Vietnam is an amazing country, with a lot to try and see. However, I only had two weeks to try and fit in as much as possible. I think that this itinerary is a good mixture of everything that Vietnam has to offer, from beautiful beaches, to bustling cities and breathtaking jungles.
One of the reasons for staying for 2 weeks, apart from having a limited amount of time, was the fact that UK citizens don’t need a visa to visit Vietnam as long as you stay for less than 15 days.
How we got there:
We flew into Hanoi airport in the north of the country, and then left via bus to carry on to Cambodia. I feel that this is a good place to start your trip as you can enjoy the north and then make your way down the country. Alternatively, you obviously could start in Ho Chi Minh City and then work your way up. I guess it just depends on if you’re planning on seeing another country whilst your in that part of the world.
Yes, it is basically the ‘banana pancake trail’ (basically, the route carved out by lots of tourists) but if you don’t have the time to get off the beaten track, then you might as well see all of the highlights.
How to get around?
Once we arrived in Hanoi, we decided to buy an open bus ticket. It’s basically like a hop on, hop off ticket, and the more stops you add to it, the more expensive it is. We bought our ticket from our hostel, but there are plenty of places to buy them from. You just have to book your next leg of your journey, ideally a day before, and you’re set.
Most of the buses we took were night buses, so prepare for uncomfortable and sleepless nights. Although the sleeper buses do provide ‘beds’ with a blanket, I found it quite difficult to actually sleep on them.
Day 1-2 – Hanoi
Our first stop was Hanoi and it gave us a great taste of life in Vietnam!
Day 3-4 – Halong Bay
We chose to do a 1 night, 2 day tour of Halong Bay. We go a bus from hanoi early in the morning which took us to Halong. There, we waited until it was time to get on to our boat.
Th boat was actually pretty nice. We went for a happy medium, somewhere between ‘party boat’ and ‘luxury’. A lot of the tours have the same itinerary, which includes:
- Surprise Cave
- Ti Top Island – Has a beach and views over Halong Bay
- ‘Party’ on deck
- Pearl Farm
The tour dropped us back in Hanoi, where we caught our first sleeper bus to Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Day 5-6 – Phong Nha
Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park is one of the most stunningly natural places I have ever seen.
Phong Nha is a small town, but it’s famous for the National Park which is home to some of the largest cave systems in the world. The vibe there is really chill. We spent our first day motorbiking through the National Park, stopping to explore the cave. Our second day was spent doing a ‘jungle trek’ which was so much fun, although I don’t think it would have passed UK health and safety, especially since we had to sign a death waiver…
Day 7 – Hue
Hue is known for it’s imperial city, the perfume river and the Thien Mu Pagoda. We chose to only stay for a day and I think we managed to see everything we wanted.
The Imperial City is vast and well worth a visit. We chose to then walk to the Pagoda which was a mistake as it was so, so far. But we did walk along the side of the river which was nice.
Day 8-10 – Hoi An
I loved my time in Hoi An and 100% recommend that you put it on your Vietnam itinerary. Firstly, it’s just really pretty, so you don’t actually have to ‘do’ anything other than walk around and take in the lanterns.
A lot of homestays in Hoi An will also include a bike for free, which gives you the freedom to explore at your own place. I really enjoyed riding the bike to An Bang beach, as the road is flat, and takes you through the surrounding villages and rice paddy fields.
Day 11 – Nha Trang
Our time in Nha Trang was used as a stop off before we got to Ho Chi Minh, as otherwise the coach journey would have been too long.
In saying that, it was nice to actually feel like we were ‘on holiday’ for a day. We spent the day at the beach, relaxing.
Day 12-13 – Ho Chi Minh City
HCHM, or Saigon, is mental. It was also really, oppressively, hot. The hostel we had booked was central, but when we arrived we found out that the air conditioning was broken. At first, this didn’t seem like such a problem as we had a fan. But several hours later, it was just horrific. So, top tip number 1, make sure you have air con!
Other than that, I really enjoyed my time in HCMC. We had time to see lots of different places and also soak up the atmosphere on Bui Vien, the ‘bar’ street. Just watch out for the motorbikes.
We visited the War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace, Notre Dame and the Post Office and the Ben Thanh Market. Also to visit is the Cu Chi Tunnels, but I was worried that i’d get a bit claustrophobic.
Day 14: Departure 🙁
From Vietnam, we took a bus over the border to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
So that was my two week itinerary, I would have liked to have more time to explore but I’m happy with the way that I spent the time as I feel that I had a taste of some of the different areas Vietnam has to offer.
Have you been to Vietnam or are planning to go? I’d love to know what you think!