Vietnam is a gorgeous country that has plenty to offer even for the most demanding travellers. From hiking the rice fields in Sapa in the north to exploring the Mekong’s delta in the south, from visiting old tombs, temples and citadels to spoiling yourself on the world-class beaches, Vietnam is a perfect spot for any kind of adventurers! 3 weeks might not be enough for you to take it all in.

Black Hmong ethnic women of Sapa. Wonderful guides through the rice fields.
Black Hmong ethnic women of Sapa. Wonderful guides through the rice fields.
Inner peace. Vietnam is full of spots for practising mindfulness.
Inner peace. Vietnam is full of spots for practising mindfulness.

Where to fly into – Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City?

If you are thinking of travelling through the whole of Vietnam, is it better to do it from the north to the south or vice versa? Whether to fly into Ho Chi Minh and leave from Hanoi or even whether to book return flight from the same city you entered Vietnam? In short, it doesn’t really matter. We booked our flights from Hong Kong to Hanoi and from Ho Chi Minh back to Singapore and Hong Kong due to the cheaper flights. The infrastructure and bus connections work both ways from north to south, so it’s really not a big deal if you are doing the whole of Vietnam from top to bottom or vice versa. We met people along the way doing it the other direction too. However, if you only have a little time and thinking about where to go, we would recommend Hanoi and northern part. It’s an old city with a great culture and character. From there you can do Halong, Sapa, Hang Son Doong cave or go to the beaches of Hoi An easily within a week or two.

Lively narrow streets of Hanoi where the best Pho soups are served on small plastic chairs right on the street.
Lively narrow streets of Hanoi where the best Pho soups are served on small plastic chairs right on the street.
Past vs Future like architecture downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
Past vs Future like architecture downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam Visa easily and even simplified after 2017

We visited Vietnam in 2016. It was fairly easy to obtain an invitation letter from an online agency – we used vietnamvisapro.com and took around 3 days and 6USD per person. With this letter, and two passport-sized photos (4*6cm), we proceeded to the immigration department office at the airport in Hanoi where we got a real visa – 1-page stamp – in the passport. Note, that this approach only works if you fly into the international airports, not by land. In 2017, Vietnam implemented e-Visa and seems it could be even simpler to obtain your entry permit. There are a lot of scams so please make sure you follow only the official page.

Find a Vietnamese.
Find a Vietnamese.

Where to travel in Vietnam

Our itinerary was an ambitious one. We simply wanted to see the whole country in 3 weeks. Visited Vietnam in August 2016, we experienced beautiful weather with occasional showers, fewer crowds as it’s low season and had a few spots totally for ourselves.

Here is a detailed itinerary for 22 days.

DayPlaceActivities
1HanoiFlight to Hanoi, night walk through the neighbourhood
2HanoiHanoi all day – Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, pagoda by the lake Hoam Kiem, Temple of Literature and night markets around
3SapaMorning Hanoi – Noon bus to Sapa (5h,30USD), late afternoon walk in the rice fields and Cat Cat village with waterfall
4SapaAll day trek to rice fields, village of Tavan and short climb to Sapa park with a city view
5SapaHalf-day motorbike trip around Sapa, 4 pm night sleeper bus to Hanoi (6h)
6HanoiCancelled Halong due to weather, extra day in Hanoi, rice cakes and fruit markets, bicycle in the surrounding, night bus to Hue (14h)
7HueThe imperial city of Hue and citadel
8Hue-Hoi An (Van hai pass)All day trip to Hai Van Pass, from Hue to Hoi An via Danang. Quick stop at Khai Dinh tomb by Hue
9Hoi AnHoi An historical centre, 25 km bicycle trip to Cua Dai beach, visit of herb farm at Tra Que
10Hoi AnMotorbike trip to My Son – 55 km from Hoi An
11Hoi An6:30 morning bike trip to Cua Dai bridge and fishing village, An bang beach and afternoon Hoi An centre, Be La Well lunch (pancakes), night bus to Nha Trang
12Nha TrangWalk and chill the Nha Trang beach
13Nha TrangMotorbike trip on the empty highway to Ba Ho waterfalls and Jungle Beach, visit of fisherman’s wharf in Luong Son, great cheap dinner on the street in Thong Dong Cat
14Nha TrangOdpočinek v Nha Trangu, masáž na pláži, cvičení a odpočine, koupani v infinity bazénu ve 21 patře (hotel Alana Nha Trang Beach Resort), night bus to Mui Ne (6h)
15Mui NeMui Ne in the morning, 14km trek on the beach and 4h of surfing (20USD)
16Mui Ne5:30am motorbike trip to red a white dunes, visiting beautiful resorts around Muine beach and free lunch at Chua Buu Son temple, night bus to Ho Chi Minh City
17SaigonMorning Ho Chi Minh City, The Independence (Reunification) Palace, Jade Emperor Pagoda, walk by the river Saigon
18SaigonAll day trip to (3h one way) to Cu Chi tunnels in Ben Duoc village, evening visit of hotel Rex (for views) and Sheraton’s 23F, drink at The Makers
19Can ThoMekong – Can Tho (3h30min from HCMC), walk around Mecong’s banks and tasting different street food
20Can ThoHalf day boat trip (starts 5am) on Mekong, floating markets Cai Rang and Phuong Dien, rice cakes factory visit, evening back to HCMC
21SaigonThe Independence Day Vietnam, War Remnants Museum, market Ben Thanh, dinner at Don Chicken, visit cruiser Elisa
22Saigon – SingaporeFlight to Singapore
The notorious view of the bridge to the Hai Van Pass. A spot where Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear was recommending the fascinating curved road of the pass.
The notorious view of the bridge to the Hai Van Pass. A spot where Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear was recommending the fascinating curved road of the pass.

Where to stay in Vietnam – the best accommodation we had along the way

We can recommend some great accommodation we experienced along the way. Usually, we try to stay in local and cheaper accommodation, like family-owned places and we can highly recommend these two outstanding families.

Quoc Dinh Guesthouse in Mui Ne – This was the best stay in Vietnam, employees super helpful and willing to go the extra mile to serve us (freebies, fruits and coffee in the morning). Despite staying in the room without a window, it was super clean with a comfy bed, motorbike rental excellent and even the aftercare was outstanding. When we were waiting for our midnight bus, the owner gave us tea and pillow to make the waiting convenient.

Family house in Hoi An – Excellent stay, very friendly family who gave us many tips esp. for Cua dai bridge and fishing market. The room is just amazing with a balcony and big window and bathroom, recommend laundry as the T-shirts taste like fresh lavenders for so long time. We even extended our stay with them.

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