Was just in halong bay. Booked the trip through Camilla 5 hotel but the tour company was called halong heritage travel. Although we had an amazing time because the group of people was fantastic the trip was awful. I guess as was said in the halong bay travelfish review you are more likely to have a fun group of people on one of the budget trips but you sacrifice service - big time. Just read a post on thorn tree lonely planet forum about someone who drowned on halong heritage travel trip because current was strong and there was no safety equipment on board. This was not something I had even thought to ask about. Good idea to ask in advance whether have life jackets etc. for everyone.
The first night a member of the crew stole our sunglasses off the top deck. Our tour guide refused to ask the crew if any of them had our glasses stating that we must have just misplaced them. The next morning when my boyfriend started making more of a fuss the captain returned them to us - laughing.
The second night on cat ba island some people on our boat who had paid more for the trip were dropped off at their hotel and we were told we were being taken to a different hotel but as we pryed for more info the guide finally admitted that we were being taken to tents on the beach even though we had been told we would have an air con private bathroom hotel room. Hotels on Cat Ba were all fully booked because it was the weekend and there were lots of vietnamese tourists. If possible I would avoid weekends in the summer!! All got sorted out in the end with help of some nice australians who gave us one of their rooms but we wasted a whole afternoon waiting for our tour guide to try and fix the situation.
Also was promised there would be kayaking with a guide as this was something I specifically asked about but went trekking instead. Even though we chose one tour they really put us on another becasue it was low season but would not admit it. Trekking was amazing but very challenging. Bring proper shoes!
Have heard good recommendations about explorer tours and ocean tours. Probably worth the little bit of extra money.
#1 AmandaJordan has been a member since 15/1/2007. Posts: 12
My experience is that when you book a tour you get what you pay for , if you only paid 100 usd for a 3day tour then perhaps the tour has the ability to alter its itinerary if it warrants, i have noticed a lot of different prices for tours to Halong bay . Just book with a reputable company ,as every single hotel in Hanoi sells tours... and they really only make 2% on it or there abouts. I currently am visiting Tamky for 2 months.
IMHO the only way to ensure satisfaction is making a reservation with boat owners such as < www.Tropical-Sails.com > or Emeraude.
That said, did you tell Camellia - and was the hotel actually owned by Camellia`-`it has recently sold off two hotels.
#3 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
Whatever you do don't skimp on a trip to Halong. To do so is false economy.
Reputable companies like Hanspan, Tropical Sails and Emeraude run very good tours. More expensive but you are guaranteed to get what you paid for without the hassle.
#4 Discombobulated has been a member since 16/6/2007. Posts: 9
Discombobulated calls Handspan 'reputable.
Clients report otherwise - besides Handspan DOESN'T own a boat. Their web site lies when it says "our boat" but that's OK, they are based in Ha Noi, home of travel scams in VietNam. There is even an Australian agent who admits marking his costs by 20%!
Handspan is not alone in using the term "our boat+ many do, and they are all lying. Tropical-Sails and Emeraude are boat owner /operators and they retail their products. They also care about their customers.
#5 CatBa has been a member since 5/3/2007. Posts: 349
admittedly I didn't do my Halong boat trip with Handspan but with Tropical Sails.
However I have done a 3 day sea kayaking trip with Handspan on an earlier occasion and that was good value for money, well run and definitely not a scam. Mind you that was about 2004 or 2005 so maybe things have changed.
#6 Discombobulated has been a member since 16/6/2007. Posts: 9
Three years ago when on 3 day trip to Halong Bay, I nearly drowned because of strong currents which nearly pulled me under the boat. Despite shouting for help, the crew where extremely slow to help, and if a member of our party (eternally grateful Richard!) hadnt dived into help I am not sure if I would still be here today. Unfortunately cannot remember who I was with, but be please be careful when swimmming off boat.
#7 Wowah has been a member since 19/7/2007. Posts: 1
I went by myself by just getting a public bus from Hanoi down there, then getting dropped off at the "new" bus stay 11 km from the pier. Having then to take a moto to the actual pier, something i thought to be unusual, after reading the tips from this website on how to get down there.
Then got a boat trip over to Cat Ba island with mini tour to caves, plus the "minibus" into town for a grand total of 200k D. i thought i was getting fu ked over, but this was only 2 weeks ago, height of summer, end of the week and vietnamese school holidays. but i could have been wrong. Onto the safety of it, i had no issues, mind you no-one went swimming, which could have been it.
Just stayed at only of many of the hotels on the main drag for $12US a night then got the hydrofoil back again to Hanoi a couple of days later.
Friends of mine booked with Kangaroo Cafe in Hanoi and seemed to have no issues at all, they went 2 days 1 night and stay overnight on the boat. cost a bit more than other operators were offering. But they said the extra dosh spent was well worth it.
#8 pantsninja has been a member since 12/6/2006. Posts: 4
We used Handspan and they were brilliant. Well worth the extra $$$. The boat was great, really comfortable rooms and the food was just insane. They wheeled out 7 courses for lunch then another 9 for dinner. Also when booking their staff were just about the only competent and professional travel agents I found in Vietnam. Made a nice change from the general chaos of Hanoi!
#9 LionelHutz has been a member since 19/12/2005. Posts: 7
You pays your money and takes your chances .most reports of handspan appear good ,but it can still go wrong .The original poster mentions the "Camellia hotel 5 " We stayed there at the beginning of the year ,recommended to us by a travelling Japanese sales rep . We found the hotel satisfactory and the staff pleasant and helpful . Also booked a two day trip to Halong bay with them .It was the cheapest around $32 and was good fun ,no complaints . Also on that trip we sampled one of the best meals we had in Vietnam (those little pink squid ) Pays yer money and make the best out of it !! Enjoy .
1 person died at Halong bay, no big deal!
Imagine how many tourists died every year in the other countries. I could say 1 canadian every 2 years is merdered in Mexico, but we still love to go down there.
I agree with someone having said, you get what you pay for when you book a tour.
#11 Phole has been a member since 15/6/2007. Posts: 5
We just got back from Vietnam and went on board with Tropical Sails. We booked direct from their office in Hanoi. It was 100% worth the money. We were treated amazingly in every way from the moment of pickup. Great cabins with all the amenities, wonderful food - I am allergic to seafood and was served a separate dish for each of the courses that had seafood in it and about 6 out of 10 courses during dinner had seafood. The kayaking was great - white linen table cloths for our BBQ on the beach. You should do the 3 days - 2 is not enough, we could have stayed more. Other boats we saw looked like a wreck and we were glad we were not on them.
#12 jfenwick has been a member since 2/1/2007. Posts: 4
I will share you one of my experience when travelling Halong Bay. Actually, it's our fault due to not choosing travel agency.
Story began after we had a good time sightseeing the hidden charm on the sundeck of Jasmine Cruise, my child suprisingly want to try kayaking - not in our schedule. And we book kayaking by ourself! It's really a big mistake. In fact, going kayak only cost 10$ per person. You know, we paid 50$, total 150$ for all 3 of us... Since then, I know I met the thief. If I had followed our tour guide Vietnam Package Travel, it would not have happened
#13 Marget_love has been a member since 8/9/2011. Posts: 6