Cat Ba island is the biggest island in Lan Ha Bay and one of the biggest in The Gulf of Tonkin or the East Vietnam Sea. In this article I cover some topics like how to get to Cat Ba, motorbike renting or the weather in the island. For top list things to do there, check out this article.
Transportation to and in Cat Ba island
Wherever you are, you need to get to the island first. If you are from Hanoi or come to Hanoi before Cat Ba island, check out this article. If you are from Tam Coc, Ninh Binh to Cat Ba, check this article. There are buses from Ha Giang to the island also, but it is not very popular. I recommend you contact my friend Tweely for more details if you are interested.
If you are landing in Cat Bi airport in Hai Phong city, you are very close to the island already. All you need is to catch a taxi to Binh pier (Bến Bính), then buy a speedboat ticket to Cat Ba. The price is about 200k per person. Make sure the destination on the ticket is Cat Ba town or Beo pier (Bến Bèo), not Gia Luan pier. Gia Luan pier is 20 km from Cat Ba town, you’ll need another bus for that distance.
How about travelling around the island when you are there? The cheapest and easiest is to rent a motorbike in Cat Ba town. It would cost you about 80k to 120k ($3.5 to $5) a day. With a motorbike you can visit all of the places with flexible itinerary. The second way is to travel by bus, there are public buses from Cat Ba town to other attractions on the island like Trung Trang Cave, Hospital Cave, Cat Ba National Park, etc. Instead of renting a motorbike you also can rent a taxi if you like. The last option is to walk. A dimension of 30 to 50 km is totally walk-able in some days. Cat Ba is wild camping friendly, you can walk and sleep anywhere, on a beach, on a cliff or in the forest.
Weather in Cat Ba Island.
ATM and money exchange in Cat Ba island
Before you find ATMs below, my advice is that you should keep some extra cash somewhere like in your sock, your tend or anywhere before coming to Cat Ba island. Cat Ba is an island, there are some ATMs on that, however if those ATMs fails, you will have almost nothing to rely on. There are some ATMS there, just search on Google Maps and try from the closest to the farthest. Almost all hotels/travel agencies offer money exchange, you can try in your own or on the street. In my experience, those ATMs only accept some types of card like Visa credit/debit, Mastercard credit, American Express is usually not accepted. But it is all up to the ATMs, in a bad days you might lose the money without the cash out. You should contact your card holder for a refund, it might take weeks, but no worries, your money will come back.
Safety and Emergency
Like in every other places, good attractions attract tourists and criminals.
If you travel by bus, keep your money, cards, passport with you in a small bag or a hidden pocket in your jacket all the time. Don’t leave them in your backpacks under the trunk. An open bus stops many time in its trip, there are many people get on and off at every stop. Your luggage could get lost mistakenly or purposely.
If you travel by motorbike, keep your valuable things in your jacket or under your bag. Pickpocket might cut your bag when you stop at a red light and steal everything from behind.
When you arrive your accommodation, ask them if they have a safe-box that you can use or if you can leave things in the room when you go out. Someone could steal your thing when you get off your clothes and swimming in a day trip.
Keep copies of your papers in your phone and on the cloud, in case you need it.
Safety tips: avoid going in dark roads late at night. If you are in a private resort, you can enjoy the beach until sunrise. If it is a quiet and dark public beach, come back early. Going in group if there is a cool bar opened all night. The island is generally safe. If you encounter any problems, contact with the local authorities for help. Last tip: most of stolen things in Vietnam is not recovered, so better keep your things safe in the first place.
Wifi, 4G Data Sim Card, Internet
In recent years, internet providers have covered the island with wifi. We have free wifi in most every hotel/homestay, except for some in Monkey Island. Normally they have wifi only, if you need a wired network for some reason, better contact the accommodation in advance.
A 4G data sim card is recommended when you are in Cat Ba. You will need it when riding motorbike around, discovering the national park or cruising a day trip in Lan Ha Bay. Viettel sim card has good coverage. Vinaphone is also ok. Vietnamobile, Mobifone or Itelecom Indochina is not recommended in remote area like Cat Ba. Yes they have some coverage in the island also, but the instability is insane.
I provide Vietnamese sim cards in all networks with delivery service in Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh city. Check out my shop at the menu to order one. A $10 sim card could save you hundred on roaming.