Halong Bay is the jewel in Vietnam’s tourism crown; the bay is surreal, spectacular and visually stunning.
Despite the appeal of Halong, the journey from Hanoi is not an easy one; motorways are being built at a pace, but much of the trip is currently on paved but bouncy roads! The journey will take about 3 and a half hours with a break in the middle.
There are several options for visiting Halong:
- Day trip with cruise from Hanoi: do able, despite what they may tell you, but only to the nearest islands
- Boat trip: 1,2 or more nights on a boat sailing the bay
- Base in Halong: not advised, rather an ugly place
- Base on Cat Ba Island: seems increasingly popular
Your choice will depend on what you want to do and who you are with etc, the cruises can be expensive if you are a solo traveller, but they can be a good way to meet people. The quality of the boats varies tremendously, so if you go for that option get as much information as you can in advance.
Another key factor is the time of year/ weather; best time to visit is September, October, November. January and February can be cool and misty (visibility may not be good).
Whenever you go, you will not be alone, this is a very busy place! There must be hundreds of boats plying the bay, the good news is that once out of the dock the bay is big enough to spread them out – you won’t feel crowded.
Within the bay there are some key attractions to see, depending on the length of stay. Two of the most popular are the floating village (with kayaking or getting rowed around) and the caves/ grottoes. The grottoes are well worth a visit and well laid out.