Halong Bay is much more beautiful than what the word “beautiful” can express, so why does Lan Ha Bay appear here? Why do we have to consider between the 2 bays? This is because Lan Ha Bay, in the last decade, has become more and more attracted to tourists and gradually become a smart alternative for Halong Bay.
Please be noticed that this post won’t give you any suggestion or recommendation but simply some facts about Halong bay and Lan Ha bay which may help you to make a final decision.
Where is Ha Long Bay?
Halong Bay is a so well-known travel destination in Quang Ninh Province, located in northeastern Vietnam. Administratively, the bay belongs to the area of Halong City, Cam Pha town, Van Don District, bordered on the south and southeast by the Gulf of Tonkin, on the north by China, and on the west and southwest by Cat Ba Island.
Where is Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is one area of the larger “Halong Bay region”. Specifically, the Halong Bay region includes Halong Bay in the center, Lan Ha Bay to the southwest and Bai Tu Long Bay to the northeast.
The 3 bays share a similar geological, geographical, geomorphological, climate, and cultural characters.
Getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay
Halong Bay is about 170 kilometers from Hanoi, which takes you 3.5 hours on the way. However, the new highway from Hanoi to Hai Phong then Halong could save 2 hours transfer, it means that you can travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay in 1.5 hours only (Details here)
Route: The common route for all land transportations is: Hanoi – Hai Duong – Hai Phong – Halong
- Bus from Gia Lam or My Dinh Bus Station (Hanoi) to Bai Chay bus station (Halong city). Ticket fee from 100,000vnd to 250,000vnd ( 5$ – 12$). Bring with you Vietnam Dong (currency) as USD is not accepted. There are many choices for a local shuttle bus or limousine van.
- By shuttle bus (Hanoi local tour operator): Pick up & drop off passengers in the Hanoi old quarter: from USD10 to USD20/person/way. It can be included if you book a Halong Bay day tour or overnight cruise.
- Take the cargo train from Yen Vien (Gia Lam, Hanoi) to Quang Ning The train starts at 4.30am and arrives at 11 am. The terminal at Halong City is near Bai Chay bus station and about 5 kilometers away from the harbor. Expect train delays and cancellations without notice. Available hard sleeper only, USD 10/person/way (complicated, not recommended).
- Take a seaplane flight from International Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi to Halong Bay for only 45 minutes. You also have 15 minutes for sightseeing over Halong Bay. Hai Au Aviation is the one and only seaplane service in Vietnam until now.
- By private car: ~USD140 (roundtrip, 7 – 16 seat car)
Getting from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is about 134 kilometers from Hanoi but cost you only ~2 hours thanks to the new Hanoi – Hai Phong Expressway.
Route: Hanoi – Hai Phong (by land transport) – Cat Ba island (by speedboat or ferry) – Lan Ha Bay. Unlike Halong bay where you can visit right from the Halong City, in order to visit Lan Ha Bay you need to go to Cat Ba island by speedboat or ferry. Cat Ba is the access point, from there you can continue your Lan Ha Bay trip.
The transportation to Lan Ha is not much varied. The most popular and easiest way is to take a bus from Hanoi (it is easily booked with some transport companies:
- Hoang Long (~225.000vnd/way)
- Cat Ba Express (340.000vnd)
- Inter Bus Lines (150.000vnd)
- Local tour operators) to Dinh Vu port. Then get on a speedboat (hydrofoil) to Cai Vieng port on Cat Ba Island (~30 minutes).
If you find this route too complicated and looking for something easier to visit Lan Ha Bay, you can book a Lan Ha Bay package tour. In the past, for a long time, Lan Ha Bay is only accessible for a day cruise from the port in Cat Ba island, you could only visit the bay through the above route then rent a small boat to go around the bay. This option is no longer an ideal choice now because it points out some disadvantages that you cannot explore the farther area of the bay on a small boat. In addition, the boat has low quality which is unable to ensure your safety. You also have to pay more fee for renting a boat, entrance fee to the bay.
Therefore, there is another option that is visiting Lan Ha Bay on an overnight cruise. Most overnight cruises in Lan Ha Bay are luxury boats with comfortable facilities. Among them, Perla Dawn Sails offer a luxurious service on a 5* boat in Lan Ha Bay, unique cruise routes to the farthest points of the bay. Instead of getting on a crowded bus, Perla Dawn Sails provide guests a Limousine Dcar with transferring time from Hanoi to Cat Hai port is about 1.5 hours. Shorter traveling time in comparing with a 4-hour transfer of the normal Hanoi-Halong route will reduce the tiredness for the guests.
What should we expect about Halong Bay?
Halong Bay is recognized as one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world. The bay appears with about 2,000 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Topped up each island and islet is a tropical forest, small and large, depending on the island’s size, which creates a distinctive greenish picture.
Not only landscape value, its geological value with at least 500 million year history is also a plus mark for Halong Bay. Halong is one of the most important areas in the world of Fengcong (clusters of conical peaks) and Fenglin (isolated tower features) karst and is considered as the best example of marine-invaded tower karst.
Halong has many caves of different sizes and interiors. The number of the cave, until now, has not been confirmed yet; some of them have been named and famous worldwide while some are less known or even unknown.
You know this famous place, find it so wonderful, so beautiful and definitely put it on your travel list. However, there is a fact that, if this destination is pretty much drawing you, it implies that numerous other individuals are as yet being pulled in as you are or considerably more than. Generally estimated, there are about 300 boat tours operating in Halong Bay, then you can imagine by yourself the number of tourists will go along with you in a day.
The Halong Management Board applies a strict policy to cruises in the bay, each boat has to sail in a
fix a route, tourists are not allowed to jump down water from the boat, only swim on beaches… Those, more or less, may affect your experience.
The Management Board applies a lot of fees for each tour, entrance fee, sightseeing fee, etc which may partially relate to your cost.
What should we expect about Lan Ha Bay
Lan Ha Bay is at the southern part of Halong Bay, far away from the boat crash in the north then coming to Lan Ha Bay, you will have chance to get closer to local fishing life, and are less likely to see as many tour boats and ships passing, never need to worry about the crowd.
Unlike its famous twin, Lan Ha Bay reserves a more pristine scenery with an intense concentration of limestone mountains which the sea surface has partitioned into smaller bays and gulfs. Many lagoons, bays, and caves still remain untouched.
The bay has up to 139 golden sandy beaches, small but pretty and isolated as “blue straits” inviting tourists to explore. Many sandy beaches stretching between two rocky mountains, quiet with no big waves, are really the ideal beaches.
Lan Ha is a peaceful sea with small fishing villages existing isolated from the rest of the world. There are wooden floats raising different species such as the green mussel, geoduck, cobia, crab, abalone, grouper, which can serve visitors according to their needs. By small boat, visitors can glide through the ravine, lagoons to visit the caves, resting on the beach.
Unlike Halong, the Lan Ha Bay itinerary is quite flexible, which means you can do any water activities that you can imagine, jumping down from the boat, going fishing with local, doing kayaking to anywhere you desire to explore, diving or surfing or even rafting. Your passion for water is only limited by your own imagination.
Tour price for the package and even backpacker travel is lower than in Halong since the fee in Lan Ha Bay is lower than in Halong.
This is actually not a real CON: The number of islands in Lan Ha Bay is less than that in Halong Bay, you don’t see “thousands of limestone islands” but about 400 small and large islands. Dissimilar to Halong, all islands in Lan Ha Bay are covered with green trees or vegetation, even if it is a little island like a peninsula.
You can see that what is considered to be the negative point of one bay turns out to be the positive point of the other one and vice versa. From that, you can look back to your desire, what do you need from a Bay cruise: a beautiful scenery but full of other tourists or a peaceful atmosphere with quiet alone space? A trip to explore hidden untouched corners to be the very first step in or visiting places that are already famous to the world? It is not hard to choose, right? Consider carefully and you will have your best experience ever.
One more, not least: March – June, and October – November is the best time to visit Halong and Lan Ha Bay when the sun mostly shines. In December and January, it’s regularly cloudy or rainy and some days may get extreme cold, while in February even drizzly and foggy. From July to September, the temperature reaches its highest point, the weather might be very uncomfortable. Moreover, this is the high season of domestic tourism, so just expect locals around you.