Tours and Packages
Among companies that sell tours to Vietnam, the following are nationally known, have a proven reputation, and offer plenty of options.
Abercrombie & Kent. 800/554–7016; www.abercrombiekent.com.
Orient Flexi-Pax Tours. 800/545–5540; www.orientflexipaxtours.com.
Pacific Bestour. 973/726–8887; www.bestour.com.
Pacific Delight Tours. 800/221–7179; www.pacificdelighttours.com.
Travcoa. 888/979–4467; www.travcoa.com.
Most state- and privately run travel agencies in Vietnam organize tours of the whole country, both from overseas or once you arrive. Privately run companies are like Handspan, Exo, and Rose Travel Service are more likely to be able to customize trips, have better English-speaking guides, and offer you a wider range of restaurant and hotel choices. The state-run operators are generally much less flexible and provide fewer options. The main drawback to organizing your trip through tour operators in Vietnam is that you generally don't have the same recourse to consumer protection as you do with many larger, American-based companies.
Exo Travel. 66A Tran Hung Dao, 3rd fl., Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Ha Noi. 24/3828–2150; www.exotravel.com.
Handspan. 78 Ma May, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Ha Noi. 24/3926–2828; www.handspan.com.
Rose Travel Service. 37–39 Ly Thai To, Hoi An, Quang Nam. 098/5700–700; www.rosetravelservice.com.
Vietnam Stay. 24/3747–3482; www.vietnamstay.com.
Organized tours, for groups or individuals, cover a wide range of special interests, from discovering Ho Chi Minh City's street food to bird watching, to trekking through the mountains to learn about the culture of the ethnic minorities who inhabit the northeast.
Backroads. 800/462–2848; www.backroads.com.
Backyard Travel. 800/2225–9273; www.backyardtravel.com.
Hanuman. 80 Ma May St., Hanoi, Ha Noi. 24/3926–2828; www.hanuman.travel.
Myths and Mountains. 800/670–6984; mythsandmountains.com.
Smithsonian Study Tours and Seminars. 202/633–3030; www.smithsonianassociates.org.
Trufflepig. 58 Stewart St., Suite 401, Toronto, Ontario. 416/628–1272; www.trufflepig.com.
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. 8605 Cameron St., Suite 100, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910. 301/585–4000; www.vva.org.
Day Tours and Guides
By law all tour guides must hold a state license, and although this law is rarely upheld in practice, in certain locations, especially those of historical importance a licensed guide will offer a better overall experience. Licensed, English-speaking guides can be arranged through travel agencies and hotels or at the ticket offices of major tourist attractions. When hiring a car and driver for excursions, you’ll usually be offered the services of a tour guide as extra, as drivers are not expected to speak much English.In popular destinations like Hue, Hoi An and the big cities it’s not uncommon to be approached by language students or cyclo and xe om drivers (motorbike taxis) who want to make about $10 for half a day’s work guiding you around city attractions. Although this is just as viable an option as any, make sure you understand their English before you agree on an amount. When hiring an Easy Rider or motorbike tour guide off the street, wherever possible go with a recommendation from someone who has experienced the tour. Always interview your guide, take a map and mark each destination agreed in the price and take it with you on your tour. Check what’s included in the final price, especially if you are taking a multiday tour, and ask about the accommodations options. In Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Danang, Hue, and Hanoi, tourism students have formed free tour companies for students to practice their trade. Although not all tours on offer are free, they make for a good introduction.
Ha Noi Free Tour Guides. Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Ha Noi. 097/4596–895; www.hanoifreetourguides.com..
Hoi An Express. 32 Tien Giang St., Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City. 28/3547–0785; 090/8039–699; www.hoianexpress.com.vn.
Hoi An Free Tours. 591 Hai Ba Trung, Hoi An, Quang Nam. 126/363–6234; www.hoianfreetour.com.
Hue Free Tours. Hue, Thua Thien-Hue. www.hue-enter.com.