3 Weeks in Vietnam: Itinerary Suggestion

Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam

We spent 3 weeks in Vietnam, going from the north (Hanoi) to the south (Ho Chi Minh City). While we don’t suggest planning out your Vietnam itinerary in depth, here’s a sample itinerary to give you a feel for each place and an idea of how to allot your time in Vietnam. Note that we prefer not to spend less than 2 nights in a city, as that makes us feel rushed and exhausted, but you certainly could.

Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

Known for: its chaotic Old Quarter; great food

How long to stay: 2 nights

Activities: Walk around the Hoan Kiem lake; explore Old Quarter

Where we stayed: Hilton Garden Inn

Where we ate/drank: Pizza 4P’s; Noodle & Roll; Polite pub; street food. Other ideas: drink at Sofitel plaza’s summit bar for some great views.

Cost: $$. Food/drinks were cheap; we splurged on our hotel, but we didn’t do any tours

Read more here

Cat Ba/Ha Long Bay

Cat Ba, VIetnam

Known for: gorgeous bays with jutting limestone; inspiring Avatar

How long to stay: 3 nights

Activities: Tour of Lan Ha Bay or Ha Long Bay; Rock-climbing; Kayaking; Hiking; Going to the Beach(es)

Where we stayed: Ali Baba’s (decent; backpacker budget) and Sea Pearl Hotel (decent; mid-range budget). Try to stay further from this main strip in Cat Ba town to avoid the commercialism

Where we ate/drank: Family Quan Cat Ba; Nha Hang Bamboo

Cost: $$. Food/drinks were cheap, but tours & hotels were relatively expensive

Read more here

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Known for: being the Ha Long Bay on land

How long to stay: 3 nights

Activities: Boat tour; floating villages

Where we stayed: Ninh Binh Family Homestay. If they’re not available, stay in Tam Coc as opposed to Ninh Binh.

Where we ate/drank: Our homestay

Cost: $

Read more here

Phong Nha

Phong Nha, Vietnam

Known for: its large number of large caves

How long to stay: 3 nights

Activities: Caving, motorbiking

Where we stayed: Thuong Hai hotel

Where we ate/drank: Easy Tiger (drinks), Tuan Ngoc, Bamboo Cafe, bakery (for bus snacks)

Cost: $$. Food/drinks/accommodations were cheap; tours were expensive. To keep expenses down, rent a motorbike and explore on your own

Read more here

Hoi An

Hoi An Lanterns

Known for: tailors; being a very livable city for backpackers; lanterns

How long to stay: 3 nights

Activities: Shopping; bike riding; going to the beach

Where we stayed: Hoang Trinh hotel; Viet’s Family Homestay

Where we ate/drank: see our separate post about that here

Cost: $$. Accommodations were cheap; food was expensive. To keep expenses down, eat outside of the Old Town area

Read more in our post here

Da Lat

Da Lat coffee fields

Known for: 4 seasons in 1 day (cool weather year-round), coffee

How long to stay: 3 nights

Activities: Canyoning, Easy Rider tour or motorbiking, waterfalls (especially Pongour)

Where we stayed: Lam Vien Homestay

Where we ate/drank: 100 Roofs cafe (totally cool – get the cookies milkshake with rum), Goc Ha Thanh. Other ideas: One More Cafe, Primavera

Cost: $$

Read more about Da Lat here, and about our Easy Rider tour of Da Lat here

Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon

Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, Vietnam

Known for: crazy amounts of motorbikes; street food

How long to stay: 2 nights

Activities: checking out the food scene; explore the french quarter

Where we stayed: Ambassador Saigon hotel; most backpackers stay on Phạm Ngũ Lão street

Where we ate/drank: Hum vegetarian restaurant (pricey, but good), Quan Com Viet Nam So 7 (known for their sour soup). Other ideas: La Fiesta, Bot Chien Dat Thanh (for bot chien), Pizza 4P’s (yes, another one)

Cost: $


The above itinerary accounts for 19 days, which gives you some wiggle room if you’d like to stay longer in any of those places (and I’m sure you will!).


Possible Add-ons

Here are some places we didn’t check-out, but you certainly could if you have more time or other interests. I put my best guesses for how long to stay when I had a reasonable idea.

Sapa

People told us this was one of the most beautiful places they’d been. Go here for gorgeous scenery, trekking and cultural immersion. The best way to get there from Hanoi is by overnight train.

How long to stay: 4 nights (2 nights on overnight train, roundtrip; 2 nights in Sapa)

Mai Chau

A scenic alternative to Sapa that’s closer to Hanoi.

Hue

Close to Hoi An, this city that used to be the capital of Vietnam is great for history and ruin lovers. Check out Hanh, a restaurant with local people and great food. Also check out their spas.

How long to stay: 1-2 nights

Nha Trang

We actually went to Nha Trang for one night, but honestly we didn’t see anything. We didn’t hear great things, so we holed up in our hotel room and did some blogging. If you’re craving a beach party, or if you speak Russian, this would be a good place for you. We stayed at the Happy Angel hotel and thought it was terrific: great service, price, location & amenities.

How long to stay: 1-2 nights

Mui Ne

A beach town that we think we’d prefer over Nha Trang. It’s less touristy, less built-up, and less expensive. Offers sand dunes & watersports. You can visit Mui Ne on your way from Da Lat to HCMC.

How long to stay: 3 nights

Mekong Delta

4 hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Float down lush canals and check out the floating markets.

Phu Quoc

An island that offers less-touristy beaches than Nha Trang.

 

Did I miss anything? Do you disagree with my thoughts on any of the above cities? I’d love to hear from you!

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