Vietnam is amazing, from top to bottom, with such a diverse landscape, friendly people, rich culture and yummy food. Vietnam has over 1,000 miles long to be explored. The good news is that you can visit the best of Vietnam with a condensed well-planned 2 weeks trip itinerary.
This Vietnam travel itinerary begins with the country's busiest city of Ho Chi Minh, journeying to UNESCO world heritage city of Hoi An, hiking the remote mountains of Sapa and ending on a relaxing cruise across the incredible Halong Bay. With this itinerary, you will get to see some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in Vietnam, and it gives you the opportunity to see all the best things to do, one destination at a time.
I had only 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 have to say that I was very assertive with my 2-week itinerary in Vietnam and of course I wish I had more time to explore, but this itinerary is a perfect option, especially if it is your first visit to Vietnam.
Enjoy this detailed day-by-day for 2 weeks in Vietnam. At the end of the itinerary, visit the session INFORMATION for tips on what to book in advance, places to stay, detailed prices information, and more.
2-WEEK VIETNAM ITINERARY OVERVIEW
Day 1-3 (Ho Chi Minh City)
Uncover the organized chaos of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Take a side trip to the fascinating Co Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta
Day 4-8 (Hoi-An)
Fall in love with of the best spots in Vietnam, Hoi An
Take side trips to the Marble Mountains and the Sanctuary of Mi Son
Day 9-11 (Sapa)
Go an adventure and hike the incredible hills and mountains of Sapa
Dive on an authentic experience with homestay with one of the local minority tribes
Day 12-14 (Halong Bay Cruise)
Relax on board of one of the junk boats on the gorgeous Halong Bay
Have a relaxing drink on the roof top or be active with kayaking, swimming and cooking class.
DAY BY DAY 2-WEEK VIETNAM ITINERARY
DAY 1-3: Explore the busy HCMC/ Take a side trip to Co Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta
Day 1-3 of your 2-week Vietnam itinerary are spent in the massive city of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) and taking a side trip to visit the Co Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta.
DAY 1 - I spent my first day strolling the busy streets, exploring 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 and it is a great introduction to Vietnam. I finished my day wondering around the Ben Thanh Market where you can find all sorts of produce ans souvenirs
DAY 2 - The second I started sightseeing the city with the Ho Chi Minh City Hall, a gorgeous building with a French colonial desing. Just a short walk you can see other landmarks from the French, Notre Dame Cathedral and just across the street the beautiful Saigon Central Post Office. Just a short walk visit the Reunification Palace, built in the 60s, during the Vietnam War to be the president residence. My afternoon I spent visiting the War Remnants Museum, but while the exhibits are very moving in the way to show the reality of the war, it can be difficult to swallow some of the reality.
Day 3 - I booked a private tour - this is the one I recommend - to visit the Co Chi Tunnels, one of the most popular places in Vietnam related to the Vietnam War, built by the Viet Cong in their fight against US forces, these narrow tunnels allowed soldiers to live an supply routes. Next head to the Mekong Delta, an incredible opportunity to see floating markets, swampy maze and rural rice paddies.
All the detailed information is in my 3-Day Itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City.
PAULA'S TIPS: 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).
DAY 4 - 8: Uncover the atmospheric Hoi An and take side trips to Marble Mountain & My Son
Next on my 2-week Vietnam itinerary, I took a flight heading south along Vietnam's coast, and I spent a few days at the wildly amazing city of Hoi An. Smaller and more laid back this end up being my favorite city in Vietnan. 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.
Hoi An is also well known for tailor made clothes and shoes – oh, so dangerous for your wallet! Ho An is also very convenient located on Vietnam's central coast, making an ideal location for side trips.
DAY 4 - Take your first day to stroll around the Hoi An Ancient Town and enjoy the ancient yellow buildings, as they are exceptionally well-preserved and you will easily spend time just wandering from one picturesque street to the next without getting bored.
DAY 5 - Start your day walking by the river, and visit some of the landmarks like the Japanese Covered Bridge, dating from the 17th century. In the town there a number of houses you can visit such, such as Phung Hung House and Phuc Kien Assembly Hall. Once the sun goes down, the city transforms to the street yellow light and you should make your way to the Hoi An Night Market, where you can find from souvenirs, carving and some amazing street food.
DAY 6 - In the morning, take an adventure across to the island village of Cam Nam, it is calmer than the city center and you can see plenty of fruit trees. If you love fresh food and is curious to see where the yummy food in Hoi An comes from visit the Tra Que Vegetable Village and experience the small farming community. Visit the Local Tailors and maybe have some customer clothes and shoes made for you. Go on a bike tour around the rice farming. End your day relaxing by the public beach of An Bang Beach or Hidden Beach.
DAY 7 - In the morning I took a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Hindu Sanctuary of My Son, a great example of the ancient Champa civilization with temples dated over 1,000 years, located in the middle of the jungle - Chick here for my complete guide. Back to Hoi An, 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. For dinner, you have plenty of amazing options for cafes and restaurants for some traditional or fusion food.
DAY 8 - I rented a motorbike and took a day trip to the city of Danang, to visit the Marble Mountains - Click here for my complete guide. A group of five limestone and marble mountains several of which you can climb. The site offers plenty of shrines and pagodas to visit, as well as many caves. On the way back to Hoi An, rent a bicycle and explore the rice paddies around the city and get to enjoy the the local experience.
All the detailed information is in my Top 13 things to do in Hoi An
PAULA'S TIPS: 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 my Guest-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 Guest-house host arranged a driver to take me to My Son temples and for my return to the airport in Danang.
DAY 9 - 12: Hike the misty mountais in Sapa and experience a real homestay
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! Read more about Everything you need to know about trekking and homestay in Sapa.
DAY 9 - My night train arrived early morning in Sapa town and my Black H'mong guide was waiting for me. We started the hiking to the steep mountains of Sapa. We hiked for about 4 hours, and we arrived at my Homestay at my guide's house, where she cooked an amazing meal on he fire pit in the middle of the kitchen, while I played with the kids.
DAY 10 - After an amazing home made and fresh breakfast, we left for another day of trekking, visiting some local remote villages, visited the local school, crossed bridges and saw some local ladies washing clothes in the river and visited the local market to shopping for fresh ingredients to cook dinner at my homestay.
DAY 11 - I was so honored to be invited for a local wedding and I have decided to skip the last day of trekking to participate on a traditional and authentic experience. If you are luck and stay with a local family, you most likely will have the best experience and will participate on the real life of the local tribes in Sapa. I have wrote a very comprehensive Sapa Ethical Travel Guide.
PAULA TIPS: From Hoi An I flew to Hanoi, it is approximately 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 the 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.
DAY 13-15: Relax on board of a Junk Boat on Halong Bay
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. If you are questioning yourself how ethical it is to visit Halong Bay, check here.
Visiting Halong Bay involve taking a tour, and there are boats of all different budgets, sizes, styles and with different activities offered, and I recommend to do your research to find the most suitable option for you. Some highly recommended are:
- 1 day tour - Full-Day Luxury Halong Bay with meals
- 2 days tour - Halong Bay with kayaking and cooking class
- 3 days tour - Explore Halong with 5-star cruise
DAY 12 - Spend the day sailing among the majestic limestone kasks and relaxing on board of the junk boat. Have a drink at the roof top while appreciating the amazing limestone formations. Visit the floating village and get to see how some local families still live on the bay.
DAY 13 - The cruise lines offer different tours. The one I took I go tot visit a cave which was very intriguing. In the afternoon I grabbed a kayak and explore the Bay taking the time to appreciate the beauty of this unique place. At night enjoy a very fun cooking class on board of your junk boat.
DAY 14 - Last day of my 3-day cruise, lounging out on my balcony while watching the majestic scenery of this place, before I get back on the road and continue my amazing journey on the way to Cambodia.
PAULA'S TIPS: I took the night-train in Sapa back to Hanoi, and I was picked up by my cruise company. I 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.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO VIETNAM
Visit my Vietnam Travel Guide for all the details about how to plan a perfect trip to Vietnam.
I researched for my trip during months to make sure I would take advantage of the ‘must visit’ places in Vietnam in 2 weeks itinerary.
An excellent guide book that I used during my itinerary preparation is the Lonely Planet Vietnam Guidebook, as it has tons of great information.
ARRIVAL IN VIETNAM
You will need a visa to visit Vietnam. You can either apply for a visa via Vietnamese embassy/ consulate, or via one of the methods below:
- Visa on Arrival (VOA) - This is the most popular option for visitors arrival by plane. Go to the vietnam-visa.com to fill out an online application and pay for the US$20 fee. You will receive and email with the VOA letter that you print out and show upon your arrival in Vietnam, and you will need to pay for your visa stamping in US dollar, cash only. The single-entry stamping fee is US$25, and the stamping fee for multiple-entry visa valid for up to 3 months is US$50.
- E-Visa - Citizen of around 80 countries, including USA and UK can apply for a single entry e-visa valid for 30 days and costs US$25. Click here for more information.
WHERE TO STAY IN VIETNAM
While the right accommodations options depends on your travel style, I am providing some recommendations for places to stay in Vietnam for each stop during my 2-week Vietnam itinerary.
Vietnam has plenty of accommodation options from hostel to luxury, as well as between and you will find whatever is suitable for your. Consider if you are planning to visit during the high season and book your accommodation in advance.
When it comes for best options to compare a large variety of prices and options, Booking.com is hands down the best option you can have. I booked all my accommodations through Booking as it is very reliable, easy to manage, and it is free to cancel.
BOOK BEFORE YOU GO
There are so many options for itinerary and tours in Vietnam. I recommend to book your tour in advance, especially if you are traveling during the high season, and want to choose a VIP tour or smaller groups. Click on the links below for several incredible tour options for each location:
PRICE OF 14-DAY ITINERARY IN VIETNAM
Traveling around Vietnam is very affordable, and prices can vary quite a lot depending on your preferences. Some people can travel around Vietnam spending an average of $30 a day per person - considering if you eat street food and use hostel for accommodation.
My trip to Vietnam was a mid-range budget of $72.5 per day per person. I used a combination of 3 stars hotel, with homestay with a local family in Sapa, with a 5-star cruise in Halong Bay, which was also my biggest expense. I ate street food and also some meals at a restaurant. I opted to fly from one location to another since it saved me time. See below my average price for 2 people to spend 2-week in Vietnam:
TOTAL PRICE - For 2 people, not included flights
- $490 Accommodation
- $240 Food & Drink
- $400 Transportation
- $700 Halong Bay Cruise
- $200 Attractions
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
Whatever you go or do during your traveling, don't travel anywhere in the world without travel insurance; the unexpected can, and often does, go wrong.
Be it sickness, losing your bag, theft, or even worse, having an accident, travel insurance is your best way of mitigating the issues and saving yourself thousands of dollars down the track.
I recommend a reliable travel insurance through World Nomads before your trip to Vietnam.
HOW TO GET AROUND VIETNAM
The best way to travel around Vietnam is a combination between flying and train.
By Plane - It is one of the most popular ways to explore Vietnam. They are normally around 2-hour journey and will cost around US$50 per person if you book in advance.
By Train - Train normally is more expense than buses in Vietnam. If prefer, you can take the Reunification Express that runs from Hanoi to HCMC, but keep in mind that it takes about 30 hours. There are many segments that you can use a train. I took the night train from Hanoi to Sapa and it was very comfortable and safe.
By Bus - This is an option if you have plenty of time and don't mind about comfort. Also, keep in mind that the traffic in Vietnam is crazy and travelling via Vietnam's rickety roads might not be for you. Check here for open tour buses.
By Car - If you have seen some of my other blogs, you already know I am a big fan of road trips. But not in Vietnam. Remember about the traffic being challenging? Also, international drive license is not accepted in Vietnam and it is not normal to rent a car.
By motorbike - It is a very popular transport in Vietnam, just keep in mind the roads and traffic are crazy. If this is your choice, check your insurance to make sure riding a motorbike is covered. You can find more details here.
BEST TIME TO VISIT VIETNAM
The weather in Vietnam can be split by region.
- In Hanoi & the north, May to October is hot and humid with high rainfall; November to April is cooler and dry.
- In the far north, December & January can be particularly cold.
- Central Vietnam experiences hot, dry weather between January & August when temperatures can hit the mid-30°C’s; whilst high levels of rainfall can occur in September, October & November.
- Southern Vietnam is generally dry and hot from November to April, and warm and wet between May & October, with the highest rainfall in June, July & August.
MORE VIETNAM TIPS
- Book in Advance - Especially if you are traveling during the high season. You will have more options to choose from accommodations, and you will have a better plan on activities and transportation options.
- Halong Bay - I recommend to do the 3-day cruise, as you can see more of the majestic beauty of this place and also, relax during your busy travel schedule.
- Visit Hoi An - Even if you are short in time, prioritize Hoi An as it has so much to offer and the side trips are amazing.
- Vietnamese Coffee - In my option, it is the best of the world!
- Homestay in Sapa is amazing - If you have the time, include Sapa in your itinerary. Read here more about my experience with homestay with a local tribe.
- Mind the weather - Don't underestimate the weather, as it can be extremely hot in the summer and very wet.
- Crossing the streets - In the big cities the traffic is INSANE. Traffic lights don't mean they will stop for you. Please, be careful!
- Cover up - When you visiting temples and pagodas.
- Bargain - Negotiating price is not rude, it is expected!