Unspoiled nature, great coffee and a wide variety of experiences. Make the best of your 10 days in Vietnam!
Vietnam is one of the most tourist-friendly and diverse countries in Southeast Asia. It is not as overrun and spoiled as the south of Thailand, yet its steady flow of visitors and sufficient tourist infrastructure allows for comfortable travels across the country.
In this 10 day Vietnam itinerary, I would like to share some tips that will help you plan your holiday in Vietnam and recommend the places you definitely should not miss.
Here is my Vietnam itinerary for 10 days, covering the country’s highlights and best natural spots!
Itinerary for 10 days in Vietnam
10 days in Vietnam might not be long enough to explore every place this colorful country has to offer, yet it’s enough time to get a good taste of it and experience a multitude of landscapes! This how I did it: I explored the country from the north to the south. You will surely be able to make it in 10 days, as long as you are willing to take a few night trains and buses to make efficient use of the time you have.
Be aware that this Vietnam itinerary is a bit rushed; you will be quite busy each day. If you have more time, you can easily plan to spend two weeks in Vietnam by simply spending some extra time in some of the stops works along. Moreover, extending it by a few days would allow you to sleep in more hotels instead of on the go.
Vietnam Itinerary 10 Days Overview
Day 1-2: Sapa
Day 3: Hanoi (Ha Noi)
Day 4-5: Hue & Bach Ma
Day 6: Hoi An
Day 7-9: Quy Nhon and Da Lat
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Tips for Planning 10 days in Vietnam
When to Go
The best time to visit Vietnam varies depending on which part of Vietnam you are visiting and what you plan to do there. Vietnam is a very long, thin country extending from north to south. From the city of Hanoi in the north to the southern tip of the country, it’s more than 2000 kilometers. Therefore, the weather can vary quite a lot.
Winters (from November to March) are dry and mild with average temperatures around 20 degrees in the north and almost 30 degrees in the south. In the northern mountainous areas, you will need warmer clothes – definitely pack long pants and a sweatshirt/jacket, if you are heading there.
Summers (from April to October) are hot and humid, with the peak of the rainy season in July and August.
Do you want to travel access to Vietnam without having had to deal with different extremes of weather? Then spring or autumn are both great choices. Another factor to consider is that winter is the low season, which also means lower crowds and better deals.
Heading to SE Asia? Check out my detailed post on Backpacking in Southeast Asia here.
It’s actually easy for citizens of most countries to obtain a Vietnam visa through the new e-visa process.
This is how it works: After filling in the form, you’ll pay an administrative fee of $25 for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa, and you will receive an email confirmation within three business days. Print two copies of the PDF document with the visa; you will need one copy on arrival and the other one on departure.
Getting to Vietnam
Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang.
Direct flights to Vietnam are available from many Asian and European destinations as well as Australia, mostly operated by Vietnam Airlines. There are also plenty of other long-haul flights to Vietnam available with transits in Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Taipei.
Internet and mobile data
You can get a local SIM card easily right at the airport in Hanoi. During your stay, you can also easily get it in one of many tour operator shops or at tourist offices. Often there are special prepaid tariffs for tourists; just ask.
Even without a local SIM card, you can easily manage to stay connected during your 10 days in Vietnam. Almost every hotel and restaurant offer free WiFi. As a rule, there is usually a password but are often easy to guess, such 86868686 or 1234567890.
No vaccinations are required for visiting Vietnam, but it is useful to have the basic travel vaccination package, consisting of hepatitis A + B and typhoid. You can also consider a rabies vaccination (although I never saw any aggressive dogs or monkeys there) or a meningococcal vaccination.
Vietnam is a safe country and the local people are very friendly. In popular places you can theoretically encounter pickpockets – maybe I was just lucky, but I never experienced this during my trip.
The greatest danger definitely comes from taxi drivers who will most likely try to rip you off. It’s good to be prepared: Use the Grab application (like Uber) to call for a car or motorbike at a price set in advance. You can also use the app to find out the approximate price of your trip so that you will be able to negotiate with a taxi driver before accepting a ride.
Money and paying
The Vietnamese currency is called the dong. There are many confused souls out there right now trying to work out Vietnam’s ridiculously high conversion rate of dong. At the time of writing this article, 1 EUR=25,000 dong and 1 USD=23,000. This means, 100 USD is equivalent to around 2.3 million dong.
Like in many Southeast Asian countries, cash is king in Vietnam. Apart from upscale hotels and restaurants, it is almost always impossible to pay by card. In addition, most companies add a 3% fee to each transaction. Therefore, it’s recommended to travel with USD or EUR and exchange them into the local currency.
In cities, there is an ATM on every corner, with withdrawal fees varying from zero to 4%, so I recommend checking a few before withdrawing. But beware, some will give only you a maximum of 2,000,000 dongs per withdrawal. If your bank charges extra fees for withdrawals, consider a Revolut card, with free ATM withdrawals worldwide.
Getting around in Vietnam
Following my 10 day Vietnam itinerary, you will frequently use buses and trains. These are both the best way to get between cities.
The train schedule and prices can be found directly on the Vietnam Railways website. Unfortunately, the tickets can’t be purchased with foreign credit cards (at least I did not succeed with any of my three cards), so you have to buy them at the station. And be aware: there is also no credit card payment option at the counter; they only take cash.
Bus times can be easily found on websites like Rome2Rio or 12go.asia. The advantage of booking your tickets with larger companies such as these is that you can buy tickets in advance over the Internet and they are significantly more reliable.
On the other hand, there are several places connected only by local transportation companies. It’s always good to ask at your hotel’s reception about your transportation options to the next destinations. Not only will they know, but also they often have cooperation with these companies and will be able to sell you a ticket to the place you want to go.
Buses are generally somewhat cheaper and faster than trains and make it possible to reach more places than trains do. Both types of transportation tend to be heavily air-conditioned to temperatures below 20 degrees, so it’s definitely a good idea to dress warmly for these (especially longer) trips.
There are plenty of hotels and hostels to choose from in almost every place you are likely to visit in Vietnam. A bed in a 6- to 8-bed room with breakfast costs around 4 USD, while a separate double room costs from 8 USD and up. Before you make the reservation at the hostel or hotel, it’s always good to check the prices online. Booking.com is a great place to do so.
Every place listed in my two-week itinerary includes a recommendation for a budget hostel. I have spent some time choosing my accommodation, and I was pretty happy with most places.
Food and drinks
Vietnam is a paradise for foodies and you will definitely eat well during your 10 days in Vietnam.
Speaking from my own experience, you can find the best food at street stalls, markets or small local restaurants. Prices range from 1 to 2 USD per dish depending on the location; the more touristy the place, the more expensive the food. The highest prices from my experience are in the center of Ho Chi Minh City and in Sapa.
In Vietnam, the tap water is NOT drinkable. You can, however, use water dispensers in hotels and restaurants. I still used the tap water to brush my teeth, and neither I nor anyone I met experience any issues from doing this.
People and local culture
Vietnamese are friendly and often smiling. Expect frequent greetings from people passing you on the street. In touristy places, they usually speak at least a bit of English and you will find restaurants with menus in English.
It’s still to your advantage to learn at least a few basic food names in Vietnamese. It’s not all that difficult!
These are some food words worth learning:
- phở -flat noodles
- bun – round noodles
- me – instant noodles
- bò – beef
- gà – chicken
- cá – fish
- banh me – stuffed baguette
Get ready for taking off your shoes frequently; you will usually be asked to leave them at the entrance on a shoe cabinet. Even on long-distance buses, you will be expected to take them off at the door, put them in a plastic bag, and use rubber slippers to get out during the breaks (the bags and slippers are provided). I experienced this on every sleeper bus I took in Vietnam, even if I just traveled on it for a few hours.
The way local people commute is pretty special. In Vietnam, there are almost as many scooters as there are people in the country. The traffic is chaotic, often without any kind of traffic regulations. Pedestrian crossings are almost non-existent or not used.
If you want to cross the road, please follow this two-step routine:
- Carefully choose the moment when no bus or truck is approaching, and then slowly step on the road (you can’t wait for a moment with no scooters, because that moment may never come).
- Walk slowly and steadily toward the other side, letting the motorbikes maneuver around you.
At first, this will be a high-adrenaline experience, but after a few days, you actually get used to it. Observe the locals and try to join them as they cross. When moving around, it’s important to avoid abrupt movements or sudden stops in the middle of the road that could confuse the driver. It may sound terrifying, but this is what everyone does, so you just have to go with the flow!
What to pack for 10 Days in Vietnam
You should definitely pack light and breathable clothes that dry quickly and are easy to layer. It’s usually rather warm outside, but can be quite cool inside restaurants, buses, and trains due to air-conditioning; they simply use it too much.
Backpack and a Daypack
It’s best to take two backpacks with you to Vietnam: a decent-sized backpack where you’ll pack all of your clothes and other items, and a smaller daypack for all of your valuables. Your main backpack can be checked in on flights and put in the luggage compartment on buses. However, your daypack, containing your passport, phone, money, and all other important items, should be kept on your person at all times.
Quick Dry Towel
Bringing a quick-dry towel is a great idea as it has a variety of uses: an emergency towel, blanket for bus trips, a scarf, beach cover-up, or an extra layer for colder or more conservative areas.
It is also great to have hand sanitizer and wet wipes with you. You never know when you will need to wash your hands, for example during train trips there may not be running water. Dry shampoo is great to bring, too.
A trip to Vietnam is easily doable in just sandals. However, if you plan on doing any serious hiking while you’re there, or you plan to visit Sapa or other mountainous areas, you’re going to need something more than sandals. Ventilated comfortable hiking shoes are a great companion for the temples, cities, and hills of Vietnam.
Warm layer of clothes
As mentioned above, it can get cold on the bus or train. It’s a good idea to bring a long-sleeved layer. For traveling in the mountains and unexpected showers, a lightweight rain jacket is an essential item that you should always have with you. Additionally, hiking pants are comfortable for most kinds of trips in Vietnam. Trust me, you will make use of your warmer clothes several times during your 10 days in Vietnam.
If you are going to follow my 10 day Vietnam itinerary, there will be a number of longer bus and train journeys. Make your time on the road as comfortable as possible; a travel pillow will aid you in getting that much-needed shut-eye whilst in transit.
You should definitely bring a sarong or a large, versatile scarf to Vietnam because they have so many uses for travelers: towel, blanket, swimsuit cover-up, curtain, skirt, beach towel, and scarf—the list goes on. Remember that sarongs might not be an absolutely ideal replacement for all of those items, but they work great in a pinch. Plus they’re lightweight, and they dry quickly.
Of course, make sure you haven’t forgotten to pack your passport, driver’s license (only if you are planning to drive), insurance card and a good book (or your Kindle). Also include a good old-fashioned paper notebook, pen and printed itinerary with addresses and phone numbers of all of your hotels. Bring a file or passport holder so that your travel documents won’t suffer from the humidity.
Hopefully, you now have a pretty good idea on what to pack and how to travel in Vietnam. Below is my 10 day Vietnam itinerary, complete with recommendations on things to do and see in each place.
Days 1-2: Sapa
Start your explorations in Sapa, a region in northern Vietnam just a stone’s throw from the border with China. Visitors usually come here to climb Fansipan, the highest mountain not only in Vietnam, but the entire former Indochina, and to visit traditional villages and local Hmong tribes.
There is definitely one thing to know about these “traditional villages”. Nowadays, they are more or less artificially maintained open-air museums combined with a modern marketplace, where you get offered many textile products but also can buy selfie sticks or hip flasks bearing the CCCP inscription (a Russian abbreviation for the Soviet Union or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Moreover, the locals live primarily from tourism, so the city of Sapa consists almost exclusively of hotels and restaurants, and everyone is constantly trying to sell you something.
Nevertheless, it is worth going to Sapa because of the beautiful surrounding nature. With just a little patience, you will be able to plan your own trips to the stunning countryside and enjoy the little-frequented trails between the rice fields and beautiful views of the hills and valleys.
Stay: Himalaya Hostel is situated in the center of Sapa. Breakfast is included in the price and friendly staff will help you to plan your trips.
Do: Explore the Sapa region on this 2-day bus tour with a local guide. You will be picked up in Hanoi and then explore some of the highlights of the Sapa region (including Cat Cat, Lao Chai, Ta Van and Giang Ta Chai). Small groups, local guide.
Day 3: Hanoi (Ha Noi)
The capital city will probably only require 1 day out of your 10 day Vietnam itinerary. Definitely plan a visit to Train Street, a small street where a train whizzes by only a few inches from local homes a few times a day. It is officially forbidden to enter the street, but you can go to one of the many restaurants with a view. The best time is in the evening.
The most popular trip from Hanoi is definitely Ha Long Bay, known for its limestone cliffs and islets rising from the water like dragon teeth. The journey from Hanoi takes about 4 hours. If you plan to visit it, you should add 1-2 days to this itinerary. There are a lot of agencies out there offering tours that are highly varied in quality and price, so it’s worthwhile to do research online before you go.
If you want to visit Halong Bay in one day, join this highly recommended tour including a cruise as well as kayaking/riding on a bamboo boat. If you want to spend more time on the bay, consider an overnight trip. On this tour, you will get to sleep on a 4-star luxury ship.
Stay: Starry9 Hostel near Train Street. Friendly service, and small breakfast included.
Do: Experience Hanoi street food on this 3-hour food tour. You will walk through Hanoi’s old quarter with a local guide and discover the city’s exotic flavors.
Days 4-5: Hue & Bach Ma
Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam. Today you will find the fortified Imperial Forbidden City – a palace complex from the beginning of the 19th century that is listed by UNESCO. For me, it was one of the most impressive sights in my 10 days in Vietnam. Yet the entrance costs only 6 USD and there were surprisingly few tourists.
There are a wide variety of restaurants and food stalls in the center of Hue where you can even try grilled frogs or snails, and cafes where you can enjoy delicious Vietnamese coffee. I personally recommend the lemonade with pickled salty lemons.
Stay: Baloo Hostel, an inexpensive hostel in the very center of the city. They can arrange trips around the area, including Bach Ma Park.
Do: If you prefer visiting with a guide, join this tour covering the main highlights of Hue including a dragon boat trip to Thien Mu Pagoda, the oldest temple in town.
Bach Ma National Park is located in a mountainous area between Hue and Danang, exactly on the border between the former North and South Vietnam. This beautiful landscape, unfortunately, suffered during the Vietnam War, when the area was used by the Americans as a sort of fortress from which the helicopters flew out.
The best way to get to Bach Ma is with an organized tour. They will recommend it in every hotel. I paid 500,000 dong for a day trip, which is roughly the same as it would have cost me to go there on my own. It is advisable to go to the jungle with a guide who knows the best trails, explain the local attractions and take you to the Vietcong tunnels. Read more about the park on this page.
Day 6: Hoi An
This city in central Vietnam has been an important port since the 16th century. Thanks to a number of foreigners that have visited and influenced Hoi An throughout history, you can see here a variety of architectural styles on display. Chinese and Japanese influences can especially be seen in the UNESCO-protected Old Town.
Stay: Bed Station Hostel in the city center with private pool, bar and royal all-you-can-eat breakfast.
Do: Would you prefer a day in nature instead? Consider a tour to Ba Na Hills, which will include various places in the region, including the world’s longest cable car.
Days 7-9: Quy Nhon and Da Lat
These three days of your Vietnam itinerary are dedicated to two locations, and for some travel time needed to move from one to the other.
Not yet very well known, Quy Nhon is a seaside town with beautiful sandy beaches and spectacular seaside hiking paths. If you plan to spend some time by the ocean somewhere in Vietnam, you should definitely do so here. It is much easier to get here than to Ha Long Bay, and you’ll find significantly fewer tourists.
Stay: Halo Hostel, is close to the beach and has bike rentals.
Da Lat is a mountain town in the inland part of southern Vietnam that is influenced by the French colonial past and surrounded by beautiful nature. Coffee lovers will be especially pleased here; there are some great cafes in town. The areas surrounding Da Lat iare perfect for trips by bike or scooter. Make sure to visit at least one of the many beautiful waterfalls!
You might consider visiting Valley of Love, a cheesy/kitschy amusement park situated on the northern outskirts of the city. Here you go boating, enjoy the beautiful surrounding countryside or marvel at how many paths the Vietnamese have managed to stack in such a small area. Yet, couples will surely enjoy a visit and will be able to take more romantic photos than they imagined possible.
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Not a particularly fascinating city, but you will probably visit it because it is the main transport hub in southern Vietnam. Whether you continue from here to neighboring Cambodia or just fly out, if you have time, take a stroll through the city center. In the evening, visit the famous Bui Vien Street, full of diverse businesses. But watch your wallet, as things here are disproportionately expensive.
If you still have one or two days more, you can consider one of many day trips from Saigon. The most popular ones include a trip to the Mekong Delta or excursion to the Cu Chi tunnels built during the Vietnam War. A total length of 120 km of tunnels remain preserved.
Stay: Nap Hostel Saigon: a great location near most sights combined with a lovey vibe
Do: Ascend the Saigon Skydeck on the top floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower and enjoy panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City from one of the city’s most iconic buildings.
I hope that this 10 day Vietnam itinerary will help you to plan your trip. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.
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