Halong Bay Boat Tour | Travis Takes on the World
One of the most popular side trips from Hanoi is Ha long Bay. Ha long bay is an UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Quang Ninh province of Vietnam. With over 1,600 limestone pillars situated in a beautiful bay, Ha long will definitely be an experience you won’t soon forget. There are , however, many different options ranging in price for tours, boats, routes, and activities to choose from. This can be quiet overwhelming for choosing the best one for some people. In this article I will present you with the pros and cons of some different options available, and help you make the right decision for your tour.
Should I Join A Group Tour To Halong Bay?
Well, that is the first question to ask yourself. It is possible to do Ha long bay without an using an organized tour group. You can arrange cheap transportation for yourself via bus, train, or minibus. The minibus costs around 5 USD and takes about four hours to reach Ha long Bay. The bus costs around 15 USD and may arrive slightly faster. The train costs about 10 USD and can be done via Yenvien and then to QuangNinh, but the terminal is about 50 km from the bay.
There is one major problem with going to Ha long this way- you will still have to join the groups of tourists on the boat. So in my opinion, doing a tour is just less hassle for only a few dollars more. When taking a tour, they will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, and once they gather all of the other tourists for this tour in Hanoi, they will go directly to the bay. The trip takes about 3.5 hours depending on traffic including one stop at the half way mark for a chance to buy some food and stretch your legs. Now we need to choose a tour.
What Kind of Tour Should I Take?
There are endless possibilities for the type of tour you can take. In this article I will cover the cheap backpacker options- no luxury liners for us. The tours I give are just sample tours that I have encountered while in Vietnam. Tours will vary from company to company.
The basic tours are either one day, two days, and three days. There are longer ones available on the luxury lines if you prefer. Most tours are booked through hostels or tour agencies. The cheaper tours won’t give you an option of which boat to take, but you can choose the activities and the quality of food.
One Day Tour
The basic one day tour is only a day trip from Hanoi. You will be picked up from your hostel and taken to Ha long bay in a minibus. There you will first be served a Vietnamese lunch on the boat, followed by a visit to the Ba Hang fishing village. This floating village of fisherman is one of the seven major fishing villages in Ha Long bay. You can take a glimpse into the life of the fishermen and their families. After a trip to the village, you have a chance to go Kayaking through some small caves into beautiful coves. I highly suggest doing this. After Kayaking, you will be taken to Thien Cung cave. The cave has stone stairs carved into it making it very easy to walk through. The cave is actually really nice, but unfortunately, it’s filled with tourists at all times. After the cave you will return to the Wharf before heading back to your hostel at around 8 or 9 pm. The cost- around 25 USD.
Pros: Cheap, can be done in one day, and you get a great feel for Ha Long bay.
Cons: You can’t watch the sunset or sunrise, the quality of food is not as good
Two Day Tour
The basic two day tour will include Sung Sot Cave followed by kayaking, and then a trip to Cat Ba island. Cat Ba island is the largest island in Ha Long bay, and about half of the island is covered by a national park. You will eat dinner and then spend the night in a hotel on the island. The next day will include a sunrise in the bay before returning back to the wharf. The prices range from 70 USD to around 110 USD depending on the quality of the ship and food.
Pros: You go at a slower pace with no rush, sunrise in Ha Long Bay
Cons: Higher price, the boat may not be very nice
Three Day Tour
The three day tour will include a trip to Sot cave where you can go swimming and enjoy some sunbathing. After that you can enjoy a sunset dinner before sleeping in your boat for the night. The following day includes a trek through Cat Ba island followed by some island hopping, and then spending the night in a hotel on Cat Ba. On the last day they will take you back to the wharf before heading back to Hanoi. The cost ranges from 120 USD and up.
Pros: Many more activities, more time to relax.
Cons: Very expensive, the weather might now be good for island hopping.
So there are your basic choices for your Ha Long bay tour. It really depends on how much time you have in Hanoi, what your budget is, and how many activities you want to do. I personally did the one day tour. It was a bit rushed, but I had a lot of fun in Ha Long and I got back in time for dinner. The weather was also not very nice. If I was on the boat overnight, I would have been miserable. Check with a local tourist company like the Sinh Tourist or your hostel for more details.