When I travel, I’m a tourist and a traveler.
Although I like schedule time to get lost and wander the streets of a city, I also enjoy a good tour, which whisks me away and takes the stresses of planning a day’s itinerary and transportation, off my shoulders.
Vietnam’s budget tours, I discovered, are worthwhile looking into. Budget tour operations in Vietnam are seductive and tour operators are everywhere, vying for your business. Online, you might pay over a couple of hundred dollars for a one or two day tour that picks you up from your hotel. But walk into Vietnam and sign up for a budget tour and you will easily find yourself paying a fee as low as $20 for an all-inclusive overnight package. Yes, Vietnam can offer you jaw-dropping prices, all-inclusive packages and the promise of a good English-speaking tour guide, for prices you might think were a scam.
What I loved aside of value was that it took the stress of haggling guess-work and transportation and hotel research out of my hands so I could enjoy Vietnam without the worry. In all cases, it even turned out cheaper than if I planned it myself!
Here’s some tips on how to find good budget tours in Vietnam (without getting ripped off!)
1. Book your tours and transportation tickets in Vietnam
Booking tour and bus tickets never felt so easy as when I was in Vietnam. There’s a ridiculous variety to choose from too. Go to the Old Quarters in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and there will be signs, pamphlets, wall-to-wall tour operators at your disposal, all offering tours with scanty prices. The prices run cheaper than what you’d find online and you can find group tours with little to no single supplement mark-up. Tour prices start at $7.00 USD. I took tours from both, Sinh Tourist & Delta Adventures, who offered well-serviced tours at great prices.
2. Shop around for prices
It’s been my shoppers rule to never take the first offer. Believe me, you’ll feel sick when you see that tour cost cut in half at the agency down the block! Prices on the internet are going to be high, so I wouldn’t use that a figure to make comparisons. Find a few agencies to get quotes from, so you have an idea of the real going rate.
3. Your hotel or hostel can be a tour agent.
Hotels will help outfit you with a tour . As their name and reputation depends upon it, it stands a good chance the tour will be good. You can book either, a personal guide or group tour. Meanwhile, hostels and guesthouses often deal with budget tours, due to the needs of their backpacking clientele. Often, their markup is very little to none. My hostel in Ho Chi Minh City booked me two-day tour of the Mekong Delta. My hostel assured me they were very good. My hostel was right!
My package included:
• An English-speaking guide
• Accommodation: A newly remodeled hotel stay, which served free breakfast
• Number of cities : Three
• Transportation: three types of boat rides down the Mekong Delta, spacious A.C. buses, a bike tour
• Sightseeing: A floating market, visit to a rice paper and a coconut candy factory , a rice mill, a bike stroll through a Mekong village, etc….
It cost $19 ! I don’t think I’ll be going to a concierge anytime soon.
Room accommodations for a two-day/one night tour to the Mekong Delta.
At the rice paper factory. Woman making rice paper;. Below, our guide tells us about the process.
4. Hold realistic expectations.
“You get what you pay for” is the saying about budget tours. But in Vietnam, paying for an expensive tour, doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a better tour. Whaaa?…
I took a few group tours I bought either through my hostel or a local tour agent. In all instances, I was sold a budget tour package at a much cheaper rate than travelers, who booked that exact tour through their hotel or another agent. In fact, we were on the same tour. They just paid more for it.
Of course, you have to be realistic also. If I pay for a budget tour that costs something crazy like $20 for a full day tour, which provides a hotel, I don’t have grand expectations for it outside what I paid. Although Vietnam can surprise you. It did with me.
Do you get what you pay for? Apparently, not always. Some of us cheap-o’s get more.
5. Shop around
Shop around with a few agencies before settling on one.
Get as much information as you can about what you’re being sold and the ballpark rate for it. Trust your gut. It always knows best.
6. Beware of counterfeit agencies
Vietnam has a lot of counterfeit agencies (aka copy cat agencies that steal customers from reputable agencies). For every reputable agency there’s a swarm of mock companies disguised with the same name and logo, hoping to lure in the business of unsuspecting tourists.
Sinh Tourist Cafe is a well-known Lonely Planet recommended operator that travelers go to. I booked a Sapa trekking tour with them and took a shuttle direct from the Hanoi airport to their street. Imagine my surprise, when I didn’t find Sinh Tourist Cafe, but five, each brandishing the same business sign! Two of them were located next to each other and sitting directly across of the real Sinh Cafe! Fortunately, I researched the address to know better.
Outside the Sinh Tourist, Hanoi (the real Sinh Cafe); Inside Sinh Tourist, HCMC
Watch my Top 5 Tips for Traveling Vietnam: