How to Find Great Budget Tours in Vietnam (and not get ripped off!)

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How to find budget tours in Vietnam, without getting ripped off!

 

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.

Budget tours in Vietnam are worthwhile looking into. Tour packages are seductive and tour operators are everywhere, vying for your business. Ordinarily, 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.

How to find budget tours in Vietnam

What I loved aside from the value of a good budget tour, was that it took the stress out of transportation and hotel research so I could enjoy Vietnam without the worry. In all cases, it even turned out cheaper than if I planned it myself!

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 (www.thesinhtourist.vn)  & Delta Adventure Tours, who offered well-serviced tours at great prices.

You can also safely book Mekong Delta & Saigon tours here.

2.   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.

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!

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 and they were right!

 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 a common saying.  But in Vietnam, paying for an expensive tour, does not actually guarantee you a better tour. I took a few group tours I bought either, through my hostel or a local tour agent.  I  was sold a tour package at a much cheaper rate than travelers, who booked that exact tour through their hotel. 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.    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.  When I arrived, I didn’t find one 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:


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50 Comments. Leave new

All the information coming out about tours is that you should book them in Vietnam. Now by doing that am i leaving myself open to missing out on tours i want to go on as they are could be booked out ?

Reply

Hi Christine, so nice to read your blog. Lots of information on how to book a good tour in Vietnam. Just one small question on when you wrote this blog. Is it very recent? We plan to be in Vietnam from end October till end November and are desperately seeking for a reasonable priced tour to either Ha Giang province or Sapa. Internet prices thus far vary from $ 400 till $ 700 a person for a 5 day tour. After reading your blog I think the best is to book locally in Hanoi. Do you have any experience with guided tours to Ha Giang? Thx, Br Ruud

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Hey! I was wondering what was the name of your hotel? I would like the book the exact tour by just asking them.

Thanks.

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We’ve been getting a lot of signs that we need to visit Vietnam. We’ve heard about accommodation/rent being cheap but never made the connection that it could be an all-around inexpensive place to see (assuming it can be expensive if you want it to be). ‘Eat cheap, and eat well!’ may have just sold us 🙂

Reply

hi christine,
you travel blog is fantastic and the information you provide is great!
may i check with you, shall i book the tour when i in HCM or book via the Sinhtour before I reach?

have a goo day!

Reply

Great to see your Tips on Vietnam

Reply

Great tips! I have plan to visit Vietnam in this June 2016. so your post will help me a lot.

Reply

    Hey man! How are you? Am planning a trip in June as well. Getting into Ho Chi Minh on 21st June . Would like to know more from you as this is my first backpacking trip. Buzz me

    Reply
Avatar
Melanie Pierluigi
April 19, 2016 11:39 pm

Would you recommend “Kangaroo Cafe”? Their website constantly goes on about their good prices but I’ve heard mixed things….

Reply

Hi Christine,

I booked tours in Thailand previously. Although they were cheap but it was a horrible experience (a large number of people as a part of the tour, 1 hour time to experience the surroundings, rude tour guide etc). How do you differentiate the good tours vs the bad ones that are sold in vietnam? My fear is if I booked it there, I’m signing up to be a part of a tour that’s as large as 50 people! What are your recommended tours for SaPa and Ha long bay?

Reply

hi christine ka”aloa
we are a couple age 59yrs old want to do a trip off vietnam & cambodia.for 27 days do you think we should book a tour with the agent in vietnam or book our hotels on line & than in vietnam book all our tours. whic is the best & cheper way off planing our trip. thank you

Reply

Hi!
I love your videos. My girlfriend and I are traveling to Vietnam in April and want to do a two night cruise around Ha Long Bay. Your videos say it is much cheaper to book in Vietnam. Do these overnight boat tours fill up quickly? Or is it safe to wait until we get there to book the two night tour when we arrive (we have a pretty tight travel itinerary).
Thanks,
Gareth

Reply
    Avatar
    Christine Kaaloa
    February 7, 2016 2:14 pm

    @Gareth: I can’t make that personal call for you, as I never took an overnight cruise to Halong. Halong Bay is popular but there’s certainly more than one boat tour. A day’s advance booking at the least. Two days advance for that cruise is ideal.

    Reply

Hi Christine!

I’ll be traveling solo to Vietnam next month and I find your blog posts so useful. I have booked a really expensive tour for Ha Long Bay tour on the internet when my friend who went there a few weeks ago assured me that I could get much cheaper tour on the spot.

Anyway, thank you so much for your posts.. I’ll definitely make them as my reference before going there.

Happy traveling! 🙂

Reply
    Avatar
    Christine Kaaloa
    November 27, 2015 7:51 am

    @Marya: Tours in Vietnam are cheaper than tours in Thailand and that’s saying a lot! Wait till you get there and go to the agencies on foot. Even your hotel might sell you a tour at a higher rate than someone who when direct to price shop at travel agencies. You’ll feel ill when you notice the difference.

    Reply

Great tips! I’ll be traveling to Vietnam from Luang Prabang on Monday and am considering taking the overnight train to Sapa and again to Hanoi if the weather doesn’t call for too much rain. But for Hanoi, would you recommend booking only first night and then coordinating tour of Mekong Delta for next few nights upon arrival? I have come to embrace flexible scheduling, but have been traveling for a while and am mildly concerned about having a place to store my luggage (large backpack & small wheelable). Thans!

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