Vietnam Discovery Trip Notes

Discover Vietnam and all its wonders on this exciting two-week tour. Uncover hidden delights in bustling Ho Chi Minh City, relax on the lovely beaches of Nha Trang, glide through stunning Halong Bay and be awed by historical Hanoi.

    • 15
    • TVRN
    • 4.65 out of 5
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $945
      CAD $960
      AUD $995
      EUR €690
      GBP £595
      NZD $1,180
      ZAR R9,055
      CHF FR855
      *
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    • Explorer
    • Basix
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Print Version
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2014
Vietnam Discovery
Trip code: TVRN
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Trace the eastern coastline of mystical Vietnam, traversing the country from south to north and taking in the many attractions that lie along the way. From the modern chaos of Ho Chi Minh City all the way up to old-world Hanoi, you'll discover tumultuous history, colonial charm, vibrant colours, delicious food and inspiring scenery on this fun-filled adventure.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesFinish point instructions
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency contact
MapYour fellow travellersEmergency funds
ItinerarySingle travellersVisas
Also available to purchaseAccommodationIssues on your trip
We also recommendMeals introductionWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerMealsHealth
Culture shock rating TransportSafety
Physical ratingGroup leaderTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining point Responsible Travel
Optional 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
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Vietnam Discovery
Itinerary
Day 1 Ho Chi Minh City
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
If you arrive early, this city has a vast array of sights and sounds to explore: ancient pagodas and cathedrals sit squarely up against the former Presidential Palace, historic Dong Khoi Street (the Rue Catinat from Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American) and the bustling markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown).
Optional Activities
  • HCMC - War Remnants Museum - VND15000
  • HCMC - Reunification Palace - VND30000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Mekong Delta
Head down to the Mekong Delta and visit unexplored Ben Tre where coconut is everything and anything. The fertile delta is famous for its abundant harvests of tropical fruits and flowers as well as boating along the canals. On arrival, we board our private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways to visit some local cottage industries. Then head to our overnight homestay along the water. We'll be sleeping on simple camp beds in dorm-style rooms. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic.
Rising early to the sounds of the delta coming alive, we enjoy a simple breakfast before boarding our boat, and catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Board an overnight train to Nha Trang. 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.
Due to lack of availability on trains during Tet, our 23 January (trip code: TVRN140123) departure will be travelling by day bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang on 21 Jan of catching the overnight train. An additional night's accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is now included.
Included Activities
  • Mekong Delta - Boat cruise and homestay
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Nha Trang
Once referred to as the 'Cannes of the Orient', Nha Trang's sandy palm-lined beach and island-dotted bay still make an idyllic picture, and a cosmopolitan feel prevails in the town itself.
Spend your days here soaking up the sun on a lovely beach, exploring the local markets or checking out the ancient Cham Towers nearby. Make sure you try some of the excellent seafood restaurants.
Board an overnight train bound for Danang.
Due to a lack of availability on trains over Tet, our 16 January (trip code: TVRN140116) departure will be travelling by day bus from Nha Trang to Danang on 21 Jan instead of catching the overnight train on 20 Jan. Our 23 January (trip code: TVRN140123) departure will be travelling by day bus from Nha Trang to Danang on 28 Jan instead of catching the overnight train. An additional night's accommodation in Nha Trang is now included on both these departures.
Optional Activities
  • Nha Trang - Boat trip - VND1273000
  • Nha Trang - Mud baths - VND280000
  • Nha Trang - Bao Dai Villa - VND120000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 6-8 Hoi An
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
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.
There's no better way to explore the peaceful countryside of Hoi An than by bike. Your leader will take you to places few tourists get the chance to see, past green rice paddies and small creeks, this is a true insight into country living in Vietnam.
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Ancient town
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - VND800000
  • Hoi An - Thu Bon river boat trip - VND100000
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 9-11 Hue
Departing Hoi An, we can stop at China Beach (known officially as My Khe Beach) before crossing the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, continue on to Hue (approx 5 hrs including stops).
As the former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past and is a curious mix of bustling streets and tranquil settings.
You have a free day to explore. The Dong Ba market, which sells everything imaginable, is a great place to spend some time.
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.
Board an overnight train bound for Hanoi.
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel - VND105000
  • Hue - Perfume river cruise and Thien Mu Pagoda - VND210000
  • Hue - Royal tomb - VND80000
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 12 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.
Take a walking tour of the Old Quarter. You'll visit the Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in northern Vietnam, stroll through the ancient '36 streets' where you can discover an amazing selection of shops selling everything from souvenirs to exquisite silk clothing, beautifully embroidered tablecloths. Your leader will point out some of the unique architecture around Hoan Kiem Lake and the myths and legends of the lake.
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and Museum - VND50000
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Army Museum - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Temple of Literature - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Hoa Lo 'Hanoi Hilton' Prison - VND20000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 13 Halong Bay
Drive through the Red River Delta to Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs), stopping en route for refreshments at a handicraft village run by disabled people.
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 boat and cruise the breathtaking bay with its limestone karsts rising from the clear emerald waters. We enjoy a sumptuous seafood lunch on board, explore some of the limestone caves in the area and go swimming during the warmer months.
Stay on the beautiful and relaxing Cat Ba Island. The lovely foreshore is a great place to sip an evening beer and watch the sunset.
Included Activities
  • Bien Ngoc boat, Halong, Day trip Ha Long - Cat Ba
Optional Activities
  • Cat Ba National Park (entrance & transport) - VND120000
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 14-15 Hanoi
Travel by ferry to Haiphong.
Drive back to Hanoi (approx 3 hrs).
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • TVRN Single supplement (TVRN)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Explore Vietnam (TVRR)
  • Experience Indochina (TKRNC)
  • Best of Indochina (TKRDC)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Culture shock rating

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

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, Intrepid has established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. Intrepid aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you.
A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Vietnam is Dong (VND).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs are now available in most towns and visa cash advances are available in major banks. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels.
It's not possible to exchange Vietnamese Dong outside the country, so convert or spend all your Dong before leaving.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
At your group meeting on Day 1 your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.
Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult
Departure tax
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
TET:
Tet is Vietnam's New Year festival, held annually in late January or early February based on the lunar calendar. While this can be a fascinating time to travel and experience this event, expect some shop closures and busier than usual local transport. Opening hours at some tourist sites may also be affected or closed. Although we make all reasonable efforts to avoid disruption, a flexible approach from the traveller is appreciated.
WET SEASON:
During the rainy months (approx. June to October), our mode of transport can be changed at short notice due to weather conditions.
ITINERARY VARIATIONS OVER TET 2014:
On our 16 January (trip code: TVRN140116) departure, we will be travelling by day bus from Nha Trang to Danang on 21 Jan instead of catching the overnight train on 20 Jan. An additional night in Nha Trang is now included.
On our 23 January (trip code: TVRN140123) departure, we will be travelling by day bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang on 21 Jan and from Nha Trang to Danang on 28 Jan, instead of catching overnight trains. Additional nights’ accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang are now included.
Group size
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A single supplement is available on this trip. On the following nights a single room is not available:
Day 2 Mekong Delta Homestay
Day 3 Overnight Train
Day 5 Overnight Train
Day 11 Overnight Train
Accommodation
Hotel (10 nts), Overnight sleeper train (3 nts), Homestay (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
CHECK-IN TIME
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
WINDOWLESS ROOMS:
Some hotels in Vietnam have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also don't require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Meals
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Budget for meals not included:
USD 250.00
Breakfasts are often simple: eggs, bread, jam and coffee/tea would be most common.
Transport
Boat, Private vehicle, Overnight sleeper train, Private minibus
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
Hong Thien Loc 2 Hotel
267 - 269 Le Thanh Ton
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City
VIET NAM
Joining point description
Formerly known as the Hai Hai Hotel, located in the heart of the city and within walking distance of Ben Thanh Market. The hotel has a restaurant, lift and 30 rooms with air-conditioning, phone, tv, minibar and private bathroom.
www.hongthienloc2hotel.com/home
Joining point instructions
Metered taxis are readily available as you leave the customs hall and cost approximately US$7 (VND120000). Avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.
An arrival transfer from the airport is available - 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 arrival, your driver will be waiting for you as you exit the customs hall and will be holding an Intrepid sign bearing your name. Please note that neither the driver nor any representative should ask you for additional payment.
If you cannot find your pre-booked transfer, or you have any concerns about your transfer, please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770.
Normal check-in time is after 13:00.
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Finish point
Van Mieu Hotel
54B Quoc Tu Giam Street
Hanoi
VIET NAM
Phone: +84 437474254
Fax: +84 437474253
Finish point description
The Van Mieu Hotel is a 2 star hotel with 28 rooms, located less than a 2 minute walk to the Temple of Literature. Room facilities include phone, TV, AC, ensuite bathroom. The hotel also has an elevator, sauna, and business centre services as well as a nice top-floor restaurant serving buffet breakfast.
http://www.vanmieuhotel.com.vn/
Finish point instructions
A metered taxi to the airport will cost approx. US$12 (VND260, 000) and take around 45 minutes (depending on traffic).
A pre-booked departure transfer 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 trips 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 on:
+84 903 117 770.
Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Vietnam Office can be reached on Tel: +84 903 117 770. For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week (excluding Sunday). For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
VIETNAM:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
When obtaining your visa you should allow 3 weeks for processing, the cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Check with your embassy or consulate for further details. Some nationalities are exempt from requiring a visa if their stay is less than 15 days, but if you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance.
Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure.
If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Intrepid Vietnam 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu St, Hanoi, Vietnam Ph +84 4 3715 0996.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
WATER BOTTLE:
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
Health
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
DENGUE FEVER:
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing and always using repellent. Please note that this mosquito is most active during daylight hours however care should be taken at all times.
Safety
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
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 the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides 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:
Take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It is expected that anyone taking part in water activities are able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
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. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Vietnam include:
* The Blue Dragon Children's Foundation works in northern and central Vietnam with the most vulnerable children: street kids, children with disabilities, the rural poor and victims of trafficking. Their main aim is to help kids go to school or receive vocational training in an effort to help them find their way out of poverty.
* Children's Hope in Action (CHIA) provides vital health and disability programs and educational services to vulnerable families in Hoi An and surrounding rural areas. CHIA’s holistic Special Education program facilitates the social, physical and intellectual development of children who have motor disabilities and little, or no intellectual impairment.
* Cuc Phuong National Park's conservation programs - we're currently supporting the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC), which has specialised breeding and holding facilities for more than 600 turtles representing around 15 of Vietnam’s 23 native species. In addition to providing educational activities and raising public awareness, a major focus of the TCC’s work involves training of wildlife protection officers.
* The KOTO Saigon Training Centre provides training in life skills and hospitality to former street children. Trainees at the Saigon centre will go on to work at KOTO's restaurant in the city (to open in 2011). Travellers may also visit the KOTO restaurant in Hanoi, which also provides training opportunities for disadvantaged youth and great food.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
* The Nguyen Nga Centre (in Quy Nhon City) offers education, training and work placement assistance for disadvantaged people and people with disabilities. Intrepid Vietnam purchases embroidered 'say no to plastic' cloth shopping bags for our travellers and the income to the centre helps to pay their rent.
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 271.00 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.