Here is some tips written by Hanoi Eco Tour how to choose best Halong bay cruise tour for your Halong Bay tour
Halong Bay tour is a must-do in Vietnam, known as New Seven Natural Wonder of the World as well as World Heritage Site..
Table of Contents
1 day cruise tour: blue colour
2 days 1 night cruise : Orange colour
Halong Bay is the World Heritage site, one of the top travel destination in Northern Vietnam with incredible natural beauty of 1969 limestone islands. It’s located about 150 kilometres (94 miles) on the Northeast of Hanoi within 2.5 hours drive on New Expressway. Crusing among towering limestone cliffs is a truly amazing experience that you shouldn’t miss when travelling Vietnam.
In the late 19th century, Halong Bay appeared on a French marine map. A French captain had seen a giant sea snake coming from the water, but it disappeared later, and no one saw him again. He said that it looked a dragon so Halong means “Dragon”
According to a legend, Chinese people invaded Vietnam long ago. The Jade Emperor sent a group of dragons, including a Mother and their children to help to fight against Chinese invaders. When the Dragon descended, he spat out many pearls, forming islands.
Because the Chinese vessels went very fast, they couldn’t stop, hit the rock, and sank in the bay. Admiring the beauty of Halong Bay, the Dragon didn’t want to return the Heaven so the place where the Mother Dragon descended, called Halong Bay, the place where the child dragon descended, we called Bai Tu Long Bay
Halong Bay cruise is available all year round. In my opinion, from September to early November is the best time to go on a Halong cruise tour because it’s cool, not too sunny which is ideal weather for outdoor activities
February to April which is considered as spring in Vietnam, it is sometimes foggy so you can enjoy the amazing beauty of limestone islands in Halong Bay
May to August is the hottest time of the year in Halong Bay but you’ll get a lot of promotions and a good deal for a Halong bay cruise. The trip is sometimes canceled due to bad weather conditions (July, August) because of storms and typhoons.
November to January is the coldest time in Halong Bay. If you want to enjoy its services onboard or joining the activities without going on a swim, then it should be fine.
As a popular destination for worldwide travellers, Halong Bay is affordable and give you some ways to travel more enjoyably, cheaper, longer if you take a seat in coach tour depart from Hanoi
Since Halong Bay can’t be done if you travel on your own, Going on a guided cruise tour in Halong Bay is an awesome experience helps you reach the places you cannot do it on your own. On the other hand, there are lots of fun things to do such as kayaking, cooking, swimming, bamboo boat ride.
Before picking up a cruise, people have the same questions about travel on your own or booking in advance with a travel agent or cruise company in Hanoi
This article is written to help you pick a Halong bay tour like a pro with the best things to do as possible with 3 main option
There are 4 options to choose from (one way)
|From $95 per car
|From $20 per person
|Buy tickets here
|From $7- $11 per person
|Buy tickets here
|From $4 per person
|Buy tickets here
If you are travelling on a budget, I still recommend to take a tourist bus or sharing Dcar limousine for a comfort ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay area.
I recommend Halong Excursion which offers pick up service from Hanoi Old Quarter
There are three main harbours : Tuan Chau tourist wharf for Halong Bay, New Sun group port in Bai Chay and Vinashin port for Bai Tu Long Bay area.
It takes around 2.5 hours for New Expressway and 3.5 hours for the old one to get to Halong Bay. It costs around $12 for a ride.
At Tuan Chau Wharf, you can only take the option of day cruise for 4 hours at ticket booth.
If you are looking for an overnight stay in a cruise, there are only choice from some vendors who might be scammers.
Read more : How to get to Halong from Hanoi
Entrance fee for Halong Bay : 290.000VND ($14), buy it at ticket booth on your own
Boat fee: 400.000VND per person ($16)
Around trip transfer from Hanoi : $20
Total cost : $16 + $14 + $20 = $50 (with no lunch included)
A typical seafood lunch is usually charged $10 to $14 depending on the menu. You also need to pay for your own transfer ($20 round trip)
If you have limited time, just one day, then a Halong Bay day trip from Hanoi is a good choice, still can see the New Seven Wonders of Nature
In my opinion, it takes 5 hours round trip by New Express Way or 7.5 hours by the old way; you will be spending 3.5 hours (Route 1) on board to see its highlights, includes taking a sampan or kayaking in the floating village, visiting the Thien Cung cave
There is an option of 6 hours cruise (Route 2) that includes a visit to Surprising cave, swimming or hiking in Titov island or kayaking through Luon cave.
Most of the group tour from Hanoi offers route 2 which makes it busier than route 1 but more activities.
Please note that the bus do not drop you off at either Bai Chay or Halong city
You can book directly with the cruise operator or a travel agent in Hanoi with various rates. But I do recommend booking online directly either with cruise operators or online booking platforms like Get Your Guide, Viator, Withlocals
Doing well-reached before making a reservation is an advantage of booking online. 2 weeks in advance in enough for an online booking
A group guided tour for Halong Bay day tour ranges from $55 to $70 per person, includes pick up and drop off at the hotel, English speaking guide, lunch (vegetarian option available), entrance fee, boat in Halong Bay sharing with others.
The decision between DIY or taking a seat in coach tour is up to you.
These simple things help you to find a right cruise for your Halong Bay day tour
Halong Bay is the most touristy bay with thousands of tourists every day. When it comes to high seasons, it is super crowded
Bai Tu Long bay is off the beaten track destination with also limestone karts mountains but less than Halong Bay
Lan Ha Bay : The bay itself is much smaller than Halong Bay but less touristy and there is no cave to explore
Halong bay : Typical activities such as visiting Suprising cave, hiking Titov island, swimming on Titov or Soi Sim island, cooking class…..
Bai Tu Long bay : Almost the same as Halong Bay but no swimming
Lan Ha Bay : It is a great choice for active travellers : snorkeling, swimming, fishing, cooking class, biking in Cat Ba island or Viet Hai vilage..etc but no cave to explore. Only if you are taking 3 days trip, there is a visit to Three Peach beach
In my opinion, you are a fan of taking cool photos, love the natural beauty, and check in at famous spots. Halong bay is your choice. If you are active travelers, Lan Ha Bay is a great choice. If you like less touristy and off the beaten track, Bai Tu Long Bay is a perfect choice
Please read reviews on Trip Advisor, travel blog and comments or ask your friends who has been there or other tourists who stay in the same hotel with you.
Talking about Trip Advisor, I think it’s a good place to search information as a reference. The make-up reviews which many businesses have made by themselves might make you decide wrong thing. Not all reviews are fake but read them carefully, you’ll find down which is real or not
In my opinion, friend recommendation or anyone that you met in the same hotel, restaurant or somewhere in Vietnam is a good resource to hear honest reviews about the cruise. Without a doubt, it is so important to see what a company reputation is before booking with them. The cheap cruises may not be a good ones. The small one but good reputation can be your choice. Let’s choose ones suitable your budget.
Here is some tips to help you find out the best one but affordable one on your budget. Suppose you like to have fun and party. In that case, there is a tour called Halong Hideaway tour organized by Backpacker hotels valued at $120 for 2 days 1 night tour or Oasis Bay cruise valued from $140 with good facilities such as Outdoor Jacuzzi, Water Trampoline. Please note that those tours aren’t for those who like to be quite and peaceful
From US$109 to US$129/ per person for 2 days 1 night, you can get good ones such as Garden Bay cruise, Halong Apricot cruise, Sunlight boutique cruise, Cozy Bay cruise, Swan cruise, Syrena cruise, Halong Glory Cruise. In addition, please check what’s included in the tour price. For some travel agents, as you check on their website, the price is lower but round-trip transportation may not be included. You may pay extra for a total bill.
If you prefer premium cruises, I can recommend
. The rate is range from US$180 to US $245
If you are looking for a luxury cruise, my recommendation is
The rate is different from each other. The most expensive ones are Emperor Cruise.
If you traveling during the summer from May to September, there’s a big deal for most cruises from 20% to 40% discount.
All cruises mentioned above offer to join a group tour. It means that you will share the boat with others.
If you are going for a small group of 2 to 10 expecting a private cruise, I do recommend to book a private charter cruise. You might book the boat range from 1 to 5 cabins based on your group size. The rate ranges from $180 to $250
Most of cruises have same facilities and services. It is just different for 4 stars and 5 stars cruise which offer other additional facilities such as safety deposit box, closet, lamp, complimentary drinks, and services and fishing equipment , jacuzzi and spa and kayaking. The services are mentioned to be exclusives.
Most of 5 stars cruise offer door to ceiling windows with great view and private bathtubs whilst it’s unavailable on 4 stars cruise
Please check boat age, I know it’s hard but don’t take the old one. The newer boat, the more safe you get. You should also check all facilities on board via their websites for safety and security such as life vests, alarm clock, hammer and safety deposit box.
My first recommendation is Bai Tu Long Bay where you can cruise off the beaten path, away from the crowd. You can get the most enjoyable moment and travel in your styles. My top choice is Indochina Junk. The second choice is Halong Bay. Most of the activities is almost the same : kayaking, caving, swimming, cooking class, squid fishing, karaoke on board …. but some of them offer extra special activities such as dinning in the cave, fishing with locals, collecting rubbish and wastes on the bay
Depending on your schedule, you will decide how long to stay.
You will spend 4 hours cruising on Halong Bay, joining these activities such as : kayaking or visiting a fishing village on a sampan rowed by locals and visiting Thien Cung (Heavenly Palace cave) . It’s good for visitors who only have a short time.
Or take 6 hours cruise as mentioned above . Most of the cruises offer the same itinerary, just choose a good tour company
If you would like to travel off the beaten track, then taking a day tour to Bai Tu Long is a choice
You will be spending almost 24 hours from noon to noon of the following days. The tour includes: cave visit, kayaking or sampan boat ride, cooking class, night squid fishing and more
All activities are pretty much the same as 2 days 1-night trip.
On the 2nd day, you will take a day boat and spend your day for kayaking in the area of TUng Sau as well as a visit to Me Cung cave and Pearl Farm
If you join a private one, you can custom itinerary, do your own activities follow instruction of the crews. There is also a plenty of choices such as 1 cabin, 2 cabins to 6 cabins. If you want something private, it will be a good choice for you. You may pay a bit extra than joining a group tour, but you have your own boat. It’s good for couples, family, the old.
Bhaya Legend (Bhaya group) for both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long whist Princess, Prince cruise (belongs to Indochina Junk), only for Bai Tu Long Bay
Do 1 day cruise to save your money. Some overnight cruise options for solo travellers
What the cruise does to to respect and benefit local people and minimize environmental impact. Here is things to do for responsible travel in Halong Bay :
You need to check if the transfer from Hanoi included
If you purchase a Halong bay tour on Booking or Agoda, there are options of cruise without transfer included. So double check carefully. If not, contact the cruise operator.
Bring extra cash to pay for drinks on board.
I would say $30 to $40 is enough for 2 days 1 night cruise for drinks onboard. The drinks can be a bit pricy on 5 stars cruise.
Choose a cruise that has less than 15 cabins
Want to have your own privacy to chill out and enjoy a drink not a big boat with many people Pick a cruise with thirty-something passengers maximum.
It is a must-see place in Vietnam which you should see. A trip to Vietnam won’t be completed without a trip to Halong Bay. The stunning beauty of the limestone islands, the rich history, the calm of the bay and fun outdoor activities
Because of popular tourist attractions, Halong bay now becomes a mass tourism spot so the bay is overcrowded with tons of Chinese tourists.
But it is still a nice place to relax and unwind even travelling in the wintertime, connect with beautiful nature and choose the less crowded one. For sure, Halong bay is worth the price.
Alternatively, you can choose to go to Ninh Binh which is known as Halong Bay on land with pretty much similar limestone mountains but rises on a river instead of the ocean.
Which cruise is best for Halong Bay?
It depends on your interest, budget. What you should do is to know how much you are willing to spend and choose the one with star rating, read the reviews and you’ll know which one to pick
How long should I stay on the cruise?
Depending on you, if you have a limited time, then 2 days 1 night is enough to see its highlights. If you want to relax, unwind and enjoy Halong at its best, I recommend taking 3 days 2 nights tour
What to do after the cruise?
If you have a bit more free time, then staying in Halong and explore the city on your own or on a guided tour is a good ideal too.
What is the nearest airport to Halong?
Van Don airport within 1-hour drive from Halong
Is Halong Bay cruise worth it?
Of course, it is 100% worth it since it is a must-see for all travellers in Vietnam with unique, outstanding beauty
Can I get seasick when cruising the bay?
No, you can’t. The seawater is so calm because the bay is surrounded by thousands of limestone islands
Should I book Halong Bay cruise in advance?
Generally, if you are dealing with a travel agent, who offers a package tour including Halong Bay. You can also book it when you are in Vietnam.
If you are travelling in the peak season such as Christmas, January. You’d better book in advance to avoid fully booked
I hope my suggestion above helps you pick the best Halong Bay cruise tour and have an enjoyable Halong Bay tour.
As a reader of this website, I would like to offer you 10% discount for all bookings of Best Halong Bay cruise tour via this website with the code “10%OFFHALONG”. It helps you save a hundred of dollars. Book now, save time & money and have an amazing trip. This offer expires December 30th, 2023.
Please note that every booking with us, you have donate $5 USD for HYNAM FOUNDATION to help poor kids living in the floating villages in Halong Bay