Essential Vietnam (13 days)

13 days from just £1,960 pp
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flag Hanoi - Halong Bay - Hue - Hoi An - Saigon - Can Tho
What's included?
+ included - not included
  • International Flight
  • Accommodation
  • Water
  • Meals
  • Escorted Tour
  • Domestic Flights
  • Airport Taxes Charges
  • Visa
  • Insurance
  • Tipping

An unbeatable itinerary from leading specialist operator Emperor Tours takes you on an amazing North-to-South journey through Vietnam, ensuring you see all of the essential sights and sounds of this fascinating country along the way.

You’ll begin the tour in the capital Hanoi, with its landmarks and memorials to Ho Chi Min, the founder for modern day Vietnam.  From the city you travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay with its 3000 breathtaking towering limestone islands, for a day cruise and overnight stay. 

From Halong Bay you fly to middle Vietnam and Hue where you’ll spend a day discovering the former capital city and iconic sites such as the Imperial Citadel and Thien Mu Pagoda. 

Next stop is Hoi An via the 500-year-old Phouc Toc village with its wooden houses, bonsai gardens and lush orchards.  You’ll also pass the sandy beaches of Lang Lo and one of the most stunning panoramic views in Vietnam – the Hai Van Pass.

In Hoi An you’ll explore this amazing UNESCO World Heritage City with its well preserved ancient streets and homes.

Flying to Saigon your friendly and knowledgeable guide will show you some of the many iconic landmarks including the Reunification Palace and Notre Dame Cathedral.  No visit to this area is complete without a trip to the fascinating Cu Chi Tunnels – essential to the Vietnamese fighters during wartime.

On the final leg of your tour you’ll be driven to My Tho on the Mekong Delta where you’ll see first-hand a world that lives and works on this mighty waterway.  You’ll also be taken to see the largest market at Cai Rang where hundreds of boats congregate to sell their local produce.

It’s then back to Saigon and your return flight home.

 

Day 1 - UK Departure

Today is the start of 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.

Day 2 - Arrival in Hanoi

We’ll be greeted by our guide upon arrival and take private transfer to the hotel for check-in and tour briefing. After we have rested we’ll take an orientation tour and a chance to acclimatise ourselves if time permits.

A scrumptious welcome dinner awaits us tonight!

Meals Included

  • Dinner

Day 3 - Hanoi

Today we’ll be touring the most outstanding attractions of Hanoi. First, we pay a visit to the complex of memorials to Ho Chi Minh to know the amazing life of the founder of modern Vietnam. We then continue to the Temple of Literature to gain an understanding of one of the driving forces in Vietnam culture.

Our next stop is the Museum of Ethnology which exhibits a large collection of artefacts about the 54 ethnic groups in the country. We then enjoy a rickshaw ride through the lively Old Quarter, a series of 36 ancient streets where peddlers still trade the way they have done for centuries. The rickshaw tour ends up at an old house on Ma May Street, an example of dwellings in the 19 century.

To complete our first full day we get to watch a performance of the water puppetry, the famed traditional art form created by village farmers around the Red River Delta region – unique but widely known.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 4 - Hanoi / Halong Bay

Today we journey east to Halong Bay, the greatest natural wonder of Vietnam, through the Red River Delta, where we see daily Vietnamese village life.

On arrival, we board a beautiful traditional junk (ancient Chinese ship) and spend a full day and night cruising the bay’s 3000 magnificent limestone islets. In the evening when the boat is anchored in the middle of the stunning lagoon, we enjoy a wonderful seafood meal prepared by our on-board chef.

Later there is the opportunity for an evening swim from the side of the boat before we turn in for the night on our luxurious boat.

NOTE: Kayaks are available if specified at time of booking.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Day 5 - Halong / Hanoi to Hue

Wake up this morning to fresh coffee before further cruising and sightseeing. En route the junk weaves through more rock formations that invite comparisons from fighting cocks to dragons and even further!

We disembark after lunch and return to Hanoi with our guide and driver for a late afternoon/early evening flight to Hue in Middle Vietnam.

On arrival at Hue airport we meet up with our local guide and driver and enjoy a private transfer to the hotel.

Meals Included

  • Brunch

Day 6 - Hue

After breakfast we set out on a full day tour to look into the beauties of Vietnam’s former capital city.

We first take a tour of the Imperial Citadel, workplace and home of the Nguyen Emperors, a complex of palaces and temples built in the early 19th century and a recognised UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

Next site is the beautiful Thien Mu pagoda on the bank of the Perfume River.

After lunch, we visit a typical garden house of Hue city, which was built according to precise rules of geomancy. Experience the serene and pleasant feelings it might bring. We continue to the grand mausoleum of Emperor Tu Duc on a serene hill, which nicely reflects Vietnamese thinking about life after death. It is also an opportunity to learn about the history of Nguyen dynasty and the French colonial invasion.

We finish the days sightseeing with a visit to nearby villages crafting incenses and conical hats. A wonderful photograph opportunity!

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 7 - Hue to Hoian

This morning we journey in the direction of Phuoc Tich – a 500 years old village which is known for its dozens of wooden houses beautifully decorated with flowers, bonsai gardens and lush orchards. Surviving the savages of time, these old houses of the village are almost intact until this moment.

Enjoy lunch of rural fares then depart Phuoc Tich for Hoian. We will be passing through the quiet, white sandy beach of Lang Co, climbing over the scenic Hai Van Pass to enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramas in Vietnam as we look out over the central coastline.

Upon our arrival in Danang, make a short stop to visit Cham Museum and its well-preserved collection of statues, before continuing to Hoian and check-in at the hotel.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 8 - Hoian

This morning we’ll be on foot exploring the ancient quarter of Hoian, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site because of its historic role in international trade, unusually well-preserved ancient streets and homes.

The sites we will visit include the Japanese Bridge, a Sino-Vietnamese merchant house, a Chinese Temple, the Central Market, and the Culture Museum.

Later there will be time for independent exploration and shopping opportunities.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 9 - Hoian to Saigon

Today we have a private transfer to the airport for our short flight to Saigon in the morning.

On arrival our guide will be waiting to greet you and take you for a tasty lunch of “Pho” noodle soup in the famed restaurant “Pho 24”.

In the afternoon, we’ll be visiting the best known sites in the very centre of Saigon, taking in the Reunification Palace, the War Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office, the Opera House, Ben Thanh Market, etc.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 10 -Saigon / Cu Chi Tunnels

This morning we travel to Cu Chi to explore the legendary network of underground combat tunnels. This incredible system, covering almost 250km in length, served as communication routes, storage facilities, hospitals and living quarters for Vietnamese fighters throughout the wartime. Known as the “Iron Triangle” during the war of the 60’s, the story of Cu Chi is one of struggle, determination against all odds, and eventual victory. Now the tunnels are a major site of interest for tourists and historians, and those interested in Vietnam’s military history.

After the tunnels we return to town and enjoy the balance of the day at own leisure.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 11 - Saigon / Mekong Delta

After breakfast today we leave Saigon behind and journey into the Mekong Delta, a world that lives and works on the waters!

After an 80 km drive, we arrive in My Tho town and take a boat to an insular village to visit family workshops producing handicrafts and candy from coconut. Tasting seasonal tropical fruits in an exuberant orchard, we ride a horse cart to a typical Delta house and enjoy folk music by amateurs. Ride a local sampan through the small canals and side arms of the river to further experience river life.

For lunch we’ll sample regional specialities such as Elephant Ear Fish, Rice Ball, etc.

After a pleasant break we travel to Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, for the night.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Day 12 - Mekong Delta / Saigon

This morning we take a boat to visit the extraordinary market of Cai Rang. Being the largest market on the complex of waterways that comprise the Mekong Delta, Cai Rang receives hundreds of boats packed with local produces gather every morning. Boats come from all sides, offering fruits, vegetables, plants, foods, etc. Sellers advertise their wares by hanging samples high atop bamboo poles so that their customers can find from afar. Our boat tour ends up at an orchard where we’ll see and taste tropical fruits.

We then drive back to Saigon for the night. A visit to the Chinese quarter of Saigon, noted for the ornate Thien Hau temple and the bustling Binh Tay Market, can be arranged upon request.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast

Day 13 - Saigon departure

It is time to say “tạm biệt” (goodbye) and transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Meals Included

  • Breakfast
Deluxe (5*)

Hanoi – 5* Sheraton Hotel (for information click here)

Halong Bay – 5* Victory Star (for information click here)

Hoi An – 5* Palm Garden Resort (for information click here)

Hue – 5* Imperial Hotel (for information click here)

Saigon – 5* Fusion Suite (for more information click here)

First Class (4*)

Hanoi – 4* The Ann Hotel (for information click here)

Halong Bay – 4* Syrena Cruise (for information click here)

Hoi An – 4* Hoian Trails Resort (for information click here)

Hue – 4* Eldora Hotel (for information click here)

Saigon – 4* Grand Silverland Hotel (for more information click here)

Tour Price includes:

  • International economy flights;
  • Vietnam visa (whilst current offer valid);
  • Hotel accommodation as shown (based on twin occupancy);
  • Meals as described (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner);
  • Meeting and assistance on arrivals and departures;
  • Sightseeing excursions with English speaking guides;
  • All transfers and road transportation in air-conditioned vehicles;
  • Entrance fees for visits mentioned in program;
  • Train/Boat journeys where mentioned in program;
  • Domestic flights where mentioned in program;
  • Daily supply of bottled water;
  • All currently applicable taxes.

Tour Price excludes:

  • Drinks during meals;
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, souvenirs etc;
  • Travel insurance (can be arranged, please ask for details);
  • Tips to guides and drivers;
  • Optional tours;
  • Early check-in or late check-out;
  • Flight and accommodation upgrades.

 

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.

Hue Festival – end of April to beginning of May

A biennial festival celebrated in the former imperial capital of Hue, the Hue Festival condenses the best of Hue’s culture into a single week-long festival. Theatre, puppetry, dance, music, and acrobatics will be performed in different places around the city, although most of the activities are conducted around the grounds of former imperial citadel.

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.

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N.B. There is an additional surcharge for single supplement applied for travellers occupying a room on their own. Please select below if this applies.
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