The ultimate two week itinerary for Vietnam

A lot of us are at the stage now where we holding down full-time jobs and squeezing our travels into our annual leave, due to this a lot of people often feel that they need to stay closer to home and cannot fit in a more exotic long-haul destination but you can. Travelling the world and maintaining a career is possible when planned properly multi-stop destinations are an option. Last November I dived head first into a jam-packed 14 days in Vietnam; taking in the incredible landscapes, sampling the most delicious Pho and meeting some of the most beautiful welcoming people in the world.

It may not be the most relaxing holiday in the world but 2 weeks in Vietnam is possible and completely worth it.

My two week Vietnam travel itinerary was fully planned by myself and my boyfriend, every part was booked separately by ourselves, this meant we also saved a lot of money by not going through a tour company for a prepared tour itinerary, it also gave us the flexibility to do exactly what we wanted during our two weeks in Vietnamcities, beaches and sights.

[Updated September 2018]

A beautiful sunset at Halong Bay in Vietnam - a must for when spending two weeks in vietnam

Important Vietnam Visa information: If you are staying 15 days or under  in Vietnam you do not need a visa, however, ensure sure you have a print out of your departure flight for customs on arrival, you will not be allowed through until they see it.

Internal flights around Vietnam are incredibly cheap (some flights are as low as £12!) and very frequent, while they may be slightly more expensive than sleeper trains or buses, they save A LOT of time, look up companies such as Air Asia and VietJet.

Top Tip: Fly very early morning or very late evening, never fly mid-day as you will waste a day travelling. If you do want to travel by train, again book a sleeper train and travel through the night.

My exact 2 week Vietnam Itinerary:

A Quick Summary travelling from South to North through Vietnam in 14 days: 

Ho Chi Minh: Museums and Culture
Phu Quoc: Beaches and Scuba diving
Hoi An: Beauty and Shopping
Hanoi: City and culture
Halong Bay:
Unesco World Heritage site

Fly into Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) –  1 night  / two days

The starting point for most people in Vietnam and the craziest but a definite must. Embrace the hustle and bustle, visit the war museums and try your best to not waste all day attempting to cross the road. Bui Vien street is the main ‘strip’ in Ho Chi Minh, here you will find the bars, restaurants, and clubs as well as all the backpackers.

We stayed in the Meraki Hotel on Bui Vien street for the convenience of the location, but it is noisy until the early hours, so if you are a light sleeper I would recommend staying a bit further out. This hotel also has a rooftop terrace with amazing views over the city.

From Ho Chi Minh you can take a day trip to the Mekong Delta River, I didn’t actually do this but I really regret it and wish we did.

Top places to visit in Ho Chi Minh – 
– War Remnants Museum
– Mekong Delta River
– Cu Chi Tunnels
– Golden dragon water puppet theatre
– The Independence Palace
– Ho Chi Minh city museum

A ariel view of Ho Chi Minh a common city to start your two week vietnam itinerary


Going backpacking? Follow these handy tips for backpacking South East Asia


Phu Quoc Island for four nights / three days

A few days of rest is essential for us on every holiday, even on travelling holidays, I think it is important for everyone to have a chance to recharge. Phu Quoc was recommended to us by a member of our family, it is just west of Vietnam and actually closer to Cambodia. Phu Quoc felt like it hadn’t quite yet been hit fully by tourism, so was quiet and completely relaxing, although I did find the waters slightly polluted with rubbish in some areas, which was upsetting.

Phu Quoc is an idyllic beach destination. This collection of 28 Islands is surrounded by crystal clear water as well as an endless supply of pristine beaches. With vast reef networks creating shelter for a variety of sought-after species, marine explorers, scuba divers, freedivers, and spearfishermen will be in paradise.

We stayed in Thanh Kieu beach resort which offers individual huts along the beach,  if you stay in this area there is an awesome beach bar called Rory’s along the front run by an Australian couple, it serves great food, rents out kayaks and paddleboards and generally has an amazing atmosphere.

We were pleasantly surprised by the islands’ vibrant and authentic local culture. It seemed many Phu Quoc residents still live traditional lives, paddling out into the ocean to fish each day.

Top things to do in Phu Quoc: 
– Paddleboarding
– Scuba Diving (unfortunately I can’t recommend a good company as I felt really let down by our dive master there)
– Visit the Ding Cau street food market
– Relax!
 The sandy beaches in phu quoc, a great addition to your two week vietnam itineraryVietnamese fruit sellers walking along the beach in Phu Quoc


Use my link to receive £15 off of your hotel choice on booking.com:  www.booking.com/s/samnth00


Hoi An for two nights / three days

Located along the coast in mid-Vietnam, it is accessible by various forms of transport, Hoi An is a must for a 2 week trip to  Vietnam. It is honestly one of the most stunning places I have ever been to, the old town especially is like stepping straight into a Disney animation. I recommend the Sunshine hotel for a place to stay that is a short walk from all the attractions and dining at the restaurant adorably called ‘I think you like’ located next door.

You can read my full Hoi An travel guide here.

Top things to do in Hoi An:
– Visit one of the many Tailors and have a custom hand-made outfit created
– Stroll along the night markets and buy some handmade treasures (Be sure to haggle and never pay the first price offered! Aim for at least 50% off)
– Jump in a boat ride along the river and set off a floating lantern.
– Relax with a massage.
– Visit Henna art Hoi An for some beautiful hand-drawn henna.
– Visit the beach.
– Hire a bike and cycle through the rice fields

Sunset over the waters in Hoi An, Vietnam - a great city addition when travelling in vietnamA lady sitting on a boat down the rivers of Hoi An, Vietnam A boat sailing down the river in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hanoi – two nights / three days

Located in the north of Vietnam, Hanoi is extremely busy like its southern brother Ho Chi Minh, it is also a complete contrast and completely worth a few days of your time.

Part of Hanoi’s beauty is that you can walk everywhere, with many of the main attractions clustered near each other. A perfect example of this is some of the country’s most popular tourist areas – the Old Quarter is sandwiched between the two French Quarters.

Like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi is full of nightlife but in contrast, there is also a city curfew that is installed at 12 am, please respect this as it is enforced by the police. One of the bizarre things I noted in Hanoi was the shopping district, everything has a dedicated street! For example, if you need shoes, all the shoe shops are located on the same street and nowhere else, same with metalware, toy shops, etc.

Top things to do in Hanoi:
– Indulge in street food! Perch on a tiny chair and enjoy some of the best Pho in Vietnam along with an ice-cold beer.
-Get a shellac manicure and pedicure for just £5
– Visit the Lantern lounge for dinner and drinks – I absolutely adored this place!
– Take a walk around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake – In this area there are always school children that want to talk to tourists. This is simply because they want to improve their English. Please take the time to talk to them, they are lovely and are genuinely so interested in the tourists that come to their country.

Arrange a trip to Halong Bay for 1 night / two days

Halong Bay is the place on the postcards, the place most people think of when you say Vietnam and rightly so, no trip to Vietnam would be complete without it. The serene bay is protected from swell, making it a peaceful sanctuary on the water.

If the bay’s floating villages do not impress, the rocky outcrops that rise from the water will. Towering high above, these rock formations are an incredibly beautiful spectacle.

Most tours will collect you from Hanoi before transporting you to the port where you will board the ferry. If you are short on time, the one night / two-day tour is enough to see it all, but if you have a spare night the two-night tour also includes a trip to Cat Ba Island as well.

You can read all about my Halong Bay experience here,  we booked with Golden Lotus tours, who I would fully recommend. An alternate option is Bai Tu Long Bay. Although Halong Bay is Vietnam’s most famous tourist attraction, Bai Tu Long Bay is less crowded. Both are fantastically beautiful, so you are in for a treat either way.

While creating this post I actually found this Vietnam route planner, which shows you all the possible transport ways to get between cities as well as costs. This may save you a lot of extra time and stress.

A lady standing in front of halong bay, VietnamThe waters of Halong Bay vietnam, a must for any vietnam trip the view over halong bay, Vietnam. A must for any two week trip to vietnam

Other itinerary recommendations for a 2 week Vietnam trip:

Sapa

Located in the North of Vietnam, Sapa is known for the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley. Please be aware, if you decide to travel to Sa Pa it is recommended to take malaria tablets.

Hue

In Hue you will find Hue is the Imperial City, which is the enormous compound where the emperors lived and ruled their lands from.

Da Lat

The hill town of Da Lat has long been the most popular location in the region for getaway holidays since French colonial times – many people call it ‘Le Petit Paris.

2 weeks in Vietnam – What to pack for backpacking Vietnam

Okay, so you have planned your route around Vietnam and hopefully, everywhere you are going to stay. Now you need to pack. Of course, you are going to need comfy travelling clothes which are also going to keep you cool in the ultimate  Vietnamese heat, but what about the absolute essentials? Here is a quick summary of the absolute essentials you need to bring to on your trip to Vietnam.

Jungle formula mosquito spray: There are tons of mosquitos in Vietnam, especially in Halong Bay. Do not ruin your trip, your photos and potentially your health but skimping on cheap bug spray. I always use Jungle formula wherever I go, it is expensive but it is one of the best.

Reef-Safe Sunscreen: In Phu Quoc there are a ton of opportunities to go diving and snorkelling. We need to remember to be responsible tourists. Help preserve that reef by wearing reef-safe biodegradable sunscreen when you go swimming or snorkelling. Many sunscreens are not reef safe and contain chemicals which are harmful to the reefs and the creatures which live in them. Reef-safe suncream is formulated to be safe to the oceans. Some places such as Mexico and Hawaii will not let you in the ocean without a reef-safe sunscreen, and if you are on an organised tour will check, so invest in a decent, safe suncream.

Reusable stainless steel straw:  Vietnam is notorious for single-use plastic waste. Continuing with the responsible tourist theme, invest in a reusable straw, I invested in this one and it folds down compact and comes with pipe cleaners to ensure it stays clean. When you get back from your trip just pop it in Milton for an hour and it will be sterilised to use it at home as well.

Trespass 45L backpack: As you are going to travelling around I recommend a backpack over a suitcase. It is easier when moving in and out of cars and boats. When you are moving between hotels you can quickly chuck it on your back. I use a 45L litre backpack, which is one of the smaller side but works for a two-week trip, invest in a good brand such as Trespass and it will last you well, here my review of the Trespass Inverary 45L Rucksack. If you are using a top-loading backpack then packing cubes are essential. In fact, I use packing cubes on every trip now regardless of whether I use a backpack or a suitcase.

How much should I budget for two weeks in Vietnam?

Out of the countries I have visited in South East Asia, so far I have found Vietnam to be the cheapest. The average cost of meal for one in restaurant in Vietnam is around £4-6, with street food costing as little as £1.

I spent two weeks in Vietnam and spent roughly £700 including excursions, shopping and scuba diving (all accommodation and  flights were bought before arriving in Vietnam – including international flights, the cost around £800 each). Therefore the total I spent was around £1500, it is possible to do it for much cheaper than, however this is what I budgeted for the trip and therefore was happy to spend it.

If you are looking for cheaper alternatives, there are many hostels in Vietnam and you may opt to travel by trains through the country rather than flight (However, it is important to weigh this up with time management.)

I also decided to fly into Ho Chi Minh and out through Hanoi to save on travelling time – however, this obviously meant an increased international flight cost. Again, weigh up the times versus cost when deciding on your options.

Safety in Vietnam for travellers

I never once felt unsafe when travelling in Vietnam, if anything the people are the most welcoming and friendly I have met across South East Asia so far.

I did have some anxiety issues in Hanoi but this was only because it was too busy for me at times. I can be incredibly sensitive to noise, and I believe the combination of moped noise, busy streets and heat at times became slightly too much for me, but never once did I feel unsafe in any part of Vietnam.

For context, I travelled with just my boyfriend, we opted to stay in budget hotels and we had evenings where we were out late and would walk back to our hotels as opposed to using taxis.

What is Vietnam like for Vegetarians?

Like a lot of South East Asia, vegetarian food is easily accessible in Vietnam. They cook with a lot of Tofu and when cooked in with lemongrass you get some really amazing flavours. Of course, Vietnamese Spring Rolls are incredible.  I did not struggle at all with eating while in Vietnam, however, I did find it difficult to find a good Vegetarian Pho.

Be aware a lot of Vietnamese dishes are cooked in fish or meat broth, just mention you are vegetarian and many will understand, alternatively look for the words ‘Com Chay’ on a menu which means vegetarian.

Vietnam is a beautiful country, with even more beautiful people, at all times I felt completely safe and welcome. If you want to know any more about planning a two-week trip to Vietnam please feel free to contact me.

Looking To Travel More Within Your Annual Leave?

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12 Comments

  1. November 9, 2016 / 5:16 pm

    We went to Saigon a few years back – it was crazy but amazing at the same time.

  2. Cristina
    January 22, 2017 / 12:26 pm

    Wonderful post. Could you give an estimate on how much you guys did spend and what period of the year you went for holidays. Looking forward hearing from u soon x

    • Sam
      Author
      January 23, 2017 / 8:22 pm

      Hi! We visited in November, so just before busy season! I think in total for flights ( internal and external) and accomodation we paid around £600 each – these were hotels not hostels, and this also included the halong bay cruise. I think spending money wise, probably around £500 each? Eating in restaurants, alcohol, souviners etc. If you have any further questions please feel free to email me 🙂

  3. January 27, 2017 / 11:30 am

    For the Halong Bay tours leaving from Hanoi do you get much time to take pictures and to that viewpoint where you took your picture above? Do you also sleep on the ferry?

    Finally would a two day tour include leaving on 1 day and return on day 2 or is it more like 3-4 days including travel from Hanoi?

    Thanks for your help! 🙂

  4. Katherine
    April 1, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    Great post, the links especially the route planner! We are heading there on Thursday, I can’t wait. 🙂

  5. April 6, 2017 / 9:44 am

    Thank you for a fantastic and helpful post! Vietnam is next on my places to visit and like you, I need to squeeze it into my annual leave allowance at work. I also enjoy planning all my holidays myself! This will help me when I come to planning my Vietnam trip 🙂

  6. AUbrey
    April 28, 2017 / 3:52 am

    Hi!! Awesome, informative post! Just wondering about the visa situation, I don’t need a visa if Im only staying for 15 days? No matter what country you’re from? (I’m from the US and my partner is from Australia). Thank you so much!! 😀

  7. Elizabeth
    August 6, 2017 / 11:14 pm

    Hi! Thank you so much for posting this. What would you recommend for transportation between each site? My boyfriend and I fly into HCM at the end of November and we’re currently trying to plan our itinerary!

    • Sam
      Author
      August 12, 2017 / 7:29 am

      Hi Elizabeth, it really depends on how much time you have, if you are short of time (2 weeks) then fly however if time is not an issue I would recommend train to really get more of an experience. Have a wonderful time!

  8. Cora
    December 8, 2017 / 2:29 am

    How did you handle the language barrier? Do many people speak English there? We generally go with a tour when we visit non-English soeaking countries because I’m always unsure how I would communicate without a guide who speaks the language.

  9. Lana
    February 10, 2018 / 9:05 pm

    Thank you for such an informative post. I have a few questions I hope you will be able to help me with if that’s ok? 1) Do you recommend a suitcase or backpack for the same itinerary minus Sapa? 2) We were looking at the luxury boats for the Halong Bay tour, would you recommend they be booked in advanced? 3) Do you know if it would be possible to get the tour bus from Hanoi to Halong Bay, but then return to Haiphong instead? 4) What time roughly do the 1 night Halong Bay tours generally finish? Thank you so much in advanced.

  10. Gail
    May 28, 2018 / 10:42 pm

    It was so fun to find your post as we’ve been to VietNam three times and also stayed at Thanh Kieu In 2005. It was great to read that it still seemed relatively undeveloped! We enjoyed the wonderful beach there though the massage ladies were warring over territory at the time. When we were there there was a wonderful beach restaurant right below our room that everyone was trekking to. It was owned by locals and had the BEST beach food anywhere ever.

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