Q: I am planning a trip to Vietnam with my wife and 10-year-old daughter in October for 8-10 days. I am a bit confused about what places we should visit. Will we be able to cover both, the north and south of the country? I don’t see many agents from India who cover Vietnam. Can I book directly with local agents? Please advise.

Marco Says: It’s eminently possible to take in both north and south Vietnam in eight to 10 days. In fact, this is a very popular tour option. The unique geography of the country—a narrowish strip of land whose northern border is shared with China, western borders with Laos and Cambodia, and pretty much all of its right flank bordered by the South China Sea—makes it easy to just proceed north to south (or in the reverse order). A general 8- to 10-day itinerary goes something like this: start from Hanoi in the north, move east to the natural wonders of Halong Bay, return to Hanoi to proceed due south—to Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An about halfway down the country to finally end in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and its surrounds, including Can Tho and the Mekong Delta. A tour such as this allows you to enjoy the fascinating history and contemporary bustle of Vietnam’s main cities (Hanoi and HCMC), its considerable heritage (Hue), stunning coast (Halong Bay) and the magic of the famous ‘rice bowl’ (Mekong Delta).

Several companies offer tours that take in, more or less, all of these destinations. You’re correct when you say that not many Indian tour agents offer Vietnam, at least not as an immersive experience (Cox & Kings, Thomas Cook, SOTC etc all offer 3- to 4-day trips, which seem to focus only on the cities). But I really don’t see any particular advantage in insisting on an Indian company (unless of course you have such constraints as needing only vegetarian or Jain meals). In fact, if you and your family are the kind of travellers who prefer to ‘go local’—savour local food and so on (Vietnam is, of course, a broad-minded foodie’s paradise!)— I’d recommend that you go with a local tour agent, or an international agent, one that has local offices and local roots. I find agents ‘in place’ better equipped to provide travellers with genuinely immersive experiences.

Here’s a selection of popular and reputable companies, with the URLs of their 8- to 10-day tours:

On the Go Tours (onthegotours. com/Vietnam/Very-Vietnam-10- days#itinerary)
Exotissimo (exotravel.com/tours/vietnam/ essential-vietnam-tour)
Threeland Travel (threeland.com/vietnamtours- an-essential-line.html)
Insider Journeys (insiderjourneys.com.au/ small-group-tours/vietnam/highlightsof- vietnam-2017).