For a North-to-South itinerary with leading specialist tour operator Emperor Tours, this holiday will take you right from the origins of Vietnamese civilization to the modern metropolis of Saigon.
You’ll visit Vietnam’s most important cities starting with Hanoi in the North, taking in the French colonial boulevards and Embassy rows. From Hanoi you’ll travel through rice paddy fields to Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder – the World UNESCO Heritage Site of Halong Bay.
Relax aboard your junk and enjoy the magnificent scenery of 3000 towering limestone islands, stay overnight and wake up to a perfect sunrise and breakfast on board.
Returning to Hanoi you’ll then catch an internal flight to Danang in Central Vietnam and transfer to the quiet town of Hoi An. The following day you’ll have time to explore this wonderfully preserved old merchant town with it’s Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences.
Next stop is vibrant Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) where, for two days, you’ll savour the sights and sounds of this energetic and vibrant city. The final day of the tour includes a taste of the Mekong with an excursion to My Tho to see first-hand what life is like on this mighty river.
Today we begin our private tour of Vietnam by departing London Heathrow for our international economy flight to Hanoi.
We can also arrange departures from your local airport at no extra cost.
On arrival you will meet your guide and take private transfer to your hotel, centrally located in this amazing city, for check-in.
This evening meet your guide for a tour briefing at your hotel before dinner at one of the city’s finest restaurants. After dinner, transfer back to your hotel for overnight.
This morning we tour Hanoi’s charming French colonial boulevards and the Embassy Rows by a cyclo ride. Our tour includes Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, the house on stilts and The One Pillar pagoda. Next, visit the ancient Temple of Literature to gain an understanding of one of the driving forces in Vietnamese culture, Confucius.
In the afternoon we explore Hanoi on foot, walking through the lively Old Quarter, a series of 36 ancient streets where peddlers trade their wares the way they have done for centuries. Visit an old house that’s typical of dwellings in the Old Town in Ma May Street and then walk through Hang Be market to the famed water puppet theatre for an evening show.
Today we journey east through picturesque rice-farming villages of the Red River Delta to Vietnam’s greatest natural wonder, Halong Bay. Once you reach the bay the rest of the day is at leisure aboard the junk (ancient Chinese sailing ship) to explore this extraordinary piece of Vietnam. Cool breezes, opal water, magnificent limestone islets, amazing caverns, exotic seafood, kayaking, boating and fishing all make it unforgettable.
We spend overnight in our cabin aboard.
Wake up to a perfect sunrise with fresh coffee and a wholesome breakfast before disembarkation at 11:30. We bid farewell to Halong Bay and head straight back to Hanoi airport for a late afternoon flight to Danang in Middle Vietnam.
Meet up with our local guide at Danang airport and continue with private transfer by road to the little tranquil town of Hoian for overnight.
Today after breakfast we explore this charming and wonderfully preserved merchant town that retains Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences from its flourishing old days. We will walk narrow colourful lanes, admire historic architectures, and hunt for the unexpectedly good bargains of silk wares.
Afternoon is free at leisure to explore this wonderful town, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its historic role in international trade, unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes.
This morning we leave Hoian for Danang and fly to Saigon, the largest and most dynamic city in Vietnam. We will be welcomed by our guide on arrival and take private transfer to the centre of Saigon.
We’ll have our lunch in local style, a tasty bowl of “Pho” noodle soup at “Pho 24”.
Afternoon time will be for visiting the city’s various architectural highlights such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, French Post Office, Reunification Palace, colonial Dong Khoi Boulevard, etc.
We start today with a drive out of the city to Cu Chi amazing tunnel system built by communist guerrillas during the Vietnam War. This incredible system, covering almost 250km in length, was shelter to over 16,000 Vietcong guerrillas during the wars. Initially started in 1948 to provide shelter against the French air and ground sweeps, the network went on to serve as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the wartime. We can even descend into the tunnels to learn more about the tunnel life.
After lunch in Cu Chi we return to Saigon and delve into the hustle and bustle of Cho Lon, Saigon’s Chinatown. There we’ll see a have-all market and the elaborately ornate pagoda of Lady Hau.
Today we enjoy a day trip to My Tho to sample life on the Mekong River.
My Tho is a prosperous town of 170,000 inhabitants, famous for its extensive orchards and immense rice fields. We’ll ride a local boat on the criss-crossing waters of the area to the orchards on Phoenix Island, where local handicrafts and sweets from coconut are being produced. Enjoy fresh seasonal fruits and traditional live music and songs performance and relax under the restaurant’s garden canopy.
Take a horse cart ride to a farm to taste some homemade honey-tea and proceed by boat through the small canals and side arms of the river to observe the daily life along the river banks.
We return to Saigon late in the day for the night.
It is time to say “tạm biệt” (goodbye) and transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Tour Price includes:
Tour Price excludes:
FLIGHT TIMES: 12.50 hours direct from London Heathrow to Hanoi (Vietnam Airlines Sun-Tue-Thu-Fri only) / 12.35 hours direct from Saigon to London Heathrow (Vietnam Airlines Sat-Mon-Wed only). Other airlines fly indirect every day of the week.
TIME DIFFERENCE: +6 hours in summer time / +7 hours in winter time (BST).
CURRENCY: Vietnamese dong £1 = approx. 31,000 VND
MONEY: Almost all goods and services are calculated and paid for in US dollars. Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, restaurants owned by foreigners and souvenir shops. Travellers cheques and currencies other than US Dollars are accepted only by major banks. We recommend changing a small amount into local currency on arrival, for drinks and gifts etc.
TIPPING: If you are happy with the services of the driver and guide in each city then tipping is an accepted way of showing your gratitude. We recommend anything from $10 upwards for each, usually more for the guide. We advise placing any tips in separate envelopes and handing to the guide and driver at the end of their service in a particular city.
VISA: No visa is required for UK passport holders if stay is 15 days or less in Vietnam.
LANGUAGE: The official language spoken in Vietnam is Vietnamese.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT: Generally Spring and Autumn months – February to April and August to October. The temperatures are more moderate and rainfall is lighter.
FESTIVALS: Here are the main Vietnamese festivals and what you will expect to see and experience during these festivities…
Vietnamese New Year ‘Tet’ – mid to late February
Vietnamese people gather with their families to exchange best wishes and pray for prosperity over the coming year. In big cities, the streets are adorned with beautiful flower decorations. It’s a great time to see the preparations and immerse in the festive atmosphere before Tet, but travel during the festival is not recommendable.
Mid Autumn Festival (whole of Vietnam) – 15th day of the 8th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar
Marked with fanciful lanterns, the festival is a favourite with children, as the occasion calls for more toys, candies, fruit, and entertainment than any other time of the year. Mid-Autumn parties serve cakes, traditional and modified. Lion dances are commonly performed by travelling troupers who go from house to house to perform for tipping.
Reunification Day (whole of Vietnam) – 30th April yearly
Also known as Victory Day or Liberation Day, this national holiday marks the fall of the Saigon government on 30 April 1975. The communist troops captured Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and brought the Vietnam war to an end. This began the process of reuniting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south
National Independence Day (whole of Vietnam) – 2nd September yearly
This day commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from France in 1945. On that day, President Ho Chi Minh, read out the Declaration of Independence. Nowadays, national red flags are raised high everywhere. People are entitled to one day off. Public and official celebrations can be found in all cities.
Lantern Festival (Hoi An) – 14th day of each lunar month
The festival features many hundreds of colourful lantern lit up throughout the town. The houses and shops are beautifully decorated and activities are often held in the streets and along the Thu Bon River.
Dong Da Festival (Hanoi) – 21st February
The festival celebrates the victory of King Quang Trung who defeated the army of 200,000 Qing dynasty soldiers at Dong Da Hill. A dragon procession, games and martial arts activities are performed to celebrate the strength of the Vietnamese people during this historic victory.
FOOD & DRINK: Light, subtle in flavour and astonishing in their variety, Vietnamese dishes are boiled or steamed rather than stir-fried, and a huge emphasis is placed on herbs and seasoning. In the south, Indian and Thai influences add curries and spices to the menu, while other regions have evolved their own array of specialities.
Buddhism introduced a vegetarian tradition to Vietnam, while much later the French brought with them bread, dairy products, pastries and the whole café culture. The quality and variety of food is generally better in the main towns than off the beaten track, where restaurants of any sort are few and far between.
SOCIAL ETIQUETTE: People throughout Indochina are very kind and easy going. People are very relaxed with foreigners and their different habits.
Showing anger is seen as a weakness.
Respect and care should be shown when visiting temples and shoes should always be removed before entering.
HEALTH ADVICE: Although no vaccinations are officially required for entry to Indochina, they are highly encouraged. Visitors are advised to check with their GP or travel immunisation clinic regarding protection against malaria, typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B. Any essential medications should be brought with you as there is no guarantee they will be available in the areas you will be visiting.
If travelling in Summer months, please bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent etc.
It is not safe to drink tap water in Vietnam – please drink boiled water or bottled water only.