Halong Bay is a must-visit place to include on the family tours in Vietnam. This natural wonder is blessed with breathtaking beauty that consists of the 1500+ limestone islets, caves and beaches.
There are several options for tourists to enjoy a stay in Halong Bay. Many visitors will choose an overnight cruise for the best all-round experience. However, there are plenty of other things to consider in the process of booking the right trip.
Let's take a look at a few of the most important things to consider when choosing a Halong Bay tour:
Length of cruise
One of the first things to consider is the length of the Halong Bay cruise. The most popular options are typically 2-days, 1-night or 3-days, 2-nights. Travellers with limited free time on the itinerary will benefit from the 2-day, 1-night option. However, the longer cruise options can give the option to explore some of the more remote parts of the region and also get involved in more activities and excursions, such as swimming, kayaking and cave exploring.
Anyone travelling to Halong Bay on the Vietnam tours should stay at least one night in the area unless time is very limited. On a short three/four hour day-trip the cruise is likely to be limited to the tourist parts. However, for the long cruise it is possible to move away from the hundreds of other visitors to see the more remote area. Also, the Halong Bay scenery looks particularly appealing at dusk and dawn, so this is a further reason to spend a night on the bay.
Set the right budget
A visit to Halong Bay is something that is worth spending a little extra to get the most enjoyable experience. Try to avoid the cheapest options, they can mean a poor experience with dodgy food and low-quality sleeping conditions. Go with the highest quality tour on the bay that is still affordable. Most of the decent Vietnam tour agents will offer a variety of tour packages that can be tailored to match the personal budget. The cheapest prices relate to the day-trips, which can be as low as $45. However, the most memorable time comes with an overnight stay. They are more expensive and likely to cost about $95 to $150 per person/per night. Also, there is the option for a luxury cruise on board the most impressive boats with a price of $500 per night. While it isn't necessary to overpay for a Halong Bay cruise, it will certainly benefit to invest a little extra to get a decent quality tour on a boat that is well outfitted and isn't overcrowded.
Pick a peaceful route
Any Halong Bay cruise that explores the less frequented parts of the bay is certain to be appreciated. If you can avoid the main bay area, there is a good chance of escaping a lot of the overcrowding, noise and pollution. Try to book a cruise that visits Bai Tu Long Bay or similar to experience the more peaceful time.
What size boat
The size of the traditional junk-style boat on the bay can range quite significantly in size. Many of the smaller boats are typically quieter and give the more personal experience. The larger boats have more passengers on board, so the prices are likely to be more affordable. However, there will be less time and attention given when it comes to activities and excursions.
Is it all-inclusive?
Make sure to check what is and isn't included in the Halong Bay cruise before booking. Ideally, you want an all-inclusive package that consists of the trip from Hanoi, meals, all activities, and any accommodation. Other things like sodas and alcohol aren't included and charged extra. If you have a favourite activity that you want included on the cruise itinerary, give the booking confirmation a double check to ensure everything is in place. The majority of the cruise will offer the most standard activities (caves, beach time, kayaking, floating village, etc.), but there are also those that travel to the more remote parts of the bay. If you want to know the beach or caves visited, try to find out this information upfront because the various parts of the bay will differ in relation to quality and reputation. For instance, some of the floating villages get a lot more tourist attraction than others and some beaches are cleaner.
Book in advance
There are plenty of great travel agencies in Hanoi to book theHalong Bay cruise. It is often possible to get the most attractive prices when booking early through one of the many travel agencies in the capital. Alternatively, for those with little patience to haggle or short on time, there is the option to book online.
By booking the Halong Bay cruise in advance you get that extra peace of mind in knowing that everything is organised before starting the 4 hour journey to Halong.
When to go
A Halong Bay cruise can be a wonderful experience at any time of the year. Any tour that navigates the emerald waters and limestone islands in November is highly likely to be a pleasant experience. At this time, the sea is calm, the temperature is moderate and the sky is blue. Any cruise that takes place between May and September can witness heavy storms that can easily lead to the cancellation of a tour until the weather improves. However, this is the low season for foreigner travellers, so it does give plenty of opportunity to find great deals and promotions. For the months of February, March and April the climate can be drizzly and cool with fog reducing the visibility, although it will help to create an ethereal atmosphere. If you intend to visit Halong Bay on the Vietnam travel packages when there is a high risk of adverse weather that can lead to a cancellation, make sure to check the fine print of the cruise booking to see if you are in a position to claim a refund in this situation.