Having finally ticked Vietnam off my bucket-list, I had to share the beauty of this hidden gem. An authentic, charming and beautiful country filled with rich cuisine and jaw dropping scenery. Here is our Vietnam journey… (and if you do the same, you will not regret it!). I’ve outlined our high level trip here for anyone planning their visit.
I spent a long time researching, organizing and making a day to day itinerary for this trip. Below you will see a snap shot of our 11 day travel plan (with 2 days spent in travel and yes, I love color co-ordination) from New York to Vietnam (we visited in early September and traveled from North to South Vietnam during our stay).
Our day to day changed a little due to the weather, but fear not, you can catch all of the details in my Vietnam posts below!
We arrived in north Vietnam – Hanoi and made our way to south Vietnam passing through Halong Bay, Hoi Ann, Danang and ending our journey there Hoi Chi Minh city using two internal flights.
VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS:
If you are a US citizen, you will need to apply for an online visa. My husband used Vietnam Visa Pro. If you are British citizen, you don’t need one. I would highly recommend checking with your embassy or through the government website for more information.
It varies a lot. It can be hot and humid as hell one minute and then down pour with rain the next (still hot and humid).
- Northern Vietnam: expect hot wet summers and cool dry winters up North. It can get quite cold here during northern hemisphere winter – from September to November – particularly next to the border with China. The humidity is real here – be ready for your Monica hair!
- Central Vietnam: experiences hot, dry weather between January & August when temperatures can hit the mid-thirties.
- Southern Vietnam: boasts a full tropical climate, with only 2 defined seasons – wet and dry. The best time to go is obviously during the latter, from December to April.
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). You can pay for almost everything using an international credit card or USD $. You will need VND cash in markets/smaller shops and for tipping.
We arrived in the Capital of Vietnam after a 22 hour long travel time from New York (with a pit stop in Taiwan). Fare warning, jet lag is not going to be so kind to you, so with limited time to explore, make sure you get some rest on the flight so you can power on!
- TAXIS: Pre-pay all of your taxi pick ups from the airport to your hotel. You can arrange this with your hotel. We got scammed by a couple of taxi drivers who had fake meters! As soon as you see the meter jumping x3 a second, tell the taxi driver to stop and get out!
- INTERNAL FLIGHTS: Make sure you book these ahead of time to secure better times/seats.
CROSSING THE STREET:
Is very stressful due to the horrendous motorbike traffic, so always look both ways, and walk across with confidence.
Power outlets are often compatible with either the standard US plug or the European one as well.
Generally speaking, Vietnam is a pretty safe country to travel around in. Although there are a few scams to watch out for so be careful especially in TAXIS.
WHAT TO PACK (men and women in no particular order):
- Hair Frizz control product (the humidity can be intense)
- Sunblock, hat, sunglasses
- Comfortable walking shoes/hiking shoes
- A hand held fan (you can also buy one for pretty cheap)
- Sinus medication/Sleeping tablets for long flight/tummy medication for any random foods you may try!
- Wet wipes/ small towels (it gets disgustingly hot)
- Cotton clothing
- Light water proof jacket (we used cheap plastic rain ponchos)
- An umbrella
BEST THINGS TO DO IN VIETNAM:
Attend a Vietnamese cooking class
My husband and I attended a personal cooking class and it was amazing in Hoi An. We got to make our own spring rolls, vegetable pho, and other awesome Vietnamese delicacies. For me, it was the perfect souvenir and was a fun alternative to the usual sightseeing activities. Highly recommended!
Bike around Hoi An
Hoi An is one of my favorite places, mainly due to the incredible food, atmosphere and cute vibes. We grabbed a bicycle from our hotel and explored the old town and to the beach. We even stopped to buy some tailor-made clothes.
Enjoy Lantern city
It is also known for its quaint, cute and beautiful streets filled with dangling lanterns. Hoi An, was my favorite part of Vietnam as it truly stole my heart!
Walk the streets of Hanoi and Hoi Chi Minh
Crossing the roads in Hanoi and Hoi Chi Minh is a death wish. The scenes of traffic (mostly motorbikes) is insane. What I learnt after a few days is – just cross the road with confidence and they will ride around you. In Hanoi you can stroll down the scenic Hoan Kiem Lake, Nha Tho Cathedral and the Old Quarter. From Hanoi, you can also arrange trips to Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, and Sapa.
Foodies Heaven in Hoi Chi Minh!
Eat at some of Hoi Chi Minh’s trendy restaurants – we found some really cool places to dine at! You can also easily access day trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the river cruises through the Mekong River.
Soak in Danang’s Beautiful Beaches
With all the traveling we had planned (and it was non stop everyday) I made sure I had saved 2-3 days for absolute relaxation. We decided to splurge a little and stay at the Intercontinental Danang Peninsula Resort and Spa. I have to say, it was worth every penny and truly magical!
Go on a Halong Bay Cruise
We spent 2 days and 1 night aboard the IndoJunk China Dragon Pearl boat. Truly a memorable experience cruising along and taking in the beauty! There were around 20 of us, and we throughly enjoyed the experience.
We wanted to visit Sapa (north of Hanoi) as I had heard how magical the scenery was however with our jam packed itinerary, we didn’t have enough days! FYI one of the safest ways to get to SAPA from Hanoi is via overnight sleeper train. SAPA is definitely worth visiting if you have the time to do so!
If you want to see exactly what we did in each of the places we visited in Vietnam, remember to visit my other Vietnam blogs! Otherwise contact me if you need any help planning!!