Is it best to explore Vietnam on a guided tour?
Vietnam is a beautiful country with a great deal to offer the visitor. However it is also a country that can be very tiring and at times frustrating to navigate, particularly when short on time. Yet travelling independently can be extremely rewarding, so should a traveller go it alone or seek the help of professionals?
It is hard to give a general answer for all visitors as it really depends on what you wish to get from your trip. If you simply want a holiday, perhaps with a bit of culture thrown in then why not book independently - you can find a luxury resort around the beaches of Mui Ne or Hoi An that will offer a great chance to relax and unwind, with daytrips to nearby sights and attrations that can offer a glimpse of life in Vietnam, should you get bored of the beach.
If you're a budget traveller, a backpacker short on money but with plenty of time, for a real adventure we would highly recommend travelling independently. You are in the unique position of being able to explore the nooks and crannies of the country where few would normally venture, to take the time to meet local people and ask where they would go and visit if they could. Furthermore, the cheap tours available to budget travellers are normally geared towards economies of scale, with rigid itineraries, packed buses and a fairly generic feel, so little is to be gained by taking the pre-planned route.
However if your visit to Vietnam is for a couple of weeks or less and you'd like to get more out of your trip than a quick look around a city before a long spell on the beach, you could really benefit from letting a tour operator with extensive knowlege and experience of the country take care of arrangements and help tailor your package to suit you.
The advantages of private tours
- Years of experience - By travelling with a specialist in Vietnam tours you benefit from years of experience and a depth of knowlege the guidebooks simply can't offer. Whether its where to find the best views, the most spectacular routes or the aspects of a town or region that most travellers miss, where to eat the tastiest food or simply to deepen your understanding of the culture and history of the country, an experienced guide can greatly enhance your experience and make planning your trip and choosing destinations much easier.
- Greater efficiency - Often when travelling independently a large amount of time is taken up in making travel arrangements, booking tickets and reserving hotel rooms, and Vietnam is a difficult place to book transport in advance from afar. When your tour operator takes care of all these things you can spend more time enjoying the journey and less time on admin.
- Value for money - Even if your tour operator specialises in small group tours they will usually assist many travellers every year. This means they can benefit from great discounts from luxury hotels meaning your package will end up being much cheaper than booking the same accommodation independently, allowing you to enjoy a higher level of comfort throughout your journey.
- Flexibilty - The majority of professional tour companies will bend over backwards to meet your requirements - whether you have a passionate urge to go birdwatching in the mangrove forests, learn to cook Vietnamese food from a professional chef or pack in a visit to Laos, Cambodia or Thailand with your Vietnamese tour, an experienced agent can handle all the details with ease.
Popular itineraries + options
North <-> South
As Vietnam is a long, thin country hugging the coast between mountains and the sea, it is only natural that the majority of tours either start or end in Hanoi and head to or from Saigon. Taking a tour from one end to the other is a great way to see the majority of sights in the country, and many tours offer variations from the beaten track than enable you to see less discovered parts of Vietnam too.
Whether you are visiting Vietnam as part of your retirement, for your honeymoon or simply for a good bit of rest and relaxation, the country is a great place to treat yourself - but only when you know where. Take advantage of the great value for money a tour company can offer while experiencing the very bes t Vietnam has to offer.
Gastronomic + Culinary Tours
Ask any visitor to Vietnam what made the trip so special and 9 times out of ten you will hear about the incredible food. Make the most of your journey and never have a dull meal with a whirlwind tour of the delicious and unique cuisine Vietnam has to offer, with a bit of fine dining thrown in. Often as part of your itinerary you can learn to cook Vietnamese food too, so you can wow your friends and family when you return home.
Experiencing Vietnam by bicycle is perhaps one of the finest ways to discover the country. The pace is perfect - faster than walking but slow enough to take in the landscape and the lives and culture of the people around you, enabling you to interact with locals as you pass rather than being hidden inside an a/c bus. Trips can be arranged to suit your level of skill, stamina and ability so these trips can suit all travellers
Particularly popular for those wishing to traverse the Central Highlands or the hills of the far North / North West, motorbike tours maintain a connection with the people and scenery around you while getting you up hills a lot faster. Tours come in two forms - escorted, where you ride your own bike but travel with a guide, and pillion, where an experienced Vietnamese driver will be your personal driver and guide allowing you to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Trekking + Walking Tours
To truly experience rural Vietnam you can forgo roads entirely and take to the fields, forests and hills. For those with a spirit of adventure and plenty of stamina treks can offer a unique insight into the lives of hilltribes, Vietnam's unique wildlife and others who live off the beaten track