I spent nearly 4 weeks in Vietnam at the end of last year and i would say this is a good amount of time to travel the coast North to South or vice versa without having to travel too fast and seeing pretty much all the towns and cities a long the way.
However i know that some times we can be a bit time poor and now that Vietnam has introduced a free 15 day visa on arrival while i was in Vietnam and South East Asia i met a lot of people trying to travel the Country in that amount of time!
If you have the time i would say its 100% worth paying roughly $40.00 USD/£30.00 for the month visa and not rushing your travels BUT if you don’t have the time and 2 weeks is all you can do then here are the top places i would recommend you visit to ensure you see the best bits of the Country!
(I travelled North to South which is how I’ll detail this but there’s no wrong way to travel!)
Well this is a non-brainer really. Halong Bay is one of the natural Wonders of the World and it certainly didn’t disappoint me so a trip here is a must.
The port where you leave to see Halong Bay is a good 4-5 hour drive from Vietnam’s Northern City of Hanoi. I liked Hanoi but a day there is enough if you’re short on time so make sure you get to Hanoi and leave for Halong Bay asap.
Halong Bay tours are sold in the many many travels agents all around Hanoi so it won’t be hard to get a next day booking and although there are day tours available with the amount of travel time it takes to get there you should definitely factor in a 1 or 2 night trip. I did a 1 night trip and it was probably the highlight of my time in Vietnam. Read more about my Halong Bay experience here.
Hoi An is probably one of the prettiest towns that I’ve been to (i know i say that a lot but i really mean it). Its full of brightly coloured French Colonial buildings and you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that you were no longer in Asia.. in a good way!
There’s a river running right through the town, Chinese lanterns hanging over the streets, plenty of places to eat, plenty of markets to buy some cheap souvenirs and there’s even a beach near by!
Before Hoi An i was in Hue which i got an overnight bus to from Hanoi. From Hue i hired a bike and driver and did the ‘top gear’ route to get to Hoi An which took a few hours.
If you have time to get to Hue and then bike down to Hoi An then this is an absolute must! If not then you can fly into Danang which is a short journey away from Hoi An as Hoi An doesn’t have an airport.
Definitely factor a few days in Hoi An to bike around the town, soak in the culture, hit the beach and basically feel like you’re on holiday! Read here what i got up to in Hoi An!
After Hoi An the next stop on most people’s itinerary (including mine) is Nha Trang however i would say to skip Nha Trang! Yes its got a fairly decent city beach and night life but it’s just a city with lots of holiday makers and you really don’t feel like you’re in Vietnam there.. in a bad way!
Instead head straight to Da Lat. A small town a few hours in land and South of Nha Trang.
Da Lat is most commonly known for its Canyoning. Personally i didn’t fancy jumping down a waterfall into freezing water but if that’s what you fancy then you can do it here!
On arrival i wasn’t sure what i was actually going to do there but as it turns out i really enjoyed it. Firstly due to its inland location you see a completely different side of Vietnam. The weather is a lot cooler than the coast which is quite welcoming and its surrounded by Countryside and Mountains. I spent a full day visiting the Crazy House which is definitely a sight to be seen, taking the cable car to a monastery and finally wandering around the towns lake and streets and enjoying a coffee in a cool cafe and watching the world go by.
This town may seem out of the way and a bit quiet if you’re short for time but it is worth a visit for a day or two!
Ho Chi Minh City
From Da Lat i got a day bus to HCMC, it did take pretty much a full day but to save time it’s also possible to do it as a night bus or you could fly from Da Lat or head back to Nha Trang and fly from there.
In the end i only spent a day in HCMC but i think it’s a must visit even for a short amount of time and as its Vietnam’s main international airport its likely you’ll have to visit. It’s the capital city of Vietnam, once known as Saigon and has a totally different feel to it than Hanoi and its a lot bigger.
In a day you can check our the War Remnants Museum which although sad gives a good insight into the Country’s history. There’s also some great European style buildings to see, especially the Notre Dame Basilica and the Post Office opposite.
For a totally different look at the city check out District 1 and Pham Ngu Lao Street which is the ‘backpacker’ district full of lots of shops and cheap eat cafes with amazing food and come evening it really livens up and is good for a night out!
Finally, if you have the time then a visit to Phu Quoc is a must! It’s a small island off the coast of Southern Vietnam, just a 40 minute flight from HCMC and flights are really cheap with Jetstar especially if you book in advance.
Even if you just manage to visit for 2-3 days it’s a welcome relief from the crazy and manic streets of HCMC and other parts of Vietnam.
Long Beach is where all the accommodation is a long with lots of restaurants which go right onto the beach. The water is gorgeous and its West facing so each night provides an amazing sunset. I did a snorkelling day tour which was really good and took us to a beautiful beach on the Southern part of the island. Personally i didn’t think it was as nice as the Thai islands but its a great way to end a trip to Vietnam!
Vietnam is an amazing Country, it’s so diverse and beautiful, the food is incredible and the locals were really friendly. As i said if you have 3-4 weeks to spend travelling the Country then do but if you only have 2 weeks then make these places your go-to places!
**There’s also a video of my time in Vietnam on my YouTube page.. click here to check it out!**