Trang An or Tam Coc boat ride: which is best?

If you’re planning a trip to Northern Vietnam, then you might have came across the stunning area of Ninh Binh, located around 1.5 hours south of the capital city of Hanoi.

Often called the “Inland Ha Long Bay”, the region is famous for its dramatic limestone cliffs, snaking rivers, large grotto caves and lush rice fields.

Ninh Binh was one of the most unexpected places we visited in Vietnam and we spend 3 days in Ninh Binh. We actually wish we had spent longer!

So if you’re planning a trip to Ninh Binh, you will see two boat tour options spoken about - Trang An and Tam Coc. While these two places are close by - only around 20 minutes from each other, the boat tours and experiences are very different, so you might be wondering which boat tour option is best.

Here’s a quick guide to help you make a decision.

a boat with people in holding umbrellas on a rive with a pagoda in it, surrounded by lush green cliffs

Trang An


Where is Trang An and Tam Coc?

Trang An and Tam Coc are both located in the Ninh Binh province which is about 1.5 hours drive south of Hanoi, Vietnam.

How to get to Ninh Binh?

There are several options for getting to Ninh Binh depending on your perferences:

  • Public bus

  • Limosine (what Vietnam calls a fancy minibus)

  • Private transfer

  • Day tour

I recommend taking the limousine/minibus option. These are very affordable and are usually nice minibuses - ours even had USB sockets and massage chairs!

Our limo minibus transfer cost us 1.2 million VND ($50 USD) for two people and we booked with the same people who booked our Halong Bay Cruise.

It’s usually not necessary to book in advance, we were able to simply book a transfer for the next day at one of the many travel agents you will see dotted around the streets in Hanoi. Your hotel will also be able to direct you to their trusted travel agent, or may even provide transfers themselves (this is something we found for our return trip to Hanoi)

If you’re short on time or prefer to have all the logistics organised for you, you can also visit Ninh Binh as a day tour from Hanoi. Here are the best options depending on what other sights you want to see and whether you ultimately choose Trang An or Tam Coc:

If you would prefer a private transfer, I would recommend asking your hotel for private taxi recommendations. Expect this to cost around $20-30 USD.

a river with rocky hills in the distance and yellow houses on the left side of the river

Tam Coc in Ninh Bing


Tam Coc vs.Trang An: What’s the difference?

So, Trang An or Tam Coc boat ride?

I found definite pros and cons for each and it really comes down to what your budget is and how comfortable you are with being sold to.

I’m going to give you a quick summary of the pros and cons for each if you want to make a quick decision. Then more detail about the prices, locations and timings further down.

Tam Coc boat tour pros:

  • Cheaper than Trang An boat tour

  • More rural and “untouched” landscape

  • Experience your boat rower rowing the traditional way - with their feet!

  • Less commercialised

  • Shorter (better if you’re visiting during the hot months)

Tam Coc boat tour cons:

  • Your boat is approached by sellers while you’re in the water and they’re asking you to buy something or buy some water for your rower, this can be very persistent and feel uncomfortable

  • Although we didn’t experience this extreme, some reviews suggested they had ended up spending more than the cost of Trang An would have been because they felt forced to buy stuff from sellers

  • Less organised - we turned up on the first day and it was actually closed for no reason, no information online that we could find etc which is why we actually ended up going to Trang An

looking down on a lush green valley with a river winding through it and rocky green covered hills in Tam Coc

Tam Coc

Trang An boat tour pros:

  • Very well-organised complex with obvious queues, ticket counters etc

  • Longer boat ride with lots of caves, temples and stops to get off and explore some of the temples and islands

  • Incredible landscapes, amazing cliffs and caves

  • 3 routes to choose from and all cost the same

  • More shops, facilities and food places at the complex

  • Strict rules against sellers - Trang An strictly enforces a no-selling policy so you won’t be hassled or asked to buy anything for you or your rower

Trang An boat tour cons:

  • Most expensive option

  • Experience is 3 hours long so you get your money’s worth but be aware if you’re visiting in the hot months, there is little to no shade and even with umbrellas, 3 hours was A LOT of time in the heat

  • More commercial, there were definitely more tour buses, groups and generally a more commercial feeling which can be a good or a bad thing!

small rowing boats cruising down a waterway surrounded by green cliffs
a waterway with a small boat on it surrounded by green cliffs

Everything you need to know about the Tam Coc boat ride

Location: Tam Coc entry here on Google Maps

Price: 390,000 VND for two people

Duration: 1.5 hours

Experience: More traditional - feet rowing. More open landscape rowing through rice fields as well as caves and cliffs. More options to get haggled to buy something.

How to get there: Transfer to Ninh Binh and take a Grab taxi to Tam Coc or as part of a tour.

a winding river with yellow houses on the left side

Tam Coc


Everything you need to know about the Trang An boat tours

Location: Trang An entry location on Google Maps

Price: 250,000 VND per person

Duration: 3 hours

Experience: More organised and commercial. More dramatic landscape and options to get off the boat and walk around

How to get there:  Transfer to Ninh Binh and take a Grab taxi to Trang An or as part of a tour.

a river with waterlilies and a boat in the distance

Trang An


Should you pick the Tam Coc or Trang An boat ride?

Ultimately, if you’re on a budget and especially if you’re staying overnight in Tam Coc, then the Tam Coc boat ride is best for you.

However if you really hate the possibility of being hassled or sold to, avoid Tam Coc.

Although also consider the time of year. If you’re visiting in the summer, it is extremely hot and humid and although we felt Trang An was worth the money, 3 hours in the heat was a lot and would definitely be too much for some people.

Equally 1.5 hours in a boat in the heat in Tam Coc is also a lot so I would suggest doing an early morning or late afternoon boat tour in both Tam Coc and Trang An if you’re able to.

Helena standing on a wooden walkway on the water with green lilypads and lush cliffs in the background
a wooden pagoda surrounded by leafy green trees

Summary: Trang An or Tam Coc boat ride - which is best?

It comes down to your budget, time available and your preferences.

Overall I preferred Trang An, but if Tam Coc could sort out the unwanted selling I would probably pick Tam Coc purely based on the time of year we visited. July was far too hot for 3 hours in Trang An even though the scenery and views were totally worth it!

Pin for later to plan your trip!

Trang An and Tam Coc are two of the most stunning landscapes in Ninh Binh, but which boat tour is best? I’m comparing experiences of tam coc vs Trang An in this guide.| tam coc tour | trang an boat tour | ninh binh tour | ninh binh vietnam | ninh bin