Tips for TripADeal Tours to Vietnam

Tips for TripADeal Tours to Vietnam


Posted 2024-03-31 by Nadine Cresswell-Myattfollow
Local dish of rice flour and sweet lentils served at breakfast. Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

TripADeal offers seemingly too good-to-be-true deals. So many people consider booking their tours. I have just returned from a Vietnam Foodie Tour to Vietnam, so I wanted to answer some questions people may have about tours to this exciting, vibrant destination and about using TripADeal as a tour company more generally.

Typical market scene - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

Before I do, the trip to Vietnam was wonderful for the price. I am a seasoned traveller, so do not bestow this evaluation lightly. The beauty of the tour was the upfront pricing that included international flights, accommodation, internal flights, all transport, and most meals (although this was a foodie tour), the ever-helpful and knowledgeable guides, and the unfailing punctuality of being met at airports.

Dinh our first lovely guide- Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

And the 13 days included so much! We got to experience Hanoi and Halong Bay, including a night on a traditional junk boat, modern Danang with its impressive buildings and beach, historical Hoi An, ancient Hue and modern Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a sampan trip down the Mekong Delta and a stay at Can Tho.

- Our second lovely guide in traditional local dress -photo Greg

My praises also fit with other comments I have heard about Tripadeal Tours. I have friends or family who have taken TripADeal trips to Borneo to see wildlife and been on cultural tours of Japan, and my son and his partner used it to visit South Korea. All remarked that the hotels were of a good standard and that their trips ran smoothly.

Spa bath in our cabin Halong Bay Chinese Junk Boat

Hotel accommodation TripAdeal -photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

But my intention is not to detail the tour but to provide answers to questions other prospective Tripadeal travellers might have.

What is TripADeal's booking process like?

When a deal sounds too good to be true, people tend to grab it before it disappears. But instead of acting rashly, read all the material first because you need to know exactly who is going and their preferences. Later changes incur $100 for each change. So, for indecisive people who chop and change, this can get expensive.

Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

As the cost of these trips is relatively cheap and includes airfares, you might wish to use the tour as a springboard to enter your chosen country. You can then go earlier or stay later. In most cases, you can do this for thirty days on either side. But decide before you book.

Who Should Do the Booking?

Choose your group's most organised, level-headed person to handle the booking. TripADeal deals with one person in each booking, which helps them streamline the process and keep costs down.

That means you won't be emailed individual airline tickets, for example, and you have to rely on your organizer to send you updates and changes.

Airline tickets are on the online booking, but unless the person who books the trip shares the password with you, you have to rely on them to print out boarding passes and to pass on the information. Similarly, if a hotel is changed at the last minute, only the person booking the trip will have that information.

Should You Buy or Not Buy Extra Activities?

These tours set a busy schedule. Occasionally, there is a half-day or an evening with free time. At such times, optional tours are offered at an extra cost.

If you know you wish to do these, you can book and pay for them when making your original booking.

Because someone else was handling my booking, and I didn't want to stress them with too many requests, I did not book any extra tours before leaving. I did have FOMO, fear of missing out. But having travelled in Asia before, I figured, and I was right, that it might be easy enough to organise tours when there.

Me doing a coffee tour of Ho Chi Min

The TripADeal guides were happy to book the tours for those who had not booked before leaving. For example, I did two additional tours, which I asked the guides to book 24 hours beforehand: the Royal Cooking Class in Hue and a coffee tour of Ho Chi Min. The costs were on par with what was initially being asked.

Royal Cooking Class in Hue - Yes the carrots were hand-carved Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

If I had been super-organised, I could have shopped around more, but the guides were so good I didn't bother with the few dollars I saved booking them myself.

An optional dinner not included - Luke Nygyen's restaurant- Vietnam House Restaurant Ho Chi Min

Is it worth paying for a single supplement?

TripADeal's cheap prices are based on twin-share accommodation. This is great for couples or if you are travelling with a friend. Solo travellers need to pay extra to have a room to themselves. One way around this is by finding travel using a Facebook page like this .

Hotel -Hoi An Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

Usually a solo traveller, on this occasion, I shared with a friend of a friend. One doesn't spend much time in one's room, so sharing wasn't an issue. I'm normally a late-night person, so it was good for me to share with someone who wasn't. It meant I got plenty of sleep.

Plus, I shower at night, and they showered in the morning. So, it was a workable situation.

As for being an early riser, we all tended to get up early because of the time difference and the early start time for some of the busy days.

If you plan on sharing with someone you don't know well, it helps to chat beforehand about some of these issues.

What are the hotels like?

All the hotels we stayed at were of a good standard—not five-star, but certainly around three or four. They were all centrally located near banks, ATMs, and convenience stores.

Dining room onboard a traditional Chinese junk Halong Bay

Do you have to tip the guides?

Australians aren't accustomed to tipping, and it doesn't come naturally to us like it does for other nationalities, such as Americans. But while the guides receive a wage, they also rely on tips; the amount is spelt out in the TripADeal paperwork. For example, on our trip, it was $7 a day for the tour guide and $3 for the driver. Once you see the traffic conditions with millions of scooters to navigate through, you'll realise why the driver's tips are well-deserved.

Will you get sick?

Maybe. If you ask a doctor before you leave, they will tell you the rules. Don't drink the tap water or even use it to clean your teeth. Be wary of ice in drinks and salad vegetables that may have been washed in the local water.

Some people followed these rules to the letter, even refusing ice in upmarket hotels. Interestingly they were the ones who seemed to get ill.

So perhaps it was the change in diet. Maybe they had a simple diet at home and were unaccustomed to some of the different foods and spices. As someone who eats a multicultural diet in Australia, I didn't get ill. And when I say ill, it was generally only 24 hours of an upset stomach and a day of rest.

Trying out the local fruits

What pharmaceuticals should you bring?

The trick is to think ahead and bring every medication you might possibly need—in small quantities, of course. Gastro Stop is the obvious one. I should have brought Kwells Travel Sickness chewable tablets, and I was fortunate my roommate had some, as I stupidly looked down too much at my phone on the bus.

Also, bring Betadine in case you graze yourself and carry bandaids in case your shoes rub. No abrasion should be left untreated.

I got a red heat rash on one leg and some swelling. In retrospect, I needed to drink more water, although bottled water was freely available on the bus throughout the trip. The tip is to drink, drink, and drink some more—water, that is!

Someone in my group suggested I take antihistamines, which helped with the rash--another item to add to your list.

A few people in the group also got sore throats, which the change in air quality may have caused due to the volume of traffic in larger Vietnamese cities. Those who are particularly sensitive should wear masks when out in the streets. I noticed a few of the locals riding scooters wore masks as well. Betadine Anesthetic Lozenges or Strepsils are a good things to pack for sore throats.

Thankfully, a couple of nurses in our party packed a pharmacy. So, err on the side of caution and bring items with you. If you don't need them, someone else will. And it is good to be prepared.

Da Nang had an impressive beach that went for miles - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

How easy is walking?

Walking in Vietnam is not straightforward.

If you have been to Bali, you may have seen some motorbike riders riding on the pavement during peak hours.

I didn't see this happen in Vietnam, but parked bikes blocking the pavement were a given. Every few metres, you need to step around bikes; if you can't, you must step onto the road to get past them. So, walking from A to B is never straightforward.

I've heard about the traffic how do I cross the road in Vietnam?

One of the things most of us were nervous about was crossing roads in Vietnam. A Vietnam local told us the following story, and it sums up—Vietnamese traffic. "I was riding my scooter and stopped at the red light. The man next to me just went straight through. The police stopped him and asked, "Why didn't you stop.?" The man replied, 'I didn't see". The policeman said, "You didn't see the red light?" No, he replied. "I didn't see you."

Yes, traffic in Vietnam is a free-for-all. But somehow traffic in Vietnam works. Most of it moves slowly because there is so much of it, especially millions of scooters. Because there is so much of it you can't wait for a break in the traffic to cross the road. Instead, you step out and become part of the flow. It's like Moses parting the Red Sea; the traffic doesn't stop but moves around you. That is why you must keep walking at the same pace and not suddenly stop or dramatically quicken your pace.

After a while, crossing a road in Vietnam becomes second nature.

In tourist places such as Hoi An, traffic entering the area is subject to various weekend curfews. So, authorities are working on the problem.

What size suitcase should you take?

Those who took small suitcases benefited. If you could wheel your luggage, life would be easier, and there would be no need to tip luggage carriers endlessly.

It's cheap and fast to get washing done. Look for the small laundry near your hotel. There will be one. That way, you are also helping out someone in the local community, not just the workers in the large hotel who are on a better wage.

- the one-woman-operated local laundry where she weighs your washing before doing it- a shopping bag full costs a couple of Australian dollars

Phone Cards / Grab Rides

A few people on my trip bought e-sims, readily available online. You can buy these online before you travel and start them up when you arrive. Check your phone's compatibility beforehand. My phone was too old to use one. Our first guide helped us with phone cards, purchasing and fitting them inside our phones. He suggested data only. If I had my time again, I would have bought a SIM at the airport as they are well-priced. Or at one of the many local tech shops near the hotels. My biggest regret was having data but no phone number. You need a phone number to book Grab in South East Asia. Grab is the equivalent of Uber. A few people who used taxis when they went off to a local market in Ho Chi Min had issues with being overcharged. So, with Grab, you know what you are paying upfront.

Grab offers cars and rides on the back of motorcycles. So double-check what you are organising.

How fit do you need to be to do this tour?

The tour I did was called a foodie tour. It was a small group tour with about twenty people—a mixture of couples, a few solo travellers, and girlfriends travelling in pairs. Most people were in their fifties and sixties. Most people on the tour had grown-up children and grandchildren despite many looking quite young.

The fitness level was good. There were no adventure activities, but there were expeditions such as walking up eight hundred steps to visit a cave in Halong Bay and a couple of short cycles of a few kilometres; one ride in Hoi An offered bike helmets, and one on an island did not. And that was the ride where two people fell off and had minor grazes.

All physical activities were optional.

Having arthritis and a hip replacement last year I soon realised there was much I could not do. But this made me the odd one out in this particular group. Lifting a fork on a foodie tour wasn't an issue, nor was walking, but some of Vietnam's lack of infrastructure was.

Staircases with handrails were the exception rather than the rule. This omission was understandable in historical buildings such as pagodas but also often in modern hotels. I was always ultra-careful, trying to avoid testing out my travel insurance.

In the last hotel in Ho Chi Min, I saw an older man (not in our party) fall. There was a rail in this case, but few people noticed it except me, as the staircase was wide and most people walked down the middle. He missed his footing, and though he only fell six or so steps, the staircase was so steep he head-dived, cracked his head on the pavement, and bled so profusely he was taken to the hospital for stitches.

I later discovered a lift, and you could walk out at street level through the basement. If you don't like steep steps without middle handrails, it is worth asking the hotel if there is an alternative route, as they don't readily think to tell you unless you ask. Also, make it known if you want something other than a step-over bath shower, as these are common, and the baths are very deep. My proactive roommate asked for a non-slip mat on Google Translate as it was not a usual request, so it needed some negotiating.

I was fortunate that the wonderful men on my tour helped me get on and off boats because the local way of getting on and off boats was often a makeshift step—usually an old stool or chair.

Onboarding Halong Bay- Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

Halong Bay was majestic, but the concrete steps for getting on and off the boats were diabolical. There were no handrails and many barnacles, making for uneven surfaces and rope tethers people had to step over.

Barnacles on steps make steep steps more difficult -Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

The Vietnamese look after foreigners with incredible care, and on some of these staircases, I noticed they made human chains to help tourists up the steps.

Some boats did have crews that created human chains on Halong Bay steps - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

But in terms of what we are accustomed to, there are lots of accessibility issues.

Halong Bay - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

Part of Vietnam's charm is the lack of regulations. And in some ways, they are way ahead of us.
For example, because of the deluge of scooters, they have a strict no-alcohol rule for riders and drivers. On small boats, life jackets seemed mandatory suggesting there was a fine in place here from authorities.

Halong Bay Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

But it's worth being prepared for some of the challenges you may experience.

Putting it all in perspective this was an amazing tour and exceptional value. TripADeal is not in charge of things that make travel in Vietnam challenging such as chaotic traffic and accessibility issues. And if Vietnam became as highly regulated as our society, it would lose some of its charm. That said, a few more handrails wouldn't hurt.

TripAdeal bookings for Vietnam

Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt

281110 - 2024-03-19 03:30:33


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