Ok, my turn to ask a question now. I'm going to Vietnam at the beginning of April for 2 weeks. I'm not sure why, but all of the stories I've heard have made me slightly nervous about travelling there on my own as a female... Can it be more sketchy than Cambodia, safety-wise? Is there really so much harassment to tourists in general? Are the cylos really that bad? If people don't speak English, can I use French?
Also, is 2 weeks possible to do the hop-on hop-off bus one way from Saigon to Hanoi? I know it will be pushing it, but I really want to see Halong Bay and parts of the south. I was planning on stopping in Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and HB before flying back to Saigon. And are internal flights cheaper once booked from the country? I'm assuming so, but have heard it is a pretty expensive country to fly in... no Air Asia, alas.
Any recommendations? This is the first country in SEA I've been to that none of my friends can really tell me what's up - truly sight unseen! Thanks!
"...Also, is 2 weeks possible to do the hop-on hop-off bus one way from Saigon to Hanoi? I know it will be pushing it, but I really want to see Halong Bay and parts of the south. I was planning on stopping in Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi and HB before flying back to Saigon..."
I went by bus from Saigon to Hanoi in a bit less than three (3) weeks. I stayed longer than necessary in both Saigon (4 days) & Hue (4 days). Can't see you really have a problem only having two weeks.
I cannot answer the questions on single female travelling alone. But, I do not think it will be any problem. I met several ladies from Europe that were travelling on the open tour. They linked up easily with other females going north at the same time. I would not stress on it. VN is a safe country. They run a very tight ship, much like Singapore. The VN people are persistant in trying to sell you something, but I did not think it offensive. English is in favor, French spoken by some VN over 55. In all the cities on the open tour someone will speak English. Don't worry.
I took the open bus north and suggest the following;
HCMC to DaLat is 6 hours, spend 2 days in DaLat. It is beautiful, cool and pretty. Take the tours to villages and waterfalls + city tour. Bus to Nha Trang is 6 hours, worth 2 days; Beach and day tour of Islands offshore, good diving and snorkeling. Take the overnight bus on 3rd day, 11 hrs to Hoi An, saves one night's room, gives you one more day of beach and gets you to Hoi An in the morning. 2 days in Hoi An. Go to the Cham ruins. Bus in morning to Hue. 2 days; motorcycle tour of area, DMZ if you are interested in VN War, Citadel. Now you have a 16 hr ride to Hanoi, leaves 6:00pm on your 3rd day in Hue. You are in Hanoi 8:00am on your 10th day. Gives you 4 days Hanoi and Halong bay. Book the flight back to HCMC once you are in Hanoi. Or the train does it in 29 hours if you have one extra day. Hope this helps.
Just to add to the other replies. I met plenty of females travelling on their own and they were having the time of there life. Timewise, 2 days in enough for Hanoi, and then i would recommend 2 days and a night at sea in Halong Bay. My flight back from Hanoi to HCMC cost me around $90 US. I don't think the prices vary too much as i think only Vietnam Air fly internally. You can do Saigon in 2 days as well, All the main sites in the city centre can be seen in a day just walking around, and then maybe have another day shopping or seeing the Cu Chi tunnels(this would take up about 3/4 hours of your day).
Vietnam is beautiful and the people are very friendly. The younger people (particularly in the south) are keen to practise their English with you, and as stated before the older generation are more likely to speak French.