10 Things to Pack for a Halong Bay Trip
Most trips to Halong Bay only span 1-3 days so you usually don’t need to pack very much. However, because you’re on the water and away from land, you’ll want to be sure to have all the necessities with you.
While the Tuan Chau Marina (where most of the cruise ships leave from) has a few small convenience stores, chances are you won’t have much time from when your car / shuttle / bus drops you off until embarkation, so don’t count on being able to do any last-minute shopping at the marina.
Because your Halong Bay cruise is on the water (obviously!), weather and temperatures may vary compared to land, especially during winter. There also might be early morning fog or mist to dress for, as well as various activities like swimming, kayaking, and hiking.
Here are our Top 10 travel packing tips for Halong Bay:
Choose the right kind of luggage: If you’re traveling internationally, chances are you’ll have a big suitcase (or two). If you can, leave your big luggage at your hotel or at the airport and just bring along a carry-on.
This is convenient if you’re getting on and off of buses, and especially if you choose to travel by seaplane. Hai Au Aviation offers a seaplane transfer between Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport directly to the Tuan Chau Marina (complete with water landing) as well as scenic flights over Halong Bay.
Even if not traveling by seaplane, you’ll want something compact so as not to take up much room in your cruise cabin.
Travel documents: As with all hotels in Vietnam, your passport will be collected on arrival. So ensure you pack your passport (or national ID if Vietnamese) with you.
There usually aren’t any printing facilities available either on the ship or at the cruise terminal / lounge, so also have your onward documents (air tickets, confirmations, etc.) with you if not returning to a Hanoi hotel.
Cash and credit cards: Most Halong Bay overnight cruises include all meals on board, but usually not drinks. There are also some shopping opportunities in Halong, either on the way to / from Halong Bay from Hanoi (vehicles usually stop halfway at a comfort stop where food, snacks, and drinks are for sale, or sometimes even at a crafts center with embroidery and other handicrafts on offer) or on the cruise itself.
Some cruise ships have a gift shop on board and if you stop at one of the floating pearl farms, the beautiful jewelry there might be a temptation. If your cruise stops at a local island or floating village, you may want to have small change as a tip for the row boat drivers or local guides.
Prescription medication: While the boat will have a first-aid kit on hand, it’s best to bring your most commonly-used over-the-counter medication and definitely any prescription medication.
In case of emergency, Halong City has full-service hospitals and clinics, but it’s best to be prepared.
Sun protection: Chances are, you’ll want to be outside as much as possible on your Halong Bay trip, whether it’s sunning yourself on the sundeck or something more active, like kayaking or hiking. Especially during summer, sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen are highly recommended against the hot Vietnamese sun.
Daypack: Part of the joy of a Halong Bay trip is exploring the surrounds on shore excursions, whether it’s visiting caves, kayaking, hiking, or swimming on an island beach.
A small daypack will come in handy to store your water bottle, phone, camera, change of clothing, and anything else you may need for the few hours you’re off the ship.
Electronic devices: While your Halong Bay itinerary will likely be packed, there might be a few moments where you’ll have some downtime (usually in the evenings, after dinner) where you might want to watch a movie or check social media. So remember to bring along your tablet and phone.
Plus, with the improvements in camera phones, you can likely leave your bigger camera at home and take some great shots on your phone.
Note that WiFi can be spotty in Halong Bay, usually stronger close to the marina and where the ships dock overnight, with weak to no signal in between.
Clothing and footwear: Temperatures in Halong Bay can vary greatly, depending on the season. During the winter, it can get cold on the water, especially if there’s wind, mist, or rain. So check the weather forecast and make sure you have a jacket in winter.
Otherwise, casual attire, including shorts and swimsuits are fine. On some of the fancier ships, you might want to dress up for dinner (dressy casual), but even then, there is usually no dress code.
Flip-flops and sandals are fine for most activities, unless you plan on hiking (there’s a hike up the hill on the popular Titov Island with a few hundred steps).
Refillable water bottle: Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most touristed sites, with thousands of visitors daily using up 5,000 wet napkins and as many plastic bottles.
There’s already a pilot program in place as of August 2019 for local tour providers to both reduce and sort waste.
Vietnam is the fourth-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution globally, and an increasing number of cruise ships are providing refill stations on board.So bring along your refillable water bottle and help out the environment while staying hydrated!
Miscellaneous: What else could be added to this list? Think about your own personal travel style. If you enjoy taking photos for the ‘Gram, you might want to pack a selfie stick.
Yes, they’re obnoxious, but you get a pass when in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. If you’re an artist or travel journal enthusiast, think about packing a notebook to fill up with drawings, notes, or mementos.
If we’ve missed something, please let us know in the comments, and have a great trip to beautiful Halong Bay!