Travel from historical Hanoi to modern Ho Chi Minh City

Capture the spirit of magical Vietnam on this compact tour from the colonial charm of Hanoi to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Sip coffee with locals in Hanoi and shop up a storm in the Old Quarter, cruise along emerald waters on a Halong Bay boat trip, travel through old-world Hue and Hoi An, and get lost in the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that introduces Vietnam as a country of incredible food, lively locals, stunning scenery and cosmopolitan cities.


Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Destination
Vietnam
Style
Original
Theme
Explorer
Code
TVSF
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why you'll love this trip

  • This is our most popular trip in Vietnam, and one of the top trips from the entire Intrepid range

  • See the very best that Vietnam has to offer in just 10 days as you traverse the country from top to bottom with a small group of up to 15 new friends.

  • Travel by boat, train, plane, private bus, taxi and even on the back of a motorbike!

  • Sample local food wherever you go, from a seafood dinner on Halong Bay, street snacks at markets, a meal at a buddhist nunnery, coconut candy and tropical fruits in the Mekong Delta, and a final dinner at KOTO restaurant.

  • Settle in for the night and experience an overnight train journey, starting from Hanoi and waking up ready to head out and explore Hue.

  • Have expert advice on hand the whole way with an experienced local leader to help you get the best out of your time in Vietnam.

  • Visit some of the must see sights with your group such as a walking tour in Hoi An and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as enjoy free time to make your own discoveries.

Is this trip right for you?

  • We cover a lot of distance on this trip, including an overnight train from Hanoi to Hue (approx 12 hours). Compartments are on a mixed gender basis and you may be sharing with locals or travellers from other groups. For more about what this experience is like, see our blog post here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/what-to-expect-on-an-overnight...

  • The sightseeing tour by motorbike in Hue is great fun with bikes driven safely by professionals (and helmets provided), but alternative transport can be arranged for those who would prefer not to travel by motorbike.

  • Depending on where you come from, the weather in Vietnam might be hotter and more humid than what you are used to. We recommend checking online for what the typical temperatures will be at the time of the year you are looking to travel to see what to expect - this website might be useful: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/vietnam/weather-in-vietnam

  • Some travellers find the pace of this trip quite fast as we are covering a lot of destinations in a short amount of time. If you would like a more relaxed pace with more time to explore, you might like to consider a longer trip, or additional days in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

  • This itinerary also runs in reverse direction, from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi - see trip code TVSQ on our website. 

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2019 - 31 December 2019

Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader.

If you arrive early into the capital of Hanoi, there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city. Start by visiting the Temple of Literature, drop into a traditional tea house, and learn the stories of the Hoa Lo Prison museum. This tour concludes at Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by modern office buildings and ancient Buddhist temples. Or take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter and admire the city’s French-colonial architecture, relax in a park, or enjoy some street food.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Women's Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD40
  • Hanoi - Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure - USD88
  • Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh Complex: Ho Chi Minh, Stilt House and Museum - VND80000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
You may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the group meeting and have time to explore Hanoi. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're expecting to be late, please inform the hotel reception or your booking agent in advance.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin (approximately four hours). The bay is dotted with sandy coves, grottos and 1,600 limestone islands, which have been formed over millennia by wind and water erosion. Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring island caves and perhaps even enjoying a swim from Ti Top Island Beach during the warmer months. To end the day, spend a peaceful night aboard the boat beneath the night sky.

Your wooden junk-style boat has twin share cabins with air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar to enjoy lunch, dinner and breakfast.
Accommodation
  • Overnight boat (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
Optional Activities
  • Halong Bay - Kayaking - VND250000
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
It is recommended to pack a smaller overnight bag to take to Halong Bay for ease of boarding and disembarking. You can store your main luggage in Hanoi for tonight.

Kayaking and swimming is restricted to designated zones within the bay.

There are restrictions on the number of boats that are permitted to stay in the bay overnight, sometimes resulting in a shortage. To ensure all Intrepid travellers can enjoy the experience of a night on the water, occasionally you will stay on a larger boat (with approximately 12 cabins) and share your boat with another group. Or your group may be split across different vessels, in which case an Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Return by boat to Ha Long, and at approximately midday travel by bus back to Hanoi. Arrive late this afternoon, and use free time to shop, explore the sights or just relax. Later tonight board an overnight train to Hue.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
There are shared day use hotel rooms available this afternoon in Hanoi if you would like to freshen up before the overnight train. There is one room provided between up to 6 members of the group. Single supplements do not apply to day rooms.
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.
Arrive into Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel.

Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. You’ll have free time in the morning to rest or explore. The bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the foods that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables, such as banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Hue Imperial Citadel complex, which once contained temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial Citadel
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, tour the sights of Hue on the back of a motorbike driven by a local guide. Enjoy a stop at Thanh Toan to see the 18th century covered bridge and villagers shopping at their local market. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda. During the visit you’ll see the car of a former monk who drove to Saigon in 1963 to set himself alight to protest the poor treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Enjoy a short boat cruise down the Perfume River before eating lunch inside a nunnery. Finally, visit the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to Hue.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
This motorbike activity has been assessed for safety and is closely monitored. To participate please ensure your travel insurance covers riding pillion on a motorbike up to 150cc. If you prefer not to participate, please let your leader know and they will arrange car transportation (cost included).
Boats for the Perfume River trip may not be available if you’re travelling during festival periods. During these times you’ll travel by land to reach the activities instead.
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass. After a brief visit to Lang Co Beach, arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town and visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll will also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike Urban Adventure - USD51
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Browse the town’s cobbled streets and art galleries, or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Shop for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shop houses. Perhaps visit one of the hundreds of tailors in the city to get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham day trip - USD35
  • Hoi An - Street Food By Night Urban Adventure - USD28
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD49
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today take a short early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, take a sightseeing bus tour around the city. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, stopping in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the Vietnam/American War.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Reunification Palace - VND40000
  • HCMC - A O show - VND1050000
  • HCMC - Saigon Street Food by Night Urban Adventure - USD35
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a boat to Ben Tre to visit the coconut gardens, stopping at a local home to sample tropical fruits & coconut jams. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past water coconut trees along the Mekong. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages, learning about local rural life and how they make their living making coconuts products like brooms and coconut fibre mats. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous Elephant Ear fish. Then it’s back to the private boat to cruise the delta’s major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier. After the cruise return via bus to Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy a final group dinner at KOTO restaurant, an organisation dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of disadvantaged youth.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including coconut gardens visit and village tuk tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Your trip ends after breakfast today. There are no activities included and you’re free to depart your accommodation at any time. For those who are staying on and want to explore Ho Chi Minh City further, check out our Urban Adventure day trips.
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD43
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Boat, Motorbike, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private Vehicle, Taxi

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Overnight boat (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)

Included activities

  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Imperial Citadel
  • Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hue - Royal tomb
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
  • HCMC - Mekong Delta day trip including coconut gardens visit and village tuk tuk tour
  • HCMC - KOTO dinner

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport), for internal flights and train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.
2. A Single Supplement to have your own room is bookable on this trip, subject to availability, and excludes Day 2 (Halong Bay boat) and Day 3 (Overnight train).
3. This trip includes a domestic flight. Checked luggage allowance is a maximum 20kg, with up to 7kg carry on luggage. Any excess luggage charges will need to be paid directly to the airline at check-in.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our Vietnam Express Southbound trips score an average of 4.88 out of 5 based on 1686 reviews in the last year.

Vietnam Express Southbound, September 2018

Christine Saunders

Vietnam Express Southbound, September 2018

Kylie Moreyra