Ha Long Bay was one of the top places on my bucket list when I planned my first trip to Northern Vietnam. It is the country’s biggest vacation hotspot, which meant expecting a possibly touristic experience, but I still wanted to go because it was an amazing natural site that stood out as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest marine karst landscapes on the planet.

Because of my busy itinerary, I only had two days and one night planned for my visit to Ha Long Bay. My timing was perfect because weather forecasts that I checked online promised clear blue skies, which I did not often see in photos shared by my friends and other travelers. This rarity made me book an overnight cruise on a “traditional” junk boat. The weather was indeed perfect on our first day and, overall, I found Ha Long Bay to be a beautiful place to visit. The highlight of my trip was seeing an awesome sunset and sunrise from the junk boat, but it was a shame that the cruise tour turned out to be a horrible and overpriced tourist trap.

Detourista Notes

More travel tips in Ha Long Bay will be posted on future updates. In the meantime, here are some quick notes you might find useful if you plan on going:

Ha Long Bay overnight cruise worth it? — Solely on what I experienced, the short answer is NO. Don’t do it unless you’re entirely assured of the service quality of cruise company you’re booking with or if your only priority is to spend the night in a boat and you don’t care that much about seeing much of the bay. You’ll find way better accommodations in the mainland, at Ha Long City, or Cat Ba Island, better chances at avoiding overpriced boat tours if you book from there, and 100% chance of not getting stuck in a horrible tourist trap the whole time you’re in Ha Long Bay.

I was very upset with my overnight cruise experience. The biggest reason why I booked it with the agency in Hanoi was because they told me the itinerary included one specific island that I really wanted to visit. I emphasized and mentioned this several times before booking. I found out later, when we were already at sea, that the boat had zero plans of going there. I couldn’t do much about it since the cruise operator and booking agency were totally different companies. Also, the guy that lied to me was in Hanoi. He couldn’t be reached by phone and would probably not care since he already had my money. To add to my frustration, the boat did not go around much of Ha Long Bay. It mostly stayed in a few spots for hours on end, in the worst, most polluted and uninspiring parts of the bay.

Previous DestinationNinh Binh, Cao Bang.

Next DestinationHanoi, Singapore.

You may visit my 2-week trip in Central and Northern Vietnam series page, the Vietnam page, or follow Marcos Detourist facebook page to check for new posts and updates.