If you’re traveling to Vietnam in 2019 or 2020 and looking to spend 2 weeks or more exploring this beautiful country, you may be wondering what the best itinerary is. In this travel guide, we’ll take a look at some of the top destinations in Vietnam for 2019 and why you should include them on your next trip.
My first trip to Vietnam was with a tour group and I really didn’t know what to expect. I had always shunned tour groups in my past travels, as I liked to experience things on my own schedule, but seeing Vietnam with a tour group really opened my eyes to the efficiencies of group travel.
In this guide, I’ll review my Vietnam trip, the sights that were worth seeing, and break down what I believe is the best Vietnam itinerary for a 2 week vacation.
The Best 2 Week Vietnam Itinerary
Day 1 – HO CHI MINH CITY
Day 2 – HO CHI MINH CITY TO MEKONG DELTA
Day 3 – MEKONG DELTA
Day 4 – HO CHI MINH CITY TO NHA TRANG
Day 5 – NHA TRANG
Day 6 – NHA TRANG TO HOI AN
Day 7 – HOI AN
Day 8 – HOI AN TO HUE
Day 9 – HUE TO HANOI
Day 10 – HANOI TO HALONG BAY
Day 11 – HALONG BAY TO HANOI
Day 12 – HANOI
Day 13 – HANOI to SA PA
Day 14 – SA PA
This 2 week itinerary covers all the highlights of Vietnam and does it in the most efficient way possible. Beginning in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals still call it, is a great way to get a feel for one of Vietnam’s largest cities. HCMC is also a large airline hub for South East Asia, so this is where most Vietnam trips begin and end.
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Walk Bui Vien Street at night
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Saigon Post Office
- War Remnants Museum
- Presidential Palace
- Try the local cuisine (Pho, Bahn Mi, etc.)
- Rooftop Bars and Clubs
- Shop at Ben Thanh Market
- Try the local coffee (Egg Coffee too!)
After acclimating to the local scene in HCMC, next is a quick stop to the nearby Mekong Delta for a one night stay at a local hostel or homestay. Day 4 sees a return to HCMC to take in the sights with visits to the Notre Dame Cathedral, Presidential Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Saigon Post Office.
After a quick flight to Nha Trang, spend the next day relaxing on the beach or exploring the city. Enjoy a nice dinner on the beach at one of the many upscale restaurants. Day 6 starts with a flight to Da Nang and a short trip to Hoi An for the nightly Lantern festival.
Take in the sights and sounds of Hoi An as you walk the streets of the Old Quarter, explore the many shops, and even take a cooking class at night. Treat yourself to a Banh Mi sandwich from the restaurant that was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Things to do in Hoi An
- Lantern Festival at Night
- Explore the Streets of the Old Quarter
- Rent Bicycle for Ride Around the City
- Visit one of the many tailor shops
- Eat at Bánh Mì Phượng
- Take a cooking class at night
Day 8 brings a short drive from Hoi An to the ancient City of Hue to experience some of Vietnam’s oldest historical architecture. Take a walk around the walled fortress in the center of the city that was once the Kings residence. Explore the street food scene and bustling city that is Hue.
Day 9 starts with a short flight to Hanoi and an evening of exploring the city. The next morning will be a drive to Ha Long Bay to board the Junk Boat for an overnight stay on the water overlooking incredible scenery.
Once back from Ha Long, Day 12 is a rest day exploring Hanoi which can include visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Tomb and the Temple of Literature. The final short drive is from Hanoi to the terraced rice patties of Sa Pa. This 14 day itinerary is the complete tour of the highlights of Vietnam.
Day 1 to 2 – Ho Chi Minh City/Mekong Delta
Arrive in HCMC to acclimate and enjoy the city. Have Pho at Pho 2000 and take in the sights and sounds of the city. Check out Bui Vien Street at night just to say you did. Otherwise enjoy a nice quiet evening on a rooftop bar in District 1, 5, or 7.
Head to the Mekong Delta by bus and either stay at a Homestay or Hostel. Can Tho is large city in the Mekong Delta with many options for accommodation. Check out how the locals live and visit the floating markets along the canals and rivers.
Day 3 to 5 – Ho Chi Minh City/Nha Trang
Return on Ho Chi Minh City and tour the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office and Presidential Palace. They are all close together so you can see them all quickly before catching a flight to Nha Trang.
Optional: Hit up the Cu Chi Tunnels on the way back to HCMC.
Arrive in Nha Trang and enjoy the beach. Explore the city in the evening and have dinner on the beach at one of the many excellent restaurants.
Day 6 to 9 – Hoi An/Hue
Fly to Da Nang and take the bus or taxi to Hoi An. Check out the many shops and explore the old quarter’s winding streets. Visit the lantern festival at night and even take a cooking class.
Spend a Day in Hoi An and then travel to Hue. Stop by the Marble Mountains on the way to Hue and get a great view of Da Nang and the beach. Visit the walled fortress and Citadel in the center of Hue that was once the capital of Vietnam and the home to the King. At night, take a street food tour along the Perfume River.
Day 9 to 11 – Hanoi/Ha Long Bay
Fly to Hanoi and take the short trip to Halong Bay for an overnight junk boat trip through the many islands jutting out of the bay. Take a kayak into some of the hidden bays and take a tour of the underground caves.
Day 12 to 14 – Hanoi/Sa Pa
Return to Hanoi to visit Ho Chi Minh’s Tomb and the Temple of Literature. Check out a water puppet show at night.
Travel from Hanoi to Sa Pa to explore the endless terraced rice patties.
Vietnam Travel Tips for 2019 and 2020
Here is a list of the top Vietnam travel tips that you should know before you embark on your next vacation. A few of these I was aware of before I visited, but many I wish I had known before I went.
- Use the Electronic Visa Option if Available. The E-Visa allows you to go directly through immigration rather than having to wait with a Visa on Arrival Letter.
- USD is not widely used in Vietnam. Exchange your money for Dong (Vietnamese Currency).
- The ratio of USD to Dong is approximately 1:23,000. Carry around smaller bills for tips or moto’s since locals often have a hard time finding change for 500k bills or larger.
- Buy travel insurance. It’s a MUST!!!
- Traffic is insane. It often seems like there really are no rules and crosswalks are optional. Again, get travel insurance.
- Avoid riding motorcycles if you’re not confident on them. Most travel insurance won’t cover injuries related to motorcycle injuries.
- Keep your passport in the hotel safe. You won’t be asked for it when out and about. If you need it, just say you need to the go back to the hotel for it.
- Use the Grab App for taxis to avoid having to haggle about price.
- Take your own sunscreen. It’s hard to find and expensive in Vietnam.
- North Vietnam and Hanoi can be chilly in the winter. Pack a light windbreaker just in case.
- Typhoons and tropical storms can be an issue for Da Nang, Nha Trang, and other mid-coastal cities in the summer. Keep an eye on the weather to avoid flooding and other natural disasters.
Why Should You Visit Vietnam?
Vietnam is an experience that is like no other. Even if you’ve traveled all over South East Asia, there’s just something different about Vietnam. Whether it’s the smells, the culture, or scenery, there’s something special about it that leaves you wanting more.
Best Reasons to Visit Vietnam
• Your money goes further in Vietnam. Compared to Thailand, Vietnam is almost twice as affordable due to favorable currency exchange that mirrors the USD.
• Vietnam is becoming more developed. Cheap labor and investment opportunities are fueling a construction boom in Vietnam. See the sights before it’s too late.
• The locals are friendly and accepting of foreigners.
• The scenery is beautiful. From the Mekong Delta to SaPa, Vietnam has a wide range of diverse ecosystems to explore.
• The cuisine is actually pretty good. Pho is cheap and delicious just about everywhere.
• The beaches and islands are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Here’s a great clip of what you can expect to find in Vietnam:
Vietnam continues to draw more tourist visits year over year, and 2019 and 2020 look to continue that trend. It’s pretty simple really, people travel to where their money can go further, and right now that is Vietnam.
But it’s not all about the money; Vietnam is a beautiful country full of spectacular scenery and diverse ecosystems. Additionally, the major cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi are bustling with great nightlife and an exciting vibe.
The 2 week itinerary mentioned at the start of this post is the perfect guideline for seeing all of the highlights of Vietnam as efficiently as possible. Hopefully it has given you some ideas with planning your next trip to Vietnam!
John is our resident expert on the outdoors. He writes about outdoor gear, camping, traveling, and anything outdoors related. He has over 20 years experience camping and hiking the backwoods of Montana and the plains of Texas. He has traveled extensively all over the world.