After months of travels around the world, Vietnam remains high on our top 3. We only have good words for this country of beautiful nature, busy cities, lovely towns and friendly people. We spent in Vietnam the whole month that the visa allowed us but we would have loved to stay even longer! We think that 2 weeks is the minimum time you want to spend in the country to really get to see the best parts, but the more the better. There’s too much information out there about what to see in each place, but no one really tells you how long you should be in each town. We’ve created this guide focusing on helping you prepare your Vietnam itinerary according to the time that you have and not miss out on anything!
Vietnam in two weeks.
Since Vietnam is a long but narrow shaped country, most people travel from North to South or vice versa.
Hanoi – 2 days
Hanoi is a great town to start your trip. It’s quite big but you will most likely stay around the city centre, where you can go everywhere by foot. Most of the attractions are around the Hoan Kiem lake, so try to find accommodation near this area. Hanoi is always busy and crossing the streets in between the motorbikes can be challenging! But you will get used to it, just go ahead looking forward and motorbikes will drive around you.
There are many travel agencies in Hanoi where you can book bus tickets or trips. This is always much cheaper than booking the day trips from your home country, and if you are with a group of people you can always bargain the price.
From Hanoi you can book buses to Sa Pa, Ha Giang, Ninh Binh, Ha Long… and also train tickets to Da Nang, Hue or Hoi An. You can go to almost everywhere in the country from Hanoi. We recommend always booking just transport instead of a tour package. It’s always cheaper to go by yourself without a tour!
- Bakery: Banh My Su Phu, try the coconut and milk cheese baguette! Everything else is also delicious.
- Bakery: King roti. They sell sweet buns of different tastes. You will recognise the spot by the sweet smell on the street!
- Hair dresser: Hair and nail salon. We went in this salon going through a coffee shop to get our hair cuts for 3€ each!
- Accommodation: D’annam hostel. Great location, double bank beds, clean and super nice buffet breakfast on the roof top!
Ha Giang loop – 4 days
Ha Giang is town in the mountains in Northern Vietnam. Some years ago, people used to go to Sa Pa and no one really knew about Ha Giang. It seems that now a days Sa Pa has turned absolutely touristic, so those in search of beautiful mountain landscapes and a bit more adventurous are heading to Ha Giang instead. Most people come to Ha Giang to do the so called “Ha Giang loop”. This is a scenic route along the mountains that you can do by motorbike. It takes 3 – 5 days to complete it. We actually wrote all about it on this post.
Most people go to Ha Giang by bus and rent a motorbike there for the loop. However, we decided to rent the motorbike in Hanoi and drive all the way to Ha Giang ourselves and it was a beautiful experience that we fully recommend. You can also read in this post the route that we took.
Ha Long bay or Cat Ba – 2 days
The landscape of Ha Long bay is from another world and a must see when you’re in Vietnam. There are many options to visit it, from a day trip from Hanoi, to sleeping in a boat for 3 nights. We always prefer to stay away of the tours, so we recommend booking transport to Ha Long or Cat Ba, and booking a one-day boat trip when you arrive. Boat trips of two or three days where you can spend the night as well must be a great experience, but we haven’t done it as it is quite pricey.
Ha Long or Cat Ba?
Ha Long is turning into a touristic theme park. Loads buildings are under construction, everything is overpriced and over crowded with Chinese people. Cat Ba is an island sitting just by Ha Long bay. Although it’s become also touristic, is a much more natural place. The boat trips from Ha Long and Cat Ba will be very similar as the landscape is just the same. In Cat Ba it will be cheaper and less crowded, while in Ha Long you will see hundreds of other boats on the water.
If you only have time for a day trip from Hanoi, you will most likely go to Ha Long. It’s not a bad option, but if you have more time, we recommend going to Cat Ba instead.
- Accomodation: Bamboo forest. Double rooms with private bathroom and breakfast included, with a balcony with ocean view! What else can you ask for… this was an awesome stay (from 6€)
Hue – 1 day
To travel from Hanoi to Hue you can take a bus, train or a flight to Da Nang and then a train to Hue.
Also called the Imperial Town, Hue is a relaxed town by the riverside. The must see in Hue is the Imperial Citadel, which will take you a few hours to visit the extensive grounds. You can also go to the imperial tombs. However, if you’re more into alternative things to do like us, you can rent a motorbike and go to the abandoned waterpark in Hue. You can explore the old attractions and even get to the top of the dragon head!
From Hue to Hoi An there’s a great road along a natural park and the coast. Some companies will allow you to rent a motorbike just one way and they will take care of bringing your luggage to Hoi An. Ask at your accommodation to book it!
- Accomodation: Charming Riverside hotel. Nice little hotel with a great all you can eat breakfast on the top floor.
Hoi An – 2 days
The most enchanting town of Vietnam, Hoi An ancient town is a UNESCO world’s heritage site. It’s a small town, you can see most of it in one or two days. But the yellow walls of all the streets decorated with colourful lantern lamps make it one of those places where you could stay forever. The riverside is especially nice at night, when all the lanterns are light up and the markets make the streets even busier.
Everywhere in Vietnam you can get clothes tailor made, but Hoi An is definitely the best place for this. Whether you are looking for a simple dress, shirt, swimming suit, or even a suit or a wedding dress, everything is possible in 24h in Hoi An! I even got the dress I will wear for my sister’s wedding custom made in Hoi An, and I wrote everything about our experience here on this blog
- For simple clothing: Hai Pho
- For haute couture: Yaly couture
Ho Chi Minh – 3 days
Ho Chi Minh is a bigger city with big buildings. It’s not an enchanting city, but it has some interesting sites and buildings of French influence worth visiting. Also, from Ho Chi Minh you can visit the Mekong delta. As in every other town in Vietnam (and in SE Asia), there are many travel agencies where you can book your trip to the Mekong Delta. What you can also do, is rent a motorbike and ride to the biggest village in the area of the Delta, Can Tho, and find your boat ride directly on the village.
Temperatures can get really high in Ho Chi Minh, so you may want to go to the Dam Sen Waterpark. It’s a small park but well worth the 7€ entrance fee. We recommend going there during the week days, as it can get crazy crowded on the weekend.
Got more time? Itinerary for 3 or 4 weeks
If you are planning on spending more than two weeks in Vietnam, that’s perfect! We would recommend staying one more day in Hanoi and Ha Long, maybe also in Hoi An.
Ninh Binh – 2 days
On top of that you can visit Ninh Binh, another lovely town between Hanoi and Hue with nice nature. You can do boat rides that take you through caves here!
Cao Bang – 1 day*
If you have enough time and love riding the motorbike, you can combine the Ha Giang loop with going to Ha Long and Cat Ba. We rode all the way from the loop (from Meo Vac) to Ha Long, stopping in Cao Bang. From this small town you can visit the impressive Ban Gioc waterfalls.
*You will only need a day in Cao Bang, but if you decide to ride the bike all the way from Hanoi to Ha Giang, do the loop and then ride to Ha Long, you may need some extra days in between to rest.
Son Doong cave – +1 day*
In the National Park of Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng lays the biggest cave in the world, Son Doong. Getting there is not that easy, and an organised tour is advised in this case.
*The National park is in central Vietnam, and it’s not close to any of the more visited towns. If you want to visit this incredible cave, you will need to plan some extra days to get there.
Only in Vietnam for 10 days?
Vietnam has a lot to offer, but we cannot always stay as long as we would like to. If you have just 10 days for your Vietnam itinerary and love riding a motorbike, we would recommend staying in the Northern part of Vietnam and visit Hanoi, do the Ha Giang loop and ride to Ha Long bay and Cat Ba. Maybe you can also do a one-day trip to Ninh Binh.
If you are not planning on riding a motorbike, we would recommend for your Vietnam itinerary to stay in Hanoi, visiting Ha Long bay or Cat Ba, and flying to Hoi An (Da Nang airport). Maybe you can also include a one-day trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi. This way, you see the best of Vietnam on a relaxed way to enjoy the most!
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