Trang An and Hoa Lu are only 1 kilometre apart and are easily combined. Moreover there is very little left of Hoa Lu - just 2 temples, plus some reconstruction work - so it doesn't take long to look around.
From there it's 40+ kilometres to Phat Diem, but I'm sure you would have time to fit it in too, provided you left Hanoi early.
I visited those places when staying in Ninh Binh so can't give you the name of a tour company/agent. However your hotel will be able to organise a private tour for you. Group tours that go to all three places tend to take more than one day.
Trang An, Hoa Lu, Phat Diem can be organize in 1 day trip.
But as I see, you only book private tour, because only there're tour to Trang An - Hoa Lu or Hoa Lu - Tam Coc. 2 places in 1 day with some biking is ok. With Phat Diem, you need private car or private tour.
I've visit Hoa Lu - Tam Coc and Phat Diem but in 2 days tour with my classmates.
Thank you CreakingBones & V2Media. I will definitely spend a day visiting these places, and the rest exploring Hanoi city & HalongBay :)
How much would the boat (sampan) trip cost at Trang An? The trip quoted by hotel only include transport (car) & English speaking guide.
What other expenses should i be expecting?
Thanks again for your feedback.
Sorry bitterpumpkins, I can't remember how much the Trang An boat trip costs, but it wouldn't be more than a couple of dollars per person.
I paid nothing at Hoa Lu, but it was in a state up upheaval at the time, with lots of earth moving going on, so there might well be a ticket box now. If there is, it too should cost no more than $2.
The only other expense will be lunch for yourselves, and it is customary to pay for the driver's and guide's lunches too. Unless the guide has a particular location in mind for lunch, there are a few inexpensive restaurants near the entrance to Hoa Lu.
CreakingBones: Thanks a lot for the helpful advice :)
If it isn't too late, we went to Trang An and Hoa Lu yesterday. We did both in the afternoon, having set off from our hotel around 2pm (although we are in ninh binh, so it's totally doable from here)
Hoa Lu was beautiful (if tiring to walk up all 500 stone steps in this heat) and there was no charge, but there was a little old lady who followed us up and kept fanning us then wanted us to buy incense and postcards at the top. We bought the incense as there is a shrine at the top (plus we felt sorry for her coz she was sweating like mad and was little and old!)
Trang An was incredible - our hotel staff recommended it over Tam Coc as the stall holders are not pushy and you do not feel obligated to buy anything. Trang An cost 80,000d each, which is just over 2 dollars. an absolute bargain if you ask me - as the boat trip lasted nearly 2 hours and was accompanied by a friendly rower and absolutely spectacular views.
Hi everyone, great to see all the inputs here! I have the same plan visit Hoa Lu and Trang An in one day. The private tour company quote me 80usd/person for a group of 4, including transportation from Halong City to NB, but exclude NB to Hanoi (since i'll be staying in NB longer to Cuc Phuong National Park).
From your feedback, it seems that it won't cost >15USD/person for all the entrance fee. So I am guessing the quotation is a lil' overpriced? Any advice?
Am seriously considering to travel around NB on my own, maybe rent a motorcycle. Do you think that's a good idea?Edited: 10 November 2011, 20:46
It's not a good idea to rent a motorbike as it's illegal to ride one in Vietnam if you don't have a Vietnamese licence. However there are many places you can ride to on a bicycle, and for longer distances you can hire a motorbike guide for about $15 a day.
We paid $30 for the day to take a private car to both of these places and the entrance fees were next to nothing. Your hotel can normally arrange such trips and you can haggle with them if you're not happy with the price. I didn't bother though because I thought a day trip for $30 for two people was pretty much within our means!