Solo travel in Vietnam: DIY or via a tour agency ?

Recently we have received some instant messages from solo travelers that how they can arrange a sightseeing by themselves to Ninh Binh, Halong bay and Mekong delta in a cheap way. Our answer is simple: The easiest way to save cost is booking a local travel agency instead of doing everything by their own. It also brings the convenience, quick tour information and safety on tours. We are NOT advertising ourself. We are telling you the fact about these 3 most popular destinations of Vietnam.

1. Solo travel to Halong bay

As former tour guides to Halong bay years ago, we have our own comparison how much if we travel alone by ourselfves vs. how much if we join in a group tour. The conclusion is it’s better to save cost and maximize the visiting time by joining a group tour. Yes, group tour costs you less, or at least, the same, to traveling by yourself.

For example:

Traveling solo, you can take a local bus from Hanoi to Halong bus station @ 90,000 VND + a taxi from Halong bus station to Halong boat wharf @ 50,000 VND, so 90 + 50 = 140k VND in total. Even in this case, you still forget 1 thing: you have to pay for taxi transfer from your hotel in Hanoi old quarter to Luong Yen bus station, which costs you about 60k VND more/ 1 way (We assume you stay in a hotel in Hanoi Old quarter like other tourists).

If joining a group tour, surely the shuttle bus ticket included, and it costs only 5$ (~ 105k VND) 1 way. It’s also more convenient – you also save time coz the bus picks you up at your hotel inside Hanoi Old quarter, then goes straight to Halong boat wharf. This is a cheaper way both in terms of money and time.

Regarding the Halong tour, if you book tours via a travel agency, a Halong 1-day tour costs 35$/pax only. This group tour is all-inclusive: lunch, English speaking guide, cave entrance fees, boat fees, and 2-way transfer Hanoi – Halong – Hanoi by tourism shuttle bus.

Let’s compare this in case of solo travel:

  • 2 ways by Kumho bus (the bus photo is in the header of this article) = 290k x 2ways
  • Boat fee rental (private boat) = 300k/hour x 4 hour boat trip = 1,200k
  • Entrance fee to Halong bay = 170k/ person
  • Entrance fee to 1 cave = 50k/ person
  • Lunch on boat = 150k/ person (minimum). You can’t bring your own sandwiches to the boat otherwise you will be charged as corkage fee.
  • Tour guide = 0 (possibly you don’t need)

=> TOTAL by yourself = 2,150k VND = 100 $

Now clearer. 35$ is less than 100$. In addition, it’s wise to recognize 35$ includes English speaking guide, while 100$ does not. Even you enjoy 2 days, 3 days or 4 days in Halong bay, our conclusion stays the same.

2. Solo travel to Hoa Lu – Tam Coc (Ninh Binh province)

The Hoa Lu – Tam Coc 1-day tour is nearly the first travelers think about when Halong bay faces the typhoon which prevents all the boats to go off-shore. It’s also one of the first group day-tours local agencies have sold since 20 years ago.

A Hoa Lu – Tam Coc 1 day group tour costs 30$/person. Like most of other group tours we’re selling, 30$ includes lunch, English speaking guide, cave entrance fees, boat fees, and 2-way transfer from your Hanoi hotel by shuttle bus.

Again, let’s get insights into the travel cost in case of solo travel:

  • 2 way taxi Hanoi hotel – Giap Bat bus station (Southern Hanoi, about 10km from Hanoi old quarter)  = 120k x 2 ways = 240k VND
  • 2 way local bus from Giap Bat bus station to Ninh Binh bus station = 90k x 2 ways = 180k VND
  • 2 way taxi from Ninh Binh bus station to Tam Coc (12km) = 120k x 2 ways = 240k VND
  • Boat rental (private boat) in Tam Coc = 330k/ 1 boat/ 2 hour boating
  • Entrance fee to Tam Coc = 30k
  • Entrance fee to Hoa Lu = 15k
  • Lunch = 120k VND
  • Guide fee = 0 (you don’t need a tour guide).

=> TOTAL by yourself = 1,155,000 VND ~ 55 $

Again, you see group tour (30$) costs less than solo travel (55$). It’s a guided tour from Hanoi, and you won’t get in headache when changing taxi to bus, bus to taxi continously. A guided tour from Hanoi to Hoa Lu – Tam Coc is more convenient, and costs less.

3. Solo travel to Mekong delta

Let’s take our 2 days/ 1 night Mekong delta homestay tour @ 66 $/ person/ 2 days (wow, do you see it’s very cheap?). This tour includes pick-up & see-off from your hotel in District 1, Saigon, lunch, Vietnamese folk music performance, boat trip on Mekong river, honey tasting, fresh fruits, tour guide and entrance fees. Booking this tour means peace in your mind !

Traveling solo from Saigon to Mekong delta takes much time than you thought. Which boat company in My Tho is trustworthy ? Where to disembark the local bus in My Tho city and how to get to the boat wharf from My Tho bus station ? Is the homestay in Mekong delta safe and clean to stay 1 night ? How to get in touch to local people during traveling solo ? To collect such a bunch of answers are not difficult, but it takes much time. We can say it’s wasteful if you spend the whole week to get full information for a 1-day trip.

Now let’s return to cost breakdown. Here is the outline:

  • 2 way taxi from your hotel in District 1, Saigon to Western bus station (Ben Xe Mien Tay) = 150k x 2 ways = 300k VND
  • Local bus from Saigon’s Western bus station to My Tho bus station = 60k
  • 2 way taxi from My Tho bus station to My Tho boat wharf = 40k x 2 ways = 80k
  • 2 way Bus My Tho – Can Tho = 100k x 2 ways = 200k
  • Private boat rental in My Tho = 450k/ 1 boat
  • Homestay in Vinh Long = 600k/ 1 room/ 2 people = 300k/ 1 person including dinner
  • 1 breakfast + 1 lunch = 100k (yes, if you don’t eat much)
  • Fresh fruit, honey tasting, drinks, miscellanous … = 100k

=> TOTAL by yourself = 1590k VND ~ 76 US$.

Yes, 66 $ vs. 76$. Booking a 2 days/ 1 night Mekong delta tour via travel agency saves you 10$ than traveling solo.

Solo travel in Vietnam – Conclusion

Why all group tours are so cheap ? Remember they are GROUP tours, which means the travel cost will be shared among the group members. Therefore, the individual cost is minimized. Moreover, more people join the group tour, more fun the group tour is. If you need a suggestion how to travel CHEAP to Halong bay, Ninh Binh and Mekong delta, we recommend you surf our website then you can see how we’re organizing traveling groups at a very cheap price.

About VCP

Welcome to the home of creative travel to Vietnam & Cambodia. We help your holiday preparation more effective by creating informative, flexible and smart consultancy.

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