- The Red Journal
- Uniquely Red
Vietnam is a truly special country with spectacular scenery, friendly people, and a mouth-watering cuisine that changes as you travel along the length of the country. The itineraries listed below are just a glimpse of what you can experience on one of our custom tours. Check them out before contacting us to plan your trip.
Discover the highlights and unique cultures of North, Central and South Vietnam including a legendary cruise at the spectacular Halong Bay. Throughout this trip, you will explore lesser known local neighborhoods, see amazing natural landscapes and interact with local hosts for intimate cultural experiences. Sample many delicious and authentic dishes that you cannot find at restaurants back home, including a fun cooking session at a local home. View Itinerary
Experience the essential historic highlights and wonders of Mother Nature on this trip. Be ready to be swept off your feet at “Dry Halong Bay” with its breathtaking karst landscapes, and magnificent caves at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features the oldest karst mountains in Asia. Drive along the historic DMZ in Central Vietnam and witness how entire villages live in underground tunnels during ... View Itinerary
This trip is designed for those seeking an intrepid experience combined with sweeping terraced landscapes and exotic local cultures. Travel to around North of Vietnam to hike and bike around some of the most spectacular rural scenery where time has stood still for generations. Interact with friendly villagers at their homes and relax with the stunning views of rural Vietnam by the comforts of your room. View Itinerary
The true highlights of Vietnam are it’s people, culture, and food and those will be there whenever you go. But in general, the best weather is from November to April. Understand that there is no clear time that is best, so it may help to plan around the most important part of your itinerary.
For example if you’ve always wanted to experience the spectacular scenery with a cruise of Ha Long Bay, avoid the monsoon season from June through October when daily rains (and sometimes severe typhoons) can get in the way of some activities and scenery. Also avoid December and early January when cool fog can block views.
Or, if you want to photograph the spectacular terraced rice paddies, plan to be there when they are greenest, but also understand that every region has a slightly different season. Sapa in the hills of the far north near China only has one rice season, while central Vietnam has two and the Mekong Delta in the south has three.
The far north of Vietnam is mountainous and its high altitudes near Sapa can sometimes experience snow and freezing temperatures. Winter in Northern Vietnam (November to April) is cool and dry and summer (May to October) is hot, humid, and rainy. July to September is the monsoon season and has the highest rainfall.
On the map, Central Vietnam bulges east into the South China Sea making it more susceptible to typhoons and tropical storms. It can be hot and dry from February to August. but very comfortable in the winter months of December and January. The months of September, October and early November are the rainiest and severe storms can cause severe flooding and sometimes require evacuations from hotels in Hoi An.
Southern Vietnam has a tropical climate and has constant warm temperatures. Here the seasons are simple: rainy (May to November) and dry (November to May).
We’ve inspected and stayed in dozens of hotels throughout the country. We will not only recommend which hotel may best for you, but which room category. Here’s a few that we highly recommend based on the quality of the rooms and facilities, cleanliness, standard of service, and locations. These aren’t always the cheapest hotels, but they are among the best hotels in their category. We tend to have a preference for high-quality boutique hotels that have a great location, excellent food, and a local ambience, or perhaps a colonial style atmosphere that conjure images of former eras.
Located in the heart of the old city, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is a historic, iconic award-winning luxury hotel. Blending a heritage colonial style with neo-classical luxury and a dash of modernity, you’ll find an elegance during your stay you’re unlikely to experience anywhere else. Located only 35km away from Hanoi Noibai airport, and mere steps from the Opera House in Hanoi’s culturally rich French Quarter, our hotel is in one of Hanoi’s prime locations.
Close to the Hue Imperial City, near the poetic Huong (Perfume) River and its nearby Thien Mu Pagoda, Ancient Hue Garden Houses is one of the recent additions to the luxury boutique hotel scene in Vietnam. It epitomizes the essence and heritage of a mandarin garden house. It blends feudal architecture and nature in 5 ancient wooden buildings with a capacity of 8 rooms niched in a landscaped garden around a pool.
US and Canadian citizens can apply for a 30-day, single-entry E-Visa prior to arrival. Please note that there are many web sites advertising visa services that appear to be government web sites, but it’s always best to use the official Vietnam E-Visa application: click here to apply. Also be sure to read the FAQ, which will answer many of your questions.
You will need the following during application:
Processing time is about 3 working days, you will need to check online to print your visa approval letter, enter the assigned registration code, registration email and date of birth. The visa is valid for single entry and maximum stay is 30 days.
For multiple-entry visas, Red Lantern Journeys can assist to obtain a visa on arrival by obtaining an approval letter prior to arrival.
When checking in for your flight to Vietnam, you will need to present a printed copy of your e-visa document or visa-on-arrival approval letter to the airline representative and also on arrival at the Vietnamese immigration.
No travel restrictions.
If booking a private tour with us, costs can range from $250/day/person for staying in nice 3-star quality hotels to over $500/day/person in high-end luxury hotels. Staying in small luxury boutique hotels can cost an average of $300 to $400/day/person. These cost estimates include not just accommodation, but also internal flights, airport transfers, tours and activities, entrance fees, private guides, and private vehicles with driver.
There are so many that it’s hard to quantify, but here’s a few major benefits: 1) the tour is customized for your interests, which means you get to see and do the things you’re most interested in. 2) you’re not running on a fixed daily schedule, which means you have flexibility to stay as long as you want or move on early from something or even skip it altogether if that’s what you decide on the spot. 3) We’re able to design the activities at popular sights to avoid the crowds!
It’s generally best to avoid tap water and ask about the source of water in restaurants, but ice is usually safe. It’s best to use bottled or purified water in hotels to drink…and brush your teeth.
Yes, 4G connectivity is very good in Vietnam. Some providers, like T-Mobile allow for free unlimited data internationally, though it is usually at a 2g speed. However, that’s often good enough for texts and emails, using Google maps, and some browsing. If you’re staying long enough and always want good data access while you’re out and about, buy a local SIM card with a data plan for your phone. They’re quite inexpensive.
Almost all hotels have US-style outlets that are fine for plugging in electronics. However, the voltage is 240 volts, so be sure your devices can handle that. Most can!
The Vietnamese currency is the “dong”, VND. Notes come in 10,000 to 500,000 denominations. The exchange rate in March 2021 is roughly 23,000 dong per US dollar.
ATMs may be the best way to get local currency and are plentiful and most accept international debit cards. They charge from 25,000 to 50,000 dong, which is roughly $1 to $3 per transaction. Be sure to withdraw local currency in larger cities and mid-sized towns as smaller villages are not as likely to have ATMs.
You can also exchange US dollars cash at banks, currency exchange vendors, hotels, and gold and jewelry shops. Be sure to have notes that are in pristine condition. Worn and torn notes may not be accepted.
Upscale hotels, shops, restaurants, and markets will accept credit cards. However, small shops and restaurants will not.
Tipping is expected by private guides and drivers, however, the amount depends on the quality of service. Generally for private guides, we recommend about $5 to $10 per person per full day in your group and about $3 to $4 for drivers. For example: if you’re a couple and you’re in Saigon for two days and have a full schedule of tours and airport transfers and you’re very happy with everything, tip the guide about $40 and the driver about $15.
Elsewhere such as restaurants, taxi drivers, and hotel staff, tipping is not expected but can be an appreciated surprise. Try to give the money directly to the person you want to tip so that you can be sure they get it.
Throughout Vietnam, there are really only two reputable cab companies: Mai Linh and Vinasun. Don’t use other companies as they are more likely going to try to take advantage of you. Make sure the meter is running! A trip should cost roughly 20,000 VND per kilometer.
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