Halong Bay is a fascinating place of natural beauty in northern Vietnam and is rightly recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay is filled with thousands of limestone islets that rise from the emerald waters and appear in many different shapes and sizes. Many of the islands have hollowed caves and dramatic arches, while others are left untouched.
A day or overnight Halong Bay cruise can be enjoyed in many different ways. Let's take a look at what is important in planning a trip to Halong Bay:
Transfer to Halong Bay
The easiest option to visit Halong Bay on the Vietnam packages is to book an organised tour in Hanoi and travel from there. Staying in the capital is not only great for exploring this vibrant city, but also the many surrounding places of interest, such as Halong and Sapa. The journey time from Hanoi to Halong Bay is in the region of 4 hours and is completed by coach, minibus or van.
Alternatively, there is the option to travel to Halong Bay and then organise a tour. However, there is a risk of paying more when looking to book a last-minute tour. So, with a little effort it is possible to have everything organised before leaving Hanoi, which takes away a lot of the stress of trying to find a boat operator on arrival. A round-trip is a great option and will include everything needed for a fun day out on the bay.
Type of tour
A Halong Bay cruise that passes the striking limestone islands on a traditional junk-style boat is a very memorable occasion. So, it is essential to choose the right type of tour to match the specific needs.
Day or Overnight tours
A Halong Bay day-trip is perfect for tourists on the Vietnam holiday with limited time. A typical day trip booked through a reputable tour company in Hanoi will include the trip to and from the capital, a boat circuit that lasts about four hours, fun detours to the caves and fishing villages and lunch on board.
However, the best way to truly experience the all-round beauty of the bay is to sign-up for an overnight cruise. A 2-day, 1-night cruise gives the extra time to appreciate the incredible beauty of Halong Bay.
Additionally, a longer tour makes it possible to explore and stay on the Cat Ba Island. This is a paradise of natural beauty that is shrouded in jungle and offers a wonderful base for kayaking, sailing and exploring other regions, such as Lan Ha Bay.
Try to avoid the offers that seem to be particularly cheap. Invest a little time to research a tour and perhaps get feedback from other tourists that have been out on the bay. A typical boat cruise should include everything needed for a pleasant stay, such as the entry fees, activities, meals, accommodation and transfers.
Other things to do in Halong Bay
For tourists on the Vietnam package that wish to get involved with activities like trekking, there are plenty of great trails to explore by visiting the Cat Ba National Park. Avid trekkers are certain to appreciate its freshwater lakes, subtropical evergreen forests and mangroves. Also, there are plenty of sleepy fishing villages, white beaches and coastal cliffs to see on a well-planned tour.
Kayaking is a favourite pastime in Halong Bay. Many of the cruise tours include this activity as a standard part of the itinerary, but it is still worth checking to make sure. The natural landscape has the wonderfully tranquil conditions with picture-perfect lagoons and low-arching cave systems that are perfect to explore by kayak. Bai Trai Dao Lagoon, Ho Ba Ham Cave and Luon Grotto are a few of the most popular options.
Additionally, there are plenty of other Halong Bay caves to explore as part of the tour package. Surprise Cave (or Surprise Grotto) is a favourite place to visit and is located on Bo Hon Island. It is one of the widest grottoes in the region and has thousands of stalagmite and stalactite formations that are lit up with multi-coloured spotlights.
A further must-see cave is the Dua Go Cave, which is bathed in natural light and a lot smaller in size. The stalactites that hang from the ceiling give the impression of water frozen in time.
Accommodation in Halong Bay
The accommodation options in Halong Bay are quite wide ranging and include high-end hotels to budget hotels. With a little extra spent, there are many options to enjoy a high level of comfort. There are plenty of decent hotels that cost in the region of $60 to $90 per night and centrally located in the city to make it very easy to get around.
For the travellers that are only looking for a short stay on a cruise boat there is the option to overnight in one of the hotels. However, there is the option to stay overnight on a cruise boat which gives the greatest comfort on the moderate to luxury cruises. Many of the best boats include first-rate facilities, knowledgeable guides, comfortable cabins, and great local food.
Best time to visit Halong Bay
A visit to Halong Bay can take place at any time of the year. However, there are times of the year that are more favourable. For instance, a Halong Bay cruise that takes place in March to May or September to November can give the dry and pleasant temperature. On occasion, there may be fog and mist at the start of the day, but this only adds to the eerie atmosphere and ethereal beauty of the seascape. Alternatively, a trip to Halong Bay in the low season – May to September – may have the occasional heavy storms, but the crowds at this time of year are much lower. Also, the Vietnam tours at this time give plenty of opportunities to benefit from special prices and promotions at this time of year.