South East Asia Uncovered
from $4550
Duration: 22 Days
Travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, experiencing the delights of northern Thailand, the laidback river lifestyle of Laos and the cultural richness of Vietnam. From the bright lights of Bangkok to the age-old charms of Luang Prabang and the buzz of Hanoi, join us on a voyage of discovery and relaxation. Travel down the mighty Mekong and become acquainted with the tranquillity of remote villages and friendly locals along the way. Sip coffee by the lake in Hanoi, stroll the pristine shoreline around Halong Bay, take in the charming old-world ambiance of Hue and marvel at the hectic pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that will introduce you to the delicious cuisine, friendly people, beautiful landscape and cosmopolitan cities of these fascinating countries.
  • This combination trip includes a section in Vietnam that is one of the most popular in the entire Intrepid range.
  • Travel by boat, train, plane, private bus, taxi and even on the back of a motorbike!
  • Settle in for the night and experience overnight train journeys in both Thailand and Vietnam, set off from Bangkok and Hanoi and wake up ready to explore Chiang Mai and Hue.
  • The two day boat journey down the iconic Mekong River passes incredible rural scenery and is one of the must-dos to truly experience South East Asia
  • Sample local food wherever you go, from a seafood dinner on Halong Bay, street snacks at markets, a meal at a buddhist nunnery, coconut candy and tropical fruits in the Mekong Delta, and a final dinner at KOTO restaurant.
  • There are many chances to do good while you travel, like visiting the organisation COPE, dedicated to helping those injured by unexploded ordinance.
  • The perfect blend of included sights and free time to make your own discoveries in some of our favourite destinations, like Hoi An and Luang Prabang.
  • Have expert advice on hand the whole way with an experienced local leader to help you get the best out of your time in each country.
  • Discover the mysterious beauty of the Lao jungle as you walk side by side with recently rescued elephants on stroll through their natural habitat.
  • Rise with the sun and watch saffron-robed monks shuffle between houses, where the faithful wait with offerings as part of an alms giving ritual.
  • Bangkok - Khlong boat canal tour
  • Bangkok - Wat Pho
  • Chiang Mai - Doi Suthep temple complex
  • Mekong River - 2 day boat trip
  • Luang Prabang - Pak Ou Caves
  • Luang Prabang - Kuang Si Waterfalls
  • Luang Prabang - Alms giving ceremony
  • Luang Prabang - Laos Buffalo Dairy social enterprise visit
  • Luang Prabang - MandaLao Elephant Conservation trek
  • Vientiane - COPE visit
  • Vientiane - Wat Si Saket
  • Hanoi - KOTO dinner
  • Halong Bay - Overnight Boat Cruise
  • Halong Bay - Cave entry
  • Hue - Royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc
  • Hue - Highlights & back streets by motorbike (lunch included)
  • Hue - Thien Mu Pagoda
  • Hoi An - Old Town walking tour
  • Ho Chi Minh City - War Remnants Museum
  • Ho Chi Minh City - City tour
  • Day 1 Location: Bangkok
    Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok, is famous for its tuk-tuks, khlong boats and street vendors serving up delicious local food. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, if you arrive earlier, why not venture out into this enigmatic city. Bangkok has so much to offer those with time to explore, so perhaps arrive a day or so early to uncover the Chinatown area, visit the magnificent (but very crowded) Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, wander down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road, indulge in a Thai massage or see the backstreets of Bangkok by bike on an Urban Adventure. Find out more at urbanadventures.com. After the meeting tonight, gather your fellow travellers together and tuck into some into world famous street food for our first optional dinner.
    Day 2 Location: Bangkok - Overnight train
    Begin the day with a 1-hour river cruise down the Chao Phraya River to explore the famous ‘khlongs’ (canals). Life along these canals seems a world away from the chaotic streets of the capital. Pay a visit to Wat Pho, one of the Bangkok temples, with a 46-metre long gold-plated Buddha reclining inside. Even the feet of this statue are incredible, three metres long and intricately decorated with mother of pearl. The temple grounds are equally fascinating, filled with beautifully decorated stupas, halls, and shrines. This evening you’ll head north to Chiang Mai on an overnight train journey, accommodated in a sleeper carriage (approximately 13 hours). The carriages are air-conditioned, with bunk beds; clean sheets, blanket and pillow are provided. Your baggage travels in the carriage with you. There is a food and drink service available on board. Sometimes the air conditioning can make the carriage quite cold so you may want to bring a warm layer of clothing.
    Day 3 Location: Chiang Mai
    The most vibrant city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has many famous temples and an interesting old city area. Renowned for its lively cafe scene and extremely welcoming locals, this place captivates many travellers. First, embark on a scenic, winding drive up a mountain (around 45 minutes) to one of the country's most stunning temple complexes, Doi Suthep. A 300-step naga-guarded stairway leads you to the temples, and the climb is well worth the effort. The hypnotic atmosphere of chanting Buddhist monks and sweeping views of the city make this a most memorable experience. After making our way back down from the temple, check in to the hotel and plan the rest of your time here. In the evening you can choose to wander through the enormous, colourful Night Bazaar or perhaps relax at a fine restaurant along the riverfront. Make sure to sample some delicious traditional northern Thai food – the signature dish is kao soy, yellow wheat noodles in a curry broth, traditionally served with chicken or beef.
    Day 4 Location: Chiang Mai
    Today is free for you to explore and there are plenty of optional activities available. Perhaps join a local cooking class today and discover the secrets of real Thai cuisine, you'll learn the key ingredients, how to use them, and what to use in their place if you can’t get them at home. As well as taking your own comprehensive recipe book with you after the class, you'll feast on the fruits of your labour for lunch. Get active with a bicycle tour to discover the city and surrounding countryside from a different perspective, or be spirited away on an early morning Chiang Mai tour that puts you at the epicentre of Buddhist rituals. Learn to meditate, offer alms to monks, and make an offering at a temple. Also popular is the Jungle Flight ziplining and the lovely Elephant Nature Park.
    Day 5 Location: Chiang Khong
    Take a journey through rural countryside to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong (approximately 5.5 hours). Formerly known as 'Juon', peaceful riverside Chiang Khong remains an important market town for the surrounding hill tribes and for trade with Laos. Stretch your legs with a stroll around town, and if you find yourself with time, then Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Luang are both well worth a visit while you’re here. Tonight, why not enjoy a final Thai drink and dinner, while Laos beckons from across the mighty Mekong.
    Day 6 Location: Mekong River - Pak Beng
    After crossing into Laos and for the duration of our time in the country we will be joined by additional Laos guides – a government requirement. Board a slow boat for the 2-day journey down the mighty Mekong River to Luang Prabang. The journey is relaxed, so you can experience the slow pace of village life and the breathtaking scenery along the river up close. The river boat is basic in nature, with a toilet, covered roof, and open sides to take in the fresh air. There are seats in the front of the boat and a small open area in the back where you can have a nap on the mat, play cards, read or have lunch. Dock at the small town of Pak Beng (after about 6 hours) to spend the night. Hmong and tribal Thai people are frequently seen on the main streets, where vendors sell local textiles and handicrafts.
    Day 7 Location: Mekong River - Luang Prabang
    Reboard the boat and cruise to the Pak Ou Caves. An important religious site overlooking the river at the junction of the Mekong and Ou Rivers, the revered Pak Ou Caves consist of two sacred limestone caverns filled with Buddha images of all styles and sizes, brought by devoted villagers over the centuries. The lower cave, known as Tham Ting, is entered from the river by a series of steps and can easily be seen in daylight. The higher cave, Tham Phum, is deeper and requires a torch for viewing. Continue on to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang (approximately 7 hours total journey time). This atmospheric World Heritage-listed city is a favourite of many travellers. Nestled in the hills of northern Laos on the confluence of the Mekong and Khan rivers, the city is claimed to be ‘the best preserved city in South East Asia’ by UNESCO. The city and its people retain a refined, yet relaxed, air and it’s a wonderful place to wander the streets into boutiques, cafes and small shops. Stay in a hotel tonight and if you are feeling energetic, climb Mt Phousi for some sunset views – the large hill that dominates Luang Prabang's skyline, topped by a glittering golden stupa. You can climb the 328 zigzag steps up to the sacred gilded stupa and big drum of the Phu Si Temple for a panoramic view of Luang Prabang and its surrounds.
    Day 8 Location: Luang Prabang
    Once the heart and soul of the ancient Lao Kingdom (Lan Xang) and designated a World Heritage site in 1995, Luang Prabang is endowed with a legacy of historic red-roofed temples and French-Indochinese architecture, not to mention some of the country's most refined cuisine, a multi-ethnic population and rich culture. Rise with the sun this morning and witness a traditional alms giving ceremony. View the procession of saffron-robed monks on their daily outing collecting food offered by devotees, a practice that dates back centuries. The offerings must be collected early, as the monks cannot eat anything after midday. By giving food to a monk, it is believed you ‘het bon’ (make merit) which will be carried over into the next life. Your leader will guide you through the do’s and don’ts and help you to take part in this alms giving tradition. Return back to your hotel for breakfast and a free morning. In the afternoon, head south of town and stop for a sweet (socially responsible) treat at Laos Buffalo Dairy, an enterprise that works with the surrounding villagers by renting their buffalo, in order to produce delicious products including yoghurt, cheese and ice cream. The Dairy ensures a regular income for locals while ensuring the buffalo and their calves are well looked after. Why not contribute to this local business by purchasing an ice cream! Continue on to the beautiful Kuang Si Falls, a picturesque, multi-level cascade that offers fantastically blue pools that are perfect for a mid-afternoon dip. Back in Luang Prabang this evening you’ll have free time to make further discoveries, including visiting the popular night market.
    Day 9 Location: Luang Prabang
    This morning, experience a wonderful local elephant project in nearby Mandalao that will give you a new perspective and profound understanding of these magnificent beasts. Discover the mysterious beauty of the Lao jungle as you walk side by side with recently rescued elephants on stroll through their natural habitat – a perfect way for these happy creatures to enjoy their freedom after decades of hard labour in logging camps. Begin by leaving Luang Prabang for the village of Xieng Lom (approximately 30 minutes) before taking a quick boat ride across the Nam Khan River where you’ll be introduced to your new gigantic companions. Feed them some special treats (a sure way to win their friendship) followed by a gentle, therapeutic walk, that offers you the opportunity to absorb their calming energy as you wander along a small dirt path through the surrounding flora and fauna, past traditional farms and the Huay Nok stream – where you may be able to spot elephants splashing around in the water as they cool off from the hot Lao sun! As you prepare to start your walk back to Mandalao, say goodbye to your new friends. Return to Luang Prabang in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
    Day 10 Location: Vang Vieng
    Take a private minivan through dusty villages and winding mountain roads to Vang Vieng (approximately 7 hours). The mountain scenery is impressive, but the road can be rough, especially as attention is now being diverted from maintaining the roads to building the new railway from China. Situated on the Nam Song River, Vang Vieng is surrounded by towering limestone karsts and is a great place to enjoy being out in and surrounded by nature. After checking in to the hotel, use tonight to plan out your next few days with your group and leader.
    Day 11 Location: Vang Vieng
    There’s plenty to do in and around Vang Vieng, known as an adventure town thanks to its unique and varied surrounding country. The area is renowned for its caves, many of which are easily accessible from the town. Perhaps the most famous is the cave of Tham Chang, a beautiful cavern fed by a natural spring making it a perfect spot for a refreshing swim. Hire bicycles to explore further afield, hike the trails to nearby lookout points, join a day trip to go kayaking on the river, or you can visit an organic mulberry farm just outside town and enjoy a meal there.
    Day 12 Location: Vientiane
    Continue by private minibus to the country's capital, Vientiane (approximately 3.5 hours). Possibly Asia's most laidback capital, even here everything seems to be conducted at a relaxed pace. Vientiane has a wealth of cultural delights to discover on foot, or for the less energetic, by jumbo (tuk-tuk). Faded colonial mansions, tree-lined boulevards and old temples create an atmosphere of timelessness, particularly in the older part of town along the Mekong River. Pay a visit to Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple still standing in Vientiane and home to almost 7000 Buddha images. Visit COPE vistors centre, an organisation dedicated to assistance those who have been injured by the multitude of unexploded ordinance across the country. This is an excellent cause and a chance to educate yourself about Laos' devastating war history as well as buy a snack or drink from their Karma Cafe. This evening, maybe join your fellow travellers for dinner tonight.
    Day 13 Location: Hanoi
    We fly from Vientiane to Hanoi (approx 1 hour) Please note you will be unaccompanied on this flight. In the arrivals hall of Hanoi Airport you will be met by an Intrepid representative, who will take you to your Hanoi hotel. The flight usually arrives into Hanoi in the late afternoon. As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers. The welcome meeting is followed by a group dinner at KOTO restaurant. This organisation is dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of disadvantaged youth.
    Day 14 Location: Halong Bay
    Travel by private minibus to World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, which is dotted with sandy coves, grottoes and 1600 limestone islands formed over millennia by wind and water erosion (approximately 4 hours). Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring Surprise Cave and perhaps even enjoying a swim from Ti Top Island Beach during the warmer months. Access to Surprise Cave is via staircases. Once inside the cave the pathways are a little uneven and slippery. To end the day, spend an evening aboard the boat beneath the night sky. What better way to get to know your fellow travellers than an old school sleepover in an unforgettable location?
    Day 15 Location: Hanoi – Overnight train
    Return by boat to Halong Bay. At approximately midday, return to Hanoi by bus. Arrive late this afternoon and enjoy free time until tonight’s train voyage. Be sure to grab a bowl of pho while you’re in town and slurp down this local specialty made from broth, noodles and meat. Maybe chill by Hoan Kiem Lake until you board an overnight train to Hue this evening.
    Day 16 Location: Hue
    Arrive in Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel. Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. Enjoy free time in the morning to rest or explore. If you choose the latter (and who can blame you) the bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the specialties that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables like banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling city-within-a-city which contains the remains of temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
    Day 17 Location: Hue
    See Hue like a local – from the back of a motorbike! Straddle the saddle and whiz around town with a local guide, taking in historic and contemporary sights along the way. Stop at Thanh Toan to see the 18th-century covered bridge and villagers shopping at their local market. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda and see the car that belonged to Thích Quang Duc, the monk who self-immolated in 1963 in protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. For lunch, savour a vegetarian feast in a nunnery. Finish at the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to town.
    Day 18 Location: Hoi An
    This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass (approximately 3 hours). After a photo stop en route, arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully-preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town to visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
    Day 19 Location: Hoi An
    Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Maybe browse the cobbled streets and art galleries or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Maybe browse for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shophouses. If you’re craving a new look, you could pay a visit to one of the hundreds of tailors and get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
    Day 20 Location: Ho Chi Minh City
    Today take a short, early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1.5 hours). Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, take a sightseeing tour around the city by bus. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, then stop in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the 20-year-long Vietnam/American War.
    Day 21 Location: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City
    This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a private boat to Ben Tre to visit the coconut gardens and stop at a local home to sample tropical fruits and coconut jams. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past coconut trees along the Mekong Delta. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages and learn about rural life and the industry created around coconut products like brooms and coconut fibre mats. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the Delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous elephant ear fish. Cruise the major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier, then return by bus to Ho Chi Minh City. This evening, perhaps head out to sample some local specialties as a final farewell with your fellow travellers and leader.
    Day 22 Location: Ho Chi Minh City
    There are no activities included and you’re free to depart your accommodation at any time as long as you comply with check out time. If you would like to spend some more time in Ho Chi Minh City, we’re happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability). Ask your group leader or booking agent for more recommendations or help booking an Urban Adventure if you plan to stay.
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    16DEC2020
    Return Date:
    06JAN2021
    4745NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    23DEC2020
    Return Date:
    13JAN2021
    4775NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    26DEC2020
    Return Date:
    16JAN2021
    4775NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    02JAN2021
    Return Date:
    23JAN2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    16JAN2021
    Return Date:
    06FEB2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    23JAN2021
    Return Date:
    13FEB2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    30JAN2021
    Return Date:
    20FEB2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    06FEB2021
    Return Date:
    27FEB2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    13FEB2021
    Return Date:
    06MAR2021
    4915NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    17FEB2021
    Return Date:
    10MAR2021
    4730NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    24 Sep 2020

    Trip title

    South East Asia Uncovered

    Trip code

    TLSXC

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    Travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City, experiencing the delights of northern Thailand, the laidback river lifestyle of Laos and the cultural richness of Vietnam. From the bright lights of Bangkok to the age-old charms of Luang Prabang and the buzz of Hanoi, join us on a voyage of discovery and relaxation. Travel down the mighty Mekong and become acquainted with the tranquillity of remote villages and friendly locals along the way. Sip coffee by the lake in Hanoi, stroll the pristine shoreline around Halong Bay, take in the charming old-world ambiance of Hue and marvel at the hectic pace of life in Ho Chi Minh City. This is an adventure full of beauty and contrast that will introduce you to the delicious cuisine, friendly people, beautiful landscape and cosmopolitan cities of these fascinating countries.

    Style

    Original

    Themes

    Explorer

    Transport

    Boat,Motorbike,Overnight sleeper train,Plane,Private Mini bus,Taxi,Longtail boat,Sampan,Tuk Tuk

    Physical Rating

    2

    Joining point

    Siam Champs Elyseesi Hotel

    160 Ratchadamnoen Klang Tai Road, Wat Borworn, Pranakorn

    Bangkok

    10200

    THAILAND

    Phone: 66 02 224 0141

    Joining point description

    This hotel is centrally located with many restaurants, bars and shops within walking distance. Rooms have a refrigerator, mini bar, private bathroom and shower. Every room is air conditioned and features a flat-screen TV. This hotel offers 24 hour reception.

    Joining point instructions

    Intrepid can assist with pre-booking an arrival transfer from the airport - enquire with your agent. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you have pre-booked an arrival transfer you will be met after exiting the Customs Hall. A transfer representative holding an Intrepid sign will meet you at Exit Door 4. If you cannot find your transfer representative, please go to the ATTA Counter (Association of Thai Travel Agents) near Exit Door 6. Ask them to call our transfer provider, World Travel Idea, on +66 81 658 2727 or +66 81 566 9324. Please note that neither the driver nor any representative should ask you for additional payment. Metered taxis are available outside the airport entrance on the 1st floor. Exit the Customs Hall, go down to the 1st floor and leave the airport at Gate 3, 4, 7 or 8. You will find a table with a “metred taxis” sign. The taxi fare will be the metred fare plus a surcharge of THB50-THB75 (depending on the driver’s use of toll roads). The total fare will be approx. THB400. Pre-paid taxis are also available, where you will be given a docket to pay the driver a set price of THB700. Please avoid taxi touts who tell you that they have a metered taxi parked outside the airport.

    Finish point

    Queen Ann Hotel

    86-88 Bui Thi Xuan Ben Thanh

    District 1

    Ho Chi Minh City

    VIETNAM

    Phone: +84 839254444

    Fax: +84 839259007

    Finish point description

    Located in Ho Chi Minh City Centre and District 1, Queen Ann Hotel is a 10-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market. Tan Son Nhat International Airport is a 20-minute drive away. Queen Ann Hotel features rooms with flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. http://www.queenannhotelvn.com/en/

    Finish point instructions

    A metered taxi from the hotel to the airport will cost approx. US$10 (VND200,000) and take approx 45 minutes (depending on traffic). A departure transfer from our hotel to the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your trip start date. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid. If you have booked a post trip airport transfer, please ask your leader to confirm with our local operator the time of departure and meeting place. If you have any problems please call our hotline at +84 903 117 770. Check-out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.

    Important information

    1. Please provide your full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport), for internal flights and train tickets. Ticketing fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing a new ticket. 2. A single supplement is bookable on this trip with exception of Days 2 & 15 (Overnight train) and Day 6 (Pakbeng) and Day 14 (Halong Bay boat), subject to availability.Day use rooms are also excluded. 3. This trip includes a domestic flight. Checked luggage allowance is a maximum 20kg, with up to 7kg carry on luggage. Any excess luggage charges will need to be paid directly to the airline at check-in. 4. As this is a combination trip made up of some of our most popular itineraries the composition of your group as well as your leader may change.

    Group leader

    All group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

    Safety

    Most national governments provide regularly updated foreign travel advice on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all destinations and activities on your trip. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trips here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/travel-alerts We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however, during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests or relax and take it easy. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Intrepid's operational safety policies can be viewed on our website at the link below. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how safety is being managed on our trips.

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safety-guidelines

    FIRE PRECAUTIONS: Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms. SEAT BELTS: Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts. PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY: While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing. MOTORBIKE BAG SNATCHING: Be particularly aware of motorbike bag snatching, especially in the bigger cities.

    BICYCLE HELMETS Bicycle helmets are not provided on the optional cycling activity in Vang Vieng. If you wish to wear a bike helmet we recommend you bring one from home.

    Visas

    As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required. Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends. PASSPORT You will need a valid passport to travel internationally. As a general rule, most countries require that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets exactly and contact us immediately if there are any errors. We recommend taking copies of the main passport pages and other important documents with you as well as leave copies at home with family or friends. VISAS Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time. It is important that you check your government's foreign travel advisories along with the consular website of the country or countries you are travelling to for the most up to date information specific to your nationality and circumstances. Please be aware that not all visa information found online from other sources may be valid while COVID-19 restrictions are in place. Visas can take several weeks to process, so make sure you research the requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for obtaining any necessary documents as well as the application and processing time. Your booking consultant can advise on a visa processing service or you can apply yourself directly through a consulate. Below you will find general visa advice about the destinations on your trip. Due to constantly evolving COVID-19 requirements and restrictions, please refer to your government's foreign travel advice for most up to date information. THAILAND: If entering by air most nationalities will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival. If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (some exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border. If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country. LAOS: We ask all our travellers to obtain their Laos visas at the border, and NOT in their home country prior to travel. When the whole group does this together it allows us to cross the border more efficiently and to minimise delays. Please ensure that you have at least 1 passport photo and up to US$45 cash for your application. Please provide your sales agent with accurate passport details prior to the departure of your trip as these details will be passed on to your leader to help speed up the process. Those without a photo, or who are arriving on a weekend, holiday or after hours, will have to pay an additional one or two dollars. All visa fees are payable in cash only. VIETNAM VISA: Most nationalities are required to obtain a tourist visa in advance to travel to Vietnam. An eVisa is available for some nationalities including passport holders from Australia (from 2018), France, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, valid for a single entry of a maximum of 30 days stay in Vietnam. For information on obtaining an eVisa visit the immigration website: https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/ Evisas take up to 3 days to be processed. You will need a clear electronic copy of your passport data page and passport photo, and to make a non-refundable payment as outlined on the immigration website. Keep the customs and immigration form you receive on arrival, as you need it to complete exit formalities on departure. Some nationalities are exempt from visas for a stay of a maximum of 15 days, including British, German, French, Spanish and Italian citizens travelling to Vietnam (for all purposes). This exemption period is currently effective until 30 June 2021, and is based upon meeting all conditions prescribed by Vietnamese laws. If you are planning on staying in Vietnam for longer than 15 days you will need to obtain a visa extension in advance (please contact your relevant Consulate or Embassy). Please also check requirements if you plan to re-enter Vietnam. If you are obtaining a tourist visa in your passport from an embassy or consulate, you should allow 3 weeks for processing. The cost is approximately US$60 to US$100. Please check with your embassy or consulate for further requirements. If your visa application asks for a point of contact, please write: Intrepid Vietnam 5th floor HiPT Building, 152 Thuy Khue Street, Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi, Ph +84 4 3715 0996. Most nationalities do not require a letter of invitation for Vietnam but if you do need one, please contact your sales agent for more information. BORDER CROSSINGS: Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip: Day 6 Thailand to Laos The Thailand border is Chiang khong The Laos border is at Houy Xai Day 13 Laos to Vietnam We fly from Vientiane Airport, Laos to Hanoi Airport, Vietnam To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website useful - http://www.timeanddate.com

    Why we love it

    This combination trip includes a section in Vietnam that is one of the most popular in the entire Intrepid range.

    Travel by boat, train, plane, private bus, taxi and even on the back of a motorbike!

    Settle in for the night and experience overnight train journeys in both Thailand and Vietnam, set off from Bangkok and Hanoi and wake up ready to explore Chiang Mai and Hue.

    The two day boat journey down the iconic Mekong River passes incredible rural scenery and is one of the must-dos to truly experience South East Asia

    Sample local food wherever you go, from a seafood dinner on Halong Bay, street snacks at markets, a meal at a buddhist nunnery, coconut candy and tropical fruits in the Mekong Delta, and a final dinner at KOTO restaurant.

    There are many chances to do good while you travel, like visiting the organisation COPE, dedicated to helping those injured by unexploded ordinance.

    The perfect blend of included sights and free time to make your own discoveries in some of our favourite destinations, like Hoi An and Luang Prabang.

    Have expert advice on hand the whole way with an experienced local leader to help you get the best out of your time in each country.

    Discover the mysterious beauty of the Lao jungle as you walk side by side with recently rescued elephants on stroll through their natural habitat.

    Rise with the sun and watch saffron-robed monks shuffle between houses, where the faithful wait with offerings as part of an alms giving ritual.

    Is this trip right for you

    We cover a lot of distance on this trip, including overnight trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Hanoi to Hue (each approx 12 hours). Compartments are on a mixed gender basis and you may be sharing with locals or travellers from other groups. For more about what this experience is like, see our blog posts here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/what-to-expect-on-an-overnight-train-in-vietnam/ https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/overnight-train-travel-around-the-world/ The sightseeing tour by motorbike in Hue is great fun with bikes driven safely by professionals (and helmets provided), but alternative transport can be arranged for those who would prefer not to travel by motorbike. Depending on where you come from, the weather on this trip might be hotter and more humid than what you are used to. We recommend checking online for what the typical temperatures will be at the time of the year you are looking to travel to see what to expect - this website might be useful: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/vietnam/weather-in-vietnam Laos is less developed than many other South-East Asian countries. The roads can be bumpy, delays are common, and accommodation can be basic but always clean and comfortable. A little bit of patience will go a long way towards your enjoyment of this beautiful country! Due to dam construction upstream, water levels aren't as reliable as in previous years. When the Mekong River is at its lowest from February to April, part of the journey may occasionally need to be made by land.

    Health

    GENERAL HEALTH All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to manage and enjoy our style of travel. Please note that if in the opinion of our group leader or local guide any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, we reserve the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained while travelling. Below you can find some further information about health issues relevant to the destinations visited on this trip. COVID-19 The safety and wellbeing of our travellers, leaders, crew, staff, and suppliers continues to remain our highest priority as we travel. You can read more about how we will keep you safe on our trips, including our COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/safe-travels We will not require a negative COVID-19 test before joining a trip unless it is a requirement of entry for the country. If you are unwell prior to travelling, please stay at home and contact us to make alternative arrangements. At the group meeting, you will be asked to complete a self-screening health form and report any COVID-19 symptoms as well as any close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed COVID-19. If you are displaying any symptoms or have any health concerns at this time, we will follow the advice of local health authorities to determine whether medical assistance, isolation or further action is required. We ask all travellers to continue to monitor their health throughout their travels and report any relevant symptoms to their tour leader. MOSQUITO-BORNE ILLNESSES: Mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis are widespread in South East Asia. Malaria is also prevalent in some regions, particularly along the borders in mountainous regions. Take preventative measures such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn. Seek medical advice prior to travel for medication or vaccination advice. ZIKA VIRUS: There have been reports of transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in this region and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, we recommend all women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant to consult with their doctors before booking their trip. AIR POLLUTION AND SMOKE HAZE: Bangkok and other Thai cities experience high levels of air pollution, which may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. These can be particularly high between the months of December and February. Smoke haze, which usually occurs across parts of north and north-east Thailand during March to April, can also aggravate these conditions. Regular air quality reports are available from the following website http://aqicn.org/city/bangkok/

    Food and dietary requirements

    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. INCLUDED BREAKFASTS: At hotels you’ll often have a buffet with choices of Vietnamese and Western food. At homestays you will have more basic breakfasts of local foods, eggs, bread, jam, tea and coffee. Take away breakfasts for early starts may be very simple such as a piece of fruit and a bread roll. DIETARY REQUIREMENTS: Check out this guide to eating in Vietnam for vegan, vegetarian, gluten & peanut free travellers: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/vegan-vegetarian-gluten-free-vietnam/ FOOD ALLERGIES: Travelling in South East Asia with a food allergy? We have some advice for you here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/travelling-food-allergies-south-east-asia/

    Money matters

    SPENDING MONEY When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget an appropriate amount for things like optional meals, drinks, shopping, optional activities, and laundry. Make sure you have read the itinerary and inclusions thoroughly so you know what is included in the trip price and what you may need to pay for while travelling. We recommend USD460.00 for meals not included. The official currency of Thailand is the baht (THB). The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via ATMs which are available in most towns and cities. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange. Clean bills in small denominations are most useful. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels and more upmarket shops and shopping centres. LAOS: The official currency of Laos is the Kip (LAK), however, USD are also widely used throughout Laos. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Visa cash advances are available in major banks, and ATMs are present in most towns. The use of credit cards is restricted mainly to major hotels, more upmarket shops and shopping centres. VIETNAM: You can use your credit/debit card in ATMs, which are common throughout Vietnam. These machines dispense cash in VND (Vietnamese dong). Credit/debit cards aren’t accepted for small payments in Vietnam so please ensure you have VND cash to cover daily expenses. Clean banknotes in small denominations are most useful. There is no need to bring lots of cash with you unless you prefer not to use ATMs. You can obtain VND cash prior to arriving in Vietnam, through normal outlets such as banks and currency exchange offices.  TIPPING Tipping can be an appropriate way to recognise great service when travelling. While it may not be customary in your home country, it is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many of our destinations and is greatly appreciated by the people who take care of you during your travels. It is always best to avoid tipping with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes, as this can be regarded as an insult rather than the goodwill gesture it is intended to be. OPTIONAL TIPPING KITTY On Day 1 of your trip, your tour leader may discuss with you the idea of operating a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and your tour leader distributes tips for drivers, local guides, hotel staff and other services included on your trip. This excludes restaurant tips for meals not included in your itinerary. The leader will keep a running record of all monies spent which can be checked at any time, and any funds remaining at the end of the tour will be returned to group members. We have found that this is easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Participation in this kitty is at your own discretion, and you are welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer. Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your tour leader. Please note this is a combination trip made up of 2 sections. There will be the option of contributing to a group tipping kitty on both sections of this trip. Day 1 Optional tipping kitty for this section: THB 690 per person Day 13 Optional tipping kitty for this section: USD 20 per person YOUR TOUR LEADER You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$3-6 per person (in a currency relevant for your destination), per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length and involvement of your leader on your trip. CONTINGENCY FUNDS We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. We reserve the right to change an itinerary after departure due to local circumstances or a Force Majeure Event. In such emergency circumstances, the additional cost of any necessary itinerary alterations will be covered by you. Please note we are not responsible for any incidental expenses that may be incurred as a result of the change of itineraries including but not limited to visas, vaccinations or non-refundable flights. Make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last-minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result, there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however, local currency may be needed once in the country to cover these costs. COMMISSIONS Unfortunately, commissions in exchange for recommending particular shops or restaurants are an ingrained part of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye, we’ve tried to legitimise the practise with a centralised fund. Moneys are collected from recommended and fully vetted suppliers and funnelled back into our business. This keeps the trip cost low (for us and for you) and makes sure you only get the best experiences. If you’re unhappy with any places your leader recommends, or feel the quality of the trip is being compromised in any way, please let us know in your feedback.

    What to take

    What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg. Many travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller suitcases or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps or handles. If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks. A lockable bag or small padlock will be useful especially when travelling on public transportation as well. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water, camera, and jacket etc. when you’re exploring during the day. Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:

    https://www.intrepidtravel.com/packing-list

    INTERNAL FLIGHT LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE: Checked luggage allowance is a maximum 20kg, with up to 7kg carry on luggage. Any excess luggage charges can be paid directly to the airline at check-in.

    LOCAL DRESS: When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.

    WATER BOTTLE: This trip includes one or more sections in a private vehicle with a water dispenser. We encourage all our travellers to bring a refillable water bottle on your trip to help reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles.

    Climate and seasonal

    SONGKRAN FESTIVAL The Songkran Festival is celebrated to mark the New Year. The festival runs from the 13th to the 16th of April. Traditionally houses and villages are properly cleaned in preparation for the New Year, flowers are gathered to decorate Buddha images, young people pour water over the elders for good luck. Songkran Festival is often referred to as the “water festival” as it is now common to throw water over each other during the festival period. Our advice is to be prepared to get wet! Your leader will discuss the festival activities upon day one at the group meeting. LAOS FLOODING & LANDSLIDES: The rainy season in Laos normally runs from May to October, coinciding with the typhoon season in South East Asia. Mountain areas are particularly vulnerable to landslides in the rainy season and flooding may occur along the Mekong river basins and elsewhere. Occasionally roads between Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane may be closed suddenly due to road conditions. Should this occur, your itinerary may be rerouted to fly between destinations and you will need to use your contingency funds to cover the cost of this change. TET 11-16 February 2021, 31 January - 4 February 2022 Tet is Vietnam’s New Year festival which takes place in late January/early February based on the lunar calendar and is the most important celebration of the year. While this can be a fascinating time to be in Vietnam, you do need to be prepared for some businesses to be closed, tourist sites to be very busy and for transport to be packed as many Vietnamese are travelling around the country. Although we do our best to run trips during Tet as per the scheduled itinerary, it is likely that there will be some changes to transport, accommodation or order of destinations visited. Due to the high demand on tickets at this time, flights and overnight trains may on occasion need to be replaced with day buses. We will aim to communicate any known changes prior to your departure. CLIMATE & CLOTHING: For the majority of the year, the temperature in Vietnam is normally warm and humid, particularly from Hoi An southward. North of here, it can be cool between late November and March. If travelling at this time it is advisable to bring some some warmer clothing, particular if you plan to visit the Central Highlights or Sapa. WET SEASON: Flooding is common across Vietnam during rainy season (June-December) and could also lead to landslides. Typhoons are also common during this period. During these months there may be disruptions to transport and some activities or destinations may need to be changed as a result at short notice.

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. You must at all times comply with the laws, customs, foreign exchange and drug regulations of all countries visited, and you also agree to travel in accordance with our Responsible Travel Guidelines. The decision of the group leader is final on all matters likely to affect the safety or well-being of any traveller or staff member participating in the trip. If you fail to comply with a decision made by a group leader, or interfere with the well-being or mobility of the group, the group leader may direct you to leave the trip immediately, with no right of refund. We may also elect not to carry you on any future trips booked. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

    Feedback

    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time. For general enquiries or questions about your booking, please contact your agent or adventure specialist, or visit us at www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local operator on the number below. Intrepid's local Operator: +66 898 103 722 Intrepid's Vietnam Office: +84 903 117 770

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable, and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers, and staff are trained on these principles and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING: While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including World Animal Protection, advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately, many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive-bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/elephants-welfare

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/ Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Vietnam include: * Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis throughout Vietnam. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/blue-dragon-childrens-foundation * KOTO is a restaurant and vocational training program that is changing the lives of rural and underprivileged youth in Vietnam. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/koto For more information, or to make a donation please visit: https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/page/projects Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Laos include: * Mandalao Elephant Conservation Promoting ethical elephant care and creating jobs in the community. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/mandalao-elephant-conservation

    Accommodation notes

    OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on a different Intrepid trip than your own. CHECK-IN TIME Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination. PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (subject to availability), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. HOTELS: Most of the accommodation on this trip is in hotels (mostly 2 to 3-star). Facilities are often basic, with some properties not having a continuous supply of hot water on occasion. All rooms are either fan cooled or with air conditioning and twin share with private facilities unless stated otherwise in the daily itinerary. Double beds are not widely available in South East Asia. WINDOWLESS ROOMS: Some hotels in South East Asia have windowless rooms, or windows that don't necessarily have a view. This is often due to high population density in large cities, however local building standards also do not require rooms to have windows. We do request rooms with windows, however they aren't always available. DAY ROOMS & EARLY CHECK IN: Please note in some destinations we will provide use of day rooms. These rooms are provided for shared group use before or after overnight train journeys. We have some days where we arrive at our destination before check in time and a day room is not included. If you have booked a Single Supplement for your trip, it will not apply to these day rooms. Your leader may be able to assist you in booking a room for your sole use (depending on availability) until our regular trip rooms become available for an additional charge. Please talk to your leader at the Welcome Meeting if this is a service you would like to request.

    Transport notes

    OVERNIGHT TRAINS Overnight sleeper trains in Thailand are air-conditioned and have sleeping berths down both sides of the carriage. The carriage is multishare, with are curtains that close over the beds. A sleeping sheet and a pillow are provided, and our luggage travels in the carriage with us. There is a western and Asian-style toilet located at the end of the carriage, but no showers. Carriage lights staying on during the night, so an eye mask is a good thing to bring with you, as is warm clothes as the air conditioning can be cold. For more on overnight trains in Thailand and around the world: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/overnight-train-travel-around-the-world/ VIETNAM FLIGHTS: Please provide your exact name (including middle name) as per passport 45 days prior to your trip's departure date for flight tickets to be issued. Internal flights will be on the following safety audited airlines: Jetstar Pacific, Vietjet or Vietnam Airlines. UNACCOMPANIED FLIGHTS: During peak travel times your group may be required to travel on different flights at different times of the day, and you may be unaccompanied on the internal flight. In this case you will be assisted by additional tour escorts on departure and arrival. OVERNIGHT SLEEPER TRAINS IN VIETNAM: Compartments will be 4 berth to 6 berth depending on seasonal variations and the group configuration. We aim to secure 4 berth compartments where possible. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Passengers of different genders may be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. On occasion the group may be split between several carriages, however your leader will coordinate and give further information on the trip.

    Travel insurance

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all our trips for those travelling internationally. We require that at a minimum you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. If you are travelling within your home country or region please confirm before travel that you are entitled to access the public medical system easily should an accident occur. We strongly recommend all travellers have a policy that also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage or personal effects. For international trips, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24-hour emergency contact number has been sighted by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number, and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and your credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. Travellers who reside within the European Union or Switzerland receive basic international health insurance, so travel insurance is not mandatory under European Union Law. However, as this does not cover situations such as emergency rescues, private health care, or repatriation to their home country, comprehensive travel insurance is strongly recommended. European Union or Swiss travellers who decline travel insurance when travelling outside of their home region must sign a Travel Insurance Waiver Form at the Group Meeting. For assistance with travel insurance or other services, please visit the link below: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/booking-resources/our-services MOTORBIKE INCLUDED ACTIVITY: Please note that for this particular trip, your travel insurance must also cover riding pillion on a motorbike. The motorbikes used are 125cc or less.

    Your fellow travellers

    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons, we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SOLO TRAVELLERS This is the beauty of our style of travel: many of our travellers join because they are travelling solo and want to meet and share experiences with like-minded people. As a solo traveller, you will be paired up with another traveller of the same gender as per your passport information. Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour. Pre-trip and post-trip accommodation booked through us will on a single room basis. If you’re not comfortable sharing a room with someone of the same gender, you also have the choice to pay for a single supplement (available on the majority of our trips). If you don’t identify with the gender assigned on your passport, please let us know at time of booking and we’ll arrange the rooming configuration accordingly. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on an open gender, multi-share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Essential Trip Information.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any such changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested in the Group Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

    Accommodation

    Guesthouse (2 nights),Hotel (16 nights),Overnight boat (1 night),Overnight sleeper train (2 nights)

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