Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

HANOI – CAT BA – HALONG BAY, Vietnam on a Budget

Are you thinking about going from Hanoi to Halong Bay but you’re not sure how to enjoy it with a happy wallet? I hope this post will give you some ideas as I’m going to tell you how I enjoyed my trip to Halong Bay. 😄

You can skip to the next bit if you already know about Halong Bay and definitely are going there but if you want a bit more convincing then please do read my rambling part. It’s not too long…

Halong Bay is packed with beauty, legend, culture and history. If you don’t know already, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage and a second winner of the New 7 Wonders of Nature for 2007.

This “Bay of Descending Dragons” is 120 kilometres long and throughout this distance, there are thousands of limestones islands. Some are small and some are big enough to settle down. Though, thousands of people chose not to live on these islands. There are four floating fishing villages among these islets and islands. It’s amazing to think that they live like that, doing everyday things like buying fresh ingredients, cooking, eating and repeating all of this to many levels cooler than how I live. As an addition to this already too cool not to witness, there are also many traditional Junk Boats, with colorful masts that perfectly contrast the blue of this bay. ⛵

How I went to Halong Bay?

I did some research before flying to Hanoi. I ended up with confused head because there are too many ways to visit Halong Bay, from 3 days cruise, party cruise, a private cruise and more. Many of these choices are too expensive for me and some are not very convenience with my time.

So, I decided that I’d go from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island, which is the largest island of Halong Bay. Then from there, I’ll cruise to the Halong Bay!

From Hanoi to Cat Ba Island with Good Morning Cat Ba
  • Pick up and drop off at hotels
  • Leaves Hanoi at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • 3 hours trip
  • 32 USD for return ticket

I came across and contacted them through Facebook Messenger. They offer a package that pick you up from your hotel around Old Quarter streets of Hanoi, take care of all your belongings and take you to Tan Vu. Here is where you hop off the bus and jump on the speed boat and after 10 minutes, you’ll arrive at the Cat Ba Island, where they drop you off at your accommodation in town as well!

Save on your hotel -

Things to do in Cat Ba Island
  • Rent a scooter and see the Lan Ha Bay
  • Observe cultures at temples and markets
  • Visit the Cannon Fort
  • Explore the Hospital Caves and its National Park
  • Relax by Cat Co beaches

When I was doing all my bookings. I planned to stay in Cat Ba for a day because I only think of it as a stopover, but then I extended my stay. There are so many things to do and see here. Cat Ba is just as amazing as Halong Bay itself. 😎

I’d recommend renting a scooter or a bicycle to go around the island. The view along the coast by Lan Ha Bay is stunning. There are many fishing boats and few floating restaurants if you are keen on some seafood munch. Otherwise, you could also eat like a local at their market, which opens until very late. You can also localize to a spiritual level by visiting their temples. Please dress appropriately, though they are not too strict about clothing.

                                                                     Floating restaurants

My favourite spot of Cat Ba is at the Cannon Fort. It gives you the view of the harbour and the bay. There is a small café up here, which is pretty nice after a walk around. Another cool place to visit is the Hospital Cave. The name is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a three-storey bomb-proof hospital inside a cave that was built in the 70s. It’s definitely worth paying 40,000 VND for. The entrance is right by the Cat Ba National Park!

If you are looking for a place to relax after all this, simply chose a number from 1 to 3. There are three main beaches on the island, Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3. All of them are located by resorts but you can still hang around and even order some cocktails into the mix. At Cat Co 3, there is a cliff-side walking trail that’ll take you to Cat Co 2. I went up there after the swim, so I was barefoot and it wasn’t a smart idea. The floor is pretty sharp and hot! 🔥

                                             Cliff-side walking trail between Cat Co 3 and Cat Co 2

I was staying at the Bay View Hotel. It’s close to the night market and the harbour. There is a restaurant on site and they arrange scooter rentals as well. I also booked my day trip to Halong Bay with them. Upon booking, make sure prices of everything are included.

                                  View from the walking trail between Cat Co 2 and Cat Co 3

Halong Bay – 1 Day Trip
  • Fishing Village
  • Monkey Island

Cat Ba Island is a very good departure spot to cruise the Halong Bay. It’s pretty close and there are many boats leaving the island every day! This makes it easy to modify your schedule or design your own excursion.

I decided to go on a full day trip, which they picked me up at Bay View Hotel at 8 a.m., took me to the pier, got me on a Junk Boat and took me through islands and islets of Halong Bay. We did cruise through a Fishing Village and I was in awe!

After some time of cruising, the boat stoped. We got off the boat, jumped on our Kayak and spent around an hour rowing through some limestone bridges and holes.  It’s beautiful and I enjoyed it with every sore arms. 💪

After we got back on the boat, they took us to an enclosed bay, where they started serving us lunch, which was much-needed after how little we’ve done. Once we were satisfied and all, we swam from the boat to a small island that has a small beach where we sun bathed or we could just snorkel around the bay too.

We spent few hours there, then the boat took us to the Monkey Island! This was the highlight of my trip, with monkeys on the white sandy beach! I couldn’t think of a better way to end my trip! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 😁







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  1. I’ve been to Vietnam but only in Saigon though :C I wanted to come back there and experience the Halong Bay and the famous Sand Dunes (I just forgot where it is ..LOL) Anyways, Halong Bay looks similar to James Bond Island in Phuket 😀 as what I’ve seen in your photos especially the standing big rock

    • Yok

      There are few places with Sand Dunes in Vietnam but the one that’s really nice is in Muine! 😁

  2. Will be saving this! Next trip
    <a into here

  3. I’ve been in Hanoi and Cat ba 3 days, I think Cat ba and Lan ha bay very beautiful
    Hope comeback soon, I had book bus hanoi to cat ba down here 12$ included bus, speedboat and bus and dropoff at hotel in Cat ba town

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