Tam Coc, Ninh Binh sometimes referred to as the Halong Bay on Land, is a great destination for a long weekend getaway. The amazing scenery over the rice paddies and karst towers that make it look like Halong Bay. On the menu, nice slow (wo)man powered boat tours among the rice paddies and caves, quiet bicycle rides in the countryside. On top of it, there is an amazing hotel. Real luxury. Comfort in the middle of a preserved environment. One of our favorites in Asia.
How accessible is it from Singapore?
Tam Coc is a good getaway destination for a 2 and a half day weekend at minimum. We recommend you take 3 and a half day to enjoy 2 full days there.
Getting there is pretty straightforward assuming you arrange transport with the hotel but the flight and car transfers are quite long and flight timings are not always ideal.
If you fly direct from Singapore to Hanoi, the total door-to-door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel in Hanoi will take you about 7 hours 30 minutes. The trip includes a flight and car transfers.
How much is this going to cost us?
Vietnam is a very affordable destination in terms of food, accommodation and activities. It’s actually great value in most places. Now, we would really recommend you stay in this very nice hotel, well worth the money. Budget for a few excursions as well (boat).
Also note that depending on the passport you hold you might need to buy an expensive visa to enter Vietnam (45 USD for the visa itself and another 15 to 25 USD for the invitation letter).
How remote and risky is it?
It’s a safe but remote destination. Medical infrastructure is not exceptional but you will be able to go to a decent hospital in Hanoi in case of serious problems.
What about the kids?
Children will enjoy the bicycle rides and the boat rides. The area is safe. Check with your hotel to ensure they can provide baby seats for the bicycles or take them in a baby carrier. Finding food and baby supplies is a challenge so pack everything you need. Some boat rides can feel quite long for very young children as the boats are tiny and they won’t be able to move. Check the duration and pack some stuff to keep them busy in case. If you stay at the hotel we recommend, they can run around and play in the rice paddies. The pool is great but pretty cool (by South East Asia standards)
When should we go?
Did you know?
Tam Coc means the ‘3 caves’ in reference to the Hang C?, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba caves that you can visit on a boat.
Connections from Tam Coc
Getting from Singapore to Hanoi
From Singapore fly directly to Hanoi (HAN). Singapore Airlines / Tiger / Vietnam Airlines offer direct flights to Hanoi.
The best option at the moment is to take 2.5 days and fly on Friday afternoon and come back on Sunday evening. This is tight but doable. Spend one more day there if you can to have 2 full days there
Getting there: Singapore Airlines – Singapore to Hanoi – 3.35 PM – 17.55 PM (3h 30 flight)
Coming back: Singapore Airlines – Hanoi to Singapore – 6.45 PM – 11 PM
Return ticket from SGD255
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.
The international airport is quite new and clean. Food and money changers are available before and after check-in.
Getting from Hanoi airport to Tam Coc
The easiest option is to arrange transport with your hotel directly. This will ensure your driver knows the way there. On the way there, take a look around. If the sky is cloudy you may feel like you’ve just landed in USSR back in the 80s. The road is pretty depressing but keep hope. What you’ll find at the end of the journey is very nice.
If you are on a budget, there are buses running between Hanoi (bus station) and Ninh Binh for about 65,000 VND per pax in 2 hours 30 minutes. From Ninh Binh you will need to make your way to your hotel (up to 30 minutes depending on its location).
Renting a motorbike from Hanoi to Ninh Binh/Tam Coc is probably not the best option unless you are a hardcore biker. The road is in good condition but there is not much to see on the way and the weather can we a challenge…
Where to stay in Tam Coc
Without hesitation we highly recommend to stay at the Tam Coc Garden. It’s a wonderful hotel. Luxury, attention to details. The hotel is made of an old farm turned into this boutique hotel. Everything is great. Rooms are well done with nice views over the paddies. Nice common area and pool. Bar. Little garden. You can go explore the surrounding directly walking or cycling from the hotel. Really great. It’s pretty expensive for Vietnamese standards (around SGD 180 per night). The only disappointment we had was regarding the restaurant. The food was not on par with the rest but nothing terrible. Simply below the rest and what you would expect in Vietnam.
There are other hotels available in the area. Some friends also recommended a more affordable option Chez Loan (around SGD 40 per night) but we have not stayed there ourselves so we can’t comment.
Just be mindful of the location and the surroundings. We’ve seen hotels by the road close to cement factories and not so nice areas.
or, if you prefer, you can book with
To see & to do in Tam Coc
A few ideas of things to do and see.
Rowing boat excursion
What about a nice ride on a rowing boat along one of the rivers? Linh Coc jetty is just a few minutes walk from Tam Coc Garden. You can embark on a 2-hour boat tour and see rice fields, reeds and limestone peaks. Nice and relaxing experience on the water. 60,000 VND per pax
Cave lovers, this message is for you: Tours include “caves” but to be honest there is nothing special about the caves (I still don’t get why people are interested in caves… so don’t expect much there in terms of caves but the scenery is great and the experience is nice). Drop us a comment to explain why caves are important in your life.
There are many other boat excursions available. Some are accessible directly by foot from the hotel, some will require a nice bicycle ride. The large ones may be very touristy so check with your hotel based on what you’d prefer.
Explore the surrounding by bicycle
Get a bicycle from the hotel and explore the rice paddies and limestone peaks. There are interesting cultural sites at cycling distance from the hotel. Hoa Lu Ancient Royal City is one of them. The site is nice and the ride to get there is pleasant. Ask the hotel staff for the best spots based on your interest and condition. Some circuit may require cycling on dirt road but there are options for all levels. Overall the temples, pagodas and other sites are not super impressive but the countryside is beautiful.
Visit pagodas and climb up to 400 steps
There are 2 nice view spots in the area:
Bich Dong Pagoda: located 2km from Tam Coc Jetty and 9Km from Ninh Binh, most tourists will get there cycling, getting to the pagoda you’ll enjoy fresh air and a nice view.
Pagoda on top of Hang Mua viewpoint: To access Hang Mua, you’ll have to climb 450 steps. You enjoy a breath-taking view all over Tam coc from the top of its sugarloaf- shaped mountain.
Enjoy the hotel
Pool, bar, garden or from your room… If you stay at the Tam Coc Garden, you might as well enjoy it!
More info to prepare your trip
Wifi is available in most restaurants and hotels. Cellular network signal is usually OK.
What to pack for Hanoi
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.
Immigration and airport taxes on arrival
Depending on your nationality you may need to get a Tourist Visa to enter Vietnam. ASEAN passport holders and nationals from a few European countries (including France) are exempt of Visa.Getting a visa to Vietnam is quite simple and easy now. There are 2 options:
- On Arrival Visa at the airport immigration checkpoint. You’ll need an Approval letter BEFORE you travel; you can either ask a Travel agent or apply online on Vietnamvisa. There will be fees for processing to the Approval letter and then for the visa itself check the rates here. The “on arrival visa” is only possible at International Airports (Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City) and Danang Airport (Danang)). If you are travelling by land the Approval letter will not be accepted, then you need to contact the Embassy. At the airport immigration counter you need to pay cash 45 USD for single entry (95 USD for multiple-entry) and bring along 2 photos + your passport + the Approval letter. To save time, you can print the form that you will need to fill in and give to the counter when you arrive. You can download it here
- Or, Before flying to Vietnam. You can contact the Vietnamese Embassy and apply for a visa. In Singapore, 10 Leedon Park 10, 267887. Visa Hours: Mon-Fri (9AM – 12PM noon)
National Public Holidays in Vietnam
|January 1||New Year’s Day|
|February 17-22||Tet Nguyen Dan (Chinese New Year)|
|April 28||Hung Kings Commemoration|
|April 30||Victory/Independence Day|
|May 1||Labour Day|
|September 2||National Day|
* check the exact date on this website as it varies from one year to another.