So, you’re considering a Halong Bay visit but you’re hesitant because you’ve heard something on the grapevine that’s putting you off.
In this article, we are going to look at the top Halong Bay travel concerns and debunk them based on personal experience, deep research, and testimonials from other travelers. Let’s look at the top Halong Bay travel concerns from tourists:
Halong Bay Travel Concern #1: Pollution
Despite its World Heritage status, Halong Bay has unfortunately not been immune to the nasty pollution that plagues a lot of Southeast Asian waters.
This is down to a number of reasons – careless cruises discarding their waste and spilling fuel, thoughtless littering from tourists, uneducated fishermen allowing their debris to float into the waters without understanding the consequences, and above all a lack of enforcement of environmental protection regulations in the area.
How shameful it is that we can now read comments on travel forums that say things like “yes, it’s full of trash, but it’s still worth visiting for the scenery”. Number one, we should never have allowed it to happen, number 2- no matter how beautiful something is, filling it with trash destroys it.
It’s a mighty shame, but recent years have seen some of the renowned emerald Halong waters turn brown with pollutants- however, the times are a-changin’ in the world famous bay; there are big efforts (led by the local government) underway to reverse the damage that has been done and address this pressing Halong Bay travel concern.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature in collaboration with the Halong-Cat Ba Alliance and some local cruise companies have banded together to create a campaign that will “clean up the dirty Halong”.
The campaign framework supports locals (mainly youths and students) in joining together and cleaning up the area- either by combing the beaches collecting litter or on the water by kayak.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, nor will this project be completed overnight- but with the backing of NGOs, participation of volunteers, heavy media interest, and forceful government policies we will be on the right track again in no time.
If you do choose to visit Halong, instead of turning your nose up at the litter you may see, please consider doing your bit to help (it can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter from the water if you go out for a kayak trip); hopefully soon this Halong Bay travel concern will be a thing of the past.
Halong Bay Travel Concern #2: Cruise Safety
If you’ve heard a ‘budget’ cruise horror story from Halong Bay, you’re not the only one. It might be a case of Chinese whispers, granted, but either way, your safety on the water is definitely not something you want to take lightly, especially if you are traveling with children.
While there are regular improvements being made to govern safety standards, the onus is still on the customer; it’s of crucial importance that whatever cruise you’re considering is one that meets proper quality and safety regulations.
So how can you tell the difference between a quality cruise and a cowboy company? We’ve done the research, and based on this we’ve compiled a database of cruises that meet our rigorous safety standards.
On a budget? Totally fine; you don’t have to be flush with cash to go on a Halong Bay cruise, and you don’t need to sacrifice your safety or take any risks just because you’re choosing a budget option. Take Rosa Cruise, or Aclass Legend for example- super standard of cruising, great service, and some of the cheapest on the market.
Or, if you don’t mind parting with a little bit more cash, try out Pelican Cruise (they claim to be one of the few Halong cruises that employ full radar and sonar equipment, plus smoke alarms, life jackets- the whole shebang).
Check out our article on the top budget friendly Halong cruises if you want to know more.
Halong Bay Travel Concern #3: Cruise Menu for Vegetarian/Vegan/Seafood-free/Allergy Prone Passengers
If you’re someone with strict, specific dietary requirements you’ve probably been in many a situation where you’ve had to exclude yourself because of it. I know plenty of vegans who say they regularly have to resort to eating little more than a garden salad when they go out because there is simply no other option for them.
Thankfully, this is absolutely not the case when dining on a Halong Bay cruise. As long as you notify the cruise management far enough in advance (48 hours usually gives them enough time to prepare) the chefs on board will ensure you have just as much choice as everyone else. Exemplary cruises are Pelican Cruise, Orchid Cruise, and Garden Bay Premium Cruise.
Halong Bay Travel Concern #4: Too Touristy?
It’s undeniable, Halong Bay has experienced nothing short of a massive tourism spike in recent years, and indeed it has had an effect on the cruising experience. If you’ve visited the bay in, say 2007, then for sure 2017 is going to look mighty different. If you’re near the port there are hundreds of boats, private vessels, cruise liners, you name it.
However, this is not the case everywhere in the bay, and if you are looking for a ‘less-touristy’ experience away from the crowds you can still find it – as long as you know where to look.
Here’s the trick: going on a day cruise (or even a one night cruise) means that your boat won’t have time to travel too far away from the port, so you’ll be staying in the most populous area of the bay with all the other boats.
The scenery is still completely stunning here, but it has to be said that sharing the view with 100+ other boats takes away a bit of the romance. If you have the time, booking a 2-night cruise means that your boat will have the time to sail off further away from the crowded areas, into the regions of the bay where few other cruises travel.
Keep an eye out in particular for cruises (like Orchid Cruise or Azalea Cruise) whose route go through Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bay, areas which are just as impressive in terms of scenery as Halong, but lack the same levels of tourism.
Did we succeed in debunking your top Halong Bay travel concerns? Is there anything else you think should be discussed here? Let us know, and we’ll be happy to write an article covering your concerns.