Itinerary: How to make a 4WD trip in Vietnam
On this incredible type of adventure, we make our way through the mountains, staying overnight in hotels and at the odd home stay, right in the heart of the Vietnamese Hill-tribe Villages. The tours are predominantly on tarmac and compacted dirt roads.
You will be driving a double cab pickup truck as Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux, they are all the new year model from 2014 – 2016. You will drive through some of Vietnam’s most spectacular scenery, through streams, shallow rivers and along narrow tracks and trails, (all optional) even suspension bridges and sampling some of the most incredibly delicious food in Asia whilst learning much about their culture and experiencing the very humble and hospitable nature of the Vietnamese people
Northern Vietnam is a mountainous region, sharing borders with Laos and China. This area is sometimes known as the Northeast and Northwest. It’s one of three sub-regions of northern Vietnam
With rugged terrain, Northern region has many mountains and large rivers. The Hoang Lien Son mountain range runs northwest-southeast, high as 1500m, 180 km long, 30 km wide, with a number of peaks over 3,000 m. Two major rivers, such as the Black River and Red River.
Northwest Vietnam is the best place to drive a 4WD car, as the scenery changes fast from one region to another and the road conditions are quite good.
ACCOMMODATION: Our accommodation is always of good standard. The hotels and home-stays are typically clean and friendly. You will experience the culture of this beautiful country first hand as the tour includes “home-stays” – this is where we get to stay in large traditional bamboo houses that accommodate large families. It is shared accommodation on these evenings, usually on the first floor accessible by a set of wooden steps. Comfy mattresses, privacy curtains and mosquito nets are provided along with clean bedding, showers and toilets.
DINNER: During the home-stay, we sample the delicious food, cooked by the owners, this usually consists of chicken and pork, rice, omelette, noodles, spring rolls and greens followed by fruit for dessert. During the evening we may be treated to some traditional dance from the local women in the village.
When in Hanoi or other larger city we are likely to eat out and other than on your rest day, your guide will take you either to a street restaurant or an indoor restaurant that serves excellent freshly cooked food and plenty of Beer and rice wine!
BREAKFAST: Each morning for breakfast we are treated to fruit, pancakes, eggs, bread etc. It’s all very delicious topped with a drizzle of fresh honey!
DAILY ROUTINE : Every day we leave at around 8.30 – 9.00 and head off in the car once they have undergone some maintenance from our local tour guide and his assistant. We spend the day stopping frequently to take photos, learn about the culture and told stories of the history that makes Vietnam so intriguing. You will get plenty of time off the car. When we first arrive in Hanoi, you have a free day to do as you please. Your local tour guide is on hand to advise and provide you with details on what you can do and see. We also have a day off in a Big City where you can have your clothes laundered if you wish, grab a massage and explore the region. You can also get a pizza or burger and chips here if you begin missing the typical diet of the Brits!
LUNCH: At lunchtime, around 12.00 – 13.00, we stop for about an hour and indulge in some noodle soup, rice, spring rolls, meat and other fine food, all freshly prepared for us. The food is clean and freshly prepared. After lunch, we head off again and may even take in some dirt tracks and narrow pathways, often crossing shallow streams and rivers, it’s all brilliant fun.
CAMERAS: By the end of each day, your camera memory cards will be bulging with photos captured and memories that will last forever.
COSTS: Vietnam is relatively cheap outside of the main cities, such as Hanoi. Lunch is approximately 3 – 5 usd each day and beer is around 1 usd a can. Fuel, breakfast and dinner (dinner excluded on the rest days) is included, as is airport transfers and car hire.
CAR INSURANCE : All of our cars have material insurance, however, we always have an agreement with all our customers that if you break it, you pay for it. This simply means if you hit a tree and break a wing mirror, you would be expected to cover the cost ($20 – 100). For any engine or tyre damage you would not be expected to pay as this is wear and tear
GETTING AROUND: Mopeds in Vietnam outnumber cars by approximately 300/1. This is due to zero rated tax on mopeds. As such it can seem hectic at first even crossing the road. The key is not to look and just walk slowly, seriously, they will move around you!!
Moped taxis are very common in the cities and charge around $5 for 15 – 20 mins journey but be warned, it can be quite daunting weaving in and out of the traffic hanging on for dear life!
Below are some types of questions that may help you about what to do before making a 4wd trip in Vietnam
Do I need a driving permit if I want to travel by car or motorcycle in vietnam,
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Is it safe to travel in Vietnam ? Can I travel solo?
Traveling in Vietnam is generally safe, you are probably safer anywhere in Vietnam than you are in most American Cities. In Vietnam, if natives are convicted of a crime like shoplifting it is an automatic three year prison sentence. With that kind of a consequence, stealing and petty crime are almost unheard of. It simply is not worth taking the chance. Furthermore, Communist prisons are not as user friendly as American prisons.
You can travel solo. Women and independent travelers have found it relatively hassle-free and easy to travel throughout the country. However, when traveling anywhere in the country, travelers should exercise caution and use common sense to avoid incidences of personal misfortune.
Planning a 4WD trip to some remote areas of Vietnam as a solo traveler might not be the best decision, primarily due to the need for special permits in the less well-discovered areas.
Take a guided 4WD tour from a tour-operator in Hanoi or Sai gon is the best way to discover the country as all the necessary paperwork can be looked after by the tour leader or local guide, they also play an important role when you have a conversations with the tribal communities.
What’s the best duration for a 4WD trip in Vietnam?
The perfect time frame to spend on the road is seven to nine days, depending on your driving skills and stamina. The wildest country lies atop the highest mountains, and they tend to be along the Chinese border. Our trips are always wide loops, so the longer the ride, the more chance we have at getting you deep into the most remote locales.
When is the best time to make a 4WD tour in Northern Vietnam?
In the North, there’s no best time to drive, as there are four distinct seasons, each with their own unique advantages. Summer runs from April to October, winter from November to March. Hotest months are June and July, coldest month is February. Expect the possibility of passing rain from April to August, while winter months are normally dry.
I hear the traffic is crazy in Vietnam. Is it safe to drive there?
Traffic in Hanoi is chaotic to the uninitiated driver. For this reason we always use the easiest roads to get out of town. We can also arrange for drivers to be dropped off at the city limits by taxi where the cars are waiting. Once out in the countryside, the level of traffic drops off remarkably and on some roads it is possible to not pass a single vehicle for the whole day. That said, it must be emphasized that the driving conditions in Vietnam are demanding which means extremely defensive driving is imperative. All drivers must be very careful and be fully aware that the purpose of the trip is not to drive “Racing”, but rather to drive along nice and slow and enjoy the sites and sounds of the passing countryside. 4WD is just the link between so many facets that make up the touring experience with us – people, scenery, markets, food, drink, historical vestiges, rural life.
Can you arrange accommodation for me in Hanoi?
We can make reservations for you at any hotel in Hanoi and also organize a car to pick you up from the airport. Commonly we recommend people to stay at a particular hotel in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The central location makes it easy to get around the city and the hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms in the US$30-40 per night price range. They also provide safe storage for baggage during the duration of the motorbike tour.
What type of clothing should I bring?
Before departure we will send you a complete listing advising you what may be useful for your trip and how best to prepare.
Where do the tours start from?
All tours start and end in Hanoi after a hearty breakfast on the first morning. Return to Hanoi is either by road or sometimes by overnight train.
Do you need a deposit?
We ask for a deposit of US$100/person in order to confirm the tour from our end with the balance to be paid upon arrival in Hanoi. We will provide you with the necessary bank account details to transfer this deposit into once a drive has been agreed upon.
What other expenses should we expect? How much cash do we need to take with us?
In terms of costs we cover everything except telephone calls, tips, souvenirs and alcohol. As there are often some impressive minority crafts to be found in the markets or some more bizarre products of Chinese origin, bank on carrying from US$50-100 worth of local currency with you
How will I meet you in Hanoi?
When you arrive in Hanoi, we could arrange the airport pick-up service or you will call us on a number sent to you beforehand. We will then arrange a pre-departure briefing session to introduce to you the route and equipment, and to cover any other outstanding issues.