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Cruising in Halong Bay Vietnam on a junk ship

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Halong Bay Junk CruiseWhen the subject of cruises arises, most people think of luxury trips in the USA or in Europe. Yet Vietnam has some of the best cruising waters in the world, and the sights to enjoy while cruising in Vietnam are plenty. Depending on how long you wish to stay in Vietnam, you may need a visa if you are a UK citizen.

Halong Bay Junk Cruise
When thinking of Vietnam, the first images that arise are generally either the massive rice paddies, or Halong Bay. The massive limestone rocks rising out of the waters of the bay are one of the most photographed sights not just in Vietnam, but in the whole of Southeast Asia. Most people are content with admiring the giant natural structures from afar, but how would you feel about taking an up close look?

This is possible through a special overnight cruise. You can choose between a 2 day/1 night cruise, 3 day/2 night cruise, or a 4 day/3 night cruise. The most popular one is the 3 day/2 night cruise. The cruise takes place on a Chinese junk ship, which in itself is a unique experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find in the West. The ship sails around and through the gargantuan limestone formations Halong Bay is famous for. If you think the rocks look amazing from a distance, seeing them up close is a once in a lifetime experience.

The cruise also has other attractions, such as Cat Ba, the largest island in Halong Bay. On Cat Ba, you can enjoy activities such as kayaking, snorkelling or just relaxing at its pristine white beaches. Cat Ba has a massive national park, great for hiking and rock climbing. Certain cruises don’t allow you to stay on board at night. These cruises generally include a stay at a hotel on an island like Cat Ba, but always check your itinerary just to be sure. You may be required to book a hotel or bungalow yourself.

Halong Bay is about 3.5 hours from Hanoi, and there are multiple ways to get there fairly easily, such as regular buses, shuttle buses, trains or taxis. You can also take a seaplane from Noi Bai International Airport, but that will cost you substantially more than taking the bus. In return, you can enjoy a great view you won’t find anywhere else.

Getting to Vietnam: Visa required?
In most cases, western travellers headed to Vietnam require a visa to enter the country. Unlike what many people think, you do not need to visit the embassy to get a visa. The Vietnam visa can be acquired online, and this is in fact recommended by the Vietnamese embassy. Vietnam used to have a visa you could acquire after arrival at the airport, but they are slowly phasing it out in favour of the online visa.

There are special rules for UK visitors. They can stay in Vietnam for up to 15 days without needing a visa. However, if you plan on staying longer, you still need a visa.

The Vietnam visa comes with a number of requirements you must meet in order to apply. The most important ones are that your passport must be valid for at least 30 days longer than your visa, and you can only enter Vietnam at a select number of airports, seaports or border posts.

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