Vietnam has an extremely well-trodden travel path, which means accessing pretty much anywhere within the country is super easy to arrange. Travel by train, plane, bus, or boat, and follow this 18-day itinerary for your own Vietnamese adventure!
One for the Brits – if you can, book your trip around the Easter bank holidays to squeeze in a few extra days without taking more time off work. Otherwise just skim off a few days from my plan, to make this itinerary work for a two-week holiday.
Vietnam has so much to offer, that it’s impossible to fit EVERYTHING into one trip. Pick and choose your own highlights, but aim to include a mix of city life, historical relics, with a relaxing beach stop somewhere along the way.
Where heck did we go? Starting in Hanoi, we made our way to Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Hue, Hoi An, Phu Quoc, and ended our trip in Saigon.
Stay At – The Golden Palace Hotel
Day One: Follow a simple walking tour and explore the Old Quarter by foot. Take a stroll around Hoam Kiem Lake, and grab a coffee at Giang Cafe – home of the original egg coffee! Once the sun set’s, pop by the night market and grab a spot of street food.
Day Two: Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where you’ll see Uncle Ho himself (his body has been preserved in a glass display!). There are a few other sites to see at the complex, including the Presidential Palace, and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
Spend your afternoon by the Long Bien Bridge, and the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural – the world’s largest of it’s kind. Explore the local markets and stop by the Ho Tay Lake if you have time. Grab a bite to eat and go see one of the city’s famous Water Puppet Theatre Performances.
Sail with – Vega Cruises
Day Three: Set off early on a four-hour drive to Halong Bay. After an early lunch, spend your afternoon sailing through Halong Bay & Bi Tu Long Bay. Visit Hang Sung Sot cave, kayak through the Hang Luon Grotto, and take an afternoon dip in the turquoise waters. Drop anchor in Lan Ha Bay away from the crowds and spend your first night aboard your junk boat.
Day Four: Hike up Titop Mountain for an incredible 360-degree views. Sail over to Cat Ba Island, and spend the afternoon exploring the National Park. Cycle through the stunning scenery, stop by a local village for a glass of snake wine, and hike up to a view point within the mountains.
Day Five (AM): Sail back through the bays, keeping an eye out for Dog stone islet, fighting cock islet, couple islet, and 3-tunnel grotto. Paddle by kayak through limestone cliffs and discover hidden beaches. Sail past floating villages & fish farms, as you make your way back to the jetty to disembark.
Day Five (PM): Transfer back to Hanoi with enough time for dinner in the Old Quarter.
Stay At – Phong Nha Farmstay Villa
Day Six: Take a morning flight to Dong Hoi, and transfer by taxi (45-mins) to Son Trach. Visit the Phong Nha cave by boat. In the afternoon, either explore the Bong Lai Valley on two-wheels, or head over to the Nuoc Mooc Ecotrail.
Day Seven: Book yourselves onto a full day caving tour. Trips range from basic to advanced (good physical fitness required). Walk through the caves, hike through the jungle, swim into the caves, or how about zip lining into the cave?
Note, if you can afford the overnight cave treks then I would hugely recommend doing this. Tours depart sporadically, but what could beat camping on a remote beach within the mouth of a cave deep in the middle of nowhere?
Day Seven (PM): Travel by train to Hue (3-hours). No time for dinner? Don’t worry! Purchase a Pho from the soup cart then comes through the carriages!
Stay at – The Scarlett Boutique Hotel
Day Nine (AM): Spend the morning visiting a few other sites or take a cruise along the Perfume River. After lunch, travel by train to Danang (2.5 hours) and connect by taxi to Hoi An. Alternatively, take a taxi the entire way, stopping by the Marble Mountain, Hai Van Pass, and Long Co Beach en-route.
Stay At – Golden Bell Hoi An Boutique
Day Ten: Book a cooking class with Gioan Cookery, which includes a visit to the Tiger Market. After eating your freshly cooked goods, take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront.
Day Eleven: Take an early morning taxi out to the UNESCO My Son ruins. Arrive early to avoid the hordes of day trippers. Spend your afternoon relaxing by the pool, before heading out to Morning Glory, the best restaurant in town. Reservations are advisable, but walk ins are accepted.
Day Twelve: Join a day trip to The Cham Islands, but only if the weather is good and the waters have good visibility. Alternatively, head down to An Bang beach, enjoy lunch and a cocktail at the Soul Kitchen, and then book yourself a massage at Pandanus Spa.
Stay At – Famiana Resort & Spa
Day Thirteen: Take connecting flights to Saigon (60-mins), and onto Phu Quoc (60-mins). Arrive before lunch and head straight to your hotel pool or beach!
Day Fourteen: Take a day out to bum around. Top up your tan, read a book, go for a swim, and send a postcard home J For dinner, visit The Spice House, the restaurant within Cassia Cottage. Lush!
Day Fifteen: Look at joining a day trip to the An Thoi islands, otherwise hire two wheels and discover the rest of the island. If budget isn’t an issue, then dine out at The Pepper Tree Restaurant at the posh La Veranda Resort, or On The Rocks at the Mango Bay hotel.
Day Sixteen: Allow a half day to visit the Vinpearl Safari, where you can hand feel the elephants and giraffes! On your way back, stop by the Phu Quoc night market for dinner.
Stay at – The Beautiful Saigon Hotel 3
Day Seventeen: Spend the day on the beach or take a morning flight back to Saigon. Follow your guide book and head out on a self-guided walking tour of the city. Embrace the hectic nightlife along Bui Vien street, and head over to The View rooftop bar and restaurant for dinner and happy hour cocktails.
Day Eighteen: For a piece of history, schedule a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Otherwise enjoy your last day in’Nam!
Visa’s – Until the 30th June 2018, certain nationals (including us Brits) can enter Vietnam for up to a maximum of 15 days (inclusive of dates of entry and exit), without a visa. If you are staying for longer, then pre arrange your visa with the folks at Vietnam Visa Choice.
Trains – Book online via the national rail website, otherwise in person at any of the train stations. For ease, your accommodation should be able to help you pre-book tickets, but expect a heft admin of up to 50% of the value of your ticket. Ouch!
Buses – There are several bus providers to check locally before booking online. Advance tickets can be purchased via Vietnam Bus Tickets if you want to book ahead.