From the moment you set foot in Vietnam, the feeling of excitement to get to Halong Bay overwhelms you. After all, Halong Bay is known as one of the most amazing places in the country.
For many travellers, Halong Bay is a must-see for those visiting Vietnam. So let’s make your life easier by giving you all the information you need to explore the best of this fantastic scenario.
Halong Bay is one of the best-known bays in the world. It’s made up of some 2,000 overgrown limestone islets spread over about 120 kilometres of coastline, bathed by an emerald-filled sea. Most of the islands are not inhabited, nor have they been touched by human intervention. Some hidden beaches, caves, as well as small floating fishing villages. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, encouraging more exceptional environmental preservation.
The name of the bay means something like “The Dragon Who Has Come Down” and has a curious legend behind it. Local people say that a long time ago, the Chinese invaded in an attempt to conquer the territory. The villagers prayed to their Gods, who promised to send help from the heavens: a family of dragons to protect the region from enemies. The dragon mother would then release countless pearls and jades from her mouth to contain the invaders. These stones turned into mountains.
The tale may vary slightly depending on the narrator, but Vietnamese locals in the area will be delighted (and proud) to speak of this legendary story, true or not.
Departing from Hanoi
The best way to reach Halong Bay is from Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. The city is about 160 km from Halong Bay, which takes an average of 3.5 hours. Dozens of companies offer varied excursions, which generally include a round trip transfer between the capital and the bay. You can use the or vice versa.
To explore the region, you can:
Make a return trip from Hanoi: the departure point is away from the city, so it will take you an average of 8 hours on this transfer to Halong Bay alone – which will make your day extremely busy. So we don’t recommend this option.
Sleeping 1 or 2 nights aboard: Spending the night in Halong Bay on a traditional Vietnamese/ Chinese ship, known as the Junk, is the most common way of getting to know the area.
Staying on dry land: There are options to stay close to where the boat departure area (Halong City) and even on an island called Cat Ba, within the bay itself.
How to choose the best cruise:
As mentioned earlier, most travellers want to get to know the place by sleeping one or more nights on the traditional Halong Bay cruises. In general, boats include round-trip transfers from Hanoi, all meals and drinks, private rooms with bathrooms, and several stops along the promenade to learn about the bay’s unique features such as caves, beaches and lookouts.
Choosing the cruise, preferably in advance, is the most fun time when planning your trip to Halong Bay. In your research, you will find that the prices and services are varied, and the challenge is to find a compromise between price and quality. Although it may seem expensive, your experience in Halong Bay will is linked to the experience with the cruise.
Do a lot of research and read the reviews. One of the top choices for tourists and what we used to explore Halong Bay was the Glory Legend Cruise. The price may be high, but it was worth it for the comfort and activities during the tour.
The package we chose included a transfer from Hanoi, boat accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, among other activities. Upon boarding, we received the first directions from the crew and then the key to our room.
Halong Bay is a place you don’t want to miss when you visit Southeast Asia, so if you make the trip to Vietnam, make sure you add this historic location to your list!