Best of Vietnam Trip Notes

Best of Vietnam

Last Modified: 05 Apr 2016
Best of Vietnam
Trip code: TVST
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Experience quintessential Vietnam on this comprehensive trip from south to north. Travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and experience dynamic cities, tranquil backwaters, imperial ruins, faded colonial elegance and picture-perfect landscapes dotted with reminders of the past. Explore the narrow cobbled streets of Hoi An’s Old Town, slurp on noodly pho in Nha trang and cruise the gentle Perfume River in Hue as you uncover the very best of Vietnam.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationFinish point description
ThemesAccommodation NotesFinishing point instructions
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionEmergency contact
Why we love itMealsVisas
MapTransportWhat to take
ItineraryMoney mattersClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderHealth
Physical ratingSafetyTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining pointA couple of rules
Important notesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Group sizeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Your fellow travellersFinish pointFeedback
Style
Original
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- During this trip, there will be several long days of travelling and you'll be sitting on a bus for many hours at a time. However, road trips often have the best views, and most private buses feature wi-fi.
- Two nights of this trip are spent on overnight sleeper trains with journeys of up to 12 hours. Although the conditions are basic and you'll be sharing a compartment with four to six people, this is the best way to maximise your time spent at various destinations.
- This trip involves a lot of walking - on city walking tours and during included activities. While being on your feet can be a bit tiring, this is the best way to truly get under the skin of a place.
- You'll be spending two nights in a homestay with a Vietnamese family. While the accommodation is shared and basic, this is a great opportunity to connect with the local people (and enjoy delicious home-cooked meals!)
Why we love it
- Travel to both popular and lesser-known destinations in Vietnam, including tourist hotspots like Halong Bay and hidden gems such as Quy Nhon
- See Vietnam through an exciting mix of transport, including motorbike, basket boat, dragon boat, junk boat, bus and train
- Experience local life during homestays in the Mekong Delta and Mai Chau. Get to know local families, participate in their activities and enjoy a homestyle meal
- The drive to Quy Nhon features some of the best scenery in Vietnam. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride
- Visit the mind-boggling Phong Nha and Thien Duong Caves. These labyrinthine systems were used to shelter civilians and win the war against the Americans
- Spend a day in Hue, touring the city's sights on a motorbike, cruising down Perfume River and eating lunch at a serene nunnery
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm today. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with hotel reception or look on the reception noticeboard for where and when the meeting will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Because this trip doesn’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City, why not arrive a day or two early to see the sights? Ho Chi Minh City has a dynamic atmosphere and a French influence. Perhaps head to Pham Ngu Lao Street to see the local open-aired market, visit Vinh Nghiem Pagoda or one of the amusements parks.

Note: If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel in time for the meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Ho Chi Minh
For the first full day of your trip, you’ll visit one of the most important sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory. Be amazed by the ingenuity of these dangerous tunnels.

Later in the day, take a tour of the city, passing the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. Head to the War Remnants Museum for a sobering yet informative lesson on the Vietnam War. Here you’ll see things like old military equipment, an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Included Activities
  • HCMC - Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
    Optional Activities
    • HCMC - A O show - VND1050000
      Accommodation
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Meals
      1 breakfast
      Day 3 Mekong Delta Homestay
      Travel south by private bus for about three hours to Cai Be. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away.

      Hop off the boat to visit an orchard and sample some tropical fruit. You’ll then continue on the cruise towards some local cottage industries. Get to see local life and the industries surrounding the river up close. Around sunset, you’ll make your way up one of the many canals to your homestay where you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. The accommodation tonight will be simple, but the experience will be rewarding.

      Notes: At the homestay, you’ll be sleeping in a dorm-style arrangement on simple beds. Bedding and mosquito nets will be provided, and there will be shared toilet and bathroom facilities with cold water only.
      Included Activities
      • Mekong Delta - Sightseeing tour including cottage industries
        Accommodation
        Homestay (1 nt)
        Meals
        1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
        Day 4 Ho Chi Minh/Overnight Train
        Wake up early today to explore more of the magical delta. Daily life here starts at dawn, so after breakfast we visit the Cai Be Floating Market. Here you’ll see hundreds of boats filled with people selling fresh produce.

        Travel back to Ho Chi Minh City (about three hours) and enjoy some free time to do a bit of sightseeing. We recommend exploring the city’s restaurants and trying Ho Chi Minh City’s distinctive food. In contrast to the north of Vietnam, the cuisine here is spicier, sweeter and more varied. There are also plenty of street food stalls if you’d like to try a several bites.

        In the evening, board an overnight train to Nha Trang which will take about 11 hours. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. You’ll have the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, fruit and cheese before the journey, and most trains also have a dining carriage which serves simple food.

        Notes: Sleeper trains typically have four or six berth compartments with bench seats that convert into bunk beds. A sheet, pillow and blanket will be provided, however some travellers prefer to bring their own sheets. You’ll usually be sharing with people of the same gender, however occasionally you’ll need to share with people of other genders or travellers who aren’t part of the group.
        Included Activities
        • Mekong Delta - Floating Market
          Meals
          1 breakfast
          Day 5 Nha Trang
          Arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang. Here you’ll have a free day to enjoy the beaches, snorkelling and the seafood restaurants along the promenade. Ask your leader to suggest some things to do.
          Optional Activities
          • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
          • Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
            Accommodation
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Day 6 Nha Trang
            Get on another boat and head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and have a seafood buffet for lunch. Pass the afternoon lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim.
            Included Activities
            • Nha Trang - Row boat tour
            • Nha Trang - Boat trip including lunch
            • Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
              Accommodation
              Hotel (1 nt)
              Meals
              1 breakfast, 1 lunch
              Day 7 Quy Nhon City
              Today will be a long day of travelling to Quy Nhon but will be full of beautiful views along Highway One. The drive will take about six hours along a road hugging granite cliffs over the blue of the South China Sea. Enjoy scenery of islands, lagoons and sand dunes which give way to sugar plantations and rice fields.

              En route, you’ll stop for a visit to the striking Po Nagar Cham Towers, medieval temples remaining from the Cham civilisation.

              Quy Nhon is a hidden gem, remaining off the tourist trail despite its beautiful beaches and bay. When you arrive, you’ll visit the Nguyen Nga Training Centre, a charity venture which helps orphans and people with disabilities. Spend some time with the children who’ll be more than happy to practice their English and entertain with songs. You can also purchase handicrafts made in the centre’s workshop.
              Included Activities
              • Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower
              • Quy Nhon - Nguyen Nga Training Centre Visit
                Accommodation
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 8 Hoi An
                Another long but scenic drive today towards Hoi An (about seven hours). On the way make a sobering visit to the My Lai Memorial, which marks the site where American troops massacred a whole village of civilians.

                Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major trading port with the West from the 15th to the 19th century. Today it has been restored to look exactly as it did more than a century ago, giving it an old-world feel full of nooks and crannies to explore.

                You’ll have some free time this afternoon. Hoi An is very much a shopping mecca. Why not browse the paintings, woodwork, ceramics, embroidery all made by the locals? The city is also famous for its talented tailors who work with beautiful fabrics for a good price.
                Included Activities
                • Quy Nhon - My Lai Memorial
                  Optional Activities
                  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
                    Accommodation
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    Meals
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 9 Hoi An
                    Also known as Ancient Town, part of what makes Hoi An so special is its blend of indigenous and European architectural styles. For this reason, it’s also known as Ancient Town. Go on an orientation walk around the town today and get your bearings. Afterwards, you may choose to go on one of the optional activities. Perhaps take a boat cruise down the Thu Bon River, or take a bicycle tour around the countryside. There’s also a day trip to the stunning ruins of My Son, the centuries-old Hindu temples.
                    Included Activities
                    • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
                      Optional Activities
                      • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
                        Accommodation
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        Meals
                        1 breakfast
                        Day 10 Hoi An
                        Enjoy another free day in the town of Hoi An. You’ll have time to see the beautiful Chinese shophouses, enjoy the busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields or browse the array of art galleries.
                        Optional Activities
                        • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
                          Accommodation
                          Hotel (1 nt)
                          Meals
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 11 Hue
                          Depart Hoi An and visit the white sand and blue sea of China Beach (My Khe Beach). Continue on the journey and cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass and make a quick stop at the fishing village of Lang Co. Get back in the bus again and make your way to Hue. The total driving time today will be about five hours.

                          Arrive in Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue contains the treasures of Vietnam’s royal history, and has a curious blend of bustling streets and tranquil settings. Your excursion here will be to the Imperial Citadel. This fortress houses the Imperial City and the citadel-within-a-citadel, the Forbidden Purple City. This icon was almost completely destroyed during the Vietnam War, and the ruins and holes left by bombs are a reminder of the destruction caused by the war.

                          In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
                          Included Activities
                          • Hue - Imperial citadel
                            Accommodation
                            Hotel (1 nt)
                            Meals
                            1 breakfast
                            Day 12 Hue
                            Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, then to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.

                            Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent.

                            After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. At the end of the day, head back to Hue.

                            Notes:

                            -For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, a car will be provided for transport between destinations.

                            -Boats along Perfume River may not be available during festival season. During these times, you’ll be transported by land to reach the activities.
                            Included Activities
                            • Hue - Royal tomb
                            • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
                            • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
                              Accommodation
                              Hotel (1 nt)
                              Meals
                              1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                              Day 13 Dong Hoi
                              Get on a bus this morning on your way to the Vinh Moc Tunnels. These were used during the Vietnam War as shelter for the villagers who were escaping intense bombing. The locals lived in the underground system that went over three levels. You’ll be able to enter the tunnels which remain in their original form.

                              Continue on to Dong Hoi, a seaside town and your base for the next couple of days.
                              Included Activities
                              • Quang Tri - Vinh Moc Tunnels Entrance
                                Accommodation
                                Hotel (1 nt)
                                Meals
                                1 breakfast
                                Day 14 Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park/Overnight train
                                Start the day by taking a bus to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains the oldest known karst mountains in Asia. The area is also known for its enormous cave system. You’ll visit the Phong Cave first, then take a cruise up the Son River towards the Thien Duong Cave (Paradise Cave). The scale of the place is truly astounding.

                                In the late afternoon, return to Dong Hoi and catch and overnight sleeper train to Hanoi. The journey will take about 10 hours.
                                Included Activities
                                • Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Thien Duong (Paradise Cave)
                                • Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Boat Tour
                                • Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Phong Nha Cave Entrance
                                  Accommodation
                                  Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
                                  Meals
                                  1 breakfast
                                  Day 15 Hanoi
                                  Arrive in Hanoi early in the morning and transfer to your hotel. Vietnam’s capital is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, public parks and Frenchy Old Quarter. As an emerging city in Southeast Asian, Hanoi has an attractive contrast of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and a labyrinth of ancient streets.

                                  Later in the day, you’ll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, including the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

                                  In the evening, enjoy a performance of water puppetry, a unique and traditional Vietnamese art form.
                                  Included Activities
                                  • Hanoi - Water puppet show
                                  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
                                  • Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
                                    Optional Activities
                                    • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
                                    • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND30000
                                    • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
                                    • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
                                    • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
                                      Accommodation
                                      Hotel (1 nt)
                                      Day 16 Mai Chau
                                      Make your way to the peaceful town of Mai Chau which is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by verdant mountains and emerald rice paddies. You’ll go for a two or three-hour walk through the minority villages and meet the friendly Hill Tribe people.

                                      You’ll spend the night in a local stilt-house homestay in the village of Poom Coong. Your amiable hosts will cook you a fabulous home-style meal and maybe even serve up some of the regional wine. Tonight you’ll enjoy a traditional dance performed by the local villagers.
                                      Included Activities
                                      • Mai Chau - Village visit
                                      • Mai Chau - Music performance
                                        Accommodation
                                        Homestay (1 nt)
                                        Meals
                                        1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
                                        Day 17 Hanoi
                                        Spend another morning exploring and enjoying the country air of Mai Chau, then return to Hanoi. As it’s often a favourite with those who’ve done the trip, you’ll get some more free time in Hanoi. See more of the colonial and Vietnamese architecture, and make the most of the delicious food.
                                        Optional Activities
                                        • Hanoi - Hanoi Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD31
                                          Accommodation
                                          Hotel (1 nt)
                                          Meals
                                          1 breakfast
                                          Day 18 Halong Bay
                                          Drive to Bai Chay Harbour towards the famous world heritage site of Halong Bay. The drive will take around four hours and take you to a secluded harbour and blue-green bay studded with limestone outcrops. The area is full of beaches and natural grottos. You’ll take a boat through the limestone peaks and caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and have the chance to go for a swim.

                                          Spend the night on board the boat beneath a sky alive with starlight. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There’s also a dining room and bar where you can enjoy the day’s meals.
                                          Included Activities
                                          • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
                                            Accommodation
                                            Overnight boat (1 nt)
                                            Meals
                                            1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
                                            Day 19 Hanoi
                                            Take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride back to Hanoi. There are no activities planned for the day except for an optional farewell dinner to mark the end of your trip. Spend a final night in Hanoi before the trip ends tomorrow.
                                            Accommodation
                                            Hotel (1 nt)
                                            Meals
                                            1 breakfast
                                            Day 20 Hanoi
                                            There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time.
                                            Meals
                                            1 breakfast
                                            Itinerary disclaimer
                                            ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

                                            OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
                                            Physical rating

                                            Included activities
                                            HCMC - Cu Chi Tunnels
                                            Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
                                            HCMC - City tour
                                            Mekong Delta - Sightseeing tour including cottage industries
                                            Mekong Delta - Floating Market
                                            Nha Trang - Row boat tour
                                            Nha Trang - Boat trip including lunch
                                            Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
                                            Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower
                                            Quy Nhon - Nguyen Nga Training Centre Visit
                                            Quy Nhon - My Lai Memorial
                                            Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
                                            Hue - Imperial citadel
                                            Hue - Royal tomb
                                            Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
                                            Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
                                            Quang Tri - Vinh Moc Tunnels Entrance
                                            Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Thien Duong (Paradise Cave)
                                            Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Boat Tour
                                            Phong Nha Ke-Bang NP - Phong Nha Cave Entrance
                                            Hanoi - Water puppet show
                                            Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
                                            Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
                                            Mai Chau - Village visit
                                            Mai Chau - Music performance
                                            Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
                                            Important notes
                                            1. Please provide your full name as per passport and passport number 45 days prior to departure in order to secure Vietnam train tickets.
                                            2. A single supplement is available on this trip. The supplement in not available at the following accommodation:
                                            Day 3 - Mekong Delta homestay
                                            Day 4 - Overnight train
                                            Day 14 - Overnight train
                                            Day 16 - Mai Chau homestay
                                            Day 18 - Halong Bay boat

                                            Group size
                                            Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
                                            Your fellow travellers
                                            GROUP TRAVEL
                                            As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.

                                            SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
                                            Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
                                            Accommodation
                                            Homestay (2nt), Hotel (14nt), Overnight boat (1nt), Overnight sleeper train (2nt)
                                            OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
                                            The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.

                                            TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
                                            Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.

                                            CHECK-IN TIME
                                            Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.

                                            PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
                                            If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.

                                            WINDOWLESS ROOMS:
                                            Some hotels in Vietnam have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also don't require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available.

                                            JUNK BOAT:
                                            Our wooden boat has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. The boats have 8-12 passenger cabins. There's also a dining room and bar on board.

                                            The boat is not likely to be a traditional sailing junk, as many older or imported vessels do not comply with waterway traffic safety laws.
                                            Meals introduction
                                            While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.

                                            Breakfasts are often simple: eggs, bread, jam and coffee/tea would be most common.
                                            Meals
                                            17 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 3 dinners
                                            Transport
                                            Boat, Bus, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Private vehicle, Taxi

                                            LONG TRAVEL DAYS
                                            There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
                                            Money matters
                                            SPENDING MONEY
                                            When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                                            Budget for meals not included:
                                            USD350.00

                                            VIETNAM:
                                            The official currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND).
                                            US dollars are also accepted for some payments. It is almost impossible to change VND into US dollars without a flight ticket showing your onward destination.

                                            Only change money at official money exchange counters with a clear sign showing this status. Illegal exchange places like gold shops may offer a higher rate you may risk losing your money.

                                            Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted, but outside main centres you may find cash the only acceptable currency. It may be difficult to cash travellers’ cheques.

                                            ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas.

                                            You can have funds transferred to Vietnam via international money transfer companies like Western Union or Moneygram.

                                            EMERGENCY FUNDS:
                                            We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra USD500 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.

                                            EMERGENCY FUNDS
                                            Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.

                                            TIPPING
                                            If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.

                                            The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:

                                            Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.

                                            Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.

                                            Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.

                                            Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

                                            In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.

                                            Optional Tipping Kitty:
                                            At your group meeting on Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.

                                            Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult

                                            Commissions:
                                            Unfortunately, commissions in exchange for recommending particular shops or restaurants are an ingrained part of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye though, we’ve tried to legitimise the practise with a centralised fund. Moneys are collected from recommended and fully vetted suppliers and funnelled back into our business. This keeps the trip cost low (for us and for you) and makes sure you only get the best experiences.

                                            If you’re unhappy with any places your leader recommends, or feel the quality of the trip is being compromised in any way, please let us know in your feedback.



                                            All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
                                            Group leader
                                            All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.

                                            Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
                                            Safety
                                            FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
                                            Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.

                                            SEAT BELTS:
                                            Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.

                                            PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
                                            While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.

                                            MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING:
                                            Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities.
                                            Joining point
                                            Asian Ruby Park View Hotel (formerly Asian Ruby 3)
                                            100 Le Lai Street
                                            District 1
                                            Ho Chi Minh City
                                            VIET NAM
                                            Joining point description
                                            Located close to major sightseeing and shopping areas, the Asian Ruby 3 hotel has a restaurant and a lift. Rooms have en suite bathrooms, air-conditioning, cable TV and Wi-Fi.
                                            Joining point instructions
                                            Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport - enquire with your agent. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure.

                                            If you have pre-booked an airport transfer you will be met on as you exit the Customs Hall by a transfer representative holding an Intrepid sign with your name on it.
                                            If you cannot find your transfer representative, or if your flight is delayed, please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770. Additionally proceed to Column 12 outside the International Arrival terminal. Your driver will wait here if you do not meet upon arrival.
                                            Please note that neither the driver nor any representative should ask you for additional payment.

                                            Metered taxis are readily available and cost approx $10 USD (220,000 VND). Please avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.
                                            Finish point
                                            May de ville City Centre 2 Hotel
                                            57 Pham Hong Thai Street
                                            Hanoi
                                            VIET NAM
                                            Phone: +84 439279999
                                            Fax: +84 4393279899
                                            Finish point description
                                            Located adjacent to Hanoi's old quarter, close to the shops, bars, restaurants, museums and theatres. There are 57 well appointed rooms with LCD TVs, tea and coffee facilities, mini-bar, IDD telephone, hairdryer, air-conditioning and safety boxes. There is Wifi available in the lobby and business centre and ADSL in all rooms.
                                            Finishing point instructions
                                            A metered taxi to the airport costs approx. US$10 (VND213,000) and takes approx. 30 minutes depending on traffic

                                            A departure transfer is available - enquire with your agent.
                                            If you have booked a post trip airport transfer, ask your leader to confirm the time of departure and meeting place. If you have any problems please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770.
                                            Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
                                            Emergency contact
                                            For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist. For further contact details please use the following page:

                                            For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

                                            While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

                                            We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

                                            You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.

                                            Intrepid's Vietnam Office: +84 903 117 770
                                            Visas
                                            As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
                                            Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

                                            Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.

                                            VIETNAM VISA:
                                            Most nationalities require a visa to travel to Vietnam.

                                            Some nationalities are exempt from visas for a stay of under 15 days. If you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance (please contact your relevant Consulate or Embassy). Effective from 1st July 2015 - 30 June 2016 exempt visa nationalities include British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws.

                                            Vietnam visas need to be arranged in advance. When obtaining your visa you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Check with your embassy or consulate for further details.

                                            Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure.

                                            If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Intrepid Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996.

                                            Most nationalities do not require a letter of invitation for Vietnam but if you do need one, please contact your sales agent for more information.
                                            What to take
                                            What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).

                                            Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.

                                            Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

                                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/pdf/trips/packinglist.pdf

                                            WATER BOTTLE:
                                            Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

                                            LOCAL DRESS:
                                            When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
                                            Climate and seasonal information
                                            TET:
                                            Tet is Vietnam’s New Year festival which takes place in late January/early February based on the lunar calendar and is the most important celebration of the year. While this can be a fascinating time to be in Vietnam, you do need to be prepared for some businesses to be closed, tourist sites to be very busy and for transport to be packed as many Vietnamese are travelling around the country. Although we do our best to run trips during Tet as per the scheduled itinerary, it is likely that there will be some changes to transport, accommodation or order of destinations visited. Due to the high demand on tickets at this time, flights and overnight trains may on occasion need to be replaced with day buses. We will aim to communicate any known changes prior to your departure.

                                            WET SEASON:
                                            During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
                                            Health
                                            All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.

                                            You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.

                                            DENGUE FEVER:
                                            Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing and always using repellent. Please note that this mosquito is most active during daylight hours however care should be taken at all times.
                                            Travel insurance
                                            Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.

                                            When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.

                                            If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.

                                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php

                                            IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that for this particular trip, your travel insurance cover must also include riding pillion on a motorbike. The motorbikes used are all less than 150cc.
                                            A couple of rules
                                            Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

                                            Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
                                            Responsible Travel
                                            We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.

                                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

                                            The Intrepid Foundation
                                            Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.

                                            The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:

                                            http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

                                            Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Vietnam include:

                                            * The Blue Dragon Children's Foundation works in northern and central Vietnam with the most vulnerable children: street kids, children with disabilities, children from rural families living in extreme poverty, and victims of human trafficking and slavery. Their primary aim is to rescue kids from danger, reunite them with their families when they can, and provide all the services needed for recovery and growth.
                                            www.bluedragon.org

                                            * Children's Hope in Action (CHIA) provides vital health and disability programs and educational services to vulnerable families in Hoi An and surrounding rural areas. CHIA’s holistic Special Education program facilitates the social, physical and intellectual development of children who have motor disabilities and little, or no intellectual impairment.
                                            www.childrenshopeinaction.org

                                            * The KOTO Saigon Training Centre provides training in life skills and hospitality to former street children. Trainees at the Saigon centre will go on to work at KOTO's restaurant in the city (to open in 2011). Travellers may also visit the KOTO restaurant in Hanoi, which also provides training opportunities for disadvantaged youth and great food.
                                            www.koto.com.au

                                            For more information, or to make a donation please visit: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=vietnam

                                            Feedback
                                            After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.

                                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback

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