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First trip to Vietnam! Help me with my itinerary please!


Dec 17th, 2014, 04:02 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
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First trip to Vietnam! Help me with my itinerary please!

Hi everyone!

My friend and I are taking our first ever trip to Southeast Asia in late January to mid-February. We will have roughly 15 days, but I wondering if this will be enough; I might be able to extend our trip because what I have right now seems like a lot of rushing. My main goals are to go to the lantern festival in Hoi An (feb 2), go to the beach/ do water sports, see the real Vietnam, visit my friend in Hanoi

25th - we arrive (my friend has flights over two days from the states and has rarely travelled so far...slightly worried if he will have energy to explore on the first day). Explore Hanoi, see my friend

26th- Hanoi

27th- Leave in the morning to Halong Bay, spend night there

28th- Halong Bay; arrive back to Hanoi around 4 pm, overnight train to Lao Cai (for Sapa)

29th - Arrive in Sapa, explore, spend night there

30th- Sapa, night train to Hanoi

31st - arrive in Hanoi, explore Hanoi. Night train to Hue

1st- Arrive in Hue, explore (either spend the night in Hue or take the evening train to Hoi An)

2nd - Hoi An (either arrive in the morning or evening before). Lantern Festival

3rd - Hoi An

4th - Hoi An; take night train to Nha Trang

And this is all i got so far. I still want to visit Mui Ne (for kitesurfing), Da Lat and our return tickets are out of Saigon. I leave the 9th in the morning, so I am just wondering how it is possible to see most of what we want to see without tiring ourselves out.

If anyone can provide input, I would appreciate it.
bringmeback is offline  
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Dec 17th, 2014, 06:12 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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I am getting tired just reading this itinerary! If I where you I would slow things down otherwise you will spend most of your time travelling.

You really need to spend a couple of nights in Sapa to make it worthwhile and rutrning to Hanoi just to jump on another train to Hue is not a great idea. What will you do with your bags for the day? I have just arrived in Hue on the night train from Hanoi and, believe me, you won't get a whole lot of sleep!

When in Hue you may be better getting a tour to Hoi An and seeing some places along the way. Some great value tours are easy to arrange at any agent or hotel in Hue. Otherwise, get ten train in the daytime as teh trip through ten marble mountains and along China Beach is one of the great train rides in Asia - fantastic views if it is clear!

To get the night train to Nha Trang you will need to get to Danang first. Not a big problem but do check out the times om www.seat61.com first.

Dalat is a bit out of your way and with your time constraints, I think it would take too much out of your itinerary for little benefit.

Finally, do take a look at the weather sites as it may not be the best time for visiting the North as places like Ha Long and Sapa can be a bit wet and foggy in Feb ( but it is on the cusp of the season so you could be lucky.

A great alternative to Sapa would be Ninh Binh ( and much easier to get to)
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Dec 17th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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Thank you for your advice! I was tired just writing this itinerary down! aha

Do you think Sapa is definitely worth seeing and spending a few days for? Ninh Binh sounds pretty awesome if we can't make Sapa.

I was thinking of making our trip a week longer; with more time, do you think it would be okay to travel to Hoi An first (for the festival) and then go back to Hue, or would this just be wasting our time?

The daytime train from Hue to Hoi An sounds amazing; we will definitely do that!!

Also is Saigon worth spending a few days in? I would like to do tour the Mekong River but again, I don't want to plan too much for us
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Dec 17th, 2014, 01:09 PM
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Hmmmmm.... The "real" Vietnam??? What does that mean. When the plane
Lands you are in Vietnam.
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Dec 17th, 2014, 01:30 PM
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Please consider Ninh Binh, it was my favorite place in Vietnam but don't do it through a tour.
I found SaPa a bit disappointing not because of the scenery (amazing) but the way i did it: tour with an homestay. Don't do it like that.
Can't comment on Hue but I did not like Hoi an at all even though my camera was very happy.
I loved both HCMC and Hanoi, very different from each other but both very cool places to explore.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 06:58 AM
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@BillT: As an expat, I know how easy it can be to hang out with only foreigners and not really experience the local culture; I wanna make sure I see what Vietnam is really like, not just from a tourist standpoint (hard to do in two weeks, i know)!

mrnmrqsc: Can I ask, why didn't you like the tour and homestay in SaPa? That is the option I was definitely considering!

kelly_ngoc:Thank you so much! Do you have any preference between Mui Ne and Nha Trang? My main goal is to kitesurf and my friend wants a nice beach.
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Dec 18th, 2014, 07:05 AM
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Also, I heard that it is easier and cheaper to book a HaLong Bay tour from Hanoi. We would arrive in Hanoi and want to go to the Bay the day after. I am just worried that everything will be booked because of high season. Should we just book it now or wait until we are there?
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Dec 18th, 2014, 05:11 PM
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We found it easy and cheaper to book tours on the spot in Hanoi. Loads of agents in the old quarter and this month it was easy to book tour leaving the next day. Quality varies so do your research in advance. We used Ethnic Travel for a week long treking trip covering Pu Long Nature resver, Ninh Binh, places close to Mai Chau. They were very good. We would have used them for a trip to Bai Tu Long Bay (next to Halong but much much quieter).

A return to Sapa was on our list but the weather was against us this month and we were put off somewhat chatting with a lady from Sapa who was saying ghetto teh hawker problem has now really go out of control. Ha Giang in teh far north was a priority for us but the weather conspired against us so we may return in Aug - it really does get very few visitors.

many of the places you describe are no longer the "real Vietnam" . Mui Ne is now a 10 km strip of hotels and bars with a high percentage of Russian visitors our for a cheap sunshine holiday. Nha Trang is a big party town. Of course it is easy to get away from the crowds in any of these places but not always easy if short on time. Both places do have fantastic beaches and NT is probably easier to get to if you are heading North and do want to include Dalat.
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Dec 19th, 2014, 12:30 AM
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@crellston: Thank you! I think we will head to Nha Trang instead of Mui Ne. I live in Russia so I don't want to be surrounded by Russians on vacation And I'd really like to see Dalat.

Will write a trip report after our adventure!
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Dec 22nd, 2014, 12:54 AM
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With this itinerary, you will miss the Mekong Delta. It is must-see in Vietnam.
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Jan 24th, 2015, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2012
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How is your itinerary shaping up? I am planning a family vacation to Vietnam and have a form posted here as well. I am in the same predicament with fewer days and more people with me. Same interest however with the desire to see "the real Vietnam". We are planning to see Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh.
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