If you have come to Hanoi, you are probably about to visit Halong Bay, one of the seven wonders of nature, according to UNESCO. Of course, if you are already in the capital, you have probably noticed that almost all the agencies, shops and hotels in the city are trying to sell you a cruise. There’s something to become a goat, but don’t let that give you up!

Should we choose a cruise? What is the quality of the tours? Can we access Halong Bay on our own? In this article, I share a few points with you to help you get a little clearer and choose the option that works best for you.

There are several types of cruises on Halong Bay.

When you arrive in Hanoi, you will probably stay in the Old Quarter. You will be given options to go to Halong Bay like club blows on the head (sincerely), but you will be obliged to dwell on the different types of cruise, especially if your budget is tight or if you do not don’t want to end up on a boat ready to sink. Most agencies offer the options “2 days / 1 night” or “3 days / 2 nights”. The vast majority of travelers choose the first option because of the price. It allows you to admire the wonderful Halong Bay but is also likely to pass very quickly and leave you with a taste of not enough. It was the option I had chosen and the impression I had anyway. When choosing your cruise, be especially careful about the length of your cruise, the quality of the boat, and the number of activities included. With the quality of the meals served on board, these are criteria that will strongly influence the price. I do not recommend that you take the cheapest cruise if you want a minimum of security and acceptable meals (around the US $ 35-40). In general, you will pay the US $ 65-75 per person for a good quality cruise, for the standard duration of one night on the boat. It is recommended to take a luxurious cruise in Halong Bay.

The boat route is very, very (very, very, very) touristy

The vast majority of cruise ships take the same route in Halong Bay. Here is the classic itinerary of a “2 days / 1-night” cruise (very similar to the three days / 2 nights cruise):

You take the boat in the tourist port of the city of Halong and head directly to the Surprise Cave. Of course, this will already give you time to admire the impressive karst formations but beware: once you arrive at the cave, expect a horde of tourists who, like you, have chosen to take a cruise.

In “2 days / 1 night,” we are not exactly talking about two whole days.

There is only 160 km between Hanoi and Halong Bay, but it takes 4 hours (sometimes a little more) to get there. Road transport is excessively slow in Vietnam, and journey times should not be underestimated! This is why, when you are sold, if you decide to go to Halong on your own, you must take this into account.

Cruise activities occupy most of the time.

This is one of the things that I did not like during the cruise on Halong Bay: obviously, it all depends on tastes and what you are looking for, but I wanted to spend time to admire the landscape and the mountains that pass by during the cruise. In reality, you never really have time to relax on the deck because when you don’t have to get off the boat to visit a cave or an island, or go kayaking, you have to eat inside the cabin. Suddenly, it’s a little frustrating in 2 days of cruising, that is to say, that I did not have the impression of having seen much of the bay.

Sunrise and sunset over Halong Bay are, of course, possible. And it’s beautiful.

Of course, the privilege of being able to admire sunrise and sunset will depend above all on the weather. Vietnam is often foggy, with a slightly gray sky and a clear horizon, and Halong Bay is no exception. If you are lucky, however, you will most certainly have beautiful landscapes! The best sunset you can admire will be in height. For my part, I was able to climb to the top of the Ti Top island to see it. Despite the billions of mosquitoes that took my legs for playgrounds (tip: always put on mosquito repellent), I did not regret the small climb – even if I was surrounded by almost as many tourists as mosquitoes and that it was impossible to linger as the summit was full of people. If you’re having trouble with the crowd, staying on the boat isn’t bad either.

We hope these tips are useful!