It’s no secret if you visit Hanoi, Vietnam for the first time, you have to make the four hour journey outside the city and check out Halong Bay. Unfortunately, the Bay can be very touristy and super overpriced. If you want to experience this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site cheaply without dodging cockroaches and getting food poisoning, then look no further young Padiwon, as I have found the secret and will be sharing it with you.
In the Hanoi area, the prices for a tour can range from $100 to $300 and the quality of the tour isn’t always the best. You wanna know the 411? Tour agents are pushing for overpriced bookings to line their pockets with the commission. Don’t waste your precious hard earned cash only to get ripped off. Still don’t believe me? Read some scary reviews on TripAdvisor here. #nobueno
In order to get a cheap tour, first and foremost, you must avoid Bai Chay aka Halong Bay City. The majority of tour boats depart from there. Instead, go to Cat Ba and get your mind blown by the awesome of this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Since Cat Ba is relatively new to tourism, you can still get a Vietnam vibe without too much of a tourist feel.
How to get to Cat Ba from Hanoi
The best way to get to Cat Ba is to take the Hoang Long Bus from the Ben Xe Nuoc Ngam Bus Station in Hanoi. Make sure when you buy your ticket, it has the bus+speedboat+bus option. Also, I’m gonna be real honest here—you won’t know what’s going on with the buses half the time, but the people working there will direct you. Don’t get too comfy because we were constantly getting on and off the bus, but we managed to get there just fine. The cost of the round trip will be about 240,000 Dong ($12) there and 250,000 Dong ($13) back. Make sure you buy your departure and return ticket there.
- Buses depart at 05h20; 07h20; 11h20; 13h20
- Be there 20 minutes before. The departure times are more like guidelines and will depart when they feel like it.
- Be ready for a long journey and traffic. Bring some e-books or entertainment.
Transportation cost: $25 per person
Once on Cat Ba, the fun part is finding accommodation. While there are loads of hostels and backpacker places to stay, there’s an entire street by Cat Ba Ventures dedicated to hotels and restaurants. These places aren’t on TripAdvisor and we couldn’t find them on Google Maps. We stayed at a place called Tuong Vy run by a Vietnamese family. They cannot speak English well, so make sure you get a receipt after you pay. This hotel has big rooms with air conditioning for a decent price. (I heard they were the cheapest out of the hotels on the street.) The prices for hotels inflate on the weekends. We expected to pay about 800,000 Dong, but ended up paying 1,100,000 Dong. Just be careful when you negotiate. The price below is the the price for 3 nights.
Accomodation cost: $49
If you would like to find this hotel street here are the directions:
If you are facing Cat Bay Ventures, turn right and take the first left. Go up the hill, pass the night club and about 7 minutes after walking, you’ll see Tuong Vy on your right. Since this place is on a hill, it’s above and next to a convenience store.
This isn’t a sponsored post, but I loved this travel agency. Mr. Tung was very helpful and professional. He helped us book a tour. I highly recommend it. We chose option two and we were given a tour of Lan Hay Bay and Halong Bay. On this tour, you don’t have to worry about your valuables because they have lockers for small things and the boat was quaint and charming. It looked like something from the 1970s, but it was clean and well maintained. This awesome tour includes kayaking and a delicious seafood lunch on the boat. The food was delicious and the drinks were priced at about $1. If you want an opportunity for a great adventure, this tour also takes you to a secluded beach.
Tour cost: $29 per person
After doing this tour, I have nothing but good things to say about it! Cat Ba was incredible and we also enjoyed looking out at Lan Ha Bay from the beaches on Cat Ba.. If you ever get the opportunity to do this tour, you won’t regret it! If you hate crowds of people as much as I do, go this route. I learned my lesson after Thailand, when I went on a Koh Phi Phi tour and it wasn’t everything I expected it to be. On this tour, you’ll jump off the boat, eat a great lunch and hopefully make some great friends along the way. We spent a minimal amount of money for a great time. You can’t beat this price anywhere.
Total cost: $103
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