3-weeks in Vietnam the perfect itinerary from north to south

VISA | Vietnam requires a visa for citizens of certain countries. Make sure to check the visa requirements on ivisa.com for your nationality before you go.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Consider getting travel insurance from Heymondo when backpacking Vietnam. It’s our top recommendation for comprehensive and trustworthy coverage. Get 5% OFF through our link.

STAY CONNECTED | Buy a SIM CARD at the airport the moment you arrive or get an E-sim with Airalo to secure reliable internet access in advance.

HOW TO GET THERE | Discover the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner

GET AROUND | For the ultimate convenience and hassle-free travel in cities, we highly recommend the Grab App

ACCOMMODATION | Browse Booking.com to discover budget-friendly hostels and hotels.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | For booking the best & cheapest city tours and day trip excursions, check out GetYourGuide or Viator.

TRANSFERS | Ready to travel to your next destination in Vietnam? Book your bus or train tickets via 12go.

Experience limestone mountains, expansive rice fields, and quaint riverboat rides in Ninh Binh Tam Coc on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

For those considering venturing beyond Ninh Binh, our Vietnam Travel Tips provide a comprehensive overview of the best times to explore different destinations across the country.

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Serene escape into the countryside of Vietnam, the town of Tam Coc in Ninh Binh
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Trang An Boat Tour through the scenic waterways of Ninh Binh in Vietnam
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All the essential Vietnam travel tips & practical Information you need

Once there, treat yourself to a delightful afternoon at one of the local cafes. Personally, we highly recommend The Green House Café, situated near the water and boasting stunning pagoda views. Sip on a refreshing cold brew or tea as you take in the serene surroundings.

After working up an appetite, indulge in the best deconstructed Banh Mi steak at Bánh Mì Giòn. Trust us, it’s one of the culinary highlights of our Vietnam trip!

Bai Dinh Pagoda, expansive temple complex in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Picture by Samuel Bau via Unsplash
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Picture by Yana Marudova via Unsplash
Scenic landscapes of Ninh Binh & Tam Coc in Vietnam
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Spend the night amidst Ninh Binh’s Scenic landscapes in Tam Coc area, Vietnam

During our stay, we chose the beautiful HaLi Home property, where panoramic mountain views greeted us each morning. Picture waking up in a cozy bungalow, overlooking a serene lake dotted with lotus blooms. Savoring Vietnamese coffee on the balcony, surrounded by serene surroundings and epic scenery, was sheer bliss.

Nestled in a peaceful corner of Ninh Binh, HaLi Home offers the perfect blend of tranquility and convenience. While secluded enough to provide a peaceful retreat, it’s still within easy reach of all major attractions, serving as an ideal base for exploration.

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Hali Home Accommodation in Ninh Binh on your 3-week vietnam itinerary

The stunning Tam Coc Garden Resort is located right within the serene beauty of paddy fields and verdant landscapes, offering a tranquil escape. Its inviting outdoor pool and cozy rooms with private terraces provide guests with beautiful views of the surrounding gardens or mountains. Guests can enjoy the charm of wooden bungalows, picturesque lotus ponds, and flourishing organic vegetable gardens. The accommodating staff is readily available to assist with various services, including luggage storage, laundry, and ironing. Additionally, guests can freely explore the area with complimentary bike rentals and indulge in a delightful dining experience at the on-site restaurant, offering a blend of Vietnamese and Western cuisine.

Even for budget-conscious travelers seeking a touch of something special, ChezCao Ecolodge is an absolutely stunning option. Guests can bask in the pool with a view and the surrounding garden with a sun terrace for relaxation. Indulge in an extensive a la carte breakfast featuring local specialties and pancakes each morning. The homestay boasts an on-site traditional restaurant, coffee shop, and bar. Free bikes are available for those who want to explore the town or venture into the surroundings.

Nestled near Mua Cave, this hidden gem provides comfort, cleanliness, and grounds brimming with butterflies, orchids, and homegrown veggies, accompanied by friendly dogs. The cute bungalows of Hali Home, situated amidst rice paddy fields at the base of a massive limestone cliff, offer panoramic views straight from your room. Although the rooms are simple, they provide comfort and cleanliness. Located in a peaceful corner of Tam Coc, it remains conveniently close to all major attractions. The stay includes free bikes for discovering nearby natural wonders, and the super-friendly owners go the extra mile to make you feel at home.

A lively and social hostel surrounded by lush nature, conveniently located near the main attractions and mountainous rural landscape of Ninh Binh. Equipped with bikes, it’s the ideal base to explore the area. The Banana Tree Hostel features an on-site bar and restaurant, along with pool tables and a swimming pool for a refreshing cool down after a day of exploration.

 
Lunch with a view in Ninh Binh Tam Coc in Vietnam

You will find plenty of cozy and delicious places to eat while biking around Tam Coc & Ninh Binh area. Just in case you get hungry pin the following ones on Google Maps when you need to find something quick.

  • Bánh Mì Giòn – Try their Vietnamese beef steak banh mi, a culinary masterpiece resembling a deconstructed banh mi, undoubtedly one of the highlights of our journey!
  • Tôm Bôp Bar – Indulge in mouthwatering burgers and egg coffee.
  • Nam Coffee Beer Garden – A picturesque venue to savor coconut coffee and stunning views amidst lotus flower ponds.
  • Nhật linh – Fresh and delicious spring rolls and papaya salad within a natural setting, with the added charm of a cozy atmosphere in the evening.
  • Minh Quan Restaurant – the perfect place to enjoy lunch with a view amid your biking adventures.
  • Banh mi Hanoi – Delicious food for good prices. Big variety! Besides a quick Banh Mi snack they also have classics like Pho Bo and spring rolls, but even smoothie bowls and yoghurt ice coffee.
How to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi in Vietnam

Opting for a shared van means sharing a ride with fellow travelers in a comfortable van, typically accommodating 10 to 15 passengers. With multiple departure times throughout the day, this is an economical choice for reaching Ninh Binh.

Booking can be done online or through your hotel, costing around $5 – $10 USD per person. Shared vans provide door-to-door service, picking up passengers directly from their hotels in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and dropping them off at their accommodations in Ninh Binh or Tam Coc. They offer amenities like leather seats, AC, water, and USB chargers, ensuring a pleasant journey to Tam Coc or Ninh Binh. This is our preferred mode of transportation in Vietnam overall.

Alternatively, travelers can opt for buses departing from Hanoi’s bus station to Ninh Binh. Although slightly cheaper than shared vans, buses require boarding at the station and typically drop passengers off in Ninh Binh rather than Tam Coc. From Ninh Binh, additional transportation arrangements to Tam Coc may be necessary. Bus tickets, ranging from $4 – $6 USD per person, can be booked online or at the station.

For a scenic journey and to avoid Hanoi’s traffic, taking a train to Ninh Binh is an option. The train ride from Hanoi Train Station to Ninh Binh Station lasts approximately 2.5 hours, with ticket prices varying based on train type and class. Booking train tickets online in advance, especially during peak seasons and holidays, is advisable. Upon arrival in Ninh Binh, local taxis or mototaxis can transport travelers to Tam Coc or Trang An for around 50,000 dong.

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Travelers seeking convenience and flexibility, especially groups of three or more, may consider booking a private taxi. Hotels can assist in arranging private taxis, offering a comfortable air-conditioned ride from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. This option allows for customized itineraries and exploration of Ninh Binh’s attractions at your own pace. However, note that this service does not include a tour guide.

For those short on time or seeking hassle-free travel, guided tours from Hanoi to Tam Coc and Ninh Binh are ideal. These tours cover various attractions, providing travelers with a comprehensive overview of the region. Day tours offer opportunities to explore Ninh Binh’s highlights, leaving visitors with a desire to return and delve deeper into the area’s beauty.

For those concluding a multiple-day boat cruise in Ha Long Bay, most overnight boat journeys wrap up around noon. To seamlessly transition to your next destination, we recommend pre-booking a minivan through 12go to reach Ninh Binh in the afternoon. The commute typically takes only 2-3 hours, and they conveniently drop you off at your accommodation.

How to get to Ninh Binh / Tam Coc from Hue

The distance from Ninh Binh to Hue is considerable, spanning approximately 11 hours of travel time. To maximize your Vietnam itinerary and minimize accommodation expenses, overnight transportation is recommended. Both trains and sleeper buses offer options for this journey. For longer distances, trains are preferred for their comfort, while buses are suitable for budget-conscious travelers or shorter trips, such as from Hanoi.

We opted for the sleeper train via 12go and were pleasantly surprised by the experience. It proved to be the most cost-effective choice, boasting cleanliness and punctuality. Booking at least two weeks in advance is essential, particularly during peak seasons when availability is limited. Prices range from $20 to $70 depending on the train type and sleeper class.

For travelers coming from Hoi An, a journey to Da Nang is necessary before boarding the train, which typically takes around 14-16 hours to reach Ninh Binh.

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How to stay safe in Vietnam while traveling the country

Heymondo, a recommended provider, offers comprehensive coverage and flexible monthly plans. Their user-friendly app simplifies policy management and communication, even through WhatsApp. Coverage includes Emergency Medical Assistance, insurance for stolen or damaged luggage, Travel Disruption coverage, and Trip Cancellation Coverage. Heymondo also provides additional coverage for items like electronic equipment and adventure sports at an extra cost. 

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TRANSPORTATION | For booking ferry, bus, and train rides online, we recommend using the website 12go. This platform has been our go-to across Asia, saving us from the hassle of queuing at travel agencies or bus stations. If you’re traveling during peak season, consider booking tickets ahead, some routes in Vietnam can get booked out quickly.

ACCOMMODATION | Finding affordable places to stay in Vietnam is a breeze with Booking.com. It’s the ideal platform to discover budget-friendly hostels and hotels.

FLIGHTS | Discover the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner. We love that they highlight the days with the cheapest prices for a destination, and the ability to search by month or region for flexibility.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | When it comes to travel insurance, especially for backpacking in Vietnam, consider Heymondo. It’s our top recommendation for comprehensive and trustworthy coverage.

INTERNET | Secure reliable internet access for your Vietnam trip with Airalo. Simply install it on your eSIM-compatible smartphone before your journey.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | For the best and most affordable city tours, day trip excursions, food tours, and cooking classes in Vietnam, check out  GetYourGuide or Viator.

VISA ORGANIZATION | Before your trip, ensure you check the visa requirements for your passport nationality. Explore details on travel documents at iVisa.com.

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