I know when we are planning our routes we find it helpful to know what other people have done, so we’ve written this post as a reference guide which you may find useful if you are planning a trip to Vietnam. This itinerary is based on staying there for 4 weeks. We started in the south and ventured north, but it would be just as easy to do this route the other way around.
We arrived in Vietnam through the Ha Tien border from Cambodia and jumped on a bus which took us straight to Can Tho (read about that interesting journey here). From there this is what we did:
- Can Tho – 2 nights
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – 3 nights
- Da Lat – 4 nights
- 1 night sleeper bus to Hoi An
- Hoi An – 3 nights
- Hué – 2 nights
- Phong Nha – 2 nights
- 1 night sleeper bus to Cat Ba (Halong Bay)
- Cat Ba – 5 nights
- Hanoi – 4 nights
We used bus to get between all places except Hoi An to Hue where we hired a scooter to do the Hoi Van Pass. Buses are really easy to arrange. You can either get an open ticket which is basically a pre-pay ticket for all the major stops which you can use as and when you want, or you can get tickets as you go. We did it as we went and our advice is to book them directly with your hotel the day before. Booking at the hotel can be a little more expensive but at least if the bus doesn’t turn up they can chase it for you and try to sort it out.
Here’s a bit more detail about each stop along the way:
Can Tho – 2 nights
We visited Can Tho as its famous for it’s floating markets (blog here) aside from that there isn’t a great deal to do there so would say two nights is enough.
We stayed at Hai Dang Mekong Guesthouse which was an OK place to get some sleep and felt pretty safe.
From Can Tho we got the bus to HCMC. HCMC does get some mixed reviews but we loved it’s chaos and character. Whilst there if you wanted to do something other than drink beer and get absorbed in the chaos (perfectly fine if you don’t!) you could visit the war museum, the palace or the Co Chi tunnels. Read the blog on our time there here.
Whilst there we stayed at Toi’s Travel Home, a quaint and clean little guesthouse. We stayed in a dorm with bunk beds that had privacy walls, always a plus knowing you won’t accidentally flash fellow dormers in the night.
Da Lat – 4 nights
We arrived in Da Lat by bus from HCMC. We instantly fell in love with DaLat, it’s got so much to do and see, such as the night market, the crazy house, the elephant waterfalls and canyoning to name a few! You can read the blog here. We would definetly recommend this place!
We stayed at a fantastic hostel called Solo DaLat, breakfast AND dinner was included for a very reasonable price!
1 night on a sleeper bus to Hoi An
Love them or hate them sleeper buses are handy for saving money on another nights accommodation and also mean you don’t waste any of your day time sitting on buses.
They are easy to arrange, your hostel can usually help. Be warned, the bed on the buses are quite small – definitely not built for average westerner height. The best seat to get is the second row from the front on the bottom level. Being at the front makes it less bumpy, being second row in means the view of the road is somewhat blocked (good so that you don’t continuously get blinded by car headlights and also so you can’t see the awful driving) and being on the bottom level means that you don’t rock side-to-side with ever move of the steering wheel.
Hoi An – 3 nights
Hoi An is the town most famous for its tailoring so if you want new garms I’d recommend getting them here. We didn’t get measured up, but find out what we did get up to here.
We stayed at Tribee Hostel which included a pretty decent breakfast and had a free activity each night such as free beer, free rum and coke and a free spring roll making class – happy days!
Hué – 2 nights
We got to Hué via the famous Hoi Van pass route on a moped, blog here.
Once we had visited the imperial palace in Hué there wasn’t much left to do apart from eat and drink tasty things, blog here, so I wouldn’t have wanted to have stayed longer than 2 nights.
We stayed at a really nice place called Poetic Huè Hostel, which was more of a hotel and very cheap. Would definitely recommend this place for that bit of cheap luxury.
Phong Nha – 2 nights
We arranged a bus to take us from Hué to Phong Nha which took 4 hours. Phong Nha is famous for its beautiful caves and of all the scootering that we did we most enjoyed it here – quiet roads and lush scenery. Read about our time there here.
We stayed at Tuan Ha Hotel, which is a pleasant enough family run hostel with breakfast included.
1 night on sleeper bus to Cat Ba (Halong Bay)
This was a LONG journey which consisted of bus, to another bus, to a boat, to another bus, then a taxi 😴 (The taxi was because our hostel was a bit further out which was fine to walk normally but not with our heavy backpacks!)
Cat Ba – 5 nights
Cat Ba is a beautiful place to stay and see Halong bay, famous for its limestone islands. Read about our time there here.
We stayed at Central Backpackers Cat Ba which is a bit further out from the main bay but the quality is much better than the hostels in town, with a pool and breakfast.
Hanoi – 4 nights
Last but not least we ended the trip with 4 nights in Hanoi. Not particularly famous for a certain activity to do but another great bustling City to visit. Read about our activities there here.
We stayed in Box Hostel. The rooms were tiny and the walls were paper thin but it was ok just to sleep in (as long as your neighbours are quiet) a little fry up breakfast was also included 👍🏽
Overall we loved Vietnam. It was our favourite country in South East Asia as there is loads to see, there is plenty of history, it is easy to travel around and the people are great. Oh and it’s by far the cheapest country we visited – between the two of us we spent just over £900 and did pretty much everything.
The only place we didn’t go which we would have liked to have visited was Sapa – but it was rainy season when there so we did want to travel all that way and not have good views. However, you can easily fit Sapa into the above itinerary by reducing the days in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay.
So go to Vietnam…now.