What to buy in Vietnam from north to south!

Many tourists enjoy souvenir shopping in Vietnam to not only commemorate their time in the country but also to give items as gifts or to purchase beautiful pieces for decoration.  Vietnam is such a vast and varied country that it can be difficult to decipher what handicrafts make a region unique or where in the country is the best place to purchase certain items.  In this edition of Vietnam travel tips, we breakdown exactly what is made in which part of the country and where to purchase it.

NORTHERN VIETNAM

Handicrafts from Northern Vietnam

Handicrafts from Northern Vietnam

What to buy in Sapa 

Vietnam is home to 53 ethnic minority groups and many of them live in Northern Vietnam near the border of China.  They not only have a distinct culture and way of life, they also have unique handicrafts and ornaments that distinguish each group from the other.  Many of the ethnic groups also grow their own indigo and rear sheep to loom and dye fabric.  In the northern parts of Vietnam, be sure to shop for beautiful embroidered fabrics, naturally dyed fabrics, and silver jewelry.  Purses and scarves with their signature patterns are often sold at the markets and stores there.  But be careful – many market sellers also sell leather and fabric goods which may resemble local artisanal work but are actually imported from China.  It may be difficult to tell the local crafts apart from the imported ones so we suggest asking your tour guide to help you in choosing something authentic.

 

What to buy in Hanoi  

Although Hanoi is slowly becoming cosmopolitan, the culture is still very traditional and grounded.  No matter how modern the city becomes, ancient arts and crafts are definitely not lost in Hanoi.  One particular traditional handicraft made in Hanoi is Do paper (Do is roughly pronounced yaw with an upward intonation).  Do paper is made from the bark of the Do tree.  The raw material goes through a lengthy three month process to become a soft and durable paper fibre which is then used for books and paintings.  The paper is also used to print the traditional Dong Ho paintings.  These paintings originated in the Dong Ho village and depict various symbols and scenes to signify spring’s arrival.  These paper products can be found on Hang Gai or Hang Bac street in Hanoi. For a more complete guide to shopping in Hanoi, please check out our Ultimate Hanoi Shopping Guide!

 

What to buy in Halong Bay

On your way to Halong Bay from Hanoi, many tour cars and buses will stop at tourist shops selling silk embroidered paintings, among other things.  These ‘paintings’ are special in that they are not paintings at all!  They are art pieces that are fully embroidered with silk thread.  Many of these shops also have people working there doing the embroidery right in front of you.  Although it may be hard to believe, these pieces are made by hand only.  In fact, this industry is known for hiring people with disabilities because it is an art that can be done by anyone with good dexterity.  The pieces made by a person with a disability will usually be indicated.  These stores will also send larger pieces by sea to almost any corner of the world.  The prices are usually reasonable because they send containers in bulk so they receive a discount for freight services.

 

CENTRAL VIETNAM

Handicrafts from Central Vietnam

Handicrafts from Central Vietnam

What to buy in Hue

You cannot come to Vietnam and not notice the beautiful conical shaped hats that both locals and tourists wear.  Each region of Vietnam has put a unique spin on how to decorate the conical hat.  Some like to embroider them, some draw on the surface, but one of the most interesting variations is the conical hat from Hue.  During the process of making the hat, images and verses of poetry are imbedded between the leaves such that it is only visible when light is shone on it.  This concept is very fitting for Hue, as many poets, artists and romantic epics hail from this area.  To learn more about the conical hats, take a look at our previous blog.

 

What to buy in Da Lat

Da Lat is one of the most fertile regions of Vietnam and a lot of vegetables and fruit come from this area.  The highlands around Da Lat are also the coffee growing centres of Vietnam.  If you visit any of the coffee plantations in this area, be sure to buy some coffee straight from the source!  Another unique product they have here is Atiso Tea (Artichoke Tea).  As the name suggests, it is a tea made from artichokes and has a floral aroma and earthy taste.  The easiest place to find artichoke tea as well as other products such as jam, root chips, and dried fruit is a chain store called L’angfarm.  Even though you can find Da Lat products at any shop in the area, the advantage of buying items at L’angfarm is that this store is a one-stop-shop for all Da Lat specialties.  And, the presentation and packaging are appropriate if you are purchasing these items as a gift!

 

What to buy in Da Nang

Many of the giant marble structures you can buy at stores around the world are actually made in Vietnam.  The advantage of buying it here is of course the huge cost savings.  Most of the marble in Vietnam comes from an area just outside Da Nang called Marble Mountain.  If you take the drive between Da Nang and Hoi An, you will actually see store after store selling huge carved structures of religious figures, fountains, or animals.  If you purchase any of these items, all the stores will also ship them to wherever you live and for a very reasonable price.

 

SOUTHERN VIETNAM

Handicrafts from Southern Vietnam

Handicrafts from Southern Vietnam

What to buy in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is the centre point for commerce and trade in Vietnam, and merchants from all over the country come here to sell their goods.  Although many of the items you can buy here are most likely not made in the city, it is easiest to purchase them here simply because it will be more within your reach.  The best things to purchase here are fabric (especially silk), lacquerware and ceramics.  For exact locations on where in the city to purchase fabric and lacquerware, please take a look at our Ho Chi Minh City Shopping Guide.  If you have a car available at your disposal, the best place to purchase ceramics is in the Binh Duong province, about 40 minutes outside of the city.  Right along the highway are several warehouses where they sell beautiful ceramic art.  It is quite the sight!  The cost savings are usually huge when buying an item in Binh Duong as opposed to within the city.

 

What to buy in Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is an island off the cost of Vietnam, very close to the border of Cambodia.  The island has many claims to fame – not only is it a premier beach destination, it is also the largest producer of Fish Sauce and peppercorns in the country.  The fish sauce from Phu Quoc is world renowned.  It is made from the fermentation of black mackerel and is highly purified to remove sediment.  Imitation Fish Sauce uses other types of fish which changes the flavour and sometimes has sediment because of a poor filtration process.

 

What to buy in the Mekong Delta

The other fertile region in Vietnam is the Mekong Delta area.  Because of its hot climate, most of Vietnam’s tropical fruit is grown here.  Many tourists love the local experience of riding down the canals on a sampan while enjoying fresh pineapple that you bought directly from the pineapple farm.  Of course, taking fresh fruit back with you to your home country as a souvenir might be difficult but there are more practical ways you can take those tropical flavours back with you.  When you are in this area, make sure to keep an eye out for the coconut caramel candies and other fruit flavoured treats.  Some shops will even make and package the coconut caramel right in front of you.  Since production of these fruit treats are on a small scale, the ingredients are usually natural and homegrown.

 

Although shopping for souvenirs in Vietnam can seem difficult at first, we hope that our guide makes it easier for you.  If you need help picking out the perfect commemorative items in Ho Chi Minh City, join us on our XO Tours Shopping Spree Tour.  And, if you need more information on shopping in Vietnam or Vietnam travel tips in general, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Entrepreneurship in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam is truly a country of entrepreneurs, pretty much every house facing a street is a business of some kind. Many are traditional family-owned businesses like small clothing stores, corner shops, restaurants, coffee shops, but you will also see a new wave of small startups

Progress and growth are being created by entrepreneurs in a diverse set of fields in Vietnam, but here I will focus on Internet startups.

The city

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s largest city and is closing in on 10 million people. Even though it is not the capital, much of the business is done here due to being a much more international city than any of the other major cities in Vietnam. The quick flight to Singapore also makes it easily accessible for regional investors.

Look up: More about Ho Chi Minh City

Benefits to enjoy

  1. The energy: It is hard to not get affected by this city’s energy. Everyone seems to be moving forward, and of course this is fueled by a young and ambitious population where many dream of running their own business.
  2. The cost of living: When starting a new business it is always good to save where you can, then it doesn’t hurt that you can have lunch for a dollar and a beer for less if you want to. Rent can get expensive, but if you are ready to share an apartment it gets affordable as well.
  3. Places to work: There are hundreds if not thousands of coffee shops with WIFI and a brand new co-working space called Saigon Hub where you can mingle with other startups while building the next big thing.
  4. The startup eco-system: It is getting better day by day, and since it is still a fairly small community, it is easy to get in touch with people. There is a growing number of accelerators in the region wanting teams from Vietnam, and quality learning and networking opportunities are also becoming more common with Startup Weekend etc. Venture capital albeit limited, is available, the most active VCs in Vietnam are IDG Vietnam Ventures, Cyberagent Ventures and Digital Media Partners.

Look up: Vietnam’s startup eco-system, Coffices in Ho Chi Minh City

Pitfalls to avoid

  1. Lacking focus: Entering a developing market as a foreign entrepreneur can feel like the beginning of a modern-day gold rush, but be aware, there are too many good opportunities for any single person/company.
  2. Underestimating the local competition:  You often get the feeling that almost everything has been done on the Internet here, but very few things have been done well. Do not underestimate local entrepreneurs and websites which might not look like much, design is a cultural thing, so what looks less developed might be a local giant.
  3. Placing funds in Vietnam: If you are not Vietnamese, avoid placing money inside Vietnam. Banking regulations make it hard to get it out, much better to have an offshore entity in Hong Kong or Singapore as the holding company, and then a local company to hire staff.
  4. Underpaying staff:  Don’t get really cheap staff just because you can, competition for good staff is fierce,  and quality beats quantity every time.
  5.  Focusing on only Vietnam: Vietnam is a large but immature market, so it is not a bad idea to look at some neighboring markets as well. An added bonus is that investors often love a regional plan. There are some who have managed to do it successfully such as GreenGar and Not A Basement Studio.

Look up:  GreenGar, Not A Basement Studio

This is a guest post was written by Anders Palm who founded Eat.vn and some other projects in Ho Chi Minh City.

FACES OF VIETNAM Edition 3 – Meet the Person Who…

Drives a Cyclo!

Cyclo touring has declined in popularity in Ho Chi Minh City over the last several years.  Its reputation has taken a hit because of the many bad experiences from travelers and the government has really limited the reach of cyclo tours in the city.  Actually, we have mentioned in a previous blog the precautions that tourists need to take when hiring cyclos.  Now, there are only certain places around District 1 where a cyclo can tour.  Unfortunately, this really limits the amount of money the cyclo drivers can make.  Out of desperation, many cyclo drivers can appear to be very aggressive.

Aggression is clearly not a trait of Mr. Kim’s.  In fact, he is very quiet, unassuming, and mild-mannered.  We found him dozing off under a bridge in Saigon with his shirt off, hiding from the heat.  We may have startled him a bit when we woke him up from his peaceful nap!  Mr. Kim is 60 years old and has been driving a cyclo for over 20 years!  He has seen the tourism industry in Saigon go through many different phases.

XO:  Tell us about your family, Mr. Kim.
Mr. Kim:  I have 6 brothers but 3 have died already.  I don’t have a wife.

XO:  Why did you choose to do this work?
Mr. Kim:  I don’t speak English.  It’s very cheap to ride a cyclo.  If it breaks, I can fix it easily.  It is easy work.

XO:  If you don’t speak English, do you face any problems with tourists?
Mr. Kim:  Not really.  I write down the price, they tell me where they want to go.  It’s easy.

XO:  When do you start working?
Mr. Kim:  After 6 PM.  I like to sleep during the day because it’s too hot.

XO:  How do you pass your time during the day then?
Mr. Kim:  Well sleeping… Or, the lady across the street with the store asks for my help sometimes to carry things.  I help out some of the other shop owners around here.

XO:  How much do you charge?
Mr. Kim:  Depends.  From 50000-100000 for 1 hour and 200000 if they want to go around the whole city.

XO:  And how much do you make in a day?
Mr. Kim:  Only about 100000.  Sometimes I get no customers so I don’t make anything.

XO:  And whom do you provide for?
Mr. Kim:  No one.  Myself.  I live with my brother and his family but I am usually out all day.

XO:  Oh ok.  And they live close by?
Mr. Kim:  Yes in District 1.  I can go home for lunch sometimes.

XO:  Do you travel around Vietnam to different cities?  Or even outside of Vietnam?
Mr. Kim:  With what money??

XO:  Okay, what about going out for dinner or beer?
Mr. Kim:  With what money??  [We sensed a theme so we ended it here instead of pushing the topic more…]

Talking with Mr. Kim was a very different experience from the people in our other interviews.  Besides the fact that Mr. Kim was a man of few words, the other workers were much more enthusiastic about their profession and their way of life.  We are certain that they recognized that it wasn’t the easiest way to live but they were making the most of their situation.  We aren’t sure that we saw the same drive and passion for work in Mr. Kim.  Perhaps this is because Mr. Kim only has himself to take care of and has very few responsibilities or maybe it is because he is older in age and doesn’t desire as much for himself.  Either way, we can’t say for sure that Mr. Kim loves what he does for a living, yet he has been doing it for more than two decades!

Mr. Kim - a cycle rider

Mr. Kim – a cycle rider

If you see Mr. Kim around the city and recognize him from this blog, ask him to take you out for a spin!  For more Vietnam travel tips and advice, talk to us personally on our many tours!

 

A Guide to Living in Vietnam

Vietnam has become a popular short-term destination for not only travel but for living as well.  Due to the increased prominence on the global scene, many expats call Vietnam their home.  Currently, there are roughly 90,000 foreign nationals living here.  Living in Vietnam is a unique and enriching experience, but it can also be daunting when you don’t know what to expect.  Even securing the opportunity to work and stay in the country can be challenging at first glance.  The Vietnam travel tips we’ve given you already apply to many aspects of life here, but we also want to give you some general guidelines on how to secure a job, how to stay and work in the country, and what life in Vietnam is like.

SECURING WORK 

The tourism, finance, and manufacturing industries are seeing rapid growth here and there are jobs available for foreigners in these industries.  By far the biggest job search repository for jobs in Vietnam is VietnamWorks.  There are also a handful of other sites that recruit people for the Asia Pacific region as a whole.  Another good resource is the classifieds section of local news outlets – try Tuoi Tre or Lao Dong.  Another excellent resource for both information and sometimes job opportunities are Expat groups on Facebook.  There are many local businesses that have a need for foreigners and advertise on expat groups.

Many native English speakers are also able to work here as ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers.  Keep in mind that although English teachers are in high demand, Vietnam has recently cracked down on teachers without proper certification.  Most agencies that place teachers in Vietnam will only recruit teachers with a CELTA certificate and with the correct number of hours of experience.  But, if you look for jobs independently, the only way to teach without the right credentials are by private hire.  In order to teach at international schools, you would need to go through international job fairs or create a contact within the administration of the school itself.

Look up: VietnamWorks, Tuoi Tre, Lao Dong 

PERMITS TO WORK/STAY IN VIETNAM

If you plan on working here for a very short period of time, you or your employer can apply for a business visa which allows you to visit Vietnam in a business capacity.  To live and work here for longer than three months, your employer will have to apply for a work permit for you and prove your skills and qualifications.  Note that there are additional requirements for people who work in the health care industry in order to ensure that the workers meet strict qualification guidelines.

Although there are many people who work here for an indefinite amount of time or retire here, Vietnam currently does not offer a long term or retirement visa scheme.  The only way to work or stay here long term is to renew a tourist or business visa continually as it expires.  At this time, the maximum length of a temporary resident permit is 3 years (recent reports suggest this may change to 2 years in the near future) and the longest tourist visa available is for 3 months (6 month & 1 year are said to exist, however we don’t really know of anyone that has been able to obtain one recently).  Another option that may be available to you is a 5 year Visa exemption which is given to people whose parents were born in Vietnam or are married to a Vietnamese citizen.  Fortunately, these visa related tasks are relatively easy to take care of while you are abroad through a travel agency, through your company’s HR department, or on your own at the embassy in your home country.

Look up: 5 Year Visa Exemption Process

COST OF LIVING

Housing

Foreigners who are residents of Vietnam can purchase a condo or apartment in Vietnam but are not allowed to own the land.  At this time, the process of purchasing property as a foreigner is quite cumbersome but the rules may change in the coming months.  Nevertheless, most expats prefer to rent homes in Vietnam and they usually have a plethora of choices available for every budget.  In Ho Chi Minh City, most expats live in Districts 1, 2, 3 and 7 and rental properties in these areas can range from $250 USD per month to upwards of $10,000 USD per month.  You can rent a decent fully furnished apartment for around $500 in District 7 but the same apartment would cost more than $2000 in District 1.  In comparison, $4000 is usually the starting price for bungalows outside the city centre in District 2.

Groceries

The cost of produce in Vietnam is quite low.  Assuming a family shops locally for fruits and vegetables, spending less than $10 a week on produce can be expected.  Local foods such as rice or noodles are cheap as well.  Even meat is much cheaper and more affordable than in other countries.  Foreign goods, however, come at a major premium!  The markup can be more than 300% on international household goods.  Of course, grocery stores that cater to the expat community have a much higher markup than local shops that sell the same foreign goods, and it is a price that one pays here for convenience.

Many imported foods can be found here but at a very high cost! In contrast, local foods are quite cheap.

Many imported foods can be found here but at a very high cost! In contrast, local foods are quite cheap.

Look up: Foreign foods at Annam Gourmet, Phuong Ha foreign foods

Restaurants 

If you eat at local restaurants, the prices are astoundingly low in comparison to cheap meals elsewhere in the world.  It is entirely possible to purchase a hearty and complete meal for less than the cost of fast food.  Western or higher end restaurants are more expensive in comparison to local eateries but most of these restaurants are still considered cheap by international standards.

From fancy restaurants to local eateries to street meals, Vietnam offers a unique dining experience in every price range!

From fancy restaurants to local eateries to street meals, Vietnam offers a unique dining experience in every price range!

Schooling

Some of the international private schools in Vietnam are among the best rated in the world and fare really well in rankings each year.  Vietnam also has a variety of options to choose from.  Whether you want your children to go through the International Baccalaureate program or the British system, you can have your choice.  It does come at a cost – tuitions at some of these schools can be more than $20,000 USD per year!  Fortunately, many companies pay for employees’ children to attend private school.  If not, local schools are an option as well.  The public schooling system in Vietnam functions quite well, as the literacy rate of Vietnam is over 90%!  However, the public system does suffer from underfunding and lower exposure to the English language.

Look up: List of International Schools in Vietnam

LIFESTYLE

Health

Pollution increases in Vietnam day by day as the society becomes more industrialized and as cars become a more affordable mode of transport.  However, many people have remarked that in comparison to other cities in South East Asia or even in North America, the air pollution is hardly noticeable.  If you spend a lot of time on a motorbike or in traffic, a mask may help to protect yourself from exhaust fumes.  Water contamination and food borne illness is always a concern in this part of the world.  For people who plan to live here for an extended period of time, investing in a filtered water dispenser is a good idea.  Even local people drink boiled or filtered water.  But brushing your teeth or washing vegetables with tap water can help in getting accustomed to the local bacterial flora.   For more information on this, take a look at our health and safety blog.

Air and water pollution are serious concerns for people living in Vietnam. Wearing masks and drinking filtered water are just two ways to counteract that problem.

Air and water pollution are serious concerns for people living in Vietnam. Wearing masks and drinking filtered water are just two ways to counteract that problem.

Domestic Help

Labour is quite cheap in this part of the world.  As a result, many foreigners who live here employ domestic staff, sometimes multiple people.  You can expect a housekeeper to do cleaning, cooking, organizing, and even looking after children.  You may even see many nannies on vacation with the families that they work for.  Many foreigners are successful in teaching their housekeepers to make western food so it is possible for you to have a similar diet to what you are accustomed back home!  The price per month for a housekeepers varies a lot but someone who takes care of household chores and cooks can cost an average of $200 per month.

Safety

Vietnam is an incredibly safe country.  For a city as large as Ho Chi Minh City, the crime rate is very low, especially violent crime.  Petty crime can be an issue here but if you walk about the streets smartly and don’t act flashy, you are likely not to have a problem.  The freestanding homes and bungalows usually have a security booth and many of the occupants hire a private security service.  These homes that are independent of compounds tend to have a really high wall as well to deter thieves.  That being said, homes, both in and out of compounds, can get broken into so any precautions you would take in your home country most likely also apply here.

SERVICES

Language

Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn and understand for native English speakers.  Vietnamese is a tonal language so it is particularly hard to hear the differences between similar words.  Fortunately, many people in Vietnam speak English, especially those connected with the tourism industry and people who are in contact with English speakers on a regular basis.  The average English proficiency is actually quite low throughout the country so you may face communication issues while traveling in the country.  However, people travel here and live here without knowing a word of Vietnamese and get by just fine!

The Vietnamese language is quite complicated in some ways because it uses tones to differentiate between words and meanings. Just a slight tonal difference gives the word a completely different meaning!

The Vietnamese language is quite complicated in some ways because it uses tones to differentiate between words and meanings. Just a slight tonal difference gives the word a completely different meaning!

Telecommunication

Most parts of the country have excellent mobile network and 3G coverage.  You may experience little or no 3G coverage and a poor mobile signal in more remote areas.  Even internet coverage is quite good for regular browsing and moderate amounts of downloading although you may find it slow compared to North American internet speeds for heavy downloading or streaming.

Health Care

Vietnam has made considerable advances in health care in the recent years and there are numerous hospitals and clinics set up to meet the needs of expats.  If you have any special conditions or ailments, we suggest that you visit the websites of some of these clinics.  The experience and specialties of the physicians on staff are usually described well.  For serious illnesses, surgeries, and sometimes childbirth, many expats fly to Singapore or nearby countries for treatment.  Dentistry is also fairly advanced here and there are quite a few international initiatives aimed at providing quality dental care in Vietnam.  In fact, some routine cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening are considerably cheaper here than abroad.  Most medicines are also available here, both name brands and generic versions at a fraction of the cost.  Getting general medications and even antibiotics is a much easier process here whereby you can simply walk into a pharmacy and ask for the medicine you want without getting a prescription from a doctor.

Look upWestcoast Dental, Family Medical, International SOS

Vietnam is a very dynamic country and living here is just as much of a dynamic experience.  If you need any advice on living in this part of the world or more Vietnam travel tips, we are happy to help!

The Best Tours in Vietnam

Organized tours are a great way to experience Vietnamese culture, sights, food and surroundings.  Vietnam’s tourism industry is still rapidly developing and tours allow foreigners to learn unique and interesting things from local residents.  We have compiled a list of the best tours in Vietnam that offer unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences.

cycle tour mekong delta

Cycle tour in the Mekong Delta

 

Best Vietnam Walking Food Tour 

This fun and educational walking tour takes you outside the touristy parts of Hoi An Ancient Town, into the countryside to explore dishes that most other food tours in Vietnam do not offer. The unique walking route offers guests a chance to learn more about the lives of farmers and tradesman in Vietnam with many unscripted interactions along the way! There is also a short cooking lesson inside the home of a local family!

Best Vietnam Cooking School

This cooking school is the highest rated in the country.   Unlike many cooking classes which only offer 4-5 dishes to choose from, Van, the owner and teacher at Green Bamboo, gives each of her guests a list of over 50 dishes they can learn to make, while keeping things simple and accessible.  On top of that, you get to shop for your ingredients at the market before you begin cooking.  A truly local experience!

 

Best Vietnam Bicycle Tour

Vietnam Bike Tours is possibly one of the most experienced bike tour companies in Vietnam, and they offer tours throughout the country.  You can customize your own tour based on your own travel schedule, so you have the added bonus of flexibility.  Rest assured that should anything go wrong during your trip, a relief van follows you the entire way!  On top of being bike enthusiasts, the guides are very well versed in the local landscape and culture.  As is the case with many other companies in Vietnam, they also organize the occasional charity bike ride so it’s a good way to give back during if your trip if the schedules align.

Best Vietnam Photography Tour

This company operates mainly in Northern Vietnam, where there are so many varied landscapes and unique cultures.  It’s a small scale operation and they only have tours during designated times of the year.  This is also because the weather at certain times of the year will give you the best photographs in a particular region.  From a philanthropic standpoint, this company donates part of their proceeds to a local charity which is beneficial to the region where the company operates.

Hoi An is one of the most unique places in Vietnam, both culturally and architecturally.  It is definitely on many tourists’ agendas when traveling to Vietnam and one of the most fun places to photograph, from the yellow walled houses to the lanterns at night.  This company is run by two expat photographers who have extensive photography experience and knowledge.  You travel in small groups and go to places within Hoi An that offer the best vantage points for unique photography in the area.

 

Best Vietnam Free Tour 

Hanoi Kids is a volunteer organization that is very similar to Boys and Girls Clubs in other countries.  The volunteers at Hanoi Kids are the youth in Hanoi who are very enthusiastic about teaching foreigners about their home city and Vietnamese culture.  The members of this organization lead the tours for free and any money that people wish to donate to them goes directly into supporting the organization.  What’s more, the members have a chance to connect with each other and build camaraderie.

Best Vietnam Art Tour 

Sophie is a Southeast Asian art history expert from England who has worked as a manager in galleries in Ho Chi Minh City.  She started this tour several years ago as a means to educate people on the diverse art repertoire, from North to South.  This tour is an incredibly insightful experience into the lives of the artists and their environment at the times the paintings were created.  Not only is this tour unique and one of a kind, it is an excellent way to delve into the culture of Vietnam.

Best Halong Bay Tour 

This cruise line is slightly different than all the other cruises in Halong Bay because it actually covers both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay.  Halong Bay can get quite crowded with all the different companies operating in the area – sometimes it can be quite difficult to get a photograph of the bay without another boat in it.  Bai Tu Long Bay is considerably less crowded and more peaceful.

Au Co is a step above in service and luxury in comparison to the other operators in Halong Bay.  You will see a marked difference in the esthetics of the boat, the quality of the food preparation and the sizes of the rooms.  Au Co is definitely a luxurious (and expensive) way to go if that is what you are looking for.

Best Vietnam Mekong Delta Tour 

If you are a fan of cycling, you can actually cycle from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta with Saigon Cycles!  It is a unique way of spending 6 days in the South of Vietnam because the tour takes a very rustic and less-traveled route to the delta.  You also get to take a very intimate look at the lives of farmers and labourers who live in the area.

Best Vietnam Cave Tour

Vietnam is home to the largest cave in the world, the Son Doong Cave system!  It was only recently discovered and the first public tours within the caves start next year.  Only a handful of people are allowed to visit the caves per year and Oxalis is the only company permitted to lead expeditions in the cave.  Although it is quite the unique experience, it also comes at a very hefty price!  If this cave is out of your reach, fear not!  Vietnam is also home to other very unique caves within the Phong Nha Ke Bang national park, and the cavers at Oxalis are definitely experienced enough to show you around.

Best Vietnam Canyoneering Tour

If any of you are familiar with the TV personality Bear Grillz and his adventurous antics, you may remember an episode of Man vs Wild that he filmed in the Highland jungles of Vietnam.  Although you don’t see Bear’s tour operator in the episode, his name is Khanh and he is the primary tour guide at Phat Tire!  We can’t guarantee that you will get Khanh as your guide but it speaks for the calibre of expertise at Phat Tire.  Canyoneering in this area of Vietnam can be a thrilling, and sometimes scary, adventure so having experienced and safe guides is a must!

We hope that this list of the best tours in Vietnam helps make your time in Vietnam more memorable!  If you are ever in the Ho Chi Minh City or Hoi An area, please check out all the tours we offer.

To continue to receive more amazing Vietnam Travel Tips, please bookmark our blog!

** Please note that we have no vested interest in any of the companies running the tours listed above and did not consult them when writing this blog post.  We are just offering our honest opinions on what we feel are some of the best and most unique tours in Vietnam **