Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

Planning my upcoming Trip to Vietnam

Posted by Jnmaxine on 27/4/2011 at 11:38

Hi! My boyfriend and I are leaving to Vietnam on May 27th 2011 and we'll be there for approx. 2 weeks. I'm doing all this research and getting a bit overwhelmed on how to plan this trip. We are arriving in Ho Chi Mihn and I would like to back pack our way north and stay the at the TOP 5 cities in Vietnam (I'm thinking thats the most we can do in 10-12 days). Ideally we wanted to start from North to South Vietnam however the flights were cheaper arriving in Ho Chi Mihn than Hanoi. I don't know if it really matters where we start but ultimately I'd like this trip to include adventure, nitelife entertainment, romance, relaxation and beautiful site seeing...Not sure if I'm wayyy over my head in trying to plan this trip but if anyone who has visited Vietnam with a partner or just with friends have any advice on the MUST SEE's in veitnam that will include all of the above I'd really appreciate the advice/help. Thanks in advance =O)

#1 Jnmaxine has been a member since 8/3/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by ltran on 27/4/2011 at 13:41


I am also travelling to Vietnam with my boyfriend this May. It's quite exciting! I've been there many times before and I would definitely recommend going to either Mui Ne or Nha Trang for the beaches. It's a great way to relax and have some romantic time. 2 weeks is way too short to see and experience all of Vietnam. My suggestion is you cut the trip down to only a couple of places to really experience the people and culture Vietnam has to offer.


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Posted by Thomas922 on 27/4/2011 at 14:23

Relax for about 4 days in Saigon including a Mekong delta trip. Plan to be in Hanoi for 3-4 days including a Ha Long bay trip. In between pick a beach spot for 2-3 days and another spot like Dalat for a couple of days. Hoi An has a decent beach nearby. That is enough to give you a feeling of Vietnam. You will want to come back.

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Posted by hanley on 27/4/2011 at 15:43

Posted from within Vietnam.

A train trip up the coast, Hoi An, Hanoi, a junk on Ha Long Bay and a room with a view in SaPa !

#4 hanley has been a member since 25/4/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by hanley on 27/4/2011 at 15:44

Posted from within Vietnam.

A train trip up the coast, Hoi An, Hanoi, a junk on Ha Long Bay and a room with a view in SaPa !

#5 hanley has been a member since 25/4/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by Jnmaxine on 30/4/2011 at 01:28

Thank you all so much!!! It's been a great help!! I decided on spending 4 days in Hanoi and another 4 days in Ho chi mihn. I can't decide however on whether to to go to nha trang or phi qouc island for the beach part of my trip. Which is cheaper? Do you know? I saw phu qouc had some diving tours. Has anyone tried them? I wanted to stay in a cheap comfy bungalow on or near the each but from doesn't look like there is many bungalows that are cheap. I'll settle for whatever is reasonable as long as good food and entertainment is near by. Anyway hope I'm not annoying anyone with my questions... Im just so nervous in this trip turning out sour if I don't plan it right. Some bloggers have posted that Vietnam can either turn out really good or really bad for a traveller and I definitely want to make sure we have fun for the cost we paid to fly out there!!! :-)

#6 Jnmaxine has been a member since 8/3/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by MADMAC on 30/4/2011 at 02:18

"Anyway hope I'm not annoying anyone with my questions..."

The only stupid question is the one that isn't asked. So ask away.

"Some bloggers have posted that Vietnam can either turn out really good or really bad for a traveller and I definitely want to make sure we have fun for the cost we paid to fly out there!!! "

That has less to do with planning and more to do with Vietnam. A lot of people just don't like the Vietnamese, finding them overly pushy and aggressive. Vietnam gets a poor return rate for this reason. That's not to say everyone finds it that way however. Maybe you'll like it. But you might get there and discover that Vietnamese culture doesn't work for you, and no amount of planning is going to change that.

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Posted by Jnmaxine on 30/4/2011 at 02:43

Thanks madmac!!! I've been to vietnam once before but only for business and I literally went from the hotel door to the cab and straight to my destination and back then flew out to HK for more business. I had no time to explore. I love the food and from what I'm reading abt thier culture sounds super interesting!! Therefore I'm going to embrace every bit of it!!!

#8 Jnmaxine has been a member since 8/3/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by Thomas922 on 30/4/2011 at 03:48

I found the same warnings about Vietnam. It was in the north that I noticed that people (especially over 40 ish) were very rude and stand-offish. People said the south was nicer. Upon talking to locals in the south I found this to be true. The love-hate relationship between the north and south continues with natives and it can be felt. BUT, that does not mean your trip in the north or south will follow anyone else's experience. I had a few good weeks there and want to go back to redo some things. I found that in the spots that are over backpacked the locals treat many like a money pit. Not personable. That said I had nice experiences even in places not expected. People are changing by the year so open your heart and put out the positive and I am sure you will experience some return on your investment.

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Posted by ecbaker on 30/4/2011 at 04:24

I haven't read all the replies so sorry if I am repeating:

It is true that the south seems much friendlier than the north (especially if you are from the states...). But regardless, there is a lot of beautiful things to see in the north. I would definitely consider an overnight trip to Halong Bay OR Sapa ...pick one! Unfortunately I would probably go with Halong Bay as it is closer than Sapa so for time would I would pick HB..also it can be quite romantic :)

Here is my rec for Halong Bay:

-book your tour in Hanoi

I did a 3-night tour of Halong Bay and had an amazing time. I booked through Dong A hotel (in Hanoi) and paid $47 USD per person. If you want to book a 2 night tour, it should cost around $40-42. We paid $5extra for the 3rd night and it didn't include food on the last day.This price included transport to/from Halong Bay. I would recommend 2nights, as our last night on Cat Ba island was a little unnecessary but good for time to chill out.

This tour included 1 night on the boat and 2 nights on Cat Ba island. The first night on the boat was the best part. The staff was friendly and the food was surprisingly good. . We got whole fish for every meal, and if you are vegetarian just tell them before hand and they will accommodate you!
I know that a number of otherhotels book the same tour but I'm not sure which ones. Here is theinformation that I have on the card:

Sinh Cafe Travel
Mr.Huy 0904151448
50 Ma May Str.

Note: There are a million Sinh Cafes in Hanoi. Be sure you get the right one.

**Make sure you bring your passport, warm clothes, and water. It gets very cold at night. I was still cold in pants and a sweatshirt. Drinks are very overpriced on the boat and water is not included in the tour price. I would recommend bringing a few big bottles of water with you.

The logistics getting back to Hanoi were a bit annoying. They cruised very slowly through the bay on the last day which was fine, but once we got back to the harbor we had to wait a little over an hour for our bus toc ome. Then, we got on the bus and they drove 5 minutes to drop us off at a place to eat lunch. We ended up getting back to Hanoi in rush hour traffic at 5pm. We didn't get back to our hotel until 6pm. Beware if you are booking a night train or bus for the same day you return from Halong Bay. You will not be back until 5 or 6pm earliest. This was a problem for many people.
p.s. just note: there are lots of more expensive tours...the cheaper they are the more younger crowd you will get, the more $$ they are the older the crowd you will get...depends on what you are looking for...

Here are some other recs for Vietnam:

Saigon: awesome city worth spending 3-4 nights. stay near Bui Vien (backpacker area)
Mui Ne : cool to see the sand dunes
Dalat: awesome. take a tour on a motorbike to see the wineries, veggie gardens, etc. stay at Phuong Hanh- awesome rooms for $10! This is in the mountains and beautiful but no beaches...

Nha Trang: pretty mountains and beaches. beaches not that great. boat tours were SUPER lame.
Hoi An :you really only need 1 maybe 2 nights here. can get custom-madeanything in this town. shoes, suits, etc. dont know about the qualitythough. i got shoes and they sucked.
Hue : do a DMZ tour with Cafe on Thu Wheels, see the Citadel.
*must see the Vinh Moc tunnels!! (on the tour)

Cafe On Thu Wheels
10/2 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street
Hue, Vietnam
Tel.: 054.832241

Hanoi: great for shopping. crazy, chaotic city. more expensive than the South.stayed at Dong A hotel (rec in LP). The rooms were okay but a little expensive at $13/night. You should book your Halong Bay tour at Dong A hotel though. Our tour was great.
Also the city of fakes: chacos, north face, eye glasses, etc...
Sights to see: Hanoi Hilton (prison where John McCain was a POW), Ho Chi Minh Complex, Water Puppet Show!

I have not been to Phu Quoc, but it looks really beautiful! The only thing that concerns me for you is your limited time: Phu Quoc is in the opposite direction of Hanoi, and you will be surprised how long it actually takes to get from Saigon to Hanoi...its a lot longer than you think. We did the "open bus" tour where you buy all the tickets upfront (I think it might be cheaper?) then you use them to go to all the main stops up the coast. Although this wasn't bad, i wouldn't suggest it necessarily for you. I think taking the train on the longer trips makes a lot more sense as it is more comfortable and possibly faster, whereas once you buy the pass you feel obligated to use it the whole I question if it really is cheaper than simply buying single tickets...and you are stuck with the same company, so if you don't like the times its offers you can't go to a different place (there are TONS of bus companies...).

I guess if I were you and only had two weeks my itinerary would look something like this:

Saigon 4 days (1 day= take tour to the cu chi tunnels, maybe a day for the city, and a day for the Mekong)
Either Mui Ne for a day depending on how rushed you feel...
Nha Trang to get some beach in ya! and party... :) 2-3 days (depending on if you go to Mui Ne I suppose!)

Pick: Hoi An or Hue....can't really go wrong. Hue is a bigger city feel with lots of tours...more tunnels to see etc. Hoi An is more quaint and really a beautiful city... 2-3 days here (adding a day for travel...)

Take the LONG trip to Hanoi! If train available consider this option! Night buses aren't as great as you would think...

Hanoi for 2-3 days + 2 days in Halong Bay.

Hope this helps!! Enjoy!

P.S. When in the North, we got a lot of things stolen and were constantly being hustled/ripped off. No need to be too worried, just keep your wits about you and your valuables safe. Our hostel even told us not to carry a purse/bag with our camera in it as people get theirs stolen (they drive by and cut it off you before you even have a chance to respond...) often. Don't mean to scare you, just want you to have a positive experience! I still loved Vietnam despite this!

#10 ecbaker has been a member since 17/3/2011. Posts: 18
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Posted by travellingsarah on 30/4/2011 at 10:28 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

The other day someone described the Vietnamese as like coconuts - a tough shell but once you get through that they are lovely inside. This is a good analogy based on my experiences. But of course as a tourist you don't always have time to break through the shell but a big smile and a "Xin Chao" goes a long way.

Regarding the thefts - they certainly do happen, but that's the case everywhere in Asia (and the world I guess). So as said previously, just take sensible precautions.

In 10-12 days in May / June I'd spend a few days in HCMC, with a day or overnight trip to the Mekong, then fly up to Hoi An for beach and town time, then a day in Hue doing the Cafe on Thu Wheels tour then to Hanoi / Ha Long for the rest of your time.

I've just booked flights from Hanoi to Danang with Vietnam Airlines and prices are very similar to the train prices, so worth investigating.

#11 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684
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Posted by abc on 1/5/2011 at 07:47

Posted from within Vietnam.

I would choose Nha Trang over Phu Quoc.Lots to do and see in Nha Trang day and night.It will be very hot when you are here,last few weeks it's been over 30+.great for beach,snorkelling and diving.Not expensive to dive and there are many dive shops to choose from.Nha trang is one of the cheapest cities in Vietnam for accommodation,food,drinks and tours.
10hrs on a sleeper bus gets you to Nha Trang for $10,you can stop on the way in Mui ne if you wish.Mui ne is nice but very quiet.4/5 nights in Nha Trang and you will still not have seen or been everywhere,try and spend as much time there as you can.Have a look at this website for more info

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Posted by ltran on 1/5/2011 at 08:18

I agree with abc, I would choose Nha Trang over Phu Quoc. Not only is it on the from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. It offers a lot of nice beaches and a buzzing nightlife.

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Posted by Jnmaxine on 1/5/2011 at 08:49


#14 Jnmaxine has been a member since 8/3/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by ramosangelo on 1/5/2011 at 16:56

hi!i am Filipino Citizen and planning to stay in vietnam for 2 days and fly to casablanca morocco and stay there for 5 i wanna know what are the travel documents that i need to provide into the airport in vietnam? especially in immigration aside from my ticket going to casablanca morocco...hope you can give me help and advice to prevent any problem to my trip.


#15 ramosangelo has been a member since 1/5/2011. Posts: 1

Posted by Jnmaxine on 2/5/2011 at 07:46

Hi All,

I'm back again! I was looking into booking a reservation at a hotel in HCMC since I'm landing late at night. Any recommendations on hotels that are decent, moderately priced and also trustworthy to keep the reservations? I was told its not recommended to pre book online...Thoughts? I was looking at the District 1 area.Thanks in advance

Places I have researched:
Kim's hotel- some reviews say they did not keep their reservations.
Hong Hoa Hotel
Mini Saigon Hotel- some reviews say they paid 15 USD however hotels website lists 50-65?? soo weird

#16 Jnmaxine has been a member since 8/3/2011. Posts: 6

Posted by gatvietnam on 16/5/2011 at 11:28

Posted from within Vietnam.

It doesn't matter if the start is Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh city. Here are MUST SEE cities or famous sites and their duration: Ho Chi Minh ( for one day tour), Mekong Delta, Cu Chi tunnel for 1 day, Hue for 2days, Hoian 2 days, Nha Trang 1 day, dalat 2 days, Ha Long Bay 2 days, Hanoi 2days

#17 gatvietnam has been a member since 9/5/2011. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 34
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