Few countries have as much variety as Vietnam. Let yourself loose in hectic Hanoi and enjoy the sumptuous cuisine full of fresh vegetables, fish and herbs. Visit a quiet temple away from the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and relax on the beaches along the far stretching coastline. Vietnam is a charming, stylish country where there is much to discover in a historical, cultural and culinary sense.
It is your own responsibility to ensure you have a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of your return.
It is your own responsibility to make sure you have any necessary visas. Visa information is subject to change and differs depending upon your own nationality. For this trip, for many nationalities, you will need a visa for Vietnam.
*From 1st July 2015, nationals of UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain are exempt from needing a visa to travel in Vietnam (max. 15 day stay).
Please contact you nearest Vietnamese embassy well in advance of travel to arrange your visa. Alternatively a visa agency such as http://uk.cibt.com/ can arrange visas for citizens of a variety of nationalities.
Accommodation and transport
We have access to a private air conditioned (mini) bus on this trip, so that we can stop at beautiful places in nature along the way. The bus is non-smoking. This bus is not available for use during the free (non-travelling) days.
The transfers to and from the airport are not included. Any additional transportation costs from optional excursions are not included either.
You make use of the comfortable night-train twice: From Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, and from Hue to Hanoi. Here you sleep in a reserved berth in second class in comfortable beds (air conditioned compartment). It is a nice way to travel these longer (and less interesting) distances.
The boat transfers to Whale Island (and back!) and the Ha Long Bay trip, are included in your price. You can also take an optional boat trip on the Perfume River in Hue. You can rent bikes locally in several places and there are plenty of walks. An optional ride on a cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) can be good fun too. Vietnam certainly offers sufficient variety in transportation!
Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang: 430 km / 11 hours (night train)
Nha Trang to Whale Island: 96 km / 2 hours
Whale Island to Hoi An: 464 km / 9 hours
Hoi An to Hue: 130 km / 3 hours
Hue to Hanoi: 670 km / 12 hours (night train)
Hanoi to Ha Long Bay (and v.v): 170 km / 3.5 hours
*The times mentioned above are approximate and will depend heavily upon conditions locally.
During the tour we stay in hotels and guesthouses in 2-person rooms with private bathroom. You stay on a bed and breakfast basis. Most hotels have a restaurant and sometimes a garden or terrace as well. The check-in/out time in the hotels is usually 12:00.
Your hotels in Hoi An and Hue have a pool which can bring a refreshing end to the day! In exceptional cases it is possible that we use another hotel, without a pool. If this occurs we will try to find a suitable alternative (pool). Of course there are other swimming opportunities in a country with such a long coastline!
On Whale Island you stay in simple bamboo huts with fan and private bathroom. Lunch and dinner are included here (drinks are not included). Very occasionally it may happen that the accommodation on Whale Island is booked up. You will then stay in Doc Let, a small town on a long stretch of sandy beach on the mainland. If you stay in Doc Let lunch and dinner (excluding drinks) are also included. In Ha Long Bay you sleep a night aboard the boat. In the morning you wake up in an enchanting setting. Your lunch, dinner and breakfast are all included (drinks are not included).
Travellers who book alone for this trip will share a room with someone else. We of course keep in mind to pair you with someone of the same sex. If you want a room for yourself then this can also be arranged. There will be a single supplement chargeable at time of booking. Please note that there are no single rooms aboard the night trains nor on the boat in Ha Long Bay.
Our tours are led by trained, local English speaking tour leaders. We know that our travellers appreciate being accompanied by these local tour leaders who, compared to their counterparts (living outside of the destination) have more detailed knowledge of their country. He/she knows the area well, can provide background information and ensure that the trip goes smoothly. He/she knows what to do if something were to go wrong, but is not a "walking encyclopedia". Therefore we would like to refer you to study a good travel guide (book) in advance of travel.
Your tour leader understandably expects a tip at the end, if she/he has completed the job well. Shoestring pay the tour guides a wage which is higher than that of most adventurous travel companies. Our guideline for tipping is between € 1, - and € 2, - per passenger per day (the equivalent thereof).
This holiday is classified as Category B
The difficulty of our travels varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular holiday we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
Vietnam in 2 weeks is a Category B holiday. It can be made by any reasonably healthy individual. Although in the cities we stay in simple medium-priced hotels, remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
Nature of the trip: Vietnam offers a wealth of contrasts and variety and this short 2 week trip encapsulates so many of those. We begin in Ho Chi Minh City, the busy streets are interesting to walk around. You can visit museums, temples and pagodas and use it as the base to see the fascinating Cu Chi tunnels. You'll enjoy some precious time on Whale Island where you can explore, snorkel or laze 'til your hearts' content. Hoi An will also present some quiet beaches together with some local markets selling wonderfully fresh produce. Visit the beautiful Marble Mountains on the way to the delightfully French city of Huế. Huế has a lovely feel, you must immerse yourself in, with its broad avenues and sweet smelling ''Perfume'' river. We ll end in the capital city of Hanoi where you can walk around and witness the local people living out their daily routines- playing in the park and selling from markets. There are some very attractive temples and pagodas to be seen too. All in all, a lovely way to end your trip.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.
Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
Travel insurance, including medical repatriation insurance, is mandatory. It is not included with our packages and it is your responsibility to purchase suitable travel insurance. Make sure that it covers all the activities that you are likely to undertake, such as rafting and trekking. Many ‘free’ insurances that come with banking packages, credit cards etc, are quite often inadequate to cover you on our tours, so make sure you check the policy before you travel. You should enter your travel insurance details via your my.shoestring account and you are required to give a copy of your insurance policy to your tour leader upon arrival. Without proper insurance like this, you will not be allowed to join the tour as we will not be able to respond adequately in case of an emergency if you do not have the right insurance.
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More country information about Vietnam
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions about Vietnam