Vietnam is one of the most beautiful and meaningful places to earn service hours in Southeast Asia. There is a tremendous need for assistance with projects in impoverished communities and this summer you could lend a hand!
Your trip begins in the rolling countryside of Mai Chau. Here you will work alongside the picturesque rice fields in a hillside community faced with extreme poverty. Many families in this small village are enduring living conditions that can be trying for the handicapped and elderly. TFT has partnered with an organization working to provide assistance to families that are qualified in order to improve their quality of life. Projects include renovating kitchen and cooking spaces or helping trained workers to build small bathrooms. You will see get the chance to meet the family you are assisting and see the fruit of your labors come to life.
From Mai Chau, we’ll head to Hanoi to experience the bustling capital of Vietnam. Indulge in the delicious Northern style of Vietnamese cuisine and explore all the shopping the Old Quarter has to offer. Finish off the trip with an overnight cruise through Ha Long Bay and you will truly get to experience the undeniable beauty that Vietnam possesses.
During this program, you will…
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service working to improve the lives of impoverished families in a remote village of Mai Chau
- Enjoy an overnight cruise through Ha Long Bay
- Explore the variety of shopping in the Old Quarter of Hanoi
- Make your own lantern in the ancient city of Hoi An
- Visit historical sites in the former city of Saigon
- Indulge in the flavorful dishes of Northern Vietnam cuisine
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHTS DEPARTS FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
As the group flight takes off, the program officially begins!
DAYS 2 – 6: MAI CHAU HOMESTAY & COMMUNITY SERVICE
Mai Chau is known for being a beautiful destination in Northern Vietnam lined with sparkling green rice paddies and limestone mountains. What most travelers don’t experience when they visit this paradise, is the immense amount of poverty that is endured in the remote villages. TFT has partnered with a local family and organization to provide a service program that truly makes a difference for these families who call this gem of a location home.
We’ll stay with a local Vietnamese family who have long been in the tourism business. Their homestay functions like a small bed and breakfast where boys and girls have separate sleeping quarters and our meals are cooked and ate on-premise. Recipes that have been prepared in the family for generations are shared with our groups after a rewarding day of helping a local family in need.
Projects include assisting trained trace-men with small constructions projects like bathrooms or kitchen renovations that make a significant impact on the quality of life for a family in need. Students will get the chance to meet the families they will be assisting and see the gratitude of the recipients of good fortune first hand.
DAY 6: Hanoi
We’ll return to Hanoi after a few days in the countryside giving back to treat ourselves to some delicious Vietnamese cuisine and shopping. The Old Quarter is the best place to browse shops filled with all sorts of items. The food of Northern Vietnam is best tasted in Hanoi and we will certainly go out of our way to try as much as we can!
DAY 7: NINH BINH
From Hanoi, we’ll head to the former capital of Vietnam, Ninh Binh! Here you will take a boat ride down the Trang An river, a truly unique landscape in Northern Vietnam. We’ll also hike to the top of Mua Cave to get a birds-eye view of the Ninh Binh valley and take in the splendor of some of Vietnam’s most beautiful pagodas.
DAY 8-9: HA LONG BAY
No trip to Northern Vietnam is complete without embarking on an overnight cruise through Ha Long Bay. We’ll charter our own junk boat to sail through the emerald waters of the bay, checking out caves and marveling at the unique limestone formations that protrude from the sparkling sea.
DAY 9-10: HANOI
Spend a few extra days in the capitol of Vietnam exploring more than just the Old Quarter. We’ll visit the Ho Chi Minh complex, see a water puppet show, and go on a food tour.
DAY 11-14 Hoi An
We’ll head from Northern Vietnam to Central Vietnam to experience a second region in this large and diverse country. In Central Vietnam, there are even cultural differences in the way traditional Vietnamese dishes are prepared. For instance, Pho in the North contains lots of green onions while in Hoi An, Central styled Pho contains a generous helping of bean sprouts! We’ll learn all about the different styles of cooking in a Vietnamese cooking lesson.
The first thing you’ll notice about the ancient city of Hoi An as we enter the old quarter is the abundance of colorful lanterns. We’ll get to try our hand at making our own! At sunset, we’ll cruise down the river surrounded by a rainbow sea of glowing lanterns.
We’ll spend a day at the beach in An Bang, one of Vietnam’s best beaches just a stone’s throw from the city center of Hoi An.
DAY 14-16: HO CHI MINH CITY
Our third and final region of Vietnam will be the south. The former city of Saigon is full of history and reminders of the war. We’ll visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and museums that teach a great deal about Vietnam’s fragile history.
DAY 17: GROUP FLIGHTS DEPARTS FROM HO CHI MINH CITY (SGN)
After the group flight takes off the trip is over.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of teen typically participates in this program? What are the requirements to join?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new.
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 Mai Chau, we stay at a homestay which means we are on the property of a Vietnamese family. We will be the only group staying at the family’s home and will have gender-specific rooms separate from the Vietnamese family.
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 exploring the Northern region of Vietnam and participating in truly meaningful community service in a remote village in the mountains. It is a special experience to be surrounded by magnificent rice fields while working to give back and help a family in need. The city of Hanoi is filled with incredible food and endless shopping, making it a great city to visit on our way to the natural wonder of Ha Long Bay.
What is unique about this program?
At TFT we are most proud of our partnership with a local organization helping to improve the lives of impoverished Vietnam natives. Getting to meet and interact with the family you are assisting makes the project feel that much more worthwhile and significant.
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 bursting full of flavor, aromatic smells and vivid color, with lots of attention paid to balance, detail and variety. You’ll savor the best Pho of your life and that’s just to start. Take your pick from hundreds of incredible local 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 to bring anything special for the community service portion of this program?
Due to the nature of our service being outdoors, please be sure to bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, waterproof shoes, and a hat.
A more detailed packing list will be provided upon registration.
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 Vietnam is required to apply for an e-visa at least 7 days before entering 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!