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Advice on newbie's itinerary!

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi all,

    My husband and I are planning to visit Vietnam this summer in around 2 weeks. We expect to see Saigon, Hanoi, Halong, Sapa, Hue and Hoi An. The point is we have not figured out how long we should spend in each destination. Any advice will be much appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance.

    #1 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 16:23

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  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Rebecca

    Are you only spending 2 weeks, or are you 'doing' your trip in 2 weeks time?

    When you say 'summer', do you mean northern or southern. I suppose it'd be better if you specify the month you intend to travel.

    If only 2 weeks, I'd suggest you stay centred in Hanoi and work from there.

    You'll read elsewhere on Travelfish that I advocate taking travel slowly and so being able to enjoy what you see / experience, etc.

    The alternative is to spend inordinate amounts of time in transport waiting rooms, buses, trains, planes, etc., and/or bedrooms. If that's appealing, well..

    You haven't said anything about your focus.

    Is it sort of adventure, where you get into trakking, swimming, etc.

    Or, are you sightsee-ers.

    I'll await your response before adding anything more.

    cheers

    #2 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 18:24

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi Moon,

    Thank you for your advice. Well, we hope to have more time. However, hopefully 2 weeks will be ok for us to see some major landscapes of Vietnam. I expect to spend 2 days in Hanoi (walking tour), 2 in Halong Bay (cruising and trekking,3 in Sapa (market tour and trekking), 2 in Hoi An (sightseeing) and 3 in Hue (tombs) and the other 5 days in Saigon(too many?).

    Awaiting your advice. Thanks.

    #3 Posted: 4/5/2009 - 15:45

  • beachgirl

    Joined Travelfish
    25th April, 2009
    Posts: 8
    Total reviews: 3

    Hi Rebecca,

    Two weeks is better than one week -- that's what I say!

    If you're open to suggestions, I'd take a day off Hue and give it to Hoi An . The tombs in Hue are ok, but given your time scale I'd say two days there would be enough. Hoi An, has loads of shopping, the beach, island trips, the ruins at mySon and more shopping and lots of great eating and drinking ... and more shopping... I liked Hoi An a LOT (if you haven't guessed)

    Once you're done there, I'd get a minibus back to Danang (the big city to the north about one hour away) and then fly to Saigon. You can fly with Vietnam Airlines, but Jetstar an Ozzie budget airline, also flies there and its far easier and cheaper to book with them.

    Also, try to get the train from hue to danang. it is beautiful.

    With five days in Saigon, I'd allow two days for museums and eating, one day for cuchi tunnels and the caodai temple (do a tour, its easy and super cheap) another full day for the chinatown there. We got a cyclo guy to peddle us all over the chinatown bit and it was a highlight of our time there.

    One day left, we went to vungtau but didn't like it and I wouldn't go to the Delta as you'll run out of time, but maybe head for a massage and manipedi? I had a treatment at one of the flasher hotels and it was divine!

    Have fun - its a great place!

    #4 Posted: 4/5/2009 - 16:04

  • ChrZap1703

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd February, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Hi Rebecca !

    If I may say so, spent more Time in Hoi An and less in Saigon. I found Hoi An to be a very nice place to actually just hang out there, as opposed to a city like Saigon, which is very interesting, but not really relaxing.

    Also, you should plan in some time for travelling between these places. Most of your journeys can be done on night train, but not all of them, so even if ou go from Hue to Saigon by plane, you'll loose more than half a day.

    By all means, have a great trip !

    #5 Posted: 4/5/2009 - 16:13

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    rebecca

    As you know, I advocate taking it slowly and not trying to see too much (because you really only see the insides of transport & bedrooms, not the 'real' people / nation).

    On this subject, Travelfish has some VERY wise words. Try looking up:

    http://www.travelfish.org/travel-planning/less-is-more

    and then...

    http://www.travelfish.org/travel-planning/dont-over-plan

    - - - - -

    Again, you haven't said anything about your focus.

    Are you visiting Vietnam because it sounds like a fun place to be - and are thus just wanting to visit as many places as possible?

    Or, are you wanting to experience the VN culture?

    Or, do you have a passion about history..

    I could go on.

    - - - - - -

    There are many people who travel to be with others of the same culture in a foreign place. Put another way, some travellers really like to be in a foreign place, but prefer not to talk the local lingo with the natives - instead talking English with other travellers.

    Is this you?

    - - - - - -

    There are people who try as hard as they can to learn a few words of the local lingo so that they can engage with the locals. As they do, they learn more words, they get given 'local low downs' (ie insider knowledge) and in so doing, see a quite different side to a foreign country than the English speaking tourists.

    Maybe this is you.

    - - - - - -

    The reason I ask you to write a few 'words' about your aspirations is that once you describe your (hopeful) intentions, I (and others with some experience) can help you better achieve all that you want to achieve.

    It's no good me telling you to do ABCD, when you'd be much happier doing MNOP.

    Get the picture?

    - - - - -

    So, in your 2 (or more) weeks, other than list the 'icon' places that are on the 'tourist trail', please tell us what are the traveller attributes you'd like to achieve.

    Cheers

    Bruce Moon

    #6 Posted: 4/5/2009 - 19:45

  • tingers

    Joined Travelfish
    9th April, 2009
    Posts: 36

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi Rebecca, 2 weeks is plenty of time to see the main sights in Vietnam - you'll have a great time. You might not have time to make it to Sapa though. I would suggest flying in between cities to cut down on travel time and maybe allowing for a few extra days in Hoi An as it's a really great little place to unwind and relax in. Enjoy your trip.

    #7 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 09:19

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi,

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I'll consider spending 1 more day in Hoi An as I myself like shopping very much.

    Moon: We'd really like to engage with the locals and their language. Hopefully a homestay and trekking tour in Sapa will be the highlight of the trip. Besides, I'd like to see the daily life of the floating fishing villages' residents in Ha Long Bay.

    #8 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 09:32

  • tingers

    Joined Travelfish
    9th April, 2009
    Posts: 36

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi Rebecca, 2 weeks is plenty of time to see the main sights in Vietnam - you'll have a great time. You might not have time to make it to Sapa though. I would suggest flying in between cities to cut down on travel time and maybe allowing for a few extra days in Hoi An as it's a really great little place to unwind and relax in. Enjoy your trip.

    #9 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 09:33

  • tingers

    Joined Travelfish
    9th April, 2009
    Posts: 36

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi Rebecca, 2 weeks is plenty of time to see the main sights in Vietnam - you'll have a great time. You might not have time to make it to Sapa though. I would suggest flying in between cities to cut down on travel time and maybe allowing for a few extra days in Hoi An as it's a really great little place to unwind and relax in. Enjoy your trip.

    #10 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 09:34

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  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Rebecca

    Other than saying you like shopping & want to be 'engaged' with locals, you didn't say much about your focus.

    As I've said, trying to see too much only results in too much time spent in/around transport.

    Now, lets look at what 2 weeks could hold...

    day 1
    Arrive Hanoi .. spend remainder of day getting to accommodation, getting acquainted, possibly looking at travel agent options, getting meal, etc.

    day 2
    Sightseeing around Hanoi, more travel agent discussions, meals, etc.

    day 3
    Sightseeing around Hanoi. Book journeys to Halong Bay & Sapa .

    day 4
    Depart for Halong Bay - overnight on Halong Bay boat

    day 5
    Stay Halong bay - either on boat or on Cat ba Island

    day 6
    depart Halong Bay, return to hanoi.

    either - Stay Hanoi

    or go onto night sleeper train for Lao Cai (and onto SaPa).

    Let's say its the sleeper train option...

    day 7
    Arrive Lao Cai, travel to SaPa. Get to accommodation, get acquainted, look around SaPa. Check out travel tour agencies for homestay.

    day 8
    depart Sapa for (two night) homestay [note, maybe plenty of walking]

    day 9
    walking & homestay

    day 10
    walking from homestay and return to SaPa

    day 11
    around Sapa - later, go to Lao Cai for overnight sleeper on night train

    day 12
    Arrive Hanoi

    Maybe depart Hanoi for Saigon by air - so, go to airport

    Arrive Saigon airport,

    .. spend remainder of day getting to accommodation, getting acquainted, possibly looking at travel agent options, getting meal, etc.

    Day 13

    Sightseeing around Saigon.

    Day 14

    Maybe the end of your journey, or you could have some more time.

    - - - - -

    Note two aspects.

    1/.

    If you want to see Halong Bay, you really need to spend at least one full day in the bay area. Getting there means you leave around 8 or 9am and get there about lunchtime, and when on the boat you really don't go very far. It is only when you spend a whole day in the area that you can go kayaking, visiting fishing villages, etc. And, by the time you leave on the third day, you will not get to the harbour for the minibus until the others going on the trip get from Hanoi, so you'll be moving from either the water (if you stayed there overnight) or Cat Ba Island to the terminal to be there around lunchtime. And, you'll get back to Hanoi around 4pm

    The trains leave for Lao Cai around 9pm, so you can go from Halong Bay and get onto the night train, but its best if you have someone guide you.

    2/.

    The homestay in/around SaPa can be done in one night. But, all the people I've spoken to that have done one, then two or more nights, say that to get to really know / enjoy the homestay experiences, the one night isn't good. That's because you walk for a while (about 4 hours) and much is amongst the 'urban' parts of SaPa. And so you don't really feel as though you are in the rural parts of the area. It is only by going on a 2 night homestay that one gets to 'experience' ethnic village life (and also, you would visit 2 different ethnic groups - so you can compare differences).

    Also, there is an amazingly colourful market held at Bac Ha on a Sunday morning. Bac ha is about 3 hours from SaPa. If you can organise yourself, you can go on the Saturday night sleeper train from Hanoi. As the train arrives about 5:30am at Lao Cai, you can get taken to Bac Ha on the Sunday to arrive there at about 8:00am. The market is just amazing. After lunch, you get driven from Bac Ha to Sapa. And, that turns out to be a full day. Alternatively, you can go on a trek/homestay from Bac Ha (many say its better from there).

    - - - - - -

    So, when I said that 2 weeks can be spent just in and around Hanoi, I wasn't joking.

    Trying to also see Hue and Hoi An isn't possible if you want your journey to be a very rich and rewarding experience.

    My experience with Hoi An is that people go there to get clothes made for them. I found that the fabrics were not really fashionable, the quality sort of OK, but the prices of the garments were no cheaper than what I can buy from a discount store here in Australia. So, although Hoi An is a magnet place, I wouldn't go there for the clothes.

    Also, for shopping, there's heaps of goods on offer to tourists in Hanoi & Saigon that may more appeal to you.

    Alternatively, you CAN see Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon, etc. But, all you really see is a bus, plane, train, etc. or their waiting rooms, and the hotels of the cities you stay. Not much else!!

    - - - -

    Hope this helps.

    cheers

    Bruce

    #11 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 12:18

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi,

    Many thanks for your itinerary. It's a pity if I can not see Hue and Hoi An. I'll second it anyway. Regarding the Halong bay tour, which boat do you recommend?

    Thanks.

    #12 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 15:57

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Rebecca

    I'm biased here. I went on a wonderful cruise and really enjoyed myself. But, I'm sure lots of other people have gone on different types of cruises, and really enjoyed themselves.

    At the end of the day, you need to have done your own selection of the sort of cruise that will suit you. And, in the budget frame that also suits you.

    On YOUR research, two points.

    1/.

    If you look at the Travelfish articles on Halong Bay, you'll see they offer suggestions for every budget.

    Go in the first instance go to:

    http://www.travelfish.org/feature/77

    There is a tag at the base to go to the next 'page', and from there another. Read them all.

    - - - -

    2/.

    There was also a Forum discussion. There, I expressed my personal opinions. Go to:

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/vietnam/5305_halong-tours

    - - - - -

    Although I have a personal preference, I really don't want to influence you to do what I did.

    If you want to see what I wrote about my trip to Halong Bay, also see my blog on it at:

    www.travelblog/Bloggers/brucemoon/

    - - - - - -

    Let me finish by saying that your experience on Halong Bay will reflect the way YOU want to see it - and whether on a budget, middle, or expensive. YOUR experience of Halong Bay will not be made better because you spend a lot of money. Rather, spending SOME money will put you in a position to avoid some of the pitfalls.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    #13 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 16:53

  • smkuchta

    Joined Travelfish
    10th August, 2007
    Posts: 72

    We just did the same basic itinerary in 4 weeks. Two weeks would be pretty tight if you aren't flying some legs. We loved Halong Bay and splurged for a 3 day 2 night tour on Indochina's Prince II Junk and it was totally worth it. The 3 day tour was nice as we didn't follow all the other boats out to the same spot but it was pricey ~$500 for two people.

    Hue was nice mainly because it was so relaxed compared to Hanoi. We both loved Hoi An (highly recommend doing a cooking course if you have the interest, we did Red Bridge Cooking School).

    Saigon was also great, liked it much better than Hanoi. Mekong Delta tour (did cheapie through Sinh Cafe) was just ok. Not big on tours and can't say that one really did much for us.

    We also did Nha Trang (not bad, beach wasn't that impressive though we are from Southern California so a bit spoiled) and Dalat, nice scenery, hiking and GREAT weather compared to the rest of Vietnam but a little boring as well.

    #14 Posted: 5/5/2009 - 18:14

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi,

    Thanks. Your report is very interesting indeed, Moon. Just one more question: did you get direct deals with the agent or did you book through hotel?

    Thank you.

    #15 Posted: 6/5/2009 - 09:46

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Rebecca

    I wandered around HaNoi asking the various agents what was on offer, etc. Then I narrowed it down to just a couple of options, and only to those had 'offices' in Hanoi. I then went to the offices to deal directly with the people of the tour.

    In the end, I went with the Pinta cruise.

    I booked this in the office of the operator - columbus cruises.

    The website for columbus is:

    http://www.columbuscruise.com/

    - - - -

    If you look at my comments at:

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/vietnam/5305_halong-tours

    You'll see that I had negotiated a price for beer with the office, but the boat crew wanted me to pay more.

    So, if there is any agreement you make with anyone about anything you MUST MUST MUST get it in writing [this point should be applied to EVERYTHING in Vietnam - so many people promise much but don't honour their promises].

    - - - - -

    You'll also see on the website (above) that others also enjoyed the Pinta cruise.

    I understand that Columbus has a cheaper boat option. And, they say the difference is the food is not as high a standard. I don't know what the standard is, but the Pinta had a very very high standard.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    #16 Posted: 6/5/2009 - 09:57

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi Moon,

    Many thanks again. Email Columbus very soon.

    #17 Posted: 7/5/2009 - 09:19

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