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Advice for our Vietnam travel itinerary

Travel Forums Asia Advice for our Vietnam travel itinerary

1. Posted by slangrish (Budding Member, 2 posts) 25 Nov '12 22:06

slangrish has indicated that this thread is about Vietnam

Hi everyone, myself and my girlfriend will be travelling to Vietnam from the 17th Dec - 5th or 6th January.
We're crazy excited about it as it will be our first trip to Vietnam and having moved to Thailand back in August are keen to make it as memorable as possible over the Christmas period. Its also my birthday on the 27th! It will be the first Christmas & New Years away from home in the UK so have no idea what to expect in regards to these Western holidays.
We've put together an itinerary using both this forum and other research over the past few weeks and are hoping for some feedback & advice about if its both manageable/places of interest/hotel recommendations from people that live there or have visited it themselves. We have a budget of about £1000 though as we both work in Thailand, saving money where possible would be great to!
The idea is for the familiar route of travelling from the North down to the South:

Fly into Hanoi from Thailand (probably Bangkok)
Move steadily south visiting several places along the way
Fly back to Thailand from Ho Chi Minh

Living on Koh Samui we've seen plenty of beaches lately and are keen to experience the more cultural and historically significant aspects to Vietnam but with a few relaxing beach days thrown in. That being said, we are realistic in understanding that you're only really scratching the surface in our timeframe! We'll be packing for the colder north and hoping from some sun too once we hit the south. Once again, thanks for taking the time to read my post, sorry if its a bit long but as you can imagine, we want to make the most of our first big adventure outside Thailand!
I'd really appreciate some advice on any overnight travelling options and tips for safety. Ive included our 'rough' dates places of interest. Each date however is open to change though we'd like to be in Hoi An for Christmas & DaLat for New Years flower festival (unless someone recommends differently!)

Arrive Hanoi – 17th evening - 20th
• Vietnamese women’s museum
• Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and museum
• One Pillar Pagoda
• Water puppet show
• Jazz club
• Tran Quoc Pagoda
• Hoa Lo prison
• SF Salon and spa
• Markets – Hang Da, Cho Ho, Dong Xuan, Old quarter night market
• Hanoi Old Town Hotel £12 a night (excellent reviews)

20th-22nd Halong Bay
• 2 day trip – book in Hanoi•
• Junk boat tour & overnight

22nd - 24th Hue (overnight train from Hanoi (Livitrans Express recommended))
• Imperial Citadel
• Tombs of the Emperor
• Blind massage
• Bike tour (top gear)
• Than Tan hot springs
• Ho Chi minh museum

24th Da Nang (possibly just stay the day and head to Hoi An on the evening) or skip altogether if can't fit in) 40km Taxi $25
• Cham museum
• Marble mountains

24th-26th Hoi An
• Old town – coupon to see 5 attractions
• Hoi An orphanage
• Gioan riverside restaurant cooking lessons
• Bicycle tour to Cam Kim
• Christmas eve meal????
• Hoi An Trails

gap here as do not know where to spend my birthday on the 27th... stay in Hoi An longer or travel down to Nha Trang and then move everything up a few days on the itinerary for a new place or stay longer in one of them? advice needed!

28th – 30th Nha Trang
• Beach
• Waterfalls
• Bicycle tour
• Surfing!

30th – 1st DaLat (five hr bus from Nha Trang)
• Monastery on top of mountain
• Markets
• Lake
• Lang Biang mountain
• Flower festival
• New Years eve!

1st – 3rd Phan Thiet (Mui Ne)
• Best beach!
• Hoang Kim Golden

3rd -5th Ho Chi Minh City
• Reunification Palace
• War remnants museum
• Thien Hau Pagoda
• Twenty three September Park (sports/social)

5th or 6th fly home to Thailand

Thanks for reading sorry its so long, take care and your advice is massively appreciated!!

Post 2 was removed by a moderator
3. Posted by Bentre homestay (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 26 Nov '12 00:35

Dear Slangrish,
I give you some advise :

[b]Arrive Hanoi – 17/12 evening - 19/12
• Vietnamese women’s museum
• Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and museum
• One Pillar Pagoda
• Water puppet show
• Jazz club
• Tran Quoc Pagoda
• Hoa Lo prison
• SF Salon and spa
• Markets – Hang Da, Cho Ho, Dong Xuan, Old quarter night market
• Hanoi Old Town Hotel £12 a night (excellent reviews)

19/12-20/12 Halong Bay
• Junk boat tour & overnight ( Emotion Cruise Junk)

20/12 - 22/12 (overnight train from Hanoi (Livitrans Express recommended))
Lao Cai - Sapa

22/12 : Sapa - Ha Noi ( overnight train)

23/12 - 25th Hue - Phong Nha - Hue (Flight to Hue)

  • Pick up and visit to Phong Nha cave ( Quang Binh). Overnight in Phong Nha ( 23/12)

24/12 : return to Hue
• Imperial Citadel
• Tombs of the Emperor
• Blind massage

  • Boat trip to Thien Mu Pagoda and overnight in Hue

25/12: Hue - Da Nang - Hoi An
• Cham museum
• Marble mountains
Overnight in Hoi An

26/12 : City tour Hoian + bicycle tour
27/12 : My Son + your birthday at Cua Dai Beach

28/12- 30/12: Flight to Nha Trang
• Beach
• Waterfalls
• Bicycle tour
• Surfing!

Morning 30rd departure to Da Lat ( 30/12 - 2 January)
• Monastery on top of mountain
• Markets
• Lake
• Lang Biang mountain
• Flower festival
• New Years eve!

Morning 2 January departure to Ho Chi Minh ( 2 January - 3 January)
Reunification Palace
• War remnants museum
• Thien Hau Pagoda
• Twenty three September Park (sports/social)

  • Cu Chi tunel

4 January - 5 January departure to Cai Be - Ben Tre

  • Visit Floating market,fruits garden, Bonsai garden
  • Bicycle around countryside
  • catching fish and shellfish with local people, cooking with local people....

6 January flight to Thailand

Regard
Bentre Homestay

4. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 46 posts) 26 Nov '12 03:10

Hello! Sounds like you are going to have an amazing time! Here are some of my thoughts/suggestions based on my trip to Vietnam with my boyfriend. We did the same direction as you and you have chosen wisely! We also did it in the same time frame.

Hanoi:
We stayed in Hanoi Old Town Hotel for one night because the hotel we were in was fully booked when we wanted to stay longer and they recommended we stay there. I found it to be average. I much preferred our first hotel, mainly because the staff were incredibly helpful and nice. We stayed at The World Hotel, nearby Old Town Hotel. They are very similar though.

It's quite nice to take a stroll around the nearby lake as well.

I would also highly recommend a tour out to Sapa. Also, the World Hotel books reasonably priced tours to Sapa and Halong Bay and we did both with them and loved it.

Halong Bay:
Freezing cold if you are there during the colder months - pack very warm!

Da Nang:
We stayed for a day and also got a taxi to Hoi An. We felt this was long enough, we just strolled along the beach. Our taxi was a third of that price.

Hoi An:
My Son is a great day tour to go on as well if you've got time.

Either Hoi An or Nha Trang would be a great place to have a birthday. If you want more nightlife though, I would recommend Nha Trang.

Nha Trang:
We had a lovely, cheap hotel right in the middle of the night life (though still quiet in our room) and the staff were incredible. We stayed at Sakura Hotel (1/32 Tran Quang Khai) and we booked online through Agoda for AUD$12

Dalat:
The countryside tour is a great way to spend a day.

Mui Ne:
It's quite difficult to actually swim at this beach due to all the kite surfers and all the bars and hotels are built right on the shore. However, this place was still amazing.

Ho Chi Minh:
The Cu Chi Tunnels tour is awesome. I think the recommendation for hotels is staying in either District 1 or District 3. You can also see the water puppet shows here.

Overall I think your plan is pretty good. Overnight trains are the best way to get around but be sure to book a little in advance just in case. We took a mini-van from Hoi An to Nha Trang and it was horribly torturous. So be aware that some "bus" trips may be hell.

Also if you have time, the Mekong Tour from Ho Chi Minh is amazing. We went with TNK tours (who also did our Cu Chi Tunnel tour) and they are excellent.

Hope you have a blast!

Post 5 was removed by a moderator
6. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 46 posts) 27 Nov '12 17:45

Also, for some tips on safety and avoiding being ripped off or stolen from:

We found you can never be too careful. We have some tips of our own and some we got off others after they experienced some horror stories.

Take a small backpack - for 3 weeks you won't need much. This way, when you get on buses, you don't have to stow your luggage underneath, it can sit on your lap or beneath your feet. There can be a lot of theft on overnight buses when passengers have access to the luggage while everyone sleeps. Also, you will feel a lot more comfortable if you know exactly where your stuff is at all times.

If you take a taxi, don't put your luggage in the trunk of the car - keep it with you. We heard horror stories about taxi drivers who would speed off with your luggage after you get out.

Always make sure you get into a taxi that will use the meter. If they say it's broken - they are lying. Get out and find another taxi who will use the meter, or agree on a reasonable price before you get in.

For the overnight train between Sapa and Hanoi, some people, and even those that are at the station desk, can sell you fake tickets. If you are on a tour, make sure the person taking your ticket is actually a guide on your tour.

Take photocopies of your passport, reservations, flight tickets etc. and keep them separate to the real thing - just in case they do get stolen.

Of course, it is unlikely that horrible things will happen, most people are honest and kind but being cautious and aware of possible problems makes it even more unlikely and you will feel more comfortable.

We didn't have any problems in Vietnam except for the odd rip-off. The worst was a taxi from Hanoi airport into town. We paid 700,000 dong instead of about 300,000 (which was what our hotel told us it should have cost)

7. Posted by slangrish (Budding Member, 2 posts) 10 Dec '12 21:42

Thank you SO MUCH for all your responses regarding our itinerary! We've had two sets of guests staying with us for the last few weeks so haven't been able to dive in and reassess our plans properly. Now they've gone we are trying to make up the time with earnest!
We are looking into Sapa after its recommendations on here and other forums and will only spend the one day at Halong Bay to make room for other places/extended time elsewhere. In regards to booking hotels, did everyone mostly book ahead of time or simply walk-in. I'm a big fan of researching hotels and the like but worry that perhaps now given the lack of time remaining it might not be possible to book everything. (Given the fact that we might like some places more than others also I don't really want to tie us down too much!) I'm pretty certain we'll not be visiting Da Nang now and instead possibly Sapa or Mai Chau.
Quick question -
How much/whats the best way of getting from Hanoi airport to Hanoi? Hoping an airport pick-up might be an option but if not, want it to be as stress-free as possible!
Thanks again for your help.

8. Posted by meganjane03 (Budding Member, 46 posts) 10 Dec '12 21:59

We generally booked a hotel online the day before we arrived and only booked it for 1 night in case we didn't like it. If we did like it, we'd book more nights once we were there. This was only a problem one night in Hanoi when e came back from Halong on a package tour we booked with the hotel but when we got back they were fully booked. They recommended a nearby hotel for us.

Might be best organising an airport pickup with your hotel. I haven't had any experience with it. Taxis are easy to find and plentiful, but overcharge. Bargaining skills or convincing them to use their meters is essential if you so choose to take a taxi.

9. Posted by vegasmike6 (Travel Guru, 3491 posts) 10 Dec '12 22:31

Quoting slangrish

How much/whats the best way of getting from Hanoi airport to Hanoi? Hoping an airport pick-up might be an option but if not, want it to be as stress-free as possible!
Thanks again for your help.

Here is a helpful website on getting into HaNoi from Noi Bai. Of course the easiest option is to book a room and have them pick you up. We chose to take the airport shuttle bus to our hotel. Clayton and I met on the Air Asia flight: BKK-HAN. Neither one of us had booked a room, but had a list of cheap places to stay in HaNoi. We found the $2/person share minibus and told them where we wanted to go. Leaves when full. Of course the touts on the minibus try to steer you to a place they get a kickback. We kept repeating the name of the hotel where we wanted to stay and they finally gave up. Perhaps a bit more hassle than using your hotel pick up option, but should save you some USD and get you used to dealing with the people of VN. Almost everyone you will meet will try to maximize their profit and lighten your wallet. Just the way it is. Good luck with your planning.