I leave in 1 week today for Vietnam. I fly into Hanoi and will be going north to south. Just wanted your advice on my itinerary before I head off :) I do realise that when I get to a place I a may like or dislike it more than anticipated. And I will be flexible for this rough plan give or take a few days here and there! But I am a self confessed planner pre trip (that is what a boring job will do to you!). But on the road I am more than happy to be a lot more relaxed!
* Hanoi - 3 nights
* Sapa - 2 nights
* Hanoi - 2 nights (meeting up with a friend who arrives that day)
* Ha Long Bay - 1 or 2 nights?
* Hue - 2 or 3 nights
* Hoi An - 3 nights
* Nha Trang - 2 nights
* Mui Ne - 2 nights
* HCMC - 3 nights
My questions are:
1) Am I missing anywhere on this list? OR anywhere I should miss?
2) Is my duration in the places named to long or too short? I realise that it is only a few nights here and there (but I have 10 weeks in SE Asia, with 3-4 being in Vietnam)
3) What is the most budget friendly way of travelling in between these places? I have heard of a tour bus company Sinh Cafe. Is this legit and if so, is this a good way of travelling?
4) Should I pre book my Sapa train tickets now?
As I said, I am flexible! I want to see as much as I can (of course) but am happy to slow it down and skip somewhere if need be. I enjoy the beach side of travel, but also am a big foodie, sampling local cusines, mixing with the local people. I am used to "roughing it" and am a budget so to speak! And am aware I will need to factor in some night travel.
Hope you can help :)
#1 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
I think Hanoi deserves more time. Mai Chau (near Hanoi) is another good place - a beautiful valley.
I'm not much of a fan of either Hue or Nha Trang (personal preference).
You totally left out the Mekong Delta! Central Highlands are another excellent rural area to explore.
The budget way to go is by bus, but it's also the most dangerous way to go, and often extremely uncomfortable
(I like to fly between major areas - Vietnam Air the best)
I did Vietnam couple of years back and I followed same itinerary as yours except for 3 things - I didn't do Sapa or Nha Trang or Mui Ne.
To Halong Bay is a couple of hours bus ride and best to leave in the morning (book a tour from Hanoi , will save you fair bit of headache). Catch the junk by mid-day, so you can explore the cave systems and also go sea kayaking (it's awesome in the still water) and spend overnight on the junk; returning the next day late morning. I couldn't imagine doing that for 2 nights though.
Did Hanoi to Hue by sleeper train (Reunification Express); you get a good sleep in and get to see lovely countryside in the morning.
Hue to Hoi An was by bus while from Hoi An to HCMC was a local Jetstar flight from Danang (half hour from Hoi An).
I absolutely loved Hanoi and Hoi An for completely different reasons. Hue was good as well - there is plenty to do and it's a different vibe than all the other places (Hue is good for getting cheap prescription glasses done). 4D3N are enough in HCMC - one of those days will be used up in Mekong Delta side trip (worth doing).
You'll find places that you like and worthwhile spending an extra day there and changing itinerary accordingly. :)
Thanks for the replies!
Daawgon - I was going to do a day trip from Saigon to Mekong Delta. Would love to see the Central Highlands, but unfortunately, there is never enough time for everything!
I have heard Nha Trang is really touristy and full of Russian tourists. But I guess it's one of those things, where you know it is going to be touristy, but do you miss it altogther or go anyway and see what all the fuss is about?!
Yes - I have heard that road travel is really not safe. I will opt and use the train if it really is not advisable to travel by bus. I guess I will have a look at some more forum posts and see the verdict? Is train travel a lot more expensive, or just as affordable in the grand scheme of things (Are we talking a few dollars or more?)
Amit- Great reply. I think 1 night will be sufficent from your response for Halong Bay. Sounds like you had a good overall experience within these places! I know it will be personal preference to people's opinions on places, but I guess this is the beauty of travel. Can't wait!
#4 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
The most exciting attraction (human beings) in this country is located in all of these places - the Vietnamese people are probably the friendliest of all SE Asians, but you won't find them if you only frequent places on the tourist trail. Slow down a little and meet the real natives.
I totally agree with you! My best travel stories always involve a random local and an experience I have had with them. So looking forward to meeting the people of SE Asia!
#6 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
Your schedule is very similar to what I did the first time I came to Vietnam and it worked for me. I didn't have quite as much time so didn't go to Sapa or Mui Ne but have since visited both a couple of times: Sapa is definitely recommended, although it can be grotty in the winter, and I prefer Mui Ne to Nha Trang . I agree with atrips suggestion on the train / bus travel from Hanoi to Hoi An but of course if you want to stop in Nha Trang and / or Mui Ne you can't fly Danang to HCMC. So you could either do a train or flight from Danang to Nha Trang (if a flight exists - I haven't checked) and then get the bus (day bus) to Mui Ne and then to HCMC or skip Nha Trang, fly direct to HCMC and get the bus from there to Mui Ne (4 - 5 hours) and back again.
As for pre-booking for Sapa - it depends on time of year and how fixed you are on dates and class of train. On Monday I booked to go up next Tuesday night (updates soon!) and there was only hard seat (not recommended) and a couple of top end soft sleepers available - and that was through an agent. So it does get very busy. If you know when you want to go then yes, book in advance.
Sounds too much like a first time trip going to the most touristy places. Skip Nha Trang and just one night in Hue and explore Ninh Binh instead. Went on a great trip to Pu Luong including some fantastic home stays and saw some mind-blowing scenery and not a tourist in sight. PM me for details, do something different.
#8 Kurtz has been a member since 15/10/2012. Posts: 20
And what's wrong with a first time visitor going to the most touristy places? They're touristy for a reason...I don't disagree about trying something different, and Pu Luong sounds great, but don't knock the highlights!
Thanks again for the advice. Yes it is a very obvious first timers itinerary for Vietnam! But as mentioned, they are on the beaten path for a reason I am assuming. But will also try and do something different. But I guess I was more replying on locals or word of mouth when I arrive. Otherwise If it was on these forums to go, then I am guessing it would be touristy (or will become) and therefore not so different after all.
In regards to Sapa, I do know my dates and my hostel has offered to book train tickets for us, so I think because of what you said I will pre book. I am there Friday next week so hopefully we will both enjoy it!
#11 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15
My agent told me it was a busy weekend because of students travelling for graduation...I'll possibly still be around in Sapa on Friday so if you're on your own and fancy a drink, let me know! Have fun.
Also here are some of my favorite eating joints/foods @ various places - if you are into food. These are all places I've had food at and loved it and I haven't mentioned the various street food. (:-)
Dishes to try: Pho
Places to check out: KOTO; Little Hanoi (there Aurbegine with garlic is really nice)
Dishes to try: Banh Khoai
Places to check out: Mandarin Cafe
Dishes to try: White rose; Cau Lau and Wonton
Places to check out: Banana Leaf (Awesome atmos and food); Cargo Club (Pastries are amazing)
Dishes to try: Banh Mi ; Bo Bia Ngot (sweet delicacy); Pho (it tastes different than the one up north )
Places to check out: Pho 24 (it's like a fast food chain for pho); Pho Quynh
Tahlia, This link may help you to enjoy street food in Hanoi. I just think you are now in Hanoi. be aware of Storm is coming and heading the north Vietnam in the next 2 days
I am departing for Hanoi in 2 hours! Hopefully the weather holds out there! I will refer back to this post for the food tips! It will be one of my favourite experiences in the whole of SE Asia.
Will do some trip reports along the way.
Travellingsarah - will be in Sapa, so will try and get in touch if possible!
#15 misstahlia has been a member since 16/11/2012. Posts: 15