Many say that the best alternative if you are not going to include Sapa in your trip to Vietnam is to choose Ninh Binh. For me, who loves Vietnam and has traveled to every corner of the country several times, I think that both Sapa and Ninh Binh are essential destinations. Although it is true that in both you find rice fields (very different from each other) that is where their resemblance ends.
If you are interested in knowing which is the best route to visit Vietnam, here is a complete guide with several itineraries.
In this post I talk about the different ways you have to go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. I add some practical tips that can be useful throughout your trip and you have different links to other Ninh Binh articles so you can complete your itinerary.
HOW TO GO FROM HANOI TO NINH BINH (and vice versa)
Ninh Binh is a very rare destination out of high season. Whenever I have traveled to Vietnam I have done it between seasons (April, May, October, November...) so I have had problems finding transportation to Ninh Binh. There are few transfer times and not every day.
On my first trip, which was 3 months in Vietnam, totally improvising, we had to take a taxi because it was impossible for us to find bus or train tickets.
The next time I traveled to the area I did it by bus… and I quite regretted it. Because despite the fact that traveling by bus throughout Vietnam is usually very comfortable, this journey had a thousand mishaps.
I tell you point by point all the available options, depending on the season:
1. Go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by taxi or transfer
Ninh Binh, as I mentioned, is usually a destination with little variety of transport. Despite being a beautiful and tourist area there is a lack of options and especially schedules. The Taxi option is much more expensive, but if we take into account that there are transfers with several seats, it can be a very comfortable option, and not very expensive. In addition, you have the advantage that they pick you up at the hotel of origin and leave you at the door of the next hotel.
Many (or most) Hanoi hotels have a network of carriers offering different prices. It can cost you from 50 to 90 euros, depending on the size of the car, the total number of people and how desperate they see you to get a transport. Here you will have to haggle a bit. We got the taxi for 6 people for 65 euros one way and 65 euros return. If several of you go, it pays, but if you are few, the best option is the sleeper bus or the train.
To get around Asia I always look for and book my journeys with 12 Go Asia. It is a transport search engine, and it offers you all the options, prices and schedules of the destination you are looking for. It is a safe application and in your language.
2. Go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by Sleeper Bus
I have already said it on many occasions that for me one of the best forms of transport in Vietnam to move around the country is the Sleeper Bus.
Unfortunately we did not get any of the two places for our dates. But if you find this option, do not think about it.
You will leave from the center of Hanoi, in Old Quater a few steps from Hoan Kiem and you will arrive in the center of Ninh Binh. Here you will have to take a taxi to your accommodation, since in Ninh Binh the distances are long and you have several places to stay in Ninh Binh.
This option usually costs around 6-7 euros per person and journey.
The other bus option is the "normal" bus. They leave from the center of Hanoi to the center of Ninh Binh (they have several stops on the way) and it costs about 2.10 euros per person per way. They are the cheapest local buses and also the cheapest. It was our option on the second trip, we had no choice and I do not recommend it at all. For the price difference, which is very little at our currency exchange rate, it is worth choosing the sleeper bus. These most basic buses do not have air conditioning or Wi-Fi, the seats are very uncomfortable, they do not recline and the bus is full even in the aisle. It is very overwhelming.
ATTENTION: Avoid whenever possible the company SAO VIET.
You have several bus companies that will take you to different destinations in the country. One of their itineraries is Hanoi -Ninh Binh. Personally, I used this company twice and nothing ever happened to me. But there are many opinions that say that, in high season, when the bus is usually only for tourists, they do not complete their trip and leave you halfway (alleging a problem on the bus). Coincidence, that where they leave you is in nowhere, fields or remote areas, full of taxis for you to finish your trip, and there if you have no choice but to pay what they ask you because you don't even know where you are.
I have traveled a total of 5 months in Vietnam on different trips. And nothing has ever happened to me. It is a very safe country and these types of scams do not usually exist. However, we must always avoid situations that we can foresee in time. As there are so many comments and opinions (on different dates and from different travelers) that explain the same thing about this company in particular, better safe than sorry.
3. Go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by train
If you are interested in the train option, you can make this journey with the company Vietnam Railways. It does not have much availability of schedules and days in low season. They are usually low prices, since it is a transport used by locals. You can buy the tickets at the Hanoi central train station itself (although I recommend you look ahead). We didn't get a seat at the station itself (for not planning ahead) and we had to choose the taxi option (quite more expensive). The second time we checked availability two days before making the journey and there were no train seats left, only buses. So take a look and book early! You can see the options from here.
You can even book a sleeper car, for about 7 euros per person per way. The tour is short, about 2 hours and a half.
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Recommendations for getting around Ninh Binh
Taxis here are scarcer than in other areas of Vietnam and it shows in the prices. They are usually taxis that you can book for a full day and they charge you around 50 euros for 8 hours for the small taxi and if you need a multi-seater taxi, the prices are usually around 90 euros a day.
You can rent a motorcycle. It is a very cheap option throughout the country. Motorcycles are very cheap in Vietnam. They are usually very cheap. You can find them from 2 euros a day in the "less legal" market. But the normal thing is that they find options from 5 to 7 euros a day.
The least legal option are those individuals who rent their vehicle to you. These types of rentals are offered a lot by hotels. There is always someone who knows someone who has a motorcycle.
The most legal option are specific rental places. You can find offers between 5 and 7 euros, although depending on the season of the year and the demand, this amount tends to increase (not silly). And this option usually has some insurance that covers "something".
We did a large part of the surroundings of our hotel by bicycle. The hotel had free bicycles and since we were close to 3 essentials in Ninh Binh, we made the trip that way. About 40 degrees in mid-May. It was brutal. But we loved it. On our second time in Ninh Binh, as we already knew all the essential places and we were looking for caves and hidden temples, we decided to rent motorcycles, and they cost us around 8 euros per motorcycle and day.
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PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Ninh Binh very much and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!