When I travelled to Vietnam I knew I had to visit Ha Long Bay and with the very affordable prices in Vietnam, I knew that finding the cheapest Halong Bay Cruise for my budget shouldn’t be a problem.
But even I was blown away by just how affordable the best budget Halong Bay cruise was!
While there are plenty of luxurious Halong Bay cruise options that you might want to consider, I’m not a luxury traveller (I’d describe myself as a mid-budget traveller) and usually prefer to make my budget stretch as far as possible with the best mix of experience and comfort.
With that in mind, I picked what I feel was the best Halong Bay overnight cruise for my budget and I was blown away by the experience and everything it included for just £102.
Read on to find out all the details!
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Where is Ha Long Bay, Vietnam?
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the coast of Northern Vietnam in Quảng Ninh province.
You can easily reach Ha Long Bay just 2 hours drive from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and many people choose to visit Ha Long Bay as part of their extended Hanoi itinerary as there are many options for transport to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi.
How to get to Ha Long Bay?
When you’re in Hanoi, you’ll see countless travel agency and travel stores offering taxis, buses or what Vietnam calls “limousines (basically a luxurious minibus).
However in this guide, I’m sharing the best Ha Long Cruise for budget conscious travellers and the Ha Long Bay cruise I choose includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Hanoi, so you don’t even need to worry about finding transport to and from Ha Long!
When is the best time of year to visit Ha Long Bay?
The best time of year to visit Ha Long Bay is actually very varied and there are 2 windows throughout the year that could be suitable to visit, or perhaps a 3rd if you don’t mind the heat!
Summer lasts from April to October in the Ha Long area and generally May is considered the high season and a great month to visit as it’s still spring/early summer and the peak heat of winter hasn’t hit yet.
June and July are popular for domestic tourists so you might find these months are busier.
Late June, July and August are the hottest months of the year, July and August often see 30-35C temperatures and the further into summer you go, the more chance of storms. I actually visited in early July and we were definitely lucky with the weather - clear blue skies, and sunshine for the whole trip literally until we started sailing back to port when a downpour hit - perfect timing!
September and October are the other popular window during the year to visit as the weather is less likely to be rainy and the temperatures are cooler but nice - mid-20C.
November, December and January are generally quite chilly and sometimes the wind might inhibit some activities so this is generally the time to avoid visiting.
As you can see - there are a lot of opportunities throughout the year to have a brilliant trip and cruise in Ha Long Bay!
What’s the best way to see Ha Long Bay?
The best way to see Ha Long Bay is undoubtedly from the water.
While there are options for Ha Long Bay day tours, the top Halong Bay cruises are overnight cruises as this gives you the best amount of time to see the Bay, experience it at sunset and sunrise, plus do plenty of excursions to caves, beaches and lagoons within the bay.
These cruises give you several options to see the Bay from the main boat, to canoe and kayak in bays and get off the boat at beaches and caves so you really see Ha Long Bay from every angle.
What’s the average Halong Bay cruise price?
The prices vary massively depending on what’s included, how long the cruise is and how luxurious the cruise is. I would suggest you can expect to pay £100-300 for a 1-3 night cruise depending on those variables.
For the cheapest Halong Bay cruise that offers great value for money if you’re on a budget, I suggest this Ha Long Bay cruise.
For a Ha Long Bay day cruise I would suggest budgeting around £40-60.
Should you pick a Ha Long Bay day cruise or overnight cruise?
When it comes to the Ha Long Bay day cruise vs overnight cruise, I personally think the value for money for an overnight Halong Bay cruise was absolutely worth it (see below for what was included in my cruise for just £102). And a cheap Halong Bay cruise is not that much more than a day tour of Ha Long Bay.
But I also understand that not everyone will have the time or the budget for an overnight cruise, so here are a couple of options to consider if you’re more limited on time or budget.
The best Halong Bay day cruise
This Ha Long Bay day cruise includes pick up and drop off from Hanoi with swimming, canoeing and hiking - this is the best Halong Bay day tour which covers it all in one day from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay!
This is the cheapest Halong Bay day cruise I could find which includes Hanoi pick up and drop off - it’s just £31 per person! Definitely the best day cruise Halong Bay has to offer if you’re on a tight budget.
If you’re already in the Ha Long Bay area, you can take a cruise and day trip from Cat Ba to Lan Ha Bay on this full day boat trip and kayaking tour.
The best Halong Bay cruise: 1 night
Here’s what’s included:
Hotel pick up and drop off in Hanoi (2 hour bus journey each way)
1 night and 2 days cruising
1 night accommodation in private room with ensuite and balcony
All meals each day (lunch on arrival, snacks and dinner. Day 2 - breakfast and lunch before disembarking)
Park entry fees and cave entry fees
Beach and hiking trip
Spring rolls cooking class
Squid fishing (optional evening activity)
Karaoking (optional evening activity!)
Not included - all drinks, including soft drinks and alcoholic drinks are added to a bill which you pay separately at the end of the cruise.
What’s the cheapest Ha Long Bay overnight cruise?
As you can see from my list above, the value of this affordable Ha Long Bay cruise is incredible.
All that for just £102 per person!!
You’d expect to pay that just for a night of accommodation in a lot of countries but here you get accommodation, transport, food and all those excursions and outdoor activities for the same price - without a doubt the best choice for affordable travel in Ha Long Bay.
The cruise boat itself was not the fanciest boat you’ll see out there on the water but it had an old-world steamer style charm to it and my favourite part was that there’s only 9 cabins so a maximum of 18 people on the cruise - it meant we actually spoke to everyone in our group which was lovely for socialising in downtime. Some of the bigger cruises have 200+ people onboard!
The spacious cabins were decorated in dark wood and a well-equipped private bathroom ensuite. All rooms also come with AC and private balconies with large windows and a seating area so you can enjoy the panoramic views as you cruise through the bay.
So to give you more of an idea of what’s involved, I’m going to share the full cruise itinerary of our budget Halong Bay Cruise:
Day 1 Cruise Itinerary: Pick up in Hanoi and drive to Halong Bay for first cruise day
7.30am - pick up from our hotel in Hanoi Old Quarter, travel time approx 2 hours after all hotel pick ups are complete
10.30am - stop at Halong Pearl Factory to learn how pearls are made in the bay
11am - arrival and registration
11.30am - take the tender out to our cruise ship and check into room
12 midday - cruise leaves the port
12.30pm - lunch
We ate lunch which was freshly prepared seafood and local dishes with our welcome drink (dietary requirements should be stated when you book and they’re able to accommodate).
We enjoyed food in the dining room with large windows on 3 sides as we cruised into the bay and saw the iconic rock formations and sights such as Fighting Cock islet, and Stone Dog.
Then we had some free time to enjoy our room, the private balcony and the sundeck on the boat.
2.30pm - took the tender to Hang Sun Sot Cave aka Surprise Cave
The entry fee is included in your cruise ticket. This is a HUGE limestone cave and the largest in Ha Long Bay. I was honestly blown away by it, it just kept going and going! Our guide told us information about the cave and was great at keeping track of us all as some of the cave areas were busy.
There are also a few viewpoints with beautiful views of the lagoon below.
I recommend wearing good shoes as there are steps and uneven ground here. Lots of people were in flip flops and had no problem but for me, some areas were slippy and I was pleased to be wearing hiking sandals!
3.30pm - took the tender to Ti Top Island
At Ti Top island there is a sandy beach area, some cafes and bars and also the option to hike to the viewpoint. We opted to hike to the viewpoint then hike back down and enjoy a dip in the sea to refresh afterwards!
It’s around 400 steps up and takes around 10-15 minutes, bring water and sunscreen or cover up. It’s a hot hike but short and worth it for the views!
We spent about 30-40 minutes doing the hike, enjoying the views and then hiking down again. Then spent another 30 minutes on the beach and in the sea before we headed back to the boat to freshen up before dinner.
5pm - back to the boat and freshen up for sunset and dinner
5.45pm - 7pm - sunset party on deck
6.30pm - sunset (this was the sunset time in June, these times will vary depending on the time of year you visit
7pm - spring roll cooking classes
This is optional, if you’d prefer to stay on deck and enjoy drinks and the company then you can do.
The cooking class is a short demonstration of how traditional Vietnamese spring rolls are made with ground beef, vegetables and rice paper. Then you can roll and make them yourself before dinner.
7.30pm - dinner
Dinner was amazing, shrimp cocktail, oysters, rice and sticky pork - there was around 5 courses and I can’t remember them all but the food kept coming!
8pm - squid fishing
Optional activity to go squid fishing at the back of the boat. Fishing rods and bait are supplied but unfortunately we weren’t lucky (squids usually come out later at night apparently!)
9pm - karaoke and drinks on the deck
This was out free chill time to socialise, do karaoke if we wanted to, enjoy drinks and get to know other people on our cruise.
Day 2 cruise itinerary: cruise and kayaking
6.15am - optional Tai Chi on deck
6.45am - early breakfast before the first excursion of the day
I highly recommend setting an early alarm and enjoying sunrise from your balcony or the sundeck - it was a magical morning.
7.45am - take the tender to Luon Cave
There is the option for a bamboo boat when a guide rows for you, or you can get your own kayak. My partner and I opted for a kayak so we could paddle and explore at our own pace.
You kayak through the cave and into a beautiful luscious lagoon with incredible views. There are also monkeys to see in and around the cave walls - take a banana with you if you want to feed them but don’t feed it directly to them, just throw it onto the rocks for them to find.
This was such a magical way to start the morning just kayaking peacefully in calm waters with incredible cliffs either side of us.
8.30am - back to the boat
9.30am - check out of rooms
10.30am - early lunch as you start the cruise back to the port
11am - time to enjoy the sundeck one last time
11.30-12pm - arrive back at the port
12.30pm - buses depart back to Hanoi
3pm - arrive back at your hotel in Hanoi
As you can see this is a very busy and full-on 36 hours but you do so much as it’s absolutely worth it - you get so much value for money.
You can also opt to not take the bus back, which is what we did. We chose onward travel in Ninh Binh and others in our group opted for a hotel overnight stay in Ha Long itself so they could visit Cat Ba island and see more of the area.
This is probably one of the best tours I’ve ever done in my life, made better by how affordable this Halong Bat cruise was - I’d completely recommend it to anyone!
Still looking for the most luxurious Halong Bay Cruise?
If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious or perhaps for a special occasion, check out these two options for the best luxury cruise in Halong Bay:
Summary: the best cruise in Halong Bay (based on my experience)
Ha Long Bay is one of those places that I’ve seen picture of and read about for years and I was honestly worried that finally getting to visit would not live up to my expectations.
Thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong and I had a great time and it was a truly unforgettable experience!
Halong Bay is a stunning natural beauty and an absolute must-visit on your Vietnam itinerary. I highly recommend doing a cruise for at least 1 night (regardless of whether you pick any of the cruises I’ve recommended!) because waking up and seeing sunrise in the bay and having drinks on the deck at sunset were two of my favourite memories of the trip and I wouldn’t have had this unique experience if we didn’t go an overnight Ha Long Bay cruise.
Ha Long Bay cruises are also a great option for special occasions, romantic couples trips to Vietnam or family travel as there are so many excursions and activities for everyone and affordable Halong Bay cruises for every budget.
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