When I started researching places to go and things to see in Vietnam, Ha Long Bay ended up being at the top of the list. But after looking at tour prices and reading plenty of horror stories about cheap boats, I began to question whether or not I was going to make it over there on my budget.
I read Ani Anywhere’s amazing written post about Ha Long Bay on a Budget without a tour by staying on Cat Ba island. But I had such a short time in Vietnam and was trying to make it to four different cities; I didn’t want to spend that time trying to navigate the buses and boats to get myself to Cat Ba.
Not yet being a long-time solo traveler, I had never heard of single supplements. As I did by research, I realized I’d end up paying almost double the amount since I was traveling solo. What? Isn’t it enough that I’m alone, do you really have to charge me more for it?
But there’s a trick that I didn’t realize to getting around single supplements: Travel in the off season! In the off season, most of the boats on the bay are empty. My trip was in December and it was a bit chilly. I might not have gotten the stunning photos of the sun shining on the bay, but the eerie fog was just as cool.
The night before I left for Vietnam, I still hadn’t decided what to do. The whole reason I begun looking at Vietnam was because of Ha Long Bay, but after looking at everything else the country had to offer, should I skip it in the name of budget travel? Should I just try to book it in Hanoi? And if I did, I’d have to leave the morning after I arrived, and my flight wasn’t supposed to get in until 9pm. How would I even do that?!?
I had emailed a few companies a week or two before and mentioned that I was a travel blogger to see if they’d have any discounts. One of the companies that emailed me back said that they didn’t charge a single supplement during the off season and would give me a (very small) discount but I’d have to share a room. I’m sitting at the gate in the airport, waiting for my flight to Ho Chi Minh city (which by the way, I had to rebook because I over slept that morning and missed my actual flight!). And I thought “screw it. When am I ever going to be in Vietnam again? When would I possibly get the opportunity to get on a boat and spend the night on Ha Long Bay again?”
I emailed the tour company back and said I’d take it, and put down a deposit from my PayPal account. Feeling better already, I stepped onto the plane.
I couldn’t have imagined a better two days on Ha Long Bay. This was hands down worth the money. Our boat had about 12 people on it from at least 5 different countries; I was the only solo traveler (which also meant I didn’t even end up sharing a room). People often ask me, “Don’t you feel so alone when you travel?” This was one of those trips where I didn’t feel alone for a single second. Everyone else on the boat made me feel so welcomed. We spent the day taking pictures of the limestone rocks, checking out the islands and the caves, learning how to make spring rolls, kayaking in the fog, and swimming (only me and one other person got in the water, I mean it was freezing!) We spent the night trying to catch squid (without any luck), drinking wine and passing around tips, itineraries and maps of places others hadn’t been yet. I actually planned almost my entire trip to Cambodia off of a girl’s recommendations that I met on the boat. And was toured around a few months later Singapore by another. This was one of those days where solo travel has actually made me feel LESS alone than traveling with others because I’ve friendships built within hours.
My two days on Ha Long Bay was the best way to end my 9 day trip in Vietnam. I initially felt guilty that my one night probably was probably more expensive then all of my other nights combined. But it was well worth it, not only for the beautiful scenery but for again proving to me that solo travel doesn’t have to be solo at all.
I booked my cruise with Ha Long Bay Legends. It cost me only USD 95 per person for twin sharing cabin during the off season. Email them directly to ask for rates: admin at halongbaylegends.com
I would highly recommend them; the trip was cheap but still safe and NOT a party cruise. The guide was amazing and filled the time on the bus telling us about Vietnamese culture. The trip included transit to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi and back, all meals on the boat (which was really good), kayaking, a tour of one of the caves and an oyster farm, squid fishing, and a spring roll making session.
Read Next: The Best 16 Hours in Nha Trang, Vietnam