HALONG BAY — Travel guide + Tourist Tips

Ha Long Bay – Vietnam (Travel guide). Sunset in Ha Long Bay.

Information about Ha Long
How to get to Cat Ba Island
Cruises in Ha Long Bay
How to get to Ha Long Bay
Weather in Ha Long Bay
Accommodation in Ha Long 
Interesting sites in Ha Long
Map of interesting places
Book a tour to Halong Bay

Ha Long Bay is one of the most visited places in Vietnam and in the world.

    • Ha Long (Hạ Long) means “where the dragon plunges into the sea.“ According to legend the islands were formed by a dragon who flew over this area and using his tail carved each valley with his tail. Then he plunged into the sea and the valleys were flooded with seawater. Many visitors come to take a 2-3 day cruise between the enchanting islands in the bay and soak up the atmosphere of this unique and beautiful place.

Tens to hundreds of cruise ships offer tours in the bay.

    • Ha Long Bay has a lot of types of accommodation. It is one of the most visited places, and prices are a bit higher than elsewhere. Even without a reservation, you are bound to find Guesthouses and Nha Nghi (hotels). The city is divided into the two parts. Bai Chay is a tourist area with many hotels and restaurants. Hon Gai is a district with businesses, supermarkets and other shops. These two parts are connected by the Bai Chay bridge.
Ha Long Bay and Ha Long City.

Almost 2,000 mountainous islands are located in Ha Long Bay.

    • Ha Long Bay has up 1,969 small and large inhabited and uninhabited limestone islands of various shapes and sizes. Among the islands the villages of local fishermen can be seen. They have built houses on rafts, and between the houses they string fishing nets. On these islands, people and their animals live together. A lot of mountainous islands reach a height of around 100 meters and some even contain lakes. Dau Be Island has 6 enclosed lakes.

Accommodation in Halong Bay

There is not much to see in Ha Long city, take a trip to the islands.

    • If you stay a while in Ha Long town, definitely go to the Nui Bai Tho sightseeing stop located at the port of Hon Gai. If you are not taking a sightseeing aircraft flight or helicopter ride , this place offers the best view onto Ha Long Bay and its hundreds of islets. Nui Bai Tho is very easily accessible from the town. In 2016 the Sun World Ha Long park was opened with a cable car, a ferris wheel, and many other attractions for tourists (a bit Disneyland).
The fishing village in Ha Long Bay.

Ha Long Bay was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

    • The whole area covers around 1,553 km². The center of the bay has an area of 334 km² with a high density of 775 islets. The islands in Ha Long Bay are formed of limestone and slate and they are almost 250 million years old. Ha Long Bay comprises an area of islands northeast of Bai Tu Long Bay and Cat Ba Island to the southwest. Ha Long Bay is one of the seven wonders of the world and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

CAT BA is the largest island in Ha Long Bay with beautiful caves and jungles.

    • Half of Cat Ba Island (Cát Bà) is a National park with its beautiful hills, lakes (Ech – the largest lake) and two caves (Hospital Cave and Hang Trung Trang Cave). The park was founded in 1986 primarily to protect the interesting ecosystems (forests, swamps, mangroves and reefs). The island occupies an area of approximately 350 km² and is one of the prettiest islands in Ha Long Bay. In the southern part of the island you can visit the Hospital Cave (Han Quan Y). It was built between 1963-1965 and it was an important place in the war with the USA. You can see 17 rooms here, an operating room and a large cave that was used as a cinema.
Monkey Island – Cat Ba.

Cat Ba Island is the perfect place for a stay by the sea-side in northern Vietnam.

    • The island has rich flora and you can find up to 745 kinds of plants, trees and herbs. They can be seen when you are trekking through the island. You can also stay of course on Cat Ba Island itself. Accommodation and services are found around the town in the southern part of the island. It is recommended to take some cash to the island. According to my information, there are only about 3 ATMs.

Book your tour to Halong Bay

Visit the beautiful Lan Ha Bay on the southeast side of the Cat Ba Island.

    • Lan Ha Bay is the perfect place where you can take a boat trip and is about 30 minutes sailing from the town of Cat Ba. Explore some of the beautiful and deserted beaches where you can swim or kayak. Lan Ha is a better place than some full tourist beaches in Ha Long Bay. In the Lan Ha Bay area there is approximately 300 islets, these islets are as beautiful as those in Ha Long Bay, including 200 species of fish and 500 species of molluscs. Ask for trips in the city or at the hotel in Cat Ba town. Lan Ha is characterized mainly by untouched nature and deserted islands. Watch this video from Cat Ba Island.

Southeast Asia’s longest sea-crossing bridge in Hai Phong – Tan Vu-Lach Huyen.

    • In September 2017, the longest sea-crossing bridge in Southeast Asia – Tan Vu-Lach Huyen – was opened. This bridge connects Hai Phong on the highway that leads to Hanoi and ends on Cat Hai Island, about 2 km from Cat Ba Island. The length of the sea-crossing bridge is 5.4 km, and the transport from Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island is greatly accelerated (see map under article).
One of the beaches in the Lan Ha Bay near of the Cat Ba island.

How to get and travel to Cat Ba Island?

1. From Hanoi to Cat Ba Island by bus+ferry

    • the fastest and comfortable way how to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island
    • bus goes over the longest sea-crossing bridge in Southeast Asia – Tan Vu > Lach Huyen (opened in September 2017)
    • travel by bus+ferry from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island takes about 3.5-5 hours
    • bus company: Cat Ba Express, Good Morning Cat Ba, Full Moon Party, Daichi Travel, Grouptour…
    • bus tickets from Hanoi to Cat Ba cost 11-17 USD
    • bus is going directly to the Cat Ba town on the Cat Ba Island over the Cat Hai Island
    • Book and buy bus e-ticket from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island icon-external-link-square
    • read this article: How to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island?

2. From Tuan Chau Island to Cat Ba Island

    • boats / ferry from Tuan Chau to Cat Ba (north) from terminal
    • to the northern part of Cat Ba Island – into Gian Luan Pier port
    • the fastest and shortest option (price – 70,000 dongs for ticket, the journey takes about 1 hour)
    • You can take a motorcycle with you (price – 90,000 dongs per person with a bike)
    • then you still need to get into the town in the southern part of the island, you can take the bus to Cat Ba town

3. From Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island (boat, ferry)

    • boats / ferry from Ben Binh harbour (Pha Binh Port) and Dinh Vu Pier
    • Book and buy ferry tickets from Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island icon-external-link-square
    • boats of Hoang Long company can also go from Dinh Vu Pier
    • the journey is longer and more expensive (about 150-250,000 Dong) but you will arrive straight into the town on the island of Cat Ba
    • if you arrive by train from Hanoi, Hai Phong is probably the best option for getting to the Cat Ba Island

Accommodation in Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba National Park.

The other islands in Ha Long Bay area:

    • Ban Sen (densely forested, almost uninhabited island)
    • Quan Lan (historically significant remote island with several beaches)
    • Van Don Archipelago (a lot of inhabited islands)
    • Tuan Chau (much frequented by tourists)


The islands can be accessed from various ports:

    • Cai Rong – small harbor to the northeast areas (for Quan Lan island)
    • Ha Long city – there are a several ports (for Tuan Chau but also for Cat Ba island)
    • Hai Phong – large historic port city at the mouth of the Red River (for Cat Ba island)
Kayaking in Halong Bay.

The caves in Ha Long Bay are
the biggest attraction for tourists:

    • Dau Go (Wooden Stakes cave) – large cavern consisting of three underground halls
    • Thien Cung – one of the most beautiful caves, 130 m long, impressive image of the characters stories
    • Sung Sot – most visited cave on the island of Bo Hon, 3 halls, another cave Hang Bo Nau
    • Trong (Drum Cave) – named after the sound of distant drums, visitors hear the sound when there is a wind
    • Luon – about 3 km northeast of Sung Sot cave
    • Trinh Nu – close to the Trong Cave, also called the „Romantic Cave“
    • Tam Cung – on an isolated May Den island, 5 km northeast of Sung Sot Cave
    • Ba Ham – the most distant caves in Ha Long Bay, Dau Be Island in Lan Ha Bay
    • Thien Long (Dragon Cave) – this cave is on Cat Ba Island

There are another caves in Ha Long Bay, not all are written here. Some of the caves are not open for tourists and some have been discovered more recently.

Sung Sot cave in Ha Long Bay.

Planning to stay on a ship / cruise in Ha Long?

    • Ha Long Bay attracts large numbers of tourists from all over the world throughout the year. If you come here, be careful with the selection of a boat. It is better to choose a smaller boat with a smaller number of tourists and cruise for two days. You will see so much more and you will experience the true authenticity of this magical place.
    • You can also use some cruise ships which you can come across in the ports. It is possible to take a cruise for a few hours or a whole day. Then you can also sleep on one of the habitable islands.

The best rated cruises in Ha Long Bay > Belezza CruiseBhaya ClassicThe Au CoPelican Halong CruiseRoyal Palace CruiseHalong Silversea CruiseAlica CruiseAphrodite CruisesSyrena CruisesParadise Luxury Cruise ▶ Emeraude Classic Cruises

Tourist boat in Ha Long Bay.

Do you want to take a 1 day only cruise in Ha Long Bay?

    • You can ask for a fee one of the local fishermen to take you , they can take you in Ha Long Bay on shorter trips. This trip with the locals sometimes surpasses expectations, it avoids the tourist crowds and maybe you’ll learn more than with a tourist tour.

Book Tickets from Hanoi to Ha Long

One of the several places in Vietnam where th „Kong: Skull Island“ movie was filmed.

    • Ha Long Bay, one of the several locations in Vietnam, where the movie Kong: Skull Island (2017) was filmed in 2015-2016. Some places of the Ha Long Bay scenes are: Ngoc Vung Island, Sung Sot Cave, Thien Cung Cave and Ba Hang area. All are marked on the map below this article. It’s not the first time that this bay was used for filming. Other films filmed in Ha Long Bay: Pan (2015), James Bond (1997), Indochina (1992).
Quan Lan Island in the no-tourist season.

QUAN LAN Island is a nice and not so visited island.

    • Quan Lan Island is located in Bai Tu Long Bay, and its total area is approximately 11 square kilometers. Quan Lan was in the 11th century a bustling port designed mainly for international trade between Vietnam and other countries. Many remains related to trading activities have been found here. There is also a preserved temple from the 18th century with an interesting architectural design.
    • If you want to swim its no problem, there are 3 beaches for swimming – Quan Lan, Son Hao Minh Chau. These beaches are untouched by tourists compared to other beaches in Ha Long Bay. Accommodation in Quan Lan is possible in guesthouses or dormitories. Prices are from approximately 10 to 30 USD per room. More information about Quan Lan Island.

Accommodation in Quan Lan Island

How to get to Quan Lan Island?

1. From Cai Rong (Van Don) to Quan Lan Island

2. From Ha Long (Hon Gai port) to Quan Lan Island

    • Tra Ban is the large island north of the Quan Lan island. It is a place without tourists. If you go on a trip to Tra Ban island its worth knowing there is no accommodation here. The island is covered by jungle and hilly and rocky cliffs. This island is best mainly for ship sightseeing trips. You can visit also Co To Island.
Ha Long Bay

Prices for transport in Halong Cat Ba, Quan Lan:

    • bus from the Gia Luan port > Cat Ba town – 25,000 dongs
    • ferry/boat from the Tuan Chau island > Cat Ba island – 70,000 dongs
    • taxi from the bus station in Ha Long city > Tuan Chau island – 100,000 dongs
    • bus from Tuan Chau island > Van Don (Cai Rong port) – 30,000 dongs
    • ferry/boat from Cai Rong port > Quan Lan island – 100,000 dongs
    • ferry/boat from Ha Long port > Quan Lan island – 200,000 dongs
    • ferry/boat from Hai Phong town > Cat Ba island – 150 – 250,000 dongs

 How to get from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay + Hai Phong?


Ha Long Bay and tourist boats.

How to travel from Sapa to Halong Bay?

    • from Sapa to Ha Long you can travel by tourist bus, minivan, car or bus+train via Lao Cai, Hanoi
    • there is no flight and no direct train from Sapa to Ha Long
    • bus tickets from Sapa to Ha Long cost about 15-19 USD/pp
    • travel by bus from Sapa to Ha Long takes about 8-9 hours
    • read this article: How to reach Ha Long from Sapa?

How to travel from Halong Bay to Tam Coc?

    • Ninh Binh from Ha Long is accessible by bus, private car, minivan or train via Hanoi
    • there is no flight and no direct train from Ha Long to Tam Coc in Ninh Binh
    • bus tickets from Ha Long to Tam Coc / Ninh Binh cost about 12-19 USD/pp
    • travel by bus from Ha Long to Tam Coc takes about 3-4.5 hours
    • read this article: How to reach Tam Coc from Ha Long?

How to travel from Halong Bay to Cao Bang?

    • from Halong Bay to Cao Bang you can travel by bus, minivan or private car
    • Cao Bang has no airport, so it is not possible to travel by plane
    • travel by bus from Halong Bay to Cao Bang via Hanoi costs about 14-25 USD/pp
    • travel by bus from Halong Bay to Cao Bang takes about 13-20 hours via Hanoi
    • read this article: How to reach Cao Bang from Halong Bay?

Weather in Ha Long Bay:

    • The weather in Ha Long Bay has two different periods.
    • There is the typical coastal climate and the monsoon season.
    • hot and humid with rains (April – September)
    • dry season with a few cold months (October – March)
    • The average temperature in Ha Long Bay is 23 °C. In the summer the temperatures can reach up to 35 °C.
    • In the summer months you can also get typhoons and the most precipitation falls.
    • Winter season in Ha Long Bay can be very cold, and the temperature may fall to 13 °C.
    • It is not very convenient to travel to Ha Long Bay in the winter months (especially December, January) and summer (July and August).
    • Weather in Ha Long Bay, however, can be unpredictable at any time.
    • When there is very heavy rainfall or typhoon conditions boat trips around the bay can be stopped.
    • September and October are the best months for visiting Ha Long Bay.
      Current weather in Ha Long Bay

Accommodation in Ha Long Bay:

    • Ha Long Bay has a lot of accommodation of various categories. Cheaper hostels, luxury hotels but also guesthouses. It is not a problem to quickly find some hotel or hostel on this place, but also in nearby islands.

Accommodation in Ha Long Bay (hotels, guesthouses…)
15 best cruises in Ha Long Bay
15 best hotels in Cat Ba Island
15 best cheap hotels in Ha Long
15 best luxury hotels in Ha Long

Places of Interest in Ha Long Bay / Cat Ba Island:

    • Nui Bai To sightseeing top
    • Sun World Ha Long park (Cable Car, Wax Museum, Ferris Wheel…)
    • Ba Vang buddhist temple (35 km from the town of Ha Long)
    • Yen Tu mountain (50 km from the town of Ha Long)
    • Dau Go, Thien Cung, Sung Sot, Trong caves
    • Quan Lan Island, Tra Ban Island (Van Don Archipelago)
    • Cat Ba Island (+Cat Ba National Park, Cannon Fort), Dau Be, Cong Tay, Cong Do Islands
    • Hospital Cave in Cat Ba Island
    • Co To Island (+Thanh Lanh Island – Van Don Archipelago)
    • Lan Ha Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and Monkey Island
    • Tuan Chau Island (transfer to Cat Ba Island, Cruises, Hotels…)
    • sightseeing flight above the Ha Long Bay (Hai Au Aviation)
    • Haiphong port
    • Cruise boat or kayaking
    • deserted and magical beaches in the islands
    • floating villages

 Ha Long Bay / Cat Ba Island – tourist map:

Frequently asked questions about Halong Bay + Cat Ba:

1️⃣ How to book tickets or private car from Hanoi to Ha Long or Cat Ba?

    • You can book tickets or private car from Hanoi to Ha Long or Cat Ba Island on Baolau or 12go.asia.
    • You can change your travel route, e.g. Hanoi > Cat Ba, Hanoi > Hai Phong, Hanoi > Ninh Binh…

2️⃣ How to search and book a tour or boat to Halong Bay?

    • You can search and book a tour to Halong Bay or boat/cruise with KLOOK. There are various tours + trips or hikes + motorbike loops in Vietnam.

3️⃣ Is there a flight from Hanoi to Halong Bay?

    • There are no direct flights from Hanoi to Ha Long, but there are sightseeing flights to Tuan Chau Island.

4️⃣ What is the travel time from Hanoi to Ha Long?

    • Travel by tourist bus from Hanoi to Ha Long town takes about 2-3 hours.
    • Travel by tourist bus+ferry or car from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island takes about 4-5 hours.

5️⃣ How much does it cost to travel from Hanoi to Ha Long or Cat Ba?

    • Travel by tourist bus or minivan from Hanoi to Ha Long costs about $5-15/pp.
    • Travel by private taxi/car from Hanoi to Ha Long costs about $70-150/car.
    • Travel by tourist bus+ferry Hanoi to Cat Ba Island costs about $10-17/pp.

6️⃣ How far is Ha Long town from Hanoi?

    • Travel distance from Hanoi to Ha Long town is about 180 km by tourist bus and about 220 km to Cat Ba Island.

 Where to go from Ha Long Bay:

You can continue to Hanoi, Lang Son, Ninh Binh. From Hai Phong you can also take a flight to Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang. In December 2018, there was also opened a new international airport in Van Don more infos).

1. How to get from Cat Ba to Ninh Binh?
2. How to get from Hai Phong to Ninh Binh?
3. How to get from Hai Phong to Hue?

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