Travel Guide

2023’s Complete Halong Bay Travel Guide: Essential Tips for First-Time Visitors

Last updated on
December 7, 2023

Halong Bay
A Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Travelers

Halong Bay stands as a captivating must-see for travelers worldwide. Despite its stunning natural beauty and UNESCO World Heritage status, it remains unfamiliar to some.

Amidst the deluge of online content, this comprehensive travel guide serves as your go-to resource, offering essential insights and tips to craft your ideal Ha Long Bay itinerary.

What Is Halong Bay Famous For?

Ha Long Bay, also known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its stunning limestone mountains that rise up from emerald waters, formed thousands of years ago. Visitors can explore the amazing caves and experience the culture of Ha Long.

halong bay


Halong Bay, Vietnam: Essential Information Before You Go

Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a beloved tourist destination in Vietnam’s Northeast, jointly managed by Quang Ninh and Hai Phong provinces.

Encompassing approximately 1,500 km2, this iconic bay boasts 1,969 karst and limestone islands, rich in geological history spanning 500 million years to form Halong Bay.

The unique aspect lies in its towering limestone formations, unlike typical ground-based structures, making it an unparalleled marvel.

With a history of human habitation adding cultural significance without compromising its natural beauty, Halong Bay remains an extraordinary testament to untouched heritage.

A Destination Host to Influential Figures and Celebrities

Halong Bay has played host to a plethora of influential personalities.

Notable visitors include Facebook’s Founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, the iconic actor and actress Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, the ‘Kong: Skull Island’ director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the revered late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, along with numerous presidents, prime ministers, and renowned figures from the entertainment industry.

2 Days 1 Night Halong Bay Cruise on Bhaya Classic

⚡US$338/ 2 adults
Most Popular Choice

3 Days 2 Nights Luxury Cruise with The Au Co

⚡US$877/ 2 adults
Unique Cruise Program

Overnight Premium Cruise plus Seaplane flight

⚡US$1,350/2 adults
All Transfer Included

Where to Visit in Halong Bay?

Exploring Halong Bay: Different Routes for Varied Attractions

The Halong Bay Management introduces three distinct ticket types, each corresponding to designated routes for tourists or tour companies to purchase.

Many tour companies typically purchase tickets for a single route. However, it’s advisable to discuss your preferences with your chosen tour company regarding the attractions you wish to visit.

Note: Choosing Route #1 ticket allows access solely to attractions outlined in that route. For visitors seeking a mix of attractions across different routes, additional ticket(s) are required to access those sites.

Route #1

Tien Ong Cave

Tien Ong Cave captivates visitors with its pristine charm, boasting serene landscapes and the untouched allure of Halong Bay.

Cua Van Fishing Floating Village

Step into the charm of Cua Van, acknowledged among the world's most exquisite small villages by Huffington Post. Delve into the depths of its rich heritage.

Three Peach Island

Located off the beaten path, this island is a serene retreat with sandy beaches and crystalline waters, offering an ideal setting for kayaking and swimming adventures.

Viet Hai Village

Situated on Cat Ba Island, this village boasts a rich cultural tapestry, inviting guests to discover a unique world of tranquility and heritage.

Coc Cheo Islet

Coc Cheo Islet, featured in the Kong movie, is a small but uniquely shaped location within Halong Bay. It's a cinematic treasure for movie enthusiasts!

Maze Cave

Maze Cave boasts a complex structure, echoing remnants of ancient Halong culture from 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Route #2

Vung Vieng Fishing Floating Village

Take a junk tour into the daily life of a captivating fishing community, surrounded by stunning limestones, emerald waters and authentic cultural experiences.

Tung Sau Pearl Farm

Dive into the secrets of pearl production amidst breathtaking landscapes, offering a unique glimpse into this fascinating industry within the renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Finger Islet

With its distinctive finger-shaped silhouette pointing skyward, this scenic spot offers an extraordinary backdrop for memorable photographs within its picturesque surroundings.

Kong Skull Island

Experience the allure of Kong Skull Island in real life by visiting Halong Bay! Many wonder about the real-life resemblance of Kong Skull Island.

couple kayak in halong bay
Dau Be Island

Dau Be Island is celebrated for its exceptional swimming and diving experiences. This prominent island boasts a diverse coral system and intricate grottoes, concealing six enchanting inland lakes waiting to be explored.

Thien Canh Son Cave

This wild cave is allured by its mesmerizing display of stalagmites and stalactites. Featuring a remarkable stairway with 100 stone steps, this cave exudes an otherworldly and mystical charm.

Route #3

Titov Beach

Renowned worldwide, captivates tourists with its crescent-shaped shoreline that forms a picturesque view from above. This iconic beach is a cherished destination.

Ba Ham Lake

This idyllic water scene is ideal for activities like kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming. This destination offers a peaceful retreat for visitors seeking a spiritually uplifting experience

Surprise Cave

Surprise Cave stands as Ha Long Bay's largest cavern, promising a breathtaking experience with its diverse chambers that will leave you in awe throughout various sections of this expansive cave.

Trinh Nu Cave

Trinh Nu Cave, steeped in romantic lore, emanates an irresistible charm and beauty. Uncover its enchanting story and immerse yourself in the elegant natural surroundings crafted by Mother Nature.

Luon Cave

Be enchanted by the serene ambiance while admiring the stunning stalagmites and stalactites up close. The tranquil waterway offers a relaxing journey as guests sail through the cave.

Cong Do Island

Nestled in Bai Tu Long Bay, Cong Do Island, though lesser-known, boasts a thriving and diverse ecosystem waiting to be explored and appreciated.

Things To Do In Halong Bay

With its extensive tourism and economic significance, Ha Long Bay offers an array of activities to suit every traveler’s preferences. 

From adventurous outdoor pursuits to serene relaxation and culinary delights, there’s something for everyone to explore beyond the renowned attractions when joining a Ha Long Bay tour.

Farming Tour

Learn traditional organic planting and explore unique Vietnamese flora firsthand in our Community Farm. Engage in hands-on activities for curious adventurers and nature enthusiasts.


Ideal for independent explorers and adventure enthusiasts, our tours offer a unique journey amidst stunning landscapes and hidden caves. Discover the bay's beauty at your pace.

sunbathing in halong bay

This serene activity offers a unique chance to unwind the stunning bay views. Enjoy the tranquility as you bask in the sun, indulging in a refreshing experience surrounded by Ha Long Bay's landscapes.


From Tuan Chau Island near fishing villages to Cat Ba Island and Hon Gai District. Whether you prefer trails near fishing villages or seek rugged terrains, Ha Long Bay offers diverse trekking options for enthusiasts of all levels.


Cycling enthusiasts can explore diverse areas of Halong, including Cat Ba Island and the city center. From coastal trails to urban pathways, Ha Long invites cyclists to pedal through its scenic landscapes and cultural hubs.

Rock Climbing

Ideal for sporty travelers, rock climbing adventure amidst Cat Ba Island's scenic landscapes. Rock climbing is currently limited to one company on Cat Ba Island. It's a thrilling choice for those seeking an adventurous experience.

Clean The Bay

Although passengers cannot directly join in our program, they can contribute in different ways that still return tremendous meaning to the environment and ecosystem.

Copy of Tai chi
Tai Chi

One of the most common early morning activities for those doing overnight cruises, Tai Chi is a great alternative to a morning exercise onboard.

Cooking Class

Also a common activity onboard for overnight cruises, cooking class usually takes place in the afternoon after the excursion and before dinner.

Wellness Center

Ideal for passengers seeking rejuvenation, these services cater to those looking to unwind and revitalize amidst the tranquil experience. Wellness services provide relaxation opportunities while sailing over the serene waters of Ha Long Bay.

squid fishing
Night Squid Fishing

This eagerly anticipated activity is exclusively available once night falls. This engaging activity fosters camaraderie and plenty of laughter among participants, providing a memorable and entertaining experience for all.

Outdoor Cinema

Indulge in a variety of classic movies amidst the celestial beauty of Halong Bay's night sky. This unforgettable experience is a treat for cinephiles, offering a memorable cinematic journey under the stars.

Weather Conditions of Halong Bay

Ha Long, situated in Northern Vietnam, experiences a tropical monsoon climate. With four distinct seasons, it offers an incredible destination to explore and enjoy throughout the year.

Planning Your Halong Bay Adventure: Ideal Times to Visit

October to December Delights!

October to December marks the peak season for Halong Bay’s international visitors. It’s a favored time due to pleasant weather—less humidity, calm waters akin to summer, and clear, blue skies.

Yet, the surge in global tourists, especially around Christmas and New Year’s, creates crowded conditions. Moreover, increased humidity might turn the weather dull, grey, and chilly.

To sidestep potential inconveniences, confirm essential details with your tour operator or cruise company before finalizing plans. Comprehensive preparation ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey to this stunning destination.

Comprehensive Month-by-Month Guide and Cruise Contingency Plans:

Discover the advantages and drawbacks of each month in Halong Bay to help you choose the perfect time for your visit. Learn what to do when facing cruise cancellations due to storms in this detailed guide: Visit HERE for more details!

Pack Like a Pro: Must-Have Essentials for Your Halong Bay Adventure

Discover essential packing tips for your Halong Bay adventure! For a detailed guide, check out our dedicated article for what you need to pack for the Halong Bay trip.

Find Ideal Accommodation Options in Halong Bay

In Halong City, diverse accommodations await—ranging from budget-friendly to luxury. There’s a diverse array of hotels to choose from. For an unforgettable Bay experience, choose a reputable cruise operator to enhance your trip. 

Halong Hotel

Halong City presents a diverse array of accommodation choices tailored to suit various traveler preferences.

Visitors can indulge in luxurious stays offered by renowned hotels (Vinpearl Resort & Spa Halong, Novotel Halong, Halong Plaza Hotel,…), relish cozy comfort at charming guesthouses, or immerse themselves in local culture through authentic homestays.

For those seeking budget-friendly options, hostels are available.

It’s advisable to consider proximity to attractions, ensuring a convenient and enjoyable stay.

Moreover, many properties offer stunning views of the bay, allowing guests to savor the beauty of Halong right from their lodgings.

Halong Cruise

Cruising through Halong Bay’s scattering islets and enchanting grottos offers an up-close experience and the most convenient way to discover their attractions.

With inclusive packages, exclusively offered by cruise operators, covering transportation, meals, and attraction fees, cruises save time and budget on transfers between accommodations and sights.

From day trips to extended 5-day adventures, and services spanning 3 to 5-star luxury, a diverse range of cruise options are available. 

Tailor your cruise experience for a memorable journey through the two most beautiful bays Halong and Lan Ha. 

Experience the best of both worlds aboard a luxurious 5-star cruise operator, exploring their enchanting landscapes.

How Can I Choose the Perfect Halong Bay Cruise?

Choosing the ideal Halong Bay cruise is crucial for an unforgettable trip.

Your cruise experience is a major part of your journey, especially if you’ll be spending several days onboard.

We’ll highlight top-rated cruise operators in Halong Bay known for their reputable service, facilities, and legal licenses to cruise in the area.

Refer to the steps below to ease your decision-making process:

Pick a Perfect Halong Bay Cruise in 6 Steps

Step 1

How much time would you like to spend on Halong Bay?

It’s important to choose the cruise length that fits your schedule.

Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 10%
Step 2

What’s your budget for a Halong Bay trip?

  • High End & Private
  • Luxury
  • Middle-Range
  • Budget
Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 33%
Step 3

Traveling with children on a Halong Bay Cruise?

Most Halong cruise cabins accommodate a maximum of 2 people.

For larger accommodations suitable for 2 adults and 2 children or more, focus on luxury cruise lines. These options cater better to travelers with specific needs, offering more facilities for families.

  • 2 Double Beds
  • 1 Double & 2 Single Beds
  • Connecting Room
  • Size: Above 28 m2
Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 55%
Step 4

Which Bay Should You Choose: Ha Long, Bai Tu Long, or Lan Ha?

Bai Tu Long and Lan Ha Bays share similar geological features with Ha Long Bay but attract fewer tourists.

While you may miss popular attractions like Surprise Cave and Titov Islands, the trade-off is a quieter experience. Decide based on your preference for a more bustling or serene environment.

  • Less Crowded
  • Famous Attractions (Famous Grottos, Tunnel..)

Unsure about the best cruise length? Check out our comprehensive article that outlines the various cruise durations available HERE

Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 60%
Step 5

After answering the previous four questions, you may have a better understanding of which cruise line you prefer.

So which cruise would you like to choose?

Please review the important checkpoints below to ensure that you have an exceptional experience during your Ha Long Cruise.

  • Trip Advisor's reviews
  • Fleet size (How many boats do they have?)
  • Years of experience
  • Permission/License (Do they have permits ro run Halong Bay Cruise?)
Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 70%
Step 6

Last but not least!

Here are some tips that can help you make the final decision on your reservation:

Unlock Insider’s Tips: Booking Directly from Cruise Company Websites

Cruise companies often pay commissions to booking site agencies like and Agoda for listings.

Booking directly on their websites or sending an inquiry can unveil exclusive deals and offers.

Note: Ensure the cruise lines are reputable and their websites are secure before booking for added peace of mind

Pick Your Perfect Halong Cruise
Success Pick The Perfect Cruise ! 90%

Halong Bay Transportation Options

Halong Bay offers multiple modes of transportation including land, air, and water-based travel, providing visitors with several options to reach this breathtaking destination.

Land Transport - Most Popular Choice

Traveling to Halong Bay by land is a popular and cost-efficient option, albeit time-consuming.

Many visitors choose shuttles, private cars, or luxurious limousine services to access Halong Bay or Lan Ha Bay.

Prices vary from US$15 to US$200, offering different levels of comfort and privacy to suit individual preferences and group needs.

Air Transport

Opting for air transfer is another choice to reach Halong Bay, offering seaplane services or private helicopter bookings.

This exclusive option allows travelers, especially VVIPs, to enjoy breathtaking aerial views of the bay, providing a rare and unforgettable experience.

seaplan to halong bay

Water Transport

Arriving in Halong Bay by water is an uncommon option, typically accessible through trans-Pacific cruises that include major stops like Halong Bay, Da Nang-Hoi An, Nha Trang, Saigon, and other Southeast Asian regions. This mode of arrival is infrequent, and mainly utilized by special cruise itineraries.

For a detailed exploration of transportation choices to Halong Bay, including price comparisons and step-by-step booking guides for each option, refer to THIS ARTICLE.

Do I Need a Visa to Go to Vietnam?

Before finalizing your Halong Bay plans, such as selecting a cruise and planning your itinerary, it’s crucial to secure the essential travel documents.

Non-national travelers typically need a visa to enter Vietnam. However, visitors from countries with visa waiver status are granted a stay duration of up to 45 days from the entry date, inclusive of the arrival day and the following 44 days of stay.

Check if your country is on Vietnam’s visa waiver list and learn how to obtain a visa HERE.

You can also check if your citizenship is applicable on e-visa

Currency and Payment Methods in Vietnam?

For first-time tourists visiting Vietnam in 2023, it’s important to note that the official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).

While some establishments may accept major credit cards, especially in urban areas and hotels, it’s advisable to carry local currency, particularly in smaller denominations, for more convenient transactions, especially at local markets, and street vendors where cards might not be accepted.

Exchanging money can be easily done at authorized exchange offices, banks, and hotels, and ATMs are prevalent for withdrawing cash. Be mindful of carrying larger notes, as they might appear to be high in value due to the currency’s relatively large numbers.

It’s also recommended to check with your bank regarding any foreign transaction fees or currency conversion charges before using your credit or debit card in Vietnam.

In the context of Halong Bay visits, many cruises offer online payment options or accept credit cards onboard. US dollars are occasionally accepted as well, typically at a rate of 1 USD ≈ 24,000 VND.

When cruising through Halong Bay, additional expenses are usually minimal, aside from discretionary spending on souvenirs or tipping, which is rarely practiced in the Northern region.

To ensure a hassle-free trip, it’s recommended to have some cash on hand, bring your credit card, and confirm specifics with your chosen cruise operator.

We hope this guide showed you how to plan your perfect Halong Bay trip. If you still have any question, don’t hesitate to comment below.