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Ultimate Guide to Tam Coc Boat Tour in Ninh Binh (2023)

June 7, 2023
12 Min Read
Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam
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Ultimate Guide to Tam Coc Boat Tour in Ninh Binh (2023)
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Updated On 
October 27, 2023
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Looking for the most updated information for Tam Coc? 


You’ve come to the right place! Here is a comprehensive guide to the Tam Coc Boat Tour that covers everything you need to know. Find out the ticket prices in 2023, opening hours, how to get to Tam Coc, the best time to visit, where to stay near Tam Coc, and much more! 


Also, don’t miss out on our detailed Tam Coc Boat experience, where we outline what to expect on the tour. Read our top tips on how to avoid the crowds, how much to tip your rowers, and whether the Tam Coc boat tour is a scam!

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Plan your Trip to Tam Coc

If you’re planning to visit Tam Coc last minute, here are the links to hotels, tours, and other services that you can book right away! 

Transportation: Van Transfer, Private Car

Where to Stay: Tam Coc Dibi Villa 

Best Tour from Hanoi: Ninh Binh Full-Day Tour 

Protect yourself from unexpected emergencies. Buy your travel insurance with COVID cover at Heymondo and get 5% off for being our reader!

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Overview of Tam Coc

Tam Coc-Bich Dong in Ninh Binh is a popular tourist destination that takes you on a relaxing boat ride along the Ngo Dong River. One of the highlights of this boat tour is the amazing views of lush rice fields surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs. Tam Cốc also translates to three caves, which you will pass on the boat tour. 


Another symbol of Tam Coc are boat rowers, who use their legs to row. As you glide through the calm waters, you can see the skill and agility of the boatmen as they maneuver the boats effortlessly with their feet. 

A rower rows his boat with his feet, Tam Coc, Vietnam

How to Get to Tam Coc From Hanoi

The famous scenic area of Tam Cốc is located at the center of Ninh Bình Province and is around 2 hours drive from Hanoi. To start your boat tour, buy your tickets at Van Lam Pier by the main gate, and head to the boat dock to board one of the boats.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Here are the best ways to reach Tam Coc from Hanoi: 

Bus: There is a tourist bus that leaves from Hanoi old quarter and stops at Ninh Binh bus station, directly across from the boat dock in Tam Coc. A ticket costs around 6 USD. Book your bus here!

Van: A comfortable option to get to Tam Coc is taking the van that seats from 9 to 11 people. It also stops directly in front of Tam Coc boat station. A ticket costs around 11 USD. Book your van here!

Private Car: Taking a private car from Hanoi is a great choice for families or a group of friends. You can leave whenever you want, and it is convenient. Expect to pay at least 50 USD to book a private car. Book your car here!

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc Boat Tours from Hanoi

You may want to consider taking a day trip from Hanoi if you want a hassle-free way to visit Tam Coc. There are plenty of tours that  include a sampan boat to Tam Coc complex and also includes other highlights in Ninh Binh. 

However, we only recommend it if you’re pressed for time or just want the convenience of having everything taken care of. If not, it's very simple to take the Tam Coc boat ride on your own.

Here are the most popular Tam Coc Tours you can book:

Tam Coc Opening Hours

The Tam Coc boat tour opens daily and sells tickets from 7:30am to 5pm. We recommend getting there not later than 4:30pm just in case. You should set aside at least 2 hours to take the Tam Coc Boat ride. 

Tam Coc Ticket Price

There’s an entrance fee of approximately 5 USD per adult and 3 USD for children. Additionally, you’ll have to pay for your boat ticket and rower. The boat can only carry two foreign guests for about 7 USD, whereas it can accommodate four Vietnamese nationals. 

Tam Coc Boat Tour Price: For two adults to ride on one sampan boat, budget at least 17 USD total.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Best Time to Visit

The boat tour is available all year, but the best time to visit Tam Coc is from April to June


The rice fields will be carpeted in lush green in April, while the harvest season begins in late May to early June. During this time the rice fields turn golden yellow, creating a spectacular landscape alongside the towering karst mountains. 

Read: Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc Boat Route

The Tam Coc boat tour lasts around 1.5 to 2 hours.


There are no stops or temples to visit along the way, but there is a long stretch of rowing along the Ngo Dong River, passing through rice fields and overlooking towering karst mountains. You’ll also be going through three caves.


It is not a loop, but rather you go up and down the same route with a turning point where vendors are selling drinks and snacks. 


Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Our Boat Experience

We visited at the end of May in the afternoon and got on the boat at around 4:30pm. There was no line up, buying entrance tickets was very straightforward, and everything went smoothly. It took us at least 2 hours to complete the boat tour. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam


Once you get to the wharf, staff will direct you to a boat and you will be automatically assigned to a rower waiting. 

Meet our Tam Coc rower. A 63 year old veteran who has been a boat rower in Tam Coc for over 20 years! Despite the language barrier, he was kind and friendly, with a great sense of humor. We enjoyed his company, which made our boat experience better.  

A man rows with his feet in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Weather in May

If you want to see the yellow rice fields in Tam Coc, May is one of the best months to visit. However, keep in mind that the weather can be hot and humid. 

During the week we were there, there was a heat wave, with temperatures reaching 41°C and the midday heat was unbearable. It remained hot throughout the day, even in the early morning and late afternoon.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam


Tam Coc is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ninh Binh, so expect some crowds. Since we visited later in the afternoon, we saw only a few other boats, most of which were returning to shore. The boat ride in Tam Coc was peaceful to say the least, and the views as the sun set were spectacular.

Tip: Avoid crowds by visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam


One of the most common online reviews, particularly on Google Maps, is that the Tam Coc boat trip is a scam. In our experience, this was not the case at all!   

We've read about the boat vendors who hassle you to buy drinks and snacks at the turning point. However, we only encountered one boat near the middle, and the woman on board was polite. We turned it down, but she suggested we buy snacks and drinks for our rower instead, which we agreed to. 

Sure, the prices were higher, but we were more than happy to get our rower a refreshing drink as he rowed us in that heat! He also insisted on sharing the fruit that we'd bought for him. 

Also, we encountered one woman at the beginning of the tour rushing on her boat to take photos of us to print as a souvenir. We quickly showed our own camera and politely declined and she didn’t push. 

We believe it was because we did the tour late in the afternoon, when most of the boat sellers left for the day. Honestly, knowing a little bit of the language and how to say no politely goes a long way.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Giving Tip

The majority of people online also discussed being harassed and being forced by their rowers to give more tips. While everyone's experience varies, our rower couldn't have been more opposite. 

We also asked our rower to stop at various viewpoints along the way, and we agreed on the tip to give him at the end. Even if he hadn't asked, we would have given him tips just for rowing us for that long in that heat!

So, how much should you tip? This all depends on you and what your experience is. We gave our rower 200,000 VND, which is about 9 USD. While your rower may suggest you give them tips, know that you can always politely decline. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc Viewpoints

One of the highlights of the Tam Coc boat tour is the golden yellow rice fields, which are best seen from above. If you don't have a drone, stopping at the viewpoints is the best way to capture Tam Coc's yellow rice fields. 


We mentioned that the Tam Coc boat ride does not have any official stops, but you can plan your own with your rower. Just keep in mind that they may request additional tips if you do.

Here are four viewpoints to see the rice fields in Tam Coc.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Viewpoint 1: Easy Hike

The most accessible viewpoint is right after the first cave on your left. There is a small path with a few dozen steps that are not very high. We didn't stop at this viewpoint because there were people taking photos and it was getting dark on our way back.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Viewpoint 2: Medium Hike

The medium-difficulty viewpoint is located on the left side, just before entering the second cave. You will notice a small entrance to the stairs cut directly into the mountain. The stairs are quite steep and narrow, so keep an eye on your head. When you reach the top, you'll see a small platform with railings.  

Viewpoint 3: Hard Hike

The third viewpoint, which is also located before the second cave but on the right, is the most difficult to reach but also the most beautiful. There is a small karst mountain to climb, and at the bottom is a small building. 

A woman climbs a karst mountain in Tam Coc, Vietnam
A narrow bridge made from wood

When you get to the building, turn right, and you'll see some makeshift bamboo ladders. Climb slowly because the ladder is shaky and some steps are missing. You will also have to climb sharp rocks to get to the top, but the views will be well worth it. 


Tip: Only hike to this viewpoint if you're in good shape and wearing appropriate shoes. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Viewpoint 4: Hang Mua 

Though this one is not particularly part of the boat tour, you can also view the Tam Coc rice fields from Hang Mua viewpoint. Hike up to the dragon statue and you can view the rice fields from above. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Is Tam Coc Worth Visiting?

The Tam Coc boat tour is a popular activity in Ninh Binh Province, but it can get very touristy. While we enjoyed our experience, we think that Tam Coc is only worth visiting if you hike to the viewpoints.


While you can easily enjoy and take photos while on the boat, we believe that seeing the rice fields from above is one of the best things to do in Tam Coc. 

Read: Plan your Trip to Ninh Binh: 2 Day Itinerary

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Trang An or Tam Coc Boat Tour?

Tam Coc and Trang An boat tours both provide spectacular views of Ninh Binh. Choosing which boat tour to go on depends on what you want to see and experience. 


Take the Trang An boat tour if you want to see more caves and temples and the Tam Coc boat tour if you want to see beautiful limestone cliffs and golden rice paddies from May to June. 

If you have the time, we recommend visiting both, but we think the Trang An Boat Tour is more worthwhile for its price and value. 

A boat filled with grass on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Where to Stay Near Tam Coc

Tam Coc is located in the center and there are many accommodations you can choose from. However, we recommend staying a bit further from the main area to enjoy a more peaceful stay.

Here are the most highly rated accommodations close to Tam Coc. 

Where to Eat Near Tam Coc

If you're looking for places to eat near Tam Coc, there are several options to choose from. One popular option is the Family Restaurant, which offers extensive Vietnamese cuisine. 

The restaurant is always busy and for good reason as it has delicious meals for an affordable price. Note that some restaurants nearby have the same or similar name, so check the correct address here.

Tip: We recommend trying out their grilled goat on skewers, which is a specialty in Ninh Binh. The meat was very tender and flavorful. Also try out their roasted duck. 

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

For those who prefer international cuisine, there is the Aroma Indian Restaurant, which serves delicious Indian cuisine for reasonable prices. The restaurant is always busy so we recommend booking a table in advance. 

Other highly rated restaurants in the area include the Father Cooking Restaurant which serves Vietnamese food and the NGON Restaurant for vegan food options. 

A man rows his boat with a stick in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc Boat Tour Tips

Here are our top travel tips for visiting the Tam Coc in Ninh Binh to make the most out of your boat tour. 

Read: 17 Top Tips for First Time Visitors in Vietnam

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

1. Plan your visit for the early morning or late afternoon. To avoid crowds and make the most of your experience, arrive at Tam Coc Boat Tour early in the morning or towards sunset when the tour groups are smaller. 

If you go in the afternoon, aim to start before 4pm so you can still enjoy the light for the duration of your boat tour. We started around 4:30 and it was already getting dark on our way back. 

2. Learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases. To enhance your interactions with the locals and boat rowers.

Boats on a river in Tam Coc, Vietnam

3. Keep some cash handy for tipping. Especially if you intend to hike to the viewpoints. 

4. Stay hydrated. Ninh Binh can get hot and humid, especially during the high tourist season. You can buy your water at the entrance or from locals selling it on their boat for a higher price. 

5. Wear comfortable shoes. If you want to hike to the viewpoints, avoid wearing sandals. Additionally, don’t forget to wear a hat to protect your face and head from direct sunlight.

Where to Next?
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A small boat surounded by islands of limestone, Halong Bay
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Rice fields with mountains in the background in Pu Luong, Vietnam
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And that’s the ultimate guide to the Tam Coc boat tour in Ninh Binh! 

Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything. Plan your perfect Vietnam trip using our comprehensive itineraries. We have a 14-day, 3-week, and one-month Vietnam itinerary designed for first time visitors!

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