Vietnam is a country on wonders. The country has an enthralling history involving the west and Its scenery ranges from dense mountainous jungle to white sandy beaches. Vietnam is a great country to travel as it is thin and tall so you can pretty much travel it in a continuous route along the coast with not much backtracking.
The route laid out here takes in 10 of the best locations the country has to offer and can take around a month if you spend roughly 3 nights in each location. This route can be traveled either north to south or south to north but this example starts in the north at the capital Hanoi and travels south to Ho Chi Minh City, just flip it around if you want to start from Ho Chi Minh and work your way up. This is an EPIC trip.
Example flights through STA Travel u/26 fair;
Depart 8th June; London – Hanoi
Return 8th July; Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) – London
Hanoi (3 Nights)
Fly smack bang into the the capital of Vietnam to start your adventure. Hanoi is a vibrant and rich city and has been influenced by Asian countries and particularly the French colonists. The city is begging to be explored wit tonnes of museums, markets and restaurants. Take a visit to the old quarter as well as the nearby Hoan Kiem Lake (pictured). For a fun day visit the Royal City’s underground water park and take a swan ride on Tay Ho Lake. By night visit Hanoi night market on Hang Doa Street.
Hostel; Vietnam Backpackers Hostels – Downtown £5 per night
Hotel; Hanoi Royal Palace Hotel 2 £24-30 per night for a double/twin
From Hanoi you can take two exciting excursions where you can stay a couple of nights. The first is the chill out town of Sa Pa situated in the Mountains to the north west. The Second is Ha Long Bay – just Google it and see why you have to go.
Sa Pa (2 Nights)
Sa Pa is a beautiful hilly region home to many hill tribes that live off the land. A trip to Muong Hoa Valley and Fansipan Mountain are a must and there are many trekking tours you can book from your accommodation once you’re their. You can also book tours online or in Hanoi that include return transport from Hanoi, accommodation and tours. Home-stays with the local villagers are a very popular accommodation option here.
To get to Sa Pa book the 8 hour night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. From Lao Cai there are plenty of buses and taxi’s that will take you on the 50 minute journey to Sa Pa. You can get a one way train from Gar Ha Noi for $36 for a cabin that sleeps 4 and you get your own bed! Check out Vietnam Railways for info.
Homestay; My Tra Homestay £6 per night
Hostel; Go Sapa Hostel £3-5 a per night
Hotel; Heart of Sapa Hotel £24 per night for twin/double
Ha Long Bay (2-3 nights)
After popping back to Hanoi from Sa Pa take a excursion to this UNESCO world heritage site. You will find hundreds of huge limestone towers jotting out of the bay covered in wildlife and lush greenery. There are many boat tours that you can take through the bay that range from around a couple of hours to 2 or 3 nights. If you stayed at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel – Downtown, they offer a wild party tour where you stay on a boat for one night and a private island for another and all transfers are included. Fancy something a bit calmer? check this site out for tours ranging from £40-£400! There are also tours that you can book in Hanoi that take care of travel, accommodation and the tour.
If transport isn’t included in your tour you can hop on one of the many buses from My Dinh Bus Station to Ha Long for $10 one way which will take around 4 hours. If you’re on the downtown backpackers tour they will arrange transport for you. Don’t get the train, apparently its a cargo one and very slow. Head back to Hanoi after your tour to continue south the Phong Nha National Park!
Best hotel; The Light Hotel £15 Double/Twin
Best hostel; Ha Long Happy Hostel £6 per night
Phong Nah Ke Bang National Park; (2-4 nights)
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this national park is a a hidden gem. You wont hear much about it and I have no idea why because it houses the frickin largest cave in the world! If that wasn’t enough for you It also houses the 3rd largest cave in the world and a myriad of other smaller caves. It has the purest limestone in the world which is easily eroded by water allowing these caves to form . The awesome thing is you can go on trips to all these caves. The largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong, is a 1 week expedition whilst the 3rd largest cave in the world (the one I went to) is a two day trip. Both of these once in a lifetime expeditions can be booked through Oxalis who operate from the town of Phong Nah and are highly recommended, professional and safe. They offer many other excursions and you can make youre own way to some of the smaller, well visited caves.
From Hanoi you should get the night train to Dong Hoi then a shuttle service to Phong Nha. Before you depart contact your hotel/hostel in Phong Nha and arrange a shuttle service from Dong Hoi to your accommodation in Phong Nah. The available night trains from Hanoi Station to Dong Hoi cost around $40 for a bed and are;
Hostel; Easy Tiger £5.50 per night
Hotels; Use the Oxalis Accommodation Guide £10-£60 per night
Hue (2 nights)
Hue is full of enthralling history just waiting to be explored. Take a visit to the ancient Citadel and Forbidden City which are guarded by nine holy bronze cannon made from melted trinkets from the Tay Son Dynasty. The Japanese bridge was built in the 18th century and is beautiful to visit. Hue has the largest market in central Vietnam called the Dong Ba Markets where you can immerse yourself in the stalls.
The best way to get to Hue after your adventures in Phong Nha is by train from Dong Hoi. They cost $18 for a soft seat and the journey takes around 3 hours.
Hostel; Tigon Hostel £3-5
Hotel; Orchid Hotel £30 Double/twin
Hoi An (3 nights)
The Journey from Hue to Hoi An is a spectacle in is self that will be a highlight of your trip (see Getting There below). This beach side town is famous for its tailor industry. Made even more famous by the old Top Gear trio, you can buy tailor made suit for around $100. The Ancient town is beautiful and on the full moon every month plays host to the lantern festival (pictured).
From Hue to Hoi An you can hire a motorbike taxi that will stop off on multiple locations along the famous and beautiful Hai Van Pass. You could also hire a moped to drive along the route and drop it off in Hoi An. Not a fan of bikes? You can hire a private car for around $40 that will take 4 and will stop off at all the scenic areas. Whichever mode you take, visit the fishing village of Lung Cu, the marble mountains and the pass of the clouds. You can also get a bus that you can book from your accommodation.
Hostel; Sunflower Hotel £6.94 a night
Hotel; Lasenta Boutique Hotel Hoi An £52 a night double/twin
Homestay; Hoi An Rustic Homestay £21 a night twin/double
Nha Trang (3 nights)
Nha Trang has beaches and islands in plenty. The islands house many coral reefs which you can explore through snorkeling or scuba diving and you can book tours once you’re there. take a trip across on the cable car to Vinepearl Amusement Park for a fun day out then head over to iresort for a relaxing mud bath.
From Hoi An you will have to travel the short distance to Da Nang by taxi for around $10 where you can either fly or get the train to Nha Trang. If you’re flying its around $45 for an eco fair with Vietnam airlines, at 1hr 10 mins it’s by far the quickest but book in advance as they’re popular! A train will take around 9 hours and will set you back $30 and can be booked here or at Danang station.
Hostel; Mozjo Inn £4.63 a night
Da Lat (3 nights)
The City of Eternal Spring is situated in the hills and known for its forests, lakes and waterfalls. YOU HAVE TO GO CANYONING (pictured) it will get your adrenaline pumping! Take a trip to Elephant falls to see the power of nature and go to Datanla falls for the roller coaster ride there where you control your own little pod!
Hostel; Cozy Nook Hostel £4-£5
Hotel; Stop & Go Boutique Hotel £28
Mui Ne (3 nights)
This town is super chill with great beaches and has a great surrounding area to explore. the town has great sand dunes (pictured) that are about an hour out of town. The best way to get to these along the amazing coastal roads so hire a moped for the day an take the trip! The beaches are gorgeous and windsurfing lessons are very popular.
Your accommodation will have a list of bus companies that will take you on the 5 hour journey for around $5-$10, try Phuong Trang bus Co. Another alternative is to hire an easy rider – your own personal bike/tour guide for $160.
Hostel; Mui Ne Backpacker Village £5
Ho Chi Minh City (4 Nights);
This city played a huge part in the Vietnamese war and you can visit the famous Chu Chi tunnels and explore what it was like to be a solider during the war underground (who to book through). If you want to soak up some more history visit the museum (whihc one). Once you’ve had your fill of history visit one of the many markets in the city. There are so many markets where you can buy your last minute presents – take trip to my favourite ones (recomend a market or two)
Saigon is famous for its lofty sky bars. Although not outside, the highest is the Eon 51 Heli Bar which has the best views in town. This place also turns into a good night out so hang around till the early hours. Its located on the 51st floor of Bitexco Financial Tower and is open until 2am, happy hour is from 5pm till 8pm where cocktails and wine cost less than £5!
If you fancy a sky bar that is outside then visit the Level 23 Wine Bar at the Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers for some sophisticated drinks some of which are under a fiver! they also have happy hour from 6pm – 8pm where you can buy one get one free on cocktails.
You can get the train from Mui Ne to Saigon Here’s the link to the website. Or you can get on a bus for the 5 hour journey for $10, Phuong Trang Bus Co are a good one to go with.