As those of you who follow us on social media know, we lived for two years in amazing Vietnam.
Assuming that not everyone has the possibility to travel for several months, we’ve created two Vietnam guides: one listing the traditional spots for shorter trips (this very post you’re reading), and the other featuring alternative locations for the most adventurers willing to explore secluded areas (you can check out here our 1-month itinerary guide to Vietnam).
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF VIETNAM
This is the ideal itinerary for a 2-week trip to Vietnam. Travelling to these places will allow you to have an insight of the Vietnamese culture, history and daily life, without rushing too much.
We’ll go from south to north, as this is what we’ve done, but of course you can start from wherever you like.
HO CHI MINH CITY
Arguably the most modern and westernized city in Vietnam. A chaotic energy will welcome you! Once Saigon, later renamed after the beloved Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh City is famous also for the many French colonial landmarks.
It was our first approach to this country coming from Cambodia, here you will find the crazy story of our arrival there. Saigon is known for its surrounding Mekong Delta region and Cu Chi war tunnels, a popular destination for day tours.
In the middle of the highlands, Dalat is surrounded by forests, lakes, waterfalls. Vietnam’s best coffee and wine come from this region, where landscapes are wonderfully green. If you’re a nature lover, you can’t miss it!
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of lanterns will enchant you with its magic! This is a must see destination included in every single Vietnam guide. We suggest to spend a couple of nights here to explore the area of Hoi An.
When visiting Hue, you’ll feel like traveling back in time. It was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. You will be charmed by the Forbidden Purple City with its palaces and shrines, and by the sumptuous imperial tombs. We’ve been to Hue several times, being it close to Da Nang city, travelling by motorbike and train over famous Hai Van mountain pass.
BOOK HERE: Hue City full-day tour
The vibrant capital of Vietnam offers countless attractions: from the characteristic night market in the Old Quarter, to the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake, an oasis in the city center, to the austere Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum site, and many more. Check out our detailed post about Hanoi here.
HA LONG BAY
With almost 2,000 islands, this archipelago is part of the Unesco World Heritage too, and it’s a must see in Vietnam.
Ha Long Bay is commonly reached from Hanoi, the easiest way is to book a cruise in advance and agree a pick up from your accommodation in Hanoi for a 4-hour bus trip. We did it slightly differently though…
Get in touch with the local minorities of black H’mong and red Dzao and hike to the top of Vietnam, mount Fan Si Pan. Here you will find all the details to reach this charming mountainous town.
In Sapa, hiking and visiting local tribes are the most popular and rewarding activities, make sure you don’t miss it, but be prepared for cool and rainy weather!
BOOK HERE: Sapa valley trek with local villages visit
Following under, a list of good-to-know things about Vietnam:
HOTELS – WHERE TO STAY IN VIETNAM?
You can pre book all of your Vietnam accomodation here.
Check out our favourite hotel in Hanoi: modern rooms and excellent staff in the Old Quarter.
An example of Vietnamese homestay in Sapa: a welcoming family will take care of everything you need.
Great value for money in Hoi An: 3-star hotel room with swimming pool from 20$!
BEST TOURS IN VIETNAM:
- From Ho Chi Minh City: Cu Chi Tunnels Half-day Tour
- Hue City full-day tour
- Sapa valley trek with local villages visit
WEATHER – WHEN TO GO TO VIETNAM?
Vietnam extends for almost 2,000 km from north to south, this leads to at least 3 different climate areas:
- north: cool dry winters (dec-apr, 15°-25°C), hot wet summers (may-nov, over 25°C).
- centre: cool rainy winters (nov-mar, 20°-25°C), hot dry summers (apr-oct, over 30°-35°C).
- south: hot dry winters (nov-apr, over 30°-35°C), hot wet summers (may-oct, over 25°C).
This said, Vietnam is a tropical country, it will be generally hot with thunderstorms always ready to surprise you.
FOOD – WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM?
Tasting local gastronomy is an essential part of our travels. This is why we wrote a detailed guide to Vietnamese food to list typical dishes divided by region, and where to eat them! Enjoy!
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.
WHAT ABOUT VACCINES?
It’s always recommended to check whether you need any specific vaccine, especially if you are travelling for more than 15 days. Book an appointment with an expert at the international vaccination center. The doctor will tell you which vaccines are required/recommended for Vietnam.
VISA – HOW TO GET A VISA TO VIETNAM?
Vietnam is upgrading its visa free policy to more countries every year. However, this is currently valid for only 15 days. We recommend you to see our detailed post here to know how to request your 1-month or 3-month tourist visa to Vietnam.
FLIGHTS – WHERE TO START YOUR VIETNAM TRIP?
It depends on your itinerary. Your choice is between the northern hub, Hanoi Noi Bai Airport, and the southern one, Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat, which are both international and linked with worldwide destinations. For shorter itineraries you could consider Da Nang Airport, the 3rd biggest in Vietnam, which has just opened a new terminal to widen its offer.
TRAIN, BUS, FERRY – HOW TO BOOK TICKETS IN VIETNAM?
Many backpackers prefer to cross land borders rather than flying, and it’s very easy and cool to do so across Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar. In Vietnam, the Reunification Express Train Line connects Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh and it’s a marvelous experience to try at least for a section.
You can book train, bus, ferry tickets easily online from reliable agency amt.12go.asia.
We also recently used baolau.com, a new online booking platform operating in Southeast Asia. Follow our step-by-step guide to make sure you get your ticket delivered straight to your e-mail address.
Our Vietnam guide ends here. Now you should have a deeper idea about planning your trip to Vietnam, but if you need more details, just let us know in the comments below.
Since we lived in Vietnam for a couple of years, we have plenty of suggestion to share!
ENJOY YOUR TRIP TO VIETNAM!
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