Tuan Chau to Cat Ba Island Car Ferry

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry

Last updated June 2024 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Tom, Vietnam Coracle

Tom Divers is the founder & creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled & worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age – his first trip to Vietnam was in 1999 – visiting over 40 countries. Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders & his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.


The most scenic public ferry in Vietnam (probably) and the cheapest way to cruise through the limestone karsts of Hạ Long Bay, the Tuần Châu→Cát Bà vehicle ferry is a 1-hour voyage connecting the mainland with Cát Bà Island. The boat can accommodate passengers, bicycles, motorbikes, cars, minibuses and small trucks. It’s cheap, scenic, convenient and runs several times daily in both directions. The 60-minute voyage is like a mini-Hạ Long Bay cruise, passing through giant natural gateways formed by soaring, jungle-clad limestone pillars rising from the sea like a dragon’s tail. Operated by the Tuần Châu Group, the ferry (phà Tuần Châu→Gia Luận in Vietnamese) sails from Tuần Châu Island (near Hạ Long City) to Gia Luận, an isolated port at the north of Cát Bà Island. This ferry route is the most scenic and exciting way to get from the mainland to Cát Bà Island: all other options are either more expensive, more crowded, more boring, or can’t accommodate vehicles.

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Tuan Chau to Cat Ba Island Car Ferry

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Selected Resources What’s this?

TUAN CHAUCAT BA FERRY


The Most Scenic Public Ferry in Vietnam

This page is a complete guide to taking the Tuần Châu→Cát Bà Island ferry, including sailing times, ticket prices, port details, and descriptions of the boats and the voyage. I’ve also included lots of photos of the journey and an annotated map. (For more about Cát Bà Island and other ferry routes, see Related Guides.)

CONTENTS:

Route Map

Times & Prices

Booking Tickets

Departure & Arrival Ports

The Boats

The Voyage

Related Guides


Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Passing through a limestone karst ‘gateway’ on the ferry

ROUTE MAP:

Tuần Châu→Cát Bà Island Public Ferry

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Times & Prices:

The ferry sails 3-5 times daily in both directions depending on the season. There are two separate sailing schedules: one for high season (25 April-5 September) and another for low season (6 Septmeber-24 April). Ticket prices remain the same regardless of season. However, there’s always the possibility of schedule changes. You can check the ferry website for current sailing times, but there’s no guarantee that that will be the up-to-date version either. Another option is to call the ferry: 1900 9388. The most reliable option is to just go to either of the ports with time to spare and find the schedule there. Below are the high and low season schedules at the time of publication, and a price list followed by photos of the sailing times and vehicle ticket prices:

Selected Resources What’s this?

*High Season Sailing Schedule: 25 April-5 September

RouteDeparture Time
Tuần Châu (Halong City)Gia Luận (Cát Bà Island)7.30, 9.00, 11.30, 13.30, 15.00
(daily)
Gia Luận (Cát Bà Island)Tuần Châu (Halong City)9.00, 11.30, 13.00, 15.00, 16.00
(daily)

*Low Season Sailing Schedule: 6 September-24 April

RouteDeparture Time
Tuần Châu (Halong City)Gia Luận (Cát Bà Island)8.00, 12.00, 15.00
(daily)
Gia Luận (Cát Bà Island)Tuần Châu (Halong City)9.00, 13.00, 16.00
(daily)

*Ticket Prices:

Ticket TypeTicket Price
Pedestrian60,000vnđ
Motorbike & rider80,000vnđ
Car & passengers300,000vnđ

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Sailing schedule for the Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island ferry

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Price list for the Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

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Booking Tickets:

The easiest way to book tickets for the ferry is in-person at the ticket kiosks at either of the ports. You can do this on the day of travel, but it’s best to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure to ensure you get a ticket. The ferry can get busy on weekends and public holidays, so during those times it’s advisable to either buy your ticket a day in advance or turn up at the port an hour before departure. There’s plenty of room onboard for passengers and motorbikes, but limited capacity for larger vehicles: if you have a car, you should arrive at the port early. You can also try to book tickets by phone (1900 9388), but this may be difficult if you don’t speak any Vietnamese. Online booking did not seem to be an option, but you can try their website.

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

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Departure & Arrival Ports:

Although neither of the ports are located in a main town, they are both easily reached via good roads from major settlements – either on your own wheels or a taxi/ride-hailing service, such as Grab. Remember to get to the port 30 minutes before departure, or more if travelling on a weekend or public holiday. Below is a description of each port:

*

Tuần Châu Port (Hạ Long City) [MAP] A short 14km drive southwest of Hạ Long City (Bãi Cháy), the Tuần Châu ferry pier is located on Tuần Châu Island, a resort-entertainment complex and jumping off point for many of the Hạ Long Bay boat tours. A long causeway leads from the mainland to the island and the port is at the southern tip of Tuần Châu. There’s a large blue sign saying Bến Phà (‘ferry port’), so it’s easy to spot. The ticket office opens onto a covered waiting area for passengers and motorbikes and there are a couple of snack stalls and toilets. Interestingly, the sea planes use the same boat ramp as the ferry: you might be waiting for the boat when a plane suddenly ‘drives’ out of the water onto dry land with its propellors still whirring. If you don’t have your own transport, there are taxis hanging around the port.

Gia Luận Port (Cát Bà Island) [MAP] At the northern tip of Cát Bà Island, Gia Luận ferry pier is exceptionally scenic, surrounded by jungle-clad limestone pillars rising from the calm sea. Gia Luận is on the isolated, beautiful, undeveloped side of the island, 22km north of all the hotels and restaurants in Cát Bà Town. The port and the town are linked via a good, very pretty road. Gia Luận harbour features a ticket office, snack stalls, toilets and a covered waiting area, but there’s little else here. Taxis meet the boats.

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Boarding the ferry at Gia Luận Port, Cát Bà Island

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Waiting for the ferry at Tuần Châu Port

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

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The Boats:

The vessels used for the Tuần Châu→Cát Bà crossing are classic roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferries with ramps at both ends and a superstructure above the car hold for passenger decks and the captain’s bridge. They are not elegant vessels, but they do look slightly more seaworthy than the car ferries that cross the multiple branches of the Red and Mekong river deltas. The car deck is laid with concrete; on the sides there’s a toilet and small snack vendor selling some food and drink. There are two deck levels featuring metal benches where passengers can sit and watch the limestone karsts glide by. All seating is outdoors, the only covering is the deck above – this means if it rains, you are likely to get wet.

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
The boats are typical roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferries

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Snacks & drinks for sale onboard the ferry

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
View from my motorbike onboard the ferry

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The Voyage:

The ferry drifts away from Tuần Châu port, ploughing slowly through the calm sea and passing through a constellation of other, bigger vessels full of tourists on $100-a-day cruises of Hạ Long Bay. Standing on the deck with a pleasant breeze and a couple of boiled eggs from the onboard vendor, watch the mainland fade onto the horizon; the luxury apartment blocks and high-rise hotels of Hạ Long City’s modern seafront receding into a grey haze. After crossing open sea for 20 minutes, dozens of limestone karsts begin to emerge from the water, scattered in close proximity to one another like a natural defence against invading ships. The ferry enters a labyrinth of jungle-covered islands and islets, sometimes passing within feet of their base. Pushing deeper into the maze, the boat must sail between two tall limestone pillars barely wide enough apart to accommodate the ferry’s width. As it gets closer to the northern shores of Cát Bà Island, dozens of floating villages appear, each with a small population to tend the fish farms than lie beneath their homes. Approaching Gia Luận pier, the ferry slows, the ramp opens and passengers start their engines in anticipation of arrival.

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Watching the scenery glide by from the ferry

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Drifting through the limestone karsts of Hạ Long Bay

Tuan Chau→Cat Ba Island Ferry, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Docking at the remote port of Gia Luận

*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this ferry and I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page

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Leave a Comment

Questions, updates and trip reports are all welcome. However, please keep comments polite and on-topic. See commenting etiquette for details.

  1. Mauro Gori says:
    June 29, 2024 at 4:59 PM

    Gracias Tom.
    Te felicito por la completa explicación de como hacer el viaje, después de haber leido muchas otras indicaciones te puedo asegurar que la tuya es la mejor y sin interes comercial.

    1. Tom says:
      June 30, 2024 at 5:04 AM

      Thank you, Mauro!

      Best,

      Tom

  2. Deb Sussman says:
    June 26, 2024 at 4:08 PM

    Next trip to Vietnam I hope to do this!!! Thanks so much deb

    1. Tom says:
      June 27, 2024 at 5:19 AM

      Hi Deb,

      That’s great. I hope you enjoy the trip!

      Best,

      Tom

  3. Greg says:
    June 23, 2024 at 10:28 AM

    Totally agree!
    Since I was living in Hai Phong 2020/21, I would always take the Cat Hai ferry to Cat Ba. On a recent trip back, I tried this route, and it was gorgeous! Just as you described. And as a bonus, the drive south to Cat Ba town is lovely.

    1. Tom says:
      June 24, 2024 at 5:33 AM

      Hi Greg,

      I’m glad you enjoy the ferry too. And, yes, the ride south to Cat Ba town is very nice!

      Best,

      Tom