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Experience The Real Vietnam

Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days

Price from
1550 USD
Duration
14 Days
Distance
Leisure Active Holiday
Difficulty
Leisure Active Holiday
Tour Code
Trip Start in
Ho Chi Minh City
Trip Ends in
Hanoi City
Trip Type
Leisure Active Holiday
Group Size
Small group size: Min: 02 -Max:10

OVERVIEW

Two Weeks of a family holiday in Vietnam, you will find a blend of adventure, relaxation, comfort, interest, and fun.


Briefing activities:

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City Arrival
Day 2:  Cu Chi Tunnels
Day 3:  Mekong Delta 02 Days Activities
Day 4: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City
Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City – Fly to Nha Trang
Day 6: Vinpearl Amusement Park
Day 7: Nha Trang – Free at Beach
Day 8: Nha Trang –  Hoi An
Day 9: Hoi An – Farming & Fishing Life Eco Tour
Day 10: Hoi An  – Fly to Hanoi – City Tour
Day 11: Dong Ngac Culture Village Cycling Tour
Day 12: Hanoi – Halong Bay (Overnight on Junk)
Day 13: Halong Bay – Hanoi
Day 14: Hanoi Departure

HIGHLIGHTS

Trip highlights:

Experience Vietnam’s rich culture.

Watching traditional Water Puppet Performance.

Discover the daily life of the locals from Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta to Hanoi capital.

See UNESCO Heritage Sites such as Halong Bay, Hoi An’s Ancient Town.

Catching a glimpse of Vietnam morden cities from Ho Chi Minh western Influenced city to the Old Hanoi capital.

Taking soft family adventures by some outdoor activities such as Cycling and Kayaking in Mekong Delta, Halong Bay.

Experience some farming activities in Hoi An.

Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days
Vietnam Family Package Tour in 14 Days

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City Arrival (D)
Welcome upon arrival by local tour guide and driver, then transfer to the hotel in the center city. Relax after a long flight journey and enjoy our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.


Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City Tour – Cu Chi Tunnels (B, L)
This morning, visit the Reunification Palace, the former Presidential Palace for the president of the South of Vietnam. After that, explore the War Remnant Museum, where we can see countless artifacts, photographs, and pictures documenting the second Indochina war. Before our lunch, we stop at Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office.
In the afternoon, leave Saigon for the Cu Chi tunnels. On our way there we will drive through the pleasant countryside; rubber plantations and rice paddies. Before entering the tunnels, we will see a short introductory video showing how they were constructed, followed by an exploration of the maze of tunnels, some of which have been widened to allow tourist access. Also on display are various mantraps and the remains of an American tank, as well as numerous bomb craters made by 500lb bombs, dropped by B52 bombers. After that, we transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.


Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta with Homestay (B, L, D)
Activities: Cycling, Kayaking, and Boating
Morning, transfer to Mekong Delta where our family will enjoy short cycling through Mekong countryside to experience the daily life of the locals.
Lunch break at a super local restaurant to taste the real Mekong Food.
In the afternoon, kayaking through the island and along the canals. It’s time we feel the peaceful air while passing traditional houses made of wood, palm tree leaves; farmers catching fishes or picking up fruits by the ancestral way in Mekong Delta.
Boat transfer to our local home-stay. Do check-in and relaxing at a local house.
For the rest of the day, we learn to cook some dishes with the owners, then enjoy dinner and have a cup of tea or rice wine when talking together. We can ask the locals about the culture, people, and history of this Island. They do not mind to answer some personal questions. Overnight at home-stay.


Day 4: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City (B)
Early wake up needed as we will kayak to see the Sunrise( if the weather permits) then visit a local market on the island where we will have a cup of coffee and see the locals doing their daily business at the market. This is a great experience to know about their life.
We then enjoy a Boat trip to see the Floating market. Tasting local fruits at one of the local boats would be a great opportunity for our family to get to know about their river life. Finish our Mekong Trip at noontime, then transfer back to Ho Chi Minh in the late afternoon. Overnight in HCM City.


Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City – Fly to Nha Trang (B)
Morning relaxes in Ho Chi Minh city then fly to Nha Trang beach city where our awaiting tour guide and driver welcome us and transfer us to hotel. Relax in the beach city. Overnight in Nha Trang.


Day 6: Vinpearl Amusement Park (B)
Spending all today at the Vinpearl Amusement Park where we can join all water and game activities included.


Day 7: Nha Trang – Thap Ba Hot Spring Bathing & Mud Spa Tour (B, L)
Free at leisure today for your activities at Thap Ba Hot Spring and Mud Spa Tour. Overnight in Nha Trang.


Day 8: Nha Trang – Fly to Danang & Transfer to Hoi An (B, D)
After a morning of relaxing at the beach, we transfer back to the airport to take a short domestic flight to Danang where we are welcome and transferred to Hoi An by a local tour guide and driver. This afternoon, we enjoy a walking tour to visit Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Halls, the 200 – year old Tam Ky ancestral house, and the Japanese Bridge. Overnight in Hoi An.


Day 9: Hoi An – Farmer & Fishing Life Eco Tour (B, L)
This morning, we can choose a bus or bike to cycle to a local farming village to join the daily work life of local farmers – hoeing and soil, watering veggies at an organic herb garden, riding water buffalo in the field, and enjoy the freshest air of the countryside beauty. After that, board the Hoi An Eco-tour boat and cruise to the mouth of the river where it meets the Cua Dai Sea.
We also learn and try our hand at local traditional fishing techniques using round and cast nets, learn to paddle the strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boats. Explore the now tranquil coconut-palm flanked waterways of a past war and hear of the extreme conditions endured by soldiers on both sides. Have relaxed fun with catching beautiful purple crabs on a bamboo basket boat. After visiting a local water coconut palm village, we take a walk around the village and have some tea and snack with local talks…Back on-board our Hoi An Eco-tour boat, enjoy our lunch and a cold beer or soft drink on the boat, then back to the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight in Hoi An.


Day 10: Hoi An – Da Nang – Fly to Hanoi (B)
Today we transfer back to Danang to take the flight to Hanoi. Welcome upon arrival and transfer to hotel. Afternoon, we visit the Temple of Literature: Originally built as a temple to Confucius, this is the site of Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070. The temple highlights the importance that Vietnamese society placed then and now on education.

After that we will take a one-hour cyclo around the Old Quarter, known as the 36 streets, this bustling area of narrow streets is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. Originally, each of the 36 street names’ was related to the products being sold there. Before going back to the hotel, we enjoy the unique Water Puppet show. Hear the Vietnamese traditional instruments and singing from the live musicians who play throughout the show. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 11: Hanoi – Dong Ngac Village (B, L)
We meet the tour guide and driver at 8 AM then travel to Dong Ngac village where is about 15 km far from Hanoi. Arriving at the village, we stop at a local market to buy the ingredients which we will use to cook for our lunch today. We will have our chance to experience the bustling market and local life as we are guided on how to purchase all. After the market, we transfer to a traditional house and welcomed by our host. We drink some tea, relax a little bit before taking our bikes and venturing deeper into the village. We visit Dong Ngac communal house, the oldest house in the village which is more than 300 years old, and the Nguyen family with a house given by the Kings in the past.
After that, we join our cooking demonstration in our host’s house then enjoy the dishes that we do. And then, we say goodbye to our host then continue on our afternoon journey. We are cycling on mostly rural lanes through surrounding villages to Lien Mac, a beautiful area of immaculately tended vegetables and flowers. Here we will get a close-up look at the colorful fields and have the chance to chat with some of the local people out caring for their crops. After taking another route from Lien Mac back to Dong Ngac, we will have a short break for a drink at our host family’s home, bid our farewells, and catch the van back to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 12: Hanoi – Halong Bay (Overnight on junk) (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we meet our tour guide and driver again for our 2-day excursion to Halong Bay a deluxe junk. Our vehicle will travel through breathtaking scenery en route to a World Heritage area of outstanding beauty. Upon arrival, we will board our boat and cruise around this secluded bay which has been referred to as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Whilst cruising we will explore forgotten caves and have the opportunity to canoe or swim from the boat. In the evening enjoy a seafood feast for dinner.


Day 13: Halong Bay – Hanoi (B, L)
After waking this morning, a sumptuous western breakfast will be served for you to enjoy whilst watching the sunrise over magical Halong Bay. After breakfast, we continue cruising around this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore some more of the intricate cave systems that make Halong truly unique. After a delicious lunch, we head back to Hanoi. Relax for the rest of the day. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 14: Hanoi Departure (B)
Free at leisure for last-minute shopping before transferring back to the airport for our flight home. Goodbye and see your family in Indochina next time.


Countryside Adventures

Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: Dinner
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh CIty
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Entrance fees
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh CIty
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L.D
Drinks: Water
Mekong Boat Trip
Overnight at Local homestay
Kayak
Bikes
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Mekong Boat Trip
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Kayak
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Nha Trang
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Vinperal Activities
Meals: B
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Hotspring activities
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Danang
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Overnight in Hoian
Experienced Local Guide
Eco Tour package
Bike
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Boat Trip
Overnight in Hoian
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Hanoi
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Cycle Tour
Entrance fees
Water Puppet Show
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Hanoi
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Bike
Overnight in Hanoi
Cooking class
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L.D
Drinks: Water
Overnight on the Junk Boat
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Hanoi
Experienced Local Guide
Transfer to the Airport

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City Arrival (D)
Welcome upon arrival by local tour guide and driver, then transfer to the hotel in the center city. Relax after a long flight journey and enjoy our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.


Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City Tour – Cu Chi Tunnels (B, L)
This morning, visit the Reunification Palace, the former Presidential Palace for the president of the South of Vietnam. After that, explore the War Remnant Museum, where we can see countless artifacts, photographs, and pictures documenting the second Indochina war. Before our lunch, we stop at Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office.
In the afternoon, leave Saigon for the Cu Chi tunnels. On our way there we will drive through the pleasant countryside; rubber plantations and rice paddies. Before entering the tunnels, we will see a short introductory video showing how they were constructed, followed by an exploration of the maze of tunnels, some of which have been widened to allow tourist access. Also on display are various mantraps and the remains of an American tank, as well as numerous bomb craters made by 500lb bombs, dropped by B52 bombers. After that, we transfer back to Ho Chi Minh City. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.


Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta with Homestay (B, L, D)
Activities: Cycling, Kayaking, and Boating
Morning, transfer to Mekong Delta where our family will enjoy short cycling through Mekong countryside to experience the daily life of the locals.
Lunch break at a super local restaurant to taste the real Mekong Food.
In the afternoon, kayaking through the island and along the canals. It’s time we feel the peaceful air while passing traditional houses made of wood, palm tree leaves; farmers catching fishes or picking up fruits by the ancestral way in Mekong Delta.
Boat transfer to our local home-stay. Do check-in and relaxing at a local house.
For the rest of the day, we learn to cook some dishes with the owners, then enjoy dinner and have a cup of tea or rice wine when talking together. We can ask the locals about the culture, people, and history of this Island. They do not mind to answer some personal questions. Overnight at home-stay.


Day 4: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City (B)
Early wake up needed as we will kayak to see the Sunrise( if the weather permits) then visit a local market on the island where we will have a cup of coffee and see the locals doing their daily business at the market. This is a great experience to know about their life.
We then enjoy a Boat trip to see the Floating market. Tasting local fruits at one of the local boats would be a great opportunity for our family to get to know about their river life. Finish our Mekong Trip at noontime, then transfer back to Ho Chi Minh in the late afternoon. Overnight in HCM City.


Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City – Fly to Nha Trang (B)
Morning relaxes in Ho Chi Minh city then fly to Nha Trang beach city where our awaiting tour guide and driver welcome us and transfer us to hotel. Relax in the beach city. Overnight in Nha Trang.


Day 6: Vinpearl Amusement Park (B)
Spending all today at the Vinpearl Amusement Park where we can join all water and game activities included.


Day 7: Nha Trang – Thap Ba Hot Spring Bathing & Mud Spa Tour (B, L)
Free at leisure today for your activities at Thap Ba Hot Spring and Mud Spa Tour. Overnight in Nha Trang.


Day 8: Nha Trang – Fly to Danang & Transfer to Hoi An (B, D)
After a morning of relaxing at the beach, we transfer back to the airport to take a short domestic flight to Danang where we are welcome and transferred to Hoi An by a local tour guide and driver. This afternoon, we enjoy a walking tour to visit Chua Ong Pagoda, Chinese Assembly Halls, the 200 – year old Tam Ky ancestral house, and the Japanese Bridge. Overnight in Hoi An.


Day 9: Hoi An – Farmer & Fishing Life Eco Tour (B, L)
This morning, we can choose a bus or bike to cycle to a local farming village to join the daily work life of local farmers – hoeing and soil, watering veggies at an organic herb garden, riding water buffalo in the field, and enjoy the freshest air of the countryside beauty. After that, board the Hoi An Eco-tour boat and cruise to the mouth of the river where it meets the Cua Dai Sea.
We also learn and try our hand at local traditional fishing techniques using round and cast nets, learn to paddle the strange and unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boats. Explore the now tranquil coconut-palm flanked waterways of a past war and hear of the extreme conditions endured by soldiers on both sides. Have relaxed fun with catching beautiful purple crabs on a bamboo basket boat. After visiting a local water coconut palm village, we take a walk around the village and have some tea and snack with local talks…Back on-board our Hoi An Eco-tour boat, enjoy our lunch and a cold beer or soft drink on the boat, then back to the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight in Hoi An.


Day 10: Hoi An – Da Nang – Fly to Hanoi (B)
Today we transfer back to Danang to take the flight to Hanoi. Welcome upon arrival and transfer to hotel. Afternoon, we visit the Temple of Literature: Originally built as a temple to Confucius, this is the site of Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070. The temple highlights the importance that Vietnamese society placed then and now on education.

After that we will take a one-hour cyclo around the Old Quarter, known as the 36 streets, this bustling area of narrow streets is home to literally thousands of small businesses and shopkeepers. Originally, each of the 36 street names’ was related to the products being sold there. Before going back to the hotel, we enjoy the unique Water Puppet show. Hear the Vietnamese traditional instruments and singing from the live musicians who play throughout the show. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 11: Hanoi – Dong Ngac Village (B, L)
We meet the tour guide and driver at 8 AM then travel to Dong Ngac village where is about 15 km far from Hanoi. Arriving at the village, we stop at a local market to buy the ingredients which we will use to cook for our lunch today. We will have our chance to experience the bustling market and local life as we are guided on how to purchase all. After the market, we transfer to a traditional house and welcomed by our host. We drink some tea, relax a little bit before taking our bikes and venturing deeper into the village. We visit Dong Ngac communal house, the oldest house in the village which is more than 300 years old, and the Nguyen family with a house given by the Kings in the past.
After that, we join our cooking demonstration in our host’s house then enjoy the dishes that we do. And then, we say goodbye to our host then continue on our afternoon journey. We are cycling on mostly rural lanes through surrounding villages to Lien Mac, a beautiful area of immaculately tended vegetables and flowers. Here we will get a close-up look at the colorful fields and have the chance to chat with some of the local people out caring for their crops. After taking another route from Lien Mac back to Dong Ngac, we will have a short break for a drink at our host family’s home, bid our farewells, and catch the van back to Hanoi. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 12: Hanoi – Halong Bay (Overnight on junk) (B, L, D)
After breakfast, we meet our tour guide and driver again for our 2-day excursion to Halong Bay a deluxe junk. Our vehicle will travel through breathtaking scenery en route to a World Heritage area of outstanding beauty. Upon arrival, we will board our boat and cruise around this secluded bay which has been referred to as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Whilst cruising we will explore forgotten caves and have the opportunity to canoe or swim from the boat. In the evening enjoy a seafood feast for dinner.


Day 13: Halong Bay – Hanoi (B, L)
After waking this morning, a sumptuous western breakfast will be served for you to enjoy whilst watching the sunrise over magical Halong Bay. After breakfast, we continue cruising around this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore some more of the intricate cave systems that make Halong truly unique. After a delicious lunch, we head back to Hanoi. Relax for the rest of the day. Overnight in Hanoi.


Day 14: Hanoi Departure (B)
Free at leisure for last-minute shopping before transferring back to the airport for our flight home. Goodbye and see your family in Indochina next time.


Countryside Adventures

Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: Dinner
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh CIty
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Entrance fees
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh CIty
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L.D
Drinks: Water
Mekong Boat Trip
Overnight at Local homestay
Kayak
Bikes
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Mekong Boat Trip
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Kayak
Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Nha Trang
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Vinperal Activities
Meals: B
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Hotspring activities
Overnight in Nha Trang
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Danang
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Overnight in Hoian
Experienced Local Guide
Eco Tour package
Bike
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Boat Trip
Overnight in Hoian
Experienced Local Guide
Flight to Hanoi
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Cycle Tour
Entrance fees
Water Puppet Show
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Hanoi
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Bike
Overnight in Hanoi
Cooking class
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L.D
Drinks: Water
Overnight on the Junk Boat
Experienced Local Guide
Private Air - Con Vehicle
Meals: B.L
Drinks: Water
Overnight in Hanoi
Experienced Local Guide
Transfer to the Airport

Children policy:
Under 2 years old: Free of Charge tour price; 10% domestic airfare
From 2 – under 7 years old: charge 50% tour price; 75% domestic airfare
From 7 – under 12 years old: charge 75% tour price & domestic airfare
Above 12 years old: Charged as an adult.


What is Included?
All transfer and transportation vehicle with air-conditioning
Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
English speaking tour guides (other languages upon request)
Private package home-stay in Mekong Delta
All entrance fees and permits
Package Eco Tour in Hoi An with bikes, helmets, basket boats, boats, Kayak.
1-hour water puppet show in Hanoi
1-hour cyclo ride in Hanoi
Biking in Dong Ngac Culture village, Mekong Delta
Private cabin on the deluxe boat in Halong Bay
Kayak in Halong Bay, Mekong Delta
Water during the trip
Vietnam domestic flight tickets
Airport tax


What is Excluded?
International flight tickets
Airport tax
Visa to Vietnam and Cambodia (upon request)
Own expenses
Tips and gratuities


 

Please contact us for the best-updated prices.

info@countrysidediscovery.com


Countryside Adventures

Best time to travel to Vietnam

Vietnam is long and slender, with different regions subject to different weather conditions at any one time, which makes figuring out the best time to visit Vietnam somewhat tricky.

The country has a tropical monsoon climate. If you’re visiting the south of the country the driest months tend to be between December and April, while the north of the country is typically driest in spring and autumn.

Within this broad weather, the picture is regional variations, with differences in altitude also key to varying temperatures. Whereas the south tends to have a year-round tropical climate, the north is considerably cooler in winter.


Climate of Vietnam

The weather in Vietnam is defined by the monsoon season. The southern summer monsoon brings rain to the two deltas and west-facing slopes. At the same time, the cold winter monsoon picks up moisture over the Gulf of Tonkin and dumps it along the central coastal the eastern edge of the central highlands.

There are marked differences according to altitude and latitude; temperatures in the south of Vietnam remain calm all year round, while the north experiences distinct seasonal variations.


When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

If you intend to see a bit of everything, you need to work around the regional weather differences. Overall, autumn/winter (September – December) and spring (March and April) are probably the most favorable seasons if you’re planning to cover the whole country.

Most of Vietnam enjoys dry conditions and basks in the sunshine by December. Central Vietnam is the exception, which is gradually emerging from its rainy season. So it’s a good time to head to the southern coast if you want to soak up some rays and rack up some time on Vietnam’s gorgeous beaches. Beaches such as Mui Ne, or on the island of Phu Quoc and Con Dao are great this month.

It’s also a good time to visit Ho Chi Minh City, with temperatures averaging a comfortable 26ºC.

If you’re planning a Christmas getaway be aware that things get booked up way in advance, so plan ahead.

Outdoor activities in the north are good in December. It is somewhat chilly, however, especially in the mountains – so pack extra layers.


Vietnamese food

The staple of Vietnamese meals is rice, with noodles a popular alternative at breakfast or as a snack. Typically, rice will be accompanied by a fish or meat dish, a vegetable dish, and soup, followed by a green tea digestive. Seafood and fish – from rivers, lakes, canals, and paddy fields as well as the sea – are favored throughout the country, either fresh or dried. The most commonly used flavorings are shallots, coriander, and lemon grass. Ginger, saffron, mint, anise and a basil-type herb also feature strongly, and coconut milk gives some southern dishes a distinctive richness.

Even in the south, Vietnamese food tends not to be over-spicy; instead chilli sauces or fresh chillies are served separately. Vietnam’s most famous seasoning is the ubiquitous nuoc mam, a nutrient-packed sauce which either is added during cooking or forms the base for various dipping sauces. Nuoc mam is made by fermenting huge quantities of fish in vats of salt for between six months and a year, after which the dark brown liquid is strained and graded according to its age and flavour. Foreigners usually find the smell of the sauce pretty rank, but most soon acquire a taste for its distinctive salty-sweetness.

The use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be excessive, especially in northern cooking, and some people are known to react badly to the seasoning. A few restaurants in the main cities have cottoned on to the foibles of foreigners and advertise MSG-free food; elsewhere, try saying khong co my chinh (without MSG), and keep your fingers crossed. Note that what looks like salt on the table is sometimes MSG, so taste it first.

The most famous Vietnamese dish has to be spring rolls, variously known as cha gio, cha nem, nem ran or just plain nem. Various combinations of minced pork, shrimp or crab, rice vermicelli, onions, bean sprouts and an edible fungus are rolled in rice-paper wrappers, and then eaten fresh or deep-fried. In some places they’re served with a bowl of lettuce and/or mint. In addition, a southern variation has barbecued strips of pork wrapped in semi-transparent rice wrappers, along with raw ingredients such as green banana and star fruit, and then dunked in a rich peanut sauce – every bit as tasty as it sounds.


Drinks

Giai khat means “quench your thirst” and you’ll see the signs everywhere, on stands selling fresh juices, bottled cold drinks or outside cafés and bia hoi (draught beer) outlets. Many drinks are served with ice: tempting though it may be, the only really safe policy is to avoid ice altogether – dung bo da, cam on (“no ice, thanks”) should do the trick. That said, ice in the top hotels, bars and restaurants is generally reliable, and some people take the risk in less salubrious establishments with apparent impunity.


Tea and coffee

Tea drinking is part of the social ritual in Vietnam. Small cups of refreshing, strong, green tea are presented to all guests or visitors: water is well boiled and safe to drink, as long as the cup itself is clean, and it’s considered rude not to take at least a sip. Although your cup will be continually replenished to show hospitality, you don’t have to carry on drinking; the polite way to decline a refill is to place your hand over the cup when your host is about to replenish it. Green tea is also served at the end of every restaurant meal, particularly in the south, and usually provided free.

Coffee production has boomed in recent years, largely for export, with serious environmental and social consequences. The Vietnamese drink coffee very strong and in small quantities, with a large dollop of condensed milk at the bottom of the cup. Traditionally, coffee is filtered at the table by means of a small dripper balanced over the cup or glass, which sometimes sits in a bowl of hot water to keep it warm. However, places accustomed to tourists increasingly run to fresh (pasteurized) milk, while in the main cities you’ll now find fancy Western-style cafés turning out decent lattes and cappuccinos. Highland Coffee has become Vietnam’s very own Starbucks-style chain, while out in the sticks you’re best off going for cafés with a Trung Nguyen sign.


Money

Vietnam’s unit of currency is the dong, which you’ll see abbreviated as “đ”, “d” or “VND” after an amount. Notes come in denominations of 500đ, 1000đ, 2000đ, 5000đ, 10,000đ, 20,000đ, 50,000đ, 100,000đ, 200,000đ and 500,000đ, coins in 200đ, 500đ, 1000đ, 2000đ and 5000đ (though coins are rarely seen). In addition to the dong, the American dollar operates as a parallel, unofficial currency and it’s a good idea to carry some dollars as a back-up to pay large bills. On the whole, though, it’s more convenient to operate in dong, and you’ll often find dong prices are slightly lower than the equivalent in dollars. For the latest exchange rates go to xe.com.

Dong is not available outside Vietnam at present, so take in some small-denomination American dollars to use until you reach a bank or ATM. Most banks and exchange bureaux don’t charge for changing foreign currency into dong; banks in major cities will accept euros and other major currencies, but elsewhere may only accept dollars. Some tour agents and hotels will also change money, and most jewelry shops in Vietnam will exchange dollars at a slightly better rate than the banks, but watch out for scams. Wherever you change money, ask for a mix of denominations (in remote places, bigger bills can be hard to split), and refuse really tatty banknotes, as you’ll have difficulty getting anyone else to accept them.

There’s also a comprehensive network of ATMs, many open 24 hours: most accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards issued abroad. The maximum withdrawal is two million dong at a time, with a charge per transaction (in addition to whatever surcharges your own bank levies). In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City you’ll also find ATMs operated by ANZ and HSBC. These accept a wider range of cards, including those in the Cirrus and Plus networks.


Health

We recommend that you visit a travel medical doctor and ask about the following vaccinations: typhoid, polio, tetanus, and hepatitis A. A certificate for Yellow Fever is required when arriving from an infected area within six days.


Countryside Adventures