Everyone who comes to Vietnam can’t leave until they have visited Halong Bay. It’s the most famous attraction of the country and well worth the trip.
The problem is, there are so many operators in the area trying to sell you the trip, which Halong Bay cruise do you go for? Trips vary in length of stay, the type of boat, how many people are in the group, where to sleep, the list goes on. It can be a confusing ordeal, and i personally looked into 5 or 6 options before i made my decision.
I think the best thing to do is to go to a few different tour agencies and ask them about the tour. Read some blogs, ask other travellers which Halong Bay cruise to choose. Most will come back to Hanoi after their trip so their advice is invaluable. Most of the hostels are affiliated with a tour so it is worth asking the one you stay at.
Mostly, your preference will depend on your time, do you want to drink lots and party, level of comfort and price.
Which Halong Bay Cruise – the options…
Hanoi Backpackers runs the most notorious cruise, the Castaway Tour. It’s a party booze cruise style Halong Bay tour. People i spoke with said it was crazy fun, others say there were forced drinking games and the tour operators were more concerned with hitting on the girls than anything else. As a result of it’s popularity, the price is around twice as much as the other tours.
I say go with this one called “Halong Bay Party Cruise” (possibly changed names), Central Backpackers run it. It isn’t a booze cruise tour as the name suggests but a fun and sociable one, with other backpackers. $130 for 3 days 2 Nights. This is a bargain in my eyes. It involves one night on the boat and one night on a private island for just the tour group. My group on the tour was made up of an awesome mix of 20 something travelers who wanted to enjoy themselves but not to get crazy drunk every night.
The Halong Bay Cruise
A minivan will take you and your new travel companions to Halong City. From here you take a boat to your cruise boat. This is a great opportunity to get to know your new friends before starting the cruise! The tour involved cruising on Halong Bay and visiting some caves which weren’t that impressive. All lit up with multi colored lights and herded around like sheep. We also had an amazing opportunity to kayak in Ha Long Bay. The water was deadly calm and you could hear a pin drop. The feeling of seclusion is unbelievably liberating. You won’t forget and experience like this so I highly recommend going with a tour that includes this activity. Before it got dark the boat cruised some more to park up in the middle of the sea for the night.
Halong Bay Cruise – Day 2
The next day involved relaxing on our own private island. A coach takes us to Cat Ba Island which goes through a beautiful scenic, hilly area, before getting to your private island on a small boat. Prior to arrival though, the boat was tied to a large rock face and our guide invited us to climb it, either barefoot or with the yellow slipper shoes that he offered. No safety equipment. It was so dangerous. However, one of our group climbed the top before cliff jumping 12 metres into the sea. His crazy climb created worry in all of us, but luckily he landed without a scratch.
our own private paradise
A secluded, private island awaited us. Plenty of space to be alone or relaxing as a group. There was a volleyball net, hammocks, sea loungers, so enough to keep us entertained. We had a large wooden hut with lots of bunk beds, which would be our room for the night. It was one of the worse sleeps ever, being really hot, it was like a sauna. The tour operator said the night would be breezy and cool as we were by the sea. That was false information so expect an extremely humid and hot night.
Despite the awful sleep, I would fully recommend this tour. It was truly memorable. You will have tasty food, time to relax, the guide was super helpful and fun too. However I do think that a large part of the Halong experience is down to the people in your group. I met some super amazing people and to share this experience with great people is a privilege. If you enjoyed reading this post, please hit those share buttons below! If you are struggling with which Halong Bay cruise to choose, head over to Central Backpackers and have a chat.