The Dong Freestyle Pass is a comprehensive trip from the South of Vietnam to the North discovering all of the highlights Vietnam is famous for and some fantastic places, further off the beaten track.
"Freestyle" means flexible, and it doesn't get much more flexible than this! You can complete the Dong Freestyle Pass in 2 weeks or hop on and off and spend up to a year exploring Vietnam at your own pace.
You'll travel with a guide and have all your transport organised for you, but you can choose your own accommodation and activities to suit your taste.
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All your transport is included and organised for you on our air-conditioned buses and minivans.
Knowledgeable Stray Guides provide invaluable support and insider insights. Travelling with a guide makes navigating Vietnam a stress-free experience. Guides can translate for you and book optional activities on your behalf.
These are the special off-the-beaten-track destinations on the route that make Stray stand out from the crowd. You can see them marked with a heart on the map because they're the places our travellers love.
View your itinerary and manage your travel on-the-go. Flexibility at its finest!
There will be a bed reserved for you at every Stray overnight stop. If you would like to book it, let your Stray Guide know and pay-as-you-go directly to the accommodation.
Top rated activities
There are some awesome local experiences included with your pass:
Visit the My Lai Memorial near Hoi An.
Go underground into the Vinh Moc Tunnels, used to shelter more than 90 families during the War.
Explore the recently discovered Thien Dong Cave, one of the largest caves in the world!
- Discover the stunning Trang An Grottoes by motorise canoe, sometimes called the ‘Halong Bay on land’.
What we're all about...
We’ve redefined the ‘traditional tour’ to give you the flexibility and freedom you crave.
Hop-off, stay longer and explore. It’s your time, your way.
Stray are the experts in taking you off the beaten track in Southeast Asia.
We’re all about seeking out secluded destinations and one-of-a-kind experiences.
We believe we have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the communities we visit.
Supporting local operators and hiring local guides means that you can learn more about the culture and get more out of your trip.
Travel is about creating lasting connections and sharing experiences.
Stray travellers are open minded adventurers who make the most of every moment.
We'll keep you safe and stress-free, with guidance and support every step of the way.
We’ll do the organising, you come along for the ride.
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 Madam Cuc 127 Hotel 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 Meeting
Note: The timetable below is for the current season.
Timetables are subject to change. Our team will email you if this happens whilst you are travelling.
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City
|Madam Cuc 127 (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 - Madam Cuc 127 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 private, air-conditioned bus and minivan. We don't travel on the road at night because we put your safety first.
- Guides - Stray employs local Guides to ensure you get more out of your trip. Hear the local stories, try their food recommendations, get insider tips and advice. If you hop on and off you'll have several different Guides throughout your journey - they're all absolute legends!
- Hopping on/off - You don't have to complete the Dong in 14 days, take your time and go with the flow! You can hop-off at any destination along the route and spend more time there, then hop back on with the next group that is coming through. You can travel with Stray for up to 12months. Where we recommend hopping off
- Booking Buses - It's really easy to manage your trip online using the Stray Mate trip management portal. 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.
- Travelling without hopping off - You don't need to hop off if you're short on time - you can travel in the number of days in the itinerary. 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 so the minimum amount of time you can hop off for is 3 days. Use the timetable to plan your trip.
- Accommodation - Accommodation is not included - we have preferred accommodation options at each overnight stop and a bed reserved for you. You can book this through your guide, or you can opt to book your own. Stray's preferred accommodation is simple and budget friendly.
- Activities - You can book optional activities through your Stray Guide.
- 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
- Validity - Start travel within 12 months of booking (you can change your start date as many times as you like within this 12 month period), then your Freestyle Pass is valid for 12 months from the first day of travel.
- Payment Options - If you'd like to secure your place on the trip, but are a little bit short on cash, you can reserve a seat with a 20% deposit. You then have up to 6 months to pay it off - too easy! Better yet - there's no admin fee. You can make payments when it suits you using our Extra Payments page. You just need to have paid for your trip in full 14 days before you start.
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