Itinerary Building Destinations

Where to start when trying to decide on Vietnam destination can be a very daunting task. Firstly, there is the feeling that you are looking into an exotic destination that is totally alien to what you would consider a normal holiday, with the added uncertainty if it is friendly, open to tourists, and has the infrastructure you need to get around. Let us address those issues and hopefully lay your concerns to rest.

The way tourism has developed in Vietnamis a bit different than many countries in that people did not have the freedom of movement in the past. The government would have a lot to say as to where the traveler could visit, stay, and eat. Because of that past, the system that exists today will cause most travelers to travel between developed and regulated tourist areas without ever experiencing the more authentic side toVietnam. All Travel companies, open busses, and shuttles will deliver a traveler to a small area that has specifically grown around tourism. Times have changed and now people can go pretty well anywhere they want, however, the “old beaten path” is still where all routes lead. Being herded to the organized tourist areas no longer needs to be the case, and if you are anything like me, the last thing you want is to be ushered into an area where everyone looking to get at the tourist buck is waiting

Travel between destinations inVietnamis easy, secure, and need not be stressful. There are trains, busses, air, and motorcycles to everywhere you might want to go. Secondly,Vietnamis now very tourist friendly and finding accommodation and things to do in your chosen destination is as easy as asking your hotel receptionist. For now, do not worry about how to get there or where to stay. The following is simply meant to give you an idea of places that might appeal to your travel interests. Each destination description will be a short account describing the basic attraction of the city, whether or not it is “on or off” the main tourist trail, and recommended minimum time needed to see or experience the place. Feel free to add to this list in the comment section. I will edit the comment if needed. Let us start in the north and work our way down listing most of the places commonly looked at and some that are not that may be included in itineraries you can find in the itinerary section of this blog.

 

Hanoi – Vietnam’s seat of Government – Cultural and historic -Very busy – Moderately touristy in the old quarter but still mostly non touristy – 2 nights

Sapa – A beautiful mountain town and countryside – Colorful mountain people – good place for walking – Very touristy – 1or 2 nights

Ninh Binh – Beautiful scenery sometimes referred to as inlandHalongBay – City mostly non touristy but river tour very with aggressive sales people. 1 night or day trip

Hai Phuong/ Ha Long City – Port cities where most Halong bay cruises depart from – not much to see and mostly non touristy- Halong cruises normally depart from Hanoi – 1 night

Thanh Hoa – Mostly an industrial city rebuilt after the war – Has an antique museum – Non touristy not much to see – 1 night

Vinh – Mostly an industrial city rebuilt from Russian and East German influence- Most of its significant history gone – non touristy and nothing to see. 1 night

Dong Hoi – The most northern beach city – Close to battle grounds – War history – Ho Chi Minh Trail – Phong Nga caves – Non touristy – 1-2 nights

Hue – Historic both culturally and War – Beautiful surrounding countryside including Hai Van Pass – moderately touristy – 2 nights.

Danang – Until recently not much to visit but now a fast up comer to the tourism scene – Golf – Casinos – beach resorts – hosts many interesting events – City mostly non touristy but developing fast. Unless in a resort or special event 1 night.

Hoi An – Historic – cultural – interesting architecture – Resorts – large textile industry that specializes in fast turn over – small beach area – Very touristy – 2 nights

Kham Duc – Part of highland trip – Beautiful countryside – interesting nightly carnival in the stadium – town supports the gold mines close by – non touristy – 1 night

Quy Nhon –Seaside beach city – beautiful countryside – many coffee shops – Non touristy – 1-2 nights

Kon Tum – Cultural – Hill Tribes – War history – interesting local architecture – Friendly people – 1 night

Pleiku – War history – rebuilt with Russian influence – Sea Lake nearby – not much to offer a tourist – 0 nights

Buon Ma Thuot – Friendly – clean – a launching off point to Dreysap waterfalls and many minority hill tribe villages – agricultural area – an important stop on central highland tours – non touristy – 1 night

Tuy Hoa – Native underutilized white sand beaches – large fishing industry – many good seafood restaurants – Cham history – well laid out roads – Non Touristy (yet) – 1 night

Nha Trang – A larger holiday andBeachCity – Seafood – Known for tours and activities – beautiful countryside – Golf – Spa – Nightlife – Very touristy in Main area – Non to Moderately touristy in rest of city – 3 nights

Dalat – A high mountain town with cooler climate – Heavily influenced by the French – Beautiful countryside – very agricultural- a number of attractions and waterfalls – for foreigners moderately touristy, very touristy for Viets. 1- 2 nights

Phan Rang – Heart of Cham history – seafood industry – Dragon fruit farms – non touristy – 0 nights

Mui Ne – A coastal strip popular with Russians and wind based water sports. Course sand beaches – Resorts – very touristy – 1 or 2 nights

Phan ThietTown about 24 km south of Mui Ne – Producer of fish products – small tourist infrastructure – non touristy – 1 night

Bao Loc – Central highland town – Pretty central lake – Tea plantations – non touristy – 1 night

Gia Nghia – Small town with friendly people – sometimes part of highland tour – beautiful countryside – non touristy – 1 night

Dong Xoai – 1965 battleground – small town – not much for a visitor except experience small town life – non touristy – 0 nights

Vung Tau – Port/Oil city – weekend getaway for Saigonians – Beaches – oil industry – bars – amusements and attractions – Moderately to mainly touristy – 1 night

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) – Large Metropolis with abundant shopping – very busy – very touristy in Back Pack area, mostly non touristy in the rest of the city – 2 nights

My Tho – Founded by Chinese – Agricultural and fishing town – moderately touristy – 1 night

Ben Tre – famous war site – Launching point for Mekong boat tours – Cai Be floating market – Very touristy – 1 night

Can Tho – Largest Mekong City – Largest floating market – City of achedemia – many café’s and good restaurants – riverside promenade – moderately touristy – 1 night

Sa Dec – Agriculture and industrial town – Famous locale for the novel “The Lover” – non touristy – 1 night

Long Xuyen – heart of rice and basa fish industry – crocodile farm –  pleasant town – non touristy – 1 night

Chau Doc – Historic town founded by 3 cultures – gateway to Cambodia – some tourist attractions – mostly non touristy but sees a lot of tourists – 1 night

Phu Quoc – Beach destination – resorts – seafood – bars and western restaurants – becoming very touristy over the past few years – 2 nights

Con Dao – Formerly a prison built by French – National park with protected wildlife – developing tourism with the appearance of resorts – mostly non touristy for now – 2 nights

 

I have no doubt that I have missed a few…….or omitted them because of a lack of knowledge. Feel free to add in the comment section

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Owee

Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

47 thoughts on “Itinerary Building Destinations

  1. Hi Owee,

    I am considering backpacking Vietnam in mid-late May on my own. Is it a good time to visit Hanoi (and surroundings), Dalat, Buon Ma Thuot and Mui Ne? (I assume HCMC and Mekong Delta are too hot to travel in May). Also, is it somehow too long to stay in Buon Ma Thuot for three nights (i.e. two full days in BMT)?

    Thanks and regards,
    Quentin

    1. May is a good month for most of Vietnam. Weather will be fine. I usually only spend a night in BMT. If you plan to do day trips, I suppose 2 or 3 would be ok. Expect Mui Ne to be very hot. Saigon and the Delta are ok in my opinion.

      1. Thanks for your prompt reply! Perhaps I should drop Mui Ne as you said it will be very hot in May. If I focus on the central highlands (to avoid the possible heat in the lowlands…), it seems Kon Tum worth a longer stay than BMT (more minority villages to visit), but is it advisable to take the (local) bus from Kon Tum/Pleiku to BMT, and then from BMT to Dalat?

  2. Hi, we are a group of 4 arriving in Noi Bai by last week of Feb around 1am in the morning. Is it possible to fit Hanoi,Sapa and Halong bay in 4 whole days? Leaving at 10pm of the fourth night? If possible, what order should we do it?

    More or less what will be the temperature range on each place during that week? Would greatly appreciate any idea on this as I only able to look up the average for the entire Feb month.

    Thanks

    Thanks

  3. Hi Owee

    What a brilliant blog. Great post . A unbelievable help for a first time Vietnam-traveler.

    My family and I are traveling trough Vietnam January – February 2016.

    Well aware this is during Têt, we already arranged most of our traveling plans, domestic flights and train tickets

    We are staying north of Nha Trang at Whale Island Resort for 4 nights until February 5.

    Will it be easy arranging a one-way transport from Whale Island to Dalat on this date?

    We are traveling with 3 kids so a private car would be preferred.
    What will be the best way to arrange this?

    Thanks

    Kind regards
    Rasmus

      1. Dear Owen.

        Sounds great with a all day car tour to Dalat.
        Could you email me details about booking this trip, price and where we would start the tour.
        We are staying at the Whale Island Resort, and it would be nice if we didn’t have to travel back to Nha Trang for the departure.
        The date of the tour would still be February 5.

        Thanks for your advice on hotel in Dalat. We all ready booked our stay at Dreams Hotel.

        Kind regards

        Rasmus

  4. Hi Owee,

    I stumbled upon your website yesterday and I couldn’t stop reading because it is so very informative! However after reading, I still have uncertainties that I hope you will advise me on.

    A friend and I (two girls) will be visiting Vnam for 10 days. Roundtrip at Hanoi, arrival at night. We are certain that we will stay at Hanoi and take an overnight trip to Halong Bay in the first 5 days. The problem now is how to spend the next 5 days.

    Initial plan was flying to the south and stay two nights each at Nha Trang and Dalat. Concern is the bus ride in between these two places takes 4-5 hours, and the overall travelling time might be too much.

    So now I am considering visiting either Nha Trang or Dalat only, but then I am not sure it’s worth the roundtrip flight (~USD150). Another option would be staying at Hanoi and taking a 3-night trip to Sapa; a small downside being not much beach time in our journey.

    Would greatly appreciate it if you can share some thoughts!

    Thank you so much,
    g.

    1. Hi…. 10 days is not a lot of time and unfortunately most attractions are central and south.
      I might suggest Arrive Hanoi night 1 Hanoi city tour night 2, Halong Bay night 3. Hanoi night 4, and depart for Nha Trang. 2 nights Nha Trang, and take a private tour by car to Dalat via Lak Lake if in your budget. (I can arrange for you if you wish) By going this way you will see most everything and only need 1 night in Dalat. Return to Nha Trang for another night and then fly to Hanoi for return flight. Total 9 nights and an extra one to use to connect with flight.

  5. Hello from Greece,we will be in Vietnam at late August for 13 nights.We have made an itinerary which includes HCMC and Mekong Delta for 3 nights,Nha Trang for 1-2 nights,Hue and Hoi An for 2-3 night and Hanoi-Sapa-Halong for 3-4 nights. Do you think it is ok to have a good taste of the country? Do you have anything to suggest about the places or the nights to spend at these I wrote above?

    Thanks for the site and the usefull informations.

    1. Hello Greece,
      Unfortunately 14 days will not be enough time to see everything you want to see. Yes you can do 2 nights Saigon and 1 night Mekong, 2 nights Nha Trang, 2 nights Hoi An, 1 night Hue. But it will take 7 dys to see Sapa, Halong and Hanoi (SApa 3 night round trip). You will have a good taste of all tourist areas for sure but have no time to go beyond those areas. You will have to fly between all destination as overland transport will be too slow.

  6. Hi Owee,

    Thank you for your Blog!! It is very informative.

    We are planning a family holiday to Vietnam & Cambodia in mid December. We will be travelling with our 14yr old son. 16 days in total. 11 days in Vietnam and 5 in Cambodia.

    We would definetly would like to see the historic significant places, experience the culture. We would like to include atleast 1 hiking trips and atleat 1 bike riding trip. We are mot interested in beaches, until an unless it is extra ordinary and night life, massages or shopping. If possible we would like to include 1 or 2 days in a resort.

    we flying in to Hanoi, and would like to travel south to Ho Chi Minh. We fly out of Siem Reep. What would be the best places to visit – to see the best of this Vietnam? Can I get your help in deciding the itenary? And best way to travel.

    We are Vegetarian, it will be great if you can give us some pointers to find right food.

    Thank you
    Anna

    1. 11 days is very little time to see much in Vietnam. Also, staring I the north may see you some very chilly weather. For historic places, Hanoi, Ninh Binh and Hue. Hoi An is also historic but ultra touristy also. I guess you best itinerary would be Hanoi 3 days Hue 3 days. Resort in Hoi An for 2 nights and to Saigon for the remainder. A 14 year old would love Nha Trang but you have no time. Overland travel is slow and difficult. Fly if possible.

      Vegetarian restaurants are everywhere. Look for the word “Chay” on a restaurant sign.

  7. Owee,

    Wow! your blog is amazing! thank you so much!!!
    I’m taking my DH on his birthday surprise trip to Vietnam & Cambodia at the end of September, so have to do all the planning by myself. 16 days in total. im thinking 11 days in Vietnam & 5 in Cambodia. This can be flexible as dont have tickets to Cambodia from HCMC yet.
    we flying in to Hanoi & there are the places im planning to visit: Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Dalat & Saigon. (Miu Ne & Phan Thiet if possible?)
    do you think thats possible? if not – what would be the best places to visit – to see the best of this amazing country? i would like him to have the most adventurous holiday of his lifetime. could you help me with the itinerary & how to get from one place to the other in the best way?

    thank you very much

    silvia

  8. Owee,
    I just want to say Thank you! My Uncle was at LZ English North near Bong son during 68-69. I have found alot of pics and info for the main LZ English but not for English North. Do you have any advice on where I can find info concerning where he was?

  9. Hi Owee

    Love your blog. Have booked a flight next year for my family of four (3 adults and one 11 year old kid) to HCM. Arriving Friday, 25th July, leaving on Friday, 1st Aug 2014.

    What is the cost like from the airport to Thanh Puc (Highway 57) 120km away?
    For a comfy ride, should we get a taxi like an Innova on arrival or book ahead?

    We will be staying with acquaintances and friends in Thanh Puc for 3 days and 2 nights then trip back to HCM for the remainder of our stay until we leave Vietnam. Is Duc Vuong Hotel suitable for family of four and the location good?

    For the Mekong Delta boat rides and seafood lunch, is it most suitable to do that in Thanh Puc or in HCM? What are the attractions around Thanh Puc and Ben Tre?BTW I am claustrophobia and without going in the Cu Chi tunnels, is visiting the place it self worth the time?

    Appreciate your suggestions and whether we should join a one day coach tour or private tour?

    Thanks and regards
    Andrew

    1. Ahhhhh…. Did you mean Thanh Phuoc? My nephew lives there. About Half way to Vung Tao
      Yes the Duc Vuong is a nice place…. Tell all the staff for me that I miss them (Anh Dep Nha Trang). Do your Mekong trips out of Saigon… much easier. I always prefer a private tour, but it depends on your budget. I will email you more information.

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