Suggested Itineraries for Vietnam

October 20, 2012 by

Asia, Best of the Viator Blog, Foodie Tours, Suggested Itineraries

Vietnam Itinerary_coffee

Vietnamese coffee

Editor’s Note: I originally posted this Vietnam itinerary to answer the questions I was fielding from friends about suggested itineraries for Vietnam. Over the past two years dozens of travelers have asked some great questions about what to see and do in Vietnam, which I wanted to share. If you have a question, just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to reply.

Let’s start with the coffee. Because in Vietnam coffee is more than just a drink. It doesn’t come venti or frappuccinoed or with whipped cream. And it definitely does not cost $3.75 a shot. No, coffee in Vietnam is thick, cheap and super-sweet. And it is beautiful.

Good coffee is just one of the many happy discoveries I had in Vietnam. It was my first trip, and as an American I had some baggage about visiting. You know, the war and all. The Vietnam War (or as it’s called locally, the American War). Telling friends that I was planning a trip to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) generated a shock-surprise-fear response that I was not prepared for, at least from people old enough to remember the nightly news reports from the battlefront.

So I was half-expecting a chilly response when I arrived. After all more than 400,000 Vietnamese civilians were killed in the war, not to mention the impact on the land itself (ever heard of Agent Orange?). There were plenty of reasons for the Vietnamese not to like Americans.


Crazy crowded streets of Hanoi. BYO motorbike.

Yet the reality could not have been more different. No matter where I went, no matter who I met, the people of Vietnam were unfailingly polite, friendly, approachable. I am not just saying that, either. I’ve been to dozens of countries, and there is no contest here: by a mile the Vietnamese win the awards for “most friendly” and “most gracious.”

The other great surprise for me in Vietnam was the food. Fresh, simple and full of flavor. Since my trip I’ve become addicted to pho (rice noodle soup), which is delicious for breakfast or dinner; gao nep (sticky rice), which is suitable for the vegetarians among us; and nem (spring rolls), made with rice paper, minced pork, crab, mushrooms and extra-fine noodles called vermicelli.

Hoi An Cooking Class

Scott learns to cook in Hoi An

I spent almost 3 weeks in Vietnam, traveling south to north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. My Vietnam itinerary is below, focusing on the best places to see in Vietnam in case you’re planning a trip of your own. If you have questions about Vietnam, leave a reply and I’ll do my best to field an answer for you.

    • Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City (direct flight)
    • 2 days in Ho Chi Minh City. On this last trip I didn’t get a chance to tour the Mekong Delta, but wish I had. It’s a beautiful spot and I always love exploring it. The city itself is worth exploring. The American War museum is first-rate. Plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs have opened in the past few years. I’ve heard some people say that Ho Chi Minh City has the best nightlife in Southeast Asia.
    • 3 days in Mui Ne, a postcard-perfect beach village, very quiet and laid-back. Definitely not as busy as Na Trang. I prefer the calm of Mui Ne to the bustle of Na Trang.
    • Then it was off to Hoi An (via an overnight train from Na Trang to Danang). Hoi An was my second-favorite spot in Vietnam. The center of Hoi An is a well-preserved French Colonial relic, with limited access to cars. For me the place was heaven. Hoi An has cafes, street markets, riverside restaurants, and the best hand-tailored clothes in Vietnam. I took a cooking class (you can book Vietnam cooking classes over on Viator) and learned how to make fish wrapped in banana leaves, squid salad and homemade dumplings. For less than US$100 I also had 7 shirts, 3 pants, 1 jacket and 1 suit made to order. The quality is not perfect. But who cares at these prices. One tip: If you own a shirt that you like or that fits you especially well, bring it! The local tailors can make copies in a dozen different fabrics.
Halong Bay

Sightseeing boats on Halong Bay, Vietnam

  • We took a short flight from Danang to Hanoi, my favorite place in all of Vietnam. I don’t know what it is about Hanoi that I clicked with. Maybe the jam-packed streets, packed sardine-style with bicycles and mopeds, which you cross at your own risk. Or maybe the tree-lined streets bursting with all manner of stores, shops, workshops, alleyways, impromptu temples, sidewalk restaurants.
  • We also did a trip to Halong Bay, which is definitely worth doing. If the weather is hot, consider doing an overnight or two-night trip so you can swim and relax and take in the scenery. The setting is absolutely unique, with rounded rock formations as far as the eye can see, often shrouded in mist that gives Halong Bay an otherworldly feel.
  • Last but not least, it was a flight back to Bangkok. While you’re there, get a message at the Wat Po Traditional Thai Massage School (on the grounds of Wat Po itself, in the heart of Bangkok). It costs something like $5 for 30 minutes. Was it the best massage I’ve ever had? Yup. And it’s enough to make me plan another trip to Vietnam. Via Thailand, of course.

Scott McNeely

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208 Responses to “Suggested Itineraries for Vietnam”

  1. iZtrip Says:

    What do you think about Hue? I think that it is one of the best places in Vietnam!


  2. Scott Mc Says:

    I really enjoyed Hue, as well. It’s a very different feel. More like an open-air museum with some stunning architecture. It’s definitely worth a few days when you’re traveling in central Vietnam, for sure.

  3. Hedi Says:

    We’re planning a 2 week vacation in late May. Do you think there is a difference in experience if we go from North to South or would you suggest going from South to North?

  4. Scott Mc Says:

    Hedi — I really enjoyed going south to north for a few reasons. First of all, it was great to start in the south in HCM city. It was a good starting point, and being an American it helped me orient myself historically. I also enjoyed starting out with a few beaches and relaxing days (in Mui Ne, especially) before heading into the more ‘adventurous’ north. And honestly, I really enjoyed ending my trip in Hanoi. It is one of my favorite cities in Asia. I’m the sort of person that saves their favorite foods till last when eating, so the idea of starting in Hanoi (one of my favorites) just doesn’t sit right with me.

    It also depends what your goal is. If you are really keen to visit the Hill Tribes around Sapa, it might be wise to start in the north to make sure you have enough time / energy for the treks, then meander your way down south.

    Not sure if I’ve been any help! As you can tell, I think you can’t go wrong either way.

  5. Robert Says:

    Scott – My friend and I have about two weeks in southeast Asia. We were thinking of doing a week in Thailand and a week in Vietnam. What do you think? I know we could do just two weeks in Vietnam but we want to see both places. Do you have any suggested itineraries since we will only be able to spend a week in each country? Thanks so much for your help!

  6. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Robert. I think a week in Vietnam is OK but you will have to be very focused. I don’t think it’s feasible to see both the south and north of Vietnam in a week. You’ll simply be too tired from all the traveling.

    I’m sure people will disagree with me here, but I really really really like Hanoi. So I can’t imagine visiting Vietnam without spending time here. If you do it this way, you could spend a few days in Hanoi, do an overnight trip to Halong Bay, and then maybe do a 2-day trip to Sapa and the Hill Tribe areas.

    Otherwise, you could fly into Ho Chi Minh city, maybe do a few days in the Mekong Delta, and then go for a few days in Hoi An (which is my second-favorite spot in Vietnam).

    You’ll have a great time either way. Of course, if you can add a third week to your trip, so much the better!

  7. Robert Says:

    thanks for the advice scott. Unfortunately we only have 2 weeks due to the “job” issue so we figured that a week in each place might suffice although we would love to see both places. Because of our schedules we are planning on arriving into Vietnam on June 30th and leaving on July 7th. Will the weather be miserable with rain the entire time or will it be reasonable? We just don’t want to go if it is going to be raining the entire time. It’s obviously the rainy season but we were just curious as to how bad it gets and it would be great to get your insight. Right now we are planning on flying into Saigon (flights wouldnt work for Hanoi) and following your suggested itinerary and then flying to Phuket and traveling around Thailand. Any help would be great… Thanks so much

  8. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Robert. No, it won’t be miserable at that time. But you will definitely encounter some rain. I think the rainy season is more noticeable up north, so in one sense your itinerary in the south will work in your favor. My only advice is to be flexible when you arrive. Traveling in Vietnam is not ‘fast’. If the rains are severe, just be prepared to go slow and maybe cut a destination from your itinerary so you’re not caught trying to travel quickly from A to B to C in the monsoons.

  9. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Robert.

    One other thing — Cheryn just posted a new story on Hanoi and its old quarter. I agree with her, this is one of the most amazing places to explore in northern Vietnam. I’m not trying to make your trip decision harder, honest!

  10. Katy Says:

    Thanks for posting this– very informative and definitely makes me want to go to Vietnam!
    Another weather-related question; do you know what it’s like to travel at end of Sep/early Oct? Could one plan to follow an itinerary similar to yours, or will monsoons make it difficult or unpleasant? I realize that the average rainfall is still pretty high at that time, but I’m not sure how significant those numbers are in terms of having an enjoyable trip.

  11. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Katy. I think if you can swing it, go in October. That’s one of the best all-around months to visit Vietnam. In September it’s going to be cold and wet pretty much everywhere north of Nha Trang. So Hanoi would definitely be mushy and cold. That said, September is warm and wet in the south, so it really depends on your itinerary.

    But October is sort of a bridge between the two monsoon seasons. And it won’t be as cold or wet up north, nor as hot and wet in the south. October is a pretty good compromise.

    I don’t think the monsoon itself is that much of a travel hassle. You get used to it fast.

    So if you’re following my itinerary, go as late as you can (mid-October would be ideal) and start in the south and make your way north. That should give you the best chance of making the weather work with you, not against you.

    Happy travels.

  12. Michelle Says:

    Hi Scott!

    This is great information!

    I’m planning my trip to Vietnam as we speak and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on visiting Cat Ba during the rainy season. I’m planning to go at the end of June and would love to spend 2 or 3 nights on the island, but wouldn’t want to be relegated to inside the entire time. Are there other things to do besides the beach? And, can I expect ANY sun?


  13. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Michelle.

    I hate to say it, but I have not been to Cat Ba island. So I’m not sure what the odds are of seeing any sun during the rainy season.

    Has anybody else been to Cat Ba island during the rainy season?

  14. PHIL BROCK Says:

    can any one advise what the weather will be like in hanoi and halong bay in september

    many thanks


  15. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Phil. September is definitely wet, especially in the north. You can expect rain and some chilly nights, especially in Hanoi. For whatever reason, Hanoi is a lot colder than you’d think.

    There’s no reason *not* to go at that time. You just need to be prepared for some rain.

    Happy travels.

  16. Duong, Ngo Hai Says:

    Hi Scott
    Iam a Vietnamese and working in Vietnam tourism field.
    So Iam very happy to read all the experiences you have in Vietnam.
    Hopefully, I see you in Vietnam again in near future.
    Many thanks

  17. Amy Says:

    Dear Scott,

    I am going to Vietnam and Angkor Wat for my honeymoon in mid-December through the new year . What do you think the weather will be in the north? And, I’d like to hit some beaches first upon arrival from the states. What would your ideal itinerary be, including Cambodia?

    Many thanks!


  18. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Amy, I haven’t been to Cambodia, so I’m not much help there. But in the north of Vietnam, December and January are good months to travel. Hanoi is dry (December & January are the two driest months of the year in Hanoi) and, though the weather is a little cold, it’s still in the 50F – 60F (15C – 20C) range. So go for it, you should be fine.

    Beaches? Well, I love Mui Ne. And if you’re on a honeymoon, there are plenty of high-end resorts and hotels to chose from, in case you want to splash out a little.

    Have fun!

  19. Norman Says:

    Hi Scott, we are in the early stages of planning a trip to Vietnam in 2008. So, we are totally open to dates and intineraries. How would you decribe the ideal 3 weeks in Vietnam, and what time of the year would you go to maximize good weather and any special festivals that would add something special to our vacation. We travel light and don’t look for 5 star lodging, but perfer to be as close as possibel to native culture. Any and all advice would be welcome.

  20. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Norm. I think March & April are great months to travel in Vietnam. You get some rain, but not too much, and some heat, but not overwhelming. So if you could pick any two months of the year for all-around good weather, I’d vote for March or April.

    In terms of an itinerary, with 3 full weeks, you could make the south–north journey in a fairly leisurely way. I I like the idea of spending a week or so in and around Ho Chi Minh City, a day trip or overnight trip to the Mekong Delta, maybe a day touring the Vietnam War-era tunnels. Then heading out, following a route similar to the one I describe above: Mui Ne, maybe a day or two in Dalat, a day or two in Nha Trang if you want a bit of nightlife, definitely a few days in Hoi An and Hue, then up to Hanoi. I love Hanoi, so I’d spend a few days there, then try to include an overnight trip to Halong Bay, and 3 or 4 days in the Sapa region.

    You can do all of this trip by bus and train; though it is also possible to fly (cheaply) from Danang to / from Hanoi, which cuts out one of the longer legs of the train ride from Hoi An / Hue.

    And then… I head over the border to Laos and spend a month there! I guess you only have 3 weeks, oh well, you can head over to Laos on your next trip.

    Hope this helps.

  21. Eddie Says:

    Hi Scott, my wife and I are heading to Hanoi for 6 days at the beginning of November. We were thinking of doing Hanoi for a few days, an overnight to Halong Bay and a 2-day trip to Sapa. I have been debating booking a tour ahead of time or reserving a hotel, getting into Hanoi and booking the trips the first day in Hanoi.

    In your opinion, is it better to book everything beforehand or to do it when we are there?

    BTW, your blog is very helpful. Look forward to getting your response.


  22. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Eddie.

    So my advice is to book ahead. On one hand, that’s what you probably would expect me to say, since I work at a company that specializes in booking tours and activities ahead of time. Of course I am a little biased!

    But honestly, here’s why I think it’s better to book ahead. There are dozens and dozens of local providers, and it’s really hard to know who to trust / book with. And some of the companies in Hanoi do not do a good job explaining, up front, exactly what you get. For example, when we went to Hanoi the first time, we did not book ahead. And we ended up an a Halong Bay boat that had seen better days, unlike the photos in the office where we actually booked.

    We had a similar problem with Sapa. The company we booked with ended up changing the itinerary at the last minute, and not telling us.

    So, in a nutshell, that’s the reason to book ahead. I don’t want to sound like an advertisement, but, well, here it is: the whole purpose of Viator is to find high-quality local experiences, and to make sure you get what you pay for when you book. Have a look at the full list of Halong Bay boat cruises & tours and other things to do from Hanoi. And read what other travelers are saying. That’s always your best guide.

    I also think it’s a good idea to book a hotel ahead. Surprisingly, Hanoi does not have that many decent hotels. There are plenty of hostels and really cheap dorms. But if you want a private room, the selection is limited. When we arrived (again, without booking ahead) we ended up walking to about 6 different hotels before we found an available room.

    Hope this helps. Happy travels.

  23. Holly Says:


    My boyfriend and I are planning to go to Vietnam in the beginning of April for 2 weeks. We will end up with 12 or so days minus all the traveling. We were hoping to get to do the South to North trip, but are afraid that it will be too rushed and that we won’t get any relaxing time. Do you agree?

    So now we are thinking of other options, like maybe doing the North with an overnight train to Hue and Hoi An. Your suggested itinerary to another reader for the north was for one week – but how would you extend it to get the most out of 2 weeks?


  24. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Holly. Two weeks is actually a decent amount of time, so you should be OK. It won’t be 100% relaxed, and you will not see everything. BUt as long as you can live with these realities, you’ll have a great trip.

    I think the basic outline is as follows (you could do this north-south or south-north, depending on where you fly into). This is essentially the trip I outlined in my original post, which was about 12 days total (not including travel).

    3 days in Ho Chi Minh City, including day trip to the Delta and/or the Tunnels depending on your interest in history.

    2 days in Mui Ne (a great spot to relax, swim, do nothing) or 2 days in Nha Trang (more nightlife, more stuff, more people). You can skip these both if you want more time in & around Sapa up north.

    Bus to Hoi An, spend at least 2 days there, ideally 3. Then a day or two in Hue. If you had to chose one over the other, I’d vote Hoi An for sure.

    The catch the train (or you can even fly) from Danang to Hanoi. At least 3 days in Hanoi, which either puts you at about 12 days total. Or if you skipped Mui Ne / Nha Trang, then you could spend 2 (rushed) days exploring Sapa from Hanoi. Or a night or two on Halong Bay.

    Whoops. That’s more than 12 days total, isn’t it…?

    Have a great trip to Vietnam. Let me know how it all goes.

  25. Holly Says:

    Thanks Scott,

    Actually, I was hoping for an itinerary for 12 days in the north only, maybe with a trip down to Hue and Hoi An – but not any further south than that. Do you have an idea of roundtrip flight prices once we get there?

    Thanks again,

  26. Scott Mc Says:

    Really cheap! About US$45 to fly one-way from Danang to Hanoi, for example.

    For 12 days just in the north, then I would definitely consider:

    3 -4 days just in Hanoi. It’s an awesome city.
    2 days (1 night) on a Halong Bay cruise.
    A day trip to the Perfume Pagoda (from Hanoi)
    2 full days just in Sapa, and then maybe a 2-day trek up into the hills.
    Fly one way, train back (or vice versa) from Hanoi to Danang and then immediately over to Hoi An (by bus) for at least 2 days / 2 night, ideally 3, in Hoi An.

    That would be a great trip, without too much traveling.

  27. dimas Says:

    hi scott

    I will have to spend at least one year workink with an ONG at Viet Nam, but I have a word where ever I choose to live between Hanoi or Saigon………………Is it that unpleasant Saigon for you never mentioned it? I mean you keep saying how wonderful is Hanoi. Will appreciate your feedback on this 🙂

  28. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Dimas.

    No!!!! I definitely don’t want to leave the impression that Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) is awful. Not at all. It’s just much larger, more developed, more hectic and more free-for-all than Hanoi. HCM City feels, to me, like a good place to live if you’re into nightlife, bustle and don’t mind the craziness of a large city.

    Hanoi, on the other hand, is smaller, less developed (though that’s changing fast) and not as overrun with bars, restaurants and the like, especially outside the tourist zones.

    I’ve never lived in either place, so maybe somebody that has will leave a comment. But I think it’s very much like comparing an apple to an orange. It really depends what you’re hungry for.

  29. Endre Says:

    oooh, I wrote a long story about the two cities but forgot the anti spam field and my comment was deleted..:(((

    so if you are young and outgoing, dont choose Hanoi!!

    Hanoi is dead…

    for europeans/americans both city is very crowded and noisy – no difference. Hanoi for the first sight looks better, wider roads, better organized – thats all. No social and night life in this city, especially since the new law. If you plan to go to the sea in the weekends HCMC also better for this (Ha Long bay is ok for visiting the rocks, but to enjoy a beach and the sea you have to go to the south..).

    so be carefull with Hanoi – I had to make the same choise as you – and I choosed Hanoi – great mistake! 🙂 since that I had the possibility to know better both cities – I am moving to HCMC…

  30. Scott Mc Says:

    Thanks Endre for the insider’s tip. (And apologies about the spam filter!) So folks, there we have it: Hanoi is dead if you’re young and outgoing. That makes senses, it does seem like Hanoi is much more quiet and low-key. Endre, next time I’m in Ho Chi Minh City, maybe you can show me some good bars!

  31. Jessica Says:


    You have some great advice! I enjoyed reading all the posts. What other areas have you been in Thailand? My husband and I are moving and were able to carve out 2 months to travel around southeast asia. We found out a short time ago and are planning to go this coming May – June. We are just now starting research and are having a hard time knowing where to begin. Our thought was to go to Thailand first and get our diving certification and then travel to vietnam, bali, singapore and cambodia. Not in that order…and we’re definitely not limited to these specific areas (except singapore to visit friends). Any other suggestions on what not to miss? Neither of us have been before. 2 months can go by quick so we want to have a tentative game plan. We even thought about checking into flights to india as well. Any advice you have is appreciated!!!


  32. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Jessica. Yes I am jealous — 2 months! That’s an incredible amount of time! There are plenty of things to cover in Southeast Asia, but at least you won’t be rushed too much. And after a few weeks you’ll really feel like a traveler. Yes I am jealous.

    In terms of an itinerary, I think Thailand is a good place to start and end a trip. It’s probably the easiest place to travel in SE Asia, and it makes a great introduction. I think a few days in Bangkok, then maybe a week or so on the islands getting certified and hanging out. I’ve been diving on both Ko Samui and Ko Tao, as well as Phuket. I love Ko Tao because it’s very laid back, and not as developed as the other islands. But all of them are great. Then maybe, on your way out of Thailand after your 2 months is nearly up, take a few days and head up to Chiang Mai and Pai (read Cheryn’s description here:

    My last tip for Thailand — be sure to get that traditional Thai massage at the massage school on the grounds of Wat Po (see above in my original post). This is the best (and cheapest) massage you will ever get. I am serious. Do this, for me, please.

    From Thailand, you could either head south through Malaysia (read Kim’s posts about Malaysia here: and then into Singapore.

    Or head from Thailand overland to Cambodia and then up into Vietnam.

    Personally I am not a huge fan of Bali. It’s a lovely place, to be sure. But if I were you, I would swap Bali for Laos. Laos is amazing. Really and truly wonderful. You’ll need some extra time to cover it, since the local transport is not great. But it is worth it. Especially Luang Prabang and the boat trip from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, start in Bangkok then visit the islands, when you’re ready head south to Malaysia and on into Singapore, then catch a plane to Cambodia, when you’re ready head over to Vietnam, then over to Laos , then catch a final flight from Vientiane back to Bangkok. If you have time, spend a few days up in Chiang Mai.

    Easy. And wonderful. Can I come?

  33. Dalatian Says:


    I have just completed a south-to-north trip in two weeks. It was a bit rushed, but I thought I would share my itinerary for those who do not have much time like myself.
    1- I landed in Saigon from Hongkong in the morning. Checked in a cheap hotel ($30/night for a twin) and immediately ventured out to check out the downtown area Ben Thanh market, Main Cathedral, Saigon Opera House, Presidential Palace etc.. The next day was spent in the Mekong delta (My Tho). Came back to Saigon/HCMC and stayed there for another 2 nights/2.5 days to visit more places. Departed at noon for Da Lat on a bus.
    2- 2 nights/1.5 days in Da Lat. Departed at noon for Nha Trang on a bus.
    3- 3 nights/2 days in Nha Trang. Flew to Danang early in the morning.
    4- Based in Danang for 2 nights/2 days. I got a cab to Hoi An immediately after landing at Danang airport. Went back to a hotel in Danang for the night. The hotel (The Little Home) offered a taxi service to Hue. We paid 900,000 vnd ($57) for the whole day. We took Hai Van mountain pass to Hue for its scenic landscape and came back through the tunnel at night. Flew to Hanoi early in the next morning.
    5- Most of the first day to check out Hanoi and the old quarter. The hostel (Joy Hotel) offered really good tour packages for Ha Long bay. We chose the ‘superior’ package which cost around $72/ea for 3 days/2 nights. We headed to Ha Long early the next morning.
    6- Spent one night on the boat, one night on Cat Ba island. Departed for Ha Noi at noon.
    7- Back to Ha Noi. Spent another 2 days/2 nights there to visit the city. Flew out of Noi Bai international airport to head back to the states.
    Another traveller

  34. China Tiger Says:

    hi. If you plan to go to the sea in the weekends HCMC also better for this (Ha Long bay is ok for visiting the rocks,

  35. tom Says:

    Hi there. Thanks for all of this information. it is fantastic!

    What are your thoughts on renting a car in Vietnam and working your way up from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi stopping at beaches along the way. Would having a car be more hassle than it’s worth?

  36. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Tom.

    I’ve never rented a car in Vietnam, so I can’t give you advice based on direct experience. However, I will say that the buses in Vietnam are good. And the train is not too bad. And it’s fairly easy to rent scooters and motorbikes (which I have done — a blast!) at the small towns along the way.

    My guess is a car would be OK, not a major hassle, but unless you really need it I think you could easily navigate Vietnam without one.

    But maybe somebody else has some advice — if so, please leave a reply and I’ll make sure it gets posted.

  37. Patty Says:


    Thanks so much for the info. It’s great!! I have a couple of logistical questions. First, I was wondering about transportation. Do I need to make a reservation for flights or train rides between the various cities (eg Vientiane to Bangkok)? For various itineraries, I’ve read “catch a plane from X to Y”. How much planning is really involved in catching a plane? How much should I be arranging from the states? Or, do I simply go to a local travel agency once I’m in-country? If yes, how do I know that it’s legit??

    Second, I was wondering about money. I read that there really weren’t ATMs in Cambodia or Laos. So, should I just go prepared w/a stack of travelers checks and exchange them at the bank for the local currency?

    With much appreciation,

  38. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Patty.

    Trains definitely don’t require reservations, unless you want to travel 1st class. In which case I’d recommend booking a few days ahead of time once you’re in Vietnam or Thailand. It’s very easy to do this (though not all routes have 1st-class cars). Except on a few popular routes in Thailand, I’ve never had a problem with the trains.

    I booked all of my flights ahead of time, on the internet, though I’m sure it’s also easy to book through a local agency once you’re in-country. Still I think it’s a good idea to book ahead, as the flights are relatively cheap and definitely fill up. In Vietnam the main domestic carrier is

    Not many ATMs in Cambodia or Laos, but plenty of them in Bangkok and Thailand. I stopped using Traveler’s Checks about 10 years ago (except for carrying a $500 traveler’s check for emergencies). So I usually bring USD with me, and then get local currency from the ATMs in Thailand and Vietnam, then exchange that. Of course, there’s no reason why you couldn’t bring traveler’s checks. Plenty of people do.

    Happy travels.

  39. Rex Matts Says:

    There are four of us (two couples 60+) who have traveled a lot. We want to go to South East Asia for a month or more. We like to stay where the backer packers stay because they know the ins and outs of travel and we enjoy talking with world travelers and exchanging experiences. Any sugesstions for travel to Vietnman, Thailand and Cambodia the fall of 2008 or later?

  40. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Rex. Apologies for the delay responding, I wanted to ask some people for advice on your question.

    And the feedback I’ve received is: everything I mentioned above in Vietnam would suit your group of four. So no worries there.

    In terms of Thailand, there’s a great Bangkok-Koh Samui-Bagkok-Chiang Rai loop you could do. It’s very backpacker-friendly (though you may find ore backpackers on the island of Koh Tao rather than Koh Samui, but both are great options).

    Cambodia? Check out Viator’s fly-in / fly-out trips to Angkor Wat from Phnom Penh. If you’re mainly interested in the temples, you can easily fly from Thailand to Cambodia (Phnom Penh) and then spend a few leisurely days at Angkor Wat (which is another magnet for backpackers).

    Hope that helps, happy travels.

  41. Laura Says:

    Hi there, just a quick question, do you think it would be totally inadvisable to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia in August. Thank you

  42. Scott Mc Says:

    No, not totally inadvisable. You just need to manage the weather a little, and the rains. August and September are warm and wet in the south, a little cold up north (in Vietnam at least). Just plan to take advantage of these two ends of the spectrum and you’ll be fine.

  43. David Mac Says:


    Just wondering what travelling round Vietnam etc would be like at start of June for month? Would the weather be really bad ? From Perth so do not mind the heat too much.

    Any help be awesome.


  44. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi David.

    June is definitely wet and humid, especially in Hanoi. It’s not the hottest or wettest month of the year in either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, so it’s not going to be awful. But yeah, it’s going to be wet and hot / humid. I wouldn’t cancel my trip, not at all. Just be prepared for a bit of rain and a bit of humidity.

  45. Arun Jain Says:

    We are planning to be in Vietnam from July 6 to 18. We fly into Hanoi and fly out of Saigon. We have some questions:
    1. We are told that it will be rainy season. How bad will it be?
    2. We want o cover Hue, Hoi An, Saigon, and Halong Bay. We would welcome suggestions for itinerary.
    3. Are there any suggestions for hotels in $20 range? Should we make advance reservations? Is it safe
    to give credit card numbers to hotels in Vietnam from here?
    4. We would love to learn about cruise group for Halong Bay. Should we make reservations from
    5. Do we need to make transportation reservation from US as we move from North to South?
    6. We would love to learn about tailors in Hoi An.
    7. What precautions we need to take regarding eating food on the street and sea food?
    8. We enjoy oriental food (Chinese/Thai/Malay). We would love to learn about favorite places to eat
    local food.
    9. What vaccination we must get?
    Thanks for help

  46. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Arun. I’ll do my best to answer your questions one by one…

    1 – Well, yes, it will rain on you! July is one of the wetter months in both the north and south. I would not cancel my trip, not at all. But I would prepare myself for rain and humidity.

    2 – That’s a great itinerary. See my original post at the top for details.

    3 – I would browse a few of the guidebooks (Lonely Planet has a good Vietnam guide). There are plenty of hotels in the $15 – 25 range. It’s probably smart to book your first night or two ahead of time (in Hanoi), otherwise I would wait until you arrive and then simply call ahead a few days. I never had to give a credit card over the phone to reserve a room in Vietnam. I think it’s probably safe, but I would be surprised if you will be asked for a credit card number (unless it’s a large international chain hotel, and then yes, credit card is expected).

    4 – There are some highly rated Halong Bay cruises on the website. Obviously I am biased towards Viator, since I manage the websites! But read some of the traveler reviews and make your own decision.

    5 – No need to book the train more than a few days ahead of time. So no worries there. If you plan to fly at all, I would look at the Vietnam Airlines website ( before you go. There are only a few flights a day, so it may make sense for you to pre-book your airfare.

    6 – Sadly I have lost the card of the tailor I used. But no worries — there are many many good tailors in Hoi An. If you want to try to find the one I used, the shop is on Nguyen street, south side, just before the intersection of Hoang van Thu.

    7 – I ate everything. And I mean everything. And I didn’t get sick. But I’m lucky like that. Exercise basic caution and you should be fine. The main thing is to avoid tap water (stick with bottled water).

    8 – Eating well in Vietnam is easy. Everything is fresh and local. My main advice is to follow the crowds, and eat where other people are eating. And pick up a decent English-Vietnamese phrasebook, so you can ask for foods you like.

    9 – Vietnam does not require any special vaccinations. That said, it’s always wise to have a current Hepatitis A shot, as Hep A is very common in Southeast Asia.

    Hope that helps, have a great trip.

  47. Andrew Says:

    Gday Scott

    Just a quick one as to the best times to travel. My girfriend is hindered by her school hols so we can either go from about 28th june to 18-20 july or 29th sept to 20th oct, which would you choose as to the better time to go.

    also would we be wise to try and fit in some of cambodia or laos in only 3 weeks or would you devote all that time to vietnam. She would like to finish off with about 2-3 days chilling on a beach so i’m presuming it’s wise for us to go from north to south. Is that correct??

    if we have 3 weeks would you travel to everywhere by bus or train or would you fly to some areas considering the time we are there.

    thanks for any help you or any others can provide.



  48. Colleen Says:

    Hi Scott,
    I am planning a trip for 3 weeks in Vietnam in mid October this year. I have found this site very helpful and have planned to take a couple of viator day trips while we are there. I would love to know how you travelled from H.C.M.C to Na Trang and then to Hoi An. At this stage i am planning on stopping at Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Danang, Heu, and then flying to Hanoi. From Hanoi we will spend 2 nights on a junk in Halong Bay and maybe visit Sapa if time allows. I’m just not sure how to travel for the first part of the trip. Bus, train or fly?? How did you get from A to B?
    Kind regards,

  49. Henk Says:

    Hey Scott,

    Just thought I’d use this post to say that we are two couples who will be traveling to Vietnam, arriving on 3/29, and stay until 4/11. We are planning to start from HCMC, then go to a resort in Vung Tau (2 hour drive from HCMC) – owned by a friend, which I could get it for half price for people, then Mui Ne, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Hoi An then back. Since we have lots of contacts (hotels, resorts, friends, languages) we figured we could help whomever wanna hook up with us. There is always safety in number, and no, we don’t want any money from anyone. Just thought we’d help.

  50. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Andrew. Sorry for the slow reply, I was away for a week.

    Anyway, the travel dates are a tough question. June / July is rainier in the north, while Sept / Oct is rainier in the south. So it’s a little of six of one, half-dozen on the other.

    September / October is a little nicer in Laos than June / July, so if you’re heading to Laos we well, I vote for the latter time frame. Of course Sept / Oct is the rainiest of all in Cambodia…

    See, nothing is never easy. If you’re keen on a Vietnam beach holiday with a little Cambodia thrown in, I vote for June / July with 2 weeks in Vietnam and a week or so in Cambodia.

    If you want to get more into Laos, then I vote for the Sept / Oct window, skip Cambodia, and spend 12 days or so in Vietnam, the remainder in Laos.

    And yeah, I’d definitely consider flying. Either to / from Vientiane or to/from Hanoic or HCMC from Danang. Flying is cheap and safe, will save you at least 1 full day of travel.

    Hope that helps.

  51. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Colleen.

    I took a bus from HCMC to Mui Ne, then another bus up to Nha Trang. These were easy to book, cheap, and reasonably comfortable. From Nha Trang we took the overnight train to Danang, and from there had our hotel pick us up at the train station and drive us into Hoi An. This is fairly common, and most hotels in Hoi An offer free pick-up. Otherwise it’s a $20 taxi ride from Danang’s train station into Hoi An.

    The train itself is fine. You can reserve a bed, and the trains are decent. Not of the quality of Thailand, but not as bad as some trains I’ve been on…

    Just reserve the overnight bed a day or two in advance, as they do sell out.

    When we left Danang eventually, we flew direct to Hanoi. We thought about the train, but at that point it was another 30-hour haul. And the flight was quick and painless.

    Hope that helps,

  52. Arun Jain Says:


  53. Carol Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Another weather question: We can only travel the first part of August. We don’t mind heat but we have 3 teenagers who won’t appreciate lots of rain and definitely want some beach time. Do you recommend Vietnam at that time of year or should we consider another destination sun as Thailand?

  54. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Carol.

    August is definitely a wet month, especially in Hanoi. It rarely rains all day long in Vietnam, so even in August you won’t be completely water-logged.

    But being honest, if beach time is truly important, you might consider Thailand in August.

  55. Toby Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Im flying to HCMC in April and have 3 weeks to make my way to Bangkok where i fly home from. I only have a vague plan of what i want to see and i know its going to be terribly rushed but i want to see as much as possible. I was thinking of doing a week in Vietnam, a few days in Cambodia seeing Angkor Wat and Phnon Penh before exploring what i can of Thailand. Reading your blogg i’m beginning to think ive chosen the “wrong end” of Vietnam as Halong bay & Hanoi appeals to me. Ive bought my flights already so my options at either end of the journey are limited. What would be my best bet with only a week in the country?

  56. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Toby.

    I think you’ll be fine, so don’t worry about having made a mistake. There’s plenty to see in a week in the south; Ho Chi Minh City is definitely worth 2 – 3 days between the bars, restaurants, museums and sights. And then you have a choice to make — head to the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi tunnels, or or head to a beach area like Mui Ne. I don’t think you can do both in only 1 week, so it depends if you want a low-key beach experience in Vietnam, or if you want some history.

    Hope that helps, happy travels.

  57. Sarah Says:

    Hi Scott,
    My friend and I are planning on a trip to Vietnam at the beginning of July, we only have 2weeks and are hoping to spend a few days in Cambodia therefore may only have 9 or 10 days in Vietnam. Would you recommend an organised tour? we looked into geckoadventures and intrepdid but their tours don’t coincide with our dates. Do you think we could plan the trip ourselves? We are 21 year old female students so we don’t have a lot of money and there are a lot of tour companies that are expensive. What places do think we would enjoy? any help would be appreciated.

  58. Misyt Says:

    All of your information is great! I may have missed the answer to this, but do you have a list of companies you reccommend to book rooms with ahead of time?


  59. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Sarah — I don’t think you need an organized tour, not if you are OK doing things on your own. Vietnam is very safe to travel in, the people are incredibly friendly, and the scam factor is very, very low. So I think you’ll be fine. The very fact that you’re even contemplating a trip on your own suggests that, yes, you’ll be totally good to go on your own.

    In terms of where to go, with only 9 days, I think you could do a condensed version of the main itinerary (up at the top of this post), maybe not doing the Mekong Delta and instead focusing on Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Danang and Hanoi, maybe with a one-day trip to Halong Bay (this you can book on Viator). It would be a shame to miss either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, so I do think you should try to cover both.

    Have fun!

  60. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Misty.

    This is a tough one. I don’t think there is a single site that does Vietnam hotels well. The Lonely Planet booking service has some hotels, but the selection is not very deep.

    You could also try Hostelworld, but again, not a huge amount of selection.

    Vietnam is still a fairly low-tech country, at least when it comes to booking things directly online. For hotels, your best bet is likely to buy a guidebook or two, and make some phone calls once you arrive. Even calling a few days ahead of time is often enough advance-notice to book a room.


  61. Belinda Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I just wanted some advice in regards to my travels to Vietnam in June.

    We fly into Hanoi (were doing it first as i can’t wait till last) at 10.15am on 5 June and fly out of Ho Chi Minh City on 17 June so all up we have 12 days including travelling.

    The places that we really want to go to are:

    Hanoi (Visit the old quarter and surrounding areas) and Halong Bay
    Hoi An
    Ho Chinh Minh City and Mekong Delta.
    We are going to skip Nha Trang (as we are going to Koh Samui after our travels in Vietnam)

    Is this possible in 12 days. Is there a rough itinerary that you can suggest?

    Thanks very much

  62. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Belinda.

    ctually, I think you’ve done a good job here. You can definitely cover all that ground in 12 days — it will be a little rushed, but completely manageable. At least in my humble opinion. My only advice is to consider flying from Hanoi to Danang, and save yourself a long (12 – 14 hours) on the train. You can still train down from Danang, to get the overnight train experience. But you don’t need to catch two overnight trains, not with only 12 days.

    I also think you should maybe be flexible with the Mekong Delta. If you end up rushed at the end of the trip, maybe skip it and spend an extra (more leisurely day) in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a great city, plenty to see, and maybe you can save Mekong for your next trip.

    Anyway, I think you should be confident that you have a good itinerary. Let me know how the trip goes.


  63. Belinda Says:

    Thanks very much for your input Scott I really appreciate it.

    yep I shall let you know how it goes.


  64. Anna Says:

    Hi Scott

    All of your information is great. We’re planning a trip for 2 weeks to vietnam in mid sept. We’re thinking of possibly spending most of the time in the south, especially at the beaches. You’re previous responses suggest this may not be the best time for the sun? Do you think we should possibly reconsider the dates of travel? Although we can’t go any earlier than sept.

    Many thanks

  65. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Anna.

    Yeah, it is rainy in the south of Vietnam in September, but I don’t think I’d cancel my entire trip. Not at all. The later in the month you go, the better the weather. So if you can straddle September and some of October, you should be fine. October is a good all-around month to visit Vietnam. So again, if you can go late in September, you’ll increase the odds of some good beach weather.

    Happy travels.

  66. Anna Says:

    That’s great. Many thanks for getting back to me.


  67. Belinda Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I am looking to get a leather jacket made in Vietnam somewhere. Can you suggest any good tailors?


  68. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Belinda.

    Sorry, my expertise doesn’t go that deep! All I can say is, talk to other travelers you meet and try to get a feel for why some people are really happy with the clothes they have tailored, and why others aren’t.

    I know (from personal experience) that the most successful tailoring I had done in Vietnam was when I brought a sample of the shirt or pants I wanted made, for them to copy. Yes yes yes, I probably just broke every law about trademarks and intellectual property that exists, but it’s true — I brought a handful of my favorite shirts and pants with me to Vietnam, to be used as a model. And I’m glad I did — they came out very well, much better than the clothes designed on spec.

    Anyway, talk to other travelers, get their advice, and just go for it!

  69. Belinda Says:

    Great thanks Scottt.

    I thought that it was a long shot but thought that i would ask anyway.

    I plan on taking a dress and some pants that i want copied. Hopefully they’ll do a good job.

    Thanks for your advice. It’s only 1 month yesterday till we leave now! .. Getting excited.


  70. lisa Says:

    hello – this forum has been so helpful! I am planning a trip for Oct to HCM. Nohting is booked yet but I would like to go for 2 wks and work south to north. Has anyone been to Cat Ba? What about Laos from Vietnam? thanks!

  71. Taylor Says:

    Hi Scott,

    All of your information has been so helpful! I have a couple more questions. I am traveling to Vietnam this summer with two other friends (all of us ~21 year old girls). Will it be a problem to find lodging for three people?

    We have 20 days total and would like visit both Thailand and Vietnam. I was looking at the itinerary you suggested a few posts up that was 9 days and had stops in HCMC, Hoi An/Danang, and then Hanoi. In your original itinerary you took trains from HCMC up to Danang and then flew to Hanoi. How long of a train ride will this be? For a shortened trip like ours would you recomend taking a train or flying?

    Finally, I just wanted to check and make sure I was clear on your booking suggestions. Do you suggest booking hotels, flights, and tours before arriving in the country but getting train tickets a few days before travel? What is the best way to book a hotel in Vietnam so far in advance? We have travel books but most of the hotel listings lack websites.

    Thanks so much for any information you have…we’re really looking forward to the trip!

  72. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Lisa — Hopefully somebody will leave some thoughts about Cat Ba and traveling into Laos from Vietnam. I’ll make sure to post it, if they do.

    Hi Taylor — I don’t see why you should have any problems traveling in a group of three. Plenty of hotels and family-run places will have room for three, no worries. The train I was referring to is actually from Na Trang to Danag (then by bus / car into Hoi An). This was an overnighter, maybe 12 hours, I can’t remember exactly. But definitely overnight.

    On the booking, I think you can book trains and most hotels once you arrive. The only exception is, I always like to have a hotel reserved on my first few nights, so you can usually email or call (it’s not that expensive). I also think the plane tickets should be reserved ahead of time (before you arrive if possible) since they fill up, especially in high season.

    Hope that helps!

  73. Belinda Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Getting excited! It’s only 1 week today before we leave. However, i have not done a thing about getting malaria tablets. Based on the above and where i am travelling (including Mekong Delta)as we have managed to fit it in. Do you need to take Malaria tablets? I have looked on traveldoctor and he has said no but thought that i would check wtih you.

    We fly into Hanoi (were doing it first as i can’t wait till last) at 10.15am on 5 June and fly out of Ho Chi Minh City on 17 June so all up we have 12 days including travelling.

    The places that we really want to go to are:

    Hanoi (Visit the old quarter and surrounding areas) and Halong Bay
    Hoi An
    Ho Chinh Minh City and Mekong Delta.


  74. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Belinda.

    If the Viator lawyer were here, they’d probably make me say something like “I am not a doctor, so I am not allowed to dispense aspirin let alone medical advice. I only play a doctor on television, not in real life.”

    Thankfully the Viator lawyer isn’t reading our blog! So I can say this: I have not taken malaria pills in Vietnam. I met many people who did not. If you’re spending a lot of time inland, or in the delta,or up in the Hill Tribe regions, it is probably a good idea to take malarial pills or some similar preventative medicine. But many people traveling on itineraries similar to yours do not take pills.

    I personally had a very negative reaction to malaria pills once, so I only take them if I really, really, really need to. Otherwise I exercise standard precautions such as staying indoors at dusk, wearing repellent, and sleeping under a mosquito net if I’m camping or staying in a basic accommodation. Luckily, most hotels in Vietnam are well equipped and I only used my mosquito net once.

    So again, follow your own instincts. But know that, if you decide against malaria pills for your trip, you will not be alone.

    Safe travels, keep us posted.

  75. Belinda Says:

    Funny you should say Lawyers – I actually work in a lawfirm! That’s cool.

    Thanks very much for the information that you gave me. I’ll post on this blog when i get back – only 3 more days and we are off.


  76. Anh Says:

    Thank you for your kind information, Scott…I’m sure our country of Vietnam would strive all we could to not disappoint you on your trip to Vietnam. Look forward to welcoming you all….

  77. domsy23 Says:

    Hello… Planning a trip using discovery airpass in July… we want to fit as much as we can in our 3 week allowance.
    here it is

    Location Arrive Duration Depart

    Mancheter 7th Transit 7th


    London 7th Transit 7th


    Bangkok 8th 1 night 9th


    Luang Prabang 9th 5 night 14th


    Hanoi 14th 5 night 19th


    Vientiene 19th 1 night 20th


    Phnom Penh 20th 3 night 23rd


    siem Reap 23rd 3 night 26th


    Bankok 26th 1 night 27th


    London 27th Transit 27th


    Manchester Transit 27th

    That’s it… all in three weeks…I relise this may little rushed..however will be a fir old challenge if you know what I mean…

  78. Derek Says:

    My wife and I are going to be traveling throughout Vietnam from July 18 – Aug 2 (then on to cambodia). We are starting off in Hanoi. Does anyone have any good suggestions for a clean hotel in the Old Quarter for around $20/night for 2 people that has private bath, AC/Fan and is safe? Also, any other suggestions for the other destination points? I would love to pay a little extra to have a private bungalow on the beach in any of our travel points.

    How does 5 nights in Hanoi/Sapa, 2 nights in Ha Long Bay, 2 nights in Hue/Hoi An, 2 nights in Miu Ne, 2 – 3 nights in HCMC and maybe a night or two on Pho Quoc island sound?

    I have heard that the central coast will be drier and nicer during the time we are there while the north and south may be pretty wet. Any suggestions?

    Also, has anyone traveled on Air Asia? Is it like Southwest Airlines in the US with decent planes and how easy is it to book a flight with short notice? Or would you suggest just flying on Vietnam Airlines on short notice? Average price of a fare from Hue/Hoi An to HCMC?

    Thx, Derek

  79. Derek Says:

    Does anyone know where Scott is? Is he still alive? He was so good at responding to people and then Domsy and I send comments and no word. I hope he is okay. Maybe he is traveling through another exotic country with limited access to internet. Lets hope for the best.

  80. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Derek, Domsy.

    Apologies, I am not ignoring you. Not at all. I was hoping some other travelers to Vietnam might also have some tips for you about Air Asia, but I guess nobody is in the sharing mood.

    In terms of your itinerary, it looks great. I’ve not been to Pho Quoc, so I can’t comment on its relative merits. But everything else looks excellent. Just be sure to be flexible with the Hanoi / Sapa leg of your trip. The roads are not great, and it’s easy to run into delays in Sapa. Especially this time of year, when the rains are heavy. Five days should be enough, just be ready to shift things around a little in case you’re delayed.

    I think Hue and Hoi An should get the best weather during the time you’re traveling, so don’t be afraid to add an extra day there. Mui Ne may be a bit wet for hanging out on the beach; you should definitely check the weather once you arrive and see if it’s worth swapping those 2 nights in Mui Ne for an extra 2 nights in Hue / Hoi An.

    Have a great trip…

  81. Derek Says:

    Thanks Scott. I thought that we may lose some days here or there due to the weather and hopefully it wont be as bad in the south. Hoi An and Hue looks great!

  82. Neha Says:

    I am trying to cover HCMC and Siam Reap in a limited amount of time. Is there a way to take a Mekong Delta trip with a border crossing to Cambodia, then bus from Phenom Phen to Siam Reap? Or is it best to do a 2 days Mekong Delta tour, return to HCMC and then fly to Siam Reap? Can a private Mekong Delta tour be arranged that ends in Cambodia?
    Thanks, Neha

  83. Tet Garcia Says:

    Hello! My friends and I are planning to go to HCM this coming Nov. 7-10. We only have four to five days. Can you please help us, where to stay and how to maximize our trip. We want to see a nice beach, try good food, see some historical places, get to see the culture of vietnam and have some awesome beers… hoping for your immediate response. Thanks a lot.

  84. Jemma Says:

    Hi there,

    I am arriving in Bangkok April 4th to set off to Vietnam for 2wks. I have a suggested itinerary below however I need to cut out one day as I need to be in Bangkok 18th April 10pm!! Any suggestions? Also anything you’d change? Thanks so much. Lastly is the weather in April suitable for sun bathing etc?

    April 4th one night bangkok
    April 5th fly to Hanoi early
    April 6th Hanoi
    April 7th Halong Bay
    April 8th Hallong Bay
    April 9th Hoi An
    April 10th Hoi An
    April 11th Hoi An
    April 12th Mui Ne
    April 13th Mui Ne
    April 14th Mui Ne
    April 15th Mui Ne
    April 16th HCMC
    April 17th HCMC
    April 18th Mekong Delta
    April 19th Fly to Bangkok from HCMC

  85. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Jemma. As much as I hate to say it (because it’s cool to see), I think you should cut out the Mekong Delta day. I know, I know — skip the Delta? Well, given that it’s a big place and one day is a bit of a stretch timewise, I think it’s a good candidate for the chopping block.

  86. Tim Says:

    Hi Scott,
    I am flying into Hanoi from Hong Kong this March and have roughly ten days to make it down to HCMC and then out to Cambodia for 2-3days before catching a flight back to HK. I know that’s not ideal to travel a country the size of Vietnam, but it’s all I have and want to make the most of it. I’ve been learning a lot from your suggestions to other posters (thanks!), but i still have a few questions of my own. Mainly, that I want to experience both the beaches and the mountains, see some interesting city life as well as some local villages, and also see a bit of the US military remnants while not overdoing it, and I’m wondering how to do it in the time-frame. Can you suggest “can’t miss” places for the following:
    1. Cities: I know Hanoi and HCMC, but what are a few others that are
    musts? Hoi An? Da Nang? Nha Trang? Hue?
    2. Scenery/Landscapes: I hear a lot of people bandying back and forth
    about Ha Long Bay and Sapa, but what about the Northern Mountains
    or anywhere else along the coast? are the Dambri waterfalls worth
    it too? The caves of Phung Na? The MeKong Delta?
    3. Beaches: what beaches are worth it? which ones have a good mix of
    beautiful beaches, limestone rocks, and are not overly
    4. Travel: I’m looking to maximize my time in Vietnam, so i’m
    expecting to take a varying array of bus/train/taxi/air. Is there
    anything between Hanoi and Da Nang that I would seriously be remiss
    to not see if I flew to make up time?
    5. Also, does anyone know the best way to get to HCMC and Angkor Wat in
    Cambodia? Best way to secure a Visa on short term? or can i get one
    there at the airport or land crossings?

    Thanks, Scott.


  87. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Tim. Apologies for the delayed reply. I’ve been sick and traveling a lot.

    Anyway, in terms of cities to check out beyond Hanoi and HCMC, yes yes yes to Hoi An and Hue. Nha Trang and Da Nang are fine, good for transit and a few days of big-city living. But for sights, culture and experiences aim for Hoi An and Hue.

    Halong and Sapa are great, and so too is the Delta. I haven’t explored the northern mountains too much, so I’m not a good person to ask. You won’t go wrong, though, with time in the Delta (as well as Halong and Sapa).

    For beaches I still like Mui Ne. Quiet (though definitely developed) and good water / sand. That’s my pick.

    Some people might disagree with me, but I think you’re OK to fly between Hanoi and Da Nang. Lots of people do it, and I don’t think you’ll miss much (especially if you’re short on time).

    I’ll leave it to others to answer that las question. I’ve never got a Cambodian visa in Vietnam, sorry about that.

    Happy travels, let us know how it all goes.

  88. Tracy Says:

    Good time to travel in Vietnam is from September to June. However, Vietnam has three different regions – the North, the Central and the South – each with different weather patterns and different rainy seasons. This means that there is neither a best time nor a worst time to visit Vietnam. Hot summer or cold winter is not that a big deal. Beaches such as Halong bay, Hoi an, Nha trang, Mui ne – Phan thiet, Phu quoc are always available. Sapa and Dalat highland offer great places for cool temperature. You can find your favourite kind of weather all year round!

  89. mcdog Says:

    We visited Halong Bay just over thirteen years ago. We stiil count it as one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been.

  90. vishal Says:

    Thanks for all the excellent Information that has been provided here in this blog.


  91. Iain Says:

    Hi Scott,

    What do you think is the best way of getting from Hoi An up to Hanoi. And before that from HCM to Mui Ne, as you recommend!

    Keen on flying or train as want to avoid road trips that are 7hrs plus!


  92. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Iain. From Hoi An to Hanoi, the easiest (and quickest) option is taking a bus from Hoi An to Danang (about 45 minutes – many hotels offer this service for free) and then catch a flight from Danang to Hanoi (about 90 minutes). This avoids another overnight train ride.

    From HCM to Mui Ne, the bus is best. It takes a few hours, but the ride is pleasant enough. Most hotels and hostels in HCM offer this service, which stops at most of the resorts and hotels in Mui Ne.

    Safe travels!

  93. Jamie Says:

    Hi, I’m due to travel to Bangkok in two weeks and plan to visit Cambodia, Laos, vietnam and possibly Indonesia over the next 3 months. Could you tell me what the best route would be to take advantage of the weather? Thanks.

  94. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Jamie.

    August is wet in most of Vietnam, especially in Hanoi. It rarely rains all day long, so even in August you won’t be completely water-logged.

    September / October is a nice time of year in Laos, and October is the best month of all in Vietnam.

    And since Sept / Oct is the rainiest of all in Cambodia, I’d vote for an itinerary like so: Thailand in August, stay as long as you can, then head to Cambodia first.

    It is rainy in the south of Vietnam in September, so my next stop after Cambodia would be Laos. And then, once the south of Vietnam is less wet (and once the north of Vietnam is less cold – in September it’s going to be cold and wet pretty much everywhere north of Nha Trang, especially in Hanoi), I’d head to Vietnam in early or mid-October.

    So: Thailand in August, Cambodia in late August / early September, Laos in September / early October, Vietnam most of October.

    The good news is, the monsoon season itself is not really that much of a travel hassle. You get used to it fast. So even if you end up in Vietnam in September, your trip won’t be a total disaster, far from it.

    Hope this helps.

  95. Ed Says:

    Hello Scott –

    The information on this site has been extremely helpful. More so than many guidebooks. I want to take a trip to Vietnam or Thailand in October. I’ve seen your posts on here that says October is one of the best times for Vietnam. One of my goals of this trip is to escape the cloudy cold weather of Seattle in late fall and go someplace with sun/beach. Ive heard Thailand is not a good choice for October. Is that your understanding too? Also, if I picked Vietnam would there be warm / sunny beach areas in October? Am I better off in the Central region of the country versus the south?

    Thank you!

  96. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Ed. Glad you find this post useful. In terms of Thailand, the monsoon season runs July to October, so October itself isn’t the wettest month to travel. But if the monsoon is late in leaving it could be a little wet. That said Thailand’s main tourism season runs November to February, so I think rain shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s rare that rain in Thailand will ruin your travels. And if you’re traveling in late October you’ll probably be in great shape.

    So if I were you, why not do both Thailand and Vietnam? Fly into Vietnam first, spend some time there, and then fly from Hanoi or HCMC to Bangkok. Those flights are not expensive, and you can have your cake and eat it too.

    If you can only do one destination, and if beach is your #1 priority, then maybe stick with Thailand if you’re traveling in the middle or end of October.

    Happy travels!

  97. Ed Says:

    Thanks Scott. I appreciate your response.

  98. sammy Says:

    Hey Scott,
    Thanks to you me and my girlfriend have pretty much decided on going to Vietnam early next year 🙂 I just have a couple of questions:We have been saving for awhile now and hope to stay as long as our savings allow us. How long are we legally permitted to stay in Vietnam? I’ve done a bit of research but havent been able to find a definitive answer.. I read somewhere that you can get a tourist visa for only 1 month but other places say as long as 3 months. Which is correct? Someone also told me that to get a visa extension all you have to do is cross into neighbouring Cambodia once your visa expires, have lunch there and come back into Vietnam and they will issue with another month long Visa. They also told me you can do this as many times as you like… Is this true?

    Thanks, any help will be greatly appreciated

  99. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Sammy.

    I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, but let me ask our Vietnam travel manager and get back to you. Stay tuned!


  100. sammy Says:

    ok thanks heaps….
    hope its not too much trouble

  101. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Sammy. So here’s the update, I’m assuming you’re traveling on an Aussie passport based on your email address. If that’s not the case let me know.

    A tourist visa is valid for 30 days. You can get visa extensions by exiting and re-entering Vietnam. Definitely check this with the embassy:

    Happy travels,

  102. sammy Says:

    thanks heaps

  103. Chris Says:

    Hi Scott
    This is a great blog – very useful in me planning my upcoming trip to Vietnam. The one outstanding question I have is that I’m flying out of Siem Reap (I decided that travelling through vietnam if I was going to be that close to angkor wat I should have a look) and I’m trying to find out the best route from HCMC. I’ll have approx 4 days to travel up Mekong and would love to try and squeeze in a home stay. Would you have any advice?

  104. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Chris.

    I don’t know much about home stays in Vietnam, I’m afraid. Does anybody else?

    Also – when you ask “what’s the best route from HCMC”, do you mean the best route using HCMC as a base? Give me a bit more info about your proposed itinerary and I’ll see what I can do to help.


  105. Spike Says:

    Thanks for all this info.
    Have you any thoughts about going up to Laos if we only have a 14 day trip? We are going to Vietnam after Christmas to use up some of the New Year bank holiday and get out of the UK weather. We might try and get 18 days.
    Thanks for any thoughts,

  106. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Spike.

    It’s definitely do-able to visit parts of Vietnam and Laos in a 14- or 18-day itinerary. Especially if you can afford to fly from, say, HCMC to Vientiane (most flights go via Bangkok or Phnom Penh).

    Of course the devil is in the itinerary details. You’re looking at a lot of ground to cover, in a short time. So you’ll need to ruthlessly prioritize. Cut back on Vietnam, only get a sample of Laos.

    This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on your travel style and ability to return to these countries at a future date (or not).

    So yes – definitely do-able.

    But you will be forced to cut short your Vietnam itinerary.

  107. Gareth Says:

    Great advice! Really useful information about all the cities and I really enjoyed reading it. Me and a buddy are headed to vietnam in a week or two, and I’m planning out our itinerary. Unfortunately I might not be on this side of the world for awhile, so we are starting in Ho Chi Minh and ending in Hanoi (I know, rushed, but the tickets are bought!) So I’m looking at a couple different ideas – we can do 3 nights in Hanoi and 3 nights in Saigon if we take the SE6 (an overnight between the two cities) but we won’t have the opportunity the stop in any other cities. We could also do 2 nights Saigon, 1 night in Hoi An, and then 2 nights in Hanoi. Do you think this is sufficient or just a waste of time (as we will only have an afternoon a night and an early morning in Hoi An)? Would it be a good idea just to have the few days in the two major cities (where I’m leaning right now). Is there another city that I can’t afford missing that I should work into the itinerary instead of Hoi An? The trains seem pretty flexible and cool, and I just took the Trans-Siberian this past sept and had a great time (7 day train!)


  108. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Gareth.

    Yeah, if I were you, I’d slow down and spend time in HCMC and Hanoi. If you try to squeeze too much in a limited down, you’ll be bummed. And Hoi An for only 18 hours would be frustrating – you’d really want to stay longer once you’re there.

    So yeah, I think you stay in HCMC and Hanoi. This way, you could do a day trip or two from each destination.

    I’m obviously biased, but I like these day trips. I’ve done them, all very good.

    From Hanoi:
    Halong Bay –

    Perfume Pagoda –

    From HCMC:
    Mekong Delta –

    Cu Chi Tunnels –


  109. Spike Says:

    Thanks for the advice. May be Laos is just oo ambitious. What are the best travel options between the main attractions. I understand from all of the above about booking the Hanoi HCMC train well in advance and it being the only sensible altenative to flying but between say the major sights of Hanoi, Hue, Da Nang and down to HCMC, can that best be done by coach, and are the regular and reasonably fast/direct?
    Thanks mate,

  110. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Spike.

    Yeah, the buses are good as you say. Comfortable and reasonably quick. The train is fine, but it runs more north-south than east-west. So you should be fine on the buses (excluding that long HCMC-Saigon or even Danang-Hanoi legs).


  111. Gareth Says:

    Thanks for the advice Scott!

    just finished booking! all the day trips look great

  112. Liz Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Loving the blog – very useful! I am looking to go to Vietnam for 2 weeks in October ’10. Would love to go for longer but sadly work means I can’t! So realistically after flight I have 10 days. I need to fly in and out of the same airport – what would you recommend for 10 days?!

    (p.s. would really love to pop across to see Ankor Wat – do you think that is feasible or just wishful thinking?! If it is do-able what is the quickest way to get over there?)

    Liz 🙂

  113. Nick Says:

    Great blog Scott and very useful. However I only have a cruely short 8 days to play with and while I understand it makes more sense to just pick north or south (was originally heading for the south) the idea of missing Hanoi after reading this is too much! Therefore, is there any itinerary that would make it worth doing both ends of the country with an internal flight or is that just too much? The flight looks good value and only a few hours so was thinking maybe 2 days HCMC, 2 days M.Delta (& tunnels) a day to fly to Hanoi to finish up there 3 days – for a kind of Vietnam sampler… or is it better just to keep south for the week?



  114. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Liz.

    Flights are cheapest from Ho Chi Minh (as opposed to Saigon) if you want to visit Angkor Wat. I just checked the Vietnam Airlines website and a one-way ticket to Siem Reap (the gateway for Angkor Wat) for 1 adult is US$122. It looks like they have 2 or 3 flights a day. You can then take a tour to Angkor Wat itself (we offer a few here: or take public transport out to the site.

    So it’s definitely do-able. It’s just a little expensive and will eat up at least 3 days of your 10-day itinerary (4 days, if you want to have time to enjoy at a slower pace).

    If you go this route, you’ll definitely want to fly in/out of HCMC, see the tunnels and the Delta, then do your trip to Cambodia. That’s 10 days!

    If you decide to skip Cambodia, I’d say you need to decide between the type of trip you want to have:

    Option 1: Fly in/out of HCMC, stay mostly in the south, do the tunnels, see the delta, then maybe take a trip out to Mui Ne or – if you’re ambitious – up to Hoi An.

    Option 2: Fly in/out of Hanoi. Visit Halong Bay, then head up to Sapa and the mountains.

    Both options are superb. It’s just a question of what’s more interesting to you – southern Vietnam and the delta, or northern Vietnam and the mountains.

    Let us know what you decide!


  115. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Nick.

    Yes, it’s a tricky question! But I agree with you – I really love Hanoi, and it’s a shame to miss it.

    So if you can afford the internal flight, I agree, it’s not a bad option. 2 or 3 days in HCMC, 2 or 3 days in Hanoi, and 2 or 3 days for sidetrips.

    Then you’re only decision is – do you want to see the tunnels from HCMC, or do you want to take a boat cruise on Halong Bay from Hanoi. You can do both, it will just be busy.

    Otherwise your idea of 2 days HCMC, 2 days in the delta, and 3 days in Hanoi is workable. You could even squeeze a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda from Hanoi, if you have 3 days up there.

    So to answer your question – yes it’s very doable, just hectic and has additional costs. But like you said, it’s tough to miss Hanoi!

    Hope this helps,

  116. Liz Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the reply, I think we have decided to go for Northern Vietnam! So excited! We were thinking of going in Octobet originally as it sounded as if the all round weather was best then. However now that we are going to concentrate our efforts on the North, do you know what time of year is warmest/sunniest up there?! (Living in England I have had enough of rain!)

    Also, I am a big Trekking,wildlife and diving fan – do you have any recommendations for these if we are up north?

    Hope all is good with you,

    Happy New Year!

  117. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Liz.

    I think October and then again March/April are the best months in the north, especially if you plan to visit Sapa (which is high in the mountains and cool all year). These times are a good balance between less wet, and not too cold.

    I don’t know much about diving in Vietnam, but I can tell you, there are dozens of treks in and around Sapa (many of which will depart from Hanoi if you’re pressed for time). The hill tribes region of northern Vietnam is famous and justly so. It’s been a few years since I did a trek there, so I am hesitant to recommend any specific trek companies. My advice – wait till you get to Hanoi, then ask other travelers for advice.

    Safe travels.

  118. Liz Says:


    Thanks Scott!


  119. Janet Says:

    Do you think traveling the entire country from late June (24) – mid July would be a good time? Are their regions I should avoid during this time period.


  120. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Janet. June and July are definitely wet months. In Hanoi the wettest months are May – August; in HCMC the wettest months are June – October.

    It’s also HOT in June, especially in Hanoi.

    So to answer your question, it’s definitely going to be wet and steamy. It won’t ruin your trip, you just need to be prepared.

  121. Karen Sawyer Says:

    Hi Scott,

    You’re blog is so helpful for planning my Vietnam trip. I just want to ask you a quick question that hasn’t really came up in previous posts. I am travelling to Vietnam on 24th of June with my 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter. We are flying in to Hanoi and spending 4 weeks travelling to HCMC then we’re off to work in a school in Siem Reap for 3 weeks.

    As a single mum I am a bit nervous about travelling on my own with the kids. Do you know how suitable the countries are for children and if there is any problems that I’m likely to encounter?

    My main concerns are accomodation – I can’t decide whether to book everything in advance to ensure we know where we’re staying and making use of recommendation on websites or whether to just book as we go which would allow for more flexibility on how long we stay in each place.

    My other worry is travelling within the country. I would like to get the train, at least one daytime train to enjoy the scenery. I’m not too sure about the night train though as we would possibly have to chair a cabin. Is it possible to book all 4 bunks but only use 3? I’ve also heard stories about rats etc on trains and just wondered if you had experienced this and if it really is a big issue?

    Finally I am unsure of the best way to get from HCMC to Siem Reap?

    Any advice you could offer would be much appreciated.



  122. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Karen.

    Definitely don’t just take my advice here – I’m sure with some searching you can find some family travel forums for Vietnam.

    That said, I can say this – Vietnam is very safe, very very safe. I have many friends who’ve traveled through Vietnam with their kids. So I don’t think you have anything to worry about on this front – 8 and 10 are great ages, and my guess is they will have a ball! I think the Vietnamese are incredibly hospitable and will be incredibly kind and helpful to a single mom traveling with 2 kids. I really don’t see this as any problem at all.

    In terms of accommodation here is my advice – book in advance at the very beginning (maybe first 2 nights) and again at the very end (last 2 nights), and leave everything else until you get there. This way you’ll be guaranteed something on arrival when you’re tired and in no mood to hunt. But you’re also not stuck with a bunch of reservations that, once you get the hang of life in Vietnam, don’t reflect the trip you want to have.

    In terms of trains, yes it is possible to book a full sleeper (4 beds) and only use 3 (you can lock the door once you depart). But make this reservation as quickly as possible once you arrive. Sleepers book out fast, and getting an entire room to yourself is not easy.

    The trains are not great from a cleanliness perspective. Nothing like the fancy trains of Thailand. It’s not awful, but just be prepared for some very mediocre facilities onboard.

    HCMC to Siem Rap with 2 kids?? FLY! See my comment above to Liz about prices and routes. I’ll paste the key bit below:


    Flights are cheapest from Ho Chi Minh (as opposed to Saigon) if you want to visit Angkor Wat. I just checked the Vietnam Airlines website and a one-way ticket to Siem Reap (the gateway for Angkor Wat) for 1 adult is US$122. It looks like they have 2 or 3 flights a day.

  123. Jamie Says:

    Hi Scott,
    I’m a peace corps volunteeer in frosty icy mongolia, taking a trip down to vietnam for the first time.
    I just want to get sort of a sampling of the landscapes and feel of the country, but only have 8 full days.

    i wanted to do 3 nights in Saigon, fly up to hanoi for 2 nights, fly to danang, 1 night in hoi an, one night in hue, fly out of hue back to saigon for the last night.

    I’m worried it might be too rushed if i try all three destinations and i’ll spend too much time in the airport waiting around. driving around from the airport. is that an incorrect judgement? do you think i should just take it easy and go from Saigon to Hanoi and explore around those areas only. OR just go from saigon to hue/hoi an. or squeeze in all places.

    the most important things to me are seeing diff parts of vietnam, eating so much amazing food and fruits, walking and exploring, maybe a cooking class.
    Please advise, I really like your site. it’s been really helpful for my planning. Thanks!

    warm regards,

    ps if you’re ever coming to mongolia. email me and i’ll give you all the insider tips.

  124. Naomi Says:

    Hi Scott,
    I am planning a trip to Vietnam for the whole month of July this year. Just wondering if you could provide a rough itinerary? I am very keen to see the best of Vietnam and then possibly heading back to Laos for a few days and finish up in Phi Phi in Thailand before heading back home to Sydney.

    It looks i will be travelling by myself… is it safe for a girl to be travelling on her own?

    In terms of places to stay, is it ok to wing it?
    I did a 3 week trip in December all around Thailand and Laos as well and we did not pre-book anything and were completely fine. Just wondering if Vietnam is the same?

    Are there many ATMs in vietnam?

    Thanks so much for your help,

  125. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Jamie. I’ve always wanted to visit Mongolia, especially after following these two on their madcap journey:

    But I digress.

    Your 8 days will be very, very busy! If it was me, I’d probably focus on Hanoi & around, then fly down to Danang and head over to Hoi An and Hue for the remainder. As much as it sucks to miss out on HCMC, I just don’t think you’ll enjoy all that travel. So like I said, I’d go for Hanoi plus the central region.

    On the flipside you could do HCMC and then train / fly to Danang and head out to Hoi An and Hue. Both Hanoi and HCMC work as hubs with this itinerary. I just prefer Hanoi to HCMC.

    Hope this helps!

  126. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Naomi.

    Vietnam is safe for a solo female traveler, no worries there. Just the usual caution you’d exercise anywhere when traveling alone.

    For a whole month? Well that’s a perfect amount of time to travel. I’d probably spend a week each in Hanoi and HCMC, doing some day trips (Halong Bay from Hanoi, Mekong Delta from HCMC) and just enjoying the major cities.

    Then for sure I’d have a few days at the beach (Mui Ne is awesome!) and a day or two in Danang, then at least 3 days each in Hoi An and Hue.

    Finally, when I was up in Hanoi, I’d plan on spending 3 or 4 days in and around Sapa.

    Believe it or not, that’s basically a month!

    My recommendation is to read up on these different areas in Vietnam and adjust the days spent based on your preferences. But really, with 4 weeks, you’ll be able to see all of Vietnam’s top sites without too much trouble.

    ATMs are probably more common now then when I was there; but even then it was easy enough to find an ATM. So I don’t think that should be a concern for you.

    Happy travels.

  127. Jen Says:

    Scott – inspired by your blog; only found it yesterday and it feels like my trip hais taking shape already! Could you advise on website(s) that recommend accommodation along your route? Looking at HCMC; Mui Ne; Hue; Hoi An; Hanoi. Thanks, Jen

  128. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Jen.

    Yikes, this is a tough question. I’ve noty found any site that does a comprehensive job on accommodations in Vietnam. I think the Lonely Planet booking engine is OK (some good and interesting options, but not much depth). Same story with — some decent options (both budget and otherwise) but uneven inventory.

    None of the big hotel websites have anything worth promoting. Don’t even bother.

    So maybe I’ll ask others about this – does anybody else who reads this blog know a good hotel website focusing on Vietnam?

  129. Vee Says:

    Hi Scott,
    my friend and i are looking to travel to Vietnam in the first 3 weeks of july, i know that there will be rainfll but i also read on the internet that there might be possible typhoons? Is this a common occurance?
    We are travelling from australia and this will be our first international trip outside of family holidays and visiting family overseas and what not and so if we have a general idea of whre we want to go and places to stay should that be enough of a plan or is a more comprehensive outline needed?
    Also is 3 weeks enough to enjoy vietnam without rushing from place to place? we are intending to land in Ho Chi Minh and travel up to Hanoi
    thanks alot 🙂

  130. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Vee.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about typhoons. Yes it will be rainy. And yes, typhoons can be nasty when the strike land. But I wouldn’t alter my travel plans based just on the low low low likelihood of getting caught in a typhoon. (That said, I got stuck in a hurricane once in Hawaii, so maybe I’m not the best judge of this stuff!)

    But really, don’t worry overly much about typhoons. I think, especially for your first big overseas trip, you should keep only a loose itinerary. I would definitely book a hotel for the first few nights you arrive; that way you don’t need to worry about finding a hotel in a strange new country. But after that, I’d throw my itinerary out the window and just wing it. Vietnam is very safe, and you won’t have any issues planning as you go.

    3 weeks is a great amount of time.

    Sounds like a great trip, let me know how it all turns out!


  131. Naomi Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you so much for your reply. Just another question, will i have to pre-book any accomodation? Or is it quite easy to get guest houses upon arrival?
    I went to Thailand and Laos in early December and we didnt prebook any accomodation except for our first night and we were fine.
    Is July a busy time to be travelling to SE Asia?


  132. Steve Says:

    Hey Scott,

    My friend and I will be visiting Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for 3 weeks. We fly into Ho Chi Minh City first in early April then out of Bangkok later that month. We hope to spend a week in each country but probably less in Cambodia.
    We’re going to stay in the southern region of Vietnam but we may travel to Da Nang for the beaches. I’m just wondering how realistic it is to go from HCMC to Da Nang and back? We’re thinking about overnight buses or trains to cut down on the waste of time a bit.
    What do you think?


  133. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Steve.

    It’s definitely do-able, to go from HCMC to DaNang and back, in a week. That said you will be doing a lot of traveling. If you’re dead-set on Da Nang, you should check into flights from HCMH to Da Nang. They’re not too expensive, and that will definitely give you a lot more time on both ends.

    Otherwise, the easiest is probably a bus to Nha Trang, then the overnight train up to Da Nang. There may also be long-haul buses direct from HCMC to Da Nang, I’ve not take one, and my guess is – these would be a very long trip. The roads are not great. And you’re basically covering more than half of the entire country.

    Let me post one alternate idea: if you want a day on the beach, have a look at Mui Ne. It’s much closer to HCMC. Mui Ne is not nearly as big as Da Nang, doesn’t have anywhere near the nightlife, attractions etc. But if you just want a day or two on the beach, Mui Ne will do just fine.

    You could then spend your extra time in the Delta, around the tunnels, or just enjoying HCMC.

    Anyway, hope this helps.

  134. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Naomi.

    Apologies, I didn’t see your new question. Yup, very easy to book on arrival. Grab a guidebook or an internet cafe, and get a phone number. Most places have phones and often people who speak English.

    My preference is always to pre-book the first night or two, just to avoid hassle, and then to book everything else as I go.


  135. Annika Says:

    Great blog Scott !

  136. Helen Says:

    Hey Scott,
    My family will be arriving in HCMC on April 19 and leaving May 7. We would like to make the most of our trip by seeing as much as we can. Our limitations are we have a 2 year old that will be coming with us and we also have a wedding on May 4 in Quy Nhon. Could you recommend a day to day itinerary for us where we could make the most of our trip without overdoing it (because of the baby) and also to see as much of the country as possible. Based on the blogs, we would like to include Mui Ne or Nha Trang, Hui An, Halong Bay, Hanoi.
    Also, what hotel would you recommend in HCMC so that we can book it for 2-3 days when we arrive.

  137. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Helen.

    The good news is, traveling in Vietnam is easy with children. Or I should say, as easy as traveling can be when you’re with a 2-year-old! I know a few people that have taken small children to Vietnam, and they all heartily recommend it.

    So in terms of your itinerary, I would mainly advise against moving too fast. I have 2 kids as well, and from experience, I know the best thing you can do with kids is give them time to sleep, to eat, to play – which means avoiding a too much travel, long bus rides, etc.

    All of this is to say – travel slow, break up your journeys into small segments, and you should be fine.

    In terms of an itinerary, I’d also strongly recommend giving yourself plenty of time before and after the weeding. My guess is, you will be invited to visit, to maybe go somewhere recommended by a local, and you should not miss that opportunity.

    Aside from that, you should go where you want. Simple advice, but honestly, that’s my best advice for you. I think a few days each in HCMC and Hanoi is great. From HCMC a few days on the Delta would probably go down well with a 2-year-old. So I would plan on doing something on the Delta.

    Then a few days in Mui Ne to enjoy the beach, then maybe – and here’s the only long part of your journey – catch a bus up to a bus to Nha Trang, spend a few days there (you can dive from there, if you are a diver).

    I don’t know the best way to get to / from Quy Nhon from Nha Trang, I assume you’ll be on a bus. And as I said, give yourself time here to enjoy the local travel advice.

    When the festivities end, from Nha Trang you can then catch the overnight train up to Da Nang or – better yet – fly up to Da Nang, then spend a few days each in Hoi An and Hue.

    From there you’ll definitely want to fly up to Hanoi. These flights are cheapish, so you’re not talking about a lot of money.

    From Hanoi, you could consider heading up to Sapa, though the going is rougher, and it depends on your desire to see the hill tribes. I think a rugged kid would be OK with it, but otherwise you can head out to Halong Bay and enjoy a boat ride and some swimming.

    In terms of a HCMC hotel, I like the Ma Maison. it’s in a good spot and the rates are good. It’s a step up from a backpacker hotel, but not nearly as expensive as the chains.

    I hope this itinerary helps. Have a great trip and let us know how it goes!

  138. Janet Says:

    This is a great information. Thanks Scott. Wanted your opinion about an itinerary we have researched. We have a 16 days at the beginning of August and want to get some time in Thailand as well as Vietnam. I’m meeting my daughter (she is 17)who will be completing a two week service group trip through Cambodia and Laos in Bangkok. We will leave the next day and have focused on Northern Vietnam due to our time constraints. Our plan is to take an early flight out to Hanoi, stay one night, tour the city the next day then take evening train to Sapa for trek (we will be in the area for Bac Ha market on Sunday), one day trek and homestay, then back to Hanoi, Halong Bay two nights to the northern area Ba Tu Long Bay. Do you think we need two nights in Halong? It sounds relaxing after the trek. Back to Hanoi 2 nights. Staying in the Old Quarter. This will give us 9 nights/10 days in Vietnam. Then planning to fly back to Bangkok and direct to Chaing Mai for 2 nights, then 2 nights in Chaing Dao for a bit more trekking. Want to visit different temple sites, elephants and Thai culture. Spending the last two nights in river hotel in Bangkok. Would you suggest anything else with the time we have? We have to leave the beaches for another trip as there is no time to fit in that I can see. Thanks for your help. I have never been to Southeast Asia and we are booking on our own through TripAdvisor research and this site.

  139. Lin Says:

    Hi Scott,

    My husband and I are planning our honeymoon to Vietnam. We will arrive in Hanoi on the 19th of June and leave from HCMC on the 29th.

    After reading your recommendations, I was thinking of doing the following:
    20th to 21st – Halong Bay overnight junk boat cruise.
    22nd – Hanoi
    23rd to 24th – Hoi An
    25th to 27th – Nha Trang – we are staying at the Six Sense spa
    28 to 29th – HCMC

    What are your thoughts on this itinerary? I will also be 24 weeks pregnant; would this create any problems while travelling in Vietnam?

    I am keen to visit Vietnam but my husband is concerned about the heat and the rain in June and thinks we should go somewhere else. What are your thoughts on the weather during this time?

    Many thanks for your help.


  140. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Janet, sorry for the slow reply – it’s been a busy week dealing with the airport closures across Europe. Anyway…

    Your Vietnam itinerary looks good. A little busy, but overall I think there’s nothing missing or anything major you’ve overlooked.

    I do think 2 nights on Halong Bay is a good idea, especially if you hit good weather. And yeah, you may want some downtime after that trek!

    The only thing I’d say is – you have a lot of trekking plan (which is great) but not much in Hanoi. I do think Hanoi is a worthwhile spot to explore, it’s really a wonderful city and you may feel shortchanged with only 36 hours there.

    Lastly, my only other advice is to remain flexible – your trip is pretty structured, and if you find yourself enjoying yourself somewhere, or just looking for a breather – follow your instincts! It sounds like you’re already planning a follow-up trip for the beaches. So don’t feel pressured to do it all this first trip. Stay flexible and open to last-minute changes.

    Aside from that, enjoy!

  141. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Lin.

    I know a few pregnant people who’ve traveled to Vietnam recently, and all of them say the same thing – it was no issue at all. Vietnam is safe and (relatively) easy to travel in. Main issues are long bus rides (over not-great roads) and the heat, as you note.

    June is hot and wet, especially in HCMC. But I don’t personally think it’s a deal-breaker. If you want to visit Vietnam, you should!

    As long as you’re flying on a few legs of your trip, and as long as you’re willing to slow down a little and skip something if the heat is bothering you, then I think you’ll be fine.

  142. Iris Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Just stumbled on this site, and find the comments very helpful. My husband and I are planning our retirement celebration trip for Nov of this year. We will be in Asia for 5 months with our first stop for 1 month(or more) in Vietnam. We will arrive in Hanoi planning to travel the coastal route south and depart to Cambodia from the south. We have researched all the main centres and of course plan to stop there, but would be interested in any little hidden jems you might know of. We have not worked out any mode of transportation yet, and wonder if it is best to just wait until we get there and play it by ear or if you would suggest a rail or bus pass. We don’t want to be locked into a timetable or itinerary.
    Also, do you know if it is possible to fly from Don Phu Quoc into Cambodia. I know I am long winded, but thanks for your help.

  143. Tamana Says:

    Hi Scott

    I’m hoping you can help me out! My husband and I are looking to go to Vietnam for just under 14 days towards the end of June. I was thinking of starting from Ho Chi Minh city, making our way to Ha Long Bay and then perhaps ending our trip in Ha Noi.

    Suggestions are definitely welcome on what to do. I’m looking to pack in a little cultural knowledge, adventure, and romance.


  144. Scott Mc Says:

    First of all huge apologies Iris and Tamana – it’s been busy around Viator the past month or so, that volcano in Iceland certainly wasn’t helping. Anyway I am back and ready to offer feedback. Thanks for your patience!

    First off, Iris – no need to get a rail or bus pass, I’m not even sure such things really exist in a meaningful way in Vietnam. You can easily organize all your transport in Vietnam once you arrive, no worries on that front. On the flights from Phu Quoc, Vietnam Air only goes from there back to HCMC and to Rach Gia or Can Tho. So for Cambodia, you’ll need to transit back via HCMC. On the ‘hidden gem’ front, I think Con Dao qualifies. It is very remote and beautiful, the downside is there is not much tourist infrastructure – which may be a plus in some people’s minds!

    Tamana – Your trip and timelines are almost exactly the same as the itinerary I give at the very top of this post. Have a look at that, it hits all the top spots and covers culture, adventure and, yes, even a little romance!

    Happy travels.

  145. Stephanie Says:

    Hi Scott! I am so pleased with this blog! My fiance and I are planning a honeymoon for about 3 weeks in Vietnam this December. We really want to go off the beaten path and experience culture and beauty. We plan on spending time in and around Hanoi, can you recommend some day trip areas we could explore.

    Also, any hill-tribe over nighters you can recommend? Any national parks? I didn’t have time to read every comment on this post, so if you’ve already answered these questions, please let me know.

    One more thing – are the Con Dao islands worth the extra trip?

    Thanks!!! Stephanie

  146. Stephanie Says:

    One more thing – can you recommend any rock climbing trips in Vietnam? We are planning on flying in to HCMC.

  147. Stephanie Says:

    Oh my goodness – I thought of yet another question! We would love to give back while we are enjoying the country. Are there any volunteer projects going on that are open to a couple of Americans donating a few hours time?

  148. Andrea Says:

    Hi Scott

    Need some advice on accommodation. We are planning a 2 week trip to Vietnam in April 2011. Looking to follow your itinerary but not sure about types of accommodation. We are travelling as a family of 4 (kids are 10 and 13). Where would you recommend staying in HCMC, Mekong Delta and Hanoi? Lots of resorts in Mui Ne so easy to find somewhere. Very excited about our trip!!

  149. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Stephanie. Apologies for the slow reply.

    Yes – Con Dao is worth it. For sure.

    From Hanoi – the “Big Three” day trips are:

    Halong Bay

    Perfume Pagoda

    Hill Tribes – I don’t have a good link to share, unfortunately.

    And very sorry to say, I am not familiar with rock climbing in Vietnam. Anybody else?

    Ditto on volunteering – I wish I could help more with that.


  150. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Andrea.

    I don’t have too many hotel recommendations, unfortunately. I’m hesitant to give you some of the places I stayed at, only because it’s been a while and I don’t want to send you to a place that may have changed.

    My advice is, check out the most recent Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, and see what they have to say.

    You could also look at some of the “boutique” hotel websites. Here’s one that I like:


  151. Mary Says:

    I visited Vietnam eight years ago, nice country and the most amazing places I’ve ever been

  152. Mark Trip Says:

    Great post and it just makes me want to go back to Vietnam as soon as I can – cheers!

  153. Gavin Says:

    Hi Scott

    My wife has wanted to go to Vietnam for years but with a young daughter we’ve put it back. Our daughter’s now 12 and we had a good Christmas travelling in India – any reason she wouldnt be ready for Vietnam now? We are limited by school holidays so its either Christmas, Easter or July/ August. What would you recommend and what might make a good 2-week tour to appeal to all, given we presumably need to fly in and out of the same airport?

    Gavin in Oxford, England.

  154. Elle Says:

    Hi Scott,

    My partner and I have 9 days in HCMC. I’ve always wanted to visit the Mekong delta and am against the idea of taking tour groups. I’ve been trying to put togther a 2n/3d itinerary but am at a loss. I’ve heard that some of the best scenery/viewing of local life etc is early morning so I’m thinking it would be best to stay in the same place for the 2 nights and base ourselves from there.

    I’m thinking that Can Tho is a good candidate. Do you have any suggestions for a better itinerary or the best way to manage our time from there? It’s difficult to get a sense of time for getting to / from places in the delta from lonely planet and websites alone. Is something that is close on the map necessarily a short trip away??

    We’re hoping to get any necessary services directly from locals (boat transport, car/bike etc) and want to be as eco-friendly as possible.

    Would hostel/hotel/homestay booking be best done in advance? Thanks for any suggestions you can give re accommodation etc.

    Cheers, Love your blog!

  155. Shak Says:

    I am planning a trip for 5 weeks in vietnam traveling south to north. I think we should have time to see all the sights but how long do you think we should stay in Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, hanoi and halong bay? thanks for the help

  156. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Gavin.

    If your daughter can handle India, then Vietnam will be a piece of proverbial cake. I find India to be much more complicated / hassle-inducing than Vietnam, by a factor of about 500. So rest easy on that front.

    In terms of timing, March/April is the all-around best time of year to travel in Vietnam. If that coincides with your Easter holidays, you’re set. Otherwise Dec/Jan are also a good time. You’re OK either way.

    In terms of a 2-week itinerary, it’s pretty like I mentioned to Holly above – the basic outline is as follows (you could do this north-south or south-north, depending on where you fly into). This is essentially the trip I outlined in my original post, which was about 12 days total (not including travel).

    3 days in Ho Chi Minh City, including day trip to the Delta and/or the Tunnels depending on your interest in history.

    2 days in Mui Ne (a great spot to relax, swim, do nothing) or 2 days in Nha Trang (more nightlife, more stuff, more people). You can skip these both if you want more time in & around Sapa up north.

    Bus to Hoi An, spend at least 2 days there, ideally 3. Then a day or two in Hue. If you had to chose one over the other, I’d vote Hoi An for sure. But if you can do both, so much the better.

    The catch the train (or you can even fly) from Danang to Hanoi. At least 3 days in Hanoi, which either puts you at about 12 days total. Or if you skipped Mui Ne / Nha Trang, then you could spend 2 (rushed) days exploring Sapa from Hanoi. Or a night or two on Halong Bay.

    You could easily fly back to HCMC to catch a flight home.

    Have a great trip, let me know how it goes.

  157. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Elle.

    Before you rule out the group thing, have a read here:

    Of course I’m biased, but so are you! Maybe we can meet comfortably in the middle.

    I’m not that familiar with Can Thon, unfortunately, so I don’t want to pretend to offer advice when it’s not very good. But definitely, travel in Vietnam can be time-consuming. The roads are OK, but often the buses have to stop / slow down for traffic jams, road obstacles, bicyclists, etc. So definitely don’t assume just because it’s close on a map, it’s close in reality. I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – the buses and trains are OK. It’s just not a super-fast or efficient experience.

    In terms of booking hotels, my advice is always: book the first night or two, so you don’t have to deal with hassle when you arrive. And book your last night or two, preferably somewhere a little fancy, as a nice way to start your re-entry back home. Everything else – wait till you get there! Vietnam is no exception for me.


  158. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Shak.

    With 5 weeks, you’ll have plenty of time. Plenty.

    It’s hard for me to give you specific advice, since I don’t know what you’re looking to see. Give me a bit more info, and I’ll see what I can do.


  159. James Says:

    oh we are going to arrive 6 October 🙂

  160. James Says:

    My Fiancé and I are flying into Hanoi from Cambodia and will have about 7 days in which to Explore the country. We need to fly back to KL on the 7th day are thinking we will be limited to the North having to fly back our from Hanoi. Can you suggest an itinerary – so far we have planned a couple of days in Hanoi and a two day trip to Halong Bay. We had wanted beach as well to relax at the end of the trip but all the beaches look too far aways – any suggestions?

    Many Thanks

  161. paula Says:

    I am debating visiting Dalat. I cannot figure out if it is worth it. If I don’t go I will spend more time in Halong Bay/Hanoi and Hue/Hoi An. Any recommendations?

  162. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Paula.

    Slow reply, my apologies. I’m a broken record these days.

    Anyway, I’m not a mega-fan of Dalat. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se. You can have a nice few days there. But if you’re trying to decide to visit Dalat versus spending a few extra days in Halong Bay/Hanoi and Hue/Hoi An… well, that’s easy! Skip Dalat. You’ll get a much better flavor of Vietnam spending more time in any of those 4 spots.


  163. Thinh Doan Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Thank you so much for keep doing such a great job. I really enjoy reading everybody’s discussions and your recommendation. I am so embarrassing since being a vietnamese i didn’t know as much as information about vietnam like yo. I learned more about my country while reading your posts. Currently, I am making a non-profit website to connect travelers with local students in vietnam so that travelers can get advices from local students who know everything about their places. Also local students can practice their second langue with travelers. Please take a look at my website so that you can have a closer view about my idea. If you are interesting in the website, i would like to invite you to join our administration team. As i told you before the website was found with the purpose of connecting everybody and helping travelers to have a great time in Vietnam. We are not asking any money from our users. If you are interesting in joining the team, we are truly welcome you.
    If you have any question, please do not hesitate, send me an email. I will try my best to respond as soon as i can.

    Thinh Doan

  164. Stephanie Says:

    Hi Again Scott –

    Quick question, we are flying into Hanoi and plan on staying 1 full day before heading to Halong Bay for 2 or 3 days. The full day is a Sunday. Are enough shops and places to eat, see, etc open on Sundays to give us a taste of the city?

    We are flying out of HCMC 3 weeks later, and want to allow for extra time in Con Dao islands, Phu Quoc, and possibly a stop in central Vietnam.

    Any additional suggestions for how to better distribute our time would be great. So far Hanoi, Halong Bay, Con Dao, Phu Quoc, and HCMC are our only must-sees.

    Thank you!


  165. vntourist Says:

    These are must-see famous lakes in VN. Ask one of your Vietnamese friends for translation:

    Tên các hồ nổi tiếng ở VN
    Rộng lớn nhất: hồ Ba Bể.
    Yên ổn nhất: hồ Trị An.
    Buồn tẻ nhất: hồ Than Thở.
    Chậm chạm nhất: hồ Con Rùa

    Thơm tho nhất: hồ Xuân Hương.
    Sính ngoại nhất: hồ Tây.
    Sắc nhọn nhất: hồ Gươm.
    Hữu nghị nhất: hồ Hòa Bình

    Nổi danh nhất: hồ Dầu Tiếng.
    Quậy nhất: hồ Lắc.
    Nghiêm khắc nhất: hồ Cấm Sơn.

    Bạc bẽo nhất: hồ Tam Bạc.
    Ướt át nhất: hồ Thủ Lệ.
    ThÆ° thái nhất: hồ Thanh Nhàn.

    Khốn nạn nhất: Hồ Chí Minh !

  166. Angelo Aiello Says:

    Hello, Scott,

    I’m a Vietnam Vet from 1970 and plan to make a return trip in the summer of 2012. Though its off the beaten path I especially want to see Pleiku, where I spent most of my tour with Special Forces. Incredibly, I have found the barracks where I lived on Google Earth – it was still standing, at least three years ago according to the photo, and for some reason, feel compelled to get back for a visit. I plan to travel with my wife, son and, by then, 16 year old daughter.

    What can you advise concerning travel from Saigon to Pleiku? How long by car? How safe to fly? Which month is better June, July or August? I have read that the Highlands may not be especially safe due to unrest up there – what about that? I can’t shake the feeling that traveling in the country side will be dangerous, but from the blogs I have read that may be just a carry over from old war time habits.

    I am brushing up on my Vietnamese, which used to be fairly good and can’t wait to try it out. Anything you can offer would be much appreciated as I prepare for this sentmental journey.

    Could you reply be e-mail, also, in case I can’t find this web site again.

    Thank you, Angelo

  167. gira Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I have read the above itenieries, and wondering if you can help us. My husband and i are planning a trip to SE Asia. However confused between Vietnam, cambodia or Laos. I have heard Vietnam is worth seeing? and then Phuket on the way back. dates are in April (9th apr – 23 apr 2011).

    We are not fussed about beaches in Vietnam as we want to visit Phuket on the way back, however do you think we will save time if we do do beach resort say 4 nights in Vietnam.

    Any suggestions on itenieries welcome. we are visitng travel agents on Sat so any ideas before them much appreciated.



  168. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi everybody.

    A quick note to say, we had a problem with our blogging software and lost about 50 comments 🙁

    So if you’ve posted a comment in the past month or so, and it hasn’t been published or replied to, my apologies!! Please resubmit it and I’ll do my best to answer.


  169. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Angelo.

    That sounds like an amazing trip. I don’t have any experience in Pleiku, sorry about that.

    But I can tell you, a friend just got back from a few weeks in the highlands and reported no troubles whatsoever. Not sure what reports you’re hearing now, but from everything I here, it’s smooth sailing.

  170. Scott Mc Says:

    Hi Gira.

    Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’d definitely think Vietnam is worth the time and effort, so that’s an emphatic YES! I think compared to Cambodia, Vietnam is a little easier to travel the full countryside (whereas in Cambodia, it’s easy to visit Angkor Wat and around, but less easy to get into other parts of the country).

    It’s a similar story with Laos, easy to traverse the main hubs with airports, but harder and more time-consuming to get into the countryside.

    Vietnam, on the other hand, has upgraded a lot of its infrastructure and – while not efficient compared to western European standards – is much more manageable.

    So I guess it depends a little on what you want to see.

    Sorry I can’t answer your question more, if you give me a bit more to go on, maybe I can help.


  171. Guillermo Says:

    Contemplating a 7-14 day Laos, Central Vietnam & North Vietnam trek. One of your posts raved (without details) about Laos. What’s your ideal 4-6 night itinerary for that leg of my triangle? Planes, boats &/or trains are A-OK with me.

  172. Bianca Says:

    Hi Scott
    We are off to Vietnam mid May for 10 days. It was a spur of the moment booking (airasia cheap flights!) and we had no idea whether to go north or south so we have booked to fly into Hanoi and out of HCMC. We were hoping to travel north to south but after doing research realise it is not really enough time. We were thinking of booking flights with Vietnam Airlines between major destinations but not really sure how much time to spend in each. We definitely want to do a Halong Bay Cruise, definitely Hoi An and possibly a resortish area Nha Trang or Mui Ne and Cu Chi tunnels/Mekong.
    Can you recommend an itinerary? We arrive in Hanoi 9am Tues 17/5 and depart HCMC 7:30pm Thurs 26/5
    It’s doing my head in trying to figure out where to and where not to go so just need an experts help!!
    Thanks 🙂

  173. Erica Says:

    Hi Scott-
    Just came upon your website. I’m interested in travelling for 2 weeks to Vietnam in April with my four children (ages 12, 12, 9, and 5). Will we be able to find accomodation for such a family of six? Any suggestions? Also, do you recommend train travel or plane within the ocuntry?

  174. Jacqui Says:

    Hi Scott

    very informative blog – thanks. Hopefully you can offer a bit of advice/suggestion on the following trip for my husband & I (in March this year)

    Arrive Ho Chi Minh (from Melbourne) & spend 3 days – on one of the days do a Mekong Delta trip.

    Fly early morning flight from Ho Chi Minh to Danang & from there find our way to Hoi An (any suggestions on hoe to get there/length of journey – thanks). Spend that day plus the next 2 in Hoi An.

    Fly from Danang to Ha Noi (time of day will depend on how long it takes us to get from Hoi An to Danang – suggestions?). Do a overnight Halong boat cruise from Hoi An & also spend another day in Hoi An.

    Fly early evening from Ha Noi to Siem Reap for 2 days & then fly from Siem Reap to Phonm Penh for 2 days before flying back to Melbourne (late afternoon).

    Any advice/suggestions etc would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again

  175. Bianca Says:

    Hi Scott
    Can you recommend a 10 day itinerary startin in Hanoi finishing in HCMC?

  176. Vicki Says:

    Hi Scott.
    Have really enjoyed your site, you can really see your passion come through with the time and effort you must spend answering these questions.
    Me and my boyfriend are planning a trip later this year, possibly June, just for 2 weeks. He loves the idea of seeing the was memorials and battlegrounds, whilst im much more beachy, were planning a Hanoi to HCMC route. Any must sees from both genres? Have heard mixed things about Hoi An and Nha Trang.
    Also might be worth noting he has never traveled befor. I have managed to get him to agree to Vietnam, for the past 5 years I have been going away with friends!! Loved Thailand, and China but wasnt so keen on India.

    Many Thanks

  177. Virginia Says:

    Hi Scott

    My boyfriend and I will be travelling to Vietnam from Ko Lanta, Thailand around 25th April this year. Unfortunately we only have a week to spend in Vietnam so I am really torn as to whether to visit the north or the south. Will the weather be better in the north or south?

    I know you have said Hanoi is your favourite place which I would love to see but don’t think we have the time to do that as well on this trip. I am looking at HCMC, a tour to the tunnels, and then up to Hoi-An or Hue. Which is better? Would we have enough time to get up to Hoi-An/Hue and back in a week? Should we make time for a trip to Mekong Delta?

    Not sure we should go to Na Trang or Mui Ne given we have just come from the islands in Thailand. Should we see the beaches? We don’t want to spend loads of time travelling but want to see as much as we can.

    Can you recommend an itinerary? I’m really struggling!

    Many thanks

  178. Rachel Says:

    Hi Scott,

    We have booked return flights from London to Bangkok in August. From there we want to fly to Vietnam either Hanoi or HCMC, depending if we do south to north or north to south. When is the best time to buy? I think our choices are Air Asia or Vietnam Airlines.


  179. Flavia Says:

    hello, great blog…
    i’m planning on going to thailand, laos, vietnam, cambodia at the beginning of april for 45 days..
    i was thinking on doing thailand for 2 weeks(maybe only bangkok and the south), vietnam for 2 weeks(maybe just the north), Laos for a week and cambodia for one more week…
    which itinerary would you suggest???(time i shoud stay, transportations…)
    the season is good for travelling in that area…right???.
    thank you so much…

  180. Sarah Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Great site, very informative. Given the extent of your travelling i was hoping you may be able to shed some light on whether you think a 3 week trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos is perhaps a bit overambitious given the timeframe. I tend to like to see as much as possible. I read from one of your previous postings that Cambodia and Laos dont have the infastructure and travel links of Vietnam.

    Any advice/tips is welcomed!


  181. Louisa Says:

    HI Scott,

    I am planning a trip with my husband for 7 days in Vietnam in late July. I am wondering if you could give me some ideas. We would like some beach time at a nice resort with huts, then some city time. I am thinking about flying in and out of Ho Chi Min and potentially staying in the south or perhaps flying up to Hoi An. Would love your suggestions on a beach location that might be not too busy and whether we should do that in south or central around Hoi An?

    Would love to make it to Han Oi but i think 7 days is not enough time, we will just have to go back another time.


  182. Mariano B. Garchitorena Says:

    Thanks for all the tipe. My friends and I are planning on going to Vietnam – Cambodia this July. July 19 – 31, to be exact. The suggested IT’s the ff:

    Ho Chi Minh – Arrival/ 1 day

    Mekong Boat Ride to Pnom Penh – 1 day

    Pnom Penh – 1 day

    Pnom Penh Drive to Siem Reap – 1 day

    Siem Reap – 3 days

    Siem Reap to Pnom Penh Drive – 1 day

    The rest is still up in the air but we MUST end in HCM as that’s where we get our plane ride home. We’d like to visit Hoi An and Hanoi. Hue, too, if possible,

  183. Rita Says:

    Hi i am travelling to Vietnam this month from South to North, for two weeks. So will be going to HCM city, HUE,HOI AN,HANOI,and Halong bay. Is the anything you could suggest inbetween these places that would be interesting and safe for two girls? the places i mentioned before are they safe to travel without an organised tour? best mode of transport going to north from these places?also is it easy to find accomodation as you turn up to these places? many questions! many thanks!

  184. Christian Says:

    Hi scott
    We are at the moment in new Zealand and we are thinking a out going over to Vietnam.
    We are thinking about starting in ho chi min city and then move our way up towards Hanoi.
    We have time only we are worried that the weather is going to be problem for us.
    What can you tell us about that for this time of year?


  185. Sean Says:

    Hi Scott:

    I am planning on spending two weeks in Vietnam (via Bangkok) in October of 2011. I have spent a few hours online and I have to admit I found your website and suggestions the most helpful. Here is the schedule I am contemplating and would love any feedback if you have the time:

    October 11th: HCMC From BKK
    October 12th: HCMC
    October 13th: Mekong Delta
    October 14th: HCMC day overnight train To Mui Ne.
    October 15-16: Mui Ne
    October 17-18: Nha Trang (Leave that evening by train for Hoi An)
    October 19-20: Hoi An (leave that afternoon by flight for Hanoi)
    October 21-24: Hanoi (includes 2 day trips to Halong Bay)
    October 25th: Hanoi to Bangkok

    I have never been to Vietnam and hoping 14 days is enough. I didnt want to take too much of your time so I only listed generally where I would be. Any feedback would be very much appreciated.


  186. Accommodation Vietnam Says:

    Thank you for your kind information, Scott…I’m sure our country of Vietnam would strive all we could to not disappoint you on your trip to Vietnam. Look forward to welcoming you all….

  187. Lexy Says:

    Hi Scott (and Erica)

    I have just cone across your post too and wondered what you thought about travelling Vietnam with a baby. My daughter is six months. Do you think it would be too difficult? I’m pretty confident apart from transport on tuktuks and motorbikes!!!

    Thanks Lexy

  188. Antoine Leporc Says:

    I have been working in Vietnam for 5 years and the traffic was the first scary thing I had to deal with, 5 years later I feel in my element, even though I still cannot stand being stuck in the traffic breathing all the gaz from the bikes…

  189. vietnam photos Says:

    Hue is a must-visit place if you are fond of acient tomb and quite city.

  190. vietnamvisa Says:

    Hi scott,

    you spent many time in here. If you have more time, you should taste Tay Nguyen’s coffee or some district of middle of Vietnam. I love it. It’s very sweet. I spent more time in cool night to drink a cup of coffee. try a time like I did.

  191. YVA Says:

    One week trip in Vietnam, awesome!

    I definitely recommend 2 other famous places: Nha Trang and Hue.

  192. wah Says:

    Hi Scott, My husband and I would like to visit Vietnam during the winter holidays. We were thinking of staying warm and keeping to the south rather than going north this trip. In what order do you think we should do the following and do you think 12 days is enough time to see and do some things?
    I was thinking: Ho chi min city, mekong delta, cu chi tunnels, and beaches of Mu Ne?
    What are your thoughts?

  193. victoria charters Says:

    Thanks for all the info – very helpful. In terms of accomodation choices I use trip advisor which is excellent because it’s comments from fellow travellers. There are many uptodate reviews to compare. Try it!

  194. Daniela Says:

    How much would a trip like this cost approximately? am thinking of doing nearly an identical route and am trying to figure out costs. Also how long did it take for you to do this trip?

  195. top honeymoon packages Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post, my wife and I are thinking of going to Asia for our honeymoon, adding a trip to Vietnam to our honeymoon to Thailand. We may add Singapore to our honeymoon instead, we are yet to decide.

  196. sireesha Says:

    Hi Scott,

    My Husband and I are travelling to North Vietnam in the second week of April…we are there for 6 days/5 nights….we are flying into Hanoi from India…We are planning to do a 2 day/1 night trip to halong bay…i have also heard mai chau or ninh binh are good side trips from hanoi…can you please suggest a good itinerary considering the time we have??

    Thanks a lot…You are doing a great job…love reading your posts 🙂


  197. David Says:

    Vietnam coffee is really the best ! Just try 🙂

  198. Amb79 Says:


    Thanks so much for this great blog and keeping up with current postings!

    My husband and I will be traveling to Vietnam in a few weeks and have 12 nights to work with. It’s our first time to the country and our focus is more on the food, culture and history than focusing on the American War and it’s footprint. We’re foodies that want to get a good feeling for the country, just in case this is our only trip to Vietnam. (it’s a big world) we also want to make sure we don’t come home from the trip exhausted, so a little down time at the beach is a must.

    Here’s what we have.

    Day 1: arrive late in Saigon
    2 – Saigon
    3 – fly out at midday to Hanoi
    4 – Hanoi
    5 – Hanoi or Perfume Pagoda
    6 – Hanoi – take the 7pm train to Hué
    7 – Hué
    8 – take the scenic drive to Hoi An
    9 – fly to Nha Trang
    10 – Nha Trang (day trip to Cham temple? Or islands? Or a different day trip?)
    11 – Nha Trang
    12 – fly to Saigon midday
    13 – Saigon (or Mekong Delta day trip!)
    14 – Saigon – fly for home at 23:00h

    We didn’t include Halong Bay because it seemed too touristy and we were afraid of feeling like we were being held captive. Should we shorten our stay in Hanoi to include it?

    Would you recommend any of these day trips? Again, we don’t want to feel overly rushed the entire time, but don’t want to miss out on a must see/do option.

    Our time in Hoi An is very limited. Would you suggest taking the quickest drive from Hué rather than the scenic route?

    Thank you in advance for any critique you can offer!

  199. Amb79 Says:

    Oops! 13 nights total, with one of those on a train.

  200. Andy Says:

    HUe is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
    most people just visit Citadel & Tomb in one day, travellers should stay here more, at least 2 to 3 days, what can be done for that:
    Day one: visit normal place like Temple , pagoda, citadel
    Day two: 4am drive Tam Giang lagoon visiting and photo fishing village from 5:30 – 7:30 am then drive to Phuoc tich old village, cooking class,
    Day 3: visiting some handicraft village in Hue
    where to stay: offer from 18 – 25 usd/room with buffet breakfast.
    check it out

  201. Abu Talha Says:


    Its informative to read all above posts and your blog.

    I want to visit Vietnam in September for two weeks (may be from 27th AUG to 15th SEP). Can you please advice me?

  202. Laura Says:

    Hi Abu,

    Thank you for your comment!

    Viator offers many types of Vietnam tours and activities, which you can browse on our site:

    We also have several blog posts about things to do in Vietnam on this blog:

    Hope that can help you get started planning your trip! 🙂

  203. Cate Ferguson Says:

    there are so many things to see and do in Vietnam, especially in the south. The Mekong Delta area and right us to Saigon are just delightful. The ability to discover real hidden gems when you step off the beaten path in Vietnam is one of life’s pleasures. thanks for suggesting ideas – there are some good stories on my site if you want to read them. bye

  204. Lonelybaby Says:

    Coffee in Trung Nguyen is famous in Vietnam.

  205. robin Says:

    my husband and i are palnning a trip to viet nam over christmas. we plan to spend about 10 days there. where would u suggest we go to get the most out of our stay ? thanks

  206. Khanh Sinh Says:

    In the North of Vietnam, you should visit:

    – Hanoi city tour (1 day), Perfume Pagoda (1 day)
    – Halong Bay (2 – 3 days) on the cruise
    – Ninh Binh (1 – 2 days): Hoa Lu – Tam Coc – Thung Nham, Bai Dinh – Trang An
    – Sapa (2 days/ 3 nights or 3 days 4 nights)

    In the North of Vietnam, you should visit: Hue – Hoi An – Da Nang (3 – 4 days)

    In the South of Vietnam, you should visit:

    – Da Lat, Nha Trang (2 -3 days)
    – Ho Chi Minh (1 day)
    – Mekong tour (1-2 days)
    – Phan Thiet – Phu Quoc ( 2 -3 days)

    Have a nice trip!

  207. Kathryn Nguyen Says:

    thank you for your itinerary! this will help me tremendously as we’ll be in VN for 3wks during christmas.

  208. Ross Says:

    A friend and I are planning two weeks in Vietnam in May. We will be heading south to north starting in HCMC. We want to take in the culture and fabulous scenery and from the previous posts we wont be short on ideas for that but we like to party as well. We have two weekends to fill, where is best to spend them? If we can’t fit the nightlife destinations into our itinerary at the weekends, is there anywhere that is buzzing throughout the week?