HaLong Bay: An A to Z Travel Guide

 A full travel guide to Halong, giving you all the information you need, from the bus fare to the best local restaurants.

The Halong Bay

HALONG – AN OVERVIEW

Halong, a bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, is a famous tourist attraction in Vietnam. With thousands of magnificent natural limestone karsts and isles, a stupendous achievement of nature, the Halong Bay has been repeatedly recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The breathtaking beauty of the nature here attract a large number of domestic and international tourists.

Halong Bay (by Vietjet Air)

TRANSPORTATION: HOW TO GET TO HALONG

BY CAR/MOTORBIKE

  • Hanoi – Bac Ninh – Halong Route: 155 km.

This is the shortest route from Hanoi to Halong, which takes about 3 hours by car.

– Hanoi to Sai Dong Fork via National Highway 5: 10 km

– Sai Dong to Bac Ninh via National Highway 1: 23 km

– Bac Ninh – Pha Lai – Chi Linh – Dong Trieu – Uong Bi – Halong: 122 km

  • Hanoi – Bac Ninh – Halong Route: 160 km.

– Noi Bai International Airport to Bac Ninh via Noi Bai – Bac Ninh Road: 18 km

– Bac Ninh – Pha Lai – Sao Do – Dong Trieu – Uong Bi – Halong via National Highway 18A: 142 km

BY BUS

You can easily find a bus to Halong at the bus stations of Luong Yen or My Dinh, the first departing at 6 AM and the last at 5 PM. They depart once every 5 to 15 minutes, and reach the destination of Bai Chay Bus Station, Halong, after about 3 to 4 hours. The standard bus fare is 100,000 dong, while a sleeper coach will cost 200,000 dong.

BY TRAIN

Take the Halong Express train at Gia Lam Station, which departs at 7:05 AM and arrives at Halong after 5 hours. The fare is USD5 per person for Vietnamese passengers, and USD 15 for foreign passengers.

BY SEAPLANE

Apart from the traditional means of transportation, travellers to Halong from Hanoi now has a brand new choice: taking Hai Au Airline’s luxurious seaplane.

The seaplane offers seats for the 2 pilots and 12 passengers. It’s a fast and comfy way to travel, and is designed with extra big windows to allow passengers to enjoy and capture the magnificent view of the bay at an altitude of 150 to 3,000 m above sea levels.

For further information or to book a ticket, visit seaplanes.com or contact the company at 096 296 0689.

GETTING AROUND IN HALONG

Major taxi companies:

  • Taxi 886 –Mong Cai: 033 886 886.
  • Halong Taxi: 033 62 62 62.
  • Hon Gai Taxi: 033 84 84 84
  • Mai Linh Taxi: 033 628 628

Ships to Halong Bay

Ship tickets are sold separately from tickets to the tourist spots, and are priced at about 100k to 150k.

If you’re a big group or a family, book the whole ship for 4 to 6 hours for 1500k to 1700k. The price could be slightly higher during the tourist season (from May to August).

The 6-hour-ticket costs a little more, but allows you to spend more time to explore the area.

HOTELS IN AROUND HALONG BAY

  • Alex Hai Ninh Halong Hotel
  • Entity Halong Hotel
  • Starcity Halong Hotel
  • Royal Lotus Halong Hotel
  • City Bay Palace Halong Hotel

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN HALONG

  • Bai Chay Beach:

The resort of Bai Chay, a place for swimming and relaxation, lies along the coast of Halong Bay. It’s windy all year round, and the average temperature is 20oC.

  • Co To Island:

To have a swim in the crystal water and admire the splendid Co To Island with its exquisite coral reefs, travellers can take a ship to Co To. The island remains unspoiled despite the bustling tourist activities in Halong.

  • Tuan Chau Island:

A white-sand artificial beach at Tuan Chau, Halong Bay

The Tra Co white-sand beach at Tuan Chau

This is not only the most beautiful among the 1,969 islands on the Halong Bay, but also the only one with human inhabitants. It also has the largest man-made sand beach in Vietnam – the Tra Co white sand beach where you can enjoy the most exciting beach games.

  • Luon Cave:

The Halong residents are proud of their systems of impressive natural caves, each beautiful in a unique, and has a story behind it. A representative is Luon Cave, which is located on the Bo Hon Islet, 14 km from Bai Chay. The cave is where you will see the outlandish buds of stalactite in various shapes and sizes, which took millions of year to form. In front of the cave is Con Rua Islet, and to the right is Cong Troi.

  • Sung Sot Cave:

Sung Sot Cave - the cave of beautiful surprises (by All-Free-Photo)

Sung Sot Cave – the cave of beautiful surprises (by All-Free-Photo)

Located on Bo Hon Isle at the center of the Halong Bay, close to many other tourist spots of Halong (Ti Top Beach, Bo Nau Cave, Me Cung Cave, Luon Cave, Sung Sot Cave), the Sung Sot Cave used to be called “Grotte des surprises” (The cave of surprises). Inside it numerous stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes and forms – a majestic scene to look at.

  • Yen Tu Mountain

Halong is not all about beaches. If you’re interested in learning about the religious aspect of the region, visit the Yen Tu historic site, a complex of Buddhist temples and towers hidden behind the old trees along Doc Do to the Yen Tu Mountain.

  • Cua Van Fishing Village

The fishing village is one of the places you can experience the most authentic Vietnamese culture. Visiting the Cua Van Fishing Village, you will enjoy not only the peaceful, serene atmosphere, but also the cultural life of the fishing men. In addition, you will have a chance to learn to ride a boat, catch fish with a net, and fishing sea creatures.

  • Other historic sites in Halong include the Bai Tho Mountain, Tran Quoc Nghien’s memorial temple, and the Quang Ninh Museum.

HALONG CUISINE

Halong, and Quang Ninh in general, does not only have majestic scenery, but also excellent seafood cuisine. Below are a list of must-try dishes when you’re in Halong.

  • Sticky rice with grilled chopped squid

This dish consists of the fresh cooked sticky rice with grilled chopped squid, and is served with fish sauce and black pepper. The price for a portion of sticky rice with squid or rice roll with squid is 15k to 20k. You can also buy the grilled chopped squid at 250k per kilo.

  • Steamed rice roll with grilled chopped squid

The thick leaves made of rice flour are steamed with mushrooms, black fungus, fried green onion, and sometimes shredded pork, and served with grilled chopped squid. There is a whole street that sells this food in Halong, which is so famous it’s called “the squid rice roll” street instead of its formal name. The street is just next to the Bach Dang Cinema.

  • “Ngn” (clam)

“Ngn” is a kind of bivalve that looks like hard clams, which can be cooked in various ways: grilling, steaming, cooking with porridge, frying with noodles or vegetables. This type of clam can also be used to make a very special wine called “ruou ngan”, which has the smell of the ocean.

Nearly all restos in Halong serve ngan. To buy the clam or the wine, visit Cai Ram Market or Vuon Dao Market.

  • S sng (peanut worm)

Raw peanut worm at Halong (photo retrieved from scorpioncruise.com)

Raw peanut worm at Halong (photo retrieved from scorpioncruise.com)

Halong is known to have the best peanut worm, or “sa sung” in Vietnam. The peanut worm is also called “sand worm” by the local people. After harvested, the worms are dried, grilled or fried until they become crispy and have brown color. They are served with wine, or used to make the broth for pho.

Peanut worms are quite rare, and thus are sold at a high price: VND 4 million per kilo.

  • Tri-spine horseshoe crab

Another speciality of Halong is the tri-spine horseshoe crab, or “sam” in local language, a crustacean. There are dozens of different recipes with the crab: blood pudding, horseshoe crab salad, spicy and sour horseshoe crab legs, horseshoe crab fried with lemongrass and pepper, horseshoe crab egg with piper lolot, steamed horseshoe crab, deep fried horseshoe crab, grilled horseshoe crab cartilage, fried noodles with horseshoe crab. The best place to try these exotic dishes are on Gieng Don Street and Cao Xanh Street.

  • The gat gu rice rolls

Gat gus are made in the same way as steamed rice rolls. They are served with a special sauce and a piece of meat cooked in Chinese style. You can easily find this dish anywhere in Quang Ninh but best place to try the gat gu is at Tien Yen, Halong.

  • Quang Yen’s nem chua, nem chao (sour pig skin ball)

The balls are made from very simple ingredients: chopped pig skin mixed with ground roasted rice and peanut. Not anything fancy but once processed and served with a particular sauce, they offer an amazing treat to your taste buds.

  • Tien Yen’s “ca say”

Ca say is a crossbreed between two different kinds of duck. The duck becomes extraordinarily delicious when prepared by the Tien Yen local people – they have a secret way to process the meat. Their sauce is also very unique – it has the smell of the Cai Rong, Van Yen, Cat Hai fish sauce, and the sweet taste of Quang Tay’s xa xi (sassafras), as well as the tender spice of Tien Yen ginger.

  • Hoanh Bo sticky rice wine

The Hoanh Bo sticky rice wine is made with the sticky rice grown in Halong. The rice is cooked and fermented without grinding to preserve its vitamins. Once it is fermented to a certain level, it is dipped into the herbal yeast made from the leaves of some plants growing in Hoanh Bo Forest. After a while, the mixture becomes wine, which is then filtered and poured into jars. The jar is taken out when there’s a guest visiting the family. The Hoanh Bo sticky rice wine is sour and sweet, it helps with digestion and is a popular drink during the summer.

SPOTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHS

  • Fishing villages

The fishing villages along Halong Bay, such as Vung Ving, Cua Van, Ba Hang are not only pleasant places for visitors, but also inspiring for photographers.

  • Taking photos from the seaplane

The whole view of Halong Bay can be enjoyed and captured from a seaplane at a height of 150 to 3000m.

  • The breathtaking caves

The Halong Bay is blessed with the perfect beauty that tourists would compare to a landscape painting by mother nature. And in the painting, apart from “water and rocks” as most people would talk about the bay, there are also exotic caves, including Sung Sot Cave, Dau Go Cave, Tam Cung Cave, among others.

  • Taking photos on the L’Azalee Cruise Halong

L’Azalee Cruise Halong is a wooden sailing ship made in traditional style. With its impressive design and exquisite interior, the cruise is the dream spot for photo taking among tourists.