Tour type: Private
Group size: Min: 1 | Max: Any
Accommodation: 3 to 4-star hotels
Transport: AC minibus & flights
Highlights: Cooking class at the Saigon Culinary Arts Centre, Mekong Delta boat cruise, cooking class at the Hoi An Red Bridge Cooking School, taking time to enjoy sights and food of Hue, cooking class at the Hanoi Cooking Centre
The world famous cuisine of Vietnam is based on a fresh, spicy, fragrant and simple approach that makes it equally accessible to the novice and experienced alike. Our food lovers tour traverses this beautiful country from south to north and includes many practical, hands on cooking courses, as well as talks, tasting sessions and demonstrations aimed at bringing this popular cuisine alive. We have also added in plenty of time for sightseeing along the way as Vietnam boasts many UNESCO Wold Heritage Sites and amazing natural scenery, not to mention a 3,260 km coastline.
Our culinary adventure starts in the bustling southern city of Saigon (now know as Ho Chi Minh City). We start with a stroll around the market stalls learning how to spot the best herbs, spices and sweets. Then it's into the classroom to learn the basics of south Vietnamese cooking. We also visit the nearby Mekong Delta to see how some of the most popular ingredients in Vietnamese cooking are produced.
Next we fly north to Danang and then transfer to nearby Hoi An, famous for centuries as an international trading port, not to mention the delicious noodle dishes. You head into the classroom again to learn the secrets of some of the local specialities like Cao Lau, a medley of a yellow noodles, pork slices and pickled hot peppers, and Mi Quang, a noodle dish featuring boiled quails eggs and chunks of baked rice cakes. You'll also stop at the imperial city of Hue, beautifully situated on the banks of the Perfume River, to sample more tasty Vietnamese cuisine.
Our final stop if Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, to sample it's world famous street food. Wander the streets and immerse yourself in the tastes and smells of some of the fresh food available anywhere. There is also more time available to return to the classroom for some hands on cooking before the tour ends and you fly home.
This is a sample private tour itinerary and we can customise the daily itinerary, duration and accommodation levels and styles as much or as little as you wish.
Arrive Ho Chi Minh Airport. After customs and immigration formalities you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to rest and recover after you flight, or start to explore the area around your hotel.
Ho Chi Minh City hotel
Single Room Supplement (VETMTV)
We start our culinary exploration of Vietnam with a morning hands on lesson on how to shop for and cook authentic Vietnamese cuisine. You'll meet your local chef at the Ben Thanh Market where you can stroll amongst the market stalls learning how to identify the best vegetables, herbs and spices. Then you can choose your ingredients for the mornings cooking.
At the Saigon Culinary Arts Centre your learn the basics of south Vietnamese cuisine, which is generally sweeter and spicier than in the north of the country. As so many south Vietnamese have emigrated to the USA and other countries, this is the most widely recognised style of Vietnamese cooking.
The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy at your leisure and perhaps exploring more local markets or some of the many small cafes and eateries that are ever present throughout the city.
Ho Chi Minh City hotel
Starting early, we head to the delta town of Ben Tre, where we board a small boat to start exploring the region know as Vietnam's rice bowl. The climate of the delta is just about perfect for producing rice, two to the harvests a year, that Vietnam is one of the world's top rice exporters. The other major produce of the area is seafood, and in particular shrimp and catfish.
Your first stop is at a factory that processes coconut, separating the oil from the flesh and the husks to produce many products like candy and matting. Next we transfer to a larger rice barge and continue exploring the mazy canals of the Mekong Delta.
After a little more sightseeing you'll return to Ho Chi Minh City, where the evening is free for you to relax and unwind.
Ho Chi Minh City hotel
Today we leave behind Saigon and fly north to Danang, from where we transfer by road to the sea side village of Hoi An.
From the 16th to 18th centuries, Hoi An was a thriving international commercial port for Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants. Today, Hoi An is a quaint riverside town, renowned for its silk and popular with tourists for its eclectic architecture, tailors shops and numerous cafes. Some of the buildings in the narrow streets have remained unchanged for more than a century and much of the town is now heritage-listed.
Your day is free to start exploring this interesting and charming fishing village or relax and unwind.
Hoi An hotel
This morning scour the local markets in search of fresh produce before making out way to the Red Bridge Cooking School where you'll enjoy an informal cooking lesson. Your local chef will introduce you to some of the famous local Hoi An specialities, often including noodles, like Cao Lau a mix of pork, peppers and noodles, and Mi Quang, another noodle dish featuring quails eggs and chunks of baked rice cakes.
In the afternoon we cross the Hoi an Pass en route to the former imperial capital at Hue.
We'll explore the former Imperial Capital of Hue today. We'll begin our visit with a stop at the Imperial Citadel, a vast complex built in the early 19th century and was modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing.
We'll then take a boat trip along the scenic Perfume River. In the afternoon we'll take a tour of the Emperor Minh Mang's Mausoleum, perhaps one of the most impressive of all Nguyen Dynasty Tombs.
The evening is set aside for a talk by a local chef to learn about the regional cuisine before enjoying an authentic Hue dinner. A must is the small, tapas-sized cakes made from rice or tapioca flour - they're so delicious
This morning we fly north to the countries capital Hanoi and after settling in to hotel we visit the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, where you'll be able to gain a better understanding of the various ethnic groups which make up the population of Vietnam. In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of Hanoi's oldest restaurants. The specialty here, "Cha Ca," is an aromatic blend of grilled fish, fresh dill, peanuts and vermicelli rice noodles.
We start today with a visit to Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the resting place of the countries founding president, and the Temple of Literature, an 11th century university. We then enjoy a scenic stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son temple. We also take a cyclo ride around the busy old quarter to explore the narrow streets.
Later in the afternoon we start our adventure into the world of street food with a taste of the local brew called "bai hoi". This very fizzy draft beer originated from eastern Europe. We continue though the streets and stalls, sampling the many wonderful culinary delights on offer, including Vietnamese flame grilled barbecue of meats, tofu and vegetables on skewers and much more.
We end the evening with a wander around the lake and take dessert at Hanoi's most famous ice cream parlour.
Today is filled with a full day cooking course at the well known Hanoi Cooking Centre. The expatiate owner has written many Vietnamese cooking books and the centre offers and excellent chance gain hands on experience of north Vietnamese cooking.
To start off your chef and guide will explain the basics of what you will be cooking, before heading out into the nearby Chau Long Market to explore and purchase many of the ingredients necessary for your day's cooking. Back in class it's quickly hands on to learn how to make a traditional dish.
Today is at your leisure, until you are transferred from the hotel to the airport for your departure flight.
Please contact us with requests for any amendments to the standard itinerary and for prices to suit your preferred dates of travel and the number of travellers in your party.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.
Silk Queen Hotel
Housed in modern Vietnamese-style building, Silk Queen Hotel provides charming accommodation in Hanoi. Rooms are tastefully furnished and free WiFi access is available throughout the hotel.
Housed in modern Vietnamese-style building, Silk Queen Hotel provides charming accommodation in Hanoi. Rooms are tastefully furnished and free WiFi access is available throughout the hotel.
The accommodation is only 350 yards away from Ngoc Son Temple. You can also check out St Joseph's Cathedral and Hoan Kiem Lake, both situated 450 yards away. Noi Bai International Airport is 13 miles away.
Cooled with air conditioning, each room is equipped with a minibar, a seating area and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. The en suite bathroom comes with shower facilities, bathrobes and bathroom slippers.
The friendly staff at Silk Queen Hotel's 24-hour front desk will be happy to assist you with travel arrangements and currency exchange services. You will also find a fitness centre, a business centre and a pool-table on-site.
Sample an authentic Vietnamese-style meal at the buffet restaurant. Alternatively, you may also opt for room service, packed lunches and grocery deliveries.
Hoi An Central
The Hoi An Central hotel is located within a colonial styled building, just 600 yards from the famous Japanese Covered Bridge.
If you want to stay in the very heart of ancient Hoi An, look no further than the Hoi An Central Hotel. The hotel is housed within a beautiful colonial style building and offers a great central location. An outdoor pool, restaurant and bar are all available at the hotel. The stylish rooms here offer air conditioning, flat screen TV's and some feature pool and garden views.
Housed in an 11-storey building, Romance Hotel offers 4-star accommodation and a beautiful rooftop swimming pool in Hue city, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage area. Featuring 2 on-site restaurants and 3 bars, it is within walking distance to the scenic
Housed in an 11-storey building, Romance Hotel offers 4-star accommodation and a beautiful rooftop swimming pool in Hue city, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage area. Featuring 2 on-site restaurants and 3 bars, it is within walking distance to the scenic Perfume River.
All ample rooms come with air conditioning and large windows offering plenty of natural lights. Magnetic locks, a cable flat-screen TV and minibar are included. Selected rooms have a spa bathtub and/or seating area. Attached bathroom is equipped with shower facility and a hairdryer. Extras include bathrobes, slippers and free toiletries.
Dong Ba Market and Truong Tien Bridge are within 0.6 miles from the hotel, while Dieu De National Pagoda is 0.9 miles away.
Operating 24-hour front desk, guests can enjoy soothing massage at Romance Spa, or have a good work out at the fitness centre.
Located on the first floor, Lucky Plaza serves an array of Vietnamese, Asian and European cuisines. Guests can enjoy international buffet breakfast at Romance Restaurant on 11th floor while enjoying views of Perfume River and sunset. Guests can also unwind at Rendez-vous Bar & Cafe, which have a selection of alcoholic drinks and beverages.
Ho Chi Minh
A great luxury option, with incredible views from the rooftop pool. Located just 650 yards from Ho Chi Minhâ€™s Opera House.
A great choice for those looking for a touch of class in Ho Chi Minh City. The Bay Hotel has an on-site restaurant and rooftop swimming pool. Rooms here are of a high standard, with a complimentary mini-bar, flat screen TV and fantastic views of the surrounding cityscape.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.
All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.
Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.
The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.
We use good quality hotels rated at the local 3 and 4-star level on this tour, together with a comfortable stay onboard a deluxe Junk boat in Halong Bay. Hotel rooms all have air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. All couples will be given a private double room.
Our trips feature a mix of different transport options. We want you to feel like you're really experiencing the country you're travelling through, but at the same time we want you to finish journeys refreshed enough to enjoy the next stage of the tour. With this in mind we use public transport where we think it offers a good local experience, this may include overnight sleeper trains, local buses and local ferries. We also use private transportation including jeeps, rickshaws or pickup trucks, and mini buses for sightseeing tours where required.
The sleeper trains in Vietnam are of a good standard and are popular with tourists. Each carriage has its own steward who ensures the train is kept clean and tidy. You will stay in a 4-berth cabin with 3 other passengers. Supplements can be paid to book a private cabin. Bedding is provided onboard the train. The berths are on two tiers and we cannot pre-book lower tier berths. A ladder is provided but you therefore need a reasonable degree of mobility to climb up to the top tier berths.
When travelling in a group, we cannot guarantee that everyone in the group will be seated together in the same cabins. However, the train stewards are generally very helpful at arranging seat swaps, and the local travellers on the train are friendly and interesting to talk to during your journey too.
Our South East Asia tours all include a 24-hour arrival and departure airport-hotel transfer service, and all other transfers throughout the tour. If you are already in the country then we will provide you with your first hotel details, contact numbers for our local representatives, and details of your first meeting time.
We want to give you as much flexibility as possible when it comes to booking your holiday with us. So, to take account of people with varying travel plans, we don’t include your international flights in the main tour price. We are however very happy to suggest flights to go with the tour. Please contact us with your preferred dates and departure airport and we’ll give you a selection of airlines, times and fares to choose from.
Your airport arrival & departure transfers are included on the first and last days of the tour.Our Vietnam tours start and finish in either Hanoi airport (HAN) or Ho Chi Minh airport (SGN).
If you are booking a tour that combines Vietnam and Cambodia we may not include the connecting flight between the two countries in the tour price (see the inclusions/exclusions or extension option sections for details). This flight can often be built into your main international flight ticket, or we may be able to book this flight for you separately if you prefer - please contact us and we will advise you on available airlines, times and prices.
As we don't offer guaranteed group departures on this tour we can run the itinerary for however many people you happen to be travelling with, starting from 1 upwards. The prices given for this tour are based on a minimum of 2 passengers travelling, so if you have a different number of passengers in your group please contact us for a customised quotation.
In Vietnam we provide fully trained, local English-speaking guides for all of the sightseeing tours and we'll generally use a different guide in each city who have specialist knowledge in these particular regions. When visiting the Mekong Delta and onboard Halong Bay cruises you'll be joined by other passengers as these are offered as shared tours. At Encounters Travel we only use local guides and reps. We feel this gives you the best experience of the country and the sites you are seeing. Please check our website for more details and profiles of some of our most famous guides.
The tour price includes entrance fees to all the tourist sites mentioned in the itinerary. You will need to cover the cost of entrance to any other extra sites that you may wish to visit.
Tipping is not part of culture in South East Asia in the same way that it is standard practice in other parts of the world. However it has become more customary but not compulsory in the tourist and service industry. Tipping is always optional, and any amounts paid should reflect excellent service. You may therefore wish to tip your guide and driver at the end of the tour. You should not feel obliged to tip any particular amount, and should consider your personal budget. We are often asked to provide a guide however, and can suggest that approx. USD 5-10 per person per day would be appropriate for your guide(s).
You should ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions. In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:
Thailand: Additional vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Tetanus. Malaria map. Yellow Fever certificate: Required if arriving from or having transitted through an infected area.
Vietnam: Additional vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid. Malaria map. Yellow Fever certificate: Required if arriving from an infected area.
Cambodia: Additional vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid. Malaria map. Yellow Fever certificate: Required if arriving from or having transitted through an infected area.
Laos: Additional vaccinations: Diptheria, Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Typhoid. Malaria map. Yellow Fever certificate: Required if arriving from an infected area.
The above information can change at short notice. For up to date health information & vaccination requirements we recommend that you contact your medical practitioner or a travel clinic.
Malaria: Vaccinations are not available against Malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can be very serious and sometimes fatal. You should avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers and applying insect repellents to exposed skin. When necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. Mosquitoes are most active during and after sunset. You should consult with your GP/medical practitioner/travel clinic about the most appropriate malaria prophylactic medication to take for the regions you are visiting.Yellow Fever: This disease is spread by infected mosquitoes that bite during the day. A Yellow Fever Certificate of vacinnation may be required as a condition of entry depending on which country you are arriving from, or that you have travelled or transitted through recently (including connecting flights with stopovers of over 12 hours). You can view a World Health Organisation map of areas where the virus is present in monkeys and therefore a potential risk to humans. Please ensure you have this certificate with you and to hand if necessary.
Please inform us of any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma and any prescription medicine you may be taking. We also need to know about any food allergies or physical disabilities that you may have.
Passports should be valid for at least six months after your departure from the country. Please do not bring an almost full or almost expired passport. Visa arrangements are the responsibility of the traveller, and requirements are subject to change by the local authorities.
British citizens (plus Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Russian, Sweden, Norway, Finland, , France, Germany, Italy, Spain) are currently subject to a visa exemption scheme, so no visa is required for stays in Vietnam of up to 15 days. Other nationalities and those staying longer in Vietnam will need to obtain a visa in advance. As this isn't always convenient we offer the option of obtaining a visa on arrival approval letter which means that you can then purchase you visa on arrival in Vietnam. However if you try to board the flight without this letter or a visa you'll be refused board. Visa approval letter fees are normally USD 10 p/p for single entry, or USD 15 p/p for multiple entry visas. The visa stamp fee on arrival at the immigration desk is then USD 25 p/p for single entry, or USD 50 p/p for multiple entry. These fees are given as a guide and may vary over time and subject to nationality. Please contact us if you have any queries.
The Vietnamese currency is the 'Dong' (VND). Most people prefer to be paid in Dong rather than US dollars. It can sometimes be difficult to change large notes at smaller villages so try to keep a stash of smaller notes with you.
You can also change all major currencies with any private moneychangers, at the local markets, shops or hotels, or at a bank. Banks usually open from 8.00am to 3.00pm, except Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Although all major currencies are usually accepted, the US$ is by far the most widely accepted and preferred currency, with large notes ($50 and $100 bills) getting a better exchange rate. Travellers' cheques in major currencies are accepted at all banks, though a commission will be charged.
At banks throughout Vietnam you can draw cash, in both dong and dollars on all major credit cards. Approx. 3% commission will be charged for this service. Many souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels will accept payment with credit cards. There is, however, a 3-4% surcharge.
There are ATMs in Major cities like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Hué, which accept major credit cards. We recommend that you consider bringing both credit cards, some cash in a hard currency (e.g. GB Pounds, Euros, US Dollars), and some travellers' cheques.
Luggage limits: There is no luggage limit for this tour. However, most airlines restrict you to between 20kg and 25kg for your hold luggage and between 5kg and 10kg for hand luggage. Please check with your airline before travelling to the airport.
Climate and Clothing: There are three reasonably well-defined seasons in Vietnam, but unlike in Europe, where seasons are temperature based, Vietnam is tropical and generally speaking warm all year round. Take light clothes with something warmer for the winter nights. Some light raingear would be useful in the wet season.
Other items: We recommend you also bring:
This tour is designed as a sample tailor-made tour itinerary. As such we do not offer set group departure dates that you can join. Rather, the tour is available for you to do privately starting on any date of the year. Guideline seasonal prices are given below, based on 2 people travelling. If you would like to adjust the tour itinerary, or there will be more or less people travelling, please contact us and we will customise a price for you.
For many people planning a trip to Vietnam, the weather will be a determining factor in choosing when to travel. In general there isn't really a 'bad' time to visit Vietnam as you'll normally experience a mix of sunshine and rainy days at most times of the year. In the north of Vietnam May to October generally experiences hot, humid weather with high rainfall and November to April is generally a bit cooler with little rainfall. Central Vietnam generally experiences hot and dry weather from January to August and high rainfall from September to November. In the South of Vietnam you'll generally experience hot and dry weather from November to April and rainfall from May to October. Please speak with our reservations team who will be happy to help you in selecting an appropriate time for your tour.
If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...
You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.
Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.
If you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally, or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.
If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour. If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.
We are a UK registered company and an ABTA Member (Y4447) and you can be confident when booking with us that your money is safe and protected.
Financial failure insurance is also provided through Affirma to protect all customers for the land portion of your tour.
Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')
It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.
General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.
You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.
Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.