A comprehensive trip from the South of Vietnam to the North. Treat the Dong Pass as a tour and complete it in 2 weeks or hop on and off and spend up to a year exploring Vietnam at your own pace.
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Whether it be our air-conditioned buses, boat, train, or even tuk-tuk - you can hop-on hop-off anywhere along the route.
Knowledgeable local guides to provide invaluable support and insider insights and to assist with booking accommodation and activities at every destination.
Have a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. Book through your Tour Leader and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
12 month travel pass
Your pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel.
There are some awesome activities and entrance fees included with your pass:
- My Lai Memorial entrance fees, near Hoi An
- Vinh Moc Tunnels entrance fees, near Dong Hoi
- Thien Duong (Paradise) Cave entrance fees, Phong Nha
- Trang An Grottoes canoe tour, near Ninh Binh
Not included: The cost of your accommodation and optional activities is not included in a hop-on, hop-off pass. You have the flexibility to choose what suits your budget and pay-as-you-go. These can be booked via your Tour Leader.
Is this trip right for you?
✓ Do you want to explore with a group of like-minded travellers?
✓ Do you want to explore Vietnam at your own pace?
✓ Do you want to immerse yourself in local culture?
✓ Do you want to visit some of those harder to reach, remote destinations?
✓ Do you want the flexibility to stay longer in certain places?
If you would prefer a tour with accommodation and more activities included, check out our Freestyle Tours!
Our mission is to get you off the beaten track amongst authentic local culture and our experienced crew has chosen some incredible destinations so you can see more and do more! 'Strademark' Places are the places you're less likely to find in the guide book but the ones you'll be talking about long after the adventure has ended.
- Discover the secluded fishing village of Bai Xep on a beautiful long stretch of white sandy beach. Relax, swim and wander deserted beaches, discover hidden waterfalls and learn to paddle a traditional round boat.
- Visit the Vinh Moc Tunnels, an impressive underground complex that was used by more than 90 families to live and work during some of the heaviest bombings in the American War.
- Swim in pristine rivers and explore impressive caves, including the recently discovered Thien Dong Cave, one of the largest caves in the world, in Phong Nha. Be amazed by the glittering limestone walls, stalagmites and stalactites and a gleaming limestone waterfall.
Get inspired and start planning your trip!
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Welcome to Stray! Your adventure kicks off in bustling Ho Chi Minh City. If you arrive early in the day, feel free to spend time exploring the narrow streets on foot or find a restaurant teeming with locals for your first taste of the best Vietnamese cuisine. At 6pm you’ll meet your Tour Leader and new travel mates at the Khoi Hostel for a Welcome Meeting introduction. We’ll cover how Stray works and answer any questions you have about travelling in Vietnam. Afterwards, make the most of your first night by getting to know each other over a delicious dinner and a few cold beverages.
Today is a free day to explore the hot and lively Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about the history of the American and Vietnam War at the War Remnant Museum, visit the French Colonial Saigon Opera House, browse the surrounding shopping plazas or see a cultural show. Ho Chi Minh even has its own Notre Dame Cathedral, which is said to be a connection between the physical and spiritual life for the Ho Chi Minh people. We recommend taking a trip out to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a complex of over 200kms of tunnels used by the Viet Khong in the war against the US. Discover how the people lived and survived in these tunnels, built schools and hospitals underground and eventually gained victory. This evening enjoy a traditional performance at the Water Puppet Theatre, or dine out on delicious street food at one of the city’s many restaurants or bars.
Leaving behind the chaos and heat of Ho Chi Minh City, we head for the refreshingly cool climate of Da Lat, known as the ‘honeymoon capital of Vietnam’. Our journey today takes us through fertile farmlands that specialise in rubber, coffee and tea, locally produced wine, vegetables and flowers. Da Lat vaguely resembles a French town with sprawling old villas and towering pine trees. It is not on the main tourist trail, so locals are curious and very friendly to Western visitors. Spend the afternoon checking out the large market near the guesthouse or sample a glass of locally made Da Lat wine at one of the local restaurants.
Today is a free day so fuel up on an excellent locally sourced coffee at one of the friendly cafes that seem to occupy every corner, and then head out to discover the notable city sights on foot, by bicycle or the popular option of a guided motorbike tour. Must see sights include the Emperor’s Art Deco-style Summer Palace, the surrealist Hang Nga ‘Crazy House,’ the French Quarter and railway station, as well as the never ending local coffee or strawberry plantations and the aptly named Paradise Lake that lie outside the city.
Leaving behind the cool climate of Da Lat we’ll head for the Vietnamese coast, stopping for refreshments at the coastal city of Nha Trang, a popular beach destination to hop off for those who have the time. Driving on your destination is the tiny fishing village of Bai Xep located along a stretch of sandy white beach. Kick back and relax in this peaceful village setting well off the beaten tourist track and as yet untouched by rampant tourism. Don’t be surprised when the locals wave and greet you with welcoming smiles.
Today you are free to enjoy this remote coastal location and all it has to offer. Swim, snorkel and take long walks on the beach, learn to paddle a traditional round boat, go fishing and cook your catch for tea, wander the village and get to know the friendly locals or just relax at your comfortable seaside guesthouse.
See More moment: Learn to paddle a traditional round boat or go fishing with a local and learn how life is lived in this fishing village.
A coastal drive takes us to the popular tourist spot and UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An. Before arriving in Hoi An, we’ll stop along the way to visit the My Lai Memorial, a site that commemorates an event that marked a turning point in the American War. Hoi An is a must-see destination, with beautifully restored and preserved French Colonial architecture, funky bars, outstanding restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and countless tailor shops. With glorious beaches so close nearby, this is paradise! A great spot to hop off and enjoy the local nightlife, try local delicacies (and beers), then meander home through the motorbike free streets.
Do More moment: To learn more about Vietnam’s history we visit My Lai memorial, an important monument commemorating a turning point in the war.
Today is free for you to explore this charming town. Get some tailoring done, take a leisurely cycle to the beach, or just enjoy the tasty local coffee at one of the many restaurants around town. When the sun goes down this is when Hoi An really turns on its charm. Paper and fabric lanterns are lit throughout streets, bathing the historical French colonial and Chinese architecture in a warm glow. Take a sunset stroll through the old town, and try a local delicacy called the ‘White Rose’ - a dumpling stuffed with shrimp or pork bunched into the shape of a rose. Apparently the recipe is a family secret, held by only one family who supply all the restaurants around town.
Today you travel to Hue, considered Vietnam’s most liveable city. Surrounded by rolling hills and located on the Perfume River, Hue is regarded as the cultural and spiritual centre of Vietnam and is the former home to the Vietnamese emperors. Here you’ll see many elaborately decorated temples and beautiful pagodas, including the seven-storied Thien Mu Pagoda (where the most famous Vietnamese monk is buried), the intricate Citadel and Forbidden Purple City. This is a great place to take a motorbike tour of the Vietnamese countryside. Travel on the back of a motorbike through rice paddies, quaint rural villages and down tiny roads to discover a little bit of the ‘real’ Vietnam.
This morning we head for the fascinating Vinh Moc Tunnels, an impressive underground complex that was used by more than 90 families to live and work during some of the heaviest bombings in the American War. From there it’s on to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, passing through the provincial town of Dong Hoi on our way to the charming hotel in Phong Nha town that will be our base for exploring the park.
On this free day we visit the spectacular rural area of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, 45km from Dong Hoi. This area has pristine rivers (perfect for a refreshing dip or kayak) and boasts a number of impressive caves, including the recently discovered Thien Duong Cave. Inside you’ll find glittering limestone walls, impressive stalagmites and stalactites and a limestone waterfall. This afternoon you have the option to go on a guided tour of the ‘Dark Cave’, suitably named as such because the rock is black. This is an exciting adventure where you’ll explore the cave’s darkness with the help of a head torch, discover ancient fossils and slide down muddy ridges, all while Asian bats fly overhead. Afterwards, back at the mouth of the cave you can wash off all the mud by spending the afternoon swimming and playing in the river.
See More moment: Explore the recently discovered Thien Dong Cave, one of the largest caves in the world!
Our journey today takes us through beautiful countryside and stunning limestone karst mountains. We’ll stop along the way for a chance to stretch your legs before continuing our express journey to Ninh Binh. We arrive late in the afternoon, but you have time to wander around and acquaint yourself with the tiny town before dinner. Nestled amongst rice paddies, rural plains and massive mountains, Ninh Binh is almost overwhelmed by the spectacular landscape surrounding it. The best way to take it all in is hire a bicycle and explore the countryside at your own pace.
This morning we venture out in traditional canoes to discover the Trang An Grottoes. Sometimes called the ‘Halong Bay on land’, we’ll coast through caves in the mountains to view stony outcrops and dramatic karst formations towering above flat tranquil waters and rice paddies. After lunch in Ninh Binh, we jump back on the bus bound for the chaotic streets of Vietnam’s capital. Hanoi is an exotic city full of excitement and energy, and thousands of motorcycles that make the simple task of crossing the road seem like a real achievement! There’s an an excellent culinary scene. We recommend dining at Restaurant 69, which is said to be over 300 years old, or trying some of the delicious street food available on every corner, where the saying goes “the lower the chair, the cheaper the beer.”
This is where your journey with Stray comes to an end, but there is plenty to see and do in and around Hanoi. If you have some extra days to spend here, we highly recommend booking a cruise around breathtaking Halong Bay or making a trip inland to visit the hill tribes of Sa Pa. Both of these excursions can be organised for you by your Tour Leader. We hope you’ve had a blast on your great Stray adventure!
Start: Ho Chi Minh City
Start Days: Tuesday or Friday
Time: 6pm Welcome Night at Khoi Hostel
Note: The timetable below is for the new season beginning 1 October 2019. Refer to our main Timetable page if you are travelling before then.
Timetables are subject to change but our team will email you if this happens whilst you are travelling.
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City
|Khoi Hostel (Welcome Meeting)||18:00||18:00|
Ho Chi Minh City
|Ho Chi Minh City (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Ho Chi Minh City to Da Lat
|Ho Chi Minh City - Khoi Hostel (Depart)||07:30||07:30|
|Da Lat (Arrive)||15:00||15:00|
|Da Lat (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Da Lat to Bai Xep
|Da Lat - Thoi Dai Hotel (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Nha Trang (Depart)||12:00||12:00|
|Bai Xep (Arrive)||17:30||17:30|
|Bai Xep (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Bai Xep to Hoi An
|Bai Xep - The Haven Guesthouse (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|My Lai (Depart)||12:30||12:30|
|Hoi An (Arrive)||17:30||17:30|
|Hoi An (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Hoi An to Hue
|Hoi An - Thanh Binh 2 Hotel (Depart)||08:30||08:30|
Hue to Phong Nha
|Hue - DMZ Hotel (Depart)||09:00||09:00|
|Phong Nha (Arrive)||16:00||16:00|
|Phong Nha (Free Day)||Free||Free|
Phong Nha to Ninh Binh
|Phong Nha - Heritage by Night Hotel (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Ninh Binh (Arrive)||17:30||17:30|
Ninh Binh to Hanoi
|Ninh Binh - Nam Hoa Hotel (Depart)||08:00||08:00|
|Hanoi (Tour Ends)||09:00||09:00|
Need to Know
Some key details...
- Transport - All transport is included - you'll travel by bus (mostly private, air-conditioned buses with 24 seats), minivans, trains (Thailand only), boats (Laos only) and tuk-tuks.
- Guides - Stray employs local Tour Leaders to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. Tour Leaders change from country to country so you'll have several different Tour Leaders throughout your journey if you're traveling multiple countries and if you hop on and off the bus - they're all absolute legends!
- Validity - This Freestyle Pass is valid for 12 months from your first day of travel and can be travelled once.
- Hopping on/off - Hop on and off as much as you like along the travel route. The buses run twice a week so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days.
- Minimum Days - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel your pass in the "Minimum Days". There are non-travel days throughout the route so you will not be travelling everyday however we recommend allowing extra time to hop off.
- Departures - Buses run twice a week. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Booking Buses - Use Stray Mate (trip manager website) to book buses - you'll receive log in details in your Booking Confirmation email. If you're on a short timeframe, we recommend booking all your buses in advance.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is not included - we have preferred accommodation options at each overnight stop and you can book this through your Tour Leader, or you can opt to book your own. Stray's preferred accommodation is simple and budget friendly.
- Activities - Activities are not included - your Tour Leader can provide recommendations and assist with booking.
- Visas - You are responsible for obtaining any visas you require for the countries you are travelling in. Visa requirements vary depending on where you’re coming from and where you going, so we recommend that you contact the appropriate embassy in your country of origin.
- Travel Insurance - You must have a travel insurance policy to cover you for the entire time you are travelling with Stray. You will be asked for your policy details prior to starting travel.
- Stray Travellers - Our travellers are from all over the world, are energetic, adventurous and mainly aged between 20-35. You'll have people who have booked Freestyle Passes and Tours in your group, as the route is exactly the same, it's just the inclusions that are different.
- Group Size - Max 18, Average 9
- Unguided sectors - Some trips may include one or two unguided sectors as our Local Tour Leaders stay in their country of origin and bid you farewell to continue your journey with a new Tour Leader in the next country you're travelling to. Crossing the borders can be a bit of an adventure but your Tour Leader will tell you what to expect. In Stray Mate Trip Manager you can read the itinerary for each of these days to ensure your unguided sectors go smoothly.