Ha Long Bay
Posted by Heliocentrism on May 15, 2009
May 15, 2008
Overpaying and Getting Less
Through the Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel, where I was staying, I booked a 2 day, 1 night trip to Ha Long Bay. Standard accommodations cost $45 and deluxe accommodations were $65. The price included transportation to and from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi, 4 meals, all the water and tea needed for the stay, kayaking, and sightseeing of one cave. Beer and soda could be bought on the boat. Deluxe accommodations came with an a/c room and more meat dishes with the meals.
In Vietnam I noticed that many prices were given in U.S. dollars or Euros. Some places even encouraged payment in these currencies. So, there is no need to change too much cash into dong.
Most of the people on the boat booked their trip through the Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel or one of the sister hotels. I had actually met two of the people, a father and daughter, on the trip back in my hotel lobby the day before.
There were two guys, however, who paid for the boat stay through an agency. They had to find their own transportation to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi and back. To add insult to injury, they paid $95 each for standard accommodations.
I didn’t think that the deluxe deal was worth it. There were only 2 people who had paid for better accommodations, an Australian lady and me. There was a lot more meat with each meal, but we couldn’t eat it all and ended up sharing with everyone on the boat. At night, even though it was never hot, we cranked up the a/c to freezing and used extra blankets to justify paying $20 more than most of the other guests.
I don’t want undelicious cookies; I want batteries!
If you go out to Ha Long Bay there is no need to bring water, soda, beer, or horrible tasting cookies. There are more vendors rowing around selling these things than there are people willing to buy them.
No one wanted to buy any of that stuff because these items were for sale on our tour boats at lower prices. Plus the tour boats keep their drinks refrigerated. And you don’t have to yell over the side of a boat or haggle over prices.
You should, however, bring extra batteries, sunscreen, chocolate bars, and tasty snacks, because none of the vendors there will be selling any of these obviously sellable items.
How to get there:
- You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
- Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
- Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
- Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
- When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
- Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
- Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
- Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
- Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
- For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
- Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo.
- It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
Ha Long Bay
(Vịnh Hạ Long)
- 20°48’13.4″N 107°13’09.7″E
There are many companies that offer trips to Halong Bay from Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam. Just shop around and ask other tourists for their advice.
65USD should get you an air conditioned room for a 1 night trip with a roommate for 2 days and one night. More than that and you are just being ripped off. It’s about 45USD for standard accommodations.
Don’t feel like you must shell out extra cash to pay for an a/c room on the boat. At night it gets pretty cool and all you need is a fan which comes with standard accommodations.
Transportation and food and water should come with the package as well as a few activities. Beer and extra activities will come with additional charges.