For years, Halong Bay is always a hot destination in Vietnam. The bay is truly amazing and recently, many movie producers from Hollywood have found Halong Bay is a great place for many scenes in their movies. Unlike any places in the worlds, with thousand island scatter on the water, you will definitely be impressed with this place.
Halong Bay is truly amazing and spends one night one a cruise will be a unique experience for most travellers.
Since the government invested a lot in Quang Ninh Province, the road to Halong Bay is getting better and easier for you to travel and explore this place. Normally, travellers will start from Hanoi or Hai Phong so here is some transfer information that you can look for to arrange your trip.
Cruise’s shuttle bus
This is the most common and easiest way to travel from Hanoi to Halong. The main activity in Halong Bay is taking part in a junk or cruises to explore the bay. You can find many cruises on the bay, from budget cruises to a luxury one. All cruises’ companies offer shuttle bus with their cruises, which can pick you up at your hotel in the Old Quarter and drop you off on the next day. Some cruises have their price included the bus, some don’t but you can book it for 20 to 50 USD/person/round trip, depended on each cruises.
Private car or van
If you have a big group from 5 persons, it will be better to hire a private car or minivan to go to Halong Bay. You can book this car with your hotel you stay or with any travel agency. A private transfer is obviously comfortable than the bus and the price is not too high for a big group.
If you really want to save the cost or you just want to try to be a local, you can catch a local bus from Hanoi to reach to Halong Bay. You can go to the main bus station, such as Gia Lam Terminal or Luong Yen Terminal and find many buses with route to Halong Bay. However, they do not directly take you there. You will stop near Bai Chay Bridge and from there, you can catch a cab or motorcycle taxi to go to Tuan Chau Marina or Hon Gai Pier. Honestly, this way is really complicated for tourists because of language boundary and bad services in public transport.
This is a new type of tour in Halong Bay, launching in 2014 by Hai Au Aviation. You can book this plane alone or in a package with Au Co Cruise, a 5 star luxury cruise on the bay. It takes only 45 minutes travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay. But do REMEMBER that you still need to take a taxi to the Noi Bai Airport and it takes another 40 minutes to get there from the center of Hanoi. You can extend your flight for 15 minutes more to enjoy a scenic tour over Halong Bay. The experience is breathtaking but the cost for this transport is extremely high.
Seaplane is expensive but the scenic trip is breathtaking and epic (https://www.seaplanes.vn/en/news-specials/98-hai-au-aviation-third-year-anniversary.html)
From Hai Phong
Usually, travellers start from Hai Phong because they have flight to Cat Bi Airport in this city. From the airport, the most convenient way is taking a taxi or booking a private car to go to Halong Bay. You can arrange this service with your travel agency or the cruise in Halong Bay.
Otherwise, there are buses from Hai Phong to Halong, but you need to know exactly where to drop off and the services in public transport in Vietnam are not good as you expected.
In case you prefer to have a more special trip, then you can consider joining in a huge cruise ship and going around the world. Some luxury cruises, such as Celebrity Millennium or Costa Victoria will dock in Quang Ninh Province at Cai Lan Harbor and from there, you can take a day trip to explore Halong Bay.
A must-do activity for anyone who come to Halong Bay
At the beginning, I have mentioned that the main activity in Halong Bay is cruises. You can choose to spend one or two nights on a cruise, depend on your budget and schedule. There are wooden cruises and steel cruises but for foreigner tourists, wooden cruises are preferred because of its traditional style and the feeling it offers.
Cabin on boat is clean and nice with huge window to enjoy the bay all the time
On the cruises, you will have a private cabin, a bit small but convenient and has everything you need for a good night sleep. All meals are included and there are many interesting activities on boat, such as kayaking, cooking demonstration and squid fishing.
There is a main point you need to know is Halong Bay is not a single bay. There are two bays next to it is Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. Even Halong Bay is the only bay that has been recognized as a World Heritage, but the other bays are really beautiful and equal to Halong Bay. Especially in private experience, Bai Tu Long Bay is more authentic and not crowded like Halong Bay.
You can choose to do kayaking or rowing a bamboo boat to get closer to the rocks.
When you book a cruise, you need to pay attention to which bay that cruise running and what services included. Normally, the cruises at the same range in Bai Tu Long Bay will be more expensive than ones in Halong Bay. You can divide those cruises into three ranges:
Budget cruises (equal to 2 to 3 star cruises): If you only care about the beauty of the bay, then this cruise is good for you to save the cost and enjoy the amazing bay. Everything is basic but worth to try.
Mid-range cruises (equal to 3 to 4 star cruises): This is the best choice for many travellers due to the balance between services and price. Food is delicious and full. Cabin is nice and clean. Staffs are hospitality and well trained. All of these will make your experience in Halong Bay really comfortable and memorable.
Renea Cruises is one of the best cruise in boutique style and offer an unique route in Bai Tu Long Bay
Luxury cruises (equal to 4 to 5 star cruises): as they are luxury cruises, your experience will be taken to a whole new level. You might get your own butler, all buffet meals, bigger cabin and maybe a Jacuzzi in your bathroom. Some facilities seem redundant like TV, gym, massage but they are there to make you feel the luxury of the cruises.
Once you travel to Halong Bay, you will find this is a busy and active place. It’s a popular place for foreigners so you will find no difficult to go to Halong Bay and enjoy a few days in this amazing place. Final thought, despite of the developing of tourism in Halong Bay, the downside is the polluted to the bay, yet it offers tons of work for local people. There are many projects to clean up the bay but they all end up not so well. So if you can, try to keep the bay clean and share it with others and the locals.