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Halong Bay (Photo:Jimmy Tran/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Halong Bay

Mystical and magical, Halong Bay -- comprised of more than 1,969 uninhabited islands and rock formations -- is one of Asia's great natural wonders. Vietnamese legend has it that the archipelago came into being when a dragon fell to earth; Ha Long Bay, loosely translated, means the Bay of the Descending Dragon. Situated in the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pack your cameras and get up early as the scenery starts several hours before your ship docks, and witnessing fishing boats among the rocks at sunrise is a moment not to be missed.  

Cruise passengers have two main choices of what to do in Halong Bay. You can either explore the bay on a "junk" cruise of varying duration or make the trek to Hanoi, a three-hour drive each way. Some ships dock for more than one day, allowing you to stay in Hanoi one night or take an overnight cruise. Even if your ship doesn't do this, your port stop will be at least 12 hours to allow people enough time for longer excursions.

Halong Bay City itself is on a growth spurt. Construction cranes dot the port (known as Bai Chay), luxury hotels and resorts are on tap and the government is looking to build a beach to entice more tourism. Residents are very proud of the Bai Chay Bridge, a 3,629-foot cable-stayed bridge that changes color at night; it's a pretty sight at nighttime sail-away.

Most cruise ships tender to the port area. Near the pier, it's a 15-minute walk or so to shops, tourist markets and cafes.

About Halong Bay


Pro

Sail a traditional junk across an absinthe-hued bay, past ancient karst and limestone islands

Con

Litter and overcrowding is common at this popular destination

Bottom Line

An extended port stop provides ample time to explore the World Heritage-listed site


Find a Cruise to Asia

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The local currency is the Vietnamese dong, but vendors and guides take U.S. dollars, euros, British pounds and other currency (anything but Laotian and Cambodian money, one guide told us). If you arrange tours in advance, your guide will tell you what currency to bring; crisp bills in $100 or $20s are preferred. ATMs are available near the port. For up-to-date currency exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

Language

Vietnamese. While some people speak English in the tourist trade, it can be difficult to understand. If you want a guide, it's best to book ahead of time.


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