Large cruise ships previously had to anchor offshore and use tenders to ferry passengers to the city’s wharf. As of November 2018 the opening of Halong’s international passenger port changes all that allowing ships to dock at the port adjacent to a brand new Hon Gai International Passenger Terminal.
There is really nothing in the Halong Bay area/port area to see except Halong Bay itself.
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Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay is considered the most outstanding attraction in Vietnam. Its breathtaking scenery includes caves, huge rock arches, peaceful coves and some 3,000 limestone islets that rise out of the Gulf of Tonkin. Ha Long means "descending dragon". According to legend, it was an enormous beast that cut the fantastic bay from the rocks as it thrashed its way out to the sea. Vietnamese poets traditionally have extolled the beauty of this romantic area, where awesome rock formations are one of the most exotic, natural wonders in the world.
Junk boats leave from Tuan Chau International Passenger Port, a modern facility, about a 20 minute taxi ride away.
It's about 45 mins by junk to the karsts, so don't waste your time with a 2-hour junk trip - make it at least 4 hours & preferably 6. A group of 8 to 20 can hire a junk on-spec from a pier for peanuts, around $10pp. So much better and cheaper than a crowded ship's junk excursion. The experience of sailing amongst the karsts in a junk - it's eerie & lonesome - is very different to looking over the rail of the ship
Hanoi is a 3-4 hour tour away and is best done by cruise organized excursion. The drive is a long one on busy roads that take you through many villages, but also past a lot of rice fields ... so a chance to see rural life in Vietnam. Hanoi itself is definitely worth seeing.
International driving licenses are not accepted in Vietnam. Therefore, there are no car rental companies such as Hertz and Avis etc.
Tourists will be able to take a ferry from the terminal to Cat Ba Island, the largest island in the bay. The ferries, take about 40 minutes and are able to transport motorbikes, cars and minivans.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here.
Hanoi the capital of Vietnam, and also its second largest city, is a fascinating blend of East and West, with Chinese influence from centuries of dominance, and French design from its colonial past. It is largely unspoiled by modern architecture of the 1970s and 80s, and is now going through a modernization that is making it a rising star in Southeast Asia.
Printable map to take along.
The national currency is the dong (d?ng, VND), U.S. dollars are widely accepted, the standard exchange rate for small quantities being 16000 dong to US$1.
ATMs are getting more and more common and can be found in most bigger cities and every tourist destination.
You can bargain on practically anything in Vietnam.
The people of Vietnam speak Vietnamese as a native language, English is becoming more popular as a second language. English study is obligatory in most schools.
Tuan Chau International Passenger Port (Junk Boats) offers WiFi.
Shopping hours: Daily 0800/0830-2100/2200.
By far the largest holiday of the year is Tet, also known as Vietnamese New Year, which takes place between late January and March following the unisolar Chinese calendar. During the three days of Tet shops close up and everybody heads home to their family, making this a somewhat difficult time to travel in Vietnam.
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