Spending 2 weeks in Vietnam is such an amazing experience -the food is delicious, the people are nice and the adventures are plenty! There is SO much to do and see. If you only have two weeks in Vietnam, there’s really not enough time to see the whole country. Instead, I recommend going from Hanoi to Hoi An (North to Central Vietnam) or vice-versa. Keep reading for the best way to travel Vietnam in 2 weeks.
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Vietnam Trip Overview
PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 7-14
Exchange Rate:1 USD = 23,322 Vietnamese Dong (as of September 2018)
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks:
Day 3-4: Cát Bà Island
Day 5-6: Ninh Bình
Day 7-8: Phong Nha
Day 9: Hue
Day 10: Hue to Hoi An
Day 11-13: Hoi An
Flights to Vietnam:
This itinerary is based on flying into Hanoi (HAN) and out of Da Nang (DAD).
Where to Stay in Vietnam:
If you’re planning on backpacking Vietnam, you’re in luck -Vietnam is very backpacker-friendly. There are tons of different hostel options in each city, where you’ll find lots of other like-minded, social travelers. I’ve recommended a few hostels in my Vietnam 2-week itinerary below.
If you want to stay somewhere nicer than a hostel, there are many hotel options in each area. The great news is – you can get a really nice hotel for much cheaper than you would elsewhere!
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks :
Day 1-2: Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam, and is the second largest city by population (7.7 million people!). While it can be chaotic, visiting this city is great for experiencing the history, culture and amazing food of Vietnam.
Getting To Hanoi: I recommend arranging a private transfer from the airport with your hotel/hostel, so that when you land in Hanoi after your long-haul flight you won’t have to worry about navigating public transportation. This will cost you around $15-18 per car and the ride is about 45 minutes.
Where to Stay in Hanoi: There are 2 main neighborhoods of Hanoi – Old Quarter and French Quarter – and they are both vastly different. Old Quarter is typically what most people think of when they envision Hanoi – super crowded, chaotic streets, cars and motorbikes at every turn and people making delicious food on the sidewalks. French Quarter is much cleaner and quieter and somewhat resembles the streets of Paris. We opted to stayed in the Old Quarter to be in the middle of all the action and to get the quintessential Hanoi experience. We stayed in a dorm room at the Old Quarter View Hanoi Hostel, which was in a great location with super comfy beds, nice bathrooms and delicious free breakfast! This is a great option if you’re going with the Vietnam backpacking route.
I recommend spending 2 days/nights in Hanoi and heading to Cat Ba Island on the morning of the 3rd day. Check out my more detailed post on the best food in Hanoi– with things to do, my favorite places to eat and general things to know!
Backpacking VietnamDay 3-4: Cát Bà Island
It’s on most people’s bucket list to visit the iconic Ha Long Bay while they are in Vietnam, however this normally involves shelling out some cash (~ $150-250/night) for an overnight stay with many other tourists on one of the boats that cruise around the bay. This travel hotspot receives over 6 million tourists each year! If you’re on a budget or want to escape the crowds, but still want to see the bay, check out Cát Bà island instead.
Cát Bà island is the largest island in Ha Long Bay, and is also centered around the beautiful Lan Ha Bay. It’s the perfect place to unwind and relax after being in the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, while still being around like-minded travelers with a sense of adventure.
Getting from Hanoi to Cat Ba: I recommend booking your transfer from Hanoi to Cát Bà Island through Good Morning Cat Ba. This was a super easy, efficient and comfortable mode of transportation. They pick you up from your hotel in Old Quarter Hanoi around 7:30am on an air-conditioned bus to embark on your 3 hour journey to Cát Bà Island. The bus also has free WiFi and bottled water. The journey takes you 2 hours by bus from Hanoi to Haiphong where you then get off and transfer to a high-speed ferry for a 7 minute boat ride to Cat Ba island. Once you arrive to the island, you have a 40 minute van ride into Cát Bà town. All of this is included and only costs $18 per person!
Where to Stay in Cat Ba Island: We stayed in a private room at
What to Do in Cat Ba: I highly recommend booking the kayak tour through Asia Outdoors. For $25, you cruise on a boat to the middle of the bay for a full-day kayak tour complete with Vietnamese lunch on the boat that was surprisingly delicious. So worth it! Check out my other blog post for more details on how to get from Hanoi to Cat Ba, the kayak tour, my favorite bars and restaurants and other things to do on the island.
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks- Day 5-6: Ninh Bình
Ninh Bình is a small city in the Red River Delta of Vietnam. This hidden gem is often overlooked by travelers, but it definitely should not be missed! The area is known for its limestone karsts that resemble Ha Long Bay, but on land. Ninh Bình is situated in the countryside, in a quiet town with a magical landscape!
Getting To Ninh Binh: Our hostel arranged transportation for us from Cát Bà Island to Ninh Bình through the Cat Ba Express. The bus will pick you up at your hotel around 8am, and take you to Ninh Bình for only $14. This time, there was no van-ferry-bus situation like there was on the way there. Instead, this luxury bus drove us to the ferry dock, and actually drove onto the slower-moving ferry that takes cars across (so you never even have to get off the bus). Once across to the mainland, you continue on to Ninh Bình. Overall it’s about a 5 hour trip, but the bus had nice reclining leather seats, free WiFi, and free bottled water. Once you arrive in Ninh Bình, the bus does not drop you off at your hotel, but rather in a central spot in Tam Coc town. Depending on where your hotel is, you can either walk or hire a taxi (or motorbike taxi) to your hotel.
What to Do in Ninh Binh: Take a rowboat tour of the Trang An grottoes, check out the Bich Dong Pagoda and climb the stairs of the Mua Caves for a sweeping view of the entire countryside. Check out my more detailed post of the best things to do in Ninh Bình, including how to get to these places, our favorite restaurants in the area and just in general what to expect.
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks – Day 7-8: Phong Nha
Phong Nha is most commonly known for Phong Nha-Ke Bàng National Park. This remote national park is characterized by its mountains, forests and underground caves and rivers that can only be accessed by guided tour through Oxalis Adventures. Being in this seemingly raw and untouched wilderness in the heart of Vietnam is truly a magical experience!
The overnight train was honestly pretty great – I was able to sleep the entire 8 hours (make sure you set your phone alarm so you don’t miss your stop). However, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it – the bathrooms are really bad. Pro tip- don’t drink anything a few hours before your train ride to avoid having to use the train bathroom (yes, it’s that bad).
You’ll arrive at Dong Hoi train station around 5am. You can pre-arrange a private transfer through Oxalis Adventures to get from the train station to Oxalis’ office for $28. (about a 45 min ride).
Where to Stay in Phong Nha: Since we opted for the overnight cave trek, we actually never had to book lodging in Phong Nha. We arrived by the sleeper bus at 5am, and started our 2 day/ 1 night trek that same morning. If you do find yourself needing a place to stay in Phong Nha, I’ve heard good things about Easy Tiger Hostel.
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks – Day 8-9: Hue
The city of Hue (pronounced ‘hway’) in central Vietnam is situated on the Perfume River and is known as the Imperial City – rich with history and culture surrounding the Nguyen Dynasty. Hue is also known for their great food!
Getting to Hue: Getting to Hue from Phong Nha is only a 3 hour train ride. You’ll get back to Phong Nha from your cave trek around 4:00pm, so I would book a train that leaves no earlier than 6:30 to give you enough time to shower, gather your belongings and ride 45 min to the train station. Take the train again from Dong Hoi station- you can book through Vietnam Railways.
Things to Do in Hue: Check out the Dong Ba market for some authentic Hue food, roam around the Imperial City and check out the Thien Mu Pagoda. Check out my more detailed post about thebest things to do in Hue, including the best spots to eat and best sites to see in one day!
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks – Day 10: Hue to Hoi An
To get to Hoi An – the final city on this 2-week Vietnam itinerary – take the scenic route. The Hai Vân Pass is a 13-mile coastal mountain road that connects Hue to Da Nang/Hoi An, and is one of the most scenic roads in the country. It almost reminds me of the Pacific Coast Highway in California.
Known for its amazing food, world-class tailors and lantern-lined streets, Hoi An is a charming city that you won’t want to miss! Out of our 2 weeks in Vietnam, we spent the most time in Hoi An and I wish we could have stayed longer!
You will have arrived to Hoi An from the Hai Vân Pass the night prior, leaving you 3 full days to explore this amazing city.
What to Do in Hoi An: Get clothes made (Hoi An is known for their tailors), eat AMAZING Banh Mi sandwiches, take a cooking class and meander along the lantern streets. Check out my more detailed blog post on things to do in Hoi An -including our favorite spots to eat, details about the tailor experience and more info on the cooking class!
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks – Day 14: Back to Reality
You can take a private transfer or Uber to the Da Nang airport for about $15-20 (45 minute ride). Make sure to arrive at the airport 2 hours early for international flights!
Things to Know Before You Go to Vietnam for Two Weeks:
You have to get a Visa. There are a few different options, but we opted for the Vietnam e-Visa. You can apply online and then they stamp your visa once you land in Hanoi. It costs about $60/person (but we paid extra for the "fast track" option so you don’t have to wait in line when you land).
Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines.
There are no required vaccines to enter the country, but I recommend that you are up to date on the recommended vaccines. You can check them out here.
It’s very rare to find places that take credit cards,but there are ATMs everywhere to take out extra cash
Almost every single hotel, hostel, or homestay that you stay in will take your passport upon check-in and you don’t get it back until you check out.
If you want the best Pho, you have to get up early. The locals eat Pho for breakfast, and some of the best places will sell out before 10am!
A few of the cities in this itinerary do have Uber, surprisingly. Check if your area has Uber before calling a taxi as it tends to be much cheaper.
Book your tours/activities ahead of time to avoid them getting booked up.
There is WiFi almost everywhere!
People honk all the time, but as a way of polite communication instead of aggression.
Don’t be afraid to eat street food!The best food you find will be from the street. Just make sure to choose a place that has people eating there to ensure it’s good.
When to Go to Vietnam
The best time to visit Vietnam is Spring (February to April) and Fall (August- October) for the best temps and least amount of rainfall. I traveled end of December through early January, to take advantage of my company’s week-off between Christmas and New Year’s in order to use less PTO days. This worked out well – the temperatures were still mild and it only lightly rained a few of the days that we were in the Northern part of the country. It wasn’t really sunny until we got down to Hoi An towards the end of our trip, but at least it wasn’t super hot!
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