Incredibly exotic and absolutely fascinating, Vietnam is a country that offers a little bit of everything – Breathtaking natural beauty, rich culture and amazing
(affordable) food. What else could a traveler wish for? It comes with no surprise that Vietnam is one of the budget/backpack traveller’s paradise of the moment.
If it is your first time in Vietnam and you would like to see as much as possible and not miss any of the main cities to visit, look no further. I will show you our itinerary and give you also options to switch for other places, according to your preferences.
During this trip our start and finish point was Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), but you can easily start in Hanoi and go your way down to HCMC or vice-versa, or even use Hanoi as start and ending point, its up to you!
Insiders Tip: Total we spent 19 days traveling if we include the transit days.
So knowing my start/finish point, I builded the travel itinerary like below:
- 3 days Ho Chi Minh City
- 3 days Hanoi
- 1 day Ninh Binh
- 1 day Halong Bay
- 1 day Hue
- 3 days Hoi An
- 3 days Phu Quoc Island
Insiders Tip: Instead of Ninh Binh/Phu Quoc Island, you can go to Sapa which is advised to reserve 2 days for it.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
This vibrant and bustling city is maybe a good alternative to start your trip at. Because of the large number of flights going straight to HCMC and to lower the cultural shock, HCMC is a good starting point to get started and explore the country.
Ho Chi Minh looks like any other concrete jungle city but still you can have a vietinamese experience here. Try to stay alive crossing the streets among the crazy motorbike traffic and wander around the Bui Vien Walking street – know also as the backpakers area as it houses a great number of pubs and hostels that cost less than $10 a night, don’t forget to get a well deserved massage after a whole day of strolling around.
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is the most enchanted and captivating city in the region. Here the exotic old Asia blends seamlesly with the dynamic hustle of the city. If you don’t have time enough to visit the whole country, you can easily just visit Hanoi and have a good contact with the vietnamese culture.
Insiders Tip: We used Hanoi as our base to go to Halong Bay for one night and to Ninh Binh for a daytrip.
Located just 2 hours from Hanoi and also called as the terrestrial (inland) Halong Bay, this alternative for Halong Bay is pure nature heaven! Take a row-boat along Tam Coc and admire the breathtaking scenery.
You can also check some temples from the region such as Chua Bai Dinh and my favorite in Hoa Lu around the Ma Yen mountain will leave you in awe!
Considered a Unesco’s World Heritage, no wonder this combination of limestone peaks and bright green seas is one of Vietnam’s top tourist attraction. We booked an overnight cruise and enjoyed the day kayaking around these astonishing landscape of limestone islets. Besides kayaking and swimming the cruise also offers cooking classes and a visit to the Pearl Farm.
The cruises normally offers a shuttle service leaving from Hanoi, most of the time the price is not included in the cruise price.
After returning to Hanoi we continued our travel by taking a nightime train to Hue – a duration of 14 hours long which sounds bad but it was quite comfortable and saves you the cost of a hotel/hostel.
If you are a history lover, do not skip Hue. Hue is the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam. Surrounded by palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples this city is pure art! It is easy to see the most of the sightseeing in one day but the Hue Citadel takes a half day already so ideal would be to reserve 2 days for it.
Vietnam’s most graceful and atmospheric town, it was easy to fall in love with it. Ringed by colorful lanterns, each street is a delight for the eyes. Hoi An is the perfect place to slow down, enjoy the trendy coffee places, indulge in local food and last but not least, to have something taylored because Hoi An is home to the best an most skilled tailors.
Phu Quoc Island
For the beach lovers, you cannot leave Phu Quoc Island out of your list. The main beach, Long Beach, might not be that interesting but the island is surrounded by many other small ones where your desire for clear beaches with white sand will be pleased. One beach more close by that offers the same scenario is Sao beach, equally superb!
Vietnam is for all kind of travellers, find your gem and get into it! Fun is something you will have here for a fact!