Map of Explore Vietnam including Vietnam

A crash course in banh mi, karst-studded bays and bustling markets

Get a taste of adventure in Vietnam on an 11-day experience bought to you by Lonely Planet and Intrepid. This escapade from north to south takes you from French-influenced Hanoi to heaving Ho Chi Minh City on a journey that balances local guidance with freedom to explore independently. Discover the countryside around Hue by bicycle, kayak between limestone karsts off the coast of Cat Ba Island and chill out in seaside Phan Rang. Let an expert local leader show you around this vivacious nation so you can see the real Vietnam.

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Terms & Conditions

Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Destination
Vietnam
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience
Code
TVRR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Lan Ha Bay is a beautiful enclave of green waters and strange rock formations. Explore them by boat and kayak, then spend the night on nearby Cat Ba Island.

  • Take a walking tour through the Old Town of Hoi An, where the city looks exactly like it did over a century ago.

  • With all of this exploring, you deserve some time to relax. Spend two days in the beachside haven of Phan Rang – swimming, snorkelling and chilling out is all on the cards.

  • This trip gives you plenty of free time – perfect for the traveller who appreciates a bit of independence. Food crawl in Hue? Beach hopping in Phan Rang? You decide!

  • Finish up in Ho Chi Minh City. A local will give you an intro tour and plenty of advice, then you’ve got the freedom to explore at your own pace.

Is this trip right for you?

  • 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 (see trip code TVRN on our website) or adding additional days in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City before or after your Lonely Planet Experience.

  • Accommodation and amenities are shared and basic, but the experience of rubbing shoulders with the locals makes it all worthwhile.

  • Don’t let the heat keep you from exploring the world! 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 our guide so you know what temperatures to expect: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/vietnam/weather-in-vietnam

  • You may also want to check out our Vietnam and Cambodia Explorer (TVRKC) if you have longer time to explore in region. https://www.intrepidtravel.com/vietnam/vietnam-cambodia-explorer-125486

Itinerary

Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm tonight. If you happen to arrive early, take the day at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter admiring the city’s French-colonial architecture and manicured parks, or simply enjoy some street food. Better yet, consider booking the Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure with an expert local guide to introduce you to the city and its sites, including the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison museum and Hoan Kiem Lake. Head to urbanadventures.com/destination/hanoi-tours for more information.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hanoi - Citadels, Karsts & Cycle Urban Adventure - USD79
  • Hanoi - Village Discovery by Bike Urban Adventure - USD36
  • Hanoi - Hanoi Highlights Urban Adventure - USD39
  • Hanoi - Fine Arts Museum - VND30000
  • Hanoi - Museum of Ethnology - VND40000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
An early start is necessary to get the most out of your day. Take a 7.30 am bus ride and ferry transfer to the steep karsts and tiny beaches of Cat Ba Island, arriving before midday – you’ll have a quick stop to stretch your legs en route. The largest of all the islands in World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, charming Cat Ba will be your base for exploring the limestone cliffs and turquoise water that define this area. Get acquainted with this stunning spot with an afternoon cruise around the bay, enjoying lunch on the boat while floating past the karsts covered in emerald-green foliage. Later, get closer to the water and explore on a kayak, perhaps stopping at one of Cat Ba’s many beaches for a swim. Stay overnight on Cat Ba Island and enjoy the sunset with a cold beer.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Wake up in paradise and enjoy some free time lazing on the beach. Maybe go for a swim, kick back with a book or take a stroll along the sand. In the afternoon, head back to Hanoi. Hopefully you’ll have some time to grab dinner with the group before boarding an overnight train for a 12-hour journey to Hue later on. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are the best way to travel long distances and brush shoulders with the locals. Most trains have a dining carriage which serves simple food, but some travellers like to take some fresh bread, cheese, fruit and other snacks for the journey.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Sleeper trains typically have four or six berth compartments with bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Depending on the configuration of the group, you may have to share with people of different genders or passengers who aren’t part of the group. Your leader will coordinate and give further information on the trip. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but we recommend that you stock up on snacks and drinks before departure.
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. Packed with historic monuments, Hue is also perfectly located to explore the surrounding countryside, which features stunning scenery, quaint villages and the peaceful Tam Giang Lagoon. The bustling Dong Ba Market offers a plethora of goods and foods to see and sample, and it's a good place to try some of the specialities that graced the Nguyen emperors' banquet tables, such as the banh khoai – a royal rice cake. You have a free day to explore, which you could easily spend exploring Hue’s massive walled citadel and the Forbidden Purple Palace enclosed within. Perhaps jump on board a dragon boat and enjoy a cruise up the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu pagoda, or cycle out to one of the Royal tombs such as the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. Otherwise, set off on an optional motorcycle tour of the sights in Hue and some surrounding villages.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hue - Perfume River cruise & Thien Mu Pagoda - VND220000
  • Hue - Royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc - VND136000
  • Hue - Imperial City Full Day Tour Urban Adventure - USD69
  • Hue - Highlights & back streets by motorbike (lunch included) - VND540000
  • Hue - Hue Royal City Street Eats Urban Adventure - USD39
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Your hotel rooms will be available from the standard check-in time this afternoon. You can store your luggage at the hotel while you explore Hue.
Continue on your journey and travel to the World Heritage-listed town of Hoi An, where on arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around town. The city was a major trading port with the west from the 17th century onwards, and has various architectural influences from Europe, China and Vietnam. Today, the city is being restored and looks exactly like it did over a century ago. The rest of the day is free for you to do some optional activities or soak up the ambience of the place. You may like to wander Hoi An Market and the street stalls selling paintings, woodwork, ceramics, lanterns and much more. It’s also famous for its talented tailors who can make beautiful items to order within 24 hours, so be sure to check that out!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to further explore Hoi An. Perhaps take a cruise up the Thu Bon River or learn the secrets of cooking delicious Vietnamese dishes. Visit some of the main art galleries or simply wander around the beautifully restored Chinese shop houses. There’s also the option of cycling around the surrounding countryside – a truly relaxing way to get off the beaten track and see rural Vietnam up close. Your leader will be able to suggest activities to help you get the most out of your time.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Boat & Bike with Sunset BBQ Urban Adventure - USD54
  • Hoi An - Hoi An Walking & Cooking Class Urban Adventure - USD55
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Make the most out of another free day in Hoi An. Perhaps do some of the activities you couldn’t fit into your schedule over the past couple of days, or go pick up your fresh threads from the tailors. There’s also Cua Dai Beach nearby – the perfect place to rest up before continuing on your way. This evening, board another overnight train bound for Phan Rang. Remember, it’s always a good idea to have some snacks and a book on hand.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An - My Son Cham tour (entrance fee, guide and transport included) - USD35
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Phan Rang early this morning for two days of beachside bliss and relaxation. With arguably the best weather in Vietnam, Phan Rang is a low-key coastal city where swimming, snorkelling and seafood take priority. While you’re here, look out for banh can and banh xeo – egg, squid, shrimp and vegetables cooked into a pancake. Delicious!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a break with another day in Phan-tastic Phan Rang. You could squeeze the sand between your toes and grab some rays on the beach, or take a quick ride out to Dinh Cape – one of the most picturesque bays and stretches of sand in the area. Otherwise, perhaps ask your leader where you can get a massage to really get your zen on. Keep in mind that there’s your overnight train journey waiting for you this evening, so get outside and enjoy all that Phang Rang has to see, and eat! Tonight’s overnight train journey will take approximately 7 hours and drop you right into bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City very early this morning and transfer to your hotel. Today you’ll have plenty of free time to explore Vietnam’s largest city. Ho Chi Minh City has a busy atmosphere and many French influences. In your free time, it’s recommended to visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. There’s also the historic Dong Khoi Street, and the chaotic markets of Ben Thanh and Cholon (Chinatown). Ho Chi Minh City has a different style of cuisine to its northern counterpart Hanoi, so be sure get out for restaurant meals and street food with your travel crew. Your group leader has all the best people in the right places, so they’ll know of some delectable places to eat, for any budget.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Please note that there are shared hotel rooms available this morning if you would like to freshen up before check-in time this afternoon.
With no planned activities today, you can depart at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s internal check-out times. As we don’t spend much time in Ho Chi Minh City on this tour, why not stay a few extra days to make the most of your time here? You could take a day trip to the renowned Cu Chi Tunnels, where you can witness the strategic underground labyrinth that helped the locals during the Vietnam war. Ask your leader for more recommendations or book in on an Urban Adventure. Find out more at urbanadventures.com/destination/ho-chi-minh-city-tours. If you would like to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
Optional Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cu Chi Tunnel Experience Urban Adventure - USD39
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Discovery Urban Adventure - VND63
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Cyclos & Markets Urban Adventure - USD36
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

1 lunch

Transport

Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Private minibus

Accommodation

Hotel (7 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included activities

  • Cat Ba Island - Kayaking
  • Cat Ba Island - Boat trip on Lan Ha Bay
  • Cat Ba Island - Lan Ha Bay Lunch
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
  • Ho Chi Minh City - Orientation Walk

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

Trip departures are unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Explore Vietnam trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

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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 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 is available on this trip, subject to availability. Please contact your sales agent if you would like to book this. Please note the single supplement excludes Days 3, 7 and 9 (overnight trains) where you will be in shared accommodation. Day use rooms are also excluded.

Essential trip information

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