Please make sure you arrive into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (HAN) on the selected Wednesday start date.
Day 1 (Wednesday) Welcome to Vietnam
You will be met at Noi Bai International Airport by a member of our local team who will take you straight to the Volunteer House.
There are no activities planned for today, as people will be arriving throughout the day. You can spend the day relaxing and getting to know your fellow travellers – and if you fancy it, you can explore the local area.
Day 2 (Thursday) Orientation Day
After a good nights sleep, you’ll start your orientation period to prepare you for the upcoming weeks. The whole purpose of the day is to give you an insight into life in Vietnam and for you to get to know your fellow travellers. Our team will teach you all about Vietnamese culture, transportation and cover issues of health and safety.
We’ll go through all the relevant safety protocols such as emergency procedures, staff contact details and do’s and don’ts whilst in Vietnam. You will meet a variety of the team across the day who all take different leads during the induction day.
The orientation sessions will finish with a Vietnamese lesson where you will learn important words and phrases in preparation for your volunteer placement. Depending on timings and how the day runs, it may be the case that the Vietnamese lesson runs into Friday morning.
Day 3 (Friday) Exploring Hanoi
It’s now time to explore some of the fascinating sites that Hanoi has to offer. The guided tour will start by visiting the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu) where you can learn about the philosophy of Confucius – whose principles shape traditional Vietnamese culture. Next stop is Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’, which offers a fascinating insight into the “American War” (as it’s know by the Vietnamese) and the treatment of US POW’s.
We will also spend time exploring the Vietnam museum of ethnology. The museum, first opened in 1997, focuses on the 54 officially recognised ethnic groups that exist in Vietnam. it is recognised as one of the finest modern museums in Vietnam.
We’ll then take you around Hanoi’s lively Old Quarter and the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake – a cultural and social focal point in Hanoi. The Old Quarter is definitely the heartbeat of Hanoi.
Day 4 (Saturday) City Tour Continued
Any trip to Hanoi wouldn’t be complete without visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum and Museum. Ho Chi Minh (HCM) is the founding father of the unified Vietnam and the adoration he receives from the Vietnamese people is still as strong as it was 40 years ago. The mausoleum is an impressive structure, which houses the body of Vietnam’s iconic former leader in an open coffin. The whole experience is very surreal but undoubtedly moving. Visiting the museum will give you the opportunity to learn more about HCM and the war.
We will then pay a visit to the infamous One Pillar Pagoda, which is a historic Buddhist temple in the heart of Hanoi. Built in 1049 as an expression of gratitude by Emperor Ly Thai Tong, It is regarded as one of the most iconic temples across Vietnam. The temple is designed to resemble a lotus blossoming from the muddy pond which is a Buddhist symbol of purity.
Day 5 (Sunday) Cooking Experience and Hanoi Night Market
Today you will have a cooking class at the Volunteer House. We’ll take you to the market in the morning, so you can directly pickup the ingredients yourself and try out some of the Vietnamese you have learnt so far.
The evening time is the moment all you shopaholics have been waiting for as we head back into Hanoi’s bustling old quarter. Our local team will take you to visit the popular Hanoi night market where you can pickup some traditional Vietnamese gifts, souvenirs and clothing. Remember to leave some room in your suitcase as the markets in Hanoi offer some fantastic bargains!
Day 6 (Monday) Duong Lam Ancient Village
It’s now time for a full day exploring one of Vietnam’s national relics. Located in Son Tay Town, around 60km west of Hanoi, the ancient village has a history of around 1,200 years for you to explore. The village gate, communal house, banyan, well and houses dating back hundreds of years are all important factors classifying Duong Lam as an ancient village and are incredible features to see first hand.
Buildings here are made up of only laterite and mud (two materials abundant in the area) and make for fascinating viewing! The village also represents a place that is important to scientists who study resident communities in ancient agriculture.
Having a full day at the village to embrace such an iconic part of the national cultural heritage of Vietnam is not to be missed!
Day 7 (Tuesday) Cultural Exchange
Today will be spent having Vietnamese lessons in the morning to further prepare you for your volunteer placement. Our local team will also arrange a cultural exchange with local Vietnamese students. This is a fantastic opportunity to interact with young people from a completely different culture than your own.
That afternoon its time to make the short journey across to the Thang Long Theatre where we will enjoy a water puppet show. Water puppetry is a tradition that originated in the 11th century in the villages of northern Vietnam; when the rice fields flooded the villagers would entertain eachother in the form of puppet play!
The show is a central attraction in Hanoi attracting many tourists and makes for a great spectacle!
Day 8 (Wednesday) Train To Sapa
The morning and day time is free for volunteers to explore further before heading to Sapa in the evening time. Recommended things to do during free time are:
– Take a day trip to Le Mat ‘the snake village’
– Cool off in Ho Tay Water Park
– People watch at one of Hanoi’s popular Bia Hoi stands
– Shop away in the markets around the Old Quarter
– Packing and preparing for Sapa
Whatever you plan to do in your free time, our local team can assist you with making any travel arrangements.
That evening you’ll take the overnight train to Lao Cai. You’ll stay in a private cabin with a bed, so you can get a good night’s sleep in preparation for your arrival into Sapa. The journey takes around 12 hours.
Day 9-11 (Thursday-Saturday) Sapa
Sapa is arguably the highlight of any trip to Vietnam and one that is often overlooked. This incredibly picturesque town is surrounded by the Hoang Lien Mountains – including Fansipan, which is the highest mountain in Vietnam. The town of Sapa was a favourite retreat amongst French coloniasts in the 19th century and was nicknamed the ‘Tonkinese Alps’. Numerous ethnic minorities live in small villages throughout the valleys. The H’mong and Dzao people are the largest ethnic groups in the region.
The train arrives in Lao Cai at approximately 05:30. Breakfast will be provided prior to your transfer to the town of Sapa – which takes around 1 hour. On-arrival into Sapa you’ll check-in to a hotel close to the town centre where you’ll spend the night. You’ll share a room with fellow travellers. All rooms have an en-suite western bathroom and Wi-Fi is available at the hotel. After you’ve got settled in we’ll take a wander round some of the surrounding villages as well as the town centre and market.
There are a number of fun bars and restaurants you can go out to in the evening.
The following morning you’ll embark on an all day trek to the surrounding villages. The terrain can be pretty steep but is absolutely fine for people of moderate fitness. Our guides will make sure we all go at a comfortable pace. That evening you’ll have the unique experience of spending the night at a homestay in one of the ethnic villages. Accommodation will be basic but it’s definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. We’ll provide you with a mattress, bedding and mosquito net. After a long day’s trek and hearty dinner, you’ll have no problem drifting off at night!
After your night at the homestay the group will trek back to the town of Sapa where you can relax and pick up some souvenirs, before taking the train back to Hanoi that evening.
The group will arrive back into Hanoi in the morning, where you’ll be met by a member of our team who will take you from the train station to the Volunteer House. The rest of the day is free to chill out, explore the neighbourhood or head into Hanoi.
Breath-taking views throughout the trek are guaranteed!
Day 12 (Sunday) Volunteering Preperations
In the morning, our local team will give you a briefing about your upcoming volunteer work. We will tell you about the students, class size, curriculum, extra activities etc.
After the morning’s preparation, the rest of the day is free for volunteers to relax, prepare for placement or head into the old quarter.
Day 13-16 (Monday-Thursday) Volunteering – Friendship Village
You will start your volunteer placement on the Monday morning at the Friendship Village. You will be accompanied by our local coordinators who will help you settle into the projects. As the week progresses you will soon get into the swing of things and really begin to find your feet.
The Friendship Village was founded in 1992 by George Mizo, an American veteran who strived to repair the damage done as a result of the use of Agent Orange in the America-Vietnam War. It is a living, health, and educational centre for children living with the effects of dioxins that the war brought. The centre also provides healthcare to war veterans.
The Friendship Village complex is composed of two living quarters, two classroom buildings, a health centre, and a few other buildings used by the staff for cooking and general administration. There is also a vegetable garden, as much of the food is grown on-site.
The centre provides a home to 120 residents, aged from 4 to 26 years of age. The residents come from all over Vietnam and suffer from a range of disabilities such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, physical deformity, and severe mental disability.
Volunteers help out in a number of different ways. These include collaborating with the teaching staff as to new ideas and techniques to help the residents. In addition, you can share ideas on how to structure lessons, providing an independent evaluation of the students and updating their student profiles.
Volunteers can also help in giving individual assistance to the students during the lessons or undergo personal therapy sessions (if appropriately qualified). Help is also needed organising structured activities for the children during their free time, helping with feeding the children and teaching English to the staff, teachers and residents.
The group will volunteer for around 4 to 6 hours per day.
Day 17-19 (Friday-Sunday) Halong Bay
After a hard week volunteering it’s time to visit one of the most scenic regions of Vietnam – Halong Bay. We’ll transfer you from your homestay to Halong City by private minibus. The journey takes around 2 hours.
You’ll have lunch in Halong city, after which you will board the cruise ship that will take you on your voyage of Halong Bay. After checking into your cabins, usually two people per room, you can chill out on deck and enjoy the awesome scenery of this majestic spectacle. You will be taken to various sightseeing locations including some of the enchanting caves of Halong Bay.
That evening you will have dinner on the boat. The rest of the evening is free time; a great opportunity to hang out under the starlit night.
The following morning you will set sail for Cat Ba Island enjoying a variety of activities and sightseeing during the day. Kayaking, swimming and a catalogue of breathtaking scenery will keep you entertained until you arrive at Cat Ba in the evening. You will have dinner at a restaurant in Cat Ba and spend the night at a hotel.
On the Sunday morning its time to say goodbye to this outstanding area of natural beauty and head back to Hanoi. It will be a transition stop at the Volunteer House to pick up supplies as that afternoon we will be heading for the Hoi Binh district for the next phase of our volunteering programme.
On-arrival into Hoa Binh we will settle into the volunteer accommodation and chill out for the rest of the evening – volunteering starts tomorrow!
Day 20-24 (Monday-Friday) Volunteering – Hoa Binh
On the Monday morning you’ll begin your volunteer project in a small village within the Hoa Binh district. Hoa Binh is home to the largest hydroelectric dam in South East Asia and is located around 80km outside of Hanoi. It is sure to provide volunteers with a more authentic feel to there Real Vietnam Experience.
In addition to English teaching, volunteers here will also have the opportunity to get hands on throughout the week. This includes anything from farming work to a range of maintenance and renovation work.
With the village home to hundreds of children you’re sure to be the centre of attention most days as well!
You will again be accompanied by our local coordinators who will help you settle into the projects. In general expect to volunteer for around 4 to 6 hours per day,
Day 25-26 (Saturday-Sunday) Ninh Binh
After a good breakfast, the group will travel by private minibus (for around 2 to 3 hours) to the Ninh Binh province for the weekend. It is an area renowned for its green valleys, imposing mountains and conservation centres as well as its impressive hiking trails and caves.
The first point of interest to visit in Ninh Binh will be Tam Coc, which stands for ‘three caves’. Tam Coc is essentially a miniature landlocked version of Halong Bay. You’ll be taken on a three hour boat ride along the Ngo Dong River – a river that twists and turns through the area’s three caves. You’ll sail peacefully along the river surrounded by colourful rice fields and karst towers. Keep an eye out for the mountain goats, kingfishers and monkeys, which can often be spotted from afar!
You’ll also have the chance to visit Thai VI Temple – really tranquil and atmospheric spot. Across the weekend there will also be the chance to take in other impressive sights and landmarks from Cathedrals to Pagodas.
On the Sunday evening we will head back to Hanoi.
Day 27 (Monday) Last day in Vietnam
It’s your last full day on the PMGY Real Vietnam Experience. Your day is free to visit any of the sites you haven’t seen so far and pickup any last minute souvenirs. There will also be the chance to engage in some outdoor activities with local university students. Our team will also be sure to check in with you on how you have found your 4 week experience in Vietnam!
That evening we’ll have a farewell party where you can say goodbye to your new found friends after what would definitely have been a life-changing 4 weeks.
Day 28 (Tuesday) Time to Say Goodbye
That’s it. Last day of the Real Vietnam Experience. It’s the end of an era – one that will give you memories for a lifetime.
Your return airport transfer is included in the fees. One of our drivers will transfer you back to the airport in order to catch the long flight home. Who’s joining us again next year?
* This itinerary is subject to change as a result of unforeseen circumstances.