3 Weeks in Vietnam – 10 Must See Stop Offs

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Vietnam is crazy. That’s a fact. With bikes zipping around, Tuk Tuk drivers trying to get your business, the smell of food everywhere, people going all over the place it’s easy to feel a bit out your depth. I know I certainly did! It was my first proper backpacking experience on my Round the World Trip and it’s a world away from the plod of the UK.

Of course, Vietnam is famous for being a hot spot on the backpacker trail and once you get used to the organised chaos that is Vietnam, you’ll see that there are tonnes of things to do and places to go. I travelled from the North to the South of Vietnam for 3 weeks before crossing over into Cambodia and stopped off at 10 places along the way. There are places I loved and places that other people raved about but I just found a bit meh. But even these meh places I would still recommend!

Getting around Vietnam is super easy thanks to the excellent bus routes and trains. There’s a lot to see so you will possibly be on the move quite a bit. So here is my guide to spending 3 weeks in Vietnam!

Route: Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Hue to Hoi An by motorbike (stopping off at Da Nang), 

Nha Trang, Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh

 

ACCOMMODATION

Both hotels and hostels are very budget friendly Vietnam. Jess and I actually ended up spending most time in hotels or in private rooms in hostels for only a little bit more than a dorm room, so unsurprisingly we went for the hotels. By a little bit more, the room would probably come in at £4 a night each. When we did stay in dorm rooms it could be for as little as £2 a night! Don’t let the price put you off! Of course, you could easily go for luxury for a very reasonable price anywhere in Southeast Asia, and Vietnam is no exception.

If you are travelling on a budget and have the flexibility, don’t worry about having to book up accommodation for the whole of your trip too much. It’s nearly almost fine to get somewhere and find somewhere on arrival. However, I would recommend checking the local tourism sites incase there are any big events on as accommodation will probably be scarce.

 

FOOD

Street food, street food, street food! All over Vietnam you will find food stalls and carts with plastic tables and chairs on the pavement. The food is nearly always amazing and so fresh – you will literally see it being cooked in front of you! There are also BBQ stalls with some kind of meat or sweet potatoes cooking. Not gonna lie, you probably won’t know what it is but it’s usually pretty tasty (including the chicken claw I had one time!). Eating the street food is very cheap at about £1 for a rice or noodle dish, so it’s an excellent way to keep the costs down. My advice is to head to wherever the locals are eating as that will be the best food!

 

WHERE TO GO AND HOW TO GET THERE

 

HANOI AND HALONG BAY

Getting there: Noi Bai is the international airport at Hanoi and is about 45km from the city. From here you can get to the city by taxi, the City Bus or public bus. If you get a taxi, make sure you agree a price before you set off.

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam so understandably it’s pretty busy. Personally, I love it! With its mix of European and Chinese influences, it’s a great city to walk around and see what you stumble upon. The Narrow Streets in the old quarter are great to explore and Hoan Kiem Lake is perfect to walk around. If you fancy a cultural performance then I would recommend seeing a water puppet show at Thanglong Theatre, it’s really cute and the story is told in English. Hanoi is also home to the beautiful red Stacked Pagoda which is worth a visit.

Halong Bay is about 3.5 hours away and trips there run regularly. I only took a day trip to visit here but I wish I had done an overnight one due to the drive. It’s a magnificent place and one of the natural wonders of the world.

 

NINH BINH

Getting there: As Ninh Binh is only 2 and a bit hours from Hanoi, we booked the cheapest train ticket to travel in the day time. This meant a hard seat train with no air-con but it was fine. Turned out that the windows had been replaced with chicken wire so the breeze coming in was nice a cool! Not a glamorous way to travel but it cost just 44,000VD (£1.60).

Ninh Binh is a pretty little place to stop off. It’s not big and there isn’t an abundance of things to do but it’s worth stopping here to break up the journey between Hanoi and Hue and it certainly feels very local. You don’t really need more than a night here but a trip to the Tam Coc caves is well worth a visit! The countryside here is beautiful and prefect for photos.

HUE

Getting there: Overnight bus

Hue is really quite different to the other cities I visited in Vietnam. It’s distinctive Imperial City is surrounded by a wall to protect the palace and is a beautiful place to spend the day exploring. The city is a UNESCO site so is protected so hopefully will be there for years to come! A great way to explore Hue more is it hire a bicycle and hit the roads. Being part of the crazy traffic can be a bit, shall we say, interesting- but it’s good fun!

HOI AN (VIA DA NANG)

Getting there: Take a motorbike tour! This was honestly one of the highlights of my whole time travelling so I’m gonna tell you it’s a must! And I would definitely recommend Le Family Riders – it’s a family run business and they are the friendliest people. This route stops off at a number of places including Elephant Springs to cool off, a delicious lunch in the countryside, Danag beach and Marble Mountains. It’s a long day but it’s brilliant!

Hoi An is super cute and famous for its tailors. If you want an item of clothing hand made to fit you then this is the place! Jess and I spent a day trawling the stores to look at fabrics before we each got a dress made. Don’t forget to haggle as well! Another great thing to do here is to have a cooking lesson and learn to make some real Vietnamese food, and then of course scoff the lot afterwards!

This city is also full of wonderful colours and architecture including the Japanese Covered Bridge, Tan Ky House and the Old Town area as well as the My Son temples being within reach for a day trip. Just get walking and you will stumble across loads.

NHA TRANG

Getting there: Overnight bus

Nha Trang is very much Westernised and I’m not gonna lie, this was my little piece of Asia away from Asia. As much as I was loving my time here, it was nice to have a break and escape back to my comfort zone. It’s full of sky scrapers surrounding the beach and has a lot more formal looking restaurants. As well as this, Nha Trang is home to the Vin Pearle theme park which is kinda like a tamed down Disney Theme park but it’s still pretty god. Nha Trang is great for nightlife as well and loads of places have cocktail offers to make the most of.

On the more cultural side of things, you can visit the Long Son Pagoda with the beautiful laid down Buddha, and another Buddha at the top of a hill with great views of the city. A day trip to see the Po Nagar Chambers is well worth it also.

DA LAT

Getting there: Overnight bus

Da Lat has a very European feel. Many of the buildings look more like a piece of Europe has been dropped down and the town has grown around it. To be honest, it’s kinda cute but the only thing to do here is a trip to the countryside to see the local industries and the silk factory. It’s ok but if you miss it you won’t have lost out.

HO CHI MINH

Getting there: Overnight bus

This city is steeped in history, culture and has a mixture of everything from high end down to street vendors. It’s amazing for shopping, eating and general mooching. Make sure you visit the war Remnants Museum to learn about the history of Vietnam, the Jade pagoda (one of the most impressive Pagodas in Vietnam), the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post office – sounds silly but it’s a beautiful building. Chill out in September 23 park where you will probably see some wedding photoshoot going on (this is everywhere,I don’t qquite understand it, but anyway) and in the evening head to the nearby Pham Ngu Lao area for drinks and nightlife.

Have you been to Vietnam? Where did you go and what was your favourite place?

Vietnam is an amazing country with tonnes of things to explore. Find out 10 amazing places you can visit in 3 weeks

15 Comments

  1. Kathy Craigie on

    We also did 3 weeks in March last year and managed to see Hanoi, HaLong Bay, Sapa, Dalat, Danang, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta. Modes of transport Inc trains, planes, motorbike and local bus. Can’t wait to go back and see more of this incredible country.
    Great write up ?

    • Laura - No Shoes Today on

      Isn’t it amazing?! And it’s so easy to get around like you said. I hope to get back soon too Where was your favourite?

  2. We crossed Vietnam in just over 3 weeks as well. At first we were overwhelmed by the busy streets and aggressive drivers in Hanoi too, but you’re right, you’ll get used to it and start seeing the charm of the city. We didn’t do all the stops you did, as we did a two day trip to Halong Bay (seems like you had way better weather) and Sapa (tea plantations are worth it though) from Hanoi and Brecht spent a week in the hospital in Hue (probably dengue, probably caught in Sapa). Hue isn’t one of our favourite stops though, but we did like Hanoi and Hoi An. Cute is indeed the word I’d use for Hoi An too, and it’s perfect for window shopping, very photogenic city! One stop you skipped and we loved: Mui Ne. Would have loved to spent some more time there, but our time in Vietnam was coming to an end by then.

  3. Hey there! 2 years ago I visited Sri Lanka and Cambodia and was planning for Vietnam also but I did not make it 🙂 Thats a great post for my next time try to Vietnam!

  4. Vietnam looks like a beautiful and intriguing country. I love how you’ve given a guide for each place you visited. I bet Halong Bay was incredible, even if though you were only there for a day.

    • Thank you! That photo is actually one of my favourites- she’s got some serious talent rowing with her feet!

  5. Vietnamese people have their wedding photos taken before their actual wedding day and tend to pose in various places in different outfits, including both a ‘western’ style white wedding dress and a Vietnamese au dai. It’s rather lovely!

    • Ah I did wonder if it was for that reason but then I wasn’t sure if it’s was a photoshoot for a business! How cute though! I bet their photos are amazing!

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