We're off to Vietnam for a couple of weeks in February and would really like to go on a Junk tour of Halong bay for one night. Can anyone recommend a particular tour- between $100 and $250 per person?
#1 Will_N_Mich has been a member since 7/1/2009. Posts: 5
there are many Junk tours now. I've heard nice comments for Pinta Cruise and Phoenixe Junk on Tripadvisor's forum. But I haven't experienced them yet, I also intend to cruise on Apr and will be looking for one. Hope you will have nice experience and share to me.
#2 travellover has been a member since 16/1/2009. Posts: 3
Recommend Bhaya Cruises. They got very good feedback from Tripadvisor. May be better if you book them via a travel agent in Hanoi
If you have more time, you should try the two nights option with fun kayaking & deeper cruise in the bay.
#3 pvhaa has been a member since 23/11/2006. Posts: 7
I agree with pvhaa. I traveled with Bhaya last time. My impression is all the crew. They are very nice, friendly and helpful. I can feel their effort to make us more and more happy. We had high expectations before boarding the Bhaya Cruise and every expectation was fully met.
#5 lizzie267 has been a member since 23/12/2008. Posts: 3
I went on a Pinta Cruise in Oct last year. Spent 2 days on board.
Except for 1 'glitch', thoroughly recommend.
I'd read that most boats moor in crowded areas, so went looking for 'alternatives'. While in HaNoi, I checked out the various options. I was impressed with the Pinta Cruise option. I booked with the 'owners' office (see: http://www.columbuscruise.com).
We got carted by van from HaNoi to the boat (and returned). The cruise left the harbour and followed the 'normal' route to caves, but then deviated to a more remote location. Beautiful cruising in late afternoon sunlight. Only one other boat there overnight.
The food they served at all meals was delightful.
The next day, the boat headed to a fishing village.
Like many, I went on the (obligatory?) kayak tour in the am. Really enjoyed that. Very scenic.
Some then went to CatBa - not for me, a horrible concrete jungle!
I hopped onto a smaller boat and was taken to a remote beach for 'lunch'. The water was crystal clear, the sandy beach was overhung with tropical trees, IDYLLIC!!! The boat crew set up a linen covered table, and served beautiful food till my tummy nearly burst. Fortunately, I'd brought enough beer to wash it all down. MMMmm!!
That night, the captain said there was some 'problem' and wanted to moor near the caves. There were literally dozens of boats there, and people on board were making so much noise. We (I and my fellow travellers) demanded the captain move to a quiet place. After some haggling, eventually we did.
The only 'other' annoyance was the charge over the beer. I'd made an arrangement when I booked in HaNoi that there would be large bottles of HaNoi Beer on board and we fixed a price for it. The charge would not have been made if I'd had that written down. In the end, I stood my ground and they rang HaNoi and then dropped the charge.
Compared to what others had to say (on other boats) the Pinta was well worth the cost.
Thanks Brucemoon for your post.
I myself found it very helpful and I decided to book directly through their website for our cruising on Apr. The price is now promotional at US$97/p,02Days 01 nite (I wish i could have enough time to go on 03 days/02 nites, it sounds much greater) they are also kind enough to offer us a free taxi off to the airport. I also check out the drinks price, just to avoid haggling.:)
We are awaiting for it now...
Thanks & Cheer.
#7 travellover has been a member since 16/1/2009. Posts: 3
I believe I read in my LP (it's a couple years old) that you could get a Halong Bay tour for as little as US$30. Is that not the case? Everything I'm seeing on here is a lot more.I would really love to do a cruise but am on a budget. Any advice would be appreciated!
#8 elenacat23 has been a member since 10/2/2009. Posts: 3
LP is always SO OLD in its data. Sadly, mass tourism and domestic (ie Vietnam) inflation has pushed prices up at rocket speed.
But, having said that, there are always alternatives. In the case of non-structured matters (eg. meals, hire of bikes, etc.) you CAN bargain. I the vendor doesn't want to do a deal. Walk away. Often, they'll come back to you with "how much do you want to pay" etc...
As for organised events - eg. Halong Bay tours, train & bus prices, etc. - there is no bargaining.
The global economic crises has yet to filter through to Vietnam. I doubt you'll see price reductions fo4r at least another 6 months on organised events.
Halong Bay on the cheap will allow you to say you've been there. BUT, you will not be priveliged to see the beauty that the place has to offer. Perhaps it may be best to leave the area for another trip another year.
Just go with the flow, don't let yourself get hassled by the frantic life and enjoy.
There are countless travel agencies who sell these cruises in Hanoi and other cities in the region, and every hotel will be thrilled to book one for you as well. Since most agencies contract with third-party companies to handle the actual cruise, experiences can vary — the seas of Ha Long Bay are plied by smooth, classy junks and old, loud rattletraps. You might run across someone who had a great time on a US$ 35 cruise with one agency, and upon booking the same, spend a whole night choking on carbon exhaust fumes.
The sad fact (for budget travelers) is: the more you pay, the better your odds will be. You should be safe with cruises in the US$50 range, but really nice ones can run as high as US$200 per person. Try Bhaya Cruises for a nice touch of luxury & charm at www.bhayacruises.com
#10 lizzie267 has been a member since 23/12/2008. Posts: 3
When I read posts here on Travelfish, and on Thorntree, I think you would be the first person to say that a travel agent in Vietnam is cheaper than the the actual vendor.
It stands to reason that the travel agents' costs have to be recouped, so the travel agent will always need to add a margin.
Thanks for the info. Without doubt, I have to accept your experience.
I don't want to downplay your report in any way, but my thinking is that with the current 'Great Recession', the one who bargains down the most will get the rewards. Clearly, good discounts can be gained if one shops around.
Thanks for sharing your experience.
Just deleted a bunch of spam out of this thread -- apologies to those of you who wasted your time responding to Hanoi-based travel agents masquerading as travellers.
#13 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,798
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Cheers for all the posts on here and general interest (with the exception of Vietnamese travel agents).
We decided to push the boat out a little (no pun intended) and went for a cruise on the Emmeraude. This was much more expensive then any of the others on offer at $240, but seemed to get universally good reviews. The boat and crew were both absolutely spot on. The only down side was we found most of the other guests a little bit too serious, and not willing to do some of the fun bits of the cruise (kyaking and swimmming)- other then that we had an ace time!
#14 Will_N_Mich has been a member since 7/1/2009. Posts: 5
The thing that annoys me is that everyone charges in USD which works out soooooooo expensive
to go with the cheapest of the reputable company is still going to cost over $400 AUD which is crazy expensive, even in western standards
#15 Doggins has been a member since 15/4/2009. Posts: 5
(I realise that the currency conversion all works out the same, I just think the tours are very over priced really)
#16 Doggins has been a member since 15/4/2009. Posts: 5
Elsewhere, I've written that if you look at WWW.XE.com & get the best exchange rate US$ - VNdong or A$ - VN dong, then you are armed to negotiate a better exchange rate with tour operators.
That said, the VN gov't takes a big fee from boat operators in Halong Bay.
Either you want to do the trip, or you don't. If you do, then you choose which level of experience you want: cattle class or privileged class (or somewhere in between). Those that spend the money always rave about the place.
As Will_N_Mich noted, if you want to go with snobby westerners & pay top dollar, then some of the fun is lost.
I've spoken to so many that have gone on the Pinta, to realise it is one of the best experiences (but you pay for it).