Take a journey through this charming country, brimming with history, culture and culinary gems from the imperial city of Hué to the beautiful Halong Bay. Meet isolated communities in the mountains of Sapa, admire the footprints of ancient civilizations and wander the busy streets of cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City.
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.
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
Throughout this tour of Vietnam, we have access to a good private air-conditioned (mini) bus, so 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 of optional excursions are not included.
You will travel three times using the comfortable night-train: Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, from Hue to Hanoi and from Hanoi to Lao Cai . Here you sleep in a reserved berth in second class in comfortable beds (air conditioned). It is a pleasant way to traverse these long (and less interesting) travel distances.
Other means of transportation? The boat described in Ha Long Bay and boat transfers to Whale Island are included in your fare. Optionally, you can take a boat trip on the Perfume River in Hue. On site you can rent bikes in several places and there are plenty of hiking opportunities (the optional trek is highly recommended!). An optional ride on a cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) is also good fun! In Vietnam there are many ways to get from A to B!
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: 170 km / 3 to 4 hours
Ha Long Bay to Hanoi: 170 km / 3 to 4 hours
Hanoi to Lao Cai: 365 km / 12 hours (night train)
Lao Cai via Can Cau to Bac Ha: 90 km / 2 to 3 hours
Bac Ha to Sapa: 110 km / 3 hours
Sapa to Hanoi: 365 km / 5 to 6 hours
Note: The above-mentioned journey times are approximate as they are highly dependent on traffic and road and weather conditions.
During the tour we stay in hotels and guesthouses in 2-person rooms with private bathrooms. You stay on a bed and breakfast basis. The overnight stay in a dormitory, whilst on the optional trek, is very simple. Most hotels have a restaurant and sometimes a garden or terrace. The check-in and check-out times in the hotels is usually 12:00.
Your hotels in Hoi An and Hue have a pool, perfect to cool down from the tropical heat! In exceptional cases it is possible that we have to use other hotels which may not have pools. A suitable alternative (pool) will then be found. Of course there are other chances to go swimming; the long coastline of Vietnam and the beautiful Ha Long Bay spring to mind!
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 happens that the accommodation on Whale Island is fully booked. In that case you will stay in Doc Let, a small town on a long sandy beach on the mainland of Vietnam. If you stay here your lunch and dinner (excluding drinks) are also included.
In Bac Ha you will overnight in a nice home-stay. You sleep together in a dormitory and the bathroom is shared. For large groups (from around 16 people), the group is divided into two 'home-stays'. There are mosquito nets, blankets and pillows provided. We advise you to bring your own sleeping bag liner. The guesthouse is approximately 2 km walk from the market in Bac Ha. Dinner (1x) and breakfast (1x) are included in the price (drinks not 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 this trip alone will share a room with someone else. We keep in mind to pair you with a traveller of the same sex. If you want to ensure a room for yourself for the whole trip, this can be arranged. You will pay a single room supplement for this, when making your booking. On the night trains and on the boat in Halong Bay, a single room is not possible. If you join the optional two-day trek, a single room is also not possible.
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.
The Vietnam trip is a Category B holiday. Any reasonably healthy individual can make the trip. In the summer the trip is considerably more difficult than during the rest of the year. 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. Some journeys are very long. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
Nature of the Trip
This is a unique tour of Vietnam that brings you all the highlights of this compelling country, from the watery Mekong Delta in the South to the fairytale bay of Ha Long in the North. You will meet ethnic groups in the mountains near Sapa and see the monumental remnants of ancient civilisations. Vietnam is a charming, stylish country, with much to offer historically, culturally and culinarily.
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