Halong Bay, known for its breathtaking natural beauty, is a must-visit destination in Vietnam. With its stunning limestone islands, emerald waters, and mesmerizing landscapes, Halong Bay offers a unique and unforgettable experience for travelers.
In this travel guide, we’ll provide you with essential information on how to get there, the best time to visit, top attractions and activities, local cuisine, accommodation options, and recommended tours.
HOW TO GET TO HALONG BAY
From or to Hanoi
The most common and convenient way to reach Halong Bay is from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. There are several transportation options available:
- Shuttle Bus: Many travel agencies and hotels in Hanoi offer shuttle bus services to Halong Bay. These buses provide a comfortable and affordable option for travelers. The journey takes approximately 3 to 4 hours, depending on the bus route and traffic conditions.
- Private Car: Hiring a private car or taxi is a more flexible and convenient choice, especially for those traveling in groups or with a lot of luggage. It allows you to have control over your schedule and make stops along the way if desired. The journey by car takes around 2.5 to 4 hours, depending on the bus route and traffic.
- Seaplane: For a unique and scenic experience, you can take a seaplane from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This option offers breathtaking aerial views of the bay and significantly reduces travel time to just about 45 minutes. It is a more expensive mode of transportation but provides a memorable experience.
From or to Ninh Binh
If you are visiting Ninh Binh, another popular tourist destination in Vietnam, you can easily reach Halong Bay by road. The distance between Ninh Binh and Halong Bay is approximately 200 kilometers, and the journey takes around 4 to 5 hours by car or bus. You can either hire a private car, join a guided tour, or take a public bus from Ninh Binh to Halong Bay.
From or to Hai Phong
Hai Phong Province is located near Halong Bay, making it a convenient starting point for your trip. From Hai Phong, you can take a ferry or speedboat to reach Halong Bay in approximately 1 to 2 hours. The ferry and speedboat services normally operate from Gia Luan Pier to Halong Bay. It is recommended to check the schedules in advance and arrive early, especially during peak tourist seasons. Another route is via the new 50km highway, accessible only to private cars.
From or to Sapa
Sapa, a stunning mountainous region in northern Vietnam, is quite far from Halong Bay. To travel between Sapa and Halong Bay, you can take a combination of train and road transport. First, take a train from Sapa to Hanoi, which usually takes around 6 to 8 hours. From Hanoi, you can then follow the transportation options mentioned earlier to reach Halong Bay.
From or to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
If you’re planning to visit Halong Bay from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the most convenient way is to take a domestic flight to either Hanoi or Hai Phong. Several airlines operate daily flights between the two cities, with a flight duration of approximately 2 hours. From Hanoi or Hai Phong, you can then continue your journey to Halong Bay using the transportation options mentioned earlier.
It is advisable to plan your transportation in advance, especially during peak seasons, and consider the duration, cost, and convenience of each option.
290k per pax
One-way bus Hanoi – Halong
Complimentary water provided
Pick up passengers at meeting points
No additional fees for large luggage
650k per pax
One-way 5-seat car Hanoi – Halong
Complimentary water provided
Offer hotel pickup in Hanoi Old Quarter
Price per pax, group of 2 – 3 pax
No additional fees for large luggage
380k per pax
One-way 7-seat car Hanoi – Halong
Complimentary water provided
Offer hotel pickup in Hanoi Old Quarter
Price per pax, group of 4 – 5 pax
No additional fees for large luggage
Free Halong Travel Map
WHEN TO VISIT HALONG BAY
Choosing the right time to visit Halong Bay is essential to ensure a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Here are some important factors to consider:
Halong Bay experiences a humid tropical climate with four distinct seasons:
Spring (March to April): Spring in Halong Bay brings pleasant temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). It is a great time to visit as the weather is mild, and the bay is less crowded.
Summer (May to August): Summer is the hot and humid season in Halong Bay, with temperatures ranging from 28°C to 35°C (82°F to 95°F). This period is popular among domestic and international tourists, especially during school holidays. Be prepared for occasional rainfall and high humidity.
Autumn (September to November): Autumn is considered the best time to visit Halong Bay. The temperatures are pleasant, ranging from 20°C to 28°C (68°F to 82°F), and the weather is relatively dry with clear skies. It is an ideal time for cruising and outdoor activities.
Winter (December to February): Winter in Halong Bay can be chilly, with temperatures dropping to around 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F). While it is the low season for tourism, you can still enjoy the beauty of the bay and take advantage of discounted prices. Pack warm clothing as it can get cold, especially in the evenings.
Halong Bay is susceptible to typhoons, especially from July to September. During this period, there is a higher chance of heavy rainfall and strong winds. It is advisable to check the weather forecast and typhoon warnings before planning your trip. In the event of a typhoon, boat trips and outdoor activities may be suspended for safety reasons.
Halong Bay experiences two primary tourist seasons:
Peak Season: The peak tourist season in Halong Bay is from December to March. During this time, the weather is cooler, and the bay attracts a large number of visitors, both domestic and international. It is advisable to book accommodations and cruises well in advance as they tend to get fully booked.
Off-Peak Season: The off-peak season in Halong Bay is from April to November, excluding the typhoon season. This period sees fewer tourists, and prices for accommodations and tours are generally lower. You can enjoy a more peaceful and serene atmosphere during this time.
To summarize, the best time to visit Halong Bay is during the spring (March to April) and autumn (September to November) seasons when the weather is pleasant and the bay is less crowded. Avoid the typhoon season from July to September and be prepared for occasional rainfall during the summer months. Plan your visit according to your preferences and consider the weather, crowd levels, and availability of accommodations and tours.
What to See and Do in Halong Bay
Halong Bay offers a wide range of attractions and activities for travelers to enjoy. Here are some must-see and must-do experiences:
- Scenic Cruises: Take a cruise around the bay to admire the stunning limestone formations and picturesque landscapes. Choose from various cruise options, including day cruises, overnight cruises, and luxury cruises.
- Kayaking and Swimming: Explore the hidden corners of Halong Bay by kayaking through its tranquil waters. You can also swim in the emerald-colored sea or relax on the pristine beaches.
- Caving: Visit the fascinating caves within Halong Bay, such as Sung Sot Cave and Thien Cung Cave. These caves showcase magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations, creating a magical underground world.
- Fishing Villages: Visit the local fishing villages to experience the unique way of life in Halong Bay. Discover floating houses, witness traditional fishing techniques, and interact with friendly locals.
- Island Hopping: Discover the beauty of Halong Bay’s islands, including Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay, and Bai Tu Long Bay. Each island offers its own charm and attractions, such as hiking trails, wildlife, and pristine beaches.
HALONG BAY CUISINE
Halong Bay is known for its delicious seafood and Vietnamese cuisine. Don’t miss these local delicacies:
- Fresh Seafood: Indulge in a variety of freshly caught seafood, such as grilled prawns, steamed clams, and fried squid. You can find excellent seafood restaurants on the bay and in nearby towns.
- Halong Bay Spring Rolls: Try the famous Halong Bay spring rolls, filled with a combination of shrimp, pork, vegetables, and herbs. They are a tasty and popular appetizer.
- Nem Cua Be (Crab Spring Rolls): Another local specialty is Nem Cua Be, crispy spring rolls filled with crab meat. They are served with a dipping sauce and make for a flavorful snack.
- Banh Cuon: Taste Banh Cuon, a Vietnamese dish consisting of steamed rice rolls filled with minced pork and mushrooms. It is often served with fresh herbs and dipping sauce.
Where to Stay in Halong Bay
Halong Bay offers a range of accommodation options, including hotels and cruises, to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are some highlights of recommended hotels and cruises in Halong Bay:
Hotels in Halong Bay
High-Standard Hotels in Halong Bay
Vinpearl Resort & Spa Halong Bay: This luxurious resort offers elegant rooms with stunning bay views, a private beach, multiple swimming pools, a spa, and a variety of dining options. It provides a high level of comfort and excellent service.
Paradise Suites Hotel: Located on Tuan Chau Island, this upscale hotel features spacious suites with modern amenities. It offers a rooftop swimming pool, a fitness center, a restaurant serving Vietnamese and international cuisine, and a convenient location close to the harbor.
Wyndham Legend Halong Hotel: Situated on Bai Chay Beach, this 5-star hotel boasts contemporary rooms, a rooftop infinity pool with panoramic views, a spa, multiple dining options, and a beachfront location. It provides a luxurious and relaxing stay.
Royal Lotus Halong Resort & Villas: This beachfront resort offers a range of accommodation options, from rooms to private villas with pool access. It features a spa, a large swimming pool, multiple restaurants, and a beautiful garden setting.
Medium-Standard Hotels in Halong Bay
Halong Palace Hotel: Located in the city center, this hotel offers comfortable rooms with bay or city views. It has a rooftop pool, a restaurant, a bar, and a convenient location close to shops and attractions.
Novotel Ha Long Bay Hotel: Situated on Bai Chay Beach, this 4-star hotel provides modern rooms with bay views, a swimming pool, a fitness center, a spa, and various dining options. It offers a good balance of comfort and value.
Halong Bay Hotel: Positioned in the heart of Halong City, this hotel offers well-appointed rooms, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views, and a convenient location close to the harbor and local attractions.
Muong Thanh Luxury Quang Ninh Hotel: This hotel features comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, a spa, a fitness center, and a restaurant serving Vietnamese and international cuisine. It offers a pleasant stay with reasonable prices.
Cruises in Halong Bay
High-Standard Cruises in Halong Bay
Orchid Cruises: Orchid Cruises offer luxury accommodation on board beautifully designed ships. They provide spacious cabins with private balconies, a sundeck, a spa, fine dining experiences, and various activities such as kayaking and cooking classes.
Bhaya Classic Cruises: Bhaya Classic Cruises offer elegant cabins with traditional Vietnamese decor. They provide excellent service, a variety of onboard activities, and options for overnight cruises, day cruises, and private charters.
Paradise Luxury Cruises: Paradise Luxury Cruises offer a premium cruising experience with spacious cabins, private balconies, a sundeck with jacuzzi, a spa, and a fine dining restaurant. They provide exceptional service and a range of activities.
Emperor Cruises: Emperor Cruises offer boutique-style cruises with luxurious cabins, personalized service, and a focus on unique experiences. They provide options for overnight cruises, day cruises, and private charters with exclusive itineraries.
Medium-Standard Cruises in Halong Bay
Indochina Sails: Indochina Sails offer comfortable cabins with traditional Vietnamese design. They provide a variety of cruising options, including overnight cruises, day cruises, and private charters, along with onboard activities and dining experiences.
Dragon Legend Cruise: Dragon Legend Cruise offers spacious cabins with large windows, a sundeck, a spa, and a restaurant serving Vietnamese and international cuisine. They provide options for overnight cruises, day cruises, and private charters.
Glory Legend Cruises: Glory Legend Cruises offer cozy cabins with modern amenities, a sundeck, a spa, and a restaurant serving Vietnamese and international dishes. They provide options for overnight cruises, day cruises, and private charters.
Aphrodite Cruises: Aphrodite Cruises offer comfortable cabins with panoramic windows, a sundeck, a spa, and a restaurant serving Vietnamese and international cuisine. They provide options for overnight cruises, and private charters.
These are just a few examples of the many hotels and cruises available in Halong Bay. It is advisable to research and choose accommodation that best fits your preferences, budget, and desired level of comfort.
Tours to Halong Bay
When planning a trip to Halong Bay, you have various tour options to explore the breathtaking beauty of the area. Here are some important differences to note:
Difference between Halong and Bai Tu Long Bay
Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay are neighboring areas in the same UNESCO World Heritage site. While they share similar stunning landscapes and limestone karsts, there are some notable differences:
Scenery: Halong Bay is more popular and well-known, attracting a higher number of tourists. It features iconic karst formations, larger caves, and a more developed infrastructure. On the other hand, Bai Tu Long Bay is less crowded and offers a more pristine and untouched environment, with fewer tourists and a more tranquil atmosphere.
Activities: Both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay offer similar activities, such as cruising, kayaking, swimming, and visiting caves. However, Bai Tu Long Bay is known for its off-the-beaten-path charm, allowing you to explore secluded beaches, fishing villages, and floating markets with a greater sense of serenity.
Cruise Routes: Choose from Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay itineraries to experience the best of each destination. Explore the iconic beauty of Halong Bay or opt for a more exclusive adventure in Bai Tu Long Bay.
Difference between Halong and Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is another stunning area located adjacent to Halong Bay, known for its crystal-clear waters, sandy beaches, and karst formations. Here are some distinctions:
Scenery: Halong Bay is characterized by its iconic towering limestone karsts, while Lan Ha Bay offers a unique blend of karsts, small islands, and sandy beaches. Lan Ha Bay is considered more pristine and less crowded than Halong Bay, making it a popular choice for travelers seeking a more peaceful and secluded experience.
Activities: Both Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay offer similar activities, such as cruising, kayaking, swimming, and exploring caves. However, Lan Ha Bay is particularly known for its stunning beaches, making it ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling, and beach activities.
Accessibility: While Halong Bay is more easily accessible from the mainland and has a wider range of cruise options, Lan Ha Bay can be reached from nearby Cat Ba Island. Cat Ba Island serves as a gateway to Lan Ha Bay, and many cruises depart from there, offering a convenient starting point for exploring this picturesque area.
Difference between Wooden and Steel Cruises
When choosing a cruise in Halong Bay, you’ll come across two main types of vessels: wooden cruises and steel cruises. Here are some differences between them:
Construction: Wooden cruises are traditionally built using local materials, such as wood and bamboo, giving them a classic and charming appearance. Steel cruises, as the name suggests, are constructed using steel, providing a more modern and sturdy design.
Size and Capacity: Wooden cruises are often smaller in size and have a lower passenger capacity, creating a more intimate and personalized experience. Steel cruises tend to be larger and can accommodate more passengers, offering additional facilities such as spacious cabins, dining areas, and sundecks.
Comfort and Stability: Steel cruises generally offer greater stability and smoother sailing due to their construction materials. They are equipped with modern amenities and facilities, including air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms, ensuring a comfortable journey. Wooden cruises, while offering a more rustic and traditional ambiance, may have simpler facilities and provide a more authentic experience.
Both wooden and steel cruises provide opportunities to explore Halong Bay, with variations in style, comfort, and price range. The choice between them depends on personal preferences, budget, and desired level of comfort during the cruise experience.
In summary, when planning a tour to Halong Bay, it’s important to consider the differences between Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, as well as Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay. While Halong Bay is more popular and well-known, Bai Tu Long Bay offers a more pristine and tranquil environment. Lan Ha Bay, on the other hand, is known for its crystal-clear waters and beautiful beaches. Each area has its unique charms and attractions, allowing you to tailor your tour to your preferences.
Ultimately, whether you choose to explore Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, or Lan Ha Bay, and opt for a wooden or steel cruise, you will be treated to breathtaking scenery, fascinating activities, and a memorable experience in one of the most stunning natural wonders of the world.
It is pretty easy to find the classic tour combining Halong Bay and Ninh Binh. Pu Luong Excursions recommends a longer and more beautiful loop that can done between 4 to 8 days depending on your schedules.
Examples of recommended tours by Pu Luong Excursions:
- Hanoi – Mai Chau – Pu Luong – Ninh Binh – Halong Bay – Hanoi
- Hanoi – Pu Luong – Ninh Binh – Halong Bay – Hanoi
- Hanoi – Pu Luong – Ninh Binh – Nam Dinh – Halong Bay – Hanoi
We can customize and adapt our tours upon your requests whether in terms of length of stay, type of accommodations and kind of activities.
In conclusion, Halong Bay is a truly awe-inspiring destination in Vietnam. Plan your trip well, choose the best time to visit, explore the breathtaking attractions, indulge in local cuisine, and enjoy the comfortable accommodation options available. With its natural beauty and captivating experiences, Halong Bay is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories of your journey.