Vietnam’s capital and second largest city, Hanoi, impresses with its historic architecture that depicts Chinese, French and Southeast Asian influences. Wander down its Old Quarter’s narrow streets, and seek out its little temples before heading to the open air of its lakes and parks. As a city of over 7 million, Hanoi is a hectic place that may have you craving something quieter, and the island of Cat Ba is just that place. This large island in Ha Long Bay is famous for everything that Ha Long Bay itself is famous for, especially the dramatic limestone rocks that rise out of the sea, but scratch the surface and you’ll find an island full of jungles, beaches, waterfalls, and caves, half of which is covered by a national park.
Options for Travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba
Cat Ba is situated about 160 kilometers (100 miles) almost directly east of Hanoi, and is only a very short distance off the coast of mainland Vietnam. Even though it’s close to the mainland, it’s still an island so you will have to cross a stretch of water to get there, however, there are ferries readily available. With Hanoi to Cat Ba being such a popular travel route, both for visiting tourists and for local Vietnamese people, there are plenty of tour companies who offer tickets that cover the full journey from Hanoi to Cat Ba, including bus or taxi, and the ferry crossing. Although there are some short ferry crossings from the mainland, the options mentioned below all involve a longer ferry ride that takes you to the ferry terminal at the south eastern end of the island, Ben Tau Cat Ba.
Hanoi to Cat Ba by Bus and Ferry
There are a number of different tour companies that offer bus and ferry combined tickets from Hanoi to Cat Ba, and you can book with four of them through the online travel company, 12Go.asia. Do a search on their website and you’ll instantly see results from all four of these companies, so you can compare prices and schedules, and see customer reviews, allowing you to make an informed decision before booking your travel from Hanoi to Cat Ba.
Those four companies are Cat Ba Express, Grouptour, Full Moon Party Tour, and Hoang Long, plus a fifth company also provides services by van rather than bus, called GreenLion Bus.
So that these companies all remain competitive with each other, their prices are very similar, give or take a dollar or two, so what will set them apart are their schedules and the type of buses they operate. Hoang Long, Grouptour, and Cat Ba Express all operate Express buses. The latter of those clearly states that their buses have air conditioning, but the others do not, so we could not confirm this. Buses on the Hanoi to Cat Ba route with Full Moon Party Tour are better equipped – these are VIP buses which include air conditioning, toilets, and even wifi, yet the price is pretty much the same as the Express services offered by the other companies, so this could be a good one to consider. Another advantage with Full Moon Party Tours is that they have instant booking confirmation (as does Hoang Long) so if you prefer to book and know you have your tickets immediately, consider these bus companies over the others.
The next thing to consider is the schedule. It should take somewhere between 3.5 and 4 hours to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba by bus and all of the aforementioned bus companies say that they will take between 3 hours 40 minutes, and 4 hours, so no problems there. Cat Ba Express has three departures per day: 7:45am, 11am, and 2:15pm. Grouptour has four buses: 7:30am, 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. Full Moon Party Tour has three buses, at 7:30am, 10:30am, and 2pm, and Hoang Long has three departures also, at 7:30am, 10:30am, and 2pm, so with all companies, departure times are roughly the same.
As mentioned above, there’s also the option to go by van, with GreenLion Bus company. This is a shared van so you will be sharing it with other passengers, and it takes a little longer to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba. The price is very similar to that of the bus, and you can also book these tickets through 12Go.
Hanoi to Cat Ba by Taxi
Another, more expensive option for traveling from Hanoi to Cat Ba is by taxi. Once again, you can book a private taxi through 12Go so it’s easy to compare the cost of these versus a bus or van. Grouptour and Cat Ba Express both offer private taxi services in addition to their buses, and you will be able to choose either a 4-passenger car, a 9-passenger van, or a 16-passenger van.
Although taxis from Hanoi to Cat Ba are way more expensive than buses or vans, you pay one price for the entire car or van. This means you get to split the cost between your fellow passengers, whether that’s your family or friends, or you just happen to have made friends with a few more people. Once the cost is split, traveling by taxi from Hanoi to Cat Ba can be quite reasonable – in fact, it can work out cheaper than individual bus tickets. With this in mind, if you are traveling as part of a larger group, do look into the private taxi services as it could be a good opportunity to have a vehicle all to yourselves!
If you’re an individual traveler or traveling as a couple, catching the bus from Hanoi to Cat Ba is probably your best bet, or choose a van if you prefer to travel with fewer other people. But, if you’re a large family or group of friends, definitely consider going by taxi from Hanoi to Cat Ba as this could actually save you money depending on how many people you’re traveling with.