- Location: Bai Tu Long Bay
- Trip Length: 3-5 Days
- Budget: $300-$500
- Things To Do/See: Bay Cruise, Floating Fishing Villages, Cave Exploring, Swimming, Kayaking, Hiking
Almost anyone planning a trip to Vietnam has heard of Ha Long Bay, the picturesque bay in the Northeastern part of the country. With thousands of majestic limestone karsts jutting out of clear turquoise water, pictures portray it as paradise on earth. However, recently there’s been a significant amount of visitors reporting mixed reviews about their experience. A common theme is travelers becoming overwhelmed by the vast array of possible cruise options and either pay too much or are given inaccurate information about the package they purchase. Anyone from a luxury cruise-line salesman down to the local fisherman have cruise packages to offer you. So the question is: “How do I get the most bang for my buck?” In this article I give my insight and advice on how to get the most out of your bay experience.
In recent years, Ha Long Bay has blown up and is now world re-known as one of the top destinations to visit in Asia. As a result from the dramatic rise is tourism the conditions of the bay has deteriorated. Today, hundreds of tour companies operate the area which has created a chaotic atmosphere from the increased traffic in the bay. Sadly pollution has now become a problem and many visitors report seeing rubbish floating around the limestone karsts. For these reasons I would like to recommend an alternative option, Bai Tu Long Bay.
Bai Tu Long Bay is located directly north of Ha Long Bay. Both bays boast thousands of the impressive limestone karsts, but unlike Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay remains unsoiled. Only recently opened for tourism, a handful of cruise-lines are allowed to operate the area. Still in pristine condition, the bay's unique bio-diversity and natural beauty is on full display.
As previously mentioned, there’s only a few companies allowed to operate Bai Tu Long Bay. While this makes the experience more authentic and protects the natural bio-diversity, it also limits your options. I suggest paying a bit more than the base-line price. As a budget traveller this goes against my usual philosophy, but this isn’t an experience you want to cheap out on. What you’re really paying for is the itinerary. I paid around $275 for a 3 day 2 night cruise with a company called Indochina Junk. There’s various packages but I would suggest at least two nights. In my opinion, one night just isn’t enough time to see what you want.
Your cruise itinerary is going to make or break the experience. Some itineraries are relaxed and will give free-time options for hiking, swimming and kayaking while others are more rigid in their schedules. My itinerary stopped frequently to give opportunities to kayak, visit floating fishing villages and explore caves. Whatever your preferences are make sure to view your packages itinerary before booking.