Scenic Vietnam Trip Notes

Scenic Vietnam

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Last Modified: 24 Aug 2016
Scenic Vietnam
Trip code: TVSR
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 31 Dec 2016
Travel to Vietnam and journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City on one of the most fascinating train journeys on earth - aboard the Reunification Express. Out of service for most of the 20th century due to war, the re-establishment of the rail link in 1975 symbolised unity between the Vietnamese people. This trip through Vietnam is far more than just an ordinary rail journey. Chugging along, there's plenty of stops to explore: Vietnam's stately capital Hanoi, the natural wonder of Halong Bay, majestic Hue, charming Hoi An, the beaches and islands of Nha Trang and dynamic Ho Chi Minh City. Experience the scenic, historical, cultural and culinary highlights on this trip through Vietnam. 'All aboard' for a ride you'll never forget!
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
Is this trip right for you?
- Two nights on this trip are spent on overnight sleeper trains with journeys of up to 12 hours. Although conditions are basic, beds, food vendors and conversations with the locals make the overnight train journey a truly Intrepid experience. For your own security, take a lock for your hand luggage on the sleeper train journey. There is also a day train journey on Day 10 where you will have seats, and can simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.
- This trip involves a lot of walking on city walking tours and during included activities. While being on your feet can be a bit tiring, this is the best way to truly get under the skin of a place.
- The weather in Vietnam can be hot and sticky, particularly during the monsoon seasons, so ensure that you pack accordingly. Please be sure to pack sunscreen and a hat, especially for wearing when out on a boat in Halong Bay and in the Mekong Delta.
Why we love it
- Cruise a sea of limestone karsts, blue-green waters, mysterious caves and ancient jungle on a paradise-like Halong Bay boat trip
- There’s no view of Vietnam quite like from the back of a motorbike; take a Hue motorbike tour and boat trip down the Perfume River, followed by a unique lunch at a serene nunnery
- Travel like the locals and see Vietnam in a variety of different ways as you catch an exciting mix of transport, including motorbike, basket boat, dragon boat, junk boat, bus and train
- This trip involves a day learning about the local industries and coasting along the winding waterways of the Mekong Delta, the lifeblood and “rice bowl” of South-East Asia
- With 15 days on this trip you’ll spend more time in each location, giving you a great mixture of included activities and free time to explore

Day 1 Hanoi
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight. 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. In free time, step out onto the streets to explore the chaotic capital of Vietnam. Hanoi is an alluring city of contrasts, best discovered on foot. Tonight perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over a glass of fresh bia hoi. This is a foamy, light beer made fresh each day and served in basic, open-walled ‘brew halls’. Take up a brightly coloured plastic chair and sip your tasty brew.

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'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your booking agent in advance.
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi Urban Adventure - Village Discovery by Bike - USD33
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD40
    Hotel (1 nt)
    Day 2 Hanoi
    This morning we visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex the resting place of Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary. The Complex also includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.

    The afternoon will be free for you to maybe explore the ancient ‘36 streets’ and discover an amazing selection of shops that sell everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, jewellery and beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Otherwise the Vietnam Fine Arts museum is also well worth a visit. Walking or riding a bike is the best way to explore this town. The shopping is fun and the many lakes and parks provide enjoyable escapes from the city.

    In the evening, you'll sit down to a unique water-puppet performance.

    Notes: If your trip starts on a Wednesday, your included breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation will be this morning, before commencing the day's activities.
    Included Activities
    • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
    • Hanoi - Water puppet show
    • Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
      Optional Activities
      • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
      • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
      • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
      • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND30000
      • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND30000
      • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
        Hotel (1 nt)
        1 breakfast
        Day 3 Halong Bay
        Enjoy breakfast hosted by the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, and learn about the work of this organisation, which supports over 1,500 of the most vulnerable children throughout Vietnam every year. You will then leave Hanoi and drive north (approximately 4 hours) to the famous Halong Bay. You can leave your luggage behind at the Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag for staying on the boat.

        Halong Bay is listed as a World Heritage site and is one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. The views of sailing junks navigating past thousands of limestone islands with rocky outcrops in Bac Bo Gulf are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll visit a cave in the area and, in the warmer months, you can enjoy a swim from Ti Top Island beach. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. There's also a dining room and bar where you’ll enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner & breakfast. The boat has twin-share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities.

        Notes: There are restrictions on the number of boats that are permitted to stay in the bay overnight. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, we’re occasionally using a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) or splitting groups across different vessels. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
        Swimming in the bay from the boats is not permitted.
        Included Activities
        • Hanoi - Blue Dragon breakfast
        • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
          Overnight boat (1 nt)
          1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
          Day 4 Hanoi / Overnight Train
          In the morning you will sail back to the port, disembark and drive back to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours). Stop on the way back at the Dong Trieu Factory to watch locals working on the traditional art of ceramics. There will be free time to explore the city when you arrive back in Hanoi. There will be shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage. In some free time perhaps do some shopping on Hang Gai Street or seek out some delicious Hanoi street food.

          Tonight you’ll board an overnight train bound for Hue (approximately 12 hours). Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a rewarding experience. It's an efficient way to travel long distances and a great way to get a sense of the country.

          Notes: There are shared hotel rooms available this afternoon if you would like to freshen up or organise your luggage.

          Sleeper trains typically have four-berth compartments (occasionally six berths depending on the season), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided (although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but you may like to stock up on some food supplies before departure.
          Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
          1 breakfast
          Day 5 Hue
          Arrive in Hue just after sunrise and proceed to the hotel to refresh. Hue is the hub of Vietnam’s historic past. This former imperial capital is an eclectic mix of busy streets and peaceful beauty. The rest of the morning is free for you to relax; perhaps pick up a classic Hue breakfast of bun bo Hue, a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo). After lunch you will visit the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling complex of temples, pavilions, moats, gates, and walls. The Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace and the Ancestral Altars are still impressive, and the complex must have been awe-inspiring during its heyday in the 19th century. In your free time you might like to visit to Dong Ba Market, which offers locally made goods, fresh produce and tantalising street food. This is a good place to try the specialties enjoyed by Emperor Nguyen such as the banh khoai royal rice cake.
          Included Activities
          • Hue - Imperial citadel
            Optional Activities
            • Hue - Bicycle hire - VND40000
              Hotel (1 nt)
              Day 6 Hue
              Today’s adventure will be taken on the back of a motorbike. You’ll have your own driver who will take you first on a drive around the Imperial Citadel, including the Forbidden Purple City. The latter was almost completely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, but its humble, foliage-covered ruins remain a testament to its proud history. Here you'll gain some insight into the horrific damage endured during the war. Then it's on to the Thien My Pagoda, the unofficial symbol of Hue. This site dates back to 1601 and is still an active Buddhist monastery. Here you’ll also see the car left by a monk who set himself alight to protest the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Hop off the motorbike for a bit and go on a dragon boat cruise along the Perfume River. After the 40-minute cruise get back on your motorbike and ride to a special lunch spot at a convent or Buddhist monastery. After lunch, drive to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, set amid a lake, frangipani bushes and pine trees. This evening, perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties.

              Notes: For those who prefer not to ride motorbikes, please ask your leader to request car transportation between destinations.

              Boats along Perfume River may not be available during festival season. During these times, you’ll be transported by land to reach the activities.
              Included Activities
              • Hue - Perfume River boat ride
              • Hue - Royal tomb
              • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
                Hotel (1 nt)
                1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                Day 7 Hoi An
                Travelling by bus, head south through coastal rice paddies before traversing the dramatic Hai Van Pass, a sometimes bumpy but incredibly scenic stretch of highway with views of Lang Co Beach. The spectacular Marble Mountains will be your backdrop as you arrive at Hoi An (approximately 4 hours). 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 from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of times past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. On arrival, a walking tour will take you around the major sites of Hoi An’s charming Old Town, including an historic house (formerly home to a prominent trader), the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Chinese assembly hall and a museum. You will notice a distinctly Chinese appearance to the pagodas and assembly halls scattered along the small streets. A sightseeing pass is included in your tour for you to visit a selection of the major sights as you wish.
                Included Activities
                • Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
                  Hotel (1 nt)
                  1 breakfast
                  Day 8 Hoi An
                  If you feel like getting active on your free day today, why not hire a bicycle and tour the surrounding countryside. This is one of the best ways to get an insight into rural Vietnam. Other optional activities include a day trip to My Son Cham (elaborate World Heritage-listed temples that reflect the rich cultural traditions of the Cham civilisation), a cruise along the Thu Bon River, and a trip to the nearby Cua Dai Beach. Your leader will be able to help with suggestions on activities in Hoi An.
                  Optional Activities
                  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
                  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
                    Hotel (1 nt)
                    1 breakfast
                    Day 9 Hoi An
                    Enjoy another free day in the world heritage listed Hoi An. You may like to wander the Central Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. Hoi An is also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within a few hours. Bring your favourite piece of clothing, or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. You might like to visit a local workshop to learn how to make your own rice paper, while a Vietnamese cooking class too is a great way to familiarise yourself with some age-old culinary techniques, not to mention being able to feast on the fruits of your own labour.
                    Optional Activities
                    • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
                    • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD49
                      Hotel (1 nt)
                      1 breakfast
                      Day 10 Nha Trang
                      Transfer to Danang (approximately 30 minutes) and board the SE1 day train to Nha Trang (approximately 10 hours). Although long, it's an interesting journey, as well as a chance to check out the stunning countryside and befriend local travellers. Arrive in the idyllic coastal town of Nha Trang this evening and check into your hotel for the night. If you have the energy, after the sun sets experience Nha Trang’s vibrant restaurant and bar culture - home to all manner of weird and wonderful cuisine options and an extremely high standard of food.
                      Hotel (1 nt)
                      1 breakfast
                      Day 11 Nha Trang
                      Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang’s sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make a pretty idyllic picture. This morning you’ll hop on 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 then enjoy this rest day by lazing in a deck chair or going for another swim.
                      Included Activities
                      • Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
                      • Nha Trang - Basket boat ride
                      • Nha Trang - Full day boat trip to Hon Mun Island
                        Hotel (1 nt)
                        1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                        Day 12 Nha Trang
                        You have a full free day to spend on the sweeping beaches of this tropical bayside playground. Perhaps treat yourself and soak in a natural mud bath at one of the nearby spas or, for a dose of culture, climb the steps up to the temples of Po Nagar or Long Song and appreciate views of the coastline from above. Po Nagar Cham Tower dates from AD 817 and is still an active place of worship. Tonight you’ll depart by the overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City, which leaves late in the evening (approximately 9 hours).
                        Optional Activities
                        • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
                        • Nha Trang - Po Nagar Cham Tower - VND22000
                          Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
                          1 breakfast
                          Day 13 Ho Chi Minh City
                          Upon our early arrival into Ho Chi Minh, shared day rooms will be available for the group until check-in time.

                          Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West where daily life plays out on the streets. 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. Take a guided tour to get a feel for the city to going past the GPO, Reunification Palace, and the Opera house. Stop in at the War Remnants Museum.

                          With free time these evening perhaps drop by one of Vietnam’s most pulsing markets, Ben Thanh. This is the perfect place to pick up any last-minute snacks, cooking utensils, ingredients, or presents for friends and family before you return home. Perhaps enjoy some of the market fare for dinner as you shop.
                          Included Activities
                          • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
                          • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
                            Optional Activities
                            • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND30000
                              Hotel (1 nt)
                              Day 14 Mekong Delta/Ho Chi Minh City
                              Today you'll travel south by private bus (approximately 3 hours) for a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. When you arrive, you’ll board a boat and explore the intricate waterways of the Mekong Delta. Often referred to as ‘the rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the fertile delta is where rice, tropical fruit and flowers are grown for the whole country. The views along the canal will take your breath away. Disembark at Ben Tre and visit a local cottage industry and sample the candy that the region is famous for. You’ll have the opportunity to take a tuk-tuk around this remote village and make a stop to sample tropical fruit, see a honey farm, and learn more about rural life. For lunch, go to a restaurant in the heart of the delta and try regional specialities such as the famous elephant-ear fish. After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle along the canals under the shade of lush water coconut trees. Get back on the main boat and cruise though more major waterways on your way to the town of My Tho. After a scenic cruise, take the bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. Maybe spend the final night of your Vietnam adventure cheersing to yourself and your new friends with a few glasses of street-side beer hoi.
                              Included Activities
                              • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
                                Hotel (1 nt)
                                1 breakfast, 1 lunch
                                Day 15 Ho Chi Minh City
                                Your Vietnam adventure ends after breakfast today. There are no activities included so you are free to depart at any time. For those who are staying on longer and want to explore Ho Chi Minh City further, maybe check out our Urban Adventure day trips.
                                Optional Activities
                                • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD43
                                • HCMC - Saigon Street Food by Night Urban Adventure - USD35
                                  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

                                  Included activities
                                  Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum
                                  Hanoi - Water puppet show
                                  Hanoi - One Pillar Pagoda
                                  Hanoi - Blue Dragon breakfast
                                  Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
                                  Hue - Imperial citadel
                                  Hue - Perfume River boat ride
                                  Hue - Royal tomb
                                  Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
                                  Hoi An - Ancient town walk and entrance ticket
                                  Nha Trang - Hon Mun Island swimming and snorkelling
                                  Nha Trang - Basket boat ride
                                  Nha Trang - Full day boat trip to Hon Mun Island
                                  Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
                                  Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
                                  HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including Coconut Candy Factory and Village Tuk Tuk tour
                                  Important notes
                                  1. Full name as per passport and number required 45 days prior to departure to purchase train tickets
                                  2. 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: Halong Bay
                                  - Day 4: Overnight train to Hue
                                  - Day 7 - 9: Small Hotel
                                  - Day 10: Day train to Nha Trang
                                  - Day 12: Overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City

                                  Group size
                                  Maximum of 16 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.
                                  Hotel (11nt), Overnight boat (1nt), Overnight sleeper train (2nt)
                                  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.

                                  JUNK BOAT:
                                  Our wooden boat has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. The boats have 8-12 passenger cabins. There's also a dining room and bar on board.

                                  The boat is not likely to be a traditional sailing junk, as many older or imported vessels do not comply with waterway traffic safety laws.

                                  DAY ROOMS & EARLY CHECK IN:
                                  Please note we include shared day rooms on Days 4, 12 and 13, before and after the overnight train journeys. There is one room between up to 6 members of the group to use before or after standard check in. Single supplements do not apply to day rooms. During your trip you may arrive at your destination before check in time, luggage storage will be available. Please ask your leader if you would like to request your own room for early check in for an additional cost, subject to availability.
                                  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.
                                  12 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 1 dinner
                                  Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private Bus, Private minibus, Private vehicle, Taxi, Train

                                  LONG TRAVEL DAYS
                                  There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
                                  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

                                  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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                  Unfortunately, commissions in exchange for recommending particular shops or restaurants are an ingrained part of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye though, we’ve tried to legitimise the practise with a centralised fund. Moneys are collected from recommended and fully vetted suppliers and funnelled back into our business. This keeps the trip cost low (for us and for you) and makes sure you only get the best experiences.

                                  If you’re unhappy with any places your leader recommends, or feel the quality of the trip is being compromised in any way, please let us know in your feedback.

                                  DEPARTURE TAX
                                  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.
                                  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
                                  Hong Ngoc Cochinchine Hotel
                                  97 Nguyen Truong To St
                                  VIET NAM
                                  Phone: +84 437164143
                                  Fax: +84 38285054
                                  Joining point description
                                  Located within walking distance to Hanoi's Old Quarter, the newly renovated Hong Ngoc 5 features 35 well appointed rooms, a restaurant serving buffet breakfast, bar and café, and lift. Room facilities include IDD phone, air conditioner, cable TV, mini bar, bathroom with bathtub, and natural daylight.
                                  Joining point instructions
                                  Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport - enquire with your agent. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure.

                                  If you have pre-booked an airport transfer you will be met on as you exit the Customs Hall by a transfer representative holding an Intrepid sign with your name on it.
                                  If you cannot find your transfer representative, or if your flight is delayed, please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770. Additionally please proceed to 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
                                  Bloom Saigon Hotel
                                  27 - 29 Truong Đinh Street
                                  District 1
                                  Ho Chi Minh City
                                  VIET NAM
                                  Phone: +84 838222255
                                  Fax: +84 838222555
                                  Finish point description
                                  The Bloom Saigon Hotel is located right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, 7 km from Tan San Nhat International Airport. It is just 3 minutes walking to Ben Thanh Market and the Metro Station and within easy walking distance of many attractions including the Reunification Palace, War Remants Museum and Opera House.
                                  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:

                                  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
                                  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 2017 exempt visa nationalities include British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws.

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

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

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

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

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

                                  Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:


                                  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.

                                  WATER BOTTLE
                                  Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.

                                  As there may be swimming and kayaking opportunities on this tour you may wish to pack swimwear.
                                  Climate and seasonal information
                                  Tet is Vietnam’s New Year festival which takes place in late January/early February based on the lunar calendar and is the most important celebration of the year. While this can be a fascinating time to be in Vietnam, you do need to be prepared for some businesses to be closed, tourist sites to be very busy and for transport to be packed as many Vietnamese are travelling around the country. Although we do our best to run trips during Tet as per the scheduled itinerary, it is likely that there will be some changes to transport, accommodation or order of destinations visited. Due to the high demand on tickets at this time, flights and overnight trains may on occasion need to be replaced with day buses. We will aim to communicate any known changes prior to your departure.

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

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

                                  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.


                                  IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that for this particular trip, your travel insurance cover must also include riding pillion on a motorbike. The motorbikes used are all less than 150cc.
                                  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.


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

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


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

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

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

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

                                  For more information, or to make a donation please visit:

                                  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.