Crafting Your Perfect Vietnam Itinerary (New 2020)
I’m not the kind of person who will preach at you to painstakingly plan out every moment of your Vietnam Itinerary.
But, – I can tell you from personal experience – that crafting a rough itinerary will only heighten your travels through this Southeast Asian country.
When I reflect on my time in Vietnam, I’m flooded with a gushing wave of memories and emotion. The raw kindness of the people, the layers of flavor in the cuisine, and the rich (and sometimes tragic) history all captured me in a rare way.
Vietnam is without a doubt one of the best countries in Southeast Asia. It’s a country that I can’t shake off.
They just don’t make countries like Vietnam anymore.
Sold on Vietnam? Good! Then you’re in the right place! This Vietnam Itinerary takes you on a step-by-step journey around some countries’ biggest highlights!
How to Use this Vietnam Itinerary
Okay, before we begin our detailed descent into planning there are two major things you should know!
First is the best way to use this blog post.
Which is however you want!
For our purposes, the itinerary starts in the south and works its way north.
But consider this Vietnam itinerary a set of LEGOS. Take the blocks you want, toss aside the ones you don’t, and build something uniquely your own!
Planning on spending most of your time in Northern Vietnam? Well grab the northern Vietnam itinerary and discard the southern half.
Only have a week to travel to Vietnam? No problem, mix, and match the places that best serve your travel goals.
You don’t need to follow in my footsteps exactly. So I encourage you to pick this itinerary apart, devour every morsel, and use my experiences to craft YOUR trip through Vietnam!
Note: To complete the entire route would take around a month.
Visa for Vietnam
One more important note you should know. Unlike many countries in Southeast Asia, you NEED a visa before arriving in Vietnam.
Most countries do not have VOA (Visa on Arrival).
The safest way to make sure you’re good to go is to do a little research.
Getting Around Vietnam
Much like Backpacking Thailand, Vietnam’s a great country to travel around via bus, or minivan. To be honest, Vietnam has some of the most spacious, and comfortable buses I’ve ever seen in Southeast Asia. Some buses even have lay down seats. Sleeper buses come with their own beds. And minivans give you space for an AC.
If you’re a budget traveler that likes a little luxury, then the buses in Vietnam are for you! You can use websites like Bookaway to get your tickets cheap and early.
For most stops of this itinerary we will be using popular bus routes in Vietnam.
The Ultimate Vietnam Itinerary for 2020
Day 1 – 4: Ho Chi Minh
Personally, I prefer Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi (not that Hanoi is bad).
And there’s another reason I choose it as the starting place for our itinerary through Vietnam. Namely, because Ho Chi Minh’s (Siagon’s) a great introduction to the food, culture, and people of Vietnam.
The city’s vibrant, exhilarating, and extremely chaotic. In Saigon, you have to relearn everyday skills you take for granted in normal life… like crossing a street.
Imagine water breaking around a rock in a stream.
Picturing it? Good, now replace the rock with you and the water with thousands of motorbikes.
Oh, and don’t forget that you’re moving, clutching your fist as you slowly venture to the other side of the street as motorbikes zoom past.
There’s no look left and right before crossing. It more of a look straight ahead and pray.
Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh is an adventure unto its self.
And despite the chaos, the city manages to charm you with its genuine people, rooftop bars, charming neighborhoods, and captivating markets.
Looking back at Ho Chi Minh’s history you’ll find some tragedy.
But you wouldn’t know it from visiting the city.
A blanket of optimism covers Ho Chi Minh’s. Locals are forward-looking and hopefully for the future.
As a traveler, there’s no shortage of things to do in Ho Chi Minh.
Here are some of the top sights in the city.
Giac Lam Pagoda
This pagoda is the oldest temple in the city and dates back almost 300 years.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Perhaps, the most popular site in the area. Cu Chi Tunnels are a series of underground passageways and tunnels that were used during the war. These tunnels stretch for over 30 Kilometres.
Pham Ngu Lao Street
Perhaps, the most popular site in the area. Cu Chi Tunnels are a series of underground passageways and tunnels that were used during the war.
These tunnels stretch for over 30 Kilometres.
This might seem like a strange thing to do.
However, Vietnam has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. (And I’m a loud and proud coffee addict). The coffee’s a milkshake.
But, man oh man, every calorie is worth it.
War Remnants Museuem
A museum about the Vietnam War, told entirely in photos. This museum’s hard to stomach – especially, if you’re an American. But I believe it’s a vital museum to visit.
A important building in the country’s history. This is the spot where Ho Chi Minh surrendered in 1975.
Day Trip to Mekong Delta
Just a few hours away from Ho Chi Minh is the sprawling, massive waterway of Mekong Delta. It’s a great day trip to build into your Vietnam Itinerary.
Binh Tay Market
The most popular day market in the city. Built during the colonial period there some great haggling and food stalls to be found here. It’s also indoors for those looking to escape the heat.
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
The actual name is Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. Now that is mouthful, which is why most locals and travelers just refer to it as Saigon’s Notre Dame.
Well, because this church resembles a small Notre Dame, It’s crazy to see a gothic-esque church in the middle of an Asian City.
Saigon Post Office
Another example of Gothic, Renaissance, and French influence on the country.
Overall, Ho Chi Minh is a friendly, and fun introduction to Vietnam. It’s a great base to visit the Mekong Delta, as well as, plan your next moves around the country.
And if you’re lucky, like me, you might just fall in love with the city.
Day 5: Travel Day
Day five we are going to hop on the bus from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne. The isn’t the quickest journey as the bus takes around 6 -8 hour. However, the bus it cost effective as the journey will only set you back around 13 -15 USD.
If you have a little extra wiggle room in your budget you can get a luxury minivan. Luxury, I know.
As the buses takes up most day 5 we are going to write it off as a travel day. And by the time you check into your hotel (or hostel) in Mui Ne and shower, you’ll likely be ready eat, have a nightcap, and get some sleep.
Or, if you got the energy, head to the Red Dunes for the sunset.
Day 6 – 8: Mũi Né
To be honest I didn’t know Mũi Né existed until I was dragged there by an ocean crazed surfer I was traveling with through Vietnam.
And I’m glad he did because this sandy slice of beach front known as Mũi Né holds some of my most treasured moments in the entire country.
At first appearance Mũi Né might trick you into thinking it’s a small beach side town. But don’t be fooled. The biggest draws of the area lie outside the city, and away from the beach, and deeper in the main land. Here you’ll find massive sand dunes.
As an added bonus, there’s also the local fishing village, where locals venture out into the waters in their rustic, handmade boats.
But enough summary, let’s dive deeper into some of the best things to do when visiting Mũi Né.
Red Sand Dunes
When most of us think sand dunes we picture the deserts of the Shara. And to come clean, I didn’t know that Vietnam had sand dunes.
The red sand dunes are closer and are a famous spot for sunsets, and photography.
White Sand Dunes
The white dunes offer a range of adventures from sand buggy riding, to kite flying, to epic sunsets.
Mũi Né Fishing Village
The Local fisherman at Mũi Né harbor head out to the sea on there, unstoppable, half coconut shaped, plastic boats. It’s a great spot for epic postcard-worthy photos and watching local fisherman ply their trade. The best time for these epic photos is at sunrise when the locals are heading out, and there are fewer tourists.
Bãi Biển Mũi Né
Beautiful beach area in Mũi Né . Perfect for a quick dip!
The red and white sand dunes of Mũi Né are a wonder, and a worthy addition to any Vietnam Itinerary.
And while Mũi Né is close to Ho Chi Minh it still remains off the majority – but not completely – off of travelers’ itinerary.
But the geological wonders of the sand dunes and quaint fishing village are enough reasons to venture here for a few days.
Day 9 – 11: Đà Lạt
On the morning of day 8, we are going to leave Mui Ne – say goodbye to the coast for a while – and take the bus inland to the mountainous area of Đà Lạt. This scenic city lies in the central highlands of Vietnam in the Lâm Đồng Province.
Đà Lạt’s a safe haven from the heat and humidity that envelopes Vietnam during the summer months. And for adventure lovers, Da Lat ticks all the boxes. The city is surrounded by jungle’s, waterfalls, and lipid pools.
The city is also considered the “honeymoon” destination for Vietnam locals. Making it a ideal stop for more than just adventure lovers.
Here are some of the best things to do in Đà Lạt’s to add to your Vietnam Itinerary.
The most popular adventure is spending an afternoon traversing through the jungle, and repelling down multiple waterfalls. There are a ton of safe tours in the city to choose from!
A wild and wacky cafe that’s a maze of tunnels, hidden passages, and crazy houses. It’s like wandering through a fairy tale.
White White Rafting
Another sought after the adventure in Da Lat is white water rafting. Da Lat started whitewater rafting in Vietnam. And the scenic Don Da River has thrilling class 2 and 3 rapids.
Lang Bian Mountain
Head to the top for an all-encompassing panoramic view of Vietnam’s highlands.
Is stunning the right word? Yep! Elephant Fall might be the most beautiful thing you see in Vietnam. It’s a popular spot for photos and couples.
Getting to Da Lat
Getting from Mui Ne To Dalat is easy. You can get there by bus for under $10. The ride up into the highlands takes around 4 to 5 hours.
Night of Day 11 and Morning of Day 12 – Travel Day: Da Lat to Hoi An
Both Da Lat and Hoi An are unskippable – in my humble opinion. And both need to be on your Vietnam Itinerary.
Unfortunately, the two cities are a far apart. But as we need to head north anyway, the juice is worth the squeeze – as they say.
You have a couple of options to get between the two cities.
For budget travelers, you’ll want to leave your last night in Da Lat and head to Hoi An on a sleeper bus.
These buses take around 15 hours and cost less than $20.
If you’re pressed for time, there’s a chance you might be able to grab a cheap flight between the two cities.
Day 13 – 16: Hoi An
Where Da Lat’s all about wandering out of the city and into nature, Hoi An’s all about never leaning the downtown. This historic town’s one of the most jaw-dropping cities I’ve visited in Southeast Asia.
In fact, the entire ancient city is a UNESCO Site. And a pristine example of a colonial trading port. Some of the architecture dates back to the 15 century.
Hoi An is teeming with beautiful architecture, still canals, golden-colored merchant houses, and colorful lanterns.
Hoi An’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s an easy city to lose yourself in, to picture yourself living there, and never wanting to leave.
Things to do in Hoi An
Wander the Ancient City
As I’ve stated above the ancient city, and canals are the nuggets draw to the city. You can spend days exploring every nook and cranny.
Have a Beach Day
Hoi An is near the east sea, which is only 10 minutes’ drive from the city
Get a Tailored Wardrobe
So Hoi An also famous for custom clothes. You can get an entirely new, tailor-made wardrobe, within a few days, and for a fraction of the cost.
Eat At the Central Market
Hoi An’s also a notable foodie hotspot in Vietnam. You’ll find a wide array of tropical treats, and street food at the central market.
Hoi An sticks out as the most beautiful city I visited in Vietnam. And a city I will return to on every visit to the country!
Day 17 -19: Da Nang
So you’ve soaked in the culture of Hoi An, now it’s time to soak in the sun at Da Nang.
Now, don’t worry. You can take a deep breath! Unlike the massive bus day from Da Lat to Hoi An; our next destination is just a short bus ride away. Da Nang’s, another great city, located an hour north of Hoi An.
Da Nang, while it isn’t as beautiful as Hoi An, has beautiful weather and landscape. Open-hearted locals, and an energetic nightlife. Da Nang has a variety of beaches to choose from as well.
Here are the best things to do in Da Nang.
Go Exploring in the Landscape of Your Choice
Da Nang offers a variety of landscapes, from a mountain, sea, and rivers. Pick your landscape.
Go to the Top of Monkey Mountain
Monkey Mountain (Also known as Son Tra Mountain) treats you to an epic view of the city.
Enjoy the Nightlife
Hoi An has a decent nightlife. However, there are a lot more options in Da Nang. If you’re hankering for a party, then Da Nang is a great option.
Da Nang has a lot of beaches to choose from. So make sure to relax and recharge our travel batteries.
Make sure to use at least one day of your time in Da Nang or Hoi An to rest because we have one more big bus ride ahead of us.
Night of 19 – Day of 20th: Travel Day from Da Nang to Hanoi
Ok, this is the longest journey of our Vietnam Itinerary. But if we want to get to some of the best sites in Vietnam we need to endure it.
The ride from Da Nang from Hanoi takes around 15 -17 hours so getting a sleeper bus is advised. Tickets for the bus are around 18 dollars.
Once again a flight is another option for about 4 times the price of the bus ticket.
Day 20 – 23: Hanoi
Hanoi is the gateway to two of the most popular places on any Vietnam itinerary; I.E. Halong Bay and Sapa.
Hanoi itself, is a buzzing metropolis of culture, backpackers, and tradition. The city is steeped in over 1,000 years of history, much of which you can still see today in the temples, landscape, and citadels.
You’ll never get bored in the capital of Vietnam. And the city caters to every type of traveler from backpackers to luxury travelers.
Top Things to do in Hanoi.
Hanoi Old Quarter
The heart of the city, full of history, commerce, and intriguing attractions. There are a handful of temples and pagodas in the area to explore, lots of good restaurants, and dive bars.
Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and graces the top of many people’s list of things to do in Hanoi.
Hanoi Opera House
One of the most stunning buildings in the country. Built in the early 1900s when Vietnam was under French Rule.
Yes, water puppets are a tourist trap. But worth it. The shows last around 1 hour and cost somewhere around $10.
Eat Your Weight in Street Food
Hanoi is a great place to get in those last-minute food bucket list items. Cooking classes are another good option.
Of course, street food is a given. Eat your weight in food, because – while we have a few stops left – this is the last, best stop for food.
There’s enough to do in Hanoi to fill an entire trip to Vietnam and deserve an entire blog post to itself.
Here are a few other notable attractions to see in the area: Hoàn Kiếm Lake, West Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, and One Pillar Pagoda.
Day 24 – 27: Sapa
If you want to get out of the city and into nature, then head to Sapa. Sapa is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for scenic views, trekking, and landscape.
The most notable site is Mường Hoa Valley (You’ll see it everywhere on postcards). There’s also Ham Rong Mountain, Sapa Lake.
Sapa’s a perfect couple day getaway from Hanoi. And a great way to see some of the best beautiful landscapes has to offer.
The best way to reach Sapa is with a luxury minivan. https://www.youtube.com/embed/k-jxDbGuFgQ
Day 28 – 30: Halong Bay
Halong Bay is Vietnam’s premium natural attraction.
Halong Bay is a spectacular garden of islands, of jutting rocks, wondrous views, and mammoth caves. The entire area of limestone cliffs and deep caves has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best way to see the Bay is one on a couple of day tours. They have all types of boat tours that range from day trips to multiple day trips (I suggest multiple day trips). There are also party boats for you backpackers out there.
This is our last stop of our Vietnam Itinerary and a fitting end to our month-long trip to Vietnam.
There we go! Follow this month-long itinerary for Vietnam and you’ll discover some of the best the country has to offer. But don’t forget, you can pick this itinerary apart, and use it to piece together your own journey.
Smaller Vietnam Itineraries
A month is a long time, and I realize that most people won’t travel around Vietnam that long. So I wanted to put together some smaller itineraries for Vietnam.
Vietnam Itinerary 7 Days
With only seven days to explore Vietnam, your best bet is to start in the north as it puts you near Halong Bay.
Hanoi: Days 1 – 3
In Hanoi spend the first few days fighting off jet lag and seeing the sights.
Halong Bay: Days 4 – 5
Take the bus to Halong Bay, and hop on a short two days cruise around Halong Bay, before returning to Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh: Days 6 – 7
End your time exploring Ho Chi Minh. 7 Days isn’t enough time to visit the country. However, It is better than not visiting Vietnam at all.
Vietnam 10 Day Itinerary
Same as in the 7 days Vietnam Itinerary, start out in the north of Vietnam. As with 10 days, you have enough time to see three of Vietnam’s main attractions.
Hanoi: Days 1 – 2
Spend a couple of days exploring the city, but not to much time as we have a lot of ground to cover.
Sapa: Days 3 – 6
Sapa takes around 8 hours by bus from Hanoi. But the sheer beauty of the landscape is worth it.
Here spend the next couple days soaking in the lush landscape.
Halong Bay: Days 7 – 9
Bear in mind it will is a decent bus journey from Sapa to Halong Bay, and you might have to travel through Hanoi.
Make the journey, and hop on a relaxing two-day cruise of Halong Bay
Hanoi: Day 10
Head back to Hanoi for our last day in Vietnam. From here you can fly somewhere else in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam Itinerary: 2 Weeks
With two weeks to explore Vietnam, we are going to start in the south and quickly make our way north.
Ho Chi Minh: Days 1 – 2
Spend the first three days exploring everything Ho Chi Minh has to offer and acclimating yourself to the culture and climate.
Hoi An: Days 3 – 5
Enjoy days 4 -6 in Hoi An, wander the alleys and small shops, or get some custom clothes made.
Hoi An is far from Ho Chi Minh so a flight for this leg of your journey might be the best option.
Hanoi: Days 6 – 8
The bus from Hoi An to Hanoi is a massive journey, but luckily you get a sleeper bus that will make the time fly by.
Spend the next few days in Hanoi.
Sapa: Day 9 – 11
Grab the bus and head north to Sapa for a few days. Make sure your camera batteries are charged as its one of the most photogenic areas of Vietnam.
Halong Bay: Days 12 – 14
Head on a quick trip of Halong Bay before returning to Hanoi and flying out of Vietnam.
And there we go! A ton of different Vietnam Itinerary for you to mix and max.
One thing I want to stress is to dive into the country, through yourself into the people, places, and culture.
Do that and regardless of your Vietnam Itinerary, you’ll have an amazing trip to this wonderful country in Southeast Asia.