When it comes to the question: “How to do Ha Long bay right?” not everyone can give you a proper answer. You ask a travel agent or your hotel tour desk about what cruise to take to Ha Long bay, they will tell you they are all good or give you a list of 10 or so cruise ranging from low to high cost. If not, they will recommend you to the company that they are partnering with, even if they are not so good because they will receive a commission per referral.
Now you have no idea which one will suit you and your budget. It is clear that different types of travelers with different budgets will have different expectations when they are visiting Ha Long bay. In order to help you solve this dilemma, I will provide you with recommendations based on each type of travel: honeymoon, backpacker, budget, relaxed, adventurer, and family. Take a minute to define and choose your style and let’s dig in.
For those who have heard the name for the 1st time, Ha Long Bay is the most beautiful bay located on the Western side of the Gulf of Tonkin in Northeastern Vietnam. It has almost 2000 islands and islets in various shapes and sizes, of which mostly are limestone. Bai Tu Long bay to the northeast and Lan Ha bay to the southwest are your best options while visiting Ha Long bay: go to the less popular Bai Tu Long bay or experience the charm of Lan Ha bay. They all share a similar climate, cultural, geological, and geographical characters.
Best time to visit Ha Long bay is from September to November and from March to May due to dry climate and pleasant temperatures allowing you to do most of the interesting activities available. May to September is the low season of the year and during then you can probably get a good deal from most cruise companies. July and August are the months you want to avoid – that’s storm season and the weather is turbulent which will affect your trip negatively.
Ha Long bay is extremely suitable and romantic for couple’s getaway. To experience Ha Long Bay, the 2 day 1 night (2D1N) tour is the most common choice. However, if you want to spend more time there, you can also choose the 3 days 2 nights or even 4 days 3 nights tour that offer more intriguing activities like fishing with local people or enjoy a BBQ lunch in an amazing private beach. The itinerary to Ha Long Bay for 2D1N is mostly the same:
You generally only honeymoon once in your life, so I believe that budget will not be a big issue when picking a tour. Go for the luxury!. For that I’d recommend one of the best, the IndochinaJunk. This company is ranked 1st place out of 147 tours in Ha Long Bay according to Tripadvisor, which is a strong proof for its quality. But the thing with well-known companies like this is that there are different junks providing different services on their website and sometimes you can’t make the decision because you are overwhelmed by your choices. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back.
What you are looking is to do the 2D1N tour with their L’Amour charter junk – the special junk for a couple. With this choice, you will have the chance to see the untouched beauty of Bai Tu Long Bay. This will be where a romantic night with wine and candles happen. Given maximum privacy, the en-suite room has a stunning view of the sea through the window and the outside dining area is a perfect place to observe the natural landscape as you indulge in delicious cuisine. In addition to the normal services offered to you by the company, you’ll also have the chance to see water puppet show performed by local artists and also visit Vung Vieng fishing village on a rustic row-boat.
Since it’s your special day, they’ll have your room decorated nicely with roses and candles. A beautiful honeymoon cake with a cute gift will be served within the day as well. In case you want to have a super special night, the staff will help you with any custom request, but of course, you’ll have to pay extra money for that special service.
Tour price is subject to change due to high demand. April is currently the high season and it is priced at $410/person, which 10% higher than the low season. But if your travel date is around May or June, it will be just around $370/person.
For more details of the itinerary, click here.
It is said that the people you meet make your trip more memorable. If you want to combine celebrating your love and meeting amazing people, then this is what you should choose. Indochina junk also provides 2D1N tour with shared junk. I’d recommend you pick the Dragon’s Pearl Junk. It has the same schedule for the 2D1N on the L’Amour junk but yes, shared junk means cheaper. The early bird rate for a double cabin is $187/person.
Bhaya is another well-known cruise company where you can also find the honeymoon package on their classic cruise with a special offer for honeymoon couple. 2D1N trip with Bhaya has a different route, they will take you to the Lan Ha bay, spend the night there and come back the next day. Because of that, you’ll have a few more different activities on the cruise, like squid fishing, or watching a cooking demonstration with traditional Vietnamese food on the sundeck. $179/person is the early bird rate for this package. You should check their site for more itinerary’s details.
If you want to extend your trip, then it’d be a good idea to do the 3D2N or 4D2N package offered by Indochina Junk or Bhaya.
Does your travel bucket list include these?: Vang Vieng in Laos, drinking buckets of alcohol on Khao San Road or partying at the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan? Yeah? Then it’s about the time to add Castaway Island into it. Staying overnight on an island, with a 3-day digital detox meaning no wifi, and no internet, will allow you to have the time of your life and create some epic memories with some truly fun people. This is where the party is at.
If you’re thinking of a relaxing moment on the beach to take in the spectacular sights, then skip this part. We have a perfectly fit guide for you after this bit.
Located in Lan Ha bay, a part of Ha Long Bay, a tour to this island is a wild and fun experience. The 3D2N package would be ideal even you are a solo traveler. 1 night on the island is simply not enough to release the beast inside.
Central Backpackers Hostel is doing a good job running this tour, which I’d recommend you to take. Take a tour around their website and you will see their itinerary like this:
The tour departs at 7.45 am. Travel by bus and boat to Hideaway Island, taking in some sights of Cat Ba National Park along the way. Arrive in time for lunch on the beach and fuel up for some activities.
It will be a long day of activities by taking a boat, cruising around the picturesque bay and enjoying the beautiful sceneries, then cliff jumping, challenging yourself for the 12m high cliff and kayaking.
You will head back to the island in time for sunset, and get prepared for beach games and drinks at the sunset party.
7 am: Breakfast is served.
10 am: Get on the cruise and ready for a day excursion. You’ll go through the magnificent un-touristic mountain range of Lan Ha Bay and a remote village where the local people settle down differently. You start your adventure by cycling through stunning landscapes of the village and then trekking through the jungle (bring your hiking shoes). During cycling, you pass through the tunnel and the traditional houses along the way. Lunch is served on floating house.
After lunch, day boat brings you to the beautiful and quiet areas where the Kong movie was shot and we have chance to do boat jumping, swimming.
At the end of the day you head back to the island to welcome the new Hideaways, share stories, be ready for dinner and another night of fun ahead.
You do not depart the island until after lunch so there is a lot of time to enjoy a slow morning: kayaking, swimming, or maybe a well-deserved lie in. After lunch we begin the trip back to the modern and busy life of Hanoi via boat and bus, you will arrive back at the Central Backpackers Hostel at approximately 5 pm.
The 3D2N package currently is $130/person (promotion cost). This will include your accommodation, all meals, transportation and any entrance fees. Drinks, travel insurance, and personal expenses will be on your own.
Click here for more details about the tour, updated price and booking.
This is an amazing experience in life, especially for young people who want to do crazy things while they still have time and energy for it. But there are some cons that you need to know before taking the tour:
You are traveling on a budget and have this question in your mind: “How can I do Ha Long Bay without spending so much?”. Well, read on.
Among so many ways to do the trip to Ha Long bay, booking your tour via travel agents is probably the best option for you. They often offer reasonable tours with equal value. There will be 1D tour, 2D1N, 3D1N, and 4D3N tours for you to select from as well. But as I mentioned before, the 2D1N tour with a higher price ranging from 100USD – 200USD per pax is better. If you see any tour sold lower than that, you’d better be careful because you might have to pay extra money for transportation or meals during the trip or even entrance fee. Also, there will be high chance your tour guide isn’t knowledgeable enough, don’t speak good English, or you won’t stay on the boat overnight. Make sure you check with them everything before you pay. Try to avoid the overly touristy ones too.
My recommendation for you is taking the tour with The Sinh Tourist travel agent. A common package on a cruise for 2D1N will cost you around $120/person depending on how big and decorated the cruise is. The itinerary for a package with The Sinh Tourist is 90% similar to another package for 2D1N: transport from Ha Noi – Ha Long and on board, enjoy the meal, caves, go swimming and kayaking. Check out this link for online booking and more tours package with The Sinh Tourist information.
Ha Long bay is huge and that’s why the 2-day tour is more common. However, if you just drop by and only have 1 day to explore the bay, consider taking the 1-day tour with Central Backpackers Hostel.
With $32, you are still able to experience a long day of activities: such as cruising for 4 hours through a maze of islets amid dramatic natural scenery, visiting Thien Cung & Dau Go Grottoes, the fishing villages, and Dinh Lu Huong islet and fighting Cock islets. Lunch provided by them is a highlight. The 1-day tour will start at 7.45 am (pick up time from your hostel in Ha Noi) and ends at 8.30 pm (arrival time in Ha Noi). Inclusive services: A/C transport, boat trip, entrance fee, lunch and English speaking guide; and anything unmentioned, you will have to pay for yourself. Kayaking for 45 mins is available for just a measly addition of 2 USD. For booking and more details, click here.
If you fall under this category, then this is your vacation and you don’t want to do anything but relax and enjoy the beauty of Ha Long. That’s not a big deal with Indochina Junk or Bhaya Cruise. With their 3D2N package, your trip will be remarkable. The main activities during the trip will be kayaking (optional), paddling (optional), visiting caves, swimming, sunbathing and enjoying the food and the ocean. However, if you’d love to see the water puppet show and visit the fishing village in the bay, you should opt for the tour with Indochina Junk. But if you are ok with missing the puppet show and more interested in the Traditional Vietnamese cooking and fruit carving demonstrations plus hiking a bit on Ti Top island, then Bhaya is for you.
If you are the type to visit a place and then get adventurous, such as climbing, trekking etc, then this is your option!
For most people, Ha Long bay is famous for its beautiful islands and islet system housing significant caves. But hey, this bay is also an ideal place for outdoor activities like climbing, trekking, kayaking, or yoga sessions on the beach. Pick the route to Lan Ha bay and you will feel excited by all the adventurous activities available in this area. This isn’t quite a DIY trip, but you will have to firstly find your way to Cat Ba island – the closest island to Lan Ha bay, and from there you can find the Asia Outdoor company. It is the only company that provides outdoor activities in the bay with a well-organized package of rad things for you to do.
See for yourself more of what the bay has to offer by taking the 2D1N package provided by Asia Outdoor. This is a combination of real adventures coupled with seafarer excursion. The experience includes a full day of kayaking, exploring the untouched areas of Lan Ha Bay, rock climbing on a private unique beach location and even the standing up paddle boarding if you pick the seafarer plus option.
Price for the normal 2D1N seafarer excursion is around $135/person (3,000,000 VND) and $105/person (2,300,000 VND) for groups of more than 2 people. With the seafarer plus, the pricing is $150/ person (3,300,00 VND) and $120 each (2,600,000 VND) for groups of more than 2 people. The quoted price includes transportation from Asia Outdoor office, access fees and tickets, guides, junk boat with captain and crew, two lunches, dinner, breakfast, kayaks, PFDs, UIAA Certified climbing equipment, mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows. Doesn’t that sound worth it?
Notice that January, February, & March are the winter months in the north, and Asia Outdoors does not run overnights on the boat during these months. but outside of these months, overnight on their junk boat under the stars is offered.
For the detailed itinerary and booking information, click here.
How to Get to Cat Ba
You can check the Asia Outdoor website, and every detail you need about transportation and time is in there. Below is a short instruction:
From Ha Noi
From Cat Bi airport – Hai Phong city
Let’s take a taxi (100,000 VND on the meter) or motorbike taxi (80,000 VND) to Ben Binh Harbor from the airport. From Ben Binh Harbor, take either the Hydrofoil or the Hadeco boat. The fastest from Ben Binh is Hoang Yen Hydrofoil.
Traveling with the company of your family is something everyone should do at least once. When it comes to your kids, it is pretty tricky to find a suitable schedule and also is difficult finding accommodation for the whole family. With that in mind, I’ve done some research for you to make your planning easier. Here are my two recommendations:
Paloma Private Cruise
Because you are a family, a private boat will work well. It will be more convenient for your group. Paloma is an operator with luxury services rated at 4 stars quality. Their 2D1N trip by Family Executive Suite Cruise has 2 triple cabins with a balcony that can accommodate 3 adults and 1 child below the age of 12. Just as the name suggests, this boat is for a private family trip.
Starting from $504 (round-trip shuttle bus transportation is not included) for 3 adults depending on demand, this package has most of the activities you can expect from a typical Ha Long bay trip: kayaking, swimming, sunbathing, visiting caves, and the fishing village, and it will also bring you to the Tu Long bay area. The FOC rate for children under 4 years old is applicable for one child sharing a cabin with two adults (no extra mattress is provided) and is limited to one child per cabin. Children over 12 years old will be charged the same as adults. Extra bed is available with additional charge at 20$/night, upon request. Safety equipment and life vests are inside the cabin.
For more info about booking and itinerary, click here.
Shared Treasure Junk
If you don’t like to travel in a private boat, you can take a connecting cabin in the Treasure Junk. There is a large sundeck that you and your family members can hang out on and enjoy anytime of the day. $219/person is the starting price, and common activities are included in the schedule, and transportation is included.
You can check their website for more details.
Tips to Do Ha Long Bay Right
Bring Some Food/ Drinks
The packages above only serve and include main meals, and you are probably going to need more food than the ones they serve. Additional food and drinks on the cruise are expensive. Bringing your favorite snacks and drinks and some energy bars would be ideal.
Buy Travel Insurance
Even if medical expenses in Vietnam are not that expensive, buying travel insurance in advance is highly a good choice in any case.
DIY Is Not Recommended
2D1N is the ideal amount of time needed to properly experience Ha Long bay, and with that amount of time, booking a well-designed tour from a well-known company would be the best option. It will be too difficult for you to do research to do it by yourself. However, if you wish to stay longer and explore Cat Ba Island or Ha Long City, then doing a DIY tour is worth considering. There is no other benefit of a DIY over a package tour otherwise.
What To Bring
The charm of the Ha Long Bay is undeniable no matter which trip you choose to do. However, understanding what you want will ensure an incredible experience that you would never forget. Do remember that the options we provided are only representative of different budgets and expectation. Boats are different, the guides change and itineraries vary. Bon voyage!