Vietnam without a travel agency! This is the best option for traveling in Vietnam.
I created this site to encourage independent travelers who want go to northern Vietnam without the aid of a travel agency. And it’s the best option, the same as in many countries, really. If anyone says to you it‘s a real danger going to northern Vietnam I can tell you personally it‘s not true. Most people travel primarily in southern Vietnam. Personally, I think northern Vietnam has a lot to offer.
Vietnam is changing and modernizing rapidly.
Vietnam is a safe and beautiful country, it is as safe as traveling elsewhere in Europe. But still , be careful everywhere you go ! You can have the convenience of a scheduled 14-day trip costing thousands , but when it comes to Vietnam thats really for the foolish or those with money to burn. Its just not really worth it in Vietnam. Vietnam for travelers and tourists is and should be a relatively low-cost country. Prices for street food, hotels, attractions are very very cheap when you pay directly. An agency may put a huge mark up on these . Prices for food and accommodation increase a bit when you are closer to a tourist destination or attraction but are significantly lower in villages and smaller towns. But Vietnam is changing very quickly.
VIETNAM IS A PEARL OF ASIA – another world, different people, different from life as we know it, a different mentality – but this only applies outside the main tourist spots!
I urge you to pick up your courage and explore Vietnam outside the travel agencies – you will get by far the most enjoyment this way. Watching those tourists on an agency trip or those doing their own thing, I know who looks like they are enjoying it most. Vietnam is not really ‘designed’ for package holiday tourism. You could stay put in one of the ‘resorts’ and not venture out except maybe on an agency trip, but you will get such a rich reward from exploring yourself as the place is like nowhere else! as well as saving a ton of money. But first, you need a visa to Vietnam.
Before arriving in Vietnam, learn some words in Vietnamese language.
If you buy a package tour from a travel agency, you will mostly be offered visits to the busiest locations. Yes, you will see the beautiful Ha Long Bay, Sapa and other tourist spots, but you won’t find the true atmosphere of Vietnam. The real atmosphere of northern Vietnam is not in the busiest tourist spots.
I can honestly say – if you are desperate to use a travel agency head for Sardinia or Spain or somewhere like that for a week – (for the same money you could last a month doing it yourself in Vietnam). Or do something good with the money instead of pouring it down the drain on an agency! Give it to charity or another good cause!
But Sardinia is not Vietnam icon-angle-double-down
The truth is Northern Vietnam is probably not for everyone – if you expect the ‘traditional’ luxury resort / accommodation / tourist entertainment in a crowded developed resort such as say Spain Costa del Sol, Ibiza, Tenerife etc you are very likely to be disappointed !
The true Vietnam can be seen outside the tourist spots. Villages, mountains, rice paddies, other worlds that seem outside civilization, and friendly people of various ethnic groups. Rent a bike and go out from the city, you will not be disappointed and will return home with wonderful experiences and tales to tell. But be very careful when riding a motorcycle, you will meet a lot of suicidal drivers playing russian roullette on the road but amazingly you are most unlikely to see any accidents . Before you travel in Vietnam on a motorcycle, read first the article about transportation in Vietnam.
For traveling to less visited places you need to rent a motorbike or mototaxi!
In tourist places you are far more likely to be exposed to rip –off merchants or those with just a bad attitude thinking of you just as a walking cash machine (this unfriendly rather ruthless uncaring attitude can of course be found in any Asian countries eg like Thailand). These risks are reduced the further away you get from the city. On the plus side luckily not everyone just thinks about money, most people are genuinely friendly, just avoid those with the bad attitude.
Northern Vietnam is much more than just Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Sapa.
Hanoi, Ha Long Bay and Sapa are the most visited sites in the north. Thousands of tourists can sometimes lead to frustration, but this doesn’t apply all the time. And these places are designed to make money – unfortunately. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world and is a listed UNESCO site. Sapa is one of the northern-most locations. You can explore the lives of ethnic residents who still follow the old ways of life in the poorer but incredibly beautiful countryside. A good alternative is a visit to Ha Giang province, which is still untouched by mass tourism.
Hundreds and thousands of tourists! Mainly in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.
The population is made up of a mixture of residents of up to 54 ethnic groups, spread throughout the country. Some of the areas with ethnic residents are quite remote. However Vietnam buses do run to almost all places, although you will find in the mountains there are a bit more limited transport connections. Sapa has very good access and good services, but be ready for a lot of tourists! In the peak months its crowded but may well be a lot less so off – peak.
Try also the different places of northern Vietnam! Moc Chau, Lai Chau, Ha Giang, Lang Son and Cao Bang are good tips.
The “true north“ of Vietnam is best found outside the tourist spots. You will find that there is generally only one rule everywhere you go – rent a motorcycle and ride out of town. Traffic in Vietnam is often dangerous, and roads in the mountains are sometimes not in a very good condition. If you are unsure about traveling on a motorcycle in Vietnam err on the side of caution and avoid renting one, or at least until you can find an easier area to get used to it. If you want to see nature, ethnic residents and mountains, and you don’t have a taxi, then using a motorcycle can be the only way to do it .
Places where there are not hundreds of tourists – the real charm of Vietnam.
Beautiful places like Moc Chau, Lai Chau , Ha Giang and Lang Son are there just waiting for you. Tea plantations, blossoming orchards, rice paddies and terraces. Stunning panoramas and mountain valleys, combined with ethnic residents are all unforgettable. Do not miss these places! Traveling to northern Vietnam and visiting only Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, wont do your trip justice! Most travel agencies go only or mainly to these places.
Why to travel in Vietnam:
- you will see locals living a totally different lifestyle to life as we live it
- you can visit the residents of ethnic minorities in the mountainsyou love mountains and trekking
- you love nature and fantastic scenery
- you are looking for adventure
- you like independent travel without a travel agency
- you like traveling on a motorcycle
- you’d like to try the exceptional culinary experience of vietnamese cuisine
- you might answer YES to most points below
Why you should not visit Vietnam:
- you holiday every year at a seaside specialist tourist resort and don‘t want a change from that
- you only want a luxury vacation with everything laid on for you without you having to do anything
- you want to be a lazy bones and veg out on your holiday
- you want to stay based only at one high end hotel or only in high end hotels
- you don’t really want the effort of interacting with the locals and being friendly
- you don’t want to lay eyes on local peoples’ lives where they are living in materially poorer circumstances than you are used to seeing, you’d rather not think about that and stick to a resort / hotel with other tourist
- syou only go to the biggest tourist places on holiday
How to travel in Vietnam – transport options?
As I have previously written about: the best option for traveling in Vietnam is the use of motorbikes (rent or sale). There are also different qualities of buses, trains (north, however, fewer routes), taxi, mototaxi, bike rentals, but also airline connections between large cities. To find the main train and bus connections in Vietnam, use the search engine Baolau or 12go.asia. The official e-shop of Vietnam railways is Dsvn.vn, but sometimes it is not possible to pay online here, so I recommend you take advantage of previous mentioned services. Read the full article about transportation in Vietnam.
Traveling in Vietnam on a motorbike:
• probably the best option for traveling in Vietnam
• rent costs from 8-15 USD / 1 day (this price applies if you rent a motorbike for example for 1-4 days, if you rent a motorbike for 1 month, the price is reduced).
• traffic goes everywhere including in the opposite direction you might be expecting, on sidewalks, one way roads, etc …it is the traffic style in Hanoi
• before you rent check out and test ride a motorbike, take a picture in front of the dealer
• check the registration papers (brand new motorcycles)
Traveling in Vietnam by bus:
• >there are various different companies: minibuses, city buses, tourist buses, long-distance night buses
• buses in Vietnam run frequently and almost everywhere, with the exception of mountainous areas, where there are some gaps in service – I recommend asking locally (sometimes however you will need to be communicating in Vietnamese or finding someone to interpret)
• a cheap option for traveling in Vietnam
• sometimes buses do not comply with the exact time of departure / arrival
• you can buy bus e-tickets on Baolau or 12go.asia, reliable services and secured payment
Traveling in Vietnam by train:
• trains in Vietnam are mostly clean, but not too fast and some types are not very comfortable
• it is better to buy or book a ticket on Baolau or 12go.asia, train tickets can be sold out
• check also – Train schedule in Vietnam
There are currently these main train routes in northern Vietnam :
Hanoi – Lao Cai (visitors heading to Sapa)
Hanoi – Dong Dang (Lang Son province)
Hanoi – Haiphong (Halong Bay)
Hanoi – Quan Trieu
Hanoi – Ninh Binh and to the south – Ho Chi Minh City
Traveling in Vietnam by taxi / car
• taxis in Vietnam are quite widespread, especially in Hanoi and other big cities
• In Hanoi i would generally recommend Mai Linh Taxi or Taxi Group
• ask the driver to show you the taximeter, and watch the meter while driving
• you can also use Grab
Accommodation in Vietnam and where to book.
Vietnam has a wide range of accommodation in the big cities. This offer grows, new hotels were built and the new tourist centers were created. A lot of hostels, hotels, guesthouses (Nha Nghi) have a standard quality with a good range of services. In the big cities and beach centres, it is also a good range of luxury hotels with all services. This is especially true of Hanoi, Ha Long, Sapa. There is no longer any problem to book accommodation online.
A lot of hotels and guesthouses have Wifi internet access and hot water. Some of the 3 stars hotels have air conditioning and a television. But there is one problem – a lot of hostels have hard beds :-). Airbnb service is also growing in Vietnam.
Before you decide to travel in Vietnam, read the following important information:
> How to get a cheapest visa to Vietnam?
> Accommodation in Vietnam
> What to take to Vietnam?
> What vaccines do i need?
> Where to stay in Vietnam?
> How to call and use internet in Vietnam?
> Itineraries for northern Vietnam
Vietnam still offers a place where typical tourists and travel agencies do not travel.
Traveling in Vietnam still has its charm and just hope that it will take some time, the question is for how long. Vietnam without travel agencies is definitely worth a go. You do not have to worry about the unavailability of services, everywhere is almost everything. The quality of the cheap accommodation is good and people are usually helpful.