Tam Coc is one of the most popular places in Ninh Binh, famous for its impressive body of waters that surrounds the three caves (commonly referred to as The Three Grottoes). The three caves consist of Hang Ca, Hang Hai and Hang Ba Grottoes.
The most enjoyable way to experience this natural splendour is by taking a Tam Coc boat tour out onto the peaceful and quiet Dong river (Ngô Đồng).
The boat ride was like nothing we had ever done before and showed Tam Coc in an entirely different light. Since its appearance in the movie ‘Kong: Skull Island’, Tam Coc Bich Dong has become increasingly popular amongst tourists.
There’s no shortage of information online surrounding the Tam Coc boat tours, which is why we have tried to create the most extensive guide on the web. Our guide covers everything you need to know from how to get there to what to expect.
What to expect on the Tam Coc Boat Trip
The boat ride will last around two hours, and you be assigned a local rower who will steer you through the majestic Ngo Dong river. During your voyage, you will witness the beautiful scenic mountains, rivers, and forests.
The clarity of the water, combined with peculiar-shaped mountains, forms a perfect harmony – a cherished gift which nature provides us.
The rowing boat has a paddle tied to each side, and the rower leans back, utilising their legs to steer the wooden boat in an effortless act.
Shortly after heading out onto the river, you will be approached by a stranger in another small boat offering to take a “professional” photograph of you. We paid 20,000 VND for the photo which we decided was worth it for the sentimental value. Photos can be purchased at the end of your tour when you arrive back at the pier.
After exploring further down the river, your next stop will be the iconic caves known as the three grottoes. These caves are also sometimes referred to as ‘Halong Bay on land’. The caves differ in size but Hang Ca is the longest of the three, measuring an impressive 100m in length.
Once you’ve finished the tour and start your return back, this is where things can go quickly downhill.
The first uncomfortable situation we encountered was roughly halfway back to the pier, where a collection of boats appeared to be waiting on the verge of the riverbank.
Each boat was selling the same food and drink; gradually approaching the incoming tour boats. We got pressured into buying some overpriced nuts and fruit for our tour guide, which we wouldn’t have minded if it didn’t feel like all part of an elaborate scam.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.
As we continued our excursion, our guide tried selling us some hand-crafted art pieces that she claimed to have made herself. After politely declining, she bombarded us with a various selection of jewellery, clothing, and other souvenirs she tried getting us to buy.
After no luck selling us anything, the lady began begging us for a tip. Now I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never had anyone actually ask for a tip before.
We tried to explain that we had already spent 100,000 VND (£3) on buying her some overpriced nuts and fruit, but to no avail.
If I’m honest, it just took the authenticity out of the whole experience and made us feel a bit uncomfortable. We couldn’t help but sense that the entire trip was just about trying to extort money from us.
Lastly, after arriving back at the pier to collect our photo, we once again encountered another lady trying to get more money out of us. Despite agreeing to buy one photo for 20,000 VND, she was vigorously trying to get us to purchase five blurry photos for 100,000 VND.
In a nutshell, the scenic views were truly breathtaking, and the colossal caves were mesmerising. It’s just a shame about all the begging and scamming as it devalues the whole Tam Coc boat tour experience.
Tam Coc Boat Tour Prices & Opening Times
We have listed the boat ticket prices and opening times below:
- Adults: 195,000 VND per person
- Children: 100,000 VND per child. Children under 1 meter are allowed to ride for free.
- Opening Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.
We advise heading out early to avoid the flocks of tourists. Any time before 11 am, and you should be safe. Departing at sunset is also a favourite time to leave and provides an excellent opportunity to snap some stunning photographs.
Generally, the best months to visit Tam Coc are between May to June, when the rice is almost ripe, and the paddy fields radiate a golden yellow appearance.
How to get to the Tam Coc boat ride
If you are already staying in Tam Coc, then getting to the tour boat is a quick 5-10 minute walk. However, if you are travelling from outside of Tam Coc then there are a few options to choose from:
Bus – Travelling by bus is the most popular means of travel. You can catch buses from Hanoi to Tam Coc for as little as £4. Some of the coaches will only stop in Ninh Binh, so you will need to arrange your own transport (Taxi) to the pier.
If you are travelling from the South of Vietnam, then there are also buses which tour to the North. These buses are more destined for Ninh Binh, so once again you will need to arrange further transport to reach Tam Coc pier.
Train – The second most favoured way of travelling to Tam Coc is by train. You can catch a train from Hanoi to Tam Coc for a similar price as the bus. The journey takes around 2.5-3 hours and will also stop in Ninh Binh. From Ninh Binh, you can either hire a bike or catch a taxi to Tam Coc.
Where To Stay in Tam Coc
From sleepy riverside hostels to luxury resorts, Tam Coc has the accomplished blend of accommodation options to suit all. Below we have compiled a snapshot list on the best places to stay in Tam Coc (taken from our previous experience and other travellers).
Homestays are the most common form of accommodation in the small town of Tam Coc.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a homestay, it is similar to a traditional bed and breakfast, where the hosts live on-site and exchange accommodation and breakfast for monetary payment. The benefit of staying in a homestay is that you know your money is going into the local economy and local people.
For those on a budget, let me introduce the humble hostel options:
The Banana Tree Hostel – roughly £5 per bed a night
Extremely popular among backpackers, Banana Tree holds an impressive 9.2 customer rating. The Hostel boasts a large swimming pool, bar, restaurant, different room options and not to mention free wifi. Sat only a short walk from the village centre, Banana Tree Hostel is easy to locate and in the heart of the action.
Typically, the rooms come in three options: a mixed dorm of six beds, a dorm of eight beds, or a family room.
Hoa Luan Restaurant Hostel – roughly £3 per bed per night
Attractive to many for its competitive prices, Hoa Luan Hostel averages a strong 9.2 score on booking.com. The Hostel prices vary from around £3 to £15 depending on dorm size and bed size. The Hostel has an on-site restaurant and bar.
For those looking for a happy medium:
Tam Coc Golden Sky Homestay – around £15 a night
Golden Sky Homestay offers spacious bedrooms and polished ensuite bathrooms. Each room is available with either a balcony or garden view — rated 9.5 on Booking by its guests.
They provide access for their guests to a state of the art gym and pool facilities at a nearby resort.
Tam Coc Mountain Lake Homestay – roughly £16 a night
Awarded a respectable 9.7 rating from its guests, Mountain Lake Homestay is one of the best in the area. Picturesque backdrop views surround the property, and from the property, you can watch the famous Tam Coc boat tours row past. The Homestay offers family rooms or double rooms and is all air-conditioned.
For those looking for an extravagance haven, look no further:
Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel and Resort – around £65 a night and upwards
A grand 5-star resort grounded at the end of main Ninh Binh High street. A wide selection of contemporary styled bedrooms ranging from executive to family rooms. Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel is nothing short of spectacular; the resort brags a host of facilities. Including a large outdoor swimming pool, well-equipped fitness centre, scenic gardens, a gift shop, spa and wellness facilities.
The Reed Hotel – around £49 a night and upwards
The futuristic 4-star hotel features a modern spa and wellness centre, a gym, dynamic outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and bar. Rooms range from Deluxe King to Grand Premium, each tailored with different commodities.
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