Like you, I was also going to Ha Long Bay for the first time this year. I am no expert on the area, but I am an experienced traveler. So I want to share with you what I have learned about Halong Bay in Vietnam.
The first thing to note is that there are two schools of people who usually visit this beautiful seascape in Northern Vietnam. First there are the 2-3 day trippers coming down from Hanoi, and secondly there are the people who travel down to the coast to stay there for a bit longer.
Pre-arranged tours to Ha Long Bay
If you think yourself in the first category, what is most likely the best option for you is: Find a package deal from one of the travel agents in Hanoi, your hostel, or online.
If you are only visiting Ha Long Bay for a few days, you will likely want to go on one of the cruise boats, and sleep there over night.
This is the way to see the most of the stunning bay in a few days. There are positives, and negatives of picking one of these package tours to Ha Long Bay.
The positive parts about the Cruise packages in Halong Bay
Lets start with the positive: you get to see a lot of things in a short amount of time. And what you get to see is most likely the most tourist friendly areas. You get your transport, and accommodation taken care of, and you don’t really need to do any planning yourself.
Chances are that you will run into likeminded souls, also traveling in around to see all of the beautiful areas, so making friends won’t be a problem.
The negatives of booking Ha Long Bay cruise boat tours
Unfortunately, it is not all positive to pick one of these packages. Depending on the duration of your cruise trip, if you pick 1 night, there won’t be that much time. This means that most of what you get to experience is the most touristic areas of the bay.
Being that you visit the most tourist heavy islands, you will not have very much peace and calm. If you are ok with this, it could be a good option for you.
Picking a longer cruise allows you to see more of the islands. Since there is more time, you will also be able to see some of the less tourist infested areas of Ha Long Bay. It is said that the 2 night, 3 days cruises offers more time on more calm beaches.
Another thing to think about if you pick one of these packages is that you won’t have very much flexibility, and depending on your preference this can be a problem. Unless you ask around about the different cruises, you also won’t know if you are going to end up on a two day booze cruise, or if you’re involuntarily going sightseeing with a bunch of retirees.
Cost of Ha Long Bay cruise boat tours
There are reports of cruise tours costs ranging from $60 for a daytrip, all the way up to $350 per night for a luxury cabin on one of the high end cruises.
I recommend shopping round a bit, and finding what suits your needs, and more importantly, your personality.
A tip: The higher the cost, the more older people you will generally see. And as the prices lean towards the lower end, you will see more young backpackers.
Staying at Ha Long Bay Hotels
If you have some more time, moving around on your own may be a better option than staying at one of the many Ha Long Bay Cruise Boats.
In Ha Long hotels are not difficult to find. You can find Hotels ranging from $12 per night, and spend hundreds a night for a luxury hotel.
Personally I find that the sweet spot for the best value seems to range around $20-30 per night.
Tuan Chau hotels
There are hotels spread all along the bay. One of the most popular areas for accommodation seems to be on the island of Tuần Châu. Located near harbour where a lot of cruises depart from, it is central to the activities available in the area.
BUT reports seems to say it can be a bit of a ghost town on some parts of Tuan Chau island. If you are staying here, you are probably going to want to go on a cruise.
A few highly rated hotels around here are:
Please note that all the hotel links in this guide are affiliate links to Agoda.
Halong Paradise Suites Hotel A higher-end hotel with access to a pool, easy access to Ha Long Bays cruises, as well as the beaches in the area.
La Paz Resort A higher end resort. Also access to pool and the bay. However, visitors complain that it is aged. At half the cost of the previous hotel listed, this may be interesting to look into for a bargain.
Guesthouse VIP Hoa Lan is a low end hotel that is spoken very highly of. While there is no pool, the rooms are spacious and the management is very friendly. Personally I would pick this option for the price, and the value.
Back to mainland: Hotels near Ho Cai Dam
The other popular option seems to be just back over the bridge to the mainland. Just past Hùng Thắng there is an area near water and the Ho Cai Dam.
This area is currently being built up for tourism, so there are still great bargains to be found. If you want to head downtown that will take you about 10-15 minutes in a taxi from here.
A few good hotels around Ho Cai Dam are:
Royal Lotus Hotel Halong a great value resort with excellent reviews. For a low cost you can stay here and enjoy the luxurious rooms and beautiful pool.
Vanilla Ha Long Villas a great budget option coming in at only half the price of the previous hotel. Clean rooms, and a few minutes walk from the beach.
Dang Quang Guesthouse is a hidden gem in the area. Great low end option if you want to save on accommodation to do other things.
Hotels in downtown Ha Long
If you wish to stay downtown where all the nightlife and restaurants in Ha Long Bay are, there is no lack of options here either.
A few good options for you are:
Halong Plaza Hotel offers spacious rooms, pool, gym, breakfast and even offers a Thai buffet at dinner time for those interested. A great option if you are willing to spend the $60.
Halo Bay Homestay a great value homestay. Offers cheap dinner as well. If you prefer a smaller, more personal touch this is a great option that is highly rated by travelers.
The Light Hotel at $11 per night with a highly attentive staff it is hard to go wrong here. Located near the city centre at this cost you are getting a bargain.
I hope you found all this information useful. Let me know if you have any other questions about Halong Bay, as I would be happy to make a part two of this guide for you.
And here’s a quick guide on how to get to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi that should be an interesting read for you as well.
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