Thinking of going to Vietnam with DH next year - 2 or 3 weeks. I'd quite like to travel independently with maybe the odd organised bit thrown in - quite happy to use trains etc.
We've just got back - did a tour with family adventure company, which is a subsidiary of intrepid. If you have kids I would recommend a tour, although like you I would previously have done it more independently. I think a tour was better value and it was so much easier having everything organised for you, particularly in the heat - Hanoi with humidity was 45-50 and I would have struggled in that heat with dealing with transport, ticket booths etc. Weather. Will obviously be different at different times of the year! If you do have kids then having other families is also a great help with ready made playmates. We did Hanoi, halting bay, hue, hoi an, HCMC and the Mekong delta. It's a pretty well trodden route and I can't imagine you'd have a particularly different experience if you did it independently.
Forgot to say most organised tours also use trains etc. We had an overnight junk in the bay, an overnight train Hanoi - Hue, and an internal flight to HCMC. Although an escorted tour, it was not overly in your face if you get what I mean - plenty of time where we could do things just as a family.
That's really helpful, thank you. No kids with us and we're late 40s. So don't want to relive backpacking hostel days but don't need to be in high end accommodation either. That was pretty much the route we were thinking of - but would quite like the flexibility to stay somewhere longer if we liked it.
I also did a tour with intrepid-
No kids just grown ups and I would highly recommend. Used trains and planes as well as a private minibus here and there.
It was quite "budget" in terms of accomodatioj though- am pretty sure they do posher trips and also "private" tours as well. Recommend looking into them though Vietnam would be fine to travel through independently. That said our Intrepid guide took us to loads of really random and fascinating places that I just wouldn't have gone to otherwise. Beware of the city at Halong bay where you get the boats-
I found this exceptionally seedy. Hanoi and Saigon great fun though.
Also think intrepid do short 2-3 day tours of certain areas so you could do a couple and mix with doing your own thing?
Yes - it's called urban adventures: www.urbanadventures.com/
We went this summer. I organised it myself using the Internet, and travelled Hanoi, bad weather cancelled Halong Bay, train to Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park via Dong Hoi, train to Hue and Hoi An via Danang, and then a flight back to Hanoi. Unfortunately we were time limited otherwise we'd have travelled further south.
I was expecting some trouble with the language barrier but it was very smooth, no problems with hotels, activities or transport. If i were to return i would definitely organise it myself again.
I have been several times and organised it independently.
Hanoi is great for museums (Hanoi Hilton HCM Mausoleum etc) and if you stay in the old part of the town it's easy to walk around. Recommend the Elegance group of hotels (there are about 4 in Hanoi, good locations, reasonable price and staff very helpful and friendly) Day trip to nam coc (could be tam coc) also good from Hanoi - has limestone karsts and is like an inland halong bay.
It's easy to organise a couple of days in Halong Bay from Hanoi.
Sapa is great for trekking - but weather is better then in Autumn, not summer. You can get an overnight train from Hanoi - easy to book online, but I think there is now a bus which takes about 6 hours to Lao Cai and then it's about 45 mins to Sapa. Hotel in Sapa will pick you up from the train station. Sapa is great for trekking with local tribes and loads of fab restaurants.
From Hanoi you can fly to Danang and then it's 45 mins to Hoi An which is lovely - old and town and there is a beach at Anbang. You can also take a day trip to Me son to visit the ruins - about 45-60 mins from Hoi An.
It's easy to book domestic flights on line with Air Vietnam.
HCM City also good for museums and you can go out to the tunnels which is really interesting. The city is incredibly busy and traffic is horrendous!
At the moment you don't need a visa if you are a UK citizen but the current visa free period ends in July next year so you need to check if that will be extended. Worth checking as the letter and visa together costs about 60 dollars per person.
Food is fabulous in Vietnam and many people speak English.
Weather in the summer can be very hot. We were in Hoi An this year and it was 42 degrees.
Can't figure out how to start a new post, but I've booked a family holiday to Vietnam this summer and need visas.
Can anyone help with the best place to get these from?
If you are a British citizen you don't need a visa if you are travelling to Vietnam before the 30th June. This visa free arrangement may well be extended - it was last year, so worth checking in June on the Vietnamese embassy site.
The current visa waiver is only for trips for 15 days.
details for how to apply for the visa are on this uk government site:
I'm going for 17 days in August and haven't got a visa yet.
I'll try the above link too. I keep seeing websites offering a fee to do it for me but aren't sure if they are legit/how hard it is to do anyway.
Can I just go down to the embassy does anyone know?
Visa on arrival is cheaper, and fine, but there were huge queues when I went. More info here. www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g293921-c148049/Vietnam:Faq.Visa.On.Arrival.Voa.html This is the one where you pay someone else to sort it.
I did visa by post from the uk embassy, although you can now apply by email. It was quite quick. You can also visit the embassy. vietnamembassy.org.uk/index.php?action=p&ct=Consular%20Services%20for%20UK%20residents#visaemailpost
I would suggest trying to take some actual money with you (either dong or £ or $) as we had some issues at first finding a cash point that would accept our cards.
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