If there is one place in Vietnam that I wanted to go back to, that would be Halong Bay. I went there with my friends one winter so I’d love to visit this precious gem again to experience its magnificence in the summer. But despite the weather, the experience we had in Ha Long Bay was superb!
Plus, it was super cheap!
Our Halong Bay budget itinerary only cost $60 per person! It included return coach service (Hanoi to Ha Long and back), one night stay on the boat, one night stay in a hotel, all guided activities and meals! Say what?! If you found cheaper deal than this one, please let us know in the comments!
Here are some things to remember when choosing the best but cheap Halong Bay tour:
- Remember that the starting price is $50 for a 3D-2N itinerary. Anything way more than that is dubious unless you’re taking the luxury cruise! A few dollars higher is acceptable depending on the season and the number of people in your group.
- Remember that the tour package is usually all-inclusive except drinks.
- Remember that it takes 4 hours by bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, and another 4 hours going back. Going to Halong Bay for a day trip is not worth it.
- Remember that there is nothing much to do on the boat. To maximize the the tour, choose to stay only one night on the boat and another night on the island. This will give you more time to explore more places and scenery around Halong Bay.
- Remember to bring a positive attitude. To enjoy the trip, do not set a high expectation. A 3-day tour for less than 100 bucks is a steal but it isn’t grand either. Expect a mediocre or good-enough food and service.
There are many activities to do in Ha Long Bay other than staying on the boat which you can do without getting ripped off. We covered a lot of guided and unguided tours in our budget itinerary and left the islands wanting for more!
What We Did in Our Halong Bay Budget Itinerary
1. Soaking in the stunning scenery
Looking up and around and seeing nothing but endless limestone islets was an spectacular experience even with the haze that sometimes blurred the view. We stayed on the deck most of the time to relax and witness the sheer beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site. It is definitely well-worth seeing!
2. Kayaking the bay
Kayaking is the best way to explore the majesty of the 2000 uninhabited and towering rock formations. We rode the oars more closely to the bottom of the rock mountains and experienced the stillness of the bay. It was too cold to go for a swim so we just safely kayaked around in the calm waters.
3. Go caving
The tour included one visit to a cave called “Surprise Cave” although there was nothing really surprising inside. It was a bumper-to-bumper experience with other tourists and the cave was all lit up with different colors which makes the cave look very unnatural. Outside the cave awaits a scenic view over the bay which was far more interesting than the cave itself.
4. Viewing the sunset
The sunset in Halong Bay is a photographer’s dream (although the photo above doesn’t give justice to it). The boat was able to find the best spot for sunset viewing away from other hordes of tourist. I’ve seen countless of sunsets before but the one I witness in Halong Bay was truly beautiful!
On the second day of the tour, we were transported to Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay. We stayed in a two-star hotel and had (finally!) the time to explore on our own. The town was quiet when we got there probably because of the season which worked out well for me. I enjoyed exploring the island and seeing Halong Bay beyond organized tour.
6. Hiking in a national park
There was a short hike in Cat Ba National Park done before heading to the town from the pier. We were guided by a very jolly man who called himself “monkey”. It took us more or less 2 hours to complete the trek and the ascent was quite easy. The trail was a good place for close-to-nature trek and the summit, though not spectacular, was well-worth the sweat.
7. Exploring small beaches
There are a number of small white-sand beaches around Cat Ba Island that are worth exploring. There is a group of beaches about 1 km to the southeast side of the island including Cat Co 1, 2, 3. The beach here is beautiful with majestic scenery of mountain range, soft white sand and jade water ideal for swimming in the summer!
Have you been to Halong Bay? What would you add to these? Let’s hear them in the comments!