The best way to travel the 125km distance from CatBa to Ninh Binh is by bus. This bus journey takes 4 hours and costs $12. Alternatively, you can take a combined bus and ferry via Hai Phong for $16, but this will also require additional transfer times.
We recommend the first option which is booking a combined bus and ferry ticket from CatBa to Ninh Binh. You can buy a ticket from an agency or your hotel on CatBa Island or book your ticket online.
Are you hoping to make a stop at Hai Phong before moving on to Ninh Binh? There is also an option to take a ferry from CatBa to Hai Phong and then take a bus from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh. Combined fares start from $16.
We do not advise to travel by train becauseit will take a full day, it is more expensive, and it includes a lot of transfers. The closest railway station from CatBa is in Hai Phong. You can reach this by taking a ferry from CatBa to Hai Phong Harbour. From this harbour, you can take a taxi to the railway station.
Unfortunately, there is no direct train connection from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh. This means you first have to take a train to Hanoi and then switch trains going to Ninh Binh. This journey will take over 8 hours.
The bus brings you from the main street in CatBa to the North-East side of the island (Cai Vieng). After this 45min bus ride, you are transferred to a ferry (50min) which brings you to Benh Dinh harbor. From this harbour, a bus is waiting to bring you in about 3 hours to Ninh Binh or Tam Coc.
Wondering which destination to choose? See our Ninh Binh destination page for why we think you should travel to Tam Coc instead of Ninh Binh.
In case you want to stay in Ninh Binh, make sure the bus company stops at Ninh Binh city! We have heard stories that bus drivers didn’t stop in Ninh Binh city and argued that they were going to Ninh Binh province instead of the city.
Where to book your combined bus + ferry ticket?
There are several agencies on CatBa island where you can buy a combined bus and ferry ticket.
If you want some more comfort on the bus and don’t want to take the risk that the bus is fully booked, we recommend booking your ticket online via BookAway.
All of the bus companies mentioned below receive good reviews. Some of them also offer free pick-up from CatBa.
When you want to buy your ticket from a local agency, we recommend booking your tickets at Alibaba (restaurant/guest house). Bus rides booked via Mr. Ba leave at 10:00 or 12:30 and take about 5 hours to Tam Coc. Tickets cost between 200,000 – 250,000 VND ($9 – $11) at a local agency.
Tip: With Mr. Ba, you can also book a great tour on their family boat for just $12. Also, he has the cheapest motorbike rental on the island.
CatBa to Ninh Binh via Hai Phong by Ferry + Bus
Duration: 4 hours Cost: 370,000 VND ($16)
Hai Phong is a coastal city located just across CatBa (around 30km away). Some tourists travelling from CatBa to Ninh Binh prefer to make a short stop in Hai Phong before continuing their journey.
Are you one of those tourists? If yes, read on for a detailed guide!
From CatBa Island, ferries bound for Hai Phong depart twice daily at 10:00 and 14:00. Travel time is 1 hour and a ticket costs around 230,000 VND ($10).
The ferries depart from CatBa Pier and arrive at Ben Binh Pier, located 3km from Hai Phong city center. From Ben Binh, you can take a 10-minute motorbike or taxi ride to town. Fares start from 70,000 VND ($3).
Step 2: Hai Phong to Ninh Binh by Bus
Duration: 3 hours Cost: 70,000 VND ($3)
Once you’ve had your fill of Hai Phong, you can simply take a bus to Ninh Binh.
The local buses operating from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh depart from Niem Nghia Station (5km west of city centre) or Lac Long Station (near Ben Binh Pier). A ticket costs between 70,000 VND ($3) to 140,000 VND ($6). You can buy your tickets at the bus station.
The bus journey from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh takes around 3 hours.
Hai Phong to Ninh Binh by Luxury Minivan
Duration: 3 hours Cost: 465,000 VND ($20)
Looking for some luxury for the 3-hour journey? The Long Travel offers luxury minivan trips from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh. That’s a spacious ride with really comfy seats for you if you’re willing to pay 465,000 VND ($20) for the 3-hour journey.
These minivans depart from Lach Tray in Hai Phong city centre and arrive at The Long Hotel in Ninh Binh city centre. Below are their schedules:
Want to stay in a real Vietnamese Guesthouse? Tam Coc Family Hotel is a perfect example why you don't have to spend more than $17 for a great guesthouse.
The super friendly owners will tell you the best spots to visit and will make sure you have a good start of your day with a delicious breakfast. It's a 1-minute walk from the Tam Coc river and drop-off point of the bus.
Do you prefer to stay close to the river? Tam Coc Bungalow has spacious bamboo bungalows right next to the Tam Coc river. Bungalows start from $32 and dorm rooms from $6.
What we really liked about this place is their common area. From the terrace you can watch the locals paddling back to Tam Coc town during sunset and in the evening you can play a game of pool at the open restaurant area.