Most travelers who go to Vietnam make sure to make a pit stop in Halong Bay. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994 and continues to mesmerize travelers who come here to admire the thousands of limestone islands and underground caves. But the adventure doesn’t stop there though – you should also make sure to visit Cat Ba, the largest island of Halong Bay, also one of the most beautiful islands in Halong Bay.
The most popular way to get to Halong Bay is through Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. But if you want to explore a town which isn’t as crowded as Vietnam and has less than half of the amount of tourists, why not stop by Hai Phong? It’s first of all, closer to Halong Bay, and is also one of Vietnam’s most authentic cities.
Life in Hai Phong is a bit slower than in Hanoi and many people say that Hai Phong is how Hanoi used to be a few years ago. But don’t underestimate the size of Hai Phong! It’s still a big city with plenty of motorbikes on the road. And it has a lot to offer – for the ones who take the time to pass by the city. Before you head over to Halong Bay, you can stop by the beach called “Do Son”, a very popular beach amongst the locals in Hai Phong because of its close proximity. You can also explore the food scene in Hai Phong. The city has plenty of unique and quirky cafés, restaurants and even bars. Although the nightlife here isn’t as exciting as the one in Hanoi perhaps, you’ll still be able to grab a Bia Ha Noi or two. During daytime, head over to one of temples, pagodas, shrines and mausoleums, walk around the markets and marvel at the old colonial buildings.
If you want to experience a city in Vietnam that hasn’t been run over by tourism yet, you need to pass by Hai Phong. It’s easy to get to get to Halong Bay from here too. Here is how you get from Hai Phong to Halong Bay:
You can rent a car and drive to Halong Bay. The distance is only about 75 kilometres and the drive takes about 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the traffic and if you make any pit stops. The traffic can get intense though and can slow you down severely, so if you don’t have a lot of time, make sure that you leave as early as possible. As of October 2018, the new highway from Dinh Vu Port to Halong was completed, and if you choose to take that road, it only takes about 45 minutes. The toll fee is about 2 USD.
One of the most popular ways to travel around in Vietnam is by motorbike. But if you don’t feel comfortable riding a motorbike, you should probably not do it in Vietnam since traffic is intense here. But otherwise, driving a motorbike is a great way to travel around in Vietnam and it might even be faster than driving a car. What’s also so good about having your own vehicle is that you can decide where you want to stop. There’s some beautiful sights along the way that’s worth stopping for.
If you don’t want to drive the route yourself, you can always rely on public transportation. One of the most affordable and easiest ways is to get on the bus. You can catch a bus at Lac Long Terminal in Hai Phong City, which will take you to Halong Bay. You can also go by taxi, but make sure that you decide on the price before you jump in the taxi, so you don’t get tricked. Many hotels also offer coaches, which is a good alternative if you’re a few people going to Halong Bay.
Traveling in Vietnam is one of the best decisions you’ll make, so why not book your ticket today and do as millions of others and explore this Southeastern pearl. But before you arrive to the country, make sure that you apply for a Vietnam visa. You can get it by applying for a Visa on Arrival, which is an online visa, or go to a Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate, either in your local country or to the nearest one. The online option is by far the most popular way to acquire a visa because of how easy and fast it is to get. If you’re planning on flying to Vietnam, getting a Visa on Arrival is your best option. You can get it within a few days, even hours, if you apply for an Emergency visa.