Halong Bay Travel Guide.
Halong Bay is a World Heritage seascape rich in limestone peaks which helps to create a mystical and magnificent setting, and rated as one of Vietnam’s biggest attractions. The best way to explore the emerald waters on the Vietnam holiday packages is by hiring a traditional boat or going on a cruise-tour which are always widely available
This popular destination was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and its ethereal beauty has made it one of the most visited tourism sights in northern Vietnam. This is mostly thanks to the scattering of limestone islands with wave and wind eroded grottoes and caves that are just waiting to be explored.
Many of the tourists to Halong Bay sign-up for the cruise-tours that includes the option to sleep on board for the night, while other boat adventures take place in Cat Ba Island which is just as alluring but a lot less visited.
A relaxed sightseeing trip of the incredible feat of nature that is Halong Bay is for many tourists the pinnacle of their travelling experience while in this country.
Halong Bay has the ability to entice visitors year-round with the most popular period running from the end of May to the start of August. But for the travellers that like to experience the eerie atmosphere, the month of January to March is certain to appeal when the cool and drizzly weather starts to bring in the fog for low visibility. The more difficult weather can take place from May to September when there are frequent tropical storms that can lead to changes in the itineraries. A quiet time is often November which is certain to appeal to those on the Vietnam tour packages that prefer the lack of crowds.
How to get there
Halong Bay is a major tourist attraction which means it has plenty of routes to arrive from with Vietnam and neighbouring countries.
A popular method to arrive in Halong Bay is by car with the preferred route being Highway 18 that travels past Hon Gai Bridge, Bai Chay Road and Tuan Chau Island. Travelling from Hanoi by road can take in the region of 4 hours to complete. Also, for those with a pre-booked cruise trip this often includes travel from the capital by private car or cruise bus.
There are several options to fly to the local region with flights coming from Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, and Danang. The closest airport is in Hanoi, which means a similar onward journey to reach the intended destination of Halong Bay.
Also, the Northern Vietnam Helicopter Company can give a very scenic helicopter trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi with a flight time in the region 1.5 hours. But this is certain to be the most expensive option.
Where to stay
With the constant flow of tourists to this region of Vietnam, there are now plenty of guesthouses and hotels that are fully able to meet the demands in relation to both style and budget.
A stay at the Halong Bay Plaza Hotel costs in the region of $85 per night and is well located very close to the bay and in the central of the city. Also, nearby are the municipal church, fish market, Baichay beach and Baitho Mountain. This hotel has the latest in modern facilities and luxurious style and gives tourists a high level of accommodation and excellent services.
A visit to the Golden Halong Hotel is perfect for its location close to the Baichay Beach and is priced about $60 per night. It is approx 2 hours from Hanoi to reach by car and just 1 km from the major tourism wharf and about 4 km from Tuan Chau Island. Plus, this hotel has the finest facilities and services to provide a relaxed and enjoyable stay.
A further high standard place to stay on the Vietnam private holidays is the Mithrin Hotel with its convenient location and luxury features. It is based in the centre of Halong City which makes it really easy to access the most popular attractions that interest the exploring tourists. The cost per night is in the region of $80.
Eat and drink
With its location next to the Gulf of Tonkin, there are plenty of restaurants and food stalls in Halong Bay selling dishes consisting of fresh seafood. Plus, there are plenty of locally sourced and delicious fruits that are found near the ocean. Beyond, the delicious seafood, there are plenty of restaurants that serve local specialties such as goat meat (thit de) and other favourites.
For a taste of the international restaurants it may benefit to travel to one of the nearby large cities such as Haiphong, which has a great choice of cuisines including Mexican, American and Indian.
Shopping in Halong Bay on the Vietnam family vacation is mostly related to the markets and buying the authentic and local items and not the branded items in big malls.
Halong Market is one of the most popular destinations in the city for the tourist or locals to do a bit of shopping. A visit to Bach Dang Street in Halong City makes it possible to find the largest market in the local area. Most of the items for sale at well priced and varies from electrical devices, accessories, clothes and more. Plus, there are a few local restaurants selling food and drink. A visit to Halong Market also makes it possible to buy some of the local specialties such as seafood or dried squid. This market is open daily from 6am until 6.30pm.
For the tourist that likes to shop later in the day, the Halong Night Market is certain to appeal and stays open until midnight 7 days a week. The products to sell in this market are very diverse with a choice to buy clothes, handmade accessories, and handicrafts. There are plenty of unique items to buy for the gift or souvenir for family or friends, such as T-shirt with images of Halong Bay, wooden small boats or necklaces made from seashells.
A visit to Bai Chay Commercial Centre makes it possible to explore Halong City’s modern shopping centre with the more high-end products with prices to match.
Things to see and do
The major attraction for visiting Halong Bay is for taking a cruise for a day-trip for one or two nights. But, with such a wide range of trips and tours offering, it is essential to pick the right one to avoid a terrible experience.
The majority of tourists that visit Halong Bay go on the budget to mid-range cruise which can vary quite significantly in relation to the quality of the boat and service. When organizing the boat for exploring the emerald waters, it helps to look at the safety issues. For instance, the ultra-budget boats aren’t likely to have safety as a top priority. By spending a little more there is the chance of getting excellent service. A mid-range cruise can include a comfortable hotel-style cabin, helpful on-board tour guides, and stops for activities like kayaking.
For the low-budget travellers on the Vietnam travel packages, it is usually more practical to use mid-range operator offering a day cruise, than a cheap overnight excursion.
The budget price cruise can start as low as $60 per person for a day out on the emerald waters. But, for the more appealing cruise with the extras, the cost is closer to $125. The cruise operators have a lot of competition and often include extras (private minibus transfer, kayaking cave trips, etc.) as an incentive to get more passengers on boards. For this reason, it makes sense to shop around to find the most attractive deals.
For the most luxurious time in Halong Bay, there are the high-class cruise options that are much like an extravagant hotel on water, and certain to appeal to the romantically inclined tourist. These types of cruises give the 5-star amenities while exploring the waters filled with limestone karsts that give fantastic views of the jungle-topped islands. The cost per night for the luxury cruise is in the region of $225.
A further option to explore the wonders of Halong Bay on the Vietnam adventure tour is to experience a day-trip on one of the many tourist boats available in the local area. A typical excursion on the waters can last in the region of 4-6 hours. This type of trip is great for those travellers that aren’t too concerned with added frills, want a low-cost option to get out on the water, don’t have an issue with sharing a boat with others, and looking to see a few of the highlights.
A four hour excursion on one of the tourist boats can cost about $5, which also includes stops at popular sights like Hang Thien Cung and Hang Dau Go to make it possible to see the magnificent caves. Extra fees may apply to the trip, such as cave entry fees at about $1.50 and an entrance fee to Halong Bay at $5.50.