Comprehensive Ha Long Bay Travel Guide 2020 from A-Z

Halong Bay, always in the top of favorite spots in every trip to Vietnam of tourists around the world. Follow this post to make sure you plan your trip to Ha Long perfectly!


Halong Bay, meaning ”the Bay where the Dragon descends into”, is a famous tourist destination in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam. It is located between Lan Ha bay and Bai Tu Long bay, in the West Bank of the Tonkin Gulf in the Northeastern Vietnam. With thousands of wonderful islands, amazing fruits of creativity, Halong Bay has been recognized by UNESCO as a natural heritage of the modern world. Ha Long Bay’s ancient karst landscape is the result of complex geological processes over 500 million years, from the earth’s movements, sea regression, down-warping tectonics, and sea transgression, creating  a mighty and unique artwork by nature with thousands of limestone islands rising from the emerald water. With its aesthetic and geological – geomorphologic uniqueness, Ha Long Bay has attracted millions of tourists from all walks of life.


Halong, like other Northern cities of Vietnam, has four seasons around the year. But distinctively, it has two different seasons: hot and moist summer often falling between June and September & dry and cold winter often starting from November to March. The rest of the year, there are transitional months with the mix of these two patterns.

You can travel to Halong Bay at any time, however there are still some better days to make your journey fruitfully perfect. Normally, the best time to visit Halong Bay is from March to May and from October to December. It’s highly recommended that you check carefully the weather forecast before travelling.

Ha Long Bay temperature and rainfall

Average temperature and rainfall in Ha Long Bay throughout a year.


If you are about to travel to Ha Long Bay, there are many ways to get there from Hanoi. You can get to Hanoi from Saigon or other places in your itinerary and choose the transportation suitable the most to get to Ha Long Bay.

Map from Hanoi to Halong bay

The distance between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.

1. Motorbike / car

* Ha Noi – Bac Ninh – Ha Long route: 155 km.

This is the shortest route from Ha Noi to Ha Long, which takes only about 3 hours by car. You can rent a motorbike or a car with driver. Several companies offer this service at a little less than USD 100/one way for private car from Noi Bai to Ha Long, including parking fee, tolls, petrol, driver. For a 2-day one, it costs about 135-150USD/16-seat car. If you are driving on your own, the following instructions might help:

– Hanoi then Route 5 – Sai Dong junction: 10 km.

– Sai Dong then Route 1 – Bac Ninh: 23 km.

– From Bac Ninh province: Route 18 – Pha Lai – Chi Linh – Dong Trieu – Uong Bi – Ha Long: 122 km.

* Ha Noi – Bac Ninh – Ha Long route: 160 km.

– Noi Bai Airport – Bac Ninh: 32km.

– Take the national highway 18A through Pha Lai, Sao Do, Dong Trieu and Uong Bi to Ha Long.

* Ha Noi – Hai Duong – Ha Long: 170km.

This is the favorable route from Hanoi via Hai Duong. In Nam Sach town, take the Highway 183 through the towns of Red Star, Dong Trieu, Uong Bi, to Ha Long. It may take from 3 to 4 hours.

2. Bus

You can go to Ha Long Bay by bus, which you can find in most of the stations in Hanoi. There are many bus departing from the centre of Hanoi, convenient for you to travel such as Shuttle Bus, Open Bus. The first departure is at 6:00 am and the last is at 17:00 pm. It takes about 3 to 4 hours with the price of about 5USD/seat or 10USD/bed. The price can vary according to different type of bus you choose.

3. Train

Starting from Gia Lam Railway Station, with only 20USD/single ticket, there are lots of trains to Ha Long Bay everyday. Vehicles such as cars and motorbikes can be quicker with about 3 hours. However, the experience on train also has its own interesting things although it takes up to 7 hours. You will have a chance to explore the natural beauty of mountains and forests together with peaceful rivers all the way, gently feel the beauty of Vietnam.

What is more interesting than reading the book whilst enjoying a cup of tea and gently experiencing a little feeling of moving on the railway to Ha Long. Aren’t those moments worth remembering for you?

4. Seaplane:

If you dont mind the price, this is the fastest and most fantastic way to transfer between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. The seaplane takes off from Noi Bai international airport and touches down at Tuan Chau Marina with only 45 minutes. You also have 15 minutes for sightseeing over Ha Long Bay. Hai Au Aviation is the unique seaplane service in Vietnam until now. The price is about $275/way/person.

seaplane in Ha Long Bay

Enjoy the beautiful view from the plane, record the memorable moments of Ha Long Bay from the height of 150 to 3000m above sea level.


It depends on the cruise you choose that the itinerary is differently arranged.  However, all activities arranged by the cruise are on a shared basis and all are suitable for tourists of all ages. Usually, there are cruises within a day, in 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights. It’s highly recommended that you learn carefully the itinerary before your trip in order to choose the places you want to visit the most as well as the activities most suitable for you.

Here are the three main cruises routes to visit Ha Long Bay:

1. Common route:

Tuan Chau Harbor is an artificial port which is recognized as the largest artificial tourist harbor in Asia. This harbor also obtains a large number of cruises offering Ha Long Bay tour service to visitors such as Paradise, Bhaya, Indochina Sails, Golden cruise, Oriental cruise, Secret.

This seem to be the easiest way with plenty of options for those who have less time planing the trip before travelling.

2. Route from Lan Ha Bay

A little less touristy,  this can be considered as the best way to get away from crowded route. Many cruises are ready to depart everyday such as Paloma cruise, Lan Ha Legend cruise, Emerald cruise.

The tour’s itinerary will take you to Cat Ba Island in Hai Phong, and Lan Ha Bay and then enjoy the real beauty of Halong Bay and the daily life of the local people. Finally, you will end up exploring Bai Tu Long Bay, another beautiful and natural scenario.

Lan Ha Bay - tour Ha Long Bay

Lan Ha Bay in Autumn, the most beautiful season.

3. Route from Hon Gai

The last route which also is the least touristy, embarks sat Hon Gai harbor. For those who are interested in a little peaceful and calm voyage, these cruises are for you: Huong Hai Sealife, Royal Wing, Dragon Legend, Swan Cruise.

Click to see more details of Ha Long Swan cruise.


Depending on your choice of itinerary, you will have a chance to visit some of these wonderful attractions in Ha Long Bay.

1. In the Center of Ha Long

There isn’t a certain number of caves formed islands in Ha Long Bay. Some of them are very famous, big and approachable in the centre of the bay while the others are less well-known or even unknown. Below is the list of the mosr famous caves you should note to explore before your travel to Ha Long Bay.

* Trinh Nu Cave (Virgin Cave)

To young couples, it is considered as the symbol of true love with the image of the girl painfully waited in vain for her fiancé turning the cave into a sacred and romantic place.

Trinh Nu cave

Looking out from Virgin Cave.

* Sung Sot Cave (Surprised Cave)

Sung Sot Cave
Sung Sot Cave

Among the biggest and the most beautiful caves of Ha Long Bay, Amazing Cave welcomes a lot of visitors every year. The sightseeing tour into the cave is just like a tour to witness the heaven with huge spaces revealed after narrow lines. Visitors come from this surprise to another, that’s the reason why it’s called Surprising or Amazing Cave.

* Luon Cave

Luon Cave is famous for its green complex of in-mountain waters and islands with the cliffs stretching vertically out of the pure blue and smooth water. This is perfect place to let your mind free and enjoy the extreme peace of the magical bay. 

Luon Cave

Luon Cave and kayaking in Ha Long Bay.

* Thien Cung Cave (Paradise Cave)

Thien Cung Cave is one of the most magical caves as its name. Travelers will be astonished by the very animated and splendid beauty which is made from stalactite. In particular, on the east wall of the grotto, there is a grandiose and imposing picture with characters of heroic tales.

Thien Cung cave

Paradise Cave creates exactly the experience that the name suggests.

* Bo Nau Cave (Pelican Cave)

The cave’s wall features lots of stalactites and stalagmites in many amazing shapes. At the entrance, there are three stones looking like two men playing chess and a referee. Bo Nau Cave enjoys cool wind in the southward so one can hear the murmur of the sea there all year round.

* Dau Go Cave

It can be said that Dau Go Cave is the center of ancient architecture and little stalagmites and stalactites. It is such a wonderful experience to admire the picturesque beauty of Halong Bay in this spectacular cave.

Dau Go cave

Inside of Dau Go Cave.

* Tam Cung Cave

The cave is divided into 3 rooms with a lot of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Especially, the second one is a lively natural museum with many stone sculptures of the lion, the seal, the water deities, etc. And at the last room, tourists will have the opportunity to contemplate the spectacular and skillful sculptured artworks of the Mother Nature. 

Tam Cung cave

There is a long stream inside the cave and the wall looks like a magnificent stalactites curtain.

2. Around Ha Long Bay

* Bai Tho Mountain (Poem Mountain)

Far from the mountain down the Bay, this seems to be a new viewing angle, even residents of the coastal city. Standing on top of Bai Tho Mountain, tourists can have a chance to admire the new “appearance” of Ha Long Bay.

Bai Tho mountain

Bai Tho Mountain is a new checkin spot in Ha Long Bay.

* Mat Rong Island (Dragon Eye Island)

The beautiful lake in the middle of the island looks like a dragon eye, which makes Dragon Eye Island attract a lot of people to check-in and explore.

dragon eye island

This gorgeous natural landscape appeals millions tourists every year.

* Quang Ninh Museum and Library

Ha Long City’s Quang Ninh Museum is one of the country’s most sophisticated and well designed architecture in the last 10 years. It comprises of various zones/floors that each tells a story about what Ha Long Bay was before and how it’s been surviving in the last few hundred centuries. This is a must-visit place in your trip to Ha Long.

Quang Ninh museum

Quang Ninh Museum and Library – huge and beautiful.

* Queen cable car

The journey across Ha Long Bay by Queen cable car can be a fantastic experience not to be missed in Sun World Ha Long Park. This is the only path connecting the beach amusement complex with the mount of Ba Deo. Visitors can enjoy the ride contemplating the marvellous panoramic beauty of Ha Long Bay from atop.

* Ba Vang Pagoda 

Ba Vang Pagoda, in Uong Bi city is the only place in Quang Ninh Province to organize Chrysanthemum Festival on the 9 th day of the ninth lunar month to honor the chrysanthemum – the symbol of Buddhist culture associated with Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen. For those who love exploring culture, this is a worth-visiting place to be noted in the bucket list.

Ba Vang Pagoda, Vietnam

Situated in Thanh Dang Mountain, at a height of 340 m from sea level, Ba Vang Pagoda is  in a beautiful position of Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh Province.


1. Kayaking

If you do not experience the kayak, it is regrettable. On this small kayak with little paddles rowing on the blue water, you can admire the naturally splendid sights of Ha Long Bay. It is simple but promisingly interesting.


Take a selfie on a kayak, why not?

2. Overnight on boat

The cruise is like a miniature hotel fully equipped. You can just relax in the room and open the window to enjoy the view to the mountains, the majestic water, the fish swimming right under the window at night. You can also get up to the top of the deck to watch the starry sky at night.

3. Enjoying cooking class and yoga class on boat

Depending on the cruise of your choice, there usually are cooking and yoga classes. How amazing it is to do a few exercises under the sunlight in the middle of the unspoiled nature of Ha Long Bay? Then to warm up your day with a little cuisine discovery of cooking class, isn’t it interesting?

4. Climbing the mountains

Not only attractive by the charming beauty of water and romantic sea, Ha Long Bay with diverse and rugged terrains is also a challenge for travelers who love climbing. If you are a follower of this adventurous sport, probably the thorny cliffs, the glorious mountains, the majestic caves in Ha Long Bay will give you the feeling of longing to conquer.


Climbing up a mountain in Ha Long Bay under the heat of summer.

5. Visiting floating villages and fish farms

The bay’s floating villages draw a lot of attention of tourists and are one of the highlights of the trip. Local people in Ha Long Bay have been living in these floating houses for many generations as fishing is still the villagers’ main income. Even as a service, some communities offer home-stays to visitors with a very reasonable price as well. You might be surprised if the boat’s on-board chef stops to shop for fresh seafood from one, but get ready for your next fresh and delicous meals.

fishing villages

A floating village in a corner of Ha Long Bay.


1. Sticky rice with grilled chopped squid

sticky rice with grilled chopped squid
Sticky rice with grilled chopped squid

Sticky rice with golden grilled chopped squid served with fish sauce and pepper is a super delicous dish for breakfast or lunch.

2. Steamed pancake with grilled chopped squid

pancake with grilled chopped squid

“Banh cuon” (steamed pancake) with meat, mushrooms, fungus, shredded meat and onion-scented is served with famous grilled chopped squid, creating an unforgetable taste.

3. Ngan dish

Ngan dish

“Ngán” is a bivalve mollusk such as clams which can be processed in various ways: grilled, steamed, made soup, fried with noodles or vegetables. It can also be used to make wine with sea scent.

4. Sipunculus


This is a kind of sand worm, a kind of seafood that only exists in Ha Long. Fresh sipunculus fried with garlic spikes make a delicious dish. Sipunculus are rare so its price is very high, one kg can cost close to 4 million. But nobody can deny its wonderful taste.

5. Horseshoe crab

Horseshoe crab

Another attractive specialty of Ha Long, horseshoe crab, an arthropod crustacean, can be processed into a lot of delicious and unusual dishes such as: blood pudding, salad, sweet and sour fried legs, sauteed with lemon grass, etc.

6. Ca say Tien Yen

Ca say Tien Yen

“Cà sáy” is the hybrid of duck and cairina. Tien Yen people process “cà sáy” and make its specialized sauce which has the fragnant flavor of Cai Rong, Van Yen, Cat Hai fish sauce, the sweetness of Quang Tay sarsi and the mild pungency of  Tien Yen ginger grown on home soil.

7. Hoanh Bo soaked wine rice

Hoanh Bo soaked wine rice

This wine is made from the local specialty – glutinous rice with a very special process. Hoanh Bo soaked rice wine are sour, slightly sweet, which stimulates digestion that is very good, especially in the summer.


So, have you felt the beaches vibes yet?

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