(Last Updated On: May 30, 2021)

Travelling all the way from Hanoi to Halong Bay in one day might seem a little ambitious to some. Yet, despite a four hour, pot-hole filled drive in each direction, the trip is absolutely worth it for those who just don’t have the time to commit to a longer stay but still want to experience one of the most remarkable natural wonders in the world.

The Urban Adventures HaLong Bay One Day Escape tour is the perfect way to relax and enjoy door to door service from your Hanoi hotel to the UNESCO World Heritage listed waters of the bay.

For those wanting a longer stay in Halong Bay, Intrepid Travel also offer a beautiful Halong Bay Junk Cruise tour which allows for an overnight stay on a traditional junk boat and transfers to and from Hanoi. 

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A junk boat on Halong Bay

What is Halong Bay?

The Halong Bay region is a spectacular expanse of ocean featuring over 1600 limestone islands, all that remains of the terrain after many centuries of erosion. The area is enormous, covering around 150,000 hectares of islet-filled sea. Most of the islands are remote and unliveable, which makes the area feel pristine and untouched despite its popularity.

Halong Bay is recognised worldwide for its unique beauty, obtaining UNESCO World Heritage status as well as being named one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature.

Limestone cliffs in Halong Bay

Getting to Halong Bay

Take a tour from Hanoi

Halong Bay is accessible from Hanoi – there are plenty of tours operating daily which is probably the most stress-free way to access the bay. For a solo traveller, in particular, this takes away the hassle of worrying about getting scammed or harassed or stressing about getting on the wrong bus or getting lost. Vietnam can also be quite humid, so a guided tour ensures you’ll be in an air-conditioned car or van, so the 180km drive one-way can be enjoyed looking without sticking to the seats.  

Catch a plane

Van Don International Airport is in Quang Ninh, 50km from Halong Bay and there is a public bus that runs from the airport directly to the bay. Arriving passengers to this airport are provided free tickets to ride this bus line.    

Take a bus from Hanoi

Luxury buses are also a possibility when travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay. They’re quite cheap (around $10 USD) and will usually pick up customers from hotels around Hanoi. The buses, too, are well-equipped and air-conditioned so the ride is a comfortable one. There are also public buses available, though these often take longer and are less comfortable.

Train

For those willing to brave the public transit system, it is also possible to take a train from Hanoi to Halong Bay from Yen Vien station. It does leave at the unsightly hour of 4:55am which automatically counts me right out of this option. The train takes the longest amount of time, and at nearly 7 hours one-way this just isn’t a viable option for me on a day trip. It is cheap though for those who have longer to stay (around $4 USD).

An aerial view of Halong Bay

Halong Bay One Day Escape with Urban Adventures

After a long private car ride, my fellow tourists and I arrive at the Halong Bay Marina and jump on our traditional Vietnamese junk to explore the aqua waters of the bay. Waiting on board are cold beers and a delicious spread of fresh seafood and rice for us to chow down on as we pull away from the port and begin our adventure.

After a four hour car ride, we’re ravenous and lunch disappears quickly. All of a sudden, the port is nowhere in sight and we are well and truly surrounded by enormous limestone giants looming all around us. Here, it is truly like being in another world. The limestone crags seem to just go on forever and without another boat in sight, it starts to feel as if we’re alone in the turquoise ocean.

On the horizon just ahead are the islets nicknamed the lover’s rocks, dangerously close to kissing, but a fraction too far apart.

After sailing peacefully through the quiet, it is time to get a bit more adventurous. Brightly coloured kayaks appear down below and without hesitation, I’m buckling my life jacket and jumping out into the water. The kayak, being much smaller than the junk boat, provides the unique ability to paddle in and around the many caverns that wind around at the base of the limestone islands.

I explore nooks and crannies that I never would have realised even existed from onboard the boat – a truly unique experience in the most picturesque setting.

A kayak paddling under a wall of stone on Halong Bay

As if this isn’t already a perfect enough experience on my last day in Vietnam, our guide now takes us to a set of incredible limestone caves and grottos all with their own unique rock formations welded in after centuries of the elements. Sung Sot Cave is arguably the most famous grotto of Halong Bay and for good reason. The caves are lit a little on the tacky side, with multicoloured light displays, but this is forgivable given just how beautiful and fascinating the natural architecture is.

Our last stop on the tour is also the most humbling. Floating villages are synonymous with South East Asia, and seeing one up close was remarkable. Tiny coloured huts bob on the waters of the bay, held afloat by plastic tubs where Vietnamese people go about their everyday lives. It is incredible to think that an entire village can function here, so remotely. People living here socialise, do their daily chores and attend school right here on the water.    

A cave lit up

Should you consider doing an Urban Adventure to Halong Bay?

If you don’t want the hassle of public transport and are keen to have a relaxing day where there’s no need to stress or think about your itinerary then an Urban Adventure is perfect for you. 

I think they’re particularly good value when you consider that lunch is included (we only needed to fork out extra for beers to wash it down with) and the tour guides are always locals who can provide interesting insight and commentary on the area.

Part of the tour price covers the admission fee to the park, which in turn goes towards ongoing conservation efforts to preserve this magical area and Urban Adventures promote a plastic-free tour by helping you find places to re-fill your water bottle. 

A special thanks to my tour guide Ky

I’d also like to give a special shout out also to my wonderful tour guide Ky who not only took me to one of the most beautiful places that Vietnam has to offer, but who then also offered to take me to his favourite restaurant for dinner & then to an ‘illegal’ street bar (which happened to get raided by Vietnamese police) because he knew that I was by myself and wasn’t sure where to go. We had a great night of swapping stories & eating great food.

Halong Bay Accommodation Options

Want to stay longer at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Halong Bay? Use the map below to find hotel suggestions nearby.

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