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Vietnam forum

Ha Long Bay advice - what and how to book

Posted by nadirahmed on 5/2/2017 at 15:21

Hi everyone - long-time lurker but first time poster (and recent premium supporter cos of how awesome this site is!)

I'm going to be in Vietnam from 24th March to 12th April 2017. I'm planning on cruising Ha Long Bay /Bai Tu Long Bay/Lan Ha Bay from 31st March to 2nd April (3 days/2 nights).

I've been looking at the different boats and checking prices etc. both on aggregators/consolidators and directly with the boat companies themselves.

I was very close to booking a boat, got prices etc. and then when I emailed to tell then I was happy to book, they told me the last cabin was gone... With another boat, they just stopped responding to emails when I told them I was travelling solo! I assumed this is because solo travellers end up generating less income for them than two people per cabin although it's a pretty crappy way to treat potential customers.

I'm particularly concerned about the dates I'm hoping to cruise - 31/03 to 02/04 - as I've struggled with getting train tickets (Ha Noi to Hue) after the cruise and am worried that there is a Vietnamese national holiday or festival on that's completely passing me by (I've googled, I promise!)

All the cruises that I've seen so far (bar the two mentioned above) want ridiculous amounts of single supplements. I'm not averse to paying a single supplement. But not a 90% supplement! I'm also not averse to spending money; I know you get what you pay for in Ha Long Bay (and in Vietnam in general). But I can't justify some of the prices being asked for...

I suppose my questions are thus:


What is the likelihood of being able to book a decent cruise, at a decent price, once I am in Hanoi?


What are people's views on trying to get something in Ha Long city itself?


Am I going to be leaving it too late if I wait until 24th/25th March to try to book something?


Or is the risk of ending up with nothing too high and I should book something now?

Thanks in advance for all your help! (And posts from Vietnam will be treated with a massive dollop of salt!)

#1 nadirahmed has been a member since 26/2/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 12
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Posted by somtam2000 on 5/2/2017 at 22:43 admin

Thanks for your support!

I guess my main questions would be what do you consider to be a decent price and what are you looking for in the cruise? There are hundreds of operators on the bay raging from glorifies rafts to quite relatively lux options so if could mention what kind of price range you're looking at, would be useful.

Also, while it isn't designed for boats. Agoda and Booking both list quite a few operators and it can be a handy way of comparing a few operators to see who has availability. Here is Agoda on Calypso for eg. Use a price you can get from one of these as a rough baseline and then see what you can find elsewhere.

However, if you're not so fussed about lux and just want to get a boat, I'd leave it till you get to Hanoi.

As far as trains go, try BaoLau which does online train tickets ( https://www.baolau.vn/ ) they look to have a bit of availability around the dates you are looking for.

Cheers

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,910
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Posted by nadirahmed on 6/2/2017 at 13:24

Hi somtam2000,

Thanks for your reply. My options have opened up a bit more as a friend has now decided to join me for part of the trip! So I can split the cost of the boat with her and it'll make finding a decently priced (per person) deal easier.

As it's likely to be the only time in my life I go on a cruise in Ha Long Bay, I'm willing to splash out a bit (up to US$300 for two nights). My friend probably has a smaller budget though but we'll have a decent pooled budget.

I've had a quick look at Agoda and Booking.com and will look more. I'll also look at BaoLau.

Thanks

#3 nadirahmed has been a member since 26/2/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 12
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Posted by daawgon on 8/2/2017 at 06:55

Posted from within Vietnam.

There are many places to book your cruise, and one of the best is Sense of Indochina in Hanoi. I am a good friend of the owner of this agency, and I can assure you that you'll be in excellent hands. The problem as I see it is that the best cruise inventory goes first, so I would not wait if you want something good. My own friends have raved about Dragon Legend, and I personally went on the Dragon Pearl (very disappointed: mediocre food and indifferent crew members). The Bhaya also gets excellent reviews.

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Posted by nadirahmed on 9/2/2017 at 02:59

Thanks Daawgon,

I've managed to book a cruise. Will let everyone know how it went after I've been!

#5 nadirahmed has been a member since 26/2/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 12
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Posted by JeremyNicholl on 11/2/2017 at 03:28

I'd written the following offline before seeing this thread, but I hate to waste my efforts and it's relevant so I'll post anyway.



Has anyone had any recent experiences with Halong Bay cruises? I've searched here and elsewhere, but much of the information seems to be old and inconclusive. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that there is a multitude of bad operators, but I've yet to find one that seems to have a reasonably large number of positive reviews.

I'll be in Hanoi at the end of next week, eager to go to Halong, but I'm starting to think finding an honest operator just isn't worth the effort. I'm considering Handspan and Ethnic Travel at the moment, so especially interested in hearing from anyone who's travelled with either of the, but also open to any other suggestions.

Thanks in advance.

#6 JeremyNicholl has been a member since 17/10/2016. Posts: 8


Posted by nadirahmed on 11/2/2017 at 06:42

Hi Jeremy,

somtam2000 suggested looking at Agoda and Booking.com, which I found really helpful. You'll be able to read reviews of the boats/routes but also get some idea of availability. You can also do your research there and then contact the boat companies direct to confirm availability and see if you can get a better price with them (as they then don't have to pay commission to the booking site or travel agent).

I ended up booking a boat that I really liked the look of on Agoda but it said they had no availability. However, I contacted the boat directly and they told me they had availability after all. So it's always worth contacting them direct.

The other website I found useful for comparing prices/boats/routes etc. was Best Price VN. They're essentially a travel agent/comparison site. I don't know what they're like as an agency but they appear to have decent reviews on TripAdvisor (although we all know that's not always an accurate reflection of reality).

Good luck with your search and I hope you have a great time in Vietnam! I'm heading there in six or so weeks and am really excited!

~Nadir

#7 nadirahmed has been a member since 26/2/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 12
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Posted by fishtunar on 9/3/2017 at 23:10

Posted from within Vietnam.

Dear All,

we also are looking for our Halong bay cruise in April . We are family of 4 person ( me , my husband and 2 kids )

I did some search and got some advise to book halong bay cruise when we are in hanoi . But I go with my kid - I am not able to shopping tour to much on street . anyone can help me with good agent can trust to book online

my budget around 150 US$ / pp / 2 days trip

Thanks

#8 fishtunar has been a member since 4/3/2017. Posts: 7

Posted by nadirahmed on 30/3/2017 at 12:41

Posted from within Vietnam.

Fishtunar

You can try Agoda or booking.com. Or if you want a more Vietnam-specific agent, Best Price VN.

~Nadir

#9 nadirahmed has been a member since 26/2/2015. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 12
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