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How to travel around Vietnam?

What you need to know!

How many days do you need for traveling Vietnam?

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).

Our itinerary for Vietnam

Highlights of Vietnam

City Travel time
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
5. Nha Trang 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.

Different ways of transportation in Vietnam.

How to get around in Vietnam?

By motorbike
By motorbike
By motorbike
We met many travellers who either bought a motorbike in Ha Noi or in Ho Chi Minh. It is for sure very beautiful and a unique experience but we considered it as too dangerous. One amazing part of Vietnam is impossible to visit if you don’t have a motorbike: the route between Hội An and Huế (called the Hải Vân Pass). An other option is to travel with Easy Riders: you have your own motorbike rider. There is even enough space to transport your backpack and they organize launch as accommodation.
By train
By train
By train
Travel around by train is very nice. But take care – never buy tickets online. Just go to the train station and buy the ticket at the counter. The website gives some helpful advice how to buy train tickets and how to read a Vietnamese train ticket.
In Vietnam there are many people who try to sell you tickets for a much higher price.

The Open Bus Ticket

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!

Hồ Chí Minh

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)

Cần Thơ (Mekon Delta)

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)

Mũi Né

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)

Đà Lạt

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)

Hội An

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)

Phong Nha-Ke Bang

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)

Tam Cốc

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

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)

Ha Noi

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.

Sa Pa/Sapa and Bac Ha Market on Sunday

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)

Food you need to try

Pho Bo (famous Vietnamese noodle soup)

Cau Lao

Banh Mi Tay (Vietnamese sandwich)

Bánh xèo

Rice paper spring rolls

6 must do’s in Vietnam

Do it!

  • Go canyoning in Đà Lạt
  • Book a Halong Bay Tour for $ 20 on Cat Ba Island
  • Visit the huge Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang
  • Do a boat ride in Tam Cốc
  • Visit the villages around Sa Pa
  • Have a beer and street food on the river side in Hoi An ancient town

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