Trails of Vietnam

14 days
from
$2,649 AUD
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4.6 / 5 from 75 reviews >
Moderate
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Trip code: 
AOF
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailor Made Adventures
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
6–16
Min age:
16

On foot, in the saddle, with paddle - actively discover the best of Vietnam!

Whether it's kayaking beneath towering cliffs in the sea, cycling by vibrant green paddy fields in the Mekong Delta or trekking amongst colourful hilltribes, this dynamic trip allows us to interact with the local people and environment in a way we couldn't by vehicle alone. We get a great insight into everyday life as well as seeing all the major sights. Of course all this activity needs fuelling, which gives us the perfect excuse for sampling the superb Vietnamese cuisine.

Highlights

  • Cruise and kayak along the emerald waters and limestone peaks of Halong Bay
  • Dip into traditional Vietnamese culture by trekking through lush hill tribe villages
  • Walk and cycle on a tour through historic towns of Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi
  • Dig a little deeper into Vietnam’s history by crawling through the Cu Chi war tunnels
  • Sample local produce and float through the Mekong Delta by boat

Key information

  • 8 nights hotels, all with ensuite facilities
  • 1 night boat with twin share cabins
  • 1 night standard homestay guesthouse in the Mekong Delta
  • 2 nights basic house/longhouse with dormitory/shared bath
  • 1 night sleeper train, soft-bed berths
  • Travel by bus, boat, sleeper train and internal flight
  • Reasonable fitness required
  • Remote and city locations visited
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus local leader
  • Countries visited: Vietnam

What's included

  • 12 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 4 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:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
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.

Responsible Travel

Tourism can be a real help to local communities, providing income, positive cultural exchanges and a financial incentive to protect their natural environment. Ours is a 'total approach' to responsible tourism, covering everything from the way we plan and operate our trips to the practices of Exodus as a company. 

As much as possible, we try to use accommodations that are locally owned or at least employs local staff to ensure that our visit has a positive effect on employment levels and economy in the region. Throughout the trip, we will have the chance to stay in traditional hill-tribe longhouses and homestay guesthouses which are hosted by local families, providing clients a real insight into the Vietnamese way of life.

During the free afternoon in Hoi An, clients can plan a visit to ‘Reaching out’, a social enterprise that provides opportunities for people with disability to learn skills as artisans and gain employment so that they will be able to fully integrate with their communities and lead independent lives. Purchasing their handmade gifts is a form of support to local production and its worthy cause.

When in Hanoi, we strongly encourage groups to have a communal meal at KOTO, an NGO that provides a two year course in hospitality, English and life skills training to 16-22 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of the graduates have gone on to continue developing their careers at KOTO restaurants or have gained employment elsewhere with their training making it a great initiative to support.

In March 2019, Exodus Travels launched the Exodus Travels Foundation where we support initiatives all around the world. But it cannot exist without travellers who care. Get involved or learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus here

Itinerary

Hanoi
to
Saigon
  • Day 1

    Start Hanoi

    Begin your adventure in Hanoi, a city where an unstoppable energy thrives alongside traditional Vietnamese culture and a colonial charm permeates the broad tree-lined boulevards, most noticeably from the faded French architecture.

    Whether you’re buying baguettes and inexpensive coffee from the grand doorways of a past era, drifting alongside Hoan Kiem Lake or roaming the animated streets, Hanoi offers a delicious first taste of Vietnamese culture. Even crossing one of many manic roads serves as a memorable experience!

    This evening there will be a welcome briefing with your leader followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant.

    May de Ville City Centre Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    To Da Bac; trek through Dzao Tien country; overnight in hill-tribe longhouse

    This morning we transfer (approx. 4 hours) to Hoa Binh Province. Travelling up and over the Truong Son Mountain Range affords lush green views, serving as the perfect precursor of the scenery for the following days. We journey to the peaceful Sung Village, the home of approximately 70 Dzao Tien ethnic minority/hill-tribe families.

    Upon arrival, we will be served lunch cooked by a local family before heading off on an afternoon trek where we will learn about traditional agriculture and also visit a limestone cave and an ancient tea plantation. We will spend the night staying with a family and have the chance learn more about rural life in this beautiful part of the country. 

    Sung Village Homestay

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Trek amongst hill-tribe villages

    By now the beeping and bustling of Hanoi will be a faint memory, and the day is spent delving deeper into this slice of rural paradise. After an early breakfast, we start our trek. Walking for approximately 5 hours we will pass through a picturesque valley made of quilt-like rice terraces, palms and small villages. We’re also rewarded with fantastic views of the Da Reservoir and its turquoise waters. We will arrive in the village of Da Bia in time for lunch served by a Muong family that we will be staying with. There will be some time near the end of the day free for those who might like to swim in the reservoir or choose to hire a kayak and explore a little further. 

    Da Bia village Homestay

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Boat to Thung Nai; Hanoi city tour

    A short walk this morning will take us to the reservoir where we will board a private boat for our journey (approx. 1-1.5hrs) to Thung Nai harbour. We’ll stop for lunch and if time permitting, have the option of visiting the Muong ethnic minority museum to learn a little more about one the main ethnic groups of the area.

    On return, our city tour of Hanoi introduces the many layers of Vietnamese culture and history. Sites include Hoa Lo, the Temple of Literature, and the Old Quarter, the centuries-old soul of Hanoi. Stepping into this commercial labyrinth is not as confusing as it first may seem, but only once you realise that it’s ‘36 streets’ indicate the type of products sold. So why not take a turn down Silk Street, Souvenir Street or even Gold Street? The remainder of the afternoon/early evening is free, perhaps to enjoy the view from a lakeside café. If you wish to opt for an optional activity, your tour leader can arrange a viewing of the famous water puppets, an art form dating back to the 11th century where folktale and legends are playfully recounted among the sounds of wooden bells, bamboo flutes and cymbals.

    May De Ville City Centre Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    To Halong Bay; cruise/kayak; dinner and overnight on boat

    After an early start, we transfer (approx. 4 hours) to Halong Bay where a boat awaits us, ready to cruise along the legendary Halong Bay, otherwise known as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’. Legend has it that Halong Bay’s islands were formed by a dragon’s plunge into the waters. Carving crevasses on its way, the dragon left what is now roughly 3000 exquisitely eroded limestone peaks rising from emerald waters. Soak up the enigmatic atmosphere this karst scenery creates, before kayaking to places inaccessible by boat (weather permitting). A sea food lunch is served on board, and the evening is yours to unwind upon tranquil waters. The night is spent in twin share cabins with en suite facilities.
    Overnight Boat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Cruise then return to Hanoi; overnight train to Hue

    As the boat continues to cruise along the majestic peaks, there will be new opportunities to immerse ourselves in Halong Bay’s mystical quality. After returning to port, we will transfer to the train station in Hanoi and board the Reunification Express for the overnight train ride to Hue (approx. 13 hours). The overnight train journey is a great way to travel like the locals and really experience Vietnam.
    Overnight Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Sightseeing by private bus and bicycle in Hue

    Arrive early morning in the cultural and historical centre of Vietnam, Hue. Brimming with charisma, Hue has impacted several poets in its time and serves as a reminder of Vietnam’s imperial glories. This morning, we take a bus transfer to the Imperial Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda to peep into the life of Nguyen emperors. With walls six miles in length, the Imperial Citadel is the most outstanding sight in town. We will explore the palaces, halls of the Mandarins and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City, once only open to the emperor, his eunuchs, and of course his concubines.

    Afterwards, in the afternoon, we will jump on local bikes and cycle around Emperor Tu Duc's tomb, which will be the last stop of the day - standing amidst a lake and a boundless pine forest, this tomb is deemed the most extravagant mausoleum of the great Nguyen Emperors and one of the most beautiful pieces of royal architecture in Vietnam. Whilst traffic will be a bit busier with motorbikes in a city like Hue, your leader is well prepared to safely manage cycling in a group and will provide clear guidelines.
    Park View Hotel or similar

  • Day 8

    Cycle to Thanh Toan local market; drive to Hoi An

    Take a picturesque cycle-ride past villages and rice paddies to the small village Thanh Toan and indulge in its legendary market. Travelling as the locals do, it's easy to discover the sights, sounds and smells of the villages surrounding Hue. (The cycling is aprox. 15km on mostly flat terrain).

    Following this, a 130km drive to Da Nang will pass through the beautiful peninsula of Lang Co, situated between the crystal waters of a lagoon and the Eastern Sea, as well as the awe-inspiring Hai Van pass, known as the ‘Pass of the Ocean Clouds’. Once in Da Nang, climb the Marble Mountains and uncover the large caves used by the Viet Cong as a hospital base during the war. Rewarding views stretching over My Khe beach and the surrounding countryside will be waiting for you once you reach the mountain peak, the latter of which makes up our next home for 2 nights, Hoi An.
    Le Pavillon Hoi An Boutique Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Walking tour of Hoi An; free afternoon

    Embrace the sleepy ambience seeping through Hoi An on our walking tour (approx. 3-4 hrs) of  Vietnam’s original European trading port town dating back to the mid-16th century. Often described as a living museum, Hoi An boasts more than just grace and atmosphere. Wooden merchant houses and pagoda-style temples line the streets, architecturally reflecting the Japanese, Chinese and European influences on the town.

    The afternoon is free to enjoy what many call their favourite town in Vietnam, and it’s easy to see why. Take a boat trip on the Thu Bon River, relax by the riverside, meander around the thriving riverside markets, or indulge in shops famous for their silk. Alternatively, why not hire a bike and make your way through Hoi An’s pretty countryside towards Cua Dai beach, past markets, schools and villages (5km). There may also be the option to spend the afternoon kayaking through the coconut-palm lined canals in Cam Thanh village for those keen. 
    (Walking tour approx 3-4 hrs)

    Le Pavillon Hoi An Boutique Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Fly to Saigon; afternoon visit Cu Chi Tunnels

    Transfer to Da Nang airport and fly to Saigon (approx. 70 mins), a city full of chaotic thrills.  Please be aware that as Saigon is located in the south, it is likely to be much warmer and humid than the north of the country.

    Upon arrival into Saigon, a 1.5 hr drive will then take us to the Cu Chi tunnels. Crawl through the infamous and intricate system of tunnels and experience the spirit of guerrilla warfare! Used by the Viet Cong during the war for its escape routes as well as living quarters, the network covers 3 levels and approximately 240km of tunnels. Although they were traditionally very narrow, they have now been widened to allow an extensive exploration of the system. Even so, claustrophobes should feel free to bask outside in the sunshine if they do not wish to take part! 
    Sonnet Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Cycle ride to Cai Be; visit handicraft workshops; drive to Can Tho

    Arrive in the small market town of My Tho after a 1.5 hr drive. After hopping onto our bikes we will follow the Mekong River through quiet back roads towards Cai Be (approx. 30 km). Known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta produces the majority of Vietnam’s tropical fruits, some of which you will have a chance to sample, as well as sugar cane and coconuts. Transfer back to Can Tho to relax and soak up the atmosphere of this quiet riverside town, or explore the maze of backstreets and wide boulevards.
    Saigon Can Tho Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Boat trip to floating markets; cycle ride; boat trip to island homestay guesthouse

    Early start for a boat trip along the Bassac River towards Cai Rang, the largest and liveliest floating market in the Delta. Float through a maze of boats, rife with fruits, vegetables and plants and watch the techniques locals use to make a living. One includes attaching their produce on to long poles and hanging them above the boat, enabling them to showcase their items to buyers from all angles and distances. Since you’ll be witnessing authentic trading in full swing, there will be countless opportunities for you to capture traditional scenes on camera.

    Afterwards, we cycle to Vinh Long through rural villages and scenic landscapes (approx. 40 km). Reaching the end of the day, we will be transferred by motor boat to an island in the middle of the Mekong River for overnight at a simple homestay guesthouse built in the style of a local house. Bedding, a mosquito net and a small towel are provided.
    Homestay Guesthouse

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 13

    Cruise to Cai Be; to Saigon for afternoon city tour

    Cruise by boat along the Cai Be Floating Market and stop to visit small cottage industries manufacturing local products such as popped rice, sweets, pancakes and wine. Recently, Cai Be floating market is becoming less crowded and smaller as fruit trading is mostly now done by trucks due to the bridge being built. However, this is still a great opportunity to see a local market and the trade being conducted traditionally on a smaller scale.

    Return to Saigon, a city once devastated by the Vietnam War, and now a bustling free market city. A combination of old and new diversifies the city with temples standing defiantly among zooming scooters and modern developments. The Reunification Palace is one of the stops on our city tour, famous for its 1960s architecture and slightly garish appeal as much as its association with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Another stop is the War Remnants Museum, housing a vivid collection outlining the horrors of modern history and warfare and effects on innocent civilians. Be aware that these records of the Vietnam War are often very graphic and distressing.

    Heading to the romantic Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral throws yet another light on Saigon.
    Sonnet Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    End Saigon

    For land only clients, the tour ends this morning after breakfast. 

    Meals included: Breakfast
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.

Extend Your Trip

Angkor Wat Extension (from Saigon)

Code: XOF

'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 please check the FCO site and check under Vietnam / 'Entry Requirements'. If you have any questions about whether you need a visa for your trip please contact the Customer Operations department.

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

12 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 4 dinners are 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, with the exception of the night in the Mekong Delta.

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!

Is this trip for you?

This trip is rated Activity Level 3 - Moderate

This is an action packed holiday with activities that include cycling, kayaking and trekking so a good level of fitness is required.The weather can be hot and humid and cold in the winter months in the north around Hanoi and Halong Bay. Some of the days can be fairly long with early starts as there is a lot to see in the time you are there. Travel time is kept to a minimum although there are a few longer drives but there is time for sightseeing. Whilst choosing this trip please note that some of the accommodation will be basic but is clean and tidy.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
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, Boat, Guesthouse, Longhouse & Sleeper Train

You will spend 7 nights in comfortable hotels, 1 night in a more standard hotel, 1 night aboard a boat with twin share cabins, 1 night in a homestay guesthouse, 2 nights in a local longhouse and 1 night on a sleeper train.

The accommodation is generally of good quality, but you should also be prepared for a couple of basic nights. Two nights of this active adventure will be spent in traditional hill-tribe longhouses. We trek through native Dzao and Muong country to our overnight destinations of Sung Village and Da Bia Village where we will dine on local food and sleep as the locals do in wooden longhouses. This is communal living in the most authentic way. Hosted by hospitable local families we will gain a real insight into rural Vietnam.

En suite facilities are not available on the night at the homestay guesthouse in the Mekong Delta, the 2 nights at the traditional hill-tribe longhouses or the overnight sleeper train journey. 

During the overnight sleeper train journey, you will be accommodated in soft-bed berths (usually 4 passengers to a berth). Vietnamese trains are safe to travel on but we recommend that you keep valuables with you at all times. Snacks are often offered on board (at an additional cost). Whilst most trains have western-style facilities, some train services are also equipped with squat toilets.

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 8 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:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
1300 131 564
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

Street Market in Hanoi

From spectacular caves and staggering karst formations to mouthwatering street food and complex cultural traditions,

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 March 2019
    Martin Wiselka

    Trails of Vietnam

    This was an action packed adventure holiday with different places to visit and activities each day. The itinerary allowed time for homestays in three different places including a very remote and rural hill farm and the homestays, trekking and cycling activities helped us to understand the country better and meet some of its wonderful people. There were so many photo opportunities in each destination. The trip truly allowed us to experience the varied climate, cultures and cuisine of Vietnam, including opportunities to sample some excellent home cooked local meals. The activities were moderately strenuous and the Leader always ensured that everyone was happy and included.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in the countryside around Hue visiting the local market seeing people tending their fields, water buffalo taking a bath and herding ducks across the road. Staying at the mountain homestay sharing a house with the local family

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Tan Nguyen was outstanding and ensured that everything occurred like clockwork in the complicated itinerary. He went out of his way to include everyone and ensure that everyone was enjoying their holiday and did everything with a smile on his face and great sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This was a very active holiday with many new experiences every day. Requires moderately strenuous physical fitness and activity. Padded cycle shorts recommended. Climate very varied, from surprisingly cold in the northern mountains to sweltering heat in the Mekong delta.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Vietnam is an amazing country and this trip helps you to experience its culture and highlights. Highly recommended.
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Penny Daffarn

    Brilliant holiday

    This is a packed 2 weeks, travelling the length of Vietnam on a huge range of transport. Coach, airplane, overnight train, boat, kayak, bikes and hiking. We got up close and personal to real Vietnam people, staying several nights in home stays.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the sunset from a boat in Halong Bay.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bao, was always smiling, and competently managed the logistics of this complicated trip. The next mode of transport was always there waiting for us!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip notes say walking boots, but not really necessary, stout shoes would be fine and then you don't have to carry heavy boots around. There are several times when we had to take overnight bags, once even for 2 nights, so plan for this. Cycle helmets are available, so again, not really necessary to bring your own. Book yourselves on the all the optional trips, they are all worthwhile. The exchange rate is around 29,800 dong to the GBP, we found it very useful to have a print out of some key amounts to get our heads round the prices! This is a busy trip, but not too physically challenging, the hiking and cycling are at a moderate level. It is very hot in Saigon, so be prepared.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Fabulous trip, well organised and a real insight into today's Vietnam
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Charles Smith

    An Assault on the Senses

    It's a while since we have done this sort of trouble, engaging, demanding yet with the luxury of a private guided tour. 10 hours on a Dreamliner and you are plunged into the teeming chaos of Old Quarter Hanoi. A mixture of sharp modern and decrepitude, high-tech phones and spiders web cables. And the motorbikes! There are 45 million and they are either on the road or blocking the pavement thus making road walking essential but dangerous. From the steamy challenges of Hanoi to Sa Pa at a cool 1600 meters. Virtually nothing remains of the old French hill station; in 20 years a whole new tourist city has arisen with hundreds of hotels. The contrast with the surrounding ethnic villages is stark: Red Dzao women with shaved eyebrows and foreheads elaborately attired in traditional bright embroidered outfits live in large, rudimentary cedarwood houses. Mud floor, three open fires without chimneys, one for cooking, one for the rice vodka still and yet another for curing hams. No windows and lit by a single bulb, pigs and chickens wandering at will. Below are the perfectly contoured rice fields, vegetables at the base plus odd quirks like orchid, cardamom and salmon farms. Government has provided concrete roads, schools and health centres. Satellite dishes, mobile phones have arrived and motorbikes have replaced horses.... Almost all of that in the last 10 years. See it now before it is gone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Driving towards Nirvana: It takes a while to get used to the nature of driving in Vietnam. We had four different drivers and we remain in awe of the challenge that they faced and the way it was met. The infrastructure was wrecked after the American war and many other priorities existed before roadbuilding could begin. It is a very long thin mountainous country much of it above 1000m so roadbuilding is a challenge even if you can afford the machinery. Roads are still being upgraded, from tracks to single lane and that means long sections of road works. Rainfall is high and washouts frequent. There are 45 million motorbikes in a country of 97 million people. In cities they drift across lanes, driving illegally and in the countryside wobble about carrying astonishing loads or families of four. So driving requires that you learn horn-speak: one means 'be aware'; two means 'I am coming through'; three means 'wake up, or we'll both be in trouble!' Yet it is all done with tolerance, patience and a complete lack of aggression. Only possible where the overriding ethos is Buddhist. European attitudes would wreck the system. Bad parking is tolerated, water buffaloes, dogs, chickens, even babies patiently driven around. We did not see an accident and the cars are not dented. Low speed limits are adhered to and are part of the safety solution. Progress in both senses of the word is slow but you get there and may even learn something about achieving Nirvana.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This was a private tour and we had three different guides all of whom were good, knowledgeable and well-organised. All timings were adhered to and we appreciated the high level of service.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A Sunday market in Bac Ha was a highlight; there are not many places in the world where you will see 1000 water buffalo for sale together with the stunning mix of ethnic costumes from the surrounding villages. Ideally we would recommend travelling up on Saturday night from Hanoi on the overnight sleeper train and then being driven direct to the market from there. If you only have limited time and want some experience of ethnic tribes the journey out from Hanoi to Mai Chau is only a few hours yet enables you to see village life, craft skills and a vast range of agriculture. The Muong people are charming, welcoming and do not push their sales pitch to hard!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Green Tangerine restaurant in Old Quarter Hanoi is truly outstanding. Also in the old quarter we stayed in the Essence hotel which we would recommend and dined twice at their sister hotel a couple of blocks away. It has more atmosphere than the dining room at the main hotel. Both these hotels are linked to Aira boutique hotel in Sa Pa which we would also strongly recommend. It's a bit outside the city but has good views and a great sense of peace
  • Reviewed February 2019
    Jo Brown

    Vietnam

    Fab

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in Hue

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Superb, never stopped smiling. Patience of a saint.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Would have preferred 1 less pagoda and another trek
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Sarah Morland

    Trails of Vietnam

    A brilliant trip! Great combination of staying in busy cities, rural home stays and an overnight on a train! Cycling, hiking and kayaking. Sightseeing and culture. A beautiful country and lovely people. Delicious food and everything ran like clockwork!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I think the friendliness of the Vietnamese people and their welcoming smiles and humour.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bon - our group leader was fantastic. Professional, super-organised, informative and fun. Very kind - and sensitive to everyone’s needs. He was an absolute star.
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Margherita Pedroni

    Great experience, amazing food and great group!

    I am very happy with Exodus travel. First time I was using a big organization and a tour operator with a big group. I must say I was positively surprised! The trip was very well managed and well structured as an overall. The local guide did an incredible job and he was the best guide I ever had. The group was great and I was lucky to be with such good people. I have really enjoyed and spend a great time together. I am also happy with the back management of exodus in London. With all the info they have sent and how they have helped me from remote. Only point: to improve the chat online service as I still had to call to make the payment and give my card details on the phone. Maybe add a paypal system or a more user friendly card payment (that accepts cards from outside UK or similar... anyways my credit card payment didn’t go through online and had to call to the UK... which was a bit expensive from Dubai)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Food! The Marble Mountain Halong Bay Hoi An Delta river (the small boat the guide add the last minute) War museum

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The best! Great guy and amazing service! Very attentive to details. SUPER organized!! Caring and approachable. Honestly I was super happy with him (and I always had small problems with guides, but never with him!!!) Never had such a punctual and exact coordination with transports, busses timings, boats connections etc. Never waited a second, all very smooth. Maybe to be more concise when speaking about the most relevant things of a monument or a site. But all was interesting and adding great information

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring an extra small bag for short nights out in the homestays (and leave the big luggage at the main hotel). Bring a good repellent with deet.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    To improve the bike service in Hue. The one in the south was perfect. But in Hue the bikes were old and not great... but overall it was nice and all manageable.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Judith Ridout

    Vietnam and Cambodia - Tailor made

    Our trip was arranged by Thidara for our family of four - my husband, myself and our two 20-something daughters. We asked for a trip which incorporated sight seeing with some more adventurous activities and some opportunities to do things independently. The itinerary met our brief perfectly. We were able to see the main sights on our list with interpretation provided by our excellent guides and also do kaiaking, cycling and visiting a cave which was off the regular tourist trail. We travelled by boat, overnight train, plane, bicycle, tuck tuck as well as dedicated minibuses with our trusty drivers braving the incredible traffic! It was a fabulous trip which was made all the more enjoyable as all the stress was removed due to the reliability of our guides and the detailed organisation.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The two highlights had to be cruising and kaiaking on Halong Bay and seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise, however learning about the history of both Vietnam and Cambodia was also fascinating. Travelling south by road meant that we crossed the DMZ and could visit the museum there. We also went to the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh. We did a cooking class in Hoy An which was another must do. Our guide helped us out with finding an excellent class which we thoroughly enjoyed.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had four guides during our trip and all were excellent. Helpful, informative and passionate about their country and its treasures. It really added to the enjoyment of the trip that they were able to answer our questions and guide us through the process of getting to know the culture and lifestyle of this fascinating area.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Vietnam and Cambodia are great places to visit. They feel very safe and there is so much to see and do. The tailor made trip worked very well for us as we had our two daughters with us who are 21 and 23. They enjoyed the freedom of being able to choose places to eat in the evenings but were also keen to do all the activities
  • Reviewed September 2018

    Insight into how ordinary people in Vietnam live

    I've been to Vietnam before, but this trip was completely different. This time I felt that I was really getting under the skin of the country to understand how ordinary people, rather than emperors or presidents, live. At each of the homestays we had the opportunity to chat with the families we were staying with and to ask them questions about things as varied as their daily working routines, the pressures they faced, family structures etc. and had the experience of staying in a typical family house. In addition to that there was a packed agenda of sightseeing visits, activities and eating that left me happily exhausted by the end of the trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first homestay was (just) the best part of the trip. The family was so welcoming, so obviously pleased to have us staying with them and so interested in telling us about their lives that it got the trip off to a great start and set the tone for the rest of it. Travelling there, amidst the devastation caused by recent unseasonably heavy rain, was an experience in itself. Close behind this were: the trek from the first homestay to the second, through the hills, with amazing views down mist laden valleys to the lake where the second homestay was, and the dancing with the village dance troupe in the evening at the second homestay (I was grabbed by the village flautist to pair him in the dancing, probably because he thought that as a 64 year old male I would be even worse than he was, but I reckon I - just - edged it!).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader, Linh Vo, was outstanding. He had a compendious knowledge of Vietnam and its culture, people history and food, which he communicated effortlessly, coupled with personal experiences to bring it to life. His organisation was immaculate: everything that was supposed to happen did happen and at the time when it was meant to happen, with Linh on the phone double and triple checking ahead to make sure that it did. He was clearly well known, popular and much respected in many of the places that we visited, which meant that we got extra-special attention that made a real difference to my experience. He had a great sense of humour and was a terrific person to travel with.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Vietnamese food is amazing. Make a list of all the food you eat, because at the end you will want to look back on it and maybe cook some of it back home, but if you haven't made a list (I didn't) you just won't be able to remember. Make sure you try egg coffee in Hanoi.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    jennifer stephenson

    vietnam adventure

    excellent trip with many highlights and brilliant guide --Son Nguyen

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    meeting the Hill tribe people in North Vietnam and the two home stays which were both lovely

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Son was brilliant and an excellent guide --- was fantastic

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    travel light --dont need to much luggage and move frequently so too heavy a bag is a pain for all concerned ! mosquito repellent is needed as we were bitten quite a bit even though mosquitoes were not immediately obvious - bring a refillable bottle for water go to some spin classes for the cycling --although distance not great it was hard work in that heat =-!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    altogether was a great trip and would recommend i! we would certainly do another exodus trip if we travel to other destinations and felt it was very well organised leader was great and many thanks for looking after us so well!
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Karen Maynard

    Wonderful adventure

    This was our first Exodus trip and we were so impressed. The trip is action packed and Vietnam has so much to offer. There was a reasonable level of activity (walking and cycling and a kayaking trip), combined with a chance to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and meet the local villagers. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to maximise their time in Vietnam and get a really good feel for the country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We went on a boat overnight on Halong Bay to see the stunning and famous limestone rocks. The sunrise the next morning was breathtaking.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Thoa, was fantastic. Nothing was too much trouble and he is a credit to Exodus. He looked after us very well, accomodated everyone's requirements and showed us the best sights and great places to eat and drink with the locals. All the travel arrangements were organised seamlessly and we felt rather spoilt. He encouraged us all to try new experiences and was great company.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trip is very busy - a new location nearly every day and lots of travelling. This worked really well for our group as there is so much to discover in Vietnam but don't choose it if you want a restful trip. The cycling and walking is manageable if you are active and great if you like variety but probably rather tame if you do walk or cycle regularly as a hobby.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a great value trip and I would really recommend it. There was quite a bit of rain in the North when we travelled in August and, although it didn't spoil our trip, its unpredictability may affect some activities.

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