Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Vietnam is a nation reborn, and we invite you to discover the depth of its beauty on this Asian adventure. Traversing the entire country from north to south, you’ll travel Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, stopping en route to explore the idyllic seaside retreat of Nha Trang, the French-flavored hilltop town of Dalat, and much more. We’ll even enjoy an overnight cruise aboard a traditional junk—an intimate experience that’s only possible in a small group like ours. From the cities to the seaside to the highlands, let Vietnam’s warmth and beauty amaze you—in all its diversity.

Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City Expand All
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    Since your overnight flight to Hanoi, Vietnam departs Los Angeles very early in the morning, travelers are advised to arrive at LAX the night before.

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    Experience the Presidential Palace while touring Hanoi

    Your OAT Trip Leader greets you at the airport and escorts you to your hotel. Enjoy a free afternoon before we meet for an orientation walk around the neighborhood. We’ll be joined by travelers who took the pre-trip extension to The Hill Tribes of Northern Vietnam and tonight we’ll gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we have breakfast and set out on a full-day tour of Hanoi, where we'll drive through the French quarter and view the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the national leader whose memory is honored here, and go inside to view the former president's preserved remains. We'll also see the distinctive One Pillar Pagoda, and stop for a visit to the Temple of Literature. Please note: The Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is closed every Monday and Friday (outside grounds and garden area will be open on these days) and normally closed from September 4 through November 5 for preservation and maintenance of the building.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we return to the hotel to enjoy some free time. This evening, we enjoy a water puppet show, an art form in which puppets are suspended over water, directed by puppet masters who must sit semi-submerged for hours at a time. The tradition of water puppetry is at least 1,000 years old, originating with peasants in the Red River Delta of the north. The puppets, which the French used to call “the souls of the Vietnamese rice fields,” are made of the water-resistant wood of the fig tree and depict villagers, farm animals, dragons, and more.

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    This morning is free for independent exploration of this fascinating city. Because Hanoi was isolated from Western development after 1954, it has a uniquely preserved concentration of French and Chinese colonial-era architecture. You may want to stroll to Hanoi's traditional and contemporary art galleries, or visit some of the city's other attractions, including Hoan Kiem Lake, West Lake, Quan Thanh Temple, and the Opera House.

    Or you can join us on an optional tour of rural Tho Ha. Twenty miles north of Hanoi, the Nhu Nguyet River surrounds this traditional village. After a drive and brief ferry ride, we’ll discover wonderful architecture and hard-working, friendly people. The main industries here are rice paper and pig farming. After visiting a local family to see rice paper in the making, we’ll walk the village and mingle with the locals and then stop for lunch. This tour is a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of rural life in Vietnam.

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    After breakfast, we depart for Bat Trang, a small village outside Hanoi known for its unique style and superior quality of ceramic pottery.

    Here, we visit a workshop, where local craftspeople have been perfecting the art of ceramics for centuries. We learn about the process, from forming the clay to painting the distinctive intricate designs.

    Afterwards, we wander around town and make time for exploring the colorful vases, bowls, flowerpots, and more in the village market.

    We return to Hanoi to have lunch at a restaurant. From here, we visit the Museum of Ethnology, where we'll learn about the fascinating cultural diversity of this ancient land. Please note: On Mondays, the Museum of Ethnology is closed. If our tour of Hanoi is on a Monday, our visit to the Museum of Ethnology will be replaced by a visit to Hanoi's History Museum or Fine Arts Museum.

    Dinner this evening is on your own.

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    After breakfast, we set off for Halong Bay—the Emerald Bay of Vietnam—a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Some of the roads to the bay are rough, but the journey offers quiet views of the flat green countryside dotted with rice paddies and small villages. We arrive in the early afternoon and transfer to a pier for our overnight cruise.

    With its clear, emerald waters and mountains draped in velvety cloaks of vegetation, it’s little wonder that Halong Bay has been the inspiration for generations of Vietnamese poets. Resting peacefully across the Gulf of Tonkin near the Chinese border, this region—literally “the bay of the descending dragon”—is dotted with more than 1,600 mountain islands, whose jagged profiles seem to rise out of nowhere.

    Against the backdrop of innumerable caves, beaches, soaring cliffs, and grottoes, the Vietnamese go about their daily lives, fishing and harvesting, reaping the riches of the land and sea. Vietnamese fishermen nimbly navigate in lacquered and woven-wood coracles—lozenge-shaped, rudderless vessels that resemble an oversized tub. Oar-propelled fishing boats, or sampans, abound as well, many occupied by whole families.

    Our vessel is of particular interest; we board a junk, a wooden sailboat in the traditional Vietnamese style. We stop to explore a cavernous grotto, and then drop anchor at an island pierced with surreal caverns, enjoying lunch onboard ship. We resume our cruise in the afternoon and enjoy dinner on our boat, where we will spend the night.

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    This morning we enjoy breakfast onboard before cruising back to the port. We drive to the Hanoi Airport for our fight to Hué, located on the central coast of Vietnam, north of Danang. We arrive in Hué this evening and transfer to our hotel. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight.

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    After our breakfast at the hotel, we explore Hué, the former imperial capital, built by the first king of the Nguyen Dynasty during a time recognized as the golden age of Vietnam. For centuries, Hué has been a main cultural, religious, and educational center of Vietnam—and the reputation continues with the many students who live there today. The older section of Hué is a moated, walled citadel surrounded by eleven stone gates. We'll take a boat ride along the Perfume River to visit the unofficial symbol of Hué—the seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda. We'll also tour the citadel, find the Imperial Enclosure, and see its inner Forbidden Purple City, a private area reserved for the emperor.

    Then we share a savory lunch with the Buddhist nuns at the Dieu Thanh Pagoda before returning to our hotel for some time at leisure.

    Tonight, we gather for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    We rise early for breakfast before our drive to the town of Hoi An, an ancient, well-preserved port town that's changed little in the past two centuries.

    En route we stop at Lang Co Beach and China Beach, the setting for the eponymous TV show about a U.S. army base in Vietnam—now a peaceful 18 miles of white sand and waves. We also stop in Danang, where we'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before departing to Hoi An.

    We arrive in Hoi An this afternoon and check into our hotel, where we'll enjoy a few hours of free time. Later, we'll gather for a lively round table discussion about Vietnamese history and culture.

    Tonight, we head to a local restaurant for a Vietnamese cooking class, where we'll learn the secrets to preparing some local specialties. We'll savor the fruits of our labors for dinner.

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    View well-preserved landmarks of Hoi An like this Japanese covered bridge

    Today, we have breakfast at the hotel and then embark on a walking tour of Hoi An’s Old Town. A well-known feature in this port town is the Japanese covered bridge with its own temple and statuary.We’ll amble through the historic streets, ride the local ferry to the other side of town, and observe the Hoi An’s mossy houses, including the Phuc Kien Congressional House Most of Hoi An’s historic houses have been maintained in their traditional design, with brick exteriors and wooden interiors. And after many centuries of maritime trade, the town boasts a multicultural air: Traders from Persia, Arabia, China, Japan, and India, as well as the first Christian missionaries to reach Vietnam, have all left their mark.

    Enjoy an afternoon at leisure and dinner on your own, or join us on an optional cyclo-rickshaw ride through a rural area of Hoi An, followed by a Thu Bon River cruise. We'll travel by cyclo-rickshaw to Cam Nam village, view Hoi An's historic cityscape from a different vantage point during a cruise along the lovely Thu Bon River, and sample a slice of daily life at the central market. We'll dine at a nearby restaurant.

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    Today, we have breakfast and then travel through the rice fields of the countryside to My Son Sanctuary, Vietnam's most significant ruin from the Champa Kingdom, which prospered from the second to the 15th centuries.

    My Son was established as a religious center in the fourth century in a lush, isolated valley overlooked by Hon Quap (Cat's Tooth Mountain). We walk these red-brick ruins, enjoying time to admire the delicate masonry and to take in the peace of the place. We'll return to Hoi An in time for lunch at a local restaurant before an afternoon at leisure. Dinner tonight is on your own.

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    Visit a local fishing village

    This morning, we fly from Danang to the town of Nha Trang.

    Upon arrival in Nha Trang, we board traditional wooden “drawing boats” to visit a local fishing village on Mieu Island. The views of the water are lovely, with rocky inlets, palm-lined beaches, and refreshing breezes. Our boat tour also takes us to a beautiful beach nearby, where you can relax and enjoy lunch on your own. Afterward, we check into our hotel. This evening we’ll gather together for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we visit Dien Phu Kindergarten, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. We’ll visit a classroom, play with the children, and have a chance to discuss local education with the school principal.

    Afterward, we set out to experience A Day in the Life of the tranquil riverside community of Xóm Gio. We'll be guests of the village chief, who'll invite us into his home for a mid-morning discussion about the village's history and culture, followed by a savory lunch prepared with our help and the guidance of the chief's wife. Afterwards, we'll tour several homes that were remodeled with support from Grand Circle Foundation, visiting with families who live there. We'll learn about daily life and then be introduced to the local cottage industry—the bamboo baskets for which the village is known. Then we walk through the village, passing fields of vegetables and rice paddies on our way to a small family-run business where chopsticks are milled. On our way back to the hotel, we'll stroll through a vibrant village marketplace where you can pick up some exotic fruit for an afternoon snack.

    We'll enjoy some free time back at the hotel. Tonight, enjoy dinner on our own.

    Please note: On select departures, Dien Phu Kindergarten will be replaced with a visit to Minh Tu Orphanage in Hué on Day 8.

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    After breakfast we travel overland to Dalat, nicknamed the "City of Eternal Spring," admiring the rice paddies, vegetable patches, and gently sloping hills that we pass along the way. Prized by Vietnamese for its mild climate, Dalat, nestled in the mountains, was the site of the summer residence of Vietnam’s last emperor, Bao Dai. We arrive in Dalat around noon and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before checking into our hotel.

    We gather for an orientation walk around our hotel, and then set out for our visit to Dalat University. Here, we’ll learn about the Vietnamese system of education during an informative discussion with a professor and local university students.

    This evening, we'll learn more about local culture over dinner with a local family in their home. This is another chance to meet with people who call Vietnam home, learn about their daily lives, share a little of ourselves, and really experience local culture.

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    This morning, you may choose to rise early before breakfast to explore a local market in Dalat. Enjoy the rest of the morning at leisure with lunch on your own, or join us for an optional tour that focuses on Dalat’s agricultural production and village life. We'll stop at a market garden to learn about flower-growing in this region. We'll also visit a silkworm factory and discover the process of silk-making from its very beginning. Then we'll continue on to the isolated traditional village of Buon Chuoi (Banana Village) to meet the Chil people, a hill tribe that practices subsistence farming. This tour includes lunch.

    In the afternoon, we all depart for our visit to Dalat’s crémaillere (cog railway) train station. Established by the French in the early 20th century, the railway linked Dalat to Thap Cham before ceasing operation in 1964 due to Viet Cong attacks. We’ll admire the Art Deco aesthetic of the station and take a 30-minute train ride to the nearby town of Trai Mat. Here, we’ll explore Linh Phuoc Pagoda, a striking Buddhist temple adorned with a mosaic of glass, pottery, and porcelain.

    We’ll return to Dalat in time for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, we head to the airport for our short flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, it is now a modern seaport and the country’s largest city. Upon arrival, we embark on an included city tour, which brings us first to the War Remnants Museum to see its artillery and armor collection and gain a North Vietnamese perspective on the "American War." Next, we'll see the Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. The structure was completed in 1880 and is said to be on the site of an old pagoda. We also see the architecture of the majestic Post Office, built during the same time period and featuring two enormous murals depicting maps of Vietnam as it was many decades ago. Our tour continues to the former U.S. Embassy.

    After a meal of traditional noodle soup at a local restaurant, we'll check into our hotel and enjoy free time before we gather for an orientation walk around the hotel.

    This evening, we'll enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.

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    Experience local life along the river

    After breakfast, we journey outside of Ho Chi Minh City to discover Vietnam's famous Mekong Delta. We'll drive to the picturesque province of Ben Tre, where we'll enjoy a brief walk through Ben Tre village—famous for its coconut plantations—and take a sampan ride along one of the town's scenic and peaceful canals. We'll also visit a coconut candy workshop to learn about making the sweet keo dua the region is known for, and cruise to nearby Phoenix Island, where we'll learn about the local belief started by Ong Dao Dua, known as the "Coconut Monk." Then, after lunch at a local restaurant, we'll drive back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we have some time at leisure. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    See the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam

    This morning, we’ll explore the Cu Chi Tunnels. We’ll begin in the village of Cu Chi, which sits on a vast network of tunnels stretching more than 125 miles. These tunnels allowed the Viet Cong to control a large area near the former Saigon. Many American visitors find this tour an especially emotional experience, as they discover how many North Vietnamese soldiers lived in the tunnels during the war.

    After lunch together, you'll have the afternoon at leisure. This evening, we gather at a local restaurant for a special Farewell Dinner.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, we transfer to the airport in Ho Chi Minh for our flight to Los Angeles, making a connection in Taipei. Travelers who are flying to San Francisco will enjoy a morning at leisure before their afternoon flight home via Taipei.

    Or, if you’re extending your adventure, you’ll fly to Siem Reap to begin your optional post-trip extension in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.


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Questions and Answers

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our adventures? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 9 locations in 18 days with one 1-night stay
  • International flights from Los Angeles to Hanoi depart around midnight, crossing the International Date Line, and 3 internal flights, 2 of which require early wake-up
  • Airport transfers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City take approximately 1 hour

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 2-3 miles unassisted and participate in 4-6 hours of physical activities each day
  • Agility and balance are required for embarking riverboat, junk (wooden sailboat), wooden “drawing boats,” and cable car


  • Daytime temperatures range from 80-90°F
  • April-June are the hottest months, with high levels of humidity and heavy rains likely  


  • Travel over some bumpy unpaved roads, walk along city streets and ancient ruins, and visit monuments often with uneven paths and walkways with no handrails


  • Travel by 35-passenger coach, riverboat, junk (wooden sailboat), wooden “drawing boats,” and cable car
  • 3 internal flights, each about 1 hour

Accommodations & Facilities

  • Main trip: All accommodations feature private baths and Western-style toilet facilities
  • Throughout touring, only Asian-style toilets (squat-style rather than seats) may be available
  • Pre-trip extension: 1 night in a private village home, sleeping on futon-style floor mattresses with shared bathrooms; 1 night on a sleeper train with shared bathrooms and no shower

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Thailand: No visa required.
  • Vietnam: Visa required.
  • Laos (optional extension): Visa required.
  • Cambodia (optional extension): Visa required.
  • Indonesia (optional extension): Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Vietnamese junk

    In the privacy of our OAT small group, we cruise the island-studded waters of Halong Bay on a traditional wooden sailboat known as a junk. We'll appreciate its modern touches, including private baths with showers and air-conditioned cabins. Onboard, we can relax on the sun deck or enjoy a drink from the bar.

Please note: Vietnam is not a heavily touristed country. We stay in locally run lodgings that are the best available in each area. Most of our Vietnam hotels are larger than are typical for an OAT trip. All accommodations offer basic amenities; rooms are smaller than you’re used to in the U.S., yet provide simple comforts. With flexibility and a sense of adventure, you’ll find that OAT’s accommodations enrich your experience.

Main Trip

  • Golden Lotus Hotel

    Hanoi, Vietnam

    Conveniently located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the Golden Lotus Hotel is within walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Water Puppet Theatre, and several restaurants and cafés. Each air-conditioned guestroom includes Internet access, TV, safe, and mini-bar—along with modern amenities designed for your comfort. The hotel also features a roof-top swimming pool, restaurant, and bar.

  • Cherish Hotel

    Hué, Vietnam

    This hotel is ideally situated at the center of Hué, Vietnam, close to the Huong River, with 106 guest rooms decorated in Vietnamese style. Rooms offer hair dryers, plasma TVs, Internet connection, minibars, bathrobes, private balconies, and delightful views of the city.

  • Lotus Hoi An Hotel

    Hoi An, Vietnam

    This hotel offers a free shuttle to downtown Hoi An and nearby beaches like Cua Dai, but its free-form swimming pool, bar, and restaurant options entice many guests into staying on site. Each of the 65 guest rooms has a private balcony, air conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, free wireless Internet, a minibar, and a private bath with a hair dryer.

  • Yasaka Saigon Nha Trang Hotel & Spa

    Nha Trang, Vietnam

    The seaside Yasaka Saigon Nha Trang Hotel & Spa offers private beach access and beautiful views of Nha Trang Bay. Each of the 201 air-conditioned rooms features comfortable modern furnishings in the local style, as well as TV, Internet access, and private bath. During your free time, you may enjoy access to the rooftop swimming pool and bar, two on-site restaurants, spa, and garden area. 

  • Sammy Dalat Hotel

    Dalat, Vietnam

    Located in the city center and convenient for public transportation, the Sammy Dalat Hotel features a combination of unique French and traditional Vietnamese design. The hotel features 92 rooms that include satellite TV, minibar, Internet, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Au Lac II Hotel

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, Au Lac II Hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of Ben Thanh market, Notre Dame, the Opera House, and Reunification Palace. Each spacious, air-conditioned room is equipped with a TV, Internet access, safe, and hair dryer. The hotel also features a spa and bar.


  • May De Ville City Centre

    Hanoi, Vietnam

    Conveniently located in central Hanoi—within walking distance to the Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, and other local attractions—the May De Ville features a restaurant, salon, and sauna. The hotel’s 81 air-conditioned rooms are outfitted with satellite TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, safe, Internet, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Village homestay

    Mai Chau, Vietnam

    In Mai Chau, we stay in a private home of a local family, spending the night in a thatch-roofed stilt house and sleeping on futon-style floor mattresses. In the traditional style of many Mai Chau house, the main room is elevated high above the ground with room for livestock beneath. Bath facilities are shared here.

  • Overnight sleeper train

    During our journeys to and from Hanoi and Lao Cai, we’ll stay overnight on an air-conditioned sleeper train—the most efficient route to Vietnam’s remote northern hill towns. Each cabin features individual reading lights, baggage storage, large windows, and a mini bar. Bath facilities are shared on the train.

  • Sapa Lodge Hotel

    Sapa, Vietnam

    Located in the heart of Sapa, Sapa Lodge Hotel is close to the bustling town market and offers stunning views of Fansipan Mountain. Each of the air-conditioned rooms includes a private bath, safe, TV, and wireless Internet access. The hotel also features a restaurant.

  • Angkor Paradise Hotel

    Siem Reap, Cambodia

    The Angkor Paradise Hotel is located in the heart of Siem Reap, just a short distance from Angkor Archaeological Park. Each air-conditioned guest room features a spacious bathroom, TV, minibar, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and safe. There is a swimming pool, fitness center, and spa on the premises, and the on-site restaurant serves Khmer, Asian, and Western cuisine. 

  • Saigon Hotel

    Saigon, Vietnam

    Centrally located just minutes from the Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market, the Saigon Hotel is a comfortable, modern retreat from the buzz of Ho Chi Minh City. Each air-conditioned guestroom features Internet access, TV, minibar, and hair dryer. During your free time, you may wish to take advantage of the spa, or enjoy a drink and take in the view from the 9th floor bar.

Please note: Vietnam is not a heavily touristed country. We stay in locally run lodgings that are the best available in each area. Most of our Vietnam hotels are larger than are typical for an OAT trip. All accommodations offer basic amenities; rooms are smaller than you’re used to in the U.S., yet provide simple comforts. With flexibility and a sense of adventure, you’ll find that OAT’s accommodations enrich your experience.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with OAT

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

We understand that international travel has unique challenges including fewer airline choices and limited flight schedules. The chart below provides estimated travel times and the typical number of connections from popular departure cities to help you plan for your trip.

Please note that traveling to Hanoi, and from Saigon, will require multiple connections, and these flight rigors should be taken into consideration.

Partner since: 2002
Total donated: $330,684

Making a difference in Vietnam

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Vietnam, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Xom Gio Village

Meet the People of Xom Gio Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the riverside community of Xóm Gio in Nha Trang. You’ll get to know the local people through sharing a meal and conversation together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Read More

A Day in the Life of Xom Gio Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, the riverside community of Xóm Gio in Nha Trang. You’ll get to know the local people through sharing a meal and conversation together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

"This was one of the most thorough Day in the Life experiences I’ve had. The opportunity to see people’s living conditions, appreciate the difference that Grand Circle’s contribution of four houses meant, and to have a long discussion with ample time for questions with the chief of the village (and find out how rural Vietnam is organized) was truly unique."

Judith Disla, 18-time traveler
New York, New York

Meet the People of Xom Gio Village

Meet the People of Xom Gio Village

Your Day in the Life experience will bring you to the tranquil riverside community of Xóm Gio. Here, you’ll see firsthand the improvements made possible by Foundation support—and the support of travelers like you.

Upon arrival, you’ll be welcomed as a guest of the village chief, who will invite you into his home for a discussion about the village’s history and culture. You’ll then savor lunch—which you’ll help to prepare with the guidance of the chief’s wife.

After you bid farewell to the chief and his wife, you’ll tour several homes that have been remodeled with support from Grand Circle Foundation, and visit with families who live there. Here, you’ll learn about everyday life and be introduced to the local cottage industry—and the bamboo baskets for which the village is known.

You’ll then enjoy a walk through the village, passing fields of vegetables and rice paddies on your way to a small family-run business where chopsticks are milled. Before you depart, you’ll stroll through the vibrant village marketplace where you can pick up some exotic fruit for an afternoon snack.

By the end of your Day in the Life, we hope you’ll come away with a true sense of what life is like in rural Vietnam—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call Xóm Gio home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Vietnam

The eager and inquisitive students of Dar Et-Taleb will welcome you

By funding improvements in local schools and orphanages, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. That's why your Inside Vietnam adventure includes a visit to a kindergarten in Dien Phu Village, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

Read More

Supporting a World Classroom: Vietnam

By funding improvements in local schools and orphanages, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. That's why your Inside Vietnam adventure includes a visit to a kindergarten in Dien Phu Village, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation.

Dien Phu Kindergarten

Partner since: 2014

The eager and inquisitive students of Dar Et-Taleb will welcome you

When you visit Dien Phu Kindergarten, which Grand Circle Foundation has just begun to support, you'll see how badly help is needed. The Foundation is thrilled to be part of the future of this school, which consists of 20 staff members and 170 children aged 2 to 5 years old. So far,  we have contributed two computers, educational software, desks and chairs, and a flat screen TV.

In the future, we hope to construct a library, fortify the infrastructure of the building, fund school field trips, and increase teacher salaries and benefits. With better resources for early education, Dien Phu Kindergarten can prepare its students for success in high school and beyond.

Grand Circle Foundation

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Inside Vietnam

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Inside Vietnamand save up to $1895 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"It was fantastic! Khanh, the Trip Leader, was outstanding—deeply knowledgeable about his country on all dimensions … But most important was the country itself—beautiful and lush … The visits with individual people stand out: two village mayors … Buddhist nuns … and students at Dalat University."

Katherine Williamson, 3-time traveler
Carmichael, California

Bringing Vietnam to My Husband

Barbara Herman, 1-time traveler, Fairfield, Connecticut

My husband and I have always loved to explore the world together. We reserved a trip to Vietnam several years ago after hearing our friends rave about how wonderful the country was—but shortly after we did, he was diagnosed with a heart condition that left him unable to travel.

My husband didn’t want to hold me back from my love of traveling, and he encouraged me to make the trip to Vietnam anyway. He said, “Bobbie (his nickname for me) … just go. You shouldn’t be deprived of traveling the world.”

So I went … and what an amazing experience it was! I was hesitant to travel alone because of poor experiences during several previous solo trips I’d made with other tour groups. But once I was in the company of my 16 other group members with OAT, I really felt as if I was part of a family..

And as with all families, I grew close with one of my fellow group members. Evelyn and I were both traveling alone and realized that we shared a love of shopping and exploring. We spent our time together laughing and enjoying as many unique experiences as we could to tickle our adventuresome sides. One afternoon, Evelyn and I, along with a few other group members, trekked to a mud bath outside Nha Trang. We had such a great time relaxing and enjoying the joyousness of the moment, as well as the Vietnamese people.

I returned from Vietnam refreshed and full of memories that will last a lifetime—and stories that I was excited to tell my husband about. In sharing my special moments—like sailing along Halong Bay under the starlit Vietnamese skies, being humbled standing in the presence of the magnificent Angkor Wat, during my post-trip to Cambodia, and engaging the sweetest and gentlest people I’ve ever met—I hoped that my husband may experience these moments as well. And although my husband can no longer travel, I hope that I can help him to explore the world with me … even if he’s not able to step foot on the plane.

The Markets of Vietnam

Four marketplaces reveal a forward-looking country

by Alison Rohrs

This sweaty, exhilarating affair couldn't be farther from the American shopping mall experience.

Now this is a lunch worth traveling for, I thought, as I watched the quick-handed woman behind the counter toss cooked shrimp, pork, mushrooms, and mung beans into her wok. She deftly maneuvered her spatula under the thin yellow crepe that coated the pan, folded it in half, and placed it on the plate before me.  She smiled knowingly as she handed it to me, confident in her work.

It was an explosion of flavors and textures. The crisp lettuce gave way to the warm, saffron-infused crepe. The freshness of the mint and the tanginess of the sweet-and-sour sauce balanced the richness of the pork and shrimp. Smiling, I gave the vendor a thumbs-up sign and said “gaam uhn”—my best approximation of “thank you” in Vietnamese.

When I arrived in Vietnam, I expected to learn about the horrors of the American-Vietnam War and the injustice of the French colonization. What I didn’t expect was the memories like this at Ben Thanh: the faces of the vendors and shop proprietors, eager to share their products and passions with me. Amidst museums and mausoleums, it’s the markets and family-owned shops where I learned the most about Vietnamese resilience and pride.

Enterprising eateries in Ben Thanh Market

Begun as a street market by Vietnamese in the 17th century, walled in by the French, and finally reclaimed by modern city dwellers, the Ben Thanh Market is a microcosm of South Vietnam’s history. When Ho Chi Minh City was still known as Saigon, French colonizers built the concrete structure as Les Halles Centrale in 1870 and moved local “wet market” vendors (proprietors of fresh food, including meats, fish, and produce) indoors.

In 1912, locals gave the market its Vietnamese name, Cho Ben Thanh, and today, little of the French influence remains. Now, a walk through its aisles is an immediate introduction to local clothing, customs, and food. Near the clock tower entrance, the “wet market” section remains surprisingly close to its traditional form, with stands of raw meats and fresh fish. Moving inside, seasonal flowers and fresh fruits are a more appetizing display for visitors.

The small, family-owned businesses at first surprised me in Vietnam. Didn’t the Communists win? But I soon learned that following a period of economic reforms in the 1980s known as doi moi (renovation), the country has opened its stance to private business. While state-owned enterprises still account for about 40% of the GDP, the government continues to liberalize its economy, including an announcement this year that it will restructure state-owned enterprises, banking, and public investment between 2012 and 2015.

What’s new in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

At first glance, the tangle of 36 streets that is Hanoi’s Old Quarter seems overwhelmingly modern, swarming with a sea of motorbikes and draped with knots of electrical wiring. But the origins of the Old Quarter can be traced back some 1,000 years, when the founder of the Dai Viet Empire, Ly Thai To, established his capital in what is now Hanoi, and artisan workshops sprung up around his palace. As the city became more established, the craftsmen joined into guilds to safeguard their trade secrets and share materials.

Today, the guilds have disintegrated, but the craftsmen have maintained the tradition of grouping their shops by specialty, forming a sort of market neighborhood of shops and open-air stalls. One of the most idyllic lanes in this neighborhood is Hang Quat Street, or “Street of Fans,” lined with open shop houses selling colorful lanterns and Buddhist and Confucian shrines. In the middle of the lane, an entrepreneur sells Hanoi-brewed draft beer, called “bia hoi,” for around 4,000 dong (20 U.S. cents) per glass. In the evening, visitors can hear Vietnamese men toast, “Tram phan tram!” which roughly means, “Drink it all at once!”

Tailor-made in Hoi An

Yet the best place in Vietnam to surround yourself with preserved shop houses is Hoi An. It was the country’s busiest port in the early 1600s, and Chinese and Japanese merchants filled the town in the 17th and 18th centuries. Since then, skilled tailors have settled here in droves. Some estimates say there are nearly 400 tailoring and cloth shops in the town, and the competition is fierce. To keep pace with their neighbors, the craftsmen make high-quality and intricate pieces in a matter of hours.

It’s an altogether unique experience to visit the tailor stalls in the town’s market. Entire aisles are lined with sewing machines and stacks of fabric taller than the vendors who own them. When someone finds a stand, a style of clothing, and a price they like, the tailor takes measurements and discusses fabrics before naming a time when the buyer should return for the finished item. In all, this sweaty, exhilarating affair couldn’t be farther from the American shopping mall experience.

A friendly future in Dong Ba

Hué’s traditional market, Cho Dong Ba, covers some 17,000 square feet between the Perfume River and the 19th-century Citadel. The market remains an irresistible draw for residents seeking out fresh meals, clothing, and housewares.

For many Americans, Hué is best known for the 1968 Tet Offensive—a pivotal moment in the Vietnam-American War when the North Vietnamese forces broke a cease-fire agreement during the New Year’s festival of Tet. The Communist troops held the city for 25 days, leveling buildings and killing nearly 3,000 civilians.

Yet, when stepping into the bustling Dong Ba Market, the busy vendors tell a different story. Eager for commerce and skilled in their trades, no one in the market is looking toward the past. Instead, they’re proud to share their talents with visitors. And when you recognize that, they’re usually happy to share a smile and a good snack with you, too.

Enhanced Itinerary

Based on feedback from our travelers, we’ve made a series of itinerary enhancements to our Vietnam adventure—changes that not only feature additional cultural discoveries, but a more relaxed traveling pace that will allow you to better enjoy your experience. These enhancements begin with August 2014 departures.

Less traveling, more time in Vietnam

You no longer have to fly to and from Bangkok to begin your adventure in Vietnam. By now featuring flights to and from Vietnam, travelers will get to spend an additional night in both the country’s capital of Hanoi and the ancient trading town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

More time in Vietnam also means many more opportunities to experience country’s rich cultural heritage—and also to learn about its controversial past.

More small group activities

Among our new features is an included tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels, the vast network of tunnels that allowed the Viet Cong to control a large area near the former Saigon. And our extra day in Hoi An now includes a walking tour highlighting some of the architectural treasures of the ancient city.

With more discoveries—and more time to pursue individual interests—these new enhancements will allow you to enjoy a more immersive and culturally-rich experience during your adventure to one of Asia’s most exciting countries.

Plus, an exciting new trip extension

You now have the rare opportunity to venture where few Americans have gone before—truly off the beaten path into Vietnam’s northwest region. Here, you’ll get to meet and interact with some of the diverse hill tribes of this lush and remote region.

Our new 6-night pre-trip extension to explore The Hill Tribes of Northern Vietnam is now available.

Private Adventures—New for 2015

How do you arrange a Private Adventure?

It’s simple: You choose the people you travel with. You choose the departure date. You choose the size of your group. OAT does the rest.

Your lifelong memories are only a phone call away: Call us toll-free at

Group Size Additional Cost
4-6 $1000 per person
7-9 $500 per person

Now you can reserve an EXCLUSIVE departure of Inside Vietnam with just 8 travelers. Enjoy a truly special adventure—starting from only $500 per person more than our published trip price.

The benefits of your Private Adventure …

  • Travel in an exclusive group of friends or family members
  • Work with your Trip Leader to create unique experiences and special memories
  • Tailor the pacing of activities—spending more time doing what interests your group most at the speed that fits your comfort level
  • Enjoy the security of knowing we have regional offices nearby

This program is available on new reservations in 2015 only, and cannot be combined with any offers, including our Vacation Ambassador Referral program. The additional cost of a Private Departure is per person, on top of the departure price and varies by trip. Private Departures do not include any changes or additions to our standard itineraries. Age restrictions may apply to some itineraries and must be at least 13 years old to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ask your Group Sales Team for details. Additional taxes and fees will apply. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to present this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Vietnam

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Inside Vietnam adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.


During a visit to the village school of Xom Gio, part of the World Classroom initiative and supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation, Cheryl Chaban made many new young friends after teaching songs to the students. She and her husband, photographer Garry Chaban, are 3-time travelers from San Ramon, California.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to:

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.