Your bag
Bag whispers: "Fill me!"
Order Total
US$ 0

Everything You Need to Know about Visiting Halong Bay

All your questions on visiting Vietnam's must-see UNESCO site answered :)

Last updated: 21 Sep 2023 - 5 min read
Everything You Need to Know about Visiting Halong Bay

Halong Bay is seen by many travellers as the place to see in Vietnam. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and it's a really easy trip so anyone of all ages can go - from infants to elderly parents.

If you're planning a trip, here is everything you need to know about a Halong Bay cruise - from seeing a less-touristy side of Halong Bay, to what you'll do and see on a cruise.

Ready to book? Check out all our handpicked Halong Bay cruises here!


Why visit Halong Bay?

Halong Bay with its beautiful karst landscape is a UNESCO site, and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It's seen by most travellers to Vietnam to be the unmissable place to visit in Vietnam.

Other than all its accolades, it's also really popular because it's a super accessible trip for travellers of all ages, and all fitness levels. You can be as chill or as active as you want!

Why visit Halong Bay?

Is Halong Bay worth going or a tourist trap?

We're pretty averse to crowded touristy places, and Halong Bay seems to fit that bill. So it is surprising that we've decided to list Halong Bay on our site. But having been to Halong many times to suss it out, we believe that if you choose the right cruise + itinerary, it is still worth a couple of days of your time.

Think of it as a floating retreat - it's not the most adventurous, but it's a pretty relaxing way to spend a couple of days.

Is Halong Bay worth going or a tourist trap?

What is there to do at Halong Bay?

Here you can take a 1-3 day cruise around the bay. There are three main routes: the more crowded Halong Bay, and adjacent Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. All three routes have similar karst landscape views and activities.

The cruises all offer lots of activities - from caves, floating villages, kayaking, hiking, tai chi to cooking. The activities offered on many of the boats tend to be pretty cookie-cutter. However, there are boats that are doing more interesting off-grid itineraries, like cycling on Cat Ba island and trekking mossy forest trails.

What is there to do at Halong Bay?

How Much Time do I Need at Halong Bay?

If you wish to get the most out of your trip, you should spend at least a night on board the boat. Day trips usually feel quite rushed, as it takes 2-4 hours each way from Hanoi and only leave you with 4-5 hours cruising on the water.

If you have the time, we would recommend doing a 3D2N Halong Bay cruise because that gives you the time to both enjoy the sightseeing and the very nice cruise amenities at the same time. A longer time on the water also allows you to go to further out bays which have fewer people.

How Much Time do I Need at Halong Bay?

How do I get to Halong Bay?

Halong Bay is very accessible from Hanoi, with most cruises able to pick you up from Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where most hostels and hotels are located.

From Hanoi to the harbour in Halong city, the journey will take either 2 hours on the expressway, or 4 hours on the non-expressway route.

How do I get to Halong Bay?

What's the Best Time to Go to Halong Bay?

It depends! Are you looking for the best photography/travel conditions or are you looking to avoid the crowds?

For fewer crowds, go in spring (March to May) as these months are cool and off-peak. Avoid 30th April and 1st May as it's a local Vietnamese holiday. You may get some foggy days in springtime, so it may not be as good for photography.

For the best photos/weather, go in winter (Oct to Dec). However this is peak season, so it'll be crowded and more expensive.

And definitely avoid summer from June to Aug as it gets super hot then, with rainy season in Aug. So you might either become a puddle of sweat or be drenched in the rain!

What's the Best Time to Go to Halong Bay?

How do I Choose a Cruise? They Look the Same

We hear you. After a while, all the Halong Bay cruises look pretty much the same - they're all nice in the exact same stock-y way, so it's easy to assume that there's no difference between the cruises. But whether or not you think Halong Bay is worthwhile really depends on choosing the right cruise boat!

For a better experience, we'd highly recommend going for a smaller cruise boat (20-30 persons instead of 50-60), and finding a cruise that takes a less-touristed route like Lan Ha Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay. See more tips here!

How do I Choose a Cruise? They Look the Same

Can I see Halong Bay without the crowds?

You won't be able to avoid the crowds entirely, but there are definitely less-crowded parts of the bay that you can visit for a more pleasant experience.

There are actually two other bays nearby (Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay) that are more secluded and look the same as Halong Bay. Both these bays are less crowded because they are further out and fewer cruises go there, making the experience more intimate. So if you want to avoid the crowds, opt for cruises that take these less-touristed routes!

Also try to avoid peak season if you can! (see above)

Can I see Halong Bay without the crowds?

Is it True That There’s Rubbish All Around Halong Bay?

This is a commonly asked question and the short answer is no, not since the ban on single use plastics in the area.

Previously Halong Bay had a huge rubbish problem, but since Sept 2019, the Vietnamese government has banned single-use plastics. Cruise ships are also making a concerted effort to be environmentally friendly and have replaced plastic bottles with glass ones! 👇So on our last few trips, we saw clear emerald waters without plastics in sight.

Is it True That There’s Rubbish All Around Halong Bay?

Can I Swim in the Waters of Halong Bay?

Yes, you can swim in the waters as it is quite clean now. Though do take note that if you wish to swim you will have to follow the safety regulations of the area and not all areas are suitable for swimming. Make sure to ask your guide before jumping into the water!

Can I Swim in the Waters of Halong Bay?

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a typical Halong Bay cruise last?

Halong Bay cruises typically last from 1 to 3 days. You can do a one-day Halong Bay cruise, or an overnight one for 2D1N or 3D2N. Travelers can select the duration that suits their preferences and time constraints.

What can travellers expect to see during a Halong Bay cruise?

A Halong Bay cruise presents travelers with beautiful natural surrounds, including limestone karsts jutting out of the water, hidden caves, floating villages, and lush greenery. The cruise boats often also include other activities such as cooking demonstrations, squid fishing, kayaking, swimming, visiting fishing communities, and exploring fascinating caves like Thien Cung Cave and Sung Sot Cave.

If you want to explore less-touristed parts of the bay, you can also choose boats that take you to adjacent bays like Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. These offer the same view as Halong Bay, but fewer boats go there so you can enjoy the views with fewer boats around. Some of the more adventurous cruises will also take you to Cat Ba island where you can cycle in Cat Ba national park and enjoy beautiful karst landscapes with fewer crowds.

Are Halong Bay cruises suitable for families and children?

Yes, Halong Bay cruises are suitable for all ages - from infants to elderly parents! You can be as chill or as active as you wish on a Halong Bay cruise. Many cruise operators offer family-friendly activities and amenities, ensuring an enjoyable experience for all age groups. Kids can engage in kayaking, swimming, and exploring caves, and elderly parents can do tai chi, cooking or indulge in the on-board spa.

What types of accommodation are available on Halong Bay cruises?

It ranges from budget 3-star accommodation to luxury 5-star cruise boats (more like floating hotels!) in Halong Bay. Halong Bay cruises provide a range of accommodation options, from cozy cabins to luxurious suites with jacuzzis and spas. Cabins are equipped with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and amenities like air conditioning and hot water. Most of the luxury cruises even offer private balconies and spa bathtubs for guests to enjoy the stunning views.

If you're looking for more backpacker options with the same beautiful scenery, we would recommend heading to Cat Ba which has similar cruises but more budget and adventurous!

What is the best time to go on a Halong Bay cruise?

Depends on what you care about! Whether it's good weather or to avoid the crowds.

  • March to May are the best months to visit as these months are cool and not too crowded. But there is fog!
  • Avoid summer months from June to Aug as it gets excessively hot, with rainy season in Aug.
  • To avoid the crowds, avoid Oct to Dec which is peak season. However if you don't mind crowds, the weather is best during this time.
  • Avoid local hols like 30 April and 1 May.

Ready to seek for yourself?
find us @seeksophie
For the seekers
Seek Sophie is a tribe of curious explorers looking for what's real, not what's on show for tourists. We seek out experiences that spark wonder, and leave us (and the places we visit!) a little brighter.
Stay in the Loop
Get travel inspo so epic, your out-of-office will practically write itself.
© Seek Sophie 2024PrivacyTerms