Saigon – Phan Thiet – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Hanoi – Mai Chau – Hanoi – Halong Bay – Hanoi
This trip takes you to the popular as well as off-beat places in Vietnam to give you a real insight into the lives of modern as well as rural Vietnamese. The trip starts with the hustle-bustle of the ‘bike-city’ Saigon – sights, sounds and smells are bound to mesmerize you. Visit the French colonial town of Phan Thiet, home to the descendents of Cham dynasty and this where the famous fish-sauce originated. Chill out at the world famous beaches of Nha Trang before continuing to historical city of Hue to the most popular and charming town in Vietnam – Hoi An. Either in town or on the beach, this town will never cease to excite you with its beautiful beach, art galleries, cooking schools, street bazaars in the town centre and numerous tailoring shops who can make a quality dress as per your imagination overnight.
A bustling capital city of Hanoi shows you an interesting combination of modern, French colonial and Vietnamese architecture and the famous Old Quarters. . Visit the Muong Hilltribe region at Hoa Binh passing through the rice paddies and green mountains. Enjoy a cruise on a traditional Junk to see the nature’s gift to Vietnam – UNESCO Heritage site Halong Bay. This trip shows you the diversified make up of this beautiful country.
Day 1: Saigon
Arrival in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your Hotel.
Day 2: Saigon (B)
This morning, you will be taken for a tour of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) – a fast paced city with a unique mix of French colonial architecture, Chinese influences, a modern entrepreneurial spirit and numerous temples. On this tour, you will take in the highlights of Ho Chi Minh starting with an exploration of Saigon’s turbulent past with visits to the Reunification Palace (from outside) and the War Museum.
The tour continues to Ho Chi Minh’s finest examples of French colonial architecture with a visit to the Notre Dame cathedral and Post Office. Your Ho Chi Minh tour continues with a visit to Giac Lam Pagoda, the Cholon Chinese district. Tour concludes at the Ben Thanh market, practice your bargaining skills. Afternoon at leisure to explore the city on your own.
Day 3: Saigon-Cu Chi Tunnels-Saigon (B)
Today you will be taken for an excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels. One of the highlights of your Vietnamese holiday is bound to be your visit this morning to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an amazing complex of underground bunkers about 40 kms northwest of Ho Chi Minh City and near the Cambodian Border. The tunnel system was commenced in the 1940′s. During the US War, at one time the tunnels spread out for 350kms and were up to 7 metres deep. They served as shelter, storage facilities and a secret means of communication for the guerrilla army. An ingenious system of concealed entrances kept the occupants safe despite air attacks and many efforts to penetrate the tunnel complex.
Afternoon at leisure to explore the city on your own.
Day 4: Saigon-Phan Thiet (B)
Leave this morning from your Hotel by a private car and proceed to Phan Thiet enroute visiting the Dunes of Mui Ne. Mui Ne, located in Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan province, has long been considered the “Hawaii” of Vietnam. It boasts shady roads under coconut trees, a beautiful beach and cliffs battered by the waves of the sea. Arrive at Phan Thiet. Phan Thiet was popular summer resort under the French. It is famous throughout the country for its cuisine based on fish sauce-Vietnam’s favourite brand. Rest of the afternoon at leisure to explore the town on your own.
Day 5: Phan Thiet-Nha Trang (B)
Leave this morning by the private car and proceed from Phan Thiet to Nha Trang. This afternoon is free for you to explore the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang on your own.
Day 6: Nha Trang-Danang-Hoi An (B)
Today, you will be transferred from Nha Trang to Cam Ranh Airport to connect a short domestic flight from Nha Trang to Danang. On arrival, you will be met by our local representative and transferred to your Hotel in Hoi An, enroute visiting China Beach and the Marble Mountains.
This afternoon, take a half day walking tour of the charming town of Hoi An, visiting the Japanese Bridge, ancient houses, Phuc Kien Pagoda and the market. Also visit a Chinese Communal House or Hokkien Temple, ancient merchants’ houses, the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, and the colourful local market. Travelers can also see local residents raise silkworms and produce silk for Hoi An’s burgeoning textile industry.
Day 7: Hoi An (B)
Day at leisure to explore this historical town on your own
Day 8: Hoi An-Hue (B)
This morning, leave Hoi An by a private car and proceed to Hue. After check-in at the Hotel, proceed for a sightseeing of Old Imperial City -Visit Imperial Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, Thien Mu Pagoda, Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang with boat trip and Dong Ba Market.
Day 9: Hue-Hanoi (B)
Today, you will be transferred to Hue Airport to connect a short domestic flight to Hanoi. On arrival, you will be met by our local representative and transferred to your Hotel.
This afternoon your guide will take you on a brief walking tour of the fascinating Old Quarter of Hanoi, and Hoan Kiem Lake, followed by a visit some of Hanoi’s historical sights, including Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum (from ouside) and Ho Chi Minh’s house, as well as One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature.
Day 10: Hanoi-Mai Chau (B/L/D)
Start the drive to Mai Chau through nice scenery with rice paddies and green mountains. On arrival you will be welcomed by the friendly team of local Thai at Mai Chau Lodge. In the afternoon, take a short visit to Soldier Cave with the main chamber which can hold 400-500 people. Here the legend related to the cave will be told and a part of the country history is explained. Later then take a leisure walk to Thai Villages of Pom Coong and Lac.
Dinner at hotel with a traditional dance performance by the local Thái tribe
Day 11: Mai Chau–Hanoi (B/L)
Drive to Xam Khoe village. On arrival take a walking tour to Buoc, Van villages of Thai minority. Picnic or home cooked lunch. After this visit drive back to Hanoi.
Day 12: Hanoi-Halong (B/L/D)
After breakfast, drive through rice paddy fields to Ha Long Bay. Board a junk for a cruise among the hundreds of islets of Ha Long Bay. Enjoy a seafood lunch and a swim (weather permitting). Drop anchor in the late evening for an overnight stay on junk among the dramatic limestone peaks rising out of the sea.
Day 13: Halong – Hanoi (B)
Take a delightful morning cruise through the limestone cliffs and emerald waters of Ha Long Bay before returning to the dock. Drive back to Hanoi with a stop en route at a ceramic factory. Transfer to Hanoi, transfer to your Hotel in Hanoi.
Day 14: Hanoi (B)
Today, you will be transferred to Hanoi Airport in time to connect your onward flight.
Includes: Accommodation for 13 nights, meals as per itinerary, internal flights, transfers and sightseeing as given above, local English speaking guides and entrance fees
Notes: Independent program, can be operated in reverse.
Excluded: International flights, Visa, insurance, airport taxes, meals not included above, beverages during meals included in program, gratuities and any expense of personal nature.
Prices are valid from 01 Nov 2013 until 31 Oct 2014
Call 09 410 5060 or 0508 EXOTIC (0508 396 842) or email
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Rates are in NZ Dollars and are subjected to change due to fluctuation in exchange rates. Please read our T&C before booking
Usual business hours are from 8.00 am till 5.00 pm and offices generally close for lunch between 12.00 pm till 2.00 pm. Shops usually open till late even on public holidays. Vietnam is a shopper’s paradise and most shopping actually done in streets, markets and small stores. Vietnam is very popular for ceramics, lacquer ware, clothes, shoes, hand bags and paintings. Hoi An is particularly popular as the “tailoring capital of the world’ where you can get a dress made overnight at a fraction of the normal price at home. You can try your bargaining skills in the markets as most of the prices have a reasonable scope of bargaining.
Vietnam has recently opened its doors to tourism and is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in Asia. People are warm-hearted, humble and very friendly though their history has been scarred by frequent wars. Its economy is one the fastest growing ones and the pace of development is quite visible as you drive in the cities. Modern buildings are coming up among up replacing old houses. Away from the metropolitan cities, you can see the beauty and serenity of the country-side, green patches of rice paddies and young boys riding on water buffaloes – its all looks very picturesque.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go : Vietnam is year-round destination – there is not really a “best time”. Climate varies considerably from North to South due to wide range of latitudes and altitudes. North Vietnam generally has four seasons. Winter is from December to February when it can be cold (daytime temperature can be around 10 deg cel) in Northern region and you need to be prepared accordingly. Between July and November, short to heavy downpours are expected, often resulting in floods. Central region is also prone to cyclones during these months.
Visa : New Zealand passport holders need a Visa to enter Vietnam. A Single Entry Visa currently costs NZD 120 per person plus any other related costs. Your passport has be valid for a minimum of 6 months from your expected departure date from Vietnam. Please contact Vietnamese Consulate for more details.
Currency : Local currency of Vietnam is called Dong. Currency comes in bank notes in denomination of 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000 dongs. You can use US Dollars as well in most of your transactions – either in Hotels or stores or on street as well. Exchange rate can vary everyday. As in December 2012, the exchange rate was USD 1 = 19,000 dongs.
NZ Dollars is not a popular currency in Vietnam and it is advisable to carry US Dollars, preferably in smaller denominations for quick transactions. ATMs can be easily located in bigger cities like Hanoi, Saigon and Hoi An. Major credit cards are accepted by Hotels and big stores but small shops do not have facilities for credit cards.
Health : Vietnam does not have any particular health risk but general hygienic conditions are not the same as in New Zealand. There are a few precautions recommended – avoid eating food exposed to natural elements, ensure that mineral water bottle is properly sealed when you buy it, cover arms and legs in the evening to avoid mosquito bites. Carry your general medication with you and consult your doctor well in advance to prepare for the trip.
Food and drinks : Its cuisine is one of the highlights of Vietnam. The menu mainly comprises chicken, beef, duck, pork, fresh seasonal vegetables and seafood. A few dishes have the bearing of their French colonial legacy. Vietnamese food is always freshly cooked using very little oil and generally served in typical Vietnamese Fish Sauce. Excellent seafood dishes, rice noodles, fried rice dishes as well as vegetarian dishes are all very reasonably priced. You could try out local Vietnamese restaurants in the cities. Vietnamese beer is the main alcoholic beverage and is good – local beer is almost half the price as international brands. Local beers – especially Tiger and Larue are highly recommended.
Avoid drinking tap water in your Hotels. Always drink mineral water and ensure that bottles are properly sealed when you buy it. Most Hotels provide complimentary mineral water bottles in the room, replenished daily.
Safety & security : Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page.
Clothing : Casual and light clothes are recommended unless you are visiting northern or mountainous region during winters. In plains, expect a tropical weather most of the times and therefore, shorts, t-shirts are advisable. In the evening, you can wear smart casuals for dinner. Please take good walking shoes with non-slip sole as you will be required to walk frequently during your sightseeing programs and sometimes on uneven surface.
Language : Traditionally, Vietnamese language has been influenced by Chinese and even now, there are a few traditional shops with Chinese architecture and signage. Modern Vietnamese language is a mix of Chinese, Khmer and Tai languages. English is fast becoming popular among local people but in smaller cities, you may not have a clear communication while shopping on road sides.
Gratuities : Tipping is not mandatory but it is highly appreciated by the people who serve you. Before you tip, please check if the service charge has been added in the bill. If not, we can recommend 8%-10% of the total bill as tip. For your local guide and the driver, we can recommend a tip of USD 2.00 per person each per half day of service. To the Hotel Bell Boys, USD 1.00 on arrival or departure is sufficient.
Airport tax : Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure. Domestic taxes are also included in the air tickets.
Internet : Internet is common in hotel rooms and a lot of hotels also have internet facilities at their Reception or Business Centre for use by guests at a small fee. Cyber cafes are popular and can be found near your Hotel. Some Hotels provide internet facilities on complimentary basis in the lobby for their in-house guests.
Telephone : Mobile network cover almost the entire country – even in Halong Bay. Calling from Vietnam is cheap but Hotels generally charge 5-6 times the general call cost. Dialing code for Vietnam is +84 and if you are calling New Zealand from Vietnam, the code is +64. Telephone numbers of Hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. It is recommended to buy a mobile SIM card on arrival if you need to be in touch with people back home.
Time Difference : Vietnam is 6 hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 5 hours from October to March.
Photography : Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. If you are taking photos of local ladies, please politely ask for prior permission.
Electricity : Voltage supply in Vietnam is 220 volts and round 2-pin plugs are used. Few Hotels have adapters available which you could borrow free of charge during your stay but it might be a good idea to carry one from home. Also advisable to carry a small torch as power cuts are frequent in Vietnam. Please visit this website for more information on plugs : http://kropla.com/electric2.htm
Postage : Postal system in Vietnam is rather slow and you mail can take 2-3 weeks to reach. Postage is cheap and the Hotel staff will be happy to direct you to the nearest post-office.
Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, is a myriad of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. The city churn6s, ferments, bubbles and fumes. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.
Hanoi means `City on a River Bend’ and the city has been inhabited since Neolithic times. In 1010 AD the Emperor made Than Long (`City of the Soaring Dragon’) his capital and today it remains the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Hanoi has been known as the Eastern Capital and as Tonkin by Europeans. The city’s variety of beautiful architecture, historical sites and pleasant atmosphere is conducive to exploration on foot. Take a stroll or cycle through the Old Quarters of “36 streets and 36 wares” where artisans still ply their century-old trades, and visit the many souvenir shops and art galleries located nearby
Hoi An was a bustling seaport until the 19th century when the river silted up and Danang took over. The heartland of the Champa Kingdom, it was the site of the first Chinese settlement in South Vietnam. The architecture of the city reflects the influence of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, French and British traders. Today, Hoi An is popular for its quaint charm and interesting mix of architecture dating as far back as the 18th century. Hoi an is best explored on foot – visit its ancient quarters which feature Chinese temples, original wooden houses, souvenir shops and art galleries. Hoi An has also acquired fame as being the tailoring capital of the world where exact replica of a dress can be made on order overnight at fraction of the normal price by scores of tailoring shops.
Nha Trang is a good place to go for sun and sea. With crystal-clear turquoise waters (except for the wet season), snorkeling, diving and fishing are the prime activities and just lazing on the town beach is an experience in itself. You’ll be offered everything from lunch to a manicure. When you tire of the beach, there are some interesting sites nearby such as the Long Son Pagoda and, 2 km to the north of town, are the Cham Towers of Po Nagar, built between the 7th and 12th centuries on a site that had been used for Hindu worship as early as the 2nd century
Hue was Vietnam’s political capital under 13 Nguyen emperors from 1802 until 1945. Situated on the Perfume River, it was always a cultural, religious and educational centre with many pagodas, the tombs of the emperors and a citadel built in 1687. During the French period many artifacts disappeared and, in the 1968 Tet Offensive, countless lives were lost. Regarded as a unique city due to its retention of original architecture and relics of its royal history as well as being an important centre of Buddhism with hundreds of temples and pagodas, Hue has been recognized as an invaluable `museum’ and, to that end, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Halong Bay is Vietnam’s most stunning natural treasure and a World Heritage Site. In the Gulf of Tonkin, Halong Bay is comprised of approximately 3,000 islands which rise from the emerald waters forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Because of their precipitous nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by man. The exceptional esthetic values of this site are complimented by its great biological interest. The bay is also dotted with numerous grottoes and caves filled with a variety of stalagmites and stalactites.