The Ultimate Travel Guide to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
(Halong Bay, Vietnam) – The limestone island paradise that is Ha Long Bay in Vietnam was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. People from across the globe travel to this Southeast Asian nation to hop aboard a cruise on Ha Long (which means “descending dragon”) Bay, which is a long stretch of water and about 2,000 limestone islets and grottoes, which took at least 500 million years, extreme environmental conditions, and weathering, to form and solidify. If the Philippines has the Hundred Islands, then Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay can be called the Thousand Islands.
In this travel guide to Ha Long Bay, we listed some helpful tips on how to get there, sample itinerary and budget, things to do and see, places to eat, recommended hotels and more:
About Ha Long Bay
Ha Long City of Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam has played a significant role in the country’s history. It had been a predominantly coal mining city since the 1880s, during the French Occupation. It was the leading producer of coal for the industrial zones of northern Vietnam, and there had been constant military presence because of its strategic location near China.
At present, Ha Long is a peaceful city that is home to the picturesque and poet-inspiring Bai Tho Mountain, the quaint Cua Van fishing village, Vietnam-Japan Cultural House, and the world-famous limestone islets of Ha Long Bay.
Filipino Passport holders are not required to secure a tourist visa to visit Vietnam. Philippine passport holders are eligible to travel to Vietnam completely visa-free for a maximum of 14 days.
Best time to visit Ha Long Bay
One of the great things about Ha Long Bay is that there is not exactly an ideal time to visit it. Ha Long typically experiences four different seasons: Winter (November to March), Spring (March to April), Summer (May to early September), and Fall (September to October), and each season will give travelers a different vibe.
Temperatures during winter drop to as low as 12ºC, while summertime temperature can get as hot as 25ºC. If you want to avoid extreme cold or hot temperatures, visit during either spring or autumn.
Also make sure to check the weather condition regardless of the time of the year you plan to visit, as a cruise may be cancelled, especially due to a typhoon, which occurs fairly frequently.
How to get there (from Manila Philippines)
Cebu Pacific is a local airline that offers direct flights from Manila to Vietnam capital city Hanoi five times a week (S-T-W-Th-S).
You can get to Ha Long City from Hanoi via a four to five hour bus ride. Minibus fares from Hanoi to Ha Long cost around 120,000 dong (Php 280). You can get to your chosen accommodation via motorbike taxi or taxi if the bus does not pass by them.
You will need to ride a ferry in order to get to Ha Long Bay. Most hotels offer airport transfers directly to the bay. If your chosen accommodation does not, you can independently book a trip at Tuan Chau Pier, a common jump off point to Ha Long Bay.
Travelers may also choose to ride a seaplane from the airport to Ha Long Bay for about Php9,400 per person. This just takes 45 minutes and may also include a 15 minute scenic tour over the bay itself.
Noi Bai Airport Transfers (HAN) for Hanoi City or Halong Bay
- Enjoy the convenience of private airport to hotel transfers in a modern air conditioned vehicle
- Receive a meet and greet service at the airport arrival hall or your hotel lobby from your professional driver
- The car can accommodate up to 10 passengers – a convenient transportation option for those traveling in groups or with bulky luggage
- Book your Noi Bai Airport Transport here
Tuktuk (motorized rickshaws), Cyclo, motorbike taxis, and taxis are the common modes of transportation in Ha Long.
Where to Stay in Ha Long
Vinpearl Resort & Spa Ha Long
Location: Reu Island, Halong, Halong, Vietnam, 8433
Price: Php 8,025 via Agoda.com
A Deluxe Twin Room in this five star hotel gives you an exclusive garden view, two single beds, a shower and bathtub, and a free breakfast for two. This luxury hotel offers 24 hour room service, currency exchange, and airport transfer.
Royal Halong Hotel
Location: Halong Street, Bai Chay Ward, Quang Ninh Province, Halong, Halong, Vietnam
Price: Php 3,280 via Agoda.com
After a cruise on Ha Long Bay, relax in the sauna and steam room of Royal Halong Hotel and enjoy a comfy, king-sized bed with a view of the mountainside. All rooms are provided with complete amenities, including slippers, bathrobes, and hairdryer.
Novotel Ha Long Bay
Location: 160 Ha Long Road, Bai Chay Ward, Halong, Halong, Vietnam, 200000
Price: Php 3,688 via Agoda.com
This four star hotel has its own hot tub and fitness center, and a Standard King Bed room will give you a mountain view. The hotel offers airport transfer, cash withdrawal (ATM machine on-site), and has facilities for disabled guests.
Halong Paradise Suites Hotel
Location: Tuan Chau island, Halong, Quang Ninh, Tuan Chau Island, Halong, Vietnam
Price: Php 3,665 via Agoda.com
Halong Paradise Suites Hotel has its own private beach, spa house, sauna, and hot tub, so it is the ideal place to end your trip after cruising the thousand islands of Ha Long Bay. Guests are entitled to free breakfast.
Also Read: Hotel Review: Ha Long Plaza Hotel
Ha Long Bay Boat Cruises
3D2N Halong Bay Cruise and Cat Ba Island Tour
- Explore beyond Halong Bay with this 3D2N tour that combines both the majestic Halong Bay and the beautiful Cat Ba Island
- Cruise aboard a traditional junk boat on peaceful, tranquil waters
- See nature at its best on Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island, trek through the Cat Ba National park
- Try a host of different activities from swimming, kayaking, visiting caves, cooking class and squid fishing!
- Choose between staying in a 3-star hotel or a 4-star resort
- Book your 3days 2Nights Ha Long Bay Cruise and Cat Ba Island Tour here
Halong Bay Full-Day Guided Tour Including Cruise, Kayaking and Lunch From Hanoi
The tour starts in Hanoi’s Old Quarter in the morning. Guests will be driven to Red River Delta during the four-hour trip. Arrival in Ha Long Bay will be at around midday. They will offer a short trip to well-known grottoes like Butterfly Rock, Fisherman’s Head, and Sea Dog. The tour is inclusive of kayaking to grottoes. Note that this is from Hanoi.
Halong Bay Day Tour
- Visit the world famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the majestic Halong Bay
- Cruise past an epic landscape of limestone pillars and tiny islets on a traditional junk boat
- Enjoy seafood lunch aboard the junk boat, then take a kayak tour out in the open waters
- Explore the stunning Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Cave)
- Book your Halong Bay Day Tour here
Halong Bay Overnight Cruise with Kayaking, Caves, and Private Cabin
This overnight cruise includes a trip to Ti Top Island and Sung Sot Cave, kayaking, as well as cooking demonstrations and squid fishing in the evening. This package is inclusive of accommodation of 17 private air-conditioned cabins and all three meals for the day. The tour begins in Tuan Chau island.
Overnight 4-Star Halong Bay Cruise
This two-day, one-night tour includes a trip to the Bewitching Grooto and the Dark and Bright Cave, as well as a stopover at the Hoa Cuong floating fishing village. This package includes cooking demonstrations, complete meals (1 breakfast, 2 lunches, and 1 dinner), a night in your own cabin, and all entrance fees.
Halong Bay Deluxe Cruise
- Take in the stunning views of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site – Halong Bay
- Get ready for exotic photos and absorb the magnificent natural splendors, limestone bedrocks and sheer cliffs of tiny islands highlighted with fanciful names: Fighting Cocks (symbol of Halong Bay), Duck, Swan, Incense Burner, and Stone Dogs
- Explore a limestone cave with gorgeous stalactites and stalagmites and enjoy a fabulous seafood feast onboard
- Convenient hotel transfers, meals as stated and all admission fees are included
- Book your Halong Bay Deluxe Cruise here
Where to eat
Address: Tuan Chau Island, Halong Bay, Halong 200000, Vietnam
Despite its vintage-sounding name, 1958 Restaurant is a classy, elegant restaurant that offers seafood, Asian, Vietnamese, and vegetarian dishes for a fair price. They are best known for their chicken soup and oyster dishes.
If 1958 Restaurant is classy, Wander Station is hip and trendy. The aesthetic appeal of the café and restaurant draws both tourists and locals alike. Their menu features both Vietnamese and typical western snacks like sandwiches and fries.
Linh Dan Restaurant
If you plan to have a nice evening out with some local dishes and a great ambiance, take your date to Linh Dan Restaurant. Dishes like spring rolls, squid and clam soup, and crab are some of their highlights.
Rock House Pizza
Tourists who want to take a break from local dishes like Goi cuon (the famous Vietnamese spring rolls as we call it) or Pho (Vietnam’s national dish of chicken broth and rice noodles), have a side trip to Rock House Pizza, where they offer classic American food like burgers, pizza, and, yes, pizza burgers, too.
Things to do and see in Ha Long Bay
Chance upon Dau Be Island
To put it bluntly, Dau Be Island is quite “hard to get”. It is not always that one gets to swim or dive here to see the coral reefs and lakes of this island. It is only possible to see this part of Ho Lang Bay by rowing a boat during the low tide.
Visit the Virgin Cave
Legend has it that a virgin committed suicide after being sold by her father to an old Mandarin. Although the supposed back story of this is eerie, this cave draws thousands of tourists all year round. Virgin Cave is one of the three caves in Bo Hon Island, one of the largest island chains in Ha Long Bay.
Sleep over at Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba, the largest island in the bay, is like an entire paradise on its own. Topped with forests, with cream-sand beaches on the shoreline, and a fresh, cool breeze are just some of the things this island has to offer. There are many commercial establishments on the island, but if you prefer, you can have a date with nature by mountain biking, trekking, and kayaking.
WiFi and Internet access
The average connection speed in Vietnam is 3.4 Mbps. 3G and 4G is available in most areas, and all hotels offer Wi-Fi. Café shops also offer free Wi-Fi. Alternatively, Internet cafes are also available, at 3,000 dong (Php 7) to 8,000 dong (Php 19) per hour.
Halong Bay Itinerary and Trip Expenses
|Ha Long Bay Sample Budget Itinerary and Expenses|
|8:00pm||Manila Airport Assembly|
|9:55 PM to 12:30 AM||Php 5,700||Manila to Hanoi Flight (via Cebu Pacific direct flight)|
|11:30 PM* onwards||Php 500||Bus ride to Ha Long|
|Php 12,000 (3 nights) Hotel accommodation + breakfast for two people|
|*Vietnam is one hour late from Philippine time, so you will arrive there at 11:30 PM|
|8:00 AM||Php 5,000||Meet up and start of Ha Long Bay Cruise|
|8:00 AM to 12:00 NN||Travel to Ho Lang + stopover|
|12:00 NN to 1:00 PM||Lunch onboard|
|1:00 PM to 4:00 PM||Cruise activities, cave hopping + early dinner|
|4:00 PM to 8:00 PM||Return to hotel|
|8:00 Pm onwards||Free time and rest|
|7:00 AM to 8:00 AM||Breakfast at the Hotel|
|9:00 AM to 12:00 NN||Php 1,000||Souvenir shopping + tour around Ha Long City|
|12:00 NN to 1:00 PM||Php 500||Lunch|
|1:00 PM to 5:00 PM||Php 1,000||Continuation of tour around the city|
|5:00 PM to 7:00 PM||Php 500||Dinner|
|7:00 PM to 8:00 PM||Rest at the Hotel|
|8: 00 PM to 12:00 AM||Php 300||Bus ride to the Airport|
|1:15 AM to 5:25 AM||Php 5,700||Hanoi to Manila flight (via Cebu Pacific direct flight)|
Ha Long Bay Travel tips
- Check! Check! Check! the weather condition before scheduling a cruise. Remember that things like fog, grey clouds, and storms will either cancel or ruin your trip.
- Do not be tempted to book a cheap cruise and end up sacrificing your safety. Before booking any cruise, check if the trip is inclusive of a guide, especially if your package has kayaking in the itinerary. Although a fun activity, it may be dangerous to do kayaking if unguided.
- If you are booking a cruise from Hanoi, remember that a trip from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay takes about four hours. If you booked a one-day tour, note that eight hours or so of your day will be spent travelling to and from Hanoi, and the remaining few hours will be for the tour itself. If you want to stay longer, you might consider staying in Ha Long instead or booking a longer itinerary from Hanoi.
*Airfare, transportation, tours and hotel rates may change without prior notice. We aim to keep this Travel Guide to Ha Long Bay updated and helpful to fellow travelers. Please feel free to notify us about the updated rates by posting a comment below.
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