We travelled around Vietnam for exactly 29 days. This was the maximum time we could stay as the visa expires after one month. Keep in mind that you will need at least a month to see everything what Vietnam has to offer. Our trip started in Hồ Chí Minh City (old name: Saigon) in the South of Vietnam as we came from Cambodia (Phnom Penh).
|1. Hồ Chí Minh||4-5 hours to Mũi Né|
|2. Cần Thơ (Mekon Delta)||N.A. (trip to Cần Thơ for one night)|
|3. Mũi Né||4-5 hours to Đà Lạt|
|4. Đà Lạt||3-4 hours to Nha Trang + 11 – 12 hours to Hội An|
||you shouldn’t stop here – touristy, expensive and nothing special.|
|6. Hội An||30 min to Danang + 3 hours to Huế|
|7. Huế||4-5 hours to Phong Nha-Ke Bang|
|8. Phong Nha-Ke Bang||7,5 hours to Tam Cốc|
|9. Tam Cốc||3,5 hours to Hải Phòng + 2 hours to Cat Ba town|
|10. Cat Ba||4-5 hours to Ha Noi|
|11. Ha Noi||5 hours to Sa Pa by bus/8 hours by train|
|12. Sa Pa||N.A.|
We bought our open bus ticket in Ho Chi Minh City at TheSinhTourist office. We were really satisfied with this company. Most drivers were nice and reliable. You can choose how many stops you want to do – the price of the ticket depends on the number of stops. You need to reconfirm each bus ride by calling or visiting the counter (several times the reception of the hotel did this for us). Of course it is also possible to book single bus tickets, but this way you pay much more. Unfortunately the open bus ticket doesn’t include all stops. You won’t be able to reach places like Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Tam Cốc or Cat Ba. So we booked the open bus ticket from Hồ Chí Minh to Huế. For all the extra stops we made (8. to 12.), we bought single bus rides or train tickets. We paid 684.000 VND for the open bus ticket (26,50 €/$ 30), what is really cheap!
This huge city is so nice to explore. Walk around, try a lot of great Vietnamese food, watch people doing sport in parks, visit the war museum or go shopping at the night market. You can easily book tours to different places in Hồ Chí Minh City. (we stayed for 3 days)
We booked a tour to visit the Mekon Delta region. It included transfer (bus rides), one night in a hotel and several activities during 2 days. You need to visit the famous floating market – it is a wonderful and unique are. (we stayed for 2 days)
Some parts of the beach are really really dirty, but if you look around you will be able to find a nice clean spot. Most of the tourists actually stay in a close town called Hàm Tiến (some good restaurants, nice beach but very touristy). You can easily book day tours to Mũi Né’s famous sand dunes- red and white dunes! Take a couple of days to relax in Mũi Né, but if you are looking for some beach time, then better move north. Anyways Mũi Né is the place for kite surfing. (we stayed for 2 days)
You need some action? You definitely get it in this town. One of our highlights and must-dos is Canyoning in Dalat. We booked a tour and had a great guide and lots of fun. You don’t need any experience. Just do it! (we stayed for 2 days)
This city is a fairytale. We could have spent many many days here. There is a lot to do: get a tailor-made dress or suit (or even shoes), relax at the beautiful An Bang beach, book a free bike tour with students or just hang out at night in the most beautiful illuminated city full of lanterns. A highlight: have dinner next to the river on small tables where they prepare typical Cao Lau noodles. (we stayed for 3 days)
What you can expect in Phong Nha-Ke Bang: Spectacular caves, cruising around on a scooter and swimming in a crystal clear natural spring. Phong Nha-Ke Bang is a must-do for sure! We visited the Paradise Cave which is literally a paradise. You also have the option to visit the Phong Nha and Dark Cave. (we stayed for 2 days)
This town is close to Ninh Bình (around 15 kilometers). Many people mix up Tam Cốc and Ninh Bình. The reason why you should travel to this area is because you can do a stunning boat ride between rice fields and limestone mountains. The place where you do this boat trip is Tam Cốc and not Ninh Bình. The town of Tam Cốc is really small and apart from the boat ride there is not much to do. (we stayed for 1 day only)
Cat Ba is a great alternative to these typical overpriced Halong Bay cruises. We had the problem that we didn’t really know which company to choose for a Halong Bay tour and we heard a lot of bad stories (for example you pay around $150 for a cruise/per person and you still have some rats in your bedroom). So we decided to go to Cat Ba instead and do a 1 day cruise around Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay. We paid $20 and the tour was absolutely amazing. (we stayed on Cat Ba for 4 days)
Get crazy in and about Ha Noi! This is a city where many people hang out for a while or even start to work. You should definitely visit the old quarter where you can go shopping and take beautiful pictures. We ate a lot delicious and cheap food. In Ha Noi you find many different small cafes and restaurants. In the evening the a beer street opens (Bia hoi corner in Ta hiên street) where you get the cheapest beer in Ha Noi. Our hostel offered a free walking tour which was really good! So watch out for walking tours. You will walk around the lake, old quarter etc.
Sapa is high up in the mountains in the very north of Vietnam. We took the night train from Ha Noi to Lao Cai and from Lao Cai a bus to Sapa. In Sapa you can go hiking as much as you want. It is very famous for its stunning rice terraces. Some people do homestays but we didn’t. If you want to, there are many girls in the city asking you to do the homestay trekking – but better ask in you hostel, which tour is good to do!
The city itself is pretty touristy which we didn’t like, but if you walk around you can also find some quiet places. On Sunday we booked a tour to the colorful Bac Ha Market. This was an experience we will never forget. There are not too many tourists and you see local products and pretty hilltribe women wearing colorful clothes (a must-do). It is only possible to visit the market on Sundays. (we stayed in Sapa for 3 days)
Banh Mi Tay (Vietnamese sandwich)
Rice paper spring rolls