Halong Bay, with its 1000s of limestone cliff “islands,” is a must for any visitor to Vietnam. Seeing the pictures is one thing, but actually looking up and around you and seeing nothing but sheer rock coming out of the water is quite another. If it’s solitude or adventure you’re after, it’s all here at Halong.
But picking the trip is a nightmare as there are almost as many travel agents in Hanoi as there are islands in Halong. Here’s how to make the right choice and have the best time possible.
Don’t do a one-day trip, and if you can avoid it, don’t do a two-day one either. The three-day, two-night option is best, and gives you a chance to really soak in the atmosphere and scenery that makes Halong so famous.
Align on budget
Don’t kill your budget for Halong, but don’t be a cheapskate. You could purchase a three day tour for $55, but know that everything—the boat, the food, the staff—will be mediocre. If that’s all you can spend, fine. But a good rule of thumb is to align your Halong Bay trip with your typical budget and round up a bit. For our trip, we spent closer to $37/person, although we later realized that other people on our boat had bought the same trip for about $26/day. That got us a good boat, plenty of time on the water, and food that included grilled oysters and clam chowder
The total cost should include all transfers from Hanoi, all meals, appropriate length of accommodation, and all activities and entry fees. The only thing you should need to pay extra for is drinks.