If you have the opportunity to spend one month of vacation and you want to dedicate it to only one country which to explore more thoroughly, then I will recommend to consider going to Vietnam. This is an amazing country, which is changing so rapidly that if you want to feel its authentic atmosphere you should plan a trip now. We spent one month there crossing it from North to South, enjoying its variety, amazing cuisine, picturesque landscapes and friendly people. If you are travelling on a budget this is just the perfect place – you can find accommodation for as low as USD5 a night, eat Pho Bo in the street restaurants for dollar or two and travel to a city hundreds of kilometers away for less than USD 10.
This is where we spent our magical month:
1 – Hanoi
There are different options for flights and the perfect one would be to arrive at Hanoi and leave from Saigon or the other way around. This way you will not lose precious time in traveling back to where your trip started, just to catch your flight back home. If you are not sure whether to start your trip from the North or from the South just check the temperatures. If the South will be very hot when you plan to arrive then start with it or you risk melting by the time you reach it from the North.
2 – Hanoi
The first day doesn’t really count as you would probably be very tired after travelling for many hours so just use it to relax, get used to the temperatures, the time difference and the atmosphere.
3 – Hanoi – Sapa
From Hanoi it is convenient to catch a night train to Sapa and see the amazing garden terraces while trekking in the beautiful forest. You can find more information on organizing your trip to Sapa here.
4 – Sapa
We slept in a village near Sapa which was the perfect choice. It was all very authentic compared to the concrete landscape in Sapa flooded with hotels and tourists.
5 – Sapa – Hanoi
We spent the day in the Sapa valley, travelled to Lao Cai in the late afternoon where we spent a few hours and then travelled with the night train. We arrived in Hanoi quite early in the morning. So keep in mind that you will not be able to check in at your hotel and will have to wait for a few hours before being able to do so.
There is so much you can do in Hanoi. I would recommend going to the Long Bien Bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel and then checking the Mosaic Road right under it.
This city is forever in my heart. I could spend one month only there. As I said there is plenty to do and see, but even if you just walk around and try some of the street restaurants all around you, you will still feel quite satisfied.
7 – Hanoi
Here is a list of my favorite things to do and see while in Hanoi: Top things to do and see in Hanoi
8 – Hanoi
9 – Hanoi – Ha Long Bay cruise
This is probably the trickiest part you will need to put efforts in for your journey. Finding the right cruise company is essential for enjoying this magical place. If you are on a budget this will also be the most expensive of your costs. What is important is not to book a cheap tour. Spend some more money to make sure you will enjoy it to the fullest and not get the whole experience ruined by bad organization, bad food, dirty room or old boat, which you don’t feel safe on. You can either book online or do it once you arrive in Hanoi. All hotels and hostels can arrange it for you. I personally wanted to have everything arranged prior to our arrival so I booked online with Lavelacruisehalong
The service was exceptional, the food amazing, our room had huge windows so we could enjoy the magical view from our bed. Highly recommended!
10 – Ha Long Bay
Since we booked a 2 days 1 night cruise as we couldn’t afford the 3 days 2 nights option, we decided to book accommodation for one night in Ha Long town. Well, what can I say, don’t do it. There is nothing much to see there, just one big street and literally nothing to do. So if I had the option to plan this trip again, I would skip spending this one day there and include Hue in the program instead.
11 – Ha Long – Hanoi
We booked our bus tickets through the hotel and were back in beautiful Hanoi in several hours.
12 – Hanoi
13 – Hanoi – Da Nang flight – Hoi An
Hoi An is a must see in this lifetime so unless you have other destinations in mind near Hanoi, you can head directly this way. As the distance from Hanoi is about 800 km, the most convenient way of travelling would be by plane. There are relatively cheap tickets offered by several carriers. You can check the websites of some here:
The nearest airport to the city of Hoi An is Da Nang. From there you can easily arrange transportation. If you are in the mood for adventure you can take the public buses or keep it simple and just take a taxi. Our hotel arranged a pickup for us which was really convenient. For Vietnam it was a bit pricey – around USD 10 but with our heavy backpacks it was a relief.
14 – Hoi An
The old town is pretty small but there is still plenty to see there so you can spend two days just walking around. You need to buy a ticket for entering it which is valid for several days. The ticket will also grant you access to a certain number of touristic sites within the old town. When you book your accommodation check if they provide bikes for free because you will need one. Motorbikes and cars are not allowed in the old town.
15 – Hoi An
There are many different sites located in close proximity to Hoi An. One I definitely recommend is the ancient sanctuary of My Son. We rented a motorbike for the day and went there. To avoid the touristic crowds you should either go very early or 2 hours before it closes so check the opening hours.
16 – Hoi An
You can also go to the beach which is some kilometers away. We went with our bikes. Just make sure to leave for the beach early in the morning or the heat will be unbearable. On your way you will see the buffalos taking a bath in the rice fields on both sides of the road.
17 – Hoi An – Da Nang – Nha Trang
We took the public bus to go to Da Nang and from there traveled with a train to Nha Trang. The train station was a bit far and our only option was to take a taxi to reach our hotel. Nha Trang is heaven for party lovers and those who like to spend money on expensive hotels and restaurants. It wasn’t our cup of tea though.
18 – Nha Trang
I highly recommend a walk along the coast and a visit of the Ponagar Tower on the other side of the bridge. In the evening this is the best neighborhood for street food we could find.
19 – Nha Trang
We rented a scooter to explore some other beaches in the area which was really worth it. We found a beach with almost no people on it and crystal clear water. If you are not into touristic crowds on the beach this would be a good option.
20 – Nha Trang – Dalat
Dalat has its unique micro-climate with temperatures much lower than the rest of Vietnam so if you are tired of the heat this is the perfect place to enjoy some cold fresh nights. The French liked to built their vacation houses here during the occupation and you can still notice their French influence. Dalat is very different from the rest of Vietnam and there are also beautiful sites to visit within a few kilometers.
21 – Dalat
We rented a scooter and visited the Elephant waterfall, found some local restaurants on the way and tried the shrimp pancakes for the first time.
22 – Dalat
23 – Dalat – Mui Ne
We bought bus tickets to Mui Ne through our hotel and then just caught a taxi from the place the bus dropped us to our hotel.
24 – Mui Ne
Choose carefully your accommodation as the beach is 10 km long and all hotels, restaurants and shops are located along it. Ours was not in the front line but on the hill. This was actually great as the street to our hotel was full of very good family restaurants which were also relatively cheap.
25 – Mui Ne
For kite surfers Mui Ne is one of the best spots. There is plenty of wind and huge waves. This means that it will not be exactly pleasant to stay on the beach since the wind will make all grains of sand unite against you and literally bite you. The water is not suitable for swimming but if you enjoy waves it is just perfect.
26 – Mui Ne
We rented a motorbike to visit the fishing village, the red and white sand dunes. This was the closest experience I have had so far which reminds of a desert and it was incredible.
27 – Mui Ne – Saigon – Can Tho
To spare time and not waste one day in Saigon before going to the Mekong Delta we decided to head directly to Can Tho which is a long and exhausting trip, but when you are pressured by the time you have to sacrifice some comfort. So we arrived in Can Tho very late in the evening. We had actually booked a train ticket from Mui Ne to Saigon in advance and this made all of it much more complicated. We arrived in Saigon in the late afternoon and then had our bus to Can Tho in the evening. Much easier would be to buy bus tickets from Mui Ne directly to Can Tho.
28 Mekong Delta
We stayed in Nguyen Schack which I highly recommend. The place is amazing, the breakfast outstanding and the people working there the friendliest we have met during our trip in Vietnam. This was just the perfect way to finish the Vietnam adventure!
29 Mekong Delta
We booked a boat trip to the floating market to explore it early in the morning. Don’t miss it, it is quite an experience especially if there is a local person to provide you with some information on what is going on.
In the evening we took the bikes and cycled to Can Tho town. On our way back, when it was already passing midnight, we were able to explore the quiet neighborhoods, water channels, listen to the song of the frogs in the rice paddies. It was magical!
30 Can Tho – Saigon
With the bus we were in Saigon within a few hours. On the next day we headed to the airport to catch the flight back home.
This is the really short version, I hope it will help you plan your trip and not miss places you haven’t heard about which you will actually like a lot.
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