Hi there, my name is Marco and I’m a travel blogger over at Bottom Line Cents and today I’ll be sharing an Epic Evening in Halong Bay Itinerary that you could do on your next visit to Vietnam.
Vietnam is an amazing country and is a must for every traveller out there.
You will be wowed with stunning views, delightful cuisine and wonderful local people to meet.
While in Vietnam, my partner and I were staying in Hanoi for about a week and there is so much to do Hanoi that you wished you could stay longer.
During our stay in Hanoi, I decided that it would be an awesome idea to go on a breathtaking cruise in Halong Bay.
After all, this was highly recommended by other travel bloggers and considered a “must-do” activity.
So today I will be sharing my Halong Bay Itinerary with those who wish to do this awesome cruise! I’ll be discussing;
- Where is Halong Bay?
- Who is the Halong Bay Cruise For?
- How to Book a Halong Bay Cruise!
- Reasons to Visit Halong Bay!
- How Much are Halong Bay Tours?
- Which Halong Bay Cruise to Take?
- How to Get to Halong Bay from Hanoi?
- When is the Best Time to go to Halong Bay?
- My Halong Bay Itinerary Revealed!
Where is Halong Bay?
Halong bay is in the Quang Ninh Province of Vietnam and is considered an absolute marvel for anyone who loves to travel.
Located to the east of Hanoi, Halong bay consists of thousands of limestone isles in various shapes, sizes and formations.
The area is considered one of the most beautiful, breathtaking and spectacular sites that you will see in your lifetime.
Halong Bay is an activity that should definitely be on your Vietnam Itinerary.
Who is the Halong Bay Cruise For?
When I arrived at the cruise depot centre I noticed that there were travellers from far and wide. I mean, travellers from all over the world put aside time to include this in their itinerary.
So it was definitely something that couldn’t be missed out on. The types of people you can expect to go on this cruise are connected families with kids or teenagers, budgeting solo travellers, young couples or even older retiree.
If you have taken your kids to Vietnam and you feel like this is more for party goers or boozers then guess again.
I was actually expecting a very wild party culture, however it was quite the opposite. The experience was quite well controlled and there was no rowdy people who partied all night.
How to Book a Halong Bay Cruise!
You could book the Halong Bay cruise online, through a local tourism vender or even through your hotel.
My suggestion is to not book the cruise in advance as things can come up and alter your itinerary. As I mentioned, my stay in Hanoi was for about a week and when I arrived I knew I wanted to do this tour.
On arrival the hotel staff were quite welcoming and informed my partner and I about the Halong Bay cruise and that we should include it in our itinerary.
If you do end up booking the cruise through your hotel, a good thing to do on arrival is to mull it over for a bit.
Decide on when the perfect time to do the cruise is, which cruise package you would like to experience and for how long you wish to stay.
Reasons to Visit Halong Bay!
So you may be umming and erring about whether this is for you or your family?
That’s ok, I was also having the same feelings about doing the cruise but once I put these issues aside it was full steam ahead.
Let me give you a few reasons why you should be visiting Halong Bay at least on one occasion (I wish I could go there once a month).
1. It’s a Heritage Site!
Since 1994, UNESCO has labeled Halong bay as a heritage site. This was done to preserve the natural beauty the site radiates to newcomers.
What is even more interesting is that in 2011 it was coined one of the new 7 wonders of nature by the wonders foundation.
2. Amazing Limestone Mountains and Scenery
When you’re on the cruise for the first hour you will be blown away by the spectacular views of the limestone mountains.
You would literally site on the top deck for hours just watching the stunning scenery and think what an incredible investment you made.
3. Awesome Activities for Everyone
Did I mention, besides the amazing scenery you have activities to do. After all you didn’t just come along to watch mountains.
The activities include:
- Kayaking and Snorkeling;
- Exploring Caves; and
- Visiting the Floating Villages.
4. Delicious Vietnamese Food
All the cruises have a full fledged restaurant that comes with amazing cuisine. You can expect to eat Vietnamese dishes mixed with general western cuisine.
The cruise that I was on had a buffet style arrangement. It meant the chef prepared different cuisines and the cruise guests could take what they wanted.
This included dessert and the only thing we had to pay for was our drinks! I know of all things, however this could have just been the cruise I went on.
How Much are Halong Bay Tours?
There is so many companies offering all sorts of tour bundles which can include the tour on its own or a tour and hotel combo.
As I mentioned, we had already paid for the hotel and were just getting the hotel to book our tour.
The cost of our tour was about $240 (USD) per person and was for a two day, one night cruise. I honestly enjoyed every bit of it, although it made me short of pocket.
Which Halong Bay Cruise to Take?
What company you go on the cruise with can be entirely up to you if you don’t use your hotel to do your booking.
If the hotel was to do the booking for you, it could mean you only have a selected company that the hotel works with.
There are plenty of reviews on booking.com for particular companies, so if you’re in a pickle do your research and you will come to a reasonable choice.
The cruise company we used was called Perla Dawn Sails and the staff and food were nothing short of amazing.
Having welcoming staff who are attentive to your needs and makes your stay so much more comfortable can make a huge difference to how you perceive the experience.
Luckily for us, the staff were great, on top of things and made it a five star experience.
How to Get to Halong Bay from Hanoi?
There is a few ways you could get there, one is by taxi but I can only imagine that this might cost an arm an a leg considering that Halong Bay is 160 km from Hanoi.
An alternative to a private taxi is to take the bus, which leaves from Hanoi city and takes about 3 hours or so to get there.
The booking we made for the cruise through the hotel came with a private luxury taxi which included pick up and drop off service.
This taxi was ultimate, it had air con, drink holders, leather seats and plug outlets for laptops or charging your phones.
When is the Best Time to go to Halong Bay?
Temperatures in Hanoi can be as high as 100 degrees fahrenheit during the summer which might be ok for some, but add a high level of humidity in the mix and it could feel like torture.
The best time to visit Halong Bay is in the fall (September, October) or spring (March, April). This was the time I was in Halong Bay and although it was mild temperatures it got quite hot on certain days.
My Halong Bay Itinerary Revealed!
Now it’s time to reveal my Itinerary to the perfect trip to Halong Bay cruise!
I mentioned earlier that we took the Perla Dawn Sails cruise experiencewhich was organised through the hotel. The cruise that was recommended to us was the 2 Days 1 Night cruise which came with a luxury limousine van.
1. What to Take to Halong Bay?
We were told to pack lightly but when we arrived at the waiting lounge at Cat Hai Port, there were people with huge travel bags.
I thought packing a suitcase was slightly overkill for a one night stay. If you want to pack lightly then take your necessary travel accessories with you.
Be sure to include a toothbrush, washcloth and at least two spare t-shirts, underwear, socks, shorts and whatever else makes you comfortable.
I’ve added a list of must brings below:
- Sun Block;
- Wide Brim Hat (The Vietnamese Style is the best)
- Insect Repellent;
- Swim Suit;
Day 1: Hanoi to Lan Hay Bay
Day one started with being ready by 7:30am, yeh I know right!
For some this is really early but hang in there, just get an early nights sleep the night before and you will be fine. The limousine van will come pick you up directly at your hotel, so just be there ready to go.
Usually the hotel will have complimentary coffee or breakfast in the foyer so be sure to top up yourself before leaving. It could mean waking up at 6:30am having breakfast, then getting ready to leave.
Trust me you want to do this because the drive is about three hours long, although it is three hours long you do stop at a cafe to fuel up and take a bathroom break.
Once you’ve left the cafe you have about one hour of the journey left before you arrive at Cat Hai Bay waiting lounge.
This is where you will check in and get ready to depart on your harbour boat that will take you out to your cruise ship, that is about 20 minutes from the harbour.
You will board the cruise ship at about 1:00pm and be requested to head to the main lounge for a safety induction.
They will explain what to do in the event of an emergency, which is standard procedure in case anything unlikely occurs.
Day 1: Cruise Around Lan Ha Bay
After the safety induction the cruise ship will continue on its path through Lan Ha Bay while enjoying a splendid lunch served by a top quality chef.
The only exclusion for lunch is that the drinks must be paid for. I’m not sure if this is with all the Halong Bay cruises or just the Perla Dawn Sails company.
Even though you have to pay for drinks it doesn’t cost that much given the fact that your own currency might make you live like a king while in Vietnam.
If you enjoyed lunch and squeezed in a few cocktails (or beers) then it’s time to go to your room that you’ve paid for.
My partner and I got the deluxe suite and I can tell you what an experience it was, it came equipped with its own private balcony.
Not only did it look stunning it also added a very nice romantic feel while cruising through Lan Ha Bay and seeing so much breathtaking views.
A Visit to Bright Cave
Day one is still not over!
You will have an hour or so to yourself after lunch where you can freshen up in your room.
If you don’t need to freshen up, then head on up to the main deck or the front of the ship (bow) or the back (stern) to capture some amazing selfies of you and your bestie.
Alternatively you could just capture in the stunning views with your own two eyes. At around 3pm the captain will make an announcement to the guests whom would like to take a visit on bamboo boat to visit bright cave.
The boat comes with your own local sailer who is skilled enough to drive about 8 people through the caves.
P.s ask your bamboo boat sailer if you could have a turn trying to maneuver and drive the boat, trust me it is fun and much harder than it looks
End of Day 1 in Halong Bay
The bamboo boat will take you back to the dock where a smaller boat will take you back to the cruise ship.
Depending on the time of the year you go to Halong Bay you may need to freshen up once again, but it’s alright you’re on vacation.
Perla Dawn Sails is a great experience and there is even a massage parlour on board, so if you feel like you need a good back message to put you in a good mood go and have one.
Dinner will be served about a couple of hours after the bright cave experience. During your evening dinner the cruise will put on entertainment while you enjoy an evening sail on the top deck.
The entertainment includes a traditional vietnamese performance at dinner time and it is quite unique to watch. I quite enjoyed this part of the evening as it was something different I wasn’t quite used to.
Once dinner is complete, it is time to go enjoy some fishing off the rear of the boat. You don’t have to partake but if you do and you catch something you could get a free drink on the house.
If you don’t enjoy fishing then sit back and relax on the upper deck and stargaze for hours.
Day one in Halong bay is over so head to your room and enjoy a peaceful nights sleep.
Day 2: Tra Bau Region to Cat Hai Port
I was ready for the next day activities, although the first activity was a bit out of my reach it may not be for some.
Start the day as early as 6:30am with some Thai Chi, which takes place on the upper deck.
From memory, the sun rises quite early around October so when you are doing your Thai Chi lesson you will be surrounded by light shimmering through the numerous limestone islands.
An amazing sight that I wish I could have seen! Before you do your last activity you will be called to breakfast at around 7:30am.
Breakfast includes a variety of essential foods that covers a broad range of pallets, so I’m sure there’ll be something you will like.
After breakfast, you will be asked if you would like to attend the final activity for the day which is Kayaking through the Trau Bau region.
You and a friend will set out on a kayak and enjoy the lovely scenery and views up close and in person.
Race with people who you’ve met on the cruise and make it a friendly competition or just enjoy it with your wife/partner.
Just relax and take in all the scenery by camera or your own eyes, as this will be the last activity.
Halong Bay Comes to An End :(
All this fun and excitement eventually comes to an end, and for some you wish you purchased the 3 Days 2 Nights cruise with Perla Dawn Sails.
Not to worry, though because the last few hours through Trau Bau Area to Cat Hai Port is nothing short from spectacular!
When you get back to the cruise ship after kayaking my suggestion is to freshen up quickly and tidy your room.
They give you about an hour to check out. Then the last hour is spent sitting in the lounge area having your last lunch and watching the chef doing a cooking presentation.
My Halong Bay Itinerary was absolutely amazing and if I could do it again I would. That is how much I loved this experience.
The Halong Bay experience is a must do for anyone who is spending at least more than four days in Hanoi.
It has opened my eyes and painted a new vision of how I perceive the world around me which has really shaped my character.
If you’re a regular traveller to Vietnam and been to Hanoi a few times then I suggest you look at doing this the next time you’re there.