What to do in Tam Coc
One of the top things to do in Tam Coc is taking the amazing boat ride through the Karst mountains. The Tam Coc boat ride last for good couple of hours and it goes through cultivated fields and three natural caves. The caves are nothing fascinating though.
Tam Coc Boat Ride Fees
- Walk to the ticket counter at the pier, and purchase a ticket for the ride plus the ticket for hiring a boat. The entrance fee to Tam Coc is 120,000 Dong per person and the ticket for the boat comes to 150,000 dong for a boat. A maximum of four people can share a ride and there are only up to two foreigners (non Vietnamese) can share a boat. Weird rules, right?
- There is a downside to Tam Coc, which is it very high entrance fees. The fees to Tam Coc consists of two parts, entrance fee (120k Dongs) and and a boat fee (150k Dongs): i.e. a total of 270k Dongs = $12. The fees is same for everyone, for locals as well as foreigners. Good news is that you can find a partner (or if you already have one) and split the boat fee.
- I sailed the boat along with one local tourist and hence paid the total fee: 120k VND + 75k VND = 195k VND = $8.5 U.S or ₹600 INR
- There is a parking fee of 15k VND for bicycles and motorbikes, but I recommend you park near a restaurant and let the owner know you will be coming for a meal. He will happily look after your bike.
Tam Coc Boat Ride – Things to know before you go
- There are two rowers is a boat, usually old husband and wife. At some point start rowing with their feet which is a treat to see in itself.
- I absolutely disliked the fact that during the trip the locals try to force sales on you, towards the end of the trip you’ll see pesky drink and trinket sellers trying to push a sale. They ask you to purchase a drink for the rower and if you do, the rower immediately sell it back to the original seller.
- That being said, do give a small tip to the rowers for rowing in a hot sultry weather is a very tough job. Tip the rower for their hard work and making your trip wonderful!
- Come as early as possible to avoid the day trip crowd from Hanoi. The last boat in summer is at 1730 and in winter is at 1630.
- There are no ATMs in Tam Coc so make sure you have enough cash to everyone. This is specially because card is not accepted for payment in Tam Coc.
- If you are going from Hanoi to Tam Coc, take the local bus from Giap Bat, Hanoi. The Hanoi – Ninh Binh bus ticket costs about 80k Dong. Alternatively, take the tourist bus ($8) which will cover the distance between Ninh Binh and Tam in around 2 hours
- The area is also perfect for half a day of relaxed biking.
- Grab the front seat in the boat for the best views, particularly if you are sharing the boat.
Tam Coc Trip Budget
Below are my expenses from Tam Coc Boat Trip:
Tam coc entrance fee: 120,000 + 150k/2 boat fee
Motorbike – 100,000 rental + 30000 petrol
Breakfast – 50k VND
Coffee – 25k VND
Train ticket to Hanoi hard seat – 51k
Places to visit Near Tam Coc
Once you are done seeing Tam Coc, rest assured that there are many other places to visit in and around Tam Coc region and nearby.
Where to stay in Tam Coc
Staying at least one night in Tam Coc is one of the best things to do. The tranquil area of Tam Coc has plenty of budget options to stay as well.
Tam Coc Nature: Bunk Bed in Mixed Dormitory Room: $7. Breakfast included. 9.2/ 760+ reviews on booking website. Booking.com/TamCocNature
Quoc Khanh Bamboo Homestay: Ratings on booking: 9.1/750 reviews. Bunk bed in mixed dorm – $5 – Breakfast included. Check here
Tam Coc River View Homestay: Rating on booking: 9.2/ 630+ reviews. Bed in 4 bed mixed dorm – $6 – breakfast included. Check here
How to get to Tam Coc
Tam Coc is part of a small village which is located around 6 km from the town of Ninh Binh. To get to Tam Coc, you first need to reach Ninh by bus or train. From Ninh Binh you can easily hire a bicycle, a motorbike or a motorbike taxi to get to Tam Coc. To explore further, I have written travel guide on getting to Tam Coc which you can read:
- Getting to Tam Coc from Hoi An
- Getting to Tam Coc from Hanoi
Tam Coc vs Trang An Grottoes
Tam coc boat ride or trang an which one to go for? If you have to choose between Tam coc or trang an boat ride, definitely pick Tam Coc. Though it can get more touristy at Tam Coc, it is for sure more beautiful than Tran An.
Consider Trang An Grottoes or just Trang An as the little cousin of Tam Coc, located some 7 km from the town of Nin Binh. Though debatable some consider Trang An to be superior than Tam Coc, I personally believe it is a matter of what you like to experience.
Trang An isn’t as grandeur as Tam Coc but what clicks for it is the numerous caves through which the boat ride takes you through. The another plus of Trang An is that since the boat ride is actually a loop (the boat doesn’t come back by the same route), you get full value of your time and money.
Tam Coc vs Ha Long Bay – Where to go?
Let’s just say Tam Coc is the wonder of Vietnam, and yeah, I mean it including the Ha Long Bay. Tam Coc lies at a distance of about 6 km from outside the town of Ninh Binh. Many consider Tam Coc to be similar to Halong Bay, and in some ways it is, the concept is same – you take out a boat and ride among the giant limestone cliffs. But, and the big but is, the spectacular views of Tam coc are unmatched by the over-hyped Ha Long Bay. If you have to choose between the two, I’d recommend Tam Coc without a second thought.
Tam Cốc, located on Ngô Đồng River, literally translates to “three caves”, the three natural caves that you will encounter in your ride are: Hang Cả, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba.
Taking a boat ride in Tam Coc is one of the top things to do in Ninh Binh. If you have less time and wondering whether to choose Trang An or Tam Coc, choose Tam Coc.
If you are staying in Hanoi consider taking a day trip to Tam Coc from Hanoi. Tam Coc Day trip can easily be done with the help of a tour operator. Or you can go from Hanoi to Tam Coc by public bus or train.