By Car -- This is your best bet. Contact Hanoi travel agents to hire your own vehicle with a driver for the 1-day trip, or overnight, and return. It's just over an hour's drive.
By Bus -- There's a regular connection between Hanoi's Giap Bat (Southern Bus Station) and a small station stop just adjacent to the central train station -- although some buses will drop you off right on Hwy. 1. Keep an eye out for the hotel of your choosing, best at the Thuy Anh Hotel , and buses will stop for you. You can also connect with Vinh or with Hanoi by minibuses.
By Train -- The Reunification Express makes a stop in Ninh Binh, but if you're just making the short trip from Hanoi, it's more of a hassle than going by road.
Check with the many tour operators in Hanoi for arranging quality tours of the scenic Ninh Binh area. Go with Sinh Café for peanuts and you'll cover all the bases (for as little as $15 per day); if you book a high-end tour with a company like Buffalo Tours, you'll get the best view of local culture and natural sites.
There's a branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of Vietnam on Hwy. 1 at the center of town (Tran Hung Dao; tel. 030/387-2614). All hotels provide slow Internet connections in lobby terminals, but best is a small Internet nook just across Hwy. 1 from Thuy Anh Hotel; a small sign leads you down a narrow alley. Cost is just 5,000 VND per hour. The main post office is in the south end of town (look for the high radio tower). Open daily 7am to 9pm.