The cost of an Organised Tour vs Independent Travel (Vietnam)

We decided to book a trip from Easter through 1 May to take in the public holidays here in Australia.  Success – leave approved from 14th April to 1 May inclusive!

Where to then?  Robert’s had a hankering for Vietnam and I thought, why not?!  Its cheap and the food is great.  Its well geared up for tourists too.

We looked at doing a tour and our top pick ,which fit the dates was a 10 day trip with a well-known adventure travel company.   10 days for $1575p/p which was well within our budget.  Add a couple of days at the beginning and end and there you have a two-week holiday.

But then we thought, that seems like a lot of money.  Can we do the same itinerary on our own?

We used the 10 day itinerary as our guide –
Day 1: Arrival Hanoi – tour starts at 6pmtvsf_2017
Day 2: Halong Bay / overnight cruise
Day 3: Hanoi / Overnight Train
Day 4: Arrive in Hue / Hue
5: Hue
6: Travel to Hoi An / Hoi An
7: Hoi An
8: Flight to Ho Chi Minh City / Ho Chi Minh City Day
9: Mekong Delta / Ho Chi Minh City
10: Depart Ho Chi Minh City – tour ends after breakfast

The first change we made was to skip the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue.  While this would be a cheap option and one night less for accommodation, a 12 hour train journey didn’t sound like much fun and its a short flight.

Instead we included the two internal flights when making our international airline booking.

Our final itinerary now looks like this –
1: Arrival Hanoi (early morning)
2: Hanoi
3: Halong Bay / overnight cruise
4: Hanoi
5: Flight to Hue / Hue
6: Hue
7: Hue
8: Hue
9: Travel to Hoi An / Hoi An
10: Hoi An
11: Hoi An
12: Travel to Da Nang / Da Nang
13: Flight to Ho Chi Minh / Ho Chi Minh
14: Ho Chi Minh
15: Ho Chi Minh
16: Flight to Coolangatta (late afternoon)

For hotel accommodation, I had pretty simple requirements

  • centrally located
  • good reviews
  • mid-range hotel
  • free wifi
  • breakfast included
  • cost less than $AU50/night

Using Tripadvisor as my guide, I used the search filter and easily found somewhere in the top 20 rated places at each location that met all of these requirements.  I considered a pool optional, but for more than 1 night was my decider when chosing between hotels.

For the Halong Bay Cruise, I approached 3 companies in the top 15 (of around 150 vendors) and asked for a quote.  From these we chose a 3 star cruise which came in at #6 on Tripadvisor.  Whilst a 5 star cruise with private transer would have been nice, the 3 star rated higher and we then have another $US150 each to play with.

We based our starting budget on the adventure tour cost – two people for a 10 night tour would have been $3150 (or $1575 each).  So how did we go for costs?

Breakdown for two people (all amounts are AUD unless specified) –

1: Hanoi – Hotel $39.99
2: Hanoi – Hotel $39.99
3: Halong Bay – Overnight cruise $US220 / ~$300
4: Hanoi – Hotel $41
5: Flight to Hue ~$200 (instead of train) / Hue – Hotel $36.75
6: Hue – Hotel $36.75
7: Hue – Hotel $36.75
8: Hue – Hotel $36.75
9: Travel to Hoi An – TBA / Hoi An – Hotel $38.33
10: Hoi An – Hotel $38.33
11: Hoi An – Hotel $38.33
12: Travel to Da Nang – TBA / Da Nang  – Hotel $45
13: Flight to Ho Chi Minh ~$200 / Ho Chi Minh – Hotel $39.20
14: Ho Chi Minh – Hotel $39.20
15: Ho Chi Minh – Hotel $39.20
16: Flight to Coolangatta (late afternoon)

If you are are doing the maths, this comes out at ~$1250 – for two people – well less than the cost of $1575 for one person on the tour.   We are also gaining approximately 7 extra days on our trip.  This means we can afford to relax a bit and not have the pressures of time constraints with a group.  We simply need to catch our flights and the rest will fall into place.

There will of course be some additional expenses to consider but these are regardless of going with the tour or travelling independently.

Meals – All our chosen accommodation includes breakfast and likewise so did the tour (for  most days).  Dining in Vietnam is inexpensive for those of us from countries with a strong currency.  Therefore for $20 each per day we should be able to easily cover the costs of lunch and dinner, non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.

Additional excursions – Our comparison tour included a city tour of Hue and a visit to the Mekong Delta.  We very likely will include a couple of full day tours. Costs for these are very likely to be less than $US50 each for full day tours.  Entry fees to museums are in most instances less than $5.

Transfers – the tour includes transport between locations.  As we are flying between cities we will either need to book private transfers or arrange a taxi upon each arrival/departure.  I may look to book the airport arrival pickups before we go and arrange with the hotel to get us back to the airport for the next leg.

For the Hue to Hoi An to Da Nang section, there appears to be a number of private car transfer companies that do this.  Not sure at this stage if I will book these in advance or arrange once we arrive with the hotel.

Other cost – International airfares, travel insurance, travel visas and souvenir money – I haven’t included these here since that will vary depending on your individual circumstances.

I’ll try to keep a more detailed expense list when we actually travel and we can see how this works in the wash up.  However at this point, I believe we will likely do the trip for half the cost of what we would have paid for the tour.



  1. What was your final costs travelling independently against what an organised tour would have cost and did you have any troubles booking tours whilst in Vietnam?

    • ~$1250 – for two people – well less than the cost of $1575 for one person on the tour. We had no issues booking tours – we used Tripadvisor and Expedia to locate reputable companies.

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