It's long, but read it as a piece of advice from someone who has already been there and make their own decision if they plan to visit Halong Bay.
I. Introduction: What you need to know about Halong Bay before booking the tour
Halong Bay cruise is among the most interesting ones which is often refer to as a Vietnam's star attraction: if you are in Hanoi (capital of the country) or in any city in the north, you can not go to Halong Bay, a place that was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It's like going to Misiones and not visiting the Iguazu Falls, or being in Santa Cruz and not going to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. Halong Bay is a must stop.
Now, to make this tour there are many options and more travel agencies still, some prestigious, others good, other decent, others unpresentable. The problem is that, taking the prestigious, it is difficult to know which is which. They are all in the same sector of Hanoi (the tour is contracted from there), they are all the same, they all offer the same, all are presented as serious, there are at least ten that share the same name (and are not related to each other) , all show you exactly the same brochure with the same itinerary (I can attest since I have visited about 20) and the only thing that varies is the price that they put it according to the face (and if you go the next day to the same agency they tell you another price). It is a ta-te-ti in which the final result will be a mystery.
There are, according to my research, three types of tours: the "Standard" or cheap, the "Deluxe" or expensive and the intermediate. You can go to Halong Bay in the day (I do not recommend it since there are four hours of round trip, which leaves very little time for navigation), two days / one night (I think that's enough) and three days / two nights (one night he sleeps on the boat and another night in a hotel on the island of Cat Ba). I did the three days and two nights since I wanted to go "to relax". As for prices, the Standard of 3d / 2n is achieved between 35 and 90 dollars (I did it for 40), the intermediate 3d / 2n between 100 and 200 dollars and the deluxe 3d / 2n above 200 dollars. I did not want to spend too much, so I bought the 40 USD from a small agency, knowing that I would expect something "normal" (I was not expecting much). But I never imagined that everything that I am going to tell you would happen.
Source: tour in VN
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