Detailed itinerary to Vietnam – North to South

By: Nofar Ronen

This guide shares details of the itinerary, how many days you should stay at each location, transportation, recommendations for accommodation, cool attractions, good restaurants, and tips & hacks that will come in handy. If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, then keep reading.

Recommended hotels in Vietnam - According to our own experience

Hanoi

If you are looking for a place that will cost you about $14 per night, then I recommend Hanoi Home Hotel.

If you’re traveling with a larger budget and can afford $50 per night, I recommend Romance Hotel.

Tam Coc

Chez Beo guesthouse.

Hoi An

Truc Huy Villa – a lovely 3 star hotel

Saigon

If you’re on low budget, we really liked Myhotel. A higher class hotel: Liberty Central Saigon Riverside.

Hanoi

Hanoi is a crazy city, but that’s the amazing thing about it. If you’re street food lovers, then this is the place to be.

How long should you stay? 3-5 days. The food the crazy chaos, and the cool attractions are awesome.

Where should you stay? If you are looking for a place that will cost you about $14 per night, then I recommend Hanoi Home Hotel.

If you’re traveling with a larger budget and can afford $50 per night, I recommend Romance Hotel.

Both hotels are great and are located on allies so there’s no noise at night.

Attractions in Hanoi

I wrote a detailed post about things to do in Hanoi. Click HERE to read about them.

Recommendations for Food in Hanoi

  • The original egg coffee. I know it sounds weird. But it’s really good. Address: 39 Nguyen huu huan.
  • Pho – Vietnamese soup.
  •  10 Ly Quoc su
  • 65 Lan ong str
  • bat dan 49 – open only on the morning
  • Cha Ca – another great dish with fish. The price is a bit higher than the rest but you should give it a try at least once. Address: Cha ca 14
  • Bun Mi – Hanoi has a lot of good sandwiched in baguettes, and you should try one at this address: Hang ca 25.
  • Bun Cha – this is a dish that is serves a lot in street food. It’s amazing and addictive, so beware. You should try it, I never got disappointed.
  • Bánh cuốn – this is a rice crepe that is filled with beef or chicken. It’s extremely good. Address: hang bo 68 open for dinner only.

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Tam Coc

Tam Coc is a beautiful town with a lot of rice fields, mountains, and stunning views.

How long should you stay? 

3-4 days or longer. The views, the hikes and bike riding, and you can spend hours at just relaxation.

How to get there?

  • Tourist bus
  • Tourist trip from Hanoi. I am personally not a fan of organized tourist trips. When you are going to places by yourselves and you are the boss.
  • Local bus.

I recommend going for the local bus because the drive is about 2 hours and costs $3 per person. The tourist bus costs about 4 times more than that.

Where you should stay?

  • If you’re into touristy places with restaurants and bars then you can stay at the touristy area of Tam Coc. I actually don’t have a recommendation for a specific place to stay at.
  • If you like nature, and if you enjoy waking up and seeing a gorgeous view, then I recommend sleeping at Chez Beo, which is a really nice guesthouse with a lovely view.

To read more about Tam Coc, Click HERE.

Sapa

Sapa is a perfect town for those of you who love hikes. It has plenty of magical views.

How long should you stay?

At least 3 days. The views and treks are unbeatable, you also get to explore of Vietnamese old traditions and feel like you traveled back in time.
How to get to Sapa?

  • You can book a planned trip from Hanoi that includes a train or bus ride and sleeping at a hotel or at a home stay. As I already mentioned, we don’t really like this idea. You go on super touristy treks and sleeping at standard places. The local guides barely get paid and you don’t really get an authentic experience. I recommend going to Sapa on your own and not with a group. Maybe you want to spend some time with new people, so in that case, you should do it, but keep in mind that the experience won’t be authentic.
  • Tourist bus of 6 hours – the bus leaves Hanoi at 7am and you will get to Sapa at around 1pm. It’s about $11-14, depends on which company. We picked the more expensive one, and we had a really nice ride. We ordered before we knew there were cheaper companies, and I assume that they were nice as well.  
  • Night train – It leaves Hanoi at around 9pm and arrives at 6am to Lao Cai and once you get there you’ll need to take a taxi of another 40 minute ride. The train ride is about $25-35 per person. Depends on the kind of car you’re riding.
  • Night Bus – Costs about $10. I actually never went on a night bus because I’d rather ride during the day. It’s more safe that way.

The advantages of taking a night bus or train is that you get to Sapa early in the morning and save money by not going to a hotel that night. If you don’t mind getting there in the afternoon then I recommend the express bus.

Attractions – Trekking in Sapa

If you’ve made it to Sapa, then you should find a local guide to take you on a 2-3 day trek, or even just one day. I recommend going on both.

  • Go to the church area – this is a central area in Sapa, where there are a lot of guides you could just turn to and ask for some help. Then will most likely approach you when you get there.
  • Google recommendations for guides and call them. We went for that option. We found Nu, who is a lovely and humble woman. We went on the hikes with her and we slept in her house. It was one of our most unique experiences of the entire trip and one of the most delicious. Nu is an amazing cook. If you want more details, just click here and visit the website sapadaytour.

Sleeping accommodations: Home stay at our guide, of course.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of the Seven Wonders, and it is indeed a beautiful place. A lot of companies make tours to get there. You can choose to go on a 3-day trip with 2-night stay on a boat, and you can also go for the other option, which is a night on the boat and a night at a hotel. You can also get there by yourselves. You have to get to Cat Ba Island and from take a tour that doesn’t include sleeping, at around $15. It suits those who travel on a low budget.

About 2 years ago I did the 3 day tour – one night on the boat and one night on the island. Since I didn’t really like the guide nor the people, it’s hard to recommend the company I went with. There are plenty of other companies, and it’s also a matter of luck what kind of people you meet. My recommendation is to not go for the cheapest tour, because you could get a lousy boat and really bad food. Look for something intermediate and even invite some people you’ve met to go with you, so you’ll at least have some good company.

Hoi An

Hoi An is a dreamy vacation town. Some people go to Pong Ne, which is a beautiful cave area, but sadly I didn’t get the chance to go.

How long should you stay?

3-5 days. There is a beach, some nice hotels, and magical vibes you won’t find anywhere else.

How to get to Hoi An?

  • A train to Danang and from there a taxi to Hoi An.
  • A flight to Danang and a taxi to Hoi An.

We’ve been there twice, and both times we flew over. It was so much faster, and it is actually cheaper. If you know your flying date then you should book as soon as possible, because it will make the cost a lot cheaper. I like the website Kiwi to look at flights, it makes it really easy to look.
For some recommendations of Hoi An, you can read the post of the top 10 things to do in Hoi An by Clicking HERE.

Dalat

There are a few options to continue the itinerary after reaching Danang. You can either take a train or a bus to Nha Trang, which is a beautiful beaches area. I heard it’s pretty expensive and that they are trying to take advantage of tourists, but I haven’t been so therefore I have no opinion nor recommendations.

You can also fly to Dalat, or either take 2 buses. Dalat is a French-style town. It’s super beautiful and there are a lot of nice attractions. 2 years ago we stayed just for one night because we had a planned trip the next morning. We got picked up on motorcycles through a great company called Easy Rider.

You can go on a trip from a single day or even 3+. We really enjoyed the 3-day trip. They took us to beautiful and non-touristy places. We went to see waterfalls, flower fields, silk factory, coffee factory, and more.

The trip is about $200 per person, and that was 2 years ago so I’m not sure about today. The price includes sleeping accommodations, entry to places, and actually everything but food. When you eat locally then the prices are really cheap. Since we didn’t have a budget for this trip this time, we went from Danang straight to Saigon on a direct flight.

Saigon

Saigon is a large, modern city, with bars, restaurants, and nice hotels.

How long should you stay?

2-3days. The food is great, the nightlife, and some areas feel like you’re in New York.

Accommodations in Saigon

  • If you’re looking for something that is low-budget, then I recommend going to Myhotel. It’s a small and new hotel, which is a big advantage. It’s really clean and the service is kind. The cost is $15 per night for a small room. The hotel is located in a great location, it’s right where all the backpackers go to, but on a side alley so it’s not noisey.
  • If you’re traveling on a higher budget, then I recommend staying at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside, which is where I celebrated my birthday. My husband Roman surprised me with a nice hotel that is really luxurious and has a nice happy hour. There is a pool on the rooftop with a view to the mountain. There is a great bar and also a fantastic breakfast. If you feel like indulging then you should go to this hotel. It’s located in a location that is very New-York-like, with super awesome vibes.

Recommended Food in Saigon

  • Right in front of Myhotel we found the most delicious Won Ton soup. It’s street food, so it doesn’t have a name, but it’s right across from the hotel. It’s open from 1 or 2pm until the evening. We didn’t only declare it as the best Won Ton, but it’s also considered that way. Even if you go and it’s closed, don’t give up. Just go on the next day.
  • An amazinggg Indian restaurant – Taj Mahal. I am obsessed with Indian food and I think it’s probably the best Indian place we’ve been to the entire trip. I recommend trying the signature dishes and the fish and chicken courses.
  • There is a ton of street food everywhere so don’t be shy to try it. There is a great blogger who wrote all about street food in Saigon. Just click here for Mark Weins article of street food.

Attractions in Saigon

  • Cu Chi Tunnels

  • The War Museum – a very interesting museum.

  • Local markets

  • Bui Vien bar streets
  • AAA Spa – I got a mani-pedi and the spa and it was fantastic. They took really good care of me, and the result was amazing. It was only $6… I didn’t get a massage but according to the recommendations it’s supposed to be a great place.

Tips and Hacks

  • Getting a visa – this tip will lower your costs if you’re arriving with a flight. You can get a visa upon your arrival. You have to fill out your information on the website that writes a letter for you. With this letter, you will get to the airport and give 2 passport pictures. It’s a cost of $25 per person. Then you just wait a few minutes for your visa to be ready. A lot of companies write letters as such and it can help quite a lot. I found this website online: cheapvietnamvisaonline.com – you just pay $14 per visa for a 3 month visa. If it’s just for a month then it’s $7.5 per person. Everything went smoothly through them. It’s super important to bring a passport picture with you.
  • Sim card – another tip you should follow is buying a local sim card. It’s really cheap and will last you a little longer than a month. It should cost about $4. We went for Viettel and we were really happy with that company.
  • Hanoi to the airport – shuttles from Hanoi to the airport leave every hour from 5am until 7pm and it costs $2 per person. You don’t have to pre-book. The shuttle leaves from Vietnam Airlines offices. Click here for a map.

2 thoughts on “Detailed itinerary to Vietnam – North to South”

  • Very helpful! We will be there in November.
    My husband and I are seniors, we are doing our first backpacking trip. So excited just trying to plan
    North to South

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