Halong Bay is a must-see destination in Vietnam to welcome million tourists every year. If you area having some troubles in finding your right Halong Bay overnight cruise, this little travel guide with updated information for 2018 is for you.
Halong Bay locates in the Northeast of Vietnam, in Quang Ninh province, 160 km from Hanoi capital. The bay is a system of legendary islands covering over 1969 islets with water body. It consists of two types; Limestone & Slabs which made the marvelous landscape of Halong Bay, dotted many sandy beaches and caves, about 40 caves and grottos are discovered, 20 of them are opened for tourists.
Visitors coming to Halong Bay includes both domestic tourists and international toutists. The domestic tourists prefer to visit Halong bay in summer by the combo hotel stay and day boat (4 hours) cruising on the bay. For the international tourists (mostly from English speaking countries), they prefer to stay on an overnight cruise, get to the less crowded part on the bay and enjoy activities: kayaking, cave visiting, floating villages, BBQ on the beach… There are now more than 500 cruising boats on Halong Bay in which more than 200 boats offers overnight cruise service, most of them are wooden boat ( 1 – 20 cabins/boat) added by the new iron made boats which provide more accommodation choice ( 18 – 30 cabins/ boat)
Halong Bay devides into 3 different areas (Halong Bay center, Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay), now all these areas are possible to discover on overnight cruise trip.
Halong Bay is situated in the Northeastern part of the country, its weather is different in 4 seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) but it can be mainly divided into cold dry winter and hot humid summer.
Check out the inforgraphic about weather on Halong Bay: https://www.slideshare.net/indochinajunk/weather-in-halong-bay-infographic
In summer, there would be possibility for cruise cancellation by weather condition, check out how it happens and guidance to deal with such events: https://www.indochina-junk.com/how-to-deal-with-cancellation-tour-in-halong-bay/
The best time to visit Halong bay is spring (March, April, May) and fall (September, October), the weather is cool to enjoy outdoor activities and less tropical storms…
Most tourists get to Halong Bay from Hanoi, the destination hub but there are many others visit Halong Bay from Ninh Binh or Hai Phong…
Getting from Ninh Binh to Halong Bay can be easy by hiring a private car to arrive Halong Bay after 4 hours (200 km). There also shuttle bus, check out The long bus scheduled from Ninh Binh to Halong depart at 06:00 – 07:00 and from Halong to Ninh Binh departs at 12:30 – 13:00, price at 200.00 VND (10$), this bus schedule works well with overnight cruise time frame.
Getting from Hai Phong to Halong Bay by private car is the easiest option (70km, 2.5 hours transfer) or you can depart from Cat Ba Island on a ferry to Tuan Chau wharf then opt in for shuttle bus to back to Hanoi city.
More about Halong bay transportation: https://www.indochina-junk.com/halong-bay-transportation/
There are some popular Halong Bay itinerary that you should consider before booking:
1 day cruise is chosen by traveler who has very limited time to visit Halong Bay and back to Hanoi within 1 day only. This standard trip starts from Hanoi at 7:00 – 8:00 am to arrive Halong bay habor at 12:00 then enjoy 4 – 6 hour cruising with a set menu lunch and transfer back to Hanoi at 8:00 – 09:00 pm
2 day 1 night cruise is the most popular choice, choosing this program you have less than 24 hours on cruise depending each cruise operators, plus 8 hours transfer to and from Halong Bay and Hanoi. The 2 day cruise let you experience kayaking, visiting cave or fishing village by bamboo boat, food served for dinner, lunch and breakfast.
3 day 2 night cruise provides another day and night to get further to the bay. Indochina Junk will offer a continuous cruise during 3 day while some other tour will break the second day and transfer you to a day boat excursion then back to the main boat, you are free to check with operator when make a reservation. In this longer cruise, you normally have longer time for kayaking, plus a BBQ on the beach or trekking in the island (Cat Ba Island) and fishing village…
4 day 3 night cruise is for private tour only and be at the higher budget, this private tour could be a very nice experience for a couple on such a boat like L’amour Junk. The longer cruise than 4 days is not available.
More detail can be found here: https://www.indochina-junk.com/choosing-right-halong-bay-cruise-itinerary-infographic/
Halong Bay center becomes more crowded while both Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha bay cruise is a nice alternative experience.
Video 3 day 2 night cruise on Bai Tu Long Bay:
The wooden boats in smaller size have dominated Halong bay cruise experience since the beginning time. Since 2016, there has been a new requirement from local authority to allow metal boat to be newly built only.
For those who love the charming wooden style boat, the metal boat might not be the choice. The wooden boat provides a unique appearance on Halong Bay with cozy cabin, boutique decoration style. Some wooden boats are really luxurious and unique.
The new metal boat could have been equipped modern facility, better accommodation standard, and more space as well. The metal boat generally has more cabins than wooden boat.
So, if you prefer a small group and boutique style, the wooden boat as Prince Junk, Red Dragon Junk… could be your choice while metal luxury boat as Dragon Legend could provide a more spacious accommodation and luxury service.
Here are some most popular activities that could be included in a cruise tour:
Photo by Ryan & Malu
Kayaking is the most popular and always be a part of cruise itinerary but you should check the tour price if that is included in the package price or not. Cruising on 3 day itinerary you will have more time for kayaking than 2 day cruise. The water in Halong Bay is calm and safe for kayak but you should follow the tour guide and safety instruction.
Visiting caves (Thien Cung cave, Amazing cave, Thien Canh Son cave…) is also a part of itinerary to explore nature and geological values
Visiting fishing village (Vong Vieng fishing village, Cua Van fishing village…) is a nice touch to local life and also to see a pearl farm. Even though many locals has been resettled in mainland, the floating village is still a charming place to see.
In longer cruise of 3 day, you might enjoy a BBQ and relax on the beach, or biking in Cat Ba Island. Some other activities that you might experience, depending on each cruise
If you have heard about dinner in cave, it is a very special activity but it is no longer available due to authority restriction.
There are more than 200 overnight cruising boats on 3 main area of Halong bay with many price range. Some cruise offers very low price for the not fulfilled experience so it requires much of consideration before booking. We recommend the price range based on values you received, not based on lowest selection.
A cruise package should include:
A cruise package will not include:
Meals on cruise could be served you as set menu, buffet or a la carte for both lunch and dinner in the restaurant space onboard. Most of the dishes are local seafood. It can be Vietnamese traditional food or Western food, the most popular menu is the mix of both Vietnamese food and Western oriented food.
Vegetarian food or other special request could be well managed with a clear note in advance.
Yen Duc village is in Dong Trieu district, 60km from the west of Halong Bay and 100km from Hanoi city, just on the way between Hanoi and Halong Bay. The village is rich in Vietnamese tradition to bring you a great opportunity to get a deep insight to Vietnamese local life. The locals are very warm and friendly to welcome you in their village. Yen Duc village provides day tour experience, Vietnamese food, folk song performance and overnight tour at an authentic homestay or luxury Vietnam house. More information about tour and activities: www.yenducvillagetour.com.