Complete Halong Bay Travel Guide: Beyond the Authentic Experience

Halong Bay is a must-visit destination in Vietnam. It is known for towering limestone cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and charming islands. This is a perfect destination for travelers of all ages. This Halong Bay travel guide is all you need for your journey to this amazing location.

Where is Halong Bay?

Located in the Gulf of Tonkin in the Northern part of Vietnam, Halong Bay is a stunning natural wonder. The distance to Halong Bay varies depending on your starting point and the destination:

  • If you’re traveling from Hanoi, it’s about 165 kilometers (102 miles) to the east, and you can easily reach it by car or bus in about 2.5 hours via the expressway.
  • If you’re coming from Hai Phong, it’s only about 75 kilometers (47 miles) away. Hai Phong also has Cat Bi International Airport, which offers flights to and from major cities in Vietnam as well as some international destinations.
  • From Ninh Binh, Halong Bay is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the northeast.
Halong Bay Travel handbook

This UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its emerald waters, towering limestone cliffs, and thousands of small islands and islets that dot the bay. With its breathtaking natural beauty and convenient location, Halong Bay is a must-visit destination for travelers exploring Vietnam.

The ideal time to go

Any time could be the best time to travel to Halong Bay because the ultimate travel experience in Halong Bay is not determined by a specific time of year. As long as you really enjoy and embrace the adventure, you’ll have an amazing and authentic experience no matter when you visit!

Halong Bay travel guide the best time to visit

The hottest weather in Halong is often from early May to mid-August, when temperatures range from 31°C to 38°C (87°F – 99°F). The sun is shining, and the sky is blue, this time is perfect for beach activities and sightseeing.

Meanwhile, the coldest time is from mid-December to mid-February, when temperatures range from 14°C to 21°C (55°F – 71°F). This time can be not allowed you to immerse in the emerald water of Halong Bay but certainly provides a special chance to admire the tranquil Halong Bay with serenity and Natural scenery. Except for swimming, you absolutely enjoy yourself in various authentic experiences, from exploring majestic caves to discovering unique fishermen’s cultures.

You can imagine that Halong Bay’s Beauty seems like a distinctive woman. She’s always gorgeous whether she is crying (rainy weather) or smiling (sunny with blue skies). Hence, you can always pack your luggage and start the Halong Journey anytime if you enjoy your journey!

However, a little notice that you should consider planning your trip in the first half of March because a high potential for misty days is an annual occurrence.

Top things to do

Halong Bay offers a wide range of attractions and activities for travelers of all interests. Here are some of the top things to do in Halong Bay that will bring you not only wonderful experiences but also unforgettable feelings when reaching Heritage of the World:

Explore the Cua Van Floating Village and the Sung Sot Cave

Exploring the Cua Van Floating Village and the Sung Sot Cave are two must-do activities when visiting Halong Bay. In Cua Van Floating Village, you can take a boat tour of the village and observe daily life, visit a floating school, or even try your hand at fishing.

While Sung Sot Cave is known as the “Surprise Cave,” one of the largest and most impressive caves in the area, you can take a guided tour through the cave to see its stunning rock formations, including stalactites and stalagmites, as well as its impressive size and scale. Both the Cua Van Floating Village and the Sung Sot Cave are unique and unforgettable experiences that should not be missed when visiting Halong Bay.

Amazing Sung Sot Cave
Amazing Sung Sot Cave
Sitting on the bamboo boat for Cua Van Floating Village Tour
Visit floating village by bamboo boat


Watch the sunset over the bay from a scenic viewpoint

No trip to Halong Bay is complete without taking in the breathtaking sunset over the bay. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting a scenic viewpoint, such as the one at TiTop Island. This popular spot offers panoramic views of the bay and its surrounding islands and is the perfect place to watch the sun dip below the horizon.

Stunning Halong sunset manual
Admire the stunning Halong sunset

You can climb to the island’s top for an even more spectacular view or simply relax on the beach and take in the scenery. With its stunning natural beauty and unforgettable sunsets, Halong Bay is truly a destination like no other.

Discover the Halong hidden gem by kayaking

For those looking for a more active way to explore Halong Bay, kayaking is a fantastic option. Kayaking allows travelers to get up close and personal with the area’s stunning natural beauty, including hidden coves, secluded beaches, and towering limestone cliffs. One hidden gem that is particularly well-suited to kayaking is Luon Cave, a tranquil lagoon surrounded by cliffs and accessible only by water. Paddling through the cave’s calm waters and taking in the peaceful surroundings is an experience you will remember long after your journey to Halong Bay has ended.

Discover Halong Hidden Gems by Kayaking
Discover Halong Hidden Gems by Kayaking

Go squid fishing by night

Squid fishing is a bucket list nighttime activity in this travel manual, and you can join in by taking a boat tour with a local guide. The tour usually includes a lesson on how to fish for squid, followed by a chance to try it out for yourself. With the guidance of the locals, you can learn about this traditional way of life and experience the thrill of catching your own squid. And if luckily, you might even get to enjoy a delicious squid dinner afterward!

How to enjoy squid Fishing by night?
Enjoy squid Fishing with locals (Image:

Savor Halong Specialities

Seafood lovers can’t ignore Halong’s cuisine when planning to this land. One must-try dish is the famous Halong seafood, which includes a variety of fresh fish, crab, and shrimp caught daily from the bay. Other local specialties include Cha Muc (squid sausage), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls), and seafood hotpot. You can find these dishes and more at the area’s many restaurants and street food stalls.

Or even more, you can take a cooking class to learn how to make them yourself (but a little notice that most Cooking Classes in Halong Bay often teach you how to make Spring Rolls or Banh Cuon instead of Cha Muc). With its unique flavors and fresh ingredients, preparing a Halong Bay savor guide is a true delight for the senses.


How to Get to Halong Bay

When it comes to getting to Halong Bay, there are several options available to travelers. The most common way is to fly into Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, which is about 160 km away. Then takes around 2.5 hours to reach Halong Bay by bus or private car through the Expressway.

Alternatively, if you’re on vacation and have a flight to Cat Bi International Airport in Hai Phong, and your next destination is Halong Bay, you can opt to travel by car from Hai Phong to Halong Bay instead. This option takes about 2-3 hours by car, approximately the same travel time from Hanoi.

If you’re starting your journey from Ninh Binh and planning to go to Halong Bay, it will take you around 4-5 hours by bus or private car to reach your destination.

Travel times can vary depending on traffic conditions and the mode of transportation you choose. Additionally, while taking a bus or private car can be cost-effective, it may not be as comfortable as flying or taking a private car. Nonetheless, regardless of how you choose to get to Halong Bay, the stunning scenery and natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site make it well worth the journey.

Strolling Around

One of the most popular ways to explore this marvelous area is by taking a Halong Bay Cruise, which allows you to see the bay’s stunning scenery and unique landscape up close. In addition to cruises, travelers can also rent a kayak or a bicycle to explore the area at their own pace.

For those who prefer to stay on land, there are also plenty of options for transportation, including taxis, motorbikes, and private cars. It’s worth noting that traffic in Halong Bay can be hectic at times, so it’s important to exercise caution when traveling by motorbike or car. Nonetheless, with a variety of transportation options available, visitors to Halong Bay can easily and comfortably explore all that this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer.

Halong Bay Cruise and Cruise Planner

A Halong Bay cruise offers a mesmerizing voyage through a stunning UNESCO World Heritage site, where you can marvel at the majestic limestone karsts, explore hidden caves, and soak in the breathtaking beauty of the emerald waters. This is one of the best things you can’t ignore when coming.

Which type of Halong Bay Cruise?

Halong Bay offers different types of cruises, from day cruises to luxury cruises. Each type of cruise offers different amenities and experiences, so you can choose the one that suits your preferences and budget. 

  • Day Cruise

This is a convenient and memorable way to experience the UNESCO World Heritage site’s stunning beauty within a limited timeframe. Explore limestone karsts, visit caves, kayak on calm waters, and enjoy a delicious onboard lunch—all in a single day. It’s an ideal option for those seeking a taste of Halong Bay’s natural wonders without an overnight stay.

  • Deluxe Cruise

A deluxe cruise in Halong Bay offers a comfortable and affordable option for travelers who want to experience the beauty of the Bay without breaking the bank. These cruises typically offer well-appointed cabins, delicious meals, and a range of activities and excursions to explore the Bay.

  • Luxury Cruise

A luxury cruise in Halong Bay provides a more upscale and lavish experience with top-of-the-line amenities and services. These cruises often feature spacious cabins with private balconies, gourmet dining options, deluxe spas and wellness centers, and exclusive excursions and activities.

  • Private Cruise

A private cruise in Halong Bay is a personalized and intimate experience for travelers who prefer to travel with just their own group. These cruises typically offer a range of customizable options, including itinerary planning, dining preferences, and activities tailored to the group’s interests. Private cruises can be booked for couples, families, or groups of friends and can be a great option for special occasions or celebrations.

Enjoy Halong Bay Cruise
Enjoy Halong Bay Cruise

You can completely enjoy your private tour with your own private cruise in Halong Bay at a reasonable price, with excellent services when compared with other areas around the world. And mostly the fascinating activities that are mentioned in this Travel Guide before, you can “taste” them all in one Halong Bay Cruise. In case you want to reference, some of the best Halong cruise operators are Scarlet Pearl Cruise, Athena Cruise, Paradise Cruise, and Indochina Junk. To find out about your Halong Bay Cruise, let’s contact Indochina Voyages Team for the best information!

2 days cruise or 3 days cruise, which one is better?

Choosing 2 days or 3 days for cruising is depend on your schedule and budget. Generally, a 2-day cruise is suitable for most travelers, while a 3-day cruise is better for those who are particularly interested in the Bay’s natural beauty. In the winter months, it’s recommended to consider a 2-day and 1-night cruise for the best experience.

Halong Savor Travel Handbook

Thanks to a prime beach location, Halong Bay is known for its rich delicious seafood and local cuisine. Don’t miss out on our starlights below to crave your stomach after in Halong Bay:

Banh cuon Cha Muc

Top 1 dish that can’t be missed in this Halong Bay tourism manual is Banh Cuon Cha Muc. This dish combines two Halong Bay specialties: banh cuon and Cha Muc (squid sausage).  Banh cuon is steamed rice rolls filled with ground pork, mushrooms, and onions and often served with a fish sauce dipping sauce and fresh herbs. In this dish, the banh cuon is stuffed with Cha Muc (squid sausage), made from fresh squid minced and seasoned with spices. The result is a flavorful and unique dish that is both light and satisfying.

Banh cuon cha muc in  Halong savor guide
Banh cuon cha muc (Image: DulichToday)

Recommend restaurant:

  • Dac San Cha Muc Lan Ha restaurant
  • Quan Ngon Seafood Restaurant
  • Co Ngu Restaurant

Seafood hotpot

This traditional dish typically consists of a simmering pot of fragrant broth filled with various fresh seafood, such as shrimp, crab, clams, squid, and vegetables like mushrooms and bok choy. Diners can add their own ingredients to the pot and cook them to their liking, creating a personalized and flavorful meal.

Try Seafood Hotpot for Halong Journey
Seafood Hotpot (Image: Blog Ha Long Bay)

Place to taste:

  • Cua Vang Floating Restaurant
  • Green Mango Restaurant

Halong Yogurt with a sweet bubble

This sweet treat is made with creamy, locally-made yogurt, which is often served with a topping of sweet bubbles, or “boba”. The bubbles are made from tapioca starch and have a chewy texture, and are typically flavored with a variety of syrups, such as mango or lychee.

Taste Unique Halong Yogurt
Halong Yogurt with a sweet bubble (Image: ToroG Smart POS)

Best place to savor:

  • Halong Night Market
  • Sua Chua Tran Chau Halong Base 00 (Apartment C107-108-109, Area C, Bai Chay Old Town, Bai Chay, Ha Long)

Herbal tea in Halong

Thai La and Long An are highly recommended herbal tea in Halong. You can find both types of tea at local tea shops and restaurants, as well as at street vendors and markets. These teas are a great way to experience the flavors and traditions of Vietnamese culture and are a must-try for tea lovers and foodies alike.

Extra Travel Guide Tips

  • Pack light and bring comfortable shoes for exploring the caves and islands.
  • Bring a waterproof camera or a waterproof case for your phone to capture the stunning views.
  • Don’t forget to bring sunglasses and sunscreen for outdoor activities.
  • Kayaking is available for kids and elders as long as you are careful and comply with the safety regulations.
  • All Halong Cruises have air conditioning and heating, so you don’t have to worry about comfort.
  • The water in the Bay is very calm, so the odds are very low for you to be seasick. But if you are too sensitive, bring seasickness medicine before beginning cruising.
  • If you are satisfied with the services onboard, let’s give some tips for the crew as encouragement. We suggest tipping US $2 to $5 /person for the whole trip
  • The best rate for Halong Bay Cruise is in the summertime, from May to Sep. There will often have Summer Deals due to the low season for the inbound industry.

Where to Go Next?

After visiting Halong Bay, the high recommendation for you is to explore Ninh Binh or Sapa nearby. All are located in the North of Vietnam, so it is easy for you to travel next.

Ninh Binh is a tranquil town and as known as “Halong on Land” with a rich of historical in Vietnam. It is known for its rich history, natural beauty, and scenic boat tours through the Tam Coc caves. You can also explore ancient temples and pagodas or hike through stunning landscapes in the Van Long Nature Reserve.

Meanwhile, Sapa, which is approximately 460 kilometers (286 miles) to the east of Halong Bay, brings the romantic beauty of the Vietnam Northwest mountains. This area is famed for its stunning natural beauty, cultural diversity, and hiking opportunities. You can explore vibrant local markets and picturesque rice terraces and learn about ethnic minority groups. Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Maybe you are wondering that “Why don’t start the journey at Sapa and then depart to Halong Bay as Ninh Binh, as mentioned before?” The answer is that No one moves to Halong from Sapa because they always need to return to their base, Hanoi. That’s why we recommend Sapa as your next destination in your Vietnam Package Tour after exploring Halong Bay.

Or else, you can go deeper into Central Vietnam to explore Hue, Hoi An, or Da Nang. Hue is famous for its magnificent temples and the royal palace, full of Vietnamese history from feudalism. While Da Nang and Hoi An will blow your mind with the tranquil atmosphere and the charm of ancient towns. These destinations have unique attractions and experiences that will give you a deeper insight into Vietnamese culture and history. 

Marvelous Moutainous area of Northeast for after visiting Halong Bay
Marvelous Moutainous area of Northeast

In inclusion, Halong Bay is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list, and Vietnam also has many marvelous destinations waiting for you. We hope this ultimate travel guide has provided you with all the information you need to plan your trip to Halong Bay. If you need assistance planning your trip, feel free to drop us a line at Indochina Voyages, our travel consultants always welcome you warmly!

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