our Trang An boat tour so you can get a good feel of exactly what to expect when you visit.

parking ticket Trang An boat tour 15,000 vnd
Parking tickets for the Trang An boat tour
Close up of huge limestone rock with cave entrance Trang An boat tour Tam Coc
Getting closer to our first cave and grotto on the Trang An boat tour
boat ahead half way through a dark cave with solitary light
Gliding further into the caves with darkness surrounding us
river and rocks Trang An Tam Coc
The surrounding scenery is a stark contrast to the dark caves you will experience
Boats heading down waterway into tunnel cave
A narrow passage along the Trang An boat tour

Trang An Boat Tour FAQ’s

Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Trang An Boat Tour in Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

How Long Is The Trang An Boat Ride?

The Trang An boat ride lasts about 2-3 hours depending on which route you select. You have an option of three different Trang An boat tour routes.

How Do You Travel Within Ninh Binh?

The best way to get around Ninh Binh is by motorcycle or bicycle.

Is 1 Day Enough For Ninh Binh?

You should stay at least two days in Ninh Binh to fully experience everything the area has to offer.

Is It Worth Going To Ninh Binh?

Yes, it is worth going to Ninh Binh because this area is known as the Halong Bay on land. You should definitely add Ninh Binh to your Vietnam itinerary.

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Want more Vietnam content? Head over to our Vietnam Travel Guides to see example itineraries, tips about Vietnam and popular city guides.

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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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!