updated 5/9/2008 12:50:56 PM ET 2008-05-09T16:50:56

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various through spring 2009

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The deal
The fascinating country of Vietnam has finally shed its war-ridden image and recently emerged as one of Southeast Asia’s hottest destinations. With the stellar packages we found, you can check out its spectacular landscapes, fragrant cuisine and bustling cities without squandering your savings. The threesome of fantastic specials — two airfare-inclusive packages and an escorted land-only tour — now start at just $1,849 for a sampling of Vietnam’s highlights.

Escorted Vietnam tour for $2,659
Struck by wanderlust? We recommend a 10-night escorted tour of Vietnam now on sale by Virgin Vacations from $2,659. This low price, valid for travel between August 24 and October 19, covers a variety of inclusions such as air; midrange hotel stays; all in-country transfers; tours; and meals. This rich itinerary covers sojourns in bustling Hanoi, Vietnam’s French-flavored capital; Hai Phong, known as the city of flower-lined streets; the imperial city of Hué; the picturesque town of Hoi An; and the frenetic Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon. Also included is a sailing around the spectacular Halong Bay with its limestone outcrops and a day cruise around the Mekong Delta.

See Vietnam from just $1,849
Virgin Vacations also offers a city getaway to Vietnam, for those who prefer independent travel. This 10-night vacation, good for departures between August 21 and October 15, is now priced at only $1,849! Included is the round-trip flight to Hanoi (and back from Saigon); lodging for ten nights split between four Vietnamese cities (three nights in Hanoi; two nights in Hué; two nights in Hoi An; and three nights in Ho Chi Minh City); daily breakfast; and the transport between the four destinations (by plane and bus). No sightseeing tours are included but you get the freedom of exploring this friendly country on your own.

Small-group Vietnam sampler
We also spotted a terrific small-group package to Vietnam on General Tours. This eight-day package is reserved for groups of up to 16 people so you won’t be bussed around with a horde of other tourists. The escorted tour is priced at $2,069 for the land-only inclusions but these are many and first-class. For example, this price reflects sojourns at deluxe properties throughout — such as the Hilton Hanoi Opera, an elegant colonial-style property at the heart of the city’s French Quarter; extensive sightseeing; meals; as well as internal flights. The package will show you Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An & Ho Chi Minh City. Note that this price is valid for departures through spring 2009.

The dollars
The rates above are listed per person, based on double occupancy. See details above for the exact inclusions. The most affordable package — the city exploration for $1,849 — is excellent-value for independent travelers who don’t mind exploring Vietnam’s cities on their own. If you prefer to have your travel arrangements done by someone else, the Virgin Vacations deal for $2,659 is a good choice but doesn’t get you a lot of creature comforts — the lodging is at pretty modest properties. The General Tours land-only trip is good-value for the inclusions (such as deluxe accommodation) and the fact the groups have a 16-person maximum.

The catch
You’ll need to obtain a visa beforehand; the fee isn’t included in the quoted prices.

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