We travelled from the Ha Long Bay area over to Cab Ba Island on the public ferry which is way cheaper than any local private boats of day trips. Here’s how to do it…
Head over to Tuần Châu island
After staying the night in an interesting, by which I mean slightly seedy, hotel near Ha Long Bay we set out to get over to Cat Ba Island as cheaply as possible.
We walked the nearly 6 km from our hotel, over the Tuần Châu bridge and to the ferry terminal with our backpacks on. It was slightly sweaty at times but we stopped at a spooky hotel, which appeared to have no guests, for a cup of tea about half way. It reminded us a little too much of the Shining but we survived our visit.
To save the sweat and tea you can just get a taxi over from Ha Long Bay, but this a very touristy place so be sure they turn the meter on before you set off to avoid a high fixed price.
Tuần Châu island is a curious place and in a few years will look very different from today. Giant billboards show the planned development to turn it from a sleepy thoroughfare into what looks like the Dubai of northern Vietnam. Good luck with that.
Tuan Chau ferry terminal
We eventually reached the ferry terminal at the far end of the harbour on the south side of Tuần Châu island. To find it, walk past the main coach park and terminal from which all the day trips and private boats leave.
You’ll see the building below, this is where you can grab some ferry tickets.
Our tickets cost 70,000 VND ($3.15 USD) each for a one way trip to Cat Ba island.
If you’ve run out of cash, there’s an ATM conveniently located right next to the ferry terminal as shown below.
Cat Ba Island ferry timetable and prices
As mentioned it was 70,000 VND per person but below are the prices for motorbikes, cars etc.
As shown at the bottom, the ferry runs in both directions just 3 times a day in the low season and 5 times in the high season.
We jumped onto the 3pm ferry and were soon enjoying the stunning views from the Cat Ba ferry as it weaved its way through the towering limestone karsts. The journey took around 1 hour and was very relaxing and peaceful.
The local bus to Cat Ba town
We docked on Cat Ba island at Bến phà Gia Luận ferry terminal and looked for the local bus to Cat Ba town. The bus is timed to meet the ferry and transport locals across the island.
We jumped on board and paid once it had set off. It cost 25,000 VND ($1.12 USD) per person and takes around 30 minutes to reach Cat Ba town.
The road is a bit bumpy in places but the island scenery itself is stunning with some small settlements along the way. It felt like we had been transported to another world.
What can you do on Cat Ba island?
Before you go there, be sure to check out or post on stuff to do on Cat Ba island for some ideas on what to see once you arrive.
Our top tip is don’t miss the excellent and chilling Hospital Cave!
Have you taken the public ferry to Cat Ba Island? Share your experience in the comments below…
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