Here we have collected a list of the most frequent questions we receive from travellers, in an effort to help you organize and plan your visit.
When is the best time to visit Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Bay?
The best time to visit is in either spring or autumn. During spring, the weather starts to warm up and the islands and islets become covered in lush vegetation. The air is also a lot less humid than summer, and there is a far lower risk of storms or typhoons.
During the summer months the weather gets hotter and more humid, and is the best time to visit if you want to do a lot of water based activities like swimming or kayaking. However, typhoons are the most prevalent during these months, so it may be prudent to avoid visiting at this time.
Autumn is similar to spring, with cooler and less humid weather than summer, but still warm enough to enjoy all the activities on offer.
Winter can get chilly, especially from December to February, but the season presents its own unique charm, as there is often a thick cloak of mist that descends on the bay, giving it a romantic and mysterious atmosphere.
Which of the three bays do you recommend visiting?
The three bays are all beautiful, and have their own unique charm. Ha Long Bay is the most famous and closest to the mainland, and thus the most crowded. Most of the most famous sights are located in this section of the bay, and it’s a good choice for travellers with limited time.
Lan Ha Bay is less crowded, and its proximity to Cat Ba means that it is easily combined with a stay on the island. This is also where you can get the best kayaking.
Bai Tu Long Bay is by far the least crowded, located furthest away from the nearby population centres on the coast. This is a great place for those with slightly more time wishing to see a more untouched and natural side of the bays, and is best seen with at least 2 nights on board the vessel.
What duration should I choose for my cruise tour?
The duration you choose depends on which sites you most want to see and which of the bays you choose to spend your time in. If you wish to explore all 3 bays by boat, we recommend at least 2 nights on board, but preferably 3.
For just Ha Long Bay or Lan Ha Bay, any duration will be enjoyable, but the most common one is 1 night aboard the boat and 2 days spent exploring the bay. Lan Ha also goes well with a few days spent exploring and hiking on Cat Ba Island.
For Bai Tu Long Bay, the longer your stay on-board the cruise the better. As it is located further away from the dock, you will spend more time going back and forth, and spending a few days completely isolated among the karst formations is hypnotizing.
Is it worth combining a trip to the bays with time spent on Cat Ba?
Yes. Especially Lan Ha Bay is perfect for combining with a stay on Cat Ba, and is ideal for people wanting a mix of adventure (Hiking, kayaking) and gorgeous views.
What should I bring?
You will always need your passport for any trip around any of the three bays. In the summer, it’s a good idea to bring cool loose clothing as well as sun cream and swimwear. In the colder winter months you should bring warmer clothing and a jacket. Rain can occur regardless of the season, so a light rain jacket is good regardless of the month. The bays are famous for their views, so a good camera is always a good idea, as well as any necessary medications.
How long does the journey from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay take?
The drive from Hanoi to Ha Long City takes around 3-4 hours.
The drive from Hanoi to Hai Phong is roughly 3-3.5 hours.
What food will be available on board?
As the area has a strong tradition of fishing, the majority of boats will serve seafood based meals, freshly cooked on board, but there will be a variety of other dishes on offer for those who do not like seafood. If you have any special dietary requirements, please speak to our staff at the time of booking or contact us to find out more.
What activities will there be on board?
Depending on the operator and length of your cruise, there will be a wide variety of activities on-board your craft. Most common are cooking classes, karaoke, squid fishing, board games and socializing with your fellow guests, and spa treatments on the sundeck. Certain ships also operate movie rooms, and have canoes and tubs available for rent. The bar will also usually have a happy hour, and will be open the whole evening. The specific activities available on each cruise will be informed of in detail on booking.
Which Islets are the best to visit?
There are more great islets to visit across the three bays that can be counted, but popular favourites include:
Ti Top Island is located in the beating heart of Ha Long bay and features the most stunning panoramic views of the surroundings. As you arrive, there is a beautiful beach, and you can make the climb to the top for some stunning views.
Cockfighting Island consists of two massive rocks resembling roosters facing each other. The gap in between the two 10 meter tall rocks makes for some truly epic photography.
Incense Burner Islet is made out of one huge stone, but when the tide is low, you can see how it rests on 4 tiny pins.
Monster Head Islet almost resembles a Loch Ness monster emerging from the depths, so it’s easy to see how it gained its name. It rises 30-35 meters above the water and is a truly fascinating site.
There are many more fantastic islets in the three bays, but these are some of the highlights.
Which floating villages are the most interesting?
Today there are only four remaining floating villages in Ha Long Bay, as the majority of the population that lived on the water has been relocated to the mainland, in an effort to improve their access to necessities.
The four that remain are:
Cua Van Floating Village, a fishing village that is considered one of the best preserved examples of an ancient traditional floating village.
Vung Vieng Floating Village, famous for its pearl farm.
Cong Dam Floating Village, known for its surroundings of mountains, reefs and underwater lakes, it also features beautiful beaches.
Ba Hang Floating village is home to 50 families and is nestled between two towering karst formations. Traditionally a fishing village, its main industry is now tourism.
What are the sleeping arrangements?
All our boats feature private cabins with air conditioning. If the weather is good, you may wish to spend the night sleeping under the stars on the top-deck. This is perfectly fine and allowed, but please check with the staff on-board first, to ensure you’re not rudely awakened by a shift in weather in the middle of the night!
Will there be life jackets on the boat?
All of our boats have an adequate number of life jackets on board. Your guide will show you where to find them as you enter the boat, but feel free to ask again at any time.
Am I likely to get seasick?
The bays are sheltered by the many islands and islets meaning that the waters are calm and smooth. Some routes venture out into the less well protected waters which can get choppy at times. If you are prone to seasickness, please check with our tour consultants about the best areas to visit to avoid seasickness.
Is there anything on the mainland I should see?
The cities of Hai Phong and Ha Long are not particularly interesting to tourists, but we absolutely recommend spending some time on Cat Ba Island, which while technically not part of the mainland, is certainly big enough to feel like it is!
Why is Ha Long Bay a UNESCO Heritage Site but not the other two bays?
In fact, they are! Ha Long Bay can refer to one of the three bays, but also refers to the geological area as a whole, and all three bays fall under the protection of the UNESCO designation.
How many people live in the bays?
As of 2019, roughly 1500 people live on approximately 40 islands, mostly in the east and south east regions. The provincial government is undergoing a project to resettle most of these villagers to the mainland, in order to stabilize and improve their quality of life. When this project has reached its conclusion, the only people still living in the bay will be a small number of villagers in floating villages, which will remain for sightseeing and economic purposes.