Asia,  Destinations,  Trains, Planes & Rideshares,  Vietnam

Day trip to Halong Bay, Vietnam from Hanoi

I booked a day tour through Viator for a trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Halong Bay is about 3 hours away from Hanoi, so quite a long drive going there and back in one day…but a day trip is much cheaper than a multi-day cruise so I just went for it.

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Day tour vs. multi-day tour

Because a day tour is compressed, you don’t get to explore every single thing in Halong Bay. However, you do get to see quite a bit.

Day tour from Hanoi itinerary

Here’s what we did on the day tour that I took:

Stop at a pearl farm/jewelry store: Every bus on every tour stops to go pearl souvenir shopping, unfortunately. It’s a total cash grab and a waste of time, but if you need the toilet or a cup of coffee you can deal with that here.

Tuan Chau Island: This is where you get onto the boat that the actual tour is on. As the boat sails towards the main part of the bay, you pass Incense Burner Islet, Fighting Cock Islet and a few interesting sites like the Kissing Chickens rock formation.

Titop Island: You can either go hiking up to the top to see the views of the bay and island (which is what I did), or you can go swimming at the beach. I suppose if you’re fast you can do both, but we only stayed about an hour and it takes at least 30 minutes to get up to the viewpoint and back due to crowds.

Sung Sot Cave (Surprising Cave): Lots of cool stuff to see in here, but without a guide to explain it’s a bit mysterious. The most crowded part of the day was here; wall to wall tourists the whole way through. Some good views once you get out of the cave at the top of the mountain, though!

Kayak/boating around the bay at Luon Cave: Option to either take a kayak and take yourself through the bay, or get on a boat and have it rowed through. I suggest that if you’re not used to kayaking, NOT starting here at the bay. I saw so many people bang into each other, the rock walls, our boat…

It also included transportation to the Bay from Hanoi Old Quarter, a Vietnamese lunch (drinks separate charge), and a sunset snack before heading back to Hanoi.

Multi-day Halong Bay cruise itineraries

This differs depending on the length of the cruise you take, but generally the itinerary will be something like this one from the best-rated 2 day, 1 night cruise on Viator:

Day 1

Tuan Chau Island: Boarding the boat and having a light lunch or champagne snack. The multi-day tour boats are larger and have cabins for guests to sleep in. The boat starts moving towards the Bay and you’ll pass Incense Burner Islet, Fighting Cock Islet, etc.

Luon Cave: Cruise around the bay at Luon Cave by kayak or bamboo boat.

Titop Island: Go swimming at the beach or climb to the viewpoint and get a great view of Halong Bay and surrounding islands.

Back on the boat, you’ll have dinner and then some kind of evening entertainment. On this particular cruise, you’ll have a cooking class!

Day 2

Wake up early enough and you can join in on a Tai Chi class before breakfast and watch the sun rise from the sundeck.

Sung Sot Cave (Surprising Cave): Full of interesting stalactites and stalagmites shapes, plus a great view of the Bay once you exit at the top of the mountain.

After that is brunch and then transfer back to Hanoi.

So, you can see both tours go to the same places, but the multi-day tour is at a more leisurely pace and has food/accommodation included.

Lonely Planet Vietnam (Updated 2022)

Lonely Planet’s Vietnam is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Experience Hanoi’s labyrinth-like Old Quarter, kayak in Halong Bay, and wander through historic Hoi An; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Vietnam and begin your journey now!

What to bring on a trip to Halong Bay

I wish I packed more carefully for my day trip, as it was surprisingly difficult to get some things– either because we were short on time or it was more expensive than expected.

  • Water! Bring several bottles, at the very least. Plastic bottles aren’t allowed in Halong Bay, so try to get glass ones or bring a reusable one with you. It’s very hot on the beach, the boat, the Bay and you’ll get dehydrated quick. If you need to buy water, the boat has some for sale but it’s way more expensive than what you can buy outside.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, mosquito repellent, hat: Keep yourself safe from sunburn and bug bites. Bring sunscreen with you so you can reapply halfway through the day.
  • Snacks: Lunch is provided but not dinner, and by the time you get back to Hanoi it’s pretty late. Bring something with you so you’re not dependent on the chip selection at the marina mini-mart.
  • Battery pack for your phone: There’s nowhere to charge anything.
  • Cash: The boat I was on only accepted cash for drinks payment. Some boats take credit card, but it’ll have a fee.

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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