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Old 09-16-2012, 03:09 PM
 
Location: A circle of Hell so insidious, infernal and odious, Dante dared not map it
623 posts, read 1,049,401 times
Reputation: 472

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Hi all,
I'll be leaving for Vietnam in about 2 1/2 months and had a couple country-specific questions that I can't find online:

1) Can anyone vouch for this Ha Long Bay operator?
Halong Bay Tours | Halong Bay | Halong Bay Cruise

I only ask because I see a lot of options in providers, and some seem suspect.

2) I had a bad experience with getting a train ticket once, in that the agent wouldn't sell one to me and wouldn't even try to help. Since then, using a train to get around makes me a little nervous when I can't book a ticket ahead of time. I will be going from Hanoi to Hue, then to Da Nang, and intend to use the train. It seems you have to book in-person, so I was wondering if that could be a problem. I will be in Hanoi a few days before going on, and it will be mid-December.

Thank you.
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:19 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,958,679 times
Reputation: 2983
Quote:
1) Can anyone vouch for this Ha Long Bay operator?
Halong Bay Tours | Halong Bay | Halong Bay Cruise
I only ask because I see a lot of options in providers, and some seem suspect.
I don't remember who operated our boat. I think it was called "Blue Star Tours" but they were probably just a knock-off of a knock-off of a real travel agency. We just walked in on a random agency in Hanoi. We had a good time. There were some other Westerners aboard the boat (red flag) but there was also a Vietnamese wedding party (green flag). We drank and ate spiny snails and danced with them. Totally fun and free food & booze. The boat didn't sink, the room was nice by Vietnamese standards, and the tour did everything they said they would. (Kayak through a submarine cave that's underwater at high tide to a hidden bay, jump off the boat/swim off a shelly beach, visit and ride bikes around a local village. Totally fun, and pretty cheap. Maybe $100 USD all told for two nights plus rattletrap transport from Hanoi.

Quote:
2) I had a bad experience with getting a train ticket once, in that the agent wouldn't sell one to me and wouldn't even try to help. Since then, using a train to get around makes me a little nervous when I can't book a ticket ahead of time. I will be going from Hanoi to Hue, then to Da Nang, and intend to use the train. It seems you have to book in-person, so I was wondering if that could be a problem. I will be in Hanoi a few days before going on, and it will be mid-December.
Woa, you're taking the "Reunion Express"? That's pretty hard-core. I didn't know it was even still running. Honestly, unless you're looking for a not-so-pleasant "adventure" I would go with the tourist busses. They're clean, cheap, reliable, and comfortable. Probably faster too. Any travel agency can book you a ticket on the spot. A ticket all the way down the country (with as many stops as you want) should run you around $40-50 (USD) I think, maybe less if you're sharp. Lots of Vietnamese ride them (cheaper than you can, by the way, haha). Plus you can save money on a hotel for one night if you take a sleeper bus.
If you haven't been to Vietnam before, here's a tip: Pay in Dollars. They'll expect it from a foreigner, and--unlike most countries--you can't really negotiate a better rate by paying in Dong, so it's not worth the effort of carrying around (literally) millions of Dong. Just be quick to do the exchange in your head and bargain hard. The first price you get in Vietnam is inflated about 200% for foreigners, if I remember correctly.
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:55 AM
 
Location: A circle of Hell so insidious, infernal and odious, Dante dared not map it
623 posts, read 1,049,401 times
Reputation: 472
Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
I don't remember who operated our boat. I think it was called "Blue Star Tours" but they were probably just a knock-off of a knock-off of a real travel agency. We just walked in on a random agency in Hanoi. We had a good time. There were some other Westerners aboard the boat (red flag) but there was also a Vietnamese wedding party (green flag). We drank and ate spiny snails and danced with them. Totally fun and free food & booze. The boat didn't sink, the room was nice by Vietnamese standards, and the tour did everything they said they would. (Kayak through a submarine cave that's underwater at high tide to a hidden bay, jump off the boat/swim off a shelly beach, visit and ride bikes around a local village. Totally fun, and pretty cheap. Maybe $100 USD all told for two nights plus rattletrap transport from Hanoi.


Woa, you're taking the "Reunion Express"? That's pretty hard-core. I didn't know it was even still running. Honestly, unless you're looking for a not-so-pleasant "adventure" I would go with the tourist busses. They're clean, cheap, reliable, and comfortable. Probably faster too. Any travel agency can book you a ticket on the spot. A ticket all the way down the country (with as many stops as you want) should run you around $40-50 (USD) I think, maybe less if you're sharp. Lots of Vietnamese ride them (cheaper than you can, by the way, haha). Plus you can save money on a hotel for one night if you take a sleeper bus.
If you haven't been to Vietnam before, here's a tip: Pay in Dollars. They'll expect it from a foreigner, and--unlike most countries--you can't really negotiate a better rate by paying in Dong, so it's not worth the effort of carrying around (literally) millions of Dong. Just be quick to do the exchange in your head and bargain hard. The first price you get in Vietnam is inflated about 200% for foreigners, if I remember correctly.
Thank you. I'll look into that operator.

I saw the Reunification Express still runs, and it looks like they have a few per day leaving Hanoi, though it does run a bit slow. When did you go? I read that foreigners now pay the same amount as nationals.
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:29 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,958,679 times
Reputation: 2983
2009. We entered from Cambodia, headed to HCMC, then Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Hanoi. We were in-country about 2 weeks and ran right to the last day of our visas before departing via the "Friendship Gate" to China. Not a very friendly border.

We stopped at another little beach town, but I forget the name. I looked up the trip to Halong Bay and it was $75/day(3) total for two people. Or maybe $75/night(2). If you're really tight on money, be aware that a typical trick is to include everything but drinks (like water) in the cost of the trip, then charge a lot for water/soft drinks/etc on the boat. Our boat even had signs up saying you had to pay to bring your own water aboard, of course it's not like they're going to search your packs, so bringing along a couple of liters isn't the worst idea. Then again, maybe that was just our operator.

Vietnam was fun. You'll have a great time no matter what. Touts and vendors are aggressive, though. You'll likely get shouted at if you talk to one person, then make a purchase with someone else, so don't be surprised. Hoi An was our favorite town with SCUBA in Nha Trang a close second.

Have fun!
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