Hoping to get started on that backpacking adventure of yours, then I highly recommend Vietnam. Lush green landscapes, beautiful beaches, the friendliest people in South East Asia plus yummy and healthy food. So, what are you waiting for? Here’s our ultimate one month itinerary for Vietnam.
Our one month Vietnam itinerary
We started this leg of our trip in Cambodia and came into Vietnam via a city called Rach Gia. In Rach Gia we were the only guests in a 500 room hotel, but we had a massive circular bed, so we forgot about the creepiness of the scenario pretty quickly. The first stop on our month itinerary for Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh city (or Saigon as it’s more commonly known). Over the course of one month we worked our way through seven destinations ending the trip in Hanoi.
“I beg young people to travel. If you don’t have a passport, get one. Take a summer, get a backpack and go to Delhi, go to Saigon, go to Bangkok, go to Kenya. Have your mind blown, eat interesting food, dig some interesting people, have an adventure, be careful. Come back and you’re going to see your country differently.” – Henry Rollins
As I said, for anyone thinking of joining the world of backpacking – you HAVE to check out Vietnam, I think it’s a fantastic country to find your travelling groove in because:
- Vietnam is very affordable
- Vietnamese people are really friendly and it’s a relatively safe country
- Vietnam looks, smells and sounds foreign enough to feel like a challenge for us westernized folks.
Here’s how we planned our one month Vietnam itinerary and packed in seven stops.
Continue reading: the most photogenic spots in Hong Kong
1. Ho Chi Minh
We recommend 5 nights in Ho Chi Minh
The biggest city in Vietnam and very different to any city I’ve visited. Firstly, there isn’t much footpath for you to walk on because the market stalls have taken them. So, most of the time you walk on the road – which is an experience in itself. There are motorbikes and mopeds speeding past you in every direction. Continual noise of honking horns and screeching brakes.
If you’ve ever been to Vietnam or any Southeast Asian country you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Crossing the road in Vietnam is asking for a death wish.
But besides the lack of footpaths and dangerous road-crossing experiences, Ho Chi Minh is an exciting and bustling city. Filled with excellent restaurants, quirky coffee shops, great shopping (they even have a Topshop). Luckily too, if you’re solo-backpacking there are lots of other like-minded backpackers for you to hang with.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh
Our stay in Ho Chi Minh included a visit to the Vietnam War Remnants Museum, which gives an in-depth look at the Vietnam War. The War Remnants Museum showcases photographs, documents and artefacts from the Vietnamese War. We recommend spending 2 hours here.
A day trip to the Chu Chi Tunnels, is a must-do whilst in Ho Chi Minh. The Chu Chi Tunnels is 120km long underground city if you will, built as protection for the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam war. The tunnels feature trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, and command centres. During the tour you can crawl through some of the tunnels (not recommended if you’re claustrophobic). I got to shoot a real gun here, which was terrifying. A half-day tour to Chu Chi Tunnels costs from VND 825,000 (or $35 USD)and upwards.
And lastly we popped by Saigon Central Post Office, which was built by Alfred Foulhoux, who also constructed the Eiffel Tower. The Post Office is an exquisitely preserved french-colonial style building that attracts a lot of photographers. It is known as the most beautiful post office in South East Asia.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh
Considering it’s the largest city in Vietnam, there are lots of hotels to choose from in Ho Chi Minh. There’s something for every budget, if you wish to splurge on a nice hotel – here’s a list of the best.
2. Mui Ne
We recommend spending 3 nights in Mui Ne
Mui Ne, is best described as a little town in the desert. A big contrast to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh. Mui Ne is very laid-back and most of the hotels and restaurants line the town’s beach. The beach in Mui Ne is very popular for kite-surfing.
We only had 3 nights here, so we packed as much as we possibly could into such a short time frame. First on the list was a half day-tour to the Fairy Springs just a 10 minute drive from Mui Ne town. The scenery here is outstanding and it does feel pretty magical, hence the name. We recommend arriving to the Fairy Springs early in the morning (before 9am), which is when the tour buses arrive. The entrance fee to the Fairy Springs is super-cheap, just 5,000 VND or 25 cent!
We also took a half-day sunset tour to the Red and White deserts of Mui Ne, this tour departs daily at 2pm from Mui Ne. The cost is approximately $25 USD per person. Here, you can climb massive sand dunes and slide down them on your bum, or pay a little extra money for a quad bike tour. The half-day tour also includes a stop at a small fishing village.
Where to stay in Mui Ne
Whilst in Mui Ne we stayed Muine Sports Hotel, clean and basic accommodation with an outdoor swimming pool. Plus, its just 100 metres from the beach.
Here’s a list of the best restaurants in Mui Ne because good food makes every trip more enjoyable!
We recommend spending 3 nights in Dalat
High up in Vietnam’s central highlands lies the town of Dalat. Dalat is very different to the rest of Vietnam, to me it felt more like being in the mountains of Nepal. But it’s well worth the bumpy bus journey up, the food and people are uniquely different to other parts of Vietnam. It’s colder up here too, especially at night so make sure to pack a jumper and jeans.
We booked a full day tour of Dalat through our hotel as we were limited to time. It cost approximately $25 USD per person, the tour included stops at:
- Bao Dai’s Summer Palace – which was the Summer home of King Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam feudal court. The palace was built from 1933 – 1937, and is art-deco in style.
- Crémaillère Railway Station – a wonderful art-deco train station. Here you can ride a quirky little train to Trai Mat, 30 minutes away. It costs approximately $5 USD.
- Dalat Flower Gardens – the Flower Gardens were established in 1966 and is home to over 300 different species of flowers. The Gardens are particularly popular with domestic tourists.
- Datanla Falls – is one of the most visited waterfalls in Vietnam. But perhaps the best activity at the Falls is the rollercoaster that you control yourself. With a lever, you are able to control your own speed completely.
- Crazy House – a backpacker favourite in Dalat. Unique and Alice in Wonderland like is the best way to describe it. You need to experience this treasure for yourself.
Here’s a comprehensive list of the best accommodation in Dalat
4. Nha Trang
We recommend spending 3 nights in Nha Trang
Nha Trang to my European followers is the Costa del Sol of Vietnam (or Cancun to Americans I guess). Nha Trang to put it simply is a super-touristy beach resort. It is very popular with Russian tourists especially. Nha Trang is a great place to stop and relax before setting off to explore the remainder of your one month Vietnam itinerary.
We really enjoyed our time here. There are lots of Italian and Greek restaurants to get your food fix from home but our favorite restaurant was a local one called Yen’s. At Yen’s, we ate some of the best Vietnamese food we’d ever eaten.
What to do in Nha Trang
My husband just HAD to visit VinPearl Land. VinPearl Land is a massive theme park and water park combined, which is only reachable by ferry or cable car. Honestly, VinPearl Land is such a fun day out. If you have kids or a ‘big kid’ like I do it’s definitely worth the trip and the $$$. The entrance fee including the cable car there is 500,000 VND or $25 USD.
We also booked a full-day snorkelling tour and even though it was a great day out, the underwater sightings are nowhere near as impressive as the Great Barrier Reef or the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize. Pick-up for the tour is early – 7:30am from most hotels in Nha Trang. The day includes a seafood feast on board the boat for Lunch. The average cost for a tour like this is $25 USD.
We also paid a visit to the Thap Ba Hot Springs, which has become a quintessential Nha Trang experience. You sit in a private mud bath for about 15 minutes and then rinse off in a mineral shower. Your skin is sooo soft after! The ticket price is 150,000 VND or $7 USD.
Where did we stay in Nha Trang
We spent 5 nights in total at Nha Trang Beach Hotel, a 3-star hotel featuring a small outdoor swimming pool. Small-sized but clean rooms and just a 20 metre walk from the beach. Nha Trang Beach Hotel is very reasonably priced at approximately $25 USD per night.
5. Hoi An
We recommend spending 4 nights in Hoi An
My favourite stop in Vietnam! Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site that is both incredibly beautiful and unforgettable.
If you want to get some clothes made, make sure you add Hoi An to your Vietnam itinerary. Some of the best tailors in the world line the streets of this small town. We got lots of beautiful things (including 3 x Suits and some dresses) for a very reasonable price. All were of made that are of top-notch quality. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best tailors in Hoi An
We hired a bike for the day from our hotel and spent a full day cycling the surrounding area. We cycled through rice paddies filled with water buffalo and down, stopped for lunch at a little cookery school and finally down to the mile-long beach.
Most of the historic sites in Hoi An work on a coupon system. This means, 75,000 VND (or $5 USD) gets you a ticket that can be used to enter five attractions: one museum, one museum, one old house, one assembly hall, the handicraft workshop, and either the Japanese Covered Bridge or the Quan Cong Temple. These tickets are sold at various entry points into the Old Town.
Best restaurants in Hoi An
We spent our days in Hoi An wandering the cobble-stoned streets of the old town and stuffing our faces with amazing food. Hoi An is a foodie’s heaven. The ‘Banh Mi Queen‘ is here – a little old lady who makes the best Vietnamese rolls in the world for $1 USD. Other restaurants in Hoi An which we give our seal of approval include Home and Little Flower.
Where to stay in Hoi An
We spent 4 nights at Hoi An Garden Villas a 3-star hotel on on Nguyen Duy Hieu road. It features a lovely outdoor pool and clean and cool rooms. It is reasonably priced for Hoi An at $40 USD per night.
We recommend spending 3 nights in Hue
Hue for us was a stopover to break up the long journey between Hoi An and Hanoi. You will find lots of other backpackers in Hue for this reason. As a result there are lots of backpacker-friendly bars. The party is definitely in Hue!
We filled our days in Hue visiting To Mieu Temple Complex (a beautiful walled complex which houses shrines to past Emperors), wandering across the city’s beautiful bridges, and shopping at the street markets.
One thing we didn’t get to do in Hue that I now regret is DMZ or Vinh Moc Tunnels. A larger version of the Chu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh city. It’s supposed to be a great experience but it’s a couple hours travel from Hue and we were coming to the end of our trip and so very exhausted.
We recommend spending 6 nights in Hanoi
Hanoi, you may not have known is the capital city of Vietnam. We both preferred Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. I loved the rustic feel of the city, a lot of the buildings in Hanoi are very French-colonial in style. And we even began to fall in love with the the craziness of the traffic in Hanoi. I will admit that we had become pro’s at navigating the traffic in Vietnam after a month here.
Hanoi feels more like a big town than a city and I guess that’s why I liked it so much, being a small town girl myself. Plus, our favourite restaurant in the country is in Hanoi – Minh Thuy’s Family Restaurant. The Chef/Owner was a contestant on Masterchef Vietnam. The menu is delicious and super-affordable too. We visited Minh Thuy’s restaurant three evenings of our six night stay.
What sights did we visit in Hanoi?
I’m glad you asked. We spent a whole 6 days in Hanoi and so we tried not to pack too much into our days here.
We spent hours walking around Hoan Kiem Lake. Fun fact: every morning at 6am a big group of locals practice Tai Chi on the shore.
Visited the National Museum of Vietnamese History. The Museum highlights Vietnam’s pre-history up to 1945. It is very large and is home to over 200,000 exhibits. Which is why we recommend spending a half-day here.
Spent half a day at the Ho Chi Minh Masoleum Complex. Ho Chi Minh (former President of Vietnam) is buried here and it’s considered a pilgrimage site to the local people. They come from all over Vietnam every day to pay their respects, so, as a result expect long queues.
And finally we attended a Water Puppet Show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater. Such fun! Water puppetry is an art form that dates back to the 11th century. This tradition comes from a time when rice paddy fields were flooded and villagers would make entertainment by standing in the waist-deep water with the puppets performing over the water.
Where to stay in Hanoi
We spent 6 nights at Hanoi Old Quarter Hotel, a beautiful colonnaded hotel in the Old Quarter of the city. The rooms here are very spacious with beautifully tiled floors and some rooms feature exposed brick on the walls. The hotel is a short walk to Hoan Kim Lake.
8. Halong Bay
We spent a whopping 0 nights in Halong Bay! One of the natural wonders of the world, majestic, beautiful, like something from a James Bond movie. We booked a two day one night cruise on a Junk Boat. Unfortunately, we only ended up staying on the boat a couple of hours as there was a massive storm coming. Queue some very disappointed faces. Thankfully, we did get to kayak in the bay, had a champagne lunch and got a quick glimpse at our would-be bedroom onboard.
When it comes to choosing a tour of Halong Bay, you’ll want to do your research. From wild party cruises where young twenty-somethings get deserted on an island ‘Castaway-style’ to high-end luxury cruises, there is something for every type of traveler and every budget.
Read more from me: 6 ways to save money so you can travel
What to pack for your one month Vietnam itinerary
- Lonely Planet guide ‘Southeast Asia on a shoestring’;
- A decent pair of walking shoes (crossing Vietnam’s notorious roads in flip-flops is not recommended);
- A cute shawl (in a lot of museums & temples you have to cover your shoulders so this will come in handy);
- A good book to read or playlist to listen to on those long bus journeys;
- Patience (for crossing the road & for bus journey’s that take 5 hours longer than you were told).
Our one month Vietnam itinerary – a summary
And there you have it a lengthy and detailed insight into our one month Vietnam itinerary. We spent a lot of time researching the best route for us, you may choose to spend more or less time in the places I recommend above. But, whatever route you choose for your one month Vietnam itinerary, I am certain you will have a fantastic vacation. Vietnam is a very special country, and we can’t wait to return.
Looking for an adventurous way to explore Vietnam? This 17-day adventure, takes you from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi through Dalat, Hoi An, Hue and Halong Bay. Probably the coolest part though is the 5 days motorbike ride through the countryside from Dalat to Hoi An!
Tell me – what did you think of our one month Vietnam itinerary? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below.