Travel to Vietnam and savour its culture and cuisine from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

Chop, slice and eat your way through Vietnam, experiencing one of the freshest and most fragrant cuisines on the planet. From pho and ancient buildings in Hanoi, banh khoai and imperial citadels in Hue, banh xeo and lantern-lit streets in Hoi An and banh canh and pulsating markets in Ho Chi Minh City, experience Vietnam’s cuisine and its tightly woven place within its culture. Drink in cafes and beer halls that sprawl out over city streets, buy fruit from wicker baskets draped over a vendor’s shoulders and sit at market stalls as aromatic noodle soups are whipped up in front of you. Experience all of Vietnam’s iconic sights, spend time cooking some of the country’s top dishes and get a true taste of Vietnam on this delectable Real Food Adventure.


Start
Hanoi, Vietnam
Finish
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Country
Vietnam
Style
Original
Theme
Food
Code
TVZY
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Get the lowdown on north, central and southern Vietnamese cooking at the country's best cooking schools

  • A street food tour of Hanoi takes you to the best spots in town to sample northern specialties like pho, bun cha and the golden-yellow xoi xeo (sticky rice with mung bean and fried onion)

  • Get around the romantic riverside town of Hue in true local style – on the back of a motorcycle

  • With two nights in Hoi An, there's plenty of time to take in magic of this standout destination. Take a cooking class, cycle through herb gardens and be dazzled by the Ancient Town

  • The Vietnamese people are some of the most welcoming in the world. A homestay on the Mekong Delta allows you to experience their hospitality, learn their kitchen secrets and get an insight into rural life

  • No trip to Vietnam is complete without some history lessons. Visit the Imperial Citadel in Hue and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip aims to give you an exciting, diverse and well-rounded experience of a country’s cuisine. While we endeavour to cater for specific dietary requirements, some meals and food activities are set in advance and may be difficult to adjust. Please be aware that in many countries dietary restrictions are not common or well understood. If you have dietary requirements, simply contact your agent at the time of booking for further information on how this may impact on your ability to take part in included activities and meals. Come with an open mind and open mouth, and you won’t be disappointed.

  • This trip involves some long stints of travel, including a 12-hour overnight train to Hue. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances, meet locals and maximise time at your destinations. Occasionally passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and/or you'll be sharing with locals or travellers from other groups.

  • In Hue, one day is spent touring the sights on the back of a motorbike. The bikes are great fun and are driven safely by professionals, but alternative transportation can be arranged upon request for those who don’t wish to ride on a motorbike.

  • The weather in Vietnam can be hot and sticky, particularly during the monsoon seasons, so ensure that you pack accordingly. Please also wear sunscreen and a hat, especially when out on a boat in Halong Bay and in the Mekong Delta. It is also recommended to bring warm clothes for Halong Bay, as it can get quite cool on the water in the evenings.

  • Facilities at the Mekong Delta homestay are quite basic. But an authentic, heart-warming experience of local Mekong life should more than make up for the lack of creature comforts.

  • Confidence on a bicycle is great, but not absolutely essential. If you would rather not participate in the cycling tour of Hoi An's Tra Que Village, you can explore the local market on foot instead.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

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. Next head out for your first introduction to Vietnam’s lively culinary scene. Stop past a family-owned restaurant and  savour a bowl of noodles with an unexpected secret ingredient! After dinner, enjoy a bia hoi. This foamy, light beer is made fresh each day and served in basic, open-walled ‘brew halls’. Take up a brightly coloured plastic chair and sip your tasty brew.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Start the day with a traditional breakfast of pho, a dish that originates in Hanoi and is designed to awaken the senses and prepare you for the day. Then it's time for a guided tour of Chau Long Market, where you will learn all about the ingredients and flavours of northern Vietnamese cuisine. Be sure to sample the local coffee, typically served with condensed milk - or for the more adventurous - egg! Tuck into some of Hanoi's renowned street food specialties and finish at a hidden tea house, learning about Vietnamese tea traditions from a true master.

In the evening, get hands on learning to prepare northern Vietnamese dishes. Discover some old Hanoian favorites like caramel pork as well as some lesser known dishes from the highlands. Enjoy the fruits of your labour for dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hanoi - Cooking Class
  • Hanoi - Teahouse visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage-listed site of Halong Bay (approximately 4 hours). Set sail on emerald-green waters, gliding between limestone karsts and soaking in the old-world tranquillity. Halong Bay is a secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the turquoise waters of Bac Bo Gulf. It spans an area of about 1,500 square kilometres and is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos that were created over thousands of years by waves and wind. Visit one of the lesser known caves, then join a family on their boat to learn about the fishing culture which has been the way of life here for many, many generations. This activity is exclusive to Real Food Adventure Vietnam. Return to your vessel late in the afternoon and enjoy a delicious feast exquisitely prepared by an onboard chef.
Accommodation
  • Overnight boat (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
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.

Swimming in the bay from the boats is banned by the local authority. Kayaking is restricted to designated zones within the bay.

There are increasing restrictions on the number of boats permitted to stay overnight in Halong Bay, which can sometimes result in a shortage of available vessels. To ensure all Intrepid travellers continue to 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. In this instance, the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approximately 3.5 hours), then 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.

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.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth, depending on seasonal variations and group configuration) 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. Passengers of different genders may sometimes 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.
Hue is Vietnam’s former royal capital and its cuisine is considered by many Vietnamese as the best in the country. The food is influenced by its imperial heritage (small dishes and a focus on aesthetic presentation) and its strong Buddhist heritage, reflected in the high proportion of vegetarian restaurants in the area. On arrival, enjoy a classic breakfast of bun bo Hue, a popular Vietnamese soup containing rice vermicelli (bun) and beef (bo). After checking in at your hotel, embark on a tour of the city’s imperial monuments on the back of a motorbike (or in a car if you would rather). Stop past Thien Mu Pagoda, an active Buddhist monastery since 1601. Here you'll see a car that belonged to one of the self-immolating monks of the 1963 protests. A dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River (approximately 40 minutes) will be followed by a special lunch stop for a vegetarian Buddhist meal at a pagoda, finishing with a visit to the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. The evening is free for your own food adventure. Perhaps ask your leader for the best place to try imperial street specialties like banh hue (rice flour cakes stuffed with shrimp, pork and spices).
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
The Dragon Boat cruise may not be available during festival periods. In this case you will travel by land.

The lunch at the pagoda gives an insight into the unique traditions and food of Vietnamese Buddhism and also provides important economic benefits to these institutions, which rely on donations to survive. Due to the high number of travellers visiting Hue, six different monasteries and nunneries provide this lunch, to share the wealth and minimise impact.
Start your day with a visit to the Imperial Citadel, which includes 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. Head south by bus through coastal rice paddies and traverse the mountainous Hai Van Pass, to Hoi An (approximately 4 hours). The beautifully restored Hoi An retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. Take the chance to indulge in some shopping and perhaps have some clothes tailored. There's a great array of original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and fabrics on display. On arrival, your leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town. In the evening check out one of Hoi An's fabulous restaurants or pull up a plastic chair at a communal table alongside locals and learn how to make one of central Vietnam’s most celebrated dishes, banh xeo.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
Optional Activities
  • Hoi An Fish Market - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Start your day with a guided bicycle tour of the extensive herb gardens that lie on the outskirts of town, followed by a trip to a rustic food market. This is a great place to pick up knives and other Vietnamese cooking gadgets. Head back to Hoi An for a hands-on cooking class in classic central Vietnamese dishes, followed by lunch.

The rest of the afternoon is free for your own exploration.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hoi An - Herb Garden Bicycle Tour and Cooking Class
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Special Information
If you would rather not ride a bike today, please inform your leader. Instead, you will be taken on a walk around Hoi An Central Market.
For early risers, take the opportunity to visit the Hoi An fish markets They are at their most vibrant in the mornings. In the later afternoon, be welcomed into the home of a local family to learn to prepare My Quang (Quang noodle), a specialty of this city, followed by lunch. Afterwards, if the weather's fine, perhaps hit the local beach for a swim (a great way to get there is by bicycle, which you can hire in town). In the evening, perhaps enjoy some seafood by the water, or jump on a boat for a barbecue feast on a nearby island.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Take the short flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1 hour). Take a guided tour to get a feel for the city's frenetic, fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. You will notice a strong French influence in Ho Chi Minh City, which means excellent coffee and baguettes. Stop past the War Museum, GPO and Notre Dame Cathedral, finishing up at 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. Tonight take part in a cooking class where you'll learn some contemporary twists on traditional Vietnamese dishes with a passionate chef. Sit down and enjoy the delicious feast you've prepared over dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Ben Thanh market
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Take a private bus out to the Mekong Delta (approximately 2–3 hours), then cruise up this mighty river on a sampan (traditional boat), one of the most common forms of transportation in these parts. Glide past farms and orchards, to your guesthouse, set alongside a family home. Meet your hosts and take some time to wander the garden, relax or lend a hand with dinner preparations. Enjoy a southern Vietnamese feast on the wide verandah overlooking the garden as the sun goes down.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
At this guesthouse, you'll sleep on a simple camp bed in a dorm-style arrangement. Bedding and mosquito nets are provided. Shared toilet and bathroom facilities are basic, with cold water only.
For those who fancy an early morning cycle, join your hosts on a ride to the nearby village market, then return to Ho Chi Minh City by bus. The rest of your day is at your leisure. Perhaps sample some of the delights on offer at KOTO cafe. This is an inspiring initiative that helps support the area’s street kids by offering them training in hospitality. If you've got energy left in the evening, head out to enjoy a final Vietnamese meal with your new friends.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your trip comes to an end this morning. You're free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

11 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Plane, Private Vehicle, Taxi, Overnight sleeper train

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights), Homestay (1 night), Overnight Boat (1 night), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)

Included activities

  • Hanoi - Cooking Class
  • Hanoi - Teahouse visit
  • Halong Bay - Overnight boat cruise
  • Hue - Motorbike trip including lunch
  • Hue - Imperial citadel
  • Hoi An - Herb Garden Bicycle Tour and Cooking Class
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • HCMC - City tour
  • HCMC - Ben Thanh market

Dates & availability

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Important notes

PASSPORT DETAILS:
Please provide your full name as per passport (including middle names on your passport), and passport number at time of booking. These details are required for the internal flight and train tickets. Please check your booking information exactly matches your passport. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket.

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:
A single supplement to have your own room 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 10: Homestay

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 Real Food Adventure trips score an average of 4.87 out of 5 based on 137 reviews in the last year.

Real Food Adventure - Vietnam , October 2017

Maria Zamparelli

Real Food Adventure - Vietnam , October 2017

Po-Wei Bruce Lu