Tips on planning your trip to Halong Bay, Quang Ninh.
Want to spoil yourself? Halong Bay has some sumptuous cruise options that are basically luxury hotels on water. You’re paying for the experience of five-star amenities here – not for any particular divergence from the typical cruise itinerary – but if you want to live it up from a swanky sun-lounger while watching the sunset over a vista of craggy jungle-topped islands, you can’t really go wrong.
For a luxury cruise, bank on spending around US$220 for an overnight trip.
Pros It’s a serious treat and the romantically inclined are sure to score brownie points with their partner.
Cons Those looking for good value should probably look at midrange options. Overnight trips (marketed as two-day-one-night trips) usually involve 24 hours or less on the actual boat, which can rankle given what you pay for the experience.
Budget and midrange cruises
Most Halong Bay visitors go for midrange or budget cruises, but there is a huge range when it comes to price and value for money. At one end of the scale are some ultra-budget boats where onboard safety is not a top priority; at the other end are some excellent midrange options offering cozy hotel-style cabins, knowledgeable onboard tour guides, and kayaking stops. If purse strings are tight, for facilities, comfort and safety considerations it’s sometimes better to choose a day cruise with a midrange operator rather than a bargain-basement overnight trip.
Budget cruise prices start from a rock-bottom US$60 per person for a day trip. Paying between US$110 and US$130 should get you a worthwhile overnight midrange cruise.
Pros Competition is fierce, which means plenty of operators add freebies into the itinerary, such as kayaking and private minibus transfers from Hanoi.
Cons You have to wade through a lot of options, which can be confusing. It’s worth doing a bit of pre-trip research.
Bai Chay tourist boats
Get ready for a truly local experience. Bai Chay Tourist Wharf in Halong City is the bustling hub of Halong Bay’s day-tripping tourist boats, which whisk visitors out onto the water for excursions of four to six hours. If you’re not fussed about added frills, don’t mind sharing boat space with gaggles of other folks, and just want to cheaply get out on the water and quickly see a couple of highlights, this is a good option.
A four-hour trip, stopping at big-hitter cave highlights Hang Dau Go and Hang Thien Cung, costs 100,000d (around US$5). The Halong Bay entrance fee (120,000d) and individual cave entry fees (30,000d) are additional.
Pros These are cheap and easily organised tours right on the spot in Halong City. Plus there’s free entertainment on board provided by karaoke.
Cons Crowded. Did we mention the karaoke?
To be continued…
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