Traveling independently is not particularly difficult in Vietnam. However, the presence of several reputable tour operators that specialize in itineraries in the north of Vietnam supplies succor and security for those who prefer to leave the legwork to others. Whether it's flight tickets, hotel reservations, or luxurious multiday voyages out on the pristine waters of Halong Bay, these specialists major in making life easy for travelers.
Backyard Travel. The consultants here pride themselves on their insider knowledge of Asia, and their Vietnam itineraries deviate from the tried and tested to offer something a little different for the adventurous traveler. In northwest Vietnam, tours include a three-day, two-night cruise around Bai Tu Long Bay. www.backyardtravel.com. Bai Tu Long cruise from 8,880,000d.
Handspan Travel. One of the most respected tour operators in Vietnam, Handspan can organize everything from luxurious cruises on Halong Bay to more offbeat adventures such as bike tours and kayaking itineraries. 78 Ma May St., Hanoi, Ha Noi. 024/3926–2828; www.handspan.com. Two-night Halong Explorer and Kayak Discovery Tour from 5,656,000d.
Tonkin Travel. Founded by two native Hanoian women in 2002, Tonkin Travel has built a formidable reputation in the intervening years. In common with the other top operators in Vietnam, Tonkin is as comfortable directing tourists to the main sights and attractions in the country as it is designing more imaginative bespoke itineraries to off-the-beaten-track destinations around Lan Ha Bay, Ninh Binh, and Bai Tu Long Bay. 164 Xuan Dieu St., Hanoi, Ha Noi. 024/3719–1184; www.tonkintravel.com. Halong Bay/Ninh Binh/Mai Chau tour (4 days/3 nights) from 11,300,000d.