3 Day Mekong Delta Tour : Is It Worth It?

Created by Colleen Sims | Updated : 7 July 2024 |

We took a 3 day Mekong Delta tour during our two months in Vietnam and it didn’t disappoint.  

We had bike rides and fruit picking and boat hopping on the Mekong.  We took forest walks and canoes and sampans and ferries and cooked popcorn and spring rolls.  We had a fish farm pedicure and tasted freshly roasted chocolate and had a wonderfully full and busy three days. 

I was uncertain about taking an organised tour and we’d read mixed reviews but we were thrilled with our choice. Read on and I’ll explain why we made that choice, how many days you really need and the highlights of our trip.

perfect pale pink Lotus flower taken on our tour of the Mekong Delta

Where Is The Mekong Delta?

The Mekong Delta is located in south west Vietnam, where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the South China Sea. The region is characterised by a vast network of distributaries and islands that have been formed by the sediment from the river.

The Mekong River starts in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, before reaching the Delta.  It’s around 4,350 kilometres long, making it the 12th longest river in the world.

map showing where the Mekong Delta is in Vietnam

Why Is The Mekong Delta Famous?

Tourists are drawn to the Mekong Delta for a combination of reasons.  For us the biggest draw was to visit the floating markets but we also wanted to see a different side of Vietnam; we would be travelling from Ho Chi Minh and the south to the very north beyond Hanoi to Ha Giang.   

  • The floating markets of the Mekong is perhaps the number one reason for visiting. For the most part these are wholesale markets and not 100s of smaller individual boats you might see elsewhere but nonetheless interesting.
  • The delta is considered the rice bowl of Vietnam and known for its green rice paddies, fruit orchards and network of waterways.   
  • The Mekong Delta has been at the crossroads of cultures for centuries and has been influenced by the Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese and even French settlers. 
  • The smaller villages dotted throughout the Delta offer a glimpse into a traditional Vietnamese way of life, focused on agriculture and life on the water. 

Is It Worth Doing A Tour Rather Than Going Alone?

We like to travel independently and book our visits as we go.  However, having done our research we decided that travelling around the Delta wouldn’t be straightforward and would perhaps offer less of an experience if we tried it alone.  We felt we’d lose a lot of time travelling between individual sites.  A tour would simplify this for us and make the best use of our time.

The more we researched the more we realised that the Mekong Delta Tours pack a lot into their itineraries. Tours like ours make it easy; we travelled with a guide and all transport was pre-arranged.  We hopped from boats, to cars, to bikes, to ferries and this would have been much more difficult if we’d tried to plan it ourselves.

  • We choose a small group tour; for the most part there were just 6 of us.  We would definitely recommend that you book a small group tour if your budget allows.
  • We choose a fully inclusive tour.  Everything was included from accommodation, meals, transport, drinks and all of the experiences.   This is a great way of ensuring you stick to your budget.  We did read some reviews where a lot of costs were added during the tour; that cheap headline price quickly became more expensive.
  • We knew that we wanted to avoid a tour that simply rolled us from one touristy site to the next. It is really worth digging deeper and finding someone who offers a more authentic visit.  We cycled around tiny villages, stopping off to buy fruit from roadside stands whilst watching the local children prepare dragons for Tet. 

Our 3 day tour exceeded our expectations.  We saw a great deal and got to explore some glorious little corners of the Delta.  It’s fair to say that we weren’t wowed in the same way that we were with landscapes like Ha Giang but nonetheless we had three wonderful days of great experiences. 

★★★★★

WE LOVED TOURING WITH SUSAN

  • We did a lot of research and booked direct with Susan (it is the only way to book)
  • We visited different locations and for 2 days we were the only group visiting
  • We stayed in her homestay and enjoyed dinners with the group
  • Check expectations; rooms in Vietnam are smaller and beds are harder
colleen and gerry at sunset over the mekong delta in vietnam

How Many Days Should You Allow For A Mekong Tour?

There are Mekong Tours for 1, 2 and 3 days.  I’ve seen longer tours but they tend to cover a much larger itinerary.  Most people want to include the floating market experience in their tour and for most that means Cai Rang floating market.

1 Day Tour

The majority of 1 day tours expect you to be in Can Tho to start your tour at dawn.  Can Tho is a large town and 20 minutes from Cai Rang floating market (the region’s largest).  They will also include a few other experiences which offer a glimpse of life on the Delta.

If you are very short of time then this is an option but do bear in mind that Can Tho is a few hours from Ho Chi Minh and you’d need to travel overnight to ensure you’re ready for your dawn start if you wish to visit the market.

★★★★★

sHORT ON TIME? bEST 1 DAY TOUR

  • Starts and ends in Ho Chi Minh
  • Offers a taste of the Delta (without the floating market) with over 5000 positive reviews

2 Day Tour

A 2 day tour will allow you to explore further beyond the main touristy areas of the Delta.  We really enjoyed our bike ride and I’d not ridden a bike in decades. 

A 2 day trip is a good option if time and budget is short.  You may still need to find your way to Can Tho but many of the 2-day tours start later in the day, giving you time to travel from downtown Saigon.

★★★★★

NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE : cHECK tHIS hIGHLY RATED tOUR cOMPANY

  • 1000s of postive reviews across a range of tours; including Lonely Planet

3 Day Tour

Without doubt three days will give you more time to explore further and it’s enough time.  There is very little of our tour that I would have excluded.  Of course some visits are for tourists but the Mekong Delta is a tourist area and so you must expect this.  But we never felt it was fake or overly busy. 

The good news is that the more time you have on the Delta, the more opportunities you will have to see beyond the tourist spots. Three days certainly allows for a more immersive experience, including staying in a local homestay, visiting different islands and exploring more remote areas.

 As with a 2 day tour, three day visits tend to start later in the day so you can travel from Ho Chi Minh in the morning.

★★★★★

WE LOVED TOURING WITH SUSAN

  • We did a lot of research and booked direct with Susan (it is the only way to book)
  • We visited different locations and for 2 days we were the only group visiting
  • We stayed in her homestay and enjoyed dinners with the group
  • Check expectations; rooms in Vietnam are smaller and beds are harder
local market on the Mekong Delta; we rode bikes here during our 3 day tour

What Are The Highlights Of A Mekong Delta Tour?

For most people the highlight is going to be visiting the Mekong floating markets and we loved our visit to Cai Rang floating market but there were other experiences that we loved equally.

Bike Ride Around the Villages

Our homestay accommodation was in Binh Minh (in Vinh Long province). In the afternoon we met our fellow travellers and got on our bikes and headed off into the villages and temples that occupy this area of the delta.

We loved seeing local life, visiting small farms and rice paddies and visiting a 300 year old Khmer Pagoda.  We watched local school children practice their dragon dance for Tet (Vietnamese New Year).  We cycled to the local market, enjoyed freshly pressed sugar cane drinks and shopped for our dinner (which we later cooked).

At the end of our ride we lingered by the rice paddies and watched the sunset over the Delta; this was a very simple, special day.

Cai Rang Floating Market

The floating marking didn’t disappoint.  Expect to get up very early and watch the sunrise over the river. Our tour group was split and we had our own little sampan; it was just us and the oars woman, although the guide hopped between two boats.

We moved around the larger boats, seeing the different produce being sold.  We stopped at the floating cafes and had breakfast.  Later we moored up beside a fruit barge and hopped aboard for fresh pineapple. Do bear in mind that this is a wholesale market and not full of small boats selling to tourists. It’s interesting but it’s a working market.

It was an active morning, jumping on and off the boats but help was always at hand and it was a very enjoyable morning.

Top Tip : A sampan is a relatively flat-bottomed wooden boat. These boats are a traditional and essential part of life in the Mekong Delta. They are rowed manually using long oars.

Dong Thap Province and Xeo Quit Rain Forest

Xeo Quit is an area of pristine mangrove forests, and an important environment for many species of flora and fauna.

The forest was an important Viet Cong base during the war, partly down to the remote and dense mangrove forest. We were able to trek through the forest (along good paths) and see the underground bunkers and tunnels.  It was not possible to crawl through these tunnels like you can at Cu Chi as they have been left in their more rustic and original state.

After our walk through the forest we met small boats which rowed us back to the start where we had time to explore the huge lotus flower ponds.

Con Son Island Farm and Orchard Visits

Most tours are keen to show visitors all sides of the delta and many small farms and independent businesses thrive along the delta. 

We visited orchards on Con Son islet and helped pick the days crop of Water Apples.  We also made Banh Kep Cuon (a waffle type snack), and puffed rice (quite an explosive experience!) and visited small holdings, sampled local spirits, drank tea and watched jumping fish; we even had a free fish pedicure.

This afternoon was a highlight for us.  It felt like less visited and we left the little island as the sun was sinking over the Mekong.

Visit Local Industries Along The Mekong

After the early morning at the market many groups seem to follow the same path of visiting different cottage industries along the river.  Whilst it was a little touristy, it was nonetheless interesting to see traditional techniques.

We made rice noodles, wandered through small market gardens that line the banks of the river and spent time at an organic cacao farm (and got to taste the freshly made chocolate too).

You’re ferried around these locations in a small sampan and you get to cruise down smaller rivers lined with water coconut trees and mangroves.  We actually travelled some distance along the mighty Mekong too.

very tickly fish pedicure during our 3 day mekong delta tour

Pros and Cons Of The 3 Day Tour

Our biggest concern was that a tour might be a little touristy; we like to see an authentic side of a destination.  I’m glad we took some time to find the right tour as we really felt we’d left the tourist path.

Pros

  • On a three day tour we were able to go further and visit locations that the shorter tours don’t have time to visit.
  • The tour was more relaxed and never felt rushed, even though we had a busy three days.
  • We chose a local tour company and travelled with a local bi-lingual guide who knew the area well.  This local knowledge allowed us to get more involved with the community and the experiences felt more authentic.
  • We were able to travel on the morning of day 1 from Ho Chi Minh and not spend an extra night in Can Tho.
  • Our tour was fully inclusive of everything.  We knew the cost before we started which is a really important factor to check.
  • We specifically chose a small group and enjoyed the company of our fellow travellers.
  • We enjoyed the homestay experience and loved cooking together in the evening and meeting the family of our host.

Cons

  • If you are short on time and have a lot of places to visit, then three days is a lot to dedicate to one tour.
  • There are a lot of tour operators and the quality of some of those tours does vary.  Do make sure that you do your research in advance before booking.
  • You do need to be active; we were jumping on and off boats, bike riding and walking.  Check what’s involved with your tour operator if you have any concerns.
  • Some of the tour groups were quite large.  Our tour felt very personal, it would have been different if there had been 30 people in the group.  If you have the budget then choose a small group tour
  • Inevitably, some of the locations on the tour are touristy and busy but it never felt fake or overly busy.
  • With an organised tour there is very little choice of activity, timings or accommodation.  If you need this flexibility you’ll be better going independently.
  • We’re not sure this tour is suitable for young children. There were lots of cultural activities that little ones might find a tad dull.
  • The floating market is a wholesale market.  It is not individual small boats selling to small boats as you might see in other countries.  However, it is interesting and loud and busy and fascinating but I read some reviews of disappointed travellers who expected something different.

★★★★★

WE LOVED TOURING WITH SUSAN

  • We did a lot of research and booked direct with Susan (it is the only way to book)
  • We visited different locations and for 2 days we were the only group visiting
  • We stayed in her homestay and enjoyed dinners with the group
  • Check expectations; rooms in Vietnam are smaller and beds are harder
exploring Con Son Islet on the Mekong Delta meant crossing small handmade bridges with a single plank of wood

How Much Is a Mekong Delta tour?

This is impossible to answer as there are many variables.  I have seen one day tours from as little as 20€ but they include very little so the cost will eventually be higher. We paid 175€ per person for our 3 day tour.  It included absolutely everything and we were in a small group of 6 people.  We felt it represented excellent value for money and offered us a lot.

The price that you pay will be very dependent on the type of accommodation you choose, the activities that are included. the meal plan and the size of the group.

stopping for breakfast at the floating market on the mekong delta

Best Time To Visit The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta experiences a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons.  Our guide told us that they have 2 seasons on the Delta Hot and Hotter.  We visited in February, and it was hot and fairly humid every day; quite a change to chilly India where we’d come from!

Dry Season (November to April)

The dry season generally runs from November to April.  November to February are considered the cooler dryer months with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C.  This is said to be when the weather is most pleasant. 

  • This is the most popular time to visit, offering the most comfortable conditions are usually December and January.
  • March and April sees warmer temperatures, rising to 35°C.  It is still dry but there is more chance or rain as you go through April.

Wet Season (May to October)

May to September is hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 35°C, but with frequent heavy rain and occasional flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

October is a shoulder month where you should expect a mixed bag. If you prefer fewer crowds and lower prices, and you don’t mind some rain, this might be a good time to visit.

When To Avoid Travelling To The Delta

May to September is best avoided due to the heavy rains and high humidity. The frequent downpours can disrupt travel plans and flooding can pose challenges in rural areas.

beautiful huge lotus flower pond near the Mangroves on the Mekong Delta

Where To Stay When Visiting The Mekong Delta?

Most Mekong Tours include accommodation.  Our tour was organised by our homestay and our room was simple but clean and comfortable (albeit with the Vietnamese hard beds).  We also enjoyed home-cooked meals in the company of the family and our fellow travellers. I have read other reviews that some of the budget tours offered quite poor accommodation and this should be an important factor when making your choice.  If the tour is only a few euros then your accommodation is going to be on the lower end of the comfort scale.

The delta is rural and you should keep your expectations in check but equally, there are plenty of good quality tours that offer very pleasant, authentic accommodation which will only add to your delta experience.

We opted to spend an extra night in Can Tho at the end of our tour as we were flying onward to Da Nang.  Can Tho is an interesting town with a good choice of accommodation but we opted to stay out of town.

Best Budget Pick in Can Tho : Welkom Inn

The Welkom Inn has 100s of excellent reviews and offers bunk beds and private rooms (they also have small family rooms for groups). We were very tempted to stay here but ultimatly decided on an upgrade after our tour. However, I have no hesitation about recommending this excellent value hotel.

Best Comfort Pick in Can Tho : Bamboo Eco Village

We were sold by thus little slice of comfort. The staff go out of the way to help, the rooms and bathrooms are excellent and you’re right on the river. It is out of Can Tho city but you can eat here and they have an airport shuttle. It’s the perfect place to relax and excellent value for money.

Best Luxury Stay in Can Tho : Sheraton Can Tho

Sometimes when you’ve been travelling a while you just want a touch of luxury and a brand that you recognise. Sheraton Can Tho is such a place. The rooms are spacious and grand, there is a pool and a spa and a choice of restaurants and with almost 1000 excellent reviews you’re assured that this is a quality hotel.

Top Tip : Can Tho has an airport and we took a flight from here to Da Nang. The flights were inexpensive and worth checking-out SkyScanner for flights if you need to move north quickly.

Gerry making popped rice during our Mekong Delta tour

FAQs for Mekong Delta Tours

Can you start your tour in Ho Chi Minh?

Most tours start in Can Tho.  Some do start in Ho Chi Minh but it’s not the norm.  There are regular buses leaving downtown Saigon every morning.  We used 12Go to find and book our buses in Vietnam and we were very happy with the service. 

However, for our tour we decided to use a private transfer to take us direct to our homestay as the price difference was not that big (we booked our car on 12Go).

What should I pack for a Mekong Delta tour?

Pack for comfort.  It was hot and humid when we visited.  The ladies in our group wore shorts, but they were just above the knee so still perfectly modest.  For the walk through the mangrove forest you may wish to cover up a little more (or use a good insect repellent)

You’ll also need a hat and sunglasses, sun protection, insect repellent and don’t forget your camera.  And if you’re travelling in the shoulder season then you may also need a light rain jacket.

Is a Mekong Delta tour suitable for children or elderly (less-able) travellers?

You know what your children enjoy.  I do wonder if the longer tour may not be suitable for younger children as it covered a lot of quieter, cultural activities. 

We’re older (in our 60s) and we found the activity level perfectly fine; but we’re keen walkers. We spent a few hours on a bike and walked through the mangroves for an hour. 

There are different tours and even cruises for those who feel less able.  It will be important to discuss your capabilities with your tour operator and feel confident with their replies.  This isn’t an adventurous tour but you do need to be a little active.

How do I choose a reliable tour operator for the Mekong Delta?

  • Research and research and research AND read all the reviews. 
  • Read the low score reviews too not just the positives.
  • Search TripAdvisor and Google and booking sites like Viator, Get Your Guide and Klook.
  • Read blogs (like Then We Walked), written by real people who’ve actually taken the tour.
  • I also ask questions on Social Media groups like Facebook but do be prepared for a lot of tour operators contacting you direct on messenger.  Be wary of this approach as you have no way of checking their credentials. 

Do choose a tour with lots of good international ratings, clear itineraries and a one that is responsive to your questions. Also if your budget will stretch, choose a smaller group.  

Is it safe to drink the water in the Mekong Delta?

No.  It’s advisable to drink bottled or filtered water at all times throughout Vietnam.

How does a Mekong Delta Tour compare with others in Vietnam?

This was an interesting question.  If you only have time or budget for 1 or 2 tours it’s good to make the comparison.  We took a Ha Long Bay tour and the Ha Giang Loop Tour.  For starters the other tours were in the north, if you’re only staying in the South then take the delta tour. 

Each of these multi day tours were excellent for different reasons.  It’s fair to say that a delta tour may lack the WOWs that we had from the other two.  The landscape is not as jaw dropping as the Ha Giang Loop but the experiences that we had were authentic and interesting and we would not have missed this tour.

The Mekong Delta tour is a gentle tour and you get to see a the relaxed pace of life on the delta. It was a charming three days.  There may not have been fireworks but it was excellent in its own way and very different from other areas we visited.

Sustainable Tourism

Do chose local.  When making your choice make sure that you are avoiding the worst of the tourist areas and visit locations which support local initiatives. If you are unsure then discuss sustainable options with your tour operator.

painted interior of a Khmer Pagoda on the Mekong Delta

Final Thoughts: Is A 3 Day Mekong Delta Tour worth it?

Yes, if you have time then take 3 days to explore the Delta; we felt it was the perfect amount of time. Reading reviews of the 1 day tours, it was clear we had the better experience.  We had time to explore different aspects of the delta whilst also spending a lot of time on or near the water. 

We loved our small group and our fellow travellers were excellent company and added to our experiences.  Our guides were local, they spoke excellent English and were professional tour guides with university level education in tourism.  The quality of the guides will hugely impact on your experience.

Be honest with yourself about your expectations.  If you are looking for a few luxuries then you will need to pay for those.  But if you are looking for an authentic experience then choose wisely and you won’t be disappointed. 

We set out wanting to see a different side of Vietnam and we did that; the delta is like no other area in the country.  We also wanted to revisit the Mekong.  We had loved our time in Phnom Penh exploring the Mekong river and were keen to repeat that experience.  Ultimately, we are totally happy with our choices and loved our 3 days floating along this mighty river.  It was a good choice.

stunning sunset over the rice paddies of the mekong delta

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel, you should have a great travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve ended up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal, Japan and Ireland! Every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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Colleen in Salamanca on the Via de la Plata

Hey I’m Colleen. I’m married to Gerry, we’ve three fabulous kids and been living in France for almost two decades. I fell in love with Spain in the 1980s and I’ve walked 1000s of miles along the Camino de Santiago. Now we’re exploring and walking the world and I can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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