10 days in Vietnam itinerary – the ultimate country guide

The land of bun cha, towering limestone karsts, the endless thrum of motorbikes and of lanterns lit up each night, Vietnam is a must-visit country on anyone’s list. Perhaps you’ve now confirmed your trip and you’ve got 10 days in Vietnam to plan? Where do you start? It isn’t easy – Vietnam has so many incredible places that you’ll only be able to see a sliver of this remarkable country in just 10 days. But, don’t worry, we’ve crammed in all the highlights to put together what we think is the perfect 10 days Vietnam itinerary.

Picture of girl looking at the viewpoint from Hang Mua Cave in Tam Coc Vietnam

We’ve also added loads of other bonus places at the end of the article, which you can easily swap in and out of our suggested itinerary, just in case there is some spots that you really want to visit!

Our perfect 10 days in Vietnam itinerary

  • Days 1 & 2 – Ho Chi Minh City
  • Day 3 – Hoi An
  • Day 4 – The Hai Van Pass to Hue
  • Days 5 & 6 – Ninh Binh & Tam Coc
  • Days 7 & 8 – Halong Bay / Bai Tu Long Bay
  • Days 9 & 10 – Hanoi

Why choose Vietnam?

Just in case you aren’t 100% sold on spending 10 days in Vietnam, we’ve highlighted some of the top reasons why you should definitely make Vietnam your next destination!

  • In 10 days in this incredible country you are able to see so many different landscapes, from vibrant cities, to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay, stunning beaches and iconic limestone landscapes.
  • The food is some of the best in the world, so if you love your cuisine, you’ll have enough delights to tantalise those taste buds. And you might even learn a new culinary trick or two to take home with you.
  • Your money will stretch a lot further than you think! We found Vietnam to be one of the cheapest places in Southeast Asia – so you can get by on a very limited budget. We’ve got some more info on what to budget for your 10 days in Vietnam further down the article.
  • It’s really well set up for travel and tourism, making it one of the easiest places to travel in South East Asia.
  • And, for us, one of the most important thing is being connected – the internet in general is fantastic, so don’t worry about being able to access your emails or your social media. Fear not, your Instagram can stay handy!

Getting around Vietnam

We’ve put together travel recommendations and routes through this itinerary but, generally, if you’re looking for transport, we’d recommend checking out Bookaway for buses, trains and transfers. They have great 24 hour support and many routes have cancellation policies – which provides a bit of peace of mind, when you need to change travel plans. Trust us, that happens more than you’d expect!

However, if you’d prefer to fly some of the longer distances in the itinerary, then check out Skyscanner.

Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh City

So you’ll very likely be either flying into either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for your Vietnam holiday, so we’ve decided to start this 10 days in Vietnam itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City – but of course you could easily run this itinerary in reverse if you’re actually starting in Hanoi!

Picture of view across Ho Chi Minh City

Lee’s favourite city in Vietnam, maybe even across all South East Asia, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon, and still referred as such by many, having spoken to many fellow travellers, it is a city that really divides opinion. Either you love it or hate it.

The former capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City has some incredible colonial landmarks but is also a place to learn more about the difficult, relatively recent history of the country, the Vietnam War.

Getting from the airport

By bus: There are a number of buses that go from Ton Son Nhat to the city centre, the best two of these options are the airport yellow bus or bus #49. They take around 45 minutes to get into the centre of Ho Chi Minh City and cost 40,000 VND (1.35 GBP/1.75 USD).

By taxi: Make sure you download the Southeast Asia version of Uber, called Grab. It’s the fastest and most convenient way into the city centre and for about 100,000 – 120,000 VND a pretty cheap option (3.35 – 4.00 GBP/4.30 – 5.20 USD).

Where to stay

You are really spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation options in Ho Chi Minh City, there are great hotels, hostels and Airbnb rentals. Here are a few of our recommendations:

Budget: With one of the best locations, clean rooms and great vibe, the place for backpackers is The Dorm Saigon.

Midrange: It might trend closer to luxury than mid-range but it’s worth a few extra dollars for Lief Mojo Saigon. It’s perfectly situated in District 1, and has all the conveniences you need.

Luxury: Arty, indulgent and with a French colonial flair, you must stay at the world-class Hotel des arts Saigon. An award-winning spa, beautiful suites and a rooftop bar with killer views.

War Remnants Museum

It’s probably a bit of a grim start into the country’s history, but we recommend you start with a visit to the War Remnants Museum to learn more about the Vietnam War. It’s a sombre reminder of this conflict, and it is quite hard, but very important to properly understand what Vietnam went through. We’d recommend you start with the third floor – this has a photo exhibition which offers a very measured take on the war. The imagery itself is pretty hard-hitting so be prepared for that. You’ll wind your way down the floors of the building and end up in the courtyard, which has some dormant fighter jets and vehicles for those interested in war machines.

Picture of artillery at the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Chinatown and the Thien Hau Pagoda

It’s great to immerse yourself in local culture, even if that culture is shared. Like many places in SE Asia, Vietnam has a huge Chinese influence and this is particularly evident in Cho Lon District 5 or ‘Chinatown’ as it’s better known. Have a walk around the streets and definitely make a pitstop at the Thien Hau Pagoda for a few photographs. This 19th century temple in honour of sea goddess, Thien Hau, is slightly mystical – hundreds of smoking joss sticks burn atop you, their ash falling quietly down onto your shoulders as you take in the temple.

Picture of the Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Lunch at Bun Cha 145

You’ll be spoiled for choice with Vietnamese cuisine over your 10 days in Vietnam. That said, bun cha has to one of our favourite types of local fare. Essentially it’s a heavenly beef broth with grilled pork and white noodles, alongside a dipping sauce and sometimes some greens. Bun Cha 145 is the coolest place to eat it, located smack bag in the middle of District One – the ‘backpacking street’. Still not full after your bun cha? We recommend the bananas in green rice tempura for a sweet local dessert.

Ben Thanh Market

When we were last in Saigon this market was closed for renovation, and we were very sorry to miss it! The market is the largest in the city and worth a wander around to see uniquely Vietnamese sights. You can buy local food, textiles, crafts and souvenirs. Our recommendation? Try egg coffee there! It’s famous in Vietnam and the market is known for serving it up by the glassful.

Sunset boat trip

See the city from a different angle by ending the day with a sunset cruise on the river. You can either do this on one of the highly-rated tour boats or, if on a budget, do the public boat for a bargain-basement price.

For the latter, walk down to the Bach Dang pier – the boat starts near the statue of Tran Hung Dao. It travels about 10 km from District 1 to 9, and takes 45 minutes.  You’ll see key sights from the city, including Landmark 81, the tallest building in Vietnam. It costs about 15, 000 VND (0.50 GBP/0.65 USD) and you will need to return via taxi, at a cost of approx. 400, 000 VND (13.40 GBP/17.25 USD).

For a more upmarket cruise there are loads of options available, usually including all food and drinks and often a local dance showcase or cabaret entertainment. These range from 30 – 100 USD (25 – 85 GBP) depending on the style of the cruise, and we’re told that Bonsai Cruise is a great operator. Remember to book this beforehand though, since in high season operators like Bonsai can sell out.

Day 2 – Ho Chi Minh City

For Day 2, we’ve got two options for you, depending on what you’d prefer to take in. Both include an almost full day trip just out of Ho Chi Minh City, so choose wisely!

Mekong Delta Trip

The Mekong Delta is the lifeblood of this area, and so much of Vietnam’s life happens along it’s banks. It’s definitely worth getting out of the city for a day to see local people in action but also learn a bit more about Vietnam’s history. It takes about 90 minutes via car to your first stops of a local monument and an orchid farm, a crop that is fast becoming a big export for Vietnam. After this, take a bicycle ride along slightly bumpy country roads to see kids playing in the rice fields, farmers toiling and crops being grown. The road ends up at a local market where you can buy a few pieces of fruit and bargain with smiling vendors.

After this your trip should include a visit to the prayer session at Cao Dai temple, a quick lunch and then a highlight: a cruise along a virtually untouched part of the Mekong Delta.

This really is a full day trip and it’s not advisable that you try to do this as a self-drive; you won’t get the full experience. We’d recommend booking one of the most authentic tours, like this one from Get your Guide where we felt it paid homage to the locals, really got us off the beaten track and didn’t feel like a tourist trap!

10 days in Vietnam itinerary - Mekong Delta

Cu Chi Tunnels

If you’re more of a history buff and interested in what happened in Vietnam during wartime, then you must visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels span 121 km (75 miles) and were used during the Vietnam War and were also the base of operations for the Viet Cong in the 1960’s. Essentially they were used by the solders as hiding places during war but also as everyday places to funnel supplies, to treat wounded people as clinics or hospitals, to store food, weapos and even people, as many North Vietnamese fighters lived full-time in these tunnels.

It’s a remarkable experience when you see the tunnels themselves; many of which feel too small to fit the average adult, and realize that so many Vietnamese eked out an existence in these cramped quarters. If you have the time, visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels gets our nod as a must-do activity on your 10 days in Vietnam itinerary.

You can usually book a day trip (which is about 6 hours) from Ho Chi Minh which includes the opportunity to see the tunnels and, if you wish, fire a gun used during that time. We like this one, since it’s relatively affordable and highly rated.

Day 3 – Hoi An

Lee on Hoi An, Cau An Hoi

Getting from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An

The best way to get across the 940km between the two cities is by air. The flight takes about 3.5 hours and doesn’t cost very much – you’re looking at about 20 GBP or 30 USD depending on the operator. Keep in mind that you’ll be landing in nearby town, Da Nang, which is about an hour in a taxi or bus to Hoi An.

You can take a train from Ho Chi Minh to Da Nang (and then bus or taxi to Hoi An), but this takes 17 hours and is far more expensive. Similarly a bus will take the same amount of time and cost only slightly than the flight, so isn’t worthwhile.

Check out the latest flights on Skyscanner or the bus and train routes on Bookaway.

Where to stay

There are loads of amazing hotels in Hoi An. Here are some of our recommendations:

Luxury: Four Seasons Nam Hai – Friends of ours stayed here when we were in Hoi An, and they raved about the sheer luxury of this resort. It’s a bit further out of town, but easily accessible via taxi or free shuttle from the hotel.

Mid-range: East West Villa – We loved staying at this villa – gorgeous rooms, incredible breakfast and a lovely swimming pool. That said, they did have a few Wifi problems during our stay – we’re told they are sorted out now but if this is important to you, then rather give it a skip.

Budget: Palmy Villa – okay it’s not a backpackers so not totally budget but this property provides amazing value in Hoi An! We stayed here for a few nights and provides clean, very large rooms and a great pool, but at a super affordable price.

Wander the old town

Depending on what time you’ve arrived in Hoi An, we’d recommend you go straight into the Old Quarter with a pair of trusty sneakers, so you can walk the streets! It can be quite busy here but it’s worth spending time just walking around near the bridge, stopping in at the many trinket and boutique stores lining each street.

If you do manage to get into Hoi An very early, we’d recommend you go before sunrise. The streets are entirely empty and a treat to walk around and take pictures!

Insider Tip: If you want the famous ‘Hoi An Vibes only’ Instagram shot, head to interior design store, Sunday in Hoi An. It boasts the mural right at the back of the store.

Dress or Suit shopping

While you’re pounding the pavements you’ll definitely have a few shop owners enticing you into their store, trying to sell you a custom suit or dress. Actually Hoi An is an epicentre for tailors and you can commission a local tailor to make your creation overnight, at really low prices! We’re talking floating, gorgeous dresses at about 40 GBP / 50 USD and a custom suit for under 160 GBP / 200 USD. It’s an absolute bargain, and amazing that you only need one day in Hoi An to get it made, since you can pick it up before you leave the following day.

Lee got a dress made at Kim Hien – they were very quick, so kind and open to negotiation!

Picture of girl in quiet lantern street in Hoi An Vietnam

Lantern lighting

Some of the most iconic photographs of Hoi An are the lanterns floating along the river, or being released into the night sky. This tradition of lighting the lantern comes from the Buddhist ritual of lighting candles for the ancestors, and the idea has really taken off in Hoi Ann, attracting thousands of people keen to do it.

Many think this happens only once a month, at the Lantern Festival, but it actually is available every night and is one of the best things to do in Hoi An! You just need to walk to the central pier, pay for your lantern and place it on the Thu Bon river with a wish for happiness, love and luck. If you do make it to the Lantern Festival (happens on the 14th of the Lunar Month), they turn off all the lights at 8.00pm making this a very special experience. That said, festival night is by far the busiest time in Hoi An and you’ll be shoulder-charged by a lot of avid tourists so be prepared for some pushing, shoving and sweating. Also watch out for pickpockets on the bridge.

Lanterns at night in Hoi An Vietnam

Day 4 – The Hai Van Pass to Hue

So today will hopefully be your best day in in Vietnam, as it was for us. While it’s technically a ‘travel day’, it’s one you will never forget. You should be taking the Hai Van Pass, touted by motoring show, Top Gear, as the most beautiful and scenic ocean road in the world. We recommend that you do this as an ‘Easy Rider’ i.e. perched on the back of a large motorbike. It’s so much comfier than you’d expect plus if you were to self-drive, this could be a very tiring day.

Picture of two people on motorbikes on the Hai Van Pass between Hue to Hoi An Vietnam

There are heaps of companies that offer this but the best one is undoubtedly Hue Adventures, who offer private cars, Jeeps or Easy Rider on the back of a motorbike. We used them and had one of our favourite days out in all of South East Asia with the two legendary drivers who shuttled us around.

The day’s tour takes in the following stops – so lots of important sightseeing spots that you get to check off along the way.

  • Fishing village on the Tam Giang Lagoon
  • The Elephant Springs in the Bach Ma national park
  • Lang Co beach
  • The Hai Van Pass
  • My Khe beach (known as China beach)
  • The Marble Mountains

We’ve actually written a comprehensive review of our experience going from Hue to Hoi An here, so check it out.

James and Lee enjoying the view of beach on Hai Van pass on Hue to Hoi An journey

More things to see in the ancient town of Hue

Imperial City

As the former capital of Vietnam, the Imperial City was where the Emperors of the early 1800s until the end of World War II were stationed. It’s a hugely impressive complex – an expansive citadel with hundreds of buildings, temples and museums. We loved it because it had a sense of solitude. Even when it was busy, you could still find a quiet corner to relax and reflect.

Give yourself at least 3 hours to see it and be prepared for lots of walking, probably in the heat. It can also be a little daunting to find your way around without understanding much of the history, so it’s definitely worth looking into hiring a guide -– find yours here. Entrance fee is 150,000 VND (about 5.00 GBP/6.50 USD).

Picture of girl in Imperial City, Hue, Vietnam

Ancient Tombs

Another fantastic not-to-be-missed attraction in Hue is the set of Ancient Tombs of the Emperors. They are set just outside the Hue city so you either need to rent and hop onto a motorbike (if you’re comfortable with them, that is), or rent a driver. You could even try a boat tour, as the tombs are located along the Perfume River.

We absolutely loved the tombs since they were all so different! There are quite a few of them, but here are our top 3:

Tomb of Khai Dinh: Probably the most elaborate of all the tombs and also the most popular, the Tomb of Khai Dinh was constructed in 1925. On arrival you’ll walk up an impressive staircases, with forecourts adorned with life-size statues of warriors. And a great view of the valley below.

Tomb of Tu Duc: Finished in 1867, this almost feels as impressive as the citadel on size alone, and is better preserved having not been partially destroyed in the war. It’s definitely worth getting to this one before the tour buses start arriving at 10.00 am. Entrance fee 100,000 VND (approx. 2.50 GBP).

Tomb of Minh Mang: This is a real mixture of these other two tombs, being similar in layout to Tu Duc but similar in grandeur to Khai Dinh. We loved wandering the various buildings of the Minh Mang Tomb. And given that this seemed to be the least visited out of the three, became our favourite.

Picture of girl standing in front of Hue tomb

Bonus: Near the Tombs is the Hue Deserted Waterpark. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – an old waterpark that has fallen into disrepair. This is really just an Instagram shot and nothing more; so we didn’t do it but you might be interested!

Day 5 – Ninh Binh / Tam Coc

Getting from Hue to Ninh Binh

There are a few ways to cover the nearly 600km distance between Hue and Ninh Binh: By air, bus and train.

Our suggestion is via the night train – the journey takes 12 hours but is a great option; it’s clean, has comfy bedding and even comes with snacks if you take a first class berth. We really enjoyed the journey and slept well. The night train leaves at around 21:30 and arrives the next morning at 09:30. You can find the right options on Bookaway. Or in their handy tool below.

Busses take about 10.5 hours and you can fly for 4 hours but would need to fly to Hanoi and then take the train to Ninh Binh, making this a slightly inconvenient option.

Where to stay

Many people talk of Ninh Binh but what they really mean is the smaller town of Tam Coc, a few kilometres away from the bright lights of Ninh Binh. You MUST stay in Tam Coc – it has some wonderful, affordable homestays but also great eco-friendly luxury options if that’s more your style.

Budget: We stayed at Anh Huong Homestay but of course any homestay in the town seems to be a good choice. This family is so accommodating, their rooms are nice, clean and big and they even invited us to their family lunch which was delicious! They make a mean bowl of sweet and sour pork too.

Mid-rangeMua Caves Ecolodge – a stone’s throw from the Mua Caves, this eco-lodge is very well located and you can get up early for a sunrise hike up to the viewpoint. This does mean you’re a little removed from the town but it’s a quick cycle on your bike over there.

Luxury: The must luxurious place to stay in Tam Coc, the Ninh Binh Hidden Charm resort is close enough to town to walk but feels secluded and peaceful. The rooms are absolutely gorgeous and if you find the budget, definitely opt for the suite.

Trang An

First up, you’ll need to visit the highlight of the Ninh Binh area: The UNESCO World Heritage Area of Trang An, for a boat tour. Boat tours abound in the Tam Coc area but the Trang An one is easily the most beautiful of them all.

Woman rowing boat with her feet in Tam Coc Vietnam

The tour is located about 15km outside of Tam Coc, near the south of the Red River Delta. You’ll be able to choose from three routes – Routes 1, 2, 3 – with Route 1 taking 3-4 hours, and Route 2 about 2 hours, making it the most popular. We opted for the longest which takes you through 9 incredibly impressive caves carved out by the river. The boat takes 4 people so if you’re less than that, you’ll need to share unless you’re prepared to pay for all 4 berths. Cost for the boat trip is 200,000 VND (6.75 GBP/8.65 USD) per person.

Trust us: if you are going to do something in Ninh Binh, it needs to be the Trang An boat tour.

Hang Mua viewpoint and caves

On your way back from Trang An, head to the Hang Mua viewpoint. This viewpoint will give you iconic photo opportunities across the rice fields laid out below you; actually there are two viewpoints so you are spoilt for choice.

Keep in mind that the hike, while not totally strenuous, can be difficult if done in the heat of the day since there is no shade offered. Try to get there in cooler weather or a latter part of the day. And, if you do suffer (as we did), there are a few makeshift drinks cafes on the way up where you can stop for an ice-cream, icy cold water or just a seat.

There is an entrance fee of 100, 000 VND (3.35 GBP/4.30 USD).

Picture of the Hang Mua mountain in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Day 6 – Ninh Binh / Tam Coc

Tam Coc Boat Tour

You’ve done Trang An Boat Tour but it’s definitely still worth doing the smaller one in Tam Coc itself. Hop on the back of your bicycle, drift down to the starting point and hand over some money in exchange for your boat tickets.

This boat tour lasts a couple of hours, and takes you along the Ngo Dong river. During the boat tour, you’ll cruise through 3 caves, separated by rice fields and surrounded by stunning limestone cliff scenery. The river tour costs 390,000 VND based on two people (approx. 13 GBP or 17 USD). It’s a great way to see the locals going about their day and if you go on a weekend you’ll see young kids splashing and dunking in the river water beside you.

Picture of emerging from a cave on the Tam Coc river in Vietnam

Thai Vi Temple

Back on terra firma, it’s time to hop back onto your bike and make the short cycle to Thai Vi. This ancient temple was built in 1258 and is set in an amazing setting: in the middle of rice fields and towering hills. The road to Thai Vi is right next to the Tam Coc Boat finish area, so you can’t miss it – just wander about 10 minutes down that road and you’lll reach it.

Entrance to the temple is free.

Girl in front of the Thai Vi Temple in Tam Coc, Vietnam

Bich Dong Pagoda

About 3km outside of Tam Coc you’ll arrive at Bich Dong temple, and you’ll quickly realise why it’s on the list. Surrounded at the front by a lake frothing with waterlilies, and with towering cliffs to the back, this place is magical. It is a set of three cave temples set into the mountainside, you walk up some steps and through the temples and the caves, only to find yourself at an incredible viewpoint, looking out at the valley and rice fields below.

Entrance to the temple is free.

Picture of the Bich Dong temple in Tam Coc Vietnam

Chookies

We’re also looking for good food options when travelling and when we came across Chookies, we were hooked! It’s a bit of a tourist institution and turns out impeccably grilled pizzas, refreshing drinks and even our favourite: the Banana Nutella dessert pizza! They have a branch in Tam Coc but also one in Ninh Binh near the train station, in case you need somewhere to chill before your train.

On the way back to town, and if you haven’t found it already, make sure you stop in at Chookies. It’s a bit of a Tam Coc institution and the pizzas are great. it’s a very chilled place where you can relax in a hammock and rest out the heat of the afternoon. If you like dessert pizza, you must try the banana and Nutella pizza!

Days 7 & 8 – Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay tour, limestone cliffs

Getting from Ninh Binh to Ha Long Bay

The journey between the two points can take as little as 3 hours and as much as 6 hours depending on your mode of transport. Economy local busses are available to take you directly to Ha Long, at about 200,000 VND (6.75 GBP/8.65 USD) per person. These are reasonable but not the most comfortable.

Your best bet is to look at booking a seat on a reputable shuttle bus or a private transfer (between 300,000 – 500,000 VND p/person – 10 to 16 GBP or 13 to 21 USD. The best options (with real reviews and ratings) are on Bookaway, and we’d recommend you book through a reputable provider like them to ensure you’re not left standing by the wayside!

Lastly, if you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, you could of course do this on the back of a rented bike.

Cruising around Bai Tu Long Bay, Ha Long Bay’s cousin

You’ve seen the towering limestone karsts on land, now it’s time to see them in the water, doing a cruise around either Ha Long Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay.  Bai Tu Long bay is part of the Ha Long archipelago, but nowhere near as crowded as Ha Long Bay. So instead of sharing the beauty of this incredible place with 200 other cruise boats, you’ll only be around a handful.

For the next two days you should take a cruise which covers everything from kayaking, to rolling your own spring rolls, exploring caves and fly fishing after dark. Booking the right tour for this area can be a little tricky so we’ve written an entire review of the experience for you here.

Bai Tu Long Bay tour on the deck of Paloma Cruises

Suggested tour operators

Affordable option: Paloma Cruise

We used Paloma and only have positive things to say about this operator. It was affordable yet a premium experience. The reviews speak for themselves – book them and you won’t be sorry.

Luxury option: Indochina Junk

It’s a toss up between this operator and Emperor Cruises, but Indochina Junk is one of the most well-known luxury bay cruises in Bai Tu Long Bay. If you have a bit of cash to splash, this is a great option.

Day 9 – Hanoi

Getting from Ha Long Bay to Hanoi

With very few exceptions, your tour operator will offer a return shuttle to Hanoi after your tour. That said, if not, there are numerous options from economy shuttles, to luxury shuttles and cars that you can book directly with Bookaway, and even cancel the day before if you aren’t inclined to leave beautiful Ha Long Bay just yet!

Where to stay

Budget: It comes out tops for a good reason. Little Charm Hanoi Hostel has a wonderful central location, friendly staff and clean rooms and beds. If you are choosing a hostel, make sure you check their Agoda reviews (and not Tripadvisor) since the latter can be scammed in Vietnam.

Mid-range: We’re fans of the Hanoi Trendy Hotel and Spa. You get a good balance of amenities for your budget: well-sized, air-conditioned, gorgeous rooms at an affordable price.

Luxury: If we had the money, we would stay at the Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake. They have over water rooms over the lake which makes it feel like you’re in an oasis, yet in the middle of crazy, manic Hanoi. A must-stay property.

Explore the Old Quarter

People walking around Hanoi Old Quarter

There is so much to do in Hanoi that we think two days can’t do it justice. We’ve actually got a full guide full of other activities to do in our city guide and itinerary for Hanoi, if you want to give that a read.

But, if you are pressed for time, then your first stop is to loiter around the streets of the Old Quarter. Boutique stores, people going about their daily chores, the smell of sizzling pork, dress shops poking out of every corner, the colonial and modern mixture of the Old Quarter is so fascinating and will have your camera at the ready every minute!

Get yourself some street food for breakfast from a vendor or, if it’s a coffee you’re after, walk into Cong Caphe and ask them for a coconut Coffee. This is coffee that we dream about; and can’t recommend it enough. Even if you don’t like a caffeine mix, you could try the Coconut Milk with Green Rice smoothie, which is an icy, condensed milk flavour explosion. Lucky for you, there is a branch directly opposite our next stop: St Joseph’s Cathedral.

St Joseph’s Cathedral

Picture of St Josephs Cathedral in Hanoi Vietnam

This late 19th-century Gothic Revival Cathedral is definitely worth a visit. Built in the late 1800’s to resemble Notre Dame, this imposing building feels quite out of place in Hanoi. Head to the right side of the building for the entrance – it’s entirely free to enter and you can take pictures.

Secret tip: If you take the street to the right of the cathedral, about 200m down you will find two wall murals that are perfect for an Instagram shot. You’ll have to be quite lucky as there are often cars parked right in front of them.

Picture of girl sitting at a photo wall in Hanoi Vietnam

Eat a Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich)

It’s been a busy morning of walking, so time to reward yourself with one of our favourite Vietnamese delicacies, bahn mi. Essentially it’s a French baguette that’s been perfected with Vietnamese flair. Our top place to eat these crispy rolls that seem to have fallen from heaven? An Cafe along with one of their house milkshakes.

Shopping – Made in Vietnam

Last stop for the day, and you should definitely head back into the old town and haggle for a few bargains. Many large international brands – like North Face – are manufactured in Vietnam so you can buy them for an absolute steal! If you want something a bit more upmarket, you can go to Hang Gai Street (known as ‘Silk Street’) which specialises in bespoke silk dresses, shawls and even leather shoes.

4 days in Hanoi itinerary - storefront

Day 10 – Hanoi

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

It’s worth another history lesson, to bookend your time in Vietnam. So, get out of your hotel early and head to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the resting place of former Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh. The place can get a little busy so try to arrive early. Also keep in mind that you need to hand over bags and cameras, so try not to take too many valuables.

Note: The Mausoleum is closed for a couple of months for maintenance each year, so make sure you check beforehand. And there is a strict dress code, so make sure you’re well covered up if you want to enter!

Picture of kids in front of the Ho Chi Minj

Note Coffee

Imagine a café covered floor to ceiling in brightly-coloured post it notes. That’s the world you’ll be transported into when you find The Note Coffee. This darling café is right near to Hoan Kiem Lake and not only offers a fun activity for people of all ages, but the menu is to die for! The concept? Pick your post-it notes, write a funny poem, message or sarcastic little snippet and find any free space to stick it up. After that you’re encouraged to walk around, giggling at other patron’s contributions and swapping stories with guests at other tables. Our pick is the peach iced tea and the chocolate croissants, especially if they are freshly baked…

Girl sitting in a cafe full of post-it notes

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

It’s your final night in Vietnam (cue the sobs into your coconut coffee). Why not spend it taking in the wonders of the lake? Around 6.00pm every night, the Lake comes alive with activity. You’ll see men practising their Tai Chi, young men and women trotting around the lake for their daily jog and many a boombox on the pavement as groups of ladies try their hand at ballroom dancing or even aerobics. It shows how Hanoi ‘winds down’ after a day at work, and has a fantastic atmosphere.

More than this, it’s a photographers dream. The many multicoloured lights from the buildings and the bridge reflect off the water, creating some epic landscapes for you to capture.

Bonus activity: You could also visit the Thang Long water puppet theatre which is near the lake, and take in a quick water puppet show. We didn’t do this activity, but you can buy your tickets here.

Other places that you could add to your 10 days in Vietnam itinerary

Sapa

A few hours from Hanoi, this hillside town is perfect if you love trekking and the quieter side of life. Set over the rice paddies of the Muong Hoa Valley, Sapa (or Sa Pa) has a plethora of hikes and guided tours. You can take a boat trip on Lake Sapa, travel the Tram Ton Pass, check out the Silver Waterfalls and walk the Valley, the gem of Sapa and the Tonkinese Alps.

If you want to head there from Hanoi, you can take a private transfer or do a 2 day bus tour.

Picture of the rice paddies in Vietnam

Mui Ne

This little beach town surprised us with it’s charm. Mui Ne, in the south of the country, is a good stop to include if you’re doing Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh city. You can relax, get in your sun and sand, and meet like-minded travellers if that’s your thing. Mui Ne’s biggest attractions are the red and white sand dunes; the former of which we really loved. Tourists also usually add a visit to the Fairy Stream as part of a tour.

The excursion isn’t going to break the bank – it’s a private 2 person jeep tour for only 25 USD / 20 GBP for a 5hr trip, which you can either do for either sunrise or sunset, as one of your best Vietnam travel experiences.

Girl looking out at white sand dunes in Mui Ne, at sunrise

Da Nang

An hour away from bustling Hoi An is it’s less well-known counterpart, Da Nang. Now, we weren’t huge fans of Da Nang – it’s far more commercialized and full of high rise hotels but it does offer nice beaches to relax.

More than this, it boasts the most famous sight in Central Vietnam: The Golden Bridge of Ba Na Hills. You know the one: the bridge with two enormous concrete hands on top of which is a large suspension bridge. Tourists flock to this bridge as part of their entry to Ba Na Hills by Sunworld, which is actually a huge amusement park!

Picture of people on the Golden Bridge in Da Nang Vietnam

Da Lat

In the south of the country, near Ho Chi Minh City, is the hill town of Da Lat, which was were French expats and the wealthy Vietnamese used to holiday. It’s favoured because it’s much cooler than most of Vietnam, so is a respite from the heat. We enjoyed the cool temperatures here (it was the first time we wore jumpers through our time in Vietnam), but more so because it has a few key attractions to enjoy. This includes a great Cable Car which offers views across the town, a selection of great waterfalls and the Da Lat Crazy House, a place that somehow defies description but is a must-visit on any Vietnam itinerary.

Picture of the Crazy House in Da Lat Vietnam

Nha Trang

Hmmm – we didn’t like Nha Trang. But, either you love a city or hate it right? We used it as a stop over between Da Nang and Da Lat (which we did by air). Pros? It’s got some great western restaurants and affordable accommodation options. Cons? It’s just not the kind of atmosphere we enjoy.

Phu Quoc Island

Until recently known as one of ‘South East Asia’s best-kept secrets’, this gorgeous little Vietnamese island is more reminiscent of the beaches of Thailand or the famed Cambodian Koh Rongs. This island paradise features lush tropical jungles, of course white-sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, and quaint little towns like Duong Dong. If you’re needing an island holiday in Vietnam, Phu Quoc is where you should put your money.

10 days in Vietnam itinerary - Phu Quoc Island

Phong Nha

This town or, more like, the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, is becoming a pretty cool place for travellers, particularly if looking for a stop between Ninh Binh and Hue. The National Park is full of towering mountains, underground rivers and incredible wildlife including tigers and black bears. Avid cave wanderers will enjoy the massive Son Doong and Phong Nha Caves; in some instances you can even camp overnight!

10 days in Vietnam itinerary- Phong Nha

What is the best time of year to visit Vietnam?

This does depend on which part of the country you’re travelling to, as the seasons change depending on whether you’re in South, Central or North Vietnam. However if you are looking to travel the whole country there are definitely ‘better’ times to travel.

Ideally you want to travel in March or April – it will be cool and dry in the North, hot and dry in the middle and South. That said, you could get lucky much of the year – we travelled the route above in July (traditionally rainy season) and only had a little rain when we were in Ho Chi Minh City.

However it is good to note the rainy seasons in both the North and South are between May and October, and you’ll want to avoid typhoon season from September to November.

Did you enjoy our 10 days in Vietnam itinerary? Let us know if we’ve missed anything in the comments or by getting in touch!

What camera equipment and other gear do we use?

We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a realistic 10 days in Vietnam budget?

Vietnam is definitely still one of the most affordable countries to travel in Asia. But, as with anything, your budget depends hugely on your travel style. Frugal backpackers should budget about 40 USD / 31 GBP a day, those in the mid-range are looking at 60 – 100 USD / 46-78 GBP per day and if you’re going luxury, then anything from 200 USD / 155 GBP up can be expected.

Is 10 days enough in Vietnam?

Because of the sheer travel distances in Vietnam, you wouldn’t be able to see the majority of the key cities or sights in ten days. That said, you’ll see a great cross-section of the life and culture, and can prepare for your next trip back!

How could I split 10 days in Vietnam and Cambodia?

This is a tough one. It might be worth spending time in the south of Vietnam i.e. Ho Chi Minh City, before going up to Phnom Penh over the land border and up to Siem Reap. That said, we would really recommend not trying to split ten days across the two countries, since Vietnam itself has so much to see.

Is Vietnam safe to travel?

Yes. Vietnam is one of the safer countries in Asia and there isn’t too much to worry about, even as a solo traveller. Watch out for errant motorbikes when walking the streets and also try to use institutionalized transport like Grab. As with anything, watch your belongings and don’t take unnecessary risks.

What to pack for 10 days in Vietnam?

A Vietnam packing list shouldn’t look too different to your usual wardrobe. That said, there are a few key essentials to keep in mind:

  • Sandals – you’ll definitely want comfy sandals for strolling the streets
  • Sneakers or Trainers – there will be a few more long distance treks, so sneakers will come in handy
  • Loose-fitting, light coloured clothing is definitely preferred due to the heat
  • Warmer clothing like a fleece and socks since it can get cold at night if you go to places like Da Lat
  • Scarf – can be used in a multitude of ways!
  • Sun protection including sun lotion, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
  • Any technology like international adapter
  • Hand sanitizer, imodium and tissues

How do I do a 10 day Vietnam itinerary south to north?

Simple, reverse this one! No, really. Start your journey in Hanoi and make your way down to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon.

What should a one week itinerary in Vietnam include?

Here you should definitely cut out some of the smaller towns. We might recommend keeping Hanoi, Bai Tu Long Bay, Ninh Binh and Hoi An.

What’s the best three week Vietnam itinerary?

Well, we’re glad you asked! We actually have an expanded travel guide for the country, optimized for 3 weeks! Check out our 3 Weeks in Vietnam Travel Guide here.


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