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

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

  1. I have learned the hard way that when trying to setup a tour with Vietnamese tour company, expect trouble with communications due to the language difference. Be sure to ask for total cost, disregard any quote labeled “per-person.” Lucky for me I was dealing with a good tour company and will not lose any money.

    1. It is my fault, not the tour company that the total bill was twice what I expect. I failed to read all the email. Thankfully I was dealing with a tour service recommend by owee58.

  2. Hi Owee,

    I am so glad i found your site, as i am completely lost and really need help to plan my vietnam trip with my boyfriend.

    We are leaving Toronto on February 6th – March 6th. We will only be able to go on tour for a max of 2.5. Weeks as i have family in Saigon, so i will be needing to spend some time with them for the last week before i head back to canada.

    We were thinking of visiting Nha Trang, Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa, Hoi An, Ha Noi, Da Nang. and hopefully we can squeeze in couple days to go to either bangkok, malaysia, or singapore.

    I just don’t know where to start or what to do or how much all of this can be and can we do all this trip within 2.5 weeks?? Have you heard of TNK Travel Company?

    I am just completely lost hahaha. and this will be the first time we are both going to vietnam, so we would love to have an amazing experience. And is there any tour groups with a younger crowd?? as i am 23 and my boyfriend is 25.

    please email me with what you think! as it would help us out a lot!!!

    Thank You,


  3. I am glad I found your website as I really feel that I am getting good information about traveling in Vietnam..
    We were in Hanoi and north a few years ago on our own, and pretty much did Sapa and Halong Bay and more thru the hotels we stayed at and had a wonderful trip!
    We are coming back with another couple for about 2 weekss and are thinking about starting in Siem Reip to see the temples then fly over to HCM or else boat,,,With the time we have would it be easier having a guide with usand I loved your sites:
    Phong Na, Hoian, Hue, Mekong Delta..
    I love the idea of going to off the beaten path and not where all the tourists go..
    I would like to hear what you have to say and recommend.

  4. Hi Owee,

    Love all your insights about Vietnam. Appreciate all the ideas and recommendations. Me, my gf and my cuz will have a short visit in HCMC this Mid Nov(15, 16 and 17) and still undecided on what to do. We have contacted Elios Hotel for us to stay since I was also doing research in tripadvisor and planning to get the XO Tour. Did we pick the right place to stay and is XO Tour a good choice? Also, one of the reason we are going to HCMC is for a very special occasion. I will be proposing to my GF. Can you suggest a good place/tour for me to pop the question? I would appreciate your response. Thanks!

    1. Elios is ok right in the thick of things. I cannot comment on XO as a work with other companies. Perhaps take her to the Sheraton hotel roof top bar in the evening when the city is lit up.

  5. My husband and 3 children14,12&9 wanting to travel and see some wow factors. Culture with a real life factor. We want to create an amazing experience for our children that they can take something away with them to keep them thinking&talking.would appreciate any advice.hopefully travelling to vietnam next year. Ps what month do you think would be best.


  6. Hi,
    i’ve been reading through you’re blogs, which are amazing! Me and my boyfriend are planning on a holiday to Vietnam in August this year. i’ve spent hours reading through blogs, trying to decide where to go, so i’m hoping for a little advice.
    relaxation will be a part of our holiday, but so will things like watersports, sightseeing, nightlife and we’d love to check out the wildlife! we havent got a huge budget, but i will propably only visit Vietnam once, so i’d like to do it properly, if you know what i mean!
    Would really appreciate some insight as to where the best place to go would be.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey Becky,

      I am doing the same… my boyfriend and I are going to vietnam for 3 weeks in April. Just wondering if you could pass on the advice from Owee, and what you got up to and recommendations.


  7. Hi,I was wondering if you have heard of a tour company called Tailored Tours Asia? In HCM. Someone put me on to them,but I can’t find a license no on the website, I am also a bit iffy on the web page, I can’t find any reviews for them, someone else suggested Buffalo Tours, I can find positive comments for them

    1. Sorry I have not. I am aware of Buffalo, however, I of course recommend the company i use and am now partnered with. V’Explore Travel

  8. Hello Owee…I have been reading various areas in your blog and really appreciate how helpful you are to travelers coming to Vietnam! I am traveling there with a friend at the end of June 2013 for 3 weeks and we have been planning on just doing it on our own…we were going to fly into HMC and then up to Hanoi…train down to the central part of the country and make our way down. Would also like to spend some time in Phu Quoc. After reading some of your comments, I feel a little nervous not having a “tour”. Neither one of us are the touristy types and very adventuresome (although my travel partner won’t do a motorbike tour). We don’t want to miss the best spots and are looking for a good itinerary. I would not say we are apposed to tours…just want something that doesn’t feel like cattle herding and want to have some time on our own if we find a place that we want to stay at a couple of days. Could you give me some suggestions? Thank you!

    1. You can travel out of the way places but you may not get to see all of what there is to offer. The train will link you to all the usual tourist spots. You could always arrange a car with a guide and driver for the central highlands. I will be on a short visit back to Canada in June so I could not do it myself.. I might be able to find someone to drive you from Hoi An to Nha Trang via the highlands.

      1. Would you be able to recommend an itinerary? Do you feel like it is better to focus on one area (south, central or north) for more time and try not to do as much? How about the junk cruises? Mekong Delta or Halong Bay? Or is it like comparing apples to oranges?

        1. Apples and oranges I am afraid. Start by looking at the itinerary section and you can always email me at

  9. Hi Owee, love reading your advice to travellers to Vietnam, so thought I would ask your advise about a booking agent in Hanoi. Have been to Vietnam 2 years ago where I went on a Tour, but next April both my Husband and I would love to go to the North again and visit places we missed out on, like Sapa. Then we would like to go to Hoi An, as well as the country side. I was going to do it all myself but decide to do what you suggest and use an agent in Hanoi. Maybe you can suggest a good one, we are both in our 60’s. Thank you for your help and keep up the good work.

    1. As far as the countryside, that is mor my area of expertise, (perhaps a motorcycle tour from Hoi An to Nha Trang?) however, for private tours for all areas of Vietnam, I always recommend my V’Explore friends. They use the best guides possible for the areas you wish to visit and are familliar with all of Indochina) If you mean a local Hanoi tour shop for joining a group, I cannot help you. I have always either been on my own or with a custom built program. (I am a big fan of letting others organize things for me according to my wishes) The local tour shops will offer you packages for an inexpensive price top SAPA
      Thanks for the compliment

  10. Hi owee, your blog is great and as I am feeling completely lost I hope you can help. we are thinking about flying into HCM from Bangkok mid July next year and spending approx 2 weeks in Vietnam, we have never been before and will have 2 young children with us (a 6 year old and 10 month old). What would you suggest?Should we use a tour company? I haven’t got a clue what is possible in that amount of time and with young kids and so would really appreciate some help from someone as knowledgeable as yourself

    1. With two youngsters, using a company might make it the easiest and less stressed holiday not having to deal with language difficulty issues and organization, however, it would cost a bit more than doing it on your own (not much more) Children are loved here and will command a lot of attention. If you look at my itinerary section, you will get some ideas. I will email you my suggested itinerary based on the Children.

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