What to Pack for a Halong Bay Cruise: Complete Packing List
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission if you click a link and make a purchase. There’s no extra cost for you, and I only recommend products and companies I use. Learn more.
Cruising through Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws more than 4 million visitors a year, is the best way to experience it. Even though you’ll only be gone for a few days, it’s important to make sure you’ve packed all the things you need for a comfortable and successful cruise. Because once you’re out on the water, you’re stuck with what you’ve got.
Whether you’ve booked a basic or luxury cruise, here’s a complete packing list for your Halong Bay cruise that prepares you for the weather and all planned activities.
What do you wear on a Halong Bay cruise?
Your cruise attire will depend largely on the weather and time of year you go. During the warm months, from May to October, you can wear shorts, t-shirts, and tank tops. You want light, airy clothing that breathes well. From November to April, temperatures cool and you’ll need to bundle up. Bring layers that you can put on or shed as needed.
Most cruises don’t have a dress code, so leave formal dresses and suit jackets at home. If you’re taking a luxury cruise though, double check just to be sure.
The first clothing list below covers a two to three-day cruise from May to October. If you’re going to Halong Bay between November and April, I’ve included a separate list of additional clothing items that will keep you toasty and shielded from the wind. Above all, check the weather before you go so you can pack accordingly and make adjustments to the lists below.
- 2 – 3 swimsuits – You’ll be doing a lot of swimming and kayaking. Bring a minimum of two swimsuits so there’s always a dry one.
- 3 tops
- 2 – 3 shorts or lightweight pants
- 1 – 2 dresses – A dress or two can be nice to have for photos, lounging around, and keeping cool. If you’re taking a luxury cruise, a dress is perfect for looking a little nicer at dinner.
- Flip flops or sandals
- Sneakers/sport shoes – Some cruises include hiking and cave tours. If your cruise will bring you on land, you’ll want comfortable shoes that can take on any terrain and protect your feet.
- Light jacket or sweater – Even during the summer months, it can get a bit chilly out on the water – especially at night. I recommend always taking a light outer layer, such as a jacket, hoodie, zip-up, or cardigan, so you’re not shivering.
- Rain jacket or poncho (optional) – Check the weather before you go so you know whether a light rain jacket is needed. Even if it rains, the cruise will go on and so will the outdoor activities. Having a rain jacket is also useful for morning kayaking, when it might be a bit chilly and you might get wet. I like the Columbia Women’s Switchback II Jacket for keeping you dry in light to moderate rain. The best part is the jacket packs down into its own pocket, turning into a small, light pouch that easily squeezes into your luggage or a backpack.
Additional clothing for November to April
- 2 sweaters
- 2 – 3 long pants
- Puffer jacket – Bring a jacket that will keep you warm during the day and night. Puffers are ideal, since they’re extremely light, can be squished down to a fraction of their size, and trap your body heat in.
Although this is a comprehensive toiletries list, some cruises will provide basic items, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. If you’re taking a nicer cruise, it’s almost guaranteed that your room will have toiletries. I generally recommend bringing your own just in case or you’re not a fan of what’s provided.
- Toiletry bag
- Face wash
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash
- Insect repellent
- Quick dry towel – Although towels are provided, you might not get an extra one for drying off after a swim. A quick dry towel packs up small, so there’s no reason to not bring it.
- Pads, tampons, or a menstrual cap (for females)
- Travel adapter
- Cellphone and charger
- Camera, battery, and charger (optional) – As soon as you set sail, there’s lots of opportunities for breathtaking photos. Chances are that your phone will do a good enough job. But if you want to step it up, this is the perfect time to pull out your DSLR or mirrorless camera, GoPro, or drone.
- Cash – Although you’ll pay for your cruise in advance, bring some cash to pay for drinks on board. Many cruises only include water, coffee, and tea. Other drinks, like soda and beer, are available for purchase. They may either have you pay as you go or keep a record of what you consume during the cruise and then collect payment at the end.
- Medication, especially for seasickness – Since you’ll be out at sea for a few days, make sure to bring any medication you need. If you get seasick, stock up on seasickness pills or patches so you can enjoy your cruise.
- Dry bag (optional) – If you have a dry bag, it’s a good idea to bring it. A five or 10 liter dry bag will protect your phone and electronics when you’re kayaking. I love the Earth Pack dry bag, which comes with a waterproof phone case. I’ve used mine when doing water-based activities all around southeast Asia. Both the dry bag and waterproof phone pouch have held up really well and have never leaked.
Can you take luggage on a Halong Bay cruise?
If you’re going on a multi-day cruise, you can take all your luggage with you. Although the cabins aren’t very large, there’s enough room for a few suitcases – large and small. When I traveled through Vietnam for a month and a half, I had a 40 liter backpack and a 20 liter daypack. It all fit in my cabin, with plenty of room to spare.
While you can ask your hotel if they’ll keep your luggage for the duration of your cruise and bring only the essentials, there’s an unexpected advantage of taking everything with you. Besides not worrying about the security of your belongings, you don’t have to double back to pick up your luggage. You’ll save time by being able to immediately continue on to your next destination.
If you’re doing a day trip to Halong Bay, there’s no need to take your luggage. Instead, stuff everything you need for the day into a small backpack.
More resources for traveling Vietnam
- Two-Day Halong Bay Cruise with Cat Ba Ventures: Tour Review & Recap
- How to Solo Travel Vietnam
- 5 Complete Itineraries to See North Vietnam in 7 Days
- Three-Day Ha Giang Loop Tour With Cheers Hostel: Tour Review & Recap