Halong Bay is a major tourist hotspot in this part of SE Asia with its 1600+ limestone islands that rise from the emerald waters. On average, this stunning bay is visited by nearly 6 million travellers on an annual basis.
Let's take a look at a few of the things to help organise the perfect Halong Bay cruise on the Vietnam family holiday:
Duration of cruise
The best Halong Bay cruise is achieved with an overnight stay (1 to 3 nights) on a traditional junk-style boat or similar type of boat.
While it is possible to go out on a short day cruise, they are essentially very short journeys that merely give a taste of what it is like to navigate the waters and pass the many islands. There are plenty of options to book a day trip or longer in Hanoi or Halong City. If time is limited, a day-trip from Hanoi is a possibility with a half-day on the bay, but if you have more time to spare, it is better to go for the overnight cruise.
The overnight cruise is the most popular option to not only get a better appreciation of the scenery but, also for a more relaxing time. A 2-day, 1-night cruise is a favourite choice that lasts 24-hours. However, a longer stay in Halong Bay can appeal to those wishing to explore the most remote parts and to fully unwind. Also, a further great benefit of the longer cruise is the ability to navigate from the crowds.
Additionally, there are often opportunities to get involved in daily activities, such as kayaking trips to explore the caves and swimming.
While the entire area is typically referred to as Halong Bay, there are several different bay areas to explore. They include Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay, and Bai Tu Long Bay. All three bays have picture-perfect scenery with the limestone islets, caves, idyllic bays and small beaches. However, on occasion the number of boats in the main Halong Bay area can get a little chaotic and result in a disappointing cruise.
Additionally, there is Cat Ba Island, which is a further place of interest. This island has a naturally beautiful landscape with a combination of dramatic hills and cliffs, white sandy beaches and lush-green forest.
Cruising to the less visited part of Halong Bay will result in the most relaxed experience on the Vietnam tours package that will avoid a lot of the crowds.
What is included?
Most tour packages in Halong Bay will include everything, such as a variety of activities and food. It is best to carefully check the planned activities when booking a tour to make sure it does include the daily activities that interest you the most. Also, the cost of travel from Hanoi is typically included. However, there are some Vietnam travel agents that will charge an extra fee for this. Double check what is included before accepting the proposed tour package.
Investigate the boat options
A Halong Bay cruise can take place on a wide range of boats that vary in relation to quality, size and style. Try to check the boat and cruise online by reading reviews or other relevant information. The total number of passengers accepted on board can have an impact on your experience. Unless a private cruise is booked, there will be plenty of other tourists on the boat. Any daily activities and eating when be done together, so take the time to consider how many other people you will feel happy travelling with. For many cruises, the boats that accept 35+ people can start to feel quite crowded.
Outline an acceptable budget
Try to avoid the cheapest cruise tours on Halong Bay. They are often overcrowded with very few activities, low-quality food or similar issues. However, it is still possible to book a fun and relaxing cruise on the bay without over-stretching the budget.
Invest a little time into researching the different options to see what you are able to get for your money. Beyond the size and type of boat, there are plenty of other things that can impact the cost. This may relate to the transfer to and from Hanoi, food and activities. If you intend to use a local Vietnam travel agency to book the cruise, there is often the opportunity to negotiate on price to match the specific needs.
Book with a trusted agent
In order to avoid the local tourist scams that target those looking to book a Halong Bay cruise, it is important to book through the right place. There are many dedicated tour companies in Hanoi that can help organize a perfect trip.
When touring the country on the tours, you will find that researching the different places to visit beforehand is a great way to avoid the less desirable places. Also, it may be possible to get a quote from the hotel or hostel you are staying in, but they aren't likely to be the best priced.
Additionally, there may be the option of getting in direct contact with a few of the cruise companies. However, the prices quoted are typically more expensive than you would receive elsewhere, such as a local agency.
The best course of action is always to be in touch with a local travel agency. Ask around, check reviews and do your research to find the right cruise package that is tailored to your needs.
What is the most popular time to book a cruise?
A wonderful Halong Bay cruise can take place at any time of the year – although there are certain times that are more favourable than others. The preferred time can vary with what you are most interested in. If the weather factors and crowds are considered, a cruise that takes place between late-February, March or April can offer the very pleasant conditions for cruising in the emerald waters of Halong with its thousands of limestone islets, caves, and grottoes.