I'm travelling to Vietnam for just over 2 weeks in Feb/March '11 with my boyfriend and we don't know whether to take a tour for the whole time or just go there and do it ourselves. So far anyone I know that's been to VN has told me to wing it but i've never gone backpacking before and there's so much to do I don't want to miss out on anything.
We're starting at Hanoi and travelling down to Ho Chi Minh City have an idea of the route but in such a short space of time we don't want to waste any!
I would prefer not to be with a group the whole time but then i'd like a rough itinerary of what we would do if we went on our own.
please help thank you,
I would definitely recommend travelling independently as Vietnam is really geared up to backpackers. As long as you do your research beforehand and have a good guidebook you shouldn't miss out on anything. There are plenty of transport options throughout the country - it's really cheap and easy to get around. It's a well-trodden route for travellers so you should meet plenty of people along the way who will be able to advise how to get to the next place, things to do etc.
Hanoi is a great city (my favourite in Asia) and Halong Bay is worth a visit if you have time - you can organise this from Hanoi. From Hanoi a good way to get South to Hue (the ancient capital) is by sleeper train. From Hue you can then go on to Hoi An, Nha Trang and then on to Ho Chi Minh. Sapa and Dalat sound like worthwhile places to visit but I didn't have time for them unfortunately so I can't speak from experience. From Ho Chi Minh I'd highly recommend taking a day trip to the fascinating Cu Chi tunnels.
Thank you, yes I think it would be much more fun on our own but it's a little daunting!
We've got 18 nights so, in your opinion, how many nights should we stay in Hanoi and then into Halong bay for? And to save time do you think it's a good idea to fly from Hanoi to Hue or is it a good experience going on the sleeper train?
I doubt we'll have time to go to Sapa unfortunately but I think we can go to Dalat after Nha Trang.
I've read quite a few forums about budgeting and most say bare minimum would be $30 a day obviously I would take more than that but is that a rough estimate?
I am Vietnamese and I have been to rest of the place yoiu mentioned Do you want to hear any comment from local people hehe?
If I was you, I would spend from 2 days in Hanoi at the maximum. It's not very interesting place to me except some bars around the old quarter area haha. In the day time, you might want to visit some "must to visit" places (I'm sure you know where to go already). Then, find some short trips to Halong, Sapa (maybe perfume pagoda) at any travel service agents in the old quarter area. Of course you will meet difference people from each tour It would take 2 nights 3 days for Halong and 2 days 1 night for Sapa. Trust me, these places are more interesting ^^
About Dalat, the most interesting thing to me is the weather. During the year, it's cool and some time cold. Vietnam is a tropical country hey. However, I haven't seen many foreigners in the city. Maybe they are not interested in cool/cold weather like the local one Dalat i also known as the city of flowers btw.
Beaches are most beautiful in the central of Vietnam. Nha Trang is a good choice then
Accomodation is varies depends on your selection. I think 12-15$/night/room is reasonable. Meal would cost 1$ each at the minimum. In general, 30$/day is realistic!!! Take more if your bf drinks much haha.
Have a good stay :D
I would allow 3 days for Hanoi and perhaps do Halong Bay in 2 days/1 night. I enjoyed the sleeper train down to Hue - it's a comfortable journey (assuming you get the soft sleeper) and more interesting than flying.
I think $30 sounds about right for a bare minimum budget but you might end up spending up to $50 per day depending on what kind of accommodation you are looking for and how many organised trips you go on. The standard of budget guesthouses in Vietnam is very high though so you should be able to get something decent really cheaply.
I have been to VN 5 times and you DO NOT need a tour. Do it by yourself. There are dozens of TP members that are very experienced with bumping around VN that will help you with your trip.
I took the open tour bus from HCMC to Hue once and also from HAN to HCMC a few years ago. The bus system is much cheaper and more practical than the train system. Certainly not as safe. Many more roads accidents than train wrecks. Or use a combo. Overnight trains between HAN & Hue and between Hoi An and Nha Trang. Buses for shorter legs. Once you compare prices, I think you will vote for the open tour bus. You can go from HAN to HCMC for what a sleeper berth costs between HAN & Hue.
My blog covers from Nha Trang to HCMC, my photos cover the route from HAN to HCMC. Send me a PM if you have any questions and I will do my best to help with: rooms, where to eat, what to see, etc. Good luck with your planning.
Generally, you have 18 days in Vietnam in Feb & Mar.
- 18 day trip is very good timing for Vietnam.
- On Feb and Mar, It will be very overcast in Ha Long Bay, so other options such as Tam Coc (so called: "Ha Long Bay on Land") or Sa Pa would be your replacement for Ha Long. Anyway, if Ha Long Bay is a must i recommend you go Ha Long Bay and straight to Cat Ba Island for the night. It's less overcast on this island and a boat trip to Lan Ha Bay (a small bay in the Cat Ba Island area) is excellent.
- Train/Bus/ flight is your choice depend on Yr budget. Train and bus price are fixed, airfare may vary by the time you book it. However, travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city during this time need advance booking of transport if you go on yr own, cause this time Vietnamese people starts traveling down south for work, then it cause come difficulties for direct booking.
- In the south, I recommend Phu Quoc Island for the compensation of Ha Long Bay
- List of Yr must stops: Hanoi - Halong/ Cat Ba Island os Sa Pa - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh City (1 night is enough) Phu Quoc Island - Mekong Delta
Thank you for all your advice it's all really helping
The flights are booked so landing 18th feb till 8th march which is 18 nights!!
This is what i've planned so far but don't now if i've got enough time to do everything in the south if I only get the open tour buses.
Can anyone tell me which is definitely worth visiting and which i can leave out of this trip...
18th - Land in hanoi stay there the night
19th - night train to sapa, stay there 1 night and night train back
22nd - arrive back from sapa at 5.30 am then travel to halong bay for either 1 or 2 nights
25th - flight from Hanoi to Hue
.... so i've now got 11 nights to fit in Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne Beach, Mekong Delta then HCMC to get the flights back and obviously the travelling in between!
Any advice on the mode of transport? Should i fly to Hue or fly somewhere further south and should i get another flight at some point or just stay using trains and buses?
thank you for your help!! starting to get really excited now
Your itinerary looks good. Personally I wasn't that keen on HCMC so I'd allow for a minimal amount of time there. For cheap accommodation in HCMC head to the backpacker district of Pham Ngu Lao; look out for mini hotel alley which has several small, budget hotels and some nice eateries.
I'd definitely recommend getting the sleeper between Hanoi and Hue - it would actually give you more travel time as the flight will be during the day and even though it's a short journey by plane, by the time you have allowed for check in and transport it will take up a big chunk of the day. The night train is a much more interesting way to travel and as you leave late at night and arrive early the next day you are maximising your travel time.
Hoi An is good for getting suits and other clothes tailor made and Nha Trang has some reasonable snorkeling.