Hanoi to Halong Bay Cruise Tour – A Comprehensive Guide


Are you planning a trip to Vietnam and looking to explore the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay? Look no further! In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about taking a tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay. From transportation options, type of tours to recommended activities, we have got you covered. So, let’s dive in and start planning your unforgettable adventure!

Introduction to Hanoi and Halong Bay


Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, serves as the starting point for most Halong Bay tours. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and bustling streets, Hanoi is an enchanting city to explore before embarking on your Halong Bay adventure.

That is why the majority of Halong Bay tours start from Hanoi; and the Hanoi – Halong Bay tour packages are common among international tourists.

Halong Bay is famous for its karst seascape, and while the limestone landscape is not hard to find in Asian countries, what makes Halong Bay unique is the overnight cruise, which takes you deep inside the limestone maze.

The Bay is divided into three different areas (Halong Bay center, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Lan Ha Bay), depending on the operator companies, you will be taken to different parts of Halong Bay. A high number of tourist cruises operate in Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay, leaving Bai Tu Long Bay rarely explored.

Take a note that Halong Bay Center is the most tourist area, and is closer to the mainland thus makes it a good choice for a day trip.

The beauty of Halong Bay

Distance between Hanoi and Halong Bay 

The distance between Halong and Hanoi is approximately 170 km and it takes up to 2,5 hour –  3 hours driving from Hanoi to Halong Bay.

Getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay

Taking a Local Bus

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, taking a local bus is a popular choice. However, it’s important to note that this option may not be suitable for international visitors due to language barriers and potential scams.
The buses depart from My Dinh bus station or Gia Lam bus station  in Hanoi and take approximately 3,5 hours to reach Bai Chay bus station in Quang Ninh province, from where you can catch a taxi to the pier or your hotel in Halong City.
Some recommended bus operators include Phuc Xuyen, Kumho Viet Thanh, and Hoang Long bus. The price for a bus ticket ranges between 150,000 – 200,000 VND per person.

Shuttle Tourist Bus from Hanoi Old Quarter 

For a more convenient and hassle-free option, consider booking a shuttle bus as part of a Hanoi-Halong Bay tour package.
The shuttle bus service will pick you up from your hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and take you directly to the harbor where your cruise awaits. These buses have improved in quality over the years, offering comfortable seats, WiFi, and music players.
The drivers are experienced and can communicate in basic English. This option allows you to relax and enjoy the journey without worrying about navigation or transportation logistics.
The shuttle buses are getting much better with limousine mini van which offer comfortable seat and even wifi on the way. 

Private Car Transfer

If you prefer privacy and a shorter travel time, hiring a private car is a great choice. You can book a private car through cruise operators or transport suppliers. However, please note that you cannot drive the car yourself due to legal requirements in Vietnam.
Private car transfers are also available directly from Hanoi Airport (Noi Bai) to Halong Bay, which takes approximately 3 hours.


For a luxurious and unique experience, you can choose to travel by helicopter or seaplane. The helicopter service, provided by Vietnam Northern Service Flight Company, offers charter flights with seating options for 12 or 24 passengers. This option provides a different perspective of Halong Bay from the air.
Alternatively, you can opt for a seaplane operated by Hai Au Aviation, which takes off from Noi Bai International Airport and lands at Tuan Chau Marina. The seaplane journey offers a breathtaking 45-minute flight over Halong Bay with stunning aerial views.


While less common, there is an option to travel by train from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The train departs from Yen Vien Station, located 13 km from Hanoi’s city center, and arrives at Halong Railway Station. However, this option is not recommended as the train is not comfortable, and the stations are not conveniently located for reaching the piers. It’s best to explore other transportation options for a more enjoyable journey.
Pick up by shuttle bus in Hanoi

Tours and Things to do in Halong Bay

The most famous and most recommended tour to do in Halong Bay is overnight cruising

Once you arrive in Halong Bay, you’ll have many tours and activities to choose from. The most famous and highly recommended option is the overnight cruise. This classic choice allows you to truly immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of the bay. The overnight cruise tours are typically categorized as 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights, with chartered cruises offering longer stays.

Day Cruise and Hotel Stay in Halong

If you prefer a short time on a day trip to explore Halong Bay and  want to experience the local attractions in Quang Ninh province, you can opt for a day cruise and stay in a hotel in Halong City.

The day cruises typically last between 4 to 8 hours and offer activities such as kayaking, cave visits, and bamboo boat rides. You’ll also enjoy delicious meals, including a variety of seafood options.

After the cruise, you can explore attractions like the Bai Chay tourist area with Sunworld Park, Bai Chay bridge and the night market, streefood, or visit the Hon Gai area to see Bai Tho Mountain and the Quang Ninh Museum.

2 day 1 night Halong Bay cruise package from Hanoi 

The 2-day 1-night cruise is a perfect option for those with limited time but still want to experience the beauty of Halong Bay. This itinerary includes visits to various scenic spots, such as swimming on a wild beach, kayaking around the islands, and exploring fascinating caves.

The cruise boat will stop at different sights and anchorage areas, allowing you to make the most of your time. You’ll spend one night on Halong Bay, enjoying delicious meals with a wide selection of seafood. The accommodation consists of hotel-style cabins with private bathrooms and modern facilities.

  • Less than 24 hours cruising (the boat cruises and stop at different visiting sights and anchorage area, not cruising for the whole time) 
  • 6 hours round trip transfer between Hanoi and Halong Bay
  • 1 night on Halong Bay
  • Activities: kayaking, cave visiting, fishing village, swimming…
  • Meals are included (Many selections of seafood)
  • Accommodation: hotel-style cabin with private bathroom and other modern facilities.

3 day 2 night Halong Bay cruise package from Hanoi 

For a more relaxed schedule and in-depth exploration of Halong Bay, consider the 3-day 2-night cruise. This option allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the bay and experience local life. You’ll have the opportunity to visit caves, go kayaking, explore fishing villages, and even have a BBQ lunch on the beach.

Some operators organize a day boat excursion on the second day, while Indochina Junk offer a continuous cruise experience. Whichever option you choose, you’ll spend two unforgettable nights on Halong Bay, surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

  • Less than 48 hours cruising (the boat cruises and stop at different visiting sights and anchorage area, not cruising for the whole time) 
  • 8 hours round trip transfer between Hanoi and Halong Bay
  • 2 nights on Halong Bay
  • Activities: kayaking, cave visiting, fishing village, swimming…
  • Meals are included (Many selections of seafood)
  • Accommodation: hotel-style cabin with private bathroom and other modern facilities.

Day Cruise is a short journey created to give you a short observation of the breathtaking scenery of Halong Bay. The day cruises can be classified as the haft-day cruise and full-day cruise. While attending day cruises allows you to travel from Hanoi to Halong and back within a day where your time is limited. Some tourists (mostly Asian and local tourists) would prefer day cruise and stay at a hotel in Halong city

  • 4 – 8 hours cruising depending on each cruise option. (4-hour cruise is the most popular choice)
  • 8 hours round trip transfer between Hanoi and Halong Bay
  • Activities: kayaking, cave visiting, bamboo boat…
  • Meals are included (Many selections of seafood)

Two attractions which are famous among local tourists in Quang Ninh province are listed below. If you choose to stay in a hotel in Halong city, then you might want to check out these attractions:

  • Bãi Cháy tourists area with Sunworld Park, night market, Tuan Chau island, Bai Chay bridge…
  • Hon Gai area:  Bai Tho Mountain, Quang Ninh Museum, Long Tien Pagoda, Halong seafood market…  

Some recommended hotels and restaurants in Quang Ninh: Wyndham Legend Halong, Paradise Suites Hotel, Novotel Ha Long Bay Hotel, Sen A Dong Buffet Restaurant, 1958 Restaurant, Cong Ca Phe…


Hanoi – Halong and other destinations

Hanoi – Halong – Sapa

Sapa is 170km Northwest from Hanoi and 454km Northwest from Halong Bay. 

Sapa is considered the tourist capital of mountainous north area of Vietnam; it is also known as “the Tonkinese Alps” because of its location 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level and on the western edge of a high plateau. The special location of Sapa makes it the only place in Vietnam that has snow in winter time.  Sapa is famous for both its breathtaking, dramatic scenery and its rich cultural diversity. There are direct local buses from Halong to Sapa. However, buses take more than 12 hours (mountain road) to get to Sapa. Therefore, we do not recommend this option.

The second and the most common option for Halong – Sapa tour is to take a break in Hanoi then go to Sapa the next day by either overnight train (8 hours) or buses (5 hours). This means you go from Hanoi to Halong for the cruise trip, and go back to Hanoi after the cruise. Stay one night in Hanoi, then go to Sapa the next day. Or you can go to Sapa first, go back to Hanoi for a 1-night break, and then go to Halong Bay.


Hanoi – Halong – Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is 90km South from Hanoi and 288km Southwest from Halong Bay

Ninh Binh is a lovely destination which is blessed with magnificent landscapes. The city of Ninh Binh may offer little-to-no interesting things to international tourist, but surrounding area has plenty of options for travelers who want to spend a few days discovering the wealth of natural attractions without being annoyed by the crowd. The Tam Coc – Bich Dong is known as inland Halong Bay, while Trang An is recognized as-as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The distance between Halong and Ninh Binh is 288 km, there are plenty of direct buses from Halong to Ninh Binh, and it takes about 4 to 4.5 hours driving. Since most tour packages to Halong bay include transportation between Halong and Hanoi, you can go back to Hanoi and stay overnight, then go to Ninh Binh the next morning. The driving time from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is about 2 hour; if you take the train, then it will be up to 3 hours.


Hanoi – Halong – Yen Duc Village

Yen Duc is a lovely village hidden among green paddy field. While the rice field is not a unique feature of the village, Yen Duc is remembered because of the friendly local. You can feel the warm welcoming as soon as you arrive.

The meaning of visiting this village is to get your hands on daily tasks of local people. You will have chances to do some fishing with a bamboo basket, join in rice making process, broom making and cooking class.

Your experience will not be fulfilled without “puppet water show” – a traditional and unique form of art which is still fascinated and performed in Vietnam. The show in Yen Duc was performed by local farmers after their day word, and it tells stories, folk tales and legends related to daily life activities: the celebration of the rice harvest, dragon and phoenix dancing, and many more.

Yen Duc village locates on the way from Hanoi to Halong, and some company offers 2.5 hours to overnight tour at this village. If you book Halong and Yen Duc tour, you might get some really good discount, visit


Should you book a package tour or traveling on your own?

Before you think about going to Halong Bay, I hope you know that you cannot rent a sailboat or a speedboat and sail to Halong Bay by yourself (except for chartered cruise). So the only difference between booking a package tour and traveling by yourself is that the package tour includes transportation from Hanoi; while going by yourself means you go your way to the pier and check-in the cruise or buying a ticket at Tuan Chau Pier for a day tour in Halong Bay. 

Now, if you opt to travel on your own by taking the train or local bus to Halong Bay, make sure to check the rent price and bus/train ticket price.

  • The price for a local bus from Hanoi – Halong is about $5 -$7/ one way.
  • The train ticket is about $3/ one way.
  • The self-driving car option is nearly impossible in Vietnam, even with the international license. Car hire tends to be car and driver. Driving car in Vietnam is a surviving game with no traffic rules appear to abide, especially in the rural areas where the highway goes through.

How to buy a visiting ticket at Tuan Chau Harbor?

  • Day tour price range from $17 to $27 depending on the routes.
  • Chartered day cruise: $200 to $400

One advantage of the tour package is that it includes transportation. The tour company picks you up at your hotel and then drops you off at your hotel again after the Halong tour. For the overnight cruise, I strongly recommend to book in advance with trusted cruise operators, and it is the best way to discover Halong Bay in comfort. 

Depending on your types of cruise, and the length of stay, the price can vary from as low as $90 to as high as $400 for a 2-day 1-night tour. Be aware that not all boats are with the same high standard service and obviously you get what you paid for.  If you find a too-good-to-be-true price, then you should be careful with the quality of the services. Truly, it is hard to say about the quality of a $60-70 per night cruise or $30 for a day cruise, but the cheap cruise is crowded. The operators will try to maximize their profit by arranging as many tourists in one cruise as possible, so before the moment you step on board, you have no idea what will happen or how your cruise looks like. My first time to Halong Bay was with a cheap tour that I found in the Old Quarter. The cruise was 180 degrees different from the pictures they showed me. It wasn’t too crowded on the cruise, the service was at an acceptable level, and the tour guide spoke something that we called Vietlish. We sat, smiling kindly, and understood nothing.

The best option is booking from a middle range cruise with good reviews either from friends or the Internet. The price will vary from $70 for a day cruise to $150 for an overnight cruise. Booking the tour as soon as possible when you pick your traveling date, the Early Bird promotion and ability to get better room are some good advantages. If your budget is not tied, then the luxury cruise should be booked, the services and the food are as it’s named – excellent. While the itineraries and activities of Halong cruise are kindly the same among most of the cruises, you can expect main activities include kayaking, swimming, visiting the cave.

Some insider tips

  • If you are a solo traveler, don’t forget to pay attention to single supplement fee. Most of cruises operator on Halong bay don’t provide single cabin/room for solo travelers. But some did (such as Dragon Legend Cruise). Of course, if you’re happy to pay a supplement for single occupancy of a double cabin, you can enjoy your trip in a larger cabin. Normally, the supplement can range anywhere from 20 to 100 percent of the trip cost.
  • We highly recommend you to book a taxi or motortaxi in Hanoi via Uber or Grab.
  • You should pay attention to safety while traveling with children: always keep an eye on them while kayaking, swimming and even when they play around on the sun deck.
  • Be aware of the poisonous jellyfish:  During summer, especially May, June, July, before going to swim, you should ask the guide or captain for advice because it is when the poisonous jellyfish are most active. Jelly Fish mostly doesn’t cause too much trouble but popular symptoms such as hives, and rashes…
  • What to bring for an overnight trip?
    • Your original passport
    • Sunscreen and sunglasses
    • Beach hat/Umbrella, Swimsuits, Bikini (a sarong is recommendable for women if you want to go up to the sundeck and sunbathe)
    • Flip flops, sandals, comfy cotton t-shirt, shorts, skirts, maxi dresses, etc. are all you need for an awesome summer. If you visit Ha Long Bay in the winter, do not forget to bring warm clothes, scarves, and shoes to keep warm.
    • Other necessary things (such as camera, Insect repellent sprays, and lotions, etc.)

Need more information about Halong Bay? Download the FREE e-book: https://www.indochina-junk.com/download/Ebook-Halongbay-cruises.pdf