Ever since I watched the episode of ‘Top Gear Vietnam’, the thought of visiting Halong Bay has been on my bucket list trips.
For those that have never heard of Halong Bay, it is an area just off Northern Vietnam in the Gulf of Tonkin. Here over 2000 islands (not that I have counted) made from limestone rise from the once crystal blue waters, which from 1994 has been designated a world heritage site.
However due to the numerous tourists that visit this area daily the waters are becoming rather polluted by the oil and trash which is emitted by the boat tours. There are strict regulations, with police taking note of tickets, tour companies and number of people, but this will have to improve if this area wants to be maintained for years to come.
Most people visit Halong Bay on a 3 day-2 night tour (which I recommend), but there are often a mix of reviews due to the endless options of tours for people.
In general, buses travel for 4 hours from Hanoi to Halong city each day before dropping everyone off at the dock to hop on a boat. Even though each tour sounds different, most have a similar itinerary which involves sleeping on the boat for a night that heading to Cat Ba Island to stay in a bungalow for the final night before returning the next day.
Whilst in Halong Bay on our tour we had the chance to go kayaking, have a cooking class, go squid fishing, visit a pearl farm, see Hang Sung Sot cave and not to forget just cruise around the karst scenery and floating villages of the area.
It is best to have a look at reviews before just heading to the nearest tour company to book a tour. The cheap options (<$60) are too good to be true and often involve a lot of unhappy customers. To get a worth while experience, but still on a budget, go for tours around $150-200, this does include transport, accommodation and food for 3 days, so can be a bargin. For those with no budget, luxury tours are available with prices reaching $1000!