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Top 15 Things You Need to Know Before Taking a Halong Bay Cruise

The emerald waters of Halong Bay, with its rainforest topped, towering limestone islands are a hugely popular destination for travelers to Vietnam.

A cruise through this UNESCO heritage site is the best way to experience it while still being able to explore the sights and activities at different points around the bay.

A little preparation can go a long way to getting the most of your cruise, here are 15 things you need to know before taking a Halong Bay cruise.

Is Halong Bay Cruise Worth Taking?

A Halong Bay cruise is absolutely worth taking!

Halong Bay itself is a place of stunning natural beauty with emerald waters and a breathtaking landscape of limestone karsts and vibrant vegetation.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay is recognized internationally for its outstanding natural and cultural value. Part of the World Heritage Site designation includes a local commitment to ethical practice and ecological conservation, so visitors can feel relaxed about the impact of their trip.

Seeing Halong Bay as part of a cruise experience means seeing the bay from a unique perspective, and from a place of comfort. You can relax on the deck watching the changing scenery as your sail between different points of interest. The ship will be a jumping off point for exploring caves, visiting floating villages, or swimming in the clear waters.

---More UNESCO World Heritage Sites: All UNESCO World Heritage Sites for Indochina Tour

✈Recommended 3 Days Halong Bay Cruise Tour:

When Is the Best and Worst Time for A Halong Bay Cruise?

Visiting Halong Bay at the right time can help make the cruise more enjoyable.

The best time to go is during the dry season, particularly October to November and March to April. In these months you can expect clear skies and calm waters that enhance the beauty of the karst formations, and make activities such as kayaking and swimming more enjoyable.

It is still possible to take a Halong Bay cruise during the rainy season that starts in May and usually lasts until September. In this season, however, heavy rainfall and storms can reduce visibility, and occasionally cruises can be delayed or even cancelled due to rough waters or adverse weather conditions.

---Get detail of best and worst time to Vietnam: When Is the Best & Worst Time to Visit Vietnam in 2023/2024?

Try kayaking in Halong Bay

How Many Days for Halong Bay Cruise? 2 Days 1 Night or 3 Days 2 Nights?

How long you spend on your Halong Bay cruise depends on your schedule and how long you want to spend exploring the area.

Travelers with more limited time and at budget prefer the 2 days, 1 night cruise. This tour focuses on the highlights of Halong Bay, including the breathtaking scenery, swimming, and visiting islands to go hiking or explore a cave. More than enough for a memorable experience.

Travelers with more time and wishing more vibrant activities often choose a 3 days, 2 nights cruise. This allows visitors to explore the bay at a more relaxed place, spend more time on activities such as visiting local fishing villages, and engage in more activities. It is a deeper experience with time to fully take in the beauty of the area.

✈Recommended 2 Days Halong Bay Cruise:

What Are the Differences Between A Super Luxury Cruise and Economic Cruise?

Apart from price, there are several differences to consider when choosing between a Super Luxury and Economic Cruise.

Super Luxury Cruises offer more spacious accommodations with high-end amenities that can include features such as private balconies or Jacuzzis. On Economic Cruises you can expect clean and comfortable accommodations, but with smaller rooms and less amenities.

Super Luxury Cruises have smaller group sizes. A different that can be felt in more personalized service, and an overall more intimate atmosphere. With less people onboard, itineraries can be tailored to fit individual guests, and include private excursions and exclusive events.

The larger group sizes on Economic Cruises make for a livelier atmosphere with more opportunities to socialize with other travelers. The standard itineraries include the popular and distinctive activities around the bay, and good dining options to cater to a range of tastes.

✈Most Recommended Essential Vietnam Tour with Halong Bay:

There Are Various Cruises Available, How to Choose the Right One?

With many tour options available, it is worth taking the time to choose the right one for you.

Budget is a consideration for many people, and a good starting place to be narrowing down options.

After that, cruise duration is the next big factor. Choosing between one, two and three-day cruises can be based on how much time you have, and how long you want to spend at this unique destination.

What kind of experience are you looking for? Different cruises will offer different kinds of activities, from physical activities such as hiking or kayaking, to cultural activities such as visiting temples or floating villages. Make sure you are going to be doing what you enjoy.

Finally, check reviews and safety standards. Responsible cruise operators have well-trained staff and follow all safety regulations. Good cruise operators will also have good reviews, check to see what experience other people have had and make sure it is what you want.

Halong Bay luxury cruise

Top 3 Recommended Cruises at Each Level

Au Co Cruise is a popular and highly recommended 5 star luxury cruise for travelers looking for a top-quality experience. It is a 3 days and 2 nights cruise on the first and only luxury boutique cruise vessel operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. This cruise ship stands out for its innovative guest rooms and elegant design, as well as for its unique cruising routes including Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba Island. Prices start from 1301 USD for a single person, with group rates as low as 688 USD per person.

---See more details about Au Co Cruise: Au Co Cruise


Another popular and fully recommended luxury cruise is Paradise Peak Cruise, also a 5 star cruise providing a supreme level of luxury. Compared with Au Co Cruise, Paradise Peak Cruise offers more choices for you. You’ll get to visit sites such as Tuan Chau Island and one of the most beautiful beaches in Bai Tu Long Bay with both 2 days 1 night, and 3 days 2 nights options to suit any schedule. Prices begin at 1170 USD per person for a 2 days 1 night cruise in the peak season, and with group prices as low as 553 USD per person.

---See more details about Paradise Peak Cruise: Paradise Peak Cruise

Indochina Sails is a 4 star cruise with 20 years’ experience and fleet of newly built ships designed with time-honored traditional style that perseveres contemporary and luxurious cabins and facilities. Its popular cruising routes include visits to Heaven Gate’s Island and Titov Island with both 2 days 1 night, and 3 days 2 nights options to suit any schedule. Prices begin at 659 USD per person for a 2 days 1 night cruise in the peak season, and larger groups can book for as low as 280 USD per person.

---See more details about Indochina Sails: Indochina Sails


How Can I Transfer to the Halong Bay?

Getting to Halong Bay from Hanoi is very convenient with many options available.

Shuttle buses or private transfers are offered by many cruise operators and can be booked together with the cruise package. The transfer typically takes 3-4 hours and can be door-to-door from your hotel to cruise embarkation point. Similarly, it is possible to hire a private car with a driver to take you directly. This can cost a little more, but offers more flexibility in departure time.

Public buses operate regularly between Hanoi and Halong City. The travel time is between 4-5 hours, and buses leave from My Dinh and Luong Yen bus stations. There are no direct trains from Hanoi to Halong city, however, it is possible to take a train to Haiphong, the nearest city, and then continue by taxi to Ha Long.

For a more unique and luxurious experience, seaplane and helicopter trips can be booked from Hanoi to Ha Long. Both ways offer quick transfers with stunning aerial views along the way.

Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Halong Bay, and Leave From?

The main embarkation point for cruises is Tuan Chau Harbor.

Located 18 km southwest of Halong City, this is where most Halong Bay cruises depart from. Cruise routes vary depending on the duration of the cruise and different tour operators. The ship will return to Tuan Chau Harbor at the end of the cruise.

Tuan Chau Harbor

What Activities Are Available Onboard?

Onboard your cruise there will be many activities to choose from. The specific activities will vary depending on the type of cruise you choose, but most cruises have scenic viewing decks for tourists to relax in the fresh air and take in the stunning scenery of the bay. For more excitement, happy hour entertainment is available with live music and traditional dance performances.

After viewing the beautiful sunrise, Tai Chi classes are available on some cruises for a relaxing way to start the day before taking part in island excursions or visiting floating villages. After a day spent exploring, cruise guests can participate in evening squid fishing with equipment provided by the cruise.

Of course there is also plenty of time to relax and take in the sights of Halong bay by yourself, or socializing with other travelers.

✈Most Recommended 8 Days Vietnam Luxury Tour with Halong Bay Cruise: 

What Kind of Food and Drinks Are Available Onboard?

You can expect a variety of different food and drink options onboard a Halong Bay cruise.

Authentic Vietnamese dishes will be readily available including popular favorites such as spring rolls and pho noodle soup. Since it is a cruise in a coastal region, fresh seafood will be a highlight. Halong Bay offers a wide variety of fish, prawn and crab, alongside other freshly-caught choices.

International cuisine is commonly available to cater to diverse groups of tourists. Local coffee, tea, fruit and snacks are offered through the day to keep everyone fresh and ready for the next activity. Many cruises can also accommodate specific dietary requirements, vegetarian or vegan option. Contact the cruise operator in advance to make sure of availability.

Drink with Halong Bay Admiration

Can I Get Off the Ship during the Cruise?

There are opportunities to get off the ship during the cruise and experience Halong bay close up.

Cruises include stops at various points of interest where passengers can disembark and explore. Some of the popular stops are island visits to places such as Ti Top Island or Cat Ba Island to hike, explore the beaches, or simply relax. The unique formations of the caves and grottoes around the bay are another popular stop where you can get off the ship to explore the natural formations on foot.

When the waters are calm, a simple and fun way chance to get off the ship is to go swimming. Some cruises also offer kayaking or bamboo boat rides. Getting off the ship is also a good way to experience local culture by visiting floating villages or pearl farms.

✈Recommended essential Vietnam tour with Halong Bay:

What Should I Wear for A Halong Bay Cruise?

Expect the weather to be hot and sometimes humid. Summer clothes that are lightweight and breathable, such as t-shirts, tank tops, shorts and skirts, will keep you comfortable in the local climate. A hat and sunglasses, and comfortable walking shoes are important to protect yourself from the sun, and be ready for onshore excursions and cave explorations. Nights can be cooler, so a light jacket or sweater might be needed for evening on the ship’s deck.

When visiting temples or more conservative areas, it is important to respect local customs. A sarong, or clothes that will help you cover up can be needed to enter these areas. Depending on the season, lightweight rain gear or a foldable umbrella is also a good idea.

✈Most Recommended Classic Vietnam and Cambodia Tour with Halong Bay Cruise:

What Should I Pack for A Halong Bay Cruise?

Besides appropriate clothing, it helps to pack smartly for your cruise.

High SPF sunscreen is a must for being outdoors in the hot climate, and insect repellent will help keep the tropical bugs away. You should pack personal toiletries and a basic first aid kit, along with a comfortable day backpack for carrying essentials during excursions.

A camera, smartphone and power bank are modern necessities needed everywhere, and to keep everything charged a travel adapter for Vietnam’s type A, C and D outlets will be needed. And don’t forget other basic travel essentials, passport, travel insurance details, and some cash in the local currency (Vietnamese Dong).

✈Recommended Vietnam Highlights Tour with Halong Bay Cruise:

Can I Enjoy the Halong Bay without Taking A Cruise

Without taking a cruise, it is definitely possible to experience the beauty and culture of Ha Long Bay.

There are several viewing points on the mainland perfect for seeing breathtaking panoramas of the bay. You can also spend time exploring Ha Long city with its local markets and seafood restaurants, or relax on one of the beautiful beaches.

Cycling and trekking routes are available in some parts of the bay for seeing the landscape close up and interacting with local villages.

It is also possible to stay on Cat Ba Island or some of the private islands where accommodations are available. From there, day trips can be organized to explore parts of the bay.

---More things to do in Halong Bay: Plan Vietnam Tour & Things to do in Halong Bay

Explore Ha Long City with a cycling tour.

How to Book A Halong Bay Cruise? Should I Book Halong Bay Cruise in Advance?

There are many ways to book a Halong bay cruise. Online booking is available through many cruise operators with all the information, photos, and secure payment options.

Contact us by phone, email or through our website and we can help you book your trip while answering any questions you might have.

For tourists already in Vietnam, some cruise operators have booking offices in Hanoi or Halong city where you can book directly. Alternatively, your hotel concierge desk may be able to offer information and assistance booking or getting in touch with reputable cruises.

Booking in advance is the best way to make sure you get the experience you are looking for.

During peak seasons, cruises can fill up quickly, and booking a few weeks in advance might be necessary in order to reserve a cabin on the cruise you want. ---Top 10 Things You Must Know Before Taking a Vietnam Cruise


A Halong Bay cruise is a highlight of any trip to Vietnam. Internationally recognized as a place of outstanding natural and cultural value, the bay offers a unique combination of scenic beauty, cultural immersion, and the chance to explore nature.

Relaxing on the deck, watching the scenery as the cruise takes you to see all the highlights of the area is among the best ways to experience Halong Bay.

With moving from place to place taken care of, all you’ll need to do is enjoy your time there. 

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