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The Travelers Guide To Halong Bay

Every year millions of visitors flock to Halong Bay for a chance to soak up the stunning views this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. Most visitors choose to explore this site via a Halong Bay Cruise, which allows them to cruise through the emerald waters that the thousand year old limestone mountains protrude from. Deciding what tour to book and how to get there can be stressful. We’re uncovering all you need to know before you go. Let’s take a look.

Where Is Halong Bay?

Ha Long Bay sits tucked away in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the northeastern region of Vietnam. If you are looking to explore a site that will have you feeling like you’ve stepped onto the set of Jurassic Park, this cloister of 1600 islands and islets is the perfect spot for your visit.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Halong Bay?

The peak time to visit Halong Bay is between October and December. During these months you can expect consistently nice weather with very minimal rainfall. The rainy season in Halong Bay is from June until September. While there will be less crowds during these months, making prices be more affordable, the likelihood you will have poor weather or possibly have your trip canceled because of a typhoon is high. If you want to avoid crowds, but still have nice weather, a visit to Halong Bay from January through March is a great idea.

➡️ Pro Tip: While traveling through Vietnam, make sure to use these Travel Safety Tips You Should Always Use.

Boats docked in Halong Bay
While exploring Vietnam, a cruise in Halong Bay is a must!

How To Get To Halong Bay From Hanoi

The journey to Halong Bay from Hanoi generally takes about two and a half hours to complete. Many cruises will offer pickup from within Hanoi, making travel easy and accessible. However, if you are voyaging to Halong Bay on your own from Hanoi, you can take a shuttle bus from the Hanoi Old Quarter directly to Halong Bay. For more information about bus schedules and prices, check the Visit Halong Bay website here. For a more scenic view, hop on the famous Hanoi train that runs through the streets of the city. This option takes longer to complete. However, the six hours are filled with relaxing and scenic views of the Vietnamese countryside. Additionally, it is possible for daredevils to rent their own motorbike to drive the distance to Halong Bay, but this option is only recommended for experienced drivers.

How To Get To Halong Bay From Ho Chi Minh

While Hanoi is notably closer to Halong Bay than Ho Chi Minh city, if you are skipping the city and heading straight to Halong Bay from Ho Chi Minh, you do have a few travel options. The most convenient option to travel from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi is by airplane. Planes fly direct from each city and are relatively affordable. I flew VietJet Air a few times during my time in Vietnam, and while they are definitely a budget airline, I still had a positive experience using them to navigate longer travel distances. Another option, is to travel first to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh and then use the travel methods above to continue on your journey. Trains and buses leave regularly between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. I recommend taking the night bus or train and paying extra for a bed so you can snooze during your voyage.

Jessi from Jessi's Journey posing on train tracks in Vietnam
Take the scenic route to Halong Bay from Hanoi by hopping on the train!

How To Choose What Halong Bay Cruise To Take

There are many cruise options available to visit Halong Bay and they are not all created equal. When booking a cruise online it is important to do your research first to ensure you do not get scammed. I was lucky to have been given a recommendation by a friend to book through Era Cruises, on which I had an amazing experience. Halong Bay Tours is also a reliable agency that I was recommended by my hosts. While I was very lucky to have an amazing cruise experience, I did hear many horror stories from travelers that I met along the way about the cruise they booked. Use the following tips to ensure you choose the perfect Halong Bay cruise for you.

➡️ Pro Tip: Don't let travelers' tummy ruin your Halong Bay cruise! Make sure you pack these Medications You Should Always Have On Hand When Traveling.

Emerald waters and limestone mountains in Halong Bay
Enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation time in Halong Bay.

Plan How Many Days You Want To Go

Most Halong Bay cruises will take two or three days. Booking a cruise that offers anything less than that is not recommended. Determine how long you want to actually cruise about Halong Bay before booking. For 2-3 day adventures, you will get to enjoy the scenic views and good meals while you boat about. However, if you are looking for a truly relaxing and long vacation, a 4-5 day cruise will give you more opportunity to do water sport adventures and relax on the boat. Regardless of if you are traveling for two days or five, make sure your cruise guarantees all three meals per day included in the price.

Don’t Skimp On Money

Vietnam is a cheap country, which is why so many backpackers travel about it. And I get it, I was a young backpacker once penny-pinching my way around the world. While it is important to make sure you aren’t unfairly paying more than something is worth because you are a foreigner, it is important that you don’t just book the cheapest option when going to Halong Bay. You will want to make sure your cruise provides clean rooms, good food, and most importantly, is safe. You will be on open waters after all. If there is anything I have learned from traveling throughout my twenties, it is that it is always a better idea to splurge on security and occasional convenience than put yourself at risk and save a few dollars.

Read Reviews Online First

When reading reviews you have to be cautious to discern if the reviewer has a legitimate concern or just didn’t have their unrealistic expectations met. However, more often than not, if a Halong Bay cruise is low quality or unsafe, you will see it written in the reviews. Before you book anything online or from a stand in person, read all the reviews first! Additionally, word of mouth is always the best way to hear about the best experiences. If you’re staying in a hostel or meet fellow travelers along the way, get their reviews on the experiences they had booked.

Halong Bay is such a unique destination that is well worth a visit. From snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding and more there is tons to do on a cruise along Halong Bay. After backpacking your way through Vietnam, treat yourself to a few days of rest and relaxation cruising around this stunning site. You won’t regret it. Safe travels!

Is a Halong Bay cruise on your bucket list? Tell us in the comments!


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