Why THE BEST ITINERARY? I only had 2 weeks vacation in Vietnam and 1 week in Cambodia. There were so many places I wanted to visit, so I had to be selective with my time and choices, and I knew I would have to prepare in advance.
I did a lot of research to make sure I would take advantage of the ‘must visit’ places in Vietnam. I booked almost everything in advance – flights, accommodation, trains and tours to Sapa and Halong Bay. With such a short timeline and so much to see, I didn’t want to risk winging it. Planning ahead saved me time and helped me to take full advantage of my Vietnam vacation.
I have to say that I was very assertive with my itinerary and I would not do anything different. Of course I wish I had more time in Vietnam, but I am very happy with my choices for the 2 weeks I had while there.
Here I am sharing my itinerary and all the logistics, and I hope it can help you plan your trip.
Check here: Everything you need to know about Vietnam
Check here: 25 photos to inspire you
Day 1- 3 Ho Chi Minh City
What to do: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) is a big busy city and you can explore and have fun just wandering around, trying street food, drinking Vietnamese coffee, walking the alleys and getting lost – you will see a lot of interesting things! Visit the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the Ben Thanh market. Take day trips to Mekong Delta and Cú Chi Tunnels.
Transportation: I was well located and walked to the sites in the city. I have found that walking is a great way to explore a city and get to really see it. When needed, I took an Uber and it worked great at a very low rate, I super recommend it. Renting a scooter is an option, but unless you grew up in a major city in Vietnam, I would not recommend it. Traffic rules are very different and the roads are super congested. (Think about walking through a shopping mall during a Christmas rush…now imagine it on scooters instead of walking…that is Ho Chi Minh City).
Accommodations: I stayed at the city centre, and you can find great options for very good prices. I used https://www.booking.com/ to choose my accommodations. While in a big city, it is always a good choice to be centrally located as you have many options to walk around and explore with your feet.
Estimated Daily Price per person: US$50.00 (including lodging and food)
Day 4- 8 Hoi An
What to do: I absolutely loved Hoin An, and everyone else I know who has visited loves it too! Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 15th to the 19th century and it is very well preserved. You can rent a motorbike or a bike and explore around the old town, the beaches and the rice paddies around the town. Traffic here is much calmer and experienced scooter riders will not feel uncomfortable driving.
Walk by the river, go to the night markets, and visit some of the amazing cafes and restaurants for some traditional or fusion food. Don’t miss the Precious Heritage Gallery by world famous photographer Rehahn. His mission to collect and photograph the costumes of each of Vietnam’s native tribes is stunning to behold. Hoi An is also well known for tailor made clothes and shoes – oh, so dangerous for your wallet! Take a day trip to Danang and visit the Marble Mountain. A morning side trip to My Son is also highly recommended to see the ancient temple ruins.
Transportation: I flew Vietnam Airlines from Saigon to Danang, it is approximately a 1.5 hour flight. I then took a cab from the airport to the house (approximately 40 min). For transportation in Hoi An I rented a scooter as the traffic is much lighter (safer). I also used the scooter to take a side trip to Danang. My Airbnb host arranged a driver to take me to My Son temples and for my return to the airport in Danang. He also helped me rent the scooter.
Accommodations: There are many great options on Airbnb – I stayed at a very nice wooden house adjacent to the rice paddies and paid very little for it.
Estimated daily price per person: US$30.00 (just lodging)
Check here: Hoi An details
Check here: My Son Sanctuary details
Check here: Marble Mountain details
Day 9-12 Sapa
What to do: Sapa offers very beautiful and scenic hills and mountains, with rice paddy terraces and amazing views. You have the opportunity to hiking on the many trails and to visit many minority ethnic hill tribes in Lao Cai Province. You can take the opportunity to experience a homestay with a tribe and to share their daily life. It is just an amazing place!
Transportation: From Hoi An I flew to Hanoi, it is approximately a 2 hr. flight. Arriving in Hanoi I had my night train already booked to Sapa, so I took an Uber from the airport to the train station. You can check options for night train here. In Sapa, the only transportation you will need is your feet. The mountains just beckon to be explored and the H’mong tribes are super friendly.
Accommodation: I had my homestay in Sapa scheduled in advance with my Black H’mong family. Please read details here
Estimated daily price per person: US30.00 (lodging, trekking and food)
Check here: Everything you need to know to trek in Sapa
Check here: 3 days trek itinerary in Sapa
Day 12 -15 – Halong Bay
What to do: Halong Bay is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the Gulf of Tonkin, east of Hanoi. You have the option to cruise from 1-3 days. You will have the opportunity to sail on one of many junk boats and observe the amazing limestone formations and just relax. Activities include kayaking, visiting beaches, fishing and caves. If you are questioning yourself how ethical it is to visit Halong Bay, check here.
Transportation: Taking the night-train back to Hanoi, we were picked up by the cruise company. We rode in a mini-bus with other travelers from Hanoi to Halong Bay. The cruise company also transported us back to Hanoi (round trip Hanoi-Halong was included in the cruise). The drive was 4 hours each way.
Junk Boat: I went on the Victory Cruise Line -
Price per person for 3 days on a Junk Boat: US$770
Check here: Halong Bay details