Why visit Vietnam Part 1

Mekong attraction

In the mid 2000’s Vietnam seemed to discover the tourist dollar. The government let it be known to the people that tourism and the foreigners that were to come with it, will be welcomed and anybody causing us difficulties would be dealt with. It is now 2010 and Tourism has flourished. Most cities have developed areas that foreigners stay and around them has developed a tour industry that may surpass anything similar in other countries. There is heave competition for the tourist dollar and a person can get extremely good deals on travel and accommodation to many places. With the increase of tourist traffic, the ever industrious Vietnamese have introduced services that can be quite unique and exactly what a budget traveler is looking for.

First let us address tours:

Many people are overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes

In Binh Quoi resort

 their way when searching for a company. Many of them are good and will do anything to satisfy the customer. There are some that are not, but a little homework will ensure you make the correct choice. All reputable tour companies use guides licensed by the government. They will display their licenses around their necks at all times when escorting guests. They are charged to keep you safe and visit establishments that have acceptable standards for a foreigner. The last thing you want is to end up with a bad case of diarrhea and have to suffer in places where the toilet is a hole dug in the ground. The meals will be safe to eat, toilets will be relatively clean. Travel forums such as Trip Advisor can help to make a correct decision, but a person has to try to weed out the people or company promoting themselves for a profit or commission. Also…. Do not be put out by the package you

Stadium in Mekong

might see advertised on a website or other media. A good travel company will take the areas of interest you wish to see and custom built it to your taste. You are the boss.. You choose where you want to go, and if the tour they have pre-built is OK by you, go for it.

Things to ask a company before deciding are

Do you use all accredited guides?

Do they speak the language you want?

Are the busses or cars in new condition?

Garden decoration

How long has your company been in business?

A little time and reading will get you a good guide…… or…. You can always ask me for a referral. I have personal friends in the business that specialize in English speaking tours.

Now, why travel to Vietnam?:

Vietnam is a country and culture very different than others. Through much of its history, Vietnam was an occupied country endlessly struggling for its freedom from foreign rule. This constant struggle has created an extremely rugged and tough people who are able to live in extreme hardship without complaint or thought about it. They work hard at everything, and

Mekong bridge

consequently also play hard when it is all over. They are a happy gracious people with a hard edge that sometimes makes foreigners nervous, but under that edge is a person who would like dearly to be your friend, and invite you into his/her home. It is something to behold, the differences in life here. At first it may come as a big culture shock. Someone described the experience t me as “Vietnam is like a big unassembled jig-saw puzzle after all of the loose pieces were poured onto the floor. It makes no sense, but as you slowly put piece by piece together, it slowly starts to make sense.” A very apt description I think. Soooo the people are great but what about value?…. I am here to tell you that Vietnam is one of the least expensive travel destinations in the world. They still have not quite figured out the rules of supply and demand, but rather compete with each other driving prices down. There also were or are a lot of regulations to where and what kind of hotels could be built. When the Vietnamese saw the tourists come, many in order to get a piece of the pie renovated their homes into guest houses and mini hotels, and they are everywhere. A person can rent a guest house in an out of the way area for as little as 4 dollars a night. On average, a budget

Hotel in Mekong

 conscious traveler can get nice accommodation right in the heart of all the action for 10 to 20 dollars a night anywhere in the country.

The average person here makes about 60 to 100 dollars a month, so all prices are relative to that. You can spend more money staying in foreign hotels eating foreign meals, but why come to Vietnam for that? I meal in Vietnam might cost a dollar or so, and the cold beer with is 30 cents. The taxi to drive across town maybe 3 dollars. Quality clothing of any kind can be purchased for 4 of 5 dollars. Jeans, shorts, shirts…. Take your pick.

So we have established that the people are friendly and it is not an expensive place to find food and accommodation, but what about moving around?

First there is the tour company you may have chosen. They will arrange all of your transportation for you, but if you wish to go on your own?

a small house

The main modes to transportation are Air, Train, Bus, Sleeper bus, Express Taxi Bus. aqnd Open tour bus.

Travel by air is not expensive in Vietnam and a flight between cities will range from 40 to 80 dollars on an average. They are easy to book online and if no holidays are involved, a person can usually get flights in the same week. It is the fastest mode of travel. Next fastest is the express Taxi bus. It is run by a number of different companies. They have assigned seating and travel from point a to b with minimum stops. Usually these are 15 seat passenger transports. Then there is the train. The comfortable trains run at night and a solid sleeper can rent a berth and try to sleep the distance travelled. There are also recliner chairs for the more budge oriented person that does not mind roughing it a bit.

The sleeper bus is a good way to travel. Very inexpensive and the beds are not too uncomfortable. If you can sleep anywhere, this is the way to go.

Real men love props

Lastly are the open tour and the regular bus. The open tour is a concept where you can purchase a ticket to a destination and have 30 days to use it. The ticket allows a person to get off anywhere along the route, spend a day or two, and continue on another day. It stops frequently for breaks and nap time, so be prepared for a long day. The regular bus can be fun but very tiring. It is a constant busy overcrowded mode of transport, and almost anything is allowed on board as long as the people can profit from it. I have literally rode with chickens.

Enough for now…… more to follow…

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

23 thoughts on “Why visit Vietnam Part 1

  1. Hi Owee

    My husband and I are planning a 3-week trip to Vietnam from South Africa from around 15 December to 6 Jan. We were thinking either to fly into Ho Chi Min and then explore the south, up to central Vietnam, or fly into Hanoi and travel down to the centre and back up again. There is so much that we want to see that it is making it difficult to decide whether to do north or south? Also, would we need to book accommodation now already as it is a busy time of year, or do you think there will be budget accommodation available if we use something like Agoda?

    1. DON’t worry. There will be budget accommodation readily available. It is not too busy then. You can easily book a few months in advance except if goung to heavy torist places such as Phu Quoc at that time. 3 weeks is lots of time to explore the south and it may be very chilly north of Hue that time of year. Please feel free to email me ar riptide.nhatrang@gmail.com if you have itinerary questions.

  2. We are interested in doing a 10 day to two week vacation in Vietnam in January or February. I definitely want to do an overnight on a boat in Halong Bay. Would also like to do some hiking in the mountains up north if you think that is worthwhile. Then we were thinking of with some beach time in Danang. I’d be interested in your suggestions.

    1. 10 days is really not enough time to do what you are asking. An overnight boat in Halong will take you half that time. January and February can be cold and wet in the North. If you are heart set on Halong, the only itinerary I can suggest to you is Fly to Hanoi…. 1 night Hanoi, train to Sapa (3 nights) , back to Hanoi….. 1 night…. overnight in Halong then back to Hanoi (2 nights but maybe you can arrange flights faster. 2 nights in Hoi An then fly back to Hanoi. There are much better alternatives in my opinion but this addresses what you are asking for

  3. Are Intrepid any good? If I book the Vietnam Classic with them, will it be good?
    Or, how could I book a similar tour for 14 days this July-August for family of 4 (2 boys 16 and 18 years) ? I would prefer an individual guide and how do I find one please?

    1. Inteipid is ok but you may find them a bit pricy compared to a service over here. I still recommmend V’Explore Travel. I will email you about tour options

  4. Hi Owee.
    Tks for your websites- a valuable guide for first-timers like myself visiting Vietnam.
    My question: Seeing your info was assembled/written sometimes some 4 years ago, would you say the info provided is still reasonably current?
    Thank you

  5. Dear Owee. We are a group of 5 people in our 30’s. We booked our flights to Hanoi (arrive 21st Dec) and flying back from Saigon (3rd Jan) . We were thinking of backpacking. Do we need to pre-book accommodation ? Also what would be the best way for us to travel…to save time, seeing as we only have 2 weeks to make our way from Hanoi to Saigon? Also I am I bit stressed out, cause I cant decide on which places to visit. We definitely want to go to Halong bay and do a 2 day boat trip maybe for christmas….do we need to pre-book/with which company/where do we go from Hanoi to do the Halong bay cruise? Would really appreciate it if you can PLEASE help me with a itinerary for this trip. Things we would like to do and see in Vietnam: Their Culture/Tombs/Temples/Caves/best beach to visit/ snorkelling or diving./ Exciting things to do and see. Sorry for all these questions, but I really need help for this trip. I know 2 weeks is not enough time to fit everything in, that’s why I need help on picking the right/best places to cover the most of Vietnam in 2 weeks.
    Thank you

  6. Dear Owee, we are in our early 70’s and toured India independently in January for a month. We are off on 15 May to a wedding near Saigon and then plan to visit Cambodia and Vietnam. We have never been on a guided tour but plan to book with a small company in Cambodia. Wonder if you would mind suggesting one in Vietnam…we only want to be with a small group. We love to go to unusual places and see simple life as it is and don’t mind roughing it but not into trekking! I am exploring all I can through Trip Advisor so learnt lots but am at a bit of a loss as to what tour company may be best. I hope you don’t mind helping me and look forward to your reply. Best wishes from Jill Clark

  7. Hi Owee,
    We are a family of 4 ( Males : 40 and 12, Females : 36 and 15 ) from India and are palnning to visit Vietnam and Cambodia for 10- 12 days. Would need advice from you on below points.
    1. Good Itineary
    2. Travel Agent Suggestion
    3. Indian Veg Food at all places where we visit
    4. Approx Cost for 3 Star stay
    5. Any other good suggestions from you.

    Hope Iam not bothering you with too many questions.

    RM Lal

    1. 10-12 days is not enough to see both places in my opinion. For Indian food lo at Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An and maybe Hanoi as your destinations. Of course I always recommend V Explre as the best travel company. With 12 days maybe see Siem Riep 3 days, Pnom Penh 1 day, Saigon 3 days and either Nha Trang or Hoi An for the remainder. Cost of a 3 star about 30 or 40 dollars

  8. Thankyou for all your insight on this blog. Its wonderful for a first time traveler to Vietnam. I was not sure where to put this question. Should my husband & I have any vaccinations for my trip. I will be starting in Hanoi 10/2/13 traveling south to halong Bay, hoi An, Ho Chi Mhin, Mekong Delta & end our trip 8 days in Phu quoc. Thanks again.

    1. Hep A and B, otherwise I would not worry. Malaria not needed. You can find my emain in the about section if you have any more questions. Sorry for short answer… I am guiding a tour in highlands ant in a rush 😉

  9. Hi, in addition to my question from another post, I’m planning to pre-book hotel in Saigon, do you think I should pre-book hotel for Nha Trang and Hanoi from home or wait until I get to Saigon and book everything including flights and hotel to these two destination?


    1. If you prebook from home, you will commit yourself to specific dates and may be asked for a deposit. Also, most of the good budget hotels are not registered with booking sites due to the low profit margins. I suggest booking Saigon for a couple of nights and perhaps your airfare in advance and decide on your other hotels when here. The Trip advisor website will give you popular hotel picks. For Myself…… I just show up with no reservatons or travel arrangements and do it when there. If Flights are full …..oh well…. I take a train.

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