Vietnam in 3 Weeks

This year’s escape from the January blues involved a 3-week adventure from the South to North Vietnam. With big, bustling cities, beaches, caves, lakes and mountains – there was a lot to cram in. Here’s a run down of what you can realistically fit into a 3 week trip to Vietnam. 

The Route

  1. Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City – 2 days

Jet lag can be an issue on arrival, but you can still fit a lot into two days in Saigon, where surviving a road-crossing can feel like the achievement of a lifetime. War history, eating, negotiating in the market and cocktails at sunset are just a few things not to miss.

Mopeds in Saigon
Moped madness in the city
Saigon street food
Try some Saigon streetfood

2. Fly to Con Son island – 3 days

Spend a few days beating the jet lag and really switching off with the beautiful and simple way of life on this peaceful island.

Con son island beach
Quiet beaches and jungle walks

3. Return to Saigon – 1 day

A morning flight from Con Son will allow you another day to finish exploring this exciting city. Take a sunset cocktail before boarding the overnight train to the beach.

Cocktails in HCMC or Saigon Vietnam
Rooftop cocktails and parties in Saigon or HCMC!

4. Overnight train to Nha Trang

I slept really well on the overnight trains so was ready for the next day. On arrival in Nha Trang, walk or taxi to the beach to watch the sunrise and locals’ early morning exercise routine. It will make you want to get your zumba on!

Soft Sleeper beds in Vietnam
Get a good night sleep on the reunification express

5. Beach time – 2 days

Unless you are a Russian package holiday tourist, I wouldn’t really recommend staying in Nha Trang. But there are lots of other beautiful spots along this bit of coast, especially if you hire a moped.

6. Overnight train to Da Nang for a visit to Hoi An

7. Hoi An – 3 days

Cycle between beach and village, take a cooking class, visit the historic sites, eat safe street food in the market and get a tailored suit. You won’t want to leave Hoi An!

Vietnamese fishing boats
Fishing boats at the beach in Hoi An
Cycling in Hoi An
Cycling along the road by the rice paddies is a fantastic way to spend your time in Hoi An

8. Motorbike tour to Hue – 2 days

The most popular way to travel between Hoi An and Hue is by motorbike. Travelling through the mountain roads in this area gives a unique view of small villages dotted between the spectacular views. I took a two day tour that included staying overnight in Prao with a surreal night singing Kareoke with the locals. A one day tour would also be sufficient.

Vietnam bike tour
If you don’t want to drive, a motorbike tour is a great way to see this country!

9. Hue – 1 day

One day gives time to visit the main citadel and take a boat ride on the lake.

Hue citadel
Wandering in Hue

8. Train to Dong Hoi for some days in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park

This is a short train ride, so take the soft seater carriages and hang out with the locals.

Taking a train in Vietnam
You may even fancy trying something from the food cart!

9. Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park – 2 days

I chose to go here instead of Halong Bay because the weather is more reliable at this time of year. Visit stunning caves and limestone as well as hiking and kayaking if that is your thing. We stayed in a lakeside resort to allow some chill out time.

10. Overnight train to Hanoi

Trains in vietnam
The reunification express

11. Hanoi – 2 days

Getting lost wandering in the old town is the best way to spend your time in Hanoi. Find your way out to see the water puppet theatre show, temple of literature and the military museum too! I recommend spending the evening people watching while sipping a bia hoi in one of the old town’s street bars.

Flowers in old town hanoi
Flowers for sale in old town Hanoi

12. Fly back to Saigon for your return flight – 1 day

Boo – it’s always rubbish going home. It’s good to return to this exciting city after seeing the rest of the country. I fitted in visiting the Cu Chi tunnels as well.

On this trip… 

  • I was backpacking on a budget
  • I travelled as a couple.
  • I travelled end of December 2015 to January 2016 – the weather is different throughout the year in Vietnam, so check it fits the activities you want to do before you travel!
  • I took trains, planes, taxis and a motorbike tour

Have you been to Vietnam? What was your route?

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