Do you only have a limited amount of time in Vietnam and don’t really know where to go, which place to choose and what to see? Well… I had the same problem. Which areas attracted me the most? What would take me the least amount of time on transportation? The answer is… it all depends on you! Transportation isn’t a huge factor since you can always take a cheap night bus. The flights are also relatively cheap, as long as you don’t need to check in a cabin bag.
When I visited Vietnam, I only had three weeks to see everything I wanted. This put a lot of pressure on me and I knew I had to do one thing I really don’t like to do while traveling – planning. But planning doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It gave me more time to see places I wanted to visit, made me book the cheaper flights and I felt less stressed.
First thing that I had to do before coming to Vietnam was to apply for an E-visa. Since I’m a Swedish citizen and wanted to stay for longer than 15 days, I had to apply for an E-visa. There was another alternative for me as well, which is the Visa on arrival. However, I opted for the first option instead since I thought it suited me better. The E-visa is relatively new for Vietnam and it allows up to 46 countries in the world to apply for this. Sweden is one of them (fortunately enough!).
What I wanted to see in my trip was: cities, history, nature and a place with beaches. I did some research and I decided to do these five places on my trip (which I think everyone should visit sometime in their lives):
1. Cat Ba
This beach paradise is still quite under the radar. Most people chooses to go to Halong Bay rather than Cat Ba, mainly because of 1. Time limit and 2. Budget. Also, more Halong Bay is more famous and well known. But if you do have time and you want to see beautiful nature and unspoilt white sand beaches – head to Cat Ba. When you get tired of the beach, rent a motorbike and drive through the mountains. It is an absolute delight! Cat Ba is not only the perfect vacation spot, you will get unbelievable views that you will not soon forget.
No visit to Vietnam is complete without visiting the capital city Hanoi. A bustling city with millions of motorbikes that will scare the life out of you. That is Hanoi alright. But what the capital also offers is an abundance of good restaurants, cafés, impressive buildings, nightlife and sights that is unique for Hanoi. Go to West Lake and enjoy an “egg coffee” – which is a specialty for Vietnam. It sounds worse than it is – it’s actually very delicious! Once you’ve discovered West Lake, head to Old Quarter and wander around for hours. Be careful though – you might want to shop everything you see! There’s clothes, shoes, fake brand shoes, more shoes, souvenir gift shops, you name it! For everyone who loves some good shopping, head to Hanoi and you won’t be disappointed. When night comes, head to “Ta Hien”, also known as “The Beer Street”, which is a very popular spot for expats and travelers. Enjoy the nightlife that Hanoi has to offer.
3. Hoi An
If you only have limited time in Vietnam and have to choose – go to Hoi An. It is a must-visit and one of the most beautiful and unique places in this world. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which says a lot about it already. Come here to get mesmerized, feel the vibe of old Vietnam and see all the lanterns glow at night. Life here is more slow-paced and calm, but nonetheless exciting. You will find some of the most beautiful places in this small town. If you’re tired of the city – rent a bike and bike down to the beach. Hoi An has everything for everyone.
4. Mui Ne (Sand dunes)
I would not recommend Mui Ne personally, but I do love the red and white sand dunes. People told me I should go to Mui Ne to do the tour and that it was one of the easier options. I asked at my hostel if they could arrange it, which they could, and we were almost 10 people going on the sunrise tour. I never thought in my life that sand dunes existed in South East Asia, let alone Vietnam. But the white sand dunes took my breath away and it will do the same to you. One of the highlights of my trip!
5. Ho Chi Minh City
Well… You’ve come this far on your trip. You can’t and should not miss Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. This wild city is becoming more and more popular with expats and travelers. You will have no problem booking a hostel or hotel, since there’s an abundance of them. Walk around the city by foot (or if you dare – rent a motorbike), taste the Vietnamese cuisine from the south, go to the War Museum and learn more about history, take a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, and enjoy the bustling nightlife that Ho Chi Minh City has to offer. It is a very interesting city where you will always find things to do. If you are tired of the city, you can always go to “Phu Quoc” island. Unfortunately, I did not have time.
This is it. The five places that I highly recommend visiting if you are in Vietnam. If you got more time – good for you! There are many other places to go to. Vietnam is such an intriguing country, so diverse and unique. It’s worth visiting it more than once.