Vietnam: Two or Three Week Itinerary
Thinking about spending two or three weeks in Vietnam? Well I’ve got the itinerary for you!
Vietnam is one of my favorite countries in Southeast Asia! And from my experience, the easiest country to backpack through and one of the cheapest – food, transportation, accommodations, you name it. Amazing culture, wonderful landscapes, and a great country to explore and learn more about.
Did I sell Vietnam enough to you yet?
Vietnam was the first Southeast Asia country that I backpacked through during my four month trip. It took me three weeks to do the itinerary below and I did not feel like I rushed at all. If you have two weeks or less, skip cities that do not appeal to you or stick to either the north or south. I prefer Northern Vietnam, especially Phong Nha and Hoi An…but read the highlights on each city below and plan your trip accordingly.
Hanoi (2 or 3 days)
- The capital of Vietnam! Extremely walkable city full of culture, food, and streets filled with shops, people, and history. Make sure it hit up Hoan Kiem Lake, walk around the Old Quarter, enjoy the nightlife, and have a cup of egg coffee. Still dreaming of when I go back and have a cup of egg coffee. It’s sooo good!
Sapa (2 or 3 days)
- A 5.5 hour bus ride from Hanoi, but well worth the trip. The views of the rice paddies and mountains are stunning on a clear day. I recommend staying in the valley and doing your own trekking around the area. I stayed at My Tra Homestay and LOVED it. The host family is wonderful and really treat you like part of the family providing tips on what to do and where to go, arranging transportation to and from town, and having amazing breakfast and family dinners.
- You can see the highest mountain in Indochina, Fansipan via cable car or by trek. If you go, make sure there is good visibility – I went on a cloudy day and didn’t see much when I was at the top except other clouds.
Halong Bay (2 or 3 days)
- Head back to Hanoi and take a trip to Halong Bay. I did an organized tour through my hostel – Hanoi Backpackers Hostel – Downtown – Ha Long Bay and Castaways Island 3 Days 2 Nights. They arranged round trip transportation from Hanoi (bus/ferry), meals, tubing/wakeboarding, rock climbing, and a booze cruise with kayaking. Catch is that alcohol is not included and it’s pretty pricey for Vietnam – around $200+, but it’s a fun experience and you get pretty close to the group you are traveling with.
- There are other organized tours to Halong Bay that you can do that are cheaper and less boozy or you can head to Halong Bay on your own and book a day tour with a boat once you get there. Whichever method you choose, I highly recommend exploring the bay – the views are incredible.
Ninh Binh (1 or 2 days)
- Known as the inland Halong Bay, Ninh Binh is about a 3.5 hour bus ride from Hanoi. Go on a scenic boat trip in Tam Coc to see the caves, mountains, and green fields along the stream. We rented a bike for a day and explored the paths and saw some temples along the way.
Phong Nha (2 days)
- 5+ hour bus ride from Ninh Binh, Phong Nha is one of my favorite cities in Vietnam due to how amazing the caves are and how small the town is…literally one street with everything on it. Definitely hit up Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, and Dark Cave. Also eat at Omar’s Namaste Indian Restaurant – one of the best meals I had in Vietnam. Separate post on Phong Nha coming soon!
Optional: Hue ( 1 or 2 days)
- Hue is about a 5 hour bus ride from Phong Nha. Did not stay here too long, literally one day. I wasn’t overly impressed with Hue, but if you have the time, check it out and decide for yourself. Make sure to see visit The Citadel, Hue’s Imperial City. It was a beautiful walk around the old city.
Hoi An (2 -3 days)
- A 2+ hour bus ride from Hue, Hoi An is the other city in Vietnam that I fell in love with. If you want to go on a real adventure, take an Easy Rider (ride on the back of a motorcycle) and travel this route while stopping at various landmarks along the way such as Elephant Spring and driving through Hai Van Pass, the highest pass in Vietnam. Highly recommend doing this!!
- Hoi An’s streets are lined with restaurants and professional clothing tailors that will make you anything you heart desires. You can literally pull up a photo of something you want made, they will take your measurements, and you can pick it up within the next day or two. Besides the shopping and custom made clothing, you can take a day trip to Cham Island, take a cooking class, or enjoy the nightlife. Separate post on Hoi An coming soon!
Dalat (2 days)
- 11+ bus ride from Hoi An so if you do not like sleeping in buses, you can fly to Dalat as well. I went on a red-eye bus and slept like a baby, so it is based on your personal preference.
- Dalat is known for canyoneering where you traverse through canyons and rappel down waterfalls. I opted not to do canyoneering because I had just done it while in Cebu a couple months prior, but mainly because my big toenail was about to fall off and I didn’t want it to rip off doing a high impact activity, lol. My friends that did end up going absolutely loved it, so go ahead and give it a whirl!
- So instead of canyoneering, I opted for a countryside tour and visited various landmarks such as Elephant Falls, Dalat Railway Station, Linh Phuoc Pagoda, Crazy House, Van Thanh Flower Village, and visited a weasel coffee plantation, a cricket farm, and a minority village. Pretty good tour!
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) (2 or 3 days)
- Formally known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Many things to do and see here with rich history and culture. Streets are filled with crazy traffic and mopeds going every direction – you won’t believe you can cross the street without getting hit!
- I highly recommend visiting the War Remnants Museum. I learned a great deal about the Vietnam War here as they provide a very different perspective of the war that they don’t teach you in the U.S. Make sure to take a trip to see Cu Chi Tunnels as well.
- The FOOD is amazing. I highly recommend going on a food tour through Snap Vietnam. Tiny is the best tour guide ever! Your belly will thank you because each dish you try, you will love.
- I visited the Mekong Delta as well…however I wasn’t really wowed by the experience. It was extremely touristy, but if you have time, check it out for yourself.
- Separate post on Ho Chi Minh, so stay tuned!
Again, if you only have a week or two….I suggest either skipping cities or only doing the north or the south of Vietnam. This itinerary starts in the North and ends in the South, but can be done in reverse as well. Figure out which offers more of what you are interested in doing and adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Buses were my main mode of transportation from town to town because they were extremely cheap, there were several bus companies and departure times to choose from, and the buses were very comfortable. I’m 5’2” and fit really easily in the sleeping pods. There are also trains available and of course you can take a plane from certain cities as well. Another popular method is buying a motorcycle for a couple hundred dollars and then selling it at your final destination. While in the towns, the larger cities have Uber which is ridiculously cheap (sometimes less than $1 for a ride!). You can also travel by taxi, rent a bicycle or moped to explore the town, or just walk!
Vietnam’s currency is the dong (₫). I used cash pretty much everywhere I went and ATMs are plentiful throughout the country. You can easily be a millionaire with Vietnamese dong as $1 USD is equivalent to 22,700₫. You only need $44 USD to be a millionaire! 😂
Some places in Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh are known to have pickpockets, but luckily, I did not have any problems while I was there. Wear crossbody bags and keep your belongings close. Just be aware of your surroundings and your belongings and you should be fine.
I love Vietnamese food. To name a few of my favs, you must try: Pho (noodle soup), Banh Mi (french inspired sandwich), Banh Trang Nuong (Vietnamese pizza), Banh Xeo (savory crepe/omelette), Ca Phe Trung (egg coffee), Spring and Summer Rolls. There’s so much more, so try everything!!
I stayed in mostly hostels throughout my time in Vietnam and a few hotels here and there. I’ve listed the ones I recommend below:
- My Tra Homestay (Sapa) – one of my favorite places to stay because they make you feel at home and treat you like family. Very clean and the food was amazing. The beds were super comfy and they had heated blankets.
- Vietnam Backpacker Hostels – Downtown (Hanoi) – Definitely a party hostel, but I was surprised at how clean it was! The environment was great for meeting new people and they provided free walking tours around the town where I made friends whom I still keep in contact with today.
- Vietnam Backpacker Hostels – Hoi An – Another party hostel and very clean – bathrooms, rooms, everything. Around a 15-20 minute walk to the city centre which I did not like, but a very nice hostel overall.
- Under the Coconut Tree (Hoi An) – Lovely homestay next to An Bang Beach. Got a private room which I really enjoyed and the breakfast was super tasty! Rented bikes for the day and rode into town from here.
- Cozy Nook Hostel (Dalat) – Loved the vibe in this hostel – the owners remember and greet you by your first name each day, breakfast and dinner are excellent, and the rooms are always clean and cozy.
- Park Hyatt Saigon – I used my Hyatt points to stay at this property and got upgraded to a suite due to my Diamond status. The room and bathroom were amazing. Really LOVED this hotel so if you can swing it, stay here.
- Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon – I used my Marriott points to stay here and got upgraded to a corner room because of my Platinum Elite status. The view was beautiful and the room was nice. The bathroom was standard. The executive lounge was AMAZING though. Breakfast in the morning, snacks throughout the day, light dinner and heavy hors d’oeuvres in the evening with free dranks all day!
Overall, I had an amazing time in Vietnam. I would definitely go back and do it all over again with friends. If you’ve been there and have other suggestions, feel free to comment below! 🙂