Vietnam

13 Days in Beautiful Vietnam!

CAUTION : MOTORBIKE CROSSING….EVERYWHERE!

This Itinerary is designed to provide you with a fulfilling trip to Vietnam. You are planning YOUR trip, and know your interests and needs, so please use what you like from the itinerary, and do your own research to fill in what you do not think you’ll enjoy.  The trip can be easily reversed (starting in Hanoi and ending in HCMC), you can add or cut days to fit your schedule, or you can just use the sightseeing ideas.

Enjoy the Picturesque Scenery and Busy Culture!

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Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Either by bus or Plane- I flew from Bangkok)

  • The Ho Chi Minh Airport is one of the airports you will have to REALLY bargain with the taxi drivers. If your hostel/homestay offers a pickup service for $10-14 US, I would suggest taking it.
  • Visit the War Remnants Museum or the Independence Palace if time
  • Enjoy Dinner (have some PHO!) in one of the local district’s
  • Check out the Ben Than Market from 7-12 pm (We were told the food is much better in the local districts than at the market, so we only shopped)
    • If you are into local boutique style shopping, Anupa Eco Boutique and House of Saigon are both worth checking out
  • Accommodation: Ms. Yang’s Homestay (LINK) – Ms. Yang is on Agoda, or you can contact her via the link. She rents out a few bedrooms in her home, which is located in one of the local Districts. She was extremely helpful, booked the Cu Chi Tunnel and airport taxis for a cheaper price, gave us great local restaurant suggestions for pho, and simply enjoyed chatting and getting to know one another. This is a great option for backpackers or travelers on a budget. (Our balcony view below)  https://www.facebook.com/Ms.YangHomestay

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Day 2: Explore Ho Chi Minh City

  • Walk or bike to the Jade Emperor Pagoda
  • Enjoy Lunch
    • Our Favorite lunch spot: 301-305 Vo Vantan Pho Le’ (South of Vo Van Tan, West of War Remnants Museum) It is a lady on the side of the street with amazing street food for 35 Dong a plate (And that’s probably the tourist price). The place is crowded at lunch, but they will just keep putting tables up, and it is closed at dinner.
    • Most places serve an ice tea drink – We drank it everyday and did not get sick, not to say it can’t happen.
  • Visit the War Remnants Museum (Closed during lunch hours)
  • Visit the Independence Palace
  • At night, walk along Dong Khoi Street and eat

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Day 3: Explore Ho Chi Minh City

  • Cu Chi Tunnels Tour ~8:30-3:00 (We used Delta Adventure Tour and paid 262,000 Dong for 2 people)
    • Your Hostel/Hotel can arrange a half day tour for you, I Do Not suggest taking the lunch option (Bring Water/snacks)
  • Eat Lunch in a local district and Rest at home for a bit
  • Set up a taxi to the airport or bus ticket (If taking the bus North/South) through your hostel/homestay if leaving tomorrow
  • A O Show at 6pm (We bought our tickets at the door, but the War Remnants Museum on the upstairs floor was also selling them while we were there. You can receive a discount if you bring in your plane tickets).IMG_5974
    • A O Show is put on at the Opera House in HCMC by local performers, and lets you see into their lives through creative forms of dance. We really enjoyed seeing the unique styles and the use of Vietnamese props, including bamboo round boats.
    • If you are walking to the opera house, there will be lots of food vendors out along with the way. I would suggest grabbing a snack/light meal to eat on your way to the Opera house.
  • Visit the Ho Chi Minh Statue after the showIMG_5993

Day 4: Transfer to Hoi An

  • Am Flight to Da Nang and transfer to Hoi An
    • Take the Local Bus or Taxi to Hoi An (~35 minute ride)IMG_2419
  • Accommodation: The Water Coconut Homestay (Backpackers looking to go out every night, you will probably want to find a hostel/homestay in the downtown area. This homestay is located further back near the fishing villages, surrounded by the beautiful rice paddies)
    • If you do stay here, print out a map before you arrive. Our taxi driver was terribly lost!
    • The food (the homestay owner’s wife is the chef) is incredible
  • Enjoy lunch and walk around town (If staying at The Water Coconut Homestay, plan on renting a motorbike (not expensive) or taking a taxi into town
  • Check out LeLe Cloth Shop at 87A Tran Hung Dao Street (Lelehoian@hotmail.com) if you are looking to have custom suits, dresses, skirts, coats, etc. made. They do a wonderful job and at a better price than most of the other stores. Once you try the finished product on, the postal service can come to the shop to ship it home for you. We had 2 suits and a wool coat made, and receive so many compliments on them back in Chicago. You can take in a photo of something you want made, or look through their many Nordstrom style catalogs. The more you can go in for fittings, the better (We popped in 3-4 times, typically twice in one day). LeLe on TripAdvisor

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Day 5: Explore Hoi An

  • Explore the town
  • Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge
  • Spend time Shopping, etc.

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Day 6: Explore Hoi An

  • Jack Tran’s Eco Tour: Adventure Buffalo & Boat Tour OR other tour of your choosing
    • We LOVE Animals, so we loved meeting a baby and mom buffalo, and getting to take a bare back ride on the gentle creature. The Boat Tour allows you to go into the local fishing village and learn how to row a traditional round bamboo boat.
    • http://jacktranecotourshoian.com/
  • PM Check out Me Khe Beach OR An Bang Beach & watch the Sunset

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Day 7: Explore Hoi An

  • Spend time at the beach
  • Spend time motor biking through the local villages and back roads
  • Finalize any purchases with the Cloth Shop
  • PM Flight to Hanoi (Or spend the rest of the day in Hoi An and fly/bus out the next day)
    • Accommodation: I can only recommend Not Staying at the Hanoi Lucky Guest House 2
    • If timing lines up, Hanoi has a weekend Night Market

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Day 8: Leave for Ha Long Bay

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  • Am Pickup for Ha Long Bay (We booked through Vega Travel)
    • There are many companies that you can book through, some offering more romantic cruises and some offering complete party boats. Our boat happened to be all 25-30 year olds, had very accommodating staff and the food was in abundance and wonderful. We went into Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, went Kayaking, saw monkeys, visited the giant cave, climbed up to the look out point, and were able to spend time just jumping off the boat and swimming in the beautiful Ha Long Bay. (We paid about $110/120 a person)
    • Vega Travel provides lockers at their office in the Old Quarter of Hanoi to put your larger luggage in (which you will be taken to after picked up from your hotel)
    • We booked in advance, simply because we arrived in Hanoi late in the evening and wanted an AM pickup
    • Note: all of the boats look like the boat below– Not the beautiful images you still on Google
    • http://www.vega-travel.com/

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  • Accommodation: Sleep on Boat


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Day 9: Return to Hanoi

  • Lunch will be provided on the boat before you head back to Hanoi in the private air conditioned van (~4 hour ride) ( We read a lot of bad reviews about this bus ride. We personally had a very comfortable experience- the van even had wi-fi)
  • Arrive in Hanoi around 4/5 pm
  • Walk around the Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Have dinner in the Old Quarter
  • Walk or taxi to the Train Station
  • PM Train to Sapa (We used Orient Express, but I do not have anything glamorous to say about this train- do not confuse it with the luxury travel company Orient Express). All of the trains run on the same track. We arranged for pick up at the Sapa Train Station (they pick you up in very crowded vans, but it is cheaper than taking a taxi if you are on a budget). Taking a bus is also a new option that you can look into. All of the trains and busses can be booked in the Old Quarter if you would prefer to wait until you are there.
    • Accommodation: Sleep on Train

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Day 10:  Explore Sapa

  • Lao Chai Tour (Muong Hoa Valley) or Black H’mong & Zay Village Tour
    •  No need to book Sapa tours in advance
    • I highly recommend spending 3 full days in Sapa after making the trek out there
    • http://www.catcathotel.com/
  • Accommodation: Cat Cat View Hotel — It’s Amazing! If you are a backpacker, the $35 a night for a room may be your splurge in Vietnam, and if you are traveling without a budget, this place reminds me of having “essential” Scandinavian amenities, with a local charm and amazing views. The included breakfast was also wonderful.

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Day 11: Explore Sapa

  • Visit the market & Quang Truong Square
  • Tram Ton Pass & Waterfall (Love Or Thac Bac)

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Day 12: Explore Sapa

  • Tour of Choice, walk around and explore the Sapa town, or venture into the rice fields on your own
  • PM Train to Hanoi : The train will arrive at approx. 4 / 4:30 AM. The city is still very dark, and I had not booked a hotel (thinking we could get away without it) and we ended up having to find a taxi at that awkward hour and find a hostel that still had availability. We did not get much sleep on the train on the train either, so those few hours that morning were essential.

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  • Accommodation: I do not have any places to recommend; I would suggest finding a place that you can bargain with and will let you stay later than the normal check out time since you will not be checking in until ~4:30 am so you can leave your stuff there during the day (this is what we did since we had an evening flight).

Day 13: Explore Hanoi

  • Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
  • The Temple of Literature
  • Check out a local Cafe/Restaurant and hop in a few stores in the Old Quarter
  • PM Flight to Luang Prabang, Laos via Taxi or Bus
    • If you take the bus, you have to give up extra time since busses only run at set times, something to keep in mind when planning your itinerary

      Additional things to check out in Hanoi:

      The imperial Citadel of Thang Long

      Hoa La Prison

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Conclude Itinerary

I hope you found Vietnam to be as Beautiful as I did  — At this point, you may be interested in:

  • Flying to your country of choice out of Hanoi (We flew to Luang Prabang, Laos) (Whether it be heading home, or heading into another adventure)
  • Stay in Vietnam! Maybe visiting another part of the country? Nha Trang, the Mekong Delta, or the sand dunes?
  • Take a bus to a country of your choice
  • For the Adventurer: Consider motorbiking all the way up the coast of Vietnam – Backpackers all over the world say it is incredible!

Happy Travels!

  

Visa Requirements as of 2015:

If coming from the US, you have to order a Visa before you are allowed to board the plane.

What does this mean?

–  If you are coming strictly as a tourist, you can obtain a regular tourist Visa through the Vietnamese Embassy, OR you can order a Visa on Arrival (If flying into Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi Airports).

A Visa on Arrival is a sheet a paper with your information (along with many other travelers) that allows you to pick up your Visa when you arrive at the embassy.

Why would I go this route?

– It is half the price, and takes 3-5 days via e-mail rather than having to go to the post office, mail in your actual visa, and wait a few weeks to receive it back in the mail. We used Myvietnamvisa.com and everything worked out great. I do want to note that the website is NOT affiliated with the government, and the government will suggest you go the first route if you call them.

** Have 2 wallet passport photos with you for them to staple to your Visa **

Health/Safety: Besides your standard vaccines,

Typhoid is recommended and is good for 5 years (if you are a frequent traveler, it may not be worth risking it)

Tetanus is often recommended before international travel (Or a Tetanus booster, depending when your last vaccine was administered)

Malaria was not an issue, as we were staying along the coast.

It is recommended to visit your physician or a travel doctor before international travel.

** I am not receiving anything for suggesting specific hotel names or activity companies, they simply left a positive impact on me and I personally want to share them with others

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