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Join us on an in depth journey through magical Vietnam, traversing the country from north to south. Bike alongside the rice paddy fields of Mai Chau and explore the intricate network of waterways in the Mekong Delta. Witness the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, the old-world charm of Hanoi, ancient neighbourhoods of Hoi An and dramatic limestone pinnacles of Halong Bay.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights comfortable homestay
2 nights premium hotel
9 nights comfortable hotel
1 nights comfortable junk
1 nights simple overnight train
14 - 20
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Hanoi. Vietnam's bustling capital is architecturally styled like a French provincial town, with tree-lined boulevards and low-rise buildings. It's a wonderful city to explore on foot.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Hanoi at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport (airport code HAN), which is 30KM, around one hour's drive from the airport. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to head to the Old Quarter, a maze of narrow lanes named after the various crafts and specialities of the city's artisans. The pavements are filled with food sellers tempting you with steaming noodles, snacks and stir-fried delights.
Flower Garden Hotel (or similar)
This morning join our trip leader to see more of Hanoi, visiting the One-Pillar Pagoda, the tranquil Temple of Literatures and the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh lying in state.
The afternoon is then free to perhaps take an optional cookery class, or explore Hanoi's elegant French Quarter by cyclo. In the evening there is the chance to witness a remarkable performance of traditional water puppetry (optional activity). Set on a flooded stage, the stories tell tales of legendary heroes and everyday life, with dragons and unicorns often sharing the stage with fireworks and naval battles, alternatively head out to sample the delights of Vietnamese cuisine at a local restaurant including regional specialities such as Goi cuon (spring rolls) or Pho, Vietnam's national dish, a light beef or chicken broth flavoured with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef.
Hemmed in by hills and set in a tranquil valley, Mai Chau is a world away from the hectic pace of life of Hanoi. The four hour journey provides a glimpse of rural life in the north of the country passing through villages surrounded by paddy fields. On arrival, check-in to our hotel with fine views of local villages distantly related to the tribes in Thailand, Laos and China, lunch is included at the hotel.
This afternoon head out on a biking tour along rice terraces of the Mai Chau Valley dotted with stilt houses. The ride provides opportunities for panoramic views of paddy fields, spectacular karst cliffs and verdant valleys around you, a truly spectacular setting. On the way home, pass by Van Village, home to the White Thai people. Enjoy dinner and an overnight stay at our comfortable eco lodge featuring a swimming pool to cool off in after an afternoon of cycling.
Mai Chau Ecolodge (or similar)
After breakfast, drive to Xam Khoe Village and set off on a walking tour to Buoc Village populated by the Thai ethnic minority people, the terrain is mainly flat, sticking to the valley floor traversing the network of banks separating rice paddy fields. Enjoy local hospitality in a simple stilt-house and a home-cooked lunch prepared by our host family. Take a short drive back to Mai Chau with a stop en route to explore the magnificent Van Mai Valley.
This morning is left free to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Drive to Ninh Binh in the afternoon. Whilst the town itself is fairly unremarkable, the area around Ninh Binh is beautiful, known for its impressive cave formations and network of waterways, lakes, temples and towering limestone peaks.
Ninh Binh Hidden Charm Hotel (or similar)
This morning stretch our legs as we cycle the back roads through picturesque local communities to Dong Tam village. After a break at a temple we head through the countryside towards the spectacular limestone peaks of Van Long, surrounded by paddy fields and meandering waterways. The landscape is truly spectacular. Our destination is the nearby village of Vuon Thi, where we enjoy a delicious traditional lunch prepared by friendly hill tribe villagers.
After lunch, take a sampan ride along the charming Ngo Dong River to a cave complex, with time to explore the network of caves in the area. Return to Ninh Binh.
Leaving Ninh Binh after breakfast, we drive to the Gulf of Tonkin and the breath-taking scenery of Ha Long Bay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visually impressive landscapes in South East Asia, Halong Bay is the setting for an overnight cruise. Boarding just after midday, set sail towards Bai Tu Long Bay. Lunch is served shortly after embarking, there is ample time after lunch to sit back and admire the towering limestone islands topped by rainforest that Halong Bay is so famous for.
We make a stop to visit a Vung Vieng fishing village by rowing boat or kayak, the choice is yours. The rest of the afternoon is spent further exploring the bay scattered with hundreds of islands and dotted with caves and grottoes. Dinner is served on board, a chance to sample fresh sea food and regional dishes, we anchor overnight in Bai Tu Long Bay.
There are between 10-18 en-suite cabins on board with a restaurant, bar and sundeck area. All bedding is provided. Please be aware, the boat may not be exclusive to our group and consequently we may be sharing with other tourists.
Halong Bay Junk (or similar)
Sunrise takes place around 0630, if the weather is clear it's well worth making the effort to witness sunrise over the bay. A light breakfast of pastries, tea and coffee we disembark to visit the hidden Thien Canh Son caves with numerous stalactite and stalagmite limestone formations in an impressive cavern. Returning to our boat, continue to cruise in the bay. Brunch is served on board.
Returning to Hon Gai harbor, rejoin our vehicle and drive back to Hanoi. The rest of the afternoon is free, with two day use rooms provided for the group to freshen up before we head to the central train station in Hanoi to board the Reunification Express overnight sleeper train to Hue, Vietnam's old imperial capital.
We travel in soft sleeper compartments, with four passengers sharing each compartment with all bedding provided. Please note, breakfast will not be provided on the train, it's advisable to pick up snacks for the morning before boarding the train.
Overnight train from Hanoi to Hue
Simple Overnight Train
Arriving in Hue this morning, we enjoy some of the highlights of this historic city including a visit to the Royal Palace with its Terracotta Warriors guarding the entrance and the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city. We also visit the house of a national champion kite flier for Vietnam where we are shown how to make traditional Vietnamese kites. Taking time to decorate our kites with iconic symbols such as dragons, birds and peacocks, we take our completed kites to the nearby Citadel grounds to try them out. The Citadel is an impressive monument that is almost 10 km in circumference with the Imperial City located in the centre of the Citadel which is more than 600m long on each side. Access to the Imperial City can be made by four entrance gates although the Noon Gate is only used for the King.
Thanh Lich 2 Hotel (or similar)
Journey to Trieu Son village, located by the Perfume River on Hue's outskirts for a guided walk and boat ride. First stop is Sinh village where we meet a local family that specializes in making wood paintings.
Later in the morning, take to the open road on a leisurely cycle ride around the village and along countryside lanes to Thanh Tien village, famous for paper flowers. Criss crossing an intricate network of paddy fields, we arrive at Tien Non village where we board our cruise boat, taking us back to Hue (total cycling distance is approximately 6km).
An included martial arts lesson is our next stop with a visit to a dedicated martial arts school that practices the Vietnamese art of Kinh Van, Vietnam's equivalent to Kung Fu, based upon defence techniques from the actions of a tiger, cobra, and bird. The owner's ancestors were chosen to guard the Vietnamese king; knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation to our host, who has been intrusted with teaching this ancient art. Travel over the Truong Son Mountains and through the Hai Van Pass as featured on the TV programme, Top Gear, to the historic merchant seaside town of Hoi An.
Vinh Hung 2 Hotel (or similar)
The morning is free to wander through the historic heart of this World Heritage Site, taking in the wonderfully preserved buildings of what was once one of the busiest trading outposts in South East Asia. Discovering this delightful town, we recommend an early morning visit to Hoi An's fish market which presents the perfect setting for some great photographs.
Wander through Hoi An's historic collection of traditional wooden houses and Chinese temples. This afternoon you could hire bicycles and explore the surrounding countryside, experience a gentle river cruise, or grab the chance to visit some of Hoi An's famous tailor shops. Alternatively take a 20 minute taxi ride to the nearby coast to spend the day on the beach.
Drive to Danang, fly to Ho Chi Minh City. Explore Old Saigon, and discover 'Secret Weapons Bunker'
This afternoon we will experience a different side of Ho Chi Minh City, away from the major sights where we take a walk through Old Saigon's back alleys. We make our way to District 3 by cyclo (cycle carriages with a seat at the front) and turn off the main thoroughfare and into the maze of narrow streets of this bustling district. Our walk takes us past ramshackle shopfronts, through local markets selling anything from colourful fruit to bootleg DVDs, and past houses, churches and schools, all squeezed into the small buildings that line the narrow alleys. It's a fascinating inter-connected community here that is a stones-throw from the city centre, yet feels a far cry from the modern buildings and throngs of tourists. We stop at a local stall for a traditional Vietnamese coffee (brewed coffee served sweet with condensed milk) where we can also sample 'Banh Mi' - a Vietnamese take on the humble French baguette - freshly baked and packed with a combo of traditional and more exotic, aromatic ingredients.
The walk ends the so-called 'secret weapons' bunker'. A small unassuming 'tube house' nestled in a quiet neighbourhood hides a trap door in the floor, concealing a basement stocked full of rifles, grenades and ammunition. The bunker played a key role in the TET Offensive of 1968, it was the base from which the Viet Cong's "Team 5" launched their assault, and its location was only revealed after the end of the war. We have some time to explore the house and bunker, filled with decommissioned weapons and photographs, news clippings and memorabilia from the wartime.
Huong Sen Hotel (or similar)
After breakfast this morning drive to visit the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. First constructed by the Vietnamese during their colonial war with the French, the tunnels were later greatly expanded and went on to achieve notoriety during the Vietnam War, when they served as an underground command base for 10,000 Viet Cong troops. Exploring Cu Chi gives some idea as to the conditions that the Vietnamese had to endure (the tunnels are narrow and can be quite claustrophobic). The afternoon allows for more time in the city including an optional visit to the waterpark, a great way to cool off from the mid-day sun.
Leaving the city, journey to the Mekong Delta and board a boat to the start point of our cycle ride. We cycle for around 10-12 km along the flat Cai Thai village path with constant views of the delta as we wind our way around its many tributaries. The route is often shaded which is helpful to combat the humidity (the boat can pick up cyclists at various stopping points if required). Along the way, we visit Mrs Nani's home who will show us how to make rice paper in the traditional way and Mr and Mrs Chin's home who will provide refreshments that include her famous 'Banh Tieu' (traditional doughnut).
Returning to our cruise boat for lunch on-board, we continue sailing along the delta to our night stop. Transferring from our cruise boat to a sampan craft, a small traditional boat regularly used by the villagers to travel along the delta, make the short journey to a traditional homestay, set in a lovely garden setting with a main lounge area and dining room, accommodation is en-suite (shower and toilet) with traditional décor throughout. After settling into our simple but clean accommodation, embark on a gastronomic experience as we take part in a Vietnamese cooking lesson. Typically our hosts usually give a traditional dancing and singing show to accompany the evening meal.
Ut Trinh & Ut Quynh Homestay (or similar)
Leaving the homestay behind, cruise back along the Mekong delta passing small floating markets and soaking up the atmosphere of this unique trading point, a vast network of rivers and islands that crisscross agricultural villages, paddy fields and mangrove swamps. Bidding farewell to our boat crew, drive back to Ho Chi Minh City.
We will aim to be back at Ho Chi Minh City around 3pm. For those with evening flights, a day use room will be provided. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Saigon's Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport code SGN). The earliest your flight can depart is 5pm.
Why not extend your trip to Indochina with three nights on the tropical white sand beaches of Phu Quoc Island? Nestled in the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand this Vietnamese island is 90% national park, a thick-rainforest interior framed by idyllic white sand beaches. Easily accessible by a short flight from Hanoi, Siem Reap or Ho Chi Minh City, this is a great way to unwind after an action-packed trip in Indochina.
As Vietnam is a long, narrow country from north to south climate conditions vary considerably. The climate can be divided into three distinct patterns between the north, central and south regions. The climate in the north is generally humid and subtropical, although the winter months from November to March can be colder with temperatures from 10 - 15 degrees. Summer months, May to September can be quite hot with temperatures from 30 - 35 degrees. Meanwhile south Vietnam enjoys a tropical climate all year round, with little variation throughout the year (around 27 - 32 degrees), however May to November is the rainy season when short, heavy downpours are quite frequent. Central Vietnam lies somewhere in between. The coastal strip is usually dry and hotter from April to October while November to March is wetter and cooler. A light rain jacket and small umbrella are recommended year round.
2 Pin Round
Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your Family adventure. Whilst the basic tour price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions and activities or take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for your family. Day 1 or 2: Hanoi Discover a unique part of Vietnamese culture at the Thang Ling water puppet theatre. Duration: Approx. 1 hour. USD $7 per person Day 9: Hue Dong Ba market is the oldest trading venue in Hue spanning almost 16,000 square meters on the northern bank of the Perfume River. Be sure to visit the food court on the ground floor to sample authentic Vietnamese dishes such as pho, banh khoai (stuffed omelette), and fresh spring rolls. Guided tour USD $18 per person. Day 11: Hoi An Taking part in a cookery lesson is a great way for the whole family to get involved in learning about the complex flavours that makes Vietnamese food so delicious. Choose from a morning or afternoon cookery class. USD $ 39 to USD $45 per person. Day 13 or 15: Ho Chi Minh City Visit the Reunification palace USD $2 per person. Dam Sen Water Park, 31 slides and shoots and a large wave pool. Ideal for cooling down. Height restrictions apply for children. USD $7 per person (entrance only, excludes transport to the park)
Pack essentially for hot weather although December through to February warmer clothing is needed for the North. Bear in mind that the region is tropical (humid) and can be hot. Lightweight rainwear is advisable at all times. The north is cold at night during the winter. Casual clothes are the most practical, although bear in mind that when visiting temples you will need shorts or skirts that cover below the knees.
Comfortable walking shoes and sandals.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Binoculars for wildlife viewing, torch, water bottle, insect repellent, high factor suncream, good quality sunglasses and a lip salve with sun protection. An overnight bag and swimming gear and towel is also recommended.
Bicycle, Boat, Minibus, On Foot, Rickshaw, Train, Tuk Tuk
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Vietnam: 'British Citizen' passport holders can visit Vietnam for up to 45 days without a visa. A visa will be required if you wish to re-enter within 30 days of your departure. Visas are required for citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and can be obtained in the form of an eVisas via: \ul \ulnone Please note that it is a pre-requisite for entry into Vietnam that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months from your date of entry All visa related issues including information for other nationalities should be confirmed with the relevant Embassy prior to departure. If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See \ul www.travcour.com \ulnone to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on \ul 0208 5431846 \ulnone . It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination. Cambodia: A single visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, USA & Canadian citizens and can be obtained on arrival. A passport sized photograph for immigration will also be required. Alternatively you can now obtain an e-visa prior to departure from www.mfaic.gov.kh All visa information should be confirmed with the relevant consulate.3
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, we recommend protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis A. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on Malaria and Zika Virus. Although not compulsory travellers may also wish to immunise themselves against Japanese encephalitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.