You simply can’t visit Vietnam without casting eyes on the awe-inspiring natural wonder that is Halong Bay. We’re not exaggerating here when we say that this trip may just be one of the highlights of your entire backpacking trip!
Known to the Vietnamese as the ‘Bay of the Descending Dragons,’ this UNESCO world heritage site is an area made up of almost 3,000 limestone islands that jut out of emerald waters everywhere you look, creating a truly magical landscape. As you sail through the waters on your Chinese Sail Boat or ‘Junk’ you’ll glance floating villages, buoyant huts tied to rocks, tiny beaches and local children fishing in the plentiful waters.
Choosing a Halong Bay Tour
Some Halong Bay trips include the chance to sea kayak and swim amongst the rocks and into breathtaking lagoons. Make sure you choose one of these! From the water’s surface, you can really feel the vastness of the area, peering in caves, listening to seabirds; it’s a wonderful way to experience the beauty of Halong Bay.
Then as the sun begins to set on this remarkable environment, you’ll position yourself on the boat deck and crack open a cold beer… the life of a backpacker is good, eh?! Spending the night on the boat with the backdrop of islands silhouetted all around is an amazing experience.
If you’ve chosen a three day trip to Halong Bay, this will likely include an overnight stay in Cat Ba National Park. A tropical, mountainous isle covered in dense forest and dotted with golden sandy beaches.
While it may be some people’s idea of hell, many backpackers go crazy for the 3-day 2-night party trips (booze cruises) to Halong Bay. Choose a trip with Vietnam Backpackers’ Hostels on board the suitably named ‘Jolly Roger’ if you’re in the mood for a party! Endless beers, good tunes and an almost guaranteed group of ‘up-for’it’ backpackers will ensure that you have a great night! Other party tours include Halong Hideaway Tour and Halong Bay Party Tours.
With Vietnam Backpacker’s, you’ll spend the night on a deserted island in Lan Ha Bay, ‘Castaways Island.’ This is where the adventure really begins as you can try your hand at rock-climbing, wake-boarding, water-skiing and even high-speed tubing! Or just a spot of beach volleyball as you take in the stunning scenery all around you. Then as night falls, a unique full moon party experience awaits…
Can you go independently without a tour?
It is possible to do a DIY trip to Halong Bay if you know what you’re doing. Read our alternative guide to Halong Bay here.
Getting to Halong Bay:
Trips to Halong Bay (via Halong City) can be booked from any of the travel agents and many guest houses in Hanoi. Trip prices range from $35 to up to $200 and you definitely pay for what you get. If you can afford it, we suggest you go mid-range, where the boats and food served are a lot better quality.
The trip you book and where you book it will determine the crowd you end up with. (E.g. The Halong Bay trips booked at popular backpacker hostels tend to turn into ‘Booze Cruises!’) Make sure you ask about the activities and itinerary before you depart. One tip would be; don’t rush it. You need time to savour the environment fully – and an overnight on Cat Ba Island is well worth it!