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Vietnam forum

Itinerary South to North in 17 nights...

Posted by basilisp on 14/11/2016 at 13:59

Hi guys,
My wife and I will be in Vietnam (HCM) on the 3rd of February 2017 (after spending 4 nights in Siem Reap, considering Tet) and we would like help with our itinerary . We would leave Vietnam on the 20th of February (from Hanoi at 15:00) , so we have got 17 nights.
Please do consider that we are low budget travelers ...

Obviously because of the airplane tickets we have we will be traveling from South to North.
We love landscapes,food,beautiful sites and people. Interested in seeing caves,kayaking,zipling (if possible).
I read that considering the cold weather in February in Sapa and the surroundings this area is not recommended. I can't find find any info about Ninh Binh,Tam Coc, and Ba Be national Park for this time of the year. Just that there would be no green rice fields at the time. Would it be a disappointment ?

Also thinking about the distance of Mekong Delta from HCM I think that we should skip that area. It seems that a day trip is not worth the effort and money.
Because of our low budget we would use domestic airplanes on longer distances only, like Dalat to Hoi an. The rest like HCM to Dalat ride (7 hours) seems ok. I found out about Vietjet , jetstar and the more expensive (but consistent) Vietnam Air.

-2n in HCM (I don't think I need more than that).
-2n in Mui Ne (sand dunes , but is it worth or should I spend time beach time in Hoi an ? ). I think we prefer this option than Nha Trang.
-2n in Dalat (looks like an interesting relaxed small city,maybe a bike ride would be nice. Also river rafting).
-4n in Hoi an (unmissable from what I read). Half day tour to My Son.
-2n in Hue (should we include it ? ).
-2days/1n in Phong nha (1 day cave tour with Oxalis).
-3n in Hanoi.
-1n in Halong Bay .

Total of 17 nights . Obviously I haven't included some night Buses (if we have to) e.t.c.
Even if it will be really tiring I think that we have to see the most of the country , never know if we will manage to get back one day.

Sorry for the long post but after reading for the last month I really think I need some help.
Any advice is more than welcome. Please feel free to change or add something. How many days would you stay and what would you keep and or take out?

Thank you!

#1 basilisp has been a member since 13/11/2016. Posts: 3

Posted by somtam2000 on 14/11/2016 at 15:01 admin


Ok, that is a pretty typical routing. A few (minor) thoughts:

* Some of the accommodation providers in Phong Nha require a minimum stay of 2, sometimes 3 nights, so just check with where you are aiming for that that isn't the case where you are headed as you may come unstuck with your one night plan. If you haven't read it already, you may enjoy Cindy's piece on Hang En cave - hint Phong Nha deserves more than one night ;-)

* Sticking with Phong Nha, consider the transport time in getting there and leaving - a bus from Hue takes around 6 hours from memory, and then to get to Hanoi from there you need to get a bus to Dong Hoi for the flight or train connection to Hanoi - best case, another half a day. So,

* I'd consider dropping Mui Ne - primarily because your trip is relatively short and, well, the sand dunes are nice and all, but not sure they are really worth a two day diversion. Give at least one of these days to Phong Nha to pad our your transport timings.

* Hue appeals to some, not others. If you've got a historical tilt, then you'll find it most likely interesting. If not you may end up feeling you could have done better with an extra day in Saigon or Hanoi.

So, then you could do something like:
Saigon - Da Lat (bus)
Da Lat - Da Nang (cheap flight)
Da Nang - Hoi An (mini bus)
Hoi An - Hue (bus/train or minibus)
Hue - Phong Nha (bus)
Phong Nha - Hanoi (bus then cheap flight or train to Hanoi)

Hope that helps - more questions, ask away!

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by Justaperfectday on 15/11/2016 at 03:17


We've just spent two months travelling Vietnam and are interested in the same sort of things as you. Here are some thoughts, hope they help.

1. Mui Ne only needs a night. Nha Trang...hmm. I agree miss it. Very 'touristic' and pricey. Ok if you want to see a big mass tourism beach.

2. Re Sapa- we spent a week. I would advise maybe skip it. The weather will likely be bad. It's also a major construction site at the moment which is a shame. Poorly planned and crappy hotels going up everywhere. Everywhere was dusty/muddy, with huge trucks rumbling through the streets constantly.

3. Dalat is lovely. Even with cold weather it's a charming wee town. If you go rafting, you'll need 2-3 nights there. We did motorbike trip with some great guys based at the Hangout Bar there. Well worth it.

4. Internal flights were great and really cheap if you book a month or so ahead. Both Vietjet and Jetstar were good, I would say they are pretty reliable (out of our 12 internal flights (we jumped around a bit) none cancelled). And at $18-30 bucks plus $15 or so to add a checked bag, it was hugely helpful to save time by flying. They did regularly change flight time though (by up to an hour) - so don't leave connections too tight.

5. Consider going to Cat Ba instead of Halong. I don't know if the weather is a problem in that area - but the connection to Cat Ba from Hanoi is easy (5 hours door to door, bus-bus-boat-bus) and Cat Ba offers southern Halong views (but less rubbish and fewer tourists) as well as fun hiking and kayaking (and rock climbing) day trips. We loved it and wished we could have spent longer. Halong, didn't love so much. You would need 3 nights ideally.

6. Sorry, this isn't exactly in order of your itinerary (writing on my phone) but I would only give 3 nights to Hoi An. It is lovely (consider staying at An Bang, the beach 4km from Hoi An, easy to grab a cheap taxi in and out) and you can do a beach afternoon, a day in town and My Son. If you decide not to go to Hue, you could add a night or 2 back to Hoi An.

7. We personally could have given Hue a miss.

8. Best thing to do in Hanoi at the start? Splash out on a Hanoi Street Food motorbike tour. Best way to orientate yourself quickly, we spent 4 hours zooming round, eating great food and having frank and interesting discussions with the drivers (all women) on life in Hanoi.

Happy travels.

#3 Justaperfectday has been a member since 12/11/2016. Posts: 4

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/11/2016 at 03:28 admin

@Justaperfectday, how was the beach at An Bang? There were quite a few news reports last month suggesting many of the beaches near Hoi An are having a lot of erosion problems. Did you see much of that kinda thing?

#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by basilisp on 15/11/2016 at 06:35

It seems that we should skip Mui Ne and we are still not sure about Hue .

I think that our itinerary has for sure the followings :
3n in HCM (1 day tour to Mekong Delta).
2n in Dalat.
4n Hoi An.
2n Phong Nha .
4n Hanoi (1n in Halong Bay or Cat Ba).

Maybe Hue for 2n or spend those days somewhere else (+1n in Phong Nha / +1n in Dalat) ?

Thank very much you for your detailed information! Really helpful...


#5 basilisp has been a member since 13/11/2016. Posts: 3

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/11/2016 at 20:07 admin

I'm generally a fan of "less is more" -- spending more time in fewer places -- and Da Lat certainly lends itself to a longer stay than two nights.

As mentioned by Justaperfectday there is the rafting and the motorbike touring, but there is also a lot of other stuff to keep you busy. In Phong Nha it is primarily about the caves, but there are other attractions as well.

But, Hue is on the way from Hoi An to Phong Nha, so it perhaps makes sense to at least stop by for a night, so perhaps one more day to Da Lat, one night in Hue and the already assigned two in Phong Nha.

Decisions decisions!

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by basilisp on 16/11/2016 at 07:41

Hello again,
After reading and thinking of it for more than a month , we decided that our itinerary will be
- 3,4,5 of Feb in HCM. (Bus to Dalat).
- 6,7,8 in Dalat (maybe one more day that I would spend there but there is no flight to Hoi An on the 8th of Feb).
- 9,10,11 in Hoi An. (On the 10th there is the full moon festival). (bus to Phong Nha ).
- 12,13,14 in Phong Nha (on the 13th we will do an Oxalis cave tour).
- 15,16,17,18,19 in Hanoi (on the 17th we will go for a 2d/1n Halong Bay boat tour).
The 20th we will leave Vietnam.

Thanks to all for helping us to decide about this trip!


#7 basilisp has been a member since 13/11/2016. Posts: 3

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