I've finalised my itinerary for Vietnam and would appreciate any suggestions on how to improve it.
Sunday 20-Nov Arrive Hanoi @ 8am and make arrangements for Sapa / Halong Bay Trip + book train ticket from Ninh Binh to Hue
Monday 21-Nov Hanoi
Tuesday 22-Nov Leave for Halong Bay @ 7:30 am. Leave luggage @ hotel. Sleep on Cat Ba
Wednesday 23-Nov Halong Bay. Sleep on Cat Ba
Thursday 24-Nov Return to Hanoi @ 4pm and get overnight train to Sapa @ 8:30 pm. Leave luggage @ hotel
Friday 25-Nov Early morning arrival in Sapa
Saturday 26-Nov Sapa
Sunday 27-Nov Sapa & take night train back to Hanoi
Monday 28-Nov Arrive Hanoi @ 5am. Explore city and do laundry
Tuesday 29-Nov Take early morning bus to Ninh Binh & stay overnight
Wednesday 30-Nov Ninh Binh & catch 6pm train to Hue
Thursday 01-Dec Arrive Hue @ 6am
Friday 02-Dec Hue
Saturday 03-Dec Hue. Get 7pm train to Da Nang arriving @ 9:40pm then taxi or bus to Hoi An
Sunday 04-Dec Hoi An
Monday 05-Dec Hoi An
Tuesday 06-Dec Hoi An and taxi or bus to Da Nang airport to fly to HCMC
Wednesday 07-Dec HCMC - make arrangements for Mekong Delta trip
Thursday 08-Dec HCMC
Friday 09-Dec Take a Mai Linh or Phuong Trang coach to Can Tho
Saturday 10-Dec Can Tho & surroundings
Sunday 11-Dec Can Tho & surroundings
Monday 12-Dec Can Tho to HCMC (4.5hr coach trip) to catch 3:30pm flight to Vientiane
1. Would you change any of the allocated times?
2. On Saturday 3rd December, will I have a difficult time getting a taxi to Hoi An from Da Nang train station @ 9:40pm?
#1 lithium has been a member since 27/8/2011. Posts: 10
Two places ring a bell with me!
Cat Ba Town - you don't want to stay there (believe me, I made that mistake)!
Can Tho - way too much time in that city of 2,000,000 (much better places in the Delta).
#2 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
What alternatives do you suggest instead of Cat Ba & Can Tho?
I've heard that sleeping on the boat in Halong Bay can be boring especially since I'm going alone. Apparently the boats aren't all that safe either.
As for Can Tho, I intend to use it as a base for going on day trips. Should I just move from place to place rather than base myself there?
#3 lithium has been a member since 27/8/2011. Posts: 10
On the 9 Dec, you might want to bus all the way up to Chau Doc on the Cambodian border and then work your way back through the delta to Saigon. Maybe one night in Can Tho and then some time in a homestay near Cai Be.
I personally like Can Tho and the other delta towns, but mixing it up with a homestay would be good.
#4 MotHaiBa has been a member since 3/5/2011. Posts: 57
2 million in Can Tho ? daawgon is very negative. I love Can Tho. May be he is mistaken with Rach Gia which is a huge city with very little to do.
I'd say stick with the plan regarding Can Tho and stay flexible. Can Tho is an excellent base to organize trips from and homestays as well. Yes, you can travel around the delta but then you'll be on the move again all the time. If you get bored in Can Tho you can always cut short and work your way back slowly towards HCMC via Chau Doc or other places.
Is there much point in a homestay if I can't speak the local language at all?
#6 lithium has been a member since 27/8/2011. Posts: 10
Hi. We're just finishing up our 2nd week of 3 weeks in North/Central Vietnam.
Personally I would suggest spending more time in fewer places, and exploring a smaller portion of the country in more detail. We spent 5 days just walking around Hanoi and it was great. You're also missing a great area in between Ninh Binh and Hue , where the Phong Nha -Ke Bang National park is (see Phong Nha Farmstay/Oxalis if you're interested). I would also suggest something like a 3 day motorcycle tour from Hoi An to Hue which visits more remote areas/villages in Central Vietnam and lets you explore the Ho Chi Minh trail.
A matter of personal preference, but to me your itinerary sounds like you're trying to do just the most popular spots in a hurry, and missing some good stuff. Depends what you want to get out of your trip obviously. Good luck!
#7 karuthless has been a member since 23/3/2011. Posts: 10
Whilst I agree that spending longer in fewer places can reap its rewards, when I first came to Vietnam I had a schedule similar to yours (actually a bit shorter) and had an amazing time. So if you want to see all those places I'd say stick with it. The only place I'd put as a lower priority is Ninh Binh - maybe you could play that by ear and if you decide you want to stay in Hanoi longer you could skip it. If you do really want to go though be warned that when we tried to do the same a couple of years back, the 'agent' at our hotel told us we couldn't book a train from Ninh Binh to Hue and that it was really difficult to get to Ninh Binh. We stupidly believed him and skipped it. We've been since and realise it's easy. So just watch out for that.
I very much doubt you'll have any problem getting a train from Danang to Hoi An - when the trains pull in the taxis pull up.
As for Can Tho, I thought it was an OK town but would definitely do a homestay if I went back - it's MORE fun if you don't speak the language! Don't worry about that.
I think you have some great variety and some excellent choices.
I'm just wondering about the weather for the North and Central Vietnam for November/December. Isn't it the cool/ rainy season, especially in the North?
Having said that....I really hope you get great weather!
We are going to Vietnam/Cambodia on December 20th-Jan 23rd and spending most of our time on the South Coast and some of our time in Hoi An and Nha Trang in Central Vietnam and Siam Reap,PP in Central Cambodia.
#9 KevandJho has been a member since 15/9/2011. Posts: 65
It's cool in the North at that time of year but not cold (gets cold in Jan / Feb) and it's not rainy season. I was out on Christmas Day last year in just a light dress. Good time to come if you don't like the heat. Central Vietnam is wet at that time of year though.
@karuthless - The reason I am not spending much time in Central Vietnam is the weather. Typhoons are common at that time of year I am told.
@travellings-arah - Thanks for the warning on Ninh Binh . I intend to buy my Ninh Binh > Hue train ticket from Hanoi.
#11 lithium has been a member since 27/8/2011. Posts: 10
Karuthless - I could not agree more with your comments. Three weeks in Vietnam is barely enough time to see the basics of the country.
Lithium - By the end of November, you have little to worry about with weather on the Central Coast. Besides, you should always build flexibility into your itinerary - this is one place where unexpected things happen every single day. My dislike of Can Tho is the size of the place and the proximity to toll roads. Yes, it is a convenient place to stay, but I came to the Mekong to see tropical jungle and not a toll road or a fancy highrise hotel.
#12 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
@lithium - re weather in Central Vietnam; you should be flexible but also note that weather patterns in the region have been particularly unpredictable recently.
We were in Phong Nha-Ke Bang near Dong Hoi a week ago; it was supposed to be relatively dry as the rains were supposed to start in early Oct, but the rains came a month early and there was flooding. Then we were in Hue, where it was supposed to be raining very heavily most of the time - but not a drop for 4 days.
So - don't bank on the weather being any particular way around here.
#13 karuthless has been a member since 23/3/2011. Posts: 10
Agreed. The weather, like elsewhere in the world, is being unpredictable. Just come prepared and don't let it get you down if there's a bit of rain.