Andrzej & Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers share their tips for choosing between a Halong Bay cruise or to visit the lesser known Bai Tu Long Bay in Vietnam.
Are you looking for a cruise that will simply take your breath away?
A cruise that will take you on a journey to the enchanting wonderland of limestone islands surrounded by turquoise and emerald green waters?
Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay may be the cruise for you.
Many travelers head to Halong with the idea that they will get to enjoy a peaceful cruise experience, and then they leave with mixed feelings after trying to cope with the staggering number of tourists who had the same idea in their mind.
Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay
Which one Should you Choose for your Cruise?
Halong Bay is so popular that it sees over 6 million annual visitors. The once pristine bay is now often so dirty that holidaymakers refuse to swim in it.
But there is a solution and Bai Tu Long Bay might just be the answer for you!
In this post, we will compare popular Halong Bay vs the quieter Bai Tu Long Bay.
Outlining the pros and cons of each, with tips on how to pick the best Ha Long Bay Cruise Company for your Vietnam holiday.
Watch the video of our time at Halong Bay
Here is a video to show you how much fun we had at on a cruise on Halong Bay.
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Wondering how to get to beautiful Halong Bay? This post can help you plan your transfer.
Halong Bay vs Bai Tu Long Bay
Let’s take a closer look at Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, so that you can use this to your advantage when you get around to selecting your cruise company.
1. Touristy Halong Bay
Halong Bay is undoubtedly one of the most popular of places to see in Vietnam.
As a result, a rather staggering number of tourists end up having to compete for spots in the bay.
As a result, your view out of the Junk Boat window might be of just another boat.
You might also possibly find the water pollution pretty disappointing and you might end up getting frustrated with the masses of crowds around the popular sights.
What will you love about Halong Bay?
- Halong Bay is in my opinion more beautiful in comparison to Bai Tu Long Bay, simply because the limestone islands are more densely packed in this area.
- Halong Bay also has some beautiful sights to see. Some of the most popular are Surprise Cave and Titov Island. The journey through the cave, as the name suggests, will take you on an amazing adventure deep into the heart of one of the islands.
- Here you will be left speechless whilst gazing around into the colourfully lit rugged cave interior. As to the Titov Island, this place will surprise you with stunning 360-degree views over the bay. This is one of the highest peaks in the bay and the best viewpoint to check out hundreds of islands from a birds-eye-like view.
What might you not be so fond of in Halong Bay?
- Here, the hustle and bustle of tourism are quite pronounced. The islands themselves are densely positioned to one another, creating limited space for hundreds of cruise boats crowding around the main attractions. This, unfortunately, creates congestion in some parts of the bay and can take away from the feeling of peace & relaxation.
- The water is polluted and it might be common to see trash from the boats floating past your window.
2. Peaceful Bai Tu Long Bay
This might be the first time you are hearing about Bai Tu Long Bay.
Bai Tu Long Bay is situated northeast of Halong Bay. Bai Tu Long Bay is basically Ha Long Bay’s unknown brother.
It is in fact, a perfect alternative to Halong Bay; a quiet place to enjoy some romantic time with your loved one, away from the heavily touristic sites.
What will you love about Bai Tu Long Bay?
- Bai Tu Long Bay is Halong Bay’s big brother. This area covers a staggering three-quarters of the whole UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bai Tu Long Bay is still running under the tourism radar, which means that this bay is much less congested by boats and the waters of the bay are much cleaner from pollution.
- Bai Tu Long Bay is a peaceful oasis for both visitors and locals alike. Thanks to the cruise companies’ strong connection to the local culture and their way of life, you will be able to visit the floating villages for yourself as well.
- Bai Tu Long has some beautiful attractions that can visit, including Cong Do area, Vung Vieng fishing village, Da Xep Park, Cong Dam area, Thien Canh Son cave and Tra Gioi beach.
What might you not be so fond of in Bai Tu Long Bay?
- The islands of Bai Tu Long Bay are not as densely packed with Islands in comparison to Halong Bay, leaving a larger body of water in between the sections.
- During windy weather, there is less protection from the waves, which in turn can cause the boat to rock a bit more. Results? Yup, a minor case of seasickness.
Things to consider before you go on the Cruise
Choosing the right cruise operator
Considering that Halong Bay is much more popular than Bai Tu Long Bay, it obviously has many cruise operators.
Therefore, you might be able to get better cruise deals, as well as have a larger selection of choices of boats.
Saying that our recommendation would be to choose the cruise boat that will visit both, Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.
Not all cruise companies are allowed to venture into Bai Tu Long Bay, so your experience will be so much more peaceful (but most likely slightly more expensive as well).
How many days do you want to cruise for?
We found that in order to venture into Bai Tu Long Bay, we had to choose either a 2-night or 3-night cruise.
We personally enjoyed a 3 day/2night cruise and found that it was just the perfect amount of time to enjoy and really soak up the beauty and atmosphere of the two bays.
The 3-day/2-night cruises are more preferred because they give you time to enjoy the scenery during the day, relax at night with a cocktail and enjoy even more sightseeing during the following day.
Again, it gives you the chance to explore even more of the amazing places and go to the remote parts of the bays as well.
You could alternatively also choose a 1-night cruise or even a day cruise.
Just be aware that these cruise boats won’t have enough time to venture away from the crowds, however, you will still get to see the beauty of Halong Bay (if you don’t mind crowds).
Double check what’s included with the cruise
It is important to know whether food, activities, and transfers will be included in the cruise costs.
Some cruises might come across as dirt cheap, but when inclusions are compared to other companies you will quickly realize that you won’t save any money on those cruises after paying for the extras!
We prefer boats that include all food, activities and transfers, that way you can sit back and enjoy the cruise experience without having to fork out extra dollars around every corner.
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Our Personal Recommendation
Our recommendation would be to choose the 3-day 2-night cruise that includes both the bays of Halong Bay, for its extraordinary sightseeing; as well as the stunning Bai Tu Long Bai, for its clean, emerald waters & beautiful sunsets. Do your research.
Send the company a quick email to ask them which bays they will cruise to.
Have a beautiful trip and enjoy the beauty of this spectacular part of Vietnam!
This guest post is brought to you by Andrzej & Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers, a widely successful family travel blog. They love sharing their passion for travel with people all around the globe.