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Ah… Choosing your itinerary. When planning your trip, it’s generally the coolest but also the hardest part. You want to see as many things and places as possible but you also need enough time to enjoy, it’s not easy.
For this first long trip to Vietnam, we focused more on the north and center of the country, and less on the south (it will be for another time). This allowed us to enjoy more the areas we visited without having to rush, because there’s one thing you need to be aware of in Vietnam, distances matter! Taking a 6-hour train or 12 to 16-hour bus trip, a plane, all this takes time and needs to be taken into consideration in your planning.
Here is the trip we did
I recommend it, except for the first 4 days in Hanoi, 2 would have been enough
Day 1: Late evening arrival in Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi
Day 3: Hanoi
Day 4: Hanoi
Day 5: Hanoi – night train to Lao-cai
Day 6: Sapa – night in our guide’s guesthouse
Day 7: Sapa – late return to Hanoi
Day 8: Hanoi
Day 9: Ha Long bay
Day 10: Ha Long bay – late return to Hanoi
Day 11: Ninh Binh
Day 12: Ninh Binh
Day 13: Ninh Binh – Night sleeping bus to Hue
Day 14: Hue
Day 15: Hue
Day 16: Hoi An
Day 17: Hoi An
Day 18: Hoi An
Day 19: Transit Hoi An – Da Nang – flight to Ho Chi Minh city
Day 20: Ho Chi Minh city
Day 21: Ho Chi Minh city
As I said in the beginning, keep in mind that it takes time to go from one place to the other when planning! You should favor night trips if possible as It avoids losing time during your visit days, don’t worry too much about reservation¸ your hosts (hotels, guesthouses, Airbnb) will help you to book everything including the pick up at their place if needed.
To go to Sapa from Hanoi: night train (trip to Lao Cai then shuttle/taxi to Sapa) or sleeping bus. I recommend the sleeping bus of the Green Bus company, much more comfortable, they are the safest, and they are on time!
To go to Ninh Binh from Hanoi: A shuttle bus/car is the best way, you can find a detailed article here
To go the center: we chose a night trip with a sleeping bus, to go from Ninh Binh to Hue it’ll be around 10 hours (for about 10$/pax)
To go from the center to the south: we chose the plane option. The local company Vietnam Airlines is recommended for domestic flights and we didn’t have any issues, no delay and a good service for a very cheap price (93€ for 2)
For more advice (good addresses, housing, activities) at each step, you can look at the articles for each place:
Ha Long bay (to come)
Ninh Binh (to come)
Hue (to come)
Hoi An (to come)
HCMC (to come)
See ya folks !