**Before I say anything about where to go and what to do, make sure you get your visa BEFORE you fly to Vietnam. So many people get turned away and have to wait at the airport until it comes through. It costs around $45 and the process doesn’t take too long. Go to www.vietnamvisa.govt.vn and apply. It’s not worth the hassle to not do it in advance. You should then bring a printed copy of your acceptance with you to the airport.**
I didn’t have much planned when I got to Vietnam and underestimated the size of thecountry. A couple of weeks isn’tnearlyenough to see everything and I am definitely planning on going back.
We flew into Hanoi, which is Northern Vietnam. To get to the city you can get an airport shuttle for $2, it takes 45 mins and runs from 7am-7pm. A taxi should cost around $20-25 or you can arrange a pick up with your hotel if they offer that service. While we were here, we stayed in the Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel and I would highly recommend them. You can get a bed in a dorm for around $6 or get a private double room, which is around $35. This hostel is clean and has a great atmosphere with nights out and games organised for the guests. They organise trips and buses too which is so handy. They have a number of hostels around the country and I would 100% recommend staying with them and booking tours with them too.
From here, we booked a 3 day, 2 night cruise to Ha Long Bay. We booked it before we arrived to Vietnam. It was expensive at $250 but it included accommodation on the boat, on the castaway island, food and some drink. It also included some water activities, volleyball and rock climbing on the Castaway Island. It is a party style trip, with drinking games etc. The views you will see on the boat trip are spectacular too and makes the trip worthwhile. This can book out early, so book this in advance before you go. Vietnam Backpacker Hostel can help you organise it. You can also book less boozy versions of this cruise too, through booking agents and hotels. Tripadvisor is always a good place to find these.
From Hanoi, we flew to Da Nang Airport and got a taxi to Hoi An. The Backpacker Hostel has buses that you can get and they have trips you can take that drive the length of the country and stop along the way. It’s called the Buffalo Run and it saves you trying to arrange everything as they do it for you. We weren’t organised enough for this and couldn’t fit it in with our tight schedule.
In Hoi An, we spent a night in Hoi An Trails Hotel as a treat and some friends spent the night in a homestay and they said it was a great experience. Vietnam Backpacker Hostels are located here too and I would stay with them as often as I could.
Hoi An was a cool town and was lit up by lanterns. You could buy a lantern, put it into the river and watch it float downstream. It was a really nice town to just walk around and take in the atmosphere, especially down by the river. There are a lot of bars and restaurants with outdoor seats, so you can enjoy dinner or drinks and just chill here.
This is the best place for you to get clothes and shoes made. You can go to a tailor and get anything you want made, in whatever material or colour you want. The service is so good and the quality of the clothes are great. I got a dress that was the perfect fit and some fab jackets for winter at home. They can post them home for you too if you don’t have space in your backpack to bring them with you. The men’s suits are worth investing in too.
For foodies, Morning Glory restaurant was recommended to us and it didn’t disappoint. We also did a cooking course while we were there and it was really cool. We went to the local markets to pick out all of the food and got a traditional boat to the secluded location to cook our food. I love asian food so I enjoyed making and eating all of the different dishes. You can book this through your hostel, tour companies in the town or check out tripadvisor or viator.
Next we went to Nha Trang on an overnight bus. We got a sleeper bus which had beds so we got a nights sleep. If you are getting overnight buses do try to book the sleeper ones rather than the regular buses. Otherwise, it’s just a long, uncomfortable experience.
Nha Trang boasts some amazing beaches. We arrived in from our overnight bus to see the sunrise and hundreds of locals exercising on the beach. Apparently, they do this every morning for an hour. While you’re in Nha Trang you have the chance to do some snorkelling or some diving, or just chill out on the beach or in one of the beach bars. Unfortunately for us, there was torrential rain while we were there so our beach days were cut short.
We stayed in the Backpack Hostel that was close to the beach and clean. If you have a group, I would look up Air B and B. They have some amazing apartments with views of the beach and they’re very reasonably priced, especially between a group.Lanterns Restaurant is close-by and was recommended to us too. Another restaurant that did not disappoint.
Next stop was Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. You’ll see it being referred to as both. HCM is a very busy city and when you’re looking up accommodation, you’ll notice that there are loads of different districts. We stayed in District 1, it was close to some of the things we wanted to see and was central enough.
Some accommodation to look at in the area are;
- Vietnam Inn Saigon
- The Like Hostel and Cafe
- New Saigon Hostel 2
- Millennium Boutique Hotel
- Della Boutique Hotel
Ho Chi Minh is steeped in history and is a fascinating city. You can walk from District 1 to the War Remnants Museum. I didn’t know much about the history and some of the photos were chilling but it was an eye-opening experience. You can also see some of the tanks and warplanes here.
We also visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. You can book this with your hotel or booking offices around the city. This was a very interesting tour. You get to see where the soldiers lived, how they got around and the weapons, traps and vehicles they used. You can even go into their hiding places and go through the tunnels themselves. You can crawl through the tourist tunnel which has been widened, not by much, and then you can go through an untouched tunnel. They are dark and narrow and it’s hard to believe that the Vietnamese soldiers used these and stayed in them. Here you also have the opportunity to shoot guns at targets. You pick from a range of guns, one being an AK 47, and purchase your ammo for very cheap.
A tour of the Mekong Delta is something that also gets recommended a lot, while in Ho Chi Minh City, and to be honest, for me, it didn’t live up to the hype. It was good, but would I put it at the top of my list? No, probably not. You get collected and driven to the Delta and take a boat trip down the river. We then stopped for lunch and we were able to cycle around the area before we got back on the boat to be taken back to our accommodation. It was cool to see the locals and what their daily routine entails, but I just thought it was very dragged out. The water was a murky brown too. This could have been because of the bad weather around the time we were there.I have heard people raving about this, so if you have time and money go check it out for yourself. Personally, I just wasn’t blown away by the whole trip. Here are some trip advisor options.
This was our last stop in Vietnam and we got an overnight bus to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. You can also fly from here. My Cambodia blog will be uploaded next week. I’ll link it here so you can see what we did there.
As I mentioned earlier, I am planning on going back to Vietnam to do the things I wish I had done while I was there. Here are the main things;
- Sapa Valley – This is north of Hanoi. You get to explore the Paddy Fields and Villages in the Vietnamese countryside. You can go to the markets, trek and even do a homestay here. The scenery and experience is meant to be amazing. It’s on my bucket list for the future. The Vietnam backpacker hostel arrange trips to here and it’s worth checking out what they offer and you know that they’re a company you can trust.
- The High Van Pass – Although I have never really been a fan of motorbikes, this experience looks so cool. You get to drive a motorbike from Hue to Hoi An and take in the views as you go and pass through local villages where you just get such an authentic experience and look into Vietnam’s culture. Your bags are transported for you too so you don’t have to worry about trying to drive a motorbike and lug your backpack too. Again, the Vietnam Backpacker hostel arrange these tours too.
- Eat more Pho. This is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. Order it, you won’t regret it!
- Get your visa online before you go.
- If possible, book popular trips, like the castaways or the High Van Pass, in advance.
- Paying the bit more for a sleeper bus is 100% worth it.
- Check out my Cambodia post. You can visit Cambodia easily from Vietnam.
Top Tip Traveller 🙂