Photo: Canals of Ca Mau, Mekong Delta.

Vietnam forum

My 3 week itinery in Vietnam - tips?

Posted by AndyPandy on 22/8/2012 at 03:24

Hi guys,

I've mapped out my first itinery for the Vietnam leg of my trip (going to 4 countries in 3 months). Does this seem do-able in 3 weeks? Because I'm away for 12 weeks in total and wanted to spend about 3 weeks per country, I just wanted to gauge if it seems I'm taking on too much or if this is achievable. I'm still only loosely using an itinery but wanted to have something to follow.

Also, does anyone have any hostel recommendations please?

I'm researching Cambodia next and just wanted to assess if I'm squeezing in too much as I don't really appreciate how big these countries are!!

Thanks so much,

Temple of Literature – 2km west of Hoan Kiem Lake
Women's Museum
Hoa La Prison MuseumKhazaana (restaurant with veggie options)
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (Municipal Water Puppet Theatre)

Halong Bay:
Islands and caves and floating villages (use Ocean Tours to book)
Perfume Pagoda

Cat Ba Island:
Cat Ba National Park

Cuc Phuong National Park:
Endangered Primate Rescue Centre
Turtle Conservation Centre
8km return hike within national park

Ninh Bihn:
Tam Coc (three caves by row boat)

Haiphong: (maybe)
Ba Be National Park (mountains, rivers, waterfalls, caves)

The Perfume River - Pagoda – boat tours around $25
Phong Nha Cave
Royal Tombs: Tomb of Khai Dinh and Tomb of Minh MangCitadel Imperial Enclosure

Hoi An/Danang:
China Beach
Old Quarter – lots of museums, historic buildings

Phan Thiet: (seaside town)
Mui Ne Beach (rolling sand dunes by the sea)

Nha Trang:
Po Nagar Cham Towers

Con Dao Islands: (cluster of 16 islands)
Con Dao National Park

Mekong Delta:
Can Tho and Cai Rang - floating houses and markets

HCMC Museum
Jade Emperor Pagoda
Cholon - pagodas everywhere!
Chu Ci tunnels

#1 AndyPandy has been a member since 8/8/2012. Posts: 18

Posted by daawgon on 22/8/2012 at 12:32

Sounds just a tad overly ambitious to me - travel is slow going in Vietnam, and the last thing you want to do is rush. Con Dao is really off the beaten track for a first timer!

Haiphong - very industrial port city, and avoid Cat Ba Town at all cost.

Most interesting and colorful in Vietnam - Sapa!

Best urban area by far - Hanoi

Most overrated in my opinion - Nha Trang and Saigon

Places you should consider - Dalat and BMT in the Central Highlands

#2 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by AndyPandy on 22/8/2012 at 12:42

Thanks for your input - it's REALLY appreciated. Like I said, I haven't really grasped how big the countries are to figure out if my "wishlist" of places to see is overly ambitious as you said. I'm of course not planning on doing everything, just putting the feelers out there to see if my preparation is on track.

Thank you again. Do you also happen to think 3 weeks per country also for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos is about right? I could do 4 weeks in Vietnam and less in another place?


#3 AndyPandy has been a member since 8/8/2012. Posts: 18

Posted by antoniamitchell on 22/8/2012 at 16:19

You could spend all 12 weeks in Vietnam or Thailand and still not fit it all in, so rather than worrying too much about if 3 weeks per country is right, you might find it more helpful to think of the time as a block - what do you actually want to do with it? What's going to make you happiest?

I think you've got the right idea with creating a wish-list for Vietnam, and I'd suggest you do the same with a basic wishlist for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Then you can take a long look at your wishlists and whittle it down - which places do you want to see the most? How much time will you want in each place (ensuring you give yourself some mooching about/chilling time, and a bit of leeway for following your nose when somewhere new appears on your radar). What's the most logical route through those places, and how many days will you have to give up to buses/trains (distances are often long, and public transport is often slow)?

That will answer your last question (should you spend more time in one country than another), and give you a bare-bones itinerary to work with, one that doesn't involve too much time crammed into a rattling bus.

Happy planning!

#4 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 541
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Posted by daawgon on 22/8/2012 at 22:08

Cambodia and Laos could be done well with 2 weeks each I believe. Thailand has many good places to stop off in and you'd want more time there - I'd say 4 weeks. Vietnam also about 4 weeks. These are pure guesses, and it depends on your interests and how fast you like to move. The pace of life here is considerably slower than in the West, so you want to slow down too to enjoy this trip. I think that with so much time, it's near impossible to set strict timelines - go with the flow and weather. The time of year will also be a factor - for instance, you really don't want to be in Vietnam over Tet (mid Feb '12).

I do think the order you do these countries is somewhat important. For instance, I think starting out in Thailand is a very bad idea. Why, because Thailand is the jewel of SE Asia - you will be spoiled rotten there with the wonderful food, wonderful sex, wonderful beaches - Vietnam will look like a junkyard to you then. You have to learn the ropes, so to speak, and it will take a few days to do. Just my 2 cents!

#5 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by daawgon on 22/8/2012 at 22:18

One word of warning - I know people of your age think they'll live forever, but seriously, the drivers in Vietnam are the worst I've ever seen, and the statistics prove this - just google for fatal accidents in Vietnam and you will see what I mean. Especially bad are the sleeper buses - many of these drivers are overworked guys who might just also drink a little! I think it's better in Laos and Cambodia because there is just less traffic, and I doubt that Thailand has any major problem at all. Personally, I like to use domestic air to get around Vietnam. There is limited train service - not always comfortable, sometimes dirty, and it can take forever to get someplace. I use the train for short or medium haul distances only.

#6 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,151
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Posted by AndyPandy on 23/8/2012 at 02:16

@ antoniamitc-hell - thanks for your reply. I guess I just want to soak up as much of each country as I can and not miss any of the "must-sees" in each place, which I guess is very doable in my time-frame.I will crack on with my other itineraries and do as you suggest, scale back a bit and assess which might be the must-sees on my list and wing the rest when I'm there :)

@ daawgon - thanks also for your replies - I fly into Bangkok late Sept and was thinking of heading straight into Cambodia after 2 days of getting my bearings. Then into Vietnam, Laos and back up and around Thailand where I finish in December. Weather-wise, do you think that's the best way round? Oh, speaking of my age, 34 isn't thaaaaaat young, haha, and I'm female!! I will take into consideration about the drivers out there and try to be as careful as possible and not opt for the cheapest anything just to save a buck or two.

Thank you both again - all your help is easing my nerves. Still feel extremely disorganised but that's 'cos I'm doing this out of my comfort zone (organised treks in the past).


#7 AndyPandy has been a member since 8/8/2012. Posts: 18

Posted by AndyPandy on 23/8/2012 at 04:05

PS - Should I arrange to get my Vietnam visa from London or do you think it will be easy enough to get when crossing the border from Cambodia/Laos?

I'm in two minds as to arrange all my visas before I arrive rather than when I get to Asia.


#8 AndyPandy has been a member since 8/8/2012. Posts: 18

Posted by busylizzy on 23/8/2012 at 04:13

You won't be able to get a Vietnam visa at the border. If arriving by air, you can arrange a pre-approval letter (online) a couple of days beforehand, then you just pay for your visa at the airport. But if you arrive overland, you will need to sort it out ahead of time. So, from Cambodia, you can arrange it in Phnom Penh before you leave if going overland.

Same will apply if arriving overland from Laos, although I'm sure if you can arrange a visa there or not. Probably in Vientiane if anywhere? Search around on this site in the visa and you will get more info.

#9 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by AndyPandy on 23/8/2012 at 04:22

Thanks, busylizzy. That's really helpful. I guess I have to commit to a route to plan where to pick up the visas I need. If I'm only in Bangkok for a couple of days before going onto Cambodia, can I at least get my Cambodia visa ok? I will look into Phnom Penh now for Vietnam visas and check that section out more in the forum.

best wishes

#10 AndyPandy has been a member since 8/8/2012. Posts: 18

Posted by LaraHelen on 23/8/2012 at 07:53

Posted from within Vietnam.

You can get Cambodia visa at Thailand, but you should apply some days before in order to avoid urgent. As I know, at the border Cambodia visa on arrival can be accepted. You can think about this.

#11 LaraHelen has been a member since 13/7/2012. Posts: 35

Posted by busylizzy on 23/8/2012 at 15:00

There is no need to get a Cambodia visa before hand. You get those at the border (via air or overland). It's just Vietnam that makes is a bit trickier.

Also - be aware that for Thailand, you will be given a visa-free period of 30 days if you arrive by air, but only 14 days if you arrive overland - so you be sure to factor that into your planning.

#12 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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