North Vietnam has huge potentials for tourism with beautiful landscapes of mountains, rice, corn fields and many picturesque ethnic villages dotted here and there on the sides of the mountains. Doing Vietnam Northwest Loop Tour, you will also sink deep in unique culture and unchanged way of living of many ethnic groups.
Northwest Loop - 16 days / 15 nights in brief
Day 1: Hanoi - Arrival
Day 2: Hanoi - Mai Chau Valley
Day 3: Mai Chau - Moc Chau - Son La
Day 4: Son La - Pha Din Pass - Dien Bien Phu
Day 5: Pa Khoang Lake and the drive to Lao
Day 6: Dien Bien Phu - Muong Te
Day 7: Muong Te - Paso - Boat Ride
Day 8: Paso - Lai Chau - Tam Duong - Sapa
Day 9: Sapa - Muong Hoa Valley
Day 10: Ban Ho Valley trek
Day 11: Sapa - Muong Hum Trek
Day 12: Muong Hum - Bac Ha - Ban Pho
Day 13: Bac Ha - Si Ma Cai - Coc Ly - Laocai - overnight on train
Day 14: Hanoi - Free day
Day 15: Hanoi - Halong cruise
Day 16: Halong - Hanoi - Departure
Upon arrival, our private Vietnam Tours guide and driver will welcome your Vietnam Holiday to Hanoi, a city where the exotic chic of old Asia blends with the dynamic face of new Asia. Where the medieval and modern co-exist. A city with a blend of Parisian grace and Asian pace, an architectural museum piece evolving in harmony with its history, rather than bulldozing through like many of the region’s capitals. Hanoi is where imagination becomes reality. Free at leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
After breakfast we continue north to Son La and have plenty of time to stop along the way for photos of the brilliant landscape. Along the way we visit Moc Chau, a highland town which produces some of Vietnam's best tea and milk products. Upon our arrival in Son La, we check in to our hotel and have lunch. After lunch we will tour the old French Prison and learn about the history of the area. We then will explore the local market and mingle with different minorities and maybe find some handicrafts of interest.
Note - maps of this area unless printed after 2007 are inaccurate, all major towns between Dien Bien Phu and Sa Pa have been renamed after the provinces were redrawn.
We depart early and drive north along Highway 12. We'll stop a few kilometers outside of Muong Lay (Old name Lai Chau) and have a vantage point of the valley soon to be flooded by the Son La Dam Project that will provide green energy to Vietnam.
We continue to Muong Te, one of Vietnam's remote outposts. About 8 km after turning off the main road, we stop at a historical relic: an ancient poem carved in a stone in 15th century by Emperor Le Loi who had succeeded in expelling Chinese from the region. We will also encounter tiny villages along the ride. We'll be returning via the same road the next day so noting the kilometer markers where you would like to stop and take photos on the return trip is advisable. Moung Te is not developed for tourism like other places in Vietnam and is one of the more simple places not quite caught up to the technological age. If you are lucky to get there on Sunday, a very colorful market full of ethnic minorities such as Lahu, Si La and Ha Nhi can be seen.
Departing Paso, we are starting on one of the most beautiful drives in all of Vietnam Tours. Our destination is the Topas Eco-Lodge, 20 km south of Sapa, again it might not be on your map! Along the drive we will pass many different minority villages and see a vast rainbow of colours from the minority dress. Black Hmoung, Black Thai, Black Dao, Lu People, and Giay minority dot the landscape. We'll leave the main road after Lai Chau and take in some parts of the north not seen by many.
We'll have lunch in Tam Duong (old Binh Lu) and our ascent up to the highest road pass in Vietnam, Tram Ton Pass/Heaven Gate, begins. The beauty of the climb will force us to take several stops for photos and depending on the time of year, there will be a fine layer of fog at the pass. We continue down the other side and pass thru Sapa town on our way to the Eco Lodge. Upon arrival at the Eco Lodge you can take a rest on your bungalow's balcony - for those with vertigo, maybe not!
After breakfast, we'll visit the daily market and see many minorities in daily shopping mode. We take time for you to search for handicrafts and buy directly from the maker! There is a fair chance a local Hmong girl will befriend you and inquire in perfect English about you and what you are doing, as well as try to sell you some souvenirs.
After lunch, we head out to Muong Hoa valley. We'll take a short walk from Lao Chai village of Black Hmong to Ta Van village of Giay. There will be time to stop at local houses. Our car wait for us at Ta Van where we continue to drive to the isolated Eco Lodge. Stops for picture are on request! We'll spend two nights at the Eco Lodge.
You will travel by car to Su Pan from where you will commence your walk downhill through the breathtaking scenery. On the way you will pass through the Tay Minority village of Ban Ho village where you will be able to see the stunning views of the valley and rice paddy terraces. You will have the opportunity to explore the Ban Ho village of Tay minority before crossing the suspension bridge over the river, where your guide will prepare a delicious lunch in a local house.
The walk then continues through the rice fields to the Red Dao village of Nam Toong, where you will enjoy a cup of tea before heading back to Ban Ho to take a nice swim in the river nearby. You will then take the walk uphill to Su Pan. Here you return to the lodge by car.
We depart early and return through Sapa on our way back up the road to Tram Ton Pass but before reaching it, we'll begin a back road journey to Muong Hum. We'll be on the road less traveled and pass remote villages just recently accessible by road. The scenery is fresh and the hills are a patchwork of agricultural land, photo stops are a must. We'll arrive in Muong Hum for lunch and then take a short walk to a village of Giay minority nearby for overnight in a local house.
After meeting our host family, we begin a 1 ½ hour trek uphill to a village of Ha Nhi minority, one of the smallest minority groups in Vietnam. The village is along the China/Vietnam border and most of the homes are constructed of thick mud and straw walls in a circular shape. We make our way back to our home stay, cook dinner and have an early night.
We depart out of Muong Hum and stop for a visit at the Muong Vi Caves. We continue to Laos Cai for lunch and onward to Bac Ha. The drive after Lao Cai for a short time is along a river that separates China from Vietnam. Upon arriving in Bac Ha, we check into our hotel for the night and take a short rest. Mid-afternoon, it's time for a short walk to the Flower H'mong and Tay Village of Ban Pho. If our departure day is a Sunday, we'll spend a more time in Muong Hum to see the weekly market. Sunday is also market day in Bac Ha and we'll only see the minorities return in home after the market here.
Today we'll drive along some spectacular roads to the north of Bac Ha. Our first destination is the border village of Si Ma Cai. Recently, tourists were permitted to come here and while the town is small, the drive in and out is fantastic. We double back from here and if we are traveling on a Saturday, stop at the weekly Can Cau Market on the way up. Lunch is in Bac Ha and we then continue to Bao Nhai, a town along the road to Lao Cai, where we board a small boat for a short excursion u the river to Coc Ly. If this day is on Tuesday, we will go directly to Coc Ly for the weekly market and then boat downriver.
Our arrival in Lao Cai is around sunset and we'll have a look at the Friendship Bridge linking Vietnam to China and the pagoda near the Vietnamese end. We'll check into a hotel for showering before boarding the train to Hanoi.
The overnight train arrives very early in the morning and we will transfer you to the hotel. Early check in and free et leisure.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Halong tour must be the most beautiful tour in Vietnam for any visitors. This morning, after breakfast, wedrive to Halong Bay (165km), Vietnam most scenic sight, a recognized World Natural Heritage Site and highlight of any Vietnam Tours. Upon arrival, board your traditional wooden junk. Welcome drink on board. After a relaxing break, enjoy a delicious seafood lunch while cruising through the wonderful Ha Long bay visiting its amazing grottoes and caves. Opportunity to dive off the boat and have a pleasant swimming in the deep blue water of East Sea before relaxing on your sun deck to view a Halong sunset. Dinner on board with excellent fresh seafood.
Overnight on board.
It is said that your Vietnam Tours will not be complete without a trip to Halong Bay and spending one night on romantic Halong Cruise. People describe Halong Bay as majestic and mysterious, inspiring and imperious and words alone cannot do justice to the natural wonder that is Halong Bay. Imagine 3000 or more incredible islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin and you have a vision of breathtaking beauty. Halong Bay is pure art, a priceless collection of unfinished sculptures hewn from the hand of nature. It is absolutely true when you get up early to catch the sunrise on the bay, doing Ta Chi on sundeck and relax with a cup of hot coffee or tea when the boat cruising to explore more of Halong Bay. All make your Vietnam Holiday with full sweet memory. Back to Halong city at around noon where Vivutravel's private guide and driver are waiting to transfer back to Hanoi airport for your flight off. We hope that you have enjoyed your Vietnam Tours with us and look forward to your next Vietnam Tours. Vivutravel says goodbye and see you again!!!
END OF SERVICE
• All transfers and transportation in private air-conditioned vehicle with driver
• Accommodation in twin/double sharing (triple room, extra bed, interconnecting room... are on request)
• Meals as indicated in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
• English speaking guide (French, Spanish, Russian, Italian Speaking tour guides are available and on request)
• Entrance fees to indicated sights and activities as stated
• Boat trips & train tickets (if mentioned)
• Bottled mineral water during touring days
• International FLIGHTS
• Other meals
• Personal expenses
• Expenses for any optional tours or activities during free time
Tour guides who work with us are well-paid, experienced with a university background, eager to exchange our cultures and lifestyles ... with travelers, and have a great passion for their country and understand the personal touch. In some parts such as Sapa, we may use local tour guides who come from the ethnic hilltribes like H'Mong or Red Dao as they know about their land much better than anyone else and this is also the way that Indochinavalue helps the local people a better life.
Tour guide is one of the most important factors to a successful holiday. Indochinavalue understands that a good tour guide needs not only good knowledge on history, culture, good English, French... but also needs to have general requirements and follow our guidelines as below:
1 - Licensed at least for 4 years with work experience.
2 - Guiding does require more than just hanging out in the sun. Guides must be friendly and good with people, organized enough to keep groups or people on schedule, quick on their feet and ready for the inevitable snafus that arises.
3 - Must be an honest broker of their services and able to take criticism.
4 - Should be qualified at some level in health, health care or first aid.
5 - Able to relate to people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds.
6 - Clear speech and good hearing.
7 - Must not be a alcoholic or No-alcohol during working time or anytime when on tour.
8 - Tour guide is a nurse to take care of visitors, a boss to keep the right itinerary, a teacher to give information, an ambassador to introduce our country, an entertainer because Indochinavalue's clients want to be entertained in extend, a friend...
9 - Must be on time every time. Being late or delay is unacceptable.
10 - Check flight tickets, train tickets, meals, weather... to make sure things are in order and inform local office if any changes that might effect the tour.
11 - Solve problems with care when there is dissatisfy. Argument should be averted by courtesy.
Kind of vehicle (offered on tour) depends on the size of your group size or your requirements. To ensure your comfort, all cars feature air conditioning and enough room inside. Drivers are local, with years of experience, taking you to your destination quickly and safely.
1 - Our drivers are professional and reliable with at least 5 years of experience, driving safely.
2 - Our drivers are not allowed to hear cell-phone or smoke, chat, drink when driving.
3 - Our drivers must be friendly, helpful with good behavior and attitude.
4 - Our drivers are not allowed to take you to shops unless you ask for.
2 Stars from: US$35 -> US$40
The 2 star hotels are good for budget travelers and sometimes, we have no choice but stay in a guesthouse, mini hotel, 2 star hotel in the remote and mountainous areas. Basically, 2 star hotels will offer good size and clean guest rooms with AC, TV, hot water, shower and private bathrooms
3 Stars from: US$40 -> US$80
The 3 star hotels are good for many travelers because they offer basic needs for a comfortable stay, good size and clean guest rooms with Free access high speed Internet, Welcome baskets and drinking water, Telephone with international dialing, Electronic safe box in room, Hairdryer, Coffee and Tea, Wake-up service, AC, TV, hot water, shower and private bathrooms. On-site restaurants with breakfast included and lunch or dinner at your own pick up. A small fitness center, spa and swimming pool can be expected.
4 Stars from: US$80 -> US$130
Offering a wide range of comfortable boutique hotels are available with shopping, dining and entertainment facilities nearby. Featuring quality service, fully furnished rooms, restaurants, fitness center with spa (and swimming pool in most cases), the hotels are expected to offer an above-average accommodation experience.
5 Stars from: US$130 -> US$200 –> US$ 300
Offering an extensive range of facilities for an excellent experience. Multiple restaurants on site and a wide range of choice for buffet breakfast, good size of swimming pool, fitness center and concierge service round out the experience.
The restaurants we will take you for lunch or dinner are all designated tourist restaurants approved by local tourist administration bureau. They have very good sanitary conditions and the food is prepared fresh and clean.
Note: If you have any special dietary needs, just let your travel consultant know when booking.
Breakfast is included at all hotels and is buffet breakfast with Asian and Western food.
Lunches (if included) are usually set menu at handpicked local restaurant with comfortable dining environment where you can rest assure to taste the local flavor. All restaurants are carefully selected and highly recommended.
Dinners are only included if you stay overnight in a homestay with a local family, on cruise in Halong Bay, Mekong Delta or at some special occasions such as welcome dinner, farewell dinner or on requested. So dinners are at your own choice and arrangement, but our tour guides will always give you good suggestions based on your preferences.
If allergic to some food
We suggest you to list any food or ingredients that you are allergic to and let our travel consultant know. Then your travel consultant will mark them in the guide’s itinerary, so that our guides in different cities can make some preparations and arrangements in advance.
Do our guide and driver join the meal with us?
The tour guides and driver will be at the same restaurants with you, but they will only join the meal when you invite. Sometimes the drivers are shy to join as they usually eat fast and could not understand English talk around the table, so the guide will be with you more often.
Street food tour:
Street foods in Vietnam are very delicious and should you want to taste the specialities of each Vietnam holiday destination, we can arrange a street food tour for you. Please contact us at email@example.com for a detailed tour itinerary and quotation.
How to request a tour package?
To request for a free tour itinerary and quotation, you can just fill out the tour inquiry form at www.indochinavalue.com or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org then give us as much information as possible. One of our experienced travel consultants will get back to you shortly. All changes will be made (free of charge) until the your tour package meets your needs and personal interests.
How to book a tour package?
As soon as you agree on our proposal, please send us your full name, international flight information (if you have) and your special requirements. We will make reservations and arrange everything then confirm back to you when all done.
- Deposit is a "must". We request 30% of the tour cost. You can pay by wire transfer, credit cards, western union, onepay (online)
- Balance can be made before your arrival or on arrival in cash or by credit cards.
Changes are possible at the last minutes. However, if changes caused extra costs, you will have to pay for. (For examples, hotels, flights, cruises...)
In case of cancellation, we will not apply any charge if we are not charged by the third parties such as hotels, cruises, flights, trains...We will recalculate the costs and resend you the money as soon as possible.
Thanks you Tipping is not mandatory but it is expected in many circumstances for service. You can tip your driver/tour guide more or less or nothing. All depends on the services you receive.
- US$10 – US$ 15 per day for tour guide
- US$7 – US$ 10 per day for driver
- US$1 – US$ 3 per meal for waiter or waitress
- US$2 – US$ 5 for short boat trips/ cyclo/ tuktuk (1 – 2) hours
Note: Please check with your travel consultant before coming and your tour guide if you are to tip someone on tour.
What you get when booking a private tour with Indochinavalue?
1. Private guide, driver and vehicle are for your exclusive use; no matter you are individually, or in a family or friends group. The tour is run exclusively for you without strangers.
2. Every itinerary can be customized to meet your specific interests/ wishes, that is, you can choose your favored hotels, sightseeing spots, the tour length, means of transportation, budget, etc. All are free of charge.
3. Start the tour on any date you want.
4. Escort you from start to finish. All private transfers during the tour are offered, including airport/ train station transfer, hotel-attractions round trip transfer.
5. The sightseeing during the tour could be based on your own timetable and pace. Flexible to change at your short notice.
6. Considerate care and assistance, such as the old, the disabled or families with small kids and children.
7. You can save time and money when traveling with us or your wants meet you budget.
How do I get a visa?
Vietnam Visa On Arrival is available for help. It is legitimated and supported by the Vietnamese Immigration Department. We recommend that you choose visa upon arrival, as picking up visa at the Vietnam int'l airport/ border is quite simple, easy, no additional charges and no fail.
Please provide the following information for us to apply for your visa:
2) Passport number
3) Date of birth
5) Date of arrival
6) Date of issue
7) Date of expire
8) Please make sure that your passport is still valid for 6 months.
Can I use credit cards in Vietnam?
Major credit cards such as Master Card, Visa, Diner's Card, American Express and JCB can be used to purchase goods in large shopping malls and stores in the big and medium cities, to pay for hotel rooms and for meals in some of the fancier restaurants, and to buy plane tickets with them.
- You can use US dollar, Euro in all big cities or at major tourist sites, airports.
- If you are to travel to those small cities or even remote rural areas, only cash in Dong can be used.
Do I need to bring my medical record with me?
Yes, we suggest you take your medical record with you in case that you need it in the event ofan emergency, and please also take with you your doctor's name, address and phone number, emergency contact name and phone number, and your insurance company's name, address and phone number.
Note: You can buy medicines everywhere in Vietnam so do not need to bring medicines from home.
When I finish my tour in Vietnam, if I still have some local money, what can I do?
Upon leaving Vietnam, if you still have some local money, you can change them back to foreign currency with your passport and the exchange memos given by the banks or money exchange counters. So please keep those exchange memos well whenever you change money.
What should we bring along on our trip to Vietnam?
It is best to travel light in Vietnam. One medium sized bag and a day pack will provide more than enough room to carry everything you'll need, and enough space for the things you'll buy in Vietnam.
There are lots of consumer goods in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, so do not worry about running out of something. If you do forget something you can easily find it here. Before you leave home complete the following checklist:
- Lightweight and quick dry clothing is most appropriate for the summer months, and warmer clothing for the winter months. As well, sun hat, swim suit, ultra lightweight rain jacket.
- Travel Documents: Passport, Visa, Travel Insurance, Air Tickets (you should scan them and email them to yourself in case you loose them).
- Health requirements, medications, and travel insurance arranged.
- Flashlight, alarm clock, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, small personal first aid kit, personal toiletries.
- Money: US dollars or travelers cheques and/ or credit card(s).
- Raincoat or umbrella, good hiking shoes are needed for all Footprint trekking trips.
- Camera with charger, extra batteries, and memory cards.
Are there any restrictions on the type of luggage that we bring? Domestic airlines have their weight restrictions. On most domestic and low-cost airlines You may only have one suitcase or backpack, with a maximum weight of 20kg, and one piece of hand luggage, with a maximum weight of (5 – 7)kg. An extra charge for overweight is applied.
There is no actual limit on our trips, but we would suggest you travel light with one suitcase or backpack and one small daypack or small bag which you can access during the day and carry items like your camera, drinking water, toilet paper, hat, sunscreen, etc.
It is essential that you have a lock for each piece of luggage. Without one, railway and airline staff and some hotels may refuse to handle it.
What is the best type of clothing we should bring?
Here is a short checklist of best type of clothing you should bring:
- Shorts and comfortable pants;
- Shirts, t-shirts and maybe some long sleeves shirts (for regions with mosquitos like the Mekong delta);
- Swim suits (for the beaches and Halong Bay);
- Good sandles as well as good shoes if trekking.
Nevertheless, it will really depend on where you travel to, when you plan on travelling, and what you plan on doing. Please note that the weather can be very cold during the winter in the Northern Vietnam (Nov to Mar) and quite cool in the central highlands (Dalat). You will need to bring a good jacket along for this time of the year, the avarage temperature is about 15 oC, but can get as cold as 3 oC.
Tip: Do not worry if you do not pack enough clothes or forget something because you can buy in Vietnam.
Shopping in Vietnam
Shopping in Vietnam: Many tourists can’t help but throw themselves head-first into shopping while in Vietnam. Why? Probably the variety of quality goods and the tempting prices have a lot to do with it. Many low-budget travelers considered Vietnam a heavenly place because in many shopping situations they can bargain the prices down to as much as a third of the original cost.
The list of Vietnamese bargains is seemingly endless and features bespoke tailoring and the national dress, the 'ao dai' from high-quality silk and many other types of material and textiles while many shoppers cannot get enough of the local handicraft, art and jewelry.
How to bargain?
Bargain is not common in some countries, but in Vietnam it really is. In Vietnam, bargaining is always worthwhile. Yet, it is not always due to the fact that the local have a great deal of time and very little money. Bargaining is part of Vietnamese culture as through bargaining people communicate with others, create and build up their relationship, not to mention a form of entertainment.
Rule - 1: It's like the monster ride at the amusement park. If you're not having fun, get off.
Rule - 2: Don't bargain with the first person who approaches you (i.e., when looking for a taxi at the airport.) In general the further you go from the center of action, the cheaper the price.
Rule - 3: Don't be afraid to use walking away as a bargaining tool. You can always come back.
Rule - 4: Don't let pride get in the way of coming back (or Rule #3 is useless).
Rule - 5: If you really want something and the price isn't coming down, give in gracefully. (It's that pride thing again.)
Rule - 6: Don't always assume you're getting ripped off just because you're in a third-world country. Sometimes the price they're asking is the real one.
Rule - 7: Bargaining is a time/ money tradeoff. If you're in a hurry, be prepared to pay for it.
Rule - 8: Ask (Vietnamese) fellow shoppers the price of an item before you begin bargaining.
Rule - 9: Always carry small bills. Otherwise all that work is likely to be for nothing.
Rule - 10: Always bargain in native currency. Conventional wisdom says anyone who has dollars can afford to spend them.
Rule - 11: If possible, keep going back to the same person until you've gotten to know him/ her. Most third world countries have a name for this kind of relationship. The deal is that you offer your business on a regular basis and the seller responds by saving you their best tomatoes
Rule - 12: No matter what your parents told you, when you're bargaining it's perfectly okay to lie