Are you planning a trip to Vietnam in the near or far future? If you are, you’re lucky to have the opportunity to explore this beautiful country full of various different experiences awaiting for you. And the more time you have, the more you’ll get to see and more amazing foods to try.
I travelled Vietnam for one month last year in 2018 from south to north and it was one memorable and incredible journey that I will remember for the rest of my life. A month may sound long for some but honestly, it is not enough to visit all the places on the list and spare enough time in each place. So we have to be smart in deciding where to go and how much time to spend in each place.
I travelled with my boyfriend and we had a rough idea of which cities and islands we wanted to go beforehand, but we decided to go to one place and plan for the next destination more or less spontaneously. Flexibility was essential for us because we didn’t want to be stuck with a set plan in case some unexpected things happen – for example, falling in love with a place and not wanting to leave too soon. And we were so glad we had the flexibility.
This article is an introduction to help you get some inspiration and ideas on how you could plan your journey and what to expect in terms of travel cost and budget.
We began our trip from the south, in Ho Chi Minh city a.k.a. Saigon. My boyfriend flew from Hanoi and I flew from Korea and we met at the Tan Son Nhat international airport. As Vietnam is a thin and long country, it is very common and most logical to travel from one end to another – south to north or north to south.
Places I visited in order:
Ho Chi Minh (2 nights)
-> Can Tho (2 nights)
-> Phu Quoc island (2 nights)
-> Con Dao island (3 nights)
-> Da Lat (2 nights)
-> Mui Ne (1 night)
-> Nha Trang (2 nights)
-> Hoi An (4 nights)
-> Phong Nha Ke Bang (1 night)
-> Hanoi (1 night)
-> Ha Long bay (3 nights)
-> Hanoi (4 nights)
As Vietnam is a country with a long coastal line and fantastic beaches, our trip was 60% by the pristine turquoise beaches. My favourite beaches are in Con Son island (part of Con Dao archipelago) and An Bang beach in Hoi An.
There were some cave and other natural wonders that we really loved like Fairy Spring in Mui Ne and Mooc Spring in Phong Nha Ke Bang. I wrote articles about my one night stay in Phong Nha and list of all the things to do in Phong Nha, so you can go check them out for details. In the future, I’ll be writing more in details about other destinations I visited.
If you are seeking for inspirations and ideas of which destinations will be best for you, you can explore the articles covering list of best beaches and top historical and cultural destinations in Vietnam.
Means of Transport
This country is well-known for extensive bus routes that connect every city and the sleeper buses are mostly very comfy. So if you want to glide through the entire country stopping at many places, bus could be your top choice. Train is another alternative for land transportation and some train rides are amazing for enjoying the scenery, but trains could often be more expensive and takes longer than buses.
If you have a limited period time and have more spare budget for transport, flying could be your best bet. Most of the times, domestic flights are very affordable between major cities like Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang, while flights to Con Dao islands can be expensive. Most popular LCC airlines are Vietjet, Jetstar and Bamboo airlines, but bear in mind that delays are very frequent with these airlines.
For my trip, I opted for the buses and buses only for two reasons. One for budget and second for convenience as most of the sleeper bus companies offered free door-to-door transportation. To save both time and money, we took quite a few overnight buses between cities. Overnight buses can be very tiring, so it’s best to balance it with a good rest in between.
Our main theme of the budget would be categorised somewhere between budget and mid-range. We tried to save on transportation by sticking to the cheapest option – bus. For accommodation, we only wanted a private room, so we booked various types of hotels depending on the destination and options available – I’d say between 2 to 4 star properties.
And for food and drinks, we did not go to very fancy places, but were not so conscious of the price as we both value food quality and experience as well as a glass of beer or cocktail in the evenings.
When we were doing the planning, we expected to spend between 750,000VND (about 33 USD) and 1,000,000VND (about 43 USD) per day per person including hotels, food, transportation within Vietnam (not including flights in and out of Vietnam). We spent 827,000VND (about 36USD) per day per person, so it is within the range we expected and for all the activities, food and fun we had, I think it’s super cheap!!!
Vietnam offers up to 15-day visa-free entry for most of the countries (up to 30 or 90 days for ASEAN nationals), so you can check the visa exemption information first. If you need a visa, you can apply for it in advance and have your visa stamped at an international airport in Vietnam on arrival. The process is pretty straight-forward and you’ll be instructed from the visa agency.
My overall experience was highly satisfying and we just wished we had more time to visit more places and stay in our favourite cities longer. But, one thing I’d do differently if I have a chance to do it again is to fly to Con Dao island instead of taking the buses and ferry. Speed boat ferries to and from Con Dao or Phu Quoc are comfortable and bearable. But the bus rides to and from the port were long and tiring. So I think the rather expensive flight could be worthy considering the time and energy that can be saved.