Ever wanted to repel down a 100 foot waterfall face in Da Lat? Be in the middle of the hustle in bustle of either Hanoi or Saigon? Wander through on of the largest cave systems in the world in Na Dang? Or better yet, take a motor bike across one of the most famous routes in South East Asia known as the Hai Van pass? If yes to any of these then welcome to TrekPrep's 2 week travel itinerary through Vietnam!
Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in South East Asia and has an incredible amount of history to experience for yourself. Furthermore, it is a popular spot for many backpackers that are doing the "Banana Pancake" trail. If you're not familiar with this track and have more than 2 months of travel time, we highly suggest completing it. But since a majority of us have only 2 weeks of travel, we have created the following itinerary based off our experiences, as well as others. Please feel free to leave any feedback and updates so this itinerary can be as accurate as possible!
Note: If you are coming from Cambodia, you can start this trip in Ho Chi Minh City (Siagon) and if you are coming from Laos you can start it in Hanoi. If you are flying in, either city works, just advise on if you want to start at the bottom or the top of the post!
Below is the itinerary and activities for Vietnam that we put together for your two week travels. While there are many small towns and villages to stop by, we have put together an itinerary that will give you the best experience. As you go through the post, there is information regarding activities, accommodations and traveling between city to city. Furthermore, if you plan on staying for a shorter amount of time, feel free to leave a comment asking what to cut out or adjust the below accordingly to what you want to do.
Remember that you can start in either Ho Chi Minh City or in Hanoi. If you decide on Hanoi, start at the bottom of the itinerary!
Map of Route Traveled Through Vietnam
The visa requirements for South East Asia are different for each country. If you are going to Vietnam and know in advance, you can apply for a Vietnam Visa on Arrival fee where you pay a service fee and a stamping fee. The minimum visa you can purchase is a one month visa and all pricing and options can be found here.
If you are traveling from Cambodia to Vietnam and don’t have time to grab a visa before, there are alternative ways to getting into the country. In Phenom Penh, if you stay at any of the funky backpacker hostels you can talk to the local hostel staff who can get you a Vietnam Visa for a cheaper price. If you want/need to do this, please advise that this requires you to hand over your passport to them with the intention to get it back the next day. On our travels, we went through this process and didn’t run into any issues but every experience is different.
Getting Around Vietnam
There are many different ways to get around the city or from one destination to another whether it be a tuk-tuk or taxi. We suggest that if you're landing in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, arrange with your hostel or hotel to have a taxi pick you up. If you decide to hail a taxi for yourself, make sure to pick one that has meter so your don't get scammed.
Bus Motorbike Rental Taxi Motorbike Taxi
Additional Transportation Information
Motorbike Rental: For those that are planning on spending longer than 2 months in Vietnam, a popular option is to start in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and buy a motorbike to travel up the coast line with. This gives you the ultimate freedom to do what you want but it does have some drawbacks. Most bikes have traveled up and down this route for years and their condition is pretty poor. Make sure that you get a bike from a good traveler and at the right price. They usually go for around $250-$300 USD.
Taxi and XE OM (Motorbike Taxi) Scams: If you want to learn more about avoiding taxi scams in Vietnam, visit vietnamonline.com for more information.
Day 0-1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Arriving into Ho chi Minh by air, you will land at the Tan Son Nhat airport which is about a 25 minute drive to the center of the city. There are multiple ways to get to where you need to go, but its important to remember that it depends on where your hostel is located.
In general, we would suggest getting a taxi if you don't know how to reach your hostel by bus. This will be a little more expense around 150,000-200,000 VND ($7-10 USD vs $.90 by bus) but it'll save you the trouble if you want to avoid it. We would recommend using either VINASUN or MAI LINH taxi's because they use the meter to calculate the fares and wont rip you off. Once you arrive at your hostel, here are some of the activities that you can do in the city.
Ho Chi Minh City Activities
War Remnants Museum
Cu Chi Tunnels
Ho Chi Minh City Accommodations
The Hangout Hostel The Hideout Hostel New Saigon Hostel 2
For other options in Ho Chi Minh City, please visit Hotselworld.com for more!
Traveling By Overnight Bus to Da Lat:
Going from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat by an overnight bus is the cheapest and most convenient way to go. You can do this by booking through one of the reliable bus companies (TheSinhTourist or Phuong Trang) for in between 250,000 and 300,000 VND ($10-12 USD) and either at your hostel or online through Baolou or 12go.asia. Remember to show up 30-60 minutes early at the station: the bus ride will take anywhere from 7 to 9 hours depending on the traffic. Below are pictures of what the bus/bus seats look like.
Day 2-4: Da Lat
Once you arrive on to Da Lat, you will be dropped off at the bus station located at 01 To Hien Thanh. If you traveled by Phuong Trang (Futa Bus) then your ticket includes a free shuttle to the hotel or hostel in town. You will be approached by taxis, but make sure to shoo them off.
Once you find a shuttle, just show the drive the address of your accommodations and you should be set.
Getting Around Da Lat
Bus Motorbike Rental Taxi Motorbike Taxi
Walking: Depending on the length and where you stay in Da Lat, walking a great way to see the city and stumble onto some great shops and restaurants. Be warned though, the town is very hilly so paying a premium for a taxi or motorbike may be the way to go.
Activities in Da Lat
Da Lat Canyoning Tour
Pongour Falls Elephant Falls
100 Roof's Bar
Accommodations in Dalat
Delat Family Hostel Red House Backpacker
For other options in Da Lat, please visit Booking.com for more!
Traveling from Da Lat to Hoi An
You have two options when it comes to traveling from Da Lat to Hoi An.
By Bus: You can go to the Futa Bus office in downtown Da Lat and purchase a ticket the day before. It is an overnight bus that leaves at 4pm and gets you to the Hoi An bus terminal at 8am the next day. From there you can take the yellow bus to get into Hoi An town. Be forewarned that this is a long trip and bus drivers can be reckless at times but in general these trips are safe. Price: $19 USD
By Air: Leaving from Da Lat there is one, 1 hour and 30 minute flight per day that arrives in Da Nang. From Da Nang, you can take a 20 minute taxi arranged by your hostel or hotel into Hoi An to avoid being scammed (Price: around $14 USD).
While the prices for these flights range depending on the time you book it, a one-way can start from $38 USD. To view flights, visit vietnam-airline.travel for prices and times.
Day 6-7: Hoi An
Hoi An is located in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old town, located in the city’s historic district, has been well preserved and is famous of its port trading as well as their ceramics and leather goods.
Activities in Hoi An
Hoi An Night Market Thanh Ha Pottery Village Cultural Museums
Renting a Bike: For as little as a dollar per day, you can rent a decent bike (no gears) and ride around the town of Hoi An. You can ride it to the beach, which is easy to get to on the single lane roads, ride through marshes outside the city or practically anywhere. Highly recommended that you do this experience, it won’t disappoint!
Accommodations in Hoi An
Halo Homestay Vietnam Backpacker Hostel
If you are looking for other options in Hoi An, please visit Booking.com!
Day 8: Traveling the Hai Van Pass from Hoi An to Hue (stay night)
For anyone that plans on traveling to Vietnam, there is one must do activity and that’s renting a motorbike and cruising through the Hai Van Pass. Arguably one of the most beautiful drives you will ever do, you will not be disappointed by the scenery. You can do one-way rentals booked through your hostel where a van will pick up your backpack belongings and drop it off at your hostel or hotel in Hue. For in between a price of $7-10 USD you can rent a bike. Drive time is approximately 3-5 hours but account for another 2-3 hours for the amount of time you will stop and enjoy to scenery. Below is a map to show what the drive looks like:
Along the way you will run into several stops with Da Nang being one of the most popular. Some of the stops we suggest that you make are at Marble Mountain, Da Nang Beach and Cham Museum. Also, make sure that you stop and grab some food there before heading out as the trip ahead is more scenic then city.
NOTE: While Hue has some of the best beaches and ancient monuments that Vietnam offers, we would suggest only staying the night in Hue and catching a bus the next morning out to Phong Nha. Reason for this is that if you plan on traveling back to South East Asia or want to extend your trip, there will be plenty of other temples and beaches to see. The Phong Nha caves are a very unique system of caves which people all over the world travel to see. Spending 2 nights there is really necessary to appreciate its beauty.
Accommodation in Hue
Ngoc Hung Backpackers Hostel
Make sure that the hostel that you book in Hue allows for the one-way drop off bike service. Most of them do, but it's always good to double check before booking another room! Furthermore, your can book your bus ticket to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park from your hostel. This bus ride is a little over 4 hours long and either leaves inthe early morning around 8 or mid afternoon around 2.
For more hostel option in Hue, please visit Booking.com!
Day 9-11: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
While the town of Phong Nha-Ke Bang is really one long street, the national park is quite large and would take a motorbike to get to all of the caves. We recommend renting a motorbike for the time that you are there since you can tour the caves by yourself (only having to pay a small entrance and parking fee to get in).
The price of renting a motorbike is around 100,000 VND per day ($4.50 USD) but advise that the condition of the bikes are not all the great. Make sure to take pictures or a video beforehand so you won’t be scammed for any “damages”. The area is so much fun to explore on your bike and the single lane roads make it so there safe with no traffic.
Activities in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Phong Nha Cave Boat Ride
Paradise Cave Dark Cave
Hai’s Eco Conservation Day Tour
Accommodations in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
Easy Tiger: For bookings. (email@example.com or 0232 367 7844).
Phong Nha-Tuan Garden House
Traveling from Phong Nha-Ke Bang to Hanoi
By Bus: Arguably the longest bus drive that you will take on your backpacking journey, the 9 hour ride from Phong Nha to Hanoi is less than to be desired for. We would recommend taking the Camel Travel Bus, which departs overnight from Phong Nha at 9pm and will arrive in Hanoi around 6am. You can buy tickets in Phong Nha at Phong Nha Backpacker Hostel. Thankfully, the buses are air-conditioned and have a small toilet. WiFi is pretty dodgy on these overnight buses so I wouldn’t bank on it being available. Price: From $14-16 USD
If you have more time in the country and wish to see other options of getting to/from Phong Nah, click the link here to see what the schedules are for traveling by train or air.
Days 11-14: Hanoi + Day Trip to Ha Long Bay/Mai Chau
Whether you're starting or finishing your trip in Hanoi, you well come into a highly populated city with small streets and shops that stretch as far as the eye can see. If you happen to come into Hanoi by Phong Nha, it will be around 6am so hopefully you were able to get a good night’s rest to take on your last couple days in Vietnam.
Below are the activities that you should look to do in Hanoi.
Activities in Hanoi:
Explore the Old Quarter: If you ended up booking an accommodation in the Old Quarter be prepared to have a full day of exploration. Most of the popular land marks are located about a mile away from most hostels so they are easy to reach. Plenty of delicious authentic Vietnamese cuisines can be found along the street sides and you can finish off the day by visiting the popular Hanoi Weekend Night Market that starts at 7pm. In any case, you can find something to see or do during your stay in the Old Quarter.
Ha Long Bay Day Trip (or Overnight Trip)
Hanoi Street Food Walking Tour
Mai Chau Overnight Homestay Tour
Accommodations in Hanoi:
Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel – Downtown (Party Hostel)
Given the short amount of time, we would recommend staying in the Old Quarter. More than likely you will be doing an overnight trip to Ha Long Bay or Mu Chau, so the hostel or hotel you stay at won’t matter much other than if you want to do a guided pub crawl. Check out Booking.com to see other options for the area that fit your wants!
Day 14: Fly Back From Hanoi to Home
Remember when booking your trip that you will need to buy a flight back to where your international flight is leaving from. On average, flights will cost you around $160 USD to get you back to where you started from, whether it be Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The flight is around 2 hours so make sure to take that into account when booking your flight back home
We hope that you have enjoyed going through my two week travel itinerary for Vietnam. While everything on here is based off my experiences and from talking with other travelers, any additional feedback and suggestions are always welcome! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.