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Hạ Long Bay Travel Guide

About

Gazetted as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hạ Long Bay is an ancient Vietnamese bay speckled with 1,989 limestone islands in various sizes and shapes. Bestowed several names by historical figures attempting to describe the place's otherwordly beauty, Hạ Long literally means "descending dragon", which tells of a tale of the gods sending down a family of dragons to aid the natives fighting off invaders. After the war, the dragon family decided to settle in the area and came to form Hạ Long Bay and its component islands. Hạ Long Bay is indeed home to many natural wonders many can agree seem beautiful and out of this world. One of Hạ Long Bay's pride is the many caves tourists can explore on guided tours, each with its own unique legend, as well as rock climbing and diving opportunities aplenty. Out of the 1,989 islands of Hạ Long Bay, only 40 are inhabited, mainly by four floating fishing villages of 1,600 people. Fishing and marine aquaculture are Hạ Long Bay's original economies, now vastly improved by travel businesses that opened up these quiet fishing colonies to great potential profit with the constant stream of tourists arriving yearly.

Local Custom & Slang

Saving Face

  • While a familiar concept to Asians in general, other visiting tourists should be mindful of the Vietnamese, and Asian in a whole, custom of "saving face". This essentially encompasses avoiding any overt behaviour that would embarrass the other party, or could give an impression of yourself easily misconstrued. Try to practice being calm and collected, even though in a particularly frustrating situation.

Eating With Gusto

  • Another custom that might come to Westerners as a surprise; eating in Vietnam either in public or private settings (especially Vietnamese noodles) is encouraged to be as noisy as possible. This signals you are enjoying the food, and gives a good impression on your host or the chef.

Put Your Money Where Your Wallet Is

  • Flaunting your wealth, or any form of valuables that make you stand out of the crowd, especially as a tourist, not only makes you an easy target for drive-by snatch thieves and pickpockets, it is also considered impolite in Vietnamese culture, and indeed throughout Asian culture in general. Don't carry more money than you need in public, and refrain from donning flashy jewellery.

Phrases for eating

  • May I have the menu please: Cho toi cai menu duoc khong (Cho toy khai menu duuc khom)
  • What is this?: Cai gi vay? (kai zi vai)
  • I am allergic to peanuts: To di ung voi dau phong (Doi yi ung voy dau fong)
  • I cannot eat pork: Toi khong an duoc thit heo (Toi khom an duo tit hehll)
  • I am vegetarian: Toi an chay (Toi an chayh)
  • I would like to have this: Cho toi cai nay (Chor toi kah nai)
  • May I have the bill please: Tinh tien (Din ting)

Emergency Phrases

  • I need to see a doctor: Toi can gap bac si (Toy can gap back szi)
  • I am sick: Toi bi benh (Toy bee benh)
  • I need to go to the hospital: Toi can di benh vien (Toy can di ben vien)
  • I had food poisoning: Toi bi ngo dau thuc an (Toy bee nyo doc thuch an)
  • I was robbed: Toi bi cuop (Toi bee cuoop)
  • Call the police: Goi cach sat (Goi gang sack)
  • Help me: Cuu toi voi (Coo toy vuyh)

Trip Essentials

  • Weather
  • Currency
  • Visa
  • Electricity

The weather of Hạ Long Bay can be divided into two: hot humid summer and cold dry winter.

The "dry" or winter season lasts from November to February, with many foogy days and strong moonson weather. Temperatures can range from 12°C to 20°C. Despite all this, the winter season never fails to see a rise in tourism in Hạ Long Bay.

The "wet" or summer season lasts from May to early September, where the bay is sunny and hot; perfect weather for swimming. Although rain can range from the common light drizzle to a rare typhoon, it is recommended to visit during this period. Temperatures range between 25°C to 30°C.

Transportation

By Taxi

  • Taxis in Hạ Long Bay can be found around the usual hotspot: hotels, popular restaurants and bars, the airport and the pier. The usual rules stand for hailing any taxi in Vietnam: checking the meter and ensuring the taxi is part of a trusted cab company. Alternatively, it is recommended to phone your respective hotel to arrange a taxi to pick you up once you arrive.

  • Taxi fares in Hạ Long Bay start from 5,000 VND to 14,000 VND.

  • Local Operators: Mai Linh Taxi and Mong Cai Taxi

By Car Rental

  • Privately rented cars offer the flexibility of transportation that taxis cannot. Definitely more comfortable and a quicker way to get around compared to the former, we recommend you rent a car from a local rental agency to better suit your schedule.

  • Prices may vary; starting from 800,000 VND to 1,200,000 VND a day. It can be subjected to seasons, peaks and the type and make of the vehicle you intend to rent.

By Motorcycle Rental

  • Alternatively, the more adventurous at heart can choose to rent a motorcycle to access the more off-the-beaten-path destinations and roads of Hạ Long Bay. Cheaper and more mobile, you will find yourself blending in with the local traffic.

  • Rental prices vary depending on the make of the bike, but it can be separated as either semi-automatic or automatic bikes: the former are generally cheaper, costing 100,000 VND a day while the more expensive latter can cost up to 150,000 VND a day.

  • Which type of bike you rent should depend on the sort of terrian you choose to visit: automatic bikes are more suited for the city, while semi-automatic bikes are reserved for generally rougher terrain. Do take note that all motorcyclists are required by law to wear a full-face helmet, lest risking being pulled over by Vietnam's finest.

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