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How to Plan Your First Trip to Vietnam — 7 Easy Steps

How to Plan Your First Trip to Vietnam — 7 Easy Steps

By CindyUpdated May. 26, 2023

Vietnam is a vibrant and diverse country with a rich history, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine. Whether you are foodies, nature lovers, history buffs, or adventurers, Vietnam will offer something special to you, no matter whether you are travelling with your kid(s) or just your husband/wife.

The following travel guide will help you to plan your perfect trip to Vietnam, especially if this is your first Vietnam trip!

1. Choose Where to Go

With so many wonderful destinations in Vietnam to choose from it can be overwhelming when you have to decide which to see and which to leave out.

With our knowledge of Vietnam and feedback from our customers, we suggest you visit Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north, Hoi An and Danang in the middle, and Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta in the south on your first trip.

best places to visit in Vietnam

1). Hanoi — the capital city with rich history and local cuisine

Cyclo in the Old Quarter Cyclo in the Old Quarter

As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a must-visit when planning a Vietnam trip.

For those who like history and culture, don't miss the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, and One Pillar Pagoda.

Your Hanoi trip would not be complete without a visit to the Old Quarter where you could experience local life and taste the local cuisine.

Vietnam's traditional water puppet show is recommended, which is usually enjoyed by adults as well as kids.

If your time permits, you could take a one or two day tours to explore the best places surrounding Hanoi, such as Ninh Binh or Mai Chau.

2). Halong Bay — for UNESCO heritage seascape cruises

Halong bay

As a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, Halong Bay is a popular travel destination in Vietnam that offers stunning scenery and a wide range of activities suitable for families and couples.

For a leisurely tour, we recommend that you have a 2-night cruise that takes you to visit less-crowded bays and leaves you more time to go kayaking, cycling, swimming, etc.

For a big day like an anniversary or birthday, we can arrange an entire house boat for only your family or partner.

Because Halong Bay is quite far from Hanoi and requires 3–4 hours' driving, our private transfers are the best way to save time and guarantee comfort.

3). Hoi An — a charming ancient town with cultural activities

Hoi an Hoi An

Hoi An is a must-see in central Vietnam. It is a charismatic ancient town with well-preserved architecture, lantern-lined streets, and a vibrant food scene.

Take a walk to explore the ancient architecture — pagodas, temples, and traditional shops — and to experience Hoi An's slow-pace of life.

If travelling with your kid(s), don't miss learning how to create traditional lanterns. It's a fun activity for the whole family. If travelling on a full moon day, you can join in the monthly lantern festival.

If interested, leave a half-day to visit a local market and take a cooking class.

The countryside surrounding Hoi An is beautiful. Our unique half-day farming experience tour allows you to see rural life in Vietnam and experience the peaceful countryside.

Luxury Mekong Cruise between Vietnam and Cambodia

4). Ho Chi Minh City — a bustling metropolis with Vietnam War sites

ho chi minh

Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in the south of Vietnam, is one of the most popular ports of entry and departure in Vietnam. Most travelers spend one to two days there to see the bustling metropolis, which is a mix of colonial and modern architecture, museums, and vibrant nightlife.

You could learn about the Vietnam War from world-class museums and the Cu Chi Tunnels, have a cup of coffee atop skyline towers, or try the street foods.

5). The Mekong Delta — floating markets and traditional villages

As the rice bowl of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is vibrant with rustic life: see busy floating markets, lush-green rice fields, and fruitful gardens. No matter whether you take a boat trip or cycle around the villages, you can get an insight into authentic local life.

Just 2–3 hours' driving from Ho Chi Minh City, you could take a day trip to the Mekong Delta or spend a night there to catch the early-morning floating markets (the most traditional and authentic ones).

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2. Decide How Many Days to Stay

Vietnam Map

For your first Vietnam trip, we recommend you have a 10-day trip to visit the highlights in the top cities from north to south, covering Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Mekong Delta. (For a shorter trip, you can see page: 7 Days in Vietnam - 6 Best Itinerary Ideas)

Suggested read: 10 Days in Vietnam: 5 Top Itineraries for First-Timers, Couples, and Families

If you have 15 days, we would recommend you spend an extra 3/4 days in the north to see Hanoi's surrounding highlights (such as Mai Chau, and Ninh Binh) or go farther north to Sapa, and 2–3 days in the central region to see Da Nang or Hue, or enjoy some free days on a beach. See more info on the page How to Spend 2 Weeks in Vietnam: Top 4 Itineraries

If you have 2–3 weeks or longer, it is possible to involve one more country in your trip. Thailand-Vietnam, Vietnam-Cambodia, and Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam are popular choices. Get some inspiration from our 19-Day Highlights of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

These are just a couple of examples of possible itineraries!

Contact our travel specialist to inquire about a Vietnam tour, and you will get a reply with an itinerary and quotation within 24 hours.

The Best Southeast Asia Tour for First-timers
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3. Consider Your Vietnam Trip Budget

 travel cost for a private Southeast tour travel cost for a private Southeast tour

The biggest part of your tour costs may be the international flights. Airfares vary a lot for different routes, so make a comparison before booking. Check with your consultant: he/she may get a better rate.

Vietnam's domestic flights are very affordable. For instance, a single flight costs around just US$80 for economy class in low season. Airfares from Vietnam to other Southeast Asian countries are similar.

Hotel room rates vary from guesthouses' to deluxe hotels'. As Vietnam's system is different from international hotel star ratings, it would be better to classify Vietnamese hotels as ‘Comfortable'/‘Boutique' (US$50–100 per room), ‘Luxury' (US$150–200 per room), or ‘Guesthouses' (from US$10 per room).

As for food, you could choose to taste Vietnam's street food from just US$1–2 per meal, or have upmarket cuisine for only US$20–50 per meal, or anything in between.

Here are the prices for a private tour based on a group of 2 people during the peak season, for your reference:

  • On a medium budget, touring Vietnam typically costs around US$200–250 USD per day per person (including 4- or 5-star hotels, airfares within Vietnam, attractions, guides, and transfers).
  • For a higher budget of US$250–350 per day per person, more comfort can be enjoyed (including 5-star or plus hotels, airfares within Vietnam, attractions, guides, and transfers).
  • For a family trip (2 adults plus 2–3 children) for 2 weeks in Vietnam or in Southeast Asia, it normally costs US$10,000–20,000 per family excluding international flights from/to America or Europe.

Travel with us to enjoy a comfortable and flexible private tour.

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4. Decide When to Travel to Vietnam

As a long and narrow country, stretching north to south, with a long coast, the weather is pleasantly milder all year round in Vietnam, with fewer extremes of temperature than inland countries.

The weather varies between northern, central, and southern Vietnam. Although the best time for travel depends on the region you visit, November to March are the best months to travel to most places in the country.

The months of April and late October (just after or before the peak season) are ideal times for those wishing to find a compromise between the price and the weather.

Ninh Binh in June Ninh Binh in June

November–March: The Mild, Dry Festival Season

This season is blessed with Vietnam's most comfortable weather. You would also get the chance to immerse yourself in the atmospheric festivals and holidays, such as Christmas, New Year, and Tet (Vietnamese New Year, during January or February).

In this peak season, hotels are easily booked up, and tour costs go up accordingly. Due to the high demand, you're suggested to book your tour at least 3 months in advance.

April–October: The Hot, Rainy Low Season

Visiting Vietnam in the rainy season, you can enjoy lower prices and fewer crowds.

Thanks to its long, S-shaped coastal geography, which means Vietnam's weather is very changeable, the rainy days are not often persistent. The rainfall mainly comes in the afternoon or evening, which would allow you to enjoy most of the day. Doing outdoor activities in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat and taking rain gear are recommended.

Typhoons are likely to happen in July and August in Northern Vietnam, but in October in central Vietnam. Thus, a flexible itinerary and buying travel insurance are helpful to make possible adjustments.

Note: Rainy seasons vary in Vietnam — north and south: May–October; central: September–December. >>>More on Vietnam weather and seasonal travel tips

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5. Consider How You'll Travel

If you are traveling with kids or you are a couple, a private guided tour is the best way to enhance your journey as it can provide a more personalized, educational, and stress-free travel experience.

With a private guided tour, you can customize your itinerary to fit your interests, preferences, and pace. A local guide can offer valuable insights and knowledge about the destination, including its history, culture, traditions, and hidden gems, and help you navigate through Vietnam, saving you time and energy in figuring out transportation, directions, and logistics.

Contact us now to start your Vietnam trip planning, and no matter what you're celebrating — anniversary, birthday… — we'll create an unforgettable trip for you.

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6. Check Out Vietnam's Visa Policy

About 23 countries enjoy visa exemption in Vietnam, mainly European countries, such as the UK, Germany, and France. See if your country is on the list: see Vietnam Visas and Exemptions.

If you're from America, Canada, Australia, or about 80 other countries not on the list for visa-free entry, the most convenient way to enter is to apply for an e-visa online. It usually costs around US$25 for a 30-day single entry. Double-entry or multiple-entry visas cost more. Contact us for more info.

If your country is not on the list for Vietnam visa exemptions or e-visas, you will need to apply for a Visa Approval Letter in order to obtain a visa on arrival or a visa via a Vietnamese Embassy.

7. Getting To and Around Vietnam


Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City receive most of Vietnam's international flights. For American and European travelers, you're recommended to make a stopover in popular travel hubs, such as Bangkok, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, for the best prices and choice of flights.

When travelling around Vietnam from region to region, domestic flights are the most comfortable and time-saving option.

In each region, a private transfer is the best option for enjoying more comfort and flexibility.

If you book one of our private Vietnam tours, we will work out the best itinerary to match the time of your international flight. Also we will take care of all your transportation in Vietnam, from flight bookings, and handling any changes that occur or cancellations needed, to airport transfers.

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