Halong Bay Cruise Itinerary: 3 days 2 nights or 2 days 1 night?

Are you finding Halong Bay cruise itineraries too confusing to book? It’s difficult to know if the 3 days 2 nights (3D2N) itinerary is too long or sufficiently interesting or if the 2 days 1 night (2D1N) one is long enough. This blog post will guide you through and help you choose the right itinerary for your perfect trip to Halong Bay.

Halong Bay cruise itinerary
An example of Halong Bay cruise itineraries

First of all, let’s go through the similarities in the 2 Halong Bay cruise itineraries

Every Halong Bay cruise itinerary always begins at the same time in the morning on the first day. The guide will pick you up at your hotel at around 8 o’clock to take you on the 3 to 4-hour long ride from Hanoi to the quayside at Halong. The journey is 170 km and there will be a short break of about 30 minutes in Hai Duong Province. It is an interesting trip through some of Vietnam’s beautiful countryside, with lush green paddy fields, romantic rivers, and imposing mountains. You will reach your destination at Halong Bay by noon, check-in, listen to the safety guideline and get onboard your cruise boat to have a nice Asian lunch.

Most of the Halong Bay cruise itineraries will start by sailing deep into the bay and will make a visit to one of the many popular caves, or maybe a fishing village. Later, you can enjoy your time kayaking or swimming. In the evening, you will be served an excellent dinner after which you may relax onboard with your family or friends.

On the following morning, your day will usually start with a Tai Chi class on the sundeck followed by breakfast. The boat continues sailing as you continue to witness the truly marvelous landscape. You will either continue on or end your journey at noon depending upon your chosen itinerary.

Differences between the 2 Halong Bay cruise itineraries

As stated above, both Halong Bay cruise itineraries are the same on the first and the last day. It is on the second day of the 3D2N where there are differences. The 3D2N itinerary not only provides more time for you to relax and enjoy more extra activities, explore more views and understand more deeply the culture of Halong Bay, but also provides other options of where you may spend the night.

Many Halong Bay cruise itineraries now offer 1 night on the boat and the other night in a hotel or bungalow on Cat Ba Island.This offers you the opportunity to discover Cat Ba Island where you can go shopping, hiking, biking or swimming at Cat Ba beach; an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the nature of Halong Bay.

Define your goals

From the very beginning of your trip to Halong Bay, you must have set your main goals in visiting this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site and choose the right itinerary depending upon your needs. Therefore, it is important when deciding on which Halong Bay cruise itinerary to determine whether you want to spend your time relaxing or exploring all that Halong Bay has to offer.

If you are trying to find a peaceful place in which to enjoy your time, sit back and relax while cruising through the awesome scenery, then the 3D2N itinerary will suit your needs perfectly. The second day of this tour provides time for you to relax, whereas those taking the 2D1N trip will have to make the journey back to Hanoi. After the Tai Chi class, which invigorates your body after a good night’s sleep, you’ll have time to enjoy your breakfast and your extra activities.

The 2D1N Halong Bay cruise itinerary is not the perfect choice for those who like to relax and enjoy extra activities as walking through the cave after the long ride in the morning can be quite arduous. This tour is best suited to energetic travelers who are eager to explore and discover the magnificence of Halong Bay. Halong Bay is world famous and there are many things to experience rather than spending the whole 3 days on the boat. In addition to the cruise trips, you can sample the delicious local cuisine or take part in traditional events.

Your budget

This is also a crucial element in any tour, not just your Halong Bay cruise itinerary. If budget is not an issue and you are trying to experience a relaxing honeymoon trip with your partner or maybe celebrate your wedding anniversary, then the five-star 3D2N cruise will guarantee you a perfect time of peace and quiet.

However, if you are a solo traveler with a tight budget and merely want to see the popular sights of Halong Bay, then the 2D1N itinerary as explained above will adequately match your needs.

Besides, with a tight budget, it is better for you to book a good 2D1N tour rather than a cheap 3D2N one. You get what you pay for and some of the cheap 3D2N tours lack adequate customer service. There have been reports of travellers not even being supplied with drinking water and have had to buy tit at inflated prices. Therefore, I would always recommend a good quality 2D1N itinerary for travellers on a fixed budget.

The weather

Choosing your Halong Bay cruise itineraries also depends on the weather. As you may know, Halong Bay has 2 major seasons, winter and summer. If you want to enjoy the many activities on your 3D2N trip, you should avoid visiting Halong Bay between November and March, as it can get quite cold with temperatures dropping as low as 15º Celsius. The other months are fine with clear blue sky and hot weather ideal for swimming or kayaking.

However, in the summer months, you should check for any rain or bad weather due to tropical storms before booking your tour. Some travellers however, particularly Westerners, may find the excessive temperatures hard to cope with. If you do not like hot weather, then a 2D1N cruise in the winter, may suit you.


I hope that this blog proves useful in helping you to choose your Halong Bay cruise itineraries. So, which side are you on? Are you on team #2D1N or team #3D2N?

If you have made up your mind, head on over to our cruise booking page.