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Hanoi to Halong Bay: Unforgettable Tours of Vietnam's Breathtaking Wonder

Posted By: Christina Lee / Vietnam Travel Guides
Halong Bay Tour from Hanoi is a popular tour package for visitors who want to explore the stunning natural beauty of Halong Bay. This tour allows tourists to experience a day trip or multiple days excursion starting from Hanoi and includes activities such as cruising through the bay, visiting caves, kayaking, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery. With various tour options available, it is a perfect opportunity to discover the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay from the capital city of Vietnam.

Halong Bay: The basics

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam - (Source: Collected)

Introduction to Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in northeastern Vietnam. It is known for its stunning limestone islands, emerald waters, and scenic beauty. The bay stretches over 1,500 square kilometers and is home to around 1,600 islands and islets.

Why visit Halong Bay?

Halong Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam due to its natural beauty and unique landscape. The bay offers a range of activities for visitors, including cruising, kayaking, swimming, and exploring local caves. It's a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those seeking a picturesque getaway.

How to visit Halong Bay from Hanoi

Distance between Hanoi and Halong Bay

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is approximately 170 kilometers away from Halong Bay. The distance can be covered by road or by taking a cruise from Hanoi to the bay.

Option 1: Halong Bay day tour from Hanoi

Overview of a day tour

A day tour to Halong Bay from Hanoi is a popular option for those who have limited time. The tour typically includes transportation from Hanoi to the bay, a boat cruise around the islands, visits to caves and grottoes, and a seafood lunch on board.

Duration of the tour

A typical day tour to Halong Bay from Hanoi lasts for about 10-12 hours. This includes the travel time to and from Hanoi and the time spent exploring the bay.

Pros of a day tour

One of the advantages of opting for a day tour is that it is more budget-friendly compared to an overnight cruise. It also allows you to experience the beauty of Halong Bay without having to spend a night on the boat. Day tours are ideal for those who are short on time or prefer not to stay overnight.

Cons of a day tour

The main drawback of a day tour is that you have limited time to explore the bay. You may not get to experience the sunset or sunrise over the bay, which are considered to be the most magical moments in Halong Bay. Additionally, the bay can get crowded during peak tourist seasons, which may affect the overall experience.

Option 2: Halong Bay overnight cruise from Hanoi

Hanoi & Halong Bay Tour

Hanoi & Halong Bay Tour - (Source: Collected)

Overview of an overnight cruise

An overnight cruise from Hanoi to Halong Bay allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the bay. The cruise usually includes transportation, accommodation on board a traditional Vietnamese junk boat, meals, and various activities such as kayaking, swimming, and squid fishing.

Duration of the cruise

An overnight cruise typically lasts for 1-2 nights, depending on the package chosen. This allows for a more leisurely exploration of the bay and the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing sunrise and sunset.

Pros of an overnight cruise

An overnight cruise offers a more relaxed and immersive experience of Halong Bay. You have more time to explore the islands, caves, and beaches, and can enjoy activities such as kayaking or swimming. Staying overnight on the boat allows you to witness the breathtaking beauty of the sunrise and sunset, which are truly unforgettable moments.

Cons of an overnight cruise

The cost of an overnight cruise is generally higher compared to a day tour, as it includes accommodation and additional activities. Some travelers may find it challenging to sleep on a boat, especially if they are prone to seasickness. It's important to choose a reputable cruise operator to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Option 3: Hanoi to Halong Bay independently

How to travel independently

If you prefer to have more flexibility and control over your itinerary, you can travel independently from Hanoi to Halong Bay. This involves taking a bus or a private car from Hanoi to Halong City, where you can then book a boat or join a tour to explore the bay.

Pros of traveling independently

Traveling independently allows you to customize your itinerary and choose your preferred activities in Halong Bay. It also gives you the freedom to stay longer or explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. This option is suitable for adventurous travelers who enjoy planning their own trips.

Cons of traveling independently

Traveling independently requires more planning and research compared to joining a tour. It may also be more time-consuming and potentially more expensive, as you need to arrange transportation and accommodation separately. Additionally, navigating through the various options and logistics can be challenging for first-time visitors.

In conclusion, visiting Halong Bay from Hanoi offers a captivating experience of Vietnam's natural beauty. Whether you choose a day tour, an overnight cruise, or traveling independently, you are sure to be mesmerized by the majestic limestone islands and emerald waters. Make sure to plan ahead and choose the option that best suits your preferences and budget for an unforgettable Halong Bay adventure.

Things to do in Halong Bay & surrounds

Unlock the Magic of Halong Bay with Tour from Hanoi

Unlock the Magic of Halong Bay with Tour from Hanoi - (Source: Collected)

Exploring Halong Bay

Halong Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination. The bay is known for its stunning limestone karsts, emerald waters, and picturesque islands. One of the best ways to explore Halong Bay is by taking a cruise. There are numerous cruise options available, ranging from day cruises to overnight stays on traditional junk boats. On a cruise, you can admire the breathtaking scenery, visit caves, kayak through hidden lagoons, and enjoy activities like fishing and swimming.

Visiting Cat Ba Island

Located southeast of Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island is the largest island in the area and offers a unique experience for visitors. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, lush national park, and diverse wildlife. One of the main attractions on Cat Ba Island is the Cat Ba National Park, which is home to various species of plants and animals, including the golden-headed langur, one of the rarest primates in the world. Visitors can explore the park on foot or by bike, and enjoy hiking trails that lead to scenic viewpoints.

Discovering Bai Tu Long Bay

Less crowded than Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay is located to the northeast of the main bay. It offers similar breathtaking landscapes and is perfect for those seeking a more tranquil experience. Bai Tu Long Bay is characterized by its emerald waters, limestone karsts, and floating fishing villages. Visitors can take a boat trip to explore the bay, go kayaking, and even stay overnight on a traditional junk boat.

Exploring Sung Sot Cave

Sung Sot Cave, also known as Surprise Cave, is one of the most famous caves in Halong Bay. It is located on Bo Hon Island and can be reached by boat or kayak. The cave is known for its impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as its spacious chambers. Inside the cave, visitors can explore different chambers and admire various rock formations that resemble familiar objects.

Halong City tips

Arriving in Halong City

Halong City is the gateway to Halong Bay, and most visitors arrive here before heading out to the bay. The city can be reached by road from Hanoi, which is approximately a 3 to 4-hour drive. There are also options to travel by helicopter or seaplane for those seeking a more luxurious and scenic experience. Upon arrival in Halong City, visitors can find various accommodations, ranging from budget guesthouses to luxurious resorts.

Exploring Halong City

While Halong City itself may not be as scenic as Halong Bay, it still offers some interesting attractions for visitors. One of the must-visit places in Halong City is the Bai Tho Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the city and the bay. Visitors can hike up the mountain or take a cable car to reach the viewpoint. Halong City also has a night market where visitors can try local street food and buy souvenirs.

Hanoi to Halong Bay: Summary

Let us take you on an unforgettable journey through this UNESCO World Heritage Site

Let us take you on an unforgettable journey through this UNESCO World Heritage Site - (Source: Collected)

Getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay is a popular route for tourists visiting Vietnam. There are several transportation options available, including buses, private cars, and organized tours. The most common and convenient mode of transportation is by road, and it takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to travel from Hanoi to Halong City. From Halong City, visitors can easily access Halong Bay by taking a cruise or a ferry.

What to pack when you visit Halong Bay

Essential Items

When visiting Halong Bay, it is important to pack essential items to ensure a comfortable trip. These items include lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for the tropical climate, comfortable walking shoes, a hat to protect from the sun, sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellent. It is also advisable to pack a small backpack to carry your belongings during excursions and a waterproof bag to protect your electronics and valuables from water.

Optional Items

In addition to the essentials, there are optional items that you may consider packing for your trip to Halong Bay. These include a swimsuit for swimming and snorkeling, a camera to capture the stunning scenery, binoculars for bird-watching and wildlife spotting, a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste, and a travel adapter if necessary.

Tips for being a responsible traveler in Halong Bay

Respecting the Environment

As a responsible traveler, it is important to respect the natural environment of Halong Bay. Avoid littering and dispose of waste properly in designated bins. Refrain from touching or disturbing marine life and corals. Choose eco-friendly tour operators that prioritize sustainable practices, such as reducing plastic waste and supporting local communities.

Supporting Local Communities

When visiting Halong Bay, try to support the local communities by purchasing locally-made souvenirs and dining at local restaurants. This helps to contribute to the local economy and preserve the unique culture of the region. Additionally, consider participating in responsible tourism activities, such as volunteering or donating to local conservation efforts.

Following Rules and Regulations

Be mindful of the rules and regulations set by the local authorities and tour operators. Follow instructions given by guides and crew members during excursions and activities. Respect restricted areas, especially in sensitive ecological zones. By following these guidelines, you can help preserve the beauty of Halong Bay for future generations to enjoy.

Halong Bay alternatives

Floating fishing villages in Halong Bay

Floating fishing villages in Halong Bay - (Source: Collected)

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is a popular alternative to Halong Bay and is located just off the coast of northern Vietnam. With beautiful beaches, limestone karsts, and lush jungles, Cat Ba Island offers a similar scenic experience to Halong Bay. Visitors can take a boat tour around the island, kayak through the stunning Lan Ha Bay, or hike through the national park to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay is located northeast of Halong Bay and is often considered a hidden gem. With fewer tourists compared to Halong Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay offers a more tranquil and pristine environment. Visitors can explore the bay's limestone islands, swim in crystal-clear waters, and witness local life in floating fishing villages. Bai Tu Long Bay is also home to several beautiful beaches where visitors can relax and soak up the sun.

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, also known as the "Halong Bay on land," is a landlocked province in northern Vietnam that offers a unique alternative to Halong Bay. Ninh Binh is characterized by its dramatic limestone formations, verdant rice fields, and peaceful countryside. Visitors can take a boat tour along the scenic Tam Coc or Trang An rivers, explore ancient temples and pagodas, or hike up to the stunning viewpoint of Hang Mua Peak for a panoramic view of the region.

Where to stay in Hanoi

Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is the historic heart of Hanoi and a popular choice for travelers. It offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget hostels to boutique hotels. Staying in the Old Quarter provides easy access to Hanoi's famous street food scene, vibrant markets, and historical attractions such as Hoan Kiem Lake and the Hanoi Opera House.

French Quarter

The French Quarter, also known as the Colonial Quarter, is known for its elegant architecture and wide, tree-lined boulevards. It offers a more upscale accommodation experience with luxury hotels and fine dining options. The French Quarter is home to several landmarks, including the iconic St. Joseph's Cathedral and the Temple of Literature.

Tay Ho District

Tay Ho District is located on the banks of the scenic West Lake and offers a peaceful and scenic retreat from the bustling city center. It is known for its expat community and offers a range of accommodations, from lakeside resorts to serviced apartments. Tay Ho District is also famous for its stunning sunsets and popular lakeside restaurants and cafes.

Vietnam essentials

Halong Bay day tour from Hanoi (7 hour cruise)

Halong Bay day tour from Hanoi (7 hour cruise) - (Source: Collected)

Visa requirements

Most visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country. Tourists can obtain a visa on arrival or apply for an e-visa before their trip. It is important to check the visa requirements and validity to ensure a smooth and hassle-free entry into Vietnam.


Hanoi is well-connected to other major cities in Vietnam through domestic flights, buses, and trains. Within the city, travelers can use taxis, motorbike taxis (xe om), or ride-sharing services to get around. Exploring Hanoi's Old Quarter on foot is also a popular option due to its compact size and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Local currency

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). It is recommended to have some local currency on hand for small purchases and to pay for street food or transportation. Major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and shops in urban areas, but it is advisable to carry cash for smaller establishments or rural areas.

More Vietnam travel resources

Hanoi street tour

One of the best ways to experience the vibrant food scene in Hanoi is by taking a street food tour. These guided tours allow visitors to sample a variety of local dishes, from pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) to banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich). Along the way, visitors can also learn about the history and culture of Hanoi as they explore its bustling streets and markets.

Best things to do in Hanoi

Hanoi offers a wealth of attractions and experiences for visitors. Some of the best things to do in Hanoi include visiting the Old Quarter, exploring the Temple of Literature, watching a traditional water puppet show, and visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum. Other popular activities include cycling around West Lake, visiting the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, and taking a cyclo (pedicab) ride around the city.

Hanoi tourism

Hanoi is a major tourist destination in Vietnam, known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. The city offers a mix of ancient temples, colonial architecture, and bustling markets, providing visitors with a diverse range of experiences. Whether it's exploring the narrow streets of the Old Quarter, tasting street food at bustling markets, or learning about Vietnam's history at museums, Hanoi has something to offer every traveler.

Halong Bay Day Trip Hanoi

Get ready to experience the stunning limestone cliffs, sparkling emerald waters, and charming floating villages!

Get ready to experience the stunning limestone cliffs, sparkling emerald waters, and charming floating villages! - (Source: Collected)


A day trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi is a popular choice for travelers who have limited time but still want to experience the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The day trip typically includes a scenic drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay, a boat tour around the bay, and opportunities for swimming, kayaking, or exploring limestone caves.


The exact itinerary may vary depending on the tour operator, but a typical day trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi includes the following highlights:

- Early morning pick-up from your hotel in Hanoi

- Scenic drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay (approximately 3-4 hours)

- Arrival at Halong Bay and boarding the tour boat

- Cruising through the bay and admiring the limestone karsts

- Visiting popular attractions such as Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave) or Titov Island

- Enjoying a seafood lunch on board the boat

- Optional activities such as swimming, kayaking, or visiting floating fishing villages

- Return to Hanoi in the late afternoon or evening

Tips for the day trip

- It is advisable to book the day trip in advance to secure your spot, especially during peak tourist seasons.

- Bring sun protection such as a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses, as the sun can be intense in Halong Bay.

- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for boat travel and walking on uneven surfaces.

- Don't forget to pack a swimsuit and towel if you plan to take part in water activities.

- Bring some cash for additional expenses, such as drinks or souvenirs.

- Follow the instructions and safety guidelines provided by the tour guide for a smooth and enjoyable experience.

In conclusion, for travelers wishing to explore beautiful alternatives to Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Ninh Binh offer stunning landscapes and unique experiences. When choosing where to stay in Hanoi, the Old Quarter, French Quarter, and Tay Ho District provide different atmospheres and amenities to suit various preferences. It is important to consider visa requirements, transportation options, and the local currency when planning a trip to Vietnam. Hanoi has a diverse range of attractions and experiences, including street food tours, must-visit landmarks, and a vibrant tourism industry. Lastly, a day trip to Halong Bay from Hanoi is an excellent option for those with limited time, offering a condensed yet memorable experience of this natural wonder. In conclusion, a Halong Bay tour from Hanoi is a must-do experience for anyone visiting Vietnam. With various tour options available, travelers can choose from day trips to extended stays, all providing an opportunity to explore the breathtaking beauty of Halong Bay. The tours offer a chance to witness the iconic limestone karsts and emerald waters, and engage in exciting activities like kayaking, swimming, and visiting floating fishing villages. Moreover, Hanoi itself is a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage and a diverse culinary scene. If you have some extra time in Hanoi before or after your Halong Bay tour, consider embarking on a food tour to sample the delicious local dishes. Indulge in flavorsome dishes like pho, bun cha, and banh mi while exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi. Aside from food, Hanoi also offers a range of other attractions and activities. Take a stroll through the charming Old Quarter, visit the historic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, or explore the unique architecture of the Temple of Literature. Hanoi is a city that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity, providing endless opportunities for exploration. Overall, a Halong Bay tour from Hanoi is an ideal way to combine natural beauty, cultural experiences, and culinary delights. Whether you choose a day trip or a longer excursion, this journey promises to be a memorable adventure. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a remarkable tour that showcases the best of both Hanoi and Halong Bay.

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