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Vietnam forum

To book or not to book (in advance) and other questions

Posted by arundhati on 9/12/2013 at 03:34

My family and I are backpacking across mainland South East Asia this winter for about three weeks, of which we will spend about ten days in Vietnam between the 20th and 29th of December. I realise this is bang in the middle of the high tourist season, and had a few questions about accommodation, transport and weather:

1. A lot of travel guides suggest that it is a good idea to book accommodation in advance while traveling the country, but we wanted to wing it slightly, and (apart from the first three days in Hanoi) maintain a fairly flexible itinerary. I wanted the opinion of the travel community here - should we work on firming up the itinerary before we leave and make some bookings? We were throwing up the idea of visiting Da Lat, Hoi An, Hue and Danang.

2. In all the research I have done, I have heard not the most pleasing things about buses and roads in Vietnam, so we were thinking of sticking to train travel (which we are quickly realising is more expensive than here in India!). How full are the trains likely to be and does it make sense to book them in advance? Are we likely to find available seats/berths if we show up at the railway station on the day of our travel?

3. We will be taking a cruise in Ha Long Bay around the 21st and 22nd, and wanted to spend a night on the junk. Are their any specific recommendations for a mid-budget junk? Also, does it make sense to spend two days on the bay in misty winter conditions? Also, is it recommended that we carry warm clothing?

I realise the breadth of questions is quite wide, but whatever little information you can volunteer will be precious. Thank you already :)

#1 arundhati has been a member since 9/12/2013. Posts: 1

Posted by ongjoel on 9/12/2013 at 06:42

Hi there
I am back, and hopefully can help you with useful info coming from past experience
Yes, that right you should have a hotel accommodation booked in advance, in any countries you travel to, and Vietnam also be the same. And better if you are planning it together with trip, so great to combine it together

As us, we emailed to many agents in Vietnam to check the price and make the plan with them to work on firming up the itinerary before we leave and we full made bookings, and even paid in advance.

For these places, we did just take trip to Hoi An, Hue and Danang, not to Dalat because we had not enough time. From these places, you can easily start all trip in Danang, make transport on roads

Yeah, buses and roads in Vietnam sure not interesting, with itself always be stucked and traffic with not any rules. Sure it will disturb you by the noisy on the road

Yeah, train travel is good to take, should take soft berth train to make sure your back is not hurt in long time journey. Train tickets book soon, get better price, or sometimes, you also can try to make discount it into the package, and book them in advance is good too, to avoid it will be fully booked before your turn.

You can find available seats/berths if you show up at the railway station on the day of travel, but it depends on your luck ! the rate of left ticket on that date was so slow.

We saw two others had to stay again Hanoi, can not did the movement on train on the same date with us because of missing tickets , due to not booked advance. When they just arrive station, they not in time to can purchase them, because others took it away

For Halong Bay, you right to think about 2 days, I also agree, and stay 1 night on boat is greater than stay at hotel in the Bay. I like to give you some specific recommendations for a mid-budget junk: V Spirit Cruise, Glory Cruise, Galaxy Classic cruise, Golden Lotus Junk, Dolphin Cruise... In which, most mid-budget junk our friends did with Nancy from Impressive Travel Vietnam was Dolphin Cruise. They just had to pay $92/ person sharing deluxe double cabin. No worry about the winter conditions, our friends said that they had good air-conditioning in their cabins, so sleep well. Yes, some warm clothing can not miss in winter, you sure need them at midnight

Hope you get it useful. Just wanna to help you to have a great trip to right ones

#2 ongjoel has been a member since 6/12/2013. Location: Singapore. Posts: 17
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Posted by travellingsarah on 9/12/2013 at 21:52 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Just wrote a long message and lost it as I wasn't logged in... so here it is much more briefly:
1 - suggest you follow your plan of booking few nights in Hanoi then booking as you go - I hear from our TF Hoi An correspondent that room occupancy is way down in Hoi An this year. But suggest you book on Agoda a day or so before arrival to save walking round.
2 - train or fly to Hue then buses to Danang and onward to Hoi An. Dalat you'll need to get a bus or fly (not sure if flights from Danang - you'll need to check that) as no trains
3 - can't answer about junks but weather will be chilly and probably misty - no need for thermals though, just trousers a jumper and jacket.

#3 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by antoniamitchell on 10/12/2013 at 01:16


You've mentioned Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue , Da Nang , Hoi An and Dalat in Vietnam, which is a LOT to fit into 10 days. If you're going to have any chance of fitting most of those places into your timeframe, you're going to have to travel quickly where possible. If I were you, I'd cut it back to a bit.

From Hoi An, getting to Halong Bay will take at least half a day (and the scenery at Halong Bay, although lovely, could be obscured with mist and fog. It might not, of course. Just something to think about, as you don't want to waste time when you've got so little of it).

From Hanoi, you could take an overnight train to Hue, or fly. The benefit of overnight trains is that you don't lose a sightseeing day to travel. The negative is that not everyone can sleep on trains (and being overtired and grumpy isn't a good mindset to sightsee). If you do want this option, you need to book in advance, as the soft sleepers do often sell out. Flying is your other good alternative, and unless you're travelling around the time of a Vietnamese holiday doesn't normally sell out so you can book only a few days in advance (and leave yourself more flexibility to adjust your schedule as you go along), but will be cheaper if you book in advance.

From Hue to Da Nang, it's a couple of hours by train. Nice scenery.

From Da Nang to Hoi An is a short bus ride (there is no train).

To get to Dalat, the best option IMHO is to backtrack to Da Nang airport and fly (otherwise it's most of a day or a night on a bus. To be honest, the traffic in Vietnam scared the stuffing out of me, so I took a long bus trip once, and said "never again!"). Vietnam Airlines definitely flies this route. I'm not certain about the other carriers.

Re: accommodation, you should be able to wing it even at Christmas. TravellingSarah's suggestion to check on Agoda a day or so before is a good idea - you can check out some places, and find one you like the look of that has good availability, and then either book it or just show up and check it out. Either way, it will save you schlepping around from place to place.

Have fun!

#4 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 541
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Posted by PinkPox on 19/12/2013 at 23:00

Posted from within Vietnam.

You should definitely book train tickets in advance as this is the peak travel time! May ask your hotel to book tickets for you.

For Halong bay cruises, you might check Paloma or V'Spirit cruise.

Happy travel!

#5 PinkPox has been a member since 28/12/2012. Posts: 6
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Posted by daawgon on 20/12/2013 at 11:21

antoniamitc- hell gives good advice - 10 days is not much time to work with in Vietnam, and travel is slow. It's also not a good idea to rush around anywhere in SE Asia. I would drop Dalat since it's all by it's lonely down there in the Central Highlands. My personal favorites are Hanoi, Sapa and Hoi An.

(think this should have posted in November since it's already Dec 20th)

#6 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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