5 Best Tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
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Located in northeast Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay contains over 1,900 islands and islets! Formed from limestone karst and jutting up from the water, these islands are so unique that the area, all part of the Cat Ba Archipelago, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Ha Long can be translated to mean Bay of Descending Dragons. Will you see a dragon here? Perhaps not, but let serendipity (or a sea serpent) find you! 

5 Best Tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

Here are our 5 best tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

5 Best Tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

How to Get There

Check beforehand–upon entering the country, it is possible to get a Vietnam visa upon arrival. Many people take a bus from Hanoi, which is about a four hour drive. Taxis or private cars are available for hire to get you there. You can also take a seaplane, for a more entrancing view of the area than is available on a bus.

How to Experience Halong Bay

Many people take a cruise around Halong Bay, and there is a plethora of options, from day cruises to multiple day cruises, and from budget to private and luxury cruises. Do your research, as experiences (and cruise safety) vary. A booze cruise is a far different experience than an off the beaten path itinerary with a small group. Also look into the cruise activities, which can range from sea kayaking to caving to cooking lessons. Many locals live in floating fishing villages; if you are interested in learning about local culture, ascertain if your cruise experience includes a stop here (if even to buy fresh fish for dinner). 

5 Best Tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

When to Visit Halong Bay

With four seasons, it is important to pay attention to the weather, so that you have an optimal experience (of course!). A good time to visit is the period from March until May. Be sure to check the dates of public holidays, so that you avoid even more tourists than usual. Low season runs from June through September, so prices are less, but so is the weather. Another good time to visit is October-November; December-February is the coldest and least optimal time to visit. 

What to Avoid

With the popularity of this beautiful area, there are many options for visiting. Book your tours or cruises through your hotel, the cruise line, or a reputable travel agent. Be sure to ask exactly what is included. 

As well, research the tour routes. Cruises that venture further afield than Halong Bay Harbor will avoid the majority of popular (read: inexpensive) tourist cruises. Don’t swim in overcrowded areas, as the water is polluted and not safe. The farther you get from the crowds, the more natural and clean the environment will be.

5 Best Tips for Visiting Vietnam's Spectacular Halong Bay

How to Travel Responsibly

Along with what to avoid, it’s important to travel responsibly in this popular, beautiful location. Look for travel companies that promote responsible travel in the area, work hard to keep a minimal ecological footprint, and collaborate with locals on community projects to improve ecosystem. 

The Cat Ba langur, a local primate, has been declared an endangered species. Great effort has been made to stop poaching and protect these unique primates. When you travel in Halong Bay, be sure to support travel companies that work with Cat Ba National Park to protect the langurs, and promote responsible tourism (and development) in the area. Don’t eat primate while you are in the area, and avoid spending money in establishments that serve it.

Have you been to Halong Bay? What are your best travel tips?

 

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