Travel from historical Hanoi to modern Ho Chi Minh City

Capture the spirit of magical Vietnam on this compact tour from the colonial charm of Hanoi to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Sip coffee with locals in Hanoi and shop up a storm in the Old Quarter, cruise along emerald waters on a Halong Bay boat trip, travel through old-world Hue and Hoi An, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that introduces Vietnam as a country of incredible food, lively locals, stunning scenery and cosmopolitan cities.


Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Country
Vietnam
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
TVSF
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • The bustling markets, tree-lined boulevards and peaceful lakes of Hanoi are a great introduction to modern Vietnam

  • Sail among the floating villages, grottos and limestone pillars of magical Halong Bay

  • Explore the old imperial capital of Hue in typical Vietnamese fashion - on the back of a motorbike

  • Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon, is a dynamic blend of old and new, east and west, commerce and culture

  • Often referred to as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, cruise the waterways of the Mekong Delta in sampan boats and sample exotic fruits and fish

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long stints of travel, including a 12-hour overnight train to Hue. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances, meet locals and maximise time at your destinations. Occasionally passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and/or you'll be sharing with locals or travellers from other groups.

  • In Hue, one day is spent touring the sights on the back of a motorbike. The bikes are great fun and are driven safely by professionals, but alternative transportation can be arranged upon request for those who don’t wish to ride on a motorbike.

  • The weather in Vietnam can be hot and sticky, particularly during the monsoon seasons, so ensure that you pack accordingly. Please also wear sunscreen and a hat, especially when out on a boat in Halong Bay and in the Mekong Delta.

  • This popular trip provides a great overview of some of the highlights of Vietnam with plenty of included activities. If you would like more time to explore each destination, perhaps consider one of our longer trips.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader.

If you arrive early into the capital of Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, and learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum. This tour concludes at Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by modern office buildings and ancient Buddhist temples. Or take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time for the group meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend and have time to explore Hanoi. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your booking agent in advance.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD40
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin (approximately four hours). The bay is dotted with sandy coves, grottos and 1,600 limestone islands, which have been formed over millennia by wind and water erosion. Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring island caves and perhaps even enjoying a swim from Ti Top Island Beach during the warmer months. To end the day, spend a peaceful night aboard the boat beneath the night sky.

The sailing junk has twin share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar to enjoy lunch, dinner and breakfast.

Notes: It is recommended to pack a smaller overnight bag to take to Halong Bay for ease of boarding and disembarking. You can store your main luggage in Hanoi for tonight.

Swimming in the bay from the boats is not permitted.

There are restrictions on the number of boats that are permitted to stay in the bay overnight, sometimes resulting in a shortage. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, we’re occasionally using a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) or splitting groups across different vessels. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Accommodation
  • Overnight boat (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Optional Activities
  • Halong Bay - Kayaking - VND220000
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Return by boat to Ha Long, and at approximately midday travel by bus back to Hanoi. Arrive late this afternoon, and use free time to shop, explore the sights or just relax. Later tonight board an overnight train to Hue.

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-berth compartments (occasionally six berths depending on the season), which 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). Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but you may like to stock up on some food supplies before departure.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Arrive into Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel.

Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. You’ll have free time in the morning to rest or explore. The bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the foods that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables, such as banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Hue Imperial Citadel complex, which once contained temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, tour the sights of Hue on the back of a motorbike driven by a local guide. Explore the ruins of the Forbidden Purple City, once reserved for the personal use of the Emperor and his concubines, but almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam/American War. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda. During the visit you’ll see the car of a former monk who drove to Saigon in 1963 to set himself alight to protest the poor treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.

Enjoy a short boat cruise down the Perfume River before eating lunch inside a nunnery. Finally, visit the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to Hue.

Notes: For those who do not wish to ride on the back of a motorbike, please let you leader know and they will arrange a car.
Also, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you’re travelling during festival periods. During these times you’ll travel by land to reach the activities instead.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to Lang Co Beach, arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll will also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Browse the town’s cobbled streets and art galleries, or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Shop for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shop houses. Perhaps visit one of the hundreds of tailors in the city to get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
  • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD49
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today take a short early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, check in to your hotel and then take a sightseeing bus tour around the city. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, stopping in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the Vietnam/American War.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
  • HCMC - Saigon Street Food by Night Urban Adventure - USD35
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a boat to Ben Tre to visit a coconut candy factory and sample their sweet products. On a tuk-tuk tour around the remote village, learn about local rural life and stop to sample tropical fruits. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous Elephant Ear fish. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past water coconut trees along the Mekong, and then board a private boat to cruise the delta’s major waterways to My Tho. After the cruise return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy a final group dinner at KOTO restaurant, an organisation dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of street kids.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Your trip ends after breakfast today. There are no activities included and you’re free to depart your accommodation at any time. For those who are staying on and want to explore Ho Chi Minh City further, check out our Urban Adventure day trips.
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD43
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private Bus, Private vehicle, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)

Included Activities

  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

Jump to a departure month

Important notes

1. Passport Details: Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport), for internal flights and train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.
2. A Single Supplement to have your own room is available on this trip and excludes nights 2 (overnight boat) and 3 (overnight train) where you will be in shared accommodation.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Vietnam Express Southbound trips score an average of 4.88 out of 5 based on 278 reviews in the last year.

Vietnam Express Southbound, November 2016

Louise Oder

Vietnam Express Southbound, November 2016

Peter Fiddeman