Vietnam is a crazy, exhilarating but also peaceful place. Known for its picture-perfect landscapes, captivating history, crazy traffic and incredible food it will be a country all that visit fall in love with.
I was luckily enough to spend the month traveling this beautiful country and if there’s any travellers solo or couples thinking about hopping on a plane to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh to travel up or down this country I hope my experience can persuade you that it will be 100% worth it.
Vietnam is home to the famous Halong Bay, Phong Na Caves, Hoi Ans Lanterns lit streets and Cham islands. Keep reading to find out the itinerary I followed to explore this amazing country as well as my thoughts and feelings on the tours and trips I done throughout the month.
When I arrived at my hostel in Hanoi I went to travel desk for advice on what to do and where to visit, there was clearly way more activity’s and places to do that I couldn’t achieve in the time frame I had. (I was on a month-long visa…top tip gets the 3-month visa as then you’re not rushed for time and can fit in all the things I didn’t.)
The following is a list of the Tours and Trips I completed in a month:
One of the best tours I’ve experienced on my travels throughout south east Asia has to be the true north motor bike trip. Advertised as ‘the best scenery in Vietnam’ it sure lives up to this. You head to the Ha Giang province to explore the most remarkable landscapes by motorbike, you can ride by yourself, on the back of a friend’s bike or ride on the back of a tour guides bike.
I couldn’t recommend this trip more to any traveller, its run by a hostel called Flipside and that’s where the trip leaves from in Hanoi. Expect a long overnight bus to get up north where the trip begins if you have an eye mask and earplugs the night bus will be a dream. Before I left home I promised my family I wouldn’t ride a motorbike due to all the horrific accents you hear about, due to this and lack of experience on a bike I choose to ride on the back of a tour guides bike, my driver was a Vietnamese man that had driven a bike all his life, he made me feel so comfortable and safe for the whole time by the 2nd day I wasn’t clinging on for dear life, I could sit back relax and take in all the beautiful scenery, I defo recommend this option for anyone unsure whether to drive your own bike or not as you don’t want to be constantly concentrating on the driving and forget to take in all the views surrounding you.
This tour was my first as a solo traveller and what an amazing way to meet people, spending 2 nights and 3 days in the cutest home stays, eating in tiny Vietnamese local restaurants and drinking rice wine with your new friends over a night in a karaoke bar it really is a trip I’ll remember forever. Rob from flipside has created an experience I wish everyone visiting Vietnam to take part in. This tour cost $259 USD but you’ll want to do it all over again once its finished.
A trip id heard a lot about some good some bad but something I had to experience myself. Vietnam backpacker hostels are to thank for this exciting unforgettable trip to Ha Long Bay. Castaways is a 3-day trip spent on a private island, alongside a booze cruise, nightly parties and day time activity’s. Castaways is a bucket-list must do for any young solo traveller life myself.
This trip also leaves from Hanoi, at the refreshing early time of 7am so make sure to get an early night and don’t end up out at hangover bar the night before. This trip is not for the quite night chilled backpacker as you’ll be drunk from start to finish. The day you arrive you get the chance to wakeboard, high speed tubing, rock climbing or simply enjoying a drink on the sunbeds and party into early hours of the morning. Day two you set sail on a boat around the incredible Ha long Bay, dance with new friends, kayak with a future love interest or shot gun a beer while jumping off the top deck, I promise it will be the best boat party you do on your south east Asia travels.
This trip is perfect for an outgoing confident solo traveller waiting to meet new friends. Castaways was at the beginning g of my Vietnam travels and I met a group of people I then travelled down the whole country with, it’s a great social trip where the reps get everyone involved. The island is beautiful and open aired dorms are the cutest. However, if you aren’t a big party person I would looking to trips such as hideaway which is the same idea, but less party and more activity based. This trip is a hefty price of $229 USD but the best 3 days you’ll have in Vietnam and one not to miss.
Hanoi Train Street
If you are hanging around Hanoi and have some time to kill I recommend going to Train Street. It’s a residential street where a speeding train passes through twice a day, the street is so narrow you wonder how the train squeezes through. I recommend going around 3pm as you won’t want to miss being pinned against a wall while the train shoots passed in seconds, then seeing how the locals go back to their normal routine of sitting on the tracks drinking tea and chatting. This street is also a great photograph spot for all you instagrammers out there.
Paradise Cave & Dark Cave was definitely an eye-opening experience to me as I had never seen anything like this before. Leaving from Gecko hostel in Phong nha you get a minivan to paradise cave which was once labelled the world’s most beautiful cave. When you explore this cave, you will soon realise why, the cave had been adapted for tours and safety reasons, but this doesn’t take away from its beauty.
Once you’ve finished admiring paradise cave in all its beauty it’s time for the fun to begin at dark cave. To get to the Dark Cave entrance you have to zip line across the mini activities on the Chay river such as swings, ziplines and kayaking. This cave is explored with only your head torch for light you make your way through the cave laughing at each other stumble in the dark until you reach a mud bath, this is where you then get down and dirty with your newly made friends, everyone got fully stuck into this activity and was a lot of fun. Once you’re finished in the mud bath you make your way out of the cave kayak across the river where you can join other backpackers chilling in the river before enjoying a traditional Vietnamese lunch. This tour cost 60 USD and totally worth it.
Hue Motorbike Tour
Most travellers only decided to stay in Hue for one night as its where you start or finish the Ha Van Pass trips, I think you’d be crazy to only spend one night in this city full of culture, amazing bars and even better hidden gems.
Hue motorbike tour ran by Vietnam Backpacker hostel is the best way to see all of Hue’s hidden gems. This tour is taken by a western guide and you can rent your own bike or like me chose to ride on the back, there’s only a limited number of western guides so if you want to ride on the back let them know when you book the tour or make friends and jump on the back of someone else’s. Hue is full of history and on this tour, you will visit the imperial city, incense village (even get to make your own and take it home), the perfume river and the famous abandoned water park. As you ride around the never opened water park you get chills and can only imagine how amazing it would have been if finished. Lunch is also included in this tour and they take you to a quite BBQ restaurant where you get to cook the meat and fish to your own perfection. Was one of the cheapest tours I did at $30 USD and I highly recommended to others visiting Hue.
The DMZ tour leaves from Hue, if you’re a history lover and enjoy sitting in a car for about 8 hours of your day this trip for you. This tour was sold to us with a promise of an insight to the war and how the locals dealt with such a tragic time. However, this was not the case we sat in the car for hours with a guide who was not willing to answer questions, we stopped at a few stops on route but finally we arrived at the Vinh Moc Tunnels. The Vinh Moc Tunnels were basically a city built underground for the locals to hide in for many years away from the war above, I was excited we finally got to see this but after being rushed through the tunnels in 10 minutes with no time to take it all in we were all rushed back to the bus with no other feeling but disappointment. This tour was a waste of money and I don’t recommend to any traveller, I think you could have a better experience of this through a different tour.
Hai Van Pass Jeeps
One of the most famous roads in Vietnam the Hai van pass is home to some of the most picturesque spots, famous for its political boundary between ancient kingdoms but to most people it came to fame through the Top Gear Vietnam Special which then saw travellers take to the road.
There are a few ways to travel down the Ha Van Pass, by bus (I do not recommend as you fly through not seeing the amazing sites) and then there’s the two choices most travellers decided, the jeep tour or the motorbike tour.
I chose to take the open top jeep tour, and I couldn’t recommend it more. The open top jeeps fit up to 4 people in, have a cool box you can feel with drinks and food sit back and enjoy the views with the no stress of driving yourself this is left to a Vietnamese guide. This tour has plenty of stops along the way including lunch, local beaches and coastal photo stops. The reason I choose this tour over the motorbike one was mainly because I wasn’t confident on a bike and wanted to enjoy the day rather than falling off and injuring myself but the day we done this was a friends id met birthday so to celebrate we thought it would be nice to fill the cool box with a bottle of vodka and a few ciders, this meant all of us could be in one jeep together and it turned out to be the best day tanning, drinking and exploring such a scenic road. I was luckily enough to have met girls to do this tour with, but I think it’s great for any solo travellers yet to meet people as you will be in a jeep with other for about 6 hours taking in the views and chatting away about your travel plans, what better way to make new friends. This tour was $65 USD and one that’s not to miss!!
Sunset Dune Tour
The sand dunes of Mui Ne are a must for everyone visiting the south of Vietnam. On this trip you will have a few stops, the fairy stream, the local fishing village, the white sand dunes and the red sand dunes.
This trip leaves from your hostel in Mui ne and is either best for sunrise or sunset, I chose to do the sunset tour as I’m not an early riser, however if I was to go back id wake up and do the sunrise as people’s pictures made me super jealous. You get picked up in a bright coloured jeep which they squeeze a few more than expected into just a heads up. The first stop of the trip is the fairy springs and waterfall, when you arrive the locals will try and make you pay more money ignore them and walk down the steps you don’t need to pay this there just trying to earn more money from travellers, the fairy stream to me was a little disappointing but each to their own its still worth a visit. You then head over to the local fishing village for a quick picture spot, I thoroughly enjoyed this quick 5-minute stop watching the locals in their bamboo boats and fishing for the local’s restaurants.
Finally you head to the beautiful white and red sand dunes, when you arrive at the white sand dunes you get the option of walking to the top (I do not recommend, a few of my friends done it the sweat dripping off them was not attractive) next option is a jeep that dries you to the top, or for the more adventurous you can hire a quad bike by yourself or in a pair and explore the dunes the best way. They let you drive the quads up and down the dunes stopping at the best photo stops, this is an extra fee on top of the dune tour price but totally worth it!! Finally, you head to the red sand dunes where you can sand surf down the dunes on a plastic sheet or simply sit on the top of the dune and watch the sunset with the new friends you made that day or within your stay in Mui Ne. This tour cost $10 USD with an extra fee for quad bikes.
Where to book tours:
All the tours I done were booked through Vietnam Backpacker Hostel which I can’t thank enough for getting my itinerary organised and booked, I chose to stay at their hostels throughout my time exploring such a beautiful country and I can’t fault them at all. I loved the fun family feeling VBH gave and the way they looked after me as a first time solo traveller, I even ended up going back and working at their Ninhvana beach resort hostel which I promise is so worth a visit.
Things I didn’t do but wished I had:
Later on, in my travels many people said to me I can’t believe you missed the duck stop, I had researched into this before I left but honestly just forgot about it while I was there. The duck stop is a duck farm ran by a local where you can feed the ducks, make a wish by throwing a duck as well as meeting Donald trump the water buffalo, this is defiantly a fun unique experience I would like to do if I ever find myself back in Phong nha.
The Golden Bridge became famous through travel blogs on Instagram and due to it being a far distance from Hoi An I didn’t have the time to see this bridge in the giant hands but if I had more time id defo make the visit but make sure it’s a clear day to get the perfect picture.
Hai Van Pass Motorbike
So, as you’ve read above I chose to take the jeep tour, but I would also like to experience the same drive on a motorbike as you have all day to spend doing so unlike the jeeps you have limited time at each spot due to the driver needing to move on.
Da Lat Canyoning
Sadly, during my time in Vietnam, the Canyoning in Da Lat was closed due to an unfortunate death. However, hearing such good reviews of the activity, I would love to abseil down waterfalls, trek and swim through the stunning canyons.
My Vietnam Itinerary:
Day 1: Hanoi
Day 2-4: Ha Gaing
Day 5: Hanoi
Day 6-9: Ha Long Bay
Day 10: Hanoi
Day 11-12: Phong Nha
Day 13-15: Hue
Day 16-19: Hoi An
Day 20-25: Ninhvana
Day 26-28: Mui Ne
Day 29-31: Ho Chi Minh
Places on my itinerary:
The following is a list of places I visited and hostels I stayed in:
I started my trip in Hanoi, where I stayed at Downtown Vietnam backpackers hostel recently won Hanoi hostel of the year and I understand why it’s got a great welcoming friendly feel as well as clean rooms and bathrooms. Hanoi is a base for a lot of the north tours which is why I kept coming back. I recommend doing the free walking tour that leaves at 10am this allows you to get your bearings of the city. Only warning watch out for motor bikes there everywhere and a bit overwhelming when you first arrive.
Ha Gaing is very north Vietnam and the area the True North trip runs, I would 100% visit this as you experience the true Vietnamese culture from the food to homestays to scenery.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a world heritage site and popular place for backpackers to travel. The bay is home to many private islands, fishing villages and floating homes. There’s no better way to experience this than through castaways, you get to take it all in on a 2-night 3-day trip.
Phong Nha is a small town with links to the largest and most beautiful caves. I stayed at Gecko Hostel while here, however, I recommend people stay at easy tiger it was a much more social hostel ideal for solo backpackers that also has a pool and live music. Gecko was however very quiet and hard to meet people that’s why I ventured out to easy tiger.
Hue is a city full of history, great restaurants and lots of fun bars. While I was in Hue I stayed at Vietnam backpackers hostel and once again they didn’t disappoint the evening entertainment got everyone talking and making friends ideal for solo travellers like myself, the rooms where lovely with en-suite bathrooms. The hostel is the perfect location and walking distance from the bus stops, shops and bars. Also, the staff in this hostel went out of their way to make sure you were enjoying your stay.
Hoi An is the most beautiful lantern lit city that also has some beautiful beaches. The old quarter and Kahunas beach club are a must while you’re there, also if you have time get some clothes made this is something I wished id done more of. The Vietnam backpackers hostel in Hoi an is a little further out of town which is why I would look into other hostels here but the hostel itself is super clean modern and has a great pool.
Ninhvana is a small town on the coast of Nha Trang, I completely fell in love with the beach resort style hostel, the food is incredible the rooms are luxury and if you feel you need time to chill out this is the perfect location.
Other than the sand dunes there’s not much going on in Mui Ne so 1-night there is plenty. I stayed at Vietnam backpackers resort where the rooms weren’t the best, but the bar and pool area made up for this, next time I would maybe look at staying in a hostel on the beach front.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was my last stop and one I hadn’t heard good things about and to be honest I wouldn’t rush back, it was a place you never felt 100% safe the bars weren’t great and it’s just fast food chains all over the city. This is a place to fly out of not to spend much time in. I stayed at Vietnam Backpackers, but I would look at maybe staying at Flipside hostel if I was to return.
Places I didn’t visit but wished I had:
If you’re thinking about traveling Vietnam and looking at what to do and where to visit I hope you found this useful. My day to day travel dairy will be up shortly for any friends and family wondering what I got up to during my time in Vietnam.