Cat Ba Island, Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

Not very far from Hanoi, there is this beautiful island, Cat Ba, that is well known by its unlimited limestone that rises from the sea. The island is about 300 squared km with a lush vegetation and amazing viewpoints.

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Cat Ba Island, Halong Bay and Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

This northern part of Vietnam is perhaps the one with the most spectacular sea views. I consider it the landmark of Vietnam.

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How to get here

Because this island is quite touristic there are plenty of options to chose from, especially if you are coming from a big city such as Hanoi.

We booked a bus that picked us up from the hotel and dropped in Hai Phong. The trip was about 2 hours with 1 stop. We got on board a small bottle of water and a pack of biscuits. From Hai Phong we caught a boat and in maximum 10 minutes we arrived on the island. But because the Cat Ba town was not close to this harbor we had to take another bus for less than an hour.
For all this trip we paid VND 350000/ person. It might not be the cheapest price but I must admit that we didn’t search a lot for any other offers.

*** VND 25000 = €1

Where to stay in Cat Ba

I would definitely recommend to look close to the sea. The view over the bay is spectacular especially during sunrise.

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The accommodation options are quite cheap and most of them include the breakfast.
As I mentioned before, we always try to book online a room with free cancellation. Because in Cat Ba, the hotel we chose, even though it had great online reviews, was the dirtiest place we’ve seen. Therefore, we canceled the reservation and started strolling the streets for new accommodation.
And it was quite easy to find a new one.
Here we booked the cheapest room (VND 117000/ night, breakfast included). This means €4.7/ night for both of us. It is good to mention that it was a private room with private bathroom, fan and AC included.

***If you see a hotel that you like make sure you check the price on Booking.  If you don’t have an account you can use this link and you will even receive €15. Every time we entered in a hotel without having a reservation, they offered us a room with a higher price. It is good to know that they are quite flexible and willing to accept the Booking price (in our case!).

Where to eat in Cat Ba

All the Cat Ba town promenade is filled with restaurants, from fancy to more local ones. The one we liked the most was the Oasis Bar. The location was nice, the food was tasty and the prices perfect for our budget.

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Fish with rice, VND 130000, €5.2
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Egg fried rice, VND 50000, €2

For example, we paid for a fish soup VND 60000 (€2.4) and for a vegetable noodles soup only VND 30000 (€1.2). A grilled fish dish with lemongrass, garlic and rice was a bit more expensive – VND 130000 (€5.2).

What to do in Cat Ba

In my opinion, Cat Ba island is not a place where to spend more then 3-4 days. It is beautiful and definitely worth the visit but staying 3 nights there was more than enough.

Rent a scooter

You can easily rent a scooter for about VND 70000/ day and explore the island. The traffic is quite ok so even if you don’t have experience this should be fine.

Hike to some view points

Very close to the center there are few trails that are a must to follow. We used Maps.ME, the app that shows even the walking paths. The Cannon Fort was closed for refurbishment so we reached the transmitter tower view point and view over the bay path.

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View over the bay

Spend some time at the beach

The most well known beaches are Cat CO 1, 2 and 3. The sand is fine and the water is beautiful. The raised limestone from the sea shapes absolutely a perfect landscape.

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Cat Co 1 Beach
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View over Cat Co 3 Beach
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Cat Co 3 Beach

Explore by walk

Especially the path that connects Cat Co 1 and Cat Co 3. There is a short walk but it might take you longer because of the spectacular view.

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The path between beaches
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Views from the path

Book a cruise to Halong Bay

This trip to Halong Bay might be a one day trip (€25/ person) or you can opt for sleeping one night on the boat (starting €80/ person).

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Book a cruise to Lan Ha Bay

If you prefer to enjoy a more peaceful day I suggest you to choose the Lan Ha Bay trip. Halong Bay is amazing but it became so crowded. Therefore, it will be almost impossible for you to have no other boats nearby. The fee is EUR 14/ person for a day journey.

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*** There are plenty of tourist agencies/ operators and the prices are totally different. What we could see that Cat Ba Local is the cheapest, as it is the main operator from the island. So there are no additional fees or commissions added. You may have a look on their website here.

Currency exchange in Cat Ba

Here was the strangest thing I saw regarding banks. When we wanted to withdraw money from Saigon Bank, there was a big sign on the ATM: WE DO NOT ACCEPT MASTERCARD AND VISA CARD!!! Whaaaaat?????
There was an option to change directly in their offices but. There is a but… NO EURO ACCEPTED. ONLY DOLLARS. Plus, you had to pay 4% commission.
Saigon Bank = No, thank you!
We found a post office and we changed some money there. The rate was not the best but better than nothing: €1 = VND 24000

***Come with enough cash here, converted already in VND to avoid this mess

What I liked about this destination is that it was chill and relaxing. Last week was not the main season, therefore there were not a lot of tourists.

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Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below if you want to know more about this place.

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