Cruising is definitely a suitable activity in your family tour to Vietnam. However, looking to pick a cruise on Halong Bay could be challenging. What is the best time to visit Halong Bay? How long should I visit it for? What about the quality of the cruise? You might find yourself asking these questions. Here is the guide to help you pick out the perfect cruise.

A brief description of Halong Bay

Halong Bay in North Vietnam is a place that can help in giving your senses a treat. The situate is bestowed with breathtaking natural wonders and is dotted with 1600 limestone islands and islets covering 1500 square meter area. Halong is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s located 170 km from Hanoi. Mist-shrouded bay, emerald green waters, pictorial limestone caves and karsts towers covered in green are adjectives that can most beautifully explain the legendary beauty that this destination in Vietnam packs. The biodiversity here seems amazing and the whimsical scenery that this place can offer any onlooker seems just mesmerizing. A visit to Halong Bay and furthermore a cruising experience here is a smart choice when traveling to Vietnam and is surely going to be a trip of a lifetime for you and everyone along.

Halong Bay Vietnam

1. Decide what time of the year are you going

So when is the perfect time to visit Halong Bay?

Surprisingly, there is no answer to that question. Halong Bay is a one-of-a-lifetime experience that has been attracting travelers from all over the world. The cruising experience will be diverse depends on the weather and season you are planning on travel.

In short:

  • In spring (January to April): usually cloudy and high in humidity. Price during Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet) will rise due to holiday surcharge. It is less crowded by domestic tourists but the number will rise in April due to weather getting warmer and dryer.
  • In summer (May to August): its the warmest but also rainiest season. If you are a water activities fan, this is the time for you to go. However, it could get crowded at some point as the students get school off and families come here to travel.
  • In fall (September to November): clear sky, warm weather, and the leaves change color makes Halong Bay a romantic destination. Furthermore, the water is still warm for water activities. Sometimes, there could be light rain or tropical storm in July and August.
  • In winter (December – January): Weather here is drier than it in the summertime. The Bay could get foggy sometimes, which creates a mysterious and majestic scenery. However, the water is cold for any water activities.

Read more: Halong Bay Weather: When to travel

Vietnam Tours 2020

2. Decide how long to stay for Halong Bay trip

How long will you be staying?

Since Halong Bay cruises have four main itineraries operating, which are:

  • During day trip cruises
  • 2D1N cruise
  • 3D2N cruises
  • 4D1N cruises
Halong Cruise

Is it possible to visit Halong in one day?

It is possible to come from Hanoi and take Halong Bay trip during the day. There will be three options of day cruise which are 4, 6 or 8 hours. However, it will be a rushed experience which potentially leads to a long tired day and you won’t get much out of it. Besides, the experience of Halong Bay will be limited, the activities are also. Day cruise trip will not give customers time to do many activities such as swimming,  kayaking, visiting fishing village… On the other hand, if you are on a tight budget or schedule or you just want a taste of the Bay and will come back later, this could be an option for you.

Why should you pick overnight Halong Bay cruises?

Overnight on the bay will allow you more time to relax and enjoy the beauty of this area. The 2D1N cruise is a very popular choice among international visitors. In 3D2N or 4D3N cruises, you are transferred to a smaller boat for daily activities. Most programs will include caves trip, beach trip, kayaking, stopping on Cat Ba island, morning Tai Chi, nighttime squid… The longer the trip, the more you will see what Halong Bay has to offer.

3. Decide where exactly you want to go

What are the difference between Halong, Bai Tu Long, and Lan Ha bay?

Even though the area is known as Halong Bay, it is separated into three areas which are Halong, Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bay. The cruise companies offer different itineraries in the above three main areas. Halong Bay is the most popular route with Ti Top island and Surprising Cave. Lan Ha Bay is the route that give you the option of overnight on beautiful Cat Ba island. Lastly, Bai Tu Long Bay is a more remote are but will get you to avoid the crowd.

Three areas of Halong map

4. Research the cruise boats

How to find a Halong Bay cruise?

Based on classes, Halong cruise will be divided into three categories which are luxury, mid-range or low-end.

  • With luxury cruises, expect a beautiful well-maintained boat with spacious well-equipped and luxuriously furnished cabin with the facilities and amenities of a five-star hotel room. Also, expect a big crews who brings you attentive service, an array of well-organized excursions and on board activities, and for sure tour guide to accompany you on tours.
  • With mid-range cruises, the decision process takes a bit longer and harder. Comparably, mid-range cruise will equal to hotel from 3 stars to 4 stars. The boat will be a little older than the luxury cruises with fewer facilities and amenities.
  • Low-end budget cruises: the budget options could be tough since they can be very old and badly maintained with peeling paint and  basic furnishing.

Related reading: Top 10 cruises in Halong Bay

Au Co cruise – One of the luxury cruises on Halong Bay

Other attributes to consider when picking Halong Bay cruise:

– Do you prefer a small intimate cruise or a larger cruise with a big group?

– What is the size of cabins? Are they decent and clean?

– What are some reviews on this boat?

5. Double check on what is included

How to know what are you paying for on a Halong cruise?

It should be common that most itineraries of Halong Bay cruise include accommodations, breakfast, lunch, dinner, activities,… Some cruises could include in the price drinks, the transportation from Hanoi, food class,… Make sure you double check on the Inclusion and Exclusion part to get the most out of it.

What if it only says “Activities”?

Side note, on some itinerary, it could only say “Include activities.”You also should check with your provider for details of those activities. The variety of activities on Halong Bay are: visiting floating village, swimming in a beach, cave exploring, morning Tai Chi, cooking classes, massages, squid fishing or biking on Cat Ba island.

Treasure Junk kayak

6. Prepare your budget

Does the cruise match your budget?

Shop around to gain yourself a sense of the market price and good deals. Sometimes, a good deal not only comes with a good boat with decent rooms itself but also a combination of cruise routes, a variety of activities, food hygiene, add-on transfer between Hanoi-Halong, etc.

7. Book through the right place

Should I book through my hotel or the cruise operator?

You can. But, it is surprising that if you book through your hotel or even the cruise operator themselves, the price is always higher than through travel agency or tour operator. Additionally, a travel agency or tour operator will help you a lot in picking the right cruise and organize your tour program according to your interest in no time since it is what they do on a daily basis. Furthermore, they will represent you to deal with service providers (hotel, cruise company, restaurant,..) when there is something wrong happens.

The planning process could be overwhelming and confusing. But with a bit of research, organization, and advice from the experts, you are ready to bring home your Halong Bay lasting memories.

Start planning your tailor-made Vietnam tour by contacting one of our specialists…

Celeste Pham

My name is Chi but you can call me Celeste. I was born in Haiphong, the dynamic port city lying 100 km to the east of Hanoi, and also the gateway to Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island. I graduated from Hanoi University, majoring in Hispanic Language and Culture. I have passion for traveling and I love planning my own trip myself following my own interest. I’m willing to help others visitors to make their own dream trip to my charming country and make them feel at home.


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