Indochina Uncovered Trip Notes

Indochina Uncovered snakes its way through the delights of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, drinking up the culture, cuisine and friendliness of these inspiring countries.

    • 22
    • TLSXC
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $2,640
      CAD $2,670
      AUD $2,775
      EUR €2,065
      GBP £1,660
      NZD $3,290
      ZAR R25,245
      CHF FR2,540
      *
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    • 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 Indochina Uncovered.
Print Version
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2014
Indochina Uncovered
Trip code: TLSXC
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, experiencing the delights of northern Thailand, the laidback river lifestyle of Laos and the cultural richness of Vietnam. From the bright lights of Bangkok to the age-old charms of Luang Prabang and the buzz of Hanoi, join us on a voyage of discovery and relaxation. Travel down the mighty Mekong and become acquainted with the tranquillity of remote villages and friendly locals along the way. Sip coffee by the lake in Hanoi, stroll the pristine shoreline around Halong Bay, take in the charming old-world ambiance of Hue and marvel at the hectic pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that will introduce you to the delicious cuisine, friendly people, beautiful landscape and cosmopolitan cities of these fascinating countries.
Table of Contents
StyleYour fellow travellersEmergency funds
MapSingle travellersVisas
ItineraryAccommodationIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseMeals introductionWhat to take
We also recommendMealsHealth
Itinerary disclaimerTransportSafety
Culture shock rating Group leaderTravel insurance
Physical ratingJoining point Responsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionA couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
TippingFinish point Carbon offset
Departure taxFinish point descriptionFeedback
Important notesFinish point instructions
Group sizeEmergency contact
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
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.
Map
Indochina Uncovered
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Bangkok
Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand.
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.
Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food.
Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore - why not take a riverboat to Chinatown and explore the crowded streets, uncover the magnificent Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, or indulge in some Thai massage?
Travel by longtail boat down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous 'khlongs' (canals) of Bangkok (approx 1 hr). Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital.
Pay a visit to Wat Pho, home to the country's largest reclining Buddha and keeper of the magic behind Thai massage.
Head north to Chiang Mai in the evening on an overnight train journey, accommodated in air-conditioned sleeping berths (approx. 13hrs). Multi share compartments are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Our baggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a food and drink service available on board.
Included Activities
  • Bangkok - Khlong boat (canal) tour
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho temple
Optional Activities
  • Bangkok - Thai massage - THB250
  • Bangkok - Grand Palace - THB500
  • Bangkok - Urban Adventures - Bangkok Chinatown Food Discovery - THB1870
  • Chiang Mai - Urban Adventures - Mind & Soul - THB2300
  • Bangkok - Jim Thompson's House - THB100
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 3 Chiang Mai
The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. This 'Rose of the North' is also known for its beauty and the friendliness of the local people.
Explore the famous temple complex of Doi Suthep. Drive along a scenic, winding mountain road that ends at an impressive 300-step naga-guarded stairway (approx 45 mins). The rewards justify the climb with one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand on display, not to mention fantastic panoramic views of the city and the opportunity to listen to hypnotic evening chanting by resident Buddhist monks.
In the evening you can choose to wander through the enormous, colourful Night Bazaar, and perhaps relax at a fine restaurant along the riverfront. Make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food - the signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
Included Activities
  • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple
Optional Activities
  • Chiang Mai - Thai cooking course - THB800
  • Chiang Mai - Bicycle tour - THB750
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Chiang Khong
Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approx 5.5 hrs).
Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and trade with Laos.
Stretch your legs with a stroll around town, then enjoy a drink and dine on Thai cuisine, while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Day 5 Mekong River
Board our boat for the two-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is relaxed, so we can experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river.
Our river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch.
We dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Our guesthouse here is very basic - a standard accommodation in this small trading port.
It can be quite cool from November to February so make sure you have some warm gear packed for this period. Due to dam construction upstream, water levels aren't as reliable as in previous years, and when the river is at its lowest from February to April, part of the journey may occasionally need to be made by land.
Included Activities
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
Accommodation
Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 6-8 Luang Prabang
Reboard our boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves, before arriving in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang (approx 8 hrs).
An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves contain thousands of Buddha images placed there by pilgrims over hundreds of years.
The atmospheric World Heritage-listed city of Luang Prabang is a favourite of many. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers, it's studded with ornate temples and French colonial architecture.
Enjoy a guided tour around the Traditional Art & Ethnology centre - a non-profit museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of its traditional arts and lifestyles
Head out to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, where pale turquoise waters cascade over limestone formations. The lovely pool at the base of the falls is perfect for a refreshing afternoon dip.
In your free time consider a climb to the top of Mt Phousi - providing a fantastic view over the town and its surrounds. The Dara Market sells everything and is a great spot to browse. If you'd like to experience more local culture, consider taking a long boat across the river to a traditional Laotian village.
Included Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Cave
  • Luang Prabang - Traditional Arts and Ethnology Museum
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
Optional Activities
  • Luang Prabang - Wat Xieng Thong - USD2
  • Luang Prabang - National Museum - USD4
  • Luang Prabang - Mt Phu Si - USD2
  • Luang Prabang - Royal Theatre - USD20
Accommodation
Guesthouse (3 nts)
Days 9-10 Vang Vieng
Journey by private bus to Vang Vieng (approx 7 hrs).
Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng offers limestone karst scenery, local markets and riverside walks.
There is plenty to do in and around Vang Vieng. The area is renowned for its many caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town, perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim. Hire bicycles to explore further afield, or a tour of an Organic Mulberry Farm is also an option.
Optional Activities
  • Vang Vieng - Bicycle hire - USD2
Accommodation
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Day 11 Vientiane
Continue by bus to the country's capital, Vientiane (approx 3.5 hrs).
Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, Vientiane is a city where daily affairs are conducted at a relaxed pace. Hardly touched by the modernisation that has completely changed the face of other cities in South-East Asia, Laos still has a wealth of cultural delights to discover - on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk tuk).
Follow dusty tracks along the river to find villages full of friendly children, dogs and chickens. Vientiane's vibrant, colourful morning market (which incidentally is open all day!) is full of local treasures. A great way to round off the day is to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Mekong.
Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, a Buddhist temple believed to be the oldest still standing in Vientiane.
Visit COPE, an Intrepid Foundation-sponsored organisation dedicated to assistance those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordinance across the country.
Included Activities
  • Vientiane - Wat Sri Saket
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
Optional Activities
  • Vientiane - Tuk Tuk to Buddha Park - USD25
  • Vientiane - Vientiane temples - USD1
Meals Included
1 Breakfast
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Hanoi
Leave Laos behind as we take a flight headed for Hanoi.
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.
Enjoy a tasty breakfast with our long time friends at KOTO restaurant - a organisation that is supporting street kids with a career in the hospitality industry.
Take in a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Water puppet show
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Meals Included
2 Breakfasts
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular 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.
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approx 3.5 hrs).
Board an overnight train to Hue. 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
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Accommodation
Overnight boat (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 16-17 Hue
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.
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.
Enjoy a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River, and 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 also visit one of the royal tombs, that of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
Please note, boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you are travelling during festival periods. During these times we will instead travel by land to reach the activities.
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.
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Bicycle hire - VND40000
Meals Included
2 Breakfasts
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 18-19 Hoi An
Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the spectacularly mountainous Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to the beautiful China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach), arrive at Hoi An (approx. 4 hours).
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
  • 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 (2 nts)
Days 20-22 Ho Chi Minh City
Take a short flight to the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (approx 1 hr).
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.
Experience the hustle and bustle of old Saigon on a city tour and explore some of the city's more interesting sights, including the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace.
Head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board the boat to Ben Tre to see coconut candy factory and sample the local candies for which this region is famous. Take the opportunity to take a tuk-tuk around this remote village with a stop to sample tropical fruits and learn more about local rural life. Then visit a nearby restaurant in the heart of the delta, where you can sample some of the regional specialities such as the famous elephant-ear fish.
After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle past the many water coconut trees that populate the Mekong Delta. Boarding our main private boat, cruise through more major waterways, arriving in My Tho town. Here our bus awaits to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Enjoy a 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
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
Meals Included
2 Breakfasts
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
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.
  • TLSXC Single Supplement (TLSXC)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Bangkok to Hanoi (TLSV)
  • Best of Vietnam & Cambodia (TVSKC)
  • Indochina Discovery (TVSLC)
  • Vietnam Express Southbound (TVSF)
  • Best of Vietnam & Cambodia (TVSKC)
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

At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
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.
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 Thailand is the Baht (THB).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat. 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.
The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK).
However, USD are also widely used throughout Laos. 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. Visa cash advances are available in major banks, and ATM's are now available in most towns. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels.
The official currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND).
The local currency is Vietnam Dong (VND), but US dollars are also accepted. 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.
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. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
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 group 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.
FLOODING:
The Cambodia/Thailand land border is occasionally closed due to flooding. If this is the case, we may need to alter the itinerary and fly - at the traveller's expense.
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. On our Family Adventures, single relatives or friends are welcome to travel along with a family. These single travellers share with people of the same gender for the duration of the trip and in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Please note that 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 Comfort and Original style trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (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, please ask your booking agent for more information. Please note that on the following nights the supplement is not available:
Day 2 Overnight train
Day 5 Mekong River (Pak Beng
Day 14 Halong Bay
Day 15 Overnight train to Hue
Accommodation
Hotel (11 nts), Guesthouse (7 nts), Overnight sleeper train (2 nts), 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.
OVERNIGHT TRAINS
We use soft sleeper class trains for all of our overnight train journeys. Multi share compartments are air conditioned, with bunk beds; sheets and pillow provided. Our baggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a food and drink service available on board. Please note that on occasion the overnight trains may be covered by an overnight bus rather than train.
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
13 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Budget for meals not included:
USD 460.00
Transport
Private Bus, Private vehicle, Plane, Private minibus, Overnight sleeper train, Boat, Bus, Longtail boat, Tuk-Tuk, Jumbo
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
Viengtai Hotel
42 Rambuttri Road
Banglumphu
Bangkok
10200
THAILAND
Phone: +66 22805434
Fax: +66 22818153
Joining point description
Centrally located just off famous Khao San road, the Viengtai is within walking distance of many of the area's main attractions such as: Grand Palace, National Museum and Wat Po. Local area maps are available from reception.
Rooms are equipped with private en-suite, AC, TV, phone & mini-fridge. The hotel has 24hr reception, restaurant and swimming pool.
www.viengtai.co.th/en
Joining point instructions
Metered taxi ranks are located outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor (gate 4 and 7) Go out of the customs hall, do down to the 1st level and walk outside the airport where there is a table with a sign saying "metered taxis" The cost is the metered fare plus a THB50 surcharge. If the taxi uses the toll way it is up to an extra THB75. The total fare should be about THB400 (US$13). Non-metered taxis are also available, where you will be given a docket to pay the driver a set price of THB700 (US$20). It will take about 1 hour drive to the hotel.
Alternatively Intrepid offer a pre-arranged transfer service option. Enquire with your agent and advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip departure. If you have purchased an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting customs outside. Look for exit door 6 and our representative holding a sign with your name on it.
If you have any problems locating our representative please go to the ATTA Counter (Association of Thai Travel Agents) near exit door 6 and ask to call our transfer company on one of the following 24 hour numbers:
081 658 2727 or
081 566 9324
If you flight is delayed or cancelled please call the above numbers.
Normal check in time at the hotel is after 14:00.
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Family Inn Saigon Hotel
84A Bui Thi Xuan Street
District 1
Ho Chi Minh
VIET NAM
Phone: +84 839257460
Finish point description
Centrally located in the 1st District and within walking distance from the Ben Thanh market, rooms have air conditioning and private bathrooms.
www.familyinnsaigon.com
Finish 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
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Thailand Office can be reached on Tel: +66 898 103 722 (Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia & Phillipines) and Tel: +855 92 555 969 (Cambodia). 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.
THAILAND:
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: No - not required
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required
If entering by air you will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival.
If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.
If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country.
LAOS:
Australia:Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Yes - on arrival
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany Yes - on arrival
Ireland: Yes - on arrival
Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - on arrival
Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
USA: Yes - on arrival
We ask all our travellers to obtain their Laos visas at the border, and NOT in their home country. Your tour leader will assist you in obtaining a Laos visa, generally at the border, depending on the current state of affairs, as it can vary.
Please ensure that you have at least 1 passport photos and up to US$60 cash (this may vary too) to fulfil the requirements. There will also be an Immigration Fee of USD1. To assist us in processing your Laos visas, please provide your agent with accurate passport details prior to the departure of your trip as these details will be passed on to our leader.
When crossing the border you will most likely see a lesser entry fee than what you have paid. This is due to the leader having to use a local agent to process the visa which allows the group to cross the border as quickly as possible.
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.
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.
BORDER CROSSINGS:
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:
Day 5 Thailand to Laos
The Thailand border is Chiangkhong
The Laos border is at Houy Xai
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
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.
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.
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!
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.
SWIMMING POOLS:
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
BALCONIES:
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
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.
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.
MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING:
Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities, such as Ho Chi Minh City.
WATER SAFETY:
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
BICYCLE HELMETS
Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles. If you wish you can bring along your own.
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:
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 by wearing sleeves and long trousers. 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.
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for protection of Animals) advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:
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 Thailand include:
* Friends of the Asian Elephant aims to protect and conserve the welfare of elephants - both domesticated and wild. FAE's elephant hospital provides free medical care and transportation, and is in the process of establishing a nursery in an effort to reduce the high infant mortality rate of domesticated working elephants.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Laos include:
* COPE works throughout Laos providing essential services to people with disabilities, more than half of whom have been injured by UXO (unexploded ordnance). They are the only provider of prosthetic, orthotic and rehabilitation services in Laos.
* UXO Lao aims to reduce civilian casualties from land mines and increase the land available for food production and other uses. Intrepid's support for its Community Awareness program allows educational teams to visit villages disseminating safety messages.
* Peuan Mit Street Children Project works with up to 1400 children every month, helping them to reintegrate back into Lao society and to prevent more children from coming to the streets. They support the children to return to school, find employment and return to their families.
* Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre is a forested sanctuary that provides bears, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, an opportunity to live out the rest of their lives, free from pain, suffering, fear and hunger. The centre also works to protect wildlife through strengthening legislation and improving enforcement.
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 650.00 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.