Vietnam is a truly unique place to visit.

As a part of the well-trodden South East Asia backpacker route, you may expect to find similarities to Thailand, Cambodia or Malaysia.  

But don’t be fooled – Vietnam has a completely different character. 

Busy modern cities combine with rural villages and areas of natural beauty to create an intoxicating experience.


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How to see the best of Vietnam in 10 days

During your 10  days in Vietnam, you will learn about its tragic past, marvel at Ha Long Bay and discover why eating noodles for breakfast is a great decision.

Vietnam is not an especially large country (it is about the same size as Germany) but it is very long. This means travelling distances from north-south can take many hours.

For this 10 day itinerary, I have chosen the key destinations. Otherwise, you will waste too many days travelling from A to B.

I have also included internal flights to maximise your time. These don’t cost much and buses across the country can take 20 hours!


RELATED READ: 12 Tips For Booking Flights


If you have more time at your disposal, feel free to adapt this itinerary to include public transport. Or add a few days on to each place.

This itinerary can also be done in the opposite direction. 

Weather across Vietnam varies greatly, the best month to visit the south is not the best time to visit other regions.

If you plan your trip between November and January you should experience mostly hot and dry weather in North, South and Central Vietnam. 

However, the climate is unpredictable so make sure you pack layers and a rain jacket just in case.


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Vietnam 10 day travel itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Hanoi and explore the city 

Start your Vietnam adventure in Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter.

The streets are a maze of alleyways and the perfect place to sample local food, perfect for travel photography.

Hanoi is polluted, loud and busy with traffic, but dig a little deeper and I guarantee you will love it. 


The Old Quarter 

The Old Quarter, as the commercial and historical centre of the city, belongs on every Hanoi itinerary.

As well as many tourist attractions such as temples, walking around this area is sightseeing in itself.

Each street was originally divided by trade but now only some remain, like Hang Gai (silk)and Hang Bac  (silver).

French architecture is still evident in some buildings,  while some prove the rapid globalisation of South East Asia.

Tucked around corners, you will find restaurants, street food and late-night entertainment.

Join an Old Quarter walking tour to find hidden gems you’ll want to return to.


Street in Hanoi by rail track


Try Vietnamese Coffee 

Cafe Giang is the best place to try the famous Vietnamese egg coffee, as the recipe has been passed down for generations from Mr Giang.

There is not much space in the cafe so it can get a little cosy but this is where to get a true taste of Hanoi. 

Alternatively, order iced black coffee or brown coffee (coffee and condensed milk) from any of the side street cafes. Trust me, it’s delicious!


Tuck into local food

Vietnam is somewhere you can eat really well on a budget.

Whether you are trying street food or a sit-down meal, here are some of my favourites: Banh Mi, Bun Cha, Pho.


Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple

Walking across Hoan Kiem Lake is a peaceful break from the chaotic centre of Hanoi. 

To visit the temple costs 20,000VND and you must dress modestly, with your legs and shoulders covered. 

Night market

Hanoi’s night market is open from 6pm-11pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Old Quarter.

You can find everything you never knew you needed from food, shoes, crafts and more.

On Saturday traditional Vietnamese entertainment takes place at both ends of the street.  


Vietnamese Women’s Museum

Discover Vietnamese women’s contribution to the country’s history.

This museum features exhibitions on women’s role during Vietnam’s war, as well as a heartbreaking memorial for women who lost their children.

It also sheds light on the many ethnic minorities living in Vietnam, with a display of their costumes and culture.


Where to stay in Hanoi

Luxury stay: Right in the heart of the Old Quarter Imperial Hotel and Spa has an amazing location.  Guests can enjoy fast free wifi, spacious rooms and an onsite spa. 

Live like a local: Stay with a local family during your time in Hanoi. Hanoi NuSmile’s Family Homestay is near the Hoan Kiem Lake. 

Budget find: Hanoi Centre Hostel is low cost, clean and a great place to meet other travellers.


Day 2-3:  Visit Halong Bay 

Now is time to visit the beautiful Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its emerald water and limestone formations.


Getting to Halong Bay

Tours leave from most hotels in Hanoi and you can choose luxury or budget options.

Halong Bay is four hours out of Hanoi by bus but once you’ve arrived, you will spend the day sailing, admiring the landscapes and visiting beaches and grottos.

So it is well worth the journey!

I would recommend staying on an overnight boat like this one for a truly memorable experience.


Halong Bay in Vietnam

Day 3-5: Sapa 

Located in the Lao Cai Province of Vietnam, Sapa is a small town in the mountains.

Home to many different hill tribes, rice paddies and lush green valleys, Sapa is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.


How to get to Sapa from Hanoi

Once you have been dropped off back in Hanoi, take the overnight train to Lao Cai. This will take eight hours, meaning you should arrive by 6am the next day.

This is only 30km from Sapa and from there you can take a public bus to your final destination.

You can also take an overnight tourist bus that goes directly to Sapa. This takes six hours.

You can buy your tickets in advance here


Sapa view of valleys


Explore Sapa town 

Everything is easily accessible in Sapa town. You can see Notre Dame Cathedral, Sapa market and Cat Cat village less than a day.

They are all in walking distance of each other. 


Hiking 

There are many hikes you can try in Sapa but the most intense and rewarding is Mount Fansipan.

This is the highest peak in Indochina. Unlike the smaller hikes, this is best done with an experienced guide.

Tour companies in Sapa and Hanoi offer various hiking packages but the most popular include a stay at a local home. 

Rent a scooter

If you are comfortable with driving a motorbike this is a great way to explore Sapa, as you can go at your own pace.

Drive from Dinh Deo Pass towards to Heaven’s Gate for stunning views of the valleys. 


TRAVEL TIP

Make sure your travel insurance policy covers you for healthcare and cancellations, as well as any activities you plan to do.

I use and recommend World Nomads because they cover things that most insurers won’t.

Get a quick quote for your trip here or find out more about why I use them


Visit the Ban Pho Village

While in Sapa you must visit the surrounding villages and get to know the different tribes that live there.

Ban Pho Village has to be one of my favourites. This village has been making corn wine for hundreds of years.

Chat to locals and try some of their famous wine!

Cafe in the Clouds

I can bet this cafe has a much better view than most bars in existence!

High up among the mist, you are in the prime position for views of the emerald valley below.

Grab a local beer and watch the sunset over Sapa.


Where to stay in Sapa

 Luxury stay: Pao’sSapa Leisure hotel is situated by the entrance of Fansipan cable car station so guests are guaranteed gorgeous views. 

Live like a local: Learn about local culture by staying at Little View Homestay. Staff help guests organise treks and rent out scooters. 

Budget find: Lustig Hostel is a great place to meet other travellers, the rooms are clean and the beds are big and comfy.


Day 5: Catch the night train from Sapa to Hanoi

Say goodbye to the hill tribes and return to Hanoi via train. You can find ticket prices and train times here.

Once in Hanoi you will head to the airport for your flight to Danang. Flights booked in advance are usually between £15-30.

Check prices on Skyscanner.


Day 6: Fly to Danang from Hanoi and then travel to Hoi An

The flight to Danang will take 1 hour 20 minutes.

Once you have arrived there is a direct bus to Hoi An, for 30,000 VND.

You can purchase your ticket on the bus and it will take between 45-60 minutes.

Day 6-8: Hoi An

Hoi An is a slow-paced and relaxing city. Which can be just what you’re craving after an active few days in North Vietnam.

It is a fascinating place to explore due to its fusion of French, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese influence.


Hoi An Ancient Town

Hoi An is an example of a well preserved historical site. Formerly a traditional Asian trading port, many of the buildings remain in their original form.

Walking around can feel like stepping into a live museum.

French-colonial houses, Chinese temples and Japanese-designed bridge are just some of the tourist attractions in this picturesque town. 

Head to Hoi An riverside to dine by the side of the canal. Look out for the colourful lanterns that light up the river at night.


RELATED READ: Vietnam is a great destination for solo travellers – here’s 6 others.


Get some clothes tailor-made

There are tailors on every corner in Hoi An. Tran Hung Dao Street is full of shops with samples and designs.

Getting clothes tailor-made is a very popular tourist activity.

Some foreigners travel to Hoi An specifically with designs for wedding dresses or suits, as the prices are much lower than in the UK or US. 

As I was just backpacking, I chose a playsuit design. I was able to select the fabric, shape and have it measured to fit my body perfectly.

I was amazed by the results!


Colorful street in Hoi An Vietnam
Hoi An is a beautiful town explore by bike.

Rent a bicycle

One of the best things about Hoi Ann is that the majority of the town is a car-free zone.

It is also a wonderful place to explore by bicycle.

Starting in the town, you can discover all the tourist attractions and take a peaceful trip through rice paddies to the nearby beach. 

Try a Hoi An cycling tour in Cam Kim village.


Go to the beach

Vietnam may not be famous as a beach destination but as Hoi Ann has a tropical climate, you can definitely have a beach day on this part of your trip.

An Bang Beach is only 4 miles outside of Hoi Ann and offers white sands and lots of entertainment.

Hai Ba Trung street has a variety of restaurants and street vendors.

However, if you head further north across the sand you can find a spot away from crowds for some rest and relaxation. 


Where to stay in Hoi An

Luxury stay: Senvila Boutique Resort is designed in the shape of a lotus flower. Guests can enjoy a terrace and indoor pool all year round. 

Best for solo travellers: Cococha hostel is a great place to make new friends around the pool. The staff are welcoming and organise daily tours and activities for their guests.

Budget find: Only a five-minute walk from the old town, Flower Garden Homestay features private bedrooms and en suite bathrooms for those on a budget. 


Day 8: Return to Danang and fly to Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh, formerly called Saigon is named after the man who unified Vietnam after the war.

You can spend your days learning about the country’s past, dodging mopeds and spend your nights sampling some of the best nightlife in Vietnam. 

Flights to Ho Chi Minh from Danang take 1 hour and 25 minutes and cost between £15-30 when booked in advance. 


Day 8-9: Explore Ho Chi Minh

Two days in Ho Chi Minh is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture before you head home.

Join a walking tour to visit all the main sites. Some of my favourites are below. 


Visit The War Remnants Museum 

This is one of the best museums in Ho Chi Minh,. Spend half a day learning about Vietnam’s complicated past.

Although you won’t feel great after your visit, it is important to be able to see the war’s effects on real people and how it shaped Vietnam today. 

Explore the Chi Chi Tunnels 

Discover the maze of the Chi Chi Tunnels, a network of tunnels used by Vietnamese soldiers during the American-Vietnam war.

You actually crawl through these tunnels and see just how claustrophobic it must have been for those in the Viet Cong.

This tour includes pick up from most central hotels. 


Rooftop bar

Ho Chi Minh has a good selection of rooftop bars. If you are looking to meet other backpackers, The View is a great option for those on a budget. 

EON51 in the landmark Bitexco Tower offers a more high-end experience with stunning views over the city. 


Street Food

Ho Chi Minh is one of the best places to try Vietnamese street food. The options can be overwhelming, so consider a food tour with a local guide.

Then, you can safely try the flavours of Ho Chi Minh and find some spots you want to return to!


Banana Split at Bitexco Tower Cafe
The best banana split at the Bitexco Tower Cafe

Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh

Luxury stay: Hoasun Boutique Apartment has amazing views over the city, which you can enjoy from the rooftop pool. 

Live like a local: Summer Taste Homestay is decorated in only pastel colours and has a friendly vibe. 

Budget find:  Boholand hostel has great breakfasts, coffee and hosts who tell you all the best places to visit in the city. What more could you want? 


Day 10: Fly home from Ho Chi Minh or fly back to Hanoi for your flight home. 

Depending on where your flight leaves from you can either spend the rest of the day in Ho Chi Minh or fly back to Hanoi. 


Is ten days in Vietnam enough?

Ten days is enough to see the highlights of Vietnam, however, it does mean skipping over some popular tourist hot spots and travelling at a fairly quick pace.

It also means spending a little more on flights to make sure you can see everything in time. 

If you have more than 10 days in Vietnam, check out this adaptable Vietnam itinerary


How to extend this Vietnam 10 day itinerary 

If you aren’t restricted by time constraints, you could easily add a few days to each of these destinations.

You could also explore more of Central Vietnam or Southern Vietnam.

Hue, Dalat, Mui Ne, or a trip down the Mekong Delta, are all great additions. 

A Vietnam trip can also be combined with a holiday to a nearby country.

From Ho Chi Minh, many travellers take the six-hour bus on to Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. Or, take a quick flight to Thailand