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
    Great blog. Hoping to do the following with wide and 2 kids of 6 and 8. Arrive Hanoi, halong bay cruise, fly to Saigon, Mekong tour with overnight stay then to laid back beach resort to finish up. Limited to school holidays so end sept beginning of October for 12 days or so. Is this realistic? Recommended tour company to book through? Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Not sure your wife likes the wide remark 😉 Of course I recommend V’Explore Travel. I work with them because I trust them. I have used many companies and stuck with this one because I think they are the best available here. I suggest looking at Vin Pearl resort in Nha Trang for the kids and the beaches. 4 nights Hanoi with Halong and Ninh Binh, 3 nights Saigon with Mekong, 4 nights Vin Pearl Land and resort Perhaps……..

  2. Hi owee
    I’m hoping to go to Vietnam in dec about the 14-27.
    I’m in need of a holiday before my sons start high school, I will be a solo traveller.
    I’m not a drinker and not really into the night club side of things.. Beaches are not on my list of things to see unless there is a must see beach.. (I live in Brisbane but have lived on the Gold Coast and Mackay for the best part of my life 43years)
    I’m interested in the war side of Vietnam seeing the tunnels and the museums would be great.. Relaxing is high on the list of things to do, so spas and massages and just looking around. I don’t mind walking or getting on the back of a bike, joining a smallish group for day trips is ok..
    Thanks
    Melissa

    1. Sounds like it is the Hue and Hoi An area that would be the best for your interests. Hoi An is quite touristy but you can take side2 rips to local sights. Perhaps hire an easyrider to do a country tour over w nights from hoi An to Hue

  3. I will be travelling with my bf from 3-13 aug 2013, arriving HCM and departing from Hanoi. Any advise on the itinerary? i am looking at HCM, Phu Quoc, Hoi An, Halong bay and Sapa. Is it advisable to go Sapa and Halong Bay during this period of time since it’s the monsoon season? We are looking at relax and scenery trip.

    Thanks
    Nafang

  4. Hi Owee,

    Thank you SOOOOOO MUCH for putting together this magical blog as you are exactly right…there is so much information and can be overwhelming to go through everything. I contacted V’Explore to arrange a tour and such amazing customer service. I only have short time in Vietnam due to my schedule (but plan on coming back for a longer period of time later this year), BUT I would love your thoughts on must go to places, sights, food to get a global picture of what Vietnam has to offer. I’d love if you could email me to continue this conversation.

    Best,
    Kristen

  5. Hi there,

    I’m currently travelling from Saigon to Hanoi, afterwhich I want to go to Laos. Do you know where the best border crossing is from northern Vietnam to Laos?

    Thanks,

    Alicia

    1. There are daily busses from Vinh to Vientienne, otherwise it is probably best to fly from Hanoi. There is also a bus or busses you can take to Luan Prabang from Hanoi, but the trip is over 24 hours and probably hell would be more comforatable

  6. hi Owee,
    Im having a 10 days trip to Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City.I dont really have an itenary right now.so i would like an opinion from you.Can you tell me which district will be the best, filled with nightlife and shopping?
    Thus do you know of any dirtbike companies around?I would like to visit halong bay, but it is too far from HCMC and there are no 1 day tour that i can find around in the net. Your reply will be greatly appreciated
    Best wishes,
    Salam

    1. District1 near Pham Ngu Lao st. is where you want. Sorry, no dirt bikes. You will find one day tours available in local tour offices when you get there

  7. Dear Owee

    My boyfriend and I are travelling to Vietnam end of March for two weeks and have a rough idea of where we would like to go.
    We’re flying to and from HCMC, but I definitely want to visit Ha Long Bay and found some cheap flights to Hanoi. Back to the South I thought if getting a train and maybe stopover in Hue. We’d also like to visit the Mekong Delta and from there take the boat to Phu Quoc for the last 3 to 4 nights.
    Now here my question, is this do-able or too much? Any sort of advise would be greatly appreciated.
    Best wishes,
    Christina

    1. It is doable but seems you will be missing a lot
      3 nights Hanoi including an overnight in Halong
      Painful train ride to Hue for 2 nights then another to Saigon for 2 nights
      Mekong 2 night adventure to Ha Tien or Rach Gia then to Phu Quoc for the remainder. Add or remove a day where desired.
      Feel free to email me if you need help setting it up riptide.nhatrang@gmail.com

  8. Hello,

    I’m planning to be in southern Vietnam between Jan 5th to Jan 12 for a little adventure with a friend of mine. We’re both in our mid 20’s looking for a trip of a lifetime. We fly into Ho Chi Minh City and we now have to figure out where and what to do. We haven’t decided which city we will fly out of, but eventually need to figure out how to get to Vientiane, Laos on the 12th (flexible on departure). We’re thinking of biking along the southern coast from city to city ending our trip in Nha Trang. We’re open to any itinerary at this point and are very flexible. Would you be able to provide some information on A) biking and staying in cities from Ho Chi Mihn City to Nha Trang B) Suggesting a different itinerary that you think would be more enjoyable. At the end of the day, were looking for scenery, partying, good food, fun, and ADVENTURE!

    Thanks,

    ED

      1. Hi Owee,

        I just found your blog while checking on what to do on my 1st trip to Vietnam. Seems like I could use some of you adventure tips too. Maybe you could just forward me your reply to these guys so no need to type everything again. 🙂

        Thank you in advance.

        L.

  9. Hi! just want to ask if you could help me to decide on what would be a better place to visit hanoi or ho chi minh? planning to go to vietnam by next year. i want to see halong bay since it’s one of the new 7 wonders of the world but i would love to see saigon as well. Hope to hear from you. Thanks! Godbless!

    1. I guess it depends on your time afterall, Saigon is only a 2 hour flight from Hanoi. I faced the same dellema when I came 15 years ago. I never made it to Halong the first time as in order to see the most of the country and Hanoi/Halong/SAPA just would have chewed up too much time. I prefer Saigon myself, but others perfer Hanoi. I guess it is up to what you want. The biggest culture shock and traditianal structures will be the north, but the most modern, the south

  10. Love your website and am thoroughly enjoying exploring it.

    My hubby and I will have 6 weeks in Vietnam November/December and would dearly love to bring our bikes. Would you have any idea if the secure storage at HCMC airport would accept bikes for the 2 weeks we will be in Burma prior to our Vietnam odyssey and any idea on likely cost?

    Also any advice on cycling in Vietnam in such a way that we can avoid the main highways would be more than welcome. We have recently done 1800km in Europe but prefer to do no more than say 60km a day and ideally without horrendous mountains to contend with! We are in our 60s and come from Scotland.

    Thanks for any help you are able to give.

    Cheers

    Catriona Z

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