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Exploring Halong Bay from Cat Ba Island | cheaper alternative

For many travelers the highlight of their travel route through Vietnam : Halong Bay. Halong Bay consists of more than 1600 limestone islets that rise out of the water. It is a beautiful and unreal sight and immediately clear why this place is on the UNESCO World Heritage List state. The cheapest and nicest alternative is to visit Halong Bay from Cat Ba Island.

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How to get to Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba is located at such a 2/3 hours travel from Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam). From Hanoi, plenty of tours and cruises are also offered to Halong Bay because the distance is relatively short, for Vietnamese standards in any case. You will then leave for Halong Bay in the early morning and depending on which tour you choose, you will arrive back in Hanoi the same day or the next day. However, I advise you to travel to Cat Ba and arrange such a tour from here. From Hanoi or Ninh Binh (Tam Coc) you travel by bus to Cat Ba, when you buy a bus ticket the ferry crossing is most likely included in the price. You can buy a ticket at Cat Ba Express. From Ninh Binh (Tam Coc) it takes about 4/5 hours.

Also read: The 12 Most Beautiful National Parks in Vietnam | From Jungle to Beach

Halong Bay from Cat Ba
Halong Bay from Cat Ba

The three bays around Cat Ba Island

There are three bays around Cat Ba Island: Halong Bay, Lan Ha Bay & Bai Tu Long Bay† These three bays all have same landscape and therefore it is not really a must to go to Halong Bay. You cannot see the difference.

Halong Bay

Almost all boats go to Halong Bay of course because this is the most famous bay is. That's why this place is Really busy and so you are not only surrounded by the beautiful limestone islands, but also a lot of boats. Book a tour that not only sails through this area, but just takes a piece of Halong Bay. That way you've been there, but you don't experience that enormous crowds continuously.

Lan Ha Bay

Lan Ha Bay it is cheap alternative and is closest to Cat Ba Island. it's there less crowded and therefore a perfect place to enjoy the landscape.

Bai Tu Long Bay

This bay is the furthest away from Cat Ba Island and is also the most expensive option† Only a limited number of cruise ships are allowed to enter this area, which means they can charge a higher price.

Halong Bay from Cat Ba

Boat Tour of Lan Ha Bay & Halong Bay

It is most convenient if you immediately arrange your tour with one of the many tour operators on the island upon arrival in Cat Ba. You will find most of them in the center, but you can also arrange it at the accommodation where you are staying. I arranged my tour at 's office Cat Ba Ventures† They offer day tours, but also have options including overnight stay. I chose the 2D/1N tour where I stayed overnight in a cabin on an island. You can also book a tour at Cat Ba Express.


  • 1 day excursion:     $ 15-20
  • 2 day excursion:    $ 80-100

The boat is incredibly chill (the best I've had in Asia). standing on the deck enough sunbeds where you can fully enjoy the view. When you go down the stairs you come to the room where there is a large table surrounded by benches where there is enough space for everyone. Here you have lunch in the afternoon.

Halong Bay from Cat Ba

During the day you will stop at the fisherman's village, a dozen houses built on the water. It's really impressive to watch. Of course, extensive stops are also made at beautiful places where you can snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and even swim to a beach. She also stopped at a place where we could kayak through a cave and then ended up at a cove surrounded by rocks, which was really amazing.

Halong Bay from Cat Ba
Halong Bay from Cat Ba
Halong Bay from Cat Ba

Before I took part in the tour I had imagined that it would be very busy on the water, but afterwards it was not that bad. Of course we did come across boats, but there were also really places where we just were all alone† It was certainly a very nice experience. We were only 6 people on the boat, which (in my opinion) is very little and so there was more than enough room for everyone. The food was tasty, the accommodation on the island was fine and everything was well arranged. Looking back, I would recommend to just opt ​​for a 1 day tour, this is more than enough.

Also read: Things to Do in Hanoi | 9x must sees and fun day tours

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Ilse & Nick

♥️ Travel addicts from #netherlands
? Chasing adventures & creating memories
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