Halong Bay is one of the most popular places to
visit for tourists in Southeast Asia and here is some advice about the
place, from a person who has been on 17 Halong Bay cruises during the
past 6 years.
Due to my job as a tour leader, I have been visiting
Halong Bay many many times with groups and I have also been there a few
times on my own, so I have some experience in touring this part of the
world and there are somethings you should think about before going
Should you take a day trip to Halong or go with an overnight cruise?
Overnight cruises are the best on Halong Bay.
Unless you have a very limited amount of time to
visit Halong Bay, then you should try to stay at least one night in the
area. On a day trip to Halong Bay, you will only get to the most
touristy part where you will be elbowing your way through hundreds of
other visitors. But if you take a trip that lasts for two days or more,
then you have a chance to get out and see some places where you are not
sharing the experience with 50 other tour groups. And Halong Bay really
comes to it’s right at dusk and dawn, where the light and the scenery is
a lot nicer than during the day time hours, so try to stay at least one
night out there. This can both be done as a trip where you stay on a
boat with cabins, or as a trip where you stay on one of the many islands
in the bar.
Avoid the Sung Sot cave if you can.
Some people might disagree with me on this one, as
the Sung Sot cave is the most popular place to visit on Halong Bay, but
for that simple reason I think you should try and go on a trip where you
do not go there. If you have visited a few caves around the world, then
I will guarantee you that you do not think the Sung Sot cave is the
prettiest you have seen and the crowds there can be insane with pushing
and screaming and yelling from hundreds of people trying to get the
right photo shoot. The view from the top of the cave is fantastic, but
you have fantastic views in many other areas of the bay, where you won’t
have to fight the same crowds. It can actually be hard sometimes to
find a trip that does not take you there, cause all companies seem to
think that this has to be part of the tour, but try to avoid it if you
When is the best time of year to visit Halong Bay?
7/11 Halong Bay style.
Halong Bay is best visited during spring and fall.
During the winter it can be quite cold there at night and during the
summer months you have a lot of rain storms in the area and trips are
often cancelled or shortened so that you are not allowed to stay
overnight on the boats. This is for security reasons after a backpacker
boast sank a few years ago and several young backpackers drowned. I
think it’s fair that they control the ships during bad weather as it can
get pretty extreme in the region and you do not want to be out at sea
during a thunder storm at night. So I suggest that you avoid summer
months as this is when you have the most cancellations. November and
april on the other hand, tend to be the best months to visit, with nice
warm weather and not so much rain.
Budget cruise or luxury cruise?
Cruising Halong Bay.
I have taken both budget cruises (when I was on my
own) and luxury cruises (when I was working there as a tour leader) and I
liked them both. The luxury cruises are really nice and some of the
boats have super nice restaurants on board and these are suitabel for
people who want to treat themselves to some luxury. The budget boats
that most backpackers take are generally quite ok too though. I have
been very happy with the tow different budget boats I have been on.
Cabins were a little more simple and food was not served by uniformed
waiters, but it was still nice food anyway and I had no complaints what
soever on the trips. Back a few years ago, you had some really bad boats
cruising Halong Bay, where safety and comfort was horrible, but they
lost their license to do tours after the accident where one of them sang
a few years ago, so I would say that if you don’t mind simple living
then you will be fine on a budget cruise. For backpackers who are used
to hostel living, a backpacker cruise on Halong Bay will be quite
luxurious, even if they chose one of the cheaper cruises.
What company should you use?
Honestly speaking, I have been happy with all the
boats I have been on when I have been cruising Halong Bay and I do not
like to pick one over the other. I think your main concern should be
what tour they make on the bay (like visiting other places than the Sung
Sot cave). So if you ask me, then take a look at their itineraries more
than at the facilities on the boat.
This was my 5 cents about visiting Halong Bay. Feel free to write me if you have any further questions.