3 weeks in Vietnam - A couple of questions
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Dec 19, 2012 3:16 AM Last Post By: RichardNova
Dec 16, 2012 11:32 PM
3 weeks in Vietnam - A couple of questionsHi guys,
We start a 7 and a half tour of SE Asia at the beginning of February in Vietnam, where we hope to spend 3 weeks. I have done plenty of research into what to do in the north, and know what I want to do, but I have a few more detailed questions to ask, if that's ok.
1) Train to Sapa
We will be arriving in Hanoi at around 7pm. We're quite keen to spend the first few days in Sapa, but only if we can catch the night train on the first day. How fully booked are these night trains? And, assuming no delays, how easy is it to get to the train station from Hanoi airport? Can we book it for the same price before we leave for Vietnam, or do we have to wait until we get there?
2) Tour in Halong Bay
We're keen to go on a 3 day/2 night tour between Cat Ba island and a boat tour. The itinerary for Vega Travel looks great, but I'm finding it difficult to really find out if they are any good without the answer being from a Vietnamese tout. Can any reputable members confirm that it's a reasonable tour group? I haven't widely researched it but the tour looks good for the price.
3) Hanoi during Tet.
Initially we were hoping to start travelling south around the 10th of February. But, since it's Tet, I'd like to know how easy travelling is during this period. Is everything at a standstill for a few days? Or just on the 10th? How far in advance should I consider booking things?
4) Open Tour Buses
Has anyone taken these? Or could it be better just to DIY and get a bus when you go somewhere? Money is an issue, but we're not penny pinching in the extreme.
5) Negotiating prices in Vietnam.
Is this generally done in English? Or should I take a calculator or something for the motos?
We're thinking three days in Hanoi, three in Halong and a couple in Sapa before moving down south. Is that too little? Would anyone recommend moving down south later than 8 days? We have a couple of stops before we hit HCMC and the Mekong delta in the south. 21 days is probably the limit in Vietnam.
Thanks for any replies, appreciate it :)
Dec 17, 2012 1:03 AM
It take you about 45 mins from Airport to Hanoi center (except rush hour, it takes about 1hour or more). So if you arrive Noi Bai Airport at 7pm, you can go directly to train station and take the train to Sapa departuring at 9h50 pm. Price for airport pickup and dropoff is about 30-40 USD/2 way. You can arrange a reture one in advance.
For tour in Halong bay, you can book one 3 day 2 night on cruise and some offer trip to Cat Ba Island. Some suggestion: V-Spirit, Dugon, Dragon Cruise, or Bhaya, Indochina junk...
Tet holiday start from 10 and people return to work in 18 Feb. During Tet, taxi still work but with higher rate. You'd better book fixed things in advance to assure everything going as you expect.
In Vietnam, you should as for bargain in Markets, shops ... especially in Tet Holidays.
If you need any further information, feel free to contact me.
Dec 17, 2012 2:20 AM
Dec 17, 2012 4:00 AM
We went on a 3 day/2night Halong Bay cruise with Paloma, who were very good - they didn't go to Cat Ba Island though.... (that was last month).
I would book trains in advance, if you can, because we spent a very umcomfortable 19 hours on the train from Danang to Saigon in seats, because the sleepers were fully booked. I wouldn't attempt an overnight train without booking at least a hard sleeper!!!
You won't need a calculator it's usually all done in English with dollars and dong.
Dec 17, 2012 4:59 AM
Dec 17, 2012 5:34 PM
5I would like to give you some advices:
1. Train to Sapa. If you arrive in Hanoi at 7pm, sometimes it takes you 30mins to get your luggage and another 45mins to go to train station. Just take a taxi form the airport 1 way for 15$ only. So if everything go like this then you can catch a night train at 21h50. But if something go wrong and you will not do it. And if your date is on friday, saturday , normally all tickets are sold out.
So my idea is you can stay in Hanoi for a night. And you can try the morning train from Hanoi to Sapa at 7:00am. This is the local train so there is only seats available , no bed but you can see the landscape on the way.
2. Tour to Halong Bay.
I recommend you to try with Trekking Travel cause this is the only organizer in Hanoi has there own Buses, Boats, and the private bungalows resort in Monkey Island. They are not the greatest organizer but their services are good and value for the money. 3 days tour in this organizer only cost you about 105$.
The Vietnam Opentours also owns 1 bungalow resort in Catba island and Halong Imparial boats are good,too.
3. Hanoi During Tet
Every things will close during Tet from 9th to 11th of Feb. Except some special restaurant open during Tet for special price. So i'd like to recommend you to go to some countryside during Tet and enjoy the Tet with the local family. The closest countryside in Hanoi and popular for many Western people to hide away during Tet is Mai Chau. The people there are very friendly and they will welcome you as the family people, invite you for meals, and visiting around with no cost.
4. Trains, Bus ticket around Tet. Even for Vietnamese people. We also have to book the ticket in 3 months before cause there is no ticket available during Tet. The open bus is very good and cheap to travel in Vietnam but every Bus organizers dont accept the Open ticket cause they dont have enough space for travelers. On 10th trains and bus doesnt depart. after that 11 and 12th are available for you to go and the traffic is not so busy cause the local people still busy at home. But from the 13th to 25th it will be hard to find a ticket. You will have to go to the bus station to buy the ticket for a short distance only.
5) Negotiating prices in Vietnam.
In the big cities like Hanoi - Sapa - Halong - Hue - Hoi An - Nha Trang -Ho Chi Minh you can negotiate 20-30% on the total amount. But outside of them when you go to a local shop not for tourist so you dont need worry. Sometimes you get a cheaper price than Vietnamese people cause they are happy to see Foreigner (Tay).
You should have a small calculator and all type of cash in Vietnam like 1000d to 100.000d in your pocket so it helps you to communicate with the non speaking English sellers on the str.
Dec 17, 2012 8:20 PM
Dec 17, 2012 11:00 PM
Dec 18, 2012 10:51 AM
8Vega Travel was recommended to me by a friend of a friend who was living in Hanoi. She'd refered it to many people all of who were totally satisfied. I was also very happy with everything about their tour as was everyone on my boat.I hadn't planned to go to Sapa but I had a few extra days at the end of my trip so I called them from Hue and arranged it without asking any details as I trusted them. I was quite happy with that tour also. Of course others may have had less enjoyable experiences but I have personally heard only good things about them.
IMO trying to get the nite train to Sapa the same nite you arrive is risky. Only if everything is on time will you be able to make it and even then it's quite possible there are no berths available.
Dec 18, 2012 5:28 PM
9Cheers jacko, yes I think we will leave Sapa for a few days. Our plan now seems to be Hanoi 1st-4th, Halong 5th-7th, Sapa 8th-10th. Problem is, it may be very difficult to get back from Sapa at that time. or will it be easier, as people are moving the other way?
Would it be better to get to Halong earlier, then Sapa, before coming back to Hanoi before the 9th? That way, at least we will be a little more central during Tet.
Dec 18, 2012 5:49 PM
Dec 18, 2012 6:01 PM
11Can't advise you about Tet but you should try to book it as soon as you arrive in Hanoi or possibly before. You might want to think about getting the nite train to Sapa the same day you return from Halong Bay...maybe you already have. Can't really tell from the dates.
Dec 18, 2012 6:12 PM
12Yeah I think that's basically what I'm thinking. I would rather book then as it seems that booking over the internet costs a lot more (train wise) than booking at the station. I'd rather turn up, and get stuff booked at offices when we arrive.
Still, never like to go to a place uninformed, which is why I love this forum! Thanks guys :)
Dec 18, 2012 7:32 PM
13If you're still looking for tour booking info, you can try my friend Nhung at the Hanoi Old Town Hotel . She has been booking tours for the Rendez-Vous Hostel for a few years and has a lot of good contacts with reputable tour companies and can get you a quality tour for the right price.
Her English is quite good and she's very knowledgeable of the options you can take for each destination.
Have a great trip!
Dec 18, 2012 8:22 PM
14If you're booking a tour to Sapa ( which I would recommend but is totally possible to do on your own) the train will be part of it. Even if you don't book a tour there whoever you use for the Halong Bay trip can book the train to Sapa for you. It will cost a couple extra $ (or so) but worth it imo. They give you a voucher which must be exchanged for the actual ticket at the train station.
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