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North Vietnam, Vietnam

Halong Bay Cruise

The UNESCO world heritage site of Halong Bay is steeped in myth. According to legend, its turquoise waters and jagged limestone peaks are remnants of the jade and emeralds sprayed by a dragon, sent by the gods to protect the Vietnamese people. Many boats embark on this journey of discovery around Halong Bay each day, so if you like being away from the crowds, this may not be for you. However if you want to see what the fuss is all about, sit back and enjoy the chaotic but beautiful ride!

The closest big city to Halong Bay is Hanoi. The best way to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi is by private transfer. Some of the cruise companies include transfer in the price, and others will provide it for an additional fee of US$5 - $25. Depending on the type of cruise company, the journey can take between 2 to 3.5 hours. The reason for the difference is that some of the cheaper cruise companies will take their guests through a more circuitious route and also stop at a road side gift store. If you don't get a private transfer, you can also opt to get a bus. Buses leave from Luong Yen bus station from Hanoi to Halong Bay very regularly. Make sure you know which port/terminal you are leaving from so you know where to get off.

To experience Halong Bay fully, you will need to book a spot on a cruise ship. We have listed some of the best cruise ships in the Halong Bay area here.

It's entirely up to you how active you would like the trip to be! You can choose whether you want to sit back and relax on the boat, or take part in activities around Halong Bay such as kayaking and light hiking.

Halong Bay can be visited year round, though the best months are from March to August, when it's warm. Rainy season occurs from August to November so if you visit then, it could be a bit wet and in extreme cases boats can be cancelled. If you visit from December to February, the weather can be a bit cool especially in the evenings (between 15-21 degrees celsius), so do bring some warm clothing.

You will need at least two days to get the full experience of Halong Bay.

The main differences between the options are the comfort of the boat (measured by number of stars out of 5), the bay visited (i.e. whether it's Halong Bay or the neighbouring bays) and the activities. Don't be fooled by the names of the bays - Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay are both part of the Halong Bay UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bays all offer the same dramatic, beautiful landscapes, and in fact, we actually prefer like Bai Tu Long Bay more than Halong Bay itself as it's less touristy. In terms of the activities, do look carefully at what activities each option includes as there are subtle differences. Some of the options will include a cooking class or a sunset party, whereas others may not. Although all the activities are optional, we would recommend that you choose an option with the activities that you are most keen on doing!

If you wish to stay in the Halong Bay area for a day or two after you've finished your cruise, you can head to Cat Ba island, which is a large island in the neighboring Lan Ha Bay. On Cat Ba island, you can hike in the Cat Ba National Park and explore its many caves and waterfalls.

Cruise ships currently depart from three main ports around Halong Bay. The boats departing from each port tend to head to one of the three different bays around the Halong Bay area. Don't worry if you're not sure which to pick - the bays look pretty much the same! Here are a few notes about the ports and the bays: Tuan Chau Port: this is the first port on the road and the busiest one; boats from here take off for Halong Bay. Hon Gai Port: this port is perhaps the least busy one with ships heading to Bai Tu Long Bay. If you don't like having too many tourist boats around you when you admire the bay scenery, this is probably the one to choose as Bai Tu Long Bay is the least crowded of the three. Got Ferry Terminal (also known as Lan Ha Ferry Terminal): This is the furthest one to the south. Many of the more luxury boats take off from here to Lan Ha Bay.