Highlights of Vietnam

12 days
from
£1,649
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Traveller ratings
5 / 5 from 3 reviews >
Trip code: 
ALD
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

Rural and cultural highlights of Vietnam 

This trip encapsulates the magic of Vietnam: the conservative north, the rich heritage of the imperial cities, coastal scenery, rural rolling countryside with soaring mountains and the vibrant life of Saigon and the Mekong Delta. We come face to face with an outgoing culture, where so much goes on in the streets; eating, washing, socialising, buying and selling or impromptu games. This intoxicating parade of Vietnamese daily life may leave us with our strongest memories, as much as the superb landscapes and amazing cuisine.

Highlights

  • Underground rivers and caves of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
  • Boat trip around stunning Halong Bay
  • In Hue visit the Imperial Citadel and the Thien Mu Pagoda
  • The historic trading town of Hoi An
  • Visit the Vinh Moc Vietnam war tunnels 
  • Explore the Mekong Delta by boat
  • Experience mouth-watering cuisine

Key information

  • 6 nights comfortable hotels
  • 1 night boat with twin share cabins
  • 1 night farmstay/simple guesthouse, all en suite
  • 1 night sleeper train, soft-bed berths

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival & departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Ho Chi Minh City

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Depart London

    Depart London.

  • Day 2

    Arrive Hanoi

    Today is free to recover from the flight or stroll amongst broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period. There is a faded colonial charm where baguettes and good coffee are sold from doorways of grand buildings of a past era. There will be a welcome briefing this evening with your leader followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant.

    May De Ville City Centre Hotel or similar

  • Day 3

    To Halong Bay; cruise among limestone formations; overnight on boat

    We make an early start for the approximately 4-hour journey to Halong Bay. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with roughly 3,000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery and enjoy a seafood lunch on board. There may even be the chance to try a spot of fishing from the boat too. We overnight on board in twin share cabins with en suite facilities.

    Overnight Boat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Transfer back to Hanoi; overnight train to Dong Hoi

    We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi where we have a bit of free time to explore this fascinating city. You might like to join the locals by pulling up a plastic stool and sampling one of the many street food offerings; the bun cha (barbecued pork with rice noodles and fresh herbs) is not to be missed! Late afternoon we transfer to the train station to board our overnight train to Dong Hoi, 500km south of Hanoi. 

    Overnight Train 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Journey to underground rivers, karst mountains and verdant jungle of UNESCO site Phong Nha N.P

    Arriving into Dong Hoi at sunrise we journey to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and have breakfast at the farm-stay that will be our overnight spot later on. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Asia. Riddled with hundreds of cave systems and spectacular underground rivers, this is an area very new to tourism but sure to impress with its scale. We will first explore Thien Duong cave, known locally as Paradise Cave. This was only discovered in 2005 by scientists from the British Cave Research Association with the help of a local man who had heard the mountains ‘whistling’ while farming.

    After lunch we will visit Phong Nha cave by boat before returning to the farm-stay. There will be time to relax and enjoy the peace of the countryside or for those who wish there is the option to cycle around the local villages. 

    Chay Lap Farm or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    To Hue via Vinh Moc tunnels; a key resource during the Vietnam War

    We start our journey to Hue today stopping en-route at the Vinh Moc war tunnels. Less well-known than the Cu Chi tunnels in the south, these tunnels were predominantly used as bomb shelters during the Vietnam War. During times of bombing, village life carried on underground; children went to school, hospitals were established and films were even played with a generator.

    We next stop at the Hien Luong bridge which crosses the Ben Hai River. This formed part of the border between North and South Vietnam from 1954 until reunification in 1975. We will arrive in Hue mid-afternoon and will have some free time before an optional group dinner. 

    Gold 1 Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Hue city tour; transfer to Hoi An

    It is claimed that Hue is the cultural and historical centre of Vietnam, and there is plenty to see. The most outstanding sight is the Imperial Citadel with walls six miles in length; inside are the palaces and halls of the Mandarins, and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City, where only the emperor, his eunuchs and concubines were allowed. The Forbidden Purple City 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. This morning we visit the Imperial Citadel and the famous Thien Mu Pagoda. The pagoda was a centre for anti-government protest in the early 1960's and it houses the Austin car that transported a monk, Thich Quang Duc, to Saigon in 1963 where he burned himself in protest against the President. The photograph of his self-immolation was printed in newspapers all around the world.

    After lunch we leave for Hoi An via the spectacular Hai Van Pass; 19kms of road winds up and over the fortress of mountains providing breath-taking views of the coast. 

    Hoi An River Green Boutique or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 8

    Walking tour of Hoi An; free time for market exploration

    This morning will include a walking tour of Hoi An, the original European trading port in Vietnam dating back to the mid-16th century. It is now a living museum, with attractive wooden merchant's houses and pagoda-style temples with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural influences. It is also a marvellous place to wander around and enjoy the thriving riverside market and great silk, clothes shopping. 

    This afternoon is free, one popular option is to jump on a bike for a ride through the countryside past local markets, schools and villages before continuing on to Cua Dai beach (5 km).

    Hoi An River Green Boutique or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Fly to Saigon; visit main sites

    We drive to Da Nang and then fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Devastated by the Vietnam War, it is now a bustling free market city where anything goes. Here, we include a visit to the Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and War Remnants Museum. The Museum has an interesting photographic record of the Vietnam/American War. Please be aware that some images at the museum are very graphic.

    Asian Ruby Luxury (Asian Ruby 1) or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Day trip to Mekong Delta; farewell dinner in Saigon

    Journeying out of the city we head to the lush countryside that is the Mekong Delta for a day tour. Known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, this region produces most of Vietnam’s fruit, sugar cane and coconuts. We take a boat trip along the many tributaries and stop to see some small cottage industries along the way. We will journey by sampan, a traditional wooden low-riding boat still used by the locals as the main form of transport. After sampling some of the local produce we head back to Saigon.

    Dinner tonight is at KOTO, a social enterprise that trains and employs underprivileged youth to provide a step up in life. The delicious food provides a fitting end to our jam-packed Vietnam tour.  

    Asian Ruby Luxury (Asian Ruby 1) or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Free day, depart evening

    Depart Saigon. The group flight departs later in the evening so you will have some free time to further explore this fascinating city.

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Arrive London

     Arrive London. 

Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Post-trip Extensions

Angkor Wat Extension (from Saigon)

Code: XOF
Price per person: £799.00
Mandatory Single Supplement: £315.00

'Discovered' enmeshed in the Cambodian jungle in 1860, Angkor, the ancient capital of the powerful Khmer empire, is one of the finest archaeological sites in the world, and not one to be missed. Built between the 9th and 13th centuries, the wonderfully preserved sprawling complex of temples and palaces is on a par with any great monument of the world with magnificent towers, sculptures and bas‐reliefs. During this four-night extension you will also see all the key sites of Phnom Penh, a fascinating city undergoing a huge amount of change. You will travel between the sites in a private car or minibus, depending on how many people take part in the extension, accompanied by an English‐speaking local guide. In the evenings, you will be free to enjoy the town. This trip extension is offered at the end of your AOF or AOV trip so you will fly direct from Saigon to Siem Reap to start the extension. The detailed itinerary can be found here

Please ask your sales consultant for more details.

Essential Info

Visas

Vietnam

A visa is no longer needed for British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes) for a period of up to 15 days, and on the basis of meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws. The visa exemption period will end on 30 June 2021. All other nationalities require a visa to enter Vietnam and this must be obtained prior to departure. For further information see http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/Vietnam.pdf or the FCO site and check under Vietnam / 'Entry Requirements'.

Vaccinations

Vietnam

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Tetanus, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Diphtheria. The risk of malaria is slight, but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice.

Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 

Zika fever is a mosquito‐borne viral disease and a known risk in places visited on this trip. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available, we therefore strongly recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners included.

Thanks to the tropical climate, the long coast and the gigantic range of mountains, Vietnam is blessed with numerous varieties of culinary offerings and consequently maintains its reputation as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world that still packs a punch with delicious, fresh and fiery flavours.

Vietnamese food relies on fresh fish, vegetables, rice and a whole myriad of verdant herbs and spices; lemongrass, ginger, basil and lime all play an important role in the cuisine. The Chinese and French influence is felt throughout the country where you are just as likely to be offered a Banh Mi (stuffed baguette) as you are a hot steaming bowl of Pho (noodle soup).

Each dish is prepared with the Asian principle of Wu Xing in mind (the five elements); meaning that the perfect combination of spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet is the ultimate aim. Be sure to also seek out the national beverages; Vietnamese coffee is served iced and sweet with condensed milk, a real sugar and caffeine hit, and beer hoi (local beer, brewed daily) is served on most street corners in the North out of large plastic jugs that are perfect for sharing.

Food is cheap in Vietnam and you can generally avoid the spicier food if you wish. Western food is readily available almost everywhere.

Vegetarian food is widely available, however the offering will be fairly similar in most places. Please advise at time of booking if you have any dietary requirements.

Weather

The weather will be hot and humid throughout with temperatures during the day usually between 28ºC and 34ºC. It is only a little cooler at nights.

There is quite a range of seasons between the north and the south: the south up to Hue has a distinct dry season between December to April and then a rainy season from May to November when it tends to come in short heavy bursts with bright sunshine in between. Hanoi is cool in autumn, and even gets chilly between November and February (with a drizzly rain).

There is no ideal time to visit Vietnam; it is quite pleasant at any time of year, though due to the shape of the country it is unlikely that the weather will ever be perfect for the entire duration of any trip.

Please be aware that the boat trip on Halong Bay can be subject to short notice change if certain adverse weather conditions develop during your trip. These could occur all year round, but especially in monsoon season (from October to April). Boat trips on Halong Bay are governed by the local authorities who are authorised to make such appropriate safety decisions. If your Halong Bay trip is affected by adverse weather, this could either result in a reduced excursion on Halong Bay for your group, or less likely, the need to re-arrange the itinerary if it is not possible at all to go out on Halong Bay. Whilst this is not a frequent occurrence, our local team and leaders are well equipped to handle such situations and have long offered appropriate options to groups in the instances where this may occur.

If you go to Cambodia for the Angkor Wat extension, the weather will be hot and humid all year round. The dry season is late October to May and the monsoon is normally between May and October; though there is an obvious transitional time between those settled periods.

The dry season is as it sounds, with hot days and generally clear skies, though you can expect the odd shower. The monsoon is characterised by short, sharp bursts of rain and is generally overcast all day though this does not detract from the enjoyment of the place; you just need to take an umbrella or buy a cheap local poncho!

Hanoi weather

Hanoi weather

Saigon weather

Saigon weather

Is this trip for you?

This trip is rated Activity Level 2- Leisurely/Moderate

This is a busy itinerary that visits the main highlights of Vietnam. We travel by private minibus, 1 night on an overnight train and we take one internal flight to allow you to experience as much as possible of this beautiful and diverse county in a short space of time. You should be aware that there are some long travelling days on this trip that can be tiring. The weather can be hot and humid and cold in the winter months in the north around Hanoi and Halong Bay. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels, Guesthouses, Homestay and Boat

You will spend 6 nights in comfortable hotels, 1 night aboard a boat in a twin share cabin and 1 night will be spent in a standard guesthouse at a farmstay. All of these have en suite facilities. All of the hotels have either fans or air conditioning.

There is also a night aboard a sleeper train with soft berth cabins. 

Please be advised that the accommodation listed in each location on the day to day itinerary are the standard hotels used. However, there may be some departures where groups stay at similar hotels of the same standard and quality.

 Single supplements are available (on request) and only available for 6 nights of the trip (hotel nights). Please advise the sales team at the time of booking if you would like to request a single supplement.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed August 2018
    Demelza Higginson

    Amazing 10 days

    This is a busy trip but gives you the highlights of this beautiful country. We went to the cities and the countryside. We enjoyed some fabulous food and the people were really friendly.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    This is really difficult as there were lots of inspirational moments. But Halong Bay and Hoi An were 2 of them. The trip to the tunnels and the war museum was thought provoking and made you realise the impact of the war and that it is really still very recent.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hung was brilliant - very knowledge, organised but flexible. He was great fun and led our group well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is busy trip so be prepared for some busy days and lack of sleep especially at the start of the trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great trip to show you the best of Vietnam.
  • Reviewed May 2018
    Peter Rogers

    Excellent Adventure

    Wonderful trip, It was well planned and well executed, We were with a great group and we all got on so well immediately, The Group leader was so knowledgeable.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were a few highlights to this trip, The cruise in Halong Bay was very good, especial the chief making table decorations out of vegetables. The Thien Duong caves and Phong Nha cave were fantastic, and i really enjoyed them. The optional cycling trip was very good, its well worth booking it. Overall every thing was great.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Huy was a great leader, he is very knowledgeable and looked after us very well. This was my 8 trip with exodus and he is one of the best leaders I have had. I'm a fussy eater, but he always found me something else to eat if there was something on the menu i didn't like.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just go for it, its a busy week, but well worth it, we went in February, while it only rained one day, it was cloudy for the first half of the trip and hot and sunny in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the Mekong Delta, so you will need plenty of suntan lotion

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a great trip and an enjoyable experience, there is so much to see in the 12 days, but it is well worth it.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Emily Draper

    Fun, Fast, Exhilarating, Exhausting and wouldn't change a thing

    The most jam packed 10 days of my life. But also the most enjoyable. Every day brought something new. It's fast and furious so be prepared for moving to somewhere new virtually everyday day. Having said that it's a truly enthralling trip. Every destination is different providing you with a ton of different unforgettable experiences.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many but mostly the people! All the different guides we met on tours had a different amazing story. Each bringing a different perspective on life through war and post war. Really made you think and reflect. The guide on the My Son Sanctuary visit was brilliant, his knowledge and story were superb. Also the bike ride around Hoi An and Camp Ping Island gave you a unique reflection of life in the country. Standing on top of an old water mill at the top of the High Van Pass taking in the views was incredible. Walking around the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City was probably one of the hardest things to do, but amazing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Huy was an incredible leader. His knowledge was second to none, he gave us plenty of options of optional activities, restaurant options whilst pointing out the best places to go. He always had logistics sewn up, on the road breakfasts, lunches, transportation - the timings were always perfect. An all round lovely guy with a great sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We travelled mid-end of February - a rain jacket is useful as it was cloudy most days, some of the group found that the hat + gloves came in handy on the overnight train. Eat everything! The food is amazing everywhere you go. Pack light. There is opportunity to have laundry done along the way and as you'll be moving around virtually everyday it'll be easier if you've packed light. I found using packing cubes in my rucksack a god send!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't be afraid, jump right in, take in as much as you can, embrace the food, culture and each other. We had an amazing group, we all jelled very well making the trip even more enjoyable.

Dates & Prices

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Please provide as much information as possible below so we can best help with your holiday requirements.

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An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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