Southeast Asia leaves a lasting impression on all who visit. Join us as we explore the best of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, from their sprawling cities to their perfect beaches, on a tour designed with the teen in mind! Along the way we’ll take in the best sights and sounds that these ancient cultures have to offer as well as some well-earned beach time, completing service work and connecting with the local communities. Explore the best of Vietnam exploring the sights and sounds of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, transport yourself back in time to the Vietnam War as you wander the somber exhibits, then cruise, swim and adventure through caves in the spectacular bioluminescent water in one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, UNESCO World Heritage site Halong Bay!
Head to Cambodia and explore the famous temple complex, Angkor Wat, before uncovering the country’s dark past with the Khmer Rouge. Spend a few days on the idyllic island of Ko Samet, snorkeling through vibrant reefs, relaxing on postcard beaches, getting awesome massages and eating delicious Thai cuisine. Finally end your Southeast Asia adventure in the bustling metropolis of Bangkok where you’ll be enchanted by the low hum of praying Monks, feast on delicious street food and marvel at the golden temples and palaces.
During this program, you will…
- Treat your tastebuds to a culinary odyssey through the incredible Thai, Vietnamese, and Cambodian cuisines
- Swim in the bioluminescent water of Ha Long Bay, one of the 7 New Wonders of the World
- Experience the bustling rivers of the Mekong Delta and witness its inhabitants’ traditional ways of life
- Channel your inner tomb raider as you adventure through the impressive temples of Angkor Wat
- Relax on picture perfect white sand beaches on idyllic islands
- Uncover incredible underwater worlds as you snorkel and scuba dive* in the pristine waters of the Gulf of Thailand
- Learn to haggle along Khao San Rd, in the legendary floating markets of Bangkok and the bustling stalls of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
*This is an optional excursion
DAY 1: DEPART FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
Your incredible adventure begins as soon as you pull away from the runway on your way to Vietnam!
DAYS 2 – 4: HANOI > HA LONG BAY
Arrive in Vietnam and immerse yourself in the moving recent history of this beautiful country. Gain insight into the Vietnam War as we visit the notorious Hanoi Hilton, a North Vietnamese military prison that was used to house and torture American POWs, and the Military Museum that boasts an impressive plethora of vehicles and weapons used by both sides during the conflict. In the city meander through Colonial Hanoi soaking in the amazing French architecture, fill your suitcase with exotic and novel souvenirs at the markets and witness a mesmerising Water Puppet Performance that showcases scenes of rural Vietnamese folklore accompanied by a traditional orchestra, an art form dating back to the 11th Century.
Transfer to nearby Ha Long Bay, where you’ll lap up a couple of days cruising on the UNESCO World Heritage site in the South China Sea, famous for its otherworldly peaks and bioluminescent water! In 2012 Halong Bay was officially named as one of the Seven New Wonders of the Natural World.
DAYS 5-6: HO CHI MINH CITY
Heading South to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) we’ll explore the confronting nature of war as we wander the somber exhibits of the War Remnants Museum before checking out the warren-like Cu Chi Viet Cong tunnels, an infamous underground highway which allowed the Viet Cong to launch numerous devastating sneak attacks on the American GI’s around HCMC. Soak in the atmosphere of the Mekong Delta as you visit Long, Lan Qui and Phuong Island, enjoying traditional vietnamese folk music. By night you’ll live like a local sipping delicious Vietnamese coffee and whizzing around the colonial streets on your humble cyclo.
DAYS 7-8: PHNOM PENH
Journey to Cambodia and the capital Phnom Penh, which was once known as The Pearl of Asia, due to the beautiful French colonial architecture still on display in the city. After the devastating effects of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79, the city has been recovering steadily and is now one of the most fascinating in South East Asia. The poignant, haunting memorials of Tuol Sleng Museum and Choeung Ek are a must for any visitor.
DAYS 9-10: SIEM REAP > ANGKOR WAT
Catch a short flight North to Siem Reap, to explore Angkor Wat, a 12th century Khmer temple that was swallowed by the jungle for centuries. This supremely beautiful temple complex is the largest of its kind and is a must-see for any traveller to Southeast Asia.
DAYS 11-13: KO SAMET
Swap the hustle and bustle for tranquility, white sand beaches, exotic coral and crystal clear waters of beautiful Ko Samet. Spend a day island hopping to some of the best beaches and swimming spots dotted around this picturesque island, snorkelling or scuba diving* amongst a plethora of amazing marine life. See beautiful sunsets over the water and enjoy delicious a Thai BBQ right on the beach.
DAYS 14-16: BANGKOK
We finish In Bangkok, where ancient temples sit next to soaring skyscrapers and the low hum of praying Monks enchants locals and travelers alike. You’ll haggle for exotic souvenirs on Khao San Rd and at the famous floating markets, learn the path to Enlightenment in iconic temples such as Wat Arun and finally feast on delicious street food; aromatic Thai curry and the super sweet mango sticky rice! Cap off an incredible three-country voyage with one final delicious dinner in Hanoi with the whole group, to celebrate the journey of a lifetime.
DAY 17: RETURN FLIGHT TO THE USA
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in 9th or 10th grade and approximately 14 to 16 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are chosen specifically in safe areas and are well suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. We do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities; we prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Hanoi we stay at luxuriously appointed four star hotel in the Old Quarter close to all the main sights. In Ho Chi Minh we stay at a three star hotel right in the heart of the city. In Phnom Penh we stay at a wonderful right on the river downtown. In Siem Reap we stay at a fantastically located hotel with a rooftop pool to wind down after a day exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. In Koh Samet we stay at a laid-back boutique resort right on the water. In Bangkok we stay in a modern hotel in close proximity to the main attractions and best parts of the city.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for the program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like most about this program?
Students love the wide variety of adventures that they experience on this whirlwind adventure. From investigating the temples of Angkor Wat to swimming in the bioluminescent waters of Ha Long Bay and cruising to unspoilt beaches and reefs in the Gulf of Thailand, this program leaves students with a lifetime of amazing memories!
What is unique about this program?
This program combines all the best parts of three fascinating Southeast Asian countries, giving you an insider pass to step through the history pages as you explore their poignant, often compelling pasts. The itinerary balances this perfectly with the the gems and adventures travelers love.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
Vietnamese cuisine is considered to be some of the healthiest in the world. Fresh flavors, aromatic herbs and distinctive flavors are what set this cuisine apart, with favorites like a steaming bowl of freshly made Pho or some succulent, crispy spring rolls.
Khmer cuisine the food of Cambodia draws upon Chinese and French influences, contrasting flavors, textures and temperatures. You’ll fall in love with the exotic variety of meals, including the traveler’s favorite Amok trey or a Cambodian BBQ cooked on the table right in front of your eyes!
Finally finish the program with some famous Thai cuisine, bursting full of flavor, aromatic smells and vivid color, with lots of attention paid to balance, detail and variety. You’ll savor the best Pad Thai of your life and that’s just to start. Take your pick from hundreds of incredible dishes featuring mouth-watering combinations of rice, noodles, seafood, meats and fresh vegetables. What will your new favorite be?
Of course, we are always willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters Thailand is automatically granted a free 30-day stay in the country.
When joining a TFT trip from outside of the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!