Halong Bay

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of the most popular places to visit for tourists in Southeast Asia. Here is some advice about the place, from a person who has been on 17 Halong Bay cruises during the past 6 years.

Due to my job as a tour leader, I have been visiting Halong Bay many many times with groups. I have also been there a few times on my own. So I have some experience in touring this part of the world. There are a few things you should think about before going there.


Should you take a day trip to Halong or go with an overnight cruise?

Overnight cruises are the best on Halong Bay.

Overnight cruises are the best on Halong Bay.


Unless you have a very limited amount of time to visit Halong Bay, then you should try to stay at least one night in the area. On a day trip to Halong Bay, you will only get to the most touristy part. This is where you will be elbowing your way through hundreds of other visitors. If you take a trip that lasts for two days or more, then you have a chance to get out and see some places where you are not sharing the experience with 50 other tour groups. Halong Bay really comes to it’s right at dusk and dawn. That is when the light and the scenery is a lot nicer than during the day time hours. So try to stay at least one night out there. This can both be done as a trip where you stay on a boat with cabins, or as a trip where you stay on one of the many islands in the bar.


Avoid the Sung Sot cave if you can.

Some people might disagree with me on this one. Cause the Sung Sot cave is the most popular place to visit on Halong Bay. For that simple reason I think you should try and go on a trip where you do not go there. If you have visited a few caves around the world, then I will guarantee you that you do not think the Sung Sot cave is the prettiest you have seen. The crowds there can be insane. With pushing and screaming and yelling from hundreds of people trying to get the right photo shoot. The view from the top of the cave is fantastic. You have fantastic views in many other areas of the bay, where you won’t have to fight the same crowds. It can actually be hard sometimes to find a trip that does not take you there, cause all companies seem to think that this has to be part of the tour, but try to avoid it if you can.


When is the best time of year to visit Halong Bay?

7/11 Halong Bay style.

7/11 Halong Bay style.


Halong Bay is best visited during spring and fall. During the winter it can be quite cold at night in Halong Bay. During the summer months you have a lot of rain storms in the area. Trips are often cancelled or shortened during summer, so that you are not allowed to stay overnight on the boat. This is for security reasons after a backpacker boat sank a few years ago and several young backpackers drowned. I think it’s fair that they control the ships during bad weather as it can get pretty extreme in the region. You do not want to be out at sea during a thunderstorm at night. So I suggest that you avoid summer months as this is when you have the most cancellations. November and April on the other hand, tend to be the best months to visit, with nice warm weather and not so much rain.


Budget cruise or luxury cruise on Halong Bay.

Cruising Halong Bay.

Cruising Halong Bay.


I have taken both budget cruises (when I was on my own) and luxury cruises (when I was working there as a tour leader). I liked them both. The luxury cruises are really nice. Some of the boats have super nice restaurants on board for instance. These are suitable for people who want to treat themselves to some luxury. The budget boats that most backpackers take are generally quite ok too though. I have been very happy with the two different budget boats I have been on. Cabins were a little more simple and food was not served by uniformed waiters. it was still nice food anyway. I had no complaints whatsoever on the trips. Back a few years ago, you had some really bad boats cruising Halong Bay, where safety and comfort was horrible. They lost their license to do tours after the accident where one of them sang a few years ago. So I would say that if you don’t mind simple living then you will be fine on a budget cruise. For backpackers who are used to hostel living, a backpacker cruise on Halong Bay will be quite luxurious, even if they chose one of the cheaper cruises.


What company should you use?


Honestly speaking, I have been happy with all the boats I have been on when I have been cruising Halong Bay. I do not like to pick one over the other. I think your main concern should be what tour they make on the bay (like visiting other places than the Sung Sot cave). So if you ask me, then take a look at their itineraries more than at the facilities on the boat.

Vietnam is beautiful.

Vietnam is beautiful.

This was my 5 cents about visiting Halong Bay. Feel free to write me if you have any further questions.



  1. Great advice! Hopefully I will travel to Halong Bay later this year and I will make sure to avoid Sung Sot cave that is for sure. Thanks for a great post 🙂

  2. We skipped Ha Long when we visited Vietnam…maybe we should go back. Great tips!

  3. Hey, how are u? thanks for the tips, would u mind please sharing or telling me what cruise did u enjoy the most and the one that has the best itinerary to show around the bay?

    I know u said that u couldnt tell which one is better but at least would u share the name of the boat tour you would recommend without paying too much money but also not the cheapest one, maybe in between both price ranges.

    Thanks again

    • Hi’ Sebastian. I am really not that keen on recommending a particular company, cause that recommendation will be totally random. Since an old shitty boat full of backpackers sank a few years ago and some people drowned, the authorities have cracked down a lot on the bad boats. The result is that the boats have a fairly decent standard these days. So you should not worry too much about what boat it is. the itinerary is more important. Try and get as far out in the bay as possible and away from the congested part. Especially the area around the Sung Sot cave, where all the daytrippers go.

  4. Hi Claus
    Since u don’t recommend Sung Sot, am not fond of crowded places myself, may I know which cave would u recommend. Is there any world war II vietnamese cave to explore in Halong?

  5. We are headed to Halong Bay next month, so on the bright side that is November, but we will not have enough time to follow your biggest suggestion. We are arriving via cruise ship, at about 8 am and leaving the following day at 1 pm. The ship offers a very expensive excursion that goes overnight, but how far can it go if we have to be back onboard by midday on day two? What would you recommend for us?

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