March 30th to April 13th
Classic Vietnam is our annual two week adventure in which participants drive ex US military Jeeps from Hanoi to Da Nang before taking a flight to Saigon to finish the trip. We provide you with a vehicle and full mechanical support. In common with all our trips there is no convoy driving. Instead you travel at your own pace guided by an easy to follow route book. As well as visiting tourist spots, we also drive through parts of Vietnam that most visitors do not experience. Our route includes four World Heritage Sites, passes a number of significant Vietnam War locations including Khe Sanh and Hamburger Hill and visits cities including Hanoi, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City.
For years it has not been possible for non residents to drive in Vietnam using four wheeled vehicles. That is why Clarkson and Co in their Top Gear special used scooters instead of cars. We have now overcome the licensing hurdles and in 2012 we ran the first event of its kind.
The route broadly follows the Ho Chi Minh Trail – the secret supply route used by the North Vietnamese to supply their troops in the south during the conflict. We stay in lovely hotels and in keeping with other events you will be provided with a detailed route book enabling you to travel at your own pace. As always, as well as several tourist hot spots, we will be visiting several areas not normally accessed by tourists.
If you do not fancy driving a Jeep you have the option to drive a modern car or ride a choice of motorcycles ranging from a modern Honda trails bike to an old Russian 650cc Ural.
For a selection of photos from previous trips see our gallery
Saturday 30th March Depart UK
Sunday 31st March Arrival in Vietnam (Hanoi)
Saturday 13th April Departure (Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City)
30th March Overnight flight to Hanoi.
31st March Arriving in Hanoi a car will meet you at Noi Bai airport and take you to our first hotel, which is in the centre of town within walking distance from shops, markets etc.
1st April Today we take a morning trip to the local licencing office to complete the paperwork for our Vietnamese driving licences. We will have a free afternoon and then in the evening we have a welcome briefing before heading to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
2nd April After breakfast we will be taking a tour of some of Hanoi’s principal sights. They’ll also be the opportunity to climb aboard motorcycle side cars for part of the tour. We start with a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum then view the remains of a downed B52. After stopping for coffee at the War Museum we finish at the Hanoi Hilton – the old French prison where downed American fighter pilots were held captive. In the afternoon you are free so there will be time for a wander around the Old Quarter. In the evening we head off to another local restaurant for dinner.
3rd April We depart the hotel by bus to visit the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum on the outskirts of Hanoi, where the vehicles will be waiting. After touring the museum we head off, quickly finding ourselves in rural Vietnam and a sea of paddy fields dotted with limestone mountains. This first day’s drive is relatively short and easy and we should be at the hotel in Mai Chau by mid afternoon. (67 miles)
4th April This is one of the longest days as we head south to Vinh. After travelling through part of Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s first national park we eventually join the new Ho Chi Minh Highway, which lies on top of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail. This takes us due south, through remote back country, very close to the Laos border. We then head towards the coast to Vinh, our overnight stop. Vinh was a target of particular significance to US air raids during the war. That night, weather permitting, we will have dinner by the pool. (208 miles)
5th April Today we continue south along Highway One, before turning inland towards the Laos border. We pass the Dong Loc intersection, (a main junction for supply lines during the War), and head into remote back country noticing the scenery becoming dominated by karst limestone rock formations. Our overnight stop is at the World Heritage site of Phong Nha, home of one of the world’s largest caves, where local civilians and military sheltered from incessant bombing during the war. Before dinner we will take an amazing boat ride deep into the cave. (133 miles)
6th April Having obtained special permission, we head deep into the pristine jungle that comprises the World Heritage Ke Bang National Park. It is a lovely drive and along the way we pass a number of significant wartime locations including overgrown remnants of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail. Skirting the Laos border we arrive at Khe Sanh. Here we stop to visit the site of the former US Marine base that underwent the famous siege in the prelude to the Tet Offensive in 1968. (137 miles)
7th April Today we head east along Highway 9 and cross the former DMZ (demilitarised zone), then across the famous Hien Luong Bridge (former demarcation line between North and South Vietnam). Just before lunch we will reach the Vinh Moc Tunnels, where hundreds of villagers lived underground during the course of the war. After lunch on the coast we eventually reach the delightful city of Hue, which lies along the banks of the Perfume River. (135 miles)
8th April Day Off Hue is the former imperial capital of feudal Vietnam and is an ideal place to relax, sightsee and chill after the driving to date.
9th April Leaving Hue we head up the Me Oi (translation – “Oh Mum”) pass towards the site of Hamburger Hill. We meet up with the Ho Chi Minh Trail again, and head further into the mountains. On a clear day one can see directly down to the coast, over 50 miles away. Passing very close to the Laos border we start heading back to the coast past ancient temples and fiercely fought-over territory during the war. We overnight at the world Heritage site of Hoi An, a major trading centre in SE Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. (175 miles)
10th April A day off. Hoi An offers fine wining and dining, impressive architecture, fantastic tailoring, endless shopping and a great beach, so you will not be short of things to do.
11th April This is our last day of driving and what better way to spend it than cruising up a fabulous coastal pass made famous by the BBC Top Gear Vietnam Special. After a lunch and a swim we catch an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). 60 miles.
12th April Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling commercial heart of Vietnam, and site of the former South Vietnam Presidential Palace. In the morning we will take a tour of the sites by cycle rickshaw leaving the afternoon free. In the evening we will head out to a lovely restaurant for our end of event meal.
13th April Transfer to the airport for the flight home.
BOOKING INFORMATION & COST
£3595 per person based on two people sharing a vehicle and accommodation. The cost excludes flights. Motorcycles (Ural 650 or Honda CRF 250) £2595 per rider & £2350 per pillion.
Hire of a jeep
Internal flight from Da Nang to Saigon
A Great Road Journeys tulip style route book backed up by a marked road map
Entry fees to all museums/parks/places of interest etc.
Dinner each night except 3 days off in Hue, Hoi An and Saigon
Lunches for all driving days
Airport collection in Hanoi
Return Flights from UK to Vietnam
What happens next?
Send an email to us at email@example.com with your contact details. After that we will be in touch. A deposit of £750 per person will be required upon booking. The balance is payable one month before departure. In the meantime you’ll receive regular updates from us guiding you through everything you need to know re your visa application, inoculations, driving licence etc
Where do we go? Click on this link and you will see a map of the route. The tour spends most of the time on quiet rural roads with little traffic. On several days there is no driving giving you plenty of time to relax or explore.
How difficult is the navigation? As with all our tours we provide you with a detailed, easy to follow route book and back it up with a map.
What is the standard of accommodation? We always stay in quality hotels. In some of the locations we visit there simply aren’t four or five star hotels but in these locations we will use the best available. As you would expect all the accommodation is en-suite.
What vehicles do we use? In the main we use ex US military M151 Jeeps. We have a small selection of other vehicles which are available if you prefer not to drive a jeep. In addition, if you prefer to ride a motorbike we have Honda 250 CRF’s or Russian 650cc Urals.
How long is the trip? The total final trip mileage is just short of 1000 miles.
Are meals included? Dinner is included every night of the trip except for the three days off in Hue, Hoi An and Saigon. Lunches are included on all the driving days.
Will there be much off road? All the driving takes place on tar roads. There is no extreme 4×4 driving.
What about personal security? Vietnam is a safe country for travellers and you will find everyone friendly and welcoming.
How do you get there? From the UK the flight options are either direct with Vietnam airlines or with a stopover in Asia or a stop over in Doha, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Contact us for options from other locations.
What is the food like? Excellent. Vietnamese food is distinct and unforgettable. It tends to be more flavoursome than other Asian countries with a definite mix of salt, sweet sweet and sour. Dishes tend not to be spicy as chilli is usually served on the side.
What is the weather like? In March/April the weather is ideal. Warm enough for shirt sleeves and shorts but not roasting.
Why come with us? It is not possible to organise your own self drive trip in Vietnam. When the BBC visited with Top Gear they were not able to obtain driving licences which is why Clarkson and Co rode scooters, instead of driving cars. It took us several years before we were able to overcome the licencing hurdles and we believe we are still the only UK based company offering self drive in Vietnam. During the tour we sweep the route meaning if you do have a problem we will find you and help you. Even if you just have something as simple as a puncture, how nice it is to sit in the shade while the tyre gets changed for you. We provide you with a local sim card meaning you can contact us at anytime during the day if you need help. Driving a 50 year old vehicle, that took part in a conflict a generation ago, is a unique experience. The M151 Jeeps are now status symbols in Vietnam and highly sought after. Even though we accompany the tour, you are free to do your own thing and travel at your own pace but, if anything goes wrong or you need help, we are there to provide it. On every tour we will deliver the best holiday we can – that’s why over 85% of participants travel with us more than once.