When to visit Halong Bay
Northern Vietnam has a tropical climate with a rainy season in the summer, meaning the best time for a Halong Bay cruise is in the Spring (March – May) or Autumn (September – November).
Where to go on a Halong Bay tour
Three main bays can be visited on a Halong Bay boat cruise: Halong Bay, La Han Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. All have the same entrancing scenery, but Halong Bay sees the most tourists.
- Halong Bay
Halong Bay is the closest bay to the city of Ha Long where the boats depart from. Bear in mind that it can be very busy. All the boats offer similar kinds of tours. One popular Halong Bay tour goes to Til Top Island, a dome-shaped rock with a sandy beach where you can swim, sunbathe and take in the bay from a viewing point. Boats also stop at Hang Sung Sot, an enormous cave with chambers that you can walk through.
- La Han Bay and Cát Bà Island
To the south of Halong Bay is Lan Ha Bay. Here you can visit Cai Beo, a brightly painted floating village home to around 300 fishermen. West of Lan Ha Bay is Cát Bà Island. Almost half the island is a national park with forests, lakes, waterfalls, mangrove swamps and rare monkeys. You can trek in the park, swim, sunbathe, cycle and visit traditional villages.
- Bai Tu Long Bay
To the northeast of Ha Long, Bai Tu Long Bay is less crowded but has the same mystical islands. Highlights include Vung Vieng fishing village, a floating village, and pearl farms. Bai Tu Long Bay also has many islands surrounded by coral reefs where you can snorkel.
What to do on a Halong Bay cruise
Each Halong Bay cruise has its own itinerary, but many activities are the same from boat to boat. Popular things to do include exploring caves, secret lakes and grottoes by kayak or sampan (bamboo boat), visit floating villages and take day trips to islands for hiking and cycling, cooking demonstrations, tea ceremonies, and night-time squid fishing onboard the boat.
How many days to spend on a Halong Bay cruise
The length of your Halong Bay cruise depends on your travel schedule, budget, and the kind of trip you are looking for.
- Day trip: If your plan is just to tick Halong Bay off your bucket list, then a day trip will suffice. Typically, a Halong Bay day trip includes transport from and to Hanoi, four hours in the bay, lunch, and some activities such as exploring a cave.
- Multi-day trip: Stay overnight, generally for up to three days and you will see the sun set and rise over the astonishing seascape. You will have time to kayak, swim and relax on a beach, and you will be further from the rest of the tourists.
Halong Bay tour cost
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations. From budget to luxury, and there is an array of different cruises to choose from.
- Budget to mid-range: If you opt for a budget cruise, expect facilities on board to be basic at best. Boats may be old and you might be sharing a bunk room. Transport, food and drink might cost extra. On a mid-range cruise, expect to have your own cabin, although the boat itself may still be quite old. To avoid scams and ending up on unsafe boats, it is always important to choose a cruise from a trusted operator. Budget tours usually cost from USD 40 to 75 per day for tours starting from Hanoi.
- Luxury: Opt for a Halong Bay luxury cruise, and you will have an idyllic experience. Expect the boat to be well-maintained, and furnished attractively, with a sun deck and maybe even a pool. Your cabin will have an ensuite bathroom, balcony and perhaps even a jacuzzi. Food and drink will be included and of a higher standard. A luxury cruise will cost from USD 100 to 150 per day.