Northern Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay (also known as Halong Bay) has long gained its popularity to local and foreigners as a top-rated UNESCO Heritage of the country. From fairy-tale like limestone islands covered by rain forests to majestic vivid-looking natural caves and peaceful beaches and villages, Ha Long Bay has it all.
There is endless leisure and adventurous activities here such as cruising, kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, and the list goes on. Most travellers spend a day or two to explore this bay as a whole. Here is the list of Best things to do in Ha Long within a day trip and the most important travel tips in the area.
Best things to do in Ha Long
Cruise amongst the Karsts
Everyday tours depart from Tuan Chau Marina bound to Ha Long Bay. Get here in the early morning to book a cruise for your group, or join other groups if you wish to save expenses.
The two most common day-tour itineraries are:
– The short tour through Thien Cung Cave and Ha Long Bay for approximately 3 to 4 hours
– The long tour that takes you further into the bay through lots of caves and limestones, typically including kayaking and sunbathing on the beach, all within about 6 hours.
You can also book a day tour that departs from Bai Chay with Ha Long Party Cruise. The company organizes affordable and fun tours around Ha Long bay for young people, also possible to be arranged from Hanoi.
Ha Long Bay Travel tips
If you don’t mind joining other groups on a boat tour to explore Ha Long Bay, the fare comes a lot cheaper, ranging from even as low as from 100.000 VND to 200.000 VND, excluding the entrance fee to the sights. Prices may also fluctuate between high season (December-January and Summer) and low season.
See the jaw-dropping beauty of Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave)
Located in the southwest of Ha Long Bay, Thien Cung Cave (also known as Dau Go Cave) is the most dazzling primitive cave of the Bay and also the first stop of everyday tours through Ha Long Bay. The interior of this 10,000 square meter cave is filled with complex structures of stalactites and stalagmites – all formed naturally and accentuated thanks to a vibrant system of lightning and sound.
Fee: entrance fee for Ha Long Bay is 170,000 VND and for Thien Cung Cave is 20,000 VND (1USD), usually included in the tour fare.
Travel tip: If you have a local phone number, give it to the local guide on board so he or she can contact you in case you fail to show up at the exit of Thien Cung cave on time to continue the trip.
Adore the diverse natural beauty of Ha Long’s limestone islands
Navigating around Ha Long Bay through a diverse range of islets is the most soul-stirring experience that you would find nowhere else. Enjoy the jaunt passing through the Stone Dog islet, Man Dad islet, Incense Burner islet, Fighting Cock islet, Horse islet, etc. to fill you with imagination and creativity.
Travel tip: prepare your clothes, the weather in Ha Long can change very quickly and turn cold, rainy and windy at any time.
Kayak on the bay to explore further by yourself
The most rewarding sports activity you must try in Ha Long Bay is kayaking. Discover hidden corners here and there around Ha Long Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay by yourself is a fun challenge.
Travel tip: Leave your belongings on land when doing kayaking. Keep in mind not to bring much cash along when you are on a tour around Ha Long Bay. Bring a water-proof case or your camera or phone if you like to take pictures during the trip.
Swim or Sunbath in Ti Top Beach and cruise back to the port
Most of the long-hour or overnight tours in Ha Long include sunbathing and swimming in Ti Top Beach. This is the time to chill after a long day of exploring the bay. For short cruises, the boat normally takes you back to Tuan Chau by the same route.
Travel tip: it’s okay to bring your own food and water along as eating on board can be quite expensive.
How to get from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay by bus
Bus is the most comfortable option to get from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. The journey can take from 2 hours to 4 hours, depending on the type of vehicles and your point of departure.
Baolau offers booking service from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay with Phuc Xuyen, Luxury Transport and Kumho Viet Thanh.
After nearly 15 years of establishment and development, Phuc Xuyen has served hundreds of millions of passengers. With more than 200 vehicles, Phuc Xuyen covers Quang Ninh province bus network and bus routes linking 10 provinces in Vietnam. Receive the trust, support of many customers Phuc Xuyen has become the leading transport brand in Quang Ninh.
Their limousines are new and clean, and the price is very competitive with other brands in Ha Long. Phuc Xuyen has 3 type of buses: Limousine 9 seaters and Fuso Dcar 19 seaters for Hanoi – Ha Long, and sleeper bus for route Lao Cai/ Sapa to Ha Long. With Limousine 9 seaters, passengers can choose a front seat, middle seat or back seat.
– Hanoi – Ha Long:
- My Dinh Bus Station <-> Ha Long Stop
- My Dinh Bus Station <-> Bai Chay Bus Station
- Mac Thai To Stop <-> Ha Long Stop
- Mac Thai To Stop <-> Bai Chay Bus Station
- Lang Yen Stop <-> Ha Long Stop
– Lao Cai / Sapa – Mong Cai/ Van Don/ Ha Long
Luxury Transport is another transport company offering limousine service from Hanoi to Halong Bay. From the office at Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, it takes approximately 3 hours 15 minutes to complete the journey.
Kumho Viet Thanh
Kumho Viet Thanh is a long-established brand specialized in Hanoi – Quang Ninh route. The journey with Kumho Viet Thanh departs at My Dinh station and takes 3.5 hours to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay.
How to book bus tickets from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay?
Baolau offers a convenient way to search and book tickets. You can search, compare and check the availability of the vehicles. When the booking is confirmed, you will receive a voucher that you can show when boarding, no need to print out.
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay by train
Passengers can take direct from Hanoi to Ha Long with Vietnam Railway. This is the cheapest option although the journey takes 6 hours 46 minutes. The departure point in Hanoi is Yen Vien railway station, which is about 11 km from Hoan Kiem Lake. Passengers can then arrive at Halong Railway Station and continue the journey.
Ho Chi Minh or Da Nang to Halong Bay by planes
Baolau offers domestic flights to Hai Phong from Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, and Nha Trang. After arriving at Hai Phong Airport, travellers can transfer to Ha Long by bus or van. Thanks to the highway, the travel time between Haiphong and Ha Long Bay is reduced.
Why should you travel to Ha Long Bay independently?
Unsurprisingly, every travel agency in Hanoi sells tours and cruises to Ha Long Bay, which are likely to be overpriced. Budget cruises from Hanoi start from 30 USD for a day trip and mid-range cruises range from 110 USD to 130 USD. Many cruises would send you to Bai Tu Long Bay instead of Ha Long Bay.
Short cruises in Ha Long departing from Tuan Chau Marina can cost as low as 15 USD, including the entrance fee to Ha Long Bay and Thien Cung Cave. While luxurious cruises can be a good treat for couples and families, travelling to Ha Long on your own can be as fun, relaxed and definitely more affordable.