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Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay/Bai Tu Long Bay

Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay/Bai Tu Long Bay

Sep 3rd, 2019, 12:40 PM
  #1  
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Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay/Bai Tu Long Bay

Planning a Dec trip and trying to determine most efficient way to visit 3 destinations in the North. We plan 4 nights in Hanoi, 1 (maybe 2) nights in Ninh Binh, and either 1 or 2 nights on cruise of Halong (or I think preferably Bai Tu Long Bay).Considering Indochina Junk as a cruise option.
We will then fly to Hue. Are there other airport options other than Hanoi for the flight to Hue? The idea of leaving some luggage in Hanoi during the "side" trips is appealing but I would like to avoid hours and hours of travel -if that is even possible.
I see there is an overnight train to Hue -but that seems like a long journey. Not sure if we should cruise first or visit Ninh Binh first. -And maybe 2 nights in Ninh Binh is too long.
Love to hear some recommendations for the logistics of this part of our travel plans.
Heath is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2019, 04:02 PM
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In three days, we went from Hanoi to Ninh Binh to HLB/BTLB for an overnight cruise and then back to HAN airport for a flight. See itinerary here: Trip Notes: 12 Days in Vietnam & Laos

Assuming there are late afternoon flights from Hanoi to Hue, you can do the same as we did. I definitely wouldn't leave luggage back in Hanoi. You'll waste time having to go back and get it.

I don't think there's any need for 2 nights in Ninh Binh. You can do the highlights in 1/2 or 2/3 of a day.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2019, 04:45 PM
  #3  
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Very helpful- thanks. Did you travel by private car? Did your hotel or cruise operator make any of the transportation arrangements or do you do this yourself?
Heath is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2019, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Heath View Post
Very helpful- thanks. Did you travel by private car? Did your hotel or cruise operator make any of the transportation arrangements or do you do this yourself?
Yes, we had a private driver take us from Hanoi to NB, around NB, to the cruise, and from the cruise to Hanoi. We arranged thru Tonkin Travel, and they also booked the cruise.

I prefer to book as much as I can myself, but found that cruise companies offer significantly higher prices for booking directly with them.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2019, 08:19 PM
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There is a new highway between Hanoi and Halong which has reduced the journey time from 4-5 hours to 2 -3. Still a pretty boring journey though, even more so if you have to do it both ways.

Halong to Ninh Binh and Hanoi/Ninh Binh are both around 3 hours but unless you can hire a taxi to take you, the best option could be to get a tour which includes the the two locations.

IMO Ninh Binh warrants at least a full day, but it largely depends on what you want to do. We took a couple of boat rides to different parts of the area, visited some caves, pagodas etc. and did a bike ride which easily filled a day. Depending upon what you want to do, arrival and departure times etc. I think 2 nights would be better.

There are night trains from Hanoi and Ninh Binh to Hue - see https://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm for details. It is a fun way to travel as long as you appreciate that these are not luxury trains. I would make sure to book the two lower bunks in a soft sleeper. You will have no problems booking online from Hanoi but they don’t always release the seats from NB online in much in advance. We usually buy our tickets at any station on arrival. Alternatively, a tour agency or hotel will do this for you.

You can find some info re our travels in these places (although I never got around to posting re Halong!) on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/

There are now plenty of flights between Hanoi and Hue but you could also consider flying to Da Nang and hiring a taxi to take you to Hue via the Marble Mountains and Hai Van Pass. Around 4-5 hours and $40_50 US equivalent.
crellston is offline  
Sep 4th, 2019, 07:44 AM
  #6  
 
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Bai Tu Long Bay is worth a 2 night visit.
DinHo is offline  
Sep 4th, 2019, 01:35 PM
  #7  
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Thanks for the input. Question - a bit off thread topic - but when leaving Hanoi is there any advantage/disadvantage of flying to Da Nang (Hoi An) as a first stop then after by car to Hue--OR flying to Hue first then by car to Hoi An? After this area we would fly to HCMC (and leave out a visit to Dalat)
Also - I assume the Tonkin travel experience was good ?--- any other agency to recommend? - We usually book everything ourselves so any agency recommendation would be appreciated.
Heath is offline  
Sep 4th, 2019, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Heath View Post
Also - I assume the Tonkin travel experience was good ?--- any other agency to recommend? - We usually book everything ourselves so any agency recommendation would be appreciated.
Tonkin was great for everything (logistics, responding quickly, patience in planning process, etc.), except that our guide in the Mekong was lousy. I write about it more in the TR linked above.
LAX_Esq is offline  
Sep 4th, 2019, 11:55 PM
  #9  
 
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Originally Posted by Heath View Post
Thanks for the input. Question - a bit off thread topic - but when leaving Hanoi is there any advantage/disadvantage of flying to Da Nang (Hoi An) as a first stop then after by car to Hue--OR flying to Hue first then by car to Hoi An? After this area we would fly to HCMC (and leave out a visit to Dalat)
Also - I assume the Tonkin travel experience was good ?--- any other agency to recommend? - We usually book everything ourselves so any agency recommendation would be appreciated.
See the last para in my previous post - "There are now plenty of flights between Hanoi and Hue but you could also consider flying to Da Nang and hiring a taxi to take you to Hue via the Marble Mountains and Hai Van Pass. Around 4-5 hours and $40_50 US equivalent."

There are some photos of that drive on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/2015/07...ue-via-hoi-an/ the train journey is also one of the nicest in SEA but that lacks te opportunity to stop along the way. Perhaps car one way and train the other?

Unless you have a lot of time, I would skip Da Lat, although there is a nice trip by motorbike from Hue to Da Lat that Easyriders do.
crellston is offline  
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