When Vietnam opened its doors to travellers, it became one of the most sought-after travel destinations. But we have to admit; we were a little wary of how to explore Vietnam.
- book a pre-packaged tour
- plan our own ten-day itinerary of Vietnam
- or do a mixture of both?
We decided to do a mixture of both using EXO Travel.
And if you are thinking of adding on a trip to Cambodia, you may like to learn more about How to Book, Plan and Travel with a Local by clicking here.
How to Explore Vietnam with a 10-Day Itinerary
Vietnam is a country with a history of occupation, great food and varied culture, so we decided to spend a month exploring and taking in the beautiful scenery.
Depending on the time you have available, we have put together a suggested 10-day itinerary of Vietnam.
If you have more time, why not choose a 15-day itinerary of Vietnam to explore even more of this wonderful country?
Vietnam 10 Day or 15 Day Itinerary
|Itinerary||10 Day Itinerary||15 Day Itinerary|
|Ho Chi Minh||3 days||3 days|
|Hoi An||3 days||3 days|
|Hanoi||2 days||3 days|
|Halong Bay||2 days||2 days|
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Vietnam When to Go
Choosing when to go to Vietnam can be determined by the weather you prefer. We travelled in May for one month without one day of rain.
Central Vietnam was hot, so we could either spend the afternoons indoors with the air conditioning or enjoy the nearby beaches of Hoi An.
You can check out day trips from Hoi An by clicking here.
When choosing to spend two weeks in Vietnam or a 15-day itinerary in Vietnam, this chart will help you see the season best suited to you.
When to Visit Vietnam
|North Vietnam||Central Vietnam||South Vietnam||Far North Vietnam|
|Hanoi and Halong Bay||Hoi An, Hue, Danang, Nha Trang||Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta||Sapa|
|May to October |
Hot and humid
|January to August|
Hot and dry
|November to May|
Wet and dry
September and November
|July to September |
January to September
|May to November|
March to May
|November to April|
Cool dry winters
How to Travel in Vietnam
Well, if you are 50 like us, then the bus is not an option.
We would prefer comfort over cost, but if you are ok with a long slow journey, check out the links below.
These Deluxe buses stop at most major cities between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.
The buses, we are told, are comfortable with air conditioning, but due to the quality of Vietnam roads, the travel is slow.
Mai Linh Express – air-conditioned and non-smoking.
The Sinh Tourist – this bus line also has sleepers for overnight travel.
We experienced two overnight trains from Hue to Hanoi and Hanoi to Sapa.
The trains in Vietnam are just as slow as the buses but are clean.
But a word of advice. Ensure you securely lock your cabin door at night, as locals travel the train between stops looking for opportunities while you sleep.
Vietnam Airlines are reasonably priced for travel between the major cities in Vietnam, as long as you book in advance.
Ho Chi Minh airport is within the city, whereas Hanoi is out of the main city, so allow an hour to get to the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
For Hoi An, the closest airport is Danang, a 45-minute transfer, unless you decide to stay at one of the wonderful beach resorts of Danang.
Nha Trang airport now uses the former American airforce base at Cam Ranh so expect a 45-minute transfer to the city.
Where to Stay
You probably know our favourite booking sites; see the box below for hotel discounts.
Hotel accommodation is relatively affordable in Vietnam, and we have given you our recommendations to check for yourself. Just click on the links below.
Vietnam also has Homestays to enjoy in Hoi An Ancient Town and Sapa.
Ho Chi Minh – Sanouva Hotel
Hoi An – Hoi An Ancient House Resort and Spa
Hue – Muong Thanh Holiday Hue Hotel
Hanoi – Hanoi Boutique Hotel
Nha Trang – Novotel Nha Trang
What to Pack
Layers, layers, layers, and you can’t go wrong whatever the season you travel to Vietnam. For the dry season, we suggest thin layers, and we love Outdoor Research Echo Duo shirts for this. The shirts are thin but absorbent and easy to wash and dry quickly.
We chose Kathmandu for sandals and walking shoes, but also lightweight trousers unzipped as shorts.
Kathmandu has a great selection of light sweatshirts, great for the cooler evenings and pocket windbreakers for all seasons.
And if you are one of those people who tend to overheat during the night, we recommend you purchase the Kathmandu Silk Liner.
This great little product allows a better night’s sleep as the natural fibre we find keeps us at a better temperature to sleep through the night.
See our sidebar to browse the Kathmandu shop.
Planning a Trip to Vietnam
We have a great suggestion for you.
Book to explore some of the best things to do in Vietnam with a local tour agency, as well as spend time by yourself experiencing some of the must-see places.
We can recommend EXO Travel for half-day or full-day tours. You can choose from their recommendations or look at some of the trips we took below to each destination.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City will most likely be one of two major cities you will arrive at when flying into Vietnam.
The first thing you will see is motorbikes and more motorbikes. And we aren’t talking a few motorbikes, but 7 million at last count.
Staying at Sanouva Hotel is within walking distance of most of the major things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
We organise a day tour with EXO Travel for the Mekong Delta, and you can do the Chi Tunnels as another option.
Hoi An is one of the most beautiful places to see in Vietnam, especially when you visit during the Full Moon Lantern Festival. Hoi An was a trading port in the 15th to 19th century and today is a UNESCO site.
Make sure you purchase a ticket to the old town giving you access to many old houses and museums. And if you are looking for day trips from Hoi An and you can check out what is on offer here.
We stayed at Hoi An Ancient House Resort and Spa.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, with plenty of things to do and places to see.
We loved the Old Quarter with its night market, taking a stroll to the Hoan Kiem Lake and sitting at the Highlands Café high above the busy roundabout, watching the chaos of motorbikes below.
If staying in the capital, make sure you visit the Imperial Citadel, built in the 11th century as the seat of regional power for 13 centuries. Today it is a UNESCO site.
We stayed at Hanoi Boutique Hotel.
Hue was the capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen Dynasty from the 17th – the 19th century.
The must-see is the Hue Citadel, an impressive walled structure enclosing temples and the Forbidden Purple city.
Taking a cruise along the Perfume River, you can visit the tombs of the emperors who reigned during this period.
Or perhaps experience the Hue Festival, a celebration of the cultural heritage of Hue.
If pictures of hillside rice fields have always attracted your attention, then a trip to Sapa in northwest Vietnam is ideal.
How best to spend your time in Sapa is to organise a 2-day trek with a homestay. The local tribes are what makes Sapa so appealing.
A Halong Bay cruise is a romantic way to spend time together while you explore the beauty of the limestone islands.
Swimming in the clear waters or enjoying a boat ride through a water village is just part of the charm of northeast Vietnam.
We booked with Victory Star for our two day Halong Bay cruise.
Time for some rest and relaxation? Make sure you book a stay at the beaches of Nha Trang. With white sand and warm waters, swimming is easy, and the deck chairs are great for a snooze.
Nha Trang has many things to do, from cultural visits to local Temples, snorkelling and diving in the Hon Mun Marine Protected Area or enjoying a mud bath at the Thap Ba Hot Springs.
And as a beach resort, there’s plenty of seafood to enjoy.
Why Visit Vietnam?
The question should be, when are you visiting Vietnam?
This beautiful country caters to everything from wonderful beaches, cultural heritage, river cruises, busy cities highland trekking and, of course, offers you fabulous foods and flavours.
This nation of friendly people will ensure your travel to Vietnam is memorable.