The holiday season is coming, and for those taking a special interest in Vietnam and Halong Bay, you must be wondering which Halong Bay tour is best. Planning a flawless vacation seems impossible, but we are here to give you the most useful cruise tips to make your time in Halong Bay worthwhile. So, all hands on deck, let’s set sail!
Why visiting Halong Bay?
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Halong Bay was first listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 for its outstanding geological and geomorphological value, then declared one of the official “New Seven Wonders of Nature” in 2011. Since then, Halong Bay has lived up to its title and continued to be a place worth seeing for yourselves.
Spectacular beach, mountains, and caves
Halong Bay is the combination of limestone islands, caves and marine life makes for breathtaking scenery in which travelers cannot help but marvel at. This creates wonderful scenic contrasts of rock, water, and sky. Thousands of limestone towers and caves were created after 500 million years, with distinct shapes unlike any other areas in Vietnam. It’s really magic in the truest sense of the word.
Halong offers a variety of different types of tourism, from sightseeing, culture, and shopping to adventure sports. You can visit some famous limestone caves, discover a fishing village, or go swimming on the beautiful beach. For adventurous travelers, you can experience the special feeling when surfing on the waves with water motos, kayaking through stone islands, or hiking up Titop island, Soi Sim island to enjoy the marvelous scenery of Halong Bay. Even more, go shopping for unique souvenirs as well as fresh seafood in many markets and commercial centers.
Fantastic cruise experience
Cruising is probably the best means of traveling in the region. Sailing through the wonders of this Bay could take from a few hours to a day or even a night on board, but the experience is truly wonderful. You can freely enjoy the cool breeze from the deck, sipping a special drink and witness the amazingly changing, dynamic landscape. Furthermore, it's also fun to get off the cruise boat and paddle around the bay either in a kayak or a rowboat to get a different perspective of the limestone formations.
How to get to Halong Bay?
The most common departure cities are Hanoi and Hai Phong, both of which have their own international airports and a complex of highway that connects to Halong Bay. See more details below:
Hanoi is approximately 165 kilometers from Halong Bay, so it will take travelers around 3.5 – 4 hours to get to Halong by road trip. There are many Halong Bay cruise tours from Hanoi several ways to move to Halong Bay:
- Cruise bus: This is the easiest and cheapest way to get to Halong Bay. With a cruise package, travelers will have a two-way transfer by the cruise’s minibus, price included in the package.
- Coach: If you prefer to book a vehicle by yourself, go to big terminals in Hanoi such as My Dinh Bus Station, Gia Lam Terminal, or Luong Yen Terminal to catch a coach departing from Hanoi to Halong Bay. A one-way ticket price is around 5-10 USD. Most coaches will drop you off near Bai Chay Bridge or at Cat Ba Town, from which you can book a taxi to get to Tuan Chau Marina. Be careful to choose a prestigious coach since it is a bit complicated for foreigners, and you may even be ripped off.
- Private car: This is undeniably the most comfortable way to get to Halong bay. It is really easy to contact a travel agency to book your own private car. However, the service quality is surely commensurate with the price, ranging from 70-100 USD for a round trip.
- Seaplane: Seaplane is the only option if you want to fly from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This is also the fastest way (45 minutes) to travel from Halong and also the most expensive way. To book seaplane, you can contact directly with the company that operates the seaplane. Hai Au Aviation is the only service provider in Halong Bay with the cost of around 400 USD/person/round trip.
From Hai Phong
Hai Phong is only around 75 kilometers away from Halong Bay, so it is faster to travel from Hai Phong to the Bay. Road trip of Halong Bay cruise from Hai Phong used to take travelers about 2–2.5 hours.
- Bus/coach: cheap and convenient. You can book Lac Long Terminal, with the price at almost 2 USD if your destination is Bai Chay.
- Ferry: These days, many tourists get to the ferry station and then get on a speedboat/hydrofoil to Cat Bat Island for about 45 minutes. The cost is around 7-10 USD. On arrival, you can take a bus to Cat Ba Town.
From Ho Chi Minh City
Travel distance from Ho Chi Minh City to Halong Bay is about 1900 km by land, so it will definitely take more effort. Traveling by train or bus will take a lot of time, so if budget allowed, we recommend you travel to Halong by plane.
- Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Hai Phong: A flight from Ho Chi Minh to Hai Phong takes about 2 hours and costs about 100-200 USD. From Hai Phong, you can book a bus/limousine plus ferry to get to Halong Bay, which may take another 2 hours.
- Flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Van Don: Van Don is about 60 km from Halong, so it would be easier to get to Halong from here. A flight from Ho Chi Minh to Van Don takes about 2-2.5 hours and costs about 100 USD.
How to pick a good Halong Bay cruise?
Picking the right cruise in Halong Bay is largely an overwhelming process. There are dozens of different boats available, each with their own route, facilities, activities, and prices. Therefore, we have put together a 4-step guide on how to pick a good Halong Bay cruise and help you solve this travel drama.
Decide how long you want to go
In a nutshell, how long you stay depends on how you want to enjoy Halong Bay, and how much you are ready to pay. Basically, there are three main types of cruise tours operating in Halong Bay:
- Day trip cruises
Those are short journeys designed to give you an outstanding taste of navigating between mountains and forests. Day trips are affordable and time-saving. You can do a long day trip from Hanoi with a half-day cruise tour around the bay. Unless you’re rushing, we would recommend a longer stay so that you can truly enjoy the treasure of Halong Bay.
- Overnight cruises (2D1N)
Overnight cruises are a more classic choice since travelers can experience the best features of Halong Bay in a decent amount of time (exactly 24 hours). Especially, you get to spend your night on board and wake up with a gorgeous view. For most tourists, this is a suitable option and also affordable.
- 3D2N/4D3N cruises
Travelers who love to make the most of their time and explore every corner of Halong bay can choose longer itineraries. Most likely, you will be transferred from the main boat to a smaller one to experience daytime activities, then taken back to your cabin in the evening. Those cruise tours suit tourists with more desire to discover, and of course more budget.
Decide where you want to go
Next up, it’s really important to decide where exactly you want to visit. In fact, there are 3 different bays: Halong, Bai Tu Long, and Lan Ha Bay.
- Halong Bay:
Immense natural beauty
The largest and most impressive caves
Largest selection of white-sand beaches
Only bay with a fully inhabited floating village
Risk of overcrowding
Mostly artificial beaches
Requires the longest travel time to reach
- Bai Tu Long Bay:
More relaxing atmosphere than in Halong Bay
A huge amount of quiet beaches
Excellent areas for kayaking
Fewer interesting caves
The longest distance required to reach
A single floating village offering
- Lan Ha Bay:
Wonderfully quiet waterways
Fabulous and accessible beaches
Hosts Cat Ba Island
Shortest travel time required
Virtually no floating villages
Growing risk of overcrowding
Each cruise will have a different travel route, so you can choose the cruise tour based on the places you want to discover. Those are popular itineraries for tourists in Halong Bay:
- Halong Bay
This is the route mostly chosen among tourists but also the most crowded area. It often includes stops in Ti Top Island and Surprising Cave. Traditional choice, but may not perfectly suitable for tourists who love a more chilling atmosphere.
- Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay
More off the beaten path, combining the best of Halong Bay with more remote areas of Bai Tu Long Bay.
- Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island
Good option for tourists who love a quiet and chilling stay. Moreover, Cat Ba Island offers a killer combination of lush forests, white sandy beaches, and dramatic cliffs and hills.
Prepare your budget
Take all aspects into account such as the boat, included activities, food, transportation to Halong Bay, etc and calculate your budget for the trip. Of course, you don’t need to hurt your wallet but wouldn’t want to go on a shoestring budget either. There are several options for you, ranging from luxury cruises, budget and mid-range cruises, to day cruises. Choose a cruise cabin based on your financial power, your travel route, and what you want for your vacation. You need to come with a maximum budget in mind and stick to it, but also do some research, ask around for any good deal, and prepare to negotiate hard.
Check the cruise boats and double-check what’s included
Researching the cruise boats is the key step on how to pick a Halong Bay cruise. There is a wide range of boat styles, sizes and quality standards to cater to all types of travelers. How old is the boat? What are the reviews like? How many passengers will be on board? Before pulling your wallet, make sure you have done thorough research and also checked what’s included in the cruise tour. Most likely, everything will be included - food, activities, etc - except for the drinks. Read the itinerary carefully, also Halong Bay cruise company reviews, and check what activities they have, then compare them to your wishing list.
Complete all the step and you can book the most suitable cruise for you and your travel mates. If booking online, you can check out Scruise booking platform with a wide selection of Halong Bay cruise tours.
Best Halong Bay cruise recommendation 2020
Below are some of the most popular deals to help you pick a good Halong Bay cruise. We have cruise tours that cater to all types of tourists:
Alova Premium Cruises: http://bit.ly/alova-premium-cruises
Price (on sale): 65 USD/pax
Halong Sen Cruises: http://bit.ly/halong-sen-cruises
Price (on sale): 70 USD/pax
Viola Cruises - Deluxe Cabin - 2D1N: http://bit.ly/viola-cruise-deluxe-cabin-2d1n
Price: 185-270 USD/pax
Rosa Boutique Cruise - Deluxe Seaview Cabin - 2D1N: http://bit.ly/rosa-boutique-cruise-deluxe-seaview-cabin-2d1n
Price: 200-250 USD/pax
Seasun Cruises - Deluxe Cabin - 3D2N: http://bit.ly/seasun-cruises-deluxe-cabin-3d2n
Price: 255-355 USD/pax