This is my 2 week Vietnam Itinerary when, in July 2015, I took my first backpacking trip to Asia. It was my first time setting foot in Asia. It was fantastic to see their culture with my own eyes. I had heard so much about how wonderful Vietnam was from friends and family who had been and I really wanted to go. I saw for myself its crazy bustling roads and the manic nightlife that is great to be a part of. One thing that stood out was how caring and helpful the locals are. The Lonely Planet has named them the friendliest country in the world, and I would have to agree!
I am very fussy with my foods and when in Vietnam you have to go out your comfort zone. I tried Pho and many other delicious dishes for the first time ever. I’m sure I ate dog without knowing!! I tried the cheapest beer I have ever had for 20p, at Bia Hoi. I witnessed some weird things and breath-taking scenery Vietnam in my 17 days there. I had just enough time to see all the best places Vietnam has to offer, as I crammed in as much as possible to see and do while backpacking Vietnam in 2 and a bit weeks.
I spent more than 3 hours researching what the top travel bloggers had done on their trip to Vietnam. I also asked my friends and family members who went about what I should do, see and stay. The best thing about this Itinerary is that when I got to my first hostel, the manager who local who has lived all over Vietnam, reviewed the Itinerary and provided us with an even better breakdown of how we should utilize our time in Vietnam.
Here then is my recommended 2-week grand tour of Vietnam along with costs, hostel and hotel recommendation, and links to each place. You won’t need another Itinerary – this covers everything you need to have the best Vietnam Holiday ever. If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to ask me in the comment box below.
A QUICK SUMMARY of each place:
Ho Chi Minh: Is the biggest city in Vietnam, used to be called Saigon–things to see: Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta, Floating Markets and Vietnam War museum.
Dalat: Interior small city with pine forests, lakes and waterfalls
Nha Trang: Beaches, Diving sites, and Offshore Islands
Hoi An: Shopping for handmade suits & Beach, Old town and Hai Van Pass
Hue: Endless UNESCO World Heritage slights
Phong Nha: Caves and National Park
Ha Long Bay: 2 Night Boat Trip and it is a UNESCO World Heritage
Sapa: 2 Night Sapa Trek
Hanoi: Shopping (great place to buy Vietnamese coffee), Lake
One week in Vietnam Breakdown
Day 1 Arrive In Ho Chi Minh City
Most people start in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon ). We arrived there at 5 pm. local time. The flight cost us £555 each return, cheap to book three months before departure. If you book more in advance you can get tickets for around £450.
We got a free shuttle bus to our Hostel thankfully. The hotel we stayed at was Saigon Central Hostel, costing £10 a night in the heart of the nightlife/party district 1. They sent us an email a day earlier with the time and place to meet the driver. It was only a 30-minute drive from the airport to get to the hostel.
The staff at the hostel were very kind and helpful and helped with our Itinerary. They were adding local knowledge to it to make the trip even more spectacular. We spent the first night exploring a few bars and finding out how spicy the food is and just taking in the surroundings and the vibe of being in Vietnam.
We booked two tours at the hostel but I would not advise doing this as they were quite expensive. The Cu Chi tunnels and Mekong Delta Tour came out to around £60 but was still wonderful–not to be missed if you can get it cheaper than we did!
Day 2 Cu Chi Tunnels and War Museum
The Cu Chi Tunnels tour started with an 8 am to pick up our tour guide. Cu Chi Tunnels is a huge network of underground tunnels that were made during the Vietnam War to hide the movement of Vietnamese Soldiers (Viet Cong). The tunnels supplied hospitals, food and even schools and universities in the tunnels. The tour is very informative and you get to experience being in one of the tunnels and seeing the traps they made and lots more wonderful things. The tour also comes with lunch that is included.
We got back around 2 pm and were got dropped off at the war museum which cost us only like £1.50 entry free and had Tanks and airplanes that were used in the War and lots of information about the war and even stories from people who lived through the Vietnam War.
Day 3 Mekong Delta Tour
Next, we did a day trip to the Mekong Delta. Leaving at 8 am we stopped to pick up two others for the tour. This tour offers a private bus with a tour guide who provided factual information about the areas as we drove past.
The ride was about 3 hours long. We had a pit stop and the tour guide said: “This is the happy time” that means we were being given a toilet break! He then took us to a local shop that makes ornaments and plates from a special type of crystal found in the ocean nearby.
Once we got to Mekong Delta, our tour started off with a boat ride around the Mekong Delta and then stopped at three places. One of the places was where they make bricks and we got to see how all the houses are made. At another stop, they showed us where they make coconut sweets, a popular local sweet, and again we saw how they make were made. The last stop was at a carpet factory.
With this tour, we were provided with a free lunch of the local catfish – very tasty. Then the tour finished off with a quick bike ride around, and then on a Vietnamese longboat taking us back to the bus.
We got back to the hostel at 5 pm, washed up and then went in search of a lovely Pho for dinner and, afterward, on to explore what the nightlife has to offer. At midnight, we hopped onto the magical “night bus” which would take us through the night to Dalat. The night bus has wonderful beds that let you can crash out while covering miles! It only cost £5 for a 6 and half hour ride and has WIFI (but ask at the start of the journey because once he’s driving that’s it!!)!
Day 4 Da Lat
We arrived in Dalat at 7 am with 10 hours until our next bus. We went to get breakfast but everything was still closed. Yet we soon found a sandwich place which makes Banh Mi that is a sandwich filled with meat (chicken or beef )or without meat and some type of sauce, lettuce, and cucumber. It is very spicy, even if you ask for it not to be spicy it still is! But its nice.
We took a cable cart to a temple that was called Truc Lam Pagoda. Then went for food and had Vietnamese Pho and then explored on our own for a bit and then headed back to the bus station to get the bus to Nha Trang.
Day 5 Nha Trang
We left Da Lat at 5 pm and arrived in Nha Trang at 9 pm to meet up with some backpackers. Together we went out to explore the nightlife of Nha Trang which is a thriving a beach resort. I can’t remember the Hostel we stayed at for the life of me but was a very close walk to the beach.
Day 6 Beach day and mud bath
We had a relaxing day at the beach where you can buy fresh crab for £2!
We then went for a Mud Bath, but I warn you, to get to the mud bath you have to drive outside the town! It is in a hotel and could have been better, but was still relaxing and good for the skin. Then we got back to get the bus at 6 pm to Hoi an
Day 7 Hoi An Shopping
The bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An is about 12 hours long and cost around £5 and is the longest bus journey of them all. We arrived in Hoi An at 6 am.
We walked to the hostel that was about 20 minutes walk away. It was called Phuong Nam Hotel & Camp Villa and cost us under £10 for a private room. It is now a 4-star hostel/ hotel and prices have gone up if you on the web.
Our rooms won’t ready for us, so we went to the pool and relaxed until they were done and then rented out bikes for the first time. This cost around £4 a day and you can travel to any town and just drop them off at a moped rental shop.
We went shopping to get a suite handmade and the great thing about them is that you can pick what material and colors you want and they measure you. If like me, you were leaving town the next day, they can have it made for you by the next morning and even post it to your home if you want.
Later that night we went for dinner at Hoi An Old Town that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I highly recommend going there. It’s awesome!!
Vietnam Itinerary 2 weeks breakdown (week 2)
Day 8 Up early for Hai Van Pass and arriving in Hue
They provided us with free breakfast, but do get there before 8 am or most of the food will be gone. We got ready and on to our moped at 9 am to drive to Hue. You need to see Hai Van Pass in the daylight and it is about 6 hours’ drive to Hue. The moped rental company we used collected our backpacks and drove them to our next hostel, it was safe and they did not steal anything and the bags had not been opened.
Hai Van Pass is the famous road that you can read more about on my Vietnam Hoi An post. Along the Hai van Pass, there are lots of different monuments and places to see. But you should not drive in the dark so we only stopped at one place called element falls a waterfall that was great for cooling down. We arrived at Hue at around 6 pm.
The bad thing about the app is that sometimes they don’t communicate with the hostels and check to see if they actually have a free room before you book, but they might have fixed the problem now.
Day 9 Exploring what Hue has to offer?
For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the hostel I booked in Hue. (Anyway, blame the nightlife!!). But this hostel was the worst one of the trip, as there was bedbugs or some type of bug on our beds and food under the beds. As you will arrive at night time that is the time to explore the city.
Day 10 exploring Museums in Hue
Hue was once the Capital of Vietnam about 150 years ago so it has lots of history. The one place to visit is the Imperial City as that was where the emperor lived. It is a walled palace.
One place I wish I had gone to was the abandoned water park but I only found out about it a year later! It is located on the outskirts of Ho Thuy Tien Lake. The park has been closed since 2004. when it ran out of money to be kept open. You can ride there on a moped or get a taxi for 1500,00VND/ £4.41. There is apparently a dude at the front asking for you to pay for entry free but it is free to enter and explore.
Later that day we took a bus at 5 pm to Phong Nha and the journey is only 4 hours long. We booked another amazing hostel using hostelworld.com. We Stayed in Phong Nha Lake House Resort. It is now a 3-star hotel. For £37 a night.
Day 11 explore Phong Nha Caves
We set off at 10 am to find the caves. The one disadvantage is that there are no signs to the ticketing office, It took us 1 hour to find it. There are so many different caves. The cave we went into was called Phong Nha Cave costing 150 000 vnd/£4.84. That is the only cave you are allowed to walk around in. It includes a boat ride to get to the cave and back. It is only around 1-hour long tour of the cave.
We got back at around 4 pm to chill by the pool and pack our bags to get the night bus to Hanoi -the bus left at 8 pm and the ride was 10 hours long.
Day 12 Arrive in Hanoi
We arrived in Hanoi at 7 am and booked a room in Vietnam Backpackers hostel – they have a few other hostels dotted around Vietnam. It cost £6.29 a night and is a very lively hostel.
As we arrived before 12 pm we won’t allowed in our rooms yet. The hostel offers a 1 hour and a half walking tour of Hanoi that I recommend you go on and it is once a day at 9 is. The guide tells you about every street.
We used this day to book up our Halong Bay and Sapa trips. We booked the Halong bay through the hostel as they do a special trip on their private island in Halong Bay a party trip.
The tour is HA LONG BAY AND CASTAWAYS ISLAND 3 DAYS 2 NIGHTS for £147. It is a bit pricey, you can shop around and probably find one cheaper. We booked the Sapa Homestay when we heard from other backpackers we meet who had already done it and said it was great.
Day 13 Sapa 2 nights 1 day Trip
We arrived in Sapa at 7 am, the bus journey was around 6 hours and then we meet our tour guide for the next 2 days.
She took us to the hotel. where we were meant to be staying at on the second night. We did the homestay for 2 nights instead of 1. We left most of our stuff in a locked room as we had a 5 hours walk to get to the homestay which is a demanding 12km trek through the rice terraces, hills, and local villages. One tip is to ask your homestay to help you get gifts, as they can buy the items cheaply. Don’t get them from the woman and children who come up to you selling.
We arrived at our homestay at around 3 pm and then relaxed from the long walk. We had a traditional meal with the host of Vietnamese noodles, rice, and beef and helped to make Vietnamese spring rolls for dinner. The homestay cost around £20 per person per night and was amazing. It did not include the bus tickets but we got them for £5 each way.
We had a relaxing day. We started off with mountains of pancakes made for us for breakfast. Before we started our short trek at 10 am, we went to a mini waterfall. We then went to a mountainside restaurant where we had lunch.
Later that night we had a great dinner. Then chatted with the lovely family who hosted us and saw the breath-taking sunset on Fansipan Mountain (Sapa). They gave us some homemade rice wine to try and it was very strong.
Day 15 Back to Hanoi
We woke up at 6 am to have breakfast and then head off on our own to Sapa town to the hostel. We picked up our bags and get the bus back to Hanoi. The walk back was only around 2 hours long, We got our bus at around 4 pm and to our amazement, it was not a normal bus.
The bus company we booked the tickets with booked us one of the private buses for the same prices as the sleeper buses £5. Find out more about the bus in the Sapa article. We got back to Hanoi at around 8 pm to then go out clubbing.
Relevant article: Hanoi train street
Day 16 Off to Halong Bay
We left the hostel at 7 am to walk to the buses for the 5 hours journey that included a boat ride to Ct Bay Island and then another boat ride to Castaway Island.
They say you are not allowed to bring alcohol, as the Castaway has its own Bar. But as they don’t search your bags, you can bring drinks without them knowing. Later that day they offered a choice of three activities – you pick which one you want while booking the trip. They were a dingy ride, rock climbing, or wakeboarding. Then we just relaxed on the beach and had a few (many) drinks.
Day 16 Boat ride and kayaking around Halong Bay
We then got the boat ride around Halong Bay. The boat party started at 9 am till 2 pm. It included fresh fish that was caught on the day for lunch. Then the rest of the day is relaxing on the private beach.
There are three different ways to explore Ha long bay. Firstly, stay in a hostel/hotel in Cat Bay Island and then pay a fisherman to take you around Ha long bay which is a very cheap way. Secondly is to take a cruise for 2 nights and 3 days. Thirdly, for those looking to go out with a bang like we did, then Castaway is more of a party place with its boat party around Ha Long Bay. Castaway Island has free Kayaks you can use at any time during the day but not night time.
Day 18 Back to Hanoi
We had breakfast and then headed back. This was our travel back to Hanoi day. We got the boat back to Cat Bay Island (30 minutes) and then a bus to Hanoi (around 3 hours). Then we chilled and partied our last night in Vietnam before we head back to the UK the next day.
Day 19 Going Home
We had a lie in and then checked out the hostel at 12 pm. Then we went out shopping to get all the gifts for everyone and our selves. We got a taxi to the airport to fly back down to Ho Chi Minh, The flight cost only about £30 with Vietjet Air. The reviews are bad, but the staff at the hostel said they are ok for just a 2-hour flight. The plan got us to Ho Chi Min on time to get our plane home.
Top Tip for Vietnam:
- Overnight buses are comfortable and clean. They come with free Wi-Fi. You need to ask the bus driver before you get on what the password is. You’ll also save yourself a night’s accommodation by taking one depending on how long the journey is.
- You don’t need to get a sim card. As there is WI-FI in all the hates/hostels, bars and on the buses. It is not the best Wi-Fi. You can use Whatsapp to call anyone for free in any Country.
- Be aware of your surroundings. I heard from other friends and travelers – you can get mugged. Also, there are pickpocketers, especially on the moped taxis. They will rob you and leave you in the street.
Why need to know about Uber and Grab Vietnam
Any questions on our Vietnam itinerary? Ask us in the comments below!