Vietnam XplorerBook Now
Backpacking in Vietnam made easy. Hop on hop off backpacker bus pass.
- Minimum trip time 14 Days
- Recommended 18 Days
Vietnam is a fantastic country to visit, but it is also notoriously challenging to go backpacking through. Things operate a little bit differently in Vietnam compared to its neighbouring Southeast Asian countries: Being one of the last remaining communist countries, plus having had a harrowing history of protracted wars with the US and France, the people in Vietnam can be a little bit more pushy towards travellers.
Don’t let that put you off visiting though, Vietnam can be a very rewarding place to experience. Is a truly beautiful country, with mountains, thousands of miles of pristine coastline, exciting energetic cities filled with millions of people going about their daily lives: it’s a lot to take in and will leave a lasting awesome impression.
This trip is the perfect way to experience this country, without the stress and hassle that can be associated with a backpacking trip in Vietnam.
With all of your transport included and the backup and support of Xtreme ´s local guides you can spend as long as you like exploring this country with a hop on hop off pass. It’s a great way to meet other travellers, and hook up with other independent backpackers.
Vietnam Xplorer Highlights
- Datania Falls
- My Lai Memorial
- Marble Mountains
- Vinh Moc Tunnels
- Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave
Vietnam Xplorer Itinerary
- Starts: Ho Chi Minh City any Sunday
- Ends: Hanoi
- Minimum travel time: 12 days (we recommend you will want to spend about three weeks)
Starts: Ho Chi Minh City
This trip starts in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday a month. If you are flying in we can add on the Ho Chi Minh ConneXion arrival pack: includes meet and greet arrival transfer, two nights´ accommodation, daily breakfast at your hotel and Water Puppet Theatre show. This also includes a guided tour of the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Extensive network of Vietcong tunnels, where you can actually enter the tunnels, Discover more about the Vietnam war, and even fire AK-47s M-16’s and let rip Rambo style on an M-60 machine gun!
We would strongly recommend this as you will want to explore Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnams biggest and most interesting city it’s a great place to visit. So allow enough time prior to your arrival to take it all in.
Ho Chi Minh City is home to the War Remnant Museum which displays harrowing reminders of the American and Vietnamese war, the Saigon Opera House which is surrounded by shopping plazas, and even its own Notre Dame Cathedral said to be a connection between the physical and spiritual life of Ho Chi Minh people.
ARRIVAL IN HO CHI MINH CITY
Your adventure kicks off in bustling Ho Chi Minh City. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to spend time exploring the narrow streets on foot, hop into a cyclo for a comfortable cruise among the millions of motorbikes or find a restaurant teeming with locals for a taste of the best cuisine. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates at the Khoi Hostel for a Welcome Night introduction. We’ll cover how the trip works and answer any questions you have about travelling in Vietnam. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious Vietnamese dinner and a few cold beverages.
HO CHI MINH CITY – FREE DAY
Today is a free day to explore the hot and lively Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about the history of the American and Vietnam War at the War Remnant Museum, visit the French Colonial Saigon Opera House, browse the surrounding shopping plazas or see a cultural show. Ho Chi Minh even has its own Notre Dame Cathedral, which is said to be a connection between the physical and spiritual life for the Ho Chi Minh people. We recommend taking a trip out to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex of over 200kms of tunnels used by the Viet Khong in the war against the US. Discover how the people lived and survived in these tunnels, built schools and hospitals underground and eventually gained victory. This evening enjoy a traditional performance at the Water Puppet Theatre, or dine out on delicious street food at one of the city’s many restaurants or bars
HO CHI MINH CITY TO DA LAT
Leaving behind the chaos and heat of Ho Chi Minh City, we head for the refreshingly cool climate of Da Lat, known as the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. Our journey today takes us through fertile farmlands that specialise in rubber, coffee and tea, locally produced wine, vegetables and flowers. Just a short distance from Da Lat we make a stop at the beautiful 20 metre Datanla Waterfall, where legend has it K’ho fairies often come to play and bathe at the base of the falls. You can either walk down to the waterfall or, for those who like a little bit of adrenalin, you can drive your own mini rollercoaster to the site. Afterwards we’ll head to Da Lat, where you can spend the rest of the day checking out the large market near the guesthouse, or one of many friendly cafes selling excellent coffee on every corner.
DA LAT – FREE DAY
Da Lat vaguely resembles a French town with sprawling old villas and towering pine trees. It is not on the main tourist trail so locals are curious and very friendly to western visitors. There are plenty of adventurous activities here, but many people choose to go on an adrenalin packed canyoning trip where you abseil over waterfalls and jump off a 5 metre high drop into the pool below. If that’s not for you, you can visit the last Emperor’s art deco-style summer palace, explore the never-ending local coffee or strawberry plantations, or hire tandem bikes at the market and cycle to the Hang Nga ‘Crazy House’ an unconventional exploration of surrealist architecture.
DA LAT TO BAI XEP
Leaving behind the cool climate of Da Lat we’ll head for the Vietnamese coast, stopping for refreshments and for those who want to hop off at the coastal city of Nha Trang. Driving on your destination is the tiny fishing village of Bai Xep located along a stretch of sandy white beach. Kick back and relax in this peaceful village setting, untouched by rampant tourism, where locals wave and greet you with smiles.
BAI XEP – FREE DAY
Today you are free to enjoy this remote coastal location and all it has to offer. Swim, snorkel and take long walks on the beach, learn to paddle a traditional round boat, go fishing and cook your catch for tea, wander the village and get to know the friendly locals or just relax at your comfortable seaside guesthouse.
BAI XEP TO HOI AN
A coastal drive takes us to the popular tourist spot Hoi An. We’ll stop along the way to visit the My Lai Memorial, a site that commemorates an event that marked a turning point in the American War, before arriving in Hoi An. A UNESCO World Heritage town, Hoi An is a must see town, with beautifully restored and preserved French Colonial architecture, funky bars, outstanding restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and countless tailor shops. With glorious beaches so close nearby, this is paradise! A great spot to hop off and enjoy the local nightlife; try local delicacies (and beers), then meander home through the motorbike free streets.
HOI AN – FREE DAY
Today is free for you to explore this charming town. Get some tailoring done, take a leisurely cycle to the beach, or just enjoy the tasty local coffee at one of the many restaurants around town. When the sun goes down this is when Hoi An really turns on its charm. Paper and fabric lanterns are lit throughout streets, bathing the historical French colonial and Chinese architecture in a warm glow. Take a sunset stroll through the old town, and try a local delicacy called the ‘White Rose’ – a dumpling stuffed with shrimp or pork bunched into the shape of a rose. Apparently the recipe is a family secret, held by only one family who supply all the restaurants around town.
HOI AN TO HUE
Today you head for Hue, Vietnam’s most liveable city. Here the people are friendly and modern architecture sits side by side with century old buildings. Surrounded by rolling hills and located on the Perfume River, Hue is regarded as the cultural and spiritual centre of Vietnam and is the former home to the Vietnamese emperors. Here you’ll see many elaborately decorated temples and beautiful pagodas, including the seven-storied Thien Mu Pagoda – where the most famous Vietnamese monk is buried, the intricate Citadel and Forbidden Purple City. This is a great place to take a motorbike tour of the Vietnamese countryside. Travel on the back of a motorbike through rice paddies, quaint, rural villages and down tiny roads and discover a little bit of the ‘real’ Vietnam.
HUE TO PHONG NHA
This morning we head for the fascinating Vinh Moc Tunnels, an impressive underground complex that was used by more than 90 families to live and work in during some of the heaviest bombings in the American War. From there it’s on to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, passing through the provincial town of Dong Hoi on our way to the charming hotel in Phong Nha town that will be our base for exploring the park.
PHONG NHA – FREE DAY
Today we visit the spectacular rural area of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, 45km from Dong Hoi. This area has pristine rivers (perfect for a refreshing dip or kayak) and boasts a number of impressive caves, including the recently discovered Thien Duong Cave. Inside you’ll find glittering limestone walls, phallus shaped stalagmites and stalactites, claw shaped formations, and a limestone waterfall. This afternoon you have the option to go on a guided tour of the ‘Dark Cave,’ suitably named as such because the rock is black. This is an exciting adventure where you’ll explore the caves darkness with the help of a head torch, discover ancient fossils and slide down muddy ridges, all while Asian bats fly overhead. Afterwards, back at the mouth of the cave you can wash off all the mud by spending the afternoon swimming and playing in the river.
PHONG NHA TO NINH BINH
Our journey today takes us through beautiful countryside and stunning limestone karst mountains. We’ll stop along the way for a chance to stretch your legs before continuing our express journey to Ninh Binh. We arrive late in the afternoon and you have time to wander around and acquaint yourself with the town before dinner.
NINH BINH TO HANOI
This morning we venture out in traditional canoes to discover the Trang An Grottoes. Sometimes called the ‘Halong Bay on land’, we’ll coast through caves in the mountains to view stony outcrops and dramatic karst formations towering above flat tranquil waters and rice paddies. After lunch in Ninh Binh, we jump back on the bus bound for the chaotic streets of Vietnam’s capital. Hanoi is an exotic city full of excitement and energy, and thousands of motorcycles that make the simple task of crossing the road seem like a real achievement! There’s an an excellent culinary scene. We recommend dining at Restaurant 69, which is said to be over 300 years old, or trying some of the delicious street food available on every corner, where the saying goes “the lower the chair, the cheaper the beer.”
This morning your Tour Leader will take you out to see the main sights of Hanoi on foot. We start our walking tour by visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, then the old Royal Palace Gardens and Ho Chi Minh’s Stilt House. From there, we’ll head over to the One Pillar Pagoda and the Temple of Literature. The main tour will end at Koto Restaurant and Training Centre for refreshments; those that are feeling fit can carry on to the Old Hanoi Hilton Prison and finish at Hoan Kiem Lake.
This is where your journey with Stray comes to an end, but there is plenty to see and do in and around Hanoi. If you have some extra days to spend here, we highly recommend booking a cruise around breathtaking Halong Bay or making a trip inland to visit the hill tribes of Sa Pa. Both of these excursions can be organised for you by your Tour Leader. We hope you’ve had a blast on your great adventure!
Trip Frequently Asked Questions
- All transport by private vehicles and public transport
- Activities listed below
- Services of Xtreme Gap Year guide and driver
- Detailed predeparture pack
Included activities are as follows
- Datanla Waterfall entrance fees in Da Lat
- My Lai Memorial entrance fees near Hoi An
- Vinh Moc Tunnels entrance fees near Dong Hoi
- Entrance to the Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave, Phong Nha
- Boat trip to the Trang An Grottoes
- Guided city walking tour of Hanoi
- Accommodation (budget five pounds per night)
- Airport pick up
- Travel insurance