Wondering how many days in Halong Bay is enough? This Halong Bay travel guide gives you all you need to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Who hasn’t dreamt of visiting Halong Bay?
Giant limestone rocks erupt out of emerald-green waters around you. You sit back, sipping a cool drink aboard your cruise and enjoying the view. Can life get any better?
Dreaming of going there isn’t the problem.
Deciding how long to go for? Now that’s a different story.
But I went, I saw, and I regretted not staying longer! So I’m here to help you avoid my mistake and maximize your time at Halong Bay. I’ve even included a couple of itineraries in Halong Bay to help you out even more.
So, let’s dive into the good stuff so you can start planning your trip!
How many days should you spend in Halong Bay?
Many travelers choose a 2-day, 1-night itinerary when visiting Halong Bay (including me!).
This allows you time to experience the main highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage Site without emptying your pockets or missing out on too much work.
For example, I woke up early on my first day to head out on a small fishing boat to tour Halong Bay for most of the day before enjoying a night out. The following day, I explored the surrounding area and climbed to the top of Poem Mountain (Bai Tho) before heading back to Hanoi to catch my flight later that evening.
If you don’t have much time and only have time for one day, it’s possible. Just expect a long day spent traveling to and from Halong.
Top activities to do in Halong Bay
There’s nothing quite like cruising between the giant, tree-speckled cliffs of Halong Bay in a boat.
There are over 1,500 limestone cliffs dotting the bay’s emerald waters, and a boat ride allows you to enjoy and even explore them at a slower pace.
The only thing that there may be more of is cruise options, as companies line up to entice you onto their cruise with activities such as Tai Chi, cooking classes, and more. However, if you’d prefer a more straightforward and less-crowded option, you can opt for a private tour to explore at your own pace.
Most cruises offer multiple tours to appeal to travelers, such as a simple day tour or an overnight cruise for those who want a more immersive and less touristy trip.
Kayaking and swimming
Don’t want to splurge on an entire tour?
That’s alright. You can still enjoy the beautiful waters by renting a kayak and paddling around the islets. Or, dive on in and get wet with a cool swim.
Depending on the season, this is an excellent way to cool off and enjoy the scenery at the same time.
Want to go even deeper into Halong Bay?
Then how about exploring a few of its amazing caves in the area, like Sung Sot, Trinh Nu, Thien Cun, or Dau Go?
Inside you’ll see impressive stalactites and stalagmites while simultaneously learning about the history and culture of the area. For example, did you know during the Vietnam War (or the American War for the Vietnamese), many of these caves served as bases and hideouts for the Vietnamese?
So, if you enjoy heading underground, this is the perfect activity for you.
Fishing and squid fishing
Squid love light.
As a result, you’ll see the bay dotted with bright lights from squid boats every night. And that’s the perfect opportunity to get a unique local experience by joining local fishermen.
Learn traditional techniques and try your hand at catching some squid.
If you’re not a fan of squid, then try fishing for grouper, snapper, and other fish species that live in the bay.
Long story short, you won’t have any trouble finding things to do in Halong Bay.
Best time to visit Halong Bay
The peak season to visit Halong Bay is from November to April.
The weather is mild, making it the perfect setting for a cruise, but it also could be a bit chillier. However, it will also be the busiest time as this is when most tourists visit.
So expect higher prices during this time as well.
From May to October is the monsoon season, so expect frequent rainfall and hot temperatures. But you can also expect fewer crowds (and lower prices!) because most tourists want clear days for their vacation. Plus, the water is warmer so this is a great time to swim or kayak!
Halong Bay itineraries
I’ve broken this down into a day trip and a 2-day trip itinerary.
Had I had longer, I would have loved a third day. But that’ll be on a future trip.
So, here are some itineraries to help you get started.
Day Trip itinerary for Halong Bay
If you’re short on time, a day trip to Halong Bay is a great option.
The tour starts in Hanoi and follows this schedule:
- 8:30-9:00 AM — Leave Hanoi
- 12:00 PM — Arrive at Halong Bay and board the cruise
- 12:00 PM-2:00 PM — Tour Halong Bay & surrounding caves
- 2:00-4:00 PM — Explore Halong City and Poem Mountain
- 4:00 PM — Return to Hanoi
- 7:00 PM — Arrive back in Hanoi
If you’d like to make things easy, I recommend using one of the following tours to save yourself time and hassle. Viator offers tons of popular tours and makes it easy for travelers to find different experiences easily. Check ’em out 👇
2 days in Halong Bay itinerary
For a better experience, a 2-day itinerary is a great option.
You can go slower and get to enjoy more of the bay. Most people opt for the overnight cruise, so that’s what I’ll detail here.
So, your schedule can look something like this:
- 8:00 AM-9:00 AM — Head to Halong Bay from Hanoi
- 12:00 PM: Arrive at Halong Bay and board the cruise
- 12:30 PM: Eat lunch on the cruise and admire the beauty of Halong
- 1:30-8:00 PM: Relax, do activities, eat, and…did I say relax?
- 7:00 AM: Wake up with a Tai Chi session
- 7:30 AM: Eat breakfast
- 8:30 AM-12:00 PM: Explore and enjoy your time on the cruise in Halong Bay
- 12:30 PM: Explore Poem Mountain and Halong City
- 3:00 PM: Return to Hanoi
- 7:00 PM: Arrive back in Hanoi
Getting to Halong Bay
When planning a trip to Halong Bay, one of the first considerations is how to get there. Halong Bay is located in northern Vietnam, and most visitors arrive from either Hanoi or Hai Phong.
Hanoi to Halong Bay
Situated around 102 miles (164km) from Ha Long Bay. The trip used to take 3.5 hours, but it now takes 2.5 hours, thanks to a new expressway.
- Cruise bus
- You can book this through a cruise tour company. Companies will take care of your transportation if you book through them.
- Private car
- There are plenty of drivers that you can find to book a private car if you choose this method. Naturally, the more expensive, the more comfortable.
- There will be bus terminals inside the airport where you can find bus transportation to Ha Long Bay. One way is around 100,000 – 200,000 VND ($5-$10).
- A relatively new mode of transportation, travelers can get a scenic view of Ha Long Bay, usually around 15 minutes. It takes approximately 45 minutes to get from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.
Hai Phong to Halong Bay
Closer to Ha Long Bay, only 46 miles (75km) away, Hai Phong also has excellent travel options. Road travel used to take around two hours. Now, thanks to the new highway, it takes about 45 minutes.
- There is a local bus system that can be used, similar to the one that can be used in Hanoi. A ticket will cost between 40,000 VND to 100,000 VND ($2-$4)
- A taxi would cost roughly 830,000 VND ($36) from Hai Phong to Ha Long Bay.
- Departing from the Ben Binh Terminal and taking travelers to Car Vieng or Cat Ba. A ticket costs 130,000 VND to 170,000 VND ($6-$7).
Halong Bay Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I spend in Halong Bay?
The duration of your stay in Halong Bay depends on your preferences and budget.
Generally, most people recommend 2 or 3 days.
The most popular is a 2-day, 1-night option, which is enough time to experience the beauty of Halong Bay without spending too much money.
However, if you have more time and want to explore the area in depth, a 3-day, 2-night cruise is a great choice.
What are the top things to do in Halong Bay?
The top things to do in Halong Bay include taking a cruise to explore the limestone karsts, kayaking through the caves and lagoons, visiting floating villages to experience the local culture, and enjoying seafood.
Halong Bay is seafood-focused, and whether you want to catch it, prepare it, or eat it, you can do all of them here.
You can also participate in squid fishing, hiking, and swimming.
Is one day enough to explore Halong Bay?
While exploring Halong Bay in one day is possible, it is not recommended as you will miss out on many of the attractions and experiences the area offers.
Your Halong Bay tour will be rushed, as will your entire Bay trip, and you won’t get the whole experience.
I recommend spending two days to get the best Halong Bay.
What are the must-see attractions in Halong Bay?
The must-see attractions in Halong Bay include Sung Sot Cave, Ti Top Island, Cua Van Floating Village, and Luon Cave.
These attractions offer a unique glimpse into the area’s natural beauty and local culture.
How long will you spend on your trip to Halong Bay?
Deciding how long to stay in Halong Bay is a tough decision.
If you have the time, I recommend staying longer so you can explore the surrounding areas like Cat Ba Island, Lan Ha Bay, and Bai Tu Long Bay. That way, you can fully appreciate everything the area has to offer.
But, if you’re short on time, it’s hard to go wrong with a Halong cruise — whether it’s a day or night cruise.
Hopefully, these itineraries helped you on your visit to Halong Bay. And, if you’re considering other parts of Vietnam, then Hoi An or Da Nang is always an interesting comparison!
So, let me know in the comments what your plans are! And sign up for my newsletter so you can get more travel info straight to your inbox!