Travel to Cat Ba Island, Vietnam on a Budget

If you want to visit Halong Bay but avoid the overpriced boat trips, Cat Ba Island is the place for you. This island may be a little out of the way but it has the stunning views of Halong bay as well as majestic jungle and mountains that stretch as far as the eye can see. Cat Ba Town is a laid back fishing village where all the main hostels/hotels are located. Motorbikes are easily rented here as well as tourist agencies that can arrange day trips.

For the Budget Traveller:

This is how I got to Cat Ba – cheaper but time consuming. There is a bus from Hanoi which departs at 5:20 am, 7:20 am, 11:20 am and 1:20 pm everyday which costs 210,000 VND (USD $9.4) with the company Hoang Long. One ticket takes you all the way there but it will take between 4 – 5 hours depending on traffic. Tickets can be bought at the bus station on the day or in advance.

  1. The first leg of the journey will be between 2 – 3 hours and is a bus journey to Hai Phong. Be aware that the bus drivers appear to love blaring out old Vietnamese music so bring earplugs or headphones if you don’t want to be subjected to this.
  2. At Hai Phong, you are required to change bus (just follow the crowd) which will take you to the ferry terminal which will take around 45 mins.
  3. At the so called ferry terminal (pictured below) you will be shuffled onto a tiny ferry which will take another 40 mins to get to Cat Ba. Sometimes the ferry will wait up to 30 mins before departing so will add time to your journey.
Hai Phong Ferry Terminal to Cat Ba

4. On Cat Ba, you will be met by yet another bus which will take you directly to Cat Ba Town and the journey will take another 30 mins or so. Enjoy the beautiful changing scenery of Cat Ba island from the coastal beaches up to the unique rocky mountains and jungle to the little fishing village.

5. To purchase a ticket back, there is an office at where you are dropped off in the town and buses leave at 7:15 am, 9:15 am, 1:15 pm and 3:15 pm. Sometimes hostels will sell tickets at a cheaper price.

This method is certainly the cheapest, however if you are unlucky like I was on the way back, the journey will take over 6 hours but if you’re strapped for cash its a very straight forward way of getting to Cat Ba.

For the time strapped traveller

For travellers who don’t want to spend that much time on a bus and are a little less cash strapped, first fly to Hai Phong and then either continue the journey as described above, or for even more time saving, get a hydrofoil ferry directly to Cat Ba Town.

Got comments? Let me know down below!

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I'm a twenty something microbiologist & amateur explorer. When I'm not working on my PhD, I'm off travelling the world somewhere, always in search for the next adventure.

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