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new to Vietnam

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Bolton
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501 posts
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new to Vietnam

We're planning about 12 days in North Vietnam in November. Our plans are in their infancy other than getting a quote from an agent in Vietnam for a 9 day tour (our original plan).

Proposed itinerary:

Arrive/Overnight in Hanoi

Tour Hanoi then overnight train to Sapa (Livitrains)

Day in Sapa-tour

free day in Sapa > Hanoi

Hanoi to Halong Bay

2 nights : Halong Emotion Boat

Halong Bay to Hanoi

Overnight in Hanoi then tour finished.

the cost includes all accommodation and private car & driver (approx. £600 each)

Does that sound expensive or can I organise the same tour DIY?? I'm not sure how reliable the public transport is etc?

Now we have approx. 12 days to utilise ( on a budget) and we prefer to stay North I want to know how best to fill them.

Can we add in Ninh Binh at some point?

Any other suggestions? - nice ones only !!

Thanks in advance.

Llanbrynmair...
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1. Re: new to Vietnam

You should allow yourselves 3 full days in Hanoi as there is so much to see and do there, and it has to be one of the world's best places for street life and people watching.

Instead of returning from Halong Bay to Hanoi you could get a private transfer from the wharf to Ninh Binh, stay there for a couple of days then return to Hanoi by train.

Hanoi, Vietnam
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2. Re: new to Vietnam

GBP 600 is quite a handful of money in my opinion, and you could very easily DIY the whole thing as most of us on this forum are used to doing. Vietnam is probably one of the easiest Asian countries to do your own thing, and English is widely understood on the tourist trail. I would use a local agent for some help (train tickets), but I'm a penny pincher (I just returned from 18 days in country in March and spent about $1500. for everything except international airfare - includes costly gifts, very good meals/hotels, getting my teeth cleaned and a few personal souvenirs).

Bolton
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501 posts
309 reviews
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3. Re: new to Vietnam

We went to Cambodia last year (only for 2 weeks) and I planned & booked everything myself so now I'm thinking I can do the same for Vietnam.

Is there a reliable bus service or will it be better/necessary to use trains to get from A to B etc??

Llanbrynmair...
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12 reviews
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4. Re: new to Vietnam

Bus travel is very dangerous in Vietnam, so buses are best avoided unless there is no alternative.

The trains are slow, noisy and not always clean (apart from private carriages hitched to the state-run trains) but they do get you there in one piece.

It's as easy as pie to make your own arrangements, and it also increases your choice of hotels etc. because travel agents tend to book their clients into those with which they have a financially beneficial arrangement - after all they have a living to make!

Bolton
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501 posts
309 reviews
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5. Re: new to Vietnam

Thanks CB.

.....so will it be better to pre- book our hotels then just arrange our transport locally once we're there?

( might have lots of inane questions to ask you!!)

Llanbrynmair...
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12 reviews
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6. Re: new to Vietnam

Wolfie it's always wise to book a hotel for your first night as the last thing you'll feel like after a long flight is schlepping around looking for somewhere to rest your head. The same goes for booking transportation from the airport to that hotel as you probably won't be in a fit state to tackle a rogue taxi driver.

Normally I would recommend winging everything else, but you have so little time there's not much room to manoeuvre. In November there isn't usually a problem booking Halong Bay tours at short notice so you could leave that until you know what the weather is like (your hotel will be able to offer you a range of cruises in various price ranges). The weather was absolutely delicious in Hanoi last November (mainly dry, warm and sunny) but Taiphoon Hayan, although considerably weakened in strength, made its presence felt and all Halong Bay sailings were cancelled.

You might think about delaying your Sapa trip for a day and spending 2 nights in Hanoi before you go because (1) you might not feel up to too much sightseeing on your first day, and (2) a lot of people find it difficult to sleep on the train, so if you're jetlagged and still tired from your international flight you sure as heck won't be perky and energetic enough to go trekking!

Bolton
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501 posts
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7. Re: new to Vietnam

....is there a lot of trekking ....would it require hiking boots ? (1st inane question, maybe)

Wanaka, New Zealand
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8. Re: new to Vietnam

We (family of 5: 2A, 3C) spent 7 weeks in SE Asia in December/January. I would recommend doing it yourself. I booked the whole 7 weeks via email, TA etc. I would research hotels on here to narrow down our options, then email them direct to negotiate rooms/prices etc. I also booked key tours and train trips. (I used one of the tour operators to book the trains and do our VOA). It really is very easy to do yourself, and added a lot to our experience. None of our tours/hotels was a dud!

9. Re: new to Vietnam

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