Vietnam is a country of stunning natural beauty and a turbulent history. In the northern part of Vietnam, near Hanoi and the country’s border with China, lies Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The towering natural cliffs and islands that rise above the bay offer a picturesque view and the smooth water is an ideal surface for boats of all sizes.
Step 1: Tour the bay. One of the most popular activities in Halong Bay is a boat trip across the bay. Peruse the range of tours and tour operators available until you find one that suits your needs and budget. For excellent views and a romantic atmosphere, take a sunset cruise. When out on a boat, take a jacket; the weather in this part of Vietnam can change rapidly.
Step 2: Rent a boat. If boat tours with large groups of people are not suitable, consider renting a kayak or smaller boats. You might choose to tour Halong Bay in a group of kayakers, or set out on your own. Be sure to ask about safety standards and ideal itineraries. Remember to bring sunscreen and plenty of water, as Vietnam’s sun can be harsh during the warmest part of the day.
Step 3: Bring your camera. Halong Bay offers countless photo opportunities. It has arguably the most stunning natural scenery in all of Vietnam, and is ideal for photos at all times of the day. For dramatic photos, head out to Halong Bay at sunrise or sunset to capture the reflection of the colored sky on the water, with the cliffs in the background. Be sure to bring extra sets of batteries and ask your hotel staff about the best vantage points.
Step 4: Learn basic Vietnamese phrases. Many vendors and hotel owners near Halong Bay will know a significant amount of English, but it is a good idea to memorize handy phrases in Vietnamese. Locals will appreciate that you took the time and effort to appreciate their culture, and you will likely receive kinder treatment. Bring a Vietnamese phrasebook on your trip to Halong Bay, and refer to it as needed.
Step 5: Be prepared for culture shock. Vietnam has seen an increase in tourism in recent years, but visitors should still be prepared for a vastly different culture. Because Halong Bay is a popular destination for foreign and national tourists alike, there is a significant infrastructure. If you arrive prepared to be patient in situations that will inevitably be frustrating, your trip will be infinitely more enjoyable.
Step 6: Travel safely. Vietnam is generally a safe and friendly country, but dangers exist in high-traffic tourist areas like Halong Bay. When in public, be careful to keep your bag across your chest and in front of you to avoid petty theft; keep wallets in a front pocket to avoid pickpockets. When choosing meals, be careful to choose food that has not been left to