Safety and cultural advice for solo female travelers to Vietnam

Vietnam’s largest cities are an extremely popular destination for independent travel. But safety is always a concern when traveling solo, especially for women. In this post, we’ve rounded up some actionable safety tips for solo female travelers in Vietnam.

Note that we are not affiliated in any way with the brands we mention in this article.

  1. Is Vietnam a Safe Country for Females?
  2. Theft and Other Crime
  3. Blending in as a Solo Female Traveler
  4. Getting Around Safely in Vietnam’s Cities
  5. Finding Safe Accommodation in Vietnam’s Cities
  6. To Sum Up

Female traveler buying street foodThere’s a ton for solo female travelers to do in Vietnam’s big cities. Learn to be safe in the process. (Source: Jetstar)

Is Vietnam a Safe Country for Females?

Several Vietnamese women were interviewed for this piece, and they all agreed: Vietnam is not a particularly dangerous country, even for solo female travelers. In fact, most big cities in the world, including those in Western countries, are more dangerous for women than Vietnamese urban centers. Part of this is due to the fact that Vietnamese generally do not have a heavily patriarchal view of society as much of the world unfortunately does.

Many Westerners have a negative perception of how women are treated in Vietnam. They have seen war movies or documentaries about expectant Asian parents praying for male children that might lead them to believe women have it rough in this part of the world. But the reality of women’s status in Vietnam could not be more different. In fact, women are extremely empowered in Vietnam. They are the cornerstones of productivity, and it is just as likely (if not more so) to see a business run by a woman as a man. The bottom line is that women here face little if any discrimination based on their gender, which means solo female travelers are rarely seen as possible targets of crime.

That being said, domestic violence is still quite common here. Angry men tend to throw chairs, bottles, and fists, but rarely at people they are not well acquainted with. Of course, there is the rare exception; some men will take advantage of certain women no matter where you are in the world. The best strategy is to blend in (see the “blending in” section below).

A purse snatching in progress

Vietnam is the 15th most populous country in the world, so of course there is some petty crime. (Source: Corporate Travel Safety)

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Theft and Other Crime

Good news: the violent crime rates in Vietnam, whether against men or women, are far lower than in most large cities elsewhere. This can be attributed in part to the fact that guns are illegal (a ban that has, by and large, seemed to work), but also because the Vietnamese are just a non-confrontational people. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to non-violent crimes.

Pickpockets and other thieves are comparatively common, especially in the city’s most touristy areas. Solo female travelers are perhaps the most common victim of crimes such as purse-snatching because they are often the most trusting.

“One way to stay safe in Vietnamese cities is not to trust people too fast,” says Lâm Phạm Trâm Anh, a 30-year-old Vietnamese woman. “Vietnamese people tend to be very friendly towards tourists,” Trâm Anh adds.

“It is easy to be lulled into a sense of security that thieves will take advantage of.”

Trâm Anh also points out that you should avoid wearing gold jewelry on the streets or bringing too much cash around with you. That way, you can minimize the damage if something bad does happen.

A traveler fanning his money

This is an example of being a bit too flashy with your dong — the name for the Vietnamese currency. (Source: Jason Billum Travel)

Another interviewee, 27-year-old Trần Thiên Kim, notes that a little vigilance and common sense can go a long way for female travelers. For example, “never use your phone when you’re standing by the street. If you have to, look around first and remember to hold it tightly in your hand.”

22-year old Lê Khánh Vy adds that you should abide by the safety rules solo females stick to in any city. For instance, don’t hang around late at night–Vy cited midnight as a good cutoff point for Vietnam’s big cities. Stay out of dark alleyways, a tip especially pertinent to travelers in Vietnam because the country has a ton of alleys (called ngõ or hẻm in Northern and Southern Vietnam) in its urban areas. Vy advises solo women travelers especially to bring a compact self-defense weapon with them… just in case.

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Blending in as a Solo Female Traveler

Our interviewees agreed the best method of all for solo female travelers to avoid trouble is to blend in. Here are some Vietnam-specific tips for doing just that.

Clothing – Although traveling by yourself is not inherently dangerous, it is common for female travelers to be less covered up, due to the heat. Keep in mind to dress down respectfully, though; low-cut shirts are not a good idea in Vietnam.

Vietnam is by no means a place where women have to be covered from head to toe. In fact, local women can be quite stylish!

However, local residents are usually not skimpily dressed and travelers should follow suit. As we said earlier, aggression or assault from men is not common here and we are not implying that a woman’s clothing choices should provoke any ill behavior. But making smart clothing choices is the easiest way to not attract unwanted attention.

Additionally, women should be particularly respectful with clothing choices when visiting a pagoda or temple. At these places of worship, short shorts, tiny skirts, low cut tops or bare shoulders are not considered appropriate attire.

Vietnam travel clothing

Light clothes are fine in most places — Vietnam is a tropical country, after all. If a piece of clothing is “sexy,” though, it’s probably a no-go. (Source: Student Exchange Vietnam)

Personal belongings – We have said this before in this blog and here we reiterate. In order to stay safe and avoid scams, please be careful with your purses, phones, and jewelry. Thieves will go to great lengths to snatch purses or other valuable items. We have read all too many stories where thieves on motorcycles have tried to grab a woman’s purse and dragged the poor woman until the purse was freed from her.

If a situation such as this arises and the perpetrator is stronger than you, the last thing you want is to be physically hurt.

PDA (public displays of affection) – Vietnam is a rapidly developing country and western trends are quickly influencing both pop culture and everyday culture. Many couples are seen holding hands and being affectionate. Although holding hands is fine, other public displays of affection are not deemed respectful. It is not advisable to kiss excessively in public.

Vietnamese couple

It’s normal to see couples like this one walking the streets arm-in-arm. Public kissing is definitely a taboo, though. (Source: Icaut.com)

Personal Questions – In Vietnam, it is quite common to ask about the marital status of a woman. There is also a fair chance that some lifestyle choices may not be fully understood or supported. Many women travelers have reported that they wore a wedding band or said that they were married simply to avoid these questions.

The locals’ exposure to tourists has grown substantially over the past few years but it is possible that you will encounter some people who do not agree or understand why a woman is unmarried past a certain age or is in a common law relationship.

Another question you may encounter often is about your age. It is very common to establish your age in comparison to the person asking because it denotes how they address you in the Vietnamese language. For a westerner, this notion can be a bit strange because one never asks a woman’s age unless you’ve reached a certain comfort level! Though these questions may come across as offensive, it is not the intention, notes Vy.

“In Vietnamese culture, expressing interest in details of another’s life is seen as friendly, even if you are not close already. It’s definitely a cultural difference.”

Other common personal questions include:

  • What is your monthly salary?
  • How many people live in your family?
  • How many kids do you have?
  • Where are you staying?

Don’t let these questions worry you. They are normal things to ask in Vietnamese culture. Answering them in detail is a good way to become friends with locals. Of course, you are free to ignore them or simply make up a fantasy narrative for your own life instead.

Street food with a local

The Vietnamese tend to be extremely friendly, and making friends is easy. Know that you may be asked some personal questions, though. (Source: fisher.osu.edu)

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Getting Around Safely in Vietnam’s Cities

Ride-hailing apps have changed taxi services in most places the world over, and Vietnam is no exception. Grab Bike and Grab Car have replaced the motorbike taxis known as “xe om” and traditional cabs as the safest, cheapest, and most reliable ways for tourists to get around. Trần Tiên Kim recommends all tourists, whether solo female travelers or not, to get a 4G-enabled SIM card when they arrive in Vietnam just for this reason. The Grab app is easy to navigate, even for English speakers. There are also several other apps that include reliable car and bike-hailing services, such as Be and GoViet.

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot use a ride-hailing app, you’ll have to go with one of the old-fashioned options. You can identify xe om drivers because they tend to be parked on corners. Look for the bikes with two helmets, and ask the driver “xe ôm?”

Xe om driver on his bike

A xe om driver relaxing on his bike. We’d recommend instead calling a Grab Bike if you have mobile internet. (Source: Spiderum.com)

If you’d rather take a taxi, make sure you catch one of the cars from a reliable brand. In Saigon, the safe ones are “Mailinh” and “Vinasun.” In Hanoi, stick to “Mailinh” and “Thanh Cong.”

Traveling alone as a woman in Vietnam is fairly common at all ages so a foreign woman will not raise any eyebrows for simply being a solo female traveler. Some women may have a difficult time getting on a bike with a stranger, but the bike-hailing apps in Vietnam are very safe. Just remember to check the license plate of your driver against the one shown in the app before you get on the bike.

“Xe ôm” translates literally to “hug machine.” Like xe oms themselves, though, hugging your motorbike driver is rarely seen anymore. Although it is acceptable for women to put their hands around their driver’s waist, it is more common for people to hold onto the rail sticking out from behind the seat if they want something to hold onto.

At night, however, we highly advise women to take cars rather than bikes to get around. Even local women take this advice. Bikes are more exposed than cars, and a female on a bike at night is an enticing target for a potential purse-snatching. An added reason is that drinking and driving is becoming an increasing concern in Vietnam, and it is more likely that drivers behind the wheel of a car (which is much more expensive than a motorbike) will drive responsibly.

Inside a Grab Car

Calling a Grab Car is the very best option, and cheap compared to Western taxis. (Source: FT.com)

That being said, the transportation provided in organized tours like The Foodie by XO or any of the tours included in our round-up of the best city tours in Vietnam is always 100% safe, no matter what time it is. It is for this reason many solo female travelers opt for tours to explore Vietnam’s big cities by night.

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Finding Safe Accommodation in Vietnam’s Cities

Agoda and Airbnb are the safest and most reliable choices for finding safe accommodation. Agoda is extremely trustworthy and convenient, but its listings are often a bit more sterile and “touristy.” Airbnb provides more authentic, friendly accommodations, but it is a bit more of a gamble in terms of quality than a hotel site like Agoda. Both options are safe and can be extremely affordable.

Hotel reception at Cantho Hotel Saigon

Vietnamese hostels, homestays, and hotels are available for very good prices on sites like Airbnb and Agoda. (Source: Saigoncantho.com.vn)

Most of the 1-3 star hotels in Vietnam are not listed online and can only be booked in person. Unfortunately, this kind of last-minute booking is not a good idea for tourists, especially solo female travelers. This is because staying somewhere without any online record of checking into that place leaves you vulnerable to theft by the hotel staff. Foreigners, especially those staying alone, are a prime target for this kind of scam. I have lived in Vietnam for five years, in fact, and the only time I have been the victim of a crime was when I had several hundred dollars stolen from the hotel room I had booked on arrival in a new city.

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To Sum Up

Here are a few safety tips for solo female travelers in Vietnam sourced from our lovely interviewees. Some of them are mentioned elsewhere in this post and some are not.

  • Try to avoid using your phone near the street or in crowded areas. If you must, face away from walkways when you use it and remain wary of your surroundings.
  • Try to only carry with you the amount of cash you think you’ll need.
  • Don’t be too trusting. Like in most touristic areas, some people in central Saigon will try and use friendliness to take advantage.
  • If possible, research a destination before traveling there.
  • Befriend some English-speaking Vietnamese in case you need their help in an emergency.
  • Don’t go into dark alleys at night.
  • Always keep your valuables in your pockets/bag while you are walking.
A female traveler with two Hmong women

Vietnamese cities are a fantastic place for solo female travelers to meet locals and delve into the culture. (Source: Tribesandminorities.com)

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Even with this inconvenience, Vietnam is a relatively safe country for solo female travelers. Still, it is important to keep your wits about you, and it would behoove anyone coming to Vietnam to familiarize themselves with the safety protocol beforehand. Check out our posts on avoiding scams in Northern and Southern Vietnam, or peruse our piece on eating and drinking safely.

Mapping Street Food Culture in Saigon

Before delving into Saigon’s rich street food culture, it is helpful to know what it is that makes the cuisine special. Why does it beat local restaurant food 90% of the time? How was street food culture here born? Where should you get certain dishes? And how can you make your Vietnamese street food experience the best it can be?

It’s true that Vietnamese street food is an integral part of Vietnamese culture. Out of 10 million+ people living in Saigon, over 1 million of them sell street food for a living. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said that he would rather eat at one of Vietnam’s delicious and authentic street food stalls than most 5-star restaurants any day. It has even been said that Vietnam’s street food culture is a microcosm of the country’s culture in general. For visitors, exploring the street food scene is one of the most popular things to try in Vietnam. For locals, it is a way of life.

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

    1. Vietnamese Street Food: Pros and Cons
    2. Vietnamese Street Food: A Brief History
    3. Nhậu: Eating and Drinking For No Particular Reason
    4. District Specialties
    5. The “Sidewalk Revolution”
    6. Is It Safe to Eat Street Food in Vietnam?

Vietnamese Street Food: Pros and Cons

It is common knowledge that street food is cheap and convenient. But the fact that it is so popular in cities throughout Vietnam is due to more than just accessibility. In fact, street food provides a tastier and ultimately more satisfying dining experience than a restaurant can most of the time. Why is this?

Firstly, street food tastes better because it is fresher and uses more hearty flavors. It makes excellent use of fats, acids, and crunchy vegetables to achieve its desired flavors and textures. More so than restaurants, street food vendors focus on using only fresh ingredients just bought from the local market that very morning. Successful stands do not have a choice, in fact, because they have massive turnover and sell everything they stock. It is not uncommon for a particularly popular street food location to close up shop a bit early because they run out of ingredients due to demand.

Throughout Saigon, street food favorites like bánh bèo and bánh xèo are prepared with farm-fresh and organically-produced vegetables and meats. (Source: Vogue.com)

 

The smell of a Vietnamese street food experience is another thing that helps it get the leg up on restaurant eating. The olfactory aspect of the dining experience is often overlooked, but the truth is that the smells hanging around you while you are eating will drastically alter the perceived taste. Street food establishments do not have a separate kitchen to keep the cooking smells away from the diners, and customers can have a more immersive dining experience because of that fact. Vietnamese street food locations tend to be clustered together, too, so customers can take in the aromas of multiple foods being prepared while eating.

Possibly the biggest reason most people love Vietnamese street food, though, is because of the atmosphere. Street food stalls offer a more “authentic” feel, and they are simply more vibrant than indoor dining. You get to see your food made, the cooks are usually “real people” rather than restaurant workers, the storefronts are more often than not local residences… tourists agree that eating on the street is the best way to experience the real Vietnam through food.

Friendly street food vendor

Look at that smiling face! Vendors like this give off the air of “real people” you can connect with on a human level, unlike stuffy restauranteurs. (Source: BeyondWords.co.uk)

 

Last is an aspect of street food culture that is lost to most tourists: the aspect of discovery. There are few things in the world as satisfying as hitting the streets, finding a street food place that looks like it might be promising and having a great meal there. It gives you the feeling of a prospector who just struck gold. Several weeks ago, for example, I was strolling by a local market, taking in the sights and sounds of the metropolis surrounding me. I happened to pass by a stand selling bò lá lốt and decided to give it a try. Thirty minutes and eight delicious beef-and-vegetable wraps later, I sat back in my flimsy red plastic chair, utterly satisfied. The sizzle of beef being prepared for the next customer added to the metropolitan buzz of the Saigon night, as did the aroma of the warm herbs used in the dish.

A busy food street in Saigon.

A street food vendor prepares her wares on a bustling street in District 8, ready to be discovered by another fortunate wanderer. (Source: Vietnam Tourism)

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Vietnamese Street Food: A Brief History

The origins of the Vietnamese street food scene began in the Northern part of Vietnam in the early 1900s. Some entrepreneurial soul in the village of Van Cu, near Hanoi, came up with the bright idea of hauling around barrels of soup balanced over his shoulder on a flexible yoke. The idea soon caught on like wildfire. Surprisingly, phở, possibly the most famous Vietnamese street food, was not actually invented until after those mobile soup vendors became popular.

Over time, vendors began to diversify the foods they sold. They began to include not only phở but also dishes like broken rice (cơm tấm) and cakes (bánh). Travelers and locals appreciated the quick, delicious, freshly prepared meals, and they were extremely inexpensive to maintain for the seller, who didn’t have to pay for much more than ingredients.

The next innovation in Vietnamese street food came when many vendors tired of moving around all day. As Vietnamese urban areas became more densely populated, the sellers realized they did not need to be mobile in order to get customers — the customers would come to them. Staying put also had a host of other benefits. For instance, it was a lot less tiring for the vendors. People always knew just where a specific vendor could be found. It allowed the vendors to put out plastic chairs and tables so people eating the food would have somewhere to sit and relax. And maybe most importantly, it gave the sellers more space to spread out, which meant they could prepare slightly more complex dishes — the meals that are still popular kinds of Vietnamese street food today.

A street food vendor in Saigon with all of her ingredients laid out around her.

A street food vendor with her full spread of ingredients. (Source: Nomadisbeautiful.com)

 

Still, though, the street food shops were not truly stationary. To avoid the costs associated with officially establishing a business, the owners made sure everything, including the tables, chairs, and food prep stations, could be rolled away or loaded onto a vehicle at the end of business hours. This mobility also came in handy when the police came by, as it was — and technically still is — illegal to set up sidewalk businesses without a license in Vietnamese cities.

But why has the Vietnamese street food culture endured and strengthened, while in most other places restaurants have become the norm? The answer lies in Vietnam’s culture, which is particularly good at preserving its time-honored social activities. Vietnam has withstood a lot in the past century. During most of that time, it has been an impoverished country. Starting a street food stand has always been a popular way to make a bit of extra money since it has such a low overhead cost. The Vietnamese are also resilient people and have always found time to celebrate little things, even when going through hard times. They have a time-honored tradition of going out together every now and then even if they can’t spend too much money, and that has kept the street food culture alive.

A Vietnamese family eating together.

Eating and drinking with friends and family has long been a staple of Vietnamese culture. (Source: An Nguyen)

 

Although nowadays many Vietnamese street food vendors could afford to move into a more permanent establishment if they wanted to, mobile street eats are now such a big part of urban Vietnamese culture that they choose not to. Vietnam’s street food culture may have been born out of necessity, but locals have grown to love it. The most successful of these “new wave” street food sellers are able to make a fantastic living, in fact. Not only do they bypass a lot of red tape by selling on the street, but they are also able to charge just as much as an indoor restaurant if their food is of especially high quality. Multiply the cost by the huge amount of in-and-out customers that street food can attract, and you’re looking at a pretty impressive nightly income.

Locals also have more money, so a sidewalk meal is not just for celebratory occasions anymore. In fact, most Vietnamese people (and most visitors to the country) enjoy street food at least once per day. It’s a part of the country’s cultural fabric and a necessary inclusion on any list of things to try in Vietnam.

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Nhậu: Eating and Drinking for No Particular Reason

One of the things visitors love most about Saigon is the tradition of communal celebration that is woven into the culture. And possibly the best illustration of this behavior is a phenomenon known in Vietnamese as nhậu. On any given night, even if there is no particular occasion to celebrate, a large group of Vietnamese adults may go out together to eat, drink, and be merry. We’re not just talking about any meal, either; nhậu always centers around beer or some other form of light alcohol, whether beer (bia) or liquor (rượu). The actual food portion of the meal is always heavy on protein and light on carbs, so as to make room for more booze. So instead of rice or noodles with sauces and add-ons, you can expect a nhậu meal to consist instead of barbecued meat (thịt nướng) and platters of shellfish (ốc).

Because nhậu food is different than typical street food, there are special establishments dedicated to providing parties with all they need for a perfect sidewalk banquet. These establishments will serve every kind of meat imaginable and, of course, very reasonably-priced beer. Most nhậu eateries are also frequented by on-foot street vendors selling small plastic bags of traditional Vietnamese snacks. Khô bò (spiced beef jerky), đậu phộng muối ớt (chili salt peanuts), and da cá (deep-fried fish skin) are several examples of snacks that Vietnamese love to consume when they nhậu.

A Vietnamese nhậu restaurant

Đi nhậu! Punters gather in a popular eatery on plastic chairs and sturdy metal tables for some “eating and drinking for no particular reason.”(Source: Chuanmen.com.vn)

 

There are several qualities that signify an establishment is a place to đi nhậu. The first is that nhậu places are built on a large, flat area of cement. Dozens of short plastic or aluminum tables and chairs will be laid out on this space. During business hours, the floor of the eating area, especially under the tables, will be littered with empty beer bottles or cans, used napkins, and shellfish husks. The debris may at first seem offputting to someone not used to it, but in Vietnamese culture, the messy aftermath of a nhậu session seems festive and inviting, like the confetti and glimmering beads left strewn on the floor after a great New Year’s Eve party.

As noted above, much of Vietnam’s recent history is steeped in poverty. It was not until recently that the average family became able to take a night to eat and drink recklessly for no particular reason. Because of this fact, nhậu establishments are a newer addition to the Vietnamese street food scene than the traditional hủ tiếu and gỏi cuốn stands you may pass during your urban adventures. That being said, they are an indispensable part of street culture in Vietnamese cities, especially in the southern part of the country. No street food education is complete without a few chances to đi nhậu.

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Where to Find the Best Street Food in Saigon

Finding good street food to try in Vietnam is not always easy, though, especially for tourists. There are an overwhelming amount of places to sample, some of them delicious and distinct, but many of them duds. You definitely owe it to yourself to do your homework and learn about Vietnam’s street food culture in depth or at least go on your street food adventure with someone who has already done so. 

District Specialties

Nowadays, street food is everywhere in Vietnamese cities. Walk down a street in Hanoi, and you’ll find different dishes than in Danang, where you’ll find very different choices than in Saigon. The specialties even vary from district to district within cities.

Saigon district map

A map of the urban districts of Saigon. (Source: Codiemaps.wordpress.com)

 

Ốc, Phá Lấu — District 4

Three of District 4’s most distinguishing features are that:

    • It is known for its rich street food culture.
    • It has an extremely high population density (almost twice that of District 1).
    • It is literally an island, a triangular district connected to surrounding areas only by bridges.

These three factors have come together to produce an incredible shellfish street food scene. Streets like Vinh Khanh are veritable paradises for seafood lovers, with crowded shops lining the street on either side.

Phá lấu is a spicy and creamy dish comparable to red curry, but instead of fish or chicken, it is made with whole pig organs. For a reason lost to the sands of time, the bustling streets of District 4 have become known for producing the best versions of the dish Vietnam has to offer. For fantastic phá lấu and a wide variety of other street eats, walk down Xom Chieu Street and Vinh Khanh Street.

Wontons — District 5

If your travels take you to District 5, you’ll notice red slips of paper adorned with Chinese characters hanging above many doors or behind windows. That’s because District 5 is Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown. Communities of Chinese immigrants have flocked there for decades, and they brought their distinctive recipes with them. That is not to say Chinese dishes are not served elsewhere in the city, but district 5 definitely does them best. Wontons (hoành thánh) are the most popular, although you can also find dim sum (há cảo) and Chinese noodle dishes being peddled at street food stalls wherever you look, and especially on food streets like Nguyen Kim and Nguyen Trai.

The point is, a single Vietnamese city is varied in terms of its street food culture and landscape. Just going to one market with a lot of different street foods is not enough to give you a good sampling of the city’s street food scene. Even exploring an entire district is not enough. The only way to truly get a good taste of what Saigon’s street food vendors have to offer is taking a tour like The XO Foodie Tour that spends a good amount of time darting between districts.

BBQ, hotpot — District 8

District 8 has come to be known as where the locals come to party (see the section above on “nhậu,” the Vietnamese custom of celebratory eating and drinking for no particular reason). You can find large roadside establishments grilling up fresh meats and vegetables here every night until the early hours of the morning. The raw barbecue (thịt nướng) is generally brought to the table along with a portable miniature grill. Customers can then cook their own food just how they like it. Stroll down some heavy traffic streets such as Duong Ba Trac or Pham The Hien to discover these establishments.

The most popular party dish in District 8 has a bit more distinctly Vietnamese flair. “Lẩu” is the Vietnamese word for “hotpot.” Places that serve the dish will carry a bowl of tangy spiced broth to the table and will heat it at the table using a hot plate. Like with Vietnamese barbecue, they will supply a dish of uncooked meats and vegetables, along with some noodles. The customer then creates their own dish by adding the ingredients to the boiling broth in whatever manner they choose and then waiting a few minutes for it to cook to perfection. Experience this dish for yourself at District 8 food hubs like Xom Cui Market.

An authentic Vietnamese street food delicacy -- lẩu.

A bowl of “nước lẩu” with all the fixin’s. (Source: Crossing Travel)

DistrictSpecialtiesNotable Food StreetsDistance from Center
4Pha lấu
Ốc
Kinh Khanh
Xom Chieu
Doan Van Bo
2.5km
5Wontons
Dumplings
Fried Noodle Dishes
Nguyen Kim
Nguyen Trai
Nguyen Thoi Trung
4.5km
8Barbecue
Lẩu hotpot
Pham The Hien
Hung Phu
Xom Cui Market
7km
10Sweet soup (chè)Su Van Hanh
Nguyen Tri Phuong
To Hien Thanh
4.5km

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The “Sidewalk Revolution”

In early 2017, Ho Chi Minh City officials began a campaign to clean up the sidewalks and return them to their original purpose — pedestrian walkways. This meant, among other things, cracking down on the street food vendors that were crowding many of the sidewalks throughout the city. There was immediate retaliation from locals, who complained that street food was part of Vietnamese culture and could not be taken away. As a compromise, officials designated certain areas as “street food markets” and allowed vendors to set up there without facing any possible repercussions.

One example of this kind of market that many tourists stumble across is the street food emporium adjacent to Ben Thanh market. The covered tent of the evening bazaar houses rows upon rows of food stalls, all of them as neat and clean as the vendors at a mall food court. The food is not as low-priced as one would imagine of Vietnamese street food, although it is, according to reviews, very tasty. After ordering, customers can find a seat at one of the long wooden tables at the front of the tent. They can also wait for their food like at a traditional street food location, but the sellers will be happy to bring it to the tables when it is ready.

The interior of the street food market at Ben Thanh Market.

The Ben Thanh Street Food Market. (Source: Abroadertale.com)

Nowadays, many of the most popular and highest quality street food vendors have moved into designated street food markets similar to the one across from Ben Thanh. The markets are delicious and convenient, but, unfortunately, they lack somewhat in authenticity. Street food was invented with the intended venue being a sidewalk stand surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city. In comparison, eating it at one of the long tables found in a street food market seems a bit dull.

There are still many Ho Chi Minh City street food vendors who have stuck to the sidewalks. However, a portion of those that do still deal in the streets are of low quality. Poor hygiene and “shortcut” cooking methods that sacrifice flavor are common at such places.

The key to a successful Ho Chi Minh City street food excursion is to find the best of both worlds. You don’t want to eat somewhere serving low-quality food, although that place may provide an authentic street food atmosphere. But you also don’t want to eat somewhere that feels artificial, even if the food there tastes great. What you really want is somewhere that both feels authentic and tastes excellent. Somewhere where you can smell, hear, and see the pulse of the city around you, and at the same time give your taste buds a reminder of why people love Saigon’s street food.

This is why many tourists in pursuit of a delicious, authentic street food experience turn to the pros. As stated previously, Saigonese locals love street food, and they are eager to share the best of their city’s street food culture with visitors. By joining a tour like The XO Foodie run by XO Tours, you can be let in on a bit of Saigon’s diverse street food magic.

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Is it safe to eat street food in Vietnam?

Yes, it is generally safe. It’s a good idea to stick to more reputable street food vendors who have a reputation to uphold. However, even lesser street food is much more hygienic than most tourists have been led to believe. For a much more detailed guide on how to identify unsafe street food and what types of street foods are particularly unsafe, head over to our popular blog post on food safety in Vietnam.

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!