The 11 Best Tours in Vietnam: Pros and Cons

The 11 Best Tours in Vietnam: A Closer Look

The 11 Best Tours in Vietnam: A Closer Look

In this blog post, we’ve done the legwork to round up the best tours in Vietnam, offered by some of the most reputable tour operators in Vietnam. The tours we have selected are not restricted to one part of Vietnam; because we wanted to bring readers the best Vietnam tours possible, we looked at candidates from the north to the south of the country, and all that is in between. Please note that we are offering our honest opinions on what we feel are some of the best and most unique tours in Vietnam on this list. With the exception of “Dinner with the Nguyens” and “The XO Foodie Tour,” two tours of which we at XO Tours are exceptionally proud, we have no vested interest in any of the Vietnam tour companies listed below and did not consult them when writing this blog post.

(Please click on the link below to jump directly to the tour you would like to explore) 

  1. Best Vietnam Walking Food Tour
  2. Best Vietnam Cooking Class
  3. Best Vietnam Bicycle Tour
  4. Best Vietnam Photography Tour
  5. Best Vietnam Free Tour
  6. Best Vietnam Art Tour
  7. Best Vietnam Halong Bay Tour
  8. Best Vietnam Mekong Delta Tour
  9. Best Vietnam Adventure Tour
  10. Best Vietnam Street Food Tour
  11. Best Vietnam Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Vietnam’s Top Walking Food Tour 

Dinner with the Nguyens  (Hoi An, Vietnam)

Price: $48/person

Nearly 40% of Vietnamese people share the surname “Nguyễn,” you will notice when you visit Vietnam. Because of this fact, the name of the “Dinner with the Nguyens” tour is in reference to the local Vietnamese people you will be dining amongst on this tour, many of whom will undoubtedly be named “Nguyễn”; it is not in reference to a specific family.

Standing on a Monkey Bridge on the Dinner with the Nguyens tour

Standing on a Monkey Bridge on the Dinner with the Nguyens tour

The tour takes visitors to a sub-suburban island on the Thu Bon River Delta near Hoi An that was accessible only by boat until about two years ago and is consequently very remote. Because the location is so rural, the foods to which guests are treated here will be of a more authentic, down-home nature than what you would encounter on 99% of Vietnam’s walking food tours. For example, you will get to try dishes like fish cakes and grilled soft shell crab instead of the generic banh mi, pho, and other street foods to which most Vietnam walking food tours take their customers. The local flavor goes down easy, as an unlimited flow of Vietnamese-made beers and soft drinks is provided at every stop of the tour. There is even a cooking class at a local family’s house in which visitors will be taught the traditional Vietnamese preparation of banh xeo, a Vietnamese “pancake” made using rice flour, fresh shrimp courtesy of the town’s fishermen, and locally grown vegetables.

Pros:

  • Authentic countryside atmosphere; with lots of real interactions with friendly locals
  • Bucolic “all-Vietnamese” scenery that exemplifies the beauty of Vietnam
  • More obscure Vietnamese foods than on most walking tours
  • Unlimited free beers or sodas
  • Boat trip back to Hoi An Old Town included

Cons:

  • During the hot season, it can be unpleasant walking in the heat
  • Since you are walking on countryside paths, you often have to maneuver around animal droppings
  • The tour starts a bit too early for dinner (3 pm) so that guests can catch the sunset on the boat ride back to old town

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Cooking Class

Green Bamboo Cooking School (Hoi An, Vietnam)

Price: $50/person

Does a cooking class really belong in an article about Vietnam’s best tours? In the case of Green Bamboo, it does indeed. This is because a portion of this tour is devoted to taking guests around Hoi An’s central market to shop for food needed in the dishes to come. Reviewers note how informative the “market tour” leg of the class is for learning how local Vietnamese “wet markets” work. Customers will also get a personalized grocery shopping experience, as each individual gets to choose a recipe they think looks especially good from a huge list of over 60 dishes the guide provides.

Visiting a local market with Van from Green Bamboo Cooking Class

Visiting a local market with Van from Green Bamboo Cooking Class

 

Once all the ingredients are bought and the tour group gets to know each other at a local cafe, they return to the cooking school’s kitchen. There, the instructor helps each of the tour members prep the ingredients they bought. Each member then cooks the dish they chose, while the instructor provides instructions and all the other members observe the cooking process. Finally, everyone gets to sample all the dishes; a bit of the one they made and some of each of the others. You’ll get to taste a wide range of home-cooked Vietnamese dishes, and you’ll walk away stuffed, making this tour/class maybe the best value for money of anything on this list. In fact, one of the few slightly negative reviews of Green Bamboo on Tripadvisor complained only that the tour was too long (8:00-15:30) and that there was simply too much food!

Pros

  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • Informative market tour
  • Tour members get to choose from over 60 dishes — the largest variety offered by any Vietnamese cooking class
  • A free flow of beer and soda during cooking demonstrations
  • Every customer is given a free recipe book and cooking utensils as souvenirs
  • Tremendous value for money
  • LOTS of food

Cons

  • A very long tour
  • The max size for this tour is 12, which many reviews complain is too large
  • Since each of the tour group members shares their dish around, each dish can only be chosen by one tour member. If two people want to learn to make thịt kho trứng, tough luck for one of them

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Bicycle Tour

Vietnam Bike Tours (multiple locations in Vietnam)

Price: Varies greatly, but expect to spend at least $70/person for a half-day tour

Vietnam Bike Tours may not have the most creative company name, but don’t let that fool you: these tours are the best way to see and experience every little thing the country has to offer. The company offers a huge variety of tour options, ranging from very short (40 minutes from Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat airport to your hotel) to very long and intense (19 days from Saigon to Phnom Penh to Bangkok). This variety allows you to customize your tour according to your party’s schedule and cycling ability. Whichever tour you choose, though, the folks at Vietnam Bike Tours will have selected a route that allows you to take in as much of the area as possible. As a reviewer writes on Tripadvisor, “this tour is not about cycling from A to B or munching the miles, this is about using the bikes to see and experience parts of the country that you wouldn’t otherwise see.” The routes also pass by a good amount of rest stops, and a relief van will follow just behind the cyclists just in case anyone wants to dismount and rest for awhile even between stops.

Riding bikes through the Vietnam countryside

Riding through the Vietnam countryside with Vietnam Bike Tours

 

These tours are not cheap, but you get what you pay for — the folks behind Vietnam Bike Tours are pros. The guides are courteous, hospitable, resourceful, and well versed in the local landscape and culture. The people organizing the tours have them planned down to the detail, even tailoring individual trip routes based on requests from the customers. And the eating establishments or homestays stopped at on the tours are always top-notch and hassle-free. As long as you’re ready to sweat a little (who are we kidding, a lot), this is the way to most fully experience the Vietnamese cultural landscape.

Pros:

  • Opportunity to experience more variety than in most Vietnam tours
  • Professional, knowledgeable guides
  • Expert route planning, tailored to the requests of each group
  • Many tour locations+lengths, allowing for scheduling flexibility
  • It’s great exercise
  • Loaner bikes and relief van are well maintained
  • See the heart of the Vietnamese countryside, which is virtually impossible to do with other tours

Cons:

  • You’d better be ready to sweat
  • You may get rained on a lot if you do this tour for the duration of the monsoon season. You may want to familiarize yourself with Vietnam’s weather patterns before you book
  • This is a group tour with a maximum size of 10, so you may be with another group
  • It’s a good idea to stock up on sunscreen beforehand.

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Photography Tour

Vietnam In Focus (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Price: Varies greatly, but expect to spend at least $75/person for a one-day tour

Vietnam in Focus is a fantastic way to see some of the more beautiful sights in Northern Vietnam while documenting them and honing a valuable skill at the same time. The guides for the tours are generally very knowledgeable about precisely what areas offer the best artistic photograph opportunities and what part of the day to visit them to get the best photographs possible.

Taking a photo from a train in Vietnam

Taking a photo from a train in Vietnam

 

Note that you do not need to be a photography master, or even very familiar with the art form, to participate on these tours. The guides are just as much photography teachers as anything else, and they are used to dealing with all skill levels. Also, know that the tours rent DSLR cameras for $30/day.

Pros:

  • For the most part, knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides
  • All skill levels are welcome, and the guides are good at tailoring the tour to accommodate each individual
  • Even more so than other Vietnam countryside tours, you’ll be exposed to many truly breathtaking landscapes
  • You get lots of souvenirs that will immortalize your tour experience (your photos)
  • You’ll learn more about photography technique and how to use your camera more efficiently
  • Part of the proceeds from the tours are donated to local charities

Cons:

  • As reviewers note, the tour guides for this company are a bit hit-or-miss. Do your research and request a highly reviewed guide when booking this tour
  • DSLR cameras are extremely expensive and some of the more picturesque locations the tour visits are very much off-road, so these tours may not be the best for small children
  • For a day tour, this is not the cheapest option; all tour prices are listed on the site

If you want to get your photography on but you can’t make a trip to Hanoi, read up on our picks for Best Photo Spots in Saigon or in Hoi An.

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Free Tour 

Hanoi Kids (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Price: Free; gifts are appreciated but not required

The name of this tour is a little misleading, as “Hanoi Kids” invokes images of tours by young children and/or for young children. The tours are completely family-friendly, but they can be appreciated by all ages equally — in fact, adults may appreciate the tours even more because of the in-depth commentary the tour guides provide. And those guides are adults, mainly university students engaging in some practical training for the tourism and hospitality business.

Just because the guides are often training for a paid job, though, does not mean they phone in their tours. On the contrary; reviews of the Hanoi Kids tours are unanimously in agreement that the guides are passionate and knowledgeable, as well as being great with English. They are also very flexible, and they are happy to take requests of any Hanoi tourist hotspots to which the customers want to go on the tour, even if it means completely arranging the day’s itinerary.

Volunteer tour guides at Hanoi Kids

Volunteer tour guides at Hanoi Kids

Pros:

  • It’s free
  • Passionate guides who are not doing it for a paycheck
  • Extremely flexible itineraries
  • It’s comfortable for tourists of all ages; you won’t be expected to try frog hearts or anything

Cons:

  • The guides are not as experienced as with a paid tour; they are generally still trainee tour guides
  • Because they are trainees, the guides’ English probably won’t be as good as someone who’s been doing tours for a decade
  • You most likely won’t be visiting “off the beaten path” locations on this tour

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Art Tour 

Sophie’s Art Tour (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam)

Price: $65/person

As those who have experienced it will tell you, patrons of Sophie’s Art Tour learn about more than just paintings. The guides are interested in looking behind the art itself at the Vietnamese history and culture that informed the artist’s decisions. This causes most people to walk away happy with how much they learned about Vietnam as a whole instead of just its paintings.

Sophie’s tours are available in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The two tours are different, but they both focus on historical and contemporary Vietnamese art, and they are both led by American expats who are extremely passionate about Vietnam’s artistic history.

Visiting an art studio with Sophie's Art Tour

Visiting an art studio with Sophie’s Art Tour

Pros:

  • A focus on culture and history in addition to paintings
  • Native English-speaking guides with lots of passion for the subject
  • Since the tours are led by Americans, they do a great job of covering topics especially enjoyable to a Western point of view (e.g. the “Combat Art” produced from the battlefield during the Vietnam-America war)
  • As a Tripadvisor reviewer puts it, the tour is “pedestrian enough yet historically and contextually fascinating.” You don’t need to be an art buff to get the full experience

Cons:

  • Having an American guide also has its downsides, such as the lack of a truly local Vietnamese voice on the issues discussed
  • Tours are not normally offered on Sundays, which can be a problem in terms of scheduling. Private tours can be arranged on Sundays for an additional fee

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Halong Bay Tour 

Au Co Cruises (Halong, Vietnam)

Price: $275/person for a two-day/one-night cruise, although this is the cheapest option and more expensive packages are recommended

Au Co is a step above in service and luxury in comparison to the other operators in the incomparable Halong Bay. You will see a marked difference in the aesthetics of the boat, the quality of the food preparation and the sizes of the rooms. The price is a bit more than it is with other Halong Bay tours, but the value for money here really is remarkable.

Although reviewers agree the Au Co experience really is once-in-a-lifetime, they also note that this tour is very methodical and has a typical “tour” structure. That is, customers are told when to go to the dining hall for meals, when to disembark the boat to explore one of the amazing caverns that pepper Halong Bay, told when to retreat to their rooms for lights out, etc. Basically, this is not one of those free-form, flexible schedule tours, which could be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing.

A scenic Halong Bay cruise with Au Co

A scenic Halong Bay cruise with Au Co

Pros:

  • Halong Bay’s majesty cannot be overstated
  • Even the cheaper Au Co tours include offboard activities, such as caving expeditions, biking, kayaking, or trips into local fishing villages. More info on the itineraries for each tour is available on the site
  • The tour covers the pristine and lesser-traveled Lan Ha Bay in addition to Halong
  • Very clean, generally new boats
  • Most of the captains are Westerners and are happy to accommodate special requests

Cons:

  • There is really not much to do on the boat when tour activities are not going on, especially since wifi is extremely spotty onboard
  • As it is a boat, not a hotel, accommodations are not very large
  • The food quality is often panned in reviews
  • Drinking water onboard is not free. You might want to smuggle a large bottle or two in your suitcase

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Mekong Delta Tour 

Drive Vietnam’s Mekong Life Unscripted Tour  (throughout the Mekong Delta)

Price: $87-202/person for a private tour; though the price drops steeply the larger your group is.

The name of this tour is extremely accurate; as the tour’s website notes, the full-day journey around Vietnam’s lush Mekong River Delta is “uniquely people-focused.” In other words, Mekong Life Unscripted is not another generic Mekong tour that takes you to the same touristy islands in My Tho/Ben Tre that 99% of the other Mekong Delta tours visit. Instead, it will give you an honest window into the day-to-day lives of modern River Delta residents. You will see how they live, learn about their livelihoods, and even eat the same traditional foods.

Note that the price for this tour is so much higher than with most tours because it is private. That is, if just one person purchases the tour for themselves, they will be traveling alone with their own personal guide. If a group of five books together, they will be the only five on the tour. To add to the privacy offered by these tours, they follow completely original routes. You are virtually guaranteed not to see any other tourists the whole time.

Bulls pulling farmer in the Mekong Delta

Bulls pulling farmer in the Mekong Delta

Pros:

  • You’ll get a great feel for the locals’ day-to-day lives, as there are lots of stops in local houses and workplaces
  • Most reviews note how good the food on the tour is
  • A private, personalized experience
  • You’ll get a real rural Vietnam adventure; tours have to cross multiple rivers on car ferries

Cons:

  • You’ll be visiting very poor areas, and they’re often dirty. Wear sneakers
  • It’s expensive compared to group tours
  • The Mekong Delta has lots of mosquitoes so it’s a good idea to bring repellent

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Adventure Tour

Phat Tire Ventures (Dalat, Vietnam)

Price: $72/person for full-day canyoning

As the name of this tour company suggests, they started off giving mountain bike tours. They still offer offroad biking and a variety of other extreme outdoors activities (rock climbing, whitewater rafting, etc.), but their full-day canyoning tour has become their flagship.

The reason the canyoning expedition is so popular is that it is totally full-featured. Several other Dalat-based companies offer canyoning packages, and most of them cost slightly less, but none of the other English-language options are as thorough or as extensive as Phat Tire. For example, Phat Tire’s site points out, their canyoning trips take their customers to two rappelling courses almost no other tours do, the Tyrolean Traverse and the creatively named Big Waterfall. According to reviews, Phat Tire is also a step ahead of its competition in terms of establishing and enforcing safety procedures.

Rappelling down a cliff in Dalat

Rappelling down a cliff in Dalat

Pros:

  • Includes two lesser-visited courses
  • Well-enforced safety procedures
  • Multiple reviews mention the freshness and high quality of the deli sandwich and fruit lunch. None of those soggy turkey clubs you get on many tours
  • Very experienced guides with great English

Cons:

  • Costly, compared to its competitors
  • Although the guides make sure safety protocol is strictly controlled, safety equipment is not great
  • The water in the canyons is not exactly pristine. It has some “clean” litter (e.g. water bottles) in it
  • You really should be in good shape, as you’ll have to do a ton of hiking over difficult terrain

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Best Vietnam Street Food Tour

XO Foodie Tour (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Price: $75/person, $25 USD for children under 8

Ho Chi Minh City’s street food scene is simply magnificent, and the aptly named “Foodie” tour is probably the best way for those who visit Vietnam to get an overview of it while accompanied by professional and knowledgeable locals. This scooter tour will take you to 5 districts of Saigon, each with their own distinct personality and culinary specialties. Customers will sample foods — like the highly rated grilled goat’s breast in District 8, and the scallops with peanuts and scallions in District 4 — not touched upon by most Vietnam street food tours.

Perhaps this tour’s greatest strength is that it is more than just a food tour. Customers will indeed get to try between 10 to 12 authentically prepared entrees at stalls all around the city, but they will also get to see much of Saigon’s urban sprawl and will be given a lot of info on Vietnamese culture. The tour is about four and a half hours long, and you can expect actual mealtime to take up about 2 hours. The other 50% of the time will be spent seeing the lesser-known sights of Saigon from the back of a motorbike driven by one of the aó dài-clad female tour guides, who many reviewers note are very safe drivers.  In short, the Foodie tour is a well-tuned full package overview of the city’s culinary nightlife scene.

Drinking banana wine on XO Foodie Tour

Drinking banana wine on XO Foodie Tour

Pros:

  • Highly professional guides riding well-maintained motorbikes
  • Unlimited food and drinks at every stop
  • A look at several districts that tourists almost never visit — the “real Saigon.”
  • Free photos are taken as souvenirs
  • Tidbits about Saigon’s culture and history are not only informative but allow you time to digest your food in preparation for eating more

Cons:

  • It’s relatively expensive compared to many of the less professional food tours
  • This tour is only offered via scooter, so if you are nervous about riding in Vietnam traffic on a scooter, there is no other transport option.
  • The tour includes 25 kilometers of riding through the city. For those who want only to eat with no significant breaks in between stops, The Foodie may not be for you

This gastronomic extravaganza will almost certainly inspire you to go out on your own Saigon street food hunt. Just remember to stay safe and hygienic by keeping in mind our tips on avoiding sickness in Vietnam.

[BACK TO CONTENT]


Vietnam’s Top Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Les Rives Cu Chi Tunnels Tour (Cu Chi, Vietnam)

Price: $82/adult, $56/child

The war-era Cu Chi Tunnels are one of those iconic places those who visit Vietnam are almost obligated to visit, and is difficult for any tour company to offer a bad tour of the tunnels themselves; the place is a fascinating combination of history, brutality, rustic charm, and the beauty of Vietnam. What sets Les Rives apart from the competition, however, is that they turn the normally boring journey to and from the Cu Chi tunnels into an adventure. Whereas tourists going to the tunnels on other tours get packed into a big bus with 40-50 other tourists for a boring two hours without any commentary from a guide, Les Rives ensures the experience is considerably better by ferrying from Ho Chi Minh City to Cu Chi on a speedboat. A well-trained guide accompanying tour members on the boat provides fascinating information about the surrounding people and ecosystem, and the daily life of locals living in communities along the Saigon river can be viewed from the boat.

The trip from Ho Chi Minh City to the tunnels is quick (75 minutes each way) and does not have many stops. This can be viewed as a good thing, for those that came mainly to see the tunnels, or a bad thing, for those that would like to see more of the area’s nature.

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels Tour with Les Rives

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels Tour with Les Rives

Pros

  • Very well-maintained boats
  • The speedboat arrives at the tunnels before most of the big tour groups that arrive by bus
  • Learn how the Viet Cong dug the tunnels, survived and even prospered jungle while being bombed from above
  • View the striking natural beauty of the area, which is a brilliant contrast of the claustrophobic brutality of the tunnels themselves
  • Two meals are included in the price of the tour. The fruit breakfast before the tour is a bit bare-bones, but the huge Vietnamese lunch is raved about in many reviews

Cons

  • It’s expensive when compared to other Cu Chi tunnel tours
  • Many of the reviews comment that the tour felt rushed at times and that it’s obvious the tour guide had a schedule to keep
  • Some of the tour guides are not as interactive as he or she could be unless the tour group asks specific questions

[BACK TO CONTENT]

We hope that this list of the best Vietnam tours helps make your time in Vietnam more memorable!

How Obama and Bourdain’s Vietnam Visit Helped Ignite Tourism

The past couple of years have seen a massive increase in tourism to Vietnam, and we cannot help but think that President Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain’s 3-day visit to Vietnam in 2016 helped dramatically boost the local tourism industry.

Image sourced via CN traveler

 

Impact of Obama’s Trip to South East Asia

Few American Presidents have had such a profound, noticeable impact on Vietnam as during the Obama era.

3 Reasons Obama’s Visit Re-ignited interest in the region

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership deal bringing economic benefits to the region
  • Lifted arms embargo in post-war Vietnam era
  • Renewed diplomatic ties reigned in by the Clinton and then Bush era

His visit in 2016 to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City underscored this new tone, and further brought the idea of Vietnam as a safe, friendly and fun tourist destination. Prior to Obama’s visit to Vietnam, the country’s name was synonymous with its infamous war with the United States.

Perhaps the only other person that may have done more than President Obama to change the perception of Vietnam as a “war-torn” country was the world-renowned chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain. Through books, television, and a significant online presence, he had documented the food scene in Vietnam for years—bringing local specialties like Bun Bo Hue and Bun Cha to the living rooms of Americans everywhere; presenting Vietnam as an amazing destination for rich culture and cuisine. With his popular TV show, “Parts Unknown”, he also helped reintroduce the people of Vietnam to the rest of the world, helping shift the narrative from Vietnam’s past to its incredibly bright present and future. With the recent and tragic passing of Anthony Bourdain—one of this year’s most prominent celebrity news events—we cannot help but reflect upon his legacy, especially his impact on bringing Vietnam and Vietnamese cuisine to the world. Bourdain’s death has drawn attention to Vietnam’s equally important impact on him, saying before his death, “My first trip to Vietnam changed my life.”

Image sourced via Tạp chí Công Thương

 

Bourdain’s association with Vietnamese food culture came to a head in 2016, when he took Barack Obama—44th President of the United States—out for noodles in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. How did it happen? During the President’s trip to Vietnam, Bourdain was scheduled to be filming for his Parts Unknown CNN show, and the two men got into contact; Bourdain chose the venue. What happened next is history:

The photo of President Obama and Bourdain eating a simple meal of Bun Cha Noodles and drinking cheap Vietnamese beer is not an image the world was expecting, but Obama—44th President of the United States—was a very atypical president. It was a meal curated by Bourdain, and the plastic stool dining encounter—televised for the world to see—undoubtedly shed a prominent light on Vietnamese food and the rich culture it symbolizes. The two held a casual conversation, punctuated by the arrival of simple Vietnamese dishes to the table, a couple of cold beers and wide smiles by all in the restaurant; a true ‘no reservations’ moment.

Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain's visit to Vietnam included eating Bun Cha in Hanoi

Image sourced via Rolling Stone

 

Why were Americans hesitant to visit Vietnam?

Until recently, Americans considering travel to Vietnam was an odd choice for a vacation. 

Bourdain raised the following issues in his televised visits to Vietnam:

  • The contentious political history between the two countries
  • The idea that Americans as tourists would be looked down upon—or even resented
  • Vietnamese war era population might resent the “Ugly American” stereotype

As many more adventurous travelers have known for almost 20 years, these reasons were quickly dispelled by the friendliness so evident on the President’s visit.

With an average age barely over 30 years old, most of the Vietnamese population was born after the fall of Saigon, so for the majority of the population, there is no memory or resentment from the war. 

The tiny Bun Cha restaurant visited by Obama and Bourdain (Bun Cha Huong Lien) has since attracted something of a cult following, made incredibly popular by their impromptu meal. The presence of such a powerful American figure certainly left its mark on Hanoi, as a highlight of the president’s landmark trip to Vietnam. Visitors to Bun Cha Huong Lien can now order a “Combo Obama”, the same meal savored by Obama, and the restaurant has appeared on a food tour that honors Anthony Bourdain’s legacy.

After his initial stop in Hanoi, former President Obama and Bourdain parted ways, with the President heading to Ho Chi Minh City, the former capital of Vietnam, which is still called “Saigon” by most locals. In Ho Chi Minh City, the former president did a bit of sightseeing by visiting The Jade Emperor Pagoda, a local Taoist temple. Later he even met with a few local tech startups and held a public town hall with students in the city, to discuss globalization and the future of Southeast Asia.

 

Sourced via US Embassy and Consulates in Indonesia

 

Tourism numbers are on the rise in the time since Obama’s visit. Vietnam, rapidly coming into its own on the world stage, has become an incredibly popular destination for travel, and according to the latest statistics, received over 12.9 million foreign visitors in 2017 — nearly a 30% increase over the year before. That number is expected to increase in 2018, continuing a strong trend for new arrivals to the country. Obama’s prominent stops in the nation’s largest cities and the continued normalization between Vietnam and the United States have undoubtedly brought a substantial amount of positive attention to Vietnam as a fascinating place to visit.

Travel Statistics Post Bourdain Obama ‘Summit’

  • Hanoi visitors are growing 15% (year over year)
  • Danang tourist numbers are up 30% (y.o.y)
  • Ho Chi Minh is nearing a landmark metro launch in 2020
  • Ho Chi Minh City is now one of the top 10 global destinations for Digital Nomads

Looking towards the future, Vietnam’s popularity as a tourist destination seems almost assured, as the Vietnamese government has pushed to make tourism a larger contributor to the local GDP. They have relaxed Visa policies for many countries and have invested billions in infrastructure projects hoping to grow Vietnam’s tourism numbers to something comparable to neighboring Thailand.

Both Obama and Bourdain contributed greatly towards giving Vietnam a more prominent position on the world stage. They drew attention towards the most aspiring parts unknown of Vietnam, from its burgeoning food culture to its youthful exuberance—and significantly shifted the image of a country that was often disregarded as a travel destination. It’s difficult to estimate the impact that these men have had on Vietnam’s’s tourism numbers, but it’s likely that they’ll remain as positive symbols of the “New Vietnam” for years to come.

Eating crab claws in District 4

Street food tour with XO Tours

 

Want to embark on your own tribute to Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown-style food tour of Ho Chi Minh City? Bourdain loved to explore places that most tourists have never been and eat dishes that the locals eat. When he came to Vietnam, he didn’t limit himself to eat dishes like Pho and Bánh Mi sandwiches—and neither should you! In the spirit of wanting to provide our guests an “off the beaten path” experience, the internationally acclaimed XO “Foodie” tour takes visitors to locations that other Ho Chi Minh City tours do not—to try each dishes that most travelers to Vietnam would never get an opportunity to try. Check out what people have to say about XO tours.

 

How-to-Guide to Travel Vietnam by Air, Land and Water

Vietnam is a long coastal country stretching 1650 kilometers (1,025 miles) from north to south. Dotting its narrow landmass are beautiful cities, beaches, and exotic locations. Getting around from place to place can seem overwhelming however because there are so many options to travel Vietnam by air, land, and water.

In this article, we’ve outlined the different ways of traveling around the country: from fastest and most convenient to budget and boutique options, coupled with slower transportation that takes the scenic route or direct and short means of getting to your destination. We hope this comprehensive guide to domestic travel within Vietnam will help you make the most efficient use of your time in this amazing country!

Listed below are all the ways you can travel Vietnam (click on each link to jump straight to the section):

1)   Travel Vietnam by Air

2)   Travel Vietnam by Private Car

3)   Travel Vietnam by Bus

4)   Travel Vietnam by Train

5)   Travel Vietnam by Motorbike

6)  Travel Vietnam by Water

1. Travel Vietnam by Air

Vietnam Airlines plane

Why travel by plane?

The fastest way to get around Vietnam is via domestic flights. While it can be more expensive compared to other modes of transport, it is often the most efficient way to get around for those seeking to see much of the country within a limited amount of time. And depending on who you fly with (as well as time of year), an airline ticket can in some cases be cheaper than a train ticket. For most people, it is also the most comfortable means of transport.

When it comes to the domestic airlines operating in Vietnam, you have three choices –

  1. Vietnam Airlines, a full-service, government-owned airline.
  2. Vietjet Air, a low-cost carrier.
  3. Jetstar Pacific, also a low-cost carrier.

Vietnam Airlines, being full service, is the only one of the three that include food/refreshments (determined by flight length), and checked baggage inclusive within the ticket price. On the low-cost budget carriers, the ticket price is generally only inclusive of a 7 kilogram (15-pound) carry-on bag, and no meal. Options for meals and checked baggage will cost additional fees.

So, where can you fly between?

The three biggest airports in Vietnam are HCMC (Tan Son Nhat) in the south, Hanoi (Noi Bai) in the North, and Danang in the central region. Being the main airports, all three airlines have multiple flights every day between them. There are also several other airports scattered around the country. We won’t list all the airports but will mention the more popular destinations.

In the centre, along with Danang, there is Quy Nhon which is a little further south, Hue, which is North of Danang, and Dong Hoi, which is further North again.

Up North, with Hanoi, are a couple of smaller airports, including Haiphong, which is up near Halong Bay.

It’s important to note that direct flights aren’t always available between all airports, and not all airlines fly the same routes. For example, Vietjet is the only airline that flies direct between Danang and Can Tho, just as Vietnam Airlines is the only one to fly direct between Danang and Nha Trang.

Which airports can you use to get to certain destinations that don’t have their own airports?

  • Danang is used to get to Hoi An. Hoi An is about a 40-minute drive from the airport.
  • Dong Hoi can be used to get Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, which is about an hour away.
  • Can Tho, being in the Mekong, is a great way to access that area. It saves considerable time on the road between HCMC and Can Tho.
  • Hanoi can be used to access Sapa and Halong Bay.

(We’ve compiled a chart that shows which major airports are served by major Vietnamese airlines below, See official websites for a full list of destinations and flights)

Ho Chi Minh to
Vietnam AirlinesVietjet AirJetstar Pacific
Da LatXXX
Da Nang
XXX
Dong Hoi
XXX
Hanoi
XXX
Hue
XXX
Nha Trang
XXX
Phu Quoc
XXX
Quy NhonXXX

Hanoi to
Vietnam AirlinesVietjet AirJetstar Pacific
Can Tho
XX
Da LatXXX
Da Nang
XXX
Dong Hoi
XX
Ho Chi Minh City
XXX
Hue
XX
Nha Trang
XXX
Phu Quoc
XXX
Quy NhonXXX

Danang to
Vietnam AirlinesVietjet AirJetstar Pacific
Can Tho
X
Da LatX
Ha NoiXXX
Ho Chi Minh City
XXX
Nha Trang
X

So, which airline to choose?

Well, that depends on several factors, including, personal preference, price, flight times and flight availability.

As a matter of general ratings, Vietnam Airlines is generally considered the highest quality and most reliable, followed by Vietjet, and then Jetstar. It’s also important to note that the budget airlines are more prone to flight time changes, delays, and even cancellations. It’s perhaps better to consider those issues as more often the rule, rather than the exception. This leads us to an important point: It’s a very good idea to spend your final night in Vietnam, in the city that you will be flying out internationally. Purchasing last minute international tickets, due to delayed or cancelled domestic flights, can be a very expensive exercise.

Something else to consider if you’re planning on traveling to Vietnam during holidays like Christmas and Tết (early February 2019). You should book flights far in advance to beat the crowds of families returning home for the holidays. Seats become limited, and as such, ticket prices rise dramatically.

So, how to book airline tickets?

It’s strongly recommended you use the airline’s official websites:

Vietnam Airlines
VietJet
Jetstar Pacific

Back to Content


2.
 Travel Vietnam by Private Car 

Travel Vietnam in comfort in a Toyota Innova

Private car with driver for traveling

 

Renting a car in Vietnam generally means that you will rent a car with a local driver. Drivers must have a Vietnamese driver’s license and if you’re not a Vietnamese citizen or a resident you must have a minimum 3 month VISA to be eligible to get a driver’s license. Please also note that international driver’s licenses are not currently recognized here and at present, only citizens from certain countries can legally drive in Vietnam; if you’re unaccustomed to the chaotic traffic, it is probably not a good idea to drive in Vietnam anyway.

Renting a private car with a driver is a great option for travelers looking to explore short distances around their surrounding area comfortably and safely. Renting a car with driver for multiple days is not really feasible unless you are willing to pay for accommodation and meals for the driver as well (read the terms of your rental agreement carefully). Additionally, if you book a one way trip over multiple days, then you will have to incur the cost of the driver returning the car back to the original city in which you rented it. That being said, renting a private car with a driver in Vietnam is relatively inexpensive, and by comparing prices between companies you’ll find that prices range from around $50 to $100 USD per day, depending on the type of car.

If you do rent a car with a private driver, be aware that most drivers in Vietnam only speak rudimentary English. Ensure you have a written address of your intended destinations, along with a maps app downloaded on your phone (Google Translate helps as well!). If you require someone who is fluent in English, then you will need to hire a guide, which will increase costs.

Back to Content

3. Travel Vietnam by Bus

 

sleeper buses are another great way to travel Vietnam comfortably

Sleeper bus

 

While we don’t recommend traveling Vietnam by bus, it is the cheapest means of transport between cities. For instance, to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang (over 400 kilometers) by bus, the ticket will only cost you around $8 USD. Overnight sleeper buses are often cheaper, with berths to lie down and sleep. The bus is the preferred way for Vietnamese to get around the country, so if you’re looking to travel like a local, this is the way to travel!

Risks of traveling by bus

As a disclaimer, traveling via bus comes with inherent risks: Most bus drivers in Vietnam drive very fast and reckless, so injuries and deaths due to accidents are not unheard of. Even if you do end up with a safe driver, you have no control on the behavior of other road users. Additionally, travelers often complain about the theft of their personal belongings while they sleep, along with their luggage stored during transit. Few (if any) bus company employees speak English, so if an issue occurs in transit, you will likely be on your own.

Moreover, if you are tall or larger than the average Vietnamese, sleeping onboard overnight buses may prove to be an uncomfortably sleepless experience. Bus companies will provide you with blankets, but they are never cleaned. Toilets are quite rare on buses and are often broken, so you will have to wait long periods of time for bathroom break stops. The limited opportunities to get off the bus means passengers don’t have time to take photos or explore outside the bus during transit.

Furthermore, rides may be longer than advertised as many of Vietnam’s roads are in poor condition. Combined with Vietnam’s traffic, it’s better to try and entertain yourself with a book or electronic device than try to count down the time. When you reach your destination, factor in the cost of a taxi, as most bus stations are located on the outskirts of cities (away from central attractions).

How can I book bus tickets?

The easiest way to book a bus journey is to go directly to the bus office and book in person, but you can also reserve seats online. Our recommended companies for comfortability and safety include Futabus, The Sinh Tourist, and Mai Linh. These companies often provide water and blankets, along with wet wipes for the journey. Futabus’ website is in English, book your tickets here, and to see bus schedules for The Sinh Tourist, you can click here. To compare rates for buses, you can check out this website which gathers information from multiple companies. You may also be able to ask your accommodation to help.

In summing up bus travel in Vietnam; if you’re looking for the cheapest option, comfort is secondary, and the driving habits of the locals is of no great concern, then a journey by bus is a great option. Personally, for longer bus trips over 3-4 hours, planes and trains would be our preference.

Back to Content

4. Travel Vietnam by Train

Travel Vietnam by train to see the countryside

Train in Vietnam

 

Trains provide an authentic (albeit longer) way to get around Vietnam for cost-friendly prices Trains are safer than buses, along with avoiding the traffic and accidents of Vietnamese highways. They are more comfortable, far more relaxing (with increased legroom), and provide an unforgettable sightseeing experience.

And because the train line runs almost the entire length of the country, using it to stop off at different places as you travel in either direction can be a great way to experience a big chunk of the country. The trains run through many of the main cities and towns, but if yours doesn’t actually take you to your exact destination, you’ll find that a short taxi or bus ride can take you the rest of the way.

An example of this would be getting to Hoi An from Danang train station. You’ll find a list of stations/timetables on the  Man in Seat 61 website, but a quick rundown on the stations that service the main tourist areas between HCMC and Hanoi are Nha Trang, Quy Nhon, Danang, Hue, Dong Hoi, and Ninh Binh. You can also catch an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, which services Sapa.

There are several seating/accommodation options on Vietnam’s trains, including hard seat, (it’s a wooden seat) soft seat, (padded/cushioned seat), along with hard berth, (a compartment of 6 berths) and soft berth beds (a compartment of 4 berths). Obviously, the length of the journey will help you decide which option would be the preferred.

Risks of traveling by train

As with any means of transport within Vietnam, you should be aware of the risks which come with taking trains to get around. Onboard hygiene is lackluster, and bed sheets and pillows are not changed often (you may want to bring your own, or perhaps purchase a ‘silk’ sleeping bag liner when in Vietnam). Most trains depart either HCMC or Hanoi, and then travel the full length of the country over something like 36 hours.  As such, bathrooms may not be cleaned as often as they should during the journey, and amenities like toilet paper may become scarce.

If you book a sleeping berth, (soft berth usually has 4 beds, hard berth has 6) and you don’t book the whole cabin, then be aware that you will sharing with strangers.  If this is the case, then you will obviously need to be wary of your belongings. Earphones and/or earplugs might not be a bad idea to help to block out noises. And while you can purchase food and drinks on board, it’s perhaps not a bad idea to bring some along with you, as well.

How can I book train tickets?

The official Vietnam Railways site is https://dsvn.vn/#/ and while you can purchase tickets through them, you may have issues getting the site to accept foreign credit cards.  Navigating the site for non-Vietnamese speakers may also be a problem. A very helpful site, which was mentioned above – https://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm – has just about everything you need to know about train travel in Vietnam.  While you can’t actually book tickets through them, it is very easy to navigate your way around. As far as actually booking tickets, there are a couple of options. You may be able to ask your accommodation if they can do it for you, or you could use an agent like https://www.baolau.com/

Both options will result in a small commission being paid over and above the ticket price, but for peace of mind, it may well be worth it.

Back to Content

5. Travel Vietnam by Motorbike

Many travelers love to travel Vietnam by scooter

Renting a motorbike

 

Traveling by motorbike is the ultimate “local” way to experience a nation where motorbikes far outnumber automobiles. Motorbike travel avoids all the inconveniences related to using buses and trains, with the exception of heavy traffic.

Driving license in Vietnam

Like self-driving a car in Vietnam, the same licensing, and therefore insurance, issues apply.  While doing it legally for some citizens from some countries is possible, most cannot. And while many visitors to Vietnam do hire bikes to get themselves around, and do it successfully and without incident, the fact remains that most are technically doing it illegally. All going well you will no doubt have a wonderful experience, but if you are not ‘legal’, and therefore not insured, and things do go bad, then it is potentially going to become a very expensive exercise. It might be a good idea to speak with authorities in your home country beforehand, to ascertain exactly where you stand when in Vietnam.

Insurance and security

In preparation for your motorbike journey, you should inquire about insurance through your home country. If you drive without a license, it’s at your own risk as most insurance companies will not cover you. Crashes do happen in Vietnam, and if you are seriously injured and do not have insurance, you may have to deal with expensive medical care and the costs could run you into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if you need to be airlifted out of the country.

If you still wish to rent a bike, and are fully licensed and insured Tigit Motorbikes is a reputable motorbike rental business which operates out of Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Hanoi. Tigit is a responsible company which offers their customers western-quality service (unlike its competitors), and they only sell and rent quality Honda motorbikes which are bought new, are regularly serviced and well-maintained. You can book a long-distance travel packet based on the western model of renting cars—it will cost you $250 USD for 1 month or $10 USD day. If you’d prefer a guided tour, there will be all-inclusive packages.

Back to Content

6. Travel Vietnam by Water

Boat in Halong Bay

Halong bay cruise

 

Some areas of Vietnam—like Halong Bay and parts of the Mekong Delta—are only accessible via boats. Moving around these areas via guided tour boats is the safest way to experience these natural wonders.

Halong Bay tours range from luxurious, overnight cruises for $200+ USD per pax via companies like Bai Tu Long Bay Cruise to $45 USD budget day tours provided by Charming Vietnam Travel. If you’re looking to only spend the day exploring, guided tour boats leave from Tuan Chau Pier and cost around $20 USD. The Mekong Delta hosts an array of boat excursions as well, including Mekong Boat and Experience Travel Group who provide extensive options for luxury, mid-range, and budget tours for all travelers.

For either tour, make sure you bring some form of waterproof bag/container to prevent damage to your phones/cameras.

Back to Content

However you choose to travel Vietnam, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey as you explore this incredible country! If you want to experience some fun and authentic Vietnam Tours while traveling to Ho Chi Minh City or Hoi An, please check out XO Tours!

Tips For Capturing Great Photos in Hoi An

It’s no longer a secret, there are so many photo opportunities in Hoi An. One of the top photo tour galleries in Vietnam can be found in the picturesque city! Whether you’re an avid photographer with many years of experience or an amateur enthusiast, this article provides some advice and recommended locations to help you to capture some great photos in Hoi An!

If  you want to grab some great shots, our top tip is to avoid peak tourist hours. In the morning, try arriving between 5-8AM before most visitors enter the old town, or at night after the tour buses have left. Lunch is another favorable time slot if you want to capture more sunlight. Sunset and dusk; on the other hand, possess a certain mystical air in the old town that shouldn’t be missed.

In this article, I will try to list the most photo-worthy points of interest in the old town, along with a few places farther out. You won’t be able to cover all of them if you only have one day in Hoi An but this shouldn’t be an issue for most travelers.

Hoi An Photo Slideshow:

Top photo opportunities for a Hoi An Photo Tour: 

(click on a link below to jump straight to the location):

  1. The Japanese covered bridge.
  2. The old town as a city of gold/yellow.
  3. Hoi An Bougainvillea and arbors.
  4. Hoi An relics.
  5. The river roads.
  6. The lantern town.
  7. The French Quarter.
  8. The view from above.
  9. The traditional villages.
  10. Other points of interests and structures.

 


 

1. The Japanese covered bridge

And iconic relic in Hoi An, the Japanese bridge is probably the most photographed structure by both locals and visitors. Lighting plays a big role here as some of the best photos include the early morning sky or the changing artificial lights at night. The early morning really brings out the quaintness of the town in general. Sometimes you can catch a local vendor balancing a shoulder pole on the way to her regular selling spot, or even more rare, see a small boat in the canal. On one such occasion after a flood, I’ve seen some local boaters rowing their boats close to the entrance of the Japanese bridge. For some great photos in Hoi An, try to catch reflections in the water. Also, see if you can get a shot from the Nguyen Phuc Chu pedestrian street on An Hoi Islet across the river.

 

Japanese bridge is the most popular site to get great photos in Hoi An

Morning at the bridge:

 

Some other bridges of note nearby:
The Quang Truong and An Hoi bridges connect the old town with An Hoi Islet to the south. On the islet, you can find the pedestrian street of Nguyen Phuc Chu, the night market on Nguyen Hoang street, and the Nguyen Hoang Pier where the tourist boats dock. Farther to the east is the Cam Nam bridge (at Hoang Dieu street) that leads to the Cam Nam islet. You can get a broader view of the river from here for a another photo opportunity.

morning view of Japanese Covered Bridge

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

2. The old town as a city of gold/yellow

The march of time has left some wondrous marks on the old town, most notably on its ochre walls, which are predominantly yellow, with a few others of contrasting blue, green, or simply weather-beaten and covered with moss, mold, and mildew. The aged, bright yellow make for fantastic backgrounds for great photos in Hoi An.

Hoi An Yellow Walls
The Nostalgic Wall at the corner of Hoang Van Thu and Nguyen Thai Hoc (near the Museum of Folklore) is quite popular with Vietnamese tourists from all over the country. The alleyways, on the other hand, are quite underrated by many. There are relatively few of them (in comparison to Hanoi and Saigon) and they are easy to navigate so don’t hesitate to explore these fabulous gems.

Cho Hoi An

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

3. Hoi An Bougainvillea and arbors 

 

Bougainvillea plants Hoi An

In contrast to the old walls, the thriving Bougainvillea plants and a variety of arbors and hanging vines bring a different charming element and vibrant feel to the town. You will find them everywhere, the alleys included so pay attention for the opportunity to snap some great shots.

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

4. Hoi An relics

 

Old Hoi An House

 

A good number of these ancient buildings line up the main road of Tran Phu while others spill out into the nearby streets.

– The major Chinese assembly halls: Fukian, Chiuchow, Cantonese, Hainan, Trung Hoa.

– Cultural/religious relics: Cam Pho and Minh Huong commune houses, Quan Cong temple (or Ong Pagoda), Van Duc Pagoda, Nam Quang Tu Pagoda, Ngoc Cam and Ngoc Chau monastery.

– Old houses: Tan Ky, Duc An, Phung Hung, Quan Thang, Diep Dong Nguyen, Tran family, Nguyen Tuong family. (Note: The stretch near the Tan Ky house on Nguyen Thai Hoc is quite pretty, no matter the time of day.)

– The Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel on Tran Phu itself is an old house built by a Chinese merchant some two centuries ago — could be an interesting overnight stay for those with a propensity for the past.

– The Ba Le well is a Cham relic. It was drilled at least 700 years ago. These days, the story of The Ba Le Well is one of the delightful old hired hand; he’s near ninety years old and still makes some thirty trips daily, carrying water from the well to various establishments around town. In fact, a photo-hunting trip with him through the alleys can be quite interesting. He’s very much part of the soul of the old town, especially considering how he’s the sole support to his wife and his mentally ill son.

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

5. The river roads

 

 

Hoi An River at dusk

 

Remnants of the past they are, the river roads remain very much a great part of the landscape of the town. With its numerous economic establishments, the banks of the Hoai river revel in both memories of the old days and a vibrant collage of modern images. Among them are eateries, coffee shops, hotels (some are French-Indochina structures), the Hoi An market, the fabric and cloth market, one of the boat docks, the An Hoi sculpture garden, the brand-new Cultural Impression Park (as of March 2018), the Nguyen Phuc Chu walking street that leads to the Nguyen Hoang night market on An Hoi Islet, and the second night market (also brand-new) at Tran Quy Cap on the side of the Hoi An market. Photo ops are plentiful, with more of them when you reach the outer branch of the Thu Bon river at either end of An Hoi Islet. Within the confine of the old town, the little coffee place on the river bank (at the corner of the side street leading toward the Japanese bridge) is a good spot to observe a beehive of activities in the morning. The main Hoi An market at the other end of the town is another opportune location to get some great photos in Hoi An.

boats in Hoi An

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

6. The lantern town

 

Silk Lanterns in Hoi An

 

By now you’ve seen plenty lantern images in the old town. They are everywhere, but especially along the main streets that run parallel to the river, and at the Nguyen Hoang night market on An Hoi Islet. The best spots are probably around the area of the An Hoi Bridge. Also, if you can time your arrival to coincide with one of the major festivals, all the better.

You can learn more about the festivals here:

http://hoian-tourism.com/category/what-to-see/local-festivals

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

7. The French Quarter

 

Tran Phu street in Hoi An

 

There’s not really a French quarter in Hoi An, but you can find a good number of French-Indochina structures (from the late 19th century going forward) in the south side of the old town. Starting at the east end of the Japanese bridge, head south to the river bank and hang a left. Shortly after the An Hoi Bridge, the road becomes Nguyen Thai Hoc, where you can find some handsome buildings in that mold. Arguably, that’s the most beautiful stretch of road in the old town. Many of these buildings have both a front and a rear entrance, with the latter one on Bach Dang, the street that runs along the Hoai river. The Tan Ky old house (though not a French-Indochina structure) is an example of a merchant house with an entrance on the south side facing the river for the ease of loading and unloading goods. Nguyen Thai Hoc ends at the Hoi An market, but Bach Dang continues on, along the river, until it reaches Hoang Dieu (the Cam Nam Bridge). After that the Hoang Dieu intersection, Bach Dang becomes Phan Boi Chau. The presence of French-influenced architecture continues on and spills out onto the two roads to either side. On Nguyen Duy Hieu, The Hill Station Deli and Cafe is a fine example of such structures as is the Brother’s Cafe Restaurant on Huyen Tran Cong Chua (along the river).

To the north side of the old town, the Hoi An Historic Hotel on Tran Hung Dao was a good example of a French-Indochina structure at one time; however, after several alterations, the ground/courtyard is probably all that remains of the old allure. On the way to the beach, on Cua Dai road, the Indochine Hotel enjoys a great setting (next to a quiet smaller river and among paddy fields) that is truly quintessence French-Indochina charm. At downtime, try the top floor of the dining room (in a separate building) or simply roam the ground. Shortly after the Indochine Hotel, you need to cross the Phuoc Trach Bridge to get to the beaches. This bridge is also a good spot to get some great photos in Hoi An.

Sunset view from the Phuoc Trach bridge

Sunset view from the Phuoc Trach bridge

 

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

8. A view from above

 

Hoi An from the rooftops

If you like photography from higher up, a few buildings mentioned above offer some great locations; among them are the Phung Hung old house and the Indochine Hotel.If you want to kick back over a coffee or a drink, The Chef, Faifo, and Bread Break are there for the choosing. The first two situate on Tran Phu, and the last one is on Nguyen Thai Hoc.

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

9. The traditional villages

No visit to Hoi An is complete without a trip to the countryside. Here are a few of my favorites:

Thanh Ha is a traditional pottery village on the bank of the Thu Bon river, to the west side of town, reachable by both land and water. It’s also a fishing village, with a market that operates some time between 3:00 A.M. and sunrise. It now also features a very interesting museum/display space called the Terracotta Park where you can find clay replicas of famous edifices from around the world. If you head to the My Son ruins, you will pass by the northern edge of the village.

woman making pottery in Thanh Ha Village

 

The Phuoc Kieu bronze-casting Village is farther west from Thanh Ha, almost to National Highway1. To me, the most intriguing articles here are the gongs that the highly artistic craftsmen have forged for the various ethnic groups from the central highlands over hundreds of years. It’s fascinating how they are able to reproduce the different sounds of a whole set of gongs according to the requirements of dissimilar tribal groups.

The village of “Mi Quang” Phu Chiem: (the noodle specialty of the Quang provinces — administratively, these provinces used to include both Hoi An and Da Nang) is just to the west side of Highway 1 across from the Phuoc Kieu Village. If you get here around three o’clock in the morning, you can watch the whole village in action; well, almost. The local joke is such that if you arrive at the Cau Lau Bridge (which is the old bridge that runs in tandem with the one on Highway 1,) you would meet the entire female population of the village. In actuality, they simply charter a couple of minibusses to take them to the big cities like Da Nang and Tam Ky where they have arranged for a space to set up shop. Some members of this traveling band use their own transportation — the motorbike, or even their own feet. I had learned the story of a middle-aged woman who, up to five years ago, still walks some 30km every day, rain or shine. These scavenger hunts, obviously, are for the hardcore photographers. For others, they are simply trifles to ponder on the road to My Son.

abandoned brick factory in Cam Kim

The Kim Bong woodcarving and carpentry Village lies on Cam Kim Island to the south side of town, which is also just a short bike or boat ride. The Cam Kim Bridge connecting the island with An Hoi Islet is a great spot to marvel at the wide open space of the river; the view at sunset is simply drop-dead gorgeous. Besides wooden handicrafts, the highly skilled craftsmen at Kim Bong have further made a name for themselves from large-scale building projects not just in the old town, but all the way to the royal palaces in the Hue ancient citadel and beyond. On the other hand, Kim Bong traditional boat-building facilities are now just a tiny fraction of its heyday. The Cam Kim Commune is also known rice paper making.

Fishing boat being made in Kim Bong Village

The Triem Tay Village is on the same island of Cam Kim, to the west side (though not under the authority of Hoi An). Not too long ago – at the turn of the last decade, erosion had decimated so much of the land that most of the men were forced to seek jobs elsewhere. Thanks to the effort of a Vietnamese-French architect, Quoc Bui, it’s now a beautiful ecotourist village. On top of that, people were able to grow bamboo and sedge to resurrect their traditional sedge-mat weaving craft. In the village, you can also find a 300-year old home of the Vo family. If you go on a bike ride, a nice lunch spot is BenXua, which I had pinned on this map:
https://goo.gl/maps/wuyXqyQSTS12

 

The Tra Que Village to the east of town grows organic vegetables — don’t forget to visit the water wheel and the gallery nearby. This huge garden in Tra Que is a popular location for tour operators to take guests to for great photos in Hoi An.

 

The Cam Nam Island/Commune is accessible via the Cam Nam Bridge at the end of Hoang Dieu street as mentioned above. It’s known as a corn-growing area and old-fashioned baby clam harvesting.

The Cam Thanh Commune lies to the north of Cam Nam Island and to the east of the old town. It looks like part of the mainland but is actually a group of islets. Known locally as the Mekong of Hoi An, the commune is bound by three rivers, with a number of dissecting canals — all lined with water coconuts. Recently, it was turned into an ecotourist zone where you can experience the traditional basket boats.

 

 

 

– There are also several other fishing villages like An Bang (at An Bang Beach), Thanh Nam (at the Cua Dai Estuary), and Duy Hai (to the other side of the river mouth). Cua Dai bridge connecting the two sides of the river is obviously another great spot for photography.

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

 


 

10. Other points of interests and structures

the Atlas Hoi An Hotel

the Atlas Hoi An Hotel

 

These last places each has its own traits: from balconies to roof terrace, old structures and artifacts, traditional performances to craft demonstrations:

– The museums (History and Culture, Trading Ceramics, Sa Huynh, Folklore).
– Hoi An Blossom Handicraft Workshop, XQ Hoi An.
– The Hoi An Silk Village.
– The Atlas Hotel, designed by the well-known architect Nghia Vo, made the recent top ten list of Green Buildings as selected by Construction Global:

– The Vinahouse Space (Vinahouse Craft Village), boasts a collection of traditional Vietnamese houses and is located near both the Phuoc Kieu and Phu Chiem Villages. In the same vicinity, you will also find the captivating bamboo bridge of Cam Dong and a series of local bistros/restaurants that specialize in a delicious roasted calf (be thui).

[Back to Hoi An Slideshow]

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, and it helps you capture some great photos in Hoi An! If you want to explore the areas outside of old town and visit areas that most travelers to Hoi An never get to see, you may consider booking a Hoi An scooter tour with XO Tours or their unique evening walking food tour.

The Art of Finding the Best Tailors in Hoi An

With over 400+ tailor shops in Hoi An today, it’s not so easy to find the best tailors in Hoi An. So what is a traveler with limited time to do? 

 

One of the best tailors in Hoi An measuring cloth

 

If we go back in time 15 years, Hoi An was a picturesque coastal town well-known for its needle masters: the quality was no less than exceptional, prices seemed reasonable and options were limited to some extent. The tailoring scene we face when visiting Hoi An today has drastically changed for the worse: being offered discounts from every place you walk in (hotels, restaurants or taxi drivers), commissions are given along the production line which worsens the final output, leaving the end consumer with an inferior product at a price that doesn’t match the value. Let alone the fact that most of the ‘tailor shops’ aren’t doing the actual tailoring; these places are simply showrooms displaying samples and bolts of fabrics, outsourcing the sewing to workshops or needle masters at the markets. Besides the evident disadvantages of going through a middleman, the end result is nowhere near what you thought bespoke clothing would look like. All in all, it is not an easy task getting high quality tailor-made clothes made in Hoi An nowadays. 

In this article, we want to give you a clear picture of what the tailoring maze involves, no sugar coating nor beating around the bush. That being said, we would like to offer some tips on how to choose the best tailors in Hoi An, one that fits your expectations as well as your budget because, after all, there are a rare few shops that deliver what they promise. You just have to do your homework beforehand and know exactly what tailor-made dress, suit or shirt you are craving for.

Watch the video below to learn more about our picks for the top 5 Hoi An tailors:

Tips to finding the best tailors in Hoi An

  1. Know what you want
  2. Take your time
  3. Learn about the process and fabrics
  4. You get what you pay for
  5. Recommended tailor shops in Hoi An

 

  1. Know what you want

Buying bespoke clothes in Hoi An gets overwhelming because the options are endless. You can have absolutely anything you like made: dresses, suits, shirts, shoes, high heels…any color, any style, any size. Be very specific with your tailor. If you have a clear idea about your tailored piece of clothing, spend some time drawing it out to the last detail. If you are not a really good drawer, then consider finding a picture on the internet that looks exactly like the one you want. It might sound contradicting to copy an existing design when you are getting tailor-made clothing, but sometimes sticking with a cut that already works is best for starters. You can add more details or garments later in order to come up with your dreamed couture design, but make sure you know what you want.Back to Contents

  1. Take your time

colorful fabrics in a tailor shop in Hoi An

Following your gut feeling when offered a great discount at the tailor shop across the street from your hotel is tempting, but trust us when we recommend you to take your time on this one. Average stays in Hoi An last for 2-3 days, leaving visitors with only a couple of nights to shop around the streets of the Old Town. If you are planning on getting bespoke clothing and you don’t want to settle for low-quality garments, you should order your designs as soon as you arrive. Ideally, you would like to have three fittings (tailor-made clothes don’t come out perfect the first time) for any item you get, which will put you on a stretch in terms of time. With this in mind, make sure that before you pick your shop, you have talked to a few tailors, compared prices, tested different materials (more about this on the next point) and even bargained a bit.
Back to Contents

  1. Learn about the process and fabrics

A variety of cloth at a tailor shop in Hoi An

As mentioned before, it’s a long road ahead for those who want to get top-quality bespoke clothing in Hoi An. After you have done your primary research, your next decision lies with picking the right fabrics for your design. At the end of the day, it is the material that you use what makes the item falls or not fall as intended. A simple test would be to hold the fabric against you and decide whether or not this style fits your taste. Similarly, make sure you test what is offered to you as they have many flowing silk-like fabrics in Hoi An that are actually synthetic. How to tell the difference? Synthetic material melts while silk burns so ask them to do the burn test if you are hesitant.

Next, you will have to answer many questions from the shop assistant who is doing the measuring in order to decide on the small details. Getting asked the right questions is always a good indication that you have come to an experienced tailor shop.

Back to Contents

  1. You get what you pay for

A tailor in Hoi An sewing

This is what we meant when we talked earlier about expectations meeting final outcome. With such a fierce competition all across Hoi An’s tailor shops, visitors tend to focus on price or even bartering rather than working about the quality and workmanship at stake. The rule of thumb for a successful tailoring experience in Hoi An is that you get what you pay for. If you have a tight budget and don’t especially care about details or fancy designs, you will probably be pleased with just any shop. On top of that, remember that prices are overall lower in Vietnam and this also applies to clothes. Before you know it, you will find yourself indulging on custom-made garments for a much cheaper price than back home.

On the contrary, if you are willing to pay extra for superior bespoke clothing, Bebe Tailor, A Dong Silk, Yaly Couture and Kimmy Tailor are in our opinion the best tailors in Hoi An. We have been told by friends who have tried their services that they are the only shops that employ in-house needle masters, resulting in better service and quality all together. These four shops are probably among the most expensive in Hoi An, but we believe quality comes at a price and they sure deliver it. Even at these top-of-the-line shops, make sure you try to bargain in order to get a 10-20% discount off the quoted price, especially if you are getting several items made.

We’ve reviewed Bebe Tailor, A Dong Silk and Yaly Couture below, listing their strengths and weaknesses so that you can decide which one suits your style and needs best.

Back to Contents

Recommended tailor shops in Hoi An

 

Bebe Tailor

Be Be tailor shop

Trustworthy and quality-driven are two traits that perfectly describe Bebe Tailor. With more than 15 years of experience, they now have three different stores around Old Town area where they can take on one thousand orders a week (all done in-house) easily. Having the tailors on-site for small adjustments during the multiple fittings makes the whole process a lot easier. Above else, clients highlight their friendly and attentive staff who take care of every step of the way the second a potential customer walks in, guiding you through the entire purchase (from material selection to garment delivery). Quick turnaround and impeccable post-purchase customer service are also strong suits at Bebe Tailor.

Our friend Roberto had 2 suits and 5 shirts made here within 48 hours and couldn’t be happier with the final outcome. “Their service is fast and professional. When I got back to my accommodation, I found a small stain on one of the shirts. I called in and they quickly arranged for a replacement. If you are looking for tailors with an eye on detail, this is your go-to shop”, he told us.

Strengths: quick turnaround, post-purchase customer service, extensive catalogue with plenty of styles

Weaknesses: on the expensive side, cheaper fabrics can lead to disappointment, buttons come off for some clothing

 

A Dong Silk

A Dong Silk tailor shop

Back in 2005, A Dong Silk was the first tailoring outlet in Hoi An to register as a company. It now has a staff of 70 employees between their two stores offering a professional and pleasant tailoring experience that woes its customers. Personal sales assistants at A Dong Silk excel at giving personal advice before, during and after the purchase; making clients feel confident about their choices thus avoiding second guesses. All staff members speak great English (some French too) and are very acquainted to foreign fashion trends. They keep measurements for years and go the extra mile to make a client happy, shipping garments internationally if needed. If you already know your measurements, you can order online through their website through a seamless process that allows for countless customisations.

Our friend Maria came to Hoi An with the idea in mind of getting her wedding dress made during her visit. “I knew it had to be made at A Dong Silk due to the previous reviews I had read about their wedding dresses. I showed them a photo of a design I liked back in Spain and they came up with an exact copy of it for half the price. My personal assistant, Hong, made the whole experience very special and that is something I will never forget about my wedding dress nor my trip around Vietnam”.

Strengths: professionalism, eye for detail and very knowledgeable advice by personal assistants, value for money

Weaknesses: pushy to close the sale at times, less catered to Asians, tend to be old style

Yaly Couture

Is Yaly Couture the best tailor in Hoi An?

Born from a small market stall run by Mrs. Quynh, Yaly Couture has grown to be one of the most reputable bespoke shops in Hoi An. Apart from clothing, they set themselves apart from competition by designing bespoke shoes. Yaly takes craftsmanship to the next level by offering luxury couture fashion to a high-end clientele. They claim to stock the finest and the most extensive range of fabrics in Hoi An updated regularly, carrying some difficult to find cashmeres or top-of-the-line wools. Yaly prides themselves in keeping up with the latest fashions trends by providing their team of 300 tailors with the best training programs, assuring exemplary service and ongoing innovation. Their 3D body scan is a clear example of that: they register your measurements with this modern equipment so you can order online even after getting back from your travels in Vietnam. On top of that, customers consider shopping here a breeze since their process seems streamlined and easy for those who have never bought bespoke garments before.

Our friend Mario came to Yaly looking for an unique bespoke suit. “I had this weird design in mind that thought was unachievable in a place like Vietnam. They took all my requests in stride and came up with the suit that I exactly asked for. Later on, I was happy to find out about their international shipping since I will be getting more clothes made after this delightful experience”

Strengths: fashionable, top-of-the-line fabrics, 3D body scan for measurements and recurrent purchases

Weaknesses: small details are off at times, multiple fittings required, high price on certain fabrics

We hope this article helps you with your research before visiting the mecca of bespoke clothing in Vietnam. We couldn’t stress enough the fact that competition is fierce these days, hence the tailoring experience can turn out to be an overwhelming one. When feeling strained by indecision, remember that all this time is spent indoors, away from the sun, instead of enjoying the beauties of the Old Town. We recommend you to stick with reputable tailor shops that carry on their long-standing tradition and satisfied customers for a hassle-free stay in Hoi An.

If you want to fill up the time in between your clothes fittings with some fun activities, consider booking one of our amazing Hoi An day trips. To learn more about our thrilling “Riding with the Nguyens” scooter tour and our belly busting “Dinner with the Nguyens” walking food tour, please visit our XO Tours Hoi An website by clicking HERE!

Back to Contents