Vietnam Food Tours: Discover The Real Vietnam
Indochine is a name that stirs the senses and emotions. It conjures visions of proud farmers in conical straw hats tending to their rice paddies. It conjures smells of lemongrass, ginger and mint, savory spices used in Vietnamese cooking. And it conjures the romance of a bygone colonial era, and the hope of a resilient people who look to a modern future, even as they retain the deep traditions that make Vietnam food tours so fascinating.
Join us on our Vietnam food tour for an experience that will take you deep into the culture as you cook (and eat) your way from Saigon to Hanoi. Along the way you’ll stop at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An and the former imperial capital of Hue. Enjoy unparalleled local access on our Vietnam tour, such as private dinners in a colonial mansion and a royal garden house, Vietnamese cooking classes and market tours with renowned chefs, and even a street food tour as you ride on the back of a vintage Vespa!
Top 5 Vietnam Culinary Tour Experiences
Two cooking classes with top Vietnamese chefs
Private dinner at a colonial mansion, former residence of AmbassadorHenry Cabot Lodge
Street food tour of Saigon riding on the back of a vintage Vespa
Walking food tour in Hoi An
Tour of local food specialties with a renowned gastronomist in Hue
Vietnam food tours are a delicious way to explore this exotic and fascinating culture. For more information, please call 1-800-567-9400 or email us today. Read Access Culinary Trips CEO Tamar Lowell’s essay on the evolution of Vietnam travel over the past 20 years in her Huffington Post column.
Is a Vietnam Food Tour for You?
Our Vietnam food tours are ideal for people who are passionate about cooking and cultural travel. Please note that although this trip is not an exceptionally active trip, there is quite a bit of walking, including some on uneven pavement, and the weather can get quite hot.
VietNam in the Blog
Your Vietnam Culinary Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Our Vietnam Culinary Tours Begin in Saigon
Welcome to our Vietnam culinary tour! You will be touring Vietnam in a way that allows you to truly experience the fascinating culture, history and cuisine of this beautiful and exotic country. We will pick you up at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport and bring you to our historic boutique hotel in downtown Saigon. (Ho Chi Minh City is the city’s formal name, but locals refer to it as Saigon.) On our Vietnam culinary tours, our lovely Saigon hotel is a 1925 French colonial building overlooking the Saigon River.
We recommend you arrive early in the day because this evening you are in for a treat. Our welcome dinner will be held in a colonial mansion which was the former residence of Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to South Vietnam in the mid-1960s. A sophisticated Vietnamese dinner will be served in the magnificent dining room, accompanied by live music.
Drive time: 20-30 minutes
Meals included: Dinner
Day 2: Traditional Vietnamese Cooking Class & Saigon City Tour
One of the reasons to take a Vietnam culinary tour is to learn to cook authentic Vietnamese food. Today we’ll start the day by visiting a local market with our cooking class chef, where we will find fresh ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine. Then we will cook at the cooking studio of a talented celebrity chef, Luke Nguyen, who has hosted MasterChef Vietnam and is the author of seven cookbooks.
After lunch, we’ll embark on a walking tour of Saigon’s historic sites. Starting with the Opera House and the former Hotel de Ville, we’ll take in some of the city’s best preserved French colonial buildings, built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We’ll wander up to the Paris-inspired Notre Dame Cathedral, and then head across to the Central Post Office. A short drive away is the former presidential palace, the headquarters of the South Vietnamese government during the war. Now renamed the Reunification Palace, it sits largely as it did in 1975, and is a fascinating historical artifact of Saigon’s turbulent past.
Next we’ll head to Cholon, the Chinese part of Saigon, to visit the Thien Hau temple, built in the early 19th century to honor the Goddess of the Sea. With its ornate interior courtyard, the temple bustles as worshipers come to pray. To make a wish, it is local custom to write it on a small card and attach it to one of the incense coils. We’ll continue to FITO, a museum of traditional Vietnamese medicine, before returning to our hotel.
This evening is one of the highlights of our Vietnam culinary tours. With over eight million inhabitants and four million motorbikes, Saigon is a city on the move. Tonight we’ll get a glimpse of how the local Vietnamese live as we explore Saigon’s authentic street food scene from the back of a vintage Vespa scooter.
Drive time: Depends on city traffic
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (on the Vespa tour)
Day 3: Fly to Danang & Enjoy Hoi An
This morning we will visit a local lacquer-ware workshop for a brief demonstration of the lacquering process and the opportunity to see a variety of lacquer ware pieces, ranging from small boxes to large pieces of furniture.
We will then transfer to the airport for your flight to Danang, followed by a quick drive to our relaxing, boutique hotel in Hoi An – just a short stroll to Hoi An’s colorful and bustling old town. Also, you won’t want to miss the daily complimentary massage and spa experience while you are here!
The afternoon is yours free at leisure. This evening, we’re invited to a local home for a hosted dinner of traditional foods. After dinner we will walk to the heart of this ancient town, where we will board a traditional wooden boat and cruise along Hoai River, enjoying the view of Hoi An at night.
Drive time: Approximately 35 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: Hoi An Food Tour
This morning, we’ll explore Hoi An’s food scene on a walking food tour. Stroll through zigzagging alleys to discover different neighborhoods and indulge in local delicacies that have been made here for generations. Along the way, you’ll soak in fun insights and anecdotes on Hoi An food culture and local traditions.
In the afternoon, explore Hoi An at your leisure or indulge in the complimentary massage and spa experience at the hotel.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 5: Drive to Hue & City Tour
After breakfast we’ll drive to the former imperial capital of Hue, stopping en route to visit the Cham Museum. The Cham people are one of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities and are the descendants of the ancient Kingdom of Champa, in what is now Central Vietnam.
Once we arrive in Hue we’ll tour the landscaped gardens and residence of a restored royal garden home, a harmony of nature and imperial architecture. After a chance to chat with the family, we’ll enjoy lunch at their beautifully-furnished dining room with elaborately carved reliefs.
Hue served as the imperial capital to the Nguyen dynasty, which reigned from the 17th to the 19th century. With splendid emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas and the remains of the Citadel, the city retains its royal heritage and charm. This afternoon we’ll take a cyclo ride from your hotel to the Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site. (A cyclo is a pedal-trishaw unique to Indochina, used throughout the colonial era and to this day by locals and foreigners alike.) We’ll enter through the towering main gate to appreciate the magnificent architecture and gardens as we learn about the royal court. Despite heavy bombing, there are some well preserved sections still intact and others which are being restored.
Next we’ll visit the tomb of Khai Dinh. Khai Dinh was the emperor of Vietnam, from 1916 to 1925. This hillside monument is a mix of Vietnamese and European style elements. Most of the tomb’s grandiose exterior is covered in blackened concrete, creating an unexpectedly Gothic air, while the interiors sparkle with an explosion of colorful mosaics.Tonight you will stay in a lovely and relaxing boutique resort and spa in the countryside just outside of Hue.
Drive time: 3 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 6: Hue Culinary Tour & Cooking Class
Hue’s culinary heritage is inextricably tied to its imperial history as the city is renowned for its elaborate cuisine created for the royal court, as well as the traditional food enjoyed by locals. Today we’ll explore these two themes in Hue cuisine with celebrated gastronomy artisan, Professor Nhu Huy, author of cookbooks, food television presenter, and the recipient of several prestigious talent awards in Vietnam. We’ll start with local food, visiting the local market where we will learn how to select the freshest produce and ingredients necessary for Hue food. Afterwards, we’ll spend the rest of the morning visiting several Vietnamese villages which each specialize in a different popular dish. We’ll have an opportunity to sample Hue favorites including com hen (mussel rice), banh beo, banh nam, banh loc (varieties of soft rice cakes), and banh uot (steamed rice pancake).
Next we’ll head to Professor Nhu Huy’s home for a private hands-on cooking class, featuring the cuisine developed for the royals who represented Hue’s imperial past.
Afterward, we’ll drive to visit the seven-story Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument, perched on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. Then the evening is yours to explore Hue or enjoy the resort. Perhaps indulge in a luxurious spa treatment, take a dip in the pool or explore the lush tropical grounds of the resort. You can also inquire about the resort shuttle to the Hue city center, just 15 minutes away.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 7: Fly to Hanoi & Water Puppetry Show
After breakfast, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your flight to Hanoi. Upon arrival we’ll head directly to Dao Thuc village for a private water puppet show. Originating in the 10th century, water puppetry is a folk art that is unique to Vietnam. Although water puppetry has existed in Dao Thuc village for over 300 years it has had a recent resurgence thanks to a talented and committed puppet artisan. We’ll drop by the puppet workshop to meet the artisan and learn how he and his family are sharing this traditional art with the world. Then we’ll enjoy a private 30-min water puppet show on the village pond, accompanied by live Vietnamese music.
After the show we’ll drive to Hanoi and check into our boutique hotel, which is within easy walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake and the old quarter. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore the capital of Vietnam, perhaps a further visit to the bustling old quarter and the local markets – keep a look out for the many little temples along the way!
Drive time: 1 hour
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 8: Hanoi City Tour
Hanoi is full of charm, with French colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards and scenic lakes. We’ll begin our day at the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, where the preserved body of “Uncle Ho” resides. Behind the mausoleum, we will visit Ho Chi Minh’s house, a simple wood home where he lived and worked, adjacent to a tranquil lotus pond.
Next we’ll visit the Temple of Literature, built in 1070, which was Vietnam’s first university for the sons of mandarin. We will also visit the infamous Hoa Lo Prison, known as Hanoi Hilton, which is now a museum. (This is an optional visit for those who are interested.)
For lunch, we’ll enjoy a stop at Bun Cha Le Van Huu, one of Hanoi’s famous specialties. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the Museum of Ethnology, which offers a fascinating insight into Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority groups. Later we’ll enjoy a cyclo tour around Hanoi and then stroll around Hanoi’s Old Quarter – 36 streets, named after 36 wares which were traditionally sold there.
This evening we’ll have a lovely farewell dinner of traditional Vietnamese cuisine – the kind of dishes you’d be served as a guest at a Hanoian home.
Drive time: 2 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9: Vietnam Culinary Tour Ends
Your Vietnam culinary tour ends today as you transfer to the airport for your return home. Or, extend your trip with a cruise to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of 1600 spectacular limestone karst islands in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Drive time: 45 minutes
Meals included: Breakfast
Please note: This itinerary is designed to give you an idea of what to expect during our Vietnam culinary tours, but is not set in stone. What we actually do on a given day is flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the group.
Optional Halong Bay Extension
Cap off your trip with our incredible extension to Vietnam’s Halong Bay! See more information below:
What Foodies Love About Vietnam
Our Vietnamese cooking tours are ideal for anyone who wants to combine their passion for food with their passion for travel. Authentic Vietnamese cuisine is a delectable combination of spicy, salty, bitter, sour and sweet flavors using savory spices, aromatic herbs and fresh vegetables. In our hands-on Vietnamese cooking classes you’ll learn traditional Vietnamese cooking techniques and recipes as well as a more modern and eclectic approach to Vietnamese cuisine. Outside the kitchen, you will delve deep into Vietnamese culture through its cuisine with an evening street food tour on the back of a vintage Vespa. You’ll also visit several villages to taste their unique specialties, explore fresh food markets, and dine at historic homes and unique restaurants.
Our Vietnam cooking tours includes daily breakfast, four lunches and four dinners. Two of the included lunches will be meals that you learn to prepare yourself during each Vietnamese cooking class.
In hands-on cooking classes our renowned chefs will teach you authentic Vietnamese cooking techniques and recipes for Vietnamese foods such as:
* Crispy spring rolls with shrimp, pork, and vegetables
* Giant prawns grilled in a delectable wine and garlic sauce with a touch of bitter chocolate
* Flambé with rum in brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon, served with coconut sauce
* Beef and lemongrass wrapped in betel leaf
* Banh Xeo – Vietnamese pancakes with prawns and pork
After the cooking classes, meals will be served family-style and we will enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Note: Cooking classes and menu items are subject to change
Vietnam Hotels & Boutique Accommodations
For our Vietnam food tour, we have selected boutique Vietnamese hotels that blend the best of Vietnamese style and hospitality to create a peaceful respite from your busy days. All of our Vietnam hotels offer en suite bathrooms and air conditioning in comfortable, stylish rooms that reflect the local culture.
Our lovely Saigon hotel is a 1925 art deco building overlooking the Saigon River. Our hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, relaxing spa, complimentary internet access, and rooftop bar with a spectacular view of the Saigon River.
We’ll spend the next two nights of our Vietnamese food tour at a boutique resort with classic heritage design, surrounded by tropical gardens and inviting terraced pools. A relaxing place to wind down, the resort also offers a complimentary massage and spa experience each night.
In Hue we stay in a relaxing retreat just outside of town, surrounded by lush tranquil gardens. Our resort has a lovely swimming pool, a spa, and complimentary wi-fi.
Our boutique hotel in Hanoi is located in Hanoi’s famous old quarter, just a few minutes walk to Hoan Kiem Lake. Our hotel features a roof-top spa, restaurant and room service, satellite TV, and complimentary Internet access.
Note: All Vietnam hotels are subject to availability and may be changed as needed.
Vietnam Travel Information
You should arrive at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport (airport abbreviation: SGN). Group airport transfers are generally scheduled for late morning and late afternoon on Day 1 of the tour. We will not know the exact times until we have received the final flight information from all guests. We will notify you in advance should there be a wait time longer than one hour from your flight’s scheduled arrival time. In this case, you may choose to wait for the included group transfer or we can arrange in advance of your trip a private car and driver for an additional cost.
You should depart from Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport (airport abbreviation: HAN). Group airport transfers are included on Day 9. We will not know the exact times of the transfers until we have received the final flight information from all guests. We will notify you in advance should there be a wait time longer than two hours from your flight’s scheduled departure time. In this case, you may choose to take the included group transfer or we can arrange in advance of your trip a private car and driver for an additional cost.
Pick-up & Drop-off Information
We provide complimentary group airport pick-ups and drop-offs at the specified airports and times on the first and last day of the trip. We will be waiting for you with a sign saying ‘Access Culinary Trips’ as you exit customs at Saigon’s airport. If you would like a private transfer, to be picked up or dropped off on a different day, or brought somewhere other than the airport, please contact us.
Note: We are not responsible for last minute adjustments due to changes or delays with arrival and departure flights.
We do not book international flights to or from Vietnam for our clients. If you would like assistance with purchasing your flights, please let us know and we will forward your contact information and trip details to our travel agent partner.
Internal airfare from Saigon to Danang on Day 3 and Hue to Hanoi on Day 7 is included in the trip price.
Travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation coverage, is compulsory for all our trips. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance that includes cancellation protection so that you will be covered in the event that you are unable to attend our trip (due to injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances). Please do not attend any of our trips without purchasing appropriate insurance coverage and providing the details to Access Culinary Trips.
Please note: proof of insurance is due within 14 days of booking, and delay in receipt may result in late documentation charges.
We do not provide travel insurance for our clients. Additional details are on our website here.
Passports & Visas
All countries require a valid passport (with a minimum of 6 months validity). Citizens of some countries (including the USA) will also require a visa. To learn more about visa and entry requirements for Vietnam, please check out the State Department’s website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/vietnam.html .
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documentation.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
If your friends or family need to contact Access Culinary Trips due to an emergency while you are on the tour, please have them refer to the pre-departure email that is sent out three weeks prior to departure, which will have specific contact information relevant to your trip. If you need to contact Access Culinary Trips while traveling, please also refer to the emergency contact information in the pre-departure email.
Guests with preexisting medical conditions are required to disclose this information prior to traveling with Access Culinary Trips, and all guests with preexisting conditions are required to provide a note from a doctor clearing them for travel. The US Department of State recommends that travelers with medical prescriptions consider bringing small additional amounts of prescribed medicines as well as a copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription.
We strongly recommend that all of our guests visit a travel doctor before embarking on international travel. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you receive any necessary vaccinations before traveling on your trip with us.
Please carefully review the health information section of the following webpage for up-to-date health information, including information on the quality of medical care, the availability of medications and the necessity for vaccinations in the destination country as well as Zika update: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/vietnam. If there is a chance that you may be pregnant during your trip, please discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
Our trips are open to anyone who wants to explore our exotic destinations through cuisine. We do engage in multiple walking tours, some of which last several hours. This tour also includes an optional activity riding on the back of a Vespa scooter.
Safety & Security
To maximize your safety during our tours you should exercise common sense and caution at all times. We recommend that you always stick to set travel arrangements, and avoid unknown areas. We also recommend that you wear minimal jewelry and that you keep valuable items (including cell phones) safely stored. Always keep a copy of your passport, airline tickets, and credit card numbers separate from where you keep the originals.
For more information on safety and security in Vietnam, please review the safety and security section of the following webpage: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Vietnam.html
Note: As a rule, do not drink tap water or use ice in Vietnam, even in hotels. We strongly recommend buying bottled water. Also, you may consider avoiding uncooked and unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
Children ages 12 and up are welcome on group trips. Children under 12 are welcome on private tours. Please contact us with any questions.
Vietnam is a conservative country. Out of respect for the culture we are visiting, please note:
Dress conservatively – women particularly should wear long skirts or pants, have their shoulders and knees covered.
Remove your shoes when entering temples and do not sit with your feet towards the Buddha – sit either cross legged, or with your feet tucked behind you.
Women should take care not to touch a monk.
Avoid patting children on the head.
Most people speak Vietnamese or a regional dialect.
Our culinary tours in Vietnam take us to a wide variety of Vietnamese towns and cities. We begin our adventure in Saigon, which is Southern Vietnam. Here you should expect temperatures year round to be in the 90’s during the day and the 70’s in the evening. Humidity is consistent year round and there is a greater chance of rain from June to September.
As we travel north to the cities of Hoi An and Hue, you can expect daytime temperatures to be in the 90’s and nighttime temperatures to be in the 70’s most of the year, with slightly lower temperatures in the winter months. The most common months for rain in this area of Central Vietnam are October and November.
We end our Vietnam culinary adventure in the northern city of Hanoi. Summer season (May to October) is hot and humid with temperatures in the 90’s during the day and the 70’s in the evening. This is also the time with the greatest chance of rain, generally July to September. In the winter months (November to April), the weather should be a little drier and the temperature could drop to the 60’s during the day and the 50’s at night.
Perhaps you have chosen to continue your adventure in Vietnam on our Halong Bay extension? If so, the best times to visit are late March to early October. During the spring months, late March to early May, you can expect daytime temperatures in the 70’s and nighttime temperatures in the 60’s. In the summer, late May to August, you should be prepared for hot and humid weather with daytime temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s and nighttime temperatures in the high 70’s. The weather begins to cool down slightly in the fall with September and October usually seeing daytime temperatures in the 80’s and nighttime temperatures in the 70’s.
CURRENCY, BANKING & SPENDING MONEY
The national currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). There are exchange bureaus in airports, certain hotels, and most banks. Counters require your passport for the transaction.
For the latest currency exchange information please go to: https://finance.yahoo.com/currency-converter
ATMs are available in all cities and major towns.
It is recommended to notify your bank or card issuer that you intend to travel abroad so that no block will be put on the usage of your credit or ATM cards.
Meals: All breakfasts, three lunches, and four dinners are included, including the lunches you cook yourself. Please plan to bring at least $5-$10 per lunch and $10-$20 per dinner for those meals that are not included, as well as money for snacks and drinks.
Tipping: Tipping is not compulsory but it is greatly appreciated throughout Southeast Asia, especially in the service industry. For reference, we have provided a general guideline below:
If you are pleased with the services provided by your tour guide and driver, then a tip for their hard work will be very much appreciated. In general, we recommend around US $10 -15 per day, per traveler for guides and US $5-7 per day, per traveler for drivers if less than 4 people in a group. We recommend around US $5-10 per day, per traveler for guides and US $3-5 per day, per traveler for drivers if there are 5 people or more.
Hotel & Restaurant Staff
We recommend 5-10% of the total bill in restaurants. Where you stay a couple of days in the same hotel, a tip to the maid service of $2-3 per day is appreciated. For porters, US $2-3 per use is customary.
Other expenses: there are no required additional expenses for this trip, but you might like to take spending money for such things as souvenir shopping and nightlife.
ELECTRICITY & INTERNET
Vietnam uses 220V, 50Hz and generally uses flat, two prong plugs.
There is complimentary wi-fi access in the common areas of all of hotels.
Most US cell phones will not work in Vietnam, unless you have a specific international plan. Contact your cellular provider to see what options you have in terms of international calling plans.
WHAT TO TAKE
We strongly recommend using TSA approved luggage locks on your bags and to hand carry valuables on the plane.
We recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. There may not always be someone available to help you carry your bags so you should only bring as much as you can carry on your own.
We suggest that you bring the following items:
Clothing & Equipment
Warm-weather casual clothes
Sandals with straps and sturdy walking shoes
A light jacket and a pair of long pants because it can get cool in the winter evenings in Hanoi
Sunscreen / sunglasses / hat
Insect repellent with DEET
First-aid kit (should contain lip balm, aspirin, band aids, a cream for sore muscles (e.g. deep heat), Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, rehydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
Passport (with photocopies)
Travel insurance (with photocopies)
Airline tickets (with photocopies)
Entry visa (with photocopies)
RECOMMENDED READING LIST
Click here to check out our recommended reading before your tour!
This is a tool meant to help you decide what you should bring on your upcoming trip. It is by no means comprehensive. While we do our best to be as thorough as possible, we cannot foresee every possible condition. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The information contained in this document is provided in good faith. Due to the nature of travel, details in this document may change. You should thus use the above information as an indication only and not as a contractual obligation on the part of Access Culinary Trips.