Trang An boat rowers resting

How to Get to Ninh Binh From Hanoi, Sapa, Hue, and More

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Ninh Binh is easily reached from all over north and central Vietnam. It’s fairly close to Hanoi, Cat Ba, and Halong Bay – taking only a few hours by bus, train, or taxi. To get to Ninh Binh from places that are farther away, such as Sapa, Hue, and Hoi An, you’ll need to take a sleeper bus or train for the 8+ hour journey.

In figuring out your transportation, it’s important to know that Ninh Binh refers both to Ninh Binh province and Ninh Binh city. Tourist attractions are centered around the towns of Tam Coc and Trang An – not Ninh Binh city. Also, Ninh Binh city isn’t particularly interesting. For those reasons, I recommend staying in either Tam Coc or Trang An instead.

When booking bus tickets, it’s better to enter your destination as “Tam Coc” or “Trang An,” so you can find a bus operator that drops you off as close as possible to where you’re staying. Be sure to also double check where the exact drop-off location will be.

With that in mind, here are directions on how to get to Ninh Binh from areas in north and central Vietnam and how you can book your travel.

From Hanoi


Travel time: 2 – 3 hours

Cost: $7 – 10 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

To go from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, taking the bus (in some cases, it’s actually a minivan) is one of the best options in terms of cost and convenience. It’s such a popular route that buses leave nearly every 15 to 30 minutes, making Ninh Binh a great day trip. Even if you don’t book ahead, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a ride.

Every bus company has its own pick-up and drop-off points in Hanoi and Ninh Binh. When booking, you should always confirm this information. Some companies may offer to pick you up at your accommodation at no extra charge. If it’s offered, take advantage of it. Unfortunately, it’s pretty rare that they’ll also drop you off at your accommodation, so you’ll need to figure out how to get there. Don’t worry – you can use the Grab app to order a mototaxi or taxi that’ll take you to your final destination.


Travel time: 2.5 hours

Cost: $3 – 10 USD

How to book: Vietnam Railways, 12Go.Asia, ask your accommodation, or buy your ticket at the train station.

The train isn’t usually cheaper than taking the bus. But in this case, it can be. Booking a train ticket on the Vietnam Railways website or buying your ticket in-person at the Hanoi railway station can be as little as $3 to $5 USD, depending on the type of seat you choose. Soft seats are the cheapest, while a bed in a sleeper cabin is more expensive. Given how short the travel time to Ninh Binh is, there’s no need to get a bed. And yes, there’s air conditioning.

The Hanoi train station is in the city center, so you might be able to walk there, depending on where you’re coming from. Similarly, the Ninh Binh train station is in the center of Ninh Binh city. However, if you’re staying in Tam Coc or Trang An, you’ll need to take a mototaxi or taxi for the last several kilometers of your journey.


Travel time: 1.5 hours

Cost: $42 – 80 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

The distance from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is around 94 km, or a 1.5 hour drive when you travel by car. While you’ll save 30 minutes to an hour from your travel, you’ll pay 10 times the price of taking a bus or train. Taking a taxi only makes sense if you’re traveling with others and can split the cost.

From Sapa


Travel time: 8 – 9 hours

Cost: $12 – 33 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

It’s a long bus ride from Sapa to Ninh Binh, which means you’ll be taking a sleeper bus even if you’re traveling during the day. Buses leave as early as 6 AM, and you’ll arrive in Ninh Binh around 2 or 3 PM. A better option, in my opinion, is to take an overnight bus so you don’t lose a day to travel. You would leave around 9 or 10 PM and get to Ninh Binh by 6 or 7 AM.


Travel time: 6.5 hours

Cost: $200+ USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

It’s roughly 406 km from Sapa to Ninh Binh. For such a long distance, you’re going to pay a lot for your own private car – over $200 USD. Although taking a taxi is much faster, it’s not going to be the best option for most people due to the high price.

From Halong Bay


Travel time: 3- 4 hours

Cost: $8 – 18 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

Taking the bus is the best option when going from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh. It’s also your only public transportation option, since there’s no direct train between Halong city and Ninh Binh. If you are dead set on the train, you could take it from Halong to Hanoi and then transfer to the train that goes from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. It doesn’t make sense to backtrack though, so I won’t be covering this route.

The bus provides a pretty fast ride at an affordable cost, and they run frequently between 5:20 AM and 6 PM.


Travel time: 3 hours

Cost: $84 – 100 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

You won’t be saving much time when taking a taxi from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh, and you certainly won’t be saving any money. But if you’re traveling with a group, this could be the easier option for getting everyone to your destination.

Arch entrance to Tam Coc lit up in the evening

From Cat Ba


Travel time: 4 – 4.5 hours

Cost: $12 – 13 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

If you’re going to Ninh Binh from Cat Ba, your only transport option is the bus. Even though you don’t have a choice, taking the bus is comfortable, affordable, and convenient. Your ticket includes the ferry ride back to the mainland.

When I took the bus, we drove straight onto a large ship that held other cars and buses. Onboard, we were able to get off the bus, walk around, and use the bathroom. There are also vendors on the boat who you can buy snacks from.

From Hue


Travel time: 11 – 12.5 hours

Cost: $15 – 25 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

Overnight sleeper buses are the only bus option for making the long trip from Hue to Ninh Binh. The first bus leaves at 3 PM and reaches Ninh Binh at 2 AM. It’s a weird time to arrive, so I recommend taking one of the later buses that leave at 5 PM and arrive around 4:30 AM. You’re still getting there at a ridiculously early time, but at least you’ll have slept through the night and be ready for a coffee to start your day.

The regular sleeper bus isn’t particularly comfortable, especially for taller people. If you’re able to book a luxury or VIP sleeper bus for a little more, it’s a much nicer experience. You’ll have a curtain to give you some privacy, fluffier blankets, charging sockets (although sometimes they don’t work), and more room.


Travel time: 12 – 13 hours

Cost: $19 – 145 USD

How to book: Vietnam Railways, Lotus Train, Laman Express, 12Go.Asia, or ask your accommodation.

In most cases, there isn’t a huge difference between taking the bus or train. But when you’re going from Hue to Ninh Binh, the train can offer a much more comfortable ride than the bus. And given how long the journey is, you might want to choose the train.

Pricing varies widely, depending on the train and seat you select.

Vietnam Railways

Vietnam Railways, which is the country’s state-owned railway operator, offers no-frills service for the cheapest tickets. Soft seats in air-conditioned cars usually cost between 400,000 – 600,000 VND ($16 – 25 USD). However, for roughly 550,000 to 950,000 VND ($23 – 40 USD), you can get a bed in a sleeper car. Six-bed sleeper cars and top beds are the cheapest, while four-bed sleeper cars and bottom beds are the most expensive. During holidays, prices go up and beds quickly get filled.

Lotus Train

For a more luxurious train ride, Lotus Train is a deluxe tourist train. All seats are beds – either in a four-bed or two-bed cabin. The cabins and bathrooms are spacious and clean, and the train has free wifi and complimentary snacks and drinks. It’s a serious upgrade from Vietnam Railways, which doesn’t provide anything more than a bed. But you’re going to pay the price. It’s 1,600,000 VND ($66.43 USD) for a spot in a four-bed cabin and 3,100,000 VND ($128.71 USD) for a two-bed cabin.

Also note that Lotus Train only runs one train each day. It departs at 8:40 PM and arrives in Ninh Binh at 9 AM.

Laman Express

Laman Express also operates a nicer train that’s similar to Lotus Train. They offer four-bed and two-bed cabins, free wifi, and complimentary snacks and drinks. Ticket prices are about the same as Lotus Train. There’s only one train a day, departing at 8:54 PM and arriving at 9:20 AM.

Currently, you can’t buy a ticket on their website, so you’ll need to email them at or purchase through 12Go.Asia.

From Hoi An


Travel time: 11.5 – 16 hours

Cost: $19 – 25 USD

How to book: 12Go.Asia or ask your accommodation.

While I would never go directly from Hoi An to Ninh Binh because of how long it takes, it’s possible as long as you don’t mind traveling for up to 16 hours. Given you’re covering 719 km, the bus is incredibly cheap, even if you book a VIP bus (which I recommend doing in this case).

Although buses leave as early as noon, it’s better to leave between 8 and 8:30 PM so you can arrive at a reasonable time. Instead of reaching Ninh Binh at 3 AM, you’ll get there at 9 AM – the perfect time to drop your bags off at your accommodation and go for breakfast.

For long-distance trips like this, it’s always a bit of a gamble as to how many restroom stops the driver will make since there aren’t bathrooms on the buses. The good news is there will be at least one. The bad news – there may not be more. So always go to the bathroom when you have the chance.

Train + taxi

Travel time: 14.5 – 15.5 hours

Cost: $20 – 153 USD + cost to get to Da Nang railway station

How to book: Vietnam Railways, Lotus Train, Laman Express, 12Go.Asia, or ask your accommodation.

Although it’ll cost you more, the better option for getting from Hoi An to Ninh Binh is the train. It’s a bit more comfortable and you have bathrooms on board (buses do not). How much you’ll pay is dependent on the type of train and seat you select. See my breakdown of how Vietnam Railways, Lotus Train, and Laman Express compare above to get a sense of the different price points.

Hoi An doesn’t have its own train station, so you actually need to make your way to the Da Nang railway station to catch your train. Hoi An and Da Nang are only 30 minutes apart, so you can use the Grab app to hail a mototaxi or taxi to take you to the train station.

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