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Vietnam Gap Year Programme

Culture + Community + Wildlife


Itinerary Options

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Combine Culture + Community + Wildlife

Welcome to Vietnam - a country dating back to the 3rd century BC and so delivers a fascinating mix of culture, history, and mouth-watering culinary delights. Beautiful beaches, towering mountains, meandering rivers, golden Buddhist pagodas, and immaculate paddy fields are ready to be explored by foot, tuk tuk, train and bicycle.

Your four-week journey starts in old city of Hanoi, before moving to the remote village of Mai Chao found in the mountains near the Laos border, where you will live and contribute to a local hill tribe community. This will be followed by a boat cruise out into Ha Long Bay before heading into the famous limestone scenery of Cuc Phuong National Park where you will help protect endangered wildlife. Your final phase will be at the glorious coastal city of Hoi An, famous for its winding streets, beaches and lanterns of all shapes and sizes.

This programme promises to provide the perfect gap year experience as it combines the ancient and modern, rural, and urban, with inspiring community and conservation initiatives. All set in off-grid locations, thus providing an intrepid adventure.

Vietnamise lady carrying rice

Vietnam Programme Itinerary

A 4-week adventure which includes five phases and five locations... this is how it rolls.

Days 1-3

Hanoi City exploration

Your journey starts in the lively city of Hanoi, located on the banks of the Red River. It is a great entry point as it sets the scene for Vietnam's melting-pot history, especially reflected in its architecture, which is a stunning mix of Chinese shops, golden temples, and ornate Vietnamese houses.

Your base will be at a family-run guest house in the old quarter from which you will explore whilst you sample the local delights, such as their famous beef noodles, papaya spring-rolls and egg coffee “Vietnamese cappuccino”. Delicious, whilst learning to dodge the chaos of tuk tuks and bicycles.

Your first couple of days will be spent getting your bearings whilst visiting the spectacular Hoan Kiem Lake, St. Joseph's Cathedral and the famous Dong Xuan wholesale markets, before hopping on a bike and heading out of town to reach a pretty village on the outskirts of the city.Here you’ll meet a local family who’ll combine a private cooking demonstration, giving you the chance to make your own authentic Vietnamese dishes. After lunch you’ll visit the Lien Mac flower village, which is famous for flowers and vegetables.


You will be stay in a local family homestay such as Maih Boutique Homestay: https://www.facebook.com/Miah-Boutique-Homestay-198820990132717/


3 meals a day. Usually set menus – expect breakfast to be more continental/omelette style, lunch and dinner more rice/noodle based.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme
Days 4-9

Mai Chau Community + Biking + Trekking

Hikes, bikes and projects. Your next phase will take you to Moc Chau, a village in the mountains about 190km (five hours’ drive) west of Hanoi, near the border of Laos. Here you’ll stay with a local family for a full-on cultural hit as you explore the surrounding paddy fields, tea plantations, hill tribes, and waterfalls by hikes and bikes before helping the community by painting the school yard and classrooms, helping set up a library, teaching English, sports and games.

Interwoven into your time here will be a gentle hike through the pine hills to visit the Hmong minority people at Loong Luong village, a day out to visit the Moc Chau tea plantations at Tan Lap village which is famous for their “Heart-shape” tea plantations, and to picnic by the Dai Yem waterfall.

Homestay, rustic, basic but clean and tidy.


3 meals per day cooked by your homestay host – expect rice and noodles.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme
Days 10-11

Ha Long Bay Junk Boat Cruise

Phase 3 of your adventure will be a restful phase as you head to the iconic Ha Long Bay - a World Heritage area of outstanding natural beauty, to board a local junk style boat.

You will sail off for 2 nights, 3 days to explore the stunning scenery, which is made up karst rocks, islets, tunnels, lagoons, crystal waters and secluded beaches. It is utterly beautiful, and you will have time to head off on paddle boards and boats to reach the beaches and secret lagoons.

In the evening, you will be able to night fish, have a sundowner on the rooftop, watch an Indochina film, or treat yourself to a massage and spot of Tai Chi.


Cozy cabins on the Oriental Sails junk boat - Oriental Sails Cruise


3 meals per day from the set menu

Vietnam Gap Year Programme
Days 12-20

Cuc Phuong National Park Wildlife volunteering + Exploring

Cuc Phuong is the oldest National Park in Vietnam. It is utterly stunning due to the magnificent limestone mountains which rise majestically from the rice-terraces and home to the Muong hill-tribe.

Conservation at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW)
Your first 5 days will be spent helping out at SVW, set up to save animals from illegal trade. While you are here you will be involved with the rehabilitation of confiscated animals, especially the pangolin, helping with the feeding, cleaning the cages, and with site maintenance.

On the other days you will explore the National Park (by bike) to find the Botanical Gardena and Cave of Prehistoric Man, before heading out to visit the former capital of Hoa Lu. Here you’ll visit the Dinh & Le Kings’ Temples and climb Buddha’s Palm Mountain for the stunning views of mountains and pagodas.


At SVW you will stay in the park, at the National Park tourist centre. You’ll have a bed, with mozzi net supplied and western style bathroom. Laundry can be done here for a small fee.


3 meals per day from the canteen or Thao Linh Restaurant, offering different choices. Meals are based around rice, meat, and vegetables. However, on the days exploring the National Park lunches will out and about, at an extra cost.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme
Days 21-28

Hoi An Exploring

Your final week is all about exploring - by bike, boat, and foot and having some down time, after all your hard work.

Hoi An is one of the “must see places” famous for its lanterns, meandering streets, cool cafes, amazing tailors (this is the place to get a suit made) and sundowners on An Bang Beach.

You’ll arrive by overnight train and throughout your time here you will explore the Japanese Covered Bridge, Chinese Assembly Hall, and the local market before cycling out to Duy Hai fishing hamlet - the most isolated and colourful fishing villages nearby Hoi An.

You’ll also board the local ferry to reach Duy Hai fishing hub which is filled with boats and sampans. Not many travellers venture here, so expect plenty of attention from the locals. On another day you’ll be taken to the coconut forest to explore in a bamboo basket boat, whilst learning about the history of this unique area.


Local family run guesthouse called Vinci Villa in Hoi An - https://vincivilla.com/


3 meals included until the last 4 days when only breakfast is included so you can choose where to have lunch and supper.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme
Vietnam Gap Year Programme

Did you know?

Onward travel has never been so easy

Book a programme with us and you will receive a complimentary 12 month subscription to our Backpacking Advice Hub. This Hub is your one stop shop for all things travel advice, itineraries, handy insider hints and tips to really get the most from your travels. It is a must-have resource for independent travel post-Leap.

Our teams never want to come home post-programme and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - making the most of their gap year. Vietnam is perfectly placed to add on Cambodia and Thailand. Call us and chat through your ideas.

A view of Ha Long Bay boat cruises in Vietnam.
Vietnamese lady in Vietnam
Palm Trees in the evening's sunset in Vietnam.
Limestone mountains and pagoda in Vietnam
cycling in Vietnam

Vietnam's Details & Costs

You need to be 18 years old or over at the time of travel.

Options and costs

Whats included?

Dynamic Phases

You'll have four different phases in four contrasting places. From the mountains to Ha Long Bay.

Medium Team Size

You will be part of a tight team of like minded volunteers, usually 8-12 to a team.


You'll be fully immersed in Vietnamese culture, with a local guide who'll take you to places off the backpacker route.

Community Contribution

You'll head off-grid to live and volunteer in a local community, working on projects that will have a lasting positive impact.

You'll get up early, working all morning with a nice long break for lunch before cracking on in the afternoon. The volunteering is a key part of what you do and will directly benefit the community and the wildlife sanctuary.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme

The Asian journey for the founders of See Asia Differently (Peter & Eva Jones) began 8 years ago, with the creation of a travel agency in Cambodia. “We wanted to create something a little different, something that matched our passion for the region. By spending time with our clients and offering a range of options, we help them avoid the well-worn path to the tourist traps and instead create bespoke tours that capture the essence of their destination while matching their personal requirements”.

From Cambodia, they expanded to five other Asian countries: Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Meaning they can offer holidays in a single destination or multi-country trips.

They are passionate about encompassing sustainable responsible travel with lifting the lid on these exquisite destinations. They have all the need to know contacts and destinations so can curate your perfect adventure on the ground.

Vietnam Gap Year Programme

Watch our videos

Vietnam Gap Year Programme

Meet our team leader in Vietnam

"You are amazing organising it all"

How exciting for them!! - Trip of a lifetime. Inigo has been stuck at home since last March as I suppose they all have - so what a wonderful, exciting, fun and not to mention horizons broadening time they will have. You are AMAZING organising it all - I don't know how you do it. Huge thanks for everything

- Rose (mum)

"The Leap is doing a great job"

The organisation and the briefing on the entire trip was great by "the leap". I felt very well prepared and ready to start my adventure. The people in the office are very friendly and always ready to answer your questions or problems. They take care all over the trip of you and they make everything to give you the perfect time in a beautiful new world.

- Johann Plato

"Change the course of their lives"

I am filled with admiration at all the trouble you have taken over every detail, so much appreciated when filling in all those damn forms! And it was brilliant that you kept us all (in our case 3 generations!) involved and informed about the changing situation every day. It has been so difficult for this group of 18 year olds unable to do their A levels properly and with all the attendant problems of the pandemic. I think the programmes you are offering may well change the course of their lives not only for the future of the planet but also by giving them opportunities to work hard together at the same time as having fun. Huge thanks and congratulations, I’m telling everyone how fantastic you are!

- Caromy (Grandmother)

"So reliable"

In one of the most complicated spaces in time, Milly and team stresslessly organised the trip to Costa Rica and Guatemala giving our son a wonderful opportunity and set of memories he would otherwise not have had. And when the regs changed again while they were out there the well oiled machine that is the Leap just reconfigured and continued!

I simply can't recommend them more highly!

- Henry

"Steady hands on the tiller "

So grateful to you all at The Leap. It’s been the most amazing experience for Ella and we can’t compliment you and Milly enough for all your friendly and efficient organisation and your very steady hands on the tiller in choppy waters throughout this last month!

- David

Vietnam Gap Year Programme

"They have the gap year formula spot on"

Speaking only for our experience with Costa Rica, The Leap know and understand the country so well. The team communicated brilliantly-they were always pro active and accessible, nothing felt like too much trouble and they never made you feel like your question or concern was a silly one.

They have the gap year formula spot on. All the reassurance that parents need whilst safely delivering the freedom and adventure that the volunteers want-and all through a Pandemic (!)

My daughter had the absolute time of her life with them and I’m sure has made friends for life, I wouldn’t hesitate in giving them the very highest recommendation possible.

- Frances (mum)

"Well done Team Leap!!"

Thank you so much for all the hard work in getting them there! You have all been amazing. I do not underestimate how much work and pressure there has been in making this happen during such challenging times. They are now able to do something positive and rewarding during their gap year which is only possible because of The Leap.

- Paula & Lloyd

"Safe, organised gap year travel"

What an amazing organisation. From the minute we first rang to enquire about projects to today (my daughter arriving home from Tanzania this morning) I just can't fault anybody. Emily has had the most amazing time in Tanzania and all the staff have been wonderful at keeping me informed when there were problems (nothing serious thankfully).

I would have no hesitation in recommending the company for safe, organised gap year travel. Emily will have wonderful memories for life and I'm so proud of her and grateful for the support given by The Leap. Thank you so much.

- Tracey Talbut

"We’re having an incredible time in Costa Rica "

I just want to quickly thank you very much for the amazing Leap trip. I honestly had the most unbelievable time and feel it is thanks to you for organising it, especially so last minute! I’ve been recommending it to all of my friends as I would do anything to do it all again. You were so kind and patient with both myself and Emma and we are truly grateful for all the help you gave us. We’re having an incredible time in Costa Rica at the moment and never want to leave!

- Clemmie

"How fantastic you all are"

We really can’t thank you enough for everything you have done to make this amazing adventure happen, and for all the hand holding for Mimi and us along the way! It’s incredible that they have managed to have as close to normal a gap year as it must be possible to have right now and we are enormously enormously grateful to you and everyone at The Leap who has helped make this happen. Thank you. We have been spreading the good word about how fantastic you all are!

- Selina ( mum )

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