Travel Information

Hoi An – Vietnam – To Cat Ba Island


 

DECEMBER 2015:

 



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OVERVIEW:

I really enjoyed my time in Hoi An, but it was time to move on. It was time to move on to my next destination: Cat Ba Island.

You can get to Cat Ba from Hoi An by train, but this is best done on an over-night ‘sleeper’ and the journey from Da Nang to Hanoi is said to take 12-14 hours.

I’m a GRANDPAcker so, I decided to fly.


BOOKING THE FLIGHT:

You need to Book a Regional Flight from Da Nang to Hai Phong; I went directly to the Vietnam Airways site.

I booked a one-way flight for VND569k (US$25); this price included a standard 20Kg of checked-in luggage.

The website is in English and it is easy to book your flight online and pay by credit card.


GETTING OUT OF HOI AN:

There is only 1 flight. It leaves at 9:30am each morning.

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So, you need to get from Hoi An to Da Nang Airport by 8:30am (for safety).

A Taxi costs VND400-500k. As always, make sure that you agree the exact price in advance (so that you don’t get surprised by any last minute ‘extra fees’ – e.g. sometimes they want to charge you extra for your luggage).

Or, you can go to an Hoi An Express Ticket Office and book a shuttle bus for VND110k per person.

You can find a Ticket Office on Hai Ba Trung street about 10 metres short of its junction with Phan Chau Trinh street.

The shuttle bus leaves several times each day and the trip takes about 1 hour. The first 2 of the day leave at 6:30am and 8:30am. For my 9:30 flight, I had to book the 6:30am.

This price includes ‘pick up’ from your hotel in Hoi An.

My pick up was scheduled for 6:00am and they arrived on time in a small courtesy car. By car, they take you to the main office in Hoi An Town where you join the shuttle bus.

The shuttle bus picked up some more people and we were on the road to Da Nang by 6:25am.


GETTING ON THE FLIGHT:

By 7:15am we were at Da Nang airport.

Checking in at the check-in counter is very easy.

You do not even need to show your Booking Confirmation Number nor your e-Ticket; Just give them your passport and they will find all of the information that they need.


GETTING ON THE FERRY:

As usual, I used BOOKING.COM to book a couple of nights in a Cat Ba Island Hotel in advance.

I contacted my Hotel and asked them for instructions on how best to get from Hai Phong Airport to Cat Ba Town.

THE PLAN:

Their instructions were:

  • Take a Taxi or Xe Om from Hai Phong Airport (8kms to BEN BINH Street)
    • Taxi: should cost about VND200k; Take a green Mai Linh Taxi (which have the best reputation)
    • Xe Om: should cost about VND100k
    • Make sure that you go to BEN BINH Harbour (not Dinh Vu Harbour)
  • DO NOT buy boat tickets from the people that approach you as you get out of your taxi; ONLY buy your ticket from a legitimate Ticket Counter (like the Hadeco Ticket Counter)
  • Also, make sure that the Ticket is dated for that day (and not a future date)
  • Either catch a Ferry: to Cat Ba Town
    • The cost is seasonal and prices are quoted online as anything between VND110k and VND160k including bus transfer (US$5-7)
    • Travel time is 2 hours for the Ferry and 30 minutes for the bus transfer
    • Ferries leave several times each day between 6:30am and 4:30pm
  • Or, catch the Hydrofoil: to Cat Ba Town
    • The cost is seasonal and prices are quoted online as anything between VND130k and VND220k including bus transfer (US$6-10)
    • Travel time is 45 minutes for the Hydrofoil and 30 minutes for the bus transfer
    • Hydrofoils leave several times each day between 8am and 3pm (or 4pm?)
  • From Cat Ba Town, it should be an easy walk to your Cat Ba Town Hotel

I decided to take the Ferry as you see more and can get outside onto the deck. On the Hydrofoil, you are stuck inside with no view. Halong Bay is Halong Bay… why not see some of it on the way… there’s no rush…

THE REALITY:

When you arrive at Hai Phong Airport, there are no Taxi Counters… so, you walk outside to the Taxi Rank.

At the Taxi Rank I was quoted VND$170k to Ben Binh Ferry Terminal. OK, that looked reasonable, so I decline and try and find an Xe Om (that’s what I do for my blog!). There were none to be found.

I walk 20m out of the Airport ‘grounds’ and I am approached by a Moto Driver… I enquire about the cost to the Ben Binh Ferry Terminal. He says VND60k.

I am happy on the back of a Moto Taxi with my suitcase in front of the Moto driver and me on the back; so, I say YES and jump on board for the 8km ride.

He drops me off in front of a Ticket Agent Office. I say “where is the Ben Binh Ferry Terminal?”. He points at the ticket office sign that says “Cat Ba Island Ferry Tickets”. “You buy ticket here”, he says. WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN!

I can see that we are on the waterfront (and my GPS says that we are next to the Ben Binh Ferry Terminal) so, I pay him and walk inside. There are no pressures and no touts… just one lady sitting behind a counter…

The ticket to Cat Ba (including all transfers to Cat Ba Town) is VND110k but the “ferry” leaves at 2pm… so, I have a 2.5 hour wait. As the internet says that prices ‘start at VD110k off season’, I buy my ticket.

I leave my bags at the office and go for a walk around and stop for lunch.

I am back at the Office by 1:45pm. We get on the shuttle bus at 2:10pm but sit and wait… at about 2:20pm a group of about 10-15 other tourists arrive. We set off.

Hold on? We’re going in the wrong direction! I check Google Maps on my smartphone GPS… sure enough, we are heading away from Ben Binh towards Dinh Vu! You have to laugh don’t you… you can’t trust these guys as far as you can throw them!

Cat Ba - Boat 1 Cat Ba - Boat 2I’m not that worried… we’ll get to Cat Ba in the end… so, I settle in…

It is not a ‘scenic’ 40 minute drive to Dinh Vu. You pass industrial landscape, shipping containers, and logistics businesses.

We get to our boat about 3:00pm.

It is a little boat with seating for about 30 people and an open back. Not what I call a ‘ferry’.


GETTING TO CAT BA TOWN:

Our boat was small BUT FAST and, from Dinh Vu, it only takes us 20 minutes to get to Cat Ba Island. And, you have the open back of the boat where you can stay outside and watch the world go by.

When you hit Cat Ba, you have a 40 minute bus ride to Cat Ba Town. The bus is waiting for you and leaves promptly.

The drive is interesting… you see some of the small ‘villages’ on the coast road and get a good view of the island’s scenery.


CONCLUSION:

There was NOTHING WRONG with taking the Dinh Vu route. In some ways, it was nicer than spending 2 hours on a slow ferry (at the same price).

It just goes to show… you can’t always trust what you read on the internet. Sometimes you wonder what the reason is for people to write their posts and make such recommendations… the words ‘vested interested’ spring to mind.

My door-to-door trip cost was VND849k (US$38):

  • Shuttle from Hoi An Hotel to Da Nang Airport: VND110k
  • Flight from Da Nang to Hai Phong: VND569k
  • Moto Taxi from Hai Phong Airport to Ben Binh street: VND60k
  • Boat Ticket to Cat Ba Town (including all transfers): VND110k

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