2 Weeks in Vietnam: Trip Overview
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks:
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
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
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 Vietnam Day 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
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
Where to Stay in Cat Ba Island:
We stayed in a private room at Central Backpackers Hostel. It was nice,
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
Where to Stay in Ninh Binh
We stayed at the Tam Coc Rice Fields Resortand loved it. It’s a little far from the town, which makes it a peaceful, relaxing getaway and you have a beautiful view right from your cottage! They have a cute garden area where you can eat your free breakfast every morning and they also offer free bicycle rentals which you can take into town. The staff was super friendly and accommodating. The only thing that would make it better is if they offered motorbike rentals from the property – we ended up taking a taxi into town and renting a motorbike from there.
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!
Getting To Phong Nha
To get from Ninh Bình to Phong Nha there are two options – bus or train. We opted for the overnight train which you can book ahead of time through Vietnam Railway. Book the train to arrive at Dong Hoi (the closest railway station to Phong Nha) and then take a 45 min taxi ride to Phong Nha. The bus actually takes you directly to Phong Nha, but the train is more comfortable for getting a good night’s sleep before hiking the national park.
When booking your overnight train you have 4 options for the type of seat you select: hard seat, soft seat, hard berth, or soft berth. The cheapest options are the hard and soft seats, however since this is an 8- hour overnight train ride, I highly recommend booking the soft berth ($37). The soft berth is a small bed in a 4-bed cabin (the hard berth has no mattress and is in a 6-person cabin). The bed will have sheets, a blanket
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).
What to Do in Phong Nha
Oxalis offers a few different hiking adventures depending on what you’re looking for. We chose the 2 day/1 night trek to Hang En Cave- the 3rd largest cave in the world! You get to camp inside the cave next to a beautiful lake, and there are porters who carry your overnight belongings and cook a delicious dinner for the group! Although this trek was the most expensive thing we did on our trip ($330/person) it was definitely one of the highlights of our Vietnam trip and was such an amazing experience. Check out my more detailed post on the Hang En Cave trek, including what to expect and what to pack!
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.
Where to Stay in Hue
I recommend staying on the south side of the Perfume River if you want to be near the bars and restaurants. We stayed in a private room at Hue Happy Homestay. To be honest – it wasn’t quite the homestay experience I was hoping for. It felt more just like a mediocre hostel. However, there are lots of other options for hotels and hostels in that area! Most of them will offer a laundry service too for about $1/kg, which was great, especially after the night spent in the jungle.
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.
Going from Hue to Hoi An
You can rent a motorbike on your own, join a motorbike tour or hire a private car. I highly recommend taking the motorbike tour from Le Family Riders! You can either drive a motorbike on your own, fit you and a friend on one together or if you don’t want to drive, you can sit on a two-seater with one of the guides who can drive you. Going with Le Family Riders was one of the best spontaneous decisions we made all trip! This family-run company puts on an epic tour from Hue to Hoi An, taking you to fun stops along the way that you probably wouldn’t have known about if you made the drive on your own. Check out more details about this exciting motorbike tour from Hue to Hoi An to learn about this tour and each of the stops we made along the way!
Vietnam Itinerary 2 Weeks – Day 11-13 Hoi An
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.
Where to Stay in Hoi An:
We stayed in a private room at DK’s House and loved it! This was our favorite hostel we stayed in from our whole 2 weeks in Vietnam. It is
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 (
Things to Know Before You Go to Vietnam for Two Weeks:
- You have to get a Visa
. Thereare 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
. Thereare no required vaccines to enter the country, but I recommend that you are up to date on the recommended vaccines.
- 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
. Thelocals 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 toavoid them getting booked up.
- There is WiFi almost everywhere!
- People honk all the
time , butas a way of polite communication instead of aggression.
- Don’t be afraid to eat street food
! Thebest 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!