Last Modified: 01 Sep 2016
Trip code: TVRN
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Travel to Vietnam and trace its mystical eastern coastline, traversing the country from south to north and discovering the many attractions that lie along the way. From the modern chaos of Ho Chi Minh City all the way up to old-world Hanoi, you'll experience tumultuous history, colonial charm, vibrant colours, delicious food and inspiring scenery on this Vietnam holiday.
Table of Contents
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip involves three overnight train journeys. Accommodation and amenities are shared and basic, but the experience of rubbing shoulders with the locals makes it all worthwhile. Plus you make the most of your time by travelling while you sleep.
- During your homestay on the Mekong Delta, you’ll have basic bedding and shared facilities. It’s not exactly the Hilton, but the experience will be a rewarding cultural exchange.
- Your visit to Hoi An includes a bicycle tour of the surrounding countryside. Although the ride isn’t strenuous, you will need a basic level of fitness to take part.
- This trip includes an afternoon cruise on Halong Bay, with a night in Halong City. If you'd like to spend the night on a boat on the bay, then please consider opting for an original style trip.
- This trip gives you plenty of free time in each location, perfect for the traveller who appreciates a bit of independence.
Why we love it
- Your homestay in the Mekong Delta will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your trip. Experience life with the locals and enjoy a delicious home cooked meal
- Nha Trang is known as the Cannes of Vietnam thanks to its luxurious beaches and relaxed locals. You'll have plenty of free time here to go swimming, snorkelling or indulging in mud baths
- Hoi An is another idyllic pocket of Vietnam that's best experienced from the seat of a bike. Take a guided bicycle tour through the rolling countryside
- Vietnam's former imperial capital Hue is not a place where time goes slowly! We've allowed for plenty of free time to make the most of this historic city
- Halong Bay feels like paradise, with its blue-green waters and spectacular caves. Spend an afternoon cruising and exploring its beautiful bay
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.
As you won’t be spending much time in Ho Chi Minh City, we recommend arriving a few days early to see more of this incredible city. See the ancient pagodas and cathedrals near the former Presidential Palace, the historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Consider taking a day trip such as ‘The Cu Chi Experience’ with our partners Urban Adventures. See urbanadventures.com for more information.
- Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD43
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Mekong Delta
Make your way to the province of Ben Tre, where you’ll get on a boat to tour the canals of the Mekong Delta. This fertile area is famous for its abundance of fruit, flower and rice crops, and is known as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam.
During your boat ride you’ll visit some local cottage industries and then head to your overnight homestay. Your stay with a Vietnamese family will be one of the highlights of your trip as you get a taste of the life of a local and enjoy a home cooked meal.
Notes: On the homestay, you’ll be sleeping on simple camp beds in a dorm-style arrangement with people of the same sex. You’ll have basic shared bathroom facilities, and bedding and mosquito nets will be provided.
- Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Homestay (1 nt)
1 lunch, 1 dinner
Day 3 Mekong Delta / Overnight Train
Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy some free time in Ho Chi Minh City this afternoon, perhaps visit the War Remnants Museum or Reunification Palace.
This evening, board an overnight train to Nha Trang (approx 11 hours). Conditions are basic on these trains and they may be a little dirtier than what you’re used to, however overnight trains are the best way to brush shoulders with the locals and make the best use of your time. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers like to take some fresh bread, cheese and fruit for the journey.
Notes: There are shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage.
Sleeper trains typically have four or six berth compartments with bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Depending on the configuration of the group, you may have to share with people of different genders or passengers who aren’t part of the group.
- Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
- Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum - VND15000
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 4 Nha Trang
Arrive in Nha Trang at about 5 am and transfer to your hotel. You’ll have today free to spend as you wish. Perhaps enjoy your time on the sunny beaches or explore the local markets. Be sure to try some of the excellent seafood in town. Also nearby are the Cham Towers, where you can go for a day trip to see the fascinating archaeological site.
Please note: Our hotel rooms will be available from the standard check in time this afternoon, but you can store your luggage at the hotel while you explore Nha Trang.
- Nha Trang - Boat trip - VND1316000
- Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
- Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower - VND22000
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 Nha Trang/Overnight Train
Today is another free day in Nha Trang.
In the evening, board another overnight train for Danang (about eight hours).
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 6 Hoi An
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus for one hour to Hoi An. Hoi An was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is being beautifully restored. It was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago.
Your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit some of the city's major attractions. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour for you to visit a selection of the major sights as you wish.
Hoi An is also a shopping mecca, so head down to the markets and street stalls to browse paintings, woodwork, ceramics and lanterns. Hoi An is famous for its tailors who can make beautiful items to order.
- Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
- Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 7 Hoi An
Go on a bike ride through the countryside near Hoi An. There's no better way to explore the peaceful area than by bike. You’ll see places few tourists get the chance to see among green rice paddies and small creeks. You’ll get a true insight into rural life in Vietnam.
- Hoi An - Countryside bicycle hire
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 8 Hoi An
Enjoy another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets to cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Your leader can suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
- Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
- Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD49
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 9 Hue
Say goodbye to Hoi An this morning and make your way to Hue. The drive in our minibus will take about five hours, but along the way you’ll stop at the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. You’ll be travelling on the incredible Hai Van Pass, through lush mountains.
Once in Hue, you’ll have a free afternoon to explore. Hue was once Vietnam’s
Imperial capital and has a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil enclaves.
Perhaps visit the Dong Ba Market, which sells everything imaginable and is a great place to spend some time.
- Hue - Imperial citadel - VND150000
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 10 Hue
Another free day in Hue. Perhaps visit the Imperial Citadel which includes the Forbidden Purple City that was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam war. The gaping holes left by bombs give you an idea of how much destruction occurred in this country.
Another optional activity is a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River and then a visit to Mu Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. Here you’ll see an active Buddhist monastery dating back to 1601, and a car belonging to a monk who set himself alight in protest against the treatment of Buddhists.
You may also like to visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
- Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
- Hue - Royal tomb - VND136000
- Hue - Hue Royal Street Eat by Cyclo Urban Adventure - USD40
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 11 Hue / Overnight Train
This morning, catch up on any optional activities you couldn’t fit in yesterday before taking another overnight train bound for Hanoi. The journey will take about 12 hours.
- Hue - Countryside Bike Urban Adventure - USD25
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 12 Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi at about 4 am and transfer to your hotel.
Today you’ll take a walking tour of Vietnam’s charming capital. Explore the 36 streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, including the Dong Xuan Market, Hoan Kiem Lake and the unique architecture nearby. Hanoi has a French provincial feel remaining from its colonial times, but it also has a Buddhist influence and striking modern buildings.
The rest of the day is yours to explore Hanoi as you please.
Notes: There are shared hotel rooms available this morning if you would like to freshen up prior to our standard check in time this afternoon.
- Hanoi - Old Quarter Walking Tour
- Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND80000
- Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
- Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
- Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
- Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
- Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND30000
- Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
- Hanoi - Hanoi Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD31
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Halong Bay
Drive through the Red River Delta for about four hours and arrive at Halong Bay. Along the way, you'll stop at Hong Ngoc Humanity Centre which provides vocational training and employment to Vietnamese people who experience a disability.
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most scenic places, a secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands and caves rising from the emerald waters. You’ll board our boat and spend the rest of the day cruising the breathtaking bay. Enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, stop for a visit to Sung Sot Cave, and take a swim at Titop Beach.
- Halong Bay - Entrance and half day boat cruise
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 14 Hanoi
Take a bus for three and a half hours back to Hanoi. On the way back you’ll stop at the stop for refreshments at a handicraft village co-operative.
Back in Hanoi, enjoy your last few hours of free time then join the group for an optional farewell dinner.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 15 Hanoi
There are no activities planned for today and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Hanoi Urban Adventure - Citadels, Karsts & Cycle - USD88
- Hanoi Urban Adventure - Village Discovery by Bike - USD33
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.
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.
Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
Hoi An - Countryside bicycle hire
Hanoi - Old Quarter Walking Tour
Halong Bay - Entrance and half day boat cruise
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, please see trip notes for excluded nights.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
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.
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.
Homestay (1nt), Hotel (10nt), Overnight sleeper train (3nt)
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.
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.
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.
DAY ROOMS & EARLY CHECK IN:
Please note we include shared day rooms on Day 3 in Ho Chi Minh City and on Day 12, before and after the overnight train journeys. There is one room between up to 6 members of the group. Single supplements do not apply to day rooms. During your trip you may arrive at your destination before check in time, luggage storage will be available. Please ask your leader if you would like to request your own room for early check in for an additional cost, subject to availability.
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.
1 breakfast, 2 lunches, 1 dinner
Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Private vehicle, Taxi, Train
OVERNIGHT SLEEPER TRAINS IN VIETNAM:
Compartments will be 4 berth to 6 berth depending on seasonal variations and the group configuration. We aim to secure 4 berth compartments where possible. 6 berth compartments have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Passengers of different genders may be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. On occasion the group may be split between several carriages, however your leader will coordinate and give further information on the trip.
Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
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:
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.
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.
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. Participation in this kitty at your own discretion.
Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, Intrepid has established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. Intrepid aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you.
A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
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.
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.
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.
Saigon Royal Hotel
12 D Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, Ben Thanh District .1
Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: +84 0838294846
Fax: +84 0838225346
Joining point description
Located near Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Royal Hotel consists of 37 rooms and is close to Zen Plaza, Tao Dan Park, and Mariamman Temple. In addition to a restaurant, Saigon Royal Hotel features a 24 hour reception, laundry service, coffee shop/café with complimentary wireless Internet access. Rooms include private bathrooms, television with cable channels, WiFi, refrigerators, and air conditioning. Check in time is from 2pm
Joining point instructions
Intrepid are able to 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 as you leave the customs hall and cost approximately US$10 (VND220000). Avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.
Hanoi Legacy Hotel - Hoan Kiem
01 Ngo Gach Street Hoan Kiem District
Phone: +84 39290702
Fax: +84 39290704
Finish point description
Hanoi Legacy Hoan Kiem Hotel is located right in the centre of Hanoi Old Quarter, 300 metres from Hoan Kiem Lake, and 50 metres from Dong Xuan Market. The hotel is also just 3 km from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and One Pillar Pagoda. Hotel rooms have ensuites and air conditioning, while the hotel also offers free Wi-Fi, 24 hour reception, luggage storage, laundry service, and a restaurant. It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive between the Noi Bai International airport an the Hanoi Legacy Hoan Kiem Hotel.
Check in is from 2pm on the day of arrival, and check out at 12 noon on the day of departure.
Finishing point instructions
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.
A metered taxi to the airport costs approx. US$10 (VND213,000) and takes approx. 30 minutes depending on traffic
Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
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.
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 2017 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:
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.
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.
Climate and seasonal information
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.
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
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 Travel 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
* 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.
* 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.
For more information, or to make a donation please visit: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=vietnam
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