Halong Bay is a must-see in Vietnam.
Halong Bay is known as a Wonder of the World as well as World Heritage Site. As a popular destination for worldwide travellers, Halong Bay is affordable and give you some ways to travel more enjoyablely, cheaper, longer.
Here is some tips how to choose a right cruise for Halong Bay tour:
How to travel:
Book a tour or travel on your own.
A lot of travelers think that traveling on your own is always cheaper than booking a tour. However, it’s true for Halong Bay. If you travel on your own, you will take a bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, you have to take a taxi to Luong Yen bus station or My Dinh bus station. I know it won’t be easy for tourist to take a local bus. There’s a lot of persons who is in the tourist wharf who offer plenty of choices for cruise. To be honest, you wonder who is a good one and who will tell you the truth. You don’t know that you go on the right cruise which you pay for. The cruise may be a different one with lower quality such as boat, food….. It’s your choice. I recommend to book a tour with a reliable travel agent or the hotel where you stay in Hanoi. If anything happens, you are able to deal with them.
Please read more posts on Traveldudes, other travel blogs and comments or ask your friends who has been there or other tourists who stay in the same hotel with you. It is so important to see what a company reputation is before booking with them. The cheap cruises may not be a good ones. The small one but with a good reputation can be your choice. Let’s choose ones suitable your budget.
Here are some tips to help you find out the best one, but affordable one on your budget. From US$99 to US$139/ per person for 2 days 1 night, you can get good ones such as Alova Cruise, Vspirit cruise, Halong Glory Cruise. In addition, please check what’s included in the tour price. For some travel agents, as you check on their website, the price is lower but round-trip transportation may not be included. You may pay extra for a total bill.
If you prefer premium cruises, I can recommend Paloma Cruise, Elation Cruise, Emeraude Cruise, Pelican Cruise, Huong Hai Sealife, Gray Line Halong, Indochina Junk, Bhaya cruise. The rate is range from US$160 to US $245
If you are looking for a luxury cruise, my recommendation is Victory Star, Indochina Sail, Violet cruise, Paradise Luxury Cruise, Au Co cruise. The rate is different from each other. The most expensive ones are Au Co and Violet Cruise.
If you are traveling during the summer from May to September, there’s a big deal for most cruises from 20% to 40% discount.
All cruises mentioned aboved offer joining group tour. It means that you will share the boat with others.
Facilities and Services:
Most of cruises have same facilities and services. It is just different for 4 stars and 5 stars cruise which offer other additional facilities such as safety deposit box, book shelves and services snorkeling and fishing equipment , jacuzzi and spa and kayaking. The services are mentioned to be exclusives.
Please check the boat's age. I know it’s hard, but don’t take the old one. The newer boats are more safe. You should also check all facilities on board via their websites for safety and security such as life vests, alarm clock, hammer and safety deposit box.
Where to cruise:
My first recommendation is Bai Tu Long Bay where you can cruise off the beaten path, away from the crowd. You can get the most enjoyable moment and travel in your style. My top choice is Indochina Junk. The second choice is Halong Bay. Most of the activities is almost the same: kayaking, caving, swimming, cooking class, squid fishing, karaoke on board…. but some of them offer extra special activities such as dinning in the cave, fishing with locals, collecting rubbish and wastes on the bay.
Duration of your stay:
Depending on your schedule, you will decide how long to stay. If you take a day tour. You will spend 4 hours cruising on Halong Bay, joining these activities such as: kayaking or visiting a fishing village on a sampan rowed by locals and visiting Thien Cung (Hevenly Palace cave). It’s good for visitors who only have a short time. Most of the cruises offer the same itinerary, just choose a good tour company one as Go Asia Travel, Minh Sinh travel, Khanh sinh Tour…).
2 days with 1 night overnight on a sleeping boat, 3 days 2 nights with 2 nights sleeping on boat. On the 2nd day, you will take a day boat and spend your day for kayaking in the area of Dark and Light cave, visiting Soi Sim beach island. Some cruises offer a longer cruising to Ba Trai Dao beach and barbecue lunch on the beach but it depends on the tidal and weather condition. Some of them offer tours to Viet Hai village where you can hop on your bike around the village, take plenty of photos and chat with locals to know more about how their daily life is) and stay longer in Halong city or Cat Ba island in Halong Bay.
In my opinion, I prefer 2 days 1 night and 3 days 2 nights.
Type of cruise:
Private charter cruise: If you join a private one, you can custom itinerary, do your own activities and give instruction to the crews. There is also a plenty of choices such as 1 cabin, 2 cabins to 6 cabins. If you want something private, it will be a good choice for you. You may pay a bit extra than joining a group tour, but you have your own boat. It’s good for couples, family, the old.
Joining group cruise tour: You will join the tour with others. A small but good service can be a good choice for you.
What the cruise does to, to respect and benefit local people and minimize environmental impact. Here is things to do for responsible travel in Halong Bay:
- Take a sampan to visiting the fishing village rowed by locals
- Collecting rubbish and wastes in Halong
- Offering life vests to the local fishermen
- Re-planting mangroves forests in Halong Bay
- Repainting and building floating schools for local children
- Taking a fishing trip with locals.
Travel tip shared by David Nguyen