If you find yourself in Hanoi and want to visit the illustrious Halong Bay, this article will answer all of your questions about the trip and save you a lot of headaches and logistical problems!
Halong Bay is easily one of the most recognizable places in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The stunning limestone mountains, covered in trees, protrude from the bay’s emerald waters to form an unforgettable sight. It is true that everyone online and offline keeps traveling to Halong Bay, to the point that it seems like a cliche, too touristy and Instagramable. Still, all of the annoying Westerners and cruise boats in the world can’t take the beauty away from this magical place. If you want to visit but worry about actually getting there from Hanoi, we have you covered:
How to get from Hanoi To Halong Bay
From Hanoi you can get to Halong Bay in multiple ways, depending on your budget, timetable, and personal preferences. It should come as no surprise that there are many private tour companies that will take you from your hotel in Hanoi to the Bay and back within a day or two, depending on what you choose. I prefer not to use group tours and like to arrange everything by myself, but the tours can be found at very good prices and get the job done. They will give you a hassle-free experience and can combine the trip from Hanoi, a cruise, and some activities. In case you want to be more adventurous and prefer to travel by yourself, here is how to do that:
Hanoi to Halong Bay Bus
This is one of the cheapest ways to get there and it will only set you back around 10 USD in one direction. The duration of the trip is around 2 to 3 hours, but some buses take longer to arrive due to the stops in between. You can book a ticket online from baolau or 12go. Both of those sites are similar and are pretty useful when traveling around South East Asia. The buses go from 4 am to 7 pm, so everyone should be able to find a suitable time. The prices here are for the shuttle buses, which is how I would recommend you travel, as those are nicer and more comfortable, but you could take the public bus, which is a bit cheaper at around 6-10 USD. Those depart from the bigger bus stations, like My Dinh Station, Giap Bat Station, and Gia Lam Station. Overall, this is probably the most popular and best way to make your way to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi and is my personal recomndation.
Hanoi to Halong Bay by train
If you are dead-set on saving money and have a lot of time to spare in Vietnam, getting a train to Halong Bay might be right for you. The Vietnam Railways offer a train raid for under 4 USD, but it will take around 7 hours and delays are common with the railways. I would generally not recommend this mode of travel, as the trains are not what you might be used to in Western Europe and America, and the slightly cheaper price does not justify the length and uncomfortableness of the trip. The shuttle buses that we mentioned before are only a few dollars more and much quicker and nicer to travel in. However, if you really want to travel like a local and save a few dollars, the train to Halong Bay is always an option.
Hanoi to Halong Bay by car or motorbike
One of the most popular things to do when backpacking in Vietnam is renting a motorbike and driving across the country, there is even a Top Gear episode about it. If that is your preferred mode of transport and you have driven from the south to the North of the country like that, then there should be no issue in taking a trip to Halong. However, if you are in Hanoi and plan on renting a bike or a car just for a trip to Halong Bay, it is probably not worth it. It is more expensive than most of the other options available to you and driving in Vietnam can be chaotic and disconcerting for foreigners who haven’t gotten used to it yet.
Tips for traveling from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay
Once manage to get to the Bay, there are a few things you can do and a few things that you should keep in mind. Bellow, I will give you my advice for making your trip to Ha Long Bay the best it can possibly be:
Consider doing an overnight trip
A lot of people traveling from Hanoi chose to arrive early in the morning, take a boat out around the bay for a few hours and then return to Hanoi in the evening. While there is nothing wrong with that approach, if you have the time to spare, sleeping in Ha Long City for a night might be worth it, as it gives you time to properly explore. There are very interesting fishing communities, caves, and more remote parts of the bay, that take longer to reach and a 2-day cruise is needed to see them. There are lots of things you can do and it is worth researching and booking something in advance, as the prices once you arrive in Ha Long City tend to be steeper.
Don’t come to Ha Long for the Beach
While there is a beach here, it is neither the most spectacular, nor the most interesting one in Vietnam. Danang or Phu Quoc is better when it comes to beaches and you should look into them if you want a beach vacation. That being said, the Bay is great and you will be on the water, on a boat, most of the time, so you might still get your tan and a good swim.
However you chose to go to Ha Long from Hanoi, you will be satisfied with your choice. It is always nice to get your of the urban jungle and experience some nature, despite the fact that the Bay is often filled with tourists and other boats. There aren’t many places like it, and no trip to Vietnam is complete without a great Instagram photo from Ha Long Bay.