Planning a trip in Vietnam isn’t always the easiest thing to do, simply because there’s so much to see in the country. If you only have a limited amount of time, you should select the region you want to explore, rather than spending all your time in transport. Rather than being on a bus, why not spend that time in a city, town or beach?
If you only have about 10 days to spend in Vietnam and want to be in the north, I’ve put together an itinerary which will allow you to see the highlights of northern Vietnam while also being able to relax.
Most people tend to fly to the capital city of Vietnam because it’s cheaper and more convenient. It’s also an excellent start for your trip to Vietnam. Hanoi is an exciting, slightly chaotic and beautiful city, filled with old colonial buildings. Most people tend to stay in the Old Quarter, which is by far the most popular place to stay in Hanoi for travellers. There, you will find lots of souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and hidden cafés where you can spend a few hours reading a book and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Spend at least 2 days here to fully get to know the big city and don’t be afraid of venturing outside the tourist area. Hanoi is a city full of activities and there won’t be a day where you won’t have anything to do. Check out the cool venue ”Hanoi Rock City”, a mere 20 minutes taxi drive away, but you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different city. They usually have different kinds of events each night, so make sure you check out their Facebook Page to see what’s on.
Halong Bay and Cat Ba
After Hanoi, you should take the bus or taxi to the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site ”Halong Bay” where you can cruise around the thousands of limestone islands and islets that the region is famous for. Take the 2 day/1 night cruise in order to get the most out of your Halong Bay experience. Afterwards, take a ferry over to Cat Ba island and relax on one of many beaches on the island. It’s the perfect ending for a trip to Halong Bay. Try to stay in this area for at least 4 nights. 2 days for Halong Bay and 2 days for Cat Ba in order to get the maximum experience.
Once you’ve gotten some beach time, it’s time to explore the ethnic tribes and hike through rice fields in Sapa! In order to get to Sapa from Halong Bay, you must go back to either Hai Phong or Hanoi and from there continue onwards to Sapa. Here, you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to know the Hmong people, Vietnam’s biggest ethnic minority who lives in this region. It’s highly recommended to do a trek in Sapa. Check out the social enterprise ”Sapa Sisters Trekking Adventures” which is run and owned by Hmong women. A bonus is that you can choose how many days or nights you would like to trek with them. If you feel like you don’t have enough time, you can always go for a one day hike with them. The hike usually starts at 9 am and ends at 3 pm. After the hike, you can rent a motorbike and drive through the villages where you will be greeted by smiling locals who are just as curious about you as you are about them. Sapa still remains as one of Vietnam’s most beautiful and charming places to visit and it’s a must if you’re in northern Vietnam! After Sapa, make your way back to Hanoi and spend the night there before flying back home. And that’s how you spend 10 days in northern Vietnam without having to stress too much and still be able to enjoy the highlights.
Transportation in Vietnam is easy and there’s usually more than one way you can get around. You can either book tours with travel agencies, which you will find in almost every corner of Hanoi, or you can ask your hotel or hostel for example. If you’re more of a risk taker, you can also go to the bus station the day you want to leave and book your ticket directly with them. This option can be cheaper, but during tourist peak seasons, the buses gets fully booked quickly. So if you want to be guaranteed a spot, book in advance.
Before traveling to Vietnam, make sure that you apply for a Vietnam visa in order to enter the country. You have three options: you can either apply with the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate, apply for an E-Visa (only certain countries are eligible to apply for this sort of visa) or get a Visa on Arrival. The latter is by far the most popular and convenient way to get a visa to enter Vietnam and most travellers get a Visa on Arrival because it’s simple to apply to, fast to get and affordable.