The 6 Really Obvious Ways To Vietnam Backpacking Tour Guides Better That You Ever Did
Hanoi offers some of the best street food in the whole of Vietnam. Water - It's best to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water in Vietnam to avoid stomach bugs. Rise early to catch an enchanting sight of hundreds of saffron-robed monks walking silently through town to collect offerings. Then as the sun begins to set on this remarkable environment, you'll position yourself on the boat deck and crack open a cold beer… the life of a backpacker is good, eh?!
(E.g. The Halong Bay trips booked at popular backpacker hostels tend to turn into ‘Booze Cruises!') Make sure you ask about the activities and itinerary before you depart. If you are a digital nomad, there is a great cafe you can work at, which offers a beautiful view, high speed internet, and awesome inexpensive Vietnamese coffee. Average Accommodation per night - 120,000 (dorm) - 150,000 (low end) - 250,000 (higher end or during festival season).
I was standing in the courtyard of a small temple in Long Phuoc, south-east of Saigon, in front of a gold statue, explaining to a small group of travellers that the man on the plinth became a hero of the Vietnam War by working out how to steal and recycle American anti-personnel mines for use against Allied troops. And then there is the stuff that is left out. If you want a special experience, do your homework and be prepared to pay a bit more.
Are you going to be taken to souvenir shops and restaurants where the guide will get commission on everything you buy? How good is the guide's English (hopefully a lot better that your attempts at the local lingo). Just tell the tour guide what you are looking for.
You want to go up to Cu Chi and back to Saigon by river rather than bus. You want to go shopping in a real market, not a tourist haunt. So how did I cross the line from tourist to tour leader?
The ten guests on our first trip were quite a mixture: two twentysomethings who'd never been out of Australia, their dad, a Digger who'd served during the Vietnam War but had never made it to Phuoc Tuy, a couple in their 60s whose friends and family had begged them not to take such an arduous trip, two keen hiking mates, and an old friend of Sandy's - an intrepid septuagenarian lady who took the daily adventure in her stride. Real travel doesn't fit neatly into fixed agendas and schedules. The secret is to meet and surpass travellers' expectations.
Their latest, Tunnel Rats vs the Taliban (also A&U) was published last year. Vietnam Airlines fly direct to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) daily. We favour Liberty Central , a 3-4 star hotel near Ben Than Market (/saigon-centre-hotel).
For something more upmarket, the Sofitel Plaza is good value from just under $200 a night. Full-on military history tours can be booked through organisations like Matt McLachlan's Battlefield Tours led by vietnam travel War expert Gary McKay and, of course, Sandy MacGregor's Long Tan tour (see above).