If you are planning to travel to Vietnam, you will probably spend several days in Halong Bay, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Asia. However, you are probably asking yourself: How do I get to Halong Bay? Does Halong Bay have an airport? I will do my best to answer both precisely and concisely those questions so you can plan your trip the best way possible.

Halong Bay does not have an international airport. The best is to fly to Hanoi and take either a bus or a car from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The route from Hanoi to Halong Bay takes around 4 hours by car and 5 hours by bus.

All the airports around Halong Bay

Vietnam has got three main international airports. One is located in Hanoi. It’s called Noi Bai International Airport (HAN). The second one is located in the South of the country. It’s Son Nhat International Airport (SGN), located in Ho Chi Minh City. The third and last one is located in the middle of the country in Da Nang. It is Da Nang International Airport (DAD).

Since Vietnam is a long country that spans widely from North to South, it would be weird to land in Ho Chi Minh City if you want to directly head to Halong Bay. It means that there remain two possibilities: Noi Bai International Airport or Da Nang International Airport. Once again, the time difference is so big that the simplest choice is probably to choose the first option and land in Hanoi. However, if the prices differ a lot, you could choose the second option. Let’s compare the routes from those two airports to Halong Bay. It takes around 15 hours to get from Da Nang International Airport to Halong Bay whereas it takes only 4 hours to get from Noi Bai International Airport to Halong Bay. Here is the Google Maps itinerary.

itinerary from hanoi airport to halong bay
Google Maps itinerary from Noi Bai International Airport to Halong Bay. It is a relatively short trip by car or bus.

Google Maps indicates that it takes 3 hours to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay, but it is usually optimistic. We can safely add one hour to that number and say that it takes at least 4 hours to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi airport.

How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay?

Considering the pieces of information mentioned earlier and the repartition of the airports in Vietnam, I can easily tell you to land in Hanoi and either rent a car, take a bus or take a taxi. This is if you want to directly head to Halong Bay after you land. However, if you are planning to do a road trip all around Vietnam, you are probably also planning to visit other places. For example, you may want to see Ninh Bình and its incredible rice terraces. If that is the case, you should plan your road trip accordingly.

As I told you earlier, the two airports which are not in Hanoi are particularely far away from Halong Bay. This is why I recommend that you plan whole trip in the North of Vietnam, and then head to another part of Vietnam. Landing in the middle of Vietnam and planning to visit the North of the country would translate into a lot of travel time. This way, you can for example land in Hanoi, visit Halong Bay and visit Ninh Bình in a week. Then, you can take a plane and land in another airport to visit the other parts of Vietnam.

What to do in Halong Bay?

What is Halong Bay without its cruises? Cruises on Halong Bay are the main touristic attraction. You can choose to embark on large cargos, or on little pirogues. It is all your choice. If you want to read more about the cruises in Halong Bay, I recommend that you read the article I wrote about Halong Bay cruises.

cargo boats in a tropical bay
As you can see, there are tons of boats in Halong Bay, so you will not have troubles finding the boat that suits you. Picture from Ammie Ngo.

Continue traveling in Vietnam

As I told you earlier, there is not only Halong Bay in Vietnam. Ninh Bình is also a great place both to see and to discover the Vietnamese culture. The issue with Halong Bay is that it is very touristic, which means that you will not feel as disoriented in Halong Bay as in Ninh Bình.

Ninh Bình, Ha Long Bay on land

The marvelous landscape of Ninh Bình

South of Hanoi, Ha Long bay on land also reveals a marvelous landscape: a rice-growing plain planted with a forest of rocky loaves. The site of the town of Hoa Lu’, the ephemeral capital of Tonkin around the year 1000, and the surrounding countryside reveal superb print motifs, with strange peaks covered with a vegetal furrow dominating peaceful rice fields. dotted with temples and pagodas.

man wearing a white t-shirt walking in a rice paddy with mountains in the background
Here are the rice fields mentioned in the previous paragraph. Picture from seb.

The combination of land and aquatic landscapes

The aquatic landscape is punctuated by immense and shredded sugar loaves, with bizarre shapes, the tops of which are covered with dense vegetation. Boat trips on the maze of rivers meander between these karst formations. We come across flat-bottomed boats that glide silently, loaded with vegetables and food. Sometimes, river and flooded paddy fields merge, giving the impression of sailing on a real sea. The ducks and the kids frolic on the sides of the rocks on which the fishermen’s houses are installed. The river winds its way under three very low caves, the first of which is 127 m long.

aerial photography of muddy river with rice fields and mountains
The combination of land with the mountains and the rice fields and aquatic landscapes with the river. Picture from William Jones.

A scenic relief in a scenic place

Not far away, the Thung Nham bird reserve nestles in the middle of this fabulous karst relief. This pleasant park can also be visited by boat and allows you to venture into a 500 m deep cave-tunnel with a host of stalactites and crystalline shine. The walk or bike ride leads to a body of water bathing a centuries-old banyan tree, orchards of litchis, guava trees, mango trees, and other carambolas. Hoa Lu’ was the capital of independent Vietnam from the end of the 10th century to the beginning of the 11th century. Of the citadel which stood in this magnificent setting, nothing remains, barely two temples rebuilt in the 17th century. However, the surrounding countryside is worth the trip; a line of toothless rock peaks and jagged loaves of sugar, uncertain summits shrouded in mist, fertile rice fields, women bent under their conical hats, bamboo hedges separating hamlets like curtains, a few small houses capped with worn red tiles, the curved roofs of temples and pagodas … In the silence of a serene landscape: here is the unchanging Asia of our imagination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *