Halong Bay's sister cities of Bai Chay and Hong Gai are about 165 kilometers northeast of Hanoi. It's about a 4 hour drive from Hanoi. A few folks attempt to visit the bay as a day trip, which is fine so long as you really enjoy dull car rides! You'll spend twice as much time on the road than on the bay. If you're really in a rush, skip the road and go by Russian-built MI-8 helicopter!
Most folks arrive via minibus as part of an overnight cruise package. The minibus picks you up at your hotel around 8:00am and drops you dockside in Halong around 12:00 Noon. Alternatively you can hire a car for around US$100 round trip.
If you have more money than time, or prefer a double shot of adventure, go by helicopter. Helicopter service aboard Russian-built MI-8 or MI-17 helicopters is offered on Saturday only. You depart at 8 a.m. from Gialam heliport, about 15 km from center of Hanoi. Free transportation to Gialam heliport from the Metropole Hotel departs at 7:15 a.m. The return flight is at 3 p.m. the same day. A ticket will set you back US$175 round trip/US$90 one way. Children under 6 pay half. There must be a minimum of 10 passengers to make the trip. Flights are canceled (often at the last minute!) if weather is bad.
A day cruise of Halong Bay is available for an additional US$20 per person. Package includes round-trip car transfer from Halong heliport to the boat, boat trip (4-5 hours), lunch, and guide.
Contact Hanoi-based Buffalo Tours for information and reservations, 1-866-488-1840 (toll free in USA).
AKA The Hard Way to Halong Bay, Train buffs can get to Haiphong by train in the morning, and then take the afternoon ferry to Hong Gai, or the ferry or hydrofoil to Cat Ba Island. Ferries depart for Hong Gai about three times a day. Schedules change constantly. The fare is about 15,000 dong one-way. Figure an entire day each way.
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