Planning 2 weeks in Vietnam or even longer? I got you covered. In this guide, I’ll share my 2 week Vietnam itinerary for those travelling on annual leave.
Then, we’ll get stuck into my personal preference: 1 month in Vietnam!
VIETNAM ESSENTIALSE-sim data planCopy of Lonely Planet VietnamCheck visas requirements: iVisaBook buses and trains in Vietnam: 12GoAsiaPre-book your Hanoi airport to city transferAccommodation: Browse hotels on Booking.com // hostels on HostelworldTours: GetYourGuideTravel insurance: World Nomads
Essential reading: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips
In a rush? Pin this Vietnam itinerary for later on Pinterest
It’s not surprising Vietnam is such a popular place to travel. As one of the cheapest destinations to include in your Southeast Asia itinerary, it’s easily accessible for backpackers yet there are plenty of luxurious places to stay if you fancy treating yourself.
Some of the best things to do in Southeast Asia are in Vietnam: untouched nature and countryside, enormous cities of 8+ million people, picturesque towns and villages, jungle, beaches and the world’s biggest cave. The food is incredible and the people are so wonderful.
Check out my other 2 week Asia itineraries to Taiwan, Malaysia, Bali and Korea.
Vietnam itinerary – how long to spend?
I think 2 weeks in Vietnam is the bare minimum if you want to see North, Central and Southern Vietnam. If you have less time than this, I’d suggest sticking to one part of Vietnam and doing it properly, for example North Vietnam where the attractions are close(ish) to one another.If you have a month in Vietnam, fantastic! You can see more of Vietnam without feeling rushed.
If you have anywhere between 2 weeks and 1 month in Vietnam, follow my Vietnam 2 week itinerary below and add extra days wherever you fancy OR add in a couple of stops from my 1 month Vietnam itinerary.
How much does 2 weeks in Vietnam cost?
Vietnam is a great place to travel on a budget. A two week Vietnam trip on $500 (£400) is easily achievable.
Here are a few general prices:
- Bed in a hostel dorm – 90,000 to 180,000 VND (an average of $7) per night.
- Mid-range hotels – from 250,000 VND ($10) per night.
- Street food is also cheap. Bahn mi (baguettes packed with tasty ingredients) can cost as little as 15,000 VND (80c / 50p).
- Sit-down meals in local restaurants start around 30,000 VND ($1.30 / £1).
- Bus and train journeys start at $7 a journey.
- Budget a little extra for Ha Long Bay and Sapa tours ($350 should cover all-inclusive mid-range tours to both).
- You’ll be a millionaire in Vietnam! $100 is 2.284 million dong. Good luck getting your head around that 😉
- Cash is king. You are rarely able to pay with bank card.
- There are always ATMs in cities and towns but remember to bring enough money to Ha Long Bay and Sapa as it’s unlikely you’ll find an ATM.
- Wear a secure bum bag while taking night buses or in crowded places.
- Tipping isn’t mandatory but it is appreciated. You can tip waiters, guides and other service workers.
SIM cards in Vietnam
Most hostels and hotels will have Wi-Fi but it’s sometimes not the best. If you plan to get off-grid in Ha Long Bay and Sapa during your 2 week Vietnam itinerary, stay connected with local data, research the best Vietnam SIM cards for tourists.
Alternatively, sign up for an E-sim data plan. Simply scan the QR code and get going, no pick-up or delivery needed!
Getting to Vietnam
The main international airports are Noi Bai International Airport (Hanoi) and Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Saigon). I use Kayak to compare, browse and book flights.Some backpackers arriving from Laos take the bus from Luang Prabang to Hanoi but beware, this is a long and uncomfortable ride!
It’s possible to arrive/depart in Saigon via a multi-day boat that connects with Phnom Penh. This is a fun experience stopping at attractions along the way usually with hotel stays included.
How to get around Vietnam
It may be dull but getting from A to B is crucial to any trip…Bus – for backpackers on a budget, you can catch sleeper buses. These are fairly comfy with individual bunks, although you may struggle if you have long legs! You can purchase multi-ticket books in local tour agencies in Hanoi or Saigon then phone up to reserve seats a day in advance of travel.
Alternatively, use 12GoAsia to book and compare the prices of buses, trains and flights.
Train – take trains for the scenic route, especially around Hue and Hoi An. Train journeys can be booked on 12GoAsia and are pretty cheap: usually less than $10 for a few hours. For longer sleeper trains, use GetYourGuide to book journeys, for example the Hanoi to Sapa train.
Flights – internal flights in Vietnam can be a good option. I paid $70 to fly from Saigon to Hoi An which took around an hour and saved me two night bus journeys. If you’re going a long distance and not making stops in between, they’re a no-brainer.
Motorbike – this is also a popular option. Some people take one the whole way up the country but the most popular section is along the Hai Van Pass between Hue and Hoi An. You can drive yourself or go aboard a guide’s bike (though this will obviously be more costly).
It varies for different countries so check your visa requirements and restrictions before arriving. I’d recommend at least a month in Vietnam purely due to the volume of things to see and do! Use iVisa to see your visa options depending on your nationality.
What’s great about Vietnam?
Aside from the food, people, scenery and culture, I love how easy it is to travel Vietnam. Yes, there’s a well-developed tourist infrastructure with lots of hostels, public transport and tour agencies. But it’s also the shape of Vietnam!
Because Vietnam is so long and thin, you travel in one direction without needing to go back on yourself. There’s a clearly defined backpack route, it’s easy to decide where to go next, and you’ll even see the same faces along the way. It couldn’t be easier!
Vietnam itinerary for 2 weeks
I would suggest that you spend:– 1 week in North Vietnam– 1 week split between Central and South Vietnam.
- Days 1-2 – Hanoi
- Days 3-4 – Ha Long Bay. Take an overnight ride to…
- Days 5-6 – Sapa
- Days 7-10 – Hoi An. Fly or take an overnight bus to…
- Days 12-14 – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).
For the first week, we’ll follow my 7 day North Vietnam itinerary.
Note – in the guide linked above, I also share my North Vietnam suggestions for 10 and 14 days. So if you’re captivated by the idea of North Vietnam (who could blame you?), consider spending most of your time there.
If you want to see the best of North, Central and Southern Vietnam, keep reading…
This whole itinerary can easily be reversed. If you’re flying into Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) rather Hanoi, you can start on day 14 and work backwards.
Days 1-2 – Hanoi
Hanoi Old Quarter
Infamous Hanoi Train Street
Hanoi is a hazy blur of scooters, local food stalls, teeming streets and colonial buildings. It’s also my favourite place in all of Vietnam. Some travellers find it overwhelming but I love the bustling atmosphere so much I’ve been four times!Since you’ll start your trip by flying into Hanoi, you may as well make the most of it. You’ll pass through a couple of times as you travel to Ha Long Bay and Sapa.
If you’re a city lover, I’d suggest spending any spare days in Hanoi. But if you’re on a tight 2 week Vietnam itinerary, two days is enough to catch the highlights.
Things to do in Hanoi:
- Explore the Old Quarter where market shopping is colourful and affordable and local life is everywhere
- Wander the beautiful grounds of the Temple Of Literature
- Many new friends on the banks of the Hoan Kiem Lake and cross the bridge to the Turtle Tower
Getting around Hanoi:
It’s easy to see the Old Quarter on foot then call a Grab (the Asian equivalent of Uber) when you want to go further afield. There are cars and scooter taxis to choose from. The latter is super cheap and allows you to dodge traffic jams by whizzing around the cars on the back of your driver’s bike. Fun and a bit crazy!
Where to stay in Hanoi
Hostels: Old Quarter View Hostel ($5 a night) // Nexy Hostel ($7 a night). Browse all Hanoi hostels.
Hotels: Hanoi Unique Hotel // Hanoi Garden Boutique Hotel & Spa. Browse all Hanoi hotels.
Read my Hanoi blogs (can you tell I’m obsessed?):
Top tip – crossing the road in Hanoi is an experience in itself! It’s overwhelming at first since every road is awash with torrents of weaving scooters. Be brave and go with the flow. They will drive around you!
Days 3-4 – Ha Long Bay
The weird and wonderful cliff formations at Ha Long Bay make the region a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. There are beaches, caves and islands to explore while spending a couple of days cruising through the region by boat.
If you have two weeks in Vietnam, you can take a quick 2 day trip to Ha Long Bay, travelling there on day three and back to Hanoi on the afternoon of day four. You’ll spend the night sleeping in a cosy cabin on your cruise boat.
Possible alteration: If you have time, consider spending an extra day and night in Ha Long. You’ll spend longer cruising deeper into the Bay and stay overnight on gorgeous Cat Ba, the largest island. To do this, spend a day less in Hoi An later on.
How to visit Ha Long Bay: Pre-booked cruises include travel from Hanoi and all your meals and activities. Expect to pay around $150 for a two-day cruise, although there are better and worse options available depending how much comfort you want.
For a reliable, mid-range option, browse GetYourGuide’s overnight Hanoi cruises including meals, kayaking and guides.
Tip – if you’re a backpacker, you may enjoy the Castaway cruises that can be booked in any Hanoi hostel. Just be aware that everyone will be early-mid 20s and boozing is a big focus! If this doesn’t sound like your thing, take a different cruise.
Days 5-6 – Sapa
Next, I suggest you catch a night train from Hanoi to Sapa when you return from Ha Long. Tiring but necessary if you have just 2 weeks in Vietnam!
This magical little spot north of Hanoi is all about misty mountain scenery, rice terraces and the charm of hill-tribe villages.
Sapa was a French hill station established in 1922 but is now Vietnam’s most popular trekking destination. I didn’t visit my first time in Vietnam so made a beeline earlier this year. I had a magical time, trekking and meeting minority hill tribe villagers who wear distinctive traditional dress. Our guide told us that their languages and cultures vary even between neighbouring villages.
How to visit Sapa: Arrive by sleeper train from Hanoi and book your accommodation and treks separately or (the easier option), take a multi-day tour from Hanoi including accommodation, meals and trekking. The guides take you on remote treks you wouldn’t find otherwise.
Browse tours in any Old Quarter travel agency or book in advance. I took this 3 day tour with a homestay or you can opt for a hotel stay instead. The hotels are generally in Sapa town while the homestays are out in the countryside. I would highly recommend a homestay as you get to experience more of the local culture.
Note – we were able to leave our big backpacks in storage in Sapa town and just take small backpacks on our trek to the homestay. This was a godsend! There were some (crazy) travellers in our group who chose to take all their things. Trekking up a slippy, muddy hill with 15kg of luggage is not my idea of fun!
Days 7-10 – Hoi An
I adore Hoi An even though it’s busy and touristic these days. I’ve been plenty of times now (and stayed there for over 2 months during one trip) and I’m never ready to leave!
Even if you do nothing but sip iced coffee in Hoi An whilst admiring the characteristic hanging lanterns and crumbling UNESCO World Heritage buildings, it’s time well spent during your Vietnam travel itinerary.
Things to do in Hoi An:
- Wander the charming old town, visiting the many temples, pagodas, ancient houses and the famous Japanese Bridge
- Take a Hoi An cooking course. I loved this one including a market tour and basket boat ride to the cooking school!
- Visit An Bang beach (5km from town and accessible by taxi, scooter or bicycle)
- Take a day trip to Da Nang and walk along the famous Golden Hands Bridge.
How to get from Hanoi to Hoi An: Board a sleeper train or bus from Hanoi to Da Nang which takes 15 hours. These trains are pretty comfortable and you save a night’s accommodation as well as a day’s travel time. Of course, you can also fly from Hanoi to Da Nang airport.
Da Nang to Hoi An is just a 30-minute drive by taxi, train, bus or scooter. Book your transfer.
Where to stay in Hoi An
Hostels: Hoi An Backpackers (visit for the breakfast buffet and pool) // Little Leo Homestay and Hostel (a cosier, quieter hostel).Hotels: Hoi An Life Homestay ($12 a night) // Greenlife Villa (boutique suites from $20 a night) // Tan Thanh Garden Homestay beside the beach and my favourite Hoi An coffee shop ($35 a night).
Browse all Hoi An hotels and Hoi An hostels.
Days 12-14 – Ho Chi Minh/Saigon
Where to finish your 2 weeks in Vietnam
Finish your 2 week Vietnam itinerary in the only city to rival Hanoi in size. For Vietnamese history, it doesn’t get much better than Ho Chi Minh which is frequently referred to as Saigon: its official name until the war with America.
Things to do:
- The War Remnants Museum
- Ben Thanh Market
- Visit the various art galleries
- Admire the colonial Opera House, Central Post Office and City Hall
- Take day trip to the Mekong Delta during a guided tour from Saigon
- Take a half-day trip to the Củ Chi Tunnels used by Vietnamese soldiers during the war.
Cafe Apartment building, Saigon
Getting to Saigon from Hoi An: While I don’t recommend flying internally for environmental reasons, if you just have 2 weeks in Vietnam, you’ll probably need to. A flight between Hoi An and Saigon takes just an hour.
If you travel by bus, you’re in for a long night bus departing in Hoi An then a night’s stopover in Nha Trang, a city in Vietnam that I don’t especially love. Basically, it will take you two days!
Where to stay in Saigon: 9 Hostel & Rooftop for backpackers on a budget // Little Saigon Boutique Hotel for private double rooms.
Browse all Saigon hotels and Saigon hostels.
Vietnam itinerary for 1 month
My 2 week Vietnam above is designed to help you see as much of Vietnam as possible during a short trip. There’s no way you can see everything, even with 1 month in Vietnam but, if you follow this itinerary, you’ll get to see much more!
Days 1-3 – Hanoi. As above. Follow my 3 day Hanoi itinerary.Days 4-6 – Ha Long Bay. As above. With an extra night in Ha Long, you can take a cruise with 1 night on the boat and 1 night on Cat Ba Island.
Days 7-9 – Sapa. As above. Catch a night bus from Hanoi the night you return from Ha Long Bay or spend night 6 in Hanoi and travel to Sapa the next day.
Days 10-11 – Ninh Binh. See below.Days 12-14 – Phong Nha National Park. See belowDays 15-17 – Hue. See belowDay 18 – the Hai Van Pass. See below.Days 19-21 – Hoi An. As above.Day 22 – Nha Trang. See below.Days 23-25 – Da Lat. See below.Days 26-27 – Mui Ne. See below.
Days 27-30 – Saigon. As above.
More details on the extra stops
If you have more than 2 weeks in Vietnam, here are more details on the places you’ll have time for.
Even if you’re following my 2 week Vietnam itinerary above, use the following stops as alternative suggestions. Swap them if they sound more appealing than the destinations I mentioned earlier in this guide.
Somewhere I’d recommend including in an extended Vietnam itinerary is Ninh Binh, a town and countryside region a couple of hours south of Hanoi.
‘Ha Long Bay on land’ is the perfect stop if the craggy, rock formations of Ha Long leave you feeling inspired. Ninh Binh town isn’t particularly captivating so use it as a base and get stuck into the countryside.
Things to do in Ninh Binh: Hop on a wooden boat where a local woman will row you with her feet past impressive ‘Tam Coc’ (a set of cliff formations translating as ‘three caves’), visit Bich Dong Pagoda and climb to the Mau Caves Viewpoint.
How to visit: Book a 2.5-hour bus from Hanoi to Ninh Binh to visit Ninh Binh independently. When you arrive, hire a scooter (or a scooter with driver if you’re not comfortable driving) to explore the region.If you’re short on time, take a Ninh Binh day tour from Hanoi.
Where to stay in Ninh Binh: Hoa Lu Family Stay based in town (dorms for $4, private rooms for $11) // Trang An Eco Homestay based in the stunning countryside.
Phong Nha National Park
A perk of spending a month in Vietnam is getting off-the-beaten-track and discovering the vast Vietnamese countryside and warren of underground caves.
While the world’s largest cave is in Phong Nha, visiting is near impossible without a team of porters, two weeks and £3,000. Luckily, there are plenty of incredible cave sites within the park you can visit with ease.
Where to stay in Phong Nha: There’s a small town at the heart of the national park also called Phong Nha. Stay at Funny Monkeys Homestay ($15 a night) with beautiful river views.Getting to Phong Nha: It’s easiest to reach Phong Nha by bus as all the local companies drop on the doorstep of Phong Nha town. Unfortunately, this is at 4am if coming from Hanoi or Ninh Binh but most hostels are a minute’s walk away and will let you check in then. A train to or from Dong Hoi station is an option but gets you in a 45-minute taxi ride away from Phong Nha.
Since some of the caves are far apart in the countryside, it’s best to book a caves day tour in Phong Nha town.
Hue is Vietnam’s temple capital. Explore the walled fortress, the Imperial City, largely destroyed during the War but since restored and now as majestic as its heyday.
Many people visit the Citadel and leave Hue but I liked spending 2 days in Hue, touring the countryside and discovering elaborate tombs and temples.Getting to Hue: Catch a bus or train from Hanoi, Ninh Binh or Phong Nha.
Where to stay in Hue: Splash out at Hue Ecolodge, a bargain at $35 a night with luxury rooms and swimming pool access. For accommodation in town, stay at Stop and Go Boutique Homestay Hue ($13 a night).
Things to do in Hue: Tour the Citadel to see the Forbidden City and the royal gardens. Since there’s no public transport or taxis available around the countryside, hire a scooter or book a Hue day tour to visit The Royal Temple of Tu Duc, Tu Hieu Pagoda, The Tomb of Khai Dinh and Minh Mang Tomb.
For a quirky adventure, break into Hue Abandoned Waterpark!
This is quite the contrast to the intricate, ancient temples of Hue. Despite high hopes for this would-be tourist attraction, it was abandoned before opening. A huge dragon statue rears above an empty aquarium, perched upon a lake once teeming with live crocodiles.
The ‘official’ line is that you can’t go inside the Abandoned Waterpark. However, savvy backpackers make their way inside daily, bribing the security guard or trekking through the undergrowth from the road.
The Hai Van Pass
When travelling between Hue and Hoi An, don’t take the bus: it travels through an underground tunnel meaning you’ll miss the view. To add some coastal beauty to your Vietnam itinerary, take the train or, better yet, drive the Hai Van Pass by car, scooter or Jeep!
Driving the Hai Van Pass was one of my favourite day trips in Vietnam
While I often associate Vietnam with misty rice terraces and mountainous cliffs, I rarely think of sweeping coastal views and empty beaches. But that’s exactly what you get when driving the Hai Van Pass!Stops to make if coming from Hue to Hoi An include An Bang Cemetery, Dam Cau Hai (Salt Lake), Cảnh Dương Bay and Lập An Lagoon.
You can end the day by staying overnight in Da Nang, one of the fastest-growing cities in Vietnam or continue further to quaint but touristic Hoi An. Many companies will transfer your luggage if you’re travelling by scooter.
Nha Trang isn’t my favourite place in Vietnam but it’s a necessary base if travelling down the coast from Hoi An. Most backpackers arrive in the AM after a night bus from Hoi An and a bit of beach time is exactly what they need. Things to do: Head to one of the famous mud spas surroundings Nha Trang; the most famous two are Thap Ba and 100 Egg Spa. Visit Po Nagar Cham temple or relax on the beach.
Getting to Nha Trang: Catch a night bus from Hoi An.
This green countryside paradise is a popular spot for an extended Vietnam itinerary. Set up in the mountains, the climate’s cool and the pace of life is slow.Things to do: Take a countryside tour to see coffee plantations and waterfalls. Canyoning is also a popular activity for daredevils. Don’t miss the Crazy House, a modern art residence that may remind you of Gaudi’s work or Alice in Wonderland!Spend one day in Da Lat to explore the countryside and another if you want to go canyoning.
Getting there: Catch a four-hour train or bus from Nha Trang.
Mui Ne is a beach town most famous for sandboarding, though surfing and water sports can be practiced, too. Whilst travelling down the coast Mui Ne is a good spot for sporty types, as well as those in need of relaxation.Things to do: Set an early alarm to beat the heat and see sunrise over the dunes (or sunset if you’re not an early bird). The other option is sand sports.
Getting there: A four-hour bus from Nha Trang or a five-hour bus from Ho Chi Minh.
Spend a night on the Mekong Delta
Even during a short trip, there’s time for a day trip to the Mekong from Saigon. If you have more time, why not spend two days a night?
As well as seeing how locals use the Mekong for transportation, you’ll visit some of Asia’s largest floating markets. Here, shops on stilts and merchants in boats dole out fruit, souvenirs and more. Take a 2 day trip or better, one including Cai Rang floating village.
Those travelling to Cambodia next can take a tour from Saigon to Phnom Penh, stopping along the way! I had a great time doing this a few years ago.
Beach lover? For a 2 week Vietnam itinerary, visit either Hanoi or Saigon, spend 3 days in Hoi An, then finish at either of the following beaches:
Phu Quoc Island
In Phu Quoc, you get that real holiday vibe: white sand, boat trips and massages on the beach that won’t set you back more than 90,000 VND (£3). However, I’ve heard it’s starting to get much more touristic with lots of golf resorts popping up…
Things to do: Lie on the beach or visit Dinh Cau Night Market for fresh seafood. You’ll find everything from lobsters to crabs and even sea snails if you’re feeling adventurous.
Getting there: Flights from Ho Chi Minh start at $20 each way and take under an hour. Tag it onto the end of this itinerary for 1 month in Vietnam.
Where to stay in Phu Quoc: For beautiful river views and $10 rooms, stay at The River Mouth.
If you’re looking for a tourist beach break, don’t go to Quy Nhon! This beach town is a real hidden gem in Vietnam.There aren’t any big hotels or tour companies around and you won’t find it included in many Vietnam itineraries. For that reason, it’s one of my favourite places for escaping the crowds and seeing local life.Come 5pm, the whole town seems to come down to the beach to relax and play football. It’s a special spot!Getting to Quy Nhon: It’s a 7-hour bus from Hoi An in Central Vietnam.
Where to stay in Quy Nhon: Nhon Hai Beach Hostel.
What to eat in Vietnam
Vietnamese food is fresh and flavoursome, making it one of my all-time favourite cuisines. Eat at street stalls and you’ll never pay for than £1-2 for dinner:Pho: You’ll have heard of this one already unless you’ve been living under a rock. It’s essentially noodle soup but thanks to a flavoursome broth, lime, chilli, coriander and tasty ‘bo’ (beef) or ‘ga’ (chicken), it’s always a winner.
Bun cha: Slow-cooked pork balls in a salty broth with a side of rice noodles to dip and a serving of ‘nem’ (fried spring rolls). This dish is from Hanoi so is usually not found down south.
Fresh spring rolls: Also known as ‘summer rolls’ these are sheets of rice paper rolled with fresh ingredients. Pork, shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce and cucumber make them so healthy and tasty.
Banh mi: Freshly baked baguettes stuffed with a choice of ingredients. Eat them with meat pate, pork floss (nicer than it sounds), cucumber and more. Don’t miss my guide to the best banh mi in Vietnam!
Com tam: Pork glazed with a sweet and sticky sauce, served with rice and a gooey fried egg. I can’t get enough.
Vietnamese beer is probably the cheapest in the world. If you order the bia hoi (‘fresh beer’ which is brewed on-site) pints begin in the vicinity of 10p.
Read my food guides to Hanoi, Hoi An, Saigon and my egg coffee Hanoi guide!
Browse Hanoi street food tours. They’re so much fun!
What’s the best season to visit Vietnam?
Spring (March-May) is generally the best time to visit Vietnam because temperatures aren’t too high and there’s not much rain. Summer (June-August) can be VERY hot and rainy but I have travelled Vietnam this time myself and it’s possible as long as you stay protected.
The north of Vietnam experiences cold winters from December to February. Hoi An often experiences flooding from September-December.
Customs, language and safety
Vietnam isn’t a place where you’ll need to be especially conservative so shorts and t-shirts will do fine apart from when you visit temples. Here you should cover your knees and shoulders.
The Vietnamese are so incredibly kind and friendly. Around Hanoi coffee shops and lakefront, you’re bound to pick up some new friends keen to practice their English. Chat with them – they’ll love it, and probably offer to show you around.
Violent crime is basically nonexistent. But bag and phone snatchings in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi occasionally occur. In Hoi An, be careful of the unofficial motorbike drivers who hang around the bars at night – get a licensed taxi instead.
Learn some Vietnamese phrases
Cam Un – thank youChao ban – hello
Tam biet – goodbye.