Escorted Vietnam Cambodia Tours

How to Get to Halong Bay from Singapore for a Lifetime Vietnam Cruise

Traveling to Halong Bay in Vietnam is one of the dream destinations for travelers from around the world. This unique UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most beautiful in the world, with hundreds of small islands, islets, and karst limestone rock formations standing up out of the emerald waters off the coast of Vietnam. Lying in the north of Vietnam, not far from the ancient capital of Hanoi, Halong Bay sits in the Gulf of Tonkin, directly opposite Hainan Island of the People’s Republic of China.

One of the most sought-after locations in Asia, the bay area is the most popular tourist destination in Vietnam, and one of the most popular in the world. With underwater caves and limestone grottoes dotted around the bay’s plethora of islands, the area is a vision of ethereal beauty and stunning scenery. The best way to explore this awesome region of Vietnam is by boat, and there is nothing better than a cruise around Halong Bay, taking a dip in the beautiful clear waters and exploring the caves and grottoes that abound in this hub of Vietnamese tourism.

Halong paradise cruises
Halong paradise cruises

Visa requirements

For travelers from Singapore, a visa is only required if you are traveling there for more than 30 days. Singapore has a mutual agreement with Vietnam for visa-free travel for a maximum period of 30 days from the date of entry. However, once they leave Vietnam, they must wait at least 30 days before entering the country again under the visa exemption. A printout of their proof of return or onward travel must also be produced to immigration on entry. For visits of longer than 30 days, or return visits within the 30-day gap period, a visa is required.

Visa Types

If a visa is needed, then there are two types that can be arranged for travel to Vietnam, the pre-approved visa from the Vietnamese Embassy and the Vietnamese version of the Visa on Arrival (VoA). Tourist visas for Vietnam are available for 30 and 90 days, and often start from the date of issue, so it is a good idea to get your visa as close to your date of travel as possible.

Pre-approved Visa

Available from any Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a pre-approved visa is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you get the visa for traveling to Vietnam, and will not have any problems once you get to the border or the airport. The visa issued by the embassy requires you to submit your original passport, a completed application form, proof of onward or return travel, two passport-sized photos, and the visa fee.

The main issue with the embassy-issued visa is the cost. Depending on where you make your application, your visa fee could be higher or lower. Unlike some countries, who apply a different fee depending on your home country, Vietnamese visa fees depend on the country in which you are making the application. In Singapore, the fee for the visa from the embassy is just US$ 20 for a 30-day visa and around US$ 70 for a 90-day multiple-entry visa, which is one of the cheaper locations.

Visa on Arrival (Pre-arranged Visa)

The Vietnamese version of the VoA is different to the Visa on Arrival at most other Asian destinations, since you need to make the application before you travel. The visa is applied for online or through a travel agent (though the travel agents often ask for a much higher fee than the amount payable online), and then you are sent a Visa Approval letter. It is the letter that you show to the immigration officials when you get to Vietnam, and based on that, they will issue your visa. The VoA is only available for travel to Vietnam through one of the three main airports at Hanoi, Saigon, and Da Nang, and is valid for 30 days, 90 days, and six months. On your arrival at the airport, you will be charged another 25 dollars as the stamping fee, for which you will not get a receipt.

Vietnam visa on arrival
Vietnam visa on arrival

The Vietnamese version of the E-visa is not available to citizens of Singapore, as it is only valid for an entry period of 30 days from the date of issue.

Getting to Ha Long from Singapore

If you are traveling from Singapore, then you have two options of getting to Halong Bay. You can travel to one of the three major airports and connect to Ha Long from there, with Hanoi being the closest. Alternatively, if you are visiting a neighboring country first, you can cross the border overland, and travel by bus to Ha Long. 

Flights to Vietnam from Singapore

From Singapore, there are a huge number of direct flights to two of the three main Vietnamese airports; Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi) and Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City). Only indirect flights can be found to Da Nang International Airport. The cost and flight times vary, with flights to Saigon being the cheapest and fastest at just US$ 59 for the two-hour flight.

Flights direct to Hanoi, which is the closest airport to Halong Bay, are relatively cheap for the 3 hours 25 minutes flight, starting at around 71 US dollars. Indirect flights to Hanoi are a little more expensive, at between 140 and 200 US dollars, with connections in Saigon. However, the indirect flights can take as long as 7-9 hours.

Vietnam airline
Vietnam airline

Overland Border Crossing

Vietnam has 13 international border crossings from Cambodia (five), Laos (six), and China (two), and are generally open to all foreign nationals in possession of a valid passport and pre-approved visa. If you are traveling to another Asian country nearby, and already have your visa, then the trip overland is a much more exciting and adventurous route. From Cambodia, the most popular and easiest border crossing to access is at Bavet to Moc Bai, close to Saigon.

From Laos, you can get to the closest border crossing to Hanoi, located at Nam Can. The border crossing is open from 7:30am to 7:00pm, and passes from Xieng Khuan Province in Laos to Nge An in Vietnam. However, as there are no local flights, it is a 12-hour drive to Halong Bay.

Mong Cai border gate
Mong Cai border gate

From China, there are two border crossings, between Dong Nang and Ping Xian and between Lao Cai and Hekou. Both of these border crossings can be used to get to Hanoi and Halong bay, although it is still a long drive or bus ride.

For the border crossing at Ping Xian, buses run from Nanning and Kunming for around 50 yuan per person. On the Vietnamese side of the border, there are plenty of shared taxis to Lang Son, from where you can get the buses to Hanoi and Ha Long. Hekou border crossing is the closest to Kunming, and convenient for traveling to Ha Long and Hanoi. On the Lao Cai side of the border, local transport can get you to the main town center, from where daily buses run to Hanoi.

Best time to travel to Halong Bay

While the area of Halong Bay and Hanoi can be visited all year round, there are certain times of the year when it is a much better experience. AS it is located in the north of the country, there is a four-season weather system, which can make it cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. Check for more about North Vietnam climate.

The summer runs from May to early September, and the bay area is hot and sunny with clear blue skies, ideal for those that love the sunshine and swimming. Light rains are normal on some days in the summer months, as this is the general time when Asia experiences the monsoon. This far north, the monsoon plays little part in the weather, so do not expect heavy torrential downpours every day. However, this is also the typhoon season in Asia, and the area of Halong Bay does see typhoons coming in from the South China Sea on occasion. Summer promo rates are often available at this time for tour and cruise packages, and you can take advantage of the good rates if you are cruising around the bay. Temperatures are regularly above 25 degrees, so it is a good idea to pack a hat and sunglasses and plenty of sun cream.

Halong Bay has become the most recent addition to domestic tourism in Vietnam, and over the last few years, domestic tourists in Halong Bay have increased a hundredfold from June to August, the peak period for local holidays. With August being the hottest month and the time of the summer holidays, it is recommended to avoid the top spots and beaches at this time as they are usually crowded with local holidaymakers.

The winter in Halong Bay area runs from November to March, and while it can get a little cold in January and February, it rarely gets below around 12 degrees during the day. Nights can be a little colder, with lows of around 4-5 degrees. It is not the ideal time for swimming, as the water is a little cold, and there is often a dense fog over the bay in the early mornings that can last until after lunch on the colder days. However, November to March is the high season for travel to Halong Bay, and the area is flooded with tourists.

Spring, from March to April, and autumn, from September to October, are the best times for travel overall, as there is very little in the way of rain, and the temperatures are pleasant, but not too hot or cold. Clear skies abound, and there is very little chance of typhoons. Autumn is recommended in northern Vietnam as being the most beautiful time of year, and with the backdrop of red and gold leaves on the trees along the coast, it is a great time for cruising.

Best weather in Vietnam
Best weather in Vietnam

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