DIY or an organized tour of Vietnam?

A hard working couple

DIY or an organized tour of Vietnam

I am happy to announce that my Egg guy and his darling wife are back on the job. Both of them are bruised and sore, and the man hase stitched on his head, but they are back making those sandwiches everybody enjoys. As a welcome back, he was overrun with business and had to close early because her ran out of stock.

I have read many posts on the web forums about whether a person should use a tour company to travel, or whether to do it ones self. There are many people who are familiar with Vietnam and are comfortable with making travel arrangements on their own. I am one of them. Do it yourself (DIY) travel is not difficult if you are the adventurous type, or are travelling on a very strict budget. Most of the areas a person will stay in Vietnam have tour

Back on the job

companies with English speakers that can assist you in booking local sights, air, bus and trail tickets, and many other services. In most cases it is the same price as if you booked yourself. The agency is making its money by a commission paid by the service provider. DIY travel is the cheapest and most flexible way to travel but how do you know where to go, or even how to get there? Expect problems … The language barrier and sometimes just the different expectations of what you think you are purchasing can lead to frustration. I was faced with the same dilemmas years ago and found that I missed some of the best sights of

On my bike ride

Vietnam because I was not even aware of their existence. It is true that DIY is something that can be done with some research and planning, and if you have a solid stomach, you can eat at some of the most unusual and delicious places. DIY is the way I travel by myself, but if entertaining guests or recommending to a person who has no Vietnam experiences the things to see, I often refer to a good guide or tour company and here is why.

I have had conversations with a couple of personal friends that run one of the better tour companies in Vietnam. (I feel the urge to give a big plug for them here but I will resist) Reputable tour companies are regulated by the

A gate for what?

government and HAVE to conform to certain standards to make sure the tourist is safe and protected. All of the restaurants they will take you are of good quality, and there should be nothing that will make you ill. Even fussy eaters will find something that they are comfortable to consume. Tour companies are also familiar with most or all of the sights you will want to see. You can travel most of the country without missing important highlights. Sure you will be in a group on an adventure… but so are we if we DIY… we still book through a local agent and do s similar trip. But probably the most important thing the Tour Company provides is the piece of mind that all of your transportation, accommodation, and other bothersome details are covered. Vietnam can be a bit  stressful to the first timer and worrying about details should be totally unnecessary. Tour companies can also get you prices much better than you can do for yourself if you are a 2 star traveler like me. In the long run, I honestly believe that you end up spending less money with the organized tour because there is no need for the taxi expenses to go places, the many hidden costs, and you do not get overcharged for things as many new comers do. Your guide is a wealth of information on where and what to spend.

It has been my experience that the backpackers travelling on the tightest budget imaginable almost always opt for the DIY option. That is fine, but many never get a taste of anything but the tourist areas and local sites of the areas they stop, and have very little opportunity to explore the sights and famous landmarks between destinations. For those that can afford a bit more, a tour package can cost as little as 50 dollars a day and it will include everything except perhaps your dinner each day. You will also be put up in hotels that are usually of a good standard. Just make clear to the company what level of hotel you want, and they will make it happen. I myself have been coming here for 12 years and now live here, but I still use my friends at the tour company to escort friends and family instead of trying to do it myself. It is just so much easier. However, I do not take a pre arranged package. The best way to travel here if you are a newbie in my opinion, is to do your research on where to go and what you want to see, and then supply that information to the tour company. A good company can set it all up for you. You can even ask them to take you to alternative places not so touristy. It is your trip after all. Keep in mind that the more there are, the cheaper the price will be, so if you are traveling solo, you may have no choice but to join a group. My wife and I joined a group on a Cambodia tour and had a great time even though we could have done it ourselves quite easily.

In the end it is up to you. It costs nothing to ask or get a quote…

One last piece of advice. If you are considering a tour company, use one located in Vietnam rather than in your home country unless you are going on some kind of group charter. It will cost much less

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

141 thoughts on “DIY or an organized tour of Vietnam?

  1. Hi Owee,

    I was the one who wrote to you at tripadvisor just now. I would like to have the contact for the tour agent in HCM. With the long holiday, I think it is better to engage one so that we can be at ease, don’t you think so ? Greatly appreciate your advise please. Thanks.

  2. Hi Owee
    We are planning on going to VN next November and I am wondering if you will give the name/names of local tour companies to arrange hotels etc.

  3. Hi Owee,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.
    I’m heading to Vietnam early June this year.
    I’m thinking of doing both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, plus Halong Bay.
    Are you able to recommend agencies whom I can travel safely with for day tours?
    My friend is a Muslim, do you have any recommendations on the areas we should put up at?

    1. Most tourist areas have Halal food. Halong does not but a lot o fseafood. Day tours are basicly all the same and can be booked in locel office. My friends at Vexplore can look after everything.

  4. Hi Owee:

    Planning to bring a group of 16 (8 couples) to Cambodia/Vietnam in March, 2016. I have come up with a 23 day agenda that includes sightseeing and golf in Siem Reap, Saigon, Hoi An/Hue and Hanoi/Halong Bay.

    I have been discussing the trip with two companies (Vietnam Luxury Golf Tours and Travel Vietnam). Have you any experience with these companies or have other suggestions?

    Let me know.

    Thanks, Ron

    1. I do not have any experience with them. They may be alright. As you have probably read, I highly recommend V’Explore Travel for organized trips. They can custom build anything you want. I will send you email with more information.

  5. Hi Owee
    We are wanting to travel in Dec and would like to know if you could provide us with details of a good tour company


  6. Hi Owee, we have 9 days from HCMC to Siem Reap on Dec. Plan to stay 2 nights in HCMC, travel to Phnom Penh through Mekong with overnight at Chau Doc. Ovenight in PP, last 3 nights in Siem Reap. Would appreciate your help/suggestions and recommendations for Tour Providers.

    1. I always recommend my friends at V’Explore travel. They can take care of everything. They have a great Mekong tour that will take you to Chau Doc over 3 days on your own private Sampan and connect you with the Hydrofoil to Phnom Penh. From there they can escort you to Siem Riep and visit the famous temples. I did the same with them a few years back and had a stress free holiday. Much better than guiding it myself.

  7. Hi Owee

    Great site lots of tips and information. I am heading to VN in August and would like to go from Saigon to Hanoi or vice versa will be there for 3 weeks. have read with much interest about the easy rider tours and would love to do one of them, I also would like to visit Sapa, do a Halong Bay o/night junk experience, the eastern highlands sound great would that be practical with an easy rider tour? I would also like to visit Hue, Hoi An, Dalat and Na Trang do a cruise on the Mekong Delta and see the Cu Chi tunnels. I am more into the history and culture of VN than shopping and big cities any suggestions would be very much appreciated. I am also contacting to see how they can help me get around. Thanks in advance

  8. I thought I posted a question on this site earlier today but can not see it come up here anywhere. How do I contact Owee thanks

      1. I am in South Africa. We have a special Groupon offer with Far East Company situated in Hanoi. I cannot find any information about them and wonder if they are a reputable company before booking. Also we are a couple in late 50s early 60s and wonder whether we could see vietnam on our own doing our own bookings and taking day tours. Please advise.

        1. It can be difficult to weed out info on companies as many of them copy each other and use very similar names. Vietnam is very easy and inexpensive to see on your own by using local tour companies once you are here, however, expect them to be busy, not the best quality, and very touristy. Private tours are much more organized and comfortable. I guess it depends on the kind of traveler you are. If you want to experience a more real and less tourist Vietnam, Do your research and arrange your plans for each destination. If you want a headache free tour, use a tour company. Even though I guide off the beaten track tours in Vietnam, I use my friends at V’Explore when it is my friends or family. Most tour companies are similar in price. If there are deep discounts, usually quality will be less….. In Vietnam you get what you pay for. I might suggest using private tour companies to arrange small package tours such as Hanoi city tour with a Halong Bay cruise, but then travel freely to your next destination as DYI. You will get the best of both. If DYI becomes too bothersome with people trying to get at your money, you can arrange an escorted tour on the fly.

          1. Hi,

            I would like to visit Vietnam end February and would like to know can you help as I do ot want to go on huge bus tours. You mention VEXplore. Can you help

            1. V’Explore is a company that arranges private tours. They are the ones that provide tours to the companies that offer “big bus tours” I will send you an email.

  9. Hi Owee,
    This is very informative.. Me and my wife are planning to visit Vietnam for 4days, Would you be able to email me a list of good and affordable travel agencies. We will be staying in Ho Chi Minh District 1. Thanks Owee:) Cheers!

  10. Hi Owee,
    We are planning a multi-generational family trip back to Vietnam (My folks and I are from Rach Gia, we left Vietnam when I was 8 and have not been back since). We are in the process of planning a 2-week trip back to VN in December. We would like to visit Hanoi-Halong Bay-Hue-Danang/Hoi An-Nga Trang-Saigon-Can Tho-Rach Gia. Any thoughts regarding the proposed itinerary, too much for 14 days? We will use a tour company as I would like to “enjoy” the trip and not worry about the logistics. I will email and inquire with V’Explore. Thank you.

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