Bạn Thân, or “Best Friends” in Vietnamese, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit one of the world’s greatest destinations: Vietnam. Join us for a unique journey through one of Southeast Asia’s top destinations, making meaningful connections, and inevitably, new best friends that will last a lifetime.
“Nicole loved interacting with the Vietnamese people she met on the trip. The program section at Friendship Village was eye-opening for her - it's a part of American history that wasn't really discussed in her American history class, so to see the effects of Agent Orange first-hand definitely made an impact... we are thrilled that this trip has provided a push towards thinking about philanthropy and taking an active role in educating others." - Parent of Nicole T., Vietnam: Ban Than
Keep scrolling to learn more about this community service trip and cultural immersion program in Vietnam!
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam for almost a thousand years, has a beating heart called the Old Quarter. The streets, typically divided by trade (ie: silk, jewelry, woodcraft), beg to be explored by the curious, with new discoveries around every corner.
Spend time with children living with the effects of Agent Orange at Friendship Village. Provide support, show solidarity, and contribute to the international efforts to heal the pains of war.
Splendors of Sapa Valley
It’s a view like none other: the diverse ecosystem among the carpet of paddy fields with green as far as the eye can see! Mix in the Gothic stone church in the middle of town from the French missionary roots and come away with a unique blend of the past and present.
Simple yet oh so incredible, the broth, noodles, herbs, and more of pho have a way of feeding the body and the soul. Don’t miss out on Vietnam’s most popular (and many say most delicious) dish!
Though there is plenty of action to be found in Hanoi, it is sometimes called “city of lakes” because of the peaceful waterfront settings found throughout town. These places are popular spots to bicycle, paint, unwind, and enjoy the lotus ponds! Breathe, stretch, and be present.
With its distinct flavors and textures, Vietnam is known for its astounding food culture. After walking through street markets with enticing tropical fruits and warm pots of pho, our group learns how to cook and create some Vietnamese dishes with our local guide!
Imagine you're on a boat exploring new lands full of twists and turns through colorful rice fields and Karst towers. Down the Ngo Dong River, peacefully we'll sail, exploring caves and keeping our eyes open for mountain goats, kingfishers and monkeys.
From the city to the countryside, Vietnam and its people are rich in song, dance, and music. Bring along some of your favorite tunes to share and connect with everyone along the way. You never know, one song may just lead to a meaningful connection.
Working with victims of Agent Orange at Friendship Village by assisting students in special education classes, helping in the garden, & socializing with children and veterans.
Building a bathroom and toilet with a family in Hoa Binh province.
A Certificate of Community Service indicating the total number of hours worked and a Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be issued upon successful completion of the program.
Explore: Hanoi, Sapa, Tam Cốc, Hòa Bình, Bat Trang Pottery Village, Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi Old Quarter
Trek: Sapa Valley
Classes: Vietnamese Cooking, Basic Vietnamese Language
Float: Tam Cốc on the Ngo Dong River
In Hanoi, we sleep in bunkbeds in a dormitory. While in Hòa Bình and Sapa we enjoy group homestays where we all stay in our host's home. On the way to and from Sapa, we sleep overnight on a train in private cabins. Showers are available; however, we shower every three to four days to conserve resources and support sustainability.
Tuition includes all activities and food while on the trip, along with a basic travel protection package. The Road Less Traveled has purchased the Group Protection plan post-departure benefits on behalf of all participants. If interested in the optional Cancel for Any Reason benefits please contact the RLT office for rates and information.
A leader-escorted round-trip flight will be available (but not required) from SFO for those travelers who wish to fly with a leader. Please contact our office for details.
This summer we successfully ran our Colorado Wolf Refuge program allowing students to get outside, socialize with their peers, and volunteer their time. After months of quarantine and increased exposure to technology, time in the outdoors has proven to be exactly what students needed. With an abundance of caution and well defined protocols, we were able to keep students safe, healthy, and happy. We are confident that we are able to continue offering life changing experiences in the outdoors, mitigating risk to keep students safe. We encourage you to learn more here about our policies related to COVID-19.
Gather at SFO to board the optional escorted flight bound for Hanoi. Arrive in Vietnam the next evening, settle in, and get the lay of the land.
We have our group orientation in the morning before setting off on a walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood. Participate in an introduction to Vietnamese culture, language, and history while gaining insight into life in Vietnam. Learn introductory Vietnamese in a formal lesson and use your culinary skills in a cooking class!
We'll explore Hanoi's Temple of Literature, Hỏa Lò Prison, the Vietnamese Women Museum, and the lively Old Quarter. We'll visit beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake – a cultural and social focal point in Hanoi.
Activities at Friendship Village will include working with children in special education classes, observing and working with students in the vocational training classes, playing sports with children and veterans, gardening and most interestingly, talking with Vietnamese veterans about the U.S. & Vietnam War.
Embark on a day trip to Tam Cốc (Three Caves) for a boat ride along the Ngo Dong River. Visit Thai VI Temple before returning to Hanoi.
Visit the culturally significant site of Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. Weave through local markets, experiencing Vietnamese life and culture first-hand. Enjoy a water puppet show, a cultural tradition that dates back to as far back as the 11th century.
We revisit Friendship Village for a final farewell to celebrate what we have learned during such a thoughtful exchange. After spending the day saying goodbye and thanking our newfound friends at Friendship Village, we prepare for our overnight train to Sapa.
We explore the town center, market and surrounding villages seeing a different side to Vietnam life. The following day we'll hike in the mountains to experience the Vietnamese countryside. We'll spend the night in one of the villages and return to Sapa the following morning to take the train back to Hanoi that evening.
Our group transfers to Hòa Bình Province for cultural exchange and further service opportunities with our host family. Here, we work side-by-side with the family to build a small kitchen and bathroom. We share meals and stories after each days hard work. Games, building projects, gardening, song, and dance forge friendships during our time here.
Return to Hanoi and visit the most traditional pottery villages in North Vietnam. Try our hand at making our own pottery and have a chance to get last minute souvenirs. Share in a final banquet and Poet’s Campfire to close off a remarkable experience. Gazing one final time out over the wild landscape of Vietnam, we board our return flight home from Hanoi still in awe of the last three weeks.
Please note that, given the unprecedented nature of travel currently, this itinerary is subject to change.
Travelers are required to obtain a tourist visa prior to entering Vietnam. These 30-day tourist visas can be obtained from any Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate.
The Road Less Traveled requires an up-to-date tetanus shot or booster (within the last nine years). In addition, we require an RLT Physician's Form to be signed by the partcipant's physician, affirming they are healthy to travel on an RLT trip.
Please visit the CDC’s website to read more about recommended vaccinations for travel to Vietnam. The decision to get some, none, or all of the recommended vaccinations should be discussed with your family doctor.
COVID-19 Risk Mitigation
We will use a combination of quarantining prior to arrival, receiving negative test results, distancing from other groups, utilizing outdoor spaces, masking when distancing and outdoor spacing isn't possible, and sanitizing regularly to create our isolated bubble. We have mitigation plans should a participant or staff present with symptoms of COVID-19, and have extensively researched testing sites and medical facilities in the areas we travel. We are in constant communiation with top experts in the field to stay educated so we're able to make the best decisions for RLT, our participants, and our staff. We have had to completely rethink our itineraries to create COVID-19-safe programming while still maintaining the integrity of the RLT experience.
If you’d like to receive an emailed copy of this program’s day-to-day calendar, please give our office a call anytime between 9am and 5pm CST at 773-342-5200.
It is imperative that no one make any travel arrangements until RLT provides instructions for specific arrival and departure time windows. Those details are typically released in mid-spring.
Families are individually responsible for booking their own airfare to get their student from home to the starting destination on the first day of the trip, and from the ending destination back home on the last day of the trip.
This program offers an optional leader-escorted flight for those families who are interested.
If you wish to have your participant fly directly into the starting location, please call the office for details.
We are proud of the profound and meaningful service work we take part in at Friendship Village for students living with various mental, emotional, and physical conditions. For that reason, a certain level of maturity is required for successful participation.
We ask that all of our Ban Than participants be prepared for the cultural and emotional sensitivity that will be needed to work with the population at Friendship Village.