Avoiding Scams for Halong Bay Cruises

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How to avoid scams and disappointments for booking cruises in Halong Bay?

To help you avoiding being scammed in Halong Bay and staying away from unwanted situation, I will point out some risks that you should know and how to deal with.

The best way to explore and admire Halong Bay is joining a cruise trip around the bay, that’s why nowadays when coming to Vietnam, traveler always chooses to take a cruise even if they have very little time to spend. As a local that know very well all the facts, I proud of my country but also want to share some good and bad experiences for friends all around the world so you will have enough knowledge to plan a perfect trip for your next holidays.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

I have been to Halong Bay several times since I was a little girl. Everything was different back then. I travelled with my family on a small local boat, it wasn’t too modern but very safe, we were allowed to stop at some points to have a swim or sun-bathing. The boat swung slightly as small waves moving in the bay. And to be allowed to go to Cat Ba Island, we had to change boat. Come along with the development of tourism and to serve passengers better, that kind of visiting has been upgraded to modern overnight cruises. I bet that you’ve heard a lot about the good memories, good experiences with Halong Bay cruise. So I will only show you the facts that you rarely know if you just travel once.

To resume, the best way to buy a cruise trip is to research and book it online through agencies. Why? There are 3 reasons:

  • You can trust reviews of other passengers on reliable forums such as TripAdvisor.
  • Book beforehand will help you avoiding 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 for their selling business, that’s why they will have very good price to offer and the quality is still remained very well. Your duty is to find reliable agency.

So, what scams would happen?

1. Common Halong cruise scams

When book online

The advantage of booking online is that you can shop for any demands: budget to luxury cruises, different programs, different visiting points, etc. 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!

BUT, the reason I told you to seek for a reliable agency is nowadays, there are hundreds of travel agencies want to sell you 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.

*My advice: Your choice, choose wisely. Remember: reliable agency, choose reasonable price, don’t choose ‘cheap’. And luxury cruises are very worth to spend (even the locals like me love that type of cruise).

Online booking for Halong Bay Cruises

Booking Halong cruise online is much more convenient

When book directly on arrival

Some of 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 with this kind of booking.

There is a popular swindle circumstance that tourists usually have to facing 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 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 bay, etc. Feel like an absolute 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.

*My advice: Make sure you have someone to claim or complain if any bad thing happens. You can book with cruise, with agency, but make sure that source won’t disappear after you pay them.

Booking Halong cruise on arrival makes you easily be cheated with no clear price and quality guarantee

Booking Halong cruise on arrival makes you easily be cheated with no clear price and quality guarantee

When cancellation happen 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 cancelled 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 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 transfer, eat 1 lunch, visit 1 cave and then the storm come, 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 bumped into a scam. I do not want this situation happen, so be careful where to put your trust. As my advice before: choose wisely.

2. How to avoid these Halong cruise scams

Booking Halong bay cruise with BestPrice Travel

Online booking is pretty much more convenient than on arrival due to several reasons:

  • 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

Buy cheap you buy twice

Buy cheap you buy twice

Check quality of seller to choose 

To check quality of a travel company through their website, you should:

  • Look for the excellent certificates on TripAdvisor, travel forums and review sites from other traveler 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 address of headquarter, e-mail and hotline. The more coherent contact info, the higher level you can trust.

Reqyure detailed commitment 

Extra charges: 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 problem that tourists usually care, you should learn and ask about surcharge for children in sharing rooms because there will be different policies for children ages.

Refund policy: Cancellation due to bad weather or suddenly by customers is the issue that requires travel agencies to take responsibility to have action for customers. However, “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 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 be 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.

The above are most common situations that could happen on your trip. For me, I have many chances to avoid or to redo my trip if it went wrong. But for some traveler, going to Halong Bay is a plan that they need to prepare a lot and go for once. So I do not want this to happen with your trip of lifetime. So pack this as a small tip and have a wonderful trip!

Read more about useful local tips for Halong Bay

Hope this help! Cheers!

Linh Chan

Image sources: Internet

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