Halong Bay in Vietnam is a place that you really need to see at least once in your life time. The bay is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and is on almost every backpackers list. The bay has become famous for its limestone columns (approximately 1600 of them!) that jut from the ocean.
Getting To Halong Bay
Getting to Halong Bay from Hanoi (the capital city) is fairly straight forward with a choice of buses, trains, private cars or even a seaplane!
The cheapest option from Hanoi is the train which can be arranged for approx $5 USD (€4.50). This trip will take around 7 hours on the train.
The seaplane will be the fastest option but at a price of $135 (€122.50) per person, it will probably be outside most backpackers budget.
The bus will take 3-4 hours and is a great compromise, costing around $10 – $15 (€9 – €13.60) per person. (If you are booking a Halong Bay cruise then most tour operators will offer a free pickup service from Hanoi to Halong Bay).
Should I book a Halong Bay cruise?
Halong Bay cruises have become extremely popular in recent years with many tour operators now offering packages. When it comes to a cruise, it is worth considering that you generally get what you pay for. There are a lot of sub-standard boats offering cheap tours of the bay, but honestly, if you want to make it an experience to remember (and not one to forget) then pay a little extra for a nicer boat.
There are a couple of different options in relation to the duration of the cruises:
- A day trip
- 2 days, 1 night (Stay overnight on the boat in the bay)
- 3 days, 2 nights (Stay for 2 nights on the boat in the bay)
We opted for the 3 days, 2 nights trip but more on that later!
What Activities Can I Do?
There are various itineraries that you can opt for, with activities such as:
- A trip to the Pearl Farm
- A visit to the Fishing Village
- Squid Fishing
- Relaxing on the Beach
- Visiting Caves
- A trip to Titop Island
- A trip to Monkey Island
A combination of some (or all) of these activities will normally be included in the price. The activities that are available will depend on which cruise you choose. It is also worth noting that most cruises will include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
How much does a cruise cost?
Trip prices will vary from high season to low season, use the prices below as a guide and always try to negotiate a better price with your tour operator or hostel.
- A a mid range boat will normally cost approx $50 – $60 (€45 – €55) per person for a daytrip.
- A mid range boat will cost approx $130 (€118) per person for a 2 day, 1 night trip.
- A mid range boat will cost approx $225 – $250 (€205 – €225) per person for a 3 day, 2 nights trip .
Expect to pay significantly more than these prices for luxury cruises!
The Halong Bay entrance fee is $13 (€11.80) per person for day cruises and $25 (€22.60) for overnight cruises. This fee is generally included as part of your tour price but always double check to be on the safe side!
Halong Bay Advice
Research tour operators! Halong Bay in Vietnam was on our bucket list for quite some time, so, when we visited, we decided to book a 3 day, 2 nights tour. The tour cost us $225 (€205) dollars each on a mid range boat. The cabin was beautiful with an ensuite bathroom, a huge window and a balcony to enjoy views of the bay.
Although we did enjoy the tour, the activities were very repetitive. We kayaked every day and it felt like a lot of the tour was crammed with “fillers”.
We would say that a day trip is probably enough (particularly if you want to keep costs down). If you do really want to sleep out on the bay then a 2 day, 1 night trip is more than enough time to enjoy the scenic views.
When booking a trip you should pay particular attention to the boat that you will be travelling on. While there are a lot of cheap trips available, the standard to be expected on these trips is very low.
There is also a safety aspect to be considered. In 2011 a sub-standard cruise ship sunk in Halong Bay – Killing 12 people. Although safety standards have been reformed since then, it is still a point worth noting.
Mid range boats are ideal for most travellers.
So that is the craic with Halong Bay in Vietnam.
If you have any questions then let us know in the comments section below!
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Travelling through Vietnam? Check out our guide to the Abandoned Waterpark in Hue.