Halong Bay Cruise is the best way to explore Halong, the gem of Vietnam and the most popular choice for tourists to visit all year round. But are you sure you know how to choose Halong Bay cruise right? Mind you, you can get scammed if you wandering in Hanoi asking for a cruise to Halong Bay.
Halong Bay – the gem of Vietnam that you shouldn’t miss
There are chances that you will be jammed into an old cracking ship with a bunch of strangers and touring around Halong Bay in a flash with not-really-good service.
Or if you opt for a DIY tour, you may be more confused about
- Arranging the schedule
- Maintaining a reasonable budget.
And the chances of getting scammed are still high. Therefore, this is the steps that you should take to ensure a memorable cruise trip in Halong Bay.
At the end of this article, I will share some of the tips and FAQ for anyone who wants to have a great cruise trip in Halong Bay, so make sure you don’t miss it.
I. Halong Bay Overview – How to choose Halong Bay Cruise
Located on the Western side of the Gulf of Tonkin in Northeastern Vietnam, Halong Bay is one of the most famous tourist attractions of Vietnam with magnificent landscapes and limestones. It houses almost 2000 islands and islets as well as beautiful cave systems. Actually, Halong Bay cruises often consist of these destinations:
- Bai Tu Long Bay
- Lan Ha Bay
- Cat Ba Bay and Halong Bay itself.
Halong Bay literally means “Descending Dragon”. Nowadays, being a tourist hotspot, Halong Bay welcomes more than 6 million tourists annually. This is an ideal place for energetic people because there are a lot of outdoor activities provided here, such as climbing, trekking, kayaking, or even yoga sessions on the beach.
There’s a lot of cruises in Halong Bay, choosing a suitable cruise is the very first important step before going to Halong Bay
It is estimated that there are about 1969 limestone pillars, hundreds of islands and a certain number of large marine caves in Halong Bay. the Dau Go Cave is the largest cave among all, it was once known as the Grotte des Merveilles. Meanwhile, the biggest islands are Cat Ba Island and Tuan Chau Island, also are tourist destinations in this area. Geologically speaking, they are quite the same with Halong Bay, so you can also consider giving them a try.
Better cruise have better services and variety of activities for you to try on (In photo: traditional cooking class on cruise)
1. Why choose a Halong Cruise
Generally, Halong Bay travel activities are on a cruise. A cruise is the best way to explore nature since most of the destinations are on the water. A cruise trip may sound luxury and out-of-question for many travelers, however, the average price ranges are quite good. You won’t have to buy off the whole cruise, you just need to secure a slot on the ship.
Besides, it’s convenient to go by cruise. Mostly everything will be planned for you, from the activity schedule to the meal’s menu. It means that you don’t have to worry about what to eat, what to do or where to stay. Of course, an organized trip may lessen your independence, but it is a good thing that you can, on average, experience the fullest out of Halong Bay. There are beautiful spots that only local people know and you can only reach them by boat.
Beware of “cheap cruises”, its lack of activities like kayaking or explore grotto by bamboo boat which should include in the tour package
Furthermore, a cruise can actually save you some money since a lot of activities will be included. If you take these things independently, the cost will be higher.
For example, sailing a kayak can cost up to $50. Tour providers often offer activities such as kayaking, squid fishing, swimming, yoga practicing and even cooking. Make sure you check the itinerary first to see what will be included in the Halong Bay cruise.
Kayaking in Halong Bay is a must to squeeze out the essence of this charming location
Explore grottos on a bamboo boat is also a nice experience for travelers
2. Steps and Tips for picking the Best Halong Cruise
How to choose a Halong Bay cruise is a real challenge. You have to take everything into consideration: the length of the trip, the places you want to see, the activities you want to do and also the budget. So, here are some tips for you to solve this headache:
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First, let’s decide how long you want to go
Normally, you can choose from a short day trip up to 4 days – 3 nights trip. It depends on
- How long you are going to stay
- How much you want to spend and how much you want to explore Halong Bay.
A short day cruise trip only suitable for travelers who don’t have much time or just want to take an overall glimpse of Halong Bay. It is likely that you will be transferred to the port, get on the cruise and visit some of the highlight destinations of Halong Bay, for example, Sung Sot Cave. After that, you will be back at the port and end the trip on the same day.
It will probably take you half a day touring around and from 2.5 hours to 4 hours transferring from Hanoi depending which highway you are going to take. The New high way
And choose the cruise for 6 hours or 7 hours on the bay instead of 4 hours because you spend lots of time on the way to get to the bay, so choose for the longer time to enjoy the bay, there are lots of interesting things to do.
Board on a Halong Bay cruise to immerse yourself in numerous islets and islands
A more classic choice is overnight cruise trips. They go from
- 2 days – 1 night
- 3 days – 2 nights
- to 4 days – 3 nights,
the longer trip you choose, the more you get ( and pay). But it doesn’t mean that you should choose the longest trip, instead, you should see what trip suit you most. Typically, the 2 days – 1 night trip is the most common choice because of its reasonable price, adequate length and a good schedule.
If you stay overnight on a cruise, you will have the chance to experience more.
You can go squid fishing
Or wake up and see the fantastic sunrise on Halong Bay.
You can go squid fishing or wake up and see the fantastic sunrise on Halong Bay. If you choose the 2 days – 1 night itinerary, your schedule will cover most of the popular attractions and activities, which can satisfy most of the travelers.
You can do squid fishing at night and BBQ on deck
On the other hand, if you opt for the 3 days – 2 nights or even the 4 days – 3 nights itinerary, you will have an in-deep experience of Halong Bay. Your ranges of tourist destinations and activities will be expanded and you will have more free time, either for relaxing or taking additional activities. The wider choices of attractions also equal to the fact that you will see more extents of Halong Bay. And of course, it is more costly and time-consuming.
You are transferred from the main boat to a smaller one for the daily activities, returning to the main cruise in the evening.
Every day, at a certain time the ships need to come back assigned sleeping point where the ship anchored and stay over the night. This is strictly regulated for safety reason. Therefore, a 3-day itinerary offers further and less touristy sites including biking on a local island, visiting a pearl farm, time at a private beach..etc.
We provide a wide range of Halong Bay tour. Go on a cruise and explore the Bay!
Destinations? Halong Bay is not only Halong Bay?
Visiting Halong Bay does not mean you are going to tour only Halong Bay.
Bai Tu Long Bay
Lan Ha Ba Cat Ba Bay, Cat Ba Islands
waiting for you to explore. Furthermore, caves and limestone rocks should not be left out.
Of course, many people will choose Halong Bay, the most famous and magnificent attraction. However, in peak season, Halong Bay can be crowded and the view can be limited.
So, you can look at other option like Cat Ba Bay and Island with tropical rainforest, silky sandy beach, challenging cliffs and hills promising great panoramic view. Another choice is Bai Tu Long Bay, a newly popular attraction with wild beauty, poetic scenery and fewer tourists.
Some people say that Halong Bay these days is crowded, full of tourists and not as good for sight-seeing as the old days. If you want to seek for a quieter, wilder and fewer people, you can consider Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay tour. They both have impressive landscapes like Halong Bay and haven’t received many tourists so the places are more peaceful and less tourist-like. The only problem is that not many tour providers offer these tours, so you have to invest some more time into choosing the tour.
Monkey Island is an interesting place to visit if you wanna blend yourself into the wild things
Best time to visit Halong Bay
Halong Bay cruises are often cruise trips, so the weather will affect your experience a lot. Even though Halong Bay can be visited throughout the year, it is best to choose the months that the weather is dry, no rain or storm and not too hot.
You can go to Halong Bay all time of the year, but to avoid the tropical storm can happen anytime, double check with your operator (Photo: couplehookedontravel)
In the Spring (from February to April), it will be warm, dry and the sea will be calm so this is the best time in the year to visit Halong Bay. However, the drawback of spring is that the number of visitors will be huge and it tends to get crowded at this time of the year.
In the Summer (from May to August), it’s hot and humid. The high temperature can make you sweat a lot, but the sunny weather is suitable for swimming, kayaking and other watersports. However, sometimes it gets rainy and even stormy. Cruise trip can be canceled if there is a storm, so make sure you follow on the weather forecast.
In the Autumn (from September to November), the weather will be cool and windy. However, the sea can get rough often as storms approaching the Vietnamese coastal provinces. It will be fewer travelers at this time of the year. You can still consider going in autumn if the weather is good enough.
Lastly, in the Winter ( from December to January), it gets freezing cold at some point, heavily cloudy and continuously rainy, not the very best time to swimming in Halong Bay.
How do you get to Halong Bay?
Another consideration besides how to choose Halong Bay cruise is how to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay. Usually, a cruise will include means of transportation for you. However, if you have to, or want to travel on your own, here are 3 main ways to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay:
II. List of Halong Bay Cruise operators and Checklist before booking the cruise
The checklist before booking the Halong Bay Cruise?
1. Budget of Cruise
As you get what you pay for, you may want to spend a few extra dollars to ensure a memorable journey in this World Heritage Site.
Budget cruise (3* or 3* plus): price starts from $90
Mid-range cruise (4* or 4* plus): price starts from $107
Luxury cruise (5*): price starts from $120
A mid-range cruise cabin for two
2. Is the boat big or small Cruise?
It’s important to consider the size of the boat, the number of cabins onboard and the number of passengers it accommodates. If you want to have a trip with international tourists, you can choose a medium to a large ship. There are more public spaces and people to make friends on the big boats, also the private spaces if you want some time for yourself only.
If you are on honeymoon or on a group trip with your friends or family, take consideration of hiring a small boat, although it easily gets seasick on this type of boat. Overall, make sure to check the number of cabins when booking for your travel. A boat is considered to be big normally has more than 20 cabins, so be prepared with the crowds!
Go on a Halong Bay cruise with friends
3. What are the cruise routes and destinations?
Although Tonkin Gulf is mostly known for Halong Bay, in fact, there are 3 separated bays in this area: Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. The common thing is they all have a fascinating landscape of limestone karsts, caves and islands. However, there are different aspects that make one of them distinct from the others.
4. What are cruise activities?
Don’t forget to check activities included on your tour package. Take consideration on your interests in order to choose the activities in Halong Bay you want to join in:
Water sports: kayaking
Visiting floating villages
Tai Chi exercises
Kayaking is a highlight activity of this tour
5. Which food will be served on cruise?
The cruise ship serves various foods from Vietnamese and Asian to Western cuisine, and of course, seafood is always on the menu. But what if you are a vegetarian or allergic to the seafood?
The answer is most cruises can respond to your special preferences, whatever they are: vegan, allergy or gluten-free. Just remember to tell the cruise about your diet at least 48 hours before departure.
Garden Bay Luxury, Pelican, Garden Bay Premium and Orchid are highly recommended cruises for the special care on customer’s requests.
You can have a lot of fresh seafood from the ocean of Vietnam
Booking Halong Bay Cruise: The Operator and Travel Agency
1. Should you book the cruise in advance?
Availability: much more choices online
It is clear that the online booking website of Halong Bay tours has big advantages compared to travel agents in the same category.
Availibitly comparison between booking Halong Bay cruise online and on arrival
But if you still want to start looking for a cruise after Halong arrival, you are able to do so but it would be much more challenging in finding a dream cruise because each year Halong Bay is getting busier than in the past.
Finding good quality and reasonable cruise among thousands of other people trying to do the same things suddenly turn the relaxing trip to a fight because most of the cruises are already booked or full.
You might find some cruises left for last minute booking, but there are reasons others tourist ignore these trips. Some agencies that book a Halong Bay cruise tend to have dishonest actions when it comes to price and actual availability so that they can make a higher profit. The suggestion is that you should book a slot online in the first place.
Transparency: a must for online business
Transparency is a must for a successful online business in the hospitality industry. You should book on the website that provides tour information and itinerary along with inclusion and price listings.
The difficulty when booking a cruise should be unpredictable weather only. If you are unluckily booking a tour on a stormy day and it can be forecast from 1 to 2 months, you can get up to 100% refund due to the cancellation – this depends on the policies of the travel agency and it should be listed on their official website.
Transparency comparison between booking Halong Bay Cruise online and on arrival
2. Price: pay a little extra for a peaceful mind. Just be clever
Price is definitely a factor that every tourist must look into before booking a Halong Bay cruise. It is true that prices on websites change every day sometimes can be higher than the offers that travel agents offer you. But if you check the websites frequently, you will see they always offer special deals for Halong Bay Cruise.
It is understandable that during a certain time in the year the price might be lower. The competitive price also shows up in the week before or after big holidays because of the lack of business. There is always an efficient option as long as you keep searching for it on the online channel, which is easily accessible and informative.
Price comparison between Halong tours booking online and on arrival
However, you might see many other tourists got a very good price on arrival through local travel agents. Some might get half price from online booking. The cheap price may not go with high-quality service, so don’t be fooled by a super low price. The cruise can be too old and the activities like swimming, fishing or kayaking are not included or would be extremely disappointing.
If the price is still a big concern for you, there are always great cruise offers excellent service and value to your budget.
Halong Bay Cruise Agency
If you are searching for a travel agency to take care of your Halong Bay journey, AZLocaltrip offers excellent choices and itinerary that meet your budget.
We will help you choose the best itinerary which is suitable for you
Better price, we give you the best deal ever for sure
Free Tour Guides in Hanoi
Contact us here for any questions for Halong Bay cruise!
If it’s not Halong Bay cruise, then what is the best alternative destination?
The uncrowded attractiotFion that you probably haven’t heard of Ninh Binh.
Some feedbacks of Tripadvisor Member
“Ha Long Bay was lovely for the first hour, and then it just got boring sitting on the boat seeing the same thing over and over. I like to be a bit more active. Granted, we did spend a whopping 30 minutes kayaking and another 30 minutes exploring a cave. Both were completely touristy and cheesy.
Ninh Binh is amazing. I would recommend 1-2 nights at least if you have it, but it sounds like you don’t. Get there as early as you possibly can (makes a difference) and rent a motor scooter to go to Tam Coc Grotto. Hopefully, you can get there right when it opens.
Trust me, it makes all the difference in the world to be the only boat floating through there. Google Tam Coc and you will it is like Ha Long Bay, in the ride fields. Then head to Bich Dong for lovely views and see the pagoda inside the cave. Then head to Mua Cave and hike to the top of the mountain for the most AMAZING views of the rice fields and Tam Coc Grotto below. FYI, at the bottom of the mountain, there is a cave – walk to the end of it and you come out at the banks of a part of Tam Coc Grotto. The view is spectacular.
And just continue motorcycling through the rice fields, getting out to see the water buffalo, wild goats and exploring. We did all of these in one day.”
We hope that you will find this helpful for your trip. If you want more information or have any further questions, feel free to contact us, the AZ Local Team. We are always at your service!