Though Halong Bay has become such a famous tourist hotspot that one cannot mention Vietnam Travel without including its name in their itinerary, there are still a lot of questions waiting to be answered for visitors coming to Vietnam for the first time or those who are unfamiliar with the country. Where is Halong Bay? How will you get there? What activities are there? These essential questions will be thoroughly covered in this beginner's handbook.
Halong Bay Overview: General Information and Travel Guide
I. Where is Halong Bay?
A well-known tourist destination in Quang Ninh Province, Halong Bay lies close to Halong City (Hong Gai) on the northwest coast of the Gulf of Tonkin, about 170 kilometers away from Hanoi. The area is 1,553 square kilometers in size and has more than 1600 limestone islets and islands, most of which are undisturbed and unoccupied by humans, creating stunning seascapes with towering limestone cliffs.
On the offical map, Halong Bay is situated in northeastern Vietnam, from N20°43' to N21°09' and from E106°55' to E107°37'. It is in latitude 20.927719 degrees, longitude 107.183389, and altitude between 150 and 3000 meters above sea level.
In addition, the 434 square kilometer core zone with 775 islands that was classified by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Site is delimited by 69 points, covering Dau Go Island in the west, Cong Tay Island in the east, and Ba Ham Lake in the south. From the Cái Dăm gas station to Quang Hanh ward, Cam Pha city, and the surrounding region are included in the protected area.
II. How to get to Halong Bay?
1. Shuttle Bus
Foreigners and locals alike frequently prefer tourist or shuttle buses to travel to Halong Bay, which range from affordable alternatives to more luxurious ones.
There are three different types of buses:
• Standard shuttles: These vehicles provide varied passenger capacity ranging from 16 to 45 seats.
• Luxury shuttles: These are typically 9-seater D-car Limousines or 19-seater Fusos with upscale amenities.
• Cruise buses: A number of major cruise lines offer shuttle services to daily pick up and drop off guests in Hanoi Old Quarter ONLY.
In comparison to other regular luxury bus services from 4 or 5-star cruises and 16-29 seater cars from 3-star cruises, Halongbaycruises.com provides full-fledged luxury shuttle buses (Limousines with 7-9 seats or 15 seats) with everything you might want during the journey: Free Wi-Fi, air conditioner, mineral water, ambient lighting, etc. The transfer time is around 2.5 hours.
2. Public Bus
The low cost is a huge competitive advantage of local buses, which is ideal for tourists on a tight budget, even though these buses are by no means as comfortable and convenient as their shuttle counterparts. You can easily buy a ticket at the ticket booths located close to the bus stops, without making reservations in advance. The journey takes 4-5 hours as the bus will stop to pick up other passengers along the way.
Also, for visitors traveling from Hanoi to Halong, you should buy tickets from the My Dinh Station since 60% of buses depart from this station, so you will have more options regarding price ranges and bus operators.
3. Private Car
This option will work well for groups of friends, families traveling with kids, or business travelers who want a pleasant yet private transfer.
Through our website, you may reserve private car service with many choices at different prices. Another alternative is to take a taxi. Whatever you choose, the car will pick up and drop off your team at the agreed-upon location. Although it is simple and handy, this method is not cheap; in fact, private vehicles are among the most expensive modes of transportation on the list.
If you want a special transfer that allows taking in the aerial views of the bay, the best option is to board a seaplane, which is one of the quickest ways to go to Halong Bay. Visit seaplanes.vn to make reservations for seaplane tours. You may also check with your cruise line to see if it offers any packages that include seaplane flights.
This is a great option for people who like to travel on their own or enjoy adventurous trips. You will also get plenty of opportunities to appreciate the beautiful scenery along the way. But if you don't feel confident enough in your physical strength, consider other alternatives.
Better yet, you don't need to own a motorbike for your tour. Lots of companies and brands provide rental services at a very affordable price (usually only 100,000 to 150,000 VND per day). Contact rental centers close to you or ask our travel consultant for assistance in making the right choice.
III. Some Attractions in Halong Bay
1. Sung Sot Cave
Sung Sot Cave (also known as Surprise Cave) has been considered the most alluring attractions to visit on Halong Bay Cruises, with 59 karstic foot caves revealed and officially recorded. The sheer size of the cave (covering 12,000+ ha) makes it a marvel to admire in the center of Bo Hon Island.
To reach at Sung Sot Cave, get ready for a challenging trip through steep trails. But once you get a closer view at its inner scene, all the efforts will be worth it: Sung Sot feasts all curious eyes with clusters of rock shapes filled up two massive chambers that tower up to 30 meters. Leisurely stroll along the lit pathways and let your imagination soar high.
2. Titov Island
Named after the Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov who visited Halong in 1962, Titov Island (better known as Titop in Vietnamese) takes all breath away with its dazzling sight of an imposing limestone peeking off the calming azure water. The island also features a pristine white sand beach, making it one of the most perfect places in Halong Bay to enjoy tons of recreational fun, such as swimming, kayaking, and similar water sports.
If you want some adventures, climb over 427 steps to the pavilion at the mountain top, where the gorgeous overview of surrounding bays will mesmerize your eyes and soul.
3. Thien Cung Cave
Located southwest of Halong Bay on Dau Go Island, Thien Cung Cave is another draw you should not miss on the legendary bay. The cavern covers a huge area of over 10,000 square meters with a delightful network of stalagmites and stalactites in various forms and shapes; remember to bring your camera, as these stunning lit rocks will be a wonderful backdrop for your photos.
On another note, as the entrance is perched in the mountain, you may need to hike a little. It seems exhausting, but the breathtaking view of the bay from above will be certainly worth it. Also due to its close distance from the harbor, Thien Cung Cave is included in the itinerary of many day cruises, expect the location a bit touristy and crowded.
4. Monkey Island
Sit about three kilometers east of Cat Ba Town in Lan Ha Bay, Monkey Island or locally called Dao Cat Dua is a tropical haven for beach lovers. To reach the island, you need to be on a Halong Bay cruise or arrange a boat transfer. In compensation, the place is ideal for swimming, kayaking, or relaxing on thatched bungalows and villas.
And as the name suggests, playful monkeys frolic all around the rocky island and interact with tourists. But be careful as they might take your belongings.
IV. Best time to visit Halong Bay
Though winter and summer will generally draw in numerous travelers, the best time for a Halong Bay Cruise is spring (March - April) and fall (September - October). The climate and temperature are pleasantly cool and dry with few storms, fewer risks for your voyage.
Yet, in case you don’t mind the peak season or unforeseen weather:
• For domestic tourists: June to September is typically the most popular time for Halong Bay visits since kids are enjoying summer breaks. Additionally, because of the hot climate, beaches, pools, and water-related games surge in demand.
• For foreign tourists: November to January consists of winter holidays when international vacationers travel the most. The weather during this period remains pretty cloudy and cold, but visitors can still enjoy cave exploration and kayaking trips.
V. Top tips to visit Halong Bay
Prepare all the critical items:
• Your passport - since all cruise ships will require this to permit you to stay.
• Weather-appropriate clothes
• Comfortable shoes for visiting caves
• Sunscreen as the heat in Vietnam can be quite severe
You should avoid carrying large suitcases onboard as cabins are usually quite small. Plus, most cruises will serve meals and water, you might consider taking drinks and snacks for the trip.
Do not expect strong 3G or WiFi connections
The further you get off the bay, the more unstable WiFi connections will be. So, when the connection fails, don't fault your sim cards; just relax and take in the wonderful views of the bay without Internet for a while.
Bring a camera with you
All the gorgeous seascapes and caverns in Halong Bay should be fully captured to share your experiences. Apart from phone camera, it’s better to have a quality camera or up your game with a professional one.
This comprehensive guide includes all basic information about Halong Bay, from its location to transportation accessibility, and recommended attractions to visit for a memorable experience. Contact our travel consultants at Halongbaycruises.com if you’re searching for an ideal cruise trip to Halong Bay and the northern piece of Vietnam, in which all your needs are expertly dealt with.