In April I visited Vietnam for just over two weeks. Many an hour went into the planning of our two week itinerary – I scoured google, consulted travel blogs, asked various friends that I knew had been for advice, searched #vietnam on Instagram…the list is endless.
After working out how to actually travel around Vietnam, we eventually came up with a cracking route that made sure we got to all the places we wanted to see and more. Here’s my exact 2 week itinerary complete with costs, recommendations, accommodation advice, transport advice, excursion info and honest opinions. Before planning yours, make sure you include these top 8 things to do in Vietnam…
OUR TWO WEEK ITINERARY FOR VIETNAM…
A quick summary:
Ho Chi Minh: Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta, Floating Markets
Hoi An: Shopping & Beach, Hai Van Pass
Phong Nha: Caves, National Park
Ha Long Bay: 2 Night Boat Trip
Sapa: 1 Night Sapa Trek
Hanoi: Shopping, Water puppet Show, Lake
Places we sacrificed: Da Lat (lakes & waterfalls), Nha Trang (beachy & diving), Mui ne (fishing village & coast).
We flew Emirates to and from Ho Chi Minh (via Dubai) as this was cheaper than flying into Ho Chi Minh and out of Hanoi. This cost £520 but we booked pretty last minute i.e. 1 month before! Booking at least a few months in advance you will get a MUCH better deal (like £350 – £430 return).
(I always research and book my flights on Momondo as I find it the cheapest site out there. I also find it’s the easiest website to use in terms of comparing price as it uses visual bar charts. <3)
We then got an internal flight at the end of our trip from Hanoi back to Ho Chi Minh with Jetstar which took 2 hours and cost £45 (we booked this last minute and is around £25 if booked further in advance).
DAY 1 – HO CHI MINH, CU CHI TUNNELS
As we knew we didn’t have long, we didn’t waste any time and went and booked the Cu Chi Tunnels & Mekong Delta trip the night we arrived. This meant on our first day we could do the half day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels in the morning – this cost $5 (approx. £3.50) for the return bus (2 hours) and then 110,000 dong (approx. £3.40) for entrance (Vietnam uses both the American dollar and Vietnamese dong). There are tons of excursion offices dotted around Ho Chi Minh so just book tickets through one of these.
We got back from the trip at around 2pm and got dropped at the War Remnants museum which was really interesting and the best place to learn about the Vietnam War. This cost 15,000 dong (approx. 50p) for entrance. To fill the rest of the day we had a wander around Ho Chi Minh City and stopped by the cathedral, before exploring the Ben Thanh night markets at night.
We did the overnight Mekong delta trip. We were picked up at 7.40am and got back to Ho Chi Minh at 5pm the following day (day 3). This cost $26 (approx. £18.00) for the overnight trip which included the home stay, the bus each way, the boat trip down the Mekong delta, a boat trip to a few other islands and the boat trip to the floating markets the next morning, as well as all food.
The homestay was great! Especially as we were taken down a river on a tiny boat in the pitch black to it – definitely an experience. The owners of the house also gave us a mini cooking lesson and taught us how to make rice paper rolls.
DAY 3 – FLOATING MARKETS
We did the boat trip to the floating markets in the morning. If I were planning this again knowing that we didn’t have much time, I would probably just take the day trip to the Mekong Delta rather than the overnight as the floating markets weren’t as great as we expected. Having said that though, the homestay was really cool so if you have time I would definitely recommend!
After getting back to Ho Chi Minh we took a taxi to the airport to fly up to Hoi An. We chose to fly as this part is a sizeable chunk of the journey up north and we didn’t want to waste time on a bus. There is the option of an overnight bus (this goes through Nha Trang with the option of getting off for a night or two) and takes around 19 hours overall.
We flew with VietJet for 880,000 dong (about £27) and it took an hour.
DAY 4 – SHOPPING IN HOI AN
We spent the morning wandering around the markets of Hoi An Ancient Town, then in the afternoon went to a tailors and had some clothes custom made before heading to the beach for sunset. I would really recommend getting clothes made – the ladies are so lovely and the clothes they make are incredible! We also made sure we did the top 12 things to do in Hoi An…
We had a day off from moving around and got a taxi to the beach which cost 80,000 dong (approx. £2.50). The beach is about 3km away from the town centre – if you wanna spend more time in the sunshine rather than in a taxi you can also rent bicycles and enjoy the beautiful views along the way (mountains, locals working in the fields, water buffalo…).
That evening we had dinner on a barge on the river. There are a few that are all lit up with lanterns and it wasn’t any more expensive than the normal restaurants. A must!
DAY 6 – HOI AN TO HUE VIA THE HAI VAN PASS
We booked mopeds with Motorvina rental through our hostel. We rented 3 for 6 of us and they cost $20 per bike (approx. £14.00) . A van took our backpacks to Hue for $1. The journey is only 144 km but it is so beautiful and we stopped often to take photos so it took us around 7 hours. Try and leave Hoi An at around 8/9am to allow time for stopping as it gets dark at around 7pm.
**IF YOU ARE DOING THE HAI VAN PASS MAKE SURE YOU DOWNLOAD THE APP ‘MAPS ME’ FROM THE APP STORE** This is basically an offline google maps and is amazing for any travelling. If we didn’t have this we would probably still be lost there now as the map that they give you to follow is sooo basic!
We boarded the 4 hour bus from Hue to Phong Nha National Park at 7am – it picked us up from our hotel. The tour we booked included the bus and a 2 hour boat ride into the caves which were beautiful. We booked it with Than Hu Tu Travel in Hue at a cost of 480,000 overall (approx. £15.00). It included a bus back to Hue but we stayed in Dong Hoi (the nearest town to the National Park and the other option to get dropped off at) so we could get the sleeper bus up to Hanoi that night.
The sleeper bus picked us up from a hotel in Dong Hoi At 9pm. This cost 200,000 dong (approx. £6.20) and took around 8 hours, arriving into Hanoi at around 5am.
If you have time you can go zip lining, kayaking and also on a cave mud trek (this looks so cool!)
DAY 8 – EXPLORING HANOI
We used this day to book up our Halong Bay and Sapa trips. We also walked around the lake and went to the water puppet show in the evening which was really cool! This cost us 100,000 each (approx. £3.12) – there are a few performances each day – definitely recommend.
We booked our Ha Long Bay cruise with Golden Bay cruises from a tour office in Hanoi. It cost $120 for 1 night on the boat followed by 1 night on Cat Ba Island (the standard 2 night trip) but you could probably get it for cheaper so shop around and go to a few tour offices before you choose one. The food was really good and the rooms were fine so I would recommend if you’re on a budget. If not then there are loads of other boats around that cost a bit more but look a lot nicer. You can also do a 1 night trip if you are short on time.
We got picked up from our hotel at 8.30am and driven the 4 hours to Ha Long to board the boat. We were shown to our rooms and served lunch before kayaking around the bay in the afternoon and just enjoying the scenery in general. To end the day we had cocktails and dinner while we watched the sunset.
DAY 10 – EXPLORING CAT BA AND MONKEY ISLAND
After an early start we went on a 2k cycle ride up to a cave (you have the choice of going in the car – be warned this is all uphill). There was then a 2 hour hike scheduled up a mountain to give you panoramic views from the top, but the weather was so misty when we were there that we wouldn’t see anything. So instead we chilled at the hotel and explored the island, followed by a boat trip to monkey island that afternoon (this was included). We hiked up to the top of a rocky mountain and it gave us some pretty cool views so we were happy.
DAY 11 – HA LONG BAY BACK TO HANOI
This was a travelling day. We got the bus from our hotel back to the boat (30 mins), the boat back to Ha Long (1.5 hours), and then the bus from Ha Long to Hanoi (4 hours). To save a night, we got the night bus to Sapa that night which left at 9pm. Check on this post on how to get to Sapa for more info on the bus and the other ways of getting up there.
DAY 12- SA PA 1 NIGHT TRIP
We arrived at Sapa at around 5am and were met by local women who were our tour guides. They took us to a hotel at the very top of the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast before beginning our 12k trek through the rice terraces and local villages. We stopped at a local village for lunch – be warned you will be bombarded with women and children trying to sell you things…stay strong! We arrived at our home stay at around 3pm giving us plenty of time to cool down and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We had dinner while watching the sun set over the mountains…heaven.
The 1 night Sapa trip cost us $55.00 (approx. £38) and included the return sleeper bus, the trek both days, the homestay and all food. You can also do it yourselves and rent mopeds to bike around the terraces, rather than trek.
We had a relaxing start with pancakes and Sapa honey for breakfast before we started our shorter trek at 10am ish. We passed waterfalls and streams as we continued down the mountain towards a mountain side restaurant where we had our lunch. We were picked up at about 1.30pm and taken back to the hotel. The hotel you are taken to is right near Sapa town centre so if you are getting the night bus at 9pm this leaves you time to wander around the markets and enjoy the fabulous views. There is also a day bus that leaves at around 4pm if you want to get back to Hanoi earlier.
DAY 14 – HANOI
We had a lie in and late check out before heading for a last wander around the city. We bought our last souvenirs (kimono/chopsticks/silk sleeping bag) before heading to the airport to fly back down to Ho Chi Minh for our return flight home.
That’s it for now! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below 🙂