Cultural Treasures of Northern Vietnam & Laos
Before You Go
Please note: this is strictly a cultural tour. For most activities, a relatively moderate level of exertion is required. You must be able to walk distances of one to three miles, sometimes over uneven surfaces, such as cobblestones and climb stairs that may not have handrails. You will be required to remove your shoes while visiting temples, homes, and a number of other sites. Our accommodations will range from five-star hotels to rustic guest houses. At some of our accommodations, en suite facilities will not be available. Meals are provided at all of our accommodations, but please be aware, that some menus are set. It may be difficult in certain places for our hosts to cater to individual food preferences. If you have any specific dietary requirements, it is essential that we be notified at the time of your initial booking to see if these can be catered for. The average daily temperatures will range from the high-70s to the mid-90s°F, though high humidity can make it feel warmer.
Please pay close attention to the following sections: Passport and Visa Requirements, Health Information, and Baggage Allowance.
Activity Level & Accommodations
This expeditionary trip through northern Vietnam and Laos is strictly a cultural tour. For most activities, a relatively moderate level of exertion is required. You must be able to walk distances of one to three miles, sometimes over uneven or rocky surfaces, such as cobblestones, unpaved street and trails, and climb stairs that may not have handrails. You will also be required to remove your shoes while visiting temples, homes, and a number of other sites.
Accommodations are the best available in some of our more remote locations, and while a bit more rustic, all are comfortable, clean, and feature modern amenities. Our accommodations on Cultural Treasures of Northern Vietnam & Laos include:
- Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, Hanoi (Historical Wing)
- Orchid Cruise, (Suite Cabins)
- Tam Coc Garden Hotel, Tam Coc (Deluxe Rooms)
- Pu Luong Guesthouse, Pu Loung (Standard Rooms)
- Sam Neua Guesthouse Keochinda II, Sam Neua (Standard Rooms)
- Vansana Plains of Jars, Phonsavan (Standard Rooms)
- Sofitel LPQ, Luang Prabang (Garden Suites)
- Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, Bangkok (Superior Rooms)
Arrivals & Departures
Departure / Airport Check-In Procedures
Please arrive at the airport for your international flight to Hanoi, Vietnam three hours prior to departure and have access to your passport and airline E-ticket confirmation. Do not pack your passport or other travel documents in your checked luggage. Be certain that the check-in agent properly tags your bags through to your final destination, if allowed, and that you have all baggage and E-ticket receipts.
Arrival / Departure Transfers
Transfers and assistance between airports and group hotels are arranged for participants arriving and departing on group dates. However, if you are arriving prior to the group arrival day and have booked additional night(s) at our group hotel, a transfer from the airport to the hotel will be provided.
Airlines change flight times frequently and our air department will send you any updates for flights booked through Zegrahm as they are received from the carrier. Still, we recommend reconfirming the departure time of your flights with the airline directly within 24 hours of departure. This can be done easily online and will ensure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to board your flight.
If you are booking your own flights or accommodation, please forward a copy of your itinerary to Zegrahm Expeditions as well as contact information where you can be reached prior to and after the program.
For your international flights to Hanoi, Vietnam and from Bangkok, Thailand, please check for luggage weight restrictions with your airline provider or our air department if you are booking your international air arrangements through Zegrahm.
Internal Baggage Restrictions
Due to restrictions on the internal flights within this program, baggage is restricted to one soft-sided bag per person and one carry-on; each participant is allowed 44 pounds (20 kilograms) of total weight. If you purchase items en route, you may need to arrange to have the items shipped back in order to remain within these limits.
PLEASE NOTE: Most airlines strictly enforce their baggage regulations. Excess baggage charges, which can be substantial, are the personal responsibility of each participant.
We recommend the use of soft-sided luggage as it is easier to store. Your carry-on bag should include anything you may need in transit. We recommend that you carry essential toiletries and prescription medications on board the flight, as well as a change of clothing appropriate for the initial activities of our itinerary, so that you will be more comfortable in the unlikely event that your baggage is delayed in transit or is slow to be delivered to your room upon arrival.
The average daily temperatures will range from the low 60s°F to the mid-90s°F, though high humidity can make it feel warmer. We suggest bringing a rain jacket as the chances of rain showers increase during the month of March.
The following are average high/low temperatures ºF (ºC) in March & April for selected locations on our itinerary:
|Hanoi, Vietnam||78ºF (26ºC)||62ºF (17ºC)|
|Pu Luong, Vietnam||74ºF (24ºC)||60ºF (15ºC)|
|Luang Prabang, Laos||92ºF (33ºC)||62ºF (17ºC)|
|Bangkok, Thailand||94ºF (34ºC)||77ºF (25ºC)|
As of October 2018, the exchange rates are as follows:
|$1 U.S. dollar (USD)||23,345 Vietnamese Dong (VND)|
|$1 U.S. dollar (USD)||8,525.50 Laotian Kip (LAK)|
|$1 U.S. dollar (USD)||32.44 Thai Baht (THB)|
ATMs at airports, city centers, and nearby major hotels are a good option for obtaining local currency if you have a Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card. Cash can also be exchanged for local currency at international airports, major hotels, or at banks during regular business hours.
Most of your expenses have been paid for; therefore, we recommend that you carry most of your money in smaller denominations.
You will receive your pre-departure information—including a complete packing list and gear certificate—approximately five months prior to departure. Final documents—including a final itinerary, contact list, and staff biographies—will be sent approximately one month prior to departure.
The electrical currents are as follows:
- • Vietnam 220V/50Hz with electrical outlet types A, B & C
- • Laos 230V/50Hz with electrical outlet types A, B, C, E, & F
PLEASE NOTE: Most modern electronics (cell phones, computers, and tablets) are dual voltage and don’t require a converter and adapter. Some appliances, such as video camera battery packs, require heavy-duty converters rather than the normal travel type. Please check your equipment to be sure you bring what is necessary for your personal needs.
International flights are not included in the cost of expedition; however, Zegrahm has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. You will need to purchase airfare from your home city/Hanoi, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand/home city. For more detailed information, please contact our in-house air department for fare quotes, reservations, or other air-related questions.
We recommend that you arrive to Hanoi by early afternoon, March 24, 2019, in order to take advantage of some orientation touring before our welcome dinner. Please speak to our air coordinator for recommended flights for this arrival.
At this time, no inoculations or prophylaxes are required in conjunction with this expedition.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of your personal medications, as we will not have access to pharmacies while in the remote areas of this expedition. Check with the Ministry of Health that your prescription medication is allowed to enter Vietnam and carry a copy of your prescription in your carry-on luggage.
Zika Virus Warning
When traveling to Vietnam you are at risk for the Zika virus and dengue fever. When traveling to countries where mosquito-borne illnesses are found, we suggest using insect repellent containing DEET and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing as a way to protect yourself from insect bites. If you are using both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and the repellent.
We suggest that you contact your physician or local health center for current and other information concerning health precautions, immunizations, and prescriptions based on your physical condition and medical history. Your doctor may recommend a flu shot, Hepatitis A, Tetanus, and other routine vaccines. This will vary by guest and can only be advised by a medical professional.
To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids whenever you can, not just when you are thirsty as this can help prevent a range of medical problems associated with traveling. Take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun by bringing a sun hat with a wide brim or scarf, polarized sunglasses, and a high-SPF sunscreen.
In case of serious injury or illness while traveling, it is important to understand that satisfactory medical facilities may not exist nearby. Should you require emergency medical care, it may be necessary to depart the country by international medical evacuation services. The cost of our expedition includes $100,000 of emergency evacuation cover and $25,000 cover for medical expenses. Details of this policy are available online at www.travelguard.com/zegrahm.
The information herein is a guideline and is subject to change without notice. Contact your physician or local health center for current and other information concerning health precautions, immunizations, and prescriptions based on your physical condition and medical history.
Internet & Phone
Your final documentation will include contact information for our hotels. Please note that Internet will be limited to none in the more rural areas of our programs, such as Lan Ha Bay and Pu Luong.
Following are local times that apply to this expedition when it is 7:00 a.m. on the North American west coast:
|7:00 a.m.||Seattle, WA (PDT)|
|10:00 a.m.||New York, NY (EDT)|
|9:00 p.m.||Vietnam, Laos & Thailand (ICT)|
Meals are provided at all of our accommodations, but please be aware that some menus are set. Typical cuisine includes noodles, sticky rice, various vegetables, and meats. Most meals while visiting remote locations will be served as family-style dinners.
Should you have any particular dietary needs, or life-threatening allergies, please let us know on your Personal Information Form, and we will do our best to prepare for them. Unfortunately, kosher meals cannot be accommodated.
We are pleased to offer one of the most generous and flexible travel dining plan imaginable: dine wherever you wish and we’ll pick up the bill! There are no limits on where you dine or the price of a meal. Enjoy any restaurant and, with the exception of caviar and alcohol, it’s all included, even the service charges and gratuities. However, please note that the Dine-Around Program will be very limited on this tour due to the remote locations we will visit.
It is essential to maximize the versatility of your travel wardrobe by packing clothing that can be layered. Wash-and-wear, lightweight fabrics are recommended. As you pack, consider your own internal thermostat and adjust accordingly.
Sporty, light-weight clothing is a good basis for your wardrobe. Loose, wash-and-wear slacks, skirts, blouses, shirts, and T-shirts made of natural fibers and wick-a-way fabrics are recommended. The sun can be strong, so bring adequate sun-protective clothing and gear, wear hats, and use sun block, as we will be out in the sun for extended periods of time. However, please bring a light jacket as mornings and evenings will be cool.
Guests should be aware of local customs and dress respectfully. When entering temples, guests should wear a shawl or shirt to cover their shoulders, and pants or skirts that come below the knees. Shorts or revealing clothing should not be worn when visiting temples and religious sites. Please keep in mind that when visiting religious sites, you may be asked to remove your shoes.
For protection against insect bites, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are useful as well. Also, bring along insect repellent with a high concentration of DEET. You may also consider permethrin spray, which can be applied directly on to your clothing before departure and lasts up to three washings, or clothing with insect-repellent already bonded to the fabric, such as Buzz Off clothing.
Excursions will involve a fair amount of walking over uneven trails. Sturdy walking shoes with thick soles or light hiking boots are recommended for walking on the terrain. If you have weak ankles, high-top hiking boots will provide the best support. Make sure your shoes or boots are well broken-in before your trip.
Passport & Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for participation in this program. It must be valid for at least six (6) months after you return home, through October 7, 2019. If you do not have a passport, or if it is not valid for the correct length of time, you should apply for one as soon as possible. You need to have a minimum of five blank pages available for entry/exit stamps in your passport and secure additional pages if necessary.
As of January 1, 2016, the U.S. State Department no longer allows additional pages to be inserted into passports. If your passport is nearly full, and you have insufficient pages for this expedition, then a new passport must be obtained. We suggest that you carry extra passport photos and a photocopy of your passport’s information page when you travel.
Vietnam: A tourist visa is required of U.S. citizens for entry into Vietnam. A visa application kit will be included with your pre-departure document email. Please see the visa kit attachment or follow the link below:
Laos: A tourist visa is required of U.S. citizens for entry into Laos. A visa application kit will be included with your pre-departure document email. Please use the visa kits to apply for your Vietnam and Laos visas together by mail. We strongly recommend you use this kit to apply for your visa as there are many untrustworthy sources for E-visas for Vietnam and Laos.
PLEASE NOTE: Citizens of countries other than the U.S. should check with the nearest consulates for specific visa and entry requirements for their entire itinerary, including both the group arrangements and any travel prior to or after the program.
Payments & Cancellations
A deposit totaling 25% of the expedition fare will reserve a place for you on this Zegrahm program. The balance of the expedition fare is due 120 days prior to departure. Air fare is due at the time tickets are issued. All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars and must be paid in U.S. dollars.
Cancellation & Refund Policy
Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by Zegrahm. At the time we receive your written cancellation, the following penalties will apply:
- 180 days or more prior to departure: $750 per person
- 120 through 179 days prior to departure: 25% of expedition fare
- 1 through 119 days prior to departure: 100% of expedition fare
Please note, fees associated with cancelled airline tickets are in addition to this and will be clearly outlined for you on your flight itinerary.
Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance
We strongly advise that all travelers purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance to protect themselves from an unforeseen emergency that may force you to cancel or leave an expedition while it is in progress. Information describing coverage will be sent to you upon receipt of your deposit for the expedition. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer insurance to guests residing outside the United States.
With Our Compliments
We are pleased to offer complimentary amenities to our explorers, so they can be fully prepared before departing on one of our expeditions. A gift certificate to our Zegrahm Store will offer you the opportunity to purchase essential trip gear from our store. The certificate will be emailed to you approximately five months prior to departure. Please refer to the gift certificate for more details.