Everything you need to know on how to experience an unforgettable Tam Coc boat tour in Vietnam.
Get ready for an unforgettable adventure on the water as you embark on a Tam Coc boat tour. Located in Vietnam, South East Asia, Tam Coc is often referred to as “Halong Bay on land” due to its breath-taking limestone karsts and picturesque landscapes.
Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of this stunning destination as you cruise along the Ngo Dong River, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush greenery. Marvel at the natural wonders that unfold before your eyes, with each turn revealing a new and awe-inspiring vista.
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Experience a unique contrast between serenity and excitement as you navigate through caves and explore hidden grottoes. The rhythmic paddling of your boat adds to the charm, creating a sense of connection with nature that is truly unparalleled.
Read on to see our personal recommendations and discover why a Tam Coc boat tour in this enchanting destination has captivated travellers from around the world.
Please Note: All prices are quoted in the local currency – VND (Vietnamese Dong). To easily convert prices to your currency, we use xe Currency Converter.
Convert VND to your currency with xe Currency Convertor here
What to Expect on a Tam Coc Boat Tour
Get ready for an unforgettable experience filled with natural wonders and cultural immersion. From marvelling at limestone karsts and caves to gliding through rice paddies, this tour offers a unique perspective on the beauty of Vietnam.
Marvel at the Stunning Limestone Karsts
Prepare to be awestruck by the stunning limestone karsts that dot the landscape along the Ngo Dong River. As you cruise along in your traditional rowboat, these towering formations will surround you, creating a picturesque scene straight out of a postcard. The sheer size and grandeur of these karsts are truly captivating, leaving you in awe of nature’s beauty.
Glide Through Grottos / Caves
Beneath these magnificent karsts lie hidden caves waiting to be explored. Tam Coc actually means ‘three caves’ and your boat will glide through these narrow cave passages, revealing mesmerizing rock formations and intricate stalactites hanging from above. The play of light and shadows adds an ethereal touch to this underground world.
Our visit was at the end of September and we had three days of very heavy rain prior to our Tam Coc boat tour. As a result, we could only visit Cave 1 (Hang Ca) which is 127 metres long, and Cave 2 (Hang Hai) measuring 60 metres in length. Even in Cave 2, we had to lie as flat as would could in the boat so we didn’t bump our heads! Unfortunately, there was not enough height for the boats to go into Cave 3.
Meander Through Rice Paddies and Witness Local Rural Life Up Close
As you navigate through the waterways of Tam Coc, prepare yourself for a journey into rural Vietnam. The boat tour takes you through vast stretches of lush green rice paddies that extend as far as the eye can see. This is not just a visual treat but also an opportunity to witness local people and farmers tending to their crops.
You’ll catch glimpses of farmers working diligently in their conical hats, knee-deep in muddy water as they plant or harvest rice. It’s a chance to appreciate their hard work and understand their way of life intimately. You might even have a chance to interact with them, exchanging smiles and greetings as you pass by. This close encounter with local rural life is an enriching experience that will leave a lasting impression.
They Row the Boat With Their Feet
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Tam Coc boat tour is encountering the skilled locals who row their boats using their feet, a traditional technique. This unique technique, known as “foot rowing,” has been passed down through generations and is still practiced today.
Tam Coc Boat Tour Options: Organised vs Independent
When planning your Tam Coc boat tour, there a range of options and itineraries to suit your preferences. Whether you’re looking for an organised full-day adventure, or would rather travel to Tam Coc independently and book yourself, there’s something for everyone.
Tam Coc Boat Tour: Organised Tours
One of the most common ways to do a Tam Coc Bat Tour is by booking an organised day tour either from Hanoi or while staying in Tam Coc. Here are our tip picks and you can click on any of the links for the latest Tam Coc Boat Tours reviews!
Tam Coc Boat Tour: Independent Tours
During this latest trip to Vietnam, we decided we wanted to spend one week in Tam Coc so we had the time to explore the area more fully. Our hotel was a short walk to the boat terminal, so we organised our own Tam Coc boat tour. We have outlined below how we did it, and any other essential information to ensure a memorable experience.
How to Get to Tam Coc + Tam Coc Boat Tour Location
Located in Ninh Binh province, just 100 kilometres south of Hanoi, the stunning destination of Tam Coc is easily accessible by various transportation options.
Top Tip: Our go-to site for booking transportation on-line in Asia is 12Go.Asia. They have all transport services covered including vans, buses taxis, trains and ferries.
By booking with 12.Go Asia you can read the reviews and see what other travellers have said about their journey with different companies. Once you have booked your ticket through their website, they will email you a copy of your booking. It’s super easy!
Bus or Train: Convenient and Frequent Departures
One of the most common ways to reach Tam Coc is by bus or train from Hanoi. Both options offer convenience and frequent departures throughout the day.
- Bus: Hop on a bus from Hanoi’s Giap Bat or My Dinh bus station, and you’ll be on your way to Ninh Binh in no time. The journey takes around two to three hours, depending on traffic conditions. Numerous bus companies operate this route, providing travellers with flexibility in terms of departure times.
- Train: If you prefer a more relaxed mode of transportation, taking the train is a great option. Trains departing from Hanoi’s main railway station will take you directly to Ninh Binh within two hours. From there, you can get a normal taxi or book a GRAB taxi for the short 10 minute ride to Tam Loc. With multiple departures daily, you can easily find a suitable train schedule that fits your itinerary.
Private Transfer: Convenience at Your Fingertips
For those seeking a more convenient travel option, a greater level of comfort or wanting greater flexibility during their trip, a private transfer is an excellent choice. Paying a driver allows you to have control over your schedule and, in addition, the door-to-door service eliminates the need to transfer between different modes of transportation.
We investigated pricing of transportation costs from Hanoi old quarter to Tam Coc, and decided on booking a driver through our Tam Coc hotel. We only paid an extra AUD15 for both of us (not each) as opposed to a Limousine Bus. This is one our top tips for travelling to Vietnam – always ask your hotel for pricing on private transfers as they are often very well priced!
Tam Coc Boat Tour Opening Hours
Tam Coc boat tours run from 8:00am – 6:00 pm daily, no matter if it is raining or not. We highly recommend taking the tour either early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the heat of the midday sun.
The boat tour takes approximately 2 hour.
Tam Coc Boat Tour Price
When you arrive at the Tam Coc boat station which is right in the centre of town, you will need to go to the ticket office. Here the prices of the boat tour are clearly advertised.
Sightseeing Entrance Fee
- Adults: 120,000VND / person
- Children (Under 1.4 metres): 60,000VND / person
Boat Ride Fee: 150,000VND TOTAL
- N.B. For foreigners, this is for 2 guests per boat, and for Vietnamese, this is for 4 guests per boat
TOTAL TAM COC BOAT RIDE PRICE FOR THE 2 OF US: 390,000VND
Tipping and Other Costs
It’s important to note that while it is not mandatory, it is greatly appreciated for excellent service. The tour guides and boat rowers work hard to ensure you have a memorable experience i.e. take photos of you and point out things along the way such as goats on the mountain edge, birds etc. So if you feel they have gone above and beyond, a small tip can go a long way in showing your appreciation. We were told 50,000VND was fair per person.
The only other cost for you would be any snacks or drinks you might like for the trip which you can pick up at the various mini marts near the entrance. We highly recommend taking water as it can get very hot!
What to Bring on a Tam Coc Boat Tour
There are a few essential items we highly recommend to make your trip as comfortable as possible.
- Opt for comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely and won’t restrict your movements during the tour. Choose lightweight and breathable fabrics that will keep you cool in the Vietnamese heat.
- You will not be doing any walking, however, choose practical shoes for getting on and off the boat which will be wobbly with an uneven surface.
- The weather in Tam Coc can be quite hot, especially during peak tourist seasons. To protect yourself from the scorching sun, make sure to pack essential items such as sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and insect repellent as there are mosquitoes.
- A camera, smartphone or GoPro for capturing the amazing views of limestone karsts, lush greenery, and serene waterways.
- It gets really hot so we recommend taking along some water and snacks if you think you like.
- If, like us, you travel in the wet season, you will DEFINITELY need wet-weather gear such as a raincoat and umbrella, plus plastic bags or waterproof housing for your cameras etc.
- Top Tip: We suggest you take an umbrella, no matter the weather, as even if it sunny, it will provide some much needed shade to keep you just a little but cooler!
Best Time of Year to Visit Tam Coc for Boat Tours
If you’re planning a boat tour in Tam Coc, it’s essential to choose the right time of year to ensure an enjoyable experience. The weather and crowd levels can greatly impact your enjoyment, so let’s explore the best time to visit.
Plan Your Visit During the Dry Season
The dry season, which spans from November to April, is considered the best time to visit Tam Coc for boat tours. During this period, you can expect pleasant temperatures and minimal rainfall, creating ideal conditions for exploring the stunning limestone karsts and winding rivers.
- The dry season offers clear skies and sunny days, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural beauty of Tam Coc.
- With less chance of rain, boat tours are less likely to be cancelled or disrupted due to weather conditions.
- The comfortable temperatures make it easier to spend extended periods on the water without feeling uncomfortable or overheated.
- As this is peak tourist season in Tam Coc, you can expect larger crowds at popular attractions. It’s advisable to book your boat tour in advance or arrive early in the day to avoid long queues.
- Accommodation prices may be higher during this period due to increased demand. Consider booking your stay well in advance or exploring alternative options such as homestays or guesthouses.
Avoid Visiting During the Rainy Season
While visiting Tam Coc during the rainy season (May to October) may seem tempting due to lower prices and fewer tourists, it’s important to note that heavy rainfall can significantly impact your boat tour experience.
- This is low season in Tam Coc so there will be fewer tourists and crowds.
- The price of accommodation will also be lower due to it being the low season.
- May to June is the perfect time to see the rice plants in full bloom.
- The rainy season typically lasts from May until October, with June through August being particularly wet months. During this time, frequent downpours and thunderstorms are common occurrences.
- Heavy rainfall can lead to high water levels in the rivers and caves of Tam Coc, making it unsafe or impossible to navigate certain areas by boat.
- The unpredictable weather during the rainy season can result in last-minute tour cancellations and limited visibility due to fog or mist.
Consider Visiting in Spring (March to May) or Autumn (September to November)
If you’re looking for a balance between favourable weather conditions and manageable crowd levels, consider planning your boat tour in Tam Coc during the spring or autumn months.
- Spring, from March to May, offers mild temperatures and blooming landscapes.
Best Time to See the Rice During Harvest Season
The best time to see the Tam Coc rice fields is either during the months of January and February when the rice paddies are green and lush, and May to June (harvest season). The harvest season is when the rice fields are a vibrant yellow colour with the rice plants in full bloom.
Practical Tips for a Memorable Tam Coc Boat Tour
Here are our top tips / recommendations to make your Tam Coc boat ride truly memorable.
➡️ Arrive Early or Late in the Afternoon: By getting there when they open or late in the afternoon, you can avoid long queues and enjoy the beautiful scenery without lots of other tourists. Also, this is a great time to avoid the midday heat.
➡️ Take Water: The hot sun can quickly dehydrate you, so keep sipping on water to keep yourself refreshed.
➡️ Immerse Yourself in Nature: As you glide along the serene waters on your boat ride, take a moment to soak in the natural beauty around you. The limestone karsts rising majestically from the emerald-green rice fields create a breathtaking backdrop that will leave you in awe. Enjoy this tranquil environment by taking deep breaths of fresh air and appreciating nature’s wonders.
➡️ Capture Memories: Don’t forget to bring your camera, smartphone or GoPro to capture those picture-perfect moments during your boat trip.
➡️ Keep An Eye Out for Wildlife: Tam Coc is not only known for its scenic beauty but also for its diverse wildlife. Keep an eye out for birds, butterflies, and other creatures that call this place home. Our favourites were the goats on the edge of mountain ridges and watching them traverse the rocks.
➡️ Take an Umbrella: No matter if there is sunshine or rain, an umbrella will be very useful!
Where to Stay in Tam Coc
If you’re planning a visit to Tam Coc, you’ll be pleased to know that there are various accommodation options available in the area from hotels and guesthouses to homestays.
Range of Accommodations
Tam Coc village offers a range of accommodations for visitors. Whether you’re looking for luxury or budget-friendly options, there’s something for everyone. Hotels in Tam Coc provide comfortable rooms with amenities such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and on-site restaurants. Guesthouses offer a more intimate experience with cosy rooms and personalized service.
For those seeking an authentic local experience, homestays are a popular choice. These accommodations allow you to stay with a local family and experience their way of life first-hand. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy traditional meals, learn about the culture, and even participate in activities like farming or cooking classes.
Best Tam Coc Hotels and Accommodation Options
If you prefer more accommodation options, consider checking out Ninh Binh city or Trang An.
Overnight Stay Benefits: We Recommend a 3 Night Stay
While many tourists choose to take a day trip to Tam Coc from nearby cities like Hanoi, staying overnight has its advantages. By spending at least one night in Tam Coc, you will have an opportunity to witness the stunning sunrise over the limestone karsts without rushing through your boat tour. The tranquil atmosphere during early morning hours adds an extra touch of magic to your experience.
Staying at least one night also gives you more time to explore all that Tam Coc has to offer. You can take leisurely walks along the countryside paths, rent bicycles or motorbikes for further exploration or simply relax by the riverbank while enjoying the picturesque scenery. Whatever you do, don’t miss the hike up Hang Mua Peak for panoramic views of Tam Coc’s picturesque landscape.
Explore Nearby Areas
Tam Coc is a convenient base for exploring other attractions in the area including the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, Ah Tien Cave, Mua Cave, doing a Trang An boat trip, seeing the Bich Dong Pagoda, and witnessing the beauty of the Bai Dinh Pagoda.
Alternative to a Tam Coc Boat Tour
If you’re looking to explore more than just Tam Coc, another popular boat tour destination near the area is Trang An. This scenic location offers a unique experience with limestone karsts and caves, but with different landscapes compared to Tam Coc.
Tam Coc or Trang An Boat Tour?
Tam Coc and Trang An are two popular destinations in Vietnam that offer boat tours to explore their stunning landscapes. While both places provide unique experiences, there are some notable differences between them.
One of the main distinctions between a Trang An or Tam Coc boat tour lies in the type of scenery they offer. Tam Coc is famous for its picturesque rice paddies with views of lush green fields and towering limestone karsts. On the other hand, in addition to rice fields, the limestone karsts in Trang An are taller and more imposing. The sheer size of these karsts adds to the grandeur of the scenery as you cruise along the labyrinthine network of waterways.
While Tam Coc is famous for its rice paddies and three caves, Trang An boasts a larger complex of caves that you can explore during your boat tour. These caves are not only breath-taking but also hold historical significance as they were used as filming locations for movies like “Kong: Skull Island.”
Another factor to consider when choosing between Tam Coc and Trang An is the number of tourists visiting each place. Trang An tends to attract larger crowds due to its popularity among travellers. It can get very busy during peak seasons, especially on weekends or holidays.
If you are someone who likes a mix of nature and history, Trang An will be the better option as it has quite a few stops at various pagodas / spiritual places (depending on which route you pick). You can explore the beautiful temples and learn about the history of the various Dynasty’s.
Also, the Tam Coc boat tour is approximately 2 hours long and you do not have the opportunity to get off the boat at any time. Trang La on the other hand, has designated stops along the way where you can stretch your legs and explore.
In contrast, Tam Coc offers a more tranquil experience with fewer tourists (be warned: there will still be a lot!). If you prefer a quieter atmosphere where you can immerse yourself in nature without feeling crowded, Tam Coc might be the better choice for you.
Personally, we preferred out Tam Coc boat tour more as it felt less ‘touristy’ and we had the whole boat to ourselves. However, we did not get the ‘true’ Trang An experience either due to not being able to go into any of the caves due to the amount of rain they had experienced in the days leading up to our tour.
FAQs: Tam Coc Boat Tours
How long is the boat ride in Tam Coc?
The boat ride in Tam Coc typically lasts around 2 hours, allowing visitors to explore the stunning limestone karsts and scenic landscapes.
Can I bring my own food and drinks on a Tam Coc boat tour?
Yes, you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks on a Tam Coc boat tour. However, please be mindful of keeping the area clean and disposing of any waste properly.
Are life jackets provided during the boat tour?
Yes, life jackets are provided for all passengers during the boat tour. Your safety is a top priority, so make sure to wear them throughout the duration of the tour.
Is it necessary to book a boat tour in advance?
While it is not mandatory to book a boat tour in advance, it is highly recommended especially during peak tourist seasons. Booking in advance ensures availability and allows you to secure preferred time slots.
Can I bring my camera or phone on the boat tour?
Yes! Bringing your camera or phone is highly encouraged as there will be plenty of picturesque moments to capture during the boat tour. Just make sure to keep them secure and protected from water.
Are there any age restrictions for the Tam Coc boat tour?
There are no strict age restrictions for the Tam Coc boat tour. However, please note that young children should be supervised at all times to ensure their safety on the boats.
Is it better to stay in Tam Coc or Trang An?
It depends on personal preferences. Tam Coc has a wider range of accommodations, restaurants and activities, while Trang An offers a more relaxed and rural atmosphere.
What river is in Tam Coc?
The Ngo Dong River flows through Tam Coc, a popular tourist destination in Vietnam known for its stunning limestone karst formations.
What is Tam Coc in english?
Tam Coc, also known as “Three Caves,” is a scenic area in Vietnam where you can take a boat ride through limestone caves and amazing landscapes.
In Summary: Tam Coc Boat Tours
A Tam Coc boat tour is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Vietnam. This tour offers a unique and breath-taking experience as you cruise along the Ngo Dong River, surrounded by stunning limestone karsts and lush greenery.
Whether you choose to do an organised tour, or stay in Tam Loc and do it independently, this memorable and postcard-worthy scene will leave you in awe.
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