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How to Plan a Vietnam Trip

Have you come up with the idea of traveling to Vietnam, but don’t know how to plan it? The following travel guide may help your idea to go a bit further.

Why Visit Vietnam?

Although Vietnam does not boast about being unique, it does boast of encompassing everything. Here are six points to convince you:

  • Vietnam is absolutely safe to travel for all kinds of travelers. The country has never been the victim of a terrorist attack. Actually, Vietnam is indexed as safer than 140 countries for terrorism. The political situation is stable and, crime is relatively low (though the GDP of Vietnam is low, the rich/poor gap is relatively small). The fact that most Vietnamese are Buddhists also contributes to the high “Gross Domestic Product” of happiness.
  • Good value. It only costs USD50–100 per day for a private tour.
  • Excellent travel experience. Thanks to the strong support from the government, Vietnam provides friendly travel surroundings. The tourism sector is also a very popular career choice for the Vietnamese. Many people in the country have a strong desire to learn a second language. Free tours are even offered in Hanoi by some students wishing to practice their English.
  • Various charming beaches. Vietnam’s 3,260-kilometer coastline has several great beaches, such as Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, and Danang. In recent years, the Vietnam Tourism Bureau has advertised Vietnam travel by highlighting its charming islands.
  • Cool cultural experience. Vietnam has six World Cultural Heritage Sites ranging from well-preserved Hoi An Ancient Town to the thousands of limestone karsts and isles of Ha Long Bay.
  • Delightful food adventures. No matter whether it’s fresh seafood in Halong Bay or street food in the night markets of Hanoi, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s food deserves a try.

When is The Best Time to Go?

Shoulder Season (March - April) — Warm, Dry Season

This period is the best time to visit for those wishing to find the balance between the price and the weather. It is hotter than the high season but still comfortable, with a blue sky and fewer clouds.

Low Season (May–October) — Hot, Rainy Season (Monsoon)

The reason for visiting Vietnam during the low season is that the whole country offers much cheaper prices for hotels, restaurants, and transportation. However, bear in mind that it’s uncomfortably hot/humid with rainfall (normally shower in the afternoon). 

See more on Best time to visit Vietnam

How Much Does It Cost?

International Flights

The prices of international flights are heavily dependent on when they are booked and the travel season. Traveling in the low season may save you at least half the costs of traveling in the high season. There are only a few direct flights between Hanoi City / Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities in the world, and most of them are operated by Vietnam Airlines.

Under such circumstances, connecting flights would be wise choices. Approximately 10 flights operate each day between Hanoi and Bangkok, taking about 1½ hours. Transfer flights from Shanghai or Hong Kong are also good options.

Read more on Get to Vietnam by Air

Accommodation

Day Trips

Day trips should be considered after dealing with the international flights and hotels. Coach tours are good options because of the competitive prices. However, if you invest $50–$100/person on a guiding service by hiring a private guide with private transfers, it will pay off as you will have a better experience with unforgettable memories. The guides provide professional exploration tours, are friendly and helpful, patient and able to make adjustments, and pay attention to details during the trips.

Getting around in the Country

If you are expecting a comfortable trip in Vietnam with fun experiences, it is recommended that train and bus options are not included in your travel plans. It is widely known that the railway is the least developed transportation infrastructure in the country. A train ride from Hanoi in the north to Da Nang on the coast in the center takes almost 17 hours, when its price for a soft sleeper is the same as a flight between these two cities.

Trains

Some travelers consider entering Vietnam from China via the Hanoi–Nanning line. The line connects Gia Lam Station in Hanoi and Nanning Railway Station in Nanning. A soft sleeper costs 248 yuan. The following provides details about the train service (the schedule uses the UTC+7 time zone):

MR1–T8702 T8701–MR2
Stop Arrival Departure Stop Arrival Departure
Gia Lam   21:40 Nanning (China)   17:45
Bac Giang 22:39 22:42 Chongzuo (China) 19:24< 19:28
Dong Dang 02:00 03:00 Pingxing (China) 21:11 22:41
Pingxing (China) 03:41 05:41 Dong Dang 23:22 00:22
Chongzuo (China) 07:07 07:10 Bac Giang 03:40 03:43
Nanning (China) 09:12   Gia Lam 04:45  

The other five railway lines are:

  1. 1. The Hanoi – Quan Trieu railway line
  2. 2. The Hanoi – Dong Dang railway line
  3. 3. The Hanoi – Hai Phong railway line
  4. 4. The Saigon – Quy Nhon railway line
  5. 5. The Saigon – Phan Thiet railway line

Flights

Flying in Vietnam is cheap and fast, making it the best way to get around between major cities. Although it is not big, more than 20 airports are dotted around the country, with frequent flights and good prices. The main domestic carriers are Vietnam Airlines, being the best airline in Vietnam, and VietJet Air as a private low-cost one.

Many flights link the two largest and most important cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It takes approximately 2 hours by plane. Almost all of Vietnam’s main cities can be reached by air, such as Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang, Nah Trang, Da Lat, Can Tho, and Phu Quoc.

More on Internal Flights of Vietnam

Roads/Buses

Vietnam’s roads are notoriously narrow and under-developed, often winding through hilly areas. Prepare for motion sickness, and avoid inter-city bus rides, unless really on a budget or wanting to see the countryside. Some short bus rides or private road transport will be necessary to get to local attractions.

The good news is that car ownership is still relatively low, so traffic jams are few outside the cities, which are typically clogged with motor scooters, etc.

Follow the locals’ examples and learn the skill needed to cross the motorbike-filled roads. 

Boats

A short boat trip is the other way to have a nice trip in Vietnam, making for a fun experience. They are especially popular in Ha Long Bay, the Mekong Delta, and the waterway connecting Vietnam and Cambodia.

How Long for and Where to Visit?

For those visiting Vietnam for the first time, 7 days will help you get to see the main sights from north to south (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City), revealing the progression of the country from ancient times to modernity.

Start from Hanoi, take an excursion to Halong Bay, then explore Hoi An, and depart from Ho Chi Minh City. If you have 14 days, it is recommended to add Siem Rep, Bangkok, or Luang Prabang to your itinerary before flying back home. Never just scratch the surface when you make a trip.

Choose your favorite destinations according to your own schedule, instead of covering all the so-called must-see attractions.

Now see Top Things to Do in Vietnam to get some inspiration.

Where to Stay?

Destination Recommended Hotel Type/Area
Hanoi Hotels close to or in the Old Quarter
Ha Long Bay Private junks or small shared junks
Sapa Home stay
Hoi An Small boutique Buddha hotels or hostels
Nha Trang Hotels/resorts close to the beach
Saigon(HCMC) Hotels close to the market or the river (Recommendation: the new Continental Hotel)

Visit Vietnam with Asia Highlights

Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you design your perfect trip to Vietnam. Our knowledgeable staff will assist you in selecting destinations, accommodations and activities that best suit your requirements.

Check out the following links to learn more about our tours and get a head start on planning your hassle-free vacation today!

9-Day Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta

13-Day Vietnam Classic Wonders with Sapa

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

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