Best of Vietnam Trip Notes

From bustling Ho Chi Minh City to historical Hanoi, the Best of Vietnam tour is an unforgettable journey through this enigmatic Asian nation. One of our best.

    • 20
    • TVST
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $1,720
      CAD $1,745
      AUD $1,810
      EUR €1,285
      GBP £1,075
      NZD $2,150
      ZAR R16,480
      CHF FR1,585
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    • Explorer
    • Original
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There is a later version of this trip also available for travel from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2015. View later Best of Vietnam.
Print Version
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2014
Best of Vietnam
Trip code: TVST
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Experience quintessential Vietnam on this comprehensive journey 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 past history. This was our first trip to Vietnam and many say it remains our best.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2015:
From 1st January 2015 this trip will have the following changes:
- Entrance to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh will be included
- In order to make the transport links between destinations smoother, we will take an overnight train from Hue on Day 14 and spend Day 15 in Hanoi.
- Due to issue with accommodation and logistics, we will now visit the hill tribe area of Mai Chau instead of the national park of Cuc Phoung.
- The dinner at KOTO is now an optional meal to allow for more flexibility and choice
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency contact
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency funds
MapYour fellow travellersVisas
ItinerarySingle travellersIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseAccommodationWhat to take
We also recommendMeals introductionHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMealsSafety
Culture shock rating TransportTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
Spending moneyFinish point Carbon offset
TippingFinish point descriptionFeedback
Departure taxFinish point instructions
Style
Original
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Best of Vietnam
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, 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). 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.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This former Viet Cong stronghold provides an insight into the resourcefulness and tenacity of the Vietnamese people, as well as a unique sense of what underground life was like during the American War.
Included Activities
  • HCMC - Cu Chi Tunnels
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Mekong Delta Homestay
Travel south to Cai Be by private bus (approx 3 hrs).
Board our boats to cruise the Mekong Delta and explore its intricate waterways. This is our introduction to a world where life depends on the river. Often referred to as the 'rice bowl' of Vietnam, the fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits, flowers and rice, as well as it fantastic views while boating along the canals.
Visit an orchard where you can sample tropical fruits, before continuing on to visit some local cottage industries. Around sunset we make our way up one of the many canals to our homestay where we enjoy a wonderful meal of local specialities. At our homestay we'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in a dorm-style arrangement. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic with cold water only.
Included Activities
  • Mekong Delta - boat cruise and homestay
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 4 Ho Chi Minh City
Activity in the delta starts at dawn, so we'll be up early. After breakfast, we visit the busy Cai Be floating market.
Return to Ho Chi Minh City (approx 3 hrs) and enjoy more sightseeing in this vibrant metropolis.
Visit the War Remnants Museum. Originally opened in September 1975, it displays old military equipment and other related items from the Vietnam War. In the courtyard you'll find some larger exhibits including a F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter.
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Dalat
Rubber, tea and coffee line the route into the cooler climate of the South Central Highlands and the honeymoon town of Dalat (approx 8 hrs by bus). Make a brief stop at La Nga River to see the fishing community and also stop at Chicken Village, home to K'hor, Chill and Cham minorities.
One of Vietnam's most delightful cities, Dalat is a perfect base to explore this pleasant region. There's plenty to see around town, including lakes, palaces, flower gardens, pagodas, and churches.
Join a city tour, which takes us into Bao Dai's Summer Palace, the famed Crazy House and the vibrant Dalat market. In the afternoon you have free time to explore or to take the train to Trai Mat Village.
Included Activities
  • Bao Dai's Summer Palace
  • Hang Nga Crazy House
Optional Activities
  • Trai Mat village trip (approx. cost depending on numbers) - VND250000
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Nha Trang
Today's drive is predominantly downhill through pine forests and paddy fields as we descend nearly 1,500m travelling through the Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park. This area is home to rare pine forests as well as small villages inhabited by the ethnic minority people of the central highlands.
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
A highlight for many travellers is our boat trip amongst the islands. From the main boat, we take basket boats to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters, enjoy a seafood buffet lunch, and pass the afternoon lazing in deck chairs or swimming.
Included Activities
  • Nha Trang - Boat trip
Optional Activities
  • Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
  • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 9 Quy Nhon
Stop en route to visit the striking Po Nagar Cham Towers, one of the more impressive remaining temples of the Cham civilisation.
Travel one of the most breathtakingly scenic sections of Highway One. The road hugs granite cliffs, which fall away into the blue of the South China Sea. Islands, lagoons and sand dunes give way to sugar plantations and rice fields as we approach our destination of Quy Nhon (approx 6 hrs).
Although it boasts a beautiful beach and bay, Quy Nhon remains off the main tourist trail.
Visit the Nguyen Nga Training Centre, a charity venture established in 1993, with the aim of teaching life skills to orphans and people with disabilities in order for them to support themselves. Spend some time here with the kids - they'll be more than happy to entertain you with songs and music, as well as practice their English. There's also an opportunity to purchase a wide range of goods which have been crafted in the workshop.
Included Activities
  • Nguyen Nga Training Centre visit
  • Cham Tower
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 10-12 Hoi An
Another long but scenic drive takes us to Hoi An (approx 7 hrs).
The journey is punctuated with a sobering visit to the My Lai Memorial, marking the site where American troops massacred a whole village of civilians.
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it.
It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied.
On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
You have time here to explore the beautifully restored and preserved Chinese shop houses, enjoy the vibrant and busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields and browse the array of art galleries.
Included Activities
  • My Lai Memorial (Quy Nhon) Emtrance Fee
  • Hoi An - Ancient town
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
  • Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
  • Hoi An - Bicycle hire - VND40000
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 13-15 Hue
Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
As passengers on the back of motorbikes we start our tour of Hue with a visit to the Imperial Citadel, which includes the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, but the foliage-covered ruins are still atmospheric and the gaping holes left by bombs give an idea of the destruction wreaked upon the country during the war. Next is a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda, considered by many to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who in 1963 drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. We then enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River for about 40 minutes before getting back on our motorbikes and riding to our special lunch stop in a nunnery. After lunch we visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees, before heading back to Hue. A car will be provided for those who do not wish to ride on the back of a motorbike.
The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai, a royal rice cake.
Board an overnight train to Hanoi. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations), 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. On occasion, passengers of different genders will 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. 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.
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Bicycle hire - VND40000
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 16 Hanoi
We arrive in Hanoi early in the morning.
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, which includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
In the evening, enjoy a performance of the unique Water Puppets.
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Water puppet show
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 17 Cuc Phuong National Park
Take a bus through green paddy fields to Cuc Phuong National Park (approx 3 hrs).
Stop along the way to visit Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam under the 10th-century Dinh Dynasty.
Vietnam's oldest national park, Cuc Phuong is home to thousand year-old trees and caves where evidence of pre-historic man has been found. The park's primary tropical rain forest contains rare hardwoods and is home to an amazing variety of wildlife including lorises, langurs, bats and giant squirrels.
Visit the Cuc Phuong Primate Rescue Centre to see some of the incredible work they've done with injured, orphaned and threatened species before heading into the centre of the park, where we have the option of taking a two-hour walk through the forest.
Included Activities
  • Cuc Phuong National Park
  • Hoa Lu - Dinh and Le King Temple
  • Primate Rescue Centre
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 18 Halong Bay
Drive to Bai Chay Harbour, gateway to the famous World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs).
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea (known locally as the East Sea), as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner & breakfast.
BOAT SHORTAGE:
Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight, thus resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Included Activities
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Accommodation
Overnight boat (1 nt)
Days 19-20 Hanoi
Take a bus to Hanoi (approx 3.5 hrs).
Enjoy a farewell group dinner with our long time friends at KOTO restaurant - a organisation that is supporting street kids with a career in the hospitality industry.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Included Activities
  • KOTO dinner
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • TVST Single supplement (TVST)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Scenic Vietnam (TVSR)
  • Vietnam Express Southbound (TVSF)
Itinerary disclaimer
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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
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.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
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.
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.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs are now available in most towns and visa cash advances are available in major banks. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels.
It's not possible to exchange Vietnamese Dong outside the country, so convert or spend all your Dong before leaving.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
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.
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
Departure tax
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
TET:
Tet is Vietnam's New Year festival, held annually in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. While this can be a fascinating time to travel and experience this event, expect some shop closures and busier than usual local transport. Opening hours at some tourist sites may also be affected or closed. Although we make all reasonable efforts to avoid disruption, a flexible approach from the traveller is appreciated.
WET SEASON:
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
Group size
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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
A single supplement is available on this trip. The supplement in NOT available at the following accommodation:
- Day 3 Mekong Delta Homestay
- Day 15 Overnight Train
- Day 18 Halong Bay
Accommodation
Hotel (16 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt), Overnight boat (1 nt)
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.
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.
Meals
18 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Budget for meals not included:
USD 350.00
Breakfasts are often simple: eggs, bread, jam and coffee/tea would be most common.
Transport
Private vehicle, Private minibus, Overnight sleeper train
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
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.
Joining point
Asian Ruby 3 Hotel
100 Le Lai Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh
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.
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Finish point
Eastin Easy Hotel
27 Quoc Tu Giam Street
Hanoi
VIET NAM
Phone: +844 3 7474 106
Fax: +844 3 7474 338
Finish point description
The Eastin Easy Hotel is located within walking distance of sights like the Opera house and the Temple of Literature. The 70 rooms are equipped with air conditioning, TV, wifi and a safety deposit box.
www.eastineasygtchanoi.com
Finish point instructions
A metered taxi to the airport costs approx. US$14 (VND230, 000) and takes approx. 45 minutes.
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
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Vietnam Office can be reached on Tel: +84 903 117 770. For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week (excluding Sunday). For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
VIETNAM:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - 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. Some nationalities are exempt from requiring a visa if their stay is less than 15 days, but if you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance.
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.
Issues on your trip
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.
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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (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.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
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
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.
Safety
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
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.
BALCONIES:
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
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 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, such as Ho Chi Minh City.
SWIMMING POOLS:
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
WATER SAFETY:
Take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It is expected that anyone taking part in water activities are able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
LIFE JACKETS:
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
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 group 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.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that for this particular trip, your travel insurance cover must also include riding pillion on a motorbike.
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:
LOCAL DRESS:
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 areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas 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.
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.
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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
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, the rural poor and victims of trafficking. Their main aim is to help kids go to school or receive vocational training in an effort to help them find their way out of poverty.
* 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.
* Cuc Phuong National Park's conservation programs - we're currently supporting the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC), which has specialised breeding and holding facilities for more than 600 turtles representing around 15 of Vietnam’s 23 native species. In addition to providing educational activities and raising public awareness, a major focus of the TCC’s work involves training of wildlife protection officers.
* 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.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
* The Nguyen Nga Centre (in Quy Nhon City) offers education, training and work placement assistance for disadvantaged people and people with disabilities. Intrepid Vietnam purchases embroidered 'say no to plastic' cloth shopping bags for our travellers and the income to the centre helps to pay their rent.
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 222.00 kgs per pax.
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.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.