One of the most popular spots in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay was on my bucket list for a long time. And the fact that King Kong was shot here made this place even more exciting for me.
And not just me, but millions of people visit Vietnam to just take a cruise around the Ha Long Bay which also happens to be a UNESCO Heritage site.
However, these cruises can often be expensive, costing somewhere around Rs 5000 for a night. So, I opted for a budget-friendly day tour of the Ha Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay which cost me just Rs 1400.
In this article, I have shared all the details of this tour so that you can also opt for it if you are on a budget trip to Vietnam.
About Cat Ba Island
A lot of people go for the Ha Long Bay cruise from Halong region. However, I was told by many travellers that it has become quite crowded and dirty in the recent years.
As a result, I chose to explore Cat Ba Island and go for the day tour of Halong Bay from here.
Cat Ba Island is the largest of the 367 islands in Lan Ha Bay and looks exactly like the popular Halong Bay. However, it is more peaceful and had a lot of activities for you to indulge in.
There is the Cat Ba National Park here which offers many trails for the adventure enthusiasts and hikers. Apart from that, there are a few caves here worth exploring and a couple of beaches to chill at and enjoy the Halong Bay view.
How to Reach Cat Ba Island
It is actually quite easy to reach Cat Ba Island from Hanoi, Halong, or Ninh Binh. You get a combined bus + ferry ticket which takes you to the Hai Phong port. The ferry ride is usually 30 minutes long and you can enjoy the views around you while heading to the Cat Ba Island.
Once you reach the Cat Ba Island, you are usually offered bus services till Cat Ba Town included in the ticket price. A combined ticket from Ninh Binh or Hanoi costs around Rs 2,00,000 - 2,40,000 VND (600-750 INR).
You are first taken in a bus to the Hai Phong Ferry Point. From here, you travel in a ferry to the Cat Ba Island. At the ferry point, you are again taken in a bus and dropped at your desired locations on the way to the Cat Ba Town. And the entire journey can take around 7-8 hours .
Ha Long Bay Day Trip From Cat Ba Island
As I mentioned above, if you are on a tight budget like me, but you still wish to explore the Halong Bay then day tour from Cat Ba Island is the best option. You can easily book a seat for yourself from your hostel or homestay and they will charge you 25 USD for it.
This is usually a 8-hour tour and includes transfers from your hotel and back to the hotel as well. You might have to pay an additional 60 rupees for the to and fro transportation to the ferry port at Cat Ba Island.
This tour includes cruising through Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay, Kayaking, Swimming at a deserted beach, lunch, entrance fees, life jackets, chilling at Monkey Island, and an English speaking guide as well.
The tour starts at between 8.00 and 9.00 pm in the morning and each boat has around 35-50 people, depending on the bookings and the capacity of the boat. There is an upper deck and a lower deck so you can choose to spend time wherever you like.
Activities at the Ha Long Bay Day Trip
Here are a few activities that you are presented with on this day tour of Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay.
You are also taken to a nice kayaking spot where you can do kayaking for an hour. This is a nice spot with limestone mountains surrounding you and there are a few caves here as well to explore.
They also take you to a deserted beach in the Lan Ha Bay where you can swim for a while. They have a diving point on the boat which is great for you to jump in the ocean.
And if you don't know how to swim or are scared of the water, then they have Swimming rings which you can use. They also provide life jackets for swimming so it is overall a safe and fun experience.
Monkey island hike
At the end, they take you to the Monkey Island where you can spend an hour enjoying yourself on the beach or hiking through the forest. There is a good viewpoint here which is a 20-minute hike from the beach.
Make sure that you wear good pair of trekking shoes as the trail is slightly rugged and you have to climb on the rocks to reach the top.
Food and drinks on the day trip
The tour includes your lunch which involves a couple of small dishes like scrambled eggs, tofu, sea shells, spring rolls, potato dish, and so on.
Apart from the lunch, you can also choose to buy snacks from their shop but it can be really expensive. They also offer alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on board but these are not included in the tour package. So, you have to pay separately for it.
However, a beer on the boat is quite cheap and costs just Rs 100-150.
While I cannot deny that I really wanted to stay on a cruise in Halong Bay, it is also true that it was way out of my budget and definitely not worth it. However, this day tour not only allowed me to enjoy the beautiful Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay but was actually much better than what I expected.
We could do so many activities like swimming in the ocean, kayaking, hiking, etc. on this tour. And honestly, you end up meeting so many other travellers and backpackers this way as well.
So, if you are looking for a budget-friendly option for touring Halong Bay then this is definitely the right choice for you.
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