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TRAVEL to VIETNAM – Tips and Information Guide (2024 Edition)

Everything you need to know about travel to Vietnam in our comprehensive 2024 Vietnam travel guide.

We get it. You’re wondering what the absolute best destination to travel in Southeast Asia is.

You’ve spent hours researching.

Talked to friends.

Scoured the internet for blogs.

Watched YouTube videos.

And you’ve finally realised something.

Without a doubt, Vietnam is the place for you.

And trust us, as a couple that have travelled the world for over a decade, we think you’ve made the right decision.

There’s a reason Vietnam is our all-time favourite country…

From the tropical coral reefs of Nha Trang to the northern mountains of Sa Pa, travel to Vietnam is one of the most adventurous yet culturally empowering experiences you can have.

One moment you will find yourself haggling for  banh mi  deep within Saigon and later that day you could be watching a breathtaking sunset from the Mekong Delta.

Vietnam is more than a country. It’s an experience.

You’ll find yourself immersed among street food vendors cooking up exotic cuisines such as  pho  along streets with stores selling suits and ties.

Or you’ll be cruising the waters of Halong Bay while monkeys jump from island to island.

Or you might find yourself trekking to the highest peak in Vietnam, Fansipan soaring to over 3,100 metres!

Not into adventure activities? Homestays are the perfect way to spend your day as the monsoon rains fall across the endless snaking rivers of the Mekong.

Vietnamese hospitality is unrivalled and is something that you should experience once in your life, so what are you waiting for? Say good morning Vietnam! And go get lost!

So we’ve convinced you to travel to Vietnam? Awesome!

Now check out the basic information about the country in our Vietnam travel guide.

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Here are the basics about travel to Vietnam.


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang, Hue

Vietnamese Dong (see  current exchange rate ). 1USD approximately = 23,000 dong. 1 beer = 30,000 dong ($1.30USD)


Travellers from most countries in the world are required to have visas. In most cases these can be obtained upon arrival for either 3 or 6 months. For information about your specific visa requirements click  here.

Vietnam is fairly safe for travellers. Petty theft tends to be the biggest concern and always be on the lookout for taxi scams. Also of concern are minor auto/motorbike accidents. This is one place it’s great to have travel insurance when visiting.


220 Volt at 50Hz. Power plugs – Type A: 2 vertical pins, Type C: 2 round pins, Type F (also known as Schuko plug): 2 round pins (Be sure to get your  universal travel adapter  before you leave)


Intercity travel is possible by plane, train and bus. Within cities, towns and villages you can expect to get around on bicycle rickshaws, motorbike taxes, taxis and bus.

Don’t Forget to Pack the Most Important Thing: Travel Insurance !


With so much to see and do in Vietnam, it really is hard to pick the top experiences.

However, we think that to truly appreciate Vietnam you need to plan to do these 5 activities during your visit.

Take the Overnight Train from Hanoi to Sapa

Said to be one of the most eye-opening train rides in the world, as you pass through lush forests, rice paddy fields on your way to the Vietnamese – Chinese border.

Book your  train ticket here .

Sapa Trekking

Hike Through the Rice Terraces of Sapa

Explore the area with the local hill tribes. Stay with them during your trek. And enjoy the beautiful terraced countryside for which Sapa is known.

Here’s our full post about  trekking in Sapa .

Mekong River, Laos, Luang Parabang, Boat, Cruising

Cruise the Mekong Delta

Probably one of the ‘must do’s of Vietnam.’ The Mekong Delta is full of hidden gems including floating markets, friendly locals and late afternoon storms.

Book a multiday  tour of the Mekong Delta

Things To Do In Vietnam

Go Caving in Phong Nha

Caves there can fit a 747 plane in it. They are massive and spectacular. This is an adventure you will never forget.

Book your  Phong Nha cave tour

Motorbikes The Evolution Of Nomadasaurus

Ride a Motorcycle

Yes, that’s right! Hiring a motorcycle or scooter is a must. But maybe do it out on the country roads. Opt for the famous ride to the mountain village of Dalat, or pretty much anywhere throughout the country.

Read about how to ride through the famous  Hai Van Pass

Other Things to do in Vietnam

Learn to cook Vietnamese food . Eating delicious Vietnamese food is one thing. Eating it after you’ve  learned to prepare it  is another!

Scuba dive  in Nha Trang. You may not think of Vietnam as a big scuba location, but there is  some great diving  to be had in Nha Trang.

Go canyoning  in Dalat. Rappel, slide, jump and  climb your way through canyons  in this gorgeous place!

Explore the Marble Mountains  in Da Nang.  These beautiful mountains  have been mined for marble for years and have incredible views and temples to visit along the way.

Sandboard down the sand dunes  in Mui Ne. It’s like snowboarding, but down massive sand dunes! Enjoy this rush!

Visit the Giants Causeway  in Ghan Da Dia. Half the world away from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, be amazed at  this unique geologic structure .

Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels  outside of Ho Chi Minh City. No trip to HCMC is complete without  touring these historic tunnels  that were used during the war.

Conquer the Hoi An Pass on a motorbike . This is known as one of the most beautiful sections of highway in the world. Enjoy!

Explore the world’s biggest cave . We have a special connection with  Hang Son Doong  as it is where we were engaged. Make your own special moment too!

Climb the highest mountain in Indochina  in Sapa. Fansipan is over 3,000m above sea level and  offers incredible views  along the way to the top!



A First-Timer’s Guide to Trekking in Sapa

The 11 Best Things to Do in Da Nang, Vietnam (2024 Guide)

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Scuba Diving In Nha Trang – Is It Worth It?


There are plenty of amazing places to visit in Vietnam. Depending on your interests, trip duration and time of year you will find plenty of things to do during any length of stay. 

When slurping a bowl of pho in a local market or exploring an ancient temple, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine in Ho Chi Minh City.

Halong Bay Photo Essay

A collection of over 3,000 limestone islands providing endless kayaking opportunities. Take the time to relax aboard a boat or venture to Cat Ba National Park for mystical waterfalls!

Book your  tour of Halong Bay

Tenple Hanoi

The capital of Vietnam is also one of the most ancient capitals in the world. The history of Hanoi is rich, devastating and full of legends. This mystical city is also known for its cuisine, silk, buzzing nightlife as well as cultural diversity.

Plan your 3-day  Hanoi itinerary

Temples Of My Son Near Hoi An

My Son Temple

Ancient temples dating back 1,000 years give a culture understanding into Vietnam’s past all while showing the scars of the war.

Book an early morning  tour of My Son

For more information on specific things to do in the top places to visit in Vietnam, reference our following city travel guides: 

Ho Chi Minh City:

*  Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary *  Day Trips from Ho Chi Minh City

*  Hanoi Itinerary * Day Trips From Hanoi

Dalat Hoi An

Da Nang Hue Ninh Binh



We’ve put together a few Vietnam itineraries that are sure to leave you wanting for nothing at the end of your visit. 

There are so many amazing things to do in Vietnam that planning an itinerary for your travel can be a little overwhelming. 

Even though the country is one united nation, you can think of it geographically as being divided into a northern and southern region.

So depending on how much time you have, you may want to explore the northern region, southern region or the entire country.

Of course, no one-size-fits-all plan will suffice. But if we were to head back to Vietnam these are the top places and things that we would want to do! 

1-Week Vietnam Travel Itinerary Highlights

Most people spend at least a month went hey travel to Vietnam. But if you had just one week, or were willing to split a few weeks between the northern and southern regions, this is how we’d spend our time! 

Northern Vietnam

  • Fly into Hanoi
  • 2 nights – Hanoi
  • 2 nights –  Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay
  • 2 nights  – Sapa
  • Alternative to Sapa  –  2 night in Hue
  • Fly out of Hanoi

Central Vietnam

  • Fly into Hanoi or HCMC. Get a local flight down to Dong Hoi
  • 3 nights  – Phong Nha
  • 2 nights  – Hue
  • 2-3  nights  – Hoi An
  • Fly out of Da Nang to either Hanoi or HCMC to leave

South Vietnam

  • Fly into Ho Chi Minh City
  • 2 nights  – Ho Chi Minh City
  • 2 nights –  Mekong Delta
  • 2 nights –  Dalat
  • 1 night –  Mui Ne
  • Fly out of Ho Chi Minh City

READ MORE: Check out this post for more details on our  Vietnam travel itinerary . 

Hoi An Streets


Best time to visit vietnam.

The best time to travel to Vietnam really depends on what you are looking for in terms of weather, scenery and budget.

Peak season occurs from mid-December through to February. But expect prices to double during this time. The low season is perfect for those on a budget.

  • Low Season –  April to June, September to November
  • Shoulder Season –  December to March
  • High Season –  July & August

Northern Vietnam  –  The best months to travel Northern Vietnam are April to May or September to October. There are mostly sunny days and the rain has stopped.

The weather gets really cold from December to March and is not suited for hiking or sailing a junk boat in Halong Bay that time of year.

Central Vietnam –  The best months for travel to Central Vietnam are January to June. There are heavy rains in October and November and the really hot months are from May to August.

Southern Vietnam  –  The best months to explore Southern Vietnam are January to April where conditions are beautiful.

You really can travel the south at any time of the year. Just note that from May to November there are afternoon downpours.

Things To Do In Hanoi


Vietnam is a cheap country to travel if you want it to be, this all depends on what your budget is like. Our advice is always over-budget when making plans, and if you come home with money, it can go towards your next trip. All prices below are in USD per day.

Budgeting Tips

To make your money go further here are a few tips: 

  • Eat street food as often as possible. You can usually fill up for $1-2USD.
  • Travel in groups when possible. Staying in hostels will lead to making friends. And with friends, you can split transportation costs and barter on other expenses.
  • Negotiate taxi fares before taking the ride. Vietnamese taxi drivers are notorious for flexible fares that tend to fall int heir favor. Don’t be afraid of a little negotiation.
  • Drink  bia hoi . Sure it’s not the more delightful beer. But it is shipped in fresh each day, it’s cheap and it’s what the local drink.
  • Take in the sights for free. Do a little research and walk the streets on your own. You’ll also find there are a number of free tours and other opportunities if you ask around.
  • Sleep on overnight busses for longer trips. Combine the transportation and accommodation line items of your budget and save a few dollars.

But there are a few things you should know about the different budgets at which you can choose to travel.

Note: Budgets shown as Single Traveller / Couples per day. 

Budget Traveller ($35 Single / $50 Couples)

If you are on a backpacker budget and planning on staying in dorm rooms, getting street food, drinking a few nights of the week, I would budget for about $35 a day.

A single hostel bed can be $5-$8 per person. A budget basic private room is $15-$20. A street food meal can be $1-$2. A bottle of beer is about $1- $1.50 and a  bia hoi  is $0.20 per cup. This is not the nicest beer. But it is passable and you get to make new friends when drinking it.

Walking or taking public transport will keep your budget down. There are many free things to do, you just need to think outside the box.

Mid-Range Traveller ($100 Single / $120 Couple)

If you have a little more cash in your budget your travels in Vietnam will become a lot more comfortable.

A nicer hotel is definitely affordable.

There are restaurants where you will pay more than the street food price. But the food is definitely of nicer quality (most of the time). The local beer can get a little too much sometimes so you will be able to enjoy an international beer or wine.

For the attractions you are most interested in, get a guide and learn more about the history of the country. You’ll be able to commit much more of your budget to do things rather than cutting corners just to stay alive.

Luxury Traveller ($90+ Single / $120+ Couple)

You don’t have to have that much more to enjoy a luxury trip to Vietnam. With a few more dollars in your budget, a nicer hotel is definitely affordable. Eat and drink anything you would like at virtually any restaurant.

You can hire transportation without having to haggle. And you can pretty much do any tour you would like to do when visiting any part of Vietnam.

Steaming Grain Best Compact Travel Camera


Entry requirements.

Most travellers are required to have visas when travelling to Vietnam, which can typically be arranged upon arrival. You are typically allowed to stay for 3 – 6 months, depending on nationality.

For information about your specific visa requirements click  here

Additionally, Vietnam has introduced an electronic visa (e-visa), which costs $25 USD and is granted for single entry visits for up to 30 days.

You no longer will have to apply through an agent to get an invitation letter or queue at the airport immigration for hours waiting to receive your visa upon arrival.

Apply in advance  here .

Once you are approved, all you need to do is print the visa out and present it on entry to Vietnam. Don’t lose this e- visa print out as you will need this during your travels in Vietnam.

Hotels will ask for it on check-in at the accommodation and travel agents may ask for it if you are booking flights.

Also, print out your  travel insurance  as well. Immigration will ask for this also as they want to know you are covered if you fall ill or get injured during your stay.

Japanese Bridge In Hoi An

Getting to Vietnam

There are a number of different ways to travel to Vietnam, depending on where you are coming from and how you like to get around with transport.

There are a lot of different airlines that fly to Vietnam from all over the world. There are two major international airports in Vietnam: Tan Son Nhat Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City in the south and Noi Bai Airpot (HAN) in Hanoi in the north.

Direct flights to Vietnam from Australia, Europe and North America are still limited, but it is improving. You will most likely have to book a flight with a stopover in either Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul or Singapore.

There are many domestic airports scattered among the country. Vietnam Airlines is Vietnam’s national carrier. We have flown with them several times and they are amazing.

You can cross into Vietnam by train from China, all the way from Beijing to Ping Xian. This is the Dong Dang Crossing which is 160km from Hanoi.

After you have crossed the border hop on a train to Hanoi. Don’t buy the direct ticket from Beijing to Hanoi. It works out cheaper to buy your ticket from Beijing to Ping Xian then cross the border and purchase another ticket from Dong Dang to Hanoi.

If you do the train trip from Beijing through to Hanoi, it will take 36 hours so it is best to book a sleeper. Make sure you have your visa organised before getting to the border.

You can bring your own food and drinks for the train or purchase them from the cafeteria on board. There are squat toilets on board and areas to store your luggage.

You can get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City through either the Cambodia, Laos or China borders. There is a route from Vientiane (Laos) to Hanoi, and one from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.

Most travel agents in Vientiane, Siem Reap or Phnom Penh will sell the tickets or at your accommodation. You can also get a minivan from Guangzhou through to Hanoi.

Make sure you have your visa ready. The border crossings by land may not be set up as well as others.

If you want to book any of your bus trips online rather than trying to deal with travel agencies in the country, you can do so on the popular website  Bookaway .

Man In Rickshaw

Getting Around Vietnam

Getting around Vietnam is surprisingly easy. Public transport goes everywhere, and there are plenty of moto-taxis that are happy to take you to the places that public transport won’t reach.

Travelling by Air

The fastest way to get around the country, of course, is by air. There are many domestic airports all over the country and you can fly in from major cities.

You can get cheap flights within the country through VietJet Air and Vietnam Airlines. For the best deals head directly on the airline’s website.

Travelling by Taxi, Tuk Tuk Or Mototaxi

When you are in the cities and town catching a taxi, tuk-tuk or moto-taxi can be the best way to get around. For taxi companies, look for the biggest and most reputable companies as you can be ripped off.

For the tuk-tuks, ask your accommodation the average price to your destination so you can agree on a price with the driver.

We recommend Uber and Grab (car or motorbike) which you can use an app and get the price.

Travelling by Bus

It is possible and advisable to travel by bus throughout Vietnam. Busses inside of cities can be complicated and should be a last resort.

However, when travelling long distances in Vietnam busses are a great option. This is especially true if you take night busses and sleep during the ride.

Travelling by Motorbike

We think travelling by motorbike is the best way to see Vietnam if you have the time. Buy your own motorbike and ride the length of the country. Or you can choose one area and explore Northern Vietnam or South Vietnam.

Here’s our post to help guide you on  how to buy a motorbike in Vietnam .

Travelling by Train

Taking the train is a great way to get around the country. They are great for overnight journeys as the trains have bed cabins.

In Vietnam, there are many places with roadwork that can last for years. So trains can be the best way to go.

This Image Has An Empty Alt Attribute; Its File Name Is Train-Tracks-Hanoi-1024X683.Jpg


We know you’ll absolutely love travelling in Vietnam. But technology has made it easier, more affordable and safer to travel than ever.

Here are a few apps we think you should definitely acquaint yourself with prior to your travels:

Grab  – Use this app to catch a ride from any metro area in Vietnam.

XE Currency  – Transfer, monitor and calculate currency as the need arises. This app may not be totally necessary as you are typically tied into rates the banks charge for services. But it is handy to have around. 

Express VPN  – This will protect your sensitive information wherever you travel – not just in [Country]. Be sure to have this to keep your online information secure as you travel. 

iTranslate  – Even if you don’t know more than a handful of Vietnamese words, iTranslate will help you communicate as you travel in Vietnam. 

WiFi Finder  – With this app, you no longer have to guess whether the next place on your itinerary has WiFi or scramble across town looking for hot spots.

Market Be Your Own Travel Concierge


When you travel to a foreign country one of the new and most exciting things you will experience is the food. There are so many amazing food choices in Vietnam, and Vietnamese food is delicious.

Here are a few of our favourites.

Goi Cuon:  This is a rice paper packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced or shredded pork, shrimp or crab. It will be served with a sweet and sour sauce or a delicious homemade peanut sauce.

Sometimes to make the experience even better, you get to hand roll them yourself. This was our favourite dish.

Banh Mi:  With this one, it will be different in every corner of Vietnam. This is a baguette sandwich that is filled with meat, greens, pata, pickled vegetables, soy sauce, cilantro and sometimes an omelet.

The meat filling will be roasted pork belly, grilled pork loin, barbecue pork, boiled chicken, or a fried egg.

Pho (pronounced ‘fur’):  This flat rice noodle soup is either light beef or chicken broth flavoured with coriander and ginger with spring onions and bits of meat (chicken, pork or beef).

It is a dish you can have any time of the day and is delicious, but it can be hit and miss in some places. If you have an average one, please do try it again. We ate pho a lot for breakfast and never got sick of it.

Bun Cha:  This is a Hanoi specialty and it is deliciously addictive. Bun Cha is served with grilled fatty pork over a plate of white rice noodles. It will be served with a sauce.

It will all be served separately and you combined everything together. You can ask for some little fried spring rolls on top too. It is so delicious!

Coa Lau:  Hoi An is the best (and only authentic) place to try this one. as the noodles are made using water from a special well in town.

It is chewy rice flour noodles with Chinese barbecue pork, bean sprouts, croutons and fresh herbs in a delicious pork-based gravy.

Bun Cha Hanoi


There are accommodation options for all budgets in Vietnam. You can stay in a shared dorm for $5 USD per night, or a luxury hotel for over $300 USD.

The accommodation standards can vary in each destination.

For example, we got a really nice hotel in the middle of nowhere when we were on our bike for $12 a night. But we would not find a place like this in Hanoi, Hoi An, HCMC or Hue for less than $25.

NOTE –  In Vietnam, the accommodation will keep your passport for the duration of your stay. This is to do with the government. Officials will randomly come around and check hotels and hostels.

If they do not have the ID or passport of every person staying there, the accommodation will be fined. The accommodation will keep your passport in a safe. If you are unsure just ask, “do you lock my passport up?”

Types of Accommodations

Vietnam is wildly popular among backpackers. Because the costs are generally incredibly low, budget travellers flock to the country.

This means that there are lots of great hostel options when looking for accommodations in Vietnam.

Whether you are busy spending all your time exploring and are just looking for a cheap place to crash for the night or want to make friends along the way, you will find most of what you are looking for in a variety of hostels throughout Vietnam.

Because costs are generally lower in Vietnam than in most parts of the world your quality of life can go up quite a bit when you travel to Vietnam.

One way you can upgrade your travel experience is by booking rooms in hotels instead of beds in hostels. For a few dollars more you’ll get vastly more space and privacy.

In some towns and villages, hotels are your only option.

But generally, these are very reasonably priced. You can expect to spend USD$20-30 for a decent hotel room in most cities, towns and villages across Vietnam.

Another good option in recent years is AirBnB, and there are more and more amazing places popping up to stay in Vietnam for very affordable prices every day.

As is typical in many destinations where Airbnb accommodations are available, you’ll likely find great value and a little more personal space with an Airbnb stay. 

If you’re looking for an awesome place to stay, we personally love using Airbnb. If you’ve never used the platform before,  sign up using this link to get USD$35 off your first booking .

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Vietnam

We travelled from the south to the north and stayed in many different places. Here are a few accommodation options we highly recommend.

Temple Hoi An


The Vietnamese people are friendly, welcoming and hospitable towards travellers. It is a great destination to travel to in Southeast Asia.

The people are very respectful and would like the same back from you. Here are a few things that you should know before going to Vietnam.


While we have  many basic travel tips  we suggest you use when travelling to Vietnam, there are also plenty of Vietnam-specific tips that will make your visit the best it can be. 

Here are a few we recommend you consider as you plan your trip to visit Vietnam: 

Please show respect to their religious beliefs and their cultures . You are travelling to someone else’s country. They have different religious beliefs and cultures in your home. Please respect them.

Watch your belongings.  Vietnam is a safe country but unfortunately, there still is petty theft. Whether you are at a restaurant or on a bus always watch your belongings.

Beware of the counterfeit tour agencies . Unfortunately, there are plenty of these around, especially in the main tourist areas. Book through the main owner or operator or any of  these tours that we recommend .

Do not drink the tap water.  The locals don’t even drink the water. There is bottled water available everywhere. Popular tourist restaurants will usually have on their menu that they wash their salad and veggies in sterilised water and make tea, coffee and soup from that too.

Carry toilet paper everywhere . There are toilets available in restaurants or in public but there may not be toilet paper. Most of the time you have to pay for the public toilet and they may give you some toilet paper, but don’t count on it. Always have your stash.

Toilet paper goes in the bin . DO NOT put the toilet paper in the toilet. Please put it into the bin provided. Vietnam’s sewerage systems are not built for much more than human waste so toilet paper and other items will just clog up your toilet.

Embrace the “bum gun “. Next to every toilet in Vietnam, there is a water hose. This is not to wash down the floor. This is to clean yourself up after you do your business. Don’t be disgusted by this. Embrace it.

Vietnam is bigger than you think . This country is huge and many people underestimate it. Vietnam is about 1,650 kilometres long from north to south. The distance on buses and trains is long so be prepared.

Take note of the Vietnamese money . It will be a new currency for you so do take a look at it before you go out spending. There are more zeros in it than you might be used to (1USD = 23,000 Dong)

Always take photos when you rent a scooter . Renting a scooter in Vietnam is something everyone does. It is a great way to get around and see all the attractions. But where you rent it from can get you into trouble. Whenever you rent a scooter take photos of the bike or else might end up with a crazy expensive bill.

Always wear a helmet. Always . Please wear a helmet. The roads are crazier here than they are in your country. The rules are different and road conditions are not the best. A quality helmet could save your life in an accident.

Make sure you have travel insurance . We tell people who are going travelling, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” You do not know what is going to happen while you are away and knowing you are covered will put your mind at ease.

Be confident when crossing the road . The roads in Vietnam are crazy. Crossing the road can be daunting but you need to be confident. Do not walk backward or hesitate. Walk slowly and watch the traffic coming towards you. They will all move around you.

Take your shoes off before entering a temple or a person’s home . It is a custom that stems back to ancient times and a big part comes back to cleanliness. The ground is used for chatting, dining and even sleeping.

Cover your shoulders and knees when entering a temple . This is common in most religious sites. There are always signs suggesting visitors dress ‘appropriately.’ Shoulders and knees should be covered. If it is a hot day and a t-shirt is too sticky, carry a scarf for when you visit to cover your shoulders.

Keep a low profile . Do not be loud, raise your voice in aggression or show off. Do not show dramatic affection publicly like kissing. Save it for the hotel room

Ask for permission before taking a photo of someone . This is polite and ensures you are not intruding on them. The people are not there for your entertainment. If they say no, smile and thank them anyway.

Do not take photos of anything to do with the government or military.  This is a big NO in any country and can end up with you in jail.

Do not touch someone on the head . The head is the most important part of the body. Touching someone’s head who you don’t know is like saying you are more important than they are.

Place your chopsticks across the top of the bowl when finished . Don’t have your chopsticks hanging out of the bowl, and don’t point them at anyone when they are resting on the plate.

Riding Northern Vietnam


We always travel with a  core packing list  wherever we go. And when it comes to Vietnam, many factors will affect what else you need to bring along with you. 

Check out our  travel essentials  and be sure to add any of the other additional items listed below. 

Important Note!  Before you book any international trip, we honestly recommend getting travel insurance. You never know when things will go wrong, and medical bills can add up quickly if you get sick or injure yourself overseas.

Our personal recommendation based on our own experience is  World Nomads .


Which countries or regions are you traveling to, what’s your country of residence, enter traveler’s age, staying safe in vietnam.

Vietnam is extremely safe, apart from the one major danger which is the roads. They are crazy, even more so if you try to ride 10’000km around the country on motorbikes as we did!

Aside from that, common sense will keep you safe.

Here are a few reminders of what common sense when travelling in Vietnam means:

As you saw above, Vietnam is extremely safe. We did not feel unsafe once in the 7 months we were there (excluding the roads).

This doesn’t mean you can completely let your guard down though, and petty theft does happen in this country, although it’s not common.

Some tips for protecting your things:

In other words, use common sense and you’ll be fine.

Band Playing In Street Hanoi


Staying connected with friends and family (and work) when travelling in Vietnam is important. But if you don’t know how to connect you can find yourself greatly inconvenienced or spending too much money.

We feel like your money will go a lot further if you consider a few options. 

Purchase a SIM Card

Picking up a SIM card has become the quickest and typically most affordable way to stay connected in Vietnam or any country for that matter.

If you have an unlocked phone you can use a 4G SIM card to connect to the cellular networks in Vietnam. From there you can cast a hot spot if you need to crank out some work on your computer or want to connect a tablet.

This 3G/4G SIM card  is a great and affordable option for a SIM card if you are flying into Vietnam.

Rent a Portable WiFi Device

Alternatively to a SIM card, particularly if you don’t have an unlocked phone, you can rent a portable WiFi device during your travel to Vietnam.

This device  will be delivered to you when you arrive in Vietnam and will provide 4G service for less than USD$5 per day.

You’ll be able to connect anywhere you can find service across the country, which will be most of the places you are likely to travel in Vietnam.

Access Free WiFI

Free is always best, if it is convenient. And there are plenty of places throughout Vietnam that will provide free WiFi in public spaces or at restaurants, cafes and hostels and hotels.

We recommend using the  WiFi Finder  app, which will help you locate WiFi anywhere you travel in Vietnam.

This Image Has An Empty Alt Attribute; Its File Name Is Vietnamese-Market-Lady-1024X683.Jpg


We absolutely love Vietnam. And we love the idea that it will remain a beautiful and friendly place for travellers for years to come.

Here are a few tips specific to travel to Vietnam that will promote sustainable tourism in the country:

Use your own energy to get around.  Walk or cycle through town as much as possible. Taking a cyclo-taxi is a close alternative if you don’t have the energy to propel yourself through the city. But this reduces the impact of taxis, busses and other forms of automotive transportation.

Mind your plastic . Plastic is everywhere in Vietnam. But using your own reusable bag for groceries and other shopping, carrying a reusable water bottle and having your own straw are just 3 of the many simple ways you can reduce the amount of plastic you use.

Shop local . Visiting the markets will be one of your top experiences when travelling to Vietnam. Support local vendors as often as possible, including in taking tours when available.

Be mindful of wildlife . Wildlife in the wild is great. But be mindful not to provoke, feed or otherwise molest wildlife. And never purchase any item made of or involving rare or endangered species.

Attempt to communicate in Vietnamese . You’re probably not going to be fluent as soon as you arrive in the country. But knowing a few phrases and doing your best to communicate with locals will show respect and earn trust and make your experience richer.


You don’t have to be fluent in Vietnamese to have a great time when you travel to Vietnam. But it does help to know a few key phrases.

This will not only assist you in your travels but it will also show respect to the local Vietnamese people that you are doing your best to assimilate into their culture. 


Maybe you already know everything about Vietnam. Chances are you don’t!

But even if you are well-read, here are a few suggestions that might be worth your time while you’re on the plane to Vietnam. 

The Quiet American  (Graham Greene) – Originally published in 1956 and adapted for film twice, this story by Greene became an instant classic. Greene fictionalizes life in 1950s Vietnam as told by a British correspondent trying to understand the roots of the rising conflict set to occur.

At Home In The World  (Thich Nhat Hanh) – World renown Vietnamese monk, Hanh reflects on lessons and stories in life from the Buddhist perspective.

Vietnam: Rising Dragon  (Bill Hayton) – A piece of nonfiction that looks back on the Vietnam of old and attempts to projects its place in the future of Southeast Asia.

The Sympathizer  (Viet Thanh Nguyen) – The Pulitzer Prize-winning book, allegedly influenced by  The Quiet American , is told through the eyes of a double-agent during the Vietnam War who struggles to understand the minds and hearts of men engaged in war.

DISCLAIMER:  Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

Table of Contents

Read our vietnam posts, 20 amazing things to do in hoi an, vietnam (2024 guide), 14 incredible things to do in dalat, vietnam (2024 guide), the perfect 3 days in hanoi itinerary [2024 guide], 25 amazing things to do in hanoi, vietnam (2024 guide), the perfect 3 days in ho chi minh city itinerary [2024], the 8 best day trips from ho chi minh city (2024 guide), caves, zip lines and deep mud in phong nha, ganh da dia – vietnam’s own ‘giant’s causeway’, ba be national park – the lake, trekking and happy water, motorbiking the road from dalat to nha trang in vietnam, riding sea to sky: hue to hoi an by motorbike, getting a chinese visa in hanoi, vietnam.

Travel, Hiking, Food

10 Days in Vietnam: The Best 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary For First Timers

Have 10 days in Vietnam? Vietnam is full of amazing places to see but if you want to see the best places in Vietnam, then follow my 10 day Vietnam Itinerary! This Vietnam itinerary is based on my repeated trips to Vietnam so I can guarantee you will love these places!

Vietnam is probably one of the most underrated countries in Southeast Asia . While most of the tourists flock to Thailand or Singapore, I loved Vietnam so much that I went back multiple times just to explore different regions of Vietnam.

Vietnam is a country with rich history and culture, incredible food, beautiful beaches, mountains and scenery that will leave you surprised and amazed. It is one of the best places to visit in Southeast Asia and it is probably the No.1 country I would recommend visiting in SE Asia.

There are many ways to spend 10 days in Vietnam. This Vietnam itinerary will focus on how to see the highlights of Vietnam from North to South.

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases . Thank you for supporting my blog.

Planning your first trip to Vietnam?

I have written a TON on Vietnam to help you plan your amazing Vietnam trip.

Whether you are planning to spend 10 days or 2 weeks in Vietnam, you will definitely find these articles helpful.

From sleeper trains to Halong Bay cruise to Ba Na Hills to Hue , these articles will for sure make your trip memorable and fun!

Hue abandoned water park dragon

Where To Visit in Vietnam

Vietnam has a diverse landscape, spanning from the North to South, including mountains, rivers (and bay), rice terraces, the largest cave in the world, and beaches. Vietnam offers both modern cities and ancient towns, providing you with different experiences and a glance into its history.

Some of the best places to visit in Vietnam include (by Region):

Northern Vietnam

Central Vietnam

  • Son Dong Cave
  • My Son Sanctuary

Southern Vietnam

  • Ho Chi Minh City

This 10 day Vietnam itinerary will cover some of the places above, assuming you are a first time visitor! Since there are multiple ways to plan a Vietnam trip and my itinerary is only an example you can follow, you can always swap out certain things as you plan your own Vietnam trip. Regardless of what you plan to do and see in Vietnam, I am still super jealous of all the great experience and food you will have on your trip.

Things To Know Before Visiting Vietnam For The First Time

  • Vietnam Tourist Visa may be required if you are from certain countries (like from the US or Canada). Make sure to check the visa requirement before you go. Some countries do enjoy visa-free entry into Vietnam, including many EU and Asian Countries (excluding China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc). You can apply for the Vietnam E-Visa online yourself on the official government website. It takes no more than 10 minutes and only costs USD 25. Follow my step by step instruction on how to apply for a Vietnam e-Visa .
  • Currency in Vietnam is Vietnamese Dong and 1 USD is about 23,500 Vietnamese Dong.
  • You need to have cash with you in Vietnam; most places do not accept credit card. You should have some USD (or Euros) with you so you can convert in Vietnam (like at hotels and banks) as ATMs are not readily available everywhere.
  • Use ATMs if you intend on taking out cash. You get better rates at local ATMs than if you were to exchange money
  • Do not drink the tap water in Vietnam and try not to get ice cubes with your drinks; buy water but make sure the bottles are properly sealed
  • Download Whatsapp ! Businesses are done over Whatsapp (like bus/ train booking, hotel communication etc). It is so much easier to communicate over Whatsapp than email.
  • Your hotel can help you book almost everything , such as transportation, tours, attractions, etc.
  • A travel adapter/ converter is needed if you are traveling from North America and Europe.
  • Use an eSim or get a physical sim for Vietnam if you need internet.
  • Vaccine requirements for Vietnam : I didn’t take any special vaccines but if you are curious, visit the official CDC website here .

Where to Stay in Vietnam

It is super easy to find cheap (but good) accommodations in Vietnam. In fact we’ve stayed at a wide range of hotels and guest houses in Vietnam, from $30 a day to $200 a day (for two people).

The detailed itinerary below shows you where to stay in Vietnam in each of the cities on this itinerary but here I will give you a short highlight. These are the places I’ve stayed at in Vietnam since I’ve been a couple of times.

  • Hanoi : Meritel Hanoi in the center of Old Quarter
  • Halong Bay : Stellar of the Sea Cruise
  • Ninh Binh : Tam Coc Horizon Bungalow
  • Hoi An: Q Villa
  • Ho Chi Minh City : The Reverie Saigon
  • Phu Quoc : L’Azure Resort and Spa

10 Day Vietnam Itinerary

Here is an overview of how to spend 10 days in Vietnam, then you will see the detailed day to day itinerary. This itinerary starts from the North in the capital city of Vietnam and moves down south.

Day 1 : Hanoi Day 2 : Ninh Binh Day 3-4 : Halong Bay Cruise Day 5-6 : Hoi An in Central Vietnam Day 7 & 8 : Ho Chi Minh City Day 9 & 10 : Phu Quoc Island

Day 1: Hanoi

Start your 10 day Vietnam journey in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and the largest city in Northern Vietnam. It is a super nice city to visit and a great place to start your 10 days in Vietnam.

If you are flying into Hanoi, here is a guide on Hanoi Airport to Old Quarters to give you some ideas on the best way to go to Old Quarters. For first time visitors, you will most likely be staying in the Old Quarter and do sightseeing around there.

This is a photo of Hanoi street early in the morning with a lot of people and motorcycles

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and it is a cultural mix of Western and Eastern influences. As you wander around Hanoi, you will see there are many well preserved colonial buildings as well as ancient pagodas in Hanoi.

What to see in Hanoi

A few famous places in Hanoi you can check out include

  • Hanoi Old Quarter
  • Temple of Literature
  • Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Night markets (beware of pickpockets)
  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
  • Ho Chi Minh Museum
  • Visit pagodas and Cathedrals
  • Thong Nhat Park
  • Train Street
  • Beer Corner

I absolutely loved just walking around the Old Quarter to see what local life is like there. You will find tons of street food vendors, shops and coffee shops. If you see something that looks appealing, be sure to stop and try it!

In particular I enjoyed walking around the Old Quarter at night. On specific nights there will be night markets where you can buy souvenirs, clothes, food, and other small trinkets. You should also stop by the super famous Beer Street if you want to see how lively Old Quarter gets at night! I was walking alone and felt totally safe around 7-9pm!

You can also watch a show at the Opera House, see a water puppet show in Hanoi and shop at the famous Dong Xuan Market.

One very famous Instagram worthy thing to do in Hanoi is to visit the Hanoi Train Street , where you can watch an actual train speed by along a cramped street full of cafes and shops (although some cafes may have closed due to government order and the pandemic).

Due to accidents in recent years, train streets do randomly get “closed down” but you can still visit. The most popular stretch of the train street have a lot of cafes and sometimes you will need a cafe owner to bring you in from the “backdoor”.

Other parts of train street without cafes are always open.

Usually the trains come at 3:20pm (weekends only) and 7:30pm (weekday) but the timing is not always accurate. It’s best to go before the scheduled time and just wait around.

Tours You Should Consider in Hanoi

Hanoi has a ton of things to eat and I think you really should take one of the street food tours to explore the best local flavors. I highly recommend this Hanoi street food tour if you are curious about authentic Vietnamese cuisine!

If you are scared of street food don’t worry, you can always do a cooking class . I personally love the cooking class because you really get to learn how to make authentic Vietnamese dish at home.

Where to stay in Hanoi

I stayed at the Meritel Hanoi in the center of Old Quarter. The hotel is super modern with a rooftop pool and they helped us book our day trips to Tam Coc and Ha Long Bay overnight cruise the first time we visited Vietnam.

Another 2 hotels we stayed at in Hanoi during our two visits were Babylon Premium Hotel and La Storia Ruby Hotel . Both were good and La Storia Ruby Hotel was quite cheap and sufficient.

This is a photo of Meritel Hotel Hanoi Vietnam

If you want to stay somewhere very luxurious in Hanoi, then I would recommend either the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi or the Movenpick Hotel Hanoi . But personally I think the hotels I mentioned above are already really nice and clean.

Read Next : How to Spend 2 days in Sapa

Day 2: Tam Coc (Ninh Binh) Day Trip From Hanoi

Take a day trip from Hanoi the next day to Tam Coc , an area in Ninh Binh .

Tam Coc is known as “ Halong Bay on land “. It’s an area with rice paddies and Ngo Dong River running through limestone caves and mountains. It’s located 90 km from Hanoi but it’s way less crowded than Hanoi or Halong Bay.

You can take a full day tour to Tam Coc and different tours do offer different options.

  • Tour Option 1 : Goes to Hoa Lu Ancient Capital , Mua Cave (beautiful view of the area), Tam Coc boat ride on Ngo Dong River and Bich Dong Pagoda .
  • Tour Option 2 : Includes Bai Dinh Pagoda , Mua Cave and a 3 hour Trang An Boat ride (which is different than the 2 hour Tam Coc Boat ride above).

Mua cave viewpoints | things to do in Ninh Binh and Tam Coc in 2 days

With the first tour , you can do the boat ride on the Ngo Dong River , where the rowers are local ladies who use their feet to row the boat. They are so good at it that it feels like they’ve been doing it forever. I suppose it’s just a lot easier to row with your legs/feet instead of arms.

This 3 hour Trang An Boat Ride with the second tour has 3 different routes and you get to pick the route and get off the boat at each stop along the boat ride. I really liked the Trang An boat ride (more than the Tam Coc one actually).

Bai Dinh Pagoda in Ninh Binh Tam Coc Vietnam

The whole area of Tam Coc looked like it’s straight out of a painting. I actually think the scenery in Ninh Binh (Tam Coc) is the most beautiful during our 10 days in Vietnam trip.

If you do not want to join a tour, you can definitely visit Ninh Binh by yourself from Hanoi. You can rent a scooter (or hire a private taxi) once you are in Tam Coc to explore all the spots.

You can take buses or trains (or even private transfer) from Hanoi by booking them on this website . This would give you more flexibility especially if you plan to stay overnight or spend more time at a particular spot.

Day 3 & 4: Halong Bay Overnight Boat Cruise

Halong Day is famous for its thousands of limestone islands in the emerald water. It is located in Northern Vietnam about 3-4 hours from Hanoi . Most people take an overnight boat tour on Ha Long Bay because it’s simply too far from Hanoi to do a day trip.

I have been to Halong Bay twice and had a good time both times.

This is a photo of Halong Bay Cruise with a girl in a red swimsuit in the pool on the deck

Different cruise companies offer different types of activities and amenities. Some of the cruise companies go to Lan Ha Bay and the itinerary includes exploring caves at Cat Ba Island, swimming and morning kayaking.

Some other cruise companies go to Halong Bay and they would go to floating villages and hiking up Titop Island for a panoramic view of Halong Bay.

Halong Bay view with floating villages

While onboard, Halong Bay cruises generally have Tai-chi class, cooking class, lounge chairs, deck, Happy Hour (you need to pay for the drinks), common area with TV and DVDs, evening squid fishing, etc.

Halong Bay Cave

Having done the Halong Bay cruise twice, I really do feel the cruise was the most relaxing part of our entire 10 day Vietnam itinerary (and yes I did two 10 day trips in Vietnam and both were intense!)

Everything was arranged and you just relax on one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world. You also get to try some Vietnamese wine and beer on the boat with this view, so what more could you need?

In recent years many newer cruises offer a route to Lan Ha Bay (a part of Halong Bay that is not as touristy). If you want a more laidback and relaxing trip to Halong Bay you can consider cruises offering routes to Lan Ha Bay.

Some of the most luxurious Halong Bay cruises now include Emperor Cruise , Orchid Cruise , Stellar of the Seas Cruise , Heritage Cruise , etc. These are the instagram worthy cruises that you often see on social media with the pool on deck and floor to ceiling glass bathrooms.

To learn more about Halong Bay, see my complete Halong Bay Cruise guide .

Day 5 & 6: Hoi An Ancient Town

After spending a few lovely days in Northern Vietnam it was time to start traveling south to the middle of Vietnam. Hoi An is an ancient town located in the middle of Vietnam (near the water on the eastern side of the country).

This is a photo of Hoi An Ancient Town with yellow walls and pretty flowers above the wall | Hoi An travel guide

Hoi An is one of the most well known towns in Vietnam due to its well preserved historical center and the colorful lanterns and buildings. It used to be a major trading port from the 15th to 19th century. Since it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will get to experience how life looked like back in the days.

How to Hoi An From Hanoi

To travel from Hanoi to Hoi An, the fastest way is to fly. There are trains and buses to Hoi An but they take much longer although if you are planning to do an overnight bus or train these are good choices.

Hoi An does not have an airport of its own, so travelers need to fly from Hanoi to Danang (which is also a cool place to visit, it has a beach!). There are over 20 flights from Hanoi to Da Nang everyday and it’s a short flight about 1.5 hours.

Once you land in Da Nang, look for the bus station to Hoi An. Alternatively you can take a taxi or have your hotel pick you up. Our hotel offered to pick us up at 315.000 vnd/car, which is about 15 USD.

Things to See in Hoi An

Hoi An Itinerary | Japanese Covered Bridge is a must see attraction in Hoi An

  • Japanese Covered Bridge : The most famous site in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge , it’s a historical piece of Japanese architecture. If you want to walk through the bridge then you have to pay an entrance fee , so most visitors actually opt to just take a photo in front of the Japanese Covered Bridge.
  • Assembly Halls : There are a number of assembly halls in Hoi An and they were built by the Chinese community that lived there during the trading period. Some of the most famous Assembly Halls in Hoi An include Cantonese Asembly Hall and Fujian Assembly Hall.
  • Visit the Old Houses : Within the touristy zone there are 18th century Old Houses. You can visit these Old Houses and do a guided tour to learn more about the architecture as well as the historical background of them. We visited Tan Ky Old House and it was really interesting to know what the family experienced back then.
  • Visit a local market : If you are interested to see how locals shop or just want to look for some cheap fruits and everyday items, then be sure to stop by the Hoi An Central Market. I was able to get a large T-shirt (as PJ), nail clipper and other random things from the central market.
  • Get clothes tailored : Hoi An is tailor capital of Vietnam so you can find a large number of tailor shops in the old town. We went to Ba Ri to get a couple of dresses made and the turn around time was within 2 days.
  • Enjoy the lanterns at night : Hoi An is literally the cutest with all the lanterns lit up on its streets at night.
  • Check out Hoi An Night Market : Night market is a popular thing to do in Hoi An south of the river. You can find cooked food as well as clothes, gadgets and souvenirs at the night market.
  • Take a boat ride & release lanterns : A super romantic thing to do in Hoi An is to take a 20 minute boat ride on Thu Bon River at night. You can  pre-book the boat here .

This is a photo of a Hoi An photo spot

Read Next : How to spend one day in Hoi An – what to do and eat in Hoi An

(Optional Day Trip From Hoi An) Golden Bridge (Hand Bridge) in Ba Na Hills

In June 2018, Vietnam opened an incredibly cool looking bridge called the Golden Bridge near the city of Da Nang in Ba Na Hills Resort. Photos on social media immediately attracted tons of tourist and many visitors are going to Vietnam just for the Golden Bridge or the Hand Bridge.

Golden Bridge is located in a theme park called Sun World Ba Na Hills and can only be visited by riding a cable car up in the Ba Na Hills Resort. The bridge is 1500m above sea level and it’s about 500ft long.

Fortunately for those of you visiting Hoi An, you can take a taxi from Hoi An to Ba Na hills in about 1-1.5 hours to visit the Golden Bridge.

This is a photo of the Golden Bridge Ba Na Hills

After you visit the Golden Bridge, you should also explore other attractions at Ba Na Hills such as the French Village , Le Jardin D’Amour , Linh Ung Pagoda , etc.

This is a photo of Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park

You can check out my Golden Hand Bridge guide to get more details.

If you have some extra time in Vietnam, be sure to check out this 3 day Danang itinerary which also includes how to visit the Golden Bridge.

Where to Stay in Hoi An

For beach lovers, you would love the luxury Palm Garden Beach Resort & Spa    or the Dai An Phu Villa . You can walk to the beach in under 5 minutes and there is a free shuttle service to Hoi An Ancient Town. There are spas and massages at the hotel for a truly luxurious experience.

For those who want to stay in a medium ranged hotel closer to the Hoi An ancient town, I would recommend either the Silk Luxury Hotel & Spa or Vinh Hung Heritage hotel .

If you are a budget traveler, there are nice hotels/ hostels that cost less than 30 USD a night that’s close to the center of Hoi An historical town such as Hoi An Ivy Hotel or Q Villa . We stayed at Q Villa and loved it.

Day 7 & 8: Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam by population. It’s located in the Southern part of Vietnam and has a tropical (wet and dry season) climate.

Ho Chi Minh City played an important role during the Vietnam War (anti-communist). Before that it was ruled by the Japanese and French, so that’s why most of the architectures you see in Ho Chi Mihn City are of French influence.

You can fly to Ho Chi Minh directly on Jetstar from Da Nang.

What to do in Ho Chi Minh City : some of the things you can do in Saigon include the

  • Cu Chi Tunnels (underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War)
  • Binh Tay Market and Ben Thanh Market
  • Independence Palace
  • War Remnants Museum
  • Cao Dai Temple
  • Jade emperor Pagoda
  • Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
  • bar hopping at Pham Ngu Lau Street
  • Visit a rooftop bar

If you have time, you can also do some excursions outside of the city, such as a visit to the Mekong Delta , the Cai Be Floating Market , etc.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh : if you are looking to stay at a hostel, check out this post on hostels in Ho Chi Minh .

If you prefer a more luxurious experience, then I would highly recommend either The Reverie Saigon , Silverland Yen Hotel , or the Alagon D’antique Hotel & Spa .

Day 9 & 10: Beach At Phú Quốc

After the hustling and bustling of Saigon, it’s time to relax on the beach! Most people don’t realize that Vietnam has nice beaches (at least I didn’t know) but I was pleasantly surprised by the island of Phu Quoc .

Phu Quoc Island is located off the coast of Cambodia and is known for its white sand beaches and resorts. It’s a hidden gem because most tourists go to islands in Thailand so Phu Quoc is not nearly as crowded as Thailand.

Even though it was February but since the island is so south that it was actually a nice beach weather. There is a direct flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc so it was perfect for our itinerary.

Where to stay in Phu Quoc : there are a lot of wonderful hotels in Phu Quoc by the beach, such as the Seashells Phu Quoc Hotel & Spa , L’Azure Resort and Spa , Movenpick Villas & Residences , Dusit Princess Moonrise Beach Resort , etc. These 5 star hotels are no more than $150 a night which is crazy to me since they would cost over $1000 a night in Hawaii or something!

What to do in Phu Quoc : BEACH!! There are many nice beaches in Phu Quoc such as Truong Beach , Vung Bau Beach , and Sao Beach . The most famous one would be the Sao beach.

This is a photo of Vietnam Beach in Phu Quoc | Where to go in Vietnam in 10 days

If you are a fan of kayaking then this kayaking and starfish tour would be perfect for you.

Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular activities on Phu Quoc since the water is warm and calm.

This is a photo of of Phu Quoc Island Trip | How to see North and South Vietnam

Besides beach, you can also take the famous Phu Quoc cable car from Phu Quoc to Hon Thom Island. It takes about 15 minutes each way and it is a breathtaking experience. You get amazing views of the sea and islands on a clear day and it is the longest non-stop 3 way cable car in the world.

Other Vietnam Trip Planning Tips and Things to Know

Best (and worst) months to visit vietnam.

In general, December to April are the best months to visit Vietnam, avoiding the rainy season that takes place from June to October .

But since Vietnam is a very “long” country, there are different climates in different regions of Vietnam:

  • Northern Vietnam : generally a lot cooler than the rest of the country. However, if you are in mountainous regions, the whether during November to March can be quite foggy and cold but relatively dry.
  • Central Vietnam : enjoys tropical climate and has pretty warm weather almost year round. Central Vietnam gets the most amount of rainfall between September and November and there is a high chance of flooding.
  • Southern Vietnam : generally enjoys a relatively consistent warm weather all year round, with the highest level of rainfall from May to October. The islands in Vietnam will be warm enough even in the “winter” months, but with the most clear skies in February.

How to get around Vietnam

It is pretty easy to get around Vietnam, and some of the most popular methods to get around Vietnam include:

  • Rent a moped or motorbike : This is a flexible way to get around Vietnam cheaply. Motorbikes up to 50 cc can be ridden in Vietnam without a license, but this may not be the best option for long distance. If you are thinking about simply riding around a city, then this is the perfect option.
  • Take a local bus : Local buses are the easiest way to travel long distance in Vietnam. You can take a sleeper bus to save time during your travel. This is the best website to book a Vietnam bus.
  • Take a sleeper train : Sleeper trains are another convenient way to get around Vietnam. I took a luxury sleeper train to get from Hanoi to Sapa. This is the best website to book a sleeper train.
  • Ride a shared van : You can easily book a shared luxury van to get around Vietnam. These vans come with AC and USB port and we took these vans to get to Halong Bay and Ninh Binh and loved them.
  • Call car services : There is no Uber in Vietnam but you can use Grab App to call a car. It works just like Uber but I had to use cash to pay as for some reason my credit card didn’t go through.
  • Take a flight : You can easily fly around Vietnam for cheap. I always took Vietnamese Airlines as it was more reliable and our flight from Hue to Hanoi was only 50 USD. My friends have taken Bamboo Airways or VietJet but said VietJet changed their flight to 3 hours before the scheduled departure time.

Is Vietnam safe?

Vietnam is a pretty safe country for tourists, even for female solo travelers.

However, like any Southeast Asia country, there is petty crime such as pick pocketing. Be sure to watch your bags/wallets closely, especially in crowded areas (and if you do not look Asian).

I have heard stories from friends that their purses were slashed from behind when they were shopping at street markets in Hanoi.

If you have jewelry you may want to leave them at home. It is not prudent to flaunt your wealth with big bling blings in Vietnam. You may not get robbed but it’s frowned upon.

For those who are not familiar with the traffic conditions in Vietnam, you will need to watch out for cars and motorbikes . Motorbikes are the main transportation in Vietnam and in cities like Hanoi, it can get quite overwhelming.

Even though the drivers will try to avoid you (they are very good at that!), but still use caution when crossing the streets. Try to follow locals when crossing the street in Vietnam.

If you are thinking about taking overnight trains or buses, then the good news is that these types of public transportation is safe for solo travelers.

I took both overnight trains and buses, and they felt perfectly safe.

What to Eat in Vietnam

Pho in Hoi An | Best things to eat in Hoi An in One Day

Different regions in Vietnam also have different speciality food. You will need to do some research to figure out what are the best local specialities are in each region. But in general, here are what some of the typical dishes are in Vietnam.

  • Pho : The famous Vietnamese noodle soup made with beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and a variety of fresh herbs and condiments. It is one of the best things you can eat in Northern Vietnam (at least I find the ones in Northern Vietnam tastier)
  • Bánh Mì : World renowned Vietnamese sandwiches, which are typically filled with a combination of grilled meats, vegetables, pâté, and fresh herbs, served in a baguette. I had the best Banh Mi in Hoi An!
  • Gỏi Cuốn : Fresh spring rolls filled with shrimp, herbs, pork, rice vermicelli, and other ingredients, often served with a peanut dipping sauce.
  • Bún Chả : Grilled pork patties and sliced pork belly served over vermicelli noodles, often accompanied by fresh herbs, peanuts, and a dipping sauce. There are some really good places for this in Hanoi Old Quarter.
  • Cơm Tấm : Broken rice served with grilled pork, fried egg, and fish sauce, often garnished with pickled vegetables.
  • Bánh Xèo : Vietnamese sizzling pancakes filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, and herbs, typically served with a dipping sauce. You can find some of these really good ones in Hue
  • Bún Bò Huế : A spicy beef noodle soup originating from the city of Hue, featuring tender slices of beef and pork, lemongrass, and chili
  • Cá Kho Tộ : A popular Vietnamese braised fish dish, often cooked in a caramelized sauce with black pepper and served with rice
  • Bánh Cuốn : Steamed rice rolls filled with ground pork, mushrooms, and other ingredients, often served with fried shallots and fish sauce
  • Chả Giò : Fried spring rolls, often filled with ground meat, shrimp, and vegetables, wrapped in rice paper
  • Hủ tiếu : A noodle soup dish with a clear and flavorful broth, typically containing seafood, pork, and rice noodles
  • Bánh Canh : A thick Vietnamese noodle soup made with wide, udon-like noodles and a variety of toppings, including seafood, meat, or vegetables.
  • Hấp Hủ tiếu Nam Vang : A dish featuring clear rice noodles topped with a mixture of shrimp, squid, pork, and a special savory sauce.
  • Bánh Khoai : A Vietnamese crepe or pancake often filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts.

Bun Cha Traditional Vietnamese food in Hanoi

There are also a ton of popular Vietnamese desserts that you should try, and here are some of the famous ones:

  • Vietnamese coffee : You absolutely cannot leave Vietnam without trying their coffee, especially the famed Egg Coffee and Coconut Coffee!
  • Chè : Chè is a broad category of Vietnamese sweet soups or puddings made with a variety of ingredients. These can include mung beans, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, lotus seeds, tapioca pearls, and fruits.
  • Bánh Bò : Bánh bò, also known as Vietnamese honeycomb cake, is a spongy, steamed cake made from rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, and coconut milk. It has a unique honeycomb-like texture.
  • Bánh Chuối Hấp : This is a steamed banana cake, typically made with ripe bananas, rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk. It’s a moist and fragrant dessert.
  • Bánh Flan : Bánh flan is the Vietnamese version of crème caramel or flan. It consists of a layer of caramelized sugar topped with a creamy, egg-based custard.
  • Bánh Tiêu : Bánh tiêu are Vietnamese hollow doughnuts that are deep-fried until they puff up and turn golden brown. They are often filled with sweet mung bean paste or custard.
  • Chuối Nếp Nướng : Grilled sticky rice and bananas are a delightful dessert often found in Vietnam. The combination of grilled sticky rice and caramelized bananas creates a sweet and slightly smoky flavor.
  • Kem Xôi : This dessert combines two popular Vietnamese items, kem (ice cream) and xôi (sticky rice). The sticky rice is often dyed with natural colors and served with a scoop of ice cream.

To find good restaurants to eat in Vietnam, I would recommend that you use Google Maps and TripAdvisor ! We used both and found the reviews spot on!

How to get a SIM card and internet in Vietnam

I highly recommend that you get a SIM card when traveling in Vietnam. You can also purchase a Vietnam SIM card at the airport when you first arrive.

The most popular tourist SIM cards are offered by Viettel, Mobiphone, Vietnamobile and VinaPhone . I’ve seen a lot of people using Viettel so you can definitely consider that. You can ask for a 1 month tourist sim which costs about 10 – 20 USD (price and package may change since things change fast there).

If you want the convenience of just having your internet work right after you land, you can consider getting a Vietnam eSIM with before you fly.

They provide a wide range of data plans and the most popular plan is 120GB for 30 days (max 4 GB per day) including free first 20 minutes of every call to Vinaphone numbers. I activated the eSim to one of my phones before I flew and internet worked immediately when I landed in Vietnam, so it was super convenient.

If you have T Mobile Magenta Plans (or Magenta Max Plans), you can enjoy free internet roaming . Magenta Max plans give you 5GB of high speed internet (then after that it’s 256kps speed) and Magenta plans give you 256kps speed internet.

Booking Resources for Vietnam

If you found this article useful, please consider using the links below to book your hotels and tours. We earn a fee from referring you at no cost to you. With your support we can continue to provide useful information for travelers like you to plan that perfect trip to Vietnam.

  • Hotel booking sites for Vietnam :  this  or  this
  • Tours booking sites for Vietnam :  this  or  this
  • Travel insurance
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Read My Other Vietnam Travel Blogs

Be sure to check out my other Vietnam travel resources to help plan your trip!

  • How to get a Vietnam E-Visa
  • 1 Day Hoi An itinerary and Travel Guide
  • 2 Day Hue Itinerary to see the best Hue Tourist Attractions
  • Best things to do in Sapa in 2 days
  • Complete Halong Bay Cruise Guide
  • What to do and see in Cat Cat Village in Sapa
  • Visiting Golden Hand Bridge in Ba Na Hills
  • Vietnam Sleeper Train Guide
  • 3 Week Vietnam and Thailand Itinerary
  • 2 Week Southeast Asia Itinerary (4 Alternative Itineraries)

Like this post? Pin this 10 day Vietnam itinerary to Pinterest!

Pinterest Pin: Where to visit in Vietnam in 10 days - a 10 day Vietnam Itinerary with 4 photos; top left is a photo of Bich Dong Pagoda; top right is a photo of the boat rides in Tam Coc; bottom left is a photo of Halong Bay; bottom right is a photo of the streets in Hoi An

26 thoughts on “10 Days in Vietnam: The Best 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary For First Timers”

LOVE THIS! Vietnam is on the top of my travel list and this blog is very helpful for future planning. Kudos!

Vietnam looks to be a beautiful country, I like the sound of an overnight boat trip.

Ah I loved the lantern markets! And I think you have very practical advice for travel in general – be smart no matter the location!

I must admit, I have only heard about Hanoi and Halong Bay. But I’m happily surprised to learn about a lot of places to see in Vietnam. Hopefully, I’ll go on a trip solo, and thanks to your tips, I’ll also be careful.

Thanks! It’s pretty safe, you’ll love it!

Beautiful post! Vietnam is high up there on my bucket list, especially Hoi An and Halong Bay. I know I will go soon. Maybe next year. Thank you for sharing this awesome itinerary.

I have yet to get to that part of the world. A co-worker of mine also still talks about her trip to Vietnam and just how much she loved it. The photos are so endearing and just beautiful!

Wow. I have never really thought about Vietnam as a vacation destination, but your post made me really re-think that. What a beautiful place.

yeah it’s super underrated. I really liked it, more than Thailand haha

I can’t wait to visit Vietnam, it’s definitely one on my bucket list. Such a great itinerary and tips. I have a friend going soon so I’ll definitely send this post her way.

I’d love to kayak Halong Bay – my friends have just moved to HCMC so hoping to visit Vietnam soon, thanks for the info!

Wow your photos of Vietnam definitely make me want to visit. Your tips were also quite helpful. I didn’t know there were beaches there too.

Great post! I especially love the “Things To Know Before Visiting Vietnam” section! I had no idea you needed a visa.

I’m dying to go! Hoping to get over there over thanksgiving this year so I’ll definitely refer back to this when planning my trip!

I really want to visit! I love all of your photos, will have to save this for when I go!

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Great itinerary! I’ve only been to Ho Chi minh City, but I would like to go back to Vietnam one day and see more of it! 🙂

A great itinerary! I did a similar route myself. I think my highlight was Hoi An. Could have stayed there a week!

Reblogged this on Vietnam Travel & Trade Portal .

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How to Plan Your Trip to Vietnam 2024 — 7 Easy Steps

Vietnam is a vibrant and diverse country with a rich history, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine. Whether you are foodies, nature lovers, history buffs, or adventurers, Vietnam will offer something special to you, no matter whether you are travelling with your kid(s) or just your husband/wife.

The following travel guide will help you to plan your perfect trip to Vietnam, especially if this is your first Vietnam trip!

1. Choose Where to Go

2. decide how many days to stay.

  • 3. Consider Your Budget
  • 4. Consider When to Travel

5. Consider How You'll Travel

  • 6. Check Out Visa Policy
  • 7. Getting to and Around Vietnam

With so many wonderful destinations in Vietnam to choose from it can be overwhelming when you have to decide which to see and which to leave out.

With our knowledge of Vietnam and feedback from our customers, we suggest you visit Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north, Hoi An and Danang in the middle, and Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta in the south on your first trip.

1). Hanoi — the capital city with rich history and local cuisine

As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a must-visit when planning a Vietnam trip.

For those who like history and culture, don't miss the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, and One Pillar Pagoda.

Your Hanoi trip would not be complete without a visit to the Old Quarter where you could experience local life and taste the local cuisine.

Vietnam's traditional water puppet show is recommended, which is usually enjoyed by adults as well as kids.

If your time permits, you could take some one or two-day tours to explore the best places surrounding Hanoi, such as Ninh Binh or Mai Chau.

2). Halong Bay — for UNESCO heritage seascape cruises

As a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, Halong Bay is a must-see destination in Vietnam that offers stunning scenery and a wide range of activities suitable for families and couples.

However, if you haven't found the perfect cruise, your trip might not be as amazing as you imagined.

How to choose a Halong Bay cruise?

If you're like us and you don't love huge impersonal tours, definitely go for a smaller cruise ship . And for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays, we can arrange a whole houseboat just for your family or partner .

If you want to have fewer boats around you, choose a cruise that takes you to Bai Tu Long or Lan Ha Bay - which are more secluded and less-crowded bays . All three bays have basically the same views and the same activities, so you won't be missing out!

Contact us and our Vietnam specialists will recommend you the best cruise for you.

3). Hoi An — a charming ancient town with cultural activities

Hoi An is a must-see in central Vietnam. It is a charismatic ancient town with well-preserved architecture, lantern-lined streets, and a vibrant food scene.

Take a walk to explore the ancient architecture — pagodas, temples, and traditional shops — and to experience Hoi An's slow-pace of life.

If travelling with your kid(s), don't miss learning how to create traditional lanterns . It's a fun activity for the whole family. If travelling on a full moon day, you can join in the monthly lantern festival .

If interested, leave a half-day to visit a local market and take a cooking class .

The countryside surrounding Hoi An is beautiful. Our unique half-day farming experience tour allows you to see rural life in Vietnam and experience the peaceful countryside.

4). Ho Chi Minh City — a bustling metropolis with Vietnam War sites

Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in the south of Vietnam, is one of the most popular ports of entry and departure in Vietnam. Most travelers spend one to two days there to see the bustling metropolis, which is a mix of colonial and modern architecture, museums, and vibrant nightlife.

You could learn about the Vietnam War from world-class museums and the Cu Chi Tunnels, have a cup of coffee atop skyline towers, or try the street foods.

5). The Mekong Delta — floating markets and traditional villages

As the rice bowl of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is vibrant with rustic life: see busy floating markets, lush-green rice fields, and fruitful gardens. No matter whether you take a boat trip or cycle around the villages, you can get an insight into authentic local life.

Just 2–3 hours' driving from Ho Chi Minh City, you could take a day trip to the Mekong Delta or spend a night there to catch the early-morning floating markets (the most traditional and authentic ones).

Suggested read: How to Plan an Incredible Family Trip to Vietnam .

Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family 's best-rated service across trusted platforms.

For your first Vietnam trip, we recommend you have a 10-day trip to visit the highlights in the top cities from north to south, covering Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Mekong Delta.

Get some inspiration from our page 10 Days Itineraries in Vietnam: 5 Top Itineraries for First-Timers, Couples, and Families . (For a shorter trip, you can see page: 7 Days in Vietnam - 6 Best Itinerary Ideas )

If you have 15 days , we would recommend you spend an extra 3/4 days in the north to see Hanoi's surrounding highlights (such as Mai Chau, and Ninh Binh) or go farther north to Sapa, and 2–3 days in the central region to see Da Nang or Hue, or enjoy some free days on a beach. See more info on the page How to Spend 2 Weeks in Vietnam: Top 4 Itineraries

If you have 2–3 weeks or longer, it is possible to involve one more country in your trip. Thailand-Vietnam , Vietnam-Cambodia , and Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam are popular choices. Get some inspiration from our 19-Day Highlights of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam .

These are just a couple of examples of possible itineraries!

  • 10-Day Highlights of Vietnam: Hanoi (2 days), Halong Bay (2 days), Hoi An (2 days), Ho Chi Minh (2 days), and Mekong Delta (2 days). See our sample itinerary for inspiration: 10-Day Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta .
  • 15-Day Vietnam Discovery Tour: Hanoi (4 days), Halong Bay (2 days), Hue (2 days), Da Nang (1 day), Hoi An (2 days), Ho Chi Minh (2 days), and Mekong Delta (2 days). See our sample itinerary for inspiration: In-Depth Vietnam Discovery from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

Contact our travel specialist to inquire about a Vietnam tour, and you will get a reply with an itinerary and quotation within 24 hours.

3. Consider Your Vietnam Trip Budget

The biggest part of your tour costs may be the international flights. Airfares vary a lot for different routes, so make a comparison before booking. Check with your consultant: he/she may get a better rate.

Vietnam's domestic flights are very affordable. For instance, a single flight costs around just US$80 for economy class in low season. Airfares from Vietnam to other Southeast Asian countries are similar.

Hotel room rates vary from guesthouses' to deluxe hotels'. As Vietnam's system is different from international hotel star ratings, it would be better to classify Vietnamese hotels as 'Comfortable'/'Boutique' (US$50–100 per room), 'Luxury' (US$150–200 per room), or 'Guesthouses' (from US$10 per room).

As for food, you could choose to taste Vietnam's street food from just US$1–2 per meal, or have upmarket cuisine for only US$20–50 per meal, or anything in between.

Here are the prices for a private tour based on a group of 2 people during the peak season, for your reference:

  • On a medium budget, touring Vietnam typically costs around US$ 200–250 USD per day per person (including 4- or 5-star hotels, airfares within Vietnam, attractions, guides, and transfers).
  • For a higher budget of US$250–350 per day per person, more comfort can be enjoyed (including 5-star or plus hotels, airfares within Vietnam, attractions, guides, and transfers).
  • For a family trip (2 adults plus 2–3 children) for 2 weeks in Vietnam or in Southeast Asia, it normally costs US$8,000–15,000 per family excluding international flights from/to America or Europe.

Travel with us to enjoy a comfortable and flexible private tour.

4. Decide When to Travel to Vietnam

As a long and narrow country, stretching north to south, with a long coast, the weather is pleasantly milder all year round in Vietnam, with fewer extremes of temperature than inland countries.

The weather varies between northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Although the best time for travel depends on the region you visit, November to March are the best months to travel to most places in the country.

The months of April and late October (just after or before the peak season) are ideal times for those wishing to find a compromise between the price and the weather.

November–March: The Mild, Dry Festival Season

This season is blessed with Vietnam's most comfortable weather. You would also get the chance to immerse yourself in the atmospheric festivals and holidays, such as Christmas, New Year, and Tet (Vietnamese New Year, during January or February).

In this peak season, hotels are easily booked up, and tour costs go up accordingly. Due to the high demand, you're suggested to book your tour at least 3 months in advance.

April–October: The Hot, Rainy Low Season

Visiting Vietnam in the rainy season, you can enjoy lower prices and fewer crowds.

Thanks to its long, S-shaped coastal geography, which means Vietnam's weather is very changeable, the rainy days are not often persistent. The rainfall mainly comes in the afternoon or evening, which would allow you to enjoy most of the day. Doing outdoor activities in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat and taking rain gear are recommended.

Typhoons are likely to happen in July and August in Northern Vietnam, but in October in central Vietnam. Thus, a flexible itinerary and buying travel insurance are helpful to make possible adjustments.

Note: Rainy seasons vary in Vietnam — north and south: May–October; central: September–December. >>>More on Best Times to Visit Vietnam and seasonal travel tips

If you are traveling with kids or you are a couple, a private guided tour is the best way to enhance your journey as it can provide a more personalized, educational, and stress-free travel experience.

With a private guided tour, you can customize your itinerary to fit your interests, preferences, and pace. A local guide can offer valuable insights and knowledge about the destination, including its history, culture, traditions, and hidden gems, and help you navigate through Vietnam, saving you time and energy in figuring out transportation, directions, and logistics.

Contact us now to start your Vietnam trip planning, and no matter what you're celebrating — anniversary, birthday… — we'll create an unforgettable trip for you.

6. Check Out Vietnam's Visa Policy

Holders of normal passports issued by the following countries do not require a visa to visit Vietnam:

  • Europe : United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden
  • South and Middle America : Chile, Panama
  • Asia : Japan, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Brunei

All travelers can visit Phu Quoc visa free for up to 30 days.

Starting from August 15, 2023, Vietnam e-visas are issued to citizens of all countries and territories, and they are issued for multiple entries for up to 90 days . You can now apply for the e-visa online . The e-visa fee is approximately 25 USD, and your application will usually be processed within 3 working days. Applying for an e-visa is efficient and convenient.

7. Getting To and Around Vietnam

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City receive most of Vietnam's international flights. For American and European travelers, you're recommended to make a stopover in popular travel hubs, such as Bangkok, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, for the best prices and choice of flights.

When travelling around Vietnam from region to region, domestic flights are the most comfortable and time-saving option.

In each region, a private transfer is the best option for enjoying more comfort and flexibility.

If you book one of our private Vietnam tours, we will work out the best itinerary to match the time of your international flight. Also we will take care of all your transportation in Vietnam, from flight bookings, and handling any changes that occur or cancellations needed, to airport transfers.

You're in Good Hands with Asia Highlights

We have created over 10,000+ big trips for insightful travelers, mostly for families and couples. We truly understand that every single big trip planned for our clients is not just for good holiday memories but also for joyful celebrations of life's milestones.

Get a wonderful Vietnam vacation by sending us a message . Or check out our sample itineraries for inspiration:

  • 15-Day Best of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour
  • 15-Day Vietnam Family Holiday Tour
  • 14-Day Classic Vietnam and Thailand Tour

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  • 10-Day Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta
  • 19-Day Highlights of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam Tour
  • 7 Days in Vietnam: 6 Best Itinerary Ideas for First Timers, Families and Couples
  • 10 Days in Vietnam: 5 Best Itineraries in 2024/2025
  • How to Plan a Thailand and Vietnam Trip (2024/2025): 10 Days, 2, 3 Weeks Itineraries
  • How to Visit Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam 2024: 10, 14 and 21-Day Itinerary Ideas
  • Vietnam Weather in January 2024: Cool & Dry, Best Places to Go
  • Vietnam Weather in February 2024: Insider Tips for Peak Season
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  • Vietnam Weather in April 2024: Insider Tips
  • Vietnam Weather in May 2024: Best Places to Go
  • Vietnam Weather in June 2024: Hot & Rainy? Best Places to Go
  • Vietnam Weather in July 2024: Best Places to Go and Travel Tips
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  • Vietnam Weather in October 2024: Travel Tips for First-timers
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Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

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Live fully in Vietnam

Vietnam opens its door widely to welcome visitors all around the world! Starting from 15th August 2023, Vietnam extends e-visa validity to 90 days and unilateral visa exemption will be valid in 45 days! We are more than happy to welcome you all here and admire our stunning landscapes, free your soul on white sandy beaches, experience our unique and beautiful culture and meet the people in the most friendly country. Particularly, to indulge in our scrumptious cuisine at Michelin rated restaurants or to join us in outstanding mega culture, music, sports and tourism events! Let’s live to the fullest in Vietnam!

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3 Week Vietnam Itinerary: Best Route North To South (2024)

Come find out the ideal Vietnam 3 week itinerary for the ultimate adventure. Let’s talk about the best route, things to do, transportation, accommodation, and more during your 3 weeks in Vietnam!

Now Vietnam is for sure one of the best countries you can choose to backpack. It has such varied landscapes, delicious food, and awesome locals. Though it is actually a huge country with so much to offer.

It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where exactly to go on your travels. Though thankfully there is a well-established backpacking route that I focused on travels in completing during my time in Vietnam.

Therefore I know how long you should spend in each spot, how to travel between them, as well as the best places to eat, sleep, and stay.

Our itinerary will start in the North of Vietnam, in the city of Hanoi. This place has excellent international flight routes ensuring you will easily be able to start your travels there. However we will end in another city called Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, another spot with excellent international transport links.

This means you will easily be able to switch this itinerary around and do it back to front if your heart, and travel plans, desire. It’s the perfect Vietnam North to South itinerary.

We actually spent 4 weeks traveling this route in Vietnam, 28 days on the dot. Though we spent too long in some cities, so I have altered this Vietnam itinerary for 3 weeks.

Keep in mind that 3 weeks is the minimum amount of time to complete this route with the days in each city I have recommended. Therefore I do not support trying to shorten it anymore.

If you are looking at getting off the beaten track and away from other travelers, then I will say it now; this is not the itinerary for you. This is assuming you are visiting Vietnam for the first time and want to see some of the best places it has to offer.

We will keep you on the well-trodden backpacking Vietnam route. Though with a few extra tips and tricks are thrown in to take your adventure to the next level.

Now, let’s get into this 3 week Vietnam itinerary with all the information you need to know to have the ultimate adventure.

The Best 3 Weeks In Vietnam Itinerary For First-Time Visitors: Travel North To South With This Vietnam 3 Week Itinerary

Hanoi (Day 1 – 3)

Welcome to Hanoi ! It can be a bit overwhelming when you first touch down for your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary but trust me, this is one of the craziest cities in Vietnam. Enjoy being among the action!

Enjoy Vietnam’s capital city boasting a well-preserved mix of French and Chinese architectural influences. Wander the small alleyways discovering delicious hidden way local food stalls.

Look in awe at the incredible cathedral contrasting against the noisy motorbikes fulling the road. This city is an excellent starting point for some excellent multiday trips such as Sapa, Ha Long Bay, and Mai Chau.

You will actually need to pop into Hanoi for a couple of extra nights as stop-offs between these multiday trips and other destinations in Vietnam. This is simply because you don’t want to book your other transportation on the same day in case you miss it due to weather, traffic, or simply unforeseen circumstances.

I know it is a hassle, so ignore the extra overnight extra if you want. However just be extra cautious of possible delays on the road.

I have actually written a full 3 days in Hanoi itinerary , with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

For now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

Busy streets outside Hanoi's renowned market, a vibrant cultural touchstone for any Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks.

🚗 How I Book Cheap Transport In Vietnam: Baolau & 12.Go Asia

Getting From Noi Bai Airport To The Old Quarter

There are quite a few options you can take when figuring out how to travel from the Noi Bai International Airport to the Old Quarter, which is the best area to stay in Hanoi. They are also a surprisingly long distance apart as Hanoi is a crazy huge place. Depending on your transport method of choice it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour to travel the distance.

Prepaid Taxi: Taking a prepaid taxi is one of the most popular options when figuring out how to travel from the airport to the Old Quarter. This is also one I highly recommend. You can book a prepaid taxi via your accommodation before arriving in Hanoi. They will make sure the taxi driver is waiting at the airport holding up a sign with your name on it. When I was in Hanoi I paid $20.00 for my taxi from Noi Bai International Airport to The Old Quarter. We also arrived in the country in peak traffic and it took us over an hour to travel the distance in gridlock.

Taxi: You will find taking a regular taxi will be slightly cheaper than a prepaid taxi. It will be super easy to find a taxi. Simply exit the airport terminal and there will be a line of taxis waiting out the front. Your typical 4-seater car will cost somewhere between $14.00 – $18.00 depending on traffic. Organize a fixed price for the journey and do not pay for the meter.

Bus: The cheapest way to travel from Noi Bai Airport to the Old Quarter in Hanoi is by public bus.

  • Number 86 Bus is the newest, and most highly recommended bus. It will take you directly to the Old Quarter and finishes at the Hanoi Central Railway Station. The journey will take around 1 hour and cost $1.30 per person.
  • Number 7 Bus runs from the airport to Kim Ma bus station, on the western side of the Old Quarter. This is a long journey at an hour and a half and costs $0.40.
  • Number 17 Bus: This is a similar bus to the above, though instead finishes at Long Bien bus station. It takes an hour and a half and costs $0.40 as well.

Top Things To Do In Hanoi

Time to start exploring the best of what Hanoi has to offer. You should have one-half day and a full day to explore if you are following this Vietnam itinerary, giving you time to check out what you would like.

This is a list of my personal recommendations:

Wander The Old Quarter – The Old Quarter in Hanoi is a crazy busy place. Think small alleys, stores spilling out the side of buildings, and motorbikes speeding down the street. There is nothing better to do here than simply get lost. Stop at that store selling those cute trinkets, grab a banh mi from that food cart and follow your nose to that delicious-smelling hotpot from around the corner.

St Joseph’s Cathedral – I was lucky enough to stay in a hostel next to St Joseph’s Cathedral during my time in Hanoi. If you are there on a Sunday pop inside during the service and watch. Just remember to be respectful and stay quiet down the back, so as to not interrupt.

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple – Hoan Kiem Lake is such a happening place in Hanoi and it is only a short stroll from The Old Quarter. This is the perfect spot to come and people watch as the world passes by. In the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake is Ngoc Son Temple. It is very picturesque, even looking at it from a distance from across the lake you can appreciate the beauty.

Train Street – One of the most popular attractions in Hanoi is Train Street. This is simply a narrow bit of train track that weaves between buildings in the busy city. Though the presence of quaint cafes in close proximity to the moving train has created a phenomenon and quite the Instagram hot spot.

Narrow lane bustling with activity in Hanoi's Old Quarter, a must-visit for an immersive 3 week Vietnam experience.

Where To Stay In Hanoi

The area of Hoan Kiem, or The Old Quarter, is the best part of Hanoi for travelers. It is full of culture with temples, old gates, small alleys, and traditional shops, making it a picture-perfect spot.

It’s an obvious choice why many choose to stay here. Everything is within relatively close walking distance with plenty of affordable eateries, backpacker hostels, and luxury hotels.

On my most recent visit, I stayed at a hostel in the Old Quarter. You can check out my review of Chien Hostel for more information, though unfortunately, it has now shut down.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of affordable, but lux, hostel options in the Old Quarter of Hanoi . One of these is Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel . Here you can find dorm beds starting from $5.00, and with a privacy curtain, personal lights, sockets, and more this is real value for money!

Here are my top picks for the backpacking Hanoi travel guide:

How To Get From Hanoi To Sapa

Sapa is the most Northern this 3 week Vietnam itinerary will take you. Hanoi allows for an easy and simple starting point to travel with plenty of direct options available to book.

Though getting from Hanoi to Sapa can take quite a lot of time due to being such a large distance apart, trust me it is worth it. Unfortunately, air travel is currently not an option. This means you will need to travel overland.

Bus: the trip from Hanoi to Sapa takes approximately 5.5 to 6 hours . Plus it is a direct route so there is no need to stop in Lao Cai like the train. Though as someone who has taken the bus from Hanoi to Sapa let me just say, pick your bus company wisely. Conditions in Vietnam vary greatly and even though your accommodation recommends it, that doesn’t mean it is just a good choice. This just means they are likely getting some sort of commission from it.

Train : from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes 8 hours and 5 minutes . Lao Cai is the nearest railway station, 35 kilometers from Sapa town. From Lao Cai Train Station, it takes approximately an additional 65 minutes to reach Sapa, though minivan journeys the rest of the way are super easy to book. Currently, Vietnam Railways operate this journey twice per day, with either the SP1 or SP3 train.

Car or taxi : it takes between 5 and 5.5 hours to travel from Hanoi to Sapa via the highway. If you have a bit more money to spend why not book a private taxi from Hanoi to Sapa. No doubt this will be the fastest and most comfortable journey you could take. It may even take you less than 5 hours if you don’t do any stops! The easiest way to prebook your private taxi is online with 12.Go Asia . They have a variety of companies on offer who can take you the distance. Prices start from $170.00 for a 9 person van one way.

Mini Van: Taking the minivan is another great way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa. This is slightly a more expensive option than the bus, but some of these minivans are fancy AF. Like they are known as limousine vans. Think plush, lazy-boy-style seats. One of the most popular companies to book with is called Eco Sapa Bus. You get 5 and a half hours of luxury where you can just relax in comfort for the whole time. There are two services every day with the first at 7:30 am and the second at 3 pm.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau . Their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue.

Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!

Sapa (Day 3 – 6)

If you are wanting to experience the countryside in Vietnam then Sapa is the perfect place to do this. Think of bright green rice terraces, mountainous landscapes, and witnessing life in rural Vietnam.

This place is absolutely gorgeous and honestly quite different from other popular towns and cities along the tourist trail in Vietnam.

Whether you want to check out some incredible waterfalls, witness the amazing rice terraces, make friends with the local animals or even hike Fansipan Mountain known as the roof of Indochina.

Once you get here one of the best things to do on your Sapa itinerary is go trekking, allowing you to explore the magnificent rice fields that line the hilly countryside making for the most picture-perfect opportunities. You can also stay at a homestay with a local family. Ta Van is an excellent village to do this.

I have actually written a full 3 days in Sapa itinerary , with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

Aerial view of terraced rice fields in Sapa, a rural landscape that's a staple in a Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks.

Trekking In Sapa

One of the best ways to go trekking around Sapa is on a guided tour. These are surprisingly affordable costing less than $20.00 for the day. The price general includes lunch and water as well.

You will be able to visit ethnic minority villages here in Sapa, which depends on exactly what tour you book. However, your guides will be able to take you through the beautiful rice terraces and to some of the most picturesque spots. You will be given plenty of opportunities to interact with the local villagers and learn about their way of life.

If you want to trek Sapa without a guide I first highly recommend you download Maps.Me on your phone. On it, you will be able to get an offline version of a map of Sapa, perfect if you do not have a local SIM card.

Alternatively, you can pick up a map of the surrounding area from the Tourist Information Office. If you are traveling during a part of the year with good weather then you can likely do a variety of hikes. The tracks will be maintained and dry so you should have no problem getting around.

Other Things To Do In Sapa

Sapa is a nature lover paradise full of plenty of things to do.

Mount Fansipan – Mount Fansipan is often referred to as the roof of Indochina. This is because it is not just the highest peak in Vietnam at over 10,000 feet, but also in the whole Indo-Chinese Peninsula which includes Laos and Cambodia! Therefore it is a must-visit!

Waterfalls – Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall are well worth the visit while you are in Sapa. Love waterfall is a short 15 to 20-minute hike away from the main road. Though it is a peaceful walk underneath a beautiful forest. The entry fee is $3.00 / 70,000VND and it is definitely worth it. A few kilometers drive away is also Silver Waterfall. This can be seen from the roadside. Though I definitely recommend hiking up the stairs to the top for the best view.

Sapa Night Market – This is only held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It runs from 4:00 pm to 10:00pm and is located on N1 street in the middle of town so is super accessible. This is the perfect place to partake in a little bit of souvenir shopping or perhaps dinner.

Home Stay In Ta Van – You will want to book your homestay in Ta Van in advance. There are so many places to choose from and the easiest way to book your Homestay is through This is what I used to book my homestay making it a hassle-free experience. You will just need to go through the listings and choose one of the homestay options or look at the map view and choose something, not in the main town.

Cat Cat Village – Cat Cat Village is a popular spot for tourists to visit while in Sapa, but in all honesty it is extremely touristy. It is super accessible being located in the Muong Hoa Valley, just 3 kilometers from Sapa Town. It is a super easy walk to get here and the pathway is well-maintained. The entry fee is $1.10 / 25,000 VND. This place is home to the ethnic H’Mong and Dzao people and here they come together to demonstrate their handicrafts and skills to those interested.

Solitary motorcyclist on a bridge in the mountainous regions of Vietnam, a journey to remember on a 3 week Vietnam adventure.

Where To Stay In Sapa

When choosing where to stay in Sapa you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. No matter your budget or the type of traveler you are there is something to fit all your needs. Though most people a mixture of a hotel in the main town and a homestay among the rice terraces.

Sapa town is absolutely full of affordable and more luxurious hotel options. From comfortable guesthouses to sparkling brand-new hotels, it all comes down to your budget and what you are willing to spend. The township is nice and compact making it easy to travel everywhere on foot.

I also recommend while you are in Sapa to do a homestay experience. This is where you will live alongside a local family. You can eat what they eat, see the incredible countryside, and explore to your heart’s content. When I stayed in Sapa I booked mine on and there were so many choices available. Make sure you read reviews so you know what exactly to expect.

Some will have heating, electricity, and wifi while others may not. They seem to be cheaper than the hotels in the main town, though they will be a lot more basic. Our homestay had limited electricity which meant evenings cuddled up around the fire while eating warm sugarcane.

Hanoi ( Day 6 – 7)

This one night in Hanoi is simply to allow you enough time to get back to the city before you’re Ha Long Bay adventures tomorrow.

It is a long journey, no matter if you book a train, bus, or private taxi, so no doubt you will need a good night’s sleep before venturing on.

Ha Long Bay (Day 7 – 8)

One of the most popular things to do when in Hanoi is take a tour of Ha Long Bay . This amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site is no doubt one of the top experiences to have when in Vietnam and leaves visitors breathless.

Though the problem is, that there are so many options to explore Ha Long Bay. They range in price from the horribly cheap ‘I am not sure how this boat is floating’ type to the luxury junk boat cruise with a six-course dinner included.

Halong Bay is easy to get to from Hanoi by day trip, overnight trip, or even for two or more nights, or you can jump on a day or multiple-day cruise from Halong City. I recommend booking the overnight cruise for the 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary.

Doing the day trip won’t be long enough as it is a couple of hours one way to Ha Long Bay, and the multi-night trip will be too long. All tours you book should include a return transfer to Hanoi, and I recommend utilizing this service for ease.

Woman sitting on a boat deck, admiring limestone cliffs emerging from the sea, a peaceful moment to savor on a 3 weeks in Vietnam journey.

Choosing A Ha Long Bay Cruise

Now there is an absolute assortment of cruise options you can book for exploring Ha Long Bay. Honestly, it can get quite overwhelming.

I recommend checking out reviews and booking based on other people’s experiences. Just because it is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be bad, and just because one might be the most expensive doesn’t mean it is going to be the best.

Unfortunately, since COVID-19, the one I booked doesn’t seem to be operating anymore. However, I did a 2-night trip to Cat Ong Island. Our first day was spent on board the junk boat, the second day exploring Cat Ong Island, and the last day checking out the nearby Cat Ba Island.

This gave us great variety as we weren’t just stuck on one boat for three days (though I did do an 11-day cruise and loved it). This tour was one of the budget backpacker ones, but not the infamous one where everyone gets drunk and vomits everywhere, this cruise was a bit more chill.

Luckily Get Your Guide has some excellent options available for Ha Long Bay cruises perfect for your Vietnam 3 week itinerary:

Couple kayaking in tranquil emerald waters of a Vietnamese bay, an adventurous highlight of a 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary.

Hanoi To Ninh Binh

After your time venturing Ha Long Bay has come to an end your tour operator will transfer you back to Hanoi so you can continue your travels. Luckily the journey from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is relatively short, so you will be able to do this on the same day.

Bus: You will find plenty of buses traveling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. Most hostels and hotels will be able to book a bus for you which includes hotel pick up, and it should cost between 200,000 – 250,000 VND / $8.50 – $10.70.

Train : 6-7 trains leave from Hanoi to Ninh Binh railway station every day, of which SE5 is the most popular option as it offers very convenient travel times. Soft seats sell between 73,000 VND / $3.10 and 99,000 VND / $4.25. Though you also have the option of booking a sleeper berth from 115,000 VND / $4.90.

Taxi : If you are in a rush, or perhaps traveling with a group of people then you can always book a taxi. The journey is much quicker than the bus, only taking 2 hours to complete and you don’t have to go in circles picking up other passengers.

Mini Van: Taking the minivan is another great way to travel. This is slightly a more expensive option than the bus, but some of these minivans are fancy AF. Like they are known as limousine vans. Think plush, lazy-boy-style seats.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia . I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train.

This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!

Ninh Binh (Day 8 – 10)

Ninh Binh is certainly a place that has grown in popularity over the past few years thanks to those beautiful Instagram posts from the tall karst mountains with views for days.

Here you can hike to the tallest viewpoints, paddle through caves, or soak up the culture. It is another beautiful spot in Vietnam and highly worth visiting during your 3 week itinerary Vietnam.

For a lot of people, this is the most beautiful destination in Vietnam and will leave you in awe. Nearby Ninh Binh you also have the picturesque town of Tam Coc which is surrounded by mountains with homestays and dreamy accommodation galore.

This spot is a lot less touristy than the forever-popular Ha Long Bay. Even though there might not be any sea, here you will find rivers and lakes in contrast with the huge karst mountains.

You are actually able to enjoy the peace and nature here without all of the crowds.

River view framed by a dragon sculpture in Ninh Binh, an iconic sight for those on a Vietnam itinerary.

Things To Do In Ninh Binh

There is an assortment of awesome things to do in Ninh Binh that’ll get you in touch with nature and its impressive landscapes.

Trang An Boat Ride : No doubt this is the most popular thing to do in the region, and where the majority of people get those fancy Instagram pictures. This boat ride will take you through the limestone mountains on a maze of rivers and pass through caves. There are three different tour routes to choose from varying in length, but they all cost the same.

Hang Mua Viewpoint: For the ultimate view, it is definitely worth checking out Hang Mua Viewpoint. It may be quite a climb up the 500 stairs, but it is so worth it. Be aware that the staircase splits about halfway up. The right leads to a tower on the lower point. The left continues upward to the highest point where you can find the pagodas with an elaborate white dragon statue, oh and of course the incredible view.

Hire A Bicycle: One of the best things to do in Ninh Binh is simply to explore at your own pace. Many hostels and homestays offer super affordable bike rentals, and since the region is relatively flat it is super easy to ride around. It is definitely worth cycling to the nearby Tam Coc and exploring the main street and around the lake.

Bich Dong Pagoda: This picturesque spot is found hidden underneath one of the limestone mountains that dot the region. As you explore you will discover more temples protruding from the mountainside. The great thing about this Pagoda is that it is an easy bike ride from downtown Tam Coc, or you can take a taxi or a grab car.

Majestic view of a river winding through karst limestone mountains in Ninh Binh, a natural wonder for those spending 3 weeks in Vietnam.

Where To Stay In Ninh Binh On The Vietnam North To South Itinerary

Now as you will see you can either choose to stay in Ninh Binh or the small nearby town of Tam Coc. They are about 15 minutes apart from each other, though the main difference between these two places is what you can find in the towns themselves.

Ninh Binh is larger than Tam Coc. Here you will be spoilt for choices in terms of accommodation, restaurants, and cafes. It’s easy here to find a hostel or a modern hotel.

Though being a larger place means Ninh Binh doesn’t have that whole quaint nature town that a lot of people travel to this region to experience.

In contrast, Tam Coc is a much smaller quaint place. You will be sleeping in a homestay here, though you will get to experience the best this region has to offer. Once the crowds pack out during the day you will have this piece of paradise to yourself.

Ninh Binh To Hue

Next up you will need to travel from Ninh Binh to Hue. Unfortunately, this is going to be quite a long journey. However, if you time it right you could organize your transport overnight so you don’t lose out on a day of exploring.

Train : 6-7 trains are leaving from Ninh Binh to Hue railway station every day, though you will be best off taking the overnight train. There are two different overnight trains, taking between eleven and a half to twelve and a half hours. This should give you more than enough time to have a decent night’s sleep, and enough energy to explore the following day. Prices cost between 500,000 to 600,000 VND / $21.40 – $25.70, though you also have the option of booking the more pricey luxury carriage at a higher price.

Bus: You will find plenty of buses traveling from Ninh Binh to Hue. The bus ride takes 11 to 12.5 hours. Although this option is the cheapest at 325,000 VND / $13.50, it is not recommended. The overnight sleeper buses in Vietnam are notorious for being dangerous, and the train isn’t that much more expensive, for a whole lot more comfort.

Fly: As Ninh Binh does not have an airport you will need to travel back to Hanoi to catch a flight to Hue.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia . I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue.

Hue (Day 10 – 12)

Hue is well worth checking out while on your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Imagine a city equal amounts quaint and bustling, a beautiful river running along the middle, and an impressive citadel smack bang right in the middle. This is Hue and it is such a unique place.

Honestly, it is quite different from the other towns you’ll visit on this Vietnam itinerary and that is why it is a must-visit. It may not have too much in terms of incredible nature.

To gain a better understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of Vietnam I highly recommend a visit to Hue.

Honestly, you do not need too long to explore here which is why I have recommended spending two days in Hue . Though I have heard of people just spending the day here.

They arrived early morning on the overnight train from Hanoi and then took a late-night train out. This has given them a decent chunk of the day to explore the main thing to do here which is the Hue Citadel or the Imperial City Of Hue.

I have actually written a full 2 days in Hue itinerary , with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

Motorcyclist crossing an ancient bridge leading to a historic gate in Hue, a cultural highlight for 3 weeks in Vietnam.

Best Things To Do In Hue

Well, the Imperial City of Hue is no doubt the main reason why most people travel to Hue. Though, in saying, that there are plenty of other things to do here. as well.

The Imperial City of Hue: Let’s start with the most obvious thing to do here in Hue, visit the impressive Imperial City of Hue. It was built in 1362 and in 1993 was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between these two periods of time, the walls of the city have witnessed a lot of history, even serving as the capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty. Purchase your entry ticket for 150,00 VND / $6.60 and enter inside to explore. The grounds are massive! Personally, we spent 3 hours exploring Hue Citadel. Though in all honesty that felt a bit rushed and we would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so hot.

Thien Mu Pagoda: Thien Mu Pagoda is best known for how high it is. Reaching seven stories, and climbing up the stairs you will be treated to incredible views across the river over the pagoda gardens. To get to Thien Mu Pagoda I recommend either hiring a motorbike from in town, or you can just simply take a Grab taxi (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber).

The Abandoned Waterpark: It will be best to get yourself some wheels to explore The Abandoned Waterpark. Apart from being a reasonable distance away from the city of Hue, the park itself is pretty spread out, and to see it all you will need a motorbike to get around. Also, bring along some extra cash as you will need to bribe a security guard to enter the premises.

The Royal Temple of Tu Duc: The Royal Temple of Tu Duc is a beautiful temple site with a lot of Chinese-inspired architecture. This is also where you will find the tomb of Tu Duc who was the Emperor between 1847 and 1883. The entry fee is 100,000 VND / $4.10.

Tu Hieu Pagoda: This is actually a free pagoda to visit and is home to approximately 70 monks. It’s a much more understated pagoda, though it provides a good contrast to Tu Duc Temple.


Where To Stay In Hue

When choosing where to stay in Hue you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. No matter your budget or the type of traveler you are there is something to fit all your needs.

Whether you want an affordable hostel, welcoming guesthouse, or luxury hotel.

I personally stayed in a lovely little guesthouse in Hue, which was the perfect budget option. There are some great guesthouse choices for less than $20.00 per night.

Alternatively, if you are traveling solo you can find plenty of cute, modern, and clean hostels here also.

Hue To Hoi An

It is relatively straightforward to travel from Hue to Hoi An by plane, bus, or train. However, the way I highly recommend is to do a Jeep Tour over the Hai Van Pass.

This will turn a mundane few hours into an exciting few, checking out some more of the incredible landscapes, and roads, Vietnam has to offer.

This is the perfect top-gear moment where you will ride in an army-style Jeep over the Hai Van Pass. Depending on which tour you decide to book you will also get a chance you check out some other spots of interest along the way.

This could include Marble Mountain, Lang Co Bay, Tam Giang Lagoon, visiting some local villages, and more.

If you want to travel by train you will need to travel to Hue to Da Nang by train and then transfer from Da Nang to Hoi An by bus or taxi.

Hoi An (Day 12 – 15)

Hoi An is a great spot to stop off for a few days to enjoy the beach, culture, and countryside. This is one of the top tourist destinations in Vietnam.

It is equal parts quaint and beautiful, especially in the ancient town. Imagine lanterns lighting the night sky, delicious food, and some incredible photo opportunities.

There are so many things to do here in Hoi An you will be spoilt for choice. Whether you enjoy lying by the beach, exploring the jungle, or hitting the shops, there is something here for everyone.

I backpacked Hoi An in the middle of my Vietnam adventures as I made my way overland from North to South. We found this township quite unlike anything we had come across in this country so far.

Honestly, it was extremely touristic, though nevertheless very beautiful. We stayed a short walk from the ancient town meaning we could be among the action when desired, but could also enjoy a bit of peace.

During our stay, we also traveled around by motorbike and bicycle to check out the best attractions on offer.

I have actually written a backpacking Hoi An itinerary guide , with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here. This includes what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

Night view of Hoi An Ancient Town with illuminated lanterns, a magical experience during 3 weeks in Vietnam.

Things To Do In Hoi An

Hoi An is an awesome town with literally so many things to do. It can quickly become any visitor’s favorite spot in Vietnam and it is easy to see why.

So let’s get into what you should do in Hoi A n for an epic time on your 3 weeks in Vietnam backpacking itinerary adventure.

Take a cooking class: This is a famous activity to do here in Hoi An and is an excellent way to learn some of those delicious Vietnamese dishes. You can check out Get Your Guide for an excellent cooking class that is very popular with travelers. Highlights include exploring the markets in Hoi An to pick up ingredients, cruising down the Thu Bon River, exploring the coconut palm forest by the crazy-looking bamboo basket boats, and tasting some delicious local dishes.

Shop In The Ancient Town: This ancient town is what makes Hoi An so special. It managed to survive the Vietnam War mostly unscathed and is said to have been settled for at least 2000 years. There is an entry fee to the ancient town of 120,000 VND / $5.00 per person.

Fujian Assembly Hall: This was originally a pagoda built by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. It was then sold to Hoi An’s Fujian-born community as a meeting place to socialize.

The Old House Of Tan Ky: One of the most popular houses in the Ancient Town is the Old House Of Tan Ky. It belongs to the descendants of a wealthy family of local merchants. It was built back in the 18th century. You will notice a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and traditional Vietnamese architecture throughout the house.

Japanese Covered Bridge: One of the most iconic landmarks in Hoi An is no doubt the Japanese Covered Bridge along the river running through the Ancient Town. This structure dating back to the 16th century has been incredibly well preserved over the years.

Get Some Tailor-Made Clothing: Once you’re in the city you will notice the wide variety of clothing stores. A popular choice is Kimmy’s Custom Tailor which is located just outside of the old town. They are well known for their professional service and quality materials.

My Son Sanctuary: This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is marketed as the Angkor Wat of Vietnam. Booking a tour is probably the most popular option and is surprisingly affordable. I recommend booking a sunrise tour of My Son Sanctuary . This allows you to beat the crowds, and the heat while having the grounds for your tour group.

Cycle To The Beach: Hire a bicycle and make your way to the coast to An Bang Beach. This is an easy straight cycle 4 kilometers from the ancient town. Seriously it is nearly impossible to get lost, and if you do, just follow all the other bikes.

Tra Que Vegetable Village: Located outside of the popular tourist destination of Hoi An city center and in the countryside is Tra Que Vegetable Village . Full of lush green fields, roaming water buffalos, and locals hard at work making a living. It is the perfect contrast to the bustling Vietnamese streets which lay a few hundred meters away.

Thanh Ha Pottery Village: Here you will find cups, jars, bowls, and pots crafted here are exported all over the world. There is an entry fee into Thanh Ha Pottery Village of 30,000 VND / $1.30. This amount includes a little souvenir which you will receive from one of the houses, but I will leave what you get a surprise!

An Bang South: For a bit more of a quiet beach, head to An Bang South. This is another excellent beach you can chill out on for the afternoon. Hire a sun lounger and an umbrella and sit back as you listen to the waves slowly crash onto the shore.

Marble Mountain: If you are willing to head further away from Hoi An you can visit Marble Mountain in Da Nang. Marble Mountain, also known as Thuy Son, is one of five marble and limestone mountains that rise out of the ground in central Vietnam. On top, you will find colorful Buddhist temples, marble statues, caves, and tunnels.

Hoi An Central Market : This is an excellent place to purchase some souvenirs while you are in the town. Here you will find a huge mixture of products here including silk pieces, lanterns, and other textiles, as well as local food and aromatic spices.

Cam Kim Island: Cam Kin Island is about 30 minutes away from Hoi An. It is easy enough to catch a local ferry here from D Bach Dang. Here you will see numerous artisan woodcarvers who are known for having carved some of the most famous public buildings in Hoi An. Personally, I thought it was a little bit touristy. Though if it is something you are interested in checking out, why not do it?

Bustling river scene with traditional boats and tourists in Hoi An, a vibrant part of any 3 week Vietnam itinerary.

Where To Stay In Hoi An On Our 3 Weeks Vietnam Itinerary

Whether you want a beachside hotel, city homestay, or hostel set in the countryside there is something here for everyone.

However if you are limited on time in Hoi An, I recommend you stay in the central township area. This will keep you near plenty of delicious restaurants, and things to do, plus you don’t have to deal with hiring a motorbike to get around.

The homestay I stayed in while visiting Hoi An is called Little Leo . This was such a friendly and welcoming hostel/ homestay. It was the perfect choice for 2 travelers on a budget.

We paid $7.00 for a 4-bed dorm room which also included a delicious breakfast and free bicycle hire. The lady who ran it was super helpful and they offered super cheap tours which was a bonus.

Here are my top picks for the backpacking Hoi An travel guide:

Hoi An To Nha Trang

Now you will need to travel from Hoi An to Nha Trang for the next part of our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Once again, this is going to be another long journey as it’s a 500-kilometer distance being covered, but don’t worry this will be the last long one.

However, if you time it right you could organize your transport overnight so you don’t lose out on a day of exploring.

Train : It is a 10-and-a-half-hour train from Hoi An to Nha Trang. Well technically you will need to travel to Da Nang to catch the train, but this is super easy to do and you can read more about how to do this in my Da Nang to Hoi An post . Prices cost between 500,000 – 600,000 VND / $21.40 – $25.70, though you also have the option of booking the more pricey luxury carriage at a higher price.

Bus: The trip from Hoi An to Nha Trang takes approximately 11 hours. However, this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Hanh Cafe and The Sinh Tourist are the recommended companies that service this route.

Fly: Thankfully it is only a 1-hour flight, though you will need to travel from Hoi An to Da Nang which is where you will find the nearest airport. Flights in Vietnam are pretty cheap with an assortment of affordable airlines operating.

Nha Trang (Day 15 – 17)

Nha Trang is an awesome coastal destination boasting some of the best beaches in Vietnam. I am not going to lie, one of my personal favorite things to do here in Nha Trang is to simply relax, and after all that traveling in Vietnam, it is likely you need some relaxation time as well.

Pull up a chair on the beach, listen to the waves lapping on the shore, and the palm trees swaying in the wind.

Honestly, if you are not a beach-goer type of person, then you may want to give Nha Trang a miss. Perhaps swap it out for Da Lat. Though if you are ready to work on that tan and catch some rays this is the place to be.

I have actually written a backpacking Nha Trang and 3-day itinerary post with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

Serene beachfront with umbrellas and loungers under a clear sky, a slice of relaxation to be had during a 3 week Vietnam getaway.

Things To Do In Nha Trang

Don’t worry there is more to do in Nha Trang than just visiting the beach! Even though that may be my favorite. Here are my top picks of things to do in Nha Trang:

The Beach: It’s incredible how such a beautiful beach in Nha Trang is located right in a city. The beach itself stretches 6 kilometers along the coast side, providing plenty of areas to swim. The most popular area is Tran Phu Beach nearby a lot of the guesthouses and resorts. Be aware little beach bars are located quite some way along the shoreline and each one sets up their own chairs. Some of these locations charge just for use of the chairs and others have a minimum spend that you need to do at their little beach shack, either that is on drinks or snacks up to you.

Po Nagar Cham Towers: This place is one of the most popular sights of Nha Trang and is still an active site for worship by Cham, Vietnamese Buddhists, and Chinese people. The Cham people are an important part of the Vietnamese culture as one of the ethnic minorities in the country. It is located just 2 kilometers out of the city center so is very accessible.

Snorkeling Tour: Why not go snorkeling in Nha Trang! Luckily for ocean lovers like me, Nha Trang has over 12,00 hectares of marine reserve. This coral-filled area is known as Hon Mun Marine Protected Area and is where you will visit. It is the perfect place for both diving and snorkeling as the water is not too deep. Ultimately making it ideal for people of all expertise.

Vinpearl: Here you can find shows, rides, a zoo, an aquarium, gardens, and even a large water park area, all under VinWonders. You will definitely need a full day to explore it all! The tickets for VinWonders and the cable car return trip cost 880,000 VND / $38.00 for adults. It is more of a pricey activity to do in Nha Trang. Though it is certainly worth it for a day of fun out in the sun.

Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths : Nha Trang is also known for its mud baths. Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths are one of the most popular places for this experience. The mud is said to have healing properties thanks to its high mineral content and people usually slather their skin with the mud and then lie down in the bath and let it work its magic.

Visit the Buddha : One of the main landmarks of Nha Trang is the large Buddha which sits on one of the hills overlooking the city. You can find it on the summit of a hill behind the Long Son Pagoda. It is sitting on a pretty lotus blossom and measures an impressive 14 meters in height.

Snorkeler exploring vibrant coral reefs beneath Vietnam's clear blue waters, an underwater escapade for any Vietnam itinerary.

Where To Stay In Nha Trang On The 3 Weeks Vietnam Itinerary

There are heaps of options for where to stay in Nha Trang. Whether that is a hotel in the city, a cheap guesthouse, a beach resort, or a seaside hostel a little bit further out of town, there is something here for everyone.

I can highly recommend Tabalo Hostel which is where we stayed. It was a super modern spot and very aesthetic looking for an affordable hostel.

The bathrooms were great and always super clean and the beds were comfortable with a sturdy wooden design, much better than those flimsy metal bunk beds.

There are also heaps of affordable guesthouses here in Nha Trang. It won’t be anything fancy, but it will have everything you need for a decent night’s sleep.

Nha Trang also has an incredible amount of quite nice fancy beachside resorts. Unfortunately, this wasn’t in my budget, and if you’re reading this backpacking guide it’s unlikely to be in yours.

Nevertheless, you can find 3 to 4-star resorts for just $20.00 per night. For such a small step up in price you get a lot more including a pool to relax in.

Nha Trang To Mui Ne

Next up we need to travel from Nha Trang to Mui Ne for the next stage of our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Thankfully this is a relatively short travel day compared to the others.

The distance from Nha Trang to Mui Ne is approximately 220 kilometers.

If you are wanting a more detailed breakdown of this journey you can check out my Nha Trang to Mui Ne transport guide .

Train : The train ride will take around 4 and a half hours from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. However, you will also need to account to travel to Mui Ne from the Phan Thiet train station. This takes between twenty to thirty minutes. This route will also have you backtracking slightly. Prices start at around 120,000 VND / $5.10 for a soft seater journey.

Bus: The journey from Nha Trang to Mui Ne by bus takes around 5 hours. Though this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Personally, I have done this route with The Sinh Tourist and had a stress-free experience.

Fly: Unfortunately at this time, you are not able to fly from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. There may be an airport in Nha Trang called Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), though there is not one just yet in Mui Ne. Don’t be too disappointed as it is in the works! The nearby town of Phan Thiet is getting an airport said to be completed in 2024.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia . Though in this route I think 12.Go.Asia is the best bet for booking with.

Mui Ne (Day 17 – 19)

Don’t worry we are not leaving the beach just yet, next stop is Mui Ne on this Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks. This cute little seaside town would be like any other if it wasn’t for the landscapes that surround it.

Think huge sand dunes with impressive views over the ocean, small village vibes, affordable accommodation, and food as well as nearby beaches to visit.

The main thing to do here in Mui Ne is to take a sunrise tour. This tour will take you to all the best things in Mui Ne so you can check out those impressive landscapes.

I have actually written a backpacking Mui Ne in 2 days itinerary , with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here. This includes what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

 Streetside view showcasing local businesses and palm trees in mui ne, offering an authentic glimpse into daily life during 3 weeks in Vietnam.

Choosing A Sunrise Tour

Now I will let you know everything you need to know about booking a sunrise tour and why this is the best way to see the sights around Mui Ne. Walking down the street you will see all the hotels, travel agencies, and even restaurants, advertising this tour.

Sure it is an early wake-up time with your pick up somewhere between 4.30 am and 5.30 am, but trust me it is worth it.

That early start allows you to see the sunrise over the impressive white sand dunes. Plus this tour only costs 160,000 VND / $7.00 so it is a super affordable way to see the best Mui Ne has to offer. For this price, we shared a jeep with other people staying at our accommodation.

However, if you want a bit more freedom you can book a private jeep tour , which is still pretty affordable starting from $20.00 for the entire jeep!

White Sand Dunes: The first stop on your tour will be the White Sand Dunes to watch the sunrise. This will no doubt be one of your highlights here as it was mine. You can either pay a jeep to take you out or hire an ATV. Instead, if you are on a budget like I happened to be you can simply walk out to the dunes from the car park. It is a nice stroll and since it is the morning the heat of the day hasn’t started yet.

Fishing Village: Here you can see all the brightly colored fishing boats bobbing around in the water and fishermen pulling in their catches.

Red Sand Dunes : The third stop of the day is the famous red sand dunes. These are a lot more touristy than the white sand dunes simply because they back right onto the road, literally. This means you can often find large tour buses here, whereas in the white sand dunes you need a 4WD vehicle to access without getting stuck.

Fairy Stream : It is a really nice walk upstream to a waterfall. Though my favorite part was the colors. It was so incredible seeing these bright orange sand cliffs contrast against the green lush jungle.

Sunrise casting a warm glow over smooth sand dunes, a picturesque scene to witness on a 3 week Vietnam tour.

Where To Stay In Mui Ne On The Vietnam Itinerary 3 Weeks

There is a wide assortment of places to stay in Mui Ne. Whether you are looking for an affordable hostel, beachside resort, or friendly guesthouse. There is a huge selection to be found.

Just be aware it can actually be super difficult to access the beach unless you are staying at beachfront accommodation. This was the mistake we made staying on the other side of the road, luckily there was a pool, but the beach would’ve been nice as well.

A good affordable option I would recommend is called EVA HUT Mui Ne Beach Hostel . With prices starting from $6.00 for a dorm room this beachfront backpackers hotspot is the perfect place to stay in Mui Ne.

This place is smack bang right on the beach, which was definitely something we were lacking during our stay.

Depending on your exact location on the main strip through town it can be quite difficult to access the beach due to all the buildings and no alleyways.

Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City

The last stage of the 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary is traveling from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, this is another relatively short journey, so it shouldn’t be too painful. The distance from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City is approximately 225 kilometers.

You will find if you travel by road the start of this route is along the coast before heading inland to the bustling city. If you are wanting a more detailed breakdown of this journey you can check out Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City transport guide .

Train : If you want to take the train you will also need to account to travel to Mui Ne from the Phan Thiet train station. This takes between twenty to thirty minutes.

This route will also have you backtracking slightly. There is only one train that operates on this route daily, leaving Phan Thiet railway station at 13:20 and arriving in Ho Chi Minh at 17:35.

Bus: The journey from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City by bus takes around 5 hours. Though this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Personally, I have done this route with The Sinh Tourist and had a stress-free experience.

Fly: Unfortunately at this time, you are not able to fly. There may be an airport in Ho Chi Minh City, though there is not one just yet in Mui Ne. Don’t be too disappointed as it is in the works! The nearby town of Phan Thiet is getting an airport said to be completed in 2024.

Ho Chi Minh City (Day 19 – 21)

Welcome to our last stop on our 3 weeks backpacking Vietnam route, Ho Chi Minh City. This is the perfect ending point for your adventures where you can easily venture into neighboring Cambodia , or take an international flight further afield.

Ho Chi Minh City is a huge bustling place with loads of history. It is an excellent spot to educate yourself about the country, the culture, and the war.

If I am being honest Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t my favorite stop in Vietnam, I was still glad that I visited. There is a lot of history to explore in this city as well as numerous other things to do.

Also, you need to dedicate some of your time to checking out the delicious foodie spots. It is well worth spending a couple of nights here, and since it is such a huge place with so much on offer there is something for everyone.

I have written a full Ho Chi Minh City Backpacking Travel Guide, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night.

Saigon Central Post Office lit up at night, a stunning architectural highlight for a Vietnam itinerary.

Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh City

Time to explore our last destination on our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary, Ho Chi Minh City. This place is perfect for discovering some more of the history of the country. Whether you enjoy a spot of shopping, experiencing a different religion, or want to discover the history of the country, Saigon has something for everyone.

Cu Chi Tunnels: The series of underground tunnels played an important part in the War and was an impressive feat of both architecture and engineering. At its peak, there were over 250km worth of tunnels stretching along the countryside, some even leading from Saigon right to the Cambodian border. It is super easy to book a Cu Chi Tunnel tour once in Ho Chi Minh City or in advance online . I booked mine through a local travel agency and paid just $6.00!

Reunification Palace: This is one of the most significant places to visit while you are in the city. It is the former presidential palace for Southern Vietnam, where Saigon fell to the north in what marked the end of the war. You can see the palace from the outside for free. However if you would like to go inside there is an admission fee of 40,000 VND / $1.70.

The City Hall: The City Hall is a super impressive and beautiful building that is a popular landmark in Saigon. If you head here in the evening there always seems to be something going on and people chilling together. You can often find delicious snack-like street food here as well!

War Remnants Museum: The museum is dedicated to the terrible Vietnam War, here you can come and learn all about it and what people had to suffer through. The admission cost is 40,000 VND / $1.70 and you do need to set aside about 2 to 3 hours to see everything.

Notre Dame Cathedral: Surprisingly enough all around Vietnam, you can find colonial buildings from when the French were in charge. One of these is the Notre Dame Cathedral and it has become a popular attraction here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Central Post Office: The Central Post Office is located right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, so you may as well visit while you are nearby. It is free of charge to enter and you can even send a postcard back home from here.

Ben Thanh Market: It may be a bit touristy but no visit to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without checking out Ben Thanh Market. This is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, try out some local food, and simply watch the locals go about their day.

Bitexco Tower and Skydeck: If you are looking for an amazing view overlooking Ho Chi Minh City then you need to check out the Bitexco Tower . This is one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam! Make sure to visit the 49th floor where you can find the sky deck with a 360-degree view. The entry fee is a little more pricey compared to other things to do on this list at 200,000 VND / $8.90, but still incredibly affordable.

Do A Free Student Lead Tour: I actually tried out a free student lead tour during my time in Ho Chi Minh City and it was no doubt one of the best things we did in the city. We heard about it from other travelers who constantly raved about their experience, so we knew we had to give it a go.

Man emerging from a camouflaged tunnel at cu chi tunnels opening surrounded by fallen leaves, an intriguing historical site for a Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks.

Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City On The 3 Week Itinerary Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh is a huge city split into districts. The majority of backpackers and travelers decide to stay in district 1. This is well set up for tourists with plenty of restaurants, activities, accommodations, and transport links. Nearby is the famous Ben Thanh Market , and the popular nightlife spot of Bui Vien Street.

During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City, we decided to stay on quite a budget and book a small little hostel about a 15-minute walk out of the center. The hostel was run by a lovely gentleman, but it was more rooms in his house he had converted to dorm rooms.

It also featured those horrible old-school metal bunk beds you had as a child. Lastly, it was 35 degrees Celsius plus every day and we only had fans. For those reasons, I am not going to recommend it.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of affordable hostel and hotel options available in the city. Here are my top picks for this backpacking Ho Chi Minh City travel guide:

Extend Your 3 Weeks In Vietnam Itinerary

Maybe you want to make the most out of your tourist Visa in Vietnam and spend the entire 30 days exploring this incredible country!

It is a great country and there is so much more you can do to turn this 3 week Vietnam Itinerary into a much longer journey. However, be aware you only really have an extra week available as you don’t want to overstay!

A lot of travelers will buy their own motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi and travel the country themselves. This allows you to get off the beaten track and explore at your own pace.

As cool as this sounds just be aware that riding a motorbike long distance isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world and you’ll be traveling much slower than if you were to take the bus or train.

Da Lat is a beautiful mountainous town in South Central Vietnam. It is a popular adventure and honeymoon destination with plenty of activities to keep you busy.

Some travelers venture here instead of going to Mui Ne. It is not connected to the main railway network in Vietnam so you will need to take a bus or flight to get to.

Da Lat is mostly comprised of a scenic mountain town that used to be a hill station during the French colonial period. As a result, you can find some beautiful architecture here.

Da Nang is the gateway to Hoi An which is why many people stop over here. I only stayed one night to catch a train the next day.

Though there are still plenty of things to do here, the most popular being Marble Mountain. It is also a popular spot for digital nomads being a modern city right next to the beach.

Located on the Southern Coast of Vietnam you will find the island of Phu Quoc. Imagine soft, white sand lining its shores with palm trees swaying. This is Vietnam’s version of the Maldives.

On land, you’ll find protected tropical rainforests, plenty of accommodation options, and great diving opportunities.

The Phu Quoc district itself encompasses 28 islands. However, you will find the majority of travelers visit and stay on Phu Quoc island, the largest in Vietnam.

FAQs About Backpacking Vietnam Route

How long do you need to travel thailand cambodia and vietnam.

If you are keen on traveling Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam I would recommend a minimum of 2 months, but you could make the most of 30 days entry visa and spend a month in each country.

Can US citizens travel to Vietnam?

Yes, of course US citizens can travel to Vietnam. However, like many other countries, US citizens do require a visa to enter Vietnam. You can organize this ahead of time at an embassy or get a visa on arrival.

Is it safe to travel by train in Vietnam?

No doubt one of the safest ways to travel Vietnam is by train. There is an extensive train network in the country and 90% of the time you will be able to utilize this to travel to your next destination in comfort.

How safe is it to travel to Vietnam now?

Vietnam is a pretty safe country overall. However, as a traveler, you need to be aware of petty theft and scams in Vietnam which often target tourists. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t use your camera or phone near the road; a lot of theft is drive-by snatchings.

What is the best way to travel around Vietnam?

The best way to travel around Vietnam is by taking the train. There is an extensive train network linking a lot of destinations in the Vietnam backpacking route so you can travel in comfort. Also, sleeper buses in Vietnam are known for not being safe due to road conditions and overworked drivers.

What is the best route to travel through Vietnam?

The most common, and best route to travel through Vietnam is either from North to South (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh), or South to North (Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi). This way you will get to explore a lot of the country and experience many of the highlights. I minimum of 3 weeks is recommended if you plan on doing this Vietnam itinerary.

Your 3 Week Vietnam Itinerary

Now you have read all my recommendations on this incredible country you should have no issues whatsoever coming up with your perfect Vietnam backpacking route!

Whether you choose to explore the mountainous North, hit the beaches, or discover the lesser explored parts of this country you will no doubt be in for an awesome adventure.

Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


Come find out the ideal 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary for the ultimate adventure. Let’s talk about the best route, things to do, transportation, accommodation, and more during your 3 weeks in Vietnam!

Want more Vietnam Inspiration? Check out….


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

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Avatar for Tasha Amy

Tasha Amy is a true backpacker at heart and has been discovering the world on a budget since 2015. Based in Gisborne, New Zealand she will spend many months each year traveling overseas as a solo female traveler before coming home and sharing her adventures online with you.

9 thoughts on “ 3 Week Vietnam Itinerary: Best Route North To South (2024) ”

Avatar for Olivia

Thank you for the extremely helpful guide!! We are planning a similar trip for June – do you think the weather will be an issue for us at this time or nice enough to explore and enjoy some beach days? Thank you!

Avatar for Jacob Clark

Hi Tasha, what’s the general budget you think is needed for this route including travel, accommodation and daily expenses? I couldn’t see anything about this.

Avatar for Tasha Amy

Hey Jacob, I actually have an entire post on what I spent during 1 month in Vietnam, which worked out to $25.00 per day. I did stay in hostels and forgo a lot of activities so looking back I would increase this to $35.00 per day so you aren’t missing out on anything. This is the post if you are keen to check it out

Avatar for Sean

Thanks for this helpful itinerary. How did you get from Sapa to Hoi An though? Couldnt find it mentioned

Sorry, I just finally realized that you returned to Hanoi after Sapa. The names are so confusing

Haha no worries, I always get caught between Hanoi and Hoi An :)

Avatar for Jules

Thanks so much, this is incredibly helpful.

Avatar for Clay

Hello, this guide has been awesome and super helpful for us as we are planning our honeymoon in Vietnam.

Hey Clay! Glad you found it helpful! Hope you have an incredible honeymoon in Vietnam!

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Two Roaming Souls

How To Get Around Vietnam (Transportation Tips)

By Author Emily Junda

Posted on Last updated: August 16, 2023

Categories Travel Guides , Vietnam

Special Taxi in Sapa, Vietnam

I was extremely intimidated about how to get around Vietnam before traveling there. I was worried about finding my way and also sticking to a budget.

But luckily, getting around Vietnam is surprisingly easy. They have a large tourism industry with plenty of options to help travelers get around. And many transportation options are very affordable, especially compared to what we are used to in the United States.

But from the variety of buses, trains, taxis, Grabs, motorbikes, how do you know which to choose?

You can rent your own car or motorbike, but we generally don’t recommend this option. For starters, driving in Vietnam will be a bit of a culture shock to visitors from Western countries. And second, you need to obtain a license (though actual enforcement is minimal).

This post will help you understand the best options we recommend for traveling around Vietnam.

This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure policy .

Legally Driving in Vietnam

There are a few legalities that tourists should follow when planning to travel around Vietnam. I will say, many tourists forgo the legal licenses, but I can not advise this. 

You will notice many tourism shops renting motorbikes without proper documentation of a legal Vietnam license. But we will fill you in on everything you need to know about how to get around Vietnam legally & safely.  

An International Driving Permit and U.S. Drivers’ License are  not valid  in Vietnam. You can obtain a temporary Vietnam Driver’s license to legally drive in the country . 

Head to a Provincial Public Transportation Service of the Vietnamese Department of Communications and Transport office to apply. Also, you can learn more about obtaining a temporary Vietnam Driver’s License here. It can be a good idea to have a Vietnamese translator if you go this route. 

But, there are tons of great ways to get around Vietnam without driving your own car or motorbike. 

Emily walking around the city of Sapa, Vietnam

Walking is, of course, the cheapest way to get around Vietnam. And especially in the city, it can honestly be faster and safer than other modes of transportation. 

Our best suggestion is to put the location you want to go in Google Maps (or a similar GPS app) to see the distance. If it’s within a distance you’re willing to walk you should probably do this option. It can also double as exercise and a sight-seeing experience!

But of course you can’t walk much longer distances, (such as from Hanoi to Halong Bay), so you will likely need to find another way to get around Vietnam. 

ways to travel in vietnam

Bus is probably one of the cheapest ways to get around Vietnam other than walking. You can hop on a bus for less than $1 USD in many popular destinations. Although there can be a tough language barrier and lack of maps to really know which route you should take. 

In crowded parts of the city, local buses will have a hard time moving. Due to their size, they often get “jammed” up behind other cars and motorbikes. They can’t quite maneuver around like small vehicles.

inside a bus in Vietnam

If you have the navigation skills and time, then we suggest taking public transportation in the city to save a few bucks. But we found it just easier to use a taxi or grab (more details on these below). 

Bus is a good way to get around Vietnam cities, but it’s especially for traveling longer distances. Plus Vietnam is popularly known for sleeper buses . This way you get to lay down while you drive multiple hours to your next destination rather than a traditional non-comfy seat.

The sleeper bus seats recline nearly flat, so it’s relatively easy to sleep. But keep in mind that people over 6 feet tall usually have to bend their legs to fit.

a guy looking out the window on a sleeper bus in vietnam

Many buses will stop for bathroom breaks at rest areas in various places. Some of the rest areas will also have food and little local shops.

Smaller Buses

leather seats in a Limousine Bus in Vietnam

There will also be smaller buses, vans, or “limousines” for long distance commutes. These will likely be more comfortable, less bouncy, and generally safer. Therefore, if you find these options, taking a smaller bus is better than taking a larger bus.

But they usually cost a little bit more.

We use 12GoAsia for booking all of our bus transportation.

Train was probably Jake’s and my favorite way to get around Vietnam. But it isn’t the cheapest route. And since we were traveling the country of Vietnam on a budget, we couldn’t always choose this mode of transportation. Plus trains don’t run every route like a bus might be capable of. 

There are both daytime trains and overnight trains. Daytime trains typically are in a normal seat where you sit up. And overnight trains tend to have beds set up for you to catch some sleep. Of course you might be able to snag a sleeper train during the day as well. 

Overnight Trains in Vietnam

a 2-berth overnight train in Vietnam via Laman Express

Everyone traveling in Vietnam should at least try an overnight train for their mode of transportation. Typically there are berths that have 2, 4, or 6 beds in a room. 

A 2-berth room will almost always cost more (typically twice the price for a bed). But it means there are only 2 beds in a room. So if you are traveling with a partner, you can have the room all to yourself. 

But you can always snag one berth in a shared room if you are solo traveling or ballin’ on a budget. It’s typical for most rooms to have 4 or 6-berths.

We have heard from other travelers to be careful on trains and that theft is common. Additionally, not everyone gets on a sleeper train to sleep. So you might be stuck in a room where someone chooses to watch a movie without headphones or is talking on the phone all night.

Therefore, I knew if I wanted any sleep, Jake and I should just try to get our own room. There were no private 2-bed rooms left, so we ended up just paying the cost of what a 4-berth room would cost. Personally, we felt it was worth it considering that an overnight train saves you the cost of accommodation for that night .

Different Seat & Bed Options On Vietnamese Trains

When choosing what seat or cart to be on in a Vietnamese train, there are different levels of comfort. The cheapest tickets tend to be on a hard seat. A slightly more expensive train ticket will be on a soft seat with a little more cushion.

The same comfort levels apply for beds on a sleeper train. Cheaper tickets tend to be on very hard beds. And the higher class ticket you choose, generally, the softer bed you get. 

We use 12GoAsia when booking our train transportation.

Taking a Taxi in Vietnam will likely be the most expensive option. But it can also serve as one of the faster modes of transportation around the country. But the comfort and convenience of a private taxi is sometimes worth it.

Tourists can usually grab a taxi outside popular tourism locations. There will likely always be a bunch of taxi drivers outside the airport, train station, bus station, etc to take you to your exact location. 

Taxi in Vietnam

But you can also get a private taxi to longer distances as well. It will likely be much cheaper than getting a private taxi in the U.S. So to have your own space could make it worth the price.

We often would compare the price with the Grab app (more details below) and see if a taxi driver would take us for less. You can almost always haggle the price down with any taxi driver. They will start high, and have a breaking point before they will accept the ride. 

Motorbike Taxi

It’s also common to ride on the back of a motorbike as a taxi ride. It’s much easier to get around the city on a motorbike than a car. Mainly because of its size, and being able to navigate narrow passages.

But they usually only allow one passenger on the back of each motorbike. So if you are traveling with multiple people, you each need your own motorbike taxi driver.

Riding on the back of a Grab Motorbike

The Grab App in Southeast Asia is the equivalent to Uber or Lyft in America. Yup, it can even deliver food too! 

Before traveling to Vietnam, be sure to download and set up the app. And also download and activate WhatsApp as well, it’s a nearly essential communication tool for traveling in Vietnam.

When you set up Grab, use your WhatsApp for verification, since it’s the best way to communicate with Vietnamese People. Unless you have an international plan with your cell phone carrier. 

One bonus to Whatsapp is the built-in translator. The app was able to translate what the driver was saying from Vietnamese to English, which was essential in many cases. 

We preferred using Grab over a random taxi for safety reasons. Each driver goes through a background check and driving history. And since communication can be difficult with a Vietnamese speaking person, it can be nice to just plug in the address of exactly where you are trying to go. 

Plus there is a GPS tracker for guests in the Grab car. So it felt safer getting in a verified car, and being able to follow where the driver was taking us. And you can pay with your credit card, which is super helpful because many ATM’s in Vietnam only allow you to take out small amounts of money at a time. 

The Tram to the top of Fansipan Mountain on a Tour in Vietnam

Many tour packages will include transportation to and from the activity and the cost of any transportation needed during the tour. We’ve had many tours booked on Get Your Guide and Viator that provided transportation.

We found this super helpful because there was often a person who would meet you in your hotel lobby, and bring you to the bus. It made the travel day stress-free, because the tour was bringing us to our exact location.

It might cost more than arranging transportation on your own, but again, sometimes the convenience is worth it.

Rent A Motorbike

Jake & Emily on Motorbike Rentals in Vietnam

A popular way to get around Vietnam is by renting a motorbike. Personally, we only felt comfortable riding motorbikes in more rural areas. Motorbiking in cities or on multi-lane highways is very intimidating.

“A motorbike license is required to operate a motorcycle or scooter in Vietnam. Motor scooter drivers without a license can be held criminally liable for injuries to or death of a victim in an accident, and you may be held in custody for an extended period of time without the ability to speak to family or a lawyer during the investigation.” – U.S. Embassy

Apparently it is legal to drive a 50cc scooter in Vietnam without a license. But this is only a good option if you want to bop around the city, and not really meant for long road trips around the country. 

You will find many Vietnamese shops renting out motorbikes without requiring a license. Do this at your own risk. Additionally, they will often ask to hold your passport and/or a security deposit. 

Getting travelers insurance is a great idea in general, but especially if you are planning to do higher risk activities like driving a motorbike. The two best travel insurance companies are Allianz and World Nomads.

Make sure you rent a helmet too!

Pedal Bike (Bicycle)

Pedal Bike Rentals from our Homestay in Ninh Binh

Having or renting a pedal bike is a decent option for getting around Vietnam. Be sure to have a way to lock up the bike when not in use. Use extreme caution if you ride your bicycle on the road. It is your responsibility to not be hit by a motorbike or car. 

Be sure to rent a helmet too!

Domestic Flights

Flying from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City via Vietjet Air

Domestic airfare is a cheap and fast way to get around Vietnam. Especially if you are traveling long distances and to and from major cities. 

You can get a one-way ticket for direct flights from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for as low as $29. Do note, many of these cheap flights are on budget airlines. Such as VietJet Air, JetStar Pacific, Bamboo Airways, etc. 

And while they may be cheap for a seat, you might need to pay extra for checked bags, etc. (As of June 2023, Vietjet Air allows a maximum of 7 kg (15lbs) carry-on baggage). Checked bags on VietJet Air start around 180k VND ($7.50 USD) for a 20kg bag (44lbs) up to 630k VND ($26.50 USD) for a 70kg bag. 

Jetstar Pacific and Bamboo Airlines are similar to Vietjet Air baggage restrictions. 

Vietnam Airlines is slightly above a budget airline and you can still find some good deals between major city airports. Vietnam Airlines allows 12kg (26lbs) carry-on baggage weight for economy seats and 18kg (40lbs) for premium and business class seats. 

Therefore, take these baggage requirements into consideration when finding cheap flights. They may look cheaper but overall might cost more if you need to check your bag. 

We HIGHLY suggest adding an Air Tag to your baggage (even your carry on, in case you need to check it). Some of these budget airlines lose luggage, and if you can GPS track it, you might have a chance of actually getting your luggage back if it is lost. 

International Flights in Vietnam

International flights will be slightly more expensive. But between neighboring countries or other countries close in proximity, you can snag some epic flight deals. If you can plan well in advance, then you might find some international flights for under $100 for one-way.

Emily on the Ferry to Cat Ba Island

Ferries are a popular way to island hop or transport via water. Plus you can often bring a motorbike or car along on the ferry. 

Ferry ports can be found all along the east side of the country. But primarily popular in the Ha Long Bay & Cat Ba area. 

You can either purchase tickets at the ferry port, or book with 12GoAsia .

Water Taxi on Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

For getting around the water, a water taxi may be necessary. This will often be for getting to and from destinations on the water. 

Getting a water taxi can be a bit more of a challenge than a road taxi. Oftentimes there is a port or similar for ordering a water taxi. Your best plan of action is to ask in the port office if they can call you a water taxi. Or you can wait down by the water in hopes a water taxi shows up. 

Also, if you know where you are traveling and you have contact with a local Vietnamese person, they might be able to provide you with a trusted water taxi’s WhatsApp phone number. 

ways to travel in vietnam

The best site for finding good deals on transportation around Vietnam is 12GoAsia. It’s a super easy website to get from point A to point B. Simply just type the location you will be leaving from and where you will be traveling to. 

Then, there should be a list of different modes of transportation. Whether it be a bus, train, taxi, flying, ferry, etc. And, when necessary, 12GoAsia will often package two different types of transportation together on one itinerary.

For example, they will offer a route that includes a bus ride for most of the trip and then a taxi to take you the final leg.

12GoAsia has different companies, times, prices, and reviews for each itinerary.

So considering those differences, you can choose which one will suit you best. 

Advice For Choosing The Best Mode Of Transportation 

Here’s our final thoughts on why to choose one mode of transportation over another.

Consider the distance traveled and your budget when choosing how to get around Vietnam.

The rural roads in Vietnam are windy. So vehicles that travel over the roads will have to deal with with

Why Choose A Bus

Consider that not all buses are the same. There are the local bus routes that run somewhat regular schedules. And then there are buses that are used exclusively for tourism. And likewise, some buses just have regular seats, and others have sleeper bunks.

The local buses are often the cheapest, but they can be the most unsafe, slow and unreliable. Plus there are frequent stops on the bus, such as rest areas, smoke breaks, other random stops, etc. Local buses sometimes felt like a bit of a free-for-all.

We found that local buses were not good at sticking to a schedule. And it is also very common for buses to be over-packed (such as locals just sitting on the ground because there are no extra seats).

The buses used for tourism are usually nicer inside, more punctual, and the staff speaks better English. These more expensive buses are often ones affiliated with tour operators or running between popular tourist destinations.

Why Choose A Train

We highly suggest trains if that is an option. They obviously have limited routes that they can travel. but they follow a schedule better and are generally a smoother ride.

The trains usually take slightly longer, but there will be fewer stops overall. And its not typical for the train to be over-packed and having passengers sitting on the ground. Especially for overnight trips, a train will be more peaceful than a sleeper bus.

Why Choose A Taxi

Taxi can be the most straightforward and convenient, but will likely cost the most. The other major issue with taxis is that at pretty much all major transportation hubs (airports, bus stations, ports) taxi drivers bombard you the second you arrive. This can be an intimidating experience in a foreign country, because you don’t know if these people are reputable taxi drivers or potential scammers.

Whenever possible try to find Taxis that are part of a reputable company (the biggest ones in Vietnam are Mai Linh Taxi, VinaSun, G7 Taxi, and Taxi Group).

Therefore, we only suggest taking taxis if budget isn’t an issue and you can book with a reputable taxi company. And it’s best for shorter trips (less than 2 hours).

Why Choose A Grab

In our experience, the Grab app provides cheaper rides than local taxis in almost all scenarios. And having the accountability of a background-checked driver, GPS-tracking, and digital records of trips offers peace of mind.

You can book a car, motorbike, or even have food delivered with the app.

Grab is best for short trips (less than 2 hours).

Why Choose An Airplane

Airplane travel in Vietnam is the fastest way to travel long distances. However, getting to the airport and time spent in the airport can add lots of travel time.

Domestic air travel in Vietnam actually surprisingly affordable. But something to watch out for is very restrictive baggage weight limits. So you might want to factor in extra cost for baggage fees.

Why Choose A Tour Operator

While you are planning your trip to Vietnam, see if there are any tours that include transportation. It might be as easy as just booking a tour that can take care of everything for you (transportation, accommodation, activities, meals, and more).

So it’s always a good idea to have a look on Get Your Guide or Viator and see what ‘all-inclusive’ tour packages are available.

Why Choose A Rental Motorbike or Car

Motorbikes and rental cars give you the most autonomy for getting around Vietnam on your schedule.

However, in our experience added stress of driving in a foreign country, navigating, parking etc are not worth it. If you are not an experience motorbike rider, we do not recommend renting a motorbike to get around Vietnam, especially in cities. The risk of personal injury is a little bit to high, especially since there are other great options available.

Only in rural areas did we feel somewhat comfortable riding motorbikes for short distances.

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Traveling to Vietnam for the first time? Follow these helpful tips to know before visiting Vietnam .

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  • Best way to get around Vietnam

Though still a little rough around the edges, Vietnam’s transport network is continuing to improve. Most travel takes place on the roads, which are largely of decent quality surface-wise. The vehicles themselves are also pretty good, with air-conditioned coaches ferrying tourists (and an increasing number of locals) up and down Highway 1, a desperately narrow and shockingly busy thoroughfare that runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City , passing through Hué, Da Nang and Nha Trang en route. Off the main routes the vehicles are less salubrious. Trains run alongside Highway 1, and their sleeper berths are far more comfortable than buses for longer journeys. Lastly, the domestic flight network continues to evolve, and the cheap, comfortable services may save you days’ worth of travel by road or rail. That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement, particularly as regards road transport.

Want to know even more useful information about Vietnam before your trip? Read our Vietnam travel tips .

The downside of open-tour through tickets

Rules of the road, travel ideas for vietnam, created by local experts.

Vietnam Culinary Discovery

10 days  / from 2150 USD

Vietnam Culinary Discovery

Vietnamese cuisine can be divided into three categories, each pertaining to a specific region, namely the North, Centre and South. You will visit all of these on this culinary tour of Vietnam. Awaken all of your senses to the wonderful sights, sounds and aromas of this fascinating country.

Very Vietnam

16 days  / from 2150 USD

Very Vietnam

Vietnam is full of surprises, seamlessly mixing both ancient and modern. See rice paddies, traditional villages, markets, temples and pagodas. Discover romantic cities, cruise around mystical Halong Bay, laze on pristine beaches and get out and about in exuberant Ho Chi Minh City.

Cultural Saigon

4 days  / from 550 USD

Cultural Saigon

Southern Vietnam is home to modern Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant southern capital full of historic attraction and old Saigonese charm. Soak up some café culture, enjoy authentic street food, and get a taste of the city’s thriving markets.

On the roads

Vietnam’s busy, narrow roads were simply not built for overtaking, yet almost each and every vehicle is either overtaking or being overtaken at any given point – accidents are common.

Vietnam was once famed for bus drivers ripping off foreigners and cramming as many bodies as possible into their vehicles, but this is dying down; most routes now have tickets with fixed prices, and the advent of luxury “open-tour” buses on the main tourist trail saw comfort levels rocket. On the longer stretches, many buses are sleeper-berth for their whole length, though getting 40 winks can be tough – the nature of local roads means that emergency stops are common, and Vietnamese drivers use their horn liberally, which can become grating very quickly on a long journey.

Security remains an important consideration. Never fall asleep with your bag by your side, and never leave belongings unattended.

Flying comes into its own on longer hauls, and can save precious hours or even days off journeys – the two-hour journey between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, for instance, compares favourably with the 30 to 40 hours you would spend on the train. Prices are reasonable with Jetstar, and a little more with Vietnam Airlines. Other useful services from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City fly to Hué, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc Island. Note that you’ll need your passport with you when taking internal flights.

The Vietnamese national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, operates a reasonably cheap, efficient and comprehensive network of domestic flights. The company maintains booking offices in all towns and cities with an airport; addresses and phone numbers are listed throughout the Rough Guide to Vietnam.

Given the amazing prices and regular services of the open-tour buses, few travellers opt for the train. However, rail journeys are well worth considering, for several reasons. Firstly, major roads tend to be lined in their entirety with ramshackle cafés, petrol pumps, snack stands and mobile phone shops; from the train, you’ll actually see a bit of the countryside. Secondly, you’ll be involved in far fewer near-collisions with trucks, motorbikes or dogs. Thirdly, you’re almost guaranteed to get talking to a bunch of friendly locals – and perhaps get to join in on the feasts that some of them bring on board.

Vietnam Railways runs a single-track train network comprising more than 2500km of line, stretching from Ho Chi Minh City to the Chinese border. Much of it dates back to the colonial period, though it’s gradually being upgraded. Most of the services are still relatively slow, but travelling by train can be far more pleasant than going by road – though prices on the coastal route can’t compare with buses, you’re away from the busy (and often dangerous) Highway 1, and get to see far more of the countryside. Keep a particularly close eye on your belongings on the trains, and be especially vigilant when the train stops at stations, ensure your money belt is safely tucked under your clothes before going to sleep and that your luggage is safely stowed.

The most popular routes with tourists are the shuttle from Da Nang to Hué (2-3hr), a picturesque sampler of Vietnamese rail travel and the overnighters from Hué to Hanoi (11-16hr) and from Hanoi up to Lao Cai, for Sa Pa (8-9hr).

The country’s main line shadows Highway 1 on its way from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, passing through Nha Trang, Da Nang and Hué en route. From Hanoi, three branch lines strike out towards the northern coast and Chinese border. One line traces the Red River northwest to Lao Cai, just an hour by bus from Sa Pa and also the site of a border crossing into China’s Yunnan Province; unfortunately, the rail on the Chinese side is not in use. Another runs north to Dong Dang; this is the route taken by trains linking Hanoi and Beijing. The third branch, a shorter spur, links the capital with Hai Phong.

Five Reunification Express services depart daily from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, a journey that takes somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. Most services arrive between 3am and 5am in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

On the northern lines, four trains per day make the run from Hanoi to Hai Phong (2hr 30min) and two to Dong Dang (6hr). There are also four night trains (7–8hr) and a day service (9hr) to Lao Cai.

Trains usually leave on schedule from their departure points, and though delays can stack up further down the line, they’re rarely too severe. Note that the only truly reliable way to learn the schedule is by checking those printed on the station wall.

When it comes to choosing which class to travel in, it’s essential to aim high. At the bottom of the scale is a hard seat, which is just as it sounds, though bearable for shorter journeys; the carriages, however, tend to be filthy and since the windows are caged, views are poor and one can actually feel like an animal. Soft seats offer more comfort, especially in the new air-conditioned carriages, some of which are double-decker; the newer berths, unfortunately, tend to have flatscreen TVs operating at an ear-splitting volume. On overnight journeys, you’d be well advised to invest in a berth of some description, though since the country’s rolling stock is being upgraded it’s not always possible to know exactly what you’re getting. The new hard-berth compartments are now quite comfortable and have six bunks, three either side – the cramped top ones are the cheapest, and the bottom ones the priciest – though some of the old hard-as-nails relics remain in service. Roomier soft-berth compartments, containing only four bunks, are always comfortable.

Note that luxury carriages are attached to regular services on a couple of routes from Hanoi. Those on trains to Hué and Da Nang are operated by Livitrans, and to Lao Cai by an assortment of companies.

All Reunification Express trains now have air-conditioning, as do the overnight Lao Cai trains which have been upgraded with luxury soft-sleeper carriages. All trains are theoretically non-smoking; the rules are obeyed, by and large, in the sleeper rooms, though in hard-seat class, even the guards will be puffing away.

All train carriages have toilets, though again, it’s hard to know what to expect. Most are fine, if a little grubby, though many are squat in nature; the latter are far more likely to be dirty, and to be devoid of paper or running water. Those in the soft sleeper carriages are proper sit-down toilets, and are comparatively clean.

Simple meals are often included in the price of the ticket, but you might want to stock up with goodies of your own. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to buy snacks when the train pulls into stations – and from carts that ply the aisles.

Booking ahead is wise, and the further ahead the better, especially if you intend travelling at the weekend or a holiday period (when the lower sleeper berths are often sold as six seats, resulting in chaos). Sleeping compartments should be booked at least a day or two before departure, and even further ahead for soft-sleeper berths on the Hanoi–Hué and Hanoi–Lao Cai routes. It’s not possible to buy through tickets and break your journey en route; each journey requires you to buy a separate ticket from the point of departure. Getting tickets is usually pretty painless at the station, though hotels and travel agencies will be able to book for a fee.

Fares vary according to the class of travel and the train you take; as a rule of thumb, the faster the train, the more expensive it is. Prices (which are always quoted in dong) change regularly, so check before booking to get a sense of where they're at.

Most travellers use buses to get around Vietnam but never actually see a bus station. This is because the lion’s share of tourist journeys are made on privately operated services, usually referred to as “open-tour” buses, which usually operate not from stations but the offices of the companies in question. The term comes from the fact that such companies typically sell through-tickets between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, with customers free to stop off for as long as they like at the main points en route – Da Lat, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, Hué and Ninh Binh. There are, however, drawbacks to doing this.

Away from these private affairs, national bus services link all major cities in Vietnam, and most minor towns too, though travellers only tend to use them off the open-tour route – open-tour buses have air-conditioning, limited seating and fixed timetables, which instantly gives them the edge over national services. In addition, the fact that they don’t pick up on route makes them faster too, and competition is so fierce that prices are almost as low as the national bus network.

Open-tour buses

On the whole, open-tour buses are a reasonably comfortable way to get around Vietnam; these buses also call at the occasional tourist sight, such as the Marble Mountains and Lang Co, which can save considerable time and money when compared to doing the same thing independently. Buses are usually quite decent, but don’t expect too much leg-room, or any on-board toilets; some of the more expensive services have them, but the vast majority will pull in every few hours for a combined loo-and-snack break. This tends to be at mediocre and overpriced restaurants; it’s a good idea to arm yourself with snacks before your journey. Another downside to open-tour buses is that you’ll be encouraged to book into the company’s own or affiliated hotels (usually right next to the drop-off point), though there’s nothing to stop you staying elsewhere.

Services tend to run on time, and on longer trips, some take place overnight. Most of the overnight buses are filled with sleeper berths, which sounds nice and comfortable, but these are Vietnamese roads, and Vietnamese drivers – don’t expect to get too much sleep. Also note that some operators are more reliable than others; Mai Linh and Hoang Long have good reputations, though some other operators have very poor standards of service.

Ticket prices vary widely depending upon which company you choose, and (if you’re booking a through-ticket) how many stops you’d like to make en route. You can either make firm bookings at the outset or opt for an open-dated ticket for greater flexibility, in which case you may need to book your onward travel one or two days in advance to be sure of a seat. Alternatively, you can buy separate tickets as you go along, which is recommended. Each main town on the itinerary has an agent (one for each operator) where you can buy tickets and make onward reservations. To avoid being sold a fake ticket or paying over the odds, it’s best to buy direct from the relevant agent rather than from hotels, restaurants or unrelated tour companies.

Other buses

On the national bus network, the government is slowly upgrading state buses, replacing the rickety old vehicles with air-conditioned models, particularly on the more popular routes. It’s not uncommon to find yourself crammed in amongst the luggage, which could be anything from live pigs in baskets to scores of sacks of rice. Progress can be agonizingly slow as buses stop frequently to pick up passengers or for meal breaks. Among older vehicles, breakdowns are fairly common and can sometimes necessitate a roadside wait of several hours while driver, fare collector and mechanic roll up their sleeves and improvise a repair.

Tickets are best bought at bus stations, where fares are clearly indicated above the ticket windows. Prices are usually also marked on the tickets themselves, though there are still occasional cases of tourists being charged over the odds, particularly in more rural destinations – especially those from the Lao border. For long journeys, buy your ticket a day in advance since many routes are heavily oversubscribed.

Privately owned minibuses compete with public buses on most routes; they sometimes share the local bus station, or simply congregate on the roadside in the centre of a town. You can also flag them down on the road. If anything, they squeeze in even more people per square foot than ordinary buses, and often drive interminably around town, touting for passengers. On the other hand, they do at least run throughout the day, and serve some routes not covered by public services. Such services are ticketless, so try to find what the correct fare should be and agree a price before boarding – having the right change will also come in handy. You may also find yourself dumped at the side of the road before reaching your destination, and having to cram onto the next passing service.

Most major cities have their own local bus networks, though prices and standards vary. Try to ascertain the correct price and have the exact money ready before boarding as fare collectors will often take advantage of your captive position.

By ferry and boat

A boat-tour around Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s most enjoyable trips, while scheduled ferries sail year-round – weather permitting – to the major islands off Vietnam’s coastline, including Phu Quoc, Cat Ba and Con Dao. In addition, ferry and hydrofoil services run from Hai Phong to Cat Ba, and hydrofoils from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, and from Ha Long City to Mong Cai and Bai Tu Long. Though they are gradually being replaced by bridges, a few river ferries still haul themselves from bank to bank of the various strands of the Mekong from morning until night.

By car and jeep

Self-drive in Vietnam is not yet an option for tourists and other short-term visitors. However, it’s easy to rent a car, jeep or minibus with driver from the same companies, agencies and tourist offices that arrange tours. This can be quite an economical means of transport if you are travelling in a group. Moreover, it means you can plan a trip to your own tastes, rather than having to follow a tour company’s itinerary.

Prices vary wildly so it pays to shop around, but expect to pay in the region of $50+ per day for a car, and $90+ per day for a jeep or other 4WD, depending on the vehicle’s size, age and level of comfort. When negotiating the price, it’s important to clarify exactly who is liable for what. Things to check include who pays for the driver’s accommodation and meals, fuel, road and ferry tolls, parking fees and repairs and what happens in the case of a major breakdown. There should then be some sort of contract to sign showing all the details, including an agreed itinerary, especially if you are renting for more than a day; make sure the driver is given a copy in Vietnamese. In some cases you’ll have to settle up in advance, though, if possible, it’s best if you can arrange to pay roughly half before and the balance at the end.

By motorbike

Motorbike rental is possible in most towns and cities regularly frequented by tourists, and pottering around on one can be an enjoyable and time-efficient method of sightseeing. Lured by the prospect of independent travel at relatively low cost, some tourists cruise the countryside on motorbikes, but inexperienced bikers would do well to think very hard before undertaking any long-distance biking since Vietnam’s roads can be distinctly dangerous.

The appalling road discipline of most Vietnamese drivers means that the risk of an accident is very real, with potentially dire consequences should it happen in a remote area. Well-equipped hospitals are few and far between outside the major centres, and there’ll probably be no ambulance service.

On the other hand, many people ride around with no problems and thoroughly recommend it for both day-trips and touring. The best biking is to be found in the northern mountains, the central highlands and around the Mekong Delta, while the Ho Chi Minh Highway offers pristine tarmac plus wonderful scenery. Some also do the long haul up Highway 1 from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi (or vice versa), a journey of around two weeks, averaging a leisurely 150km per day.

There’s no shortage of motorbikes for rent in Vietnam’s major tourist centres; the average rate is around $7 per day, with discounts for longer periods. You’ll sometimes be asked to pay in advance, sign a rental contract and/or leave some form of ID (a photocopy of your passport should suffice). If you’re renting for a week or so, you may be asked to leave a deposit, often the bike’s value in dollars though it might also be your air ticket or departure card. In the vast majority of cases, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Although it’s technically illegal for non-residents to own a vehicle, there’s a small trade in second hand motorbikes in the two main cities – look at the notice boards in hotels, travellers’ cafés and tour agents for adverts. So far the police have ignored the practice, but check the latest situation before committing yourself. The bike of choice is usually a Minsk 125cc, particularly for the mountains; it’s sturdy, not too expensive, and the easiest to get repaired outside the main cities.

Whether you’re renting or buying, remember to check everything over carefully, especially brakes, lights and horn. Wearing a helmet is now a legal requirement, and most rental outlets have helmets you can borrow, sometimes for a small charge, though they may not be top-quality.

Note that international driving licences are not valid in Vietnam, but you will need your home driving licence and bike registration papers. You also need at least third-party insurance, which is available (with the aforementioned documentation) at Bao Viet insurance offices.

Though road conditions have improved remarkably in recent years, off the main highways they can still be highly erratic, with pristine asphalt followed by stretches of spine-jarring potholes, and plenty of loose gravel on the sides of the road. Repair shops are fairly ubiquitous – ask for sua chua xe may (motorbike repairs) – but you should still carry at least a puncture-repair kit, pump and spare spark plug. Fuel (xang) is cheap and widely available at the roadsides, often from bottles. Finally, try to travel in the company of one or more other bikes in case one of you gets into trouble. And if you want to get off the main highways, it really pays to take a guide.

Cycling is an excellent way of sightseeing around towns, and you shouldn’t have to pay much at all for the privilege, even outside the main tourist centres.

While you can now buy decent Japanese-made bikes in Vietnam, if you decide on a long-distance cycling holiday, you should really bring your own bike with you, not forgetting all the necessary spares and tools. Hardy mountain bikes cope best with the country’s variable surfaces, though tourers and hybrids are fine on the main roads. Bring your own helmet and a good loud bell; a rear-view mirror also comes in handy.

When it all gets too much, or you want to skip between towns, you can always put your bike on the train (though not on all services; check when buying your ticket) for a small fee; take it to the station well ahead of time, where it will be packed and placed in the luggage van. Some open-tour buses will also take bikes – free if it goes in the luggage hold (packed up), otherwise you’ll have to pay for an extra seat.

If you want to see Vietnam from the saddle, there are several companies that offer specialist cycling tours. In addition to a few of the international tour operators, there are local outfits such as Phat Tire.

Local transport

In a country with a population so adept at making do with limited resources, it isn’t surprising to see the diverse types of local transport. While taxis are increasingly common and a number of cities now boast reasonable bus services, elsewhere you’ll be reliant on a host of two- and three-wheeled vehicles for getting around.

Most common by far are motorbike taxis known as xe om. In the cities you’ll rarely be able to walk twenty yards without being offered a ride; prices go up after dark (as does the possibility of extortion). At all times the rules of bargaining apply: when haggling, ensure you know which currency you are dealing in (five fingers held up, for instance, could mean 5000₫, 50,000₫ or $5), and whether you’re negotiating for a single or return trip, and for one passenger or two; it’s always best to write the figures down. Should a difference of opinion emerge at the end of a ride, having the exact fare ready to press into an argumentative driver’s hand can sometimes resolve matters.

Xe om have almost entirely replaced that quintessential Vietnamese mode of transport, the cyclo. These three-wheeled rickshaws comprising a “bucket” seat attached to the front of a bicycle can carry one person, or two people at a push, and are now only really found in tourist areas (though locals use them just as much as foreigners). Prices vary by area, and there are continuous stories of cyclo drivers charging outrageous sums for their services, so to avoid getting badly ripped off, find out first what a reasonable fare might be from your hotel; if the first driver won’t agree to your offer, simply walk on and try another.

Taxis are now a common sight on the streets of all major cities. The vast majority are metered (with prices in dong) and fares are not expensive. Though standards have been improving with greater competition, some drivers need persuading to use their meters, while others dawdle along as the meter spins suspiciously fast, or take you on an unnecessarily long route. When arriving in a town, beware of drivers who insist the hotel you ask for is closed and want to take you elsewhere; this is usually a commission scam – be firm with your directions. In general, smarter-looking taxis and those waiting outside big hotels tend to be more reliable; the Mai Linh network has by far the best reputation, and you’ll see their green cabs all across the land.

The majority of travellers opt for one-way through tickets with one of the open-tour companies, which enable you to traverse the whole country with just one ticket. However, this course of action is not without its drawbacks: if you lose your ticket, there’s no refund, and if you have the misfortune to choose a bad company, you’ll be saddled with them the whole way. In addition, you’ll be obliged to stick to your company’s daily schedule; buying separate tickets en route will only cost a little more (if anything at all), yet give you far more freedom.

There’s no discernible method to the madness that passes as a traffic system in Vietnam so it’s extremely important that you don’t stray out onto the roads unless you feel a hundred percent confident about doing so. The theory is that you drive on the right, though in practice motorists and cyclists swoop, swerve and dodge wherever they want, using their horn as a surrogate indicator and brake. Unless otherwise stated, the speed limit is 60kph on highways and 40kph or less in towns.

Right of way invariably goes to the biggest vehicle on the road, which means that motorbikes and bicycles are regularly forced off the highway by thundering trucks or buses; note that overtaking vehicles assume you’ll pull over onto the hard shoulder to avoid them. It’s wise to use your horn to its maximum and also to avoid being on the road after dark, since many vehicles either don’t have functioning headlights or simply don’t bother to turn them on.

On the whole the police seem to leave foreign riders well alone, and the best policy at roadside checkpoints is just to drive by slowly. However, if you are involved in an accident and it was deemed to be your fault, the penalties can involve fairly major fines.

When parking your bike, it’s advisable to leave it in a parking compound (gui xe) – the going rate is from 5000đ for a motorbike and 2000đ for a bicycle – or paying someone to keep an eye on it. If not, you run the risk of it being tampered with.

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7 Best Ways to Travel Around Vietnam

Best ways to travel around Vietnam

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country that is renowned for its beautiful landscapes, diverse culture, and rich history. From the bustling streets of Saigon to the pristine beaches of Mui Ne or Nha Trang, there is something for everyone in this vibrant country.

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, you’ll be pleased to know that there are several options for getting around this beautiful country. Whether you prefer to travel in comfort, experience local life, or simply see as much as possible, here are the top 7 ways to travel around Vietnam.

Table of Contents

Best Ways to travel around Vietnam by plane

Flying is the quickest and most convenient way to travel around Vietnam, especially if you’re short on time. Vietnam’s major cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and Da Nang, have airports that are well-connected to each other and to other countries. Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and Bamboo Airways are the country’s main airlines, and they offer daily flights between the major cities.

However, traveling by plane can be expensive, especially if you’re on a budget. If you’re planning to fly, it’s best to book your tickets in advance to get the best prices. You can also check for special promotions or deals to save some money.

Best way to travel around Vietnam by train

Taking the train is another great way to travel around Vietnam. The country has a well-developed rail network that connects the major cities and allows you to see the countryside as you travel. The trains are comfortable, air-conditioned, and provide a smooth and scenic journey.

One of the most popular train routes is the Reunification Express, which runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. This train journey takes around 30 hours, but it is a great way to see the country and experience local life. You can also take shorter train rides between the cities, such as Hanoi to Sapa, to explore specific regions.

Travel around Vietnam by bus

Taking the bus is the most popular and budget-friendly way to travel around Vietnam. There are numerous bus companies that offer services between the major cities, and the buses are modern, air-conditioned, and equipped with comfortable seating. The bus journey takes longer than flying, but it is a great way to see the country and experience local life.

One of the most popular bus routes is the Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne, which takes around 5 hours. This route takes you through the stunning countryside, and you’ll get to see the famous rice paddies and traditional villages along the way.

By Motorbike

Easy Riders Vietnam Buon Me Thuot

Riding a motorbike is a great way to travel around Vietnam if you’re looking for an adventure. It allows you to explore the country at your own pace, and you’ll get to see the countryside and local life in a way that you can’t on a tour or by public transport.

This mode of transportation is cheap, convenient, and gives you the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. You can join a motorcycle tour with the guys at Vietnam Riders and embark on a guided adventure of the country, or you rent a motorbike in major cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat, Hoi An, or Hanoi.

Keep in mind that the roads in Vietnam can be chaotic and challenging, so it’s important to have a good level of experience and to follow traffic rules and regulations.

If you are not experienced driver and want to see the real Vietnam by motorbike, then check out some of our tours . Choose the one to meet your needs and enjoy the ride of a lifetime!

There are plenty of scenic routes to choose from, such as the Ha Giang Loop which allows you to traverse through the spectacular northernmost regions of Vietnam, or the Ho Chi Minh Road, which takes you through the heart of the Central Highlands, or the Hai Van Pass , which offers breathtaking views of the coast.

Best way to travel around Vietnam by bicycle

Cycling is another popular way to travel around Vietnam, and it’s a great way to experience the country’s rural areas. You can rent a bicycle in most cities and cycle along quiet roads through picturesque villages, rice paddies, and scenic landscapes. Some popular cycling routes include the Red River Delta, the Mai Chau valley, and the Hoi An countryside.

By Private Car

Travel around Vietnam by private car

If you prefer a more luxurious way to travel around Vietnam, you can hire a private car with a driver. This option gives you the flexibility to visit destinations at your own pace, and it’s a great way to explore the country’s more remote areas. The drivers are knowledgeable and can recommend scenic routes, local restaurants, and attractions.

Best ways to travel around Vietnam by boat

Boats are also a popular way to travel around Vietnam

Finally, if you want to experience the beauty of Vietnam’s coastline and islands, consider traveling by boat. There are plenty of cruises that take you along the country’s stunning coastline, or you can opt for a more personalized tour on a private boat. This is a great way to visit remote islands, explore hidden coves, and take in the stunning scenery.

In conclusion, Vietnam is a fantastic country to explore, and there are plenty of ways to do so. Whether you prefer to travel by motorbike , bicycle, train, bus, private car, or boat, there is something for everyone in this diverse and vibrant country. So, plan your trip today, and get ready to experience the best of Vietnam.

You might be interested in other articles:

  • Beautiful beaches in Vietnam
  • Best motorbike routes in Vietnam
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  • Best things to do in Hoi An

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Transportation in Vietnam

Vietnam offers a diverse range of transportation options for travelers. Getting to Vietnam is convenient with its well-connected international airports and land border crossings. Once in Vietnam, you can explore the country using domestic flights, long-distance buses, trains, or even by driving a motorbike. Moving within cities is made easy with the availability of taxis and public buses, providing convenient and affordable options for getting around.

Getting to Vietnam

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  • Transportation in cities

Other transportation in Vietnam

Transportation options for entering Vietnam include three main methods. The most common and popular way is by taking an international flight to one of Vietnam’s major airports. However, you also have the option of entering Vietnam by crossing the numerous land borders or even by arriving via cruise ships that dock at various ports in the country. Regardless of you choice of entering the country, you need to have a Vietnam visa arranged in advanced.

International flights to Vietnam

Vietnam has a total of 10 international airports. But most international flights to Vietnam typically arrive at one of the two major airports: Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, located in the north, and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, situated in the south.

While Vietnam is a popular tourist destination, it is not as large of a hub compared to some other Asian countries. Therefore, travelers from countries like the US, Canada, Australia, or most European countries often need to make a transit at another airport as direct flights to Vietnam are relatively limited.

Read everything about: international flights to Vietnam .

Crossing land borders

Crossing land borders into Vietnam is possible as the country shares borders with China, Laos, and Cambodia. With a Vietnam e-visa , you can conveniently cross at the most popular border points, making it a good option if you are planning to also visit a neighboring country.

Read everything about:

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  • travelling from Cambodia to Vietnam

Cruise / boats

Entering Vietnam by cruise or boat is a less popular method among tourists, but it is still a viable option. There are a few seaports in Vietnam that allow tourists to enter the country with an e-visa.

Getting around Vietnam offers a range of options. For longer journeys, domestic flights are a convenient choice. Bus travel provides excellent connectivity, with an extensive network and frequent routes, making it an affordable and the most popular option. Train travel is not always very convenient, but does offers a unique experience. For adventure-seeking travelers, driving a motorbike offers the thrill of exploring Vietnam’s landscapes at their own pace.

  • Domestic flights

Domestic flights in Vietnam are not only convenient but also highly affordable, with tickets available for as low as 30 USD. They are an excellent option to avoid lengthy bus journeys that can take over 6 hours between certain cities. Vietnam has a total of 22 domestic airports, and the three major domestic airlines that operate in the country are Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, and Bamboo Airways.

Read everything about domestic flights in Vietnam .

Bus travel in Vietnam is an extensive mode of transportation, with a well-connected network that reaches all cities and towns. Various types of buses cater to different preferences, including regular buses, sleeper buses that operate during nighttime for added convenience, and upgraded options such as limousine and VIP buses that offer more comfort at a slightly higher cost. These choices make bus travel a popular and accessible option for exploring Vietnam’s diverse destinations.

Read everything about bus travel in Vietnam .

  • Train travel

Train travel in Vietnam offers a unique and safer alternative to buses, and provide a unique experience. However, it’s important to note that trains generally drive quite slow compared to road travel, so they may not be the fastest option. Nevertheless, trains provide a variety of choices, including day or night routes, different seating options like hard or soft seats, as well as sleeper cabins with 6 or 4 berths. Additionally, certain routes offer special tourist trains that prioritize comfort for a more enjoyable trip.

Read everything about train travel in Vietnam .

Traveling by motorbike in Vietnam is a popular choice, particularly among backpackers, as it offers a thrilling and unforgettable experience. However, it’s important to note that Vietnam’s roads can be challenging, and the country is known for its traffic and road safety issues . For those without experience, it is not recommended to ride a motorbike themselves. A safer alternative is to opt for “ easy riders ,” where local guides drive while travelers sit comfortably on the back, allowing them to enjoy the journey and take in the sights without the risks associated with riding a motorbike.

Read everything about driving motorbike in Vietnam.

Vietnam transportation in cities

Transportation within Vietnam’s cities offers a variety of options to suit different needs. Walking is a common way to navigate city centers, while taxi services provide convenient and readily available transportation. Public buses are a cost-effective mode of travel, and some cities, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are also working on a metro system.

Walking in Vietnam can be challenging as the streets are not always designed with pedestrians in mind. Sidewalks may not be well-maintained, and it is not uncommon to find motorbikes parked on them, forcing pedestrians to walk on the street itself. However, certain areas such as Hoi An, Hue, and countryside regions like Sapa, Mai Chau, and Ha Giang provide a more pedestrian-friendly environment, making walking a more enjoyable experience in these locations.


Taxis are widely available and often considered the preferred mode of transportation for getting around cities in Vietnam. They are generally inexpensive and can be easily found throughout urban areas. While taxi scams can occur, the Vietnamese government has taken measures to combat this issue, making it relatively safer compared to some other countries. It is advisable to book with reputable taxi companies such as Mai Linh Taxi and Vinasun Taxi. Additionally, the use of taxi apps like Grab provides transparency in pricing and allows users to conveniently hail a ride.

Read everything about taxis in Vietnam .

Public buses

Public buses in Vietnam are an affordable and widely available mode of transportation, yet they are not frequently used by tourists. The language barrier can make navigating the bus system complicated for non-Vietnamese speakers, and many tourists opt for taxis as they offer a more convenient door-to-door service, and just being slightly more expensive.

Vietnam’s major cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are currently in the process of building their metro networks. However, as these projects are still under construction, the current availability and coverage of the metro systems are limited, with only a few stations open.

Read everything about metros in Vietnam .

Boats & cruises

Boats play a limited role in Vietnam’s overall transportation infrastructure. You can find a few (speed)ferry connections to islands like Con Dao, Cat Ba, and Phu Quoc and some other smaller islands. However they are more being used for more leisurely experiences for tourists, such as exploring the Mekong Delta by boat or taking a cruise through Halong Bay.

Cycling is not widely popular among locals in Vietnam, as it is often associated with lower socioeconomic status and students. The streets in Vietnam can be perceived as unsafe for cycling due to heavy traffic and a lack of dedicated cycling infrastructure. However, there are plenty of cycling opportunities in cities like Hoi An, Hue, Mai Chau, and the flat Mekong Delta region, where the countryside surroundings provide picturesque routes for cycling enthusiasts.

Read everything about cycling in Vietnam .

Cyclos, also known as cycle rickshaws, are a traditional mode of transportation in Vietnam and offer a unique and memorable experience for travelers. They are particularly popular in cities like Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, and Nha Trang, where they provide a leisurely way to explore the city streets and take in the sights. Riding in a cyclo allows you to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, enjoy the slower pace, and interact with the friendly cyclo drivers, making it a cool and authentic experience.

Read everything about cyclo in Vietnam

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Getting Around Vietnam: Transportation Tips for Backpackers

Getting Around Vietnam: Transportation Tips for Backpackers

Rachel Tran

Vietnam is one of the easiest countries to get around and also one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia.

So what is the best way to travel around Vietnam? The method of getting around Vietnam depends hugely on how long you are going to stay in Vietnam. As a tourist, you have many options of transportation to choose from in Vietnam, including by plane, by train, by bus, by car, by motorbike or cyclo, by taxis and by boat.

Here is the breakdown of the best ways for getting around Vietnam no matter how long you stay or how much you spend on your itinerary in the country.

Transportation Types for Getting Around Vietnam

1. by plane.

Getting around Vietnam by plane

Flying or traveling by plane is obviously the most expensive but fastest way for everyone to get around Vietnam.

With this means of transport, you can get almost anywhere in the country in about two hours, making flying to and around Vietnam a great choice for travelers with rush traveling time. 

In Vietnam, Vietnam Airlines is the largest (and costliest as well) domestic carrier, but there are also a lot of budget airlines and flight suppliers, namely VietJet Air, Jetstar, Bamboo Airways and VASCO.

Vietnam is also home to over 20 airports, with 08 international airports situated in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hai Phong, Phu Quoc Island, Can Tho and Da Lat. By far, the majority of international flights arrive in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with everyday arrivals through Asian hub cities. Hong Kong, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, Guangzhou, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh operate the most frequent flights.

If you book early, you could save on ticket fares since the budget carriers often offer about 30-50% off tickets if they have sales. Airfares are dependent on the time you book and the dates you want to fly. There is no difference between Vietnamese people and foreigners in terms of airfares. 

Yet, bear in mind that the baggage fees and policies vary by airlines. Budget airlines usually charge extra for baggage fees or preferred seating.

2. By Train

Getting around Vietnam by train

Vietnam is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia equipped with a reasonable rail network. Though the cost for getting around Vietnam by trains is higher than that of buses, the comfort it brings is really worth a try. Most importantly, the Viet tourism office advises that trains are safer than buses .

The most popular way to get from the capital Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is the train named “Reunification Express” which takes over 30 hours for the entire trip. 

Rail fares are fixed, though there are different prices for different classes. 

Vietnamese trains supply several classes, and train tickets in Vietnam are divided into 4 separate classes, which become progressively more expensive:

Though there are a few options, you should choose the highest level within your affordability because the hard seat carriages of lower class could be grim. On the train, there are both hard-berth and soft-berth compartments for passengers to stay overnight, with six and four berths, correspondingly. 

If you are a train buff, be aware of holiday periods or peak season and book the berths on night trains as soon as possible. The advantage of night trains is that you do not have to spend daytime traveling, and it saves you the costs of accommodation. 

There are many shorter routes of trains throughout the country and travelers could use these routes to get to China from Lao Cai.

Getting around Vietnam by bus

If your trip in Vietnam lasts for long days and you do not mind about comfort, getting around Vietnam by bus is the right choice, especially for independent travelers. Nearly every city of Vietnam can be reached by bus, but be warned that some rickety roads in Vietnam may not be for you. For instance, a 276km trip from the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh by bus will take approximately 8 hours.

Using the bus to travel around Vietnam’s big cities is a great option. It requires you to do research in advance and learn primary language related to traveling by bus to better plan your trip. Keep in mind that some Western fatties may feel uncomfortable on Vietnam buses which are designed specifically for Vietnamese. 

If you take a day bus, be noted that they usually stop multiple times along the route to pick passengers up and drop them off. Don’t expect to move quickly or efficiently. Make sure that you tell them exactly your destination since there are often no signs when you pull into bus stations. 

Among types of buses, sleeper buses are one of the most popular ways for tourists to get around Vietnam. The open tour buses are often best suited for long distances and seem preferable to the system of national coaches/buses since they are air-conditioned and operate on scheduled timetables with a specific limited number of passengers. National coaches, in contrast, are the opposite. 

To use this mode of transportation to get around the country, you should research private bus companies prior to buying a ticker. Also, you should be careful with your personal belongings and avoid falling asleep while listening to music (or anything else), chances are, they will not be there in the next morning. Keep everything locked up while being on the bus.

Getting around Vietnam by boat

Vietnam has a lot of partly navigable rivers; nevertheless, the most crucial so far is the Mekong and its tributaries. 

Boat trips departing from Phnom Penh to Chau Doc, which is worth a try due to its exciting experience, are suitable for travelers visiting both Vietnam and Cambodia. Of course, if you love something more luxurious, you can travel in luxury down the Mekong River on the river cruise private tour company too.

Such type of transport is also possible on the sea. Cruising the Halong Bay’s islands is highly recommended for all travelers to northern Vietnam because tourists will have a chance to see magnificent karst island formations. In the south, boat trips to Phu Quoc islands and the islands off Nha Trang are also recommended. 

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To have the best experience a boat trip in Vietnam, you had better research your boat choice carefully, or select a professional travel company. Note that most boat trips are seasonal and expressly subject to acceptable weather conditions. 

Getting around Vietnam by car

Being able to set your wheels on the road during your trip is really exciting and gives you enormous flexibility to visit even remote areas and stop whenever and wherever you want. Thinking of traveling around Vietnam by car? Be noted that international driving licenses do not work in Vietnam, so renting a car to get around in Vietnam is not an option for foreign tourists. 

Car rental agencies do not offer the service of car rental for foreigners to drive themselves in Vietnam, but you can hire a car and a driver via most tour companies or hotels . But, make sure that the driver knows some English so as to communicate with you and remember to get some basic information about the driver’s experience and the car’s age and make in order to avoid any potential surprises.

Before setting off your car rental contract, be clear about the conditions, where you go, and itinerary schedule. 

>> Recommended: Car Rental in Vietnam: Guide to How to Hire a Car & Tips (Hanoi + HCMC)

6. by motorbike or cyclo.

Getting around Vietnam by motorbike

What is the most popular form of transportation in Vietnam?  It is motorbike or scooter. 

If you are backpacking to Vietnam alone, then motorbike is an ideal means of transportation offering the most interesting and real traveling experience in Vietnam. 

Motorbikes could be hired from anywhere in Vietnam, including hotels, cafes, and travel agencies. This transportation mode is suitable for the courageous only since traffic in Vietnam is somehow chaotic and hectic, though it is the most popular mean of Vietnamese. 

If you rent a motorbike or motorcycle, check out the bike carefully prior to taking off and remember that Vietnam requires wearing a helmet . Gas stations are found throughout the country, and gasoline is somewhat cheap regarding a given distance that you could drive on a tank. 

If you are not ready to roar off the road by yourself, another option is to find “xe om” (motorbike taxis) or Grab bikers or any similar types of “Technological xe om” (in Vietnamese slang). Motorbike taxis are what they sound. 

As a passenger, you need to hop onto a motorbike or scooter behind the local driver and let him get you to go. But, set a price prior to getting on and don’t be afraid to haggle down. 

In other more peaceful cities like Hue, you can enjoy a cyclo trip with slow riding , but if you only want to move between two destinations, look for a “xe om”.

Cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) are a simple transportation mode available in many towns in Vietnam, in spite of the fact that they have been banned in some more congested cities. With a cyclo, you should negotiate fiercely to settle on the price for your specific destination prior to getting on it. 

7. By Taxis

Getting around Vietnam by taxis

Taxis are a reasonable means of transportation in Vietnam, and you can find it at most major sites. Chances are, if hotels or other businesses call a taxi for you, it will be a little bit more expensive than its original price since the businesses get a kickback. Therefore, if you are traveling on a budget, you should try to flag one on your own. 

Taxis with meters are cheap by international standards and an almost safe way to travel around at night. The average tariffs are from 12,000 to 15,000 VND per kilometer. You should only go with recommended or reputable taxi companies . There are some nationwide taxi companies with good reputations, which are Mai Linh, Vinasun, etc.

Some app-based taxis (served with both motorbike and car) including Grab, GoViet, and Be are available in some big Vietnamese cities including Hanoi, Saigon, Danang.

How Long Does It Take to Get Around Vietnam?

If you are trying to figure out how long it may take you to get from A to B in Vietnam, then check our distance and time chart now so you can get more detailed information about getting around Vietnam:

Extra Notes on Getting Around Vietnam

  • Due to possible taxi issues, especially if you are exhausted after a tiring and long flight, you may want to book an airport pick-up via either a tour company or your hotel.
  • Be careful of road conditions and hazards: Actually, road safety is not a strong point of Vietnam. The network of intercity roads of two-lane highways is rather dangerous. In Vietnam, head-on or high-speed collisions are rather familiar sight on main roads.
  • Crossing the street is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome for most first-time travelers to Vietnam. But the tip is to avoid bolting across but strolling across to let local motorcyclists have time to maneuver around you.
  • Getting around in the countryside of Vietnam is somehow easier than in big cities. 

To sum up, trains are considered the best way to get around Vietnam cheaply and comfortably; open tour buses are great for those places which are not serviced by trains and planes are ideal for those who are short on time. That is it – the best way to get around Vietnam.

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17 Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

Written by Jess Lee Updated Aug 30, 2023

Vietnam is an astonishing mix of natural highlights and cultural diversity.

The scenery ranges from jagged peaks seen from winding mountain passes down to verdant paddy fields painted every shade of green in the palette, while Vietnam's long history and multicultural population (with over 50 ethnic minority groups) make a trip here rich in heritage.

Outdoor lovers can get their teeth into the countryside within the numerous national parks, where hiking, biking, and kayaking are popular things to do, but Vietnam's most famous natural tourist attraction, the spectacular karst seascape of Halong Bay, is one natural sight that even the more slothful can experience up close on a cruise.

While the rural areas brim with lush panoramas, the big cities buzz with contemporary life and provide ample opportunities to get stuck into Vietnam's tasty culinary highlights.

This fascinating country is full of surprises and is one of Southeast Asia's most underrated destinations. Plan your sightseeing with our list of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

1. Halong Bay

2. ho chi minh city, 4. phong nha-ke bang national park, 7. sapa countryside, 9. nha trang, 10. cu chi tunnels, 11. ba be national park, 12. mekong delta, 13. cat ba island, 14. ha giang, 15. phu quoc island, 16. con dao islands, frequently asked questions, when is the best time to visit vietnam.

Halong Bay

The karst seascape of Halong Bay is one of the best places to visit in the world for spellbinding sea views and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thousands of limestone islands sit within this bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, eroded into jagged pinnacles by wind and water action over millennia.

With the bay's scenery best seen by boat, this is prime cruising territory. Opt for at least an overnight tour to see Halong Bay's iconic views as a day trip doesn't do it justice.

There are plenty of caves in the bay that can be entered including the Hang Sung Sot, with three mammoth caverns, and the Hang Dao Go, with superbly weird stalagmites and stalactites. For most people though, the highlight is simply cruising amid the karsts and soaking up the changing scenery of pinnacles as you pass by.

There are plenty of different cruise tours to choose from. Check the different itineraries offered before booking as many travelers have left Halong Bay underwhelmed by their cruise.

Author's Tip: If possible, book a tour that takes in neighboring Lan Ha Bay as well as Halong Bay. The karst scenery is just as dramatic here but fewer cruise trips visit. And check if your cruise offers included activities such as guided kayaking (which allows you to experience an up-close view of the scenery).

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

For big city fans, no visit to Vietnam is really complete without a visit to Ho Chi Minh City, the buzzing commercial hub of the country.

The streets are an insane clog of motorbikes and cars, the restaurant and café scene is incredibly cosmopolitan, and the shopping is the best in the country.

At its center is Dong Khoi, a relatively small and easily navigable central district, which holds most of the city's sights.

Here, you'll find the HCMC Museum, with a brilliant collection of artifacts that weaves together the story of the city, and the grand Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 19th century.

Check out the old district of Da Kao nearby for some of the best surviving examples of the city's French colonial architecture and also to visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda with its dazzling array of Buddhist and Taoist religious iconography.

Afterwards, the History Museum is a must-do for history fans with stacks of relics on display from various archaeological sites.

For many visitors, the two big-hitter tourist attractions not to miss are just a little out of the center, along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street. The Reunification Palace, then known as Independence Palace, was the residence for South Vietnam's president. It's chiefly famous as the spot where North Vietnam's tanks stopped on 30 April 1975, officially ending the war. It's a completely fascinating place to visit complete with 1960s furnishings still in situ.

Nearby is the War Remnants Museum, which although very obviously biased, paints a disturbing picture of the brutality of war and the many atrocities committed by US Forces during their Vietnam campaign.


One of Vietnam's most historic towns, Hue is packed to the brim with relics from the reign of the 19th-century Nguyen emperors.

Sitting along the banks of the gorgeous Perfume River, the Imperial Enclosure is a huge site set within walls that sprawl for 2.5 kilometers.

While touring the grounds check out the gorgeous Ngo Mon Gate, the Thai Hoa Palace with its finely lacquered interior detailing, the Dien Tho Residence where the Queen Mothers would live, and the Halls of Mandarins with its preserved ceiling murals.

A dazzling number of historic sites lie outside the Imperial Enclosure walls as well.

One of the nicest ways of visiting a collection of outlying sites is by taking a riverboat cruise on the Perfume River. A day cruise can take you to visit several royal tombs along with some pagodas.

If you're short on time, the best tomb to visit is the Tomb of Tu Doc and the most important pagoda in the area is the Thien Mu Pagoda, with its tower that soars for 21 meters high.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

One of the best places to visit in Vietnam for caving, World Heritage-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a dramatic karst mountain formation honeycombed with huge caverns, which are home to superb stalactite and stalagmite displays.

It's best known for its caving activities , which range from multi-day hiking and caving tours for the more adventurous, to simpler half-day trips to caves with easy access provided by boat trips and modern boardwalks, but the national park also offers mountain biking and trekking activities.

The most popular destinations within the park are the Paradise Cave , which extends for a staggering 31 kilometers below ground, and the Phong Nha Cave, where the interior is accessed by boat. Half-day tours can be easily arranged once you're in the area.

The national park's most renowned caverns though are Son Doong Cave (the world's largest cave) , and the Tu Lan Cave with its cavern river system. Access to these, and to certain other caves in the park are restricted to organized tours (ranging from one-day to multi-day expeditions) which are all run by Phong Nha's expert adventure tour company Oxalis . It's well worth booking in advance to secure your spot.

To make the most of your time here, time your visit for outside the rainy season, which runs from October to December, when many of the national park's caves are closed to the public.

You can access Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park from Son Trach (also known as Phong Nha village).

Hindu temple ruins at My Son

Surrounded by lush jungle-covered mountains, My Son is a ruined Cham era temple city that dates from the 4th century.

This old Hindu religious center was still very much in use during the 7th to 10th centuries and only fell into complete decline and abandonment during the 13th century.

There are around 20 temple structures still standing here, all built of brick or sandstone blocks and showing interesting influences from various Asian empires, including Indian and Malay.

Note that the temples of Group B are the oldest, while Group A once contained the site's most important monument but was destroyed deliberately by US forces during the Vietnam War.

A good museum on-site houses plenty of information on the Cham.

Access to My Son is from Hoi An.

Hoi An

Beautiful Hoi An is the most atmospheric city in Vietnam, with bags of surviving historic architecture.

The old town quarter is a joy to explore, packed to the brim with well-preserved merchant houses that hark back to Hoi An's trading center heyday of the 15th century, when the town was a major meeting point for Japanese and Chinese merchants who flocked here for the local silks.

Plenty of the old merchant houses have been opened to the public, so you can get a taste of these times. The best is 17th-century Tan Ky House, with fascinating architectural and decorative elements.

Hoi An's major symbol is the delightful Japanese Bridge at the western end of Tran Phu Street, while nearby, the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation is the old town's most highly decorated temple.

There are numerous small pagodas and museums dotted about town, but Hoi An's true charm is found in simply rambling the old town streets admiring the well-preserved facades.

Sapa Countryside

The verdant rice field countryside surrounding Sapa, bordered by the jagged peaks of the Hoang Lien Mountains (often still known by their French colonial era name of the Tonkinese Alps), are home to Vietnam's most beautiful rural vistas.

The deep valleys here are home to a diverse mix of the country's ethnic minorities, including the Hmong, Giay, and Red Dzao people, while the rippling hills are terraced with rice fields and overlooked by the country's tallest peak, Fansipan Mountain.

This is the top trekking destination in Vietnam with oodles of options to trek or day hike between tiny villages and experience the staggering mountain views.

Sapa itself is the main base here - an old hill station and now a bustling and forever growing tourist center that is a stark contrast to the sumptuous tranquil countryside right on its doorstep.

Author's Tip: Keen trekkers looking for more of northern Vietnam's lush mountain vistas may want to skip the busy Sapa scene completely and nudge further 95 kilometers northwest to Bac Ha , where the terraced hill views on hikes between hill villages are just as beautiful. Bac Ha's Sunday market is also a very popular day trip from Sapa.


Vietnam's capital is the frenetic heartbeat of the nation and a place that befuddles travelers as much as it charms them.

The motorbike frenzy, pollution, and constant clamor of street vendors can get too much for some travelers, but if you want to dive into Vietnamese city life, Hanoi is the place to do it.

The old town quarter has plenty of dilapidated charm on offer, while history fans should make a beeline here simply to see the bundle of excellent museums.

The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and Vietnam Fine Art Museum are both brilliant introductions to the diverse artistry of the country, while the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is an important tribute to the founder of modern Vietnam.

Author's Tip: It's well worth adding extra time into your itinerary to use Hanoi as a base for exploring the many sights within day tripping distance. In particular, the Tay Phuong and Thay Pagodas (30 kilometers west from the central city), Co Loa Citadel (24 kilometers northeast), and the Huong Pagoda (also known as the Perfume Pagoda; 60 kilometers southwest).

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hanoi

Nha Trang

For sandy fun in Vietnam, Nha Trang is king. The well-maintained beach trundles for six kilometers along the shoreline of central Nha Trang city and during summer is jam-packed with local families on vacation, as well as foreign visitors.

There is excellent swimming here with designated swimming areas and manicured lounging areas that make this a great option for relaxing days soaking up the sun and sand.

If you do get bored of sunbathing, the ancient Po Nagar Cham Towers are just to the north across the Xom Bong Bridge and have been used as a place of worship here since at least the 7th century (with some historians saying the site itself has been a place of active worship since much earlier).

There is also an excellent museum dedicated to the work of Alexandre Yersin who discovered the cause of the bubonic plague and founded Nha Trang's Pasteur Institute (which still carries out vaccination programs in Vietnam today).

Cu Chi Tunnels

An absolutely fascinating experience for all travelers, not just those interested in Vietnam's modern military history, the Cu Chi Tunnels are an extensive tunnel network that during the war, stretched for more than 250 kilometers, allowing VC troops to operate and communicate in the area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City.

Two short sections of the network can be visited with a guide who'll take you down into the narrow unlit confines, which definitely are not for claustrophobia sufferers.

You will literally be crawling on your hands and knees and some points. You can access the tunnels at either Ben Dinh village (the more popular choice) or Ben Duoc village.

Ba Be National Park

Tranquil Ba Be National Park is absolutely stunning with the three interlinked Ba Be Lakes at its heart, rimmed by jagged karst peaks and thickly forested slopes.

Most visitors come here to take peaceful boat trips or kayak on the lake and explore the caves full of stalactites and stalagmites in the vicinity, but for the more active, there's also excellent hiking and trekking in the hills here between ethnic minority villages.

This is one of the most peaceful spots in Vietnam, and travelers who spend the night here sleep in traditional stilt-house homestay accommodation along the lakeshore, allowing an experience of simple rural life.

Mekong Delta

The far south of Vietnam is where the mighty Mekong River finally finds its way to the sea in a maze of waterways that crisscross the floodplain.

Incredibly lush, with paddy field vistas and mangroves, and full of local life, with chaotic floating markets to explore by boat, the delta is one of the most interesting regions for travelers to discover.

Can Tho is the most popular town to use as a base, as it's close to the floating markets of Phong Dien and Cai Rang, while boat trips from Ca Mau allow you to explore the U Minh Mangrove Forest and Cau Mau Nature Reserve.

This area of Vietnam is one of the best to visit for keen bird watchers and nature lovers , as it is home to both Tra Su Bird Sanctuary Forest and Bac Lieu Bird Sanctuary.

View from the top of Cat Ba Island

One of Vietnam's major centers for activities and adventure travel attractions, Cat Ba Island sits on the western edge of Halong Bay.

This is the best place to visit if you want to organize cruises and kayaking trips in Lan Ha Bay, which lies off Cat Ba's southern coast. Lan Ha Bay is a less visited seascape of karst islets and outcrops that makes for a quieter alternative to Halong Bay.

Off the water, much of Cat Ba's dense jungle interior is part of Cat Ba National Park, where hikers can spot plentiful birdlife, as well as animals such as macaques.

For many visitors, though, Cat Ba is all about climbing opportunities. Climbing excursions here utilize both the island's limestone cliffs and Lan Ha Bay's outcrops, providing experiences to suit both complete climbing beginners and experienced climbers.

Scenery along the Mai Pi Leng Pass

The emerald-green karst mountain landscapes along Ha Giang's mountain passes make this far-north province prime territory for scenic road-tripping by either motorbike or car.

In particular, the twisty Quan Ba Pass between Ha Giang town and Tam Son provides panoramic vistas of the karst plateau and its jagged limestone outcrops, while the zigzagging Mai Pi Leng Pass between Dong Van and Meo Vac offers dizzying views of the lush mountain scenery and narrow valleys below.

Time your visit to coincide with one of the area's market days, when traders from the surrounding mountain villages pile into town. Dong Van's Sunday market is one of the best.

View of colorful fishing boats from the Phu Quoc cable-car

Sitting 45 kilometers off the southern coast of the country, in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc is a densely forested island, speckled by sweeps of white-sand beach that attract plenty of sunseekers during the winter dry season.

Dry season (November to May) is also when the island's underwater and on-the-water tourism attractions spring into action, with plenty of dive sites in the waters just offshore, as well as opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, and boat trips.

Many of the main boat excursions head to the An Thoi Islands, just to the south of Phu Quoc, which is home to the best snorkeling in the area.

Off the water, the Phu Quoc cable-car provides bird's-eye views for eight kilometers, soaring over the seascape and islands, all the way from Phu Quoc to the island of Hon Thom in the An Thoi Islands.

Phu Quac is accessed by plane or regular ferries from the mainland towns of Rach Gia and Ha Tien. As Ha Tien lies very close to the southern border crossing with Cambodia, the island is a popular first (or last) stop-off in Vietnam for overland travelers.

An Hai Beach on Con Son Island

This remote island group lies around 160 kilometers offshore in the South China Sea and is renowned among divers as one of the best places to visit in the country, both for the variety of sea life and for the coral reefs.

Much of the Con Dao Islands, and the surrounding water, is a protected wilderness area, with the island shores home to nesting turtles, and dense forest still covering the island interiors.

The main island, and prime base for visitors with all the accommodation and things to do, is Con Son Island, which has sweeps of sand strung out across its coast that attract beachgoers looking for a relaxed sun-soaked getaway, as well as divers.

Even if you're here mostly for the beach, make sure to explore the historic sites of Con Son Town (the island's only settlement) including Phu Hai Prison, Bao Tang Con Dao Museum, and the prison known as the Tiger Cages, which document the dark history of this isolated island group.

Con Son's remote position led to the island being used to incarcerate political prisoners during the era Vietnam was occupied by French colonial forces, and later by both the South Vietnamese government and the occupying American forces.

Preserved sites including Phu Hai Prison and the prison cages used by the US forces, known as the Tiger Cages, along with Con Son Town's Bao Tang Con Dao Museum, do an excellent job of documenting this history for visitors.

Access to Con Son Island is either by flight from Ho Chi Minh City or by ferry from the coastal city of Vung Tau.

Fishing boats on the beach in Mui Ne

Once a sleepy coastal fishing town, Mui Né has developed into a beautiful beach resort town and a prime destination for windsurfing, sailing, and kitesurfing.

Compared to other beach destinations in Vietnam , however, Mui Né remains relatively unknown - and this means pristine beaches and a quiet retreat for most of the year.

Red cliffs and river in Mui Ne

One of Mui Né's most unique attractions is the natural Red Sand Dunes just outside town, where visitors can practice sand-sledding or rent dune buggies for a more adrenaline-charged experience.

Tucked away between nearby fishing villages and towering orange limestone formations, there's the fairy stream, a slow-moving warm stream that almost feels like a walkway because it's so shallow - follow it to the end to reach a waterfall.

For those wishing to explore beyond the coastline, there are also the ruins of the Po Shanu Cham Towers - remnants of the Cham Empire that dominated the area many centuries ago.

Vietnam experiences strong monsoon seasons, where heavy rains hit the cities and the countryside, often causing floods and mudslides. If you're planning to travel around, the best time to visit Vietnam is during the dry season, which lasts from December to February – but there are some exceptions.

The south of Vietnam – where Ho Chi Minh city is located – experiences a more tropical climate, with high temperatures and high humidity year-round. Visiting these areas in the cooler months means less humidity and temperatures in the high 20s rather than the high 30s and 40s, which makes it more comfortable to walk around.

In the north, however, many areas experience an actual winter. Hanoi sees temperatures in the mid- to high teens in December and January – and in the mountains of Sapa in the north, you'll even get to see some snow during these months.

If you're visiting Danang for some beach time or to travel through the ancient town of Hoi An, it's best to arrive between February and May, when water and air temperature are in the 20s – perfect beach weather for enjoying the sand or a dip in the water. The rainy season, and especially the months of September and October, see very heavy rains and often very strong wind storms on the coast, so it's better to stay away from Danang during this time.

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Vietnam Travel Guide

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  • Vietnam Travel Tips

How To Travel In Vietnam – Best Ways To Explore Vietnam

train in vietnam

  • January 30, 2024 9:23 am

Vietnam always focuses on improving the quality of roads and traffic to bring you perfect experiences when visiting our country. It seems that the progress of Vietnam’s traffic is not inferior to modern countries in the world because the roads have good surface and dense distribution of road types such as highways, airports, and rail. Besides, the means of transportation in Vietnam also give you a comfy feeling in both public and private transport services with modern facilities and high professionalism. 

This article is a fantastic tool for you with a series of ideal  suggestions of how to plan a trip to Vietnam and tells you which means of transportation  are suitable for your personal needs and the specific terrain of each area in Vietnam.

Hanoi Airport Terminals

How To Travel In Vietnam – A Traveler’s Guide to Optimal Journeys

1. best ways to travel in viet nam, 1.1 explore vietnam by air.

Traveling to Vietnam by air is one of the best ways to travel in Vietnam and shorten travel time when you are eager to go to Vietnam or want to have a relaxing time during the trip. Besides, traveling by plane is also a great way for you to experience modern, professional services in the world with high-quality facilities, attentive flight attendants, and professional captains, who are always ready to take care of you at all times during the flight.

Hanoi Airport Terminal 1

In addition, agents also regularly have promotions and ticket discounts with the desire to provide maximum support to make your trip to Vietnam more convenient. You can book air tickets at Airline ticket shops or book online at Vietnam Airline websites directly in your current region.

Vietnam International Airport

1.2 Travel in Vietnam by Train

Choosing a train is one of the best ways to travel in Vietnam   for you to enjoy a plethora of special amenities. The foremost advantage to highlight is safety, as trains operate on dedicated tracks, minimizing the likelihood of accidents or delays caused by traffic congestion. Additionally, traveling by train in Vietnam provides a private and modern space, with each compartment designed as a separate unit resembling a small room, equipped with full amenities.

What adds to the allure is that most Vietnamese train routes traverse the country’s most beautiful and romantic natural landscapes, offering an ideal opportunity to capture photos through the window or simply relax and appreciate the picturesque scenery. Moreover, stable ticket prices, absence of baggage restrictions, and straightforward procedures make train travel an exceptionally attractive option for your journey in Vietnam. Booking train tickets is a hassle-free process, whether done at direct ticket sales points or online, requiring only your citizen identification card.

1.3 Have a trip in Vietnam by private car with local drivers fluency in English

A private car service offers the advantage of having your own space and a fully flexible schedule tailored to your requirements when traveling with only you and a professional driver in the vehicle. This ensures a perfect experience, as the driver is well-trained in driving skills, problem-solving, and proficient in English to cater to your needs throughout the journey. The fleet includes modern, clean vehicles with various passenger capacities, ranging from 4 seats to 45 seats, each accompanied by a pre-announced and reasonable price list. With these features, there will be no hesitation in choosing a private car service for your transportation needs.

Vietnam Car Rental

1.4 Enjoy the fascinating life style in Vietnam by Bus

Bus service also is the best way to travel in Vietnam because the bustle and excitement on the bus routes will bring you new energy. Compared to using personal vehicles to travel, taking the bus will have many outstanding advantages such as reducing traffic congestion during rush hour, helping you be more leisurely and have more time to relax or admire the scenery. Besides, bus stops and routes are also arranged consecutively in Vietnam’s city areas, so you will not encounter any interruptions when using bus services to travel in Vietnam.

The announcement of bus ticket prices will surprise you because it is very cheap, only ranging from 5 to 10 thousand VND per trip. What you need to do is check the route number that matches the place you want to go and wait for the car to pick you up at bus stations in cities and towns in Vietnam

Hue City Tour Minibus

1.5 Take an adventure in Vietnam by Taxi

Taxi services in Vietnam serve as excellent protection against adverse conditions like dust or inclement weather during your travels in the country. The drivers’ interactions and friendliness not only ensure a pleasant journey but also provide you with interesting and useful local knowledge. Additionally, taxi companies in Vietnam often offer various discount policies and gifts, particularly during Vietnamese holidays. The choices available to you are diverse, ranging from well-known technology-based taxi companies like Grab and Gojek to the option of selecting a private taxi company by hailing a cab directly on the street or calling the company’s hotline.

1.6 Level up your trip in Vietnam by Cruises

You will experience luxury on modern, splendid Cruises amidst the majestic bays and islands of Vietnam. This is a remarkable upgrade, with a complete utility system like a miniature 5-star hotel, floating on the water. You can easily organize a party while the journey is taking place, right on the oasis or on the open sea. With a reasonable cost, you have the opportunity to transform into rich tycoons, enjoying luxurious, romantic and new experiences in Vietnam. Therefore, it is exactly  that we recommend a cruise as one of the best ways to travel in Vietnam for you with significant advantages.

things to do in ha long bay

1.7 Go backpacking in Vietnam by Motorbike

Traveling by motorbike offers a fantastic opportunity for you to immerse yourself in the world of freedom and adventure throughout Vietnam. Simply rent a motorbike, fill it with gas, and you can explore the city, countryside, or the windy plateaus of Vietnam. Traveling to various locations provides self-experience, brings you closer to nature, and expands your sense of discovery. We highly recommend exploring villages, vast green forests, and terraced fields.

Traveling by motorbike is also an excellent way for you to push your limits and step out of your comfort zone, whether through overnight camping or solo journeys through challenging terrain. Currently, motorbike rental services for tourists are quite popular in Vietnam, offering reasonable prices for you to experience and discover something new during your adventures in Vietnam.

Hoi An Motorbike

1.8 Sightseeing in Vietnam by Bicycle

Embarking on a bicycle journey in Vietnam offers a therapeutic escape for both your physical and mental well-being. Pedaling along the picturesque and serene roads in Vietnam becomes a valuable remedy, relieving the stress of a hectic life and mitigating common ailments such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Exploring the natural wonders during daylight bicycle rides allows you to connect with the beauty of the surroundings, while night cycling unveils the enchanting sparkle of Vietnam’s streets adorned with lights.

You have the flexibility to choose between personal expeditions, allowing you to discover intriguing aspects on your own, or opt for guided bicycle tours offered by travel companies. These guided tours provide insights into various facets, including the rich culture, history, and diverse cuisine across different regions of Vietnam

Cycling countryside in hoian

1.9 Relax in Vietnam by Boat

One of the amazing aspects of a summer cruise in Vietnam is exploring the waterways by boat. This activity not only brings relaxation but also promises to bring you a fascinating experience. As a result,  when floating on the water, you will be immersed in the peaceful and majestic beauty of the Vietnamese river landscape. Some ideal locations for sightseeing by boat include Ha Long Bay , Tam Giang Lagoon, Lan Ha Bay, Van Phong Bay, Bay Mau Coconut Forest and Trang An Ecological Area.

cam thanh coconut village

1.10 Ramble in Vietnam by Cyclo

Leisurely travel on cyclos is also one of the best ways to travel in Vietnam and offers a nostalgic glimpse into the classic pace of life from many years ago. Choosing a cyclo makes your emotions more pure than ever when going on short trips in Vietnam because you will not be interrupted by engine noise, which is unique to this mode of transportation. Powered only by cyclo pedals, your driver will guide you through the roads of Vietnam, sharing fascinating stories and valuable travel insights. Without a doubt, this can be considered the most economical and special means of transportation that will surprise you when you come to Vietnam.

Cyclo in Hanoi

2. How to plan a trip to Vietnam

If you’re struggling with how to plan a trip to Vietnam , don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

  • Your first step is to plan your trip expenses, covering expenses such as accommodation, transportation, meals, and incidental purchases.
  • Next, strategic time management, which is extremely important for how to plan a trip in Vietnam . It is essential to research the weather conditions for your planned travel period, ensuring you avoid harsh sunlight, heavy rain or extreme cold at specific times. Plan your daily itinerary by deciding which places to visit in the morning, afternoon and evening.
  • For added convenience, consider booking services like flights and accommodations in advance, and keep an eye out for discounted tickets. Securing these deals will not only save you money but will also ensure you are well prepared, especially during peak travel season.
  • Additionally, familiarize yourself with Vietnam’s diverse regions—north, central, and south—before sketching out your specific destinations. This will help you avoid schedule conflicts and make the most of your itinerary.
  • Finally, equip yourself with basic Vietnamese communication skills, especially useful in emergencies or when finding your way. This proactive approach will contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience in Vietnam

hue imperial city

3. Travel Tips

  • Wear clothes appropriate for the weather conditions to avoid getting sick.
  • Prepare  sunscreen, hat, raincoat and umbrella. 
  • Exchange some money into Vietnamese currency to spend at small stores.
  • Ask the price before dining.
  • Carefully check the ingredients of food and drinks to avoid containing ingredients you are allergic to.

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Whether it's bus, train, private car, motorcycle, bike, plane or boat, you can plan your trip around Vietnam with this guide to getting around.

Visa Requirements

The process for obtaining a visa for Vietnam can be confusing, but for a short trip, you may not need a visa at all. Here’s what you need to know.

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One of the many great things about Vietnam is how much you spend is within your control – just choose wisely. Here's how to visit Vietnam on a budget.

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Vietnam Travel Tips - What to Know Before Visiting Vietnam

I f you’re planning to travel Vietnam, there are a few things you need to be aware of. As a first time visitor it can be stressful not to know what to expect. There were a few things I wish I’d known before I went. So if you’re going to Vietnam, check out my top Vietnam travel tips to help you prepare!

1. Get Your Visa in Advance

If you’re visiting Vietnam, you’re going to need a visa to enter. Fortunately, it’s fairly simple to get and you can do it before your trip. In fact, airlines won’t even let you fly to Vietnam if you don’t have your visa ready. One person in our group had the wrong date (1 day later) on her visa and had to stay in the airport and buy a new flight. So make sure you get dates and airports right when you apply.

Also, be sure your application name matches your passport. I forgot to enter my middle name on my visa and had to redo it after it got rejected for not matching my passport.

You can apply for the Vietnam e visa here .

It looks a little sketchy, but I promised it worked. The cost of the Vietnam visa is $25 for single entry . After your application is approved, your visa will be emailed to you.

When you arrive at the airport in Vietnam, there will be a line to show your passport and visa. You can save it on your phone or print it out. I did both, just to be safe, but showed them my paper visa.

2. Go at the right time

Ok, there’s no wrong time to to Vietnam, but you might want to go at the time that’s right for you ! I went to Vietnam in January and February and our weather was fantastic. Hot in Hoi An, warm in Hanoi, and warm in Halong Bay, but chilly at night. We were also there during Tet (Lunar New Year), Vietnam’s most important celebration, so it was incredible to see all the decorations and preparation for the New Year! Here are some weather guidelines for each area of Vietnam.

North Vietnam (Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Sapa)

  • Best Time to visit Northern Vietnam : September to November (Autumn) and March to April (Spring)
  • Why? : The weather is pleasant with moderate temperatures and less rain, making it ideal for exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi, cruising through Ha Long Bay, or trekking in Sapa.

Central Vietnam (Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An)

  • Best Time to visit Central Vietnam : January to August
  • Why? : Central Vietnam has warm weather during these months, perfect for visiting the ancient town of Hoi An, the beaches of Da Nang, or the historical sites in Hue. The rainy season starts in September and can bring heavy downpours and occasional typhoons, especially in October and November.

South Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta)

  • Best Time to Visit South Vietnam : December to April (Dry season)
  • Why? : The weather is warm and dry, ideal for exploring the vibrant life in Ho Chi Minh City or venturing into the Mekong Delta. The rainy season from May to November can see short, heavy showers, but travel is still possible during these months.

3. Visit More than One City

Vietnam is probably a lot bigger than you realize. And it’s very long, so destinations are quite spread out. Many people make the mistake of only visiting one large city in Vietnam and not doing any day trips or visiting another area of Vietnam. It is very affordable to get around Vietnam and you can get a cheap flight within the country, so it’s worth seeing more than one destination in the country.

major cities

4. Download the Grabb App

If you plan to get around by car in Vietnam, you should download the Grabb App. It’s like UBER or Lyft for Asia and it works really well. I used it all over Vietnam and Thailand without any issue. If you’re not in the mood to barter with taxi drivers or don’t have a lot of cash, this is a good way to go. It felt safer and easier to do this.

5. Pack Layers

The weather in Vietnam is really varied. When you look at a map you can see why…it’s a very LONG country at over 1,000 miles long! So the weather in Northern vietnam and Southern Vietnam can be very different. We spent a few days in Hoi An, a few days in Hanoi, and a few days in Halong Bay, and the weather on the Bay was much cooler than the rest of our trip.

I packed sun dresses, pants, and jackets and I was glad to have them all! Just be sure to check the weather of each destination in Vietnam. Trips are always better when you have the right clothes!

6. Bring an Extra Bag for Souvenirs

I’m not normally a huge shopper when I travel, but there were some great things I wanted to bring home in Vietnam. Luckily I had this great packable duffel that has been with me on many trips! It is HUGE and holds so much and is super sturdy!

Some things that I purchased in Vietnam:

  • Lanterns – So many lanterns! One that I made in this class , and a bunch more that I purchased from a local shop.
  • Silk Paintings – Probably my most favorite souvenir from Vietnam was the silk painting I purchased from a man disabled from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical used to clear vegetation during the Vietnam War. Vietnam is famous for its silk paintings, which are embroidered on fabric and absolutely beautiful! They come in all sizes and different levels of detail made by local people. They can be anywhere from $5 USD to $500 USD depending on where you buy yours, how detailed it is, and how long it took to create. They are stunning though!
  • Custom Clothing – Hoi An in particular is famous for its custom clothing tailors. You can get just about anything sewn to your liking while you’re there. Some tailors specialize in suits and some specialize in formal ware. Check reviews on Google before picking your tailor. We chose Rosa Tailor, mostly because she was across the street from our hotel and had a 5-star review on Google! I had two custom linen sets and two custom skirts made in just a few hours. It was so much fun to experience it and I love my clothes!

7. Have Cash on Hand

When traveling Vietnam, be sure to get cash out when you get to Vietnam or bring Vietnamese Dong from your bank with you. We needed a lot of cash in Vietnam. A few places took cards, but mostly it was cash only, especially in the local markets and for street food. I think I took about $300 Vietnam Dong out at the ATM and that lasted me about a week.

8. Drink Safe Water and Eat Safe Food

Food and water safety are always a concern of mine when traveling. And while I want to try all of the delicious food at the street food stalls and experience the local culture through food, I also don’t want to be sick for the rest of my trip (been there, done that)!

Try not to eat any raw vegetables fruit with a skin that could have been washed in contaminated water. Examples are lettuce, raw carrots, apples, etc. Peeled fruit and cooked vegetables are usually safe.

A good way to experience Vietnamese food is to take a cooking class from a reputable company where you have control over how the food is prepared and the water being used. Most classes will cater to a western audience and understand water concerns. Here is a list of good cooking classes.

  • Hoi An Cooking Class
  • Hanoi Cooking Class
  • Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class

Another concern is water. This is probably one of the most important Vietnam travel tips. Don’t drink the tap water! Water can be tricky in Vietnam. You should avoid drinking tap water. Either only use sealed drinking water or bring a good filter water bottle. This is the one I use.

Despite all your best efforts, you may still get sick. I recommend asking your doctor for any meds that might help with bacterial sickness in case you do get sick. I take prescribed antibiotics with me whenever I travel, but my doctor travels to India frequently and gets it! Another option is to see a travel nurse, although any time I go they seem to go overboard and end up scaring me with all the possibilities of my inevitable death!

I also highly recommend getting travel insurance for your trip, because you never know!

9. Be Prepared for Some Hard History

Americans visiting Vietnam should be aware of the country’s complex and difficult history.

When traveling to Vietnam, be prepared to face some hard history. Visiting Vietnam as an American can be a deeply moving and eye-opening experience, given the country’s complex past, particularly concerning the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War or the Vietnam American War). This period from the late 1950s to 1975 left indelible marks on both nations, shaping their histories, cultures, and peoples in profound ways.

The hardest part for me was seeing victims of Agent Orange, which was a chemical used during the war to clear the jungle vegetation. This chemical affected the genetics of people living in Vietnam, and in turn their children who wouldn’t be born for years to come. I think we will see these lasting effects for a while. It was hard to see this, knowing that my country was part of the cause, but they were all very friendly and welcoming to us as Americans.

10. Book Activities Before You Go

My last Vietnam travel tip is to book ahead. While some people can visit Vietnam and wing their activities, I like to have things planned and scheduled, I like to arrange trips to nearby places, and some tours do book up during busier times, so I think it’s a good idea to have at least a few things planned and booked ahead of time, especially for your first time visit to Vietnam. Here are some of the activities I recommend planning ahead for to avoid unnecessary stress:

  • Hoi An Jeep Tour
  • Lantern Making Class
  • Ninh Binh Day Tour
  • Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class

Frequently Asked Questions

1. can americans visit vietnam.

Of course! Americans are welcome in Vietnam with a visa. There are some hard things to see from the war, but its part of both of our histories. I found everyone to be friendly and welcoming towards us as Americans.

2. Do I need a visa to visit Vietnam?

Yes, you need to apply for an e-visa before visiting Vietnam. I suggest applying at least 2 weeks before. Be sure to put your correct name, entry date, and port of entry on your application.

3. Can I use US dollars in Vietnam?

While some hotels, restaurants, and shops in tourist areas might accept US dollars, it’s more common to use Vietnamese Dong (VND) for everyday transactions. It’s advisable to carry local currency, especially when traveling outside major cities or shopping at local markets.

4. What is the etiquette for visiting temples and religious sites?

Dress modestly (covering shoulders and knees) and remove your shoes before entering temples or pagodas. It’s also respectful to avoid loud voices and keep a serene demeanor.

I hope these Vietnam travel tips have been helpful for you. Don’t stress too much about the differences. Vietnam is a beautiful and very welcoming country and you’re going to have the best time!

The post Vietnam Travel Tips – What to Know Before Visiting Vietnam appeared first on Wanderlust Crew .

If you’re planning to travel Vietnam, there are a few things you need to be aware of. As a first time visitor it can be stressful not to know what to expect. There were a few things I wish I’d known before I went. So if you’re going to Vietnam, check out my top Vietnam [...]

Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

Southeast Asia Travel Guide

Last Updated: November 27, 2023

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Backpackers have been traveling through Southeast Asia since the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving a well-worn trail around the region.

Starting in beautiful Thailand, the trail makes its way to up-and-coming Laos, through Vietnam, and to the temples of Angkor Wat. It then winds back into Thailand, where people head south to party in the Thai islands before moving down to Malaysia and Singapore.

There are a few variations to the trail, but this is what it mostly covers.

I’ve been visiting this region since 2004 and spent years living in Thailand . I love backpacking Southeast Asia and have written extensively about it as I know it like the back of my hand.

It’s an especially great region for new travelers because it’s easy to travel around, it’s safe, and there are lots of other travelers you can meet. But it’s also perfect for veteran travelers too as there are tons of off-the-beaten-path destinations that the standard backpacker trail doesn’t cover.

In short, Southeast Asia has something for every traveler — and every budget.

This Southeast Asia travel guide will help you travel the region like a pro, ensuring you save money and make the most of your time in this fun, gorgeous, and lively corner of the world.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Southeast Asia

Click Here for Country Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in southeast asia.

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

1. Admire Angkor Wat

One of the greatest human creations in history, the Angkor Wat temple complex is best explored over the course of a few days. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site created by the Khmer Empire and absolutely enormous. Temples to visit include Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple which has 216 gigantic stone face carvings, and Ta Prohm. I spent three days here and that simply wasn’t enough. A one-day pass is $37 USD, while a 1-week pass is $72 USD. If you’re here for multiple days, be sure to hire a driver and see some of the more out of the way ruins away from the main temple complex (and the crowds).

2. Explore Bangkok

Bangkok is the hub of travel activity in Southeast Asia. You can get anywhere you want from here. Though I hated it at first, the more I’ve spent time here the more I love it. Bangkok is like an onion whose many layers need to be peeled back. Some things not to miss include the spectacular Bangkok Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Chatuchak Market and Asiatique, and a canal trip on the Chao Phraya River. This is a city for foodies and wild nightlife.

3. Relax on some tropical islands

No visit to Southeast Asia would be complete without a visit to at least one of the thousands of tropical islands in the region. My top five include the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), Rabbit Island (Cambodia), Ko Lanta (Thailand), and Boracay (Philippines). Lombok Island (Indonesia) has a chill vibe with unspoiled, perfect “desert island” beaches. There’s so many islands to visit. Be sure to add at least one to your trip. The country guides will have more information for you.

4. See Ha Long Bay

Sailing trips to this island-filled bay with stunning emerald waters, limestone formations, and marine life give you an appreciation for the natural beauty in Vietnam. Tours from Hanoi start at around $110 USD for two-day trips and increase from there. I love the colorful grottoes, hanging stalactites, and stalagmites of Surprise Cave (Sung Sot), Fairy Cave (Tien Ong), and Heaven Palace (Thien Cung). Make sure you go with a reputable company though as some of the cheaper boats are less than ideal. If you’d rather just visit for one day, day trips from Hanoi cost $55 USD.

5. Wander Kuala Lumpur

Other things to see and do in southeast asia, 1. go jungle trekking.

This region of the world is covered in amazing jungles with diverse wildlife, plentiful camping opportunities, and cool waterfalls. The best jungle treks are found in northern Thailand, Western Laos, and Malaysian Borneo (the latter are also the hardest and most intense). Some of my favorites include Danum Valley (Borneo) for its incredible wildlife; Ratanakiri (Cambodia) for its pristine wilderness and thousand-year-old trees; and Pu Luong Nature Reserve (Vietnam). Costs vary but jungle trekking generally costs $30-50 USD per day.

2. Attend the Full Moon Party

The biggest one-night party in the world welcomes up to 30,000 people with a party that stretches until dawn. Cover yourself in glow paint, grab a bucket of booze, and dance the night away with new friends on the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand. As the name would suggest, the party is on the night of the full moon. If you miss it, there’s always the half-moon party, quarter-moon party, and black-moon party. Really, every night is a party on Ko Phangan . Just avoid the flaming jump rope that occurs — I’ve seen people get burned badly!

3. Learn to dive

There are many great dive sites around the region for those interested in underwater exploration. You can learn to dive here at a fraction of what it would cost back home too. Some of the best places are Ko Tao (Thailand), Sipadan (Malaysia), as well as Gili Islands (Indonesia) and Coron, Palawan (The Philippines). A typical diving course is completed in three days. A PADI course typically runs $275 USD in Thailand, including three nights’ accommodation, though at smaller schools you can often negotiate down to $250 USD. Day trips for certified divers start at $165 USD. For information on Ko Tao, check out this blog post .

4. Eat street food in Singapore

Singapore is a foodie’s heaven. Try the hawker stalls of Singapore as well as Little India and Chinatown for some of the best and cheapest food in Asia. If you’re looking for a nice place to sit down and eat, eat at Singapore’s famed restaurants during lunch when restaurants offer discounts, making them a great deal. You’ll also find the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurants here (Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hawker Chan), offering world-class meals for just a couple of bucks!

5. Overload on temples

You can’t turn a corner without seeing a Buddhist temple in this part of the world. You’ll get temple overload at some point but visit as many as you can as each is unique to the country and region of the temple. There are so many places with high concentrations of ornate and beautiful temples. Check out Chiang Mai’s Wat Doi Suthep Temple and hike up the 300 steps to the golden Chedi that’s 600 years old!; Bagan’s Shwesandaw Pagoda from the 11th century with its stunning golden dome; Angkor Wat’s Ta Prohm is covered in iconic vines and enveloped in ancient jungle roots; Hue’s colorful Thien Mu Pagoda is perched atop a lush green embankment; Hoi An’s Quan Cong Temple with incredible Chinese architecture with hand-carved beauty and skill, and Luang Prabang’s Vat Xieng Thong with its golden, canopied roof. Most are free to enter, however, dress codes are enforced (you need to have your shoulders and legs covered).

6. Dive Sipadan

Located off Malaysian Borneo, Sipadan is one of the best dive sites in the world. If you have your dive certificate, make sure you venture out here. I absolutely love this area because it’s teeming with live turtles, diverse cave systems, sharks, dolphins, colorful coral, bright fish, and everything in between. Not a lot of people make it to this part of Malaysia, but it’s worth it to go the extra mile and make your way off the tourist trail a bit. Don’t miss Barracuda Point and The Drop-Off. Keep in mind that only 176 permits to dive at the island are issued each day, costing 140 MYR per person. The resorts on the neighboring islands each get a specific number of permits per day and require divers to stay with them for a few days. So you’ll need to stay at those resorts and dive into the surrounding areas before they can get you a Sipadan permit.

7. Fall in love with Bali

Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia, and its famous Kuta beach is known for its wild parties and surfing ( though I think it’s overrated ). However, there is much more to Bali than just wild nights and sun-soaked days. If you’re a thrill seeker, hike up to the top of Mount Batur, an active volcano, for a breathtaking sunrise. Paragliding and white water rafting are also super popular here, as is surfing (it’s an affordable place to learn if you’ve never done it). There are also lots of hot springs to enjoy, the Ubud Monkey Forest (a popular temple and nature reserve home to hundreds of monkeys), and numerous places to scuba dive, including the Liberty wreck and Manta Point.

8. Take in Ho Chi Minh City

Frantic, chaotic, and crazy, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is the embodiment of the controlled chaos that rules Southeast Asia. You can’t quite figure out how this teeming mass of people and cars work together, but it does. Highlights here include touring the tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the 1960s, taking in the view from the Saigon Skydeck, eating your way through the street food scene, and seeing the city’s numerous temples.

9. Admire the sunrise over an Indonesian Volcano

One of the most popular tourist attractions on Java is Mount Bromo and its National Park. Don’t miss out on getting a photo of the smoldering Bromo volcano as it lies surrounded by the almost lunar landscape of the Sea of Sand. Get up early to catch one of the most memorable sunrises of your life. If you’re there in mid-August, you’ll be just in time to see Upacara Kasada, the traditional Hindu ritual of the Tenggerese, a Javanese tribe of the region.

10. Hike in Khao Sok National Park

Located in southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is constantly rated as one of the best parks in Thailand, with incredible trekking, camping, limestone karsts, cooling rivers, and a glistening lake. Visit for semi-challenging hikes, tons of wildlife, walking paths, and breathtaking sunsets. Park entrance costs around $6 USD while full-day guided tours are $95 USD. I highly recommend spending at least one night here to get the full experience.

11. Visit Kampot

Most people come to Kampot to enjoy the scenic riverside views, as well as the rolling hills that surround the city. Since you can explore easily enough on foot or by bicycle, Kampot is a great place to slow down and relax. There’s not much to do here but have lazy days by the river, chill, and eat (don’t miss the famous Rusty Keyhole for BBQ!). Don’t miss the pepper farms, as this region of Cambodia is filled with pepper farms where you can learn about the history of the spice, see how it is grown, and pick up what is considered some of the finest pepper in the world. Tours are usually free.

12. Take a cooking class

Food from this region is as varied as the countries themselves and learning how to cook a few dishes is a great souvenir of your time here. Even if you don’t plan to cook back home, you can still spend a day making and eating scrumptious food. Most big cities have cooking schools offering classes of 2-6 hours, often including a trip to the local market beforehand to select ingredients. I absolutely love cooking classes and urge you to take one at least once. They are a fun experience!

13. Take a food tour

If you’d rather eat instead of cook, taking a food tour is a fun way to gain insight into the region’s amazing noodle dishes, fresh seafood, sweets, and street food while learning about the history and culture behind the cuisine. Most major cities in Southeast Asia offer food tours. These include tours around local markets, street stalls, and tours to locally-owned restaurants and cafes where you can sample the local cuisine and connect with a local chef. If you’re nervous about street food, this is a great way to try some in a controlled setting. Tours usually last 2-4 hours and include multiple stops and several different dishes, with prices costing $40-75 USD per person.

14. Visit an elephant sanctuary

While riding an elephant is on many a Southeast Asia bucket list, once you know how much the animals suffer from abuse in order to provide these rides, you might think twice about taking one. An even better way to interact with elephants is to volunteer at or visit the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in Thailand. It’s a phenomenal place, allowing you to give back to the community and these magnificent animals all at once. After coming here, you will understand why you should NEVER ride an elephant. A one-day visit costs $70 USD.

15. See The Killing Fields

A visit to Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields, may not be the most cheerful way to spend an afternoon, but it makes for an educational and memorable experience. Over 3 million people were killed by Pol Pot’s regime, including countless women and children. I recommend getting a guide so you can really understand what you’re seeing as you explore the area. Also, this horrific tragedy took place less than 50 years ago and is still very present so please be respectful as a visitor.  The site is located 10 miles from Phnom Penh. Half-day guided tours start at $66 USD.

16. Swim with Whale Sharks in Donsol

If you’re in the Philippines, check out the Donsol Whale Shark Interactive Ecosystem Project because there are not many experiences quite as adrenaline-inducing as swimming with a whale shark for the first time in crystal waters. These incredible creatures are around 45 feet (14 meters) long and yet incredibly gentle and curious. I loved floating at the surface being able to look below and see them slowly swim below me. Get some people together and rent a boat for a half day, explore the area, and go ‘shark-seeing’ for a good cause.  

  For a ton more information, visit my country specific travel guides for more detailed information on each place:

  • Cambodia Travel Guide
  • Indonesia Travel Guide
  • Laos Travel Guide
  • Malaysia Travel Guide
  • Singapore Travel Guide
  • Thailand Travel Guide
  • Vietnam Travel Guide

Southeast Asia Travel Costs

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Accommodation – Accommodation in Southeast Asia is really cheap, making it the perfect place to travel if you are on a budget. Hostels are plentiful, as are budget guesthouses and hotels. It’s also very cheap to splash out here if you’re in need of some luxury.

Generally, you can find hostel dorm rooms for as little as $6-8 USD in Cambodia and $3-6 USD in Laos. In Thailand, 4-6-bed dorm rooms are $8-12 USD, while in Vietnam you can expect to pay $5-7 USD. In Indonesia, prices range between $5-10 USD for a 4-6-bed dorm room. Expect to pay at least $15-20 per night for a private room with air conditioning. Free Wi-Fi is standard in most hostels, free breakfast is common, and many hostels even have pools. In more remote areas, hot water isn’t common so make sure to check in advance if that’s an issue for you.

Simple guesthouses or bungalows throughout Southeast Asia generally cost $12-20 USD per night for a basic room with a fan (sometimes air conditioning) and hot water. If you want something nicer that includes a more comfortable bed and a TV, expect to pay $25-35 USD per night.

For backpackers, budgeting around $10 USD per night for accommodation is pretty safe no matter where you go in Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for a higher-end hotel room with more amenities, expect to pay $20-50 USD per night for a room. Anything over that is luxury territory.

Camping is available in certain areas, usually for just a few dollars per night for a basic tent plot without electricity. However, this is about the same price as hostels so it’s not really any cheaper.

Food – While each country’s cuisine varies, overall, Southeast Asian food is aromatic, spicy, and flavorful. Typical spices and herbs include garlic, basil, galangal, cilantro, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, and fish sauce. No matter what region you’re in, you can expect to find a variety of curries, salads, soups, noodle dishes, and stir-fries.

Rice and noodles are central to Southeast Asian food, while the meat is usually pork, chicken, fish, or seafood, which is everywhere on the islands and coastal areas.

While traveling Southeast Asia, street food is the most popular food and cheapest option. On average, these meals cost $1-5 USD. You find these stalls throughout this region lining most streets and every market. They are ubiquitous in the region. In Singapore, street food (from “hawker stands” as they’re known there) costs around $4-5 USD for a meal. Even if you go into small local restaurants, the price doesn’t increase that much.

Food that costs $2 USD at a street stall generally only costs $4-6 USD at a local restaurant. If you went into a restaurant in Thailand, you’d pay around $3-4 USD for a pad Thai that would have cost $1-2 USD on the street.

In Cambodia, street food is around $1-2 USD, while restaurants charge around $3-5 USD for a dish like amok (a coconut milk dish) or luc lac (pepper gravy beef).

Western meals, including burgers, pizza, and sandwiches usually cost around $7-10 USD. But these generally aren’t that great. If you want something that actually tastes as it does back home, expect to spend at least $10-12 USD for your meal.

While cheap, alcohol can take a bite out of your budget if you’re not careful. Those $1-2 USD beers add up! Wine and cocktails are more expensive, generally around $3-5 USD. A cappuccino is typically around $2 USD. Bottled water is plentiful and costs less than $1 USD.

There’s a growing cutting-edge foodie scene in the region and, if you want to splurge, you can do so on some really good meals. Big cities like Bangkok, KL, and Singapore, all have world-class Michelin star restaurants as well some incredible fusion restaurants.

Since dining out is so cheap in the region, there’s no point in grocery shopping unless you’re looking to get some pre-made salads or fruits. Additionally, a general lack of kitchens in most hostels and hotels makes it difficult to cook even if you wanted to. If you do purchase your own groceries, expect to spend around $25 USD per week for basic groceries like local produce, rice, and some meat (while avoiding expensive imported items like cheese and wine).

Backpacking Southeast Asia Suggested Budgets

On a backpacker budget of $45 USD per day, you can stay in hostel dorms, eat out at local markets and street stalls, limit your drinking, do mostly free activities, minimize paid activities, and use public transportation to get around. You’re not going to be able to splash out but you’ll be able to live the typical backpacker experience without really stressing over expenses.

On a mid-range budget of $85 USD per day, you can stay in budget hotels or private hostel rooms, eat more restaurant meals, do more paid activities like cooking classes, take some taxis, and enjoy a few more drinks. You won’t live large, but you won’t be missing out either.

On an upscale budget of $150 USD or more per day, you can stay in nicer hotels with more amenities, eat out as much as you want, do more paid tours including private tours, hire a driver, fly between destinations, and basically do whatever you want. The sky is the limit with this kind of budget!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

Backpacking Southeast Asia is cheap. There’s little opportunity to spend a lot of money since everything is already so inexpensive unless you intentionally are trying to splash out on fancy meals and high end hotels. The two reasons why most travelers end up overspending is that they eat a lot of Western food and drink way too much. If you want to save money while traveling in this part of the world, cut down on your drinking and skip the Western food. While country guides have more specific ways to save money, here are some general ways to save money in Southeast Asia:

  • Stay with a local – Accommodation is cheap in Southeast Asia but nothing’s cheaper than free! Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches for free. You’ll also meet great people who can show you around and share their insider tips and advice.
  • Book tours and day trips as a group – You have more negotiation power when you’re with a group of people buying multiple spots or tickets. Traveling alone? Meet a friend at a hostel and see if they want to join the same tour as you. I’ve met some great friends over the years doing this and highly recommend it.
  • Don’t book in advance – Don’t book any tours or activities before you get to your destination. They’ll be much cheaper when you arrive as you’ll be able to negotiate a lower price as you’ll find companies are often offering the same tour and competing. Anything you see online is more expensive than you need to pay!
  • Eat on the street – The street food is the best food. The food is the best and cheapest you’ll find. It’s a great way to try new foods and get to chat with locals as well. This is where locals eat so if you want insight into local culture, good food, and savings, eat the street food. Look for where locals are eating to ensure that it’s safe to eat.
  • Bargain hard – Nothing is ever at face value here. Bargain with sellers as most of the time, the price they’ve quoted is way higher. There’s a haggling culture in the region so play the game and save some money. It’s important not to convert it in your head to your own currency because it will usually sound cheap even though you might still be getting ripped off. You’ll never get the local price, but you might come close!
  • Minimize your drinking – Drinks really add up. Even with cheap drinks, if you’re not aware, you’ll end up spending more money on beer than on food and accommodation. If you want to drink, head to the supermarkets, drink at the hostel, or check out the local happy hours.
  • Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier comes particularly in handy in Southeast Asia since you can’t usually drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw as it has a built-in filter that ensures your water is always safe and clean.

Where to Stay in Southeast Asia

I’ve been traveling Southeast Asia since 2005 and have stayed in hundreds of places. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Southeast Asia:

  • The Siem Reap Pub Hostel (Siem Reap)
  • Onederz Siem Reap (Siem Reap)
  • Mad Monkey Siem Reap (Siem Reap)
  • Onederz Sihanoukville (Sihanoukville)
  • Monkey Republic (Sihanoukville)
  • Onederz Phnom Penh (Phnom Penh)
  • Sla Boutique Hostel (Phnom Penh)
  • The Magic Sponge (Kampot)
  • Indigo House Hotel (Luang Prabang)
  • Sa Sa Lao (Luang Prabang)
  • Sanga Hostel (Pakse)
  • Nana Backpackers Hostel (Vang Vieng)
  • Dream Home Hostel (Vientiane)
  • Traveller Bunker Hostel (Cameron Highlands)
  • De’Native Guest House (Cameron Highlands)
  • Kitez Hotel & Bunks (Kuala Lumpur)
  • Sunshine Bedz Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur)
  • Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel (Penang)
  • Mad Monkey Hostel (Bangkok)
  • D&D Inn (Bangkok)
  • Kodchasri B&B (Chiang Mai)
  • The Royal Guest House (Chiang Mai)
  • Green Leaf (Khao Yai)
  • Lonely Beach Resort (Ko Chang)
  • The Sanctuary (Koh Phangan)
  • Na-Tub Hostel (Koh Phangan)
  • Pineapple Guesthouse (Phuket)
  • Dream Lodge
  • The Pod Capsule Hostel
  • The Scarlet
  • Under the Coconut Tree Guesthouse (Hoi An)
  • Fuse Beachside (Hoi An)
  • Pretty Backpackers House (Da Lat)
  • Hanoi Old Quarter Hostel (Hanoi)
  • Luxury Backpackers Hostel (Hanoi)
  • The Hideout (HCMC)
  • City Backpackers Hostel (HCMC)

How to Get Around Southeast Asia

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Public transportation – Public transportation costs from a few pennies to a few dollars, with Singapore and Malaysia offering the most comprehensive public transportation systems. In Thailand, local buses cost around $0.25 USD per trip, while the Metro and Skytrain in Bangkok cost $0.50-1.50 USD per trip. In Cambodia, a bus ticket in Phnom Penh costs just $0.40 USD per ride.

Major cities generally have subway systems but mostly you’ll be using the bus or shared taxis to get around.

Tuk-tuks (small, shared taxis with no meter) are available around much of the region and require a bit of haggling. They usually have 3-6 seats and generally cost more than public transportation but are faster. To find a reputable driver, ask your accommodation as they usually know someone. Tuk-tuk drivers can often be hired for the day for a discounted rate (this is what a lot of people do to visit the Killing Fields and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, for example).

Taxi – Taxis in the region are generally safe, though it’s not uncommon to have to haggle. Scams to rip you off aren’t uncommon either, so always ask your accommodation to call you a taxi whenever possible so you know you’ll get a reputable company.

In Singapore and Indonesia, taxi drivers do put on the meter. In Bangkok, you can get taxi drivers to use the meter, but if you’re hailing one in a tourist area, he might try to avoid using it. In Vietnam, the meter is sometimes rigged, but if you can get a reputable company like Mai Linh, you won’t have any problems.

Ridesharing – Grab, DiDi, and Gojek are Asia’s answer to Uber. They work the same way: you hire a driver to take you somewhere via the app, and you can pay via the app or in cash. It’s often more affordable than a regular taxi, though drivers are a bit unreliable as the practice is not as widespread here as in other parts of the world.

Just keep in mind that some drivers are driving motorcycles so be sure to double check what kind of vehicle is picking you up if you don’t want to ride on the back of one.

Bus – The easiest and cheapest way to travel around Southeast Asia is by bus. The backpacker trail is so worn that there is a very well-established tourist bus system to take you anywhere. Buses costs vary between $5-25 USD for a 5-6 hour journey. Overnight buses cost $20-35 USD depending on distance (they often have reclining seats so you can get a decent sleep).

You can check ticket prices and book tickets for all the different bus companies across Southeast Asia at

Train – Train service is limited in the region and not something to really consider when you travel Southeast Asia. You can take a train up and down the coast of Vietnam and there’s some limited scenic rails in Malaysia. Thailand is the only country that has an extensive train system that lets you travel all its regions (and onward to Singapore) from Bangkok.

The train prices in Southeast Asia are determined by distance and class. Night trains with sleeper cars are more expensive than day trains. The night train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok takes twelve hours and costs $27 USD for a sleeper seat. However, that same train during the day is $8-9 USD. In Vietnam, trains run up and down the coast and cost $60 USD from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Flying – The cost of flying around Southeast Asia has come down in recent years due to the rise of low-cost airlines. Scoot, Jetstar, and AirAsia are the biggest. Nok Air has a lot of flights within Thailand , and VietJet Air is popular in Vietnam . Lion Air serves Indonesia , but its safety record is really spotty and I personally would not fly them. If you book early, you can save on fares, as most of the airlines offer deeply discounted fare sales all the time, especially Air Asia.

Just make sure that the airport these budget airlines fly into isn’t too far out of your way (transportation from the secondary airport sometimes negates the savings from using the budget airline itself).

Also, keep in mind that you usually must pay to check your baggage on these cheap flights. If you wait to pay for your luggage at the gate, you end up paying almost double. Travel carry-on only to avoid this added cost.

All in all, I only recommend flying if you are pressed for time or find a super cheap deal. Otherwise, stick to the bus.

Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Southeast Asia is safe, though popularity of the practice varies by country (it’s more common in Malaysia, but not so much in Cambodia). Dress respectably, smile while making eye contact with drivers, and use a cardboard sign to tell people where you’re headed. Be prepared for long bouts of no pick-ups, especially if you’re traveling through more rural areas. Pack plenty of water and food. Also, make sure the people picking you up understand you’re hitchhiking and not flagging down a taxi.

Hitchwiki is a great resource for hitchhiking tips.

Car rental I don’t recommend renting a car in Southeast Asia. Rental cars are expensive ($40 USD per day or more) and the roads here are in poor shape. I would never drive around the region.

When to Go to Southeast Asia

The best time of year to visit Southeast Asia is from November to April when temperatures are milder (though temperatures vary drastically by region). It may be mild in Thailand in January and hot in Malaysia but in Northern Vietnam, it’s cold! Also, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not taking into account the rainy season. In some cases it won’t make a big difference but definitely does if it’s a beach trip.

In Indonesia, the best time to visit is April to October. Temperatures average 24-30ºC (75-86ºF), and the weather is mostly dry. July to September is the peak holiday season and when you can expect to pay the highest rates. December to February is the rainy season.

In Malaysia, January-March and June-September are the best time to visit, as these months have the lowest average rainfall. It is still hot and humid during this time though. The rainy season is from October to December. Singapore’s climate/weather is much like Malaysia’s.

In Vietnam, the weather varies by region. In Central Vietnam (including Hoi An and Nha Trang), January-May is the best time to visit because it is dry and the temperatures average 21-30°C (70-86°F). June to August is also a decent time to visit. If you want to stick around Hanoi, March to April is great, or October to December (for mildest temperatures). The rainy season is May-September.

Thailand has three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. It’s always warm, though the weather is nicest between November and February (which is also peak tourist season). Bangkok is “coolest” and driest during this time (but still averaging a hot 29°C/85°F each day). April and May are the hottest months, and the rainy season is June-October. The gulf islands get pretty rainy from August to December.

The dry season in Cambodia is from November-May and the cool season is from November-February (and when most people visit). Temperatures during this time are still high, but humidity is lower. Laos has the same cool season as Cambodia, with the dry season running from November-April.

In the Philippines, it’s mostly warm all year long with an average daily high of 26°C (80°F). There are rainy and dry seasons and temperatures are hot and dry from March-May and cooler December-February. The best time to visit is between January-April when it’s less humid. Monsoon Season is July-October.

For more information on when to go to places, visit the specific country guides.

How to Stay Safe in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel — even if you’re traveling solo and even as a solo female traveler. Violent crime is super, duper rare. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Southeast Asia, especially around popular tourist landmarks. Always keep your valuables out of reach on public transportation and in crowds just to be safe. Never leave your valuables unattended while at the beach and always keep a hold of your purse/bag when out and about as bag snatching is common.

That said, outside touristy areas, theft is really rare. Heck, it’s pretty rare in touristy areas too! But a little vigilance goes a long way and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

There are some common scams around that you’ll want to be aware of, such as the motorbike scam. This involves a bike rental company trying to charge you for damage to the bike that you didn’t cause. To avoid this, always take photos of your rental before you leave so you can protect yourself from baseless claims.

Another common scam involves a tuk-tuk driver taking you somewhere you didn’t want to go in hopes you’ll buy something from the shop/restaurant he dropped you off at (he gets a commission if you do). Simply refuse to buy anything and demand to go back to where you were — or find another driver.

For other common travel scams, read this post about major travel scams to avoid in the region .

Solo female travelers should feel safe here, though it’s generally a good idea to avoid walking around alone at night just to be safe. It’s always a good idea to carry some extra cash to get home in a taxi if you need to. Additionally, always keep an eye on your drink at the bar and never accept drinks from strangers. Be sensible when it comes to dating while traveling and meeting people in public places. As I’m not a woman, please check out some solo female travel blogs to get the best insight.

Overall, the people who get in trouble here tend to be involved with drugs or sex tourism. Avoid those two things and you should be fine. Keep in mind that it’s not always obvious how old someone is or if they’re a sex worker so be mindful when getting involved in romantic interactions. Also, penalties for drug use in this region are stiff so even if you’re here to party, skip the drugs.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Southeast Asia, check out this post that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Agoda – Other than Hostelworld, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia.
  • – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!

My detailed 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel around Thailand. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Southeast Asia travel and continue planning your trip:

The 4 Best Hostels in Singapore

The 4 Best Hostels in Singapore

The 6 Best Hostels in Bali

The 6 Best Hostels in Bali

The 22 Best Things to Do in Bangkok

The 22 Best Things to Do in Bangkok

5 LGBTQ Travel Tips for Asia

5 LGBTQ Travel Tips for Asia

Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?

Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?

Backpacking Cambodia: 3 Suggested Itineraries for Your Trip

Backpacking Cambodia: 3 Suggested Itineraries for Your Trip

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    Cyclos, also known as cycle rickshaws, are a traditional mode of transportation in Vietnam and offer a unique and memorable experience for travelers. They are particularly popular in cities like Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, and Nha Trang, where they provide a leisurely way to explore the city streets and take in the sights.

  19. Getting Around Vietnam: Transportation Tips for Backpackers

    Yet, bear in mind that the baggage fees and policies vary by airlines. Budget airlines usually charge extra for baggage fees or preferred seating. 2. By Train. Train - safe means to travel around in Vietnam. Vietnam is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia equipped with a reasonable rail network.

  20. 17 Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

    4. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. One of the best places to visit in Vietnam for caving, World Heritage-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a dramatic karst mountain formation honeycombed with huge caverns, which are home to superb stalactite and stalagmite displays.

  21. How To Travel In Vietnam

    How To Travel In Vietnam How To Travel In Vietnam - A Traveler's Guide to Optimal Journeys 1. Best ways to travel in Viet Nam 1.1 Explore Vietnam by Air. Traveling to Vietnam by air is one of the best ways to travel in Vietnam and shorten travel time when you are eager to go to Vietnam or want to have a relaxing time during the trip ...

  22. Vietnam itinerary

    The best time to visit Vietnam is between November to April. During this time, the temperatures are moderate and you can avoid rainfall. ... Taxis, public buses, cyclos (cycle taxis), and motorbikes are convenient ways to travel internally in Vietnam. Grab is a popular taxi app used in the country. For seamless travel, you can also hire a ...

  23. Way To Travel

    Way To Travel offers small volunteering group tours in Vietnam that give you the adventure of a lifetime, allow you to discover new cultures, and give back to local communities. The absolute best 'Way To' volunteer in Vietnam and support this hidden gem of Asia!

  24. Vietnam travel guide

    Getting around Vietnam is easy whatever your budget. Mar 14, 2024 • 10 min read. Whether it's bus, train, private car, motorcycle, bike, plane or boat, you can plan your trip around Vietnam with this guide to getting around. The 15 best things you can do in Vietnam in 2024. Feb 29, 2024 • 12 min read.

  25. Vietnam Travel Tips

    I also highly recommend getting travel insurance for your trip, because you never know! 9. Be Prepared for Some Hard History. Americans visiting Vietnam should be aware of the country's complex ...

  26. Southeast Asia Budget Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    Backpackers have been traveling through Southeast Asia since the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving a well-worn trail around the region. Starting in beautiful Thailand, the trail makes its way to up-and-coming Laos, through Vietnam, and to the temples of Angkor Wat.

  27. Accept Payments Online and In-Store

    Get paid fast. Online, in store, or on the go, we've got the tools you need to accept payments easily, securely. 1. Contact Sales. No matter where you shop, PayPal empowers your small business to accept payments online and in person. You can even offer multiple ways to pay.

  28. Vietnam Airlines

    Please contact Vietnam Airlines Contact Center at 19001100 (for calls within Vietnam) or (+84-24) 38320320 (for calls from outside Vietnam) or email [email protected] × YOU ARE ABOUT TO LEAVE VIETNAMAIRLINES.COM