The best Vietnam Itineraries

Vietnam is a destination where you can visit for a two week holiday or spend a few months travelling the country at length. But what is the best Vietnam itinerary? To be honest, the best itinerary is different for everyone. The time you have, your budget or interests, the fact that you're travelling with family, friends or solo? All those aspects make your itinerary different from someone else. Whatever your timescale or budget, here are some sample Vietnam itineraries to whet your appetite for travel. Find one you like? Speak to a local Vietnam expert to book your trip today.

In order to enjoy a well-rounded Vietnamese experience, planning your trip around a well-crafted itinerary is key. Here's an overview of some highly recommended Vietnam itineraries to inspire your journey:

  • 5 days in Vietnam - Perfect for those looking for a smorgasbord of Vietnam's enticing scenery and cultural attractions.
  • 10 days in Vietnam - This gives you a more expanded timeframe to explore the key tourist attractions in Hanoi's Old Quarter and even do some excursions outside the city.
  • 2 weeks in Vietnam - An opportunity to visit exquisite locations such as Halong Bay and the beautiful surroundings of Sapa, enjoying both the sea and mountain views while having enough time for excursions.
  • 3 weeks in Vietnam - Allows for an exploration of the Mekong Delta, Cai Be Floating Market, and other spectacular tourist attractions.
  • North Vietnam itinerary - Ideal for travellers who want to lose themselves in the misty mountain scenery of the north.

Remember that the enjoyment of your travel in Vietnam is contingent upon aligning your preferences with what the nation proposes to offer in its various regions, seasons, and attractions.

Is your trip to Vietnam just around the corner? Be prepared by reading our tips for traveling in Vietnam.

Make sure to add Ninh Binh to your Vietnam itinerary

Make sure to add Ninh Binh to your Vietnam itinerary

Vietnam itinerary 5 days

Although a trip to Vietnam for just 5 days may seem short, it covers a variety of activities and places that highlight the country's rich history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. 

  • Day 1 - Hanoi: Arrive in Hanoi and immerse yourself in the bustling streets that teem with rich history, culture, and the famed cuisine of Vietnam. Enjoy the vibrancy of the Old Quarter, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum's solemnity, and the wisdom encapsulated in the Temple of Literature. Don’t forget to try the local street food specialties such as banh mi.
  • Day 2 - Halong Bay: Travel from Hanoi to iconic Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, you can set sail on an overnight cruise, exploring the seascape's towering limestone islands, emerald waters. Kayaking, cave exploring, or simply relaxing on deck could act as memorable moments.
  • Day 3 - Halong Bay: Absorb the stunning view of Halong Bay in the morning before heading back to Hanoi. As the evening draws in, tantalize your taste buds with a street food tour in the city. Savour the authentic tastes of banh can (miniature rice pancakes) and nem nuong (grilled pork patties) on this culinary adventure.
  • Day 4 - Hue: Leave Hanoi behind and fly to the ancient city of Hue. Delve into the grandeur of Imperial Vietnam with a tour of the historical Citadel, the tombs of Nguyen Emperors, and the renowned Perfume River. Indulge yourself with local specialties like banh khoai, a type of crispy pancake.
  • Day 5 - Hoi An: Navigate from Hue to the picturesque town of Hoi An, the heart of which -- the ancient town centre -- is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Explore the city's architectural landmarks, which include the Japanese Bridge and the Fujian Assembly Hall, among many pagoda temples that date back to the 15th century. 

If you're yearning to explore more, you can also blend this itinerary with a visit to nearby countries like Cambodia or Laos, thereby creating a richer Southeast Asian encounter.

Halong Bay fishing village, Vietnam © Shutterstock

Halong Bay fishing village, Vietnam © Shutterstock

Vietnam itinerary 7 days

If you have just a week in Vietnam, here's a practical and enjoyable itinerary for you:

  • Day 1 – Hanoi: Start your adventure in Hanoi. Experience local life by weaving through scooters and motorbikes, taste the delightful local cuisine from street vendors and explorative street food tours in the Old Quarter, where you can sample the city's rich culinary culture with dishes like banh can and Bánh Canh.
  • Day 2 – Hanoi: Immerse in Hanoi's rich culture and history. Consider a day tour to Ninh Binh, just 60 miles south, where you can take a scenic boat tour and climb to the Mau Caves Viewpoint.
  • Day 3 – Ha Long Bay: Journey to Ha Long Bay. Take a boat trip to Cat Ba Island, renowned for its breathtaking viewpoint. This ideally includes an overnight stay on board, for a full experience of the bay's stunning natural beauty.
  • Day 4 – Ha Long Bay: Enjoy another day at Ha Long Bay. Experience water activities and relish the sunset over the bay from a vantage point.
  • Day 5 – Hoi An: Travel from Ha Long Bay to Da Nang, and opt for a luxurious minivan ride. Make a side trip to the Ba Na hills to walk across the spellbinding Golden Bridge. Then, transfer to Hoi An, start exploring the ancient town marked with lantern shops, local markets, and its unique blend of architectural styles.
  • Day 6 – Hoi An: Enjoy Hoi An’s bustling café scene, savor delicious noodles at a quaint café, or try made-to-order banh mi with coconut coffee. Also, consider renting a motorbike to wander around freely and discover the area's enchanting night scene.
  • Day 7 – Hoi An: Immerse yourself in Hoi An's culture. Visit local artisans, explore the surrounding countryside, or treat yourself to a soothing beach massage. Utilize this day to uncover the distinct charm of Hoi An.

Please note that this itinerary can be customized according to your wishes, with the inclusion of Sapa, Phong Nha National Park, or other rewarding destinations around Hanoi. Additionally, the sand dunes of Mui Ne, possibly explored on a rented motorbike, can be an adventurous inclusion. 

Panorama Aerial view of Hoi An ancient town © Shutterstock

Panorama Aerial view of Hoi An ancient town © Shutterstock

Vietnam itinerary 10 days

For travelers looking to enjoy a more varied experience during a 10-day trip, the following itinerary balances city experiences, historical landmarks, and natural beauty:

  • Day 1 to 3: Hanoi: Begin your journey in Hanoi, exploring the vibrant and charming city's highlights, including the notable Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. Don't forget to try the local street food like delectable pancakes and spend a leisurely afternoon in one of the quaint cafes. Enjoy the epic, bustling street life which forms the heart of this city. You might even want to visit the Hanoi Train Street, a surreal blend of daily life and transport.
  • Day 4 and 5: Ha Long Bay: Embark on a cruise on Ha Long Bay. Enjoy kayaking, seafood, and take in the scenic beauty of limestone karsts. Along with the onboard experience, make sure to participate in the excursions offered by your tour boat company for a richer local experience.
  • Day 6 and 7: Ninh Binh: Visit Ninh Binh, known for its breathtaking landscapes, ancient temples, and limestone caves. Brave the desert dunes of the surrounding areas on the back of sturdy Viettel motorcycles for an exhilarating experience.
  • Day 8 and 9: Hue: Venture south to Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, famous for the historic Citadel and Tombs of the Nguyen Emperors. Consider taking the sleeper train for an authentic journey filled with stunning views.
  • Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City: Fly from Hue to Vietnam's most populous city, Ho Chi Minh City. Get a chance to absorb the city's mix of old colonial and modern skyscrapers, twinkling lanterns, and an epic mix of traditional and modern vibes before your departure.

Again, these stops can be adjusted based on your personal preferences. If you have additional time, An Bang, with its affluent culture and beautiful beaches is a must-visit. 

The 10 most beautiful places in Vietnam – as voted by you: Phu Quoc island, Sao beach, Vietnam © Pawel Michalowski/Shutterstock

Phu Quoc island, Sao beach, Vietnam © Shutterstock

Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks

Should you have the luxury of a 3-week stay in Vietnam, the following itinerary provides an in-depth exploration of Vietnam's features:

  • Day 1-3: Hanoi: Indulge in the hustle-bustle of Hanoi and visit its cultural highlights. Experience unforgettable nights in Hanoi at places like Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake, but don't forget to keep an eye out for pickpockets.
  • Day 4-5: Sapa: Take a trip to the mountainous region of Sapa, dotted with rice paddies and countryside villages, to enjoy trekking and spectacular scenic beauty.
  • Day 6: Hanoi: Return to Hanoi for relaxation after the Sapa trek and enjoy further exploration - perhaps even venture to the iconic Ba Ho waterfall.
  • Day 7-8: Ha Long Bay: Indulge in a two-day cruise, providing a comprehensive overview of the breathtaking Ha Long Bay.
  • Day 9: Ninh Binh: Enjoy a day tour in Ninh Binh, the "Halong Bay on land", set among the rice paddies and limestone cliffs.
  • Day 10-12: Hue: Transfer to Hue, the ancient heart of Vietnam. Delve into the historic charm of this former royal capital.
  • Day 13-15: Hoi An: Transfer to Hoi An and spend a few days exploring this world heritage site. Catch a sleeper bus from Hanoi to Hoi An for a unique travel experience.
  • Day 16: Da Nang: Enjoy the charming cityscape and beaches of Da Nang. Take a detour to An Bang Beach for tranquil ocean vistas.
  • Day 17-18: Ho Chi Minh City: Catch a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Learn about Vietnam's modern history and enjoy the vibrant city nightlife.
  • Day 19: Mekong Delta: Take a day trip to the fertile Mekong Delta.
  • Day 20-21: Phu Quoc island: Fly to Phu Quoc Island for some leisure time at the beautiful beach to wind down your Vietnam adventure amidst the soothing highlands. ![Images from the 3-week itinerary]

Remember, this plan can still be customized according to your preferences and activities of interest. As you explore, don't forget to discover the hidden gems, including the cool highlands towards Dalat and the memorable nightlife.

North Vietnam itinerary

If you're interested in the north of Vietnam, here's what your itinerary could look like:

  • Day 1-2: Hanoi: Discover the capital of Vietnam with its rich cultural and historical offerings. Here, immerse yourself in the lively cityscape where scooters zip past. Be sure to savor the famous Vietnamese street food, including the delightful beef noodles, in Hanoi's Old Quarter—representing the hub of gastronomy in the country Hanoi.
  • Day 3: Tam Coc: Make a day trip to the charming Tam Coc, also known as the hidden gem just south of Hanoi with picturesque scenery which will leave you amazed. Immerse yourself in its natural beauty, set amidst the surroundings of exquisite rice terraces and hill-tribe villages.
  • Day 4: Hanoi  Spend another day discovering the varied offerings of Hanoi and its surroundings, before embarking on an epic overnight train journey to Hue.
  • Day 4-5: Sapa: Travel north to Sapa, a town renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural diversity. Spend two days exploring terraced rice fields, visiting local markets, and meeting ethnic communities like the H’mong and Dao. A trek to the Fansipan Peak or a guided village walk can be an exhilarating experience. Overnight stays in local homestays offer an authentic glimpse into the lifestyle of the region's indigenous people.
  • Day 6-7: Mai Chau: Next, head to the serene valley of Mai Chau. This area is known for its lush landscapes and ethnic minority groups, primarily the White Thai tribe. Spend your time here biking through rice paddies, exploring nearby caves, and enjoying traditional dance performances in the evenings. Mai Chau provides a perfect blend of cultural immersion and natural beauty.
  • Day 8-10: Ha Giang: Journey to Ha Giang, an area less traveled but immensely beautiful, known for its winding roads and dramatic mountain landscapes. This is a great place for motorbiking or car tours along the Ma Pi Leng Pass, one of the most breathtaking roads in Vietnam. Visit the Vuong Family Mansion, Dong Van Old Town, and the Lung Cu Flag Tower. The region's diverse ethnic groups add to the cultural richness.
  • Day 11-12: Lang Son: Conclude your trip in Lang Son, a border city known for its historical sites and natural caves. Explore the Tam Thanh and Nhi Thanh caves, and visit the Mac Dynasty Citadel. Lang Son is also famous for its markets where you can shop for Chinese goods and local handicrafts. Enjoy the local cuisine, which has Chinese influences, before heading back to Hanoi.
Rice fields on terraced of Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang, Vietnam © Nguyen Tien Son/Shutterstock

Rice fields on terraced of Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang, Vietnam ©Shutterstock

How to plan your Vietnam travel itinerary

Getting around Vietnam

Vietnam boasts of diverse transportation alternatives, some of which include moped rentals, local buses, luxury shared vans, and even flying on domestic Vietnamese airlines like Bamboo Airways or VietJet

Riding a rented motorbike across the Hai Giang loop, or leisurely cycling through cycle-friendly locations like Danang and Hoi An paint an unforgettable portrait of Vietnam's beauty.

Taxi services like Grab App (similar to Uber), as well as convenient minivans and scooters, are also readily available. Conversely, if the thrill of two wheels pulls you in, riding a moped is an excellent way to navigate Vietnam. But remember, about insurance and driving license. 

For more details, check out how to get around in Vietnam.

North to South? Or Vice Versa?

Choosing to travel either from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa primarily depends on what you plan to do at either end and your personal preferences. Both these routes provide a unique overview of Vietnam's diverse scenery. Traveling from the south to north, for instance, comes with the tranquility and magnificence of winding up at the serene environs of backpacker. This viewpoint, coupled with the backdrop of the highlands will truly complete your Vietnamese journey.

Yet, no matter your starting point, it is advisable to check how to get from Hanoi, as this could factor into your final decision. Remember to also get an overview of the local weather during your travel period; to avoid intense winter in the north or the sweltering summers that typify parts of central and south Vietnam. This way, you get to fully enjoy the surroundings and everything that they have to offer.

Is Vietnam expensive?

The truth is, Vietnam is heralded as an incredibly affordable country for travelers. A daily budget of around 25-50 USD is sufficient, making Vietnam an appealing tourist attraction. High-end travelers with a love for luxury can enjoy the country's specialties on a budget of 100-200 USD a day. Vietnam does an excellent job of providing options for various comfort levels, ranging from dormitories in 3-dollar hostels to luxurious five-star hotel suites under 100 dollars a night in historical cities, such as Hanoi.

Another incentive is affordability in terms of its meals. Many restaurants charge a meager $2-3 for a scrumptious local meal, allowing you to sample popular dishes like banh mi or beef noodles without breaking the bank. The cost slightly edges up if you opt for services like private tours or resorts. 

Street food in Vietnam

Make sure to taste some street food in Vietnam © Shutterstock

How many days do you need in Vietnam?

Most travelers spend about two weeks in Vietnam, with some focusing on northern half to achieve variety in shorter travel times. We advise staying at least 3 weeks in Vietnam, if you want to experience the whole country.

Can you travel longer? Absolutely! If your visa allows, and your desire for exploration remains unquenched, 30 days in Vietnam offers you a first-hand overview of the range of experiences the country can offer. Our suggested itineraries further down could help optimize your travel plan.

Best places to add to your travel itinerary Vietnam

North Vietnam

When it comes to the Northern region of Vietnam, there's no shortage of breathtaking terrains and age-old culture to explore. Hanoi, the vibrant capital city of Vietnam, welcomes you with a blend of stately Vietnamese pagodas, French colonial architecture, and modern infrastructures. Explore the city's café scene, sampling the best coconut coffee with a side of the famous local sandwich, banh mi.

Known for its trekking routes and homestays with Hmong tribes, Sapa delivers a unique cultural experience mingling tradition with scenic beauty. A quick joyride from Hanoi leads to the mesmerizing UNESCO site, Ha Long Bay, an archipelago of around 1,600 jade-colored limestone islands rising from the sea.

Enroute your journey, don't miss the stunning city of Da Nang. With its famous fire-breathing Dragon Bridge and the inspiring Golden Hands Bridge at Sun World Ba Na Hills, it is a city promising cultural treasures and aesthetic delight.

Ninh Binh and Mai Chau are two hidden gems in North Vietnam. Take a trip through their charm-filled lanes, admiring the pagoda temples that echo their rich heritage. Famous for its awe-inspiring cliffs, caves, temples, and river systems, Ninh Binh is an ideal destination for those who wish to immerse themselves in Vietnam's scenic countryside. Mai Chau, on the other hand, is a hub for exploring Vietnam's hill tribe culture through intriguing valley cycling tours.

Trang An ( Ninh Binh, Vietnam)- the world heritage site © AdobeStock

Trang An (in Ninh Binh) © AdobeStock

Central Vietnam

The Central region of Vietnam is literally the heart of the nation, both geographically and historically. Enriched with local culture, history, architectural wonders, such as the stunning Golden Bridge in the Sun World Ba Na Hills near Da Nang, and awe-inspiring landscape views. Among the most iconic cities in Central Vietnam are Hue, Hoi An and Da Nang, with the underrated, nature-filled Phong Nha close by.

Hue, the former imperial seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, resonates with historical significance. Attractions such as the colossal 19th-century Imperial City and the scenic Perfume River draw tourists worldwide.

Hoi An, a well-preserved ancient town, is engulfed in the charm of past centuries, with wooden Chinese shophouses and old canals. It's the perfect locale to explore on foot or bicycle, known for its swarm of tailors who can whip up a custom outfit within hours, and don't forget to relish in the local Vietnamese cuisine from street vendors.

Da Nang, one of Vietnam's largest cities, boasts a stunning coastline and is celebrated for its golden beaches, the fire-breathing Dragon Bridge, and the Marble Mountains. A short day-trip north takes you to the mystifying Ba Na Hills, home of the famous Golden Bridge, held up by gigantic stone hands.

Not too far away, Phong Nha town serves as the gateway to the national park, offering some of Vietnam's most magnificent cave systems.

South Vietnam

In the southern part of Vietnam, you'll find experiences distinct from the rest of the country. Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon and considered a "motorbike city" for the number of motorcycles zipping through its streets, is the heartbeat of Vietnam. The city is dynamic, vibrant, and holds a rich tapestry of history and culture replete with landmarks such as the War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace, and the architectural marvel that is Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon.

After immersing yourself in the bustling motorbike-filled city life, why not get on a boat and head towards the sublime shores of Phu Quoc? This beautiful island serves as an idyllic motorbike getaway, offering pristine beaches and a breathtaking national park. 

The Mekong Delta, often referred to as 'Vietnam's Rice Basket,' is an agricultural heartland, promising mesmerizing viewpoints and a labyrinth of waterways. Known for its noteworthy noodle dishes like Bún Chả and Bánh Canh, this part of Vietnam will tickle your taste buds. Scattered with an array of sampans and houseboats, it provides a unique perspective into the lives of the locals.

Mekong Delta in Vietnam © Shutterstock

Mekong Delta in Vietnam © Shutterstock

When's the best time to visit Vietnam?

High season and low season

The best time to visit Vietnam or the 'high season' generally happens from November to April, when cooler and dry weather prevail across most of the country. Travelers favor this period due to fewer disruptions from rain, better conditions for trekking to the rice paddies, and enjoying awe-inspiring sunrises.

The 'low season,' which spans from May to October, coincides with the monsoon season bringing heavier rainfalls. You may experience fewer tourists and lower prices for both travel and accommodations. Plus, the landscapes get a refreshingly lush makeover due to the rains. It's worthwhile noting that the rains rarely last all day; there are plenty of sunny periods. One could argue it's a bonus if you don't mind occasional downpours and enjoy the symphony of mother nature in its full glory.

Price differences

Travel cost during the high and low seasons in Vietnam can vary depending on where you plan to go and the types of accommodations you opt for. Rates of accommodation and airfare can surge by 10-50% during the high season due to increased demand. If you intend to visit popular tourist attractions such as Sapa, booking your tickets well in advance is a wise decision. This is because, as an incredibly popular tourist attraction, it gets particularly busy during high season.

During the low or rainy season, you can expect significantly lower prices given the decreased influx of travelers. Opting for a hotel near Hanoi’s Old Quarter could also save money while keeping you close to top tourist attractions. If you're flexible with your travel plans and aren't too bothered by sporadic showers, traveling in the low season can save you much. 

Do you need a visa to enter Vietnam?

UK Citizens

For UK citizens planning to visit Vietnam, if your stay is 45 days or less, you don't need a visa. However, if your stay in Vietnam is going to surpass 45 days, you will need to apply for a visa. This can be done in multiple ways:

  • book with a travel agent in Vietnam and ask them to apply for a visa preapproval letter – your agent will tell you when to collect your visa from the embassy
  • apply for an e-visa that allows a 90-day stay and multiple entries – e-visas restrict you to entry and exit points you select when you apply
  • apply for other visa types from the Vietnamese Embassy in the UK

US Citizens

If you are a US citizen planning to visit Vietnam, you are required to have a visa to enter the country. Unlike some SE Asia countries and the UK, US citizens, do not qualify for a visa exemption rule. This makes the journey somewhat more complicated, but still entirely feasible thanks to modern systems like the e-visa. An e-visa grants you permission to soak in the natural and cultural beauty of Vietnam for up to 30 days, 

To ensure a smooth trip, read all about the visa regulations in Vietnam.

Ties Lagraauw

written by
Ties Lagraauw

updated 14.05.2024

Ties is a true world explorer - whether it be for work or leisure! As Content Manager at RoughGuides, and the owner of Dutch travel platform, Ties is constantly on the move, always looking for new destinations to discover.

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