If you need to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay, the bus is the best option. Here’s everything you need to know about travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus, to make your journey as seamless as possible.
Limestone islets, temples in caves, underwater passageways that lead into secluded cloves – these are just glimpses of Halong Bay. If you’re based in Hanoi during your Vietnam trip, a trip out to see the Bay is a must!
Most people sign up for a day tour or overnight stay for convenience, but if you’d like to keep the costs down, then you can easily travel by bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay yourself. Here’s how…
This post is in collaboration with Bookaway.com – helping you travel to the world’s best locations via bus.
Travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus
Thanks to the well-travelled road, the journey between Hanoi and Halong Bay takes between 2 and 5 hours depending on where you’re getting picked up, and the number of stops along the way. Your mode of transport will decide your schedule as well.
Types of bus in Vietnam
There are a few different types of buses available in Vietnam for the Hanoi to Halong Bay journey.
Economy buses aren’t a traveler favourite for a reason; conductors often overcharge foreigners on local lines. Often jam-packed with people, infrequent and making countless stops, they make for an incredibly slow journey.
The cream of the crop, deluxe buses are a great compromise on budget and comfort. Modern, air-conditioned and with allocated seats, these run between major cities with meal breaks en route. If you’re travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus, you’ll appreciate the reclining seats on longer journeys, as well as the nonsmoking policy. The sleeper buses even come with padded flat beds; the karaoke machine however is an unwelcome addition. Bring your ear plugs.
‘Open Tour Bus’
Backpackers will become infinitely familiar with ‘Open Tour’ and ‘Open Ticket’ signs as they travel through Vietnam. Catering to foreign budget travellers, these air-conditioned buses let passengers hop on and off along the route. Some make detours to major attraction sites; the downside is that you have to stick to mainstream destinations. Still, it’s hugely popular for cheap intercity travels.
Day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay
I’d recommend you join a day tour from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The perks of arranging your trip via an established tour operator don’t just include round-trip bus reservations; they arrange tickets for the connecting ferry cruise and guarantee a fair price as well. Consult Bookaway or other similar platforms for reliable bus companies and a variety of bus options.
By far the most standard and popular, these tour buses come in all the Vietnamese iterations mentioned above: economy and luxury. The direct Halong Bay Bus takes around 4 hours to arrive but balances out the slower movement with budget prices. It’s worth shelling out a little more for a luxury bus if you’re travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus – they’re just newer, safer and a lot more comfortable.
More compact and more expensive, both minivan and minibus are a luxurious ride compared to your traditional bus. Because it’s more exclusive and usually shared between group travellers, the journey is a shorter 2.5 to 3 hours. These sit between 6 and 8 passengers (sometimes even 10), so I highly recommend this option if you’re travelling with friends. You may have to share ride with other backpackers but the smaller space means you can make new friends!
More of a private car than bus – luxury limos are by far the most expensive option. This is the preferred choice for families with younger children since it ferries them and no one else; it’s worth cashing out for a comfortable and tailored ride. You get to be more flexible on departure times as well.
Regardless of which you choose to take, you’ll be picked up and dropped off at your hotel if it’s located in the Old Quarter. Otherwise, you may have to convene at another location.
Is it safe to travel by bus in Vietnam?
The chaotic mass of vehicles within cities may put you off – there’s no denying the inconsistent road conditions and erratic drivers. Speaking from personal experience of Vietnam; while it’s not the most comfortable journey I’ve ever had, I arrived intact and safe.
Generally, it’s safe to travel by bus in Vietnam. In fact, most intercity travel is done by bus! Operated by private bus companies, they take the main highways at an average speed of 50 to 60 km/h – there’s no speeding and plenty more road space. You rarely hear of buses being robbed or held up either.
Top tips for travelling by bus in Vietnam
Since no one wants to sit through nail-biting anxiety every time they get on a bus, here are some tips to mitigate the risks:
- Stick to day buses. While overnight buses often rotate through 2 to 3 drivers to ensure safety, accidents are less likely to happen in broad daylight. It’s also easier to keep an eye on your belongings when you’re not nodding off due to exhaustion.
- Go with an established bus company as they tend to have more experienced drivers and are extremely familiar with the roads.
- Pay a little more for a luxury option when you’re travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus. This means better conditioned buses, less travellers to minimise chances of pickpocketing and better policies in case of accidents and emergencies.
- If you can choose seats, find one along the inside aisle around the middle of the bus. Most crashes happen from the front and back; it’s also easier to manoeuvre next to the aisle.
- Keep valuables with you and don’t store anything important at the bottom of the bus.
Top tips for Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus
If you’re travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus, here are some of my top tips for a smooth journey:
- Research your options beforehand. What buses are available, at what times and at what cost? Find what works best for your schedule.
- Know exactly what you’re paying for – is it just the bus tickets or is the cruise fee covered too? Will lunch be provided or is that an additional cost?
- Communicate clearly where the pick-up spot will be. Buses to Halong Bay mostly do pick-ups from the Old Quarter; you may have to travel there if it’s not your area of stay.
- Since you’ll most likely be setting off early in the morning, pack for your trip the night before; especially if you’re staying overnight on a boat.
- That said; most buses from Hanoi to Halong Bay will stop for meals so you don’t have to fill up your stomach beforehand. It’s good to have some breakfast however, as the first stop may take a while.
- If you purchased tickets online, print them out. I suggest buying them from a registered tour operator before boarding the bus; this way, you won’t get ripped off by conductors who sell tickets on board.
- You’ll most likely stop at a tour-affiliated handicraft workshop/store; the souvenirs and specialty products paraded in front of you are often more expensive than if you went to a local street market. Prep some cash if you want to pick a gift up, otherwise browse but commit to not buying anything!
- Make sure to keep your belongings on you whenever you exit the bus as they’re often left unattended during breaks.
- Bring water. It’s always a good idea to have water with you when you’re travelling from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus.
Benefits of travelling by bus in Vietnam
The benefits of bus travel are many but I’ve narrowed down a few reasons why I prefer it for a Hanoi to Halong Bay road trip.
- Travel is part of the experience of going from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus! Don’t just snooze on the journey – the windows frame beautiful country views, transitioning from the motorbike-laden chaos of the city to lush rice terraces and the quiet towns that pepper the region. You might even stop for cow’s to cross the road.
- There are buses for every budget – not that they aren’t already extremely cheap. While most of the public ones are grubby and worn, they get you to your destination just fine while leaving your wallet intact.
- Bus routes cover every conceivable corner of Vietnam; bus travel is efficient and accessible. Speaking of accessibility, you can easily get tickets off travel agencies (they’re everywhere in cities) or even your hotel or hostel.
- Bus tours take care of everything for you. Round-trip transportation? Check. Toilet breaks and souvenir stops? Check. Ferry connection and cruise boat? Check. If you have any concerns, simply talk to the tour guides or drivers. They’re extremely friendly and happy to help.
- It’s a classic Vietnamese experience! Can you really say you’ve been there without taking a bus? Consider it a rite of passage.
Bus travel in Vietnam is an integral system that keeps the country running. With growing tourism come newer roads, more experienced drivers, established routes and modern buses. Both budget-friendly and efficient, buses are perfect for day trips out.
With the right bus plus ferry combo, your trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay by bus will be a blast!