Halong Bay tour is a must-do in Vietnam. Halong Bay is known as New Seven Natural Wonder of the World as well as World Heritage Site. As a popular destination for worldwide travellers, Halong Bay is affordable and give you some ways to travel more enjoyably, cheaper, longer. Here is some tips how to choose a right cruise for Halong Bay tour.
Before picking up an cruise, people have the same questions that travel on your own or book in advance with a travel agent or cruise company in Hanoi
How to travel on your own from Hanoi
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.
There are two main harbours : Tuan Chau tourist wharf for Halong Bay and Vinashin port for Bai Tu Long Bay area.
It takes around 2.5 hours for New Express way and 3.5 hours for the old one to get to Halong Bay. It costs around $10 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.
Taking a seat in coach Halong Bay tour from Hanoi or arrange it when you get to the wharf
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
Sit in coach tour option from Hanoi
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 is up to you.
These simple things help you to find a right cruise for your Halong Bay tour
Cruise option for Halong Bay day tour
Alova day cruise
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
In term of activities
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
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. If you like to have fun and party, there is a tour called Halong Hideaway tour organized by Backpaker 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
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 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
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 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
Facilities and Services
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, book shelves and services snorkeling and fishing equipment , jacuzzi and spa and kayaking. The services are mentioned to be exclusives.
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.
Where to cruise
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
Depending on your schedule, you will decide how long to stay. If you take a 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 (Hevenly 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 one as Go Asia Travel, Minh Sinh travel, Khanh sinh Tour…) , 2 days with 1 night overnight on a sleeping boat , 3 days 2 nights with 2 nights sleeping on boat. On the 2nd day, you will take a day boat and spend your day for kayaking in the area of Dark and Light cave. Some cruises offer a longer cruising to Ba Trai Dao beach and barbecue lunch on the beach but it depends on the tidal and weather condition. Some of them offer tours to Viet Hai village where you can hop on your bike around the village, take plenty of photos and chat with locals to know more about how their daily life is) and stay longer in Halong city or Cat Ba island in Halong Bay. In my opinion, I prefer 2 days 1 night and 3 days 2 nights.
Type of cruise for Halong Bay Tour
Private 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.
Responsible travel in 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 visiting the fishing village rowed by locals
- Collecting rubbish and wastes in Halong .
- Offering life vests to the local fishermen
- Re-planting mangroves forests in HalongBay
- Repainting and building floating school for local children
- Taking a fishing trip with locals.
I hope my suggestion above helps you pick up a good cruise and have an enjoyable Halong Bay tour.
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