Vietnam’s a country with in-depth history, fascinating culture, beautiful beaches, enormous caves, delicious food, fabulous hiking, a buzzing city life, amazing people & landscape full of natural beauty. Choosing Vietnam as a tourist destination is your best decision.
Planning a trip can be time-consuming and sometimes tedious, especially when all these new names, cities and activities you’ve never heard. Vietnam’s the country with something for all types of travellers and we’re here to help you have an ideal Vietnam travel plan.
When to Visit Vietnam
- 1 When to Visit Vietnam
- 2 Basic Travel Costs in Vietnam
- 3 Week Itinerary
- 3.1 Day 1: HO CHI MINH CITY (3 days)
- 3.2 MUI NE (2 days)
- 3.3 DA LAT (2 days)
- 3.4 HOI AN (4 days)
- 3.5 HUE (2 days)
- 3.6 HANOI (4 days)
- 3.7 HA LONG BAY (3 days, 2 nights)
- 3.8 Top Tours in Halong Bay
- 3.9 SAPA (3 days)
- 3.10 Top Tours in Sapa
- 3.11 NINH BINH (2 days)
- 3.12 Top Tours in Ninh Binh
- 3.13 Top Tips for Vietnam
You can come to Vietnam at any time of the year because the time to explore Vietnam is never wasted. Vietnam has many diverse and rich landscapes, making it difficult for you to discover all these wonderful things in a short time. We will make a list of places to visit so you can select them more easily.
Vietnam’s Top Attractions
- Trang An – Ninh Binh
- Sand Dunes in Mui Ne
- Da Lat – The city of flowers
- Scuba Diving in Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island (South)
- Imperial City in Hue
- Caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
- The ancient town of Hoi An
- City life of Hanoi
- Cruising in Ha Long Bay
- Trekking in Sapa
Basic Travel Costs in Vietnam
In Vietnam, they use the Dong (VND). As of now (June 2017), $1 USD = 22,700 VND. Explained in detail below.
Traveling in Vietnam is very cheap. Much cheaper than we expected! And if travelling on a backpacker’s budget (public transport, local food and dorms) you could easily average $25 USD a day or less.
Cost of Accommodation in Vietnam: The value of money for accommodation was astounding, especially in comparison to other SE Asian countries. Vietnam accommodation ranges from very basic homestays to hostels to five-star luxury hotels. Hostels are located in big cities and touristy areas and are great places to meet other travelers. Dorm rooms in homestay are also around $5 or less per night.
Cost of Food & Drink in Vietnam: Vietnamese food can conquer you because of their deliciousness. A bowl of Pho (beef noodle soup, Vietnam’s #1 dish) is easily found for 30,000 VND ($1.30 USD). However, sit down restaurants are slightly more expensive with an average dish ranging from 100,000 VND – 200,000 VND ($4 – $8 USD). 1 L of water at the convenience store is 15,000 VND ($0.60 USD) whilst a beer or soft drink at restaurants is about 25,000 – 35,000 VND ($1- $2 USD). Meals in touristic parts of the country are noticeably higher upwards of 250,000 VND ($10 USD) but to be honest, they aren’t as good as the street food! Vietnam was very hygienic so don’t be scared by the street food.
Cost of Transport in Vietnam: Transport in Vietnam is fast, clean, cost-effective and extremely easy to navigate. Buses are the cheapest way to get around Vietnam and run continuously from North to South and vice-versa. Long distance (15 hours) was no more than $20 USD. Trains in Vietnam are considerably more expensive than the bus ($30-45 USD on average), but you have to experience the train at least once. VietJet or Airasia planes are sometimes cheaper than trains but you should check carefully. And the most important means of transportation in Vietnam – motorbikes! Many traveller choose to ride a motorbike so that they independ on the travel company and have the flexibility to experience time.
- Ho Chi Minh City – Mui Ne (3 days)
- Mui Ne – Da Lat (2 days)
- Da Lat – Hoi An (4 days)
- Hoi An – Hue (2 days)
- Hue – Hanoi (4 days)
- Hanoi – Ha Long Bay (3 days)
- Hanoi – Sapa (3 days)
- Sapa – Ninh Binh (2 days)
Note: We wouldn’t recommend any less than 3 weeks for the above itinerary or you’ll find yourself rushing from place to place. If you have just two weeks, skip Mui Ne & Da Lat and do only 1-2 days in Ho Chi Minh City and 1 less day in Ha Long Bay.
Day 1: HO CHI MINH CITY (3 days)
Arriving into HCMC will be a shock (especially if this is your first time in Asia). The first thing you will notice is the crazy amount of motorbikes that take over the streets. If you have a Sim Card or WiFi, we recommend taking an Uber or Grab from the airport to your hotel, but a regular cab will cost 170,000 – 190,000 VND ($7 – $ 8 USD) and should take 30 minutes.
All of the top sights are within District 1 – the city center and within walking distance if you stay at a nearby hotel. If you’re after the busy nightlife, Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien Street is known as the backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh City.
The highlight here is you can visit the city by cyclo or register Back of the Bike tour for tourists. You can jump on a motorbike with a local and spend 4 hours go around the city, learning about the history, customs, religions & local food. This Ho Chi Minh City tour is undoubtedly the most effective and knowledgeable way to see the city.
Top Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Saigon Post Office
- Go Shopping
- War Remnants Museum
- Museum of Vietnamese History
- Ben Thanh Market for awesome street food.
- 1/2 Day Trip to Cu Chi Tunnels ($10 USD). Easily booked the day before at one of the tour offices.
HCMC is a large city and 3 days is not enough to see it all, but for a tight itinerary, you can definitely see the highlights within a day trip outside the city.
- See more beautiful hotels at Vinaday goReise.
- Eat At: Ben Thanh Market and anywhere with tiny plastic tables and chairs!
Onward Travel: Ho Chi Minh City > Mui Ne by bus (5 hours)
Top Tours in Ho Chi Minh City
Here are some suggestions for city trips for you:
MUI NE (2 days)
Mui Ne is a tiny town so the bus will likely drop you within a short walk to your hotel. The biggest attraction for travellers visiting Mui Ne is the sand dunes & windsurfing.
You can relax by the pool, devoured some delicious food and got an early sleep to experience the sand dunes at sunrise the following morning.
- Stay At: PHAN THIET – MUI NE RESORTS
Onward Travel: Mune Ni > Da Lat by bus (4 hours. Book with your hotel)
DA LAT (2 days)
You will arrive into the bustling city of Da Lat after 4 hours of moving and immediately notice the difference in climate. Due to its location in the hills of the Highlands, Da Lat is mountainous and incredibly scenic, making it one of the most popular places in Vietnam to undergo an array of adventure sports such as canyoning, white water rafting & mountain bike riding.
If adventure is not what you like, look for more results in Dalat here.
Dalat has a famous cultural identity in the Central Highlands like the legend. The gentle people live by farming, gardening, growing coffee, tea, raising livestock….
On village festivals and the family’s happy day, visitors will see the local people dance, sing, play music with unique instruments that sound like howling wind, flowing waterfall on rocky rapids. Beautiful nature has created Dalat people with the lovely, gentle, elegant and hospitable style
- Stay At: Vinaday Hotel
Onward Travel: Da Lat > Hoi An (via Nha Trang) by bus (4 hours)
Onward Travel: Nha Trang > Hoi An by bus (11 hours)
HOI AN (4 days)
Hoi An is magical. With its beautiful night markets, old merchant houses, sophisticated restaurants, colourful alleyways and a contagious atmosphere, it’s impossible not to fall in love from the get-go. Be sure to take part in a cooking class, get tailor-made clothes, roam the markets, explore the countryside, relax on the beach, bike through the rice fields and eat till your heart’s content.
Hoi An has such an old world charm about it and it is so easy to say “let’s just stay one more day”.
Hoi An has a slow pace of life but it doesn’t mean there is nothing to fo. The town is filled with local tailors and no trip would be complete without leaving with a custom made outfit. Hoi An is one of the cheapest places in the world to get custom-made suits and dresses.
Another reason the traveler loved Hoi An so much was the food! Must-try dishes: Cao Lau – Hoi An noodles served with meat, herbs and little broth (less broth than the regular noodle dishes of Vietnam). Beside Cao Lau we also have My Quang, banh bao, banh vac (white rose cakes), and banh dap – hen xao (smashed rice crackers and baby basket clams).
Onward Travel: Hoi An > Hue by motorbike (6 hours)
Top Tours in Hoi An
If organized tours are your thing, here are some recommendations:
- Hoi An to Hue by Bike
- Hoi An Countryside Bike Day Trip
- Vespa Tour – Hoi An, Countryside and Islands Explorer
HUE (2 days)
Hue is often overlooked on the tourist trail but in order to experience one of the most beautiful roads in the world – The Hai Van Pass, you must reach Hue via motorbike! If you aren’t comfortable riding yourself there are ample companies that take you on the back of their bike, along with your bags.
Hue is a central city located between the two major cities – Hanoi and Saigon. Hue is one of the areas with many cultural heritages of Vietnam. So far, no one region has a large number of monuments that retain their original form. The Imperial City, an enormous compound where the emperors lived and ruled their lands from, is one of the most visited sites in Hue.
HANOI (4 days)
You’ll likely be feeling rather tired after go to Ha Noi by bus but the busy capital of Vietnam will have you on your toes in no time. Drop your bags at your hotel and head on out for enjoys local foods such as: Bun cha, Pho,…
The old quarter of Hanoi is the busiest area of this city and is where a lot of the restaurants, bars, cafes, museums are concentrated. You can observe the daily life of the locals from the windows of a coffee shop, roam the Hoan Kiem Lake, visit the Hoa Lo Prison, watch the Thang Long Water Puppet Show, take a street food tour.
It may just be “another city” but if you give it a chance, you definitely won’t be bored in Hanoi.
Top Tours in Hanoi
If organized tours are your thing, here are some recommendations from Vinaday goReise:
- Tips: Did You Know How To Travel From Ha Noi To Halong Bay?
- Ha Noi Old Quarter – Crowded, busy but interesting!
- Taste Bun Cha Obama in Hanoi food guide 2019
- Stay At: 7 of the best luxury hotels & resorts in Ha Noi found.
- Eat At: Banh Mi 25, Viet Village Restaurant, Pho 10, 1 Hang Manh & The Hanoi Social Club
Onward Travel: Hanoi > Ha Long Bay (It is 4 hours away but stay in Hanoi, not in Ha Long Bay)
HA LONG BAY (3 days, 2 nights)
Your trip will not be complete without visiting Ha Long Bay. One of the most iconic destinations within Vietnam is the lush island cliffs rising from the still waters of Ha Long Bay. There’s nowhere else like it in the world. And it’s the 7th new world wonder of nature! Or so says the internet… but anyhow, it’s absolutely stunning and a must-visit while in Vietnam.
There’s a boat tour style for every traveler – from calm sight-seeing tours to foodie cruises to drink-til-you-drop booze cruises. You can choose a yacht to visit the beautiful scenery here. It’s a bit of a splurge, but the landscape is incredible and you can’t miss this.
Top Tours in Halong Bay
Here are some recommended tours for Ha Long Bay from Vinaday goReise:
- Top 5 Ha Long Bay Tours For Different Travel Styles And Budgets
- Get itchy feet to explore top 5 Halong bay food
- Vinpearl HaLong Bay Resort – Ensuring A Pleasant Stay For Guests
*Update November 2018, a new expressway was completed which has reduced the travel times from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay to just 1.5 hours. Therefore, you will arrive in Hanoi around 1-2 hours earlier than the time above.
- Read: Cruising Halong Bay: Tips, Advice & How to Choose The Right Company
- More Cruises in Halong Bay: Visit HalongBayTours
Onward Travel: Hanoi > Sapa by overnight train (8 hours).
SAPA (3 days)
If you plan to start your trek the morning you arrive in Sapa, we suggest taking the overnight train or the overnight bus for a longer, more comfortable, sleep better.
Sapa is famous for its extremely lush green vegetation, ethnic hill tribes, beautiful mountains, rivers and of course, hiking trails.
Coming to Sapa tour, you will experience snow watching in the winter, climb to the top of Fansipan Mountain – where is known as the roof of Indochina. Through the tour of Sapa, visitors also have the opportunity to experience many unique cultures with the lives of ethnic minorities in the Northern Uplands, enjoying traditional specialties here.
Top Tours in Sapa
Here are some recommendations from Vinaday goReise for Sapa trekking tours:
- Sapa Travel Guide: Overnight Trains To Sapa
- Best Time To Travel To Sapa Vietnam – Tips For Your Trekking
- Stay At: SAPA RESORTS
Onward Travel: Sapa > Hanoi by bus (6.5 hours)
If you follow this itinerary, you’ll need to spend one extra night in Hanoi so you can take the early morning bus/train to Ninh Binh the following day.
Onward Travel: Hanoi > Ninh Binh by bus (2 hours) via one night in Hanoi.
NINH BINH (2 days)
Nicknamed “Ha Long Bay on Land”, Ninh Binh is indescribably amazing and only 100km south of Hanoi. Take a train from Hanoi for $15 USD at 6:00am/9:00 am or 8:10 pm, the local bus which leaves once every hour OR the tourist bus from your hotel for $10 USD.
We strongly recommend at least 2 days to explore Ninh Binh. It’s a relaxed, peaceful town and shouldn’t be rushed.
It would be great if you could spend the day exploring 10th century temples, biking across open rice fields, and floating down the Ngo Dong River into mysterious caves. The towering limestone mountains shooting up thousands of feet enclosed Tam Coc in its own little world.
Visit the largest pagoda in South East Asia, climb to the top of Mua Caves or get lost in the rice fields.
Top Tours in Ninh Binh
If organized tours are your thing, here are some recommendations from Vinaday goReise:
Trains and buses run frequently back to Hanoi so check the schedule!
Onwards travel: Ninh Binh > Hanoi Airport (luxury vehicle, 2 hours, $30 total USD)
Top Tips for Vietnam
- Grab yourself a Sim Card at the airport.
- Overland travel is efficient and fast, however, occasionally flights are cheaper than the trains. Always check.
- Be wary of driving a motorbike without an international driver’s license, the police will pull you over and you may have to pay your way out. This can range from just $10 USD – much higher depending on the cop.
- The restaurants with kindergarten chairs and tables will always have the best, inexpensive street food. Don’t be scared to eat here!
- Eat Vietnamese food until you can’t possibly eat anymore!
- Independent travel is very interesting. However, do not forget guided tours can also help you get more out of your time and money than if you do it alone.
- Use Uber/Grab when in the main cities. It’s far cheaper.
- Don’t forget to bargain at the markets.
- Overnight buses are comfortable and clean. You’ll save yourself a night’s accommodation by taking one.
- ALWAYS double check when you book with a company that it is the right company.
See here to verify other Vietnam travel & tourism itineraries.