For your trip to Vietnam, there are so many sights to see and itineraries to choose from you’re going to need to narrow it down. This list covers the main sights with some time built it to relax (including an overnight cruise to see one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World).
Day 1: Hanoi
Fly into Hanoi, which has many international flights from around Asia. Hanoi is a fairly large city but you can walk amongst the popular sites quite easily. A taxi into the Old Quarter from the airport costs about $8. Buy your ticket at the counter after exiting baggage claim and show this to one of the taxi drivers.
Your first night in Hanoi walk through the Old Quarter but be prepared for some massive crowds. Beware that rules of the road are more suggestions than laws in Hanoi and crosswalks mean nothing to drivers. Stay vigilant!
Day 2: Hanoi
For your first full day in Vietnam, head out into Hanoi for a day of walking the city. Visit the Ho Chi Minh memorial, the Hỏa Lò prison, where US Presidential candidate John McCain was held after being shot down during the Vietnam War, and stroll the small streets of the Old Quarter. Head over to Train Street (between Lê Duẩn and Khâm Thin street in Hanoi’s old quarter) where you can see a train whizzing through a tiny street right in the city center, just a few feet from people’s front doors. This is a favorite photo opp for tourists. End your walking tour with a visit to Beer Street to enjoy $0.50 beers and local fare. Grab a tiny, plastic stool at one of the local eateries and try out some cheap local delights.
Day 3: Ha Long Bay
You’ll get picked up around 7:30-8:00 for a four hour bus trip to Ha Long Bay t(one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World) o board your cruise. Once on board you will likely head directly to one of the islands to visit the Surprising Cave and then on to Ti Top island. You can climb up 440 steps to the top for a panoramic view of the thousand islands that Ha Long Bay is comprised of.
You can book tickets for your Ha Long Bay cruise through your hotel or at one of the many travel agents that are on every street in Hanoi. You can find some rather cheap deals (around $150) that include your transportation to Ha Long and your overnight cruise, including meals but excluding alcohol. Read more about how and where to book a cruise to Ha Long Bay and how to manage your expectations.
Day 4: Ha Long Bay & Cat Bar or Hue
In the morning your cruise will likely get things started early so that you can head over to a pearl farm. Here, you’ll learn about how they farm pearls, feed the oysters and more. From their dock you can also hop into a kayak for a quick jaunt out into Ha Long Bay.
Option 1 is to head from Ha Long Bay directly to Cat Bar. You will get transferred to another boat that will take you on to Cat Bar. Option 2 is to head directly to Hue. For this, you’ll head back to the dock on your ship. You’ll take the four hour bus trip back to Hanoi and then head directly to the train station. The overnight sleeper train leaves at 7:45 PM and will arrive in the center of Hue at 9:00 AM, costing $60 USD.
Day 5: Hue
Since you’ve arrived early in the day you have plenty of time for sightseeing. Head over to the Imperial City where you can see where the Emperors lived. Much of the palace is still standing and other areas have been restored over time. Take your time wandering along the river. You can also grab a tuk-tuk to head up the river to see the famous Thien Mu Pagaoda and shrine.
Day 6: Around Hue
If you’re comfortable driving a motorbike you can hire one for about $6 for the day. If not, you can hire one that has a driver and you can leisurely ride on the back without worrying about directions or rules of the road. Head out to visit the many shrines and tombs that are in the area surrounding Hue. These tombs are extravagant and well preserved.
Day 7: Travel to Hoi An
You can either take a tourist bus, which will stop at a few famous landmarks during the trip, or rent a motorbike for the trip (this is what I did and really enjoyed it) for about $25 USD. Your hotel will send your luggage along to the hotel in Hoi An so that you don’t have to ride with it. Direct, the trip takes about 4 hours but there are a few incredible sights to see on the way, weather permitting. These include Marble Mountain, the city of Da Nang and Hoy Van Pass. Even it is warm out, bring a light jacket for the ride up and over Hoy Van Pass as you’re above the cloud line and it will be cold! Arrive in the city of Hoi An and head out to bar hop!
Day 8; Hoi An
Hoi An is an incredibly well preserved, tiny city with a beautiful Old Town. This World Heritage site is very touristy but it is so charming that you won’t care. You can head to one of the beaches that are within 2-5 kilometers or stroll through the old streets, visiting the shops and shrines. Hoi An is famous for tailors so if you want to have clothes, dresses or suits made head there first thing to ensure that it is ready before you leave.
Day 9: Hoi An
Because Hoi An is a fun, vibrant little town, I’d recommend taking an extra day to just hang out and stroll around the city. You can also find guest houses and hotels that have nice pools if you want to just chill and relax poolside during the day before heading to one of many, many happy hours throughout the city. In the evening head to the Night Market where you can find souvenirs and local vendors to try some Vietnamese street meat.
Day 10: Leaving Vietnam
Flying out of Da Nang airport is easy from Hoi An. You can have your hotel schedule a mini-bus pick-up right from your hotel. This costs about $8 versus $30 for a private car. Plan to leave your hotel about an hour before you want to be at the airport if taking the bus because they may stop along the way to pick up additional passengers.
|Day 1||Arrive in Hanoi|
|Day 2||Tour Hanoi|
|Day 3||Ha Long Bay|
|Day 4||Ha Long Bay & travel to Hue|
|Day 7||Travel to Hoi An|
|Day 8||Hoi An|
|Day 9||Hoi An|
|Day 10||Leaving Vietnam|