Settling into this Southeast Asian country for quite some time but still, you feel like you haven’t known much about it? If this is the case, then we recommend you try out some expat tours in Vietnam! In this guide, we’ll tell you why you should do so, give you tips on choosing a decent expat tour, and finally present to you a breakdown of must-visit landmarks in the country.
We believe it is human nature to want to develop a sense of belonging anywhere we go, especially where we are poised to stay for a significant period of time. Vietnam is a friendly and hospitable country, so you may feel welcome here already, but even so, it is certainly a rewarding experience to gain a deeper insight into the country of great history and diverse culture. Traveling, especially the kind of travel that involves going to museums, cultural sites, and famed food corners, is a wonderful mean to this end since only when you travel can you have direct exposure to the local lifestyle and people, getting to know them in a personal way.
And while it can be a piece of cake to search online for where to go and what to try in Vietnam, it is hard to anticipate what risks and problems you may run into if you travel without a local expert. That’s why we would highly recommend booking an expat tour with a trustworthy organization. This way, you get a worthwhile local experience free of scams and annoyances, and above all, you get to discover off-the-beaten-path destinations that would not be as easily approachable otherwise.
What’s even more exciting is that for some companies you can customize your own adventure! And this is only possible for companies that provide private tours with professional local guides.
Needless to say, the service provider is the number one factor to look at before jumping on the tour. Firstly, a reliable tour company should provide transparent information about itself (contact info, its core values, and policy) and an explicit introduction about its featured tours on its official website. Secondly, credibility. You can tell if a company is worth your trust or not from reading testimonials from previous customers. Notice how they talk about their impression about the company’s tour guides and staff members, and you can have a feel about whether that company is for you.
While researching what’s fun in Vietnam, you might develop particular interests and want to know more about certain aspects than others. So make a note of that, and also see how much time you can arrange for the trip to decide which tour best (Half-day, One-day, or Multi-day) suits you.
Money is certainly an important matter but you should never roll eyes at any ostensibly “expensive” tours before deciding whether the price commensurates with the service. Surely you want to save your budget from hurting too much but beware of budget or cheap tours because the real cost may not be so tangible.
Spreading from north to south with relatively modest width but incredibly diverse landscapes, the area of Vietnam is agreed by most locals to have 3 major regions (because strictly and geographically speaking, the number should be bigger) - North, Central, and South - each characterized by idiosyncratic geographical, historical, and cultural features.
Here’s an overview of each region with certain cities highlighted as we believe these cities can give you a glimpse of what Vietnam is all about, even though there are many other cities with their own beauty.
A land that harbors breathtaking natural beauty and elegant people. Go to Sapa in the humongous mountainous region of North West to see ethnic people in their colorful brocade outfits, to jam along in a lively local festival, and to admire the tantalizing staircase paddy fields in disbelief.
Staircase paddy fields in Sapa
Then you can travel eastward to the capital city Hanoi in the area of Red River Delta, sample Vietnamese cuisine at its best. Stroll along the charming Old Quarter. Meet the people who, with agreement by most of their fellow countrymen, have the best fashion sense in the country and who are apparently aloof but in fact very polite and helpful.
Hanoi the capital city in a big national celebration in 2014
After this, gift yourself a day of peace and tranquility in the emerald waters of Halong Bay to the North East. See for yourself how wondrous Mother Nature is in crafting spectacular limestone islands. Then perhaps grab a bite of the unique squid sausage (cha muc). Enjoy its chewiness and tastiness!
Halong Bay in Quang Ninh Province
The central land is the land of beaches, highlands, and resilient people. Hardly a year goes by without natural disasters striking the central coast. Nonetheless, its buoyant people and its time-honored cultural heritage stand strong as ever. Go to Hue to see Vietnamese royal architecture of the past centuries, to experience culinary expertise of Hue people and to listen to their distinctive, melodious accent.
Or opt for Hoi An - the city of beauteous lanterns and warm-colored walls along the Ancient Town (which is, subjectively speaking, more bewitching than the one in Hanoi). Admire the quaint old-aged houses which are in fact inhabited by the contemporary people or house several current first-class restaurants. And by the way, Hoi An people’s culinary skills really rival with those of Hue people.
Now you may wonder where are the “beaches” we mentioned. Well, only a reasonable distance away, we have Da Nang and Nha Trang. Da Nang, invariably promoted across many local newspapers as the most livable city, embraces not only pristine beaches but also state-of-the-art bridges and amusement parks rarely seen anywhere else in Vietnam. Also featuring immaculate coastal curves but the beauty of Nha Trang begs to differ (check out the link to see for yourself), and religion seems to be more salient here too.
Check out Multi-day coastal adventure to Mui Ne, Da Lat, and Nha Trang.
Lastly, the “mountains” as aforementioned. Tay Nguyen, or Central Highlands, occupying a mammoth portion of the Central area, is the home to multiple ethnic minorities and exceptional musical instruments of Vietnam. Compared to those in the North West, ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen appear to favor simpler and more subtle brocade clothing styles. Definitely worth a visit.
Hue - the old royal city
Hoi An - the city of lanterns and wishes
Young smiley kids in Tay Nguyen, or Central Highlands
South Vietnam is the region of lowlands, tropical fruit plantations, and generous people, housing Ho Chi Minh City - the hub of all important economic and cultural activities, or the super-popular holiday haven - Vung Tau City. The southern accent is charming, much loved by the northern residents for some obscure reason, and the culture and history are no less significant than the other two regions. However, if you want to know the color of South Vietnam in all honesty and at its utmost, visiting Mekong Delta is a must. Find out how people can establish an entire market afloat or construct their own settlements just some feet above the water surface. All those unthinkable feats get very real once you get to the delta of countless rivers and channels.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the busiest city in Vietnam
A floating market in Mekong Delta
Check out our private motorbike tours with professional local guides
Weather varies among different regions, but generally, the sun is pretty harsh since Vietnam’s a tropical country. Sunscreen is thus very much advised. Suitable wear is also important like hat and long-sleeved to protect your skin from intense sunlight or comfortable shoes and socks if you spend more time traveling on foot. Eating is another matter to account for. Although Vietnamese cuisine generally has the power to cater to even the pickiest diner, sanitary procedures at certain eateries and in the water system can be a problem, so look before you eat. Pharmacies are quite ubiquitous, by the way, so don’t worry too much.
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Well, this may be redundant because if you’re willing to hit the road, surely you are willing to learn and welcome differences or cultural discoveries. So just an endearing reminder from us to you. Make friends and learn new things along the way, like very basic Vietnamese, bargaining skills, or the art of crossing the streets in Vietnam.
Vietnamese people are in general very easy-going and do not get offended easily, which is due in part to the fact that a large part of the population does not have a formal religion. Never be shy to ask and relish your journey.
There’s a famous Vietnamese proverb that says “Only a day trip is enough to earn a ton of wisdom and enlightenment”. And we think the saying holds true in many cases. If you actually look to feel at home in this lovely country, do hit the road! And do it with a local expert.