Tour type: Small Group
Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 12
Accommodation: 3 to 4-star hotels, junk boat & sleeper train
Transport: A/C minibus, junk boat, sleeper train, flight & riverboat
Highlights: Ancient Hanoi tours, street food walk, Halong Bay overnight junk boat cruise, perfume river in Hue, colonial Hoi An, boat trip and overnight homestay on the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh evening Vespa tour
This comprehensive Vietnam tour introduces you to its top tourist highlights combined with some less visited rural areas, local encounters and activities. We start in Hanoi with a chance to join the locals by the lake doing their morning Tai Chi. Or sleep in and then rejoin the group for a Vietnam language lesson before we tour some of Hanoi's important monuments and then enjoy the late afternoon walking through the narrow streets of the Old Quarter discovering many delicious new tastes and flavours of Vietnamese street food.
Our next highlight is an overnight cruise on a traditional junk boat through the incredible limestone & rainforest scenery of Halong Bay, regarded by many as one the Natural Wonders of the World. An overnight train journey on the Reunification Express takes us south to Hue where you'll have a guided tour of this imperial city before a beautiful scenic drive brings us to the port town of Hoi An with its traditional architecture and laid-back life-style. Whilst in Hoi An you'll visit some villages specialising in pottery and carpentry and have a free day to relax and explore, perhaps getting a new suit or dress made by one of the famous local tailors. A range of options are available here to discover the area further.
A short flight then takes us south to former capital of the French Colony of Chochin China - Ho Chi Minh City, though many still refer to it as Sai Gon. The city is now the vibrant business hub of the country where you'll see newly building sky scrapers standing in contrast beside traditional Vietnamese buildings. In the evening we head out on the back of vintage Vespa scooters to discover the city, try the food and drink, and listen to some live music with the locals.
Our final adventure is then into the Mekong Delta where we spend the night with a local fisherman and his family, try catching the famous Elephant Ear fish, visit the village market, and learn some Vietnamese cookery skills. Finally the tour ends back in Ho Chi Minh where extra nights and more touring options are available. You can also continue from here into Cambodia on our Vietnam and Cambodia Encounters tour.
After arriving at the airport, the Vietnam tour starts with a tour guide meeting you and transferring you to your hotel in Hanoi. They'll give you some initial introductions to the country and Hanoi during the drive to the hotel, help you settle in and schedule a pick-up time for the next day.
You can decide this evening whether to join the visit to Hoan Kiem Lake to watch or join in with the local's early morning Tai Chi exercise.
Single room supplement (VESGVE)
Extra day in Hanoi - pre-tour
If you've decided to join the visit to Hoan Kiem Lake to watch or join in with the local's early morning Tai Chi exercise, you'll leave the hotel with guide at around 6am this morning before returning for a tasty breakfast. The group all then joins a fun Vietnamese language lesson with the guide, learning some words and sayings which will come in handy during the tour.
On our tour today, we'll visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda and the Presidential Palace before visiting an 11th-century relic. After that, we'll head to the Temple of Literature, which was built in homage to the Chinese scholar Confucius.
The afternoon starts with a visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, before travelling to the Hanoi's Old Quarter for a culinary adventure, where we'll explore the narrow streets, learning about and sampling the huge variety of different street foods. To wash all the food down, we'll also have the chance to try some of the local brews - some traced back to Eastern Europe!
As night falls, the narrow sidewalks are packed with locals on stools, gathering around sizzling woks and bubbling pots. If you're in the mood for something sweet, we'll also have the chance to enjoy some dessert from Hanoi's best-known ice cream parlour.
The day starts with a scenic drive to Ha Long Bay, known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by lush rainforests.
We'll embark on a classic Junk boat cruise through the unique limestone islands found in Ha Long Bay, along with its mysterious and beautiful caves scattered throughout, before savouring a delectable lunch on the deck.
After lunch, we'll explore the Sung Sot Cave - the most beautiful cave in Ha Long Bay. It's also known as the "Cave of Surprises" because the French Admiral who discovered it in 1901 was surprised by how big it was. We'll spend the rest of the day cruising to Titov island, where you can go swimming or relax on the beach before returning to the boat to enjoy sunset on the sundeck before we enjoy a tasty dinner and socialising with the rest of the guests.
We'll spend the night on the boat, taking in the natural sounds of your Vietnamese surroundings.
Halong Bay junk boat
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The day starts with some Tai Chi or a photo hunt before having breakfast on board the boat.
We'll then kayak around Luon Cave located on Bo Hon Island. The cave is arc-shaped and limited in height, which means the only way to visit it is via a small boat or kayak. Afterwards, we'll head back to the boat, have a chance to freshen up before the cruise takes us further along the bay, passing the Ba Hang fishing village, Dog Islet, and much more.
As we head back to the harbour, we'll have the opportunity to watch a fruit carving demonstration and participate in a cooking class before enjoying a traditional Vietnamese lunch.
We disembark reluctantly after lunch and return to Hanoi for some free time in the afternoon, with a day-use hotel room provided for you to freshen up in before we take the overnight Reunification Express sleeper train south to Hue.
On board sleeper train
Wake up on board today to the sight of rice paddies with their attendant farmers and water buffalo, small villages and rural farmland rushing past us. On arrival in Hue we transfer to our hotel before enjoying a private tour of this historically and culturally rich city and its ancient temples.
We'll spend the day exploring the Citadel - a UNESCO World Heritage site, before relaxing on a sunset cruise on the Perfume River as the evening ends with the sounds of traditional music. We'll spend the night in Hue City.
We'll head south along a beautiful stretch of coastline and over the scenic Hai Van Pas, to the picturesque riverside community of Hoi An.
We'll be treated to a walking tour of this charming traditional town now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the 16th to 18th centuries, Hoi An was a thriving international commercial port for Chinese, Dutch, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Arab merchants.
We'll then head upstream to visit the traditional pottery village of Thanh Ha. Here, we'll have a chance to make pottery products like vases, jars, bowls and pots, perhaps engraving your name on one to take home.
We'll head back on the boat and travel to the village of Kim Bong to marvel at its carpentry and it's shipbuilding area where wooden fishing vessels are built using traditional techniques. We'll also make a stop at a carpentry workshop where the carpenters create hand-crafted furniture, sculptures and souvenirs.
The cruise continues down the Bon River, where we watch the local fishermen doing what they do best, and possibly even join in.
Hoi An hotel
Hoi An is a lovely town, that many people return to time after time. This day is left free for you to explore individually, or take one of a variety of local options. These include a boat trip to visit some nearby islands and do some snorkelling; an exploration of the My Son Holy Land; a market visit, bike ride and cooking class in Tra Que village; or a fun tour with the local fishermen, learning how to cast nets, catch crabs, and race basket boats!
Hoi An is also famous for its tailors shops, and you've time today to get measured up and customise a brand new suit or dress that will be professionally made for you in record time, ready for you to pick up before you leave tomorrow.
Hoi An hotel
Exploring Cham Island
Visit My Son heritage site
Cooking class at Tra Que village
Fish & Chips tour
We leave Hoi An today and transfer to Danang airport to fly to Ho Chi Minh City. On arrival you have a little time after checking in to look around and refresh before we head out for a special evening tour exploring the city, it's food and music from a unique perspective, the back of a vintage Vespa scooter!
We start in Cafe Zoom for a cocktail and a few appetizers. We'll then head to a popular eating spot for a meal, before heading out on the back of a vintage Vespa scooter to experience the Saigon nightlife the way the locals do.
Your experienced drivers will make their way through Chinatown and the busy streets and alleys of District 4 to meet the locals and enjoy some street seafood and drinks. We'll pass through District 3 and District 1, taking in the sights of Banh Xeo, the speciality of Saigon and its southern food.
The Vespa tour continues to a hidden Vietnamese-style coffee shop to have a taste of live Vietnamese music as a local, before heading to another live music venue. Drinks and food are included and we finish around 10pm.
Ho Chi Minh City hotel
Today we'll drive through the Mekong Delta to the town of Cai Be, famous for its floating markets.
After touring the markets, we'll board a private boat and cruise along the maze of waterways and canals to Vinh Long. Here, we'll feast at the home of a Bonsai gardener for a sumptuous Delta lunch, including the popular 'Elephant ear fish', before continuing to explore the tributaries and canals of the Delta.
Towards the end of the day, we'll stop at the home of a local family, relax, before trying to catch fish by hand to prepare for dinner. Dinnertime will be with the locals, chatting with them and learning about the life of a farmer in the Delta before settling in for the night.
Mekong delta homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Wake up to the sounds of life on the Delta and have an early breakfast before cycling to a local market to buy some food for lunch, using the local language, which we learnt the previous night.
We'll have a chance to help the locals to cook some Vietnamese dishes for lunch, before saying 'Táº¡m Biá»‡t - Goodbye!' to the house owner and their children. Then it's back to Saigon to relax and we'll overnight in Ho Chi Minh City. A couple of optional tours are available this evening.
Ho Chi Minh City hotel
Saigon craft beer Vespa tour
The last day leaves you with free time to relax before we include a departure transfer to the airport for you to catch your flight back home. Additional options are also available today if you have a late afternoon or evening flight, or if you'd like to add some extra nights.
Extra day in Ho Chi Minh - post-tour
Half-day city tour
Cu Chi Tunnels tour
This tour is also available for booking privately for travel anytime through the year, and we can also customise the itinerary to fit your personal requirements. Please contact us for details and prices.
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.
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 more basic homestay in the Mekong Delta and a comfortable stay onboard a deluxe Junk boat in Halong Bay. Hotel rooms all have air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. Facilities at the homestay are simple but with all beds & bedding provided, and shared bathrooms.
All couples will be given a private double room.Please check the Single Room Supplement option for details on room sharing options and charges for solo travellers on this tour.
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.
We do also sometimes advertise flight inclusive packages from selected airports. Where these are shown on our website, prices are correct at the time of quoting, but are subject to continued availability of the fare used. Prices will be reconfirmed at the time of booking, and we will also provide the flight times and airline details before tickets are issued.
Flight inclusive prices are based on the cheapest Economy ticket class available which is generally non-refundable and non-changeable unless the flight is cancelled for reasons such as Covid-19, in which case the airlines are more flexible. More flexible ticket options, as well as Premium Economy and Business Class tickets are available on request for an additional supplement. Any changes made to flight inclusive bookings will be subject to the airline rules on your ticket.
We are committed to making sure our small-group tours in South East Asia have low maximum numbers as we feel this gives everyone in the group the best chance to get to know their fellow travellers and to hear and make the most of their guide. Having a smaller group also allows us to be a bit more creative with the places you stay and activities you do, which may simply not be possible with larger numbers. The group size for this tour is therefore a minimum of 2 and maximum of 12.
At Encounters Travel we aim to only use local guides and reps. We feel this gives you the best experience of the country and the sites you are seeing.On this tour we may use separate guides in Hanoi, Hue-Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh. The Halong Bay cruise and some optional tours are a sharing basis and you may join other travellers for these parts of the tour.
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 this US CDC information about where the virus is present and follow the links to further information detailing which countries need you to have a Yellow Fever vaccination as part of their entry requirements. 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:
We run regular small-group departures on this tour throughout the year starting on Saturdays. All departures are guaranteed to run with a minimum of 2 people. Departure dates and prices are listed on our website and on a separate dates & prices sheet available on request. Extra nights can be added to the start and/or finish of the tour if you would like to extend your time.
The tour can also be run privately on any other dates for any number of people. An additional supplement will be due for private departures, the amount depending on your dates and the number of people in your party.
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 your tour includes car hire, ior 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.
Before purchasing any travel insurance, please check the coverage provided for situations related to Covid-19, and for the rules about government travel advice. Your normal policy may not be suitable. Details about our own policies cover levels are given on our website.
We are a UK registered company and are committed to providing our customers with financial protection to provide peace of mind and to allow you to book with confidence.
We have therefore partnered with Trust My Travel Ltd., which provides financial protection services to over 2000 partners around the world. Funds paid to us by our customers are protected via an Insurance policy held by Trust My Travel. Each traveller and the description of services sold is declared against Trust My Travel’s insurance policy directly against our financial failure. In the event of our insolvency, you will be refunded for any unfulfilled products and/or repatriation to the UK (where applicable). 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.