The World Heritage seascape of Halong Bay, dotted with jagged limestone pinnacles, is one of Vietnam’s biggest attractions. The most popular way to experience the bay is on a cruise, and
Most Halong Bay visitors go for midrange or budget cruises, but there is a huge range when it comes to price and value for money. At one end of the scale are some ultra-budget boats where on-board safety is not top priority; at the other end are some excellent midrange options offering cosy hotel-style cabins, knowledgeable on-board tour guides, and kayaking stops.
If purse strings are tight, for facilities, comfort and safety considerations it’s sometimes better to choose a day cruise with a midrange operator rather than a bargain-basement overnight trip.
Bai Chay tourist boats
Get ready for a truly local experience. Bai Chay Tourist Wharf in Halong City is the bustling hub of Halong Bay’s day-tripping tourist boats, which whisk visitors out onto the water for excursions of four to six hours.
If you’re not fussed about added frills, don’t mind sharing boat space with gaggles of other folk, and just want to cheaply get out on the water and quickly see a couple of highlights, this is a good option.
A four-hour trip, stopping at big-hitter cave highlights Hang Dau Go and Hang Thien Cung, costs 100,000d (around US$5). The Halong Bay entrance fee (120,000d) and individual cave entry fees (30,000d) are additional.
Most decent midrange Halong Bay cruises will offer an hour or so of kayaking. Paddling around the karsts allows you to experience the limestone towers from a completely different angle: up close, at sea level and without the constant thrum of an engine in the background.
For more experienced kayakers, there are also kayak-only trips. These trips are run by a handful of operators based in nearby Lan Ha Bay (off Cat Ba Island) rather than Halong Bay itself, though Lan Ha’s islet-scattered sea has just as much wow factor as Halong Bay and is much less visited.
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