Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

Better one less stage done well than one more stage that becomes simply anonymous.

My approach was precisely this: an itinerary in Vietnam which, although inflated, tried to live the place in a slower but more conscious way.

My itinerary in Vietnam

The itinerary that I propose is an itinerary that takes into consideration the North Vietnam and central Vietnam and is feasible in 13/15 days. If you have more days you could combine it with the part of South Vietnam and the Mekong Delta (that's why I think 25 days of travel are necessary).

My trip was slightly different from what I had planned and which I describe in this article. I had to change it as the weather conditions would not allow me to visit Halong Bay; a typhoon arrived in the bay on the days when I had to do the cruise, this prompted me to have to redesign the itinerary. It wasn't easy at all but in the end I succeeded.

In this regard, if you haven't read it yet, I suggest you take a look at the post on how to create a tourist itinerary, could provide you with some more ideas.

Like any itinerary, I will also suggest possible deviations and alternatives and where to find adequate information.

Travel to Vietnam: general practical aspects and costs

We assume that this is a trip where I have not rented any means of transport. In this paragraph I summarize them all my choices ed the costs incurred so that you can have a precise idea to organize your itinerary in Vietnam. Many of these topics can be found treated in a broader way in this post on all tips for traveling to Vietnam do it yourself.

Period: August 2018.

Climate in Vietnam in august: This is a special period because a trip to Vietnam in August is a lottery game. You may find good weather or a typhoon, or both as happened to me. I must say that I was lucky enough, I did not find persistent rainy days. By changing the itinerary I managed to escape from the rains but I am still lurking.

If it is possible to escape from the rains, it is not possible to escape from thehumidity. A trip to Vietnam in August means live with great humidity which, combined with the heat, must be evaluated well. It will often be necessary to stop in the shade and hydrate continuously.

Flight to Vietnam: 520 euros return flight from Sofia to Hanoi with Qatar Airways.

As some of you know, I like to find impossible solutions to be able to save something. In August, flights departing from Milan are sometimes prohibitive, so I have to do my best to be able to spend something less at the expense of comfort. Using Skyscanner Anywhere (read my article here) I try endless combinations until I find one that makes sense and isn't too challenging. Flying with Qatar from Milan to Hanoi would have cost around 400 euros more each, with a less popular airline the ticket would have cost around 800/850 euros anyway.

Flight to Sofia and back from Plodiv: 100 euro return including checked baggage with Ryanair.

Transportation Sofia Airport - Plodiv Airport: 60 euros for about 160 km

The return should have been from Sofia, in reality the Bulgarian national airline has decided to change the timetable on the fly, anticipating it. Consequently I had to find another solution. If you too were to fly from Sofia, know that at just over 150km there is the Plodiv airport from which you can leave.

Domestic return flight between Hanoi and Da Nang: 100 euros with Vietnam Airlines.

Again to be precise ... as I wrote to you shortly before I had to redesign my trip and instead of making a return trip from Hanoi to Da Nang, I made a one way Hanoi - Da Nang and a return Da Nang - Haiphong on the airport of Cat Bi, the closest to Halong Bay (about 1 hours by road).

Visa for Vietnam: thanks to an agreement between spain and Vietnam, Spanish citizens can enter Vietnam and obtain a free visa for stays up to 15 days. If your itinerary in Vietnam is longer than 15 days then you must proceed to apply for a visa. Same thing if you want a multiple entry visa, in fact even under 15 days if you want to enter and leave Vietnam you need to pay for the multiple entry visa. The general prerogative is to have a passport with a residual validity of not less than 6 months.

As for the situation described in this itinerary, if you travel to Vietnam and you are a Spanish citizen, the agreement is valid even if your flight leaves from another country, as in my case it happened in Sofia. The hostess from Qatar initially asked me for a visa, after I explained to her she checked the computer and let me through without any problems.

For more information about the visa, I wrote this article where I also explain how to apply for an electronic visa online before leaving. (very helpful).

Read also -> Obtain a Vietnam Visa.

Areas of Vietnam concerned: Hanoi, Sapa and neighboring villages, Halong and Bai To Long Bay, Hoi An

Excursions / Activities done: Trekking with overnight homestay in Sapa, Halong Bay cruise and parasailing on An Bang beach in Hoi An.

Internal transport in Vietnam: used Taxis of all kinds, Mini-Van, Luxury Van and private car transport. Moving is cheap especially if you follow some advice such as using Grab (soon the post)

Exchange Euro / Vietnamese Dong: the currency used in Vietnam is the Dong and the exchange rate to date (August 2018) is 1 euro = 26700 - 26200 Dong. They have no coins, they are all banknotes and the smallest denomination is 1000 Dong, about 4 euro cents. It seems to go around with Monopoly banknotes… once you have them in your hand you will tell me if this is not the case.

Hotel booking: all booked using the portal , now almost the only portal on which I move to look for accommodation for a trip.

Hotel costs in Vietnam: the accommodations are very cheap. In my case, I paid from 15 euros for a double room in the hotel near Hanoi airport to 30 euros for the hotel in Hoi An. Most hotels included breakfast. Obviously, there are also even cheaper solutions at the expense of comfort.

Food costs: street food, like in many other Asian countries, is very cheap, with a few thousand Dong you can make a meal for two. A dinner in a street restaurant in Hanoi can cost you almost 200.000 Dong, the equivalent of 8 euros.

Even cheaper are the stalls on the street. If you want to eat something more refined you can easily do it in more renowned restaurants, the cost is still low in relation to the Western world. The most expensive dinners were in Hoi An where I spent about 500.000 / 600.000 Dong in two people. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

A plate of noodles in the mountains of Sapa

Time zone in Vietnam in August: 5 hours ahead of Spain. When it's noon in Spain, it's 17.00pm in Vietnam.

Insurance: stipulated online for 100 euros (valid for 2 people) including elimination of the deductible.

Wi-Fi: I think Vietnamese without Wi-Fi would find themselves a little uncomfortable. They are dependent on the internet connection. Every hotel, every bar, every restaurant and even some city centers have Wi-Fi connection available. Even in our homestay in the rice fields of Cat Ba, maybe there were no paintings and the walls were of rough brick but the Wi-Fi connection was more powerful than that of my house. I have a curious anecdote about Wi-Fi passwords that you will find in the tips for traveling to Vietnam post.

Data connection: I used it little because I didn't buy a local sim. The few times I activated the data connection there was no reception problem.

Detailed itinerary in Vietnam day by day

As I told you, I report what must have been the main itinerary of my trip to Vietnam, structured in this way: Hanoi -> Sapa -> Ha Long Bay -> Hoi An -> Hanoi

At the end of the itinerary you will also find some possible excursions to add.

Day 1 and 2: Hanoi - visit the capital of Vietnam and overnight train to Sapa

The first days in Vietnam serve to make the first contacts with this Southeast Asian culture. And how not to do it if not starting from its capital, a concentrate of inconsistencies with an irresistible charm. I believe Hanoi belongs to that category of city that "you either love them or hate them“, A bit like Bangkok… the fact is that I am among those who love them. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

A boy admires the view of Hoam Kiem Lake in Hanoi

The first day we have done a tour in the old quarter and around the Hoan Kiem lake, knowing and discovering the chaotic lifestyle of the inhabitants of Hanoi. The second dayinstead, we visited the northwestern part of the city between pagodas, the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and much more. Beware of the heat especially if you visit Hanoi in August.

Read also: Hanoi, what to see in the capital of Vietnam

In the evening we took the night train to Sapa in order to be in Sapa the morning of the next day. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

The night train to Sapa from Hanoi

3 - 4 - 5 day: Arrival in Sapa + Trekking and Homestay + Visit to Sapa

The train arrives in Lao Cai early in the morning. In Lao Cai an endless series of minivans take all those who get off the Sapa train where it is possible to start trekking towards the indigenous villages. You can choose one-day or multi-day itineraries, in my case I opted for a 2 day and one night trek.

Here is my article: Sapa, trekking among the rice fields and ethnic minorities of Vietnam

I added an extra night to see Sapa city and get some rest. Sapa city did not impress me but in the end I think that stopping one more day was the right choice to take a breath.

On the third and last day in Sapa (the fifth of the trip) I took the night train back to Hanoi arriving in Hanoi the next day Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

Among the rice fields of Sapa in North Vietnam

6 - 7 - 8 day: Arrival in Hanoi + transfer to Ha Long + Cruise in Bai to Long Bay + Return to Hanoi and flight to Da Nang and night in Hoi An

I state that this was the itinerary in Vietnam that I had defined. Actually, as mentioned earlier, I had to change it.

Arriving in Hanoi early in the morning it is perfect to associate it with Ha Long Bay cruise because many companies that offer the service in the bay "load" the various tourists in the old quarter of Hanoi around 8 in the morning. In this way it is possible to fit the arrival with the night train from Sapa and the departure with the Ha Long cruise.

We are transferred to Ha Long from where we leave for a cruise which in my case was 3 days and 2 nights. There are also cruises of 2 days and 1 night but they do not allow you to go too far into the bay and therefore you return to land only with a vague perception of what the Halong bay. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

The view from the boat in Halong Bay

The return always takes place by luxury van and brings tourists back to the old quarter of Hanoi.

My itinerary for this trip to Vietnam included leaving the same evening for Da Nang in order to optimize travel and days, arriving in Da Nang the same evening and reaching Hoi An with a transfer from the airport. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

Sailing in Halong Bay

9 - 10 day: Hoi An

A full day discovering Hoi An, the town famous for its fantastic lanterns.

Read also: Hoi An, the romantic city of lanterns

A tour of the city and a detour to An Bang beach 4 kilometers from the center of Hoi An. In the evening Hoi An is a gem to discover and admire. You just have to pay attention to the fact that the Vietnamese close their businesses early and therefore around 23 pm you may already find several streets without lit lanterns. Travel to Vietnam: my detailed itinerary

The classic photo of the lanterns in Hoi An in central Vietnam

11 - 12 day: Cham Island with overnight in Homestay

I include them in the itinerary because I had planned the excursion with a night in homestay to Cham Island independently and not through the organized excursions. From what I had read it would have been perfect because at 3 pm the island is completely empty and those who stay overnight in a homestay can enjoy the tranquility of the sea and beauty of these islands. Take them into consideration because I believe they are a great alternative to the popular beaches of Hoi An.

12 evening - 13 day: Return to Hoi An, flight Da Nang - Hanoi, return flight

I had planned to return in the evening of the 12th day, sleep near the airport and leave the next morning with the return flight.


How did my trip to Vietnam really go?

I am writing it because it could be a valid and excellent alternative to the itinerary I had prepared and which I have described in the previous lines.

  • 1 day: Hanoi
  • 2 day: Hanoi - Night train to Sapa
  • 3 day: Trekking to Sapa with overnight in Homestay
  • 4 day: Trekking to Sapa with night in Sapa
  • 5 day: Sapa - Night train to Hanoi
  • 6 day: Hanoi - Flight to Da Nang - Transfer and overnight in Hoi An
  • 7 day: Hoi An.
  • 8 day: Hoi An.
  • 9 day: Hoi An.
  • 10 day: Flight from Da Nang to Haiphong - Ha Long Transfer - Cruise Start
  • 11 day: Halong and Bai To Long Bay Cruise
  • 12 day: Halong Bay and Bai To Long Cruise - Return to Hanoi
  • 13 day: Return flight

Possible alternatives to be included in this trip:

  • West area of ​​Hanoi you could enter the splendid village of Mai Chau inserted in a landscape that recalls that of Sapa: rice fields and lots of nature and tranquility.
  • North area of ​​Hanoi you will find a territory that is still little beaten by tourism and that it would be wonderful to know. Usually it is not included in the itineraries of those who make the first trip to Vietnam because, although it is beautiful, it takes too much time due to the still reduced transport. This is that portion of Vietnam between Hanoi and Hà Giang. If you have a lot of time or in any case you want to concentrate your trip only in North Vietnam, well I can only envy you if you can see this part of Vietnam.
  • South area of ​​Hanoi find the classic but incomparable excursions to Tam Coc and Trang An. I was not able to insert them due to the various unforeseen events that have occurred to me but they represent a fixed stop for anyone visiting Vietnam.
  • Sapa area in addition to trekking and visiting the anonymous city of Sapa, I advise you to evaluate the climb to Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina (3143 meters). You can choose two ways: with a rather strenuous trek or with the cable car, more expensive but obviously faster and more comfortable. Pay attention to the weather, I did not go there because it was cloudy and at that altitude it makes no sense to go if there is not clear because the visibility would probably be almost zero.
  • Da Nang area you could include a day trip to Hue to visit its citadel or a visit to the Marble Mountains. 
  • Hoi An area you could have a bike experience in the countryside and touch everyday life, or you could visit My Son, a monumental complex not far from the city (1 hour by car, about 40 km).


Recommended hotels for a trip to Vietnam

I prepared the itinerary at home and, as usual, in organizing the trip I preferred to book all the hotels in advance, being able to choose with confidence. I always leave room for a possible free cancellation that I can use during the trip if there are unforeseen events that do not allow you to continue the journey as planned.

The prices shown are for 1 night per double room, NOT per personto. They include a private bathroom. Most include breakfast. For this trip to Vietnam I must say that they all turned out to be excellent choices, so I highly recommend them.

Hanoi -> Splendid Boutique Hotel (click to see the hotel) - 30 euros

Located in the old quarter of Hanoi within walking distance of the market and night market street. I think it was perfect. Very clean and with a staff who spoke good English as well as being very courteous. They can also arrange pick-up from the airport to central Hanoi and vice versa. Also, very importantly, they keep your suitcases for you until the evening and you can also take a shower before you leave, even in the evening because they have a shower room. The ideal solution if you have to leave by train to Sapa in the evening.

Value for money: 9

Hanoi Airport -> Dragon Airport Hotel (click to see hotel) - 15 euro

A few meters from the airport it was the right choice to spend the night waiting for the morning flight. I had an early flight back and to avoid Hanoi traffic I preferred to sleep partly at the airport. It is only 500 meters from the international departures terminal, DO NOT be taken to the domestic departures terminal otherwise it is 2 km. Clean and functional hotel

Value for money: 7

Sapa city -> Sapa Elegance Hotel (click to see the hotel) - 22 euros

Sapa city is becoming more and more touristy with each passing day and therefore the various accommodations have improved in terms of services. At the ridiculously low price of 22 euros including breakfast, I found this hotel in a slightly uphill street a few tens of meters from the church. It is a very clean hotel and the staff are very courteous. I can only recommend it, it also offers the laundry service which is essential after the trekking in Sapa.

Value for money: 10

Hoi An -> Windbell Homestay Villa (click to see the hotel) - 28 euros

Hoi An is a town that to say beautiful is an understatement. The old quarter of Hoi An is very busy, so I preferred to enjoy a bit of tranquility sleeping for 4 nights in this hotel with a swimming pool (very nice) about 800 meters from the center. On foot it takes about 10 minutes, while by taxi it goes from 16.000 Dong to 30.000. Many rooms directly overlook the swimming pool. I found myself very well and I recommend it because it is in a quiet area.

Value for money: 8

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