|Itinerary at a Glance
A Taste of Vietnam
|3||Ho Chi Minh City|
|4||Ho Chi Minh City|
|Bangkok Optional Extension|
|Departures||September 2013 – March 2014|
|Departs||Los Angeles (LAX)|
|Highlights||Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hoi An, Halong Bay, Hanoi|
|Travel Style||This moderately-paced, locally hosted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking and requires an average level of physical fitness.|
If you've put off a trip to Vietnam because of time or price, then our new Taste of Vietnam tour is for you. See for yourself why Vietnam has emerged as Asia's hottest new destination for Western travelers. Our 10-day escorted tour takes you to Vietnam's two most important cities—Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Hanoi, as well as picturesque Hoi An and Halong Bay. Explore on your own or on exciting optional tours to the Cu Chi Tunnels, My Son and more! You'll enjoy superior accommodations, bountiful daily breakfasts, included sightseeing tours in each city, discounted optional tours, and as always, the very best in Friendly Planet service. Of course, all of this is yours at prices that are downright amazing!
Other packages you might like:
For departures before September 2013, see our previous itinerary.
All prices, fees and deposits are per person, subject to change at any time, and not guaranteed until we receive your final payment.
|Departures & Prices*|
|Mon||Sep 23||2013||Wed||Oct 2||2013||$2059||$1759||Available|
|Mon||Oct 21||2013||Wed||Oct 30||2013||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Mon||Nov 18||2013||Wed||Nov 27||2013||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Mon||Dec 9||2013||Wed||Dec 18||2013||$2199||$1899||Available|
|Mon||Feb 17||2014||Wed||Feb 26||2014||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Mon||Mar 3||2014||Wed||Mar 12||2014||$2099||$1799||Available|
* Prices are per person, based on double occupancy, and include airfare and Airline Taxes, Fees & Sept. 11th Security Fee. Prices do not include excess baggage fees, extensions or optional items. Prices in orange reflect an early booking discount for bookings made by 5/28/2013.
Want to stay longer? We may be able to arrange for you to extend your stay later than the scheduled dates, subject to availability. Contact us about dates, prices and restrictions.
|Separately Paid Fees|
|Vietnam Visa Fee1 (paid separately)||+$150|
1. All visitors to Vietnam must obtain their own visa before departure. Comprehensive visa instructions will be included in your confirmation packet.
|Taste of Vietnam|
|Single Room Supplement||+$399|
|Discount Optional Excursions Package1||+$195|
1. Includes: Mekong Delta, Cu Chi Tunnels, My Son, and Cyclo and Water Puppets. Optional Excursions Package must be pre-booked to receive discounted price and requires a minimum of 3 passengers to operate.
|Bangkok Optional Extension1|
|Single Room Supplement||+$199|
1. The Bangkok extension requires that your flights be confirmed separately by the airlines. Please note that it typically takes 3 to 5 business days to confirm your extension flights with the airline, and that we will notify you immediately upon confirmation of the flights. This extension also requires a minimum of 2 passengers to operate. Final pricing is based on flight availability at the time of booking.
|Los Angeles (LAX)||included|
Coming from somewhere else? Unfortunately, we don't offer departures from cities that are not listed, but you can book your own connecting flights separately.
To make a reservation, we only require a per-person deposit payment, which you can pay with your credit card. This non-refundable deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package. You can pay the balance due later by credit card, check or money order. Your final payment is due 75 days prior to departure, or within 72 hours of booking, whichever is later.
For departures before September 2013, see our previous itinerary.
Day 1: Depart USA. Check in for your flight bound for Saigon via Taipei. Your flights will depart from LAX shortly after midnight on Day 2.
Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day. (You'll recover this day on your return trip).
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and transfer to your hotel, located in the heart of the city and within easy access to shopping, touring and dining.
This afternoon, explore dynamic Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by many locals) on an included comprehensive city tour. Begin at the historic Reunification Hall, which formerly served as the Presidential Palace. It was towards this modern building that North Vietnamese resistance fighters tanks (the Viet Cong) rolled on the morning of April 30, 1975 as Saigon fell.
From 1885 to 1954, Vietnam was the French colony of Indochina, and you'll see remnants of the French influence throughout the city. You'll visit the impressive gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the ornate French colonial Saigon Post Office, built by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, where locals still come to post letters and make international phone calls from the beautifully trimmed phone booths inside.
You'll also see the Thien Hau Pagoda, the city’s bustling Chinatown Cho Lon, and time permitting, Binh Tay, Cho Lon's colorful central market. Accommodations: New World Hotel.
Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy a full day to explore this vibrant city on your own. We recommend an optional full day excursion to the Mekong Delta with lunch and an evening vespa ride to sample some of the local cuisine and experience the nightlife of Saigon. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Depart your hotel this morning heading south to the Mekong Delta, arriving at Ben Tre, where you cross the Mekong River on a motorboat. You'll drive through the second biggest coconut tree orchard in Vietnam. Stop along the way to observe the daily life of the villagers and discover how Vietnamese farmers work their rice fields. Since rice is the most important crop produced in the country and is eaten in many forms every day, rice farming is serious business requiring dedication, great planning and patience. Continue exploring the Mekong as you cruise through its small canals and arroyos lined with palm and coconut trees. Stroll through the fragrant fruit orchards, sip Vietnamese honey tea, and take a short donkey cart ride before stopping for an included lunch at an open-air Vietnamese restaurant specializing in delicious "elephant ear fish." Return to Saigon for an afternoon at leisure. ($80 per person)
Optional Excursion: Tonight offers a chance to experience the nightlife of Saigon from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter. The city comes alive come sundown and people congregate on sidewalks, parks and all over the city. The first stop on your culinary exploration will be to sample some light evening snacks. Continue to a traditional quan (bia hoi) for dinner and drinks. An evening out in Ho Chi Minh City is not complete without a visit to a Vietnamese-style coffee shop. Conclude the evening at one of the many local clubs, where the new generation of Vietnamese unwind and flaunt their unique style. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally ($119 per person).
Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang & Hoi An. After breakfast enjoy the morning at leisure, or take advantage of an optional morning excursion to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. This afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Da Nang on the coast of the South China Sea. Upon arrival, board your touring coach and visit China Beach and Marble Mountain en route to Hoi An. The colorful market town of Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a major Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th centuries, with ships arriving from all over the world to obtain silk and other fabrics, sugar, tea and ceramics. Hoi An's traditional Vietnamese architecture has been preserved, and there are many historic temples and pagodas in the area.
Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to explore on your own. You might want to take advantage of Hoi An's world-famous tailors during your stay here. Anything you might want to wear can be made for you in Hoi An, all at bargain prices and with expert workmanship. Accommodations: Sunrise Hoi An Resort. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: The Cu Chi Tunnels were built by the Viet Minh in the 1940s, this incredible network of tunnels once stretched for 210 miles and contained extensive Viet Cong infrastructure including tactical quarters, storage rooms, kitchens, a school and even an underground hospital. Most entrances were so well disguised that only a small portion of the system was ever discovered during the war, despite the fact that some 125 miles ran under a U.S. military base. You can enter the tunnels if you wish, or view them from outside. ($50 per person, minimum 3 passengers to operate)
Day 6: Hoi An. Today is free at leisure for shopping and exploring this charming town, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, or simply relax by the pool or on its beautiful white sand beaches. Alternatively, take advantage of an optional half day excursion to My Son or an optional guided walking tour of Hoi An. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Embark on a morning or afternoon optional walking tour through the streets of Hoi An, once a major Asian trading port in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hoi An’s architecture and relaxed lifestyle have changed little over the years. Explore the ancient town center and visit the sites of former merchants’ homes, a 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, and a Chinese Communal Hall. Before you return to your hotel enjoy browsing and shopping in the one of the most colorful local marketplaces in all of Asia. This optional excursion can only be purchased locally ($31 per person).
Optional Excursion: Enjoy a morning optional half day excursion to visit the capital and religious center of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son. Here, 40km southwest of Hoi An in a lush green valley, are dozens of red brick towers and sanctuaries dating from between the 7th and 13th centuries. On the way back to Hoi An stop to visit Tra Kieu, formerly known as Simhapura or the Lion Citadel, the capital of Champa between the 4th and 8th centuries. Some of the finest sculpture in Da Nang's Cham Museum originated from here. ($40 per person, minimum 3 passengers to operate)
Day 7: Hoi An, Hai Phong & Halong Bay. After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to airport for your early afternoon flight to Hai Phong. On arrival, transfer through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta to your hotel in Halong Bay for check-in. The balance of the day is at leisure. Accommodations: Halong Plaza Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 8: Halong Bay & Hanoi. This morning, transfer to the pier to set sail on your private junk for a 5-hour cruise on the emerald green waters of Halong Bay. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch as you cruise amongst the spectacular limestone islands. This afternoon, return to Halong Harbor then transfer to Hanoi. Upon arrival, you will be escorted to your hotel for check-in. Accommodations: Nikko Hotel. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Day 9: Hanoi. This morning’s half-day tour of Hanoi begins with Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum as well as his private residence from 1954 until 1969. The wooden ethnic minority style house, which was built on stilts, is surrounded by lovely peaceful gardens. In the same complex you will see the One Pillar Pagoda, founded by King Ly Thai To in 1049. This structure has become an important symbol for the people of Hanoi. Continue on to Hoa Lo Prison (formerly known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the American war). Before returning to your hotel, visit the Museum of Ethnology where you observe Vietnam's diverse culture through the Museum’s unique presentation of articles and dress used in daily life. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Your afternoon optional excursion offers you the chance to explore Hanoi on an hour long tour by cyclo, a chauffeur-pedaled three-wheeled carriage, through the city's Old Quarter known as the 36 Streets. This bustling area of narrow streets and lanes is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. There's no doubt that this is an entrepreneurial people and you'll see the evidence as you wind your way slowly through the quarter. There are tiny restaurants, with single burner kitchens set out on the sidewalk, kiosks for shoes, hats, suitcases, clothing and food, and many women carrying herbs and vegetables in flat baskets suspended from each end of a bamboo pole which is carried perfectly balanced on one shoulder. You find plenty of photo opportunities all around you, so have your camera ready. After your tour, you'll continue to the theater where you'll enjoy an ancient form of Vietnamese entertainment known as Mua Roi Nuoc, or Water Puppets, a wonderful performance art form well loved by locals and tourists alike. Puppeteers control their puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanisms hidden beneath the water's surface to depict scenes from rural life and national history. ($50 per person, minimum 3 passengers to operate)
Day 10: Depart Vietnam/Arrive USA. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Later today, transfer to the airport to check in for your return flight to the USA. If your schedule permits, take advantage of an optional extension to Bangkok, Thailand! Breakfast provided.
Why not take advantage of your already included international airfare and add three days in exotic Bangkok, bustling capital of Thailand? Your extension includes airfare from Hanoi to Bangkok, three nights at the deluxe Dusit Thani hotel, full buffet breakfast daily, and all group transfers!
Day 10: Vietnam & Bangkok. Transfer to the airport to board your short flight to Bangkok, bustling capital of Thailand, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Upon arrival, you'll be escorted to your deluxe, centrally located hotel. The rest of the day is yours at leisure to take in your new surroundings and explore the city independently. Your hotel boasts a prime location within walking distance to many attractions. And with a metro stop located right outside the hotel's front door, you can travel easily and quickly to many other areas of the city. Accommodations: Dusit Thani. Breakfast provided.
Day 11-12: Bangkok. Enjoy two full days at leisure to discover Thailand's vibrant capital at your own pace. Bangkok offers no shortage of shopping, dining, and sightseeing. Your hotel concierge will gladly offer suggestions for independent exploration.
We recommend a visit to the Grand Palace, which for 150 years functioned as the home of the King and his court as well as the entire administrative seat of government. Within its grounds, you'll also visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) built to house a large Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jadite (jasper).
Temples, along with the monarchy, are the fabric that binds together the national identity that is Thailand, and some of the most interesting of Thai temples are found in Bangkok. We suggest visits to three of Bangkok's most visually stunning temples: Wat Trimitr, which houses the 700-year-old, 5-ton Golden Buddha, the largest in the world; Wat Po, the oldest temple in Bangkok and home to the amazing Reclining Buddha; and Wat Benchamabophit, with its abundance of white Italian marble.
Often called the "Venice of the East" for its network of canals (klongs), Bangkok can also be explored by boat. From this vantage point, you can gain close-up views of traditional Thai life. And of course, no visit to Bankgok would be complete without a visit to the colorful Damneon Saduak floating market, held daily. It is an experience not to be missed! Breakfast provided.
Day 13: Depart Bangkok/Arrive USA. Today, transfer to the airport for your return flight. Your memorable journey to Vietnam and Thailand comes to an end as you arrive in the US later today. Breakfast provided.
To take full advantage of your visit to Vietnam, we offer a special discount package of optional excursions to other "must-see" sites. These are not "seat in coach" excursions that pick up passengers in various hotels—all our optional excursions are private and operated for Friendly Planet groups only.
Optional Excursions Package Includes:
Package Price: $195 per person if booked and prepaid before final payment. Save $25 per person compared to buying them separately!
If you prefer not to book in advance, the individual optional excursions will be available from your guide once you arrive in Vietnam, based on availability, at individual prices listed ($220 per person for all four). Other optional excursions, mentioned in our detailed itinerary, will also be available to you in Vietnam, based on availability. Payment for optionals purchased in Vietnam must be made in cash (U.S. or equivalent in Vietnamese currency).
We regret that we cannot accept bookings for the pre-paid optional excursions package within 75 days from departure or after final payment has been received. Optional Excursions require a minimum of 3 passengers to operate.
Want more? Extend your stay with our Bangkok Optional Extension.
Just got back from your Thailand trip. The four of us had a marvelous time, and your arrangements were wonderful. I was impressed by the organization throughout. We all learned a lot and really enjoyed the experience.
— Andy Tsoi, Tacoma, WA