This post was updated in March 2020.
Vietnam is a wonderful country in Southeast Asia. There are lush ricefields in the North and tropical islands in the South. In between, you can find anything from stunning limestone mountains to colorful temples, historic sites, and interesting cities.
This Vietnam itinerary includes the best things to do in Vietnam and will help you plan your trip. Happy travels!
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In this guide to Vietnam you can find:
- What to do in Vietnam: day by day itinerary (7 and 10 days + 2 and 3 weeks)
- Things to know before traveling to Vietnam
- Where to stay in Vietnam on a budget
- How to get around in Vietnam
Vietnam 1 month itinerary
In the map below you can find our Vietnam travel itinerary, accommodations, and highlights of our month in Vietnam. I traveled from North to South but you can also do this Vietnam trip itinerary in reverse.
The perfect 1 month Vietnam itinerary
- Day 1-2: Hanoi
- Day 3-4: Halong Bay
- Day 5: Perfume Pagoda
- Day 6-7: Hoa Lu and Tam Coc
- Day 8-9: Hue
- Day 10: Hai Van Pass and the Marble Mountains
- Day 11-17: Hoi An
- Day 18-19: Hoi An to Dalat (via Nha Trang)
- Day 20-21: Dalat and around
- Day 22: Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City
- Day 23-25: Ho Chi Minh City and around
- Day 26: Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc
- Day 27-29: Phu Quoc Island
Important things to know when planning a Vietnam trip
The best time to visit Vietnam is between February and April. Vietnam is a long narrow country with different climates in the north and south.
While the north can be ‘chilly’ in winter (around 15°C), temperatures in the south are much more consistent throughout the year (between 22°C and 30°C).
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 26.000VND and $1 approximately 23.000VND.
Yes, most nationalities need a visa for Vietnam. You can apply for a visa online.
Keep in mind you will need to pay two fees: online you will pay the Visa Pre-Approval Letter Fee and once you arrive at the airport you must pay a Stamping Fee (to be paid in cash, so be sure to bring dollars).
Traveling and getting around in Vietnam is pretty easy. There are many options to choose from (flights, night trains, night buses, minivans, taxis, motor tours, etc.) and plenty of travel agencies selling tickets to each of those options, as well as organized tours.
In the itinerary below, you can find more detailed information about how to travel from A to B in Vietnam.
Where to stay in Vietnam on a budget
In this table, you can find the accommodation we stayed at during our trip around Vietnam. These hotels are all rated 7.5 or higher on Agoda and Booking, we stayed in private rooms with ensuite bathroom.
More details about these hotels can be found further on in the post.
|City||Name of hotel||Price||Agoda||Booking|
|Hanoi||Hanoi Serenity Hotel||€27/$30||Agoda||Booking|
|Tam Coc||Tuan Ngoc Hotel||€15/$17||Agoda||Booking|
|Hue||Charming Riverside Homestay||€12/$13||Agoda||Booking|
|Hoi An||Jolie Villa Homestay||€10/$11||Agoda||Booking|
|Hoi An||Sac Xanh Homestay||€8/$9||Agoda||Booking|
|Dalat||Cam Ly Homestay||€10/$11||Agoda||Booking|
|Ho Chi Minh||Thao Nhi Hotel||€14/$16||Agoda||Booking|
|Phu Quoc island||Kinh Bac Hotel||€21/$24||Agoda||Booking|
Itinerary for Vietnam
Ideally, if you have a month in Vietnam as we did, you’d travel from North to South (or vice versa). It’s best to start your trip in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, as these are the largest hubs for international flights.
If you have less time available to explore Vietnam, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Further on in the post, I also suggest shorter options (7 and 10 days, plus 2 and 3 weeks) for your Vietnam travel itinerary.
Day 1-2: Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and a fusion of different cultures (Vietnamese, French, and Chinese). It’s a busy city, with many (historic) sights, a chaotic but interesting Old Quarter, beautiful temples and an abundance of restaurants serving delicious Vietnamese dishes.
I recommend spending at least two days in Hanoi, though you could easily stay much longer in this buzzing city without running out of things to see and do.
I spend two days exploring Hanoi on foot, went on a two-day cruise to Halong Bay, took a tour to the Perfume Pagoda and another tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
I personally found visiting the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh very impressive, though also a little creepy. I mean, the man died in 1969 and yet it looks like he is sleeping in his glass coffin and could wake up any minute.
Combined with an impressive number of guards, soldiers, and other officials and the endless line of Vietnamese honoring their great leader made visiting the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum a very unusual experience.
Visiting the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum is free, but there can be long queues. The mausoleum is only open from 7:30 am until 10:30 am, so it’s best to arrive very early in the morning. Closed on Mondays and Fridays.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
While this museum is mostly a promotional campaign of the Communist Party of Vietnam, it’s interesting to learn about history from this point of view. However, I’ll be honest: this wasn’t the highlight of my Hanoi itinerary and if you only have one day in Hanoi, I’d skip this particular sight.
The entrance fee is 40.000VND per person and the museum is closed on Mondays and Fridays. On the other days of the week, you can visit from 8 am to12 pm or from 2 pm until 4.30 pm.
The Temple of Literature
This ancient temple was built around the year 1100 and nobles, royalty and other members of the elite traveled from faraway places to study Confucianism here.
It’s pretty incredible that the building is almost 1000 years old. Take a moment to look around and imagine how life must have been in those times.
The Temple of Literature is opened every day of the week from 8 am until 6 pm. The entrance fee is 30.000VND per person.
Ngoc Son Temple
Located on a tiny island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake, it is hard to imagine a place more suited for a temple. It feels like an oasis of peacefulness in the middle of busy Hanoi.
The entrance fee is 30.000VND per person, there is a small booth left of the bridge where you can purchase a ticket. The Ngoc Son Temple is opened every day of the week from 8 am until 6 pm.
Where to stay in Hanoi on a budget: Hanoi Serenity Hotel
Hanoi Serenity Hotel is a lovely place in the middle of the Old Quarter. The rooms are spacious, clean and modern. Breakfast is good and included in the price. The staff is very welcoming and helpful.
How to travel from Noi Bai International Airport to Hanoi city center
The easiest way, in my opinion, is taking the Vietjet airport shuttle bus. This bus leaves every 1-2 hours and costs just 40.000VND per adult. The price is clearly listed on the side of the bus, so you don’t need to bargain.
The bus will stop next to Hoan Kiem Lake, where you can disembark and either walk or take a taxi to your accommodation (depending on where you are staying).
Day 3-4: A two-day cruise in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is gorgeous, with its blue-green water and steep limestone cliffs rising high above the water, as far as your eyes can see. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam and a UNESCO heritage site.
However, I have to admit that while the cruise was a lot of fun and we spent a lot of time chatting to the other travelers on the boat, I didn’t find Halong Bay as impressive as I thought I would.
We also were a bit unlucky with the weather, the first day of our cruise it was extremely foggy and we barely saw anything of the famous cliffs. Also, there were many other boats and a lot of trash floating in the water.
That being said, we enjoyed our cruise and I’m happy we went on this cruise. Halong Bay is a unique place to visit and should be part of any itinerary to Vietnam.
I booked with Sinh Cafe Travel and we paid $70 per person for a 2D1N cruise. Our boat was operated by Dugong Sail and in good condition (I have heard horror stories from other travelers who ended up on a boat with huge rats!).
Aboard there was plenty of delicious food: fish, meat, vegetables, tofu, fruit and heaps of rice of course.
Transport from our hotel to Halong Bay and vice versa was included in the tour price, as was a visit to Sung Sot Cave, kayaking and a cooking class on the boat.
There are very similar tours available via Klook, an excellent online tour operator with a great reputation. Check out this popular deluxe (though very affordable) Halong Bay tour for more information.
Day 5: Day trip to the famous Perfume Pagoda
I really enjoyed this tour because coincidentally we timed our visit perfectly. We did our tour to the Perfume Pagoda tour shortly after the Vietnamese New Year.
The week after the Vietnamese New Year, many Vietnamese people visit this particular pagoda and the Huong Tich cave to make an offering, which makes the tour extra interesting.
During this tour, our guide told us a lot about the complex combination of religions practiced in Vietnam (Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism).
To get to the Pagoda complex, we took a seat in a tiny boat rowed by a small but surprisingly strong Vietnamese man.
During this boat trip over the Yen Stream, we passed lots of boats jam-packed with Vietnamese families who were on their way to visit the pagoda as well. They smiled enthusiastically, waved and took pictures of us and it made for an amusing boat trip.
I booked this tour with Sinh Cafe when we were already in Hanoi, but you can easily book online as well.
Check out this day tour to the Perfume Pagoda which includes transport from Hanoi to the Perfume Pagoda (and vise versa), the boat trip, the entrance fee to the Pagoda Complex and a delicious local lunch.
Day 6: Day trip to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc
This was the last of the three tours I did around Hanoi and my favorite one as well. First, we visited Hoa Lu, which was the capital of Vietnam from 968 to 1009 during the rule of the Dinh Dynasty.
While this historic site was definitely interesting to visit, the highlight of the tour is Tam Coc. The area around Tam Coc is absolutely stunning, it’s kind of similar to Halong Bay but with rice fields instead of water.
There are massive limestone cliffs soaring high above bright green rice fields, a beautiful sight! We made a lovely boat trip along the Hoang Long River (the lady rowing the boat rowed with her feet!) and passed through an impressive case.
While this is a very worthwhile tour, please note that the bus ride from Hanoi to Tam Coc takes at least two hours (depending on traffic). We opted not to go back to Hanoi, instead, we spent the night at Tam Coc as we planned to travel south.
Where to stay in Tam Coc on a budget: Tuan Ngoc Hotelis a small-scale hotel in Tam Coc and one of the best accommodations of our one month Vietnam trip.
The family who runs the hotel is incredibly friendly and really makes you feel at home. The rooms are clean, the bed is very comfortable and the Wi-Fi was good. All the food was delicious and freshly prepared. Definitely a recommended place to stay!
Day 7-8: explore Tam Coc and travel to Hue by night train
I was very happy we got to spend another day admiring the beautiful surroundings of Tam Coc. We rented a bicycle and cycled over sandy roads between the rice fields.
We often rent bicycles during our travels and I always very much enjoy this. Not only is it an ecofriendly way of exploring a place, but it’s also healthy and allows for plenty of opportunities to make a quick stop to take a picture.
How to travel from Ninh Binh to Hue by night train
|Tuan Ngoc Hotel||Ninh Binh train station||taxi||100.000VND|
|Ninh Binh train station||Hue train station||night-train||1 x 584.000VND (4p soft sleeper bottom)|
1 x 564.000VND (4p soft sleeper top)
|Hue train station||Charming Riverside Homestay||taxi||28.000VND|
We took a cab from Tuan Ngoc Hotel to Ninh Binh station (a 15-minute ride). About 15 minutes before the train arrived, a soft bell went off and a railway employee checked our tickets.
She explained where on the platform we had to stand to enter the cabin listed on our train tickets ticket! The 4 people soft sleeper cabin was pretty comfortable and I got a good night’s sleep.
The best site for information about train travel is without a doubt www.seat61.com. My most important tips for train travel in Vietnam are:
- Book a couple of days in advance! Beds sell out fast, particularly the soft sleepers.
- Ask your hotel to book your train tickets. The tickets were delivered to our hotel in Hanoi a day before we departed to Tam Coc. We only paid a small delivery fee (30.000-50.000VND per ticket).
Day 8-9: Hue and around
I spent two lovely days in Hue, the capital of the Nguyễn emperors. During our first day in Hue, we visited the Imperial City and on the second day, we rented a bicycle and cycled along the Perfume River.
The Imperial City
Hue was the capital of the Nguyễn emperors, who build the Citadel between 1804 and 1833.
Within the 2.5 by 2.5km and 6-meter high wall of the Citadel, the emperors build the Imperial Enclosure and within this enclosure, they build the Forbidden Purple City; a place only the emperor, his concubines and eunuchs were allowed to enter.
Unfortunately, much of the complex has been destroyed during the Vietnam War, but with help from UNESCO, it is being restored. The Imperial City is a very impressive complex, with beautiful temples and gardens and a must-visit during any Hue itinerary.
The complex is very green and quiet, it felt like we were the only ones there! Be sure to bring enough water along, it can get quite hot during the day.
The entrance fee to the Imperial City in Hue is150.000VND per person. The complex is opened daily from 8 am until 5:30pm (10 pm on Thursday evenings!)
Rent a bicycle
On our second day in Hue, we rented bicycles from our hotel and explored the area around Hue.
Thien Mu Pagoda
We visited the seven-story tall Thien Mu Pagoda, which is often regarded as the symbol of Hue. Found on the northern bank of the Perfume River, the Pagoda is an easy 5-kilometer bike ride from Hue city center.
Keep in mind there are monks living at the site so be sure to dress and behave respectfully.
Chùa Huyền Không temple
Another nice place to visit is the Chùa Huyền Không temple. This unknown temple is beautiful and highly worth a visit. It was built in 1973, around the temple there are lovely gardens and small lilyponds.
From the Thien Mu Pagoda, it’s another 3km by bike to reach the Huyen Khong temple.
Other things to do in Hue
If you have more time to spend in Hue, other worthwhile activities are a day trip to Bach Ma National Park, the Tomb of Minh Mang or the Tomb of Tu Duc.
Where to stay in Hue on a budget: Charming Riverside Homestay
We received such a warm welcome at the Charming Riverside Homestay! A cold towel, fresh fruit, juice, and information about Hue and the places of interest in the city.
There are different room options and some even have a river view! Bicycle rental for $2 a day. Breakfast is excellent and the staff is very helpful and accomodating.
Day 10: traveling from Hue to Hoi An (by minivan)
The distance between Hue and Hoi An is only 150km and shouldn’t take more than three hours without stopping along the way. However, that was not what happened during our trip from Hue to Hoi An…
The day before we departed, I had asked the hotel how to get from Hue to Hoi An. No problem, they exclaimed, we have a minivan that can take you there for $15 per person.
I booked two tickets and we were picked up by an empty minivan the next morning. But as always in Southeast Asia, that quickly changed and more and more people piled into the van.
After driving for about half an hour, the phone of the driver went off, he had a short chat and pulled over. When one of the passengers asked why we had stopped the driver cheerfully said that more people were coming.
Apparently, they had forgotten to pick up two people in Hue, who were now on their way to our location in a cab. We patiently waited for a while until the missing passengers had arrived and resumed our journey.
A friendly Vietnamese guy starting talking about the surroundings, the villages we passed and shared some historical facts. Interesting, I thought, but why exactly is he telling this stuff? It turned out he was our guide.
Yes, apparently, I did not just book a transfer from Hue to Hoi An, I booked a tour!
Hai Van Pass
Along the way from Hue to Hoi An, we stopped at Hai Van Pass, a 600-meter high pass that gained instant fame when Jeremy Clarkson declared it ‘A deserted ribbon of perfection’ in the Vietnam special of Top Gear.
Deserted? Not so much.
The Marble Mountains
We also stopped at the Marble Mountains, which turned out to be an interesting place to visit.
There were many caves and Buddha statues, each of them slightly different. I didn’t know the difference between the different poses and types of Buddha statues but learned a lot during our visit to the Marble Mountains (see pictures above).
The entrance fee to the Marble Mountains is 40.000VND per person. The complex is open every day of the week from 7 am to 5:30 pm.
Final destination: Hoi An
Eventually, we arrived in Hoi An around 5 pm, after a great day of sightseeing. The tour reconfirmed my earlier lessons and my advice to you: when in Southeast Asia, always expect the unexpected:-)
For my husband and myself, it wasn’t an issue that the trip had taken an entire day as we were planning to stay in Hoi An for at least a couple of days.
However, some of the passengers would be traveling back to Hue the next day, which unfortunately meant their day of sightseeing in Hoi An was cut short…
Day 11-17: exploring and relaxing in Hoi An
While we planned to spend three days in Hoi An, we ended up spending an entire week! Hoi An is a lovely town, with great food and a very relaxed vibe.
When darkness falls, Hoi An feels like a fairy tale village, lit by thousands of colorful lanterns.
Hoi An Old Town
Hoi An Old Town is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful historic buildings. To visit these historic buildings, you need to buy a Hoi An Old Town entrance ticket (120.000VND) at one of the ticket booths spread around town.
The ticket gives you entrance to five historic buildings. There are 22 sights listed on the heritage map (you’ll get one of these when purchasing the ticket) so choose carefully.
On the ticket, it says that it is valid for 24-hours only, but we used the same ticket on Monday and Wednesday without any issues. Some of the most popular sites to visit are:
- The Fukian Assembly Hall (also called Phuc Kien, pictured above)
- The Japanese Covered Bridge
- Duc An Old House
- Cam Pho Communal House
- Hoi An Museum
Have a massage
Something to add to your Hoi An itinerary is getting a massage. In Hoi An, there are many different spas, suitable for every budget. I had a very relaxing massage at the Kiman Hotel, which cost around 300.000VND and took about an hour.
Get a custom-made dress
If you are looking to get a custom-made dress, suit or other garments, Hoi An is the place to buy this. I had a dress made for my sister’s wedding which is my favorite dress of all times (besides my wedding dress;-).
Take a cooking class
During our week in Hoi An, we took a cooking class at the Kiman Hotel. Before the actual cooking started, the instructors took us to the local market to buy the ingredients we were going to use in the dishes.
We learned to make fresh spring rolls and sauteed chicken. I love Vietnamese food and it tasted even better when we had prepared it ourselves.
Hang out at one of the many cafes
One of the best things about Hoi An was relaxing in one of the many cafes! I am a bit of a coffee addict and our favorite place in Hoi An was 11 Coffee.
Phap, the owner of 11 Coffee, is a great guy and a real coffee enthusiast. I can highly recommend visiting his cute cafe, we went there almost every day during our time in Hoi An.
Where to stay in Hoi An on a budget
Option 1: Jolie Villa Homestay
Our first hotel in Hoi An was Jolie Villa Homestay. We stayed in a spacious room with a huge comfortable bed. The bathroom was large, clean and modern. Also, the shower was high enough for tall people such as my husband, which is rare in Vietnam!
Wi-Fi was good (each room has its own router) and there are free bicycles available. You can also freely use the swimming pool at the Kiman hotel (which is also run by this lovely family) and take a free cooking class at the Kiman hotel.
But first and foremost, the host family is awesome, super-friendly and helpful. They call each guest by name from the moment you arrive and make you feel very welcome. We had an excellent stay here!
Option 2: Sac Xanh homestay
Because all the rooms at Jolie Villa were booked and we wanted to stay in Hoi An a couple more days, we looked for another hotel and found Sac Xanh homestay.
This was another great budget hotel and we had such a lovely stay with this family. The rooms are basic but spotlessly clean, the bed (with mosquito net) is super comfortable and there are free bicycles available.
The best thing about this homestay was the host family who were very friendly, welcoming and helpful throughout our stay. They arranged transport for us to Da Nang train station and helped us make a reservation for bus tickets from Nha Trang to Dalat.
Also, they made us a delicious Vietnamese breakfast each morning. On the day of our departure, the family organized a special going away lunch and the food was among the best we had in Vietnam. I highly recommend staying here!
Day 18-19: traveling from Hoi An to Dalat (via Nha Trang)
|Sac Xanh homestay||Danang train station||minivan||100.000VND per person|
|Danang train station||Nha Trang train station||night-train||2 x 487.000VND (4p soft sleeper top) + 2 x 50.000VND delivery fee|
|Nha Train train station||Nha Trang Phuong Trang bus station||foot||none|
|Nha Trang Phuong Trang bus station||Dalat bus station|
|bus company||140.000VND per person|
|Dalat bus station||Cam Ly homestay||taxi (shared)||45.000VND|
After a relaxing week in Hoi An, it was time to move on. The next destination on our Vietnam tour itinerary was Dalat. In the table above you can find more details about our journey from Hoi An to Dalat.
Even though it was a 24-hour journey, it didn’t feel that long because we had a good night of sleep aboard the night train and the road from Nha Trang to Dalat was breathtaking.
Day 20-21: Dalat
We rented two mountain bikes from our accommodation, Cam Ly homestay, to explore Dalat and its surroundings. Dalat is located in the mountains and there are many fun things to see and do.
Ho Xuan Huong Lake
On our first day in Dalat, we cycled around Ho Xuan Huong Lake, located in the heart of Dalat.
The Crazy House
Southwest of the lake you can find the Crazy House, a maze of stairs, hidden passages in a Gaudi meets fairytale style. The entrance fee for the Crazy House is 60.000VND per person. It’s open every day of the week, from 8.30 am to 7 pm.
Did you know? Besides visiting the Crazy House, you can actually spend the night in one of the 10 unique themed rooms!
We wandered around the Crazy House for about an hour, before cycling to the train station of Dalat.
A train ride from Dalat to Trai Mat
At the pretty Dalat railway station, we got on a beautifully restored train, which brought us to Trai Mat, a little village about 7km away.
In the table below you can find the departure times, the ride from Dalat to Trai Mat (and vice versa) takes approximately 30 minutes.
|Departure from Dalat||Departure from Trai Mat|
A return train ticket from Dalat to Trai Mat costs 126.000VND per person
Linh Phuoc temple (Trai Mat)
In Trai Mat, we visited the unique Linh Phuoc temple. The main feature of the temple is the 7-meter high and 49-meter long dragon, which is made of 12.000 bottles!
After our visit to Trai Mat, we returned to Dalat on the historic train and cycled back to our homestay.
On our second day in Dalat, we cycled to the Datanla Falls (approximately 6km from town) which were quite nice, but I am very spoiled after seeing so many gorgeous waterfalls in Canada and New Zealand and the Datanla Falls aren’t in my Waterfall Top 10;-).
Nevertheless, it’s a nice place to visit. The entrance fee to the Datanla Waterfalls is 30.000VND per person.
Dalat Truc Lam Zen Monastery
We continued our Dalat itinerary and cycled to the Truc Lam Zen Monastery, located on top of a mountain. This serene complex has lovely gardens and beautiful buildings.
The Truc Lam Zen complex is a lovely place to relax and contemplate all the beautiful things you have seen so far on your trip to Vietnam.
Luckily the way back from the Truc Lam Zen Pagoda to Dalat was mostly downhill, we were pretty tired from climbing all the steep mountains!
Our stay at Cam Ly Homestay in Dalat was lovely! When we arrived Tri, the owner, welcomed us by name and showed us to our room. The room was spacious and light, with a comfortable bed (with mosquito net). It had a nice view of the Cam Ly stream and a small balcony.
I highly recommend joining one of the BBQ evenings; there is great food (homemade spring rolls!), cheap beers and it’s a great way to meet other travelers and exchange stories.
Day 22: Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City
|Cam Ly Homestay||Liên Khương Airport (Dalat)||airport shuttle||40.000VND per person|
|Liên Khương Airport (Dalat)||Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)||plane||1.389.000VND per person|
|Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)||Ho Chi Minh city center||bus 152||10.000VND per person|
Tri, the owner of Cam Ly homestay, called the airport shuttle bus the day before our departure and the next morning the shuttle bus picked us up from the homestay (only 15 minutes late, which in Southeast Asia is considered right on time;-).
Liên Khương Airport is located about 30km south of Dalat, so it wasn’t a long bus ride and we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check-in.
The flight from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh was also very short, just 50 minutes. From Ho Chi Minh airport we took bus 152 to the city center. On the bus, we had to buy one ticket for ourselves and one for our big backpacks.
Granted, these took up just as much space as the average Vietnamese person. And when a ticket costs a mere 5000VND you can’t really complain anyway.
Day 23-25: Ho Chi Minh City and around
The word that immediately comes to mind when I think about Ho Chi Minh City is organized chaos.
The rule when crossing the street isn’t ‘Walk when the traffic light is green’ but ‘Don’t mind the color of the traffic light, just cross slowly but surely and maintain eye contact all the time’. Whatever you do: don’t stop!
It still amazes me that I have only seen one traffic incident in my month in Vietnam, so despite the chaos, it all seems to work out pretty well.
There are many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as in the surrounding area.
I really wanted to visit the Independence Palace (pictured above), home and office of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, it was closed during our visit, but it’s usually opened daily from 8 am to 4 pm.
We also visited the Mariamman Hindu temple, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Central Post Office (pictured below).
The post office was definitely my favorite building, I loved the symmetry on the inside of this beautiful place.
Other places we visited in Ho Chi Minh were the War Remnant Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels (about 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City).
Visit the War Remnant Museum
When you are in Vietnam, you’ll inevitably come across some vivid reminders of the Vietnam War such as disabled people and bombed buildings. If you are in Ho Chi Minh City, a visit to the War Remnants Museum is a must.
This impressive museum tells a terrible story. It’s not a place to visit with young children, as the stories and pictures are truly horrible. There are disturbing images of entire villages being of massacred, pictures of prisoners being tortured and photos of napalm victims.
Altogether, visiting the War Remnants Museum is extremely depressing. However, when you are in Ho Chi Minh City, you must visit this place and learn about the Vietnam War and what war does to people, there are never any winners…
The entrance fee is 40.000VND per person and the museum is opened daily from 7:30 am until 6 pm.
Take a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels
We took a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, another vivid reminder of the Vietnam War. This 200km network of extremely cramped underground tunnels was constructed and used by the Vietcong during the war to fight the Americans with a guerrilla tactic.
When we descended into the tunnels, which have already been widened for tourists, I almost panicked (I am a little claustrophobic) and went back up.
But I felt that, if people lived there for almost 10 years, I should be able to crawl a mere 100 meters through the cramped, hot, dark tunnel with little fresh oxygen. I was so relieved when I got out and so impressed by the tenacity of the people who had called these tunnels home for years…
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City on a budget: Thao Nhi Hotel
Our stay at Thao Nhi Hotel in Ho Chi Minh city was good. We got a free upgrade to a bigger room and the hotel is run by very friendly staff.
The hotel serves delicious and affordable food and is located close to all the sights (in a small street just of the main backpacker street).
Day 26: Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc (by plane)
|Ho Chi Minh city center||Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)||bus 152||10.000VND per person|
|Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)||Phu Quoc International Airport||plane||912.000VND per person|
|Phu Quoc International Airport||Kinh Bac Hotel||taxi||145.000VND|
While it was a long day, it was an easy travel day. We took bus 152 back to the airport, where we had to wait for a couple of hours as our flight was delayed.
Luckily, the flight from Ho Chi Minh to Phu Quoc island was only one hour and there was a taxi waiting for us upon arrival (courtesy of Kinh Bac Hotel).
The airport is located in the middle of nowhere and arranging a taxi via your accommodation before arrival is recommended, particularly when you are arriving late in the evening.
Day 27-29: Phu Quoc Island
We spent three days on Phu Quoc, which was the perfect way to end our Vietnam travel route. On Phu Quoc we rented a scooter for a couple of days and explored the beautiful island.
Where to stay in Phu Quoc on a budget: Kinh Bac Hotel
Kinh Bac Hotel was another lovely place to stay. The rooms are large and clean, with ensuite bathrooms. Each morning we were greeted by the lovely staff who asked if we had a good rest.
From the hotel, it’s a 20-minute drive to Duong Dong, the main town on Phu Quoc. You can rent a scooter at the hotel, so you can easily get around the island, but the slightly remote location is something to take into consideration when booking this place.
Alternative Vietnam itineraries (7 and 10 days + 2 and 3 weeks)
Vietnam itinerary 7 days
If you just have 1 week in Vietnam, don’t worry! While you cannot see everything the country has to offer, you can get a taste and feel of the country.
Here is my suggestion for a 1 week Vietnam itinerary:
- Day 1-2: Explore Hanoi
- Day 3: Make a day trip from Hanoi (such as Halong Bay, the Perfume Pagoda or Hao Lu and Tam Coc)
- Day 3: Take a flight to Danang and transfer to Hoi An
- Day 4-5: Explore Hoi An
- Day 6: Make a day trip to My Son or a day trip to Hue
- Day 7: fly home from Danang
Vietnam itinerary 10 days
This 10 day Vietnam itinerary includes buzzing Hanoi, the imperial city Hue and fairytale town Hoi An, but also the two most beautiful natural sights: Halong Bay and Tam Coc.
- Day 1: Hanoi
- Day 2: Make a day trip to Halong Bay
- Day 3: Make a day trip to Tam Coc
- Day 4: Hanoi + take a night train to Hue
- Day 5-6: Hue + transfer to Hoi An on day 6
- Day 7-8: Hoi An
- Day 9: Make a day trip to My Son
- Day 10: fly home from Danang
Vietnam itinerary 2 weeks
If you have 2 weeks in Vietnam, I’d recommend traveling either from North to South or vice versa. Your 2 week Vietnam itinerary could look like this:
- Day 1: Hanoi
- Day 2: Make a day trip to Halong Bay
- Day 3: Make a day trip to Tam Coc
- Day 4: Hanoi + take a night train to Hue
- Day 5-6: Hue + transfer to Hoi An on day 6
- Day 7-8: Hoi An
- Day 9: Make a day trip to My Son
- Day 10: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City from Danang
- Day 11-12: Ho Chi Minh and a trip to the Cu Chu tunnels
- Day 12-14: Phu Quoc island
This itinerary for Vietnam in 2 weeks is especially suitable for people looking to travel in one direction instead of a loop.
Vietnam itinerary: 3 weeks
With this 3 weeks Vietnam itinerary, you get to experience very different sides of Vietnam. You’ll explore several interesting cities, spend a night in Halong Bay and get to relax on tropical Phu Quoc.
For this 3 week Vietnam itinerary, I suggest the following route:
- Day 1-2: Hanoi
- Day 3-4: make a cruise around Halong Bay
- Day 5: day trip to the Perfume Pagoda
- Day 6-7: day trip to the Hoa Lu and Tam Coc
- Day 8-9: Hue
- Day 10: Hai Van Pass and the Marble Mountains
- Day 11-13: Hoi An
- Day 14: Make a day trip to My Son
- Day 15: Fly to Ho Chi Minh City from Danang
- Day 16-17: Ho Chi Minh and a trip to the Cu Chu tunnels
- Day 18-21: Phu Quoc island
The best Vietnam itinerary: in conclusion
I hope this Vietnam travel guide and sample itineraries will inspire you to visit Vietnam and help you plan your trip. If you have any questions, leave a comment below or send me a message.
Also read these posts for more Vietnam travel inspiration:
- 10 interesting facts about Vietnam
- 50 unique things to do in Vietnam
- Authentic things to do in Hanoi
- Backpacking Guide to Vietnam
- Bun Bo Nam Bo: the best street food in Hanoi
- Hang Son Doong: the world’s largest cave
- Planning a trip to Vietnam
- Sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh city
- The best Halong Bay cruises
- Things to do in Hoi An
- Things to do in Phong Nha
- Things to know before traveling by night train in Vietnam