A good chunk of travelers complaining about Vietnam comes from getting ripped by a travel agent promising too-good-to-be-true tours and getting something far more scrappy and makeshift and cynical once you leave the cheerful staff at the ticket counter. If a Mekong Delta trip is too cheap – say US$25 for two days including transport, breakfast and lunch, and a night in a guesthouse or small hotel – it’s not going to be that high value, the meals skimpy and the bedroom a little grimy.

The following agencies are ones I recommend – other than ever-present Saigontourist. There are many many others in Saigon, and likely many good ones.

Mid-Range & High-End Tours

For those looking for smooth trips and great guides, Exotissimo wins many fans for its streamlined, Euro-oriented trips. They have deals with many European agents and use high-end hotels only, but it’s not cheap. They have Saigon day tours, Cu Chi trips, Mekong river cruises on the wooden Bassac (done up like traditional rice ship). See Mekong Delta’s Group Tours section for prices. In addition to trips they can arrange a car with driver for US$30 around Saigon, US$50 outside Saigon, or US$160 for three days around the Mekong. *Note: Exotissimo moved from an old location in early 2007. It’s actually about three blocks north of the position on the Saigon map. –RR**
Tel 08-825-1723;; 9 Dinh Tien Hoang St, 4th floor; open 8am to 6pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am to 5pm Sat

‘Sinh’ as the original behind ‘Sinh Café’ (see Cheap Tours below), SinhBalo is the most impressive active-based tours, with inventive biking/kayaking tours around the country – and new ones in the works. The website lists the many options; I took a two-day Mekong Delta bike trip and enjoyed it greatly. Note trips have two rates for ‘standard’ (sometimes disappointing) and high-end hotels.
Tel 08-837-6765;; 283/20 Pham Ngu Lao St; open 7.30am to noon, 1.30 to 5.30pm Mon-Fri, 7.30am to noon Sat

Family-run agency offering mid-range tours. I’ve heard good reports.
Tel 08-833-2564;; 58 Ton That Tung St

Built for mass tourism, with its ever-present logo of a yellow flower makes its way into many hotel info desks, Saigontourist offers the usual city, Cu Chi and Mekong tours for nearly double the Pham Ngu Lao offers. Comfort is more likely guaranteed, but you won’t get anything more personalized. If you want ANYTHING outside the norm, staff scramble and come up with laughably high prices (jumping from about $120 per person per day to over US$300). A car with driver around Saigon is US$45 per day.
Tel 08-824-4554,, corner of Dong Khoi & Le Thanh Ton Q1, open 8am to 6.30pm daily

Cheap Trips

Prices are good, but it can feel like sheep herds and sardine cans – but what can you expect for a US$4 day trip to Cu Chi? It depends on the guide ultimately. Ask around your guesthouse – or walk around De Tham or Pham Ngu Lao’s at 7.30am or so when all the café’s buses are setting off to talk with guides yourself.

For years, this (often copied) dominator has been the to-go place for relatively reliable cheapskate trips and transport around Vietnam. You won’t get much help if you’re asking to see things most travelers miss – but years in the driver’s seat means you’re at least assured to get a spot going to the promised places. If tours seem a bit rehearsed, or the Sinh Café hotels scattered around Vietnam a bit cold, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tel 08-837—6833;; 246 De Tham St Q1; open 6.30am to 10.30pm daily

A relative newcomer, dependable TNK follows the Sinh Café template – but many travelers prefer it. I had a good experience with their Cu Chi day trip.
Tel 08-920-4766;; 216 De Tham St; open 7.30am to 10pm daily

Run and founded by 20-somethings, Innoviet really tries to offer alternatives to the regular flooded Mekong travel ruts (its sign proudly claims ‘what Lonely Planet does not tell you, we do’). No one else we noticed offers a guided bike trip to Cho Lon! The catch is they use local buses for transport – so getting to places is a little more time-consuming than the A/C vans of Sinh Café. Ask also about arranged guided trips by motorcycle to far-flung Soc Trang (about US$35 per day, plus meals and accommodation for the guide).
Tel 08-295-8868;; 158 Bui Vien St, Q1; open 7am to 10pm daily

City Tours

Here’s a break-down of city tours if you don’t care to taxi or cyclo or walk around on your own.
• For big spenders, EXOTISSIMO’s full day city tour – taking in Cholon by cyclo, Notre Dame, War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace – is US$86/106/144 for one/two/four people (including lunch and English- or French-speaking guide); their interesting ‘unusual half day’ goes to the Fine Arts Museum, antique shopping (US$60/66/80).

• For a different slant to Cholon, backpacker-oriented INNOVIET offers a unique ‘China Town Bike Tour’ for US$20 (2-8pm). Vist Ong Bon Pagoda, Cha Tam Catholic church disguised as pagoda, Soai Kinh Lam Cloth market, Binh Tay market, Luong Nhu Hoc St’s multi-colored lanterns, local dinner in night market.

• For a more standard cheap greatest-hits tour, SINH CAFÉ takes in Cholon’s Binh Tay Market and Thien Hau pagoda, plus the center’s Reunification Hall, Notre Dame and War Remnants Museum. It’s US$6 not including entrance fees, and lasts from 8.30am to 5pm.

• Big groups, and surprisingly many hotels, go with the state-run tourist agency SAIGONTOURIST, who have a couple city tours for $13 each (including guide, bus, admission): the ‘Morning City Tour’ includes visits to History Museum or War Remnants (Mon), Thien Hau Temple, Binh Tay Market in Cho Lon, Notre Dame, Post Office, Lacquer workshop. The ‘Afternoon City Tour’ (1.30-5.30pm) visits Ben Thanh Market, an embroidery workshop, cyclo ride in Cho Lon, Jade Emperor Pagoda and Reunification Palace.