Guide to visiting Ha Long Bay for the first time

Before you leave

Ha Long Bay is on many travelers’ Trip Lists for good reason. It is a true gem of the East. The scenery is extraordinary; The peaceful atmosphere and trip to Ha Long Bay will definitely bring an unforgettable experience.

If you’re planning a trip to Ha Long Bay but don’t know where to start, look no further – in our Ultimate Guide we’ll give you all the information you need and more. more to make your trip as easy as possible. Here you will find everything you need to plan a perfect trip to Ha Long Bay.

Things to know before visiting Ha Long Bay:

The best way to explore Ha Long Bay is by cruise. Choose a trip of at least 2 days and 1 night to have enough time to truly enjoy the bay. If you have time to stay 2 nights, definitely do so!
If you choose to travel around Ha Long Bay, you should choose the time of year carefully as the summer months have unstable weather and can lead to trip cancellations.
Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay are two alternatives to Ha Long Bay, equally beautiful but less visited.
If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, be sure to let the train operator know in advance when you board the train.
Smart packaging! The weather in this area can be very unpredictable so bring appropriate items to protect you from rain and sun.
There is little to no phone signal in the Ha Long Bay area, so be prepared to be disconnected throughout your trip.
Don’t bring any electronic devices if you go kayaking unless they are waterproof. You WILL get wet and so will your belongings.

If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to talk to the train operator or even the hotel in your departure city. Vietnamese people are very friendly and willing to help you if you need it.

Come there

It only takes 45 minutes to get to Ha Long Bay by seaplane flight from Hanoi

1. Plane – Estimated time 30 – 45 minutes

Tourists from Hanoi who choose to travel by more luxurious means can choose to take a seaplane to Ha Long Bay by Hai Au Aviation. The seaplane has a capacity of 12 passengers and a travel time of about 30 minutes, which can add an additional 15 minutes to an aerial tour of Ha Long Bay. Prices can range from about $45 to $150. To book a seaplane, you must visit or book tickets by phone: 096 296 0689.

2. Private bus – Estimated time 3 – 4 hours

Private bus from Hanoi to Bai Chay bus station in Ha Long will take about 3 or 4 hours. You can take a private bus from My Dinh bus station every hour from 06:00 to 17:00 and the cost will be around 10 USD. When arriving at Bai Chay, you should take the public bus to Tuan Chau Marina, every 5 to 15 minutes. Additionally, you can take a taxi to move faster and more conveniently.

3. Motorbike or private car – Estimated time 3 hours.

Option A (Shortest): Hanoi – Bac Ninh – Ha Long Bay via National Highway 1A (150km)

Depart from Hanoi along Highway 1A to Bac Ninh, then follow Highway 18 to Pha Lai, Sao Do and then to Ha Long Bay

Option B: Hanoi – Hai Duong – Ha Long via National Highway 18 (160km)

Departing from Hanoi, follow Highway 5 to Hai Duong city, then from Sao Do follow Highway 18 to Pha Lai, Dong Trieu, Uong Bi and Ha Long.

Read more: How to get to Ha Long Bay


There are two main accommodation options for those visiting Ha Long Bay. You can take an overnight cruise or stay on one of the larger islands like Cat Ba.

If you choose to go on a cruise, you should do a thorough Google search and make sure to read other travelers’ reviews so you can know what to expect. We recommend choosing a mid-range or luxury cruise as the experience is generally much more enjoyable and satisfying than budget options.

If a cruise isn’t for you and you choose to stay on Cat Ba Island, there are plenty of options to suit different budgets, from budget guesthouses to beautiful hotels. You can find a bed in a dorm for as little as $2.50 or a comfortable hotel room with breakfast for around $15.

Eat what

Seafood is served with all meals on the overnight cruise ship.

Ngan: This is a mollusk found in abundance in the Ha Long Bay area. It looks like a large clam and is delicious when cooked with wine or soup.
Tu Hai: Tu Hai is a rare, special shellfish that can be eaten in many ways; steam, grill, season and use in soups or salads.
Gat Gu: This is a cake made from rice flour and cold rice. The cake is flexible and soft, served with a special dipping sauce made from fish sauce, chicken fat, onions and chili.
Sa Sung: Sa Sung is another type of seafood, commonly known in English as ‘Sandworm’. Often stir-fried with celery and leeks, earthworms are crunchy and have an almost buttery flavor.

Three-spined stickleback: This fish is often described as the most delicious fish found in Ha Long Bay. It can be cooked in many ways and can be found in many restaurants. Don’t miss the chance to try this local favorite.

Must-try experiences

Explore Ha Long Bay on an overnight cruise.

Here is a list of things you should do at least once when visiting Ha Long Bay:

Sleeping on a junk ship.
Kayak through towering limestone mountains.
Climb the limestone islands on a climbing tour.
Visit floating villages.
Cycling through Cat Ba island.
Explore caves and caverns.
Spot monkeys on Monkey Island.
Try your hand at squid fishing at night.
Relax on one of thousands of pristine beaches.
Go ziplining on Cat Ba island.
Visit Tung Sau pearl farm.

Read more: 11 best alternative things to do in Ha Long Bay besides going on a cruise

What to pack

For a trip to Ha Long Bay, you should pack smart and be prepared. The number one item you will need is your travel document (i.e. passport or ID card) as any boat or hotel you stay at will need this document to allow you to stay.

Depending on the season, you should prepare clothes suitable for the weather and always bring a waterproof jacket in case of unexpected torrential rain. Be sure to bring some comfortable shoes as you may be visiting the cave as well as bring a swimsuit when you go kayaking or to the beach. Sunscreen is also indispensable, even when it is cloudy, the sun in Vietnam can be very harsh.

Don’t bring large suitcases as boat cabins on cruises are usually quite small and usually cannot accommodate more than one. Additionally, you should bring any snacks or drinks you want on your trip as most cruises only provide meals and water.

Finally, don’t forget to bring your camera! Any trip to Ha Long Bay will be filled with unforgettable experiences, but wouldn’t it be great to look back at your vacation photos?