Ultimate Bai Tu Long bay travel guide: written by a local guide in Vietnam

Bai Tu Long bay travel guide

Bai Tu Long Bay Vietnam – Amazing place to be

Read this Ultimate Bai Tu Long bay travel guide for everything you need to know when travelling Bai Tu Long Bay on a cruise trip. 

Bai Tu Long bay is a rising destination in the Halong Bay area. It is great for those who like off the beaten path, explore untouched beaches, less touristy and amazing beauty of thousand of limestone islands with various shapes. 

I am writing all in-depth information about Bai Tu Long bay after 10 years working as a local tour guide,5 years as a writer for Hanoi Eco Tour in Vietnam with all heart about sharing amazing things from local insider. You will never find the second article with down to earth information like this one

Table of Contents

Where is Bai Tu Long bay?

Bai Tu Long bay

Bai Tu Long bay Vietnam

Locates on the east side of the well-known Halong bay, only less than 150 kilometers to get to Chinese border. Total area is 15.000 hectares, Bai Tu Long Bay is an ideal destination for your dream vacation which is characterized by a large number of islands, formed by mother nature after million years.

What make Bai Tu Long Bay special?

There’re various amazing landscape sites such as untouched beaches, amazing floating fishing village, numerous limestone islands and magnificent caves with tons of things to do in Bai Tu Long bay. There is a Bai Tu Long Bay national park in Van Don District is a nature treasure of the biosphere in Northern region of Vietnam such as  mangrove forests, rare species of animals, coral reef and tropical eco system. 

I recommend Bai Tu Long bay for those who like to enjoy nice scenery like Halong Bay but less touristy and more authentic. There lots of places to explore in Bai Tu Long Bay which may takes from 3 days to 4 days to see them all. 

Things to do in Bai Tu Long Bay 

Check out the best things to do in bai Tu Long bay, hand-picked by a local travel expert

Bai Tu Long cruise from Hon Gai

Take a sampan ride by local to see rustic beauty and tranquil settings of Vung Vieng floating village. 

Local fisherman in Bai Tu Long bay

Local fisherman in Vung Vieng fishing village – Bai TU Long bay

This is an experience not to miss when taking a Bai Tu Long cruise. Enjoy a relaxing sampan ride serving by locals living in this fishing village. You’ll see real local living on floating houses as we go pass.

Food and fresh water are brought to the village by boat. Locals earn their living by rowing sampan for tourists from overnight stay cruises and working as fishermen. You’ll also enjoy an open space cave, a culture pearl farm workshop where you’ll learn step by step how to make the pearls by implanting oyster shells.

Discover magnificent Thien Canh Son cave  

Thien Canh Son cave

Thien Canh Son cave – A must-see place in Bai Tu Long bay

It is a highlight of a Bai Tu Long cruise tour, the pathways to get to the cave with a little bit steeped steps ,which set below set underneath forest canopy and a rocky cliff, which makes you feel like going into a mini adventure. As you enter the cave, you’ll like in an amazing wonderlands with stalagmites and stalactites in various shapes which makes you use your imagination for every single rock formation to see what it looks like. 

Soak up in the remote Ban Chan beach

Ban Chan beach

Ban Chan beach in Bai Tu Long bay

This is an off the tourist trail beach, away from the main tourist hubs. There is no better than enjoy swimming in crystal clear blue water. You’ll feel like in the hidden wonderland, still less touristy than other touristy than others. Some of the cruises offer BBQ lunch on the beach which is really unique to Bai Tu Long area 

Visit off the beaten track Cap La fishing village and its island

Cap La Fishing village

Cap La fishing village in Bai TU Long bay

A floating village lies in between Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long bay with 80 families earning their living by fishing. Most of the children only study up to 5th grade and stay at home to help their parents do housework and join fishing trips.

Each house has its own power generator to make electricity. It is a great place for kayaking around the beautiful islands, swimming in crystal clear water beach

Taking an overnight stay on a cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay

I have to stay it is a must-do for Bai Tu Long bay. 3 days experience is the most recommended. You’ll enjoy the magnificent beauty of thousand limestone islands, kayak to explore hidden lagoons, explore the amazing caves, learn in-depth about local living on the water, take part in a cooking class on board or try your luck at night squid fishing. 

Meaning of the name “Bai Tu Long Bay”

According to the legend, Vietnam was invaded by China on the waterway by sending lots of vessels. However, the Jade Emperor helped the Vietnamese in their constant struggle against invaders by sending the Mother Dragon and her Children to resist Chinese vessels. The dragon spat out many pearls which formed islands and islets.

The Chinese vessels went so fast and couldn’t manage to stop so they hit the islands and their vessels was totally destroyed. What we have seen today is limestone islands from the dragon. Admiring fascinating beauty of Halong Bay. The place where Mother Dragon landed is now called ” Halong” – literally ” descending dragon”, the place where Child Dragon landed is called “Bai Tu Long

How long should you visit Bai Tu Long Bay?

Bai Tu Long Bay 3 days 2 night tours

Lots of Bai Tu Long Bay tours departs from Hanoi, as a local guide, I recommend to take 3 days 2 nights trip with lots of cool experiences such as kayaking, swimming, cooking class, squid fishing and so on  and see lots of landscape that it has to be offer! It takes you 2.5 hours on the Express way or 4 hours by old way from Hanoi.

In the second day, the most take you further to the bay to explore Cap La island, Cong Do island , you have more chance for more kayaking around limestone island and go swimming in crystal clear water beach. You’ll spend two nights overnight stay on the cruise. You can also have chance to make more friends who have just started their trip. 

Bai Tu Long Bay 2 days 1 night cruise

If you have a limited time, it is all right to take 2 days 1 night trip departs from Hanoi, you’ll going to see highlights of the bay such as visiting Vung Vieng floating village on a sampan and exploring  Thien Canh Son cave . 

Bai Tu Long Bay day trip

I have to mention there are two locations to start a Bai Tu Long bay day trip

No 1 : Bai Tu Long bay day trip from Hon Gai in Halong city 

As far as I know, there are only two tour companies called Indochina Junk and Swan cruise offer this type of seat in coach tour and others offer private tour to Bai Tu Long bay. 

If you have only 2 days or 3 days in Northern Vietnam but would like to enjoy the cruise trip, then it is an option for you. The main activity is to explore Thien Canh Son cave, enjoy sightseeing around the bay and have a seafood lunch on board. 

No 2 : Off the beaten track Bai Tu Long Tour from Van Don port

This is a day trip but you’ll enjoy a numerous fun activities like 2 days cruise with more affordable rate. Around $90 USD per person for a seat in coach tour. 

After 3 hours transfer to Van Don on the express way, you will take a boat trip to Dong Trong island which is almost no tourist in there. You are the only one in the area. Then cruising further to see oyster farm of the locals and kayaking around the untouched island, enjoy swimming to private beach. Especially, you can also feel the bay in a short time from jumping off the boat. 

Best time to visit Bai Tu Long Bay

The most recommend period of time to visit Bai Tu Long Bay in between October and April which is the dry season in Vietnam. Please note that Feb and March with flog so you sometime may not see the bay with blue clear sky.

The rainy season starts from May to September. But you can see Bai Tu Long bay all year round.

Please check the weather forecast because typhoon season in Vietnam starts from June to September, the weather is really good with sunshine and high temperature. Peak season of cruising Bai Tu Long bay during Christmas time from 20th of Dec to 3rd of Jan. During the period, lots of cruises will charged 25% extra because of the peak season. 

How to get to Bai Tu Long Bay from Hanoi

van dong xanh limousine

Van Don Xanh limousine

If you are going to take a Bai Tu Long cruise with an overnight stay on board then I recommend to take a shuttle bus provided by a cruise company

If you are taking a Bai Tu Long bay starts from Van Don port, there are several companies offer Dcar Limousine services with comfortable seats with 3 to 3.5 hours journey from Hanoi. A ticket costs around $10 per person per way.

All of them are local companies so there is a language barrier, I do recommend to arrange it via the hotel or your accommodation. Hanoi Eco Tours has also arranged transfer service from Hanoi to Van Don with a day trip to Bai Tu Long area starts in Van Don, around $20 per person / per way 

Which bay is the right choice ? Bai Tu Long bay or Halong bay

Crowded with tons of touristsOff the beaten track, less touristy
Crystal clear water and less polutedThe water is a bit poluted
40 islands and islets1969 islands and islets
Lots of well-known tourist attractionsLess popular tourist attractions
Some of the boats are wooden junksLot of new good cruises
More limestone caves with amazing beautyThien Canh Son cave 
Only 2 hours 15 minutes to reach the pier2 hours and 45 minutes drive



Bai Tu Long bay tour from Van Don

Explore Phat Co island and its cave, one of the biggest caves in Bai Tu Long bay area

Phat Co cave

Phat Co cave in Phat Co island in Bai Tu Long Bay

There is a yellow sandy beach 15 meters wide, 50 meters long, which is good for relaxing, swimming. The cave itself looks like an egg, the way up is the middle of the egg. Climb stone steps with 10 meters high, placed under the foliage and craggy cliffs which makes you feel like climbing to the heaven gate which is the entrance. There is tons of cool rock formations with various shapes, which makes you feel like visiting a Wonderland

Visit Dong Trong cave and the island

happy buddha rock formation dong trong cave

Rock formation in Dong Trong cave

Only 10 minutes cruise from Van Don port, with historical value where scientists have found  fossils,  ceramic fragments, stone tools which prove that ancient Viet people use to live here over 40000 years old. This is a promising destination which will attracts lot of travellers in the future

Check out local oyster farm in Bai Tu Long bay

Oyster farm in Bai Tu Long, Van Don

Oyster farm in Bai Tu Long, Van Don

Locals make money from growing oyster in their farm in Bai Tu Long bay You’ll see steps by steps of making growing oyster under the guidance of locals. It may takes up to 8 months to grow the oyster.

Jumping off the boat and swim in the private beach 

It is an unique things to do in Bai Tu Long that you couldn’t find in any other cruises in Bai Tu Long area. if you are a big fan of adventure and outdoor travel, you’ll love it . You are swim among nature and you are the one tourists in the area. 

Kayaking in a private lagoon amongst oyster farms

Bai Tu Long bay kayaking

Kayaking in Bai Tu Long bay

There is no better way to enjoy Bai Tu Long bay by kayaking in a private hidden lagoon which no travellers can reach themselves without taking a day trip cruise to Bai Tu long bay with Hanoi Eco Tour

Discover untouched Bai Tu Long national park

Bai Tu Long national park

Bai Tu Long national park – Off the tourist trail

The trip to national park will take you see lots of animals, plants and species that you aren’t able to see in a regular Bai Tu Long cruise. Enjoy a night staying in Ba Mun island, then take a trekking up hill into the forest. Please note that you can only get here in a organised tour from Hanoi

Which is the best cruise in Bai Tu Long bay?

Depending on your tastes and budget. See suggested cruises below bases on your budget

Standard cruise:

  • Swan cruise
  • Vspirit cruise
  • Garden Bay cruise
  • Oriental Sail

Middle – range cruise:

  • Athena Elegance Cruise
  • Paloma Cruise
  • Bhaya cruise
  • Indochina Junk

Luxury cruise :

  • Signature cruise
  • Athena cruise
  • Au Co cruise
  • Emperor cruise
  • Victory Star cruise
  • Dragon legend cruise
  • Heritage Line Violet cruise

Private charter cruise for small group :

Price cruise, Princess cruise (Indochina Junk’s group), Victory Star (2 cabins), Lamour Junk, Petit White Dolphin cruise, 

What to pack to travel on a cruise to Bai Tu Long Bay

  • Swimming suits
  • Changes of clothes
  • Sun cream, sunglasses
  • Insect spray
  • Water proof bag
  •  Hat and umbrella
  • Tank top
  • Walking shoes, flip flops
  • Cash in local Dong or US Dollar

Bai Tu Long Bay travel tips

  • There is no ATM machines which cruising in the bay, but there are some cruises offer POS machine at their waiting lounge or onboard so you are able to settle your bill whilst going on a cruise trip. 
  • Take along a waterproof bag if you want to kayak  around the bay because if you drop any electronic devices, there is no chance to use them again
  • If you are travelling on a budget, please note the drinks on board in a bit pricy. 
  • If you have time, 3 days cruising in Bai Tu Long Bay is better than taking 2 days trip because it is really relaxing, more fun activities and meet more people. 

Frequently asked questions about Bai Tu Long Bay, Vietnam

Bai Tu Long bay or Halong Bay?

The scenery is pretty much the same but Halong Bay has more limestone karst mountains and SUPER touristy than Bai Tu Long Bay

How long should I spend on an overnight cruise on Bai Tu Long Bay?

2 days 1 night if you want to see highlights of the bay. If you have more time, 3 days 2 nights trip is more preferable, allow you to explore further of the bay with more outdoor activities: kayaking, swimming

Is there any cruise for honeymoon couple?

In my opinion, those private charter cruises mentioned above is good for honeymoon couple because of privacy. 2 days 1-night cruise costs $360 USD per person. Before making a reservation, please inform that you are going on a honeymoon trip so they can decorate a nice cabin for you. 

Is it worth visiting Bai Tu Long bay in one day?

There is an elephant in the room. 

There are 2 routes for Bai Tu Long bay day trip, one is from Hon Gai and another one starts from Van Don. In my opinion, the one from Van Don is good for those who like travelling off the beaten track and enjoy outdoor activities like kayaking, swimming, caving, jumping off the boat that you can’t do in a regular Bai Tu Long bay tour from Hon Gai. 

Hanoi Eco Tour is the only company organising the tour from Van Don

Can I do rock climbing or scuba diving?

No, you can’t. The bay itself is a UNESCO site so these activities mentioned above is forbidden 

How much is a Bai Tu Long Bay overnight cruise ?

Standard cruise’s price ranges from $110 to $130 USD per person for 2 days 1 night package includes transfer

Deluxe cruise’s price ranges from $135 to $165 USD per person for 2 days 1 night package includes transfer

Luxury cruise’s price range from $180 to $250 USD for 2 days 1 night package includes transfer

Do you cater vegetarian on an overnight cruise?

Yeb. All cruises offer food option for vegan, vegetarian or food allergy. Please inform the cruise operator in advance

Is there any wifi coverage on an overnight boat?

It depends. Some cruises offer FREE WIFI on board but the internet connection isn’t as good as on the mainland. If you are using a 4G internet Simcard, going up on the sundeck when the boat anchors at night to try to connect to the internet

Can I pay for my expenses by credit card?

There are some cruises offering payment by credit card either onboard or at the waiting lounge. I recommend taking cash with you for your convenience. 

Should I book a tour with a travel agent or directly with a cruise operator?

If you know which cruise you want to go, I recommend booking directly with the cruise operator, who will offer you a good deal. If you don’t know which one you should go then dealing with a travel agent help you choose a good one suits about taste and budget. You can also get a good deal from the travel agent who have a very good relationship with the cruise operator by sending a ton of bookings every month

Can I take a Bai Tu Long tour without taking a cruise?

Yes, you can. There are several islands such as Quan Lan, Ngoc Vung where you can travel without taking a cruise. Quan Lan island is a good choice with interesting outdoor activities such as kayaking, swimming, cycling, walking and so on. 

Read more : Top things to do in Quan Lan island 

Is wedding party service available on a Bai Tu Long bay cruise?

Most of the cruises from 3 to 5 stars offer wedding ceremony service. Please contact the cruise operator for details. They usually offer a package with everything you need for an ultimate wedding. 

Can I disembark the boat earlier than scheduled if I have early flight?

You can easily deal with the cruise operator to get back to the pier or hotel earlier to catch up with the flight. Before making a reservation, I recommend contact the cruise and provide them with flight details and ask how can you be back Hanoi or the airport on time. 

How to get to Van Don airport from Bai Tu Long?

Private transfer or taxi is the best way to get to Van Don airport. 

From Hon Gai port : $65 USD one way

From Van Don : $14 USD one way

Can I cook myself on an overnight cruise?

No, you can’t. 

We hope this Bai Tu Long Bay travel guide by Hanoi Eco Tour helps you some ways to plan a longer, more enjoyable, more affordable trip to Bai Tu Long Bay. Honestly, I am not the best writer nor it isn’t the best article about travel planning to Bai Tu Long but I write from personal experience by 10 years experience working as a local guide in Northern region includes 4 years experience working as in house English speaking guide on a cruise in both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. I ask you not just to research, take action by planning a trip on Bai Tu Long bay either on a cruise or a sightseeing trip. 

Read more : Van Don bay travel guide 2020

Bai Tu Long bay off the beaten track day tour 

Bai Tu Long overnight cruise 2 days 1 nights

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If you do like Bai Tu Long Bay travel guide article, please LIKE, SHARE AND GIVE COMMENT BELOW  in encouraging me to write more useful articles. 

Happy travels from Hanoi Eco Tour team 

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David Nguyen : Freelancer tour guide as well as a passionate writer for Hanoi Eco Tour, who has been working over 10 years in the tourism industry. All articles are written by him from his REAL travel experiences, down to earth and unique.

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