Cycle Vietnam Trip Notes

Cycle Vietnam

Last Modified: 15 Apr 2016
Cycle Vietnam
Trip code: TVXB
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
More than 30 million Vietnamese can't be wrong - handle-bar height gives you the best view of Vietnam! Our cycling tour through this mesmerising country provides opportunities to meet the locals and experience their culture in a way that wouldn't otherwise be possible. So come with us and get active as we travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, down country lanes and over spectacular mountain passes. And, of course, all the exercise gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in delicious Vietnamese cuisine.
Table of Contents
StyleAccommodationFinish point description
ThemesAccommodation NotesFinishing point instructions
Is this trip right for you?Meals introductionEmergency contact
Why we love itMealsVisas
MapTransportWhat to take
ItineraryMoney mattersClimate and seasonal information
Itinerary disclaimerGroup leaderHealth
Physical ratingSafetyTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining pointA couple of rules
Important notesJoining point descriptionResponsible Travel
Group sizeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Your fellow travellersFinish pointFeedback
Style
Original
Themes
Cycling
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip covers quite some distance – you’ll be cycling for up to 70 kilometres a day on varied terrain, so this trip is for the exceptionally fit.
- There’s the possibility of a few hiccups along the way – a puncture here and there maybe – but there’s no doubt this is an incredibly rewarding adventure
- You'll be spending one night in a homestay and another on an overnight sleeper train. While the accommodation is shared and basic, this is a great opportunity to interact with the locals, and get a real sense of Vietnamese daily life.
- If you’re confident in your cycling ability, then those that want an even longer cycling adventure should opt for ‘TVXCC - Cycle South East Asia’, which includes everything that's on the itinerary of this trip, plus the itinerary of ‘TTXC- Cycle Indochina’.
- The weather in this region can be varied. Be prepared to get sweaty and for the occasional rainstorm, which may require a change of plans.
Why we love it
- If you love the feel of a bike between your legs, the wind in your (helmet-covered) hair and tropical breeze on your face then this speedy but comprehensive 15 day adventure is for you
- A bike lets you see Vietnam like never before – you’ll go from road to beaten track to something way beyond
- Think of the calories you’ll burn and the appetite you’ll work up cycling around Vietnam’s incredible landscape – all the more reason to indulge in the wealth of delicious local and regional food
- This two-wheeled adventure will show you all the different sides of this country – wildlife-filled natural landscapes, small villages and ancient ruins, along with the region’s liveliest cities
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Hanoi
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure officially begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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.

Before the meeting you need to assemble your bicycle to check for any damage in transit.
If you have arranged for the hire of a bicycle, your leader will assist you in preparing the bike.

If you arrive with some time to spare then work your legs with a walk around Hanoi’s charming shaded boulevards and a squat on a short street-corner stools for a bia hoi (freshly brewed draught beer) in the Old Quarter.

Notes: 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 are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your travel agent in advance.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Hanoi
This morning you’ll get the chance to explore the Vietnamese capital in more depth. Full of parks, lakes, and tree-lined boulevards, the city is known for its laidback atmosphere. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, which includes the Buddhist temple One Pillar Pagoda and the former residence of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. There’s also time to explore the vibrant Old Quarter, an architectural museum where blocks of ochre buildings give off the air of a 1930s provincial French town. In these ancient ’36 Streets’ discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery, beautifully embroidered tablecloths, wood carvings and lacquerware - it's a bargain hunter's paradise. For those that wish to, there's a chance to warm up muscles by riding around the city (approximately 25 kilometres). Hanoi is made for exploration by bike, so this is the perfect place to get to grips with Vietnamese street life and traffic. There is lots to fill spare time in Hanoi: walk around beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, with the reflection of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface, or maybe dive into culture at the Vietnam Fine Art Museum or The Vietnamese Women’s Museum. Tonight perhaps explore the legendary world of Hanoi Street food with an exploration of the hole-the-wall eateries serving up steaming bowls of Pho.
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
  • Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
    Optional Activities
    • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
    • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
    • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
    • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
    • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND30000
    • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
    • Hanoi - Hanoi Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD31
      Accommodation
      Hotel (1 nt)
      Meals
      1 breakfast
      Day 3 Mai Chau
      Saddle up this morning as your cycling adventure kicks into first gear. Leave Hanoi behind and travel by bus to Hoa Binh (approximately 2 hours). When you arrive you’ll jump on your bike and cycle 40 kilometres to Cao Phong, through small ethnic Thai villages, enjoying the tranquillity of the paddy fields and interacting with the local people. Limestone peaks climb in the background and banks of green line the road, and you’ll take regular stops to admire the view across the lush valleys. After arriving you’ll take a short 30-minute bus ride for the next section, stopping for lunch at Man Duc. After you fuel up, the bus will take you to the Da River Reservoir. Stretch your legs again cycling along the Da River, passing spectacular karst cliffs, through paddy fields, and admiring the lush panorama of the Mai Chau valley on the way (approximately 30 kilometres). The peaceful town of Mai Chau is situated in a stunningly beautiful valley surrounded by verdant green mountains and is famed for its breathtaking scenery and friendly hilltribe peoples. Tonight you’ll enjoy local hospitality in a simple stilt-house homestay in the village of Poom Coong. Your amicable hosts will cook up a fabulous home-cooked meal, and there may even be a chance to sample some of the local rice wine produced in the region.
      Included Activities
      • Mai Chau - Village visit
        Accommodation
        Homestay (1 nt)
        Meals
        1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
        Day 4 Ninh Binh
        This morning you farewell your homestay hosts and cycle 30 kilometres from Mai Chau to Mai Hai, and then on to Co Luong. You’ll ride through more paddy fields and test you navigation skills (or suspension) with the shallow potholes that can be found on the road. Pass pineapple farms and farmers riding atop their load drawn by lumbering water buffalo. Ride through small towns and wave to friendly locals on your way through picture-perfect Vietnam – lush green fields, towering limestone mountains, tranquil waterways and charming historic sites. A bus trip then takes you along the Ho Chi Minh Road with a lunch stop before Ninh Binh. If you arrive in Ninh Binh with time (and energy) to spare you can take a 30 km cycle around the surrounding area. This is a wonderful chance to see everyday rural life in action as well as take in the beautiful countryside.
        Accommodation
        Hotel (1 nt)
        Meals
        1 breakfast, 1 lunch
        Day 5 Ninh Binh - Overnight train
        This morning you’ll cycle from Ninh Binh to Tam Coc, when you’ll really have the opportunity to soak up one of Vietnam’s most spectacular views – limestone karst peaks thrusting out of serene rice paddies, the sounds and views of the river, which winds through the fields and has boats parading up and down its length. When you arrive in Tam Coc you’ll visit the Hang Pagoda (an ancient cave pagoda), and then see Vietnam’s largest pagoda, Bai Dinh, in nearby Trang An. You will also cycle to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam under the 10th-century Dinh Dynasty, the remains of which can be seen in the lasting beautiful archways and temples. Here you’ll take a lunch break at the Dinh or the Le Temple. Today’s cycling is approximately 50 kilometres. Then it’s back on the bus to return to your hotel, where you can use the day room to take a shower and freshen up. After an early dinner you’ll transfer to Nam Dinh for an overnight train to Hue.

        Notes: On the overnight train to Hue (approximately 12 hours) conditions are basic, but it is a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances like a local. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations and group configuration), 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
        • Hoa Lu - Dinh and Le King Temple
          Accommodation
          Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
          Meals
          1 breakfast, 1 lunch
          Day 6 Hue
          Arrive in Hue and hop back in the saddle to begin your exploration of 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. Today you will ride (approximately 25 kilometres) through the fields to visit many of Hue's remarkable sites, including temples, bunkers, tombs, ruins, pagodas and spectacular scenery. On your cycle you will visit the Imperial Citadel, including 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. The itinerary is flexible and you have ample time for stops along the way to admire the sites. Later, kick back in a cafe or restaurant. Hue’s cuisine is considered by many Vietnamese as the best in the country, and is influenced both by its imperial heritage (small dishes and a focus on aesthetic presentation) as well as its strong Buddhist heritage, reflected in the high proportion of vegetarian restaurants in the region. The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a wealth of goods and foods to see and snack on. It's a good place to try some of the local specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the ‘banh khoai’, Hue's answer to the pancake.
          Included Activities
          • Hue - Imperial citadel
          • Hue - Royal tomb
            Accommodation
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Meals
            1 lunch
            Day 7 Hoi An
            Today will be big on riding and big on spectacular views. Leaving Hue, you will do some mountainous riding (approximately 80 kilometres in total) as you conquer the Hai Van (Ocean Cloud) Pass on the way to the tropical south and the laidback town of Hoi An. The pass is a stunning stretch of highway the winds through the Truong Son mountain range for about 20 kilometres (10 kilometres each way), with views across the Bay of Denang to the south. It is 500 metres about sea level and the up/down slope ranges from 5-10%, and there will be plenty of well-earned breaks along the way to take in the views, snap some photos, and rehydrate. After the rewarding vistas on the cycle in, you’ll also be spoiled with the town of Hoi An – with lantern-lit streets, vibrant markets, skilled tailors, artisan shops, ancient houses, colourful temples and beautiful smiles, it’s a Vietnamese wonderland. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved, with parts of the town looking exactly like they did more than a century ago. This makes its streets of low tiled buildings perfect for strolling. Take the evening to soak up the atmosphere, or just rest your legs at a local restaurant after a day’s riding.
            Accommodation
            Hotel (1 nt)
            Meals
            1 breakfast, 1 lunch
            Day 8 Hoi An
            This morning you leader with take you on a walking tour of the town, which used to be a busy port for the Cham people before the river silted up. There’s also a strong Chinese influence, and you’ll see it as you walk past the pagodas and assembly halls. On your tour you’ll take in a historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. The afternoon is free for you to do whatever takes your fancy. For those who love to shop then Hoi An is a mecca, with much to browse and buy. There are original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. If you want to get some new threads then the town is also famous for its tailoring – pick a fabric and a design and it’ll be ready the same day. If you feel like keeping active then there are the options to take a 15-20 kilometre ride into the surrounding countryside, to cycle to nearby Cua Dai Beach (also known as China Beach), or to take a stroll through fields of rice, sesame, banana and peanuts.
            Included Activities
            • Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
              Optional Activities
              • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
              • Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
              • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
                Accommodation
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast
                Day 9 Quy Nhon
                Continue south, down scenic Highway One on the road to Quy Nhom, one of the routes that is less visited by travellers. Cycle from Hoi An to Ha Lam past paddy fields, wheat drying for Beer Hoi, and locals playing chess. Then jump in the bus to drive to Phu, before climbing back on the bikes to cycle to the coastal city of Quy Nhom (total cycling today is approximately 60 kilometres). The city is filled with long stretches of beach and relaxed boulevards, and as it’s pretty undiscovered by visitors, is a great place to get an authentic slice of coastal life.
                Accommodation
                Hotel (1 nt)
                Meals
                1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                Day 10 Nha Trang
                Today’s cycle is approximately 90 kilometres, but it is one of the most breathtaking stretches of road you’ll ride – the highway hugs huge granite cliffs and looks out across the deep blue of the South China Sea. Following parts of the Reunification railway, you’ll enjoy scenery of islands, lagoons and sand dunes. Join the scooter riders on the waterfront promenade as you arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang, once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', and whose sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make a pretty idyllic picture. Here there’s consistently good weather, a vibrant nightlife and excellent diving.
                Included Activities
                • Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower
                  Accommodation
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  Meals
                  1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                  Day 11 Nha Trang
                  Today you’ll swap your bike for a boat as you head out to explore the nearby islands. This excursion is often the highlight of the trip for many travellers, as you’ll get to know some of the locals and indulge in the beauty of the place. Starting on the main boat, you’ll then take a small basket boat to shore and visit a fishing village, snorkel in the turquoise waters and feast on a fresh seafood buffet for lunch. You can enjoy this rest day by lazing in a deck chair, going for another swim or perhaps taking a mud baths to soothe away sore muscles.
                  Included Activities
                  • Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
                  • Nha Trang - Basket boat ride
                  • Nha Trang - Boat trip including lunch
                    Optional Activities
                    • Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
                    • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
                      Accommodation
                      Hotel (1 nt)
                      Meals
                      1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                      Day 12 Dalat
                      Head up through the Bidoup-Nui Ba Pass into the cooler climes of the South Central Highlands (approximately 65 kilometres), where some of the country's best fruits, flowers and coffee beans are grown. The road is winding and steep but if you're fit and ready for a challenge, you may want to conquer the whole mountain on your bike. If you're not so physically inclined, take it easy and flag a lift from the bus. Whichever way you choose to get to the top, you'll still be treated to magnificent views once you reach the summit. After a short photo stop here, you will descend to Dalat. One of Vietnam's most delightful cities, Dalat is a perfect base to explore this pleasant region. With an appealing Swiss-French feel, along with pleasant lakes, palaces, pine tree-covered hills, flower gardens and pagodas, Dalat is often called the 'city of eternal spring' for its temperate climate.
                      Accommodation
                      Hotel (1 nt)
                      Meals
                      1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                      Day 13 Ke Ga
                      This morning you’ll take a city tour of Dalat, making the journey to Bao Dai's striking regal summer palace. He was the final emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, and the last to rule Vietnam until 1945. You’ll then discover the wacky and weird architecture of Hang Nga Crazy House. Echoing Gauldi's unconventional designs, and described as a 'fairytale house', explore the twisted tree roots, cave shaped hallways and animal themed rooms of this surreal guesthouse. Drop by the train station and the central market before continuing to Di Linh, where tea is the main industry and there are large plantations in the surrounding hills. After lunch, pedal down the forest-lined Gia Bac Pass, then cycle along from Malam to Phan Thiet and on to Tien Thanh and Bau Mai Resort near Ke Ga (approximately 60 kilometres in total). This is a delightful seaside village known for its French colonial lighthouse and wonderful ocean vistas.
                      Included Activities
                      • Dalat - Hang Nga Crazy House
                      • Dalat - Bao Dai's Summer Palace
                        Accommodation
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        Meals
                        1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                        Day 14 Ho Chi Minh City
                        You’re on the home stretch now and it’s time for one last cycling splurge. Before heading for the big city, take in the views along the beach from your resort in Bau Mai to Lang Long. After a picnic lunch, keep cycling (approximately 60 kilometres) to Cu Bi. From there it’s goodbye to your two-wheeled friend as you take the support bus the final leg to Ho Chi Minh City. Here daily life plays out on the streets and the dynamic atmosphere is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. Maybe spend the final night of your Vietnam adventure exploring the food stalls at Cho Ben Thanh market or cheers to yourself and your new friends with a few glasses of street-side beer hoi.
                        Optional Activities
                        • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
                        • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum - VND15000
                          Accommodation
                          Hotel (1 nt)
                          Meals
                          1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
                          Day 15 Ho Chi Minh City
                          Your Cycle Vietnam adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you are sticking around then there are plenty of things to see and do in and around Ho Chi Minh City. Perhaps book a South Vietnam Getaway to explore the Chu Chi Tunnels and experience a Mekong Delta homestay.
                          Optional Activities
                          • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD43
                          • Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Discovery Urban Adventure - VND59
                            Meals
                            1 breakfast
                            Itinerary disclaimer
                            ITINERARY CHANGES Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.

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

                            This is an active trip, requiring a good level of physical fitness. While there is flexibility in the distance you can elect to cycle each day, the cycling on this trip will be demanding at times, with the heat of Vietnam adding to the physical effort.
                            As a general rule, the more preparation you can do for this type of physical trip, the more you will enjoy it. Prepare for the trip by doing aerobic type exercises before travelling - jogging or swimming are some options, though cycling is best. If possible take some extended day rides before travelling, or spend time on exercise bikes in the gym. The more your muscles (and bottom) are prepared for the riding on this trip the more you will be able to enjoy the wonderful countryside and people of Vietnam. Note that an enthusiasm for bike riding and adventure is essential!!

                            CYCLING DISTANCES:
                            On average you will cycle around 70km/day. Information listed in the itinerary are a guide to the approximate distances cycled each day. However, this may vary depending on the physical capabilities of the group, and changes to local conditions. For safety reasons we only cycle during daylight hours, so there may be some early morning starts. We take regular rest breaks throughout cycling days.
                            Included activities
                            Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
                            Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
                            Mai Chau - Village visit
                            Hoa Lu - Dinh and Le King Temple
                            Hue - Imperial citadel
                            Hue - Royal tomb
                            Hoi An - Ancient town guided walk and entrance ticket
                            Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower
                            Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
                            Nha Trang - Basket boat ride
                            Nha Trang - Boat trip including lunch
                            Dalat - Hang Nga Crazy House
                            Dalat - Bao Dai's Summer Palace
                            Important notes
                            1. A single supplement is available on this trip, please ask your booking agent for more information. Please note that on the following nights the supplement is not available:
                            - Day 3 Mai Chau Homestay
                            - Day 5 Overnight train
                            2. Bike hire is not included in the trip cost. You may choose to bring your own bike or hire one in Hanoi for USD150. Please see 'Transport' section of the trip notes.

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

                            SINGLE TRAVELLERS:
                            Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
                            Accommodation
                            Homestay (1nt), Hotel (12nt), Overnight sleeper train (1nt)
                            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.

                            Breakfasts are often simple: eggs, bread, jam and coffee/tea would be most common.
                            Meals
                            13 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 2 dinners
                            Transport
                            Bicycle, Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi

                            SUPPORT VEHICLE:
                            Although we encourage all travellers to complete all of the journey by bicycle, we do have the support of a mini-bus if at times you choose not to cycle or need a rest. Your luggage will be carried in the support vehicle so panniers are not essential.

                            BIKE SECURITY:
                            All personal and hired bikes are stored in our support vehicle overnight, it is not necessary to bring a lock. We recommend bringing your own lock if you bring your own bike and wish to ride outside of leader accompanied rides. It is not possible to use our hired bikes outside of the included leader accompanied rides.

                            HIRING YOUR BIKE IN HANOI:
                            Bike Hire is available from our local operator in Hanoi. Please advise your agent at the time of booking your height so that an appropriate sized frame can be organised for you. The cost will be USD150 for the whole trip and this includes the relocation of the bike back to Hanoi at the end of the trip. This is to be paid to your Group Leader.
                            The bikes available for hire from our local operator are either TREK 4500, Giant Revel or Giant Rincon (for Days 2-5) and then Giant Rincon Disc (Days 6-14). Bikes have aluminum frames, 64cm wheels and off road tyres. If you wish you can bring your own seat, clips and accessories, based on fitting the above models. Alternatively, your leader can assist if you would like to purchase any accessories locally (extras are not available for hire).
                            If you hire a bike locally there will be a bike mechanic that follows the group in a support vehicle should you require any assistance. Hired bikes will be maintained by the mechanic, including the supply any equipment for repairs.
                            BRINGING YOUR OWN BIKE:
                            If you choose, you can bring your own bike as you may be more comfortable with the bike you normally use. Although the surfaces of the roads we travel on is generally good and road bikes would be suitable for these roads, we recommend a 'mountain' or 'hybrid' style bike with plenty of gear selections for easy cruising. Please contact us through your agent if you have any questions about the suitability of your bike. Your preferred airline should have no problem carrying your bike to Vietnam. Contact them before departing to discuss their arrangements for transporting bikes. A well padded bike box obtainable from a bike shop is usually the best method of plane transportation. We recommend that you accompany your bicycle on the flight. Unaccompanied bicycles have been known to spend some extra days in the hands of customs authorities.
                            MAINTENANCE ON YOUR OWN BIKE:
                            If you've brought your own bike, then you are responsible for its maintenance whilst on this trip, and you must bring any spares that may be required, such as tires, spokes, tool kit etc.
                            DECLARING YOUR BIKE:
                            On arrival in Vietnam you shouldn't need to declare your bicycle. If asked you will need to explain to the authorities that your bike is used, and that you will be taking it with you when you leave.
                            OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM NINH BINH:
                            If you bring your own bike, it will travel in the freight compartment for the overnight train journey which may take few days to arrive. Alternatively, you can pay for oversize luggage fee to conductor to keep your bike in your cabin, price is approx. 50 USD.
                            Money matters
                            SPENDING MONEY
                            When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).

                            Budget for meals not included:
                            USD 250.00
                            This includes the optional Snack Kitty.

                            SNACK KITTY:
                            During the group meeting, your trip leader will ask you if you would like to contribute to the snack kitty. This is $40USD per person, and would be used to purchase extra supplies of snacks, including nuts and other energy packed goodies. It is not a compulsory kitty, although will make the purchasing of snacks easier and more convenient for you. You can find out more information from your leader upon arrival.

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

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

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

                            ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING:
                            Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities.
                            Joining point
                            May de ville City Centre 2 Hotel
                            57 Pham Hong Thai Street
                            Hanoi
                            VIET NAM
                            Phone: +84 439279999
                            Fax: +84 4393279899
                            Joining point description
                            Located adjacent to Hanoi's old quarter, close to the shops, bars, restaurants, museums and theatres. There are 57 well appointed rooms with LCD TVs, tea and coffee facilities, mini-bar, IDD telephone, hairdryer, air-conditioning and safety boxes. There is Wifi available in the lobby and business centre and ADSL in all rooms.
                            Joining point instructions
                            Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. 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 arrival, and your driver will be waiting for you as you get out of the customs hall and will be holding an Intrepid sign bearing your name.
                            If you cannot find your pre-booked, or if your flight is delayed, please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770. Additionally please proceed the Information Counter, 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 taxi ranks are available outside the airport entrance. Go out of the customs hall and walk through the airport exit gates A4 and A5 on level 1, you will find Noi Bai Airport taxis (+84 4 3886 8888) readily available outside. Noi Bai Airport taxi drivers wear yellow uniform shirt. Taxi fare to your hotel in town will cost approx. US$18 (VND350000) in total. Please note these taxis are not on meter - but generally charge per trip. Please AVOID taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.

                            Normal check in time at the hotel is after 13:00.
                            Finish point
                            Asian Ruby Park View Hotel (formerly Asian Ruby 3)
                            100 Le Lai Street
                            District 1
                            Ho Chi Minh City
                            VIET NAM
                            Finish 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.
                            Finishing point instructions
                            A metered taxi from the hotel to the airport will cost approx. US$10 (VND200,000) and take approx 45 minutes (depending on traffic).
                            A departure transfer from our hotel to the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip start date. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid. If you have booked a post trip airport transfer, please ask your leader to confirm with our local operator the time of departure and meeting place. If you have any problems please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770.
                            Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
                            Emergency contact
                            For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist. For further contact details please use the following page:

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

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

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

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

                            Intrepid's Vietnam Office: +84 903 117 77
                            Visas
                            As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
                            Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

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

                            SPECIFIC CYCLING GEAR TO BRING:
                            - Cycling shorts, appropriate footwear & waterproof jacket
                            - Water bottles that can be attached to your bike (water bottle holders supplied on hired bikes) & re-hydration salts
                            - Comfortable bike seat - appreciated after some long days in the saddle (our saddle pillar size is 30.9)
                            - Day pack or waist-belt

                            BIKE HELMET:
                            Whilst bicycle helmets are not compulsory in Vietnam, we insist that all travellers wear a good quality helmet at all times while riding in Vietnam. Good quality helmets are not available in Vietnam so make sure you bring yours from home.

                            BICYCLE:
                            Please refer to 'Transport' section for information on hiring a bicycle in Hanoi or bringing your own, and bike security for personal bikes.

                            WATER BOTTLE:
                            You can refill your water bottle from large vessels of purified water that are carried on the support vehicle.


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

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

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

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

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

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

                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php
                            A couple of rules
                            Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.

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

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

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

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

                            http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/

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

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

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

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

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

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

                            http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback

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