The Best City Tours In Vietnam

As Vietnam’s tourism industry skyrockets, many tour operators offer travel experiences that vary drastically in quality. There’s a huge number of tours and activities offered in Vietnam. This makes it almost impossible for travelers to find the hidden tour gems that really stand out.

To that end, we have handpicked 12 tours from 12 different cities that we believe represent the best city tours in Vietnam; tours that reveal the uniqueness of each city in the country.

With the exception of our own “Sights of Saigon Tour”, we have no vested interest in any of the Vietnam tour companies listed below and did not consult them when writing this blog post.

The Best City Tours in Vietnam

 

Our picks for the best city tours in Vietnam

(Please click on one of the links below to jump to the city you would like to explore)

  1. Sapa Tour 
  2. Ninh Binh City Tour
  3. Hanoi City Tour
  4. Hue City Tour
  5. Danang Area Tour
  6. Hoi An Tour
  7. Nha Trang Beach Tour
  8. Mui Ne Tour
  9. Saigon City Tour
  10. Dalat City Tour
  11. Can Tho City Tour
  12. Phu Quoc Island Tour

Sapa Tour

The hilly city of Sapa is built among the mountains, so the city itself is characterized by trellises, terraced gardens, and a rolling fog that is a result of its high altitude. Its rich Hmong culture, its stunning alpine beauty, and the many options for trekking tours in Sapa have been enchanting tourists for years. Sapa’s secluded location makes it feel like a sanctuary.

Fun fact: Sapa is the only city in Vietnam where you can see snow during the coldest parts of the year.

Tour: 1 Day Trek by Sapa Sisters

Price (1 day): $41/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group

Private tour? Yes

Who better to bring out the natural beauty of Sapa and reveal its ethnic minority culture than a tour guide who is of the Hmong ethnic minority herself? Sapa Sisters is among the best North Vietnam tours out there because it is highly professional while maintaining a local down-home feel, and because it offers treks with flexible scheduling. In other words, the company does not adhere to fixed itineraries and will not take each of their tour groups to the same places. The guides are extremely accommodating to customer requests and are comfortable with changing direction depending on what’s going on around them. This makes for an unscripted, deeply authentic experience.

friendly Sapa girls

Ethnic tour guides in Sapa

Highlights

  • All tour guides are Hmong women. This adds a layer of local authenticity.
  • Exceedingly flexible trekking itineraries.
  • Reviews consistently praise kind, passionate, knowledgeable guides who usually take customers to the guide’s house for a home-cooked lunch.
  • Tours that go overnight include a homestay at a local house.
  • Although the terrain is not too treacherous, the guides will really take you out into the rough, past gushing streams and rustic knolls. You’ll experience the full natural beauty of Sapa.

Protip: The area around Sapa has a number of incredible natural swimming holes to which the guides will take you if you ask, so it’s a good idea to bring a bathing suit if you’re visiting in the Summer.

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Ninh Binh City Tour

Ninh Binh is another city that is made incredible by the surrounding natural beauty. In fact, the lush and majestic Trang An River Complex that runs through Ninh Binh was recently adopted as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been referred to as “Halong Bay on Land.” The city itself is also pleasingly quaint, and the locals have done an inspiring job of merging the area’s striking greenery with their urban planning. Even though it feels completely isolated, though, Ninh Binh’s geographical location means it is not too out-of-the-way; it is one of the locations featured on our list of Best Day Trips from Hanoi.

Tour: Pu Luong Private Tours by Toan Duong

Price (1 day): $48/person

Private tour? Yes

This tour makes the most of the sheer variety of things to see in Ninh Binh. The Trang An River Complex may be the main attraction, but there are also fascinating cave systems, national parks, rolling hills, iconic geological formations known as karst towers, pagodas, waterfalls, rice paddies, and much more. It is impossible to pack everything in one day, but Toan Duong does a good job of fitting in as much awesome sight-seeing as possible while still providing thorough and insightful commentary.

Highlights:

  • Ninh Binh is not as well known as the other cities on this list (although it probably will be in 10 years), so you are more likely to have a truly authentic-feeling adventure where you don’t run into other tourists.
  • Flexible itinerary planning makes any time framework out.
  • This tour is suitable for almost every traveler, regardless of the age or fitness level, since the terrain is very flat. Keep in mind that much of the tour takes place aboard a boat or a motorbike however.
  • Reviews usually mention the delicious meals provided on the tour, especially the home-cooked dinners on the overnight homestays.
Enjoy the spectacular and authentic landscapes in Ninh Binh

Beautiful landscapes of Ninh Binh

Protip: As their site states, the best weather for trekking with Pu Luong comes in the Winter.

We would recommend booking a 3-day tour if you want to see everything Ninh Binh has to offer.

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Hanoi City Tour

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and it is brimming with enough history to satiate even the most hardcore culture buffs out there. From communist propaganda to street vendors carrying their wares on their shoulders and wearing conical bamboo hats, all the things the movies tend to associate with Vietnamese culture originated in Hanoi. It’s both the cultural and political capital of Vietnam, and one could say spending time there provides the quintessential Vietnamese experience.

Tour: Old Quarter Street Food Tour by Vietnam Awesome Travel (aka Vietnam Travel Company)

Price: From $30/person

Private Tour? Yes

Vietnam Awesome Travel is a great company that has been providing authentic tours around Hanoi since 2008. The owner of the company, Mr. Anh, works hard to please every guest and can customize each tour to specific requests. The tour guides are all locals who know the area intimately and have good relationships with all the restaurants and street vendors that make up the stops on this fantastic tour.

Eating on small plastic tables and stools in the capital city is a must try experience

 

Vietnam Awesome Travel offers many tours however we would recommend this Old Quarter Street Food Tour as not only a great way to learn about the history of the area, but also to discover the best local restaurants in Hanoi. If you’re not a tour person and would rather set your own itinerary, we would recommend following the suggestions in our How to Spend Two Days in Hanoi blog post as a jumping-off point.

Highlights:

  • Energetic and passionate guides with native speaker-level English skills.
  • The $30 USD price of this walking food tour includes all food, drinks + a private tour guide. If you prefer to join other guests on a group tour, the price is only $20 USD per person.  To include seafood dishes there is a $15 USD/person surcharge.
  • This company is extremely well organized and responsive, and it makes booking easy.
  • Vietnam Awesome travel have pre-planned itineraries, which is convenient for some. If you have some of your own ideas in mind, however, the guides are extremely flexible and accept requests.

Protip: For those who have already explored most of the Old Quarter themselves this tour may tread a lot of familiar ground. To explore a much wider area, you may want to try Vietnam Awesome Travel’s scooter street food tour instead.

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Hue City Tour

Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty, which lasted from 1805 to 1945. During that time, it developed a rich culture tinged heavily with war generals and royal ancestry. Perhaps the best embodiment of Hue’s historically fascinating “golden age” is the Imperial City built inside the Royal Citadel at the city center, and the entire city is a tribute to Imperial Vietnamese culture. History connoisseurs will be as happy as children in a candy shop when in Hue.

Tour: Mr. Hoa’s Hue City Tour

Price: $39/person
Private Tour?
No

Hue is a bit of a sleepy city compared to the others on this list, so it can be hard to find many interesting things to do if you are on your own. Mr. Hoa changes all that, though, as his full day tour will no doubt tire you out as a result of doing so much. He will take you to see the Citadel, the Perfume River, the tallest pagoda in Vietnam, and several famous tombs of royalty. When he drops you off at your hotel at the end of the day, you will be tired but will have good memories of the city that you would be hard-pressed to gain wandering the streets unguided.

Hue - The fomer royal capital of Vietnam

Hue – The former royal capital of Vietnam

Highlights:

  • A great value for money. The tour is 8 hours long and only costs around $40.
  • Reviewers agree almost unanimously that the lunch, which is at a local restaurant called Spice Viet, is extremely good.
  • Hoa’s tour company is an old and well-known establishment in Hue, and many of the reviews mention that the guides are able to slip to the front of certain crowded lines for attractions.

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Danang Area Tour

Danang is not an old city rich with history, unlike most on the list. Rather, it is a new metropolis that is just emerging as an A-list Vietnamese city and that will more than likely be among the country’s top tourist destinations within the next decade or two. One can tell from traveling around the area that it is more modern than most cities in Vietnam; it is built on the ocean and its city planners did a great job of merging city with sand with seaside. While surrounding Danang there’s a youthful but booming nightlife, it also has a laid-back, beach town-esque vibe that makes spending time there a blast.

Tour: Xuan Tu Private Tour

Price: Around $80/person

Private Tour? Yes

Xuan Tu Tours take place in many Vietnamese cities, but Danang is Xuan’s hometown so she gives the city’s tours extra care. This is another tour with flexible itinerary planning that takes into account the interests of its guests, but many of the most popular destinations offered by the tour are so fascinating that you may just want to go with their suggested schedule. Assuming you do, you will be taken to some absolutely amazing caves, mountains, bridges, markets, and pagodas, as well as a beach that is rated among the top 10 in the world by Forbes.

Chinese style temple in Danang

Happy tour group at a Chinese style temple in Danang

 

Highlights:

  • Most of the reviews mention how incredibly accommodating this tour is.  One review, for instance, mentions how the tour guide brought one of his guests to a local supermarket because the guest had mentioned how he wanted to find some snacks to bring home as gifts.
  • Guests will get a good feel of Danang, from the surrounding countryside to the beaches that make Danang so unique as a big city, all from the comfort of an air-conditioned car.

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Hoi An Tour

Hoi An is more of a town than a city, really, as you definitely won’t be finding any skyscrapers or Mcdonalds here. However, the area’s truly remarkable natural beauty, its distinct culture, its great weather, and the reputation. The town itself is like nowhere else in Vietnam, what with its cobbled streets, picturesque ponds, quaint shops, and weekend night lantern festivals. The surrounding area is packed with landmarks, too.

Floating candles in Hoi An Ancient Town

 

Tour: Tommy Dao Tours

Price: $65/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group

Private tour? Yes

Tommy’s crew are really professional — they would not be one of the most critically acclaimed tour companies in such a hot tourist destination unless they were really good at what they do. They are well-organized, professional, personable, and familiar with the area.

Note that this isn’t the best day tour to get a good look at the actual city of Hoi An, but rather the area surrounding it. You’ll get a chance to meet some people of the local Cham ethnic minority, and reviewers are consistently floored by the amazing excursions (including My Son Holy Land, Ba Na Hills, and Marble Mountains) that they are taken on.

Highlights:

  • These guys are extremely professional and easy to communicate with. Setting up a tour time and organizing exactly the kind of tour you want on Facebook messenger (or a similar platform) is easy.
  • Reviewers note that one of Tommy’s main Hoi An tour guides, Ken, used to be a professional photographer and will take some beautiful picture for his guests. Request him if you want some free souvenirs.
  • Tommy’s does airport pickups from the Danang International Airport.
  • Tommy’s tour guides give a lot of very detailed information — prepare yourself for a factoid overload!

Protip 1: Because of the two cities’ proximity to each other, the Hoi An and Danang tours on this list will likely have some overlap in terms of destinations. You may not want to book both tours.

Protip 2: In order to remain impartial, we have made a point not to include XO’s Hoi An tours on this list, however popular they may be (the one exception is the Saigon city tour profiled below). We would like to add here, though, that we do offer two very well-received Hoi an tours.

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Nha Trang Beach Tour

There are several amazing beach towns in Vietnam that you may be tempted to visit, but Nha Trang offers the best luxury Vietnam tours of the lot. The small city is delightfully laid-back, like any self-respecting beach town should be. At the same time, though, it has so much to see: amusement parks, a world-class aquarium, a system of cable cars, huge pagodas… the list goes on. And that is not to mention the main attraction: the beaches. the sand is white, the water is warm, and there are so many water-related activities that you won’t have a dull moment on the ocean.

Tour: Vietnam Active Snorkeling

Price: $25/person

Private Tour? No

Ask any Vietnamese where the clearest water in Vietnam and the best underwater sightseeing are, and they will almost invariably tell you Nha Trang. The snorkeling tour from the tour company Vietnam Active will take you to colorful coral reefs around Hon Mun island (an island off the coast of Nha Trang with even clearer water) where you will be able to observe exotic fish. You’ll be perfectly comfortable doing this without any wet-suit or outer equipment because the water in Nha Trang is famously warm.

Discover the fascinating undersea life in Nha Trang

Discover the fascinating undersea life in Nha Trang

 

Reviews comment appreciatively that it was nice being able to run free during the tour. Vietnam Active are not too restrictive of what tour groups get up to during their snorkeling sessions, and you can do things, like diving straight off the boat, that might be frowned upon in a more uptight setting. That is not to say that the tour slacks on safety precautions, however. Reviews also note that safety was taken very seriously on the tour, and people of all ages or skill levels are encouraged to join.

Highlights:

  • Tour groups are small, so there is enough time for individualized instruction.
  • Many reviews mention the cold lunch of sandwich and salad as being very tasty.
  • The tour takes you to two different snorkeling sites.

Protip 1: Be sure to check out a few options of where to purchase the tour, as several reviews mentioned the price fluctuating greatly depending on where they paid for it. It should be around $25.

Protip 2: Make sure to apply a lot of waterproof sunscreens. Many people get badly burned on this tour because they skimped on the SPF.

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Mui Ne Tour

Mui Ne, is another coastal town with some beautiful beaches. Its main attractions, though, are the fields of brightly colored sand dunes and the other natural wonders surrounding the town. It’s almost surreal to see several large deserts so close to the coast; it is a natural phenomenon that occurs at few places in the world, and it takes the phrase “sand meets sea” to a whole new level. There are very few man-made things to do in the area, and you will likely spend most of your time during your visit either at one of the town’s many large resorts or out and about visiting the natural landmarks.

Tour: Mui Ne Happy Tour

Price: $19/person

Private Tour? Yes

This tour is not exactly innovative, as it will take you to the same locations most people see on a trip to Mui Ne. They were the first company giving the now-standard Mui Ne tours, though, and they have by this point become a well-oiled machine. Even after all this time, though, they have managed to keep their prices down.

Rolling through many beautiful sand dunes in Mui Ne

Rolling through many beautiful sand dunes in Mui Ne

 

The tour will take you to the red sand dunes, the white sand dunes, the fishing village (which is essentially just a part of Mui Ne where a lot of fisherman live), and the fairy stream. They will transport you between these locations in a well-maintained Jeep. No tour guide accompanies you in the jeep to provide commentary, so be sure to read up on the area beforehand.

Highlights:

  • Though there is no tour guide accompanying you at the destinations (except for the Fishing Village), none is needed. The natural beauty of the dunes and the fairy stream really does speak for itself, and the landmarks are very easy to navigate anyway.
  • All-terrain vehicles are available for rent at the white sand dunes for an additional fee. You can either drive yourself or have an employee drive for you.
  • This may be among the best value Vietnam tours out there — the amount of transportation provided and the variety of experiences more than justify the $19 price.

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Saigon City Tour

Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam. It is the de facto economic and commercial hub of the country. It is also the 15th most visited city in the world by tourists (right behind Hanoi, which is 14th), and for good reasons: it is one of the best street food cities in the world, the nightlife scene in Saigon is off the hook, and it has a sprawling metropolitan cityscape that puts any other location in Southeast Asia to shame.

Unlike Hanoi, in which the main historical attractions are concentrated into a dense area (the Old Quarter) and can be covered on a walking tour, many of the well-known historical landmarks in Saigon are spread far apart. This is where a company like XO Tours excels as they provide scooter tours led by Vietnamese women, that can quickly zip their guests from location to location, while a professional, license tour leader regales guests with fascinating stories of each attraction.

Tour: Sights of Saigon Tour by XO tours

Price: $48/person

Private Tour? No, but available for an additional fee

We’ve attempted to keep this post unbiased by not including any of our own tours on the list, but we simply had to make an exception here because we are so proud of this one.

Fun ride with XO girls around Saigon

Scooting around Saigon with the XO Girls

 

Like many of the sightseeing motorbike tours in Saigon, The Sights will take you around the city to see many of the places which make Saigon special. However, it is unlike other similar tours in one important aspect: it will not take you to the same played-out locations tourists are accustomed to seeing in Saigon. Although the usuals, like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, will be included, the tour will also take guests to lesser-known locations like the secret CIA building and Ho Thi Ky Flower Market. The top-tier tour guides provide excellent commentary on each of the locations visited, and the pace is both quick enough to see a good amount of sites in just a few hours time and leisurely enough to get in some great photo opportunities.

Highlights:

  • Reviewers comment that the traditionally dressed women who take the tour group around the city on motorbikes during the tour are both excellent conversationalists and very safe drivers. People reportedly feel very safe on the bikes, even in the center of the seemingly hectic Saigon traffic.
  • Unlike most other scooter tour operators, the staff at XO Tours are professional/licensed tour guides not students, so their knowledge of the city and history is much more in depth.
  • You’ll feel like you’ve earned an A+ in urban tourism by visiting so many off-the-beaten-path sites.

Protip 1: The tour is three and a half hours long, and much of it consists of riding through the heavily industrialized city on the back of a motorbike. Unless you have sinuses of steel, you may want to bring along a facemask. We’d recommend a filtered face mask, as they offer more protection.

Protip 2: If you’d rather explore the city yourself, we highly recommend our “How to Spend One Day in Ho Chi Minh City” guide.

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Dalat City Tour

Dalat is a haven of elegant Western-style architecture, European-influenced shops, and perfect weather, dropped into the middle of Vietnam. It’s in the midst of the mountainous Vietnamese region known as the Central Highlands, so there are plenty of nature activities like biking, canyoning, and whitewater rafting to engage in. The city itself is amazing, too; it strikes just the right balance between developed urban area and sleepy town. It is a mecca for Central Highlands culture, and it is surrounded by such beautiful nature that basically everywhere you go is “the scenic part of town.” Because the geological makeup of the surrounding area is quite different from most of Vietnam, Dalat is also the only major city in the country where you can get certain goods straight from the source, from berries to coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a weasel.

Tour: Amazing Dalat

Price: $37/person, assuming one person. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group

Private tour? Yes

This is another one of those city tours that is guaranteed to tire you out by the end of the day, because they just pack in so much stuff. You’ll head out for a breathtakingly panoramic cable car ride over a lake at 8:30 am, and over the next eight and a half hours you will be taken to a Zen Monastery, a clay sculpture garden, a rustic waterfall and swimming hole, the town’s French Quarter and Central Market, a weasel coffee farm, a colonial rail station, and a Buddhist pagoda made from recycled glass. They’re not exactly off-the-beaten-track destinations, but they’re definitely worth seeing. Plus, the itinerary is broken up by lunch at a local restaurant chosen according to tour group requests, although the lunch costs extra.

Clay town in Da Lat

Clay town in Da Lat

 

Vietaction, the company that runs this tour, specializes in extreme nature tours in the area. So even though this tour is one of the city, the tour guides know how to incorporate fascinating tidbits about the nature surrounding Dalat.

Highlights:

  • Guests have a choice between car transport and motorbike transport, so they can choose whatever type of transport that makes them feel more comfortable.
  • This tour will take you all around the city of Dalat rather than staying near the city center, which is more than can be said for most city tours.

Protip: Bring a sun hat and shoes you do not mind getting a bit dirty. The tour includes some of the natural beauty that makes Dalat a magical place, and that means rough terrain.

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Can Tho City Tour

The Mekong Delta region in the south of Vietnam is one of the lushest, greenest, most fertile areas you will ever come across. Can Tho is tucked in the midst of that region, and, although it is one of the largest cities in Vietnam, it gives off a fun and fresh vibe consistent with the natural beauty surrounding it. It has a very young population, as it is home to several of the most famous universities in the country, and the city is spread out so that the population density is not too high. Whereas you might feel unsafe crossing the street in a metropolis like Saigon or Hanoi, the traffic in Can Tho is totally bearable. Simply walking the streets is more enjoyable than in most city in Vietnam, even the ones on this list.

Tour: Spirit of Can Tho by Can Tho River Tour

Price: $29

Private Tour? No, although inexpensive upgrades are available

Can Tho’s most famous activity takes place before most people are even awake. The Cai Rang Floating Market gets started very early, and that is why it is a good idea to book the 5:00 trip for this tour. A tour guide will meet you bright and early and take you out on the Mekong in a traditional Vietnamese model of the motorboat. The boat will weave in between the locals peddling fruits, kitchenwares, breakfast foods, and household items; you will not find any of the touristy trinkets of Saigon’s Ben Thanh Market.

Amazing Floating market in Can Tho

Amazing Phong Dien Floating market near Can Tho

 

After getting your fill of the floating market, the car will take you by boat to visit a local rice noodle factory. You will get to meet the family who runs the business and sample the rice noodles you see made in front of you. You will then go to a cocoa Farm where they make chocolate from the beans on the trees. The tour also visits a fruit farm and a botanical garden, both of them are representative of the area’s brilliant flora.

Highlights:

  • The tour will surround you with locals and give you an intimate view of the agricultural Mekong lifestyle.
  • While going to a rice noodle factory is a staple of tourism in the area, the one this tour takes you to is not the usual tourist shtick. Reviews comment that it’s more interesting and more authentic.
  • The Mekong Delta is home to some truly awesome wildlife, such as herons and Kingfishers. You will get to see some on this tour.

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Phu Quoc Island Tour

Phu Quoc Is a beach town on an island off the southern tip of Vietnam, so it’s very isolated. There is still an actual town with hotels, breakfast joints, and plenty of shops on one side of the island, but the less developed side of the island with its deep green jungles and its shockingly blue waters is the main attraction.

Tour: Green Hat Holiday Kayaking

Price: $95/person, assuming two people. The per person price lowers the more people are in the tour group

Private tour? Yes

What better way to see an island famous for its beaches then to view the island from the water itself? This tour will take you around the north side of the island, allowing you to explore the lush green coastlines from your own kayak. You will visit an eco-friendly bee farm and a farm that grows the famous Phu Quoc Peppers. The lunch menu is just as much a part of the tour as an eating location, too — seafood will be served at a floating village restaurant.

Discover the beauty of Phu Quoc Island

See beaches like this on the Phu Quoc Island tour

Highlights:

  • The tour is private, so the tour guides know how to tailor the experience precisely to the group.
  • This tour is rather physically demanding and takes place only during the day, and for these two reasons, it pairs very well with the same company’s excellent “Street Food By Night” tour.

Protip: Land transportation during the tour is available in a car or, on request, in an open-air Jeep. We would recommend the latter, as it makes you feel closer to the surrounding nature.

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This list will undoubtedly connect you with some of Vietnam’s best tours. If you are the type who would rather try your luck without a professional guide, or if you’d simply like to read a bit more about most of these locations, head over to XO’s article on “How Long to Travel in Vietnam: The Perfect Itineraries.” Or, to browse more of our well-researched picks of the best Vietnam tours, look at our list of the 11 best tours in Vietnam, complete with pros and cons.

The Complete Guide to Ba Na Hills and the Golden Bridge

Ba Na Hills has been in the news a lot recently due to images of their latest attraction “The Golden Bridge” going viral. In this article, we’re going to provide you all the information you need in order to get the most out of all the things to do at Ba Na Hills.

The complete guide to Bana Hills and the Golden Bridge

The complete guide to Bana Hills and the Golden Bridge

 Ba Na Hills Guide: Common Questions

(Please click on the links below to jump directly to the information you want to explore)

 

 

If you prefer watching to reading, play the video below to learn everything you need to know about Ba Na Hills!

 


What time to go?

The peak tourist season is the summer so the park will be very crowded between April and August. If you don’t like crowds, we would recommend visiting during the low season between January and March, or during the winter months, from October to December. During the low season, we recommend you check the local Danang weather as it can get very blustery and might affect your photos.

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Coming from Hoi An?

2 ways to get to Ba Na Hills from Hoi An or Da Nang

Ba Na Hill is located 70km northwest of Central Hoi An. It will take you about 2 hours to get to Ba Na Hills from Hoi An by car and about 45 minutes to get there from the center of Da Nang. If you’re staying in Hoi An, you have to first pass through Da Nang in order to get to Ba Na Hills. The easiest ways to go to Ba Na Hills is to hire a private car, taxi, or Grabcar. You can order a Grabcar by downloading the “Grab” app on your smartphone. The cheapest way to visit Ba Na Hills, aside from driving there on a motorbike is by buying a package with a tour company and traveling there in a group by bus.

1. By Bus

A couple of tour companies that sell packages to Ba Na Hills are The Sinh Tourist and Legend Travel. The prices of these packages range from 1.000.000 VND – 1.400.000 VND ($45-$60 USD), and includes entry tickets to the park, transport to Ba Na Hills by bus, a buffet lunch, an English speaking tour guide, and travel insurance! Since the tickets to Ba Na Hills alone costs 750,000 VND, you’re only paying 300,000 VND to 700,000 VND extra for transport, lunch, and the tour guide! The downside of these packages is that you are forced to follow the itinerary and schedule of the tour companies.

tour bus to Ba Na Hills

Getting a bus to Ba Na Hills

2. Private car/taxi /Grabcar

If you don’t want to follow someone else’s schedule then traveling by car will offer you the most flexibility. If there are 4 or more people in your group it is also probably the cheapest and most comfortable way to get to Ba Na Hills. You can rent a 4-7 seat car or taxi for between 700.000 VND – 1.000.000 VND/ day ($31-$50 USD). The car will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off at Ba Na Hills at the time of your choosing and you can call the driver whenever you wish to leave. Most hotels should be able to arrange a private car or taxi for you.

You can also order a Grabcar via the “Grab” app but it might cost you more than a private car/taxi which offers a pre-negotiated round trip price. Also, the rate of Grabcars can fluctuate dramatically during times of high demand.

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What time should I arrive at the Park?

Ba Na Hills opens from 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM. We recommend visiting between 9AM to 5PM as there are more interesting things to do during these times.

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Buying Tickets for Ba Na Hills 

There are many booths in front of the park that sell one-day entry tickets. The price for adults is 750,000 VND ($33 USD); The price for children between 1-1.3 meters tall is 600,000 VND ($27). Entrance is free for children shorter than 1m. The price includes round trip rides on the cable car and entrance to most of the attractions in the park. Please keep in mind that there is an additional fee to enter the wax museum and some games in Fantasy Park also cost extra.

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Ba Na Hills Cable Car Entrance 

To get into the park, you will have to take a cable car. The Ba Na Hills cable car ride is the highest and longest cable car system in the world. It stretches 5,801 meters long and peaks at 1,368 meters high, which are both world records! The cable car system was built following European standards and offers a spectacular view of Da Nang and the surrounding forest. Please keep in mind that during the high season and most weekends, there will be long lines to get into the park. You may have to wait in line for 30 minutes to 1 hour before you get to take the cable car up Ba Na Hills.

cable car in Vietnam at Ba Na Hills

Ride on the longest cable car in the world at Ba Na Hills

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Things to eat at Ba Na Hills?

When you get hungry, there are a few restaurants in the park for you to choose from. La Lavande, Doumer, and Brasserie all offer extensive menus. Choose between set menus, barbecue, fast food or buffet options. However, most visitors choose the buffet but if you are visiting with friends or family, we recommend choosing the set menu. If you want to dine with a great view of the French Village we recommend eating at Morin.

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Where to stay?

The majority of visitors to Ba Na Hills stay at hotels outside the park. However, if you think that 1-day visit is not enough, the 4-star Mercure Ba Na Hills French Village Hotel is nearby. This lovely 4-star hotel offers all the elegance and style you would expect from a hotel in old France. Prices per night at this hotel range from 1-3 million VND for a double room.

The Mercure Ba Na Hills French Village Hotel

The Mercure Ba Na Hills French Village Hotel

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What is there to do in Ba Na Hills?

  • The French village

It is described as a miniature “Europe” in the heart of Danang. You will experience the beautiful architecture of Renaissance Europe with replicas of old churches, shops, eateries, and hotels,… inspired by real European buildings. So, wear your nicest clothes and get yourself camera ready, you will have a ton of great photo opportunities!

Arial photo of French Village in Bana Hills

Shoot amazing photos at the French Village in Bana Hills

  • The Debay Wine Cellar

This wine cellar was constructed by the French in 1923 with the aim of preserving various types of fermented fruits. The Debay Wine Cellar now offers a large stocked bar with cocktails, light snacks, various grapes, and wine vintages. Before the wine is bottled, it is made and stored in oak barrels, which brings about a feeling of nostalgia.

  • Jardin D’Amour

This beautifully decorated European-style garden is where you’ll find lots of visitors taking photos. Romantic, classic, elegant, colorful, and impressive – This flower garden is divided into 9 smaller ones, each with its own interesting story and unique architectural style.

flowers at Ba Na Hills

Enjoy the huge variety of flowers at Le Jardin D’Amour

  • Linh Ung Pagoda

For visitors who want to find a spiritual place, you can visit this ancient Pagoda located on the top of Ba Na Mountain; 1,500 meters above sea level. This Pagoda is one of three Pagodas named Linh Ung in Da Nang, and definitely the highest of the three. The main attraction of this particular pagoda is a beautiful, white 27 meter tall Buddha statue.

  • Fantasy Park

With an area of 21,000 m2, Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park was inspired by “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” The park is the largest entertainment center in the country. There are plenty of fun rides and games for both children and adults. Games for adults we would recommend include The Drop Tower, 4D Death Race, and indoor rock climbing.

 Fantasy park

Have fun with rides and games in Fantasy park

 

Along with those activities, you can also try the very first Funicular (enclosed cable car) in South East Asia, ride the Alpine Coaster, visit the Wax Museum, and immerse yourself in the cool Mo stream nearby.

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THE GOLDEN BRIDGE!

The Golden Bridge, which just opened in June, has instantly become the most popular tourist attraction in Da Nang. Located 1000 meters above sea level the world famous bridge is 150 meters long and is supported by two massive stone hands. Described as, “giant hands of gods, pulling a strip of gold out of the land.” Many travelers have likened the bridge to something from Game Of Thrones and Lord Of The Rings. On foggy days, The bridge will make you feel like you are walking through heaven surrounded by clouds. It’s simply an amazing place to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature and take beautiful photos.

The Golden Brigde at Bana Hills

The Golden Bridge at Bana Hills

 

Important Tips on Ba Na Hills

  • Please keep in mind that Ba Na Hills does not allow visitors to bring food into the park. However, you won’t go hungry, as there are a lot of food kiosks and restaurants all over the premises.
  • Guests are allowed to bring drinks to stay hydrated.
  • Remember to wear sunscreen during the hot season (April to August).
  • Bring your jacket in winter time (October to December) when temperatures can drop down to 13-15 degrees Celsius.
  • If you want to immerse yourself in the refreshing Mo stream, you can also bring your swimsuit.
  • Finally, although the locals all seem to love Ba Na Hills, with its mixture of exotic European and Asian architecture, most travelers seem to either love or hate the resort. When you visit Ba Na Hills, you’ll likely see thousands of Vietnamese people taking photos and selfies everywhere!

Ba Na hills may not be for you if you think throngs of people snapping endless selfies in replica European towns are cheesy. However, if you love crazy architecture and want memorable photos, then Ba Na Hills is the perfect place for unforgettable photos. In our opinion, we think a visit to Ba Na Hills is worth it alone for the amazing cable car ride and “The Golden Bridge.”

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We hope you find this blog post about Ba Na Hills helpful. If you’re looking for something unique to do while in Hoi An, you might consider trying one of XO Tours’ super fun Hoi An day tours. You can learn more about our walking Hoi An food tour and our Hoi An Scooter Tour by visiting our Hoi An website.

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 post, we present the best tours in Vietnam offered by some of the most reputable tour operators in the country. The tours we have selected are not restricted to any particular region; we looked at candidates from the north to the south 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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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 higher than with most Mekong Delta 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

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Best Vietnam Adventure Tour

Phat Tire Ventures (Dalat, Vietnam)

Price: $72/person for full-day canyoning

As the name of this tour company suggests, Phat Tire Ventures 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

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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 through 5 districts in 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.

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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 guests 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 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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!