The tourism industry has changed so much for a half decade thanks to information technology. Young people and middle-aged tend to book hotels, tours and services themselves directly with owners, hosts and tour operators or on Online Travel Agencies such as AirBnB, Expedia, Agoda, Booking.com, Cookly, Eatwith, WithLocal, GetYourGuide, Viator. Package tours provided by tour agencies are not good choices, cruise passengers book day trips themselves but not join popular tours operated by their cruise ships in order to save money and experience less-known places. Tours with local students in Vietnam can help to minimize your budget and bring you a great chance to interact with local people, not experienced tour guides telling boring stories. “Is student tours in Vietnam good?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. This ultimate guide to tours with local students in Vietnam answer all questions about student tours and give you helpful tips on booking the tours and avoiding inconvenience and problems.
Types of tours with local students in Vietnam
When you type “tours with local students in Vietnam” or similar keywords, you can find not less than one hundred results on Google Search Network. The results include websites of Vietnam’s student clubs, tour agencies, TripAdvisor, LonelyPlanet, OTAs such as AirBnB, WithLocal, GetYourGuide, Viator. Some of the tours are free, some cost from $15 USD. Student tours are more popular in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City than in other tourist destinations.
FREE tours with local students, provided by CLUBS
Well-known student clubs and tour guide clubs such as Saigon Hotpot (since 2006), Saigon Free Day Tours (2017), HanoiKids Free Tours (since 2006), Hanoi Free Tour Guides (since January 2010) provide free tours run by students and ex-students. The purposes of the clubs include introducing Vietnam’s attractions and hidden parts, Vietnamese culture and cuisines to travelers, making new friends from all around the world, improving their English, soft skills and knowledge. The clubs are usually sponsored by some organizations or companies, most of which are travel agencies. Travelers pay nothing for the tours except for transportation, entrance fee, foods and drinks.
FREE tours with local students, provided by TOUR AGENCIES AND TRAVEL COMPANIES
Many tour agencies and travel companies offer free tours with local students in order to promote their brands and train students who are going to be tour guides and work for them. Similar to free student tours provided by clubs, the tour price is 0 Vietnamese Dong. Travelers pay for transportation, entrance fee, foods and drinks themselves.
CHEAP tours with local students, provided by TOUR AGENCIES AND LOCAL GUIDES
In recent, cheap student tours in Vietnam are very popular. It is true that not all travelers have enough money to pay for luxurious or expensive experiences. For example, the Saigon food tour provided by XOTours costs nearly $80 USD, the Saigon food adventure by Vespa Adventure costs from $90 USD. A number of Saigon food tours with local students cost from $15 USD, including motorbikes, foods and drinks. What are the differences? Expensive tours are usually advertised to be operated by experienced companies, run by non-student guides, provided with safe motorbikes (vintage vespas), safe and more foods. However, many food tours with local students receive a large number of 5-star reviews. Cheap student tours have been promoted by lots of OTAs because they bring the OTAs lots of profits and contribute to making advertisement campaigns effective.
Some tour agencies create student tours and sell them at cheap prices in order to train their guides and earn money from the tours. In this case, you can find tours described and sold on the companies’ websites and OTAs. A local student can register an account on AirBnb, WithLocal and TripAdvisor and sell tours one these online marketplaces. You should learn about the information about the host or owner before booking the tour.
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PROS of tours with local students in Vietnam
- Cheap prices or free tours help travelers maximize their budgets.
- Make friends with local people who are passionate, energetic and love the city at their best.
- Local students tell you about real stories that professional tour guides may not let you know.
CONS of tours with local students in Vietnam
- The quality of student tours is not guaranteed. Vehicles, foods and drinks provided on the tours can be safe or unsafe.
- Some local students usually speak limited English so that they can not introduce to you the city at its best and share with you the best stories about the local life and themselves.
- Students can not answer all of your questions about attractions, history, war, etc.
- The guides can not be trained as well as possible because there is no training expense.
Are student tours good enough?
If you choose reliable and experienced tours with good reviews, the answer is yes. As mentioned above, not all students are trained well so that they may arrange a student who lacks information and speaks limited English. In high season, the quality is worse than in low season.
TIPS on BOOKING and JOINING tours with local students in Vietnam
- How to book student tours for your trip to Vietnam?
- Search on Google Search Network for free local student tours. Saigon Hotpot (since 2006), Saigon Free Day Tours (2017), HanoiKids Free Tours (since 2006), Hanoi Free Tour Guides (since January 2010) are good choices. Remember to read the reviews on TripAdvisor before contacting them.
- Search for local student tours (free or cost) on TripAdvisor.
- Cheap tours with local students are abundant on Viator, AirBnB, GetYourGuide, Freetour.com, WithLocal. I would like to recommend AirBnB which provides a wide range of choices.
- Read reviews as carefully as possible but you should be smart enough to discount unreliable reviews on TripAdvisor. Anyone can register using an email or Facebook account, then post reviews on TripAdvisor. Some companies in Vietnam hunt for as many reviews as possible. They may pay guides for reviews with their names, create fake accounts and posted fake positive reviews. A company can be given 1-star ratings by competitors. So that some reviews on TripAdvisor are not reliable. Discount one-time reviews and count on reviews by accounts who left some reviews, posted photos, provide locations.
- On OTAs, they can post reviews after joining the tours. However, the host or company only asks guests, who are satisfied with the tours, to leave reviews. A few guests who are really disappointed with the service leave negative reviews.
- The team of TripAdvisor and OTAs have experienced tours of the top 5 in order to guarantee the quality and reliability so that it will be safer to do the tour with top-rated hosts or tour operators.
- Free tours tend to be full so that you should book with them as soon as possible. The tours provided by well-known free tour clubs or travel companies may not available within one week.
- It is not a good behavior to cancel a free tour. You should plan the trip carefully first, then book with them. Try your best to not cancel free tours.
- It is recommended to tip tour guides on local student tours although tipping is not a must in Vietnam. You should tip at least $5 USD/person/day. Certainly, you can skip tipping if you are not happy with the tours.
- City tours and food tours
- City tours and food tours by walking or motorbike are the most popular student tours because students can not easily arrange to join one-day or multiday trips and do not have enough knowledge to take guests to other attractions except for places in the city. Certainly, students will not provide detailed information and can not answer all of your questions about attractions in the cities. You should learn more about attractions yourself before and after the tour by reading books and articles on the Internet.
- Food tours with local students are easy for students to lead and for guests to book. It is just a drive around the city, stop at local restaurants and enjoy delicious foods. Some restaurants and foods are researched carefully before taking you there and serving you. Some guides may take you to local restaurants serving unsafe foods which may make your stomach hurt. Make sure to read about the menu, reviews and see photos or videos of foods before booking. Refuse to eat dirty or oily, undercooked foods.