The Ultimate Two Week Vietnam Itinerary

by | Dec 20, 2016 | Asia Pacific, Blog, Latest Posts, Travel Itinerary, Vietnam

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With our Vietnam trip fast approaching we set to work to plan a perfect two week itinerary which would give us the opportunity to see as much of the incredible country as possible. Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue and Ha Long Bay were our destinations of choice as we embarked on our journey through Vietnam. Our itinerary worked out perfectly over the two weeks and we loved every second. For all you Vietnam trip planners: here’s our ultimate Vietnam itinerary to get you on your way!

 

Our Ultimate Two Week Vietnam Itinerary

We started and ended our Vietnam trip in Ho Chi Minh and we opted to travel in a loop through the country squeezing in as many must see sights as possible. Our two weeks saw us stay in 4 Vietnamese cities, visit 4 UNESCOs and make countless journeys in boats, buses, cars, taxis and trains!

Vietnam itinerary tip: We love a jam packed schedule but, if you prefer a slower travel pace, this itinerary easily expands to 3 weeks or one month by taking in more day/overnight trips or spending a little longer at each destination.

Our two week Vietnam route:

Ho Chi Minh –> Hue –> Hai Van Pass –> Hoi An –> Hanoi –> Ha Long Bay/Sapa –> Ho Chi Minh

vietnam

 

Sim Card & Internet

One of the best purchases you can make for your trip to Vietnam is to buy/rent a sim card or 4G hotspot. We use the Klook app and you can order your Sim card in advance and pick-up at the airport when you land

Click here for the best sim cards

 

Travel Insurance

Hopefully, you’ll never need to make a claim, but if you do, it’s essential to have a travel insurance policy with a reliable and straightforward claims process. We personally use World Nomads insurance on our travels as it’s one of the best on the market

You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home.

Click here for a quote now

 

Days 1 and 2: Ho Chi Minh 

After a long day of flying from Dublin to Dubai to Ho Chi Minh we arrived in Vietnam in need of a good sleep and checked into the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon where we spent our first few nights. We took a taxi from the airport and arrived at the hotel within 30 minutes of jumping in the taxi!

Vietnam itinerary tip: Our two weeks in Vietnam began and ended in Ho Chi Minh and we spent a few days at each end of the trip exploring the city and its surroundings. We opted to fly in and out of Ho Chi Minh as the flight prices were much lower than Hanoi coming from Europe.

The views from our room at the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon!

The views from our room at the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon!

We spent the next day exploring the best Ho Chi Minh sights from the historical War Remnants museum and the Reunification Palace to the bustling Binh Tay Market and the equally stunning Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. Our evening was spent at the famous water puppet show and eating awesome Vietnamese food over some local beers.

Vietnam itinerary tip: The two most reliable taxi companies are the white and green Mai Linh taxis and the white Vinasun taxis. Make sure the driver switches on the meter.

 

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh

  • Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon: beautiful rooms and fantastic rooftop swimming pool, great luxury option which we enjoyed – check latest prices here!
  • Beautiful Saigon 3: more budget friendly option. Clean with great accommodation and a fantastic location in the heart of the thriving backpacking district – check latest prices here!

Click here for the best Ho Chi Minh Hotel prices

 

Ho Chi Minh Sightseeing

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Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

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The chaotic Binh Tay Market

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The Water Puppets

 

Day 3: Day trip from Ho Chi Minh to Mekong Delta/Cu Chi Tunnels

If you have an extra day to spend in Ho Chi Minh the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi tunnels are two amazing day trip adventures that are a worthwhile addition to any Vietnam itinerary.

Cruising along the waterways of the Mekong Delta where the mighty Mekong River approaches the sea alongside boats, houses and floating markets while surrounded by lush greens, rice fields and local life is a unique Vietnam experience – check tour prices here!

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a huge network of underground tunnels which were prominent during the Vietnam war – they were used to hide Viet Cong soldiers and housed communications, supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon stores. It’s possible to enter one of the tunnels which has been enlarged for tourists – check tours prices here!

Click here to book a day trip from Ho Chi Minh

 

Day 4: Fly to Hue

It’s time to fly up to the glorious ancient capital of Hue (check out our must see sights from our day in Hue here) and spend a day exploring the banks of the Perfume River. Our time in Hue was filled with pagodas, tombs and the Citadel and our evening with pho and river antics! Parts of Hue make up a UNESCO World Heritage sites and our favourite moment was hanging out with the locals at the Thanh Toan covered bridge and embracing the Vietnam countryside!

 

Where to stay in Hue

  • Eldora Hotel: our Hue choice! An excellent hotel with elegant rooms and a lovely rooftop pool. They even saved the day when we were abandoned at Da Nang airport by a local transport company – check latest prices here!
  • Hotel La Perle: amazing budget choice in central location with spacious and clean rooms and excellent service – check latest prices here!
  • Scarlett Boutique Hotel: small hotel in a good location with clean rooms and great breakfast – check latest prices here!

Click here for the best Hue Hotel prices

 

Hue Sightseeing

Check out our post on things to do in Hue – click here to read

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Thien Mu Pagoda

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The Perfume River

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The Imperial City, UNESCO fun!

A day in Hue Vietnam must see sights (18)

Thanh Toan covered bridge

 

Day 5: Hoi Van Pass to Hoi An

One full day in Hue is just the right amount of time to see all the major sites so set off for Hoi An early the next day travelling via the Hai Van Pass. The ocean cloud pass is a beautiful description of the drive between Hue and Hoi An (check out our Hai Van Pass adventures in more detail here!). We were in awe of the stunning beaches, incredible views, miles of ocean and maze of twisty roads and a stop at the Marble Mountains allowed us to indulge in some Buddha spotting and incense burning. The drive between Hue and Hoi An is one of the many highlights of Vietnam – click here for Hai Van Pass tours

Click here to book a Hai Van Pass tour

Hai Van Pass sightseeing

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Local life at a fishing village en route to Hoi An

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Miles of ocean on the Hai Van Pass

The Marble Mountains

The Marble Mountains

 

Day 6 and Day 7: Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam so it’s worth scheduling a few days to explore and this will also allow you to take advantage of the booming clothing industry and pick up some hand made clothes (allow some extra days if you are planning on adding to your wardrobe). We were excited to arrive and it quickly became one of our favourite Vietnam gems. Hoi An is frozen in time and it’s fantastic to wander through the lantern lined streets of the UNESCO ancient town (UNESCO number 2, yay!). Crammed full of bicycles, tailors and souvenir shops we were in awe of the simpleness of life and our Hoi An days flew by.

Vietnam itinerary tip: every month Hoi An celebrates a Full Moon Lantern festival on the 14th day of each lunar month. The electricity and lights are switched off in the Old Town, motorcycles are banned and candle lit lanterns light up the river and the town (read about our night at the Lantern Festival here and our guide to the festival with dates here). It is incredible and well worth scheduling your Hoi An visit to coincide with the festival!

Where to Stay in Hoi An

Click here for the best Hoi An Hotel prices

 

Hoi An sightseeing

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The iconic Japanese Bridge in Hoi An

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The streets of Hoi An

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Posing at the ancient wall

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So many tailors!

 

Day 8: Half Day trip from Hoi An to My Son

Hoi An provides the opportunity chance to visit another UNESCO site, the stunning My Son, a collection of Hindu temples dating back as far as the 4th century. The lush jungle setting only adds to its allure and the bombed ruins are like a mini version of Angkor Wat. Our morning spent exploring My Son felt a million miles away from normal life and we loved every second of it – check My Son tour prices here

Click here to book a half day trip to My Son

My Son:

The ruins at My Son

The ruins at My Son

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UNESCO time!

 

Days 9 and 10: Hanoi

Leave Hoi An and fly from Da Nang to Hanoi to spend some time in the Vietnam’s capital and explore the North of the country. The Old Quarter of Hanoi was our favourite part of the city with it’s mix of chaotic alleys, local street sellers and quaint bars marked by tiny stools on the streets. The energy of Hanoi is incredible and our favourite game was spotting the craziest scooter cargo: trees, pigs and multiple family members were the clear winners!

 

Where to stay in Hanoi

Hanoi Old Quarter is an amazing part of Hanoi to stay in and we tried two excellent hotels either side of our Ha Long Bay trip.

Click here for the best Hanoi hotel prices

 

Hanoi Sightseeing

Hanoi's beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake: the lake of the Restored Sword

Hanoi’s beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake: the lake of the Restored Sword

The maze of Hanoi streets

The maze of Hanoi streets

Party time!

Party time!

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Hanoi barbers!

Your flowers match my shorts! Colourful Hanoi!

Your flowers match my shorts! Colourful Hanoi!

 

Days 11 and 12: Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is a 3.5 hour bus journey from Hanoi and Ha Long Bay trips set off mid afternoon via minibus (our cruise included return minibus transfers from Hanoi directly to the Ha Long Bay marina). The mystical waters of Ha Long Bay are almost movie like with the towering limestone islands jutting out of the emerald waters. Our cruise was excellent and we had so many incredible experiences: kayaking through the bay, swimming off the back of the boat, exploring Cat Ba Island, visiting a local floating village and descending into the Surprise Grotto at Sung Sot caves.

Booking a Ha Long Bay Cruise

After a huge amount of research into the various cruises, we opted to go on a 2 night/3 day cruise with Bhaya cruises, a luxury cruise operator on Halong Bay – check the latest prices here. Being able to book the Halong Bay cruises on booking.com is amazing and the prices were cheaper than what our Hanoi hotels quoted us. For all the details on what we did during our 3 day cruise read Halong Bay Cruise, Vietnam: cruising through the mythical waters of Halong Bay or for a review of Bhaya, check out our cruise round up here. Our cruise included transfers from Hanoi, meals and excursions to Cat Ba Island, kayaking through the Bay, a visit to a local floating village and a pearl farm as well as the beautiful Surprise Grotto at Sung Sot caves.

Other great Ha Long Bay cruise options are:

  • Halong Hoa Binh Cruise: excellent and reasonably priced option with great meals – check prices here!
  • Azalea Cruise: amazing luxury option, beautiful rooms and food – check prices here!
  • Bhaya Cruise: great luxury option with beautiful rooms and great activities – check prices here!

Click here to book a Ha Long Bay Cruise

 

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay

Chilling out at the floating village

Chilling out at the floating village

Local boats at Ha Long Bay

Local boats at Ha Long Bay

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island

 

Day 13: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi

With an evening return to Hanoi from Ha Long Bay it’s time to spend a chilled evening in the city taking in a puppet show and some Vietnamese beers!

Vietnam itinerary tip: The mountain town of Sapa, with its stunning hikes and incredible vantage point overlooking the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley is an excellent addition to a northern Vietnam itinerary or as an alternative to Ha Long Bay. Sapa is accessible by bus or train from Hanoi with overnight transport being a popular option.

 

Where to stay in Hanoi

Hanoi Old Quarter is an amazing part of Hanoi to stay in and we tried two excellent hotels either side of our Ha Long Bay trip.

Click here for the best Hanoi hotel prices

 

A final evening in Hanoi:

Hanoi puppets!

Hanoi puppets!

Reflecting: almost home time!

Reflecting: almost home time!

 

Day 14: Home time! Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh

Most international flights are cheaper from Ho Chi Minh and so we returned to southern Vietnam for our final night in the country. We opted for a scooter food tour which involved zipping about the city on the back of a scooter, an adventure in itself, and eating delicious Vietnamese food – check out the tour here

Click here to book a food tour

 

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh

  • Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon: beautiful rooms and fantastic rooftop swimming pool, great luxury option which we enjoyed – check latest prices here!
  • Beautiful Saigon 3: more budget friendly option. Clean with great accommodation and a fantastic location in the heart of the thriving backpacking district – check latest prices here!

Click here for the best Ho Chi Minh Hotel prices

 

The view from our bike! Braving the infamous Ho Chi Minh traffic on a scooter!

The view from our bike! Braving the infamous Ho Chi Minh traffic on a scooter!

Cruising through Hoi Chi Minh!

Cruising through Hoi Chi Minh!

 

Any questions on our Vietnam itinerary? Ask us in the comments below!

 

20 Comments

  1. Denis

    Very nice itinerary! We would definetely add Ninh Binh on it! Easy access from Hanoi it has great nature and the “terrestrial Halong Bay” =)

    Reply
  2. Rozeena

    Such a helpful and informative itinerary. Please could I ask you which bus service does one use to get from Hue to Hoi An? As I have 3 nights in Hue, but would like to perhaps spend one night in Hoi An.

    Reply
    • Elaine McArdle

      Hi Rozeena, we hired a car and driver so not sure on the bus options.

      Elaine

      Reply
      • Ana

        Hello,

        Can you send me the website or contact to hire the car and driver, please?

        Thank you

        Reply
        • Elaine

          Hi Ana

          We booked our cars through the hotels as we travelled.

          Elaine

          Reply
  3. Nhung Hoang

    Really nice place, Vietnam is place that is enjoyable and affordable for everyone.

    Reply
  4. Steve

    Heading to Vietnam with Wife and two teenage daughters in July so was really interested to read you itinerary. We have two weeks as well. Just wondering – did ye consider visiting Sapa at all?? I’m looking at ways to squeeze it in. Maybe spending less time somewhere else. What are your thoughts

    Reply
    • Elaine McArdle

      Hi Steve

      We did consider Sapa but opted for Ha Long Bay instead. We didn’t think we could squeeze in both in such a short time. You could cut some time in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi (I prefer Hanoi over Ho Chi Minh for what it’s worth!) and replace with Sapa. I loved Hue, Hoi An and UNESCO’s so they shaped our itinerary!

      Elaine

      Reply
  5. Kirsty

    How much did this cost you? Not including your flights?

    Reply
    • Elaine McArdle

      We spent around US $60 each per day outside Halong Bay Kirsty. The accommodation was less than $30 each for our double room and then we had food and drinks and the sightseeing – the biggest cost was our private cars across the Hai Van Pass, to My Son etc… so there’s definitely wiggle room depending on your budget.

      Elaine

      Reply
  6. Karen

    Loved your itinerary. What time of the year did you visit. We are looking at doing 2 weeks beginning of Dec. I’m aware that the weather is totally different from north to south and just wondering if we should leave out Hoi An due to heavy rain ??
    Any advice would be much appreciated.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Elaine McArdle

      Hi Karen

      We’ve visited a few times – twice over Jan/Feb and, on another occasion, in March. As far as I know, there’s been some flooding in December the last few years but I guess it’s hit and miss. It’s one of my favourite places in Vietnam (especially during the full moon festival) so it might be worth the risk – if you decide to go, book accommodation in an area where the floods aren’t likely to impact. I think An Bang and Cua Dai Beach are considered good options to avoid flooding.

      Elaine

      Reply
  7. Michele

    How did you get from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh?

    Reply
    • Elaine

      Hi Michelle, we flew back to Ho Chi Minh (I think it was Vietnam Airlines). On another occasion, we flew to Siem Reap and took the overnight buses – the Mekong Express bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh. We were stopping along the way in the cities.

      Elaine

      Reply
      • Catherine

        Hi, how did you find flying between the different places? Only have 2.5weeks and dont want to waste time on the long train journeys etc? Also what airlines did you use?

        Reply
        • Elaine

          Hi Catherine,

          I didn’t mind the flights, they were short and some of the airports quick to navigate. We used Vietnam Airlines.

          Elaine

          Reply
  8. Jenny

    Fantastic itinerary you have put together for people who are thinking of visiting. We are thinking about going over next year I am just a worried re spiders I have a bad phobia is there any areas you would avoid where you think there may be more or bigger spiders around laugh if you like but I like to do my research first before going away. My son is there at the minute and he said they were really big ? so I am a bit dubious about going
    Thanks jen

    Reply
    • Elaine

      Hi Jenny

      I don’t remember seeing a single spider. I guess you’d one to avoid things like the Cu Chi tunnels where there might be spiders but I really don’t think we say any throughout our trip.

      Hope that helps
      Elaine

      Reply
  9. Jim

    Would you recommend this itinerary with teenagers 14 and 17? With all the moving around what kind of luggage did you use?

    Reply
    • Elaine

      Hi Jim

      Yep, I’d recommend it for any ages. I did this route with my mum previously and then with Dave on a separate occasion and we all loved it. Backpack or roller bag is a good choice, it depends on how much public transport you use and need to carry it yourself.

      Elaine

      Reply

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