How to choose the best Halong Bay cruise tour 2021

Right Halong Bay cruise

how to choose a right cruise for Halong Bay tour

Here is some tips written by Hanoi Eco Tour how to choose best Halong bay cruise 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

Introduction to Halong Bay



1 day cruise tour: blue colour

2 days 1 night cruise : Orange colour

What does the name “Halong bay” come from?

In the late 19th century, Halong Bay appeared on a French marine map. There was a French captain who 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 that Halong means “Dragon”
According to a legend, when Chinese people invaded Vietnam a long time ago. The Jade Emperor sent a group of dragons including a Mother and their children in order to help to fight against Chinese invaders. When the Dragon descended, he spat out lots of pearls, which formed islands.

Because the Chinese vessels went very fast so they couldn’t manage to stop and hit the rock and sunk 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 child dragon descended, we called Bai Tu Long Bay

When is the best time to go on a Halong bay cruise?


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 the spring in Vietnam, it is sometimes foggy so you are able to 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 lot of promotion and a good deal for a Halong bay cruise. The trip is sometimes cancelled due to the bad weather condition (July, August) 

November to January is the coldest time in Halong Bay. If you just want to enjoy its services onboard or joining the activities without going on a swim then it should be fine

Why going on a Halong bay cruise? 

As a popular destination for worldwide travellers, Halong Bay is affordable and give you some ways to travel more enjoyably, cheaper, longer.

Going on a cruise tour in Halong Bay is an awesome experience help you reach the places which you are not able to do it on your own. On the other hand, there are lots of fun things to do such as kayaking, cooking, swimming, exploring the floating villages

Before picking up a cruise, people have the same questions that travel on your own or book 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

Option 1 : Travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay (DIY Option)

Halong Bay transport

Limousine Bus to Halong Bay

There are 4 options to choose from 

Private carFrom $90 per carReservations here
Limousine vanFrom $20 per personBuy tickets here
Local busFrom $7- $11 per personBuy tickets here
TrainFrom $4 per personBuy 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 Sapa Dragon 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.

How much does it cost for a DIY Halong day cruise?

Halong Bay ticket

Halong Bay ticket – Day trip ticket

Entrance fee for Halong Bay : 290.000VND ($14), buy it at ticket booth on your own

Boat fee : 250.000VND per person ($12)

Total cost : $20 + $14 + $12 = $46 (with no lunch included)

A typical seafood lunch is usually charged $10 to $14 depending on the menu

Option 2 : Taking a seat in coach Halong Bay day tour from Hanoi

Sit in coach day tour option from Hanoi

Halong bay day tour

Halong Bay day tour @Nguyen Quynh Trang

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 Wonder 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 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 includes a visit to Surprising cave, swimming or hiking in Titov island or kayaking through Luon cave 

How to book a day tour?

You can book directly with a travel agent in Hanoi with a variety of 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 $50 to $60 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

Cruise option for Halong Bay day tour

  • Wonderbay cruise
  • Alova day cruise
  • Athena day cruise
  • Dragon Fly cruise

Option 3 : Taking an overnight cruise from Hanoi

Which bay to go? Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay

In term of condition

Halong Bay is the most touristy bay with thousand 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

Which activities included on an overnight cruise tour?

kayaking lan ha bay

Kayaking in Lan Ha Bay

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 Hospital cave in Cat Ba included

In my opinion, you are a fan of taking cool photos, love the nature beauty, check in at famous spots. Halong bay is your choice. If you are active travellers, Lan Ha Bay is definitely a great choice. If you like less touristy and off the beaten track, Bai Tu Long Bay is a perfect choice

Insider tips for choose a right overnight cruise for your Halong Bay tour 

1.Reputation for a Halong Bay cruise

Halong cruise on Trip Advisor

Halong cruise and Bai Tu Long cruise on Trip Advisor

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.

2.Halong Bay cruise price – Choose the budget suits you

Oasis Bay cruise

Oasis Bay cruise – The best party cruise in Halong Bay

Here is some tips to help you find out the best one but affordable one on your budget. If you like to have fun and party, there is a tour called Halong Hideaway tour organized by Backpacker hotels valued at $91 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

These cruises mentioned below in Bai Tu Long and Halong Bay area only. There is another activities in term of picking a good cruise for Lan Ha bay tour, click here for details

Best Standard Halong cruise

Garden Bay cruise

Garden Bay cruise – Standard cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay area

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.

Best Mid-range Halong cruise

Huong Hai Sealife cruise

Huong Hai sealife – Deluxe cruise Halong Bay

If you prefer premium cruises, I can recommend Luxury Flamingo cruise, , Paloma Cruise, Pelican Cruise, Huong Hai Sealife, Gray Line Halong, Indochina Junk,  Star light cruise,  Bhaya cruise. The rate is range from US$180 to US $245

Best Luxury cruise in Halong Bay

Emperor cruise

Emperor cruise – Luxury cruise halong Bay

If you are looking for a luxury cruise, my recommendation is Signature cruise, Emperor cruise, Aphrodite cruise, Athena cruise, Victory Star, Indochina Sail, Violet cruise, Margaret cruise, Paradise Luxury Cruise, Au Co cruise, . The rate is different from each other. The most expensive ones are Au Co and 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 joining group tour. It means that you will share the boat with others.

If you are going for a small group from 2 to 10 expecting a private cruise, I do recommend to book a private charter cruise. Based on your group size, you might book the boat range from 1 to 5 cabins. The rate ranges from $180 to $250

3.Facilities and Services for a Halong Bay cruise

Jacuzzi on Halong Bay

Jacuzzi on a Halong Bay cruise

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, bookshelves and services snorkelling and fishing equipment , jacuzzi and spa and kayaking. The services are mentioned to be exclusives.

4.Safety first

Life jacket in Halong Bay

Tourists is wearing life vests in Halong Bay

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.

5.Itinerary or route for a Halong Bay tour

Where to cruise : Halong bay or Bai Tu Long bay

Indochina Junk cruising route

Indochina Junk cruising Bai Tu Long bay route

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

Duration of your stay and activities

Depending on your schedule, you will decide how long to stay.

Halong bay day tour

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. 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 an alternative choice

2 days with 1 night overnight on a sleeping boat

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

3 days 2 nights with 2 nights sleeping on boat.

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 Trong cave as well as a visit to Dong Tien lake and Pearl Farm

Type of cruise for Halong Bay Tour

Amira Cruise

Amira Cruise – private charter cruise in Bai Tu Long bay

Private Halong charter cruise

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.

Recommend boutique cruise 

Amira cruise, Violet cruise, Victory star cruise, Princess, Prince cruise (belongs to Indochina Junk)

Joining group cruise tour 

You will join the tour with others. A small but good service can be a good choice for you.

6.Responsible travel in Halong Bay

Responsible travel Halong bay

Collecting Rubbish Halong Bay

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 :

  • Take a sampan to visit the fishing village rowed by locals
  • Collecting rubbish and wastes in Halong.
  • Offering life vests to the local fishermen
  • Re-planting mangroves forests in Halong bay
  • Repainting and building floating school for local children
  • Taking a fishing trip with locals.

The best Halong Bay cruises: hand-picked by us for 2021

  • President cruise
  • Paradise cruise
  • Alisa cruise
  • Magaret cruise
  • Stellar of the Sea
  • Genesis luxury Regal cruise

The review of Halong Bay 

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 attraction, Halong bay now becomes a mass tourism spot so the bay is overcrowded with tons of Chinese tourists. 

But it still a nice place to relax and unwind even travelling in the wintertime, connect with beautiful nature and choose the one which is less crowded. 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. 

Common Questions for choosing a Halong bay cruise

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

How do I choose a Halong Bay cruise?

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 up a good cruise and have an enjoyable Halong Bay tour.

Note :

As a reader of this website, I would like to offer you 12% discount for all bookings of Halong Bay cruise tour via this website with the code “11%OFFHALONG”. It helps you save a hundred of dollars. Book now, save time & money and have an amazing trip. This offer expires December 30th, 2021.
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

Hanoi Eco Tours has offer a wide ranges of Halong bay tour, Lan Ha bay tour and Bai Tu Long bay tour . We are expert in organizing off the beaten track and local experience tour.

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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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