hi catherine here,
I am planning a trip to vietnam in september from ho chi min to hanoi taking in sapa and hanlong bay. Has anyone done this trip, could it be done on our own or do we need a group tour. It is our first time to travel asia, so any tips or help would be apprecisted
My friend and I were in the same situation. We were first going to do a tour with Intrepid because we also have never been to Asia. But then we got to look at some travel guide books and decided that they should help us out enough to do it without a tour group. We just thought we would go along the same route, but if we want to see other things, we will be able to.
Its definately quite easy to do on your own. Depending on your budget you can make your way around quite easily using either bus or train or both. The open bus tours are probably the easiest and cheapest way to do this and gives you the most flexibility. You can organise ticekts for this at any travel agent in Ho Chi Minh city. But yeah... you will not have any problems going it on your own. Vietnam is an extremely easy place to travel and you will probably have more fun if you are not burdened by the schedule of an organised tour...
Do it on your own is cheaper. I arranged my trips to Halong Bay and Sapa once i got to Hanoi. A 2 day trip to both places cost me (including transport, accommodation,and in Sapa a local H'mong guide), costs about $40 US.
Independant tour is always EZ and cheap.
Pre-arranged tour cost may be higher, but you could prepare everything before departure from visa to hotels, vehicle, boat.
You could take this tour -snip-
[ Edit: sorry, no promos in the forum please. ]
And make sure you shop around when you are organising it or talk to other backpackers and get advice on where they did it because price varies considerably from agent to agent and the packages they offer are all the same. I didnt do this and payed about $15 too much to go to Halong Bay..