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Trang An is one of those places in Vietnam that will forever leave you in awe of its natural beauty. The way to soak in all of this is to take a Trang An Boat Tour.
This unplanned Trang An boat tour through the grottoes took us on a journey away from this world and into the picturesque natural landscape of Ninh Binh.
I had to admit I had no idea Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex was listed as a UNESCO world’s heritage site. I also had no idea Kong: Skull Island was filmed here. I completely stumbled upon this top thing to do in Trang An and I couldn’t be more grateful.
After 3 hours on the river and being surrounded by Trang An’s beauty, I felt like I was in the movie Kong myself and never wanted to leave this piece of paradise.
As a family blog, I personally wouldn’t recommend taking a baby or young kids on this Trang An boat tour. The reason being is the riverboat tour requires you to remain seated in a confined space for an extended period of time. I took this tour by myself, while my family stayed with my 15-month-old baby back in the tourist centre.
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Getting to Trang An from Hanoi
Most young travellers are doing the Trang An boat tour as a day trip from Hanoi. You can take a local bus or train to Ninh Binh, then taxi to Trang An or Tam Coc.
12Go.Asia is a well-known transportation website for booking transfers in Asia. You can do a simple search here to get an idea of the prices.
But to be honest, for a few more US$, we would recommend booking a shuttle with a travel agency in Hanoi, especially if you’re travelling with kids. It’s much more comfortable and minimises waiting times.
We walked into a travel agency adjacent to our hotel – Artisan Hotel Hanoi in Hanoi and decided to book a shuttle to Ninh Binh spontaneously. We didn’t know this shuttle service was a part of a tour group at the time, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that we were travelling with a group of tourists who booked different day tours to Ninh Binh.
Hanoi to Trang An Day Tours
Day tours from Hanoi to Ninh Binh are very popular, you can almost book with any travel agent, and choose the highlight attractions that interest you the most.
As we had only booked for a one-way transfer to Trang An, we had the flexibility to alter our itinerary and choose where we wanted to go on the day. Although we went around a few attractions with the shuttle and spent longer than anticipated on the bus, we got to see more than we would have otherwise.
Trang An Grottoes Tour or Tam Coc Boat Tour?
While we missed the Tam Coc boat tour, I felt what many tourists had experienced on tours in Ninh Binh, forced tipping and pushy local operators. It didn’t bother me too much as you could probably understand why they were desperate to make money off of foreigners who were bringing US$ and AU$ into the country. Simply smile, shrug them off and move on.
From what I could see, the landscape of Trang An and Tam Coc was equally unparalleled. No matter which boat tour you choose to go with in the end, you will get a chance to soak in the breathtaking view of Ninh Binh.
What set Trang An Grottoes Tour and Tam Coc Boat Tour apart, was the experience dealing with local operators. Trang An Grottoes Boat Tour was much more customer-focused, and their tour guides focused more on providing customers with a fun and pleasant experience.
Our tour guide of Trang An Boat Tour casually reminded us how hard the boat people worked, but I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything or tip at all. In all honesty, Vietnamese boat people were mostly middle-aged ladies who did work super hard. I couldn’t imagine rowing a boat for 3.5 hours straight myself. So as a nice gesture and a token of appreciation, I was inclined to tip without being forced into doing so. And for that reason, I chose to go with Trang An Grottoes Tour and would recommend it to my friends.
Trang An Grottoes Boat Tour
The Trang An Grottoes Boat took 4 passengers at a time, and there were so many tour groups during peak season that boats had to be rushed off. Life jackets were provided onboard the small boat and you’re encouraged to wear one throughout the entire trip.
I lost count but I think we cruised through nine grottoes altogether. Most of them were quick and short, but two of them left real impressions on me. Those two grottoes were narrow and low, we had to duck our heads a couple of times and it seemed like we were in the caves for a very long time.
Out of curiosity, I asked our tour guide (who happened to be on the same boat as me) how they manage to power the lights that were installed in the grottoes. I didn’t understand his accent fully, but some restorations were man-made. Now, that was quite some achievement!
After exploring the grottoes, we got to the filming locations of Kong. We stopped by a few temples, but didn’t get a whole lot of time to explore, as you would expect on any tour. Finally, we got to the tribal village that appeared in Kong: Skull Island movie, and it was amazing. I felt rushed during this part of the tour and didn’t have enough time to admire the setup and the beauty of this place.
Nonetheless, the Trang An boat tour became one of my highlights in Vietnam. My soul was replenished after only a few hours on the river. The limestone mountains, mysterious grottoes and lotus flowers formed this serene hidden paradise that simply took my breath away. As one of the tourists on the boat exclaimed, “You haven’t been to Vietnam if you haven’t been to Ninh Binh.”
Trang An Boat Tour 3 Travel Tips
Consider hiring a private boat: If I could go back and do the Trang An boat tour again, I would explore the option of hiring a private boat. The tour was very rushed, and I found myself struggling to take good quality photos with groups of tourists crowding over the same spots.
Go early in the morning: I heard if you do the tour early in the morning or later in the evening, there are fewer tourists and you can possibly have the boat to yourself. What’s even better is the water will be calmer in the morning, and so the reflection of the mountains will be extra majestic.
Essentials to bring: If you can’t avoid the midday sun, don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen, bring a hat, and a water bottle. The sun was so fierce during our boat tour, I had to scoop water up from the river with my hand to cool myself down. Even so, I was still dying from dehydration at the end of the boat tour.
There you have it, all the essential information and tips on Trang An boat tour. Hope you’ll have a fantastic time in Ninh Binh and an unforgettable trip in Vietnam! We’d love to hear your travel stories, so don’t be shy to join the conversation in the comments below!
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Have you experienced any tourist traps or forced tipping?