Tam Coc – A Nice Getaway from the Hustle and Bustle of Hanoi

If you’re staying in Hanoi for a little while, you’re going to be craving for some wide open green space. Luckily, Vietnam still has a lot of natural unspoiled scenery in Southeast Asia. And you’ll find that little slice of heaven at Tam Coc’s Ngo Dong River.

Tam Coc is located about 2 and 1/2 hours drive from Hanoi’s old quarters. And it’s typically packaged in a tour with a visit to Vietnam’s ancient capital Hoa Lu.

Tour guide to Tam Coc

Our little tour group and our tour guide up front…

Our tour package cost around $40USD and includes a buffet lunch, as well as all entrance fees including a bicycle rental so you can explore the country side of Ninh Binh province where Tam Coc is located.

Ngo Dong River – Tam Coc’s Claim to Fame

Tam Coc in Vietnamese means 3 caves in which local boat guides take tourists through and under 3 grottos from the meandering Ngo Dong River.

And the Ngo Dong River passes through rice paddies with a breath taking view of cascading limestones where wild goats roam.

Each raft is guided by a local with two tourists to a boat. It’s quite a romantic ride along a gentle river with my wife. But…

I can’t find how long Ngo Dong River is but I as I recall the the entire raft ride along the river lasted about 35 to 45 minutes. It was August at the time so it was really hot. Be sure to take along an umbrella, a hat and definitely some sun screen as the temperature hit 90° fahrenheit.

One Thing That Really Bothered Me on the Tam Coc Tour…

It’s nice to get on a boat and have a nice quiet ride along such magnificent views. So one thing that really ruined the experience are the overly aggressive locals selling souvenirs. And since I have no control of the boat my local guide pretty much hung around waiting for us to buy something.


Our raft guide. Get ready for some aggressive sales tactics while going down the Ngo Dong river…

And when we didn’t buy from them our guide rowed the boat over to a small little patch of tall grass and started showing us pictures of her kids and asking us to buy some trinket souvenirs. Talk about feeling uncomfortable.

I could’ve waited out the sales tactics but my wife caved in and bought some small coin purses and a couple of postcards.

I can understand that they work hard with low salary. And I would tip them regardless. But they don’t know that. I’m not surprised at all that many tourists choose not to tip at all. So these row boat/guides are desperate to get as much money as they can.

Tam Coc Boat Guide

All row boat/guides at Tam Coc row boats with their feet…

But they row these boats with their legs. It’s amazing how these guides are able to grip the boat oars with their feet. That “feat” (pun intended) in itself deserves some sort of gratuity in itself.

About 10 minutes before heading back to the wharf our row boat guide asked us for a tip. Now you’d think buying some souvenirs from her was enough. And I was planning to tip her anyway. So I just gave her $5USD, which is pretty much a small price to pay.

Overall a Wonderful Experience at Tam Coc

Tam Coc is definitely a place you should visit and a good day trip from Hanoi. You can get a tour to Tam Coc from any tour agency in Hanoi. I don’t recommend getting a Tam Coc tour package from your hotel though because they usually charge a little higher.

Ngo Dong River Tour

A nice trip down Ngo Dong River at Tam Coc…

What’s Included in a Tam Coc Tour

  • Hoa Lu – Visit Vietnam’s ancient capital Hoa Lu where a temple was built to honor Dinh Bo Linh, the first emperor of Vietnam. There really isn’t much to see at Hoa Lu but you get a good sense of Vietnam’s medieval history as well as plenty of picture opportunities.
  • Tam Coc – A tour guide takes you down the Ngo Dong river pass rice paddies as far as the eye can see and limestone mountains and cliffs as high as the sky.
  • Ninh Binh Province – Take a guided bike tour through rice fields and explore the beauty of Ninh Binh’s country side.

There are tons of tour agencies located all over the Old Quarters of Hanoi and expect to pay about $30USD to $40USD per person. A lunch is included and on our particular tour their was a lunch buffet. It wasn’t the best Vietnamese food but it will fill you up.

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