If you’re planning a trip to Hanoi then chances are you have Halong Bay in your itinerary too. In fact, we would even say that Halong Bay is a must if you’re in Hanoi. The best way to experience this magnificent bay is on a cruise in one of the many traditional junks. Often times travellers don’t have adequate information prior to making a booking so here are 5 things you should know before booking a Halong Bay Cruise.
1. The Itinerary is the same for all cruises
It doesn’t really matter which company’s cruise/junk you decide to see Halong Bay with, remember that it is a packaged tour that you’ve bought so the list of activities are pretty much the same and will in all probability be in the same order as well. Here are some of the usual suspects:
a. Kayaking: You will have about 45 minutes to explore some beautiful lagoons
b. Cave visit: The caves you visit are massive in that some of the chambers are up to 100 meters long
c. Cooking class: A simple affair which is more demonstration than hands-on
d. Climb one of the island mounds: Takes about 15-20 minutes to get to the view point
e. Beach Time: You will get about an hour or so on a tiny beach
These activities are all optional of course but knowing this can help you plan your limited time on the cruise. Perhaps you just want to chill on the deck with a book and not rush from one activity to the other so it’s best if you ask your guide how the day’s activities have been planned out, and you can take your pick.
2. Two nights on the cruise is ideal if you have spare time
If you will only be going for an overnight cruise then with all these activities cramped within a span of 24 hours, it feels a bit rushed and you don’t fully get to appreciate the bay for what it is. Our suggestion here is that if you are not short on time then two nights on the cruise is the better option for you. And it’s probably best to spend more time on the second day Kayaking around the bay and discover some hidden lagoons for yourself 🙂
3. You can opt not to spend a night on the cruise and still see the bay
Maybe you’re on a tight budget or perhaps you prefer your accommodations more ‘grounded’, fret not because you can also choose to stay in Halong city and do day tours of the Bay over multiple days. There are a few companies that offer day trips ranging from simple ferry rides to day trips packed with multiple activities. (For independent travellers, note that to get to and from Halong to Hanoi there are cheap transportation options like minibuses and regular busses where tickets go as cheap at $5 for the four hour journey).
4. Party Cruises for younger crowd
These cruises are not family friendly to say the least. This is more for those that want more than a quiet night out at Halong Bay and wish to let their hair down among the islands of Halong Bay 😉 You will get to do the usual activities on this cruise as well but the nights will not be the same, and don’t expect to sleep before 1am. Reviews for the party cruises are mixed so choose the right one if you’re going for this option.
5. The Price Categories
There are several overnight cruises you can choose from and the will all broadly fall into three categories:
USD60 – USD80
The quality of amenities will vary with the price range of course but it is important to research well before deciding the right Halong Bay cruise. While most of the cruises offer good service to their guests, there are many on which travellers have consistently complained about service and amenities. We generally recommend this Halong Bay Cruise to our guests. The low season for Halong Bay is June to September and this is also when you can probably shave off 20-30% off the prices that you will see advertised by travel agents.