As one of the most attractive and unique destinations in the world, The New Seven World Wonders, Halong Bay also has the beauty of the legend. With thousands of grandiose islands, this place is considered as a wonderful gift from nature, is recognized by UNESCO as the World Natural Heritage Site. However, it is also the reason for making Halong as one of the most expensive tourism cities in Vietnam. 2 days in Halong Bay is ideal. And to help you avoiding being scammed in Halong Bay and staying away from the unwanted situation, I will point out some risks that you should know and how to deal with.
So, what scams would happen?
1. Common Halong cruise scams
The advantage of booking online is that you can shop for any demands:
Easy to compare prices
Cheaper than booking on arrival
Many choices of cruise
Flexible payment methods
Can evaluate cruises through reviews and travel forums
Control the extra charges
By just some clicks on a website, you will easily see any information you need (cruise type, cabin size, amenities, anything). Anytime, anywhere, so convenient, right?
BUT, the reason I told you to seek for a reliable agency is nowadays, there are hundreds of travel agencies want to sell your services. Not all of them can guarantee the quality they promote and advertise. Among hundreds of cruises in Halong Bay, this local can tell you that not 100% of them can serve you satisfied. Depend on many elements such as how long did the cruise run, how good their staffs are, how often the cruise maintains their facilities, etc. the quality of different cruises is different. Don’t choose too cheap prices, as you know, you buy cheap you buy twice, if not be careful, low quality and unsafe cruises (facilities, services, foods, etc.), miscellaneous additional charges will not be explicitly announced. Otherwise, the cheap prices you see might have hidden additional fees or charges, so cheap might become not cheap at all.
Book directly on your arrival
Some of the tourists prefer to book traveling services by modern devices, but some others just believe in what they see, what they hear. That’s why there is a number of tourists choose to book Halong cruise on arrival. Presumably, to some of you, it is inevitably reliable when witnessing something directly rather than through an intermediary. Such a good idea if you decide to book a cruise tour on arrival; however, there will be also disadvantages to this kind of booking.
There is a popular swindle circumstance that tourists usually have to face with: while you are standing at the ticket point, bewildering which kind of Halong cruise would be the best choice, and suddenly a tout appears and provides you a surprisingly cheap price 40$ for a day cruise with the friendly smiley face, sweet and enthusiastic introduction. You will be easily convinced, decide to pay 40$ and follow a tout on a cruise. The cruise and crew will serve you very heartily, many delicious foods are laid out on the table, an itinerary is designed with interesting activities such as exploring caves, floating villages, kayaking on the bay, etc. Feel like an absolutely amazing trip with a jitney price, but finally, it turns out to be the worst experience until you are charged extra money for every single service you used on cruise. 40$-trip, as you thought, transforms to 340$-trip in just a few seconds. At that moment, it is difficult to reason with boat owner as you used all of their services and a tout who introduced you the cruise trip with the cheap price completely disappeared.
When cancellation happens due to bad weather
Please understand that weather is something we cannot control. To secure the safety of passenger first, when weather conditions do not allow, cruises are all canceled due to the announcement of the Administration of Halong Bay. You should read very carefully the cancellation policy of cruise or agency to make sure you will not misunderstand the terms. Reliable agency or cruises will publish their policy on the website and that will be the base for you to have full information.
The correct policy will be applied is to charge you what service you have used and refund the part you did not use. For example, you use to transfer, eat 1 lunch, visit 1 cave and then the storm comes, of course, you only have to pay for what you use. Very simple. If the seller says that you are fully charged because the trip already started or any other reason, you might be bumped into a scam. I do not want this situation to happen, so be careful where to put your trust. As my advice before: choose wisely.
2. How to avoid these Halong cruise scams
2.1. Be well-aware of your online booking agency
Online booking is pretty much more convenient than on arrival. But remember to check the quality of sellers. To check the quality of a travel company through their website, you should:
Look for the excellent certificates on TripAdvisor, travel forums and review sites from other travelers who experienced to get an explicit opinion of the cruise services quality.
Check the cruise price and read carefully the operating schedules, the more detailed itinerary, the more professional tour you get.
Look for the contact information such as the address of headquarter, e-mail and hotline. The more coherent contact info, the higher level you can trust.
2.2. Be clear with a detailed commitment
To ensure your trip will not be bothered by miscellaneous extra charges, negotiate explicitly with the travel consultant about the cost of services included or not included in the tour such as car from airport to hotel, bus from Hanoi - Halong - Hanoi, airfares, visa arrangements, beverages, tips or beauty services on cruise, etc. Children policy is also a problem that tourists usually care, you should learn and ask about the surcharge for children in sharing rooms because there will be different policies for children ages.
Cancellation due to bad weather or suddenly by customers is the issue that requires travel agencies to take responsibility to have an action for customers. However, the “full refund” does not happen at all times. Depending on the time of the cancellation, refund policies will be applied. You can consult the policy of one of a reputable local travel company in Halong Bay cruise tours.
Before departure from Hanoi to Halong Bay (none of the services has been used): 100% refund.
During the trip (some services have been used: transfer, lunch, day trip, hotel in Halong, etc.): used services will be charged, the rest will be refunded.
The trip is cut down from 2 nights to 1 night, tourists will be charged a 2 days/1 night trip, plus other used services, the rest will be refunded.
The final cost will be confirmed by your consultant via email. In all cases, please contact your consultant directly for any urgent help.
These following charges are popular and will apply in the event of cancellation prior to tour commencement.
- More than 30 days before arrival: No charge
- 15-30 days before arrival: 10% of total tour price.
- 7-15 days before arrival: 50% of total tour price.
- 4-7 days before arrival: 75% of total tour price.
- Within 3 days before arrival: 100% tour price.
There will be no refund given for any unused or missed ground arrangements, sightseeing, meals or hotel accommodations. For no showcases, there will be no refund.
Under 4 years: Free of Charge.
From 4 to under 8 years old: 50% of adult's fare and sharing bed with parents.
From 4 to under 8 years old: 75% of adult's fare and using his own bed (on request)
Over 8 years old: 100% of adult's fare and using his own bed.
3. How to rent a cheap cruise to visit Halong Bay?
Visiting Halong Bay by wooden boat is a tourist experience should be in Halong; this is the point that makes the attraction for Halong. In order to rent a cheap boat in Halong, visitors can refer to the following experience.
Book tour for traveling
In Halong, there are many cruises operating to serve visitors to the bay to visit. The cruises operate unruly, competing fiercely and even cutting mercilessly tourists. Therefore, if you travel alone and want to book a cruise for visiting the bay, you should read experiences for avoiding a bad situation. In fact, you can book cruise tour by your own quite easy but there are some tourists told that headaches and the most time spent in Halong Bay are probably the tours of the bay. Furthermore, when traveling alone, no visitors are chopped but also have to wait for the train and agreement in advance if they are to join the train will be run. The service on board is less than Halong boats should you note.
Choose reputable cruises
If you still don’t want to go with a tour agency, you should try to choose the reputable cruise for traveling. In Halong, there are over 500 cruises to enjoy, therefore, the way to choose a cruise for visiting the bay is the most important things. If you do not choose the truth cruise, you will probably have to pay the price for cruise higher than usual and get bad service. Therefore, you should spend time searching and asking experience travelers to help you choose the best one to make sure about price and service.
In addition, you also should ask the receptionist in your hotel to help you find a reputable cruise. They will help you contact with a truthful cruise. However, visitors should note, there are many receptionists have agreed in advance with the ship, they will have commissions in this so you should also refer to the price on cruise website to make sure that you do not have to pay price higher than usual.
Choose a suitable time for traveling
If tourists go to Halong Bay during peak days such as weekends and holidays, the price of the boat may be cut higher than normal days. Therefore, you should choose a soft time like weekdays, weekdays to Halong.
5. Note the services on board
Services in cruises are quite rich, but you should ask the price of any service which you want to use before choosing. Furthermore, if foods and drinks on the cruise do not include in the price of the cruise, you should pay attention because almost foods in cruise are quite expensive. Moreover, if you want to dine on the boat, you must make arrangements in advance with the boat owner and the price.
Ask prices for seafood on board and ask for processing. Guests are well informed before proceeding. However, if you book cruise tour through an agency or luxury cruise, they always have breakfast or lunch including the price of the cruise.
6. Last words for a great Halong Bay tour
To resume, how to get a trusted cruise to enjoy your Halong Bay trip in the most amazing way?
Consult reviews of other passengers on reliable forums such as TripAdvisor.
Book beforehand will help you avoid the situation of fully booked. Because you spend time to research and to choose your favorite cruise, you won’t want to use another one (I will be a bit sad to change cruise if I were you).
Agencies work with cruises and promote their selling business, that’s why they will have a very good price to offer and the quality has still remained very well. Your duty is to find a reliable agency.
Remember: reliable agency, choose the reasonable price, don’t choose ‘cheap’. And luxury cruises are very worth to spend.
Make sure you have someone to claim or complain if any bad thing happens. You can book with cruise, with an agency, but make sure that the source won’t disappear after you pay them.