24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departures||Scheduled Dates: Select a departure from October 2015 – May 2016|
|Departs||Los Angeles (LAX), New York Kennedy (JFK), San Francisco (SFO) (flight schedule)|
|Highlights||Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hoi An, Halong Bay, Hanoi|
|Themes||History & Culture|
|What to Expect||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 package 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!
Departures & Prices
per person, double occupancy*
|Sat||Sep 12||2015||Mon||Sep 21||2015||$1999||$1699||Closed|
|Sat||Oct 10||2015||Mon||Oct 19||2015||$2049||$1749||Available|
|Sat||Nov 14||2015||Mon||Nov 23||2015||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Sat||Dec 5||2015||Mon||Dec 14||2015||$2099||$1799||Closed|
|Sat||Jan 9||2016||Mon||Jan 18||2016||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Sat||Feb 20||2016||Mon||Feb 29||2016||$2099||$1799||Closed|
|Sat||Mar 19||2016||Mon||Mar 28||2016||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Sat||Apr 16||2016||Mon||Apr 25||2016||$2099||$1799||Available|
|Sat||May 14||2016||Mon||May 23||2016||$1999||$1699||Available|
Want to stay longer? We may be able to arrange for you to stay later than the scheduled dates, including extra hotel nights and separate airport transfers. Contact us about prices and availability.
|Taste of Vietnam|
|Single Room Supplement||+$350|
|Discount Optional Excursions Package1||+$205|
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.
|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.
|Bangkok Optional Extension1|
|Single Room Supplement||+$159|
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|
|San Francisco (SFO)||included|
|New York Kennedy (JFK)|
|All other departures||+$50|
This package includes round-trip flights from the cities listed above, subject to availability. Please review the flight schedule, especially if you're booking connecting flights.
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.
San Francisco (SFO): Passengers returning to San Francisco (SFO) will have a 8-hour layover in Taipei before continuing to SFO, a day-use room will be provided.
Transfers: Transfers for this package are provided on a group basis only. For passengers deviating in any way from the group program, transfers are not provided. Individual, private transfers can be arranged at a supplement in price. Taxis and other forms of transportation are also available and may cost less than private transfers. If you wish to arrange private transfers, please request this service at the time of reservation.
To make a reservation, simply select an available departure date and reserve online using our secure booking system. Or call us one of our travel specialists at 800-555-5765, Mon–Fri 9:30–6:00 Eastern time. But first, check out our Things to Know section.
We only require a per-person deposit payment, which you can pay with your credit card or PayPal account. This deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package, and is generally non-refundable (details). The balance is due 75 days prior to departure (or within 72 hours, if you're booking less than 75 days prior to departure), and can be paid by credit card, PayPal, check or money order.
Day 1: Depart USA. Check in for your flight bound for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) via Taipei.
Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose one 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 ornate French colonial Saigon Post Office, built by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, where locals still come to post letters and make international calls from the beautifully trimmed phone booths inside.
You'll also see the Thien Hau Pagoda before continuing on to the FITO Museum, Vietnam’s first traditional medicine museum. Here you’ll find an amazing collection of 3,000 items used throughout the development of traditional Vietnamese medicine. Among these, you’ll see implements used to prepare indigenous herbs, objects common in traditional pharmacies, as well as ancient books and documents on traditional Vietnamese medicine. Accommodations: Grand Hotel Saigon.
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: Mekong Delta with lunch, $85. 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.
Optional Excursion: Saigon Nightlife, $125 (purchased locally). 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.
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: Hoi An Historic Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Cu Chi Tunnels, $50. 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. (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: Hoi An walking tour, $35 (purchased locally). 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 one of the most colorful local marketplaces in all of Asia.
Optional Excursion: My Son & Phuoc Kieu Village, $50. Enjoy an optional half day trip to visit the capital and religious center of the former Champa Kingdom, My Son, situated in a lush green valley 40km southwest of Hoi An. En route, stop at Phuoc Kieu Village, a 500 year old village specialized in bronze crafting. Walk around the village's streets and visit a workshop and a temple where locals worship their ancestors. Continue on to the cultural highlight of Central Vietnam, the temple complex at My Son. Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 the tower-temples were the seat of the Champa Kingdom for the majority of its existence between the 4th and 13th centuries. The sanctuary is situated in an impressive location surrounded by hills. Wander through the impressive ruins then visit a small museum at the entrance to My Son before heading back to Hoi An. (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: Novotel Halong Bay. 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: Hilton Garden Inn. 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 the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. Constructed in 1070, the gardens and well-preserved architecture offer a glimpse into Vietnam’s past. Conclude your tour with a visit to Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the "Hanoi Hilton." This notorious prison got its nickname during the Vietnam War—which the locals call the American War, one of many endured in recent times. Long before Americans were imprisoned here, many Vietnamese who fought against the French were held here. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Old Quarter Cyclo Tour & Water Puppets Show, $50. 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. (Minimum 3 passengers to operate.)
Day 10: Depart Vietnam/Arrive USA. Today, transfer to the airport to check in for your return flight to the USA, via Taipei, Taiwan. If your schedule permits, take advantage of an optional extension to Bangkok, Thailand! Breakfast provided.
Passengers returning to San Francisco (SFO) will have a 8-hour layover in Taipei before continuing to SFO, a day-use room will be provided.
Save by pre-booking a discounted package of our most popular optional excursions:
You can book these excursions individually in Vietnam. But you can save $30 if you purchase this special package ahead of time—with or before your final payment. These are not "seat in coach" excursions that pick up passengers at various hotels; all are operated for Friendly Planet groups only. Optional excursions require a minimum of 3 passengers to operate.
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 a deluxe 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. Accommodations: Royal Orchid Sheraton. Breakfast provided.
Day 11: 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 12: Bangkok. Continue to enjoy this lively city at your own pace. Breakfast provided.
Day 13: Depart Bangkok/Arrive USA. Today, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA via Taipei, Taiwan. Breakfast provided.
Thank you for an amazing tour of Thailand! This was our first experience with Friendly Planet, but based on this, we would highly recommend them. We thought it was a fantastic value. There is no way that we would have been able to do as much, or travel to multiple cities on our own. All of the accommodations were excellent. Our guide, "Tick", was very knowledgeable, experienced, informative, entertaining, had a great sense of humor, and he spoke/understood English very well. We would definitely consider another Friendly Planet tour, to a new destination.
Danielle Lawson, Madison, WI