27 Must-know Halong Bay Cruise Tips

Taking a Halong Bay cruise is at the top of many Southeast Asia itineraries. Halong Bay is known for its stunning 1,600+ limestone islands and islets that dot the seaside landscape in northern Vietnam.

UNESCO declared Halong Bay a World Natural Heritage Site in 1994. Since then, tourists have flocked to the Gulf of Tonkin, experiencing Halong Bay’s breathtaking views in person.

Naturally, cruises have multiplied in Halong Bay, vying for tourists’ attention with their varying amenity offerings.

Despite different cruise classes, the core Halong Bay experience is similar. I visited Halong Bay in January 2023 and will share my takeaways to help your trip “float” as smoothly as possible.

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Halong Bay Cruise Overview

If you’ve just started your Halong Bay tour planning, I’ve put together this chart to get you up to speed.

Types of toursFull-day, 1-night, & 2-night cruises
Popular tour basesHanoi, Ninh Binh, & Cat Ba Island
Best weatherSeptember, October, November, & December
WiFi on cruise?Yes, but unreliable
Meals included?Yes, but drinks aren't
What to packSun gear, rain gear, bathing suit, sneakers, flip flops

It’s worth noting that although people in the English-speaking world commonly spell “Halong” as one word, the Vietnamese spell it “Ha Long Bay.”

So, you’ll likely see this destination spelled both ways.

How Was Halong Bay Formed?

A panoramic view of Halong Bay.
A view of Halong Bay from Ti Top Island.

Halong Bay was formed from tectonic movement, with the ocean floor pushing above the water’s surface to produce islands. The islands started emerging above water approximately 500 million years ago.

Since then, wind and rain have sculpted the delicate limestone structures into the beautiful pillars we recognize today.

You’ll likely have the opportunity to visit a cave during your Halong Bay cruise. There, you’ll witness the ongoing process of minerals from water droplets shaping the inside of the islands.

Tips for Taking a Halong Bay Cruise

If you’re like me, taking a cruise around Halong Bay will become the highlight of your Vietnam trip. But since vacation snags can happen, I’ve put together these tips to help increase the chances of your trip running smoothly.

1. A Day Trip Is Possible

Many people recommend taking at least a 1-night cruise around Halong Bay. Having taken a 1-night cruise myself, I have mixed feelings about it. More on that towards the end of this post.

The good news is that if you’re short on time, a Halong Bay day trip is possible.

The most popular route for taking a Halong Bay day cruise is from Hanoi. You’ll find countless agencies in old town Hanoi offering these excursions.

But most offer a similar experience—lunch, kayaking, a cave visit, and a hike with panoramic views.

2. Overnight Trips Are Recommended

A 3-story Halong Bay cruise.
3-story cruises are common at Halong Bay.

I’m not saying I necessarily recommend an overnight Halong Bay cruise, but this is the typical recommendation.

One and two-night cruises are the most popular options in Halong Bay. The advantage of spending at least one night on a cruise ship is that you’ll get to enjoy your Halong Bay experience at a slower pace.

You’ll also experience at least one sunset and sunrise in Halong Bay, which is nothing short of spectacular when the weather cooperates.

You might even get to participate in more activities. But “might” is the operative word, depending on your chosen cruise itinerary.

3. Hanoi and Ninh Binh Are Popular Bases

Hanoi and Ninh Binh are the most popular starting points for a Halong Bay tour. Since Hanoi is about a 2.5-hour drive from Halong Bay and Ninh Binh is about 3.5 hours, I recommend basing yourself in Hanoi if you want to see Halong Bay in a day.

I spent one month in Hanoi and took my Halong Bay cruise during that time. I loved being able to leave my laptop and large pieces of luggage at my Airbnb, carrying a small day backpack with me for overnight items.

That said, there’s no limit on how much luggage you can bring onboard.

So, some people travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay (or vice versa) before continuing to Ninh Binh or elsewhere in the country. There’s little suitcase lugging you’ll need to do if you choose this option, given that the cruise staff will help carry your bags onto the boat.

4. Transportation Fees Are Often Separate

Red Halong Bay shuttle bus.
My shuttle bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay.

No matter where you travel from to start your Halong Bay cruise, double-check to see if the transportation fees to the port are included.

Since travelers come from many parts of Vietnam, including accommodation near the port, tour agencies often list the cruise price with an asterisk indicating that it doesn’t include ground transportation.

Have no fear, though, for most tour agencies will be able to arrange a shuttle bus for you. During my January 2023 visit, I paid $25 for the round trip Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hanoi journey.

Keep in mind that if you’re traveling from Hanoi to Halong Bay, it’s unlikely the shuttle will pick you up if you’re staying outside the old town. Grab is the Uber of Vietnam, so you can get a ride to Hanoi old quarter for cheap, especially if you book a scooter rather than a car.

5. Fall Is the Best Time of Year

Fall is the best time of year to visit Halong Bay for the following reasons:

  • Rain is infrequent
  • There’s little fog
  • The temperatures are moderate

Since Vietnam is in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn encompasses the months of September, October, and November. However, December is also a great time to take a Halong Bay cruise.

There’s one caveat to this recommendation: September falls during typhoon season. More on that next.

The downside to visiting Halong Bay during its best weather months is that it’s the high tourist season. So, crowds abound and cruise prices are often higher.

January to March are the coldest months in Halong Bay, and you can expect to encounter the fewest tourists during that time. In contrast, the months of April and May serve as a shoulder season where the weather conditions are moderate and there aren’t as many crowds.

6. Plan Around Typhoon Season

A boat cruising through Halong Bay's islands.
A cruise ship pulling a dinghy.

Typhoon season in Vietnam runs from June to September. Typhoons are often strongest during the heart of the summer, which corresponds with the hottest temperatures, highest humidity, and most rain.

I recommend checking the refund policy with your travel agency if you book a Halong Bay cruise during the typhoon season. Most agencies honor refunds for weather-related cancellations.

Purchasing travel insurance is also wise.

According to my Halong Bay tour guide, the area either has a direct typhoon hit or feels the impact of a typhoon five or six times per year. Needless to say, those are troubling statistics for tourists with their hearts set on taking a Halong Bay cruise.

7. Fog Is a View-killer

You can enjoy the views in Halong Bay when it’s cloudy, but you can’t when it’s foggy.

My guide showed us a photo of what Halong Bay looks like on a foggy day. He held his phone in the direction of where he had taken the picture.

Limestone islands set the backdrop for our view while the phone showed nothing more than fog enveloping the front part of the cruise ship.

Visibility due to fog is the worst in Halong Bay in January and February. Seeing my guide’s photo made me thankful that all I experienced weather-wise during my two-day trip were clouds.

8. Last-minute Bookings Are Best

Two people rowing boats.
Locals rowing bamboo boats.

If you’re spending a few days or more in an area where you can easily reach Halong Bay, I recommend holding off on making your cruise booking until you can see the weather forecast.

The exception to this is if you have your heart set on a particular cruise ship or if you’re traveling during the high season, where availability might be more limited (and a higher chance of the weather being better, of course).

I booked my Halong Bay cruise two days before my trip, resorting to working more around rain than a seemingly non-existent sunny day. But the following morning, the weather changed and it looked like it would be a nice day.

So, I contacted my tour agency asking if I could change my reservation to that day, giving me less than an hour before I’d have to catch the shuttle. Within ten minutes, they confirmed it was possible and I got to enjoy Halong Bay with good visibility and a bit of sun.

9. Drinks Aren’t Included

No matter how cheap or expensive the Halong Bay cruise price is that you pay, you can expect most drinks not to be included.

In the case of my 4-star Lavender cruise, we received one small bottle of water in our cabin and tea and coffee with breakfast. Knowing this, I brought enough water to last me through the trip.

That said, you can purchase water and alcohol on board. Just prepare yourself to shell out a lot of dong—cocktails cost $6 each. Yes, that’s in USD.

As a silver lining, you can pay by credit card (a 3 – 3.5% credit card fee will be added, which is typical in Vietnam). The staff will open a tab using your cabin number and you’ll pay for your drinks on the morning of your departure.

10. Not All Cruises Are Equal…

Beach chairs on a Halong Bay cruise deck.
The sundeck on my cruise.

I’m not a picky person when it comes to accommodations, but it was hard to pass up the 50% discount that GetYourGuide was running during my travel dates. That meant I paid less for my 4-star cruise than I would have for a 3-star cruise.

The cruise options range from budget to 5-star, with 4-star options seemingly the most common, based on what I found when speaking with tour agencies (then again, upselling could have been at play).

Some Halong Bay cruise cabins come with all the bells and whistles, from a private balcony to a spacious modern bathroom and spa. Other cruises have just enough space for your bags and more limited amenities onboard.

In all cases, you can expect your cruise to have a top deck and an indoor dining area. These are the areas where you’ll likely spend most of your time. So, if you’re on a budget, I wouldn’t fret too much over the quality of your room.

11. …But Most Itineraries Are Similar

Here’s the thing: Whether you’re a budget traveler sharing a room with a stranger or you booked a luxury 5-star corner cabin, most Halong Bay trip itineraries of the same duration look similar.

The boats also anchor in the same area at night, so all guests receive the same sunset and sunrise views.

You can expect overnight Halong Bay cruises to offer activities like kayaking (or the option for locals to row you in a bamboo boat), hiking to a viewpoint, swimming at a beach, walking through a cave, a cooking class, and nighttime squid fishing.

So, while you should check what activities each cruise company offers, the amenities on the cruise are often the bigger determiner for clients choosing their best option rather than the itinerary itself.

12. Single Occupancy Rates Apply

Twin room with a private balcony on the Halong Bay cruise.
I had a private room with two twin beds.

As a single traveler, I’m used to footing accommodation costs on my own. But booking a Halong Bay cruise as a solo female traveler felt more painful, given that the cruise companies tack on a single occupancy fee.

That said, tour agencies can sometimes coordinate single travelers of the same sex to room together, allowing them to pay the lower double occupancy rate.

If you’re having trouble finding an agency that’s willing to offer double occupancy for two single travelers, reach out to a hostel. They’re often the best resource since they often have many people in the same situation.

I ended up being grateful for my single occupancy room. While it had two twin beds, the space in my cabin was so tight that it would have practically felt like sharing a bed with a stranger had I roomed with someone else.

13. Pack for All Weather Conditions

A pedestrian walkway winding around an island cliff.
The walkway leading away from Surprise Cave.

The weather can change quickly at Halong Bay. It can go from chilly weather one minute to sunburn-worthy sunshine the next.

So, I recommend packing clothes you can layer for your Halong Bay tour.

The essentials are sun and rain gear. Keep in mind that if it’s raining, you’ll want to wear a rain jacket or poncho inside the caves. That’s because the rain drips through cracks in the limestone, which are what form the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.

Aside from your cabin, your cruise ship will have an indoor dining area where you can escape bad weather or bask in some air conditioning. They usually also offer a cover over a portion of the top deck.

14. Dressy Clothes Might Be Necessary

I didn’t pack dressy clothes for my Halong Bay cruise, which ended up being against the grain. After our activities on the first day, our guide informed us that we had time to clean up before dinner.

Fellow passengers on my boat ended up taking that seriously. Women wore dresses, and men put on button-down shirts and nice pairs of jeans.

Of course, you don’t have to dress up. But if you’re taking a 4-star or 5-star Halong Bay luxury cruise, you might want to pack a nice outfit for dinner.

If you’re concerned about not having enough room in your bag if you don’t take all your luggage with you, your cabin comes with shampoo and other toiletries.

15. Cooks Cater to Dietary Needs

A plate of green papaya salad.
Green papaya salad with peanuts and sesame seeds.

No matter your dietary requirements, you can expect your Halong Bay cruise chefs to be able to cater to your needs.

As a vegetarian, I was surprised by the large range of dishes the cruise team prepared for me for our multi-course meals. Green papaya salad, tofu, and vegetables cooked in several ways were some of the many delicious foods they prepared.

The cooking class, which entailed stuffing spring rolls with pre-prepared filling, was also vegetarian.

The Halong Bay cruise staff can also prepare vegan dishes and more, with Vietnamese cuisine being at the forefront of the preparations. Seafood is a staple dish for many meals, given that fresh mussels, prawns, and fish abound in the bay.

So, be sure to let your tour agency know in advance if you’re allergic to (or don’t like) seafood.

16. WiFi Isn’t Reliable

WiFi is technically available on the Halong Bay cruises. But it’s best to assume you won’t have access to it.

The cruise has a WiFi router on board, but the strength of the connection depends on your location on the boat and where in the bay the cruise is currently parked.

Personally, I didn’t try connecting to the WiFi on my cruise ship since I had a Vietnamese SIM card on my phone.

I maintained an internet connection the entire time, as far as I’m aware (I spent more time gawking at the beautiful islands than my phone). But the connection was slower than in Hanoi.

17. Fast Turnaround Time

The staff on the Halong Bay cruises are incredibly hard workers, and there’s no better way to appreciate it than when you realize how guests arrive back at the main port as new passengers are waiting to board.

So, naturally, things can fall through the cracks.

While I had a positive experience with my cabin, as did most other guests on my cruise ship, one couple was given a dirty room. They notified the staff, and the issue was soon resolved.

Aside from the potential for gaps in cleanliness, a fast turnaround time means delays can happen. If a cruise ship experiences a mechanical issue on its way back to the port, it’ll cut into your time onboard during your first day or cause you to depart the port late if it’s your last day.

18. The Tide Can Affect Activities

Kayakers at Halong Bay.
Kayaking at Luon Grotto.

There are few signs of high or low tide at Halong Bay, given that you’ll rarely be in a sandy area. However, if you look at the base of the islands and islets, you’ll be able to see where high tides have carved into the rock.

Luckily, tide changes don’t significantly impact the activities your tour agency listed.

However, you may have less area to explore by kayak if you visit at low tide. Our guide informed us that he altered the order of our original itinerary for this very reason, taking us kayaking when the tide was higher.

In contrast, low tide during Halong Bay beach time is a great opportunity for seashell lovers to comb the sand. I was surprised by how many seashells and pieces of coral there were, though most of them were broken.

If you find a whole shell, check to ensure it doesn’t belong to a crab. I had a 100% fail rate of finding a crab-free whole seashell.

19. A Dinghy Will Take You to Different Islands

The largest chamber at Surprise Cave.
The largest of three chambers at Surprise Cave.

There won’t ever be a time when your Halong Bay cruise picks you up from the mainland. Instead, you’ll board a dinghy whenever you need to transfer to the cruise from the port and the islands you visit.

The Vietnamese government requires that tourists wear lifejackets on the dinghies. You don’t have to wear lifejackets on the cruise, though they’re available, of course.

Depending on the length of your stay in Hanoi and your itinerary, you may get to take a dinghy to a floating fishing village, Surprise Cave (Sung Sot Cave), Thien Canh Son Cave, and more.

The dinghies are sturdy. So, you don’t have to worry about them wobbling if you have a fear of smaller boats.

20. Large Waves Are Uncommon

Calm water around the islands at Halong Bay.
Calm water in the afternoon during my cruise.

Because there are so many limestone islands and islets in Halong Bay, your cruise ship will remain in a part of the ocean that’s well-protected from large waves.

Furthermore, cruise ships are required to anchor in an exceptionally well-protected area at night. I didn’t even feel the ship moving from my bed, only a little when I showered and was walking around the vessel.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to bring Dramamine or other medication if you’re prone to motion sickness.

Although it’s uncommon for large waves to occur in Halong Bay, they can happen on windy days and during storms.

21. Get Up for Sunrise

Sunrise at Halong Bay.
A view of sunrise from the top deck of my cruise.

You’ll have traveled far and spent a lot of money to take an overnight Halong Bay tour. So, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy an early morning watching the sunrise.

One of the staff members on my boat even offered us the opportunity to participate in a Tai Chi session on the sun deck. It was a beautiful way to start the day.

The clouds were in full swing the morning of my Halong Bay stay. But luckily, the fog wasn’t. So, I was able to enjoy seeing the sky fill with colors as the sun rose.

But I must admit that despite being an early bird, I’m partial to Halong Bay’s sunsets. My guide timed our panoramic view hike so that we could take photos as the sun was setting.

22. It Can Get Loud at Night

Cruise ships lit up at night in Halong Bay.
All cruises anchor in the same area at night.

I’ve never taken a large cruise, so I have nothing to compare to Halong Bay’s smaller cruise ships. But I found it hard to sleep in my Halong Bay cabin because of rowdy visitors.

Many of the guests on my boat took full advantage of its amenities, including a (paid) bar and tables on the top deck to play drinking games. It was all fun and “games” until I was ready to hit the hay several hours before the die-hards were.

Other cruise ships also added to the loud noise.

While I’m convinced my boat had the loudest passengers, the bay can get loud at night from people and passengers on nearby cruises, given that all must anchor in the same area.

23. Monkey Sightings Aren’t Guaranteed

If you book a Halong Bay trip and hope to see monkeys, it’s best to go into it with low expectations. Yes, monkeys live on the islands. People brought them there years ago, and they’ve since reproduced and call Halong Bay home.

But our guide warned us that we might not see short-finned macaques, the small monkeys with short tails that inhabit the area.

I got lucky and saw a large group of them playing on the cliffs by the shore when I was kayaking. They didn’t mind my presence, but they were too far away to snap good photos. I recommend bringing binoculars to see them better.

You can also consider staying on Cat Ba, an inhabited island in Halong Bay with golden-headed langurs. These golden heads are an endangered species and are endemic to Cat Ba.

24. Tipping Is Encouraged

Vietnam doesn’t have a big tipping culture. However, tipping is more common in tourist areas, and taking a Halong Bay tour is about as touristy as it gets.

My cruise ship had a tipping box in the dining room. They also set out a few envelopes during our last meal with the word “Tips” written on them and advised us how many employees were on the ship (12, in my ship’s case).

I’m nearly positive that none of the money you use to tip the cruise staff goes to the guide. The guides typically work independently, many traveling to and from Hanoi with the guests and taking different cruise ships each time.

So, I recommend tipping your guide separately. As for the amount, that’s up to you—my tour agency didn’t offer advice on a percentage or flat amount.

25. Expect to Wait Around at the Port

The boarding area at Halong Bay port.
A dinghy parked at the port.

There was quite a bit of waiting involved when I arrived at the Halong Bay port before embarking on my cruise. And it was super crowded (I can’t imagine how crowded it would be during the high season!).

My shuttle arrived at the port from Hanoi at around 11:10 am, including a 30-minute restroom break at a local pearl harvesting factory.

From there, my guide instructed us to hang out at the port while we waited for shuttles carrying other of our fellow cruise passengers to arrive. Similarly, I had to wait at the port upon our return until all passengers taking my same shuttle debarked their respective cruises.

There isn’t much to do at the port. But there are some convenience stores and coffee shops nearby, along with public restrooms.

26. The Port Is a Ghosttown

When I started planning my 2-month Vietnam trip, I thought it would be nice to spend a week in Halong Bay city in the Bai Chay area. I’m so glad I followed the advice that my research revealed: Don’t do it.

The city, which to me looked like a town, has all the bells and whistles of being new and modern. The problem?

You’ll be hard-pressed to find people around past 1:00 pm after everyone has boarded or debarked their cruise.

A couple on my cruise had spent one night in Halong Bay town and said it was a poor choice. They described it as safe but eery, with the structure of a place that should be bustling but its apartments, shops, and hotels were vacant.

Hopefully, this will change. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you stay there.

27. Cat Ba Island Offers an Additional Experience

If you don’t want to stay in town but also don’t like the thought of rushing before or after your Halong Bay cruise, consider staying on Cat Ba Island.

Cat Ba is the largest island in Lan Ha Bay, which is one of the bays that makes up Halong Bay as a whole. It has beautiful beaches, mangrove forests, golden-headed langurs, and a cute touristy town center.

You’ll need to arrive in Cat Ba via a one-hour ferry from Halong Bay. There are typically three ferry departures per day.

People commonly spend two to three nights on Cat Ba Island. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a relaxing way to wind down from a busy trip itinerary.

What No One Tells You About Halong Bay Cruises

Sunset over Halong Bay.
Sunset over Halong Bay.

Pretty much everyone will tell you that you should take an overnight Halong Bay cruise. But I feel that the 2-day overnight cruise might be overrated.

The route my 2-day cruise took (which is the same route all the 2-day cruises took, as far as I’m aware) was beautiful. But I was surprised that the first 1.5 to 2-hour journey through the Halong Bay islands was as far as we’d be going during the entire 2-day stay.

Once my cruise ship anchored, we took a dinghy to explore a few different islands, all of which were a short journey away (ten minutes at most).

The 3-day cruise is a different story.

Instead of just visiting Halong Bay, you’ll also explore Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay. And regardless of whether you take a full-day or 3-day cruise, your guide is bound to tell you about the legend of the dragons protecting Halong.

Here’s the bottom line: If you’re tight on money or time, Halong Bay is absolutely worth it. But don’t beat yourself up for booking a full day instead of an overnight cruise.

Safety in Halong Bay

Emergency rafts on the Halong Bay cruise.
All cruises carry emergency rafts.

You might be wondering—is Halong Bay safe?

As a solo female traveler, I felt very safe in Halong Bay, both on my cruise and during the time I spent waiting around the port. My experience mirrors the U.S. Department of State’s safety recommendation for Vietnam, which is a Level 1—the safest category.

But crime aside, what about safety on the water?

Luckily, accidents on Halong Bay cruises are rare. Nevertheless, fatal boat accidents have occurred.

During the 10-year period from 2000 to 2010, three cruise sinkings happened in Halong Bay. Choppy water from storms bringing in strong waves was the reason for these accidents, and a total of a dozen people died. A Halong Bay cruise ship also sank in 2011, killing an additional 12 passengers.

I felt completely safe on my cruise ship. But there wasn’t a ripple in sight, let alone a wave. I’m not a fan of being on boats in rough water, so I imagine my tune would change under different circumstances.

But it’s worth reiterating what my guide said—strong waves in Halong Bay are uncommon because of how many islands protect the area from rough seas.

How to Choose a Halong Bay Cruise

Choosing Halong Bay as a destination is easy for most people. The hard part comes with picking a cruise.

Below are some questions to help you choose a Halong Bay cruise:

  • How many days do you want to be on the water (one, two, or three days)?
  • What kind of facilities do you want (luxury outdoor jacuzzi versus cheaper basic amenities)?
  • Is there a specific activity or island you want to visit in Halong Bay?

Keep in mind that the cruise class you book may reflect the types of passengers onboard.

For example, it’s common for backpackers to book a full-day Halong Bay cruise from Hanoi since it’s the cheapest option. In contrast, booking a luxury 5-star cruise might draw a classier crowd of people that are successful in their careers or saved well for retirement.

These are generalizations, of course. But since you’ll be spending quite a bit of time with your fellow cruise mates, it’s worth considering.

Booking a Halong Bay Cruise

A picturesque view of Halong Bay.
A boat cruising around Halong Bay.

The best Halong Bay cruises vary according to a person’s interest and budget. But by now, you’re likely wondering how to book a Halong Bay cruise.

You can book a Halong Bay cruise via the following methods:

  • At a tour agency in Hanoi
  • In person at Halong Bay
  • An online provider

Personally, I prefer going with the online route. I’ve had many experiences during my over a decade of traveling where the services for in-person bookings didn’t go as promised.

By booking online, I can read recent customer reviews and develop more realistic expectations before starting my tour. I do most of my tour bookings through GetYourGuide, my Halong Bay cruise included. But any online tour company usually does the trick as long as there are enough reviews to read.

FAQs About Taking a Halong Bay Cruise

Do you still have questions about Halong Bay before booking your cruise? Read on to see if I answer them here. If not, leave your question in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

Is Halong Bay worth visiting?

Halong Bay is very much worth visiting. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its natural landscapes. Tall foliage-covered limestone rocks jut picturesquely out of the bay, creating scenery that draws thousands of tourists each year to see them in person.

What is the best month to visit Halong Bay?

The best months to visit Halong Bay are in the fall. September to December is the ideal time to visit Halong Bay, though you need to be aware that typhoons can strike in September, causing a cruise cancellation.

Where do Halong Bay cruises leave from?

Halong Bay cruises leave from the Bai Chay region of Vietnam, which most foreigners call the Halong Bay port. But to get more specific, Tuan Chau Harbor, Hon Gai, and Got Pier are the stops within Bai Chay where the cruises depart from.

If you’ll be traveling in a group shuttle to and from Halong Bay, there’s a good chance that your shuttle will drop off and pick up people from these different cruise launch points.

Which Halong Bay cruise is best?

A dining table with roses.
A 4-star dining room experience.

The best Halong Bay cruise depends on the traveler. People who seek a budget-friendly Halong Bay cruise are better off taking a group day tour from Hanoi. On the other hand, 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star overnight cruise options exist according to your budget and how much of the bay you’d like to explore.

Can you swim in Halong Bay?

Swimming is allowed at designated areas in Halong Bay. Most of the islands don’t have beaches. However, there’s a popular beach stop on many day and overnight cruises. You can also spend the night at a hotel on Cat Ba Island, where beaches are plentiful.

How far is Halong Bay from Hanoi?

Halong Bay is approximately 2.5 hours from Hanoi, including a restroom break. You might be able to arrive in as little as two hours without stopping. However, heavy traffic in Hanoi can sometimes cause the journey to take longer than 2.5 hours.

How do I find a cheap Halong Bay cruise?

The cheapest Halong Bay cruises are full-day excursions without an overnight. However, GetYourGuide and other agencies sometimes run specials on cruises. I booked my cruise during a 50% discount promotion at GetYourGuide.

Traveling during the low season (January to March) is another great way to snag a cheaper Halong Bay cruise. But the downside is that there’ll be a higher chance of fog blocking your view of the islands.

What’s the closest airport to Halong Bay?

The closest airport to Halong Bay is the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. So, in theory, you can fly in from Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere in the morning and head to the Halong Bay port to board your cruise by noon.

Ready to Take a Halong Bay Cruise?

Sunset over the islands at Halong Bay.
Sunset over the islands.

I’m so thankful for my Halong Bay cruise experience. While there are some things I’d do differently if I were to return, it was my favorite excursion in Vietnam.

If you have questions about cruising around Halong Bay, leave them in the comments.

I’d also love to hear from you after your cruise. How was your experience at Halong Bay? What tips would you add to this list, and has anything changed since my visit?

P.S.—If you’re interested in a 2-day cruise, check out my

P.S.—If you’re interested in taking the 2-day cruise, you can read about my experience and tips for taking a Halong Bay overnight cruise.

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