This detailed transport guide explains everything you need to know about how to get to downtown Hanoi and all the best travel options between Hanoi to Halong Bay.
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular destinations on the heavily beaten tourist path. Who doesn’t want to see a unique UNESCO world heritage site on an overnight cruise?!
Typically, visitors to Halong Bay will originate in Hanoi.
But we will also explain how to get to Halong Bay from other major cities in Vietnam which includes braving the notorious sleeper bus and many other forms of transport.
Now, let’s travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay!
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Where Is Halong Bay, Vietnam?
Halong Bay is all the way up in the North East corner of Vietnam, around 95 miles (150km) from the border with China.
Halong Bay is easily reachable from Hanoi, but there are options from Ninh Binh and even Sapa that we will discuss later.
Before we get into Hanoi to Halong Bay options, let’s take a look at getting into Downtown Hanoi.
Flying to Hanoi (Noi Bai International Airport)
Most visitors to Hanoi will fly into Vietnam’s capital city as their first port of call.
Research prices thoroughly and be as flexible as possible with your dates. Book your flight using Skyscanner for the best user interface and value.
Fortunately, Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) is one of Vietnam’s 2 major international airports so it’s easily accessible from many parts of the world.
This means an enormous amount of options both internationally and domestically.
Flying internally in Vietnam and regionally in South East Asia typically is incredibly affordable, even for backpackers on a tight budget.
Look out for VietJet Air, Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar and Bamboo for unbeatable value. Be sure to check luggage allowances if you are backpacking.
Need a new travel backpack? Don’t miss our detailed Osprey Farpoint 40 review which has traveled with us for years.
Getting From Hanoi Airport To Downtown Hanoi
Once you land, you will need to organize onward travel about 15 miles (25km) to downtown Hanoi via one of these methods:
1. Grab Car Or Taxi
Grab is the Uber of SE Asia. You just need the app and internet inside Hanoi Airport to book a ride. If you land at peak times, expect to pay more. A Grab car to downtown Hanoi will cost about US$ 12-15.
You could also try a Grab Motorbike. The same thing applies as Car, just book a motorbike instead for around US $5-7. This only works if you have 1 backpack but it’s definitely the adrenaline rush option.
An airport taxi is another option, but be vigilant because there are attempted scams at work.
Look for Man Linh (green cars) and Taxi Group (white cars). Always ask for the meter to be turned on once you get into the car or agree on a good price before you leave. Otherwise, get out and try again.
A taxi to downtown Hanoi should cost about about US$ 15-18.
Some airlines offer an airport shuttle. If you fly into Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines or Jetstar you can make use of their respective dedicated shuttle into town for just US$ 2 per person.
This is a great deal if you fly with them.
Another great option is the Airport Express Shuttle with Klook. You can pre-book a private comfortable air conditioned car with hotel drop off ahead of time with Klook for US$ 14.50.
If you are super budget conscious, you can take either public bus number 17 for US$ 0.50 or number 86 for US$ 1.50. This option will be cheap but uncomfortable.
The public bus will be the slowest option and you may have the language barrier to contend with. You will also need to take a taxi from bus stop in Hanoi to hotel.
If you want to travel in luxury, you could book a private car to downtown Hanoi. You can book online before your flight or at the airport when you land. Both options will cost around US$ 10-25.
Heading to Hanoi? You might like our popular guide featuring the best things to do in Hanoi along with 2 day example itinerary.
Taking The Train To Hanoi (Ga Ha Noi)
Traveling by train in Vietnam is the perfect way to see beautiful countryside regions that you otherwise would never see.
Train travel can also be quite comfortable if you pay a little extra and book a whole first class sleeper cabin. Or simply keep it cheap and cheerful by booking a second class seat.
Journey times up and down the long narrow country can understandably put some people off. For example, if you were to take a train directly from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, it would take around 35 hours.
More likely you will be traveling up from Da Nang, Hue, Dong Hoi or Ninh Binh.
Arrival into Hanoi is at Ga Ha Not which is about a 20 minute walk from the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
To ensure you receive the best prices for train travel in Vietnam, be sure to look at more than one resource and compare costs for your upcoming trip. We recommend comparing prices on 12Go Asia and Baolau.
Downtown Hanoi To Halong Bay Transport Options
Halong Bay is roughly 105 miles (170km) from downtown Hanoi. It’s an awkward distance in terms of working out whether traveling independently by motorbike is a viable option.
For us, we would say that number is just outside of a comfortable distance for making the journey on the back of a moped, especially in Vietnam. But each to their own!
The rest of this transport guide will cover all possibilities on how to get to Halong Bay from Hanoi:
1. Minibus to Halong Bay Included With Cruise Booking
The majority of tourists traveling between Hanoi and Halong Bay will book some sort of cruise in Halong Bay. These cruises can range in length from 4 hours to about 4 days.
We would recommend booking your Halong Bay cruise online because you will be able to use previous guest reviews and see pictures of the exact cruise you will be taking.
A perk to booking these cruises online is you can choose to include transfer to and from Hanoi or somewhere else in Vietnam depending on your itinerary.
If you are interested in taking a Halong Bay cruise, we recommend you read our how to book the perfect Halong Bay cruise travel guide because we cover everything you need to know.
Pros To Booking Halong Bay Transfer With A Cruise
- Incredibly convenient
- Fairly cost effective
- Ability to negotiate a price (sometimes)
- Hotel pick up and drop off
Cons To Booking Halong Bay Transfer With A Cruise
- Not the cheapest option
- Shared transportation
- Not an independent option
- May have to negotiate
- Limits your time in Halong Bay
2. Private Car Transfer From Hanoi To Halong Bay
Booking a private car transfer is by far the most comfortable way to travel between Hanoi and Halong Bay. It is also one of the most direct ways to get to Halong Bay.
We like this option because you can book it before your trip and focus on planning the rest of your Vietnam itinerary.
If you don’t want to share a vehicle with anyone else or if you have a big group, a private vehicle would be the best option for you.
Pros To Booking A Private Transfer To Halong Bay
- Most convenient option
- Premium comfort
- Ability to choose your times
- Hotel pick up and drop off
- Safe, air-conditioned and clean
- Private travel option
Cons To Booking A Private Transfer To Halong Bay
- Very expensive
- Not the most environmentally friendly
3. Booking A Taxi Online From Hanoi To Halong Bay
Taking a local taxi is an option, but we recommend you pre-book your ride because a common scam in Vietnam involves overcharging for taxi rides.
Because it’s about 100 miles from Hanoi to Halong Bay, you don’t want to be overcharged with that long of a ride.
By booking a taxi online, the prices are already included so you know exactly what you will be paying.
But if you don’t book a taxi online, be sure to agree on a price before you get into the car and make sure the meter is on when you start the drive. This way the driver can’t just make a number up on arrival.
You should always track the journey on your maps app and if you are alone, share the location on your phone with someone else just as a precaution.
A taxi to Halong Bay should cost about US$ 20-40 each way and you can pre-book a taxi on 12GoAsia.
Pros To Booking A Taxi Online To Halong Bay
- A direct way to get to Halong bay
- Can be affordable
- Once booked, you won’t have to worry about a ride
Cons To Booking A taxi Online To Halong Bay
- Small amount of planning required
- Potential to be ripped off if not booked online
4. Public Bus Hanoi To Halong Bay
For backpackers and those on a tight budget looking for the cheapest way to travel between Hanoi and Halong Bay, look no further than the local bus.
The local bus can cost as little as US$ 5 per person and it gives you ultimate freedom to stay in Halong Bay, with no return as part of the deal.
Here are the US$ 5 buses with Baolau, just put your dates in.
Buses leave from My Dinh station in Hanoi, which is 5.5 miles (9km) West of the Old Quarter and you will need to get a taxi there.
The bus then arrives into Halong City at the Bai Chay station, so if you plan to head straight over to a cruise, you’ll need to taxi over to the cruise port.
Pros To Booking A Public Bus Hanoi To Halong Bay
- Extremely affordable
- Set pre-paid cost
- Only one way
Cons To Booking A Public Bus Hanoi To Halong Bay
- Not the most comfortable option
- Shared and busy transportation
- Taxi required at both ends
- Not convenient
5. Motorbike Hanoi To Halong Bay
This option is reserved only for the most adventurous of travelers! As long as you’re a confident driver, why not hire a motorbike and make the journey yourself?
If this sounds like your next Vietnam adventure, you will just need to hire a motorbike in Hanoi, hand over a copy of your passport and hit the road.
Motorbike hire will cost you around US$5-6 per day, so if you plan a quick turnaround it can be extremely cost effective.
The major benefit to traveling by motorbike is being able to stop off at any place you like between Hanoi and Halong Bay.
The flexibility and independence means you can even check out Cat Ba or Hai Phong before returning to Hanoi.
Be extremely diligent when hiring motorbikes. Do a thorough check of everything to make sure it all works firstly for your safety and secondly to avoid being ripped off at the end.
All three options have excellent review from previous guests.
Travel Tip: Take photos of the bike when you pick it up so there is no confusion if the bike already has a few scratches.
Pros To Renting A Motorbike From Hanoi To Halong Bay
- Best flexibility and independence
- Cheap option
- Ability to stop anywhere in between
- Your chance to see the countryside
Cons To Renting A Motorbike From Hanoi To Halong Bay
- Only for very confident drivers
- Can’t carry much luggage
- Not the safest option
- Not comfortable
- Exposed to weather conditions
6. Pre-book A Halong Bay Tour Including Transport
If you are looking for an alternative to avoid having to book a cruise once you arrive into Hanoi at a travel agency, book a cruise package online in advance.
You can look online at booking.com, Get Your Guide, Klook and Viator. Options for most Halong Bay cruises include 1 to 4 day options depending on how long you want your cruise to last.
Prices are similar, sometimes even better than in Hanoi depending on season. Check out the options above to see what deals you can find.
You may even find transport options back from Halong to Hanoi after the cruise.
Pros To Pre-booking A Halong Bay Tour Including Transport
- Ultimate convenience
- No stress or hassle in Hanoi
- Set price and excellent value
- Hotel pick up and drop off
Cons To Pre-booking A Halong Bay Tour Including Transport
- Shared transport
Interested in booking a Halong Bay Cruise? Don’t miss our guide on how to book the best Halong Bay Cruise.
7. Slow Train Hanoi To Halong Bay
There is a single train that travels once daily between Hanoi and downtown Halong. It leaves at 4:55am from Yen Vien station in the North East of Hanoi, which isn’t the most thrilling option.
But a ticket only costs US$ 3.50 and many people are averse to making any trips by road in Vietnam.
This train does take a lengthy 7 hours to reach Halong Bay and on the return leg you can only catch it at 1:50pm each day.
Pros Taking The Slow Train From Hanoi To Halong Bay
- Extremely affordable
- Safe way to travel
Cons Taking The Slow Train From Hanoi To Halong Bay
- One 1 train per day
- Inconvient 4:55am departure
- Takes about 7 hours
- Taxi at both ends required
Hanoi Airport Direct To Halong Bay
If you have no desire to head into the carnage of Hanoi, there are a few limited options for taking direct transport to Halong Bay from Hanoi Airport.
Recently, a new expressway has been opened between Hanoi and Halong Bay.
This road cuts off a big chunk of time but it also has a US$ 12 toll fee that passengers must pay if they want to go the quicker route.
Private Car with Klook US$ 71 for up to 2 people or US$ 77 for up to 5 people. This option is best value and most comfortable options for a small group.
Or if US$ 400 per person isn’t a problem for you, why not fly from Hanoi Airport to Halong Bay on Hai Au seaplane.
Normal taxi of course is an option, try to take Mai Linh (green taxi) if possible and expect to pay around US$ 60. Ensure the meter is on before departing.
Vietnam Sleeper Bus To Halong Bay
Not everyone will traveling from Hanoi to Halong Bay. We can speak from experience because we traveled to Halong Bay from Sapa.
Our exact route was Hanoi to Sapa to Halong Bay.
It didn’t make sense to go through Hanoi again so we took a direct sleeper bus from Sapa to Halong Bay.
If you’re heading up from the South, you will be able to take buses direct to Halong Bay from Ninh Binh or Tam Coc.
This option will be of particular interest to backpackers. Personally, we traveled by sleeper bus on 5 occasions in Vietnam.
We recommend you read about our hair raising experiences before booking your own sleeper bus. You can check out our popular Vietnam sleeper bus adventure guide here.
No matter your opinion of sleeper buses, you can’t argue with value and convenience. They are by far the cheapest way to travel.
Plus, you don’t have to transfer to another bus, taxi or train. You get on on the bus, fall asleep and wake up in Halong.
Alternatively, you can book sleeper buses as and when you want to travel in Vietnam, but we would recommend you book online as the quality of bus and service is much higher.
Heading to Vietnam? You might like important things to know about Vietnam before visiting.
Hanoi To Halong Bay FAQ’s
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions when traveling from Hanoi to Halong Bay in Vietnam.
It will take about 2.0-2.5 hours to drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay. You can expect a Grab 4 seater car to cost about US$ 75-95 one way.
Yes, you can take a short day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay. These day tours will last anywhere from about 4 to 10 hours.
There are no sharks in Halong Bay, but there are jellyfish.
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We hope this guide featuring how to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay helps with planning your visit to Southeast Asia!
Please let us know if you have any questions about planning a trip to from Halong Bay to Hanoi or vise versa in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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