Only 11 days in Vietnam

Old Oct 17th, 2018, 06:51 PM
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Only 11 days in Vietnam

We have 11 days in Vietnam, this doesn't include the days we spend travelling to/from Vietnam. We are planning on visiting in late May and early June.

I'd concerned that with only 11 days we won't have sufficient time to visit the country's highlights. Work schedules and commitments don't allow for a longer trip, and that's the main reason why a trip to Vietnam hasn't materialized.

My other concern is the weather in May/June which I understand isn't ideal for travelling.

Our interests are cultural and historic sights. We would also like to eat at some of the best restaurants in the places we're visiting.

I'm thinking of a flight into HCMC and our of Hanoi. Here's a rough itinerary, please let me know if it's doable, how it can tweaked to hit the following sights:- HCMC, Cu Chi Tunnels, Mekong Delta (and floating market), Hue, My Son, Hoi Ann, Hanoi, Halong Bay

Day 1

Full day in HCMC. (We will fly into the city the night before). Would like to see the Ben Thanh Market, City Hall, Independence Palace, Central Post Office, Basillica, Bitexco Tower. Maybe, a visit to a temple, if time permits.

Day 2,

In HCMC

Day 3

Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta tour - would like to see the floating market in the Mekong also. Is this doable?

Day 4,

HCMC - Hoi An. Fly from HCMC to Da Nang, take taxi to Hoi An. Sightsee in Hoi An.

Day 5,

Hoi An

Day 6,

Hoi An to My Son to Hue.

Day 7,

Hue (am) fly to Hanoi (pm)

Day 8

Hanoi - we'd like to see HCM Mausoleum, Opera House, Dong Xuan Market, Presidential Palace, Union Park, St Joseph's Cathederal, Flag Tower, Night Market.

Day 9

Hanoi to Halong Bay

Day 10 Halong Bay to Hanoi

Day 11

Hanoi

Day 12

Depart Vietnam. It looks like the flight we'd booked leaves at 4 pm, so we'd have a half day in Hanoi.

Is it better to eliminate a day in Hanoi and use that day elsewhere? If we do so, we'd have one and half days in Hanoi.

Any advise how to organize 11 days in Vietnam will be appreciated.

Thank in advance.
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Old Oct 17th, 2018, 08:55 PM
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Do Cu Chi tunnels and Mekong Delta tour separately.
Stay one night in Can Tho (Mekong Delta) and then fly Can Tho to Danang (Hoian).
Skip Hue and do 3 full days in Hoian.

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Old Oct 17th, 2018, 10:07 PM
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I think your itinerary as it stands is feasible if rushed. However, to make for a slightly more relaxed trip and to make te most of the sights you do visit I would probably drop a couple of places. Cu Chi would be one. It is very famous but is now really just a tourist trap. The tunnels open are nothing like the originals. It takes half a day and, IMO is just not worth the effort.

An overnight stay in the delta would allow time visit on eof the floating markets ( or possibly more than one) Cai Rang is impressive and easily reached by hiring a boat from Can Tho. You would set out before dawn and be done by say 08.30 leaving you free to move on. As suggested by Din Ho, consider an onward flight.
Apart from Cai Rang , Can Tho City doesn’t have a great deal of interest apar5 from a great street food area tha sets up at night. You could consider a homestay out in the countryside who will usually arrange a floating market trip and transfers etc. Have a look at Green Village and Nguyen Shack, two of the more well known.

Much of District 1 in Saigon is still under construction but it should be possible to fit in most of the sights you list in one day as the6 are all close together. Personally I would drop Ben Than or just have a quick walk through. Bitexo Tower is no great shakes. On a clear day you will get some wide ranging views of the city but not really worth t(e time and effort. Do try and fit in the War Remnants Museum for context of Vietnam’s more recent history. For a temple, I would add the Jade Emperor Pagoda. As an alternative to Ben Than, consider a visit to the market s of Cholon in D7.

I much prefer Hue to Hoi An as the latter gets very crowded with tour groups these days. To maximise your limited time it may be worth arranging a driver in advance to pick you up from the airport, take you to my son and transfer you to Hue ( stop off for a couple of hours en route to explore the marble mountains)

In Hue, again I would try to arrange a tour or driver in advance. Plan on visiting the citadel, the perfume river and a few of the imperial tombs. Your accomodation should be able to help with this.

You have nowhere near enough time in Hanoi. You may be aset on Halong but personally, with the time you have, I would drop it in favour of more time in the city. It used to take 4-5 hours each way to Halong but I believe there is now a new road so it may be quicker. Even so, there is a huge amount to see in Hanoi and I would want more time there. In addition to the places listed I would also consider;
The HCM complex ( near the mausoleum)
The Military History Museum ( nearby)
The Women’s Museum
The Temple of literature and one pillar Pagoda.
The Police Museum is surprisingly good and close to Hoa Lo prison

When you say you want to "eat at some of the best restaurants", are you meaning upmarket tablecloth type places or just anything. My wife has created a google food map, I think of both Hanoi and Saigon but that will mostly include info on small local type places and street stalls rather than high end eateries. Anyway, let me know if you are interested and I will try and find te lik and send it to you.

As for the weather, I wouldn’t worry overly. May will like be a bit better than June but both should be ok for travelling, if very hot.
Some of these places we have covered in the Vietnam section of our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/vietnam/

As for food
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Old Oct 17th, 2018, 11:25 PM
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You can't beat Crellston's experiences and recommendations.

Ben Thanh Market in Saigon can be a bit off-putting. Go in by the wrong entrance, and you'll be pounced on by very persuasive lady/girl vendors every step of the way, and even by the right entrance it's not much more than a tourist trap.

The War Remnants Museum in Saigon is an absolute must-do. But like a lot of museums in Vietnam it closes for entry at lunchtimes, so always check Opening Hours.

The Womens Museum too in Hanoi gets my thumbs up. Ditto with Hoa Lo Prison......it's v.close to the Womens Museum.

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi is great for a stroll around, even better at weekends when it's traffic-free.

Getting to and from Saigon Airport.....allow plenty of time, gridlock occurs.

Hanoi International Airport Terminal is very efficient. Very easy to get to and from by taxi or Airport Bus. If you stay towards the northern perimeter of Hanoi Old Quarter you'll reach the Airport in about 35 minutes.

IMO though, I think you're trying to cram too much in......Less = More. It'll only take one cancellation or severe delay, and that could affect the rest of your itinerary.
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Old Oct 17th, 2018, 11:52 PM
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What Crellston and LL said. As well, I’d also advise more time in Hanoi, the museum of ethnology is great for a look at the many different tribal groups.

Last edited by sartoric; Oct 17th, 2018 at 11:54 PM.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 01:22 AM
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I also prefer Hue to Hoi An and agree that more time in Hanoi would be good.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 06:49 AM
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I'd throw away at least half of your wish list so that you can spend enough time to get some feel for the places you actually go to. Given your taste, pun intended, I suggest looking at the cooking schools in both HCM and Hanoi. Vietnamese see eating as a window on their culture. Hands-on classes can be fun. So, for the brave, is a tour of street foods.You get what you pay for but even the top classes are very cheap by world standards. Start out shopping the market; your group will be safe from hawkers. Usually I add links to these replies but I am afraid of being out-of-date. Google will help. So will your hotel. And if you share my taste, the big cities also are well supplied with big brewpubs.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 04:25 PM
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Thank you for the helpful replies.

I don't think my travel companion or I are willing to eliminate Halong Bay or the Cu Chi Tunnels. For Halong Bay I did debate about a day trip and felt that the day trip might omit the most scenic spots. I do however, like the idea of not staying on a boat overnight. I've read that the drive is now 3 or 3 1/2 hours each way. I've changed the itinerary to include a day trip to the region to spend more time in Hanoi.

I like the suggestion to fly from Can Tho to Danang. Is VietJet the only airline for this route. I've read lots of negative comments on them and have left a half day with no activities planned in case of a flight delay. Are there any other airlines that fly this sector that's more reliable?

I do appreciate the suggestion of a visit to a cooking class. It's really of no interest. We have been to cooking classes when we've travelled in the past. It's something we do if there's time or if we've chosen a relaxing holiday. This trip is more on the go than relaxing and neither of us would like to spend 1/2 at a cooking class.

Here's the reworked itinerary, please let me know if it's better or worse than what I'd suggested earlier.

Day 1

HCMC, sightsee within the city.

Day 2

Morning tour to Cu Chi Tunnels. Return to HCMC (sightsee if we omitted a sight the previous day). Evening bus to Can Tho,

Day 3

Early morning visit to Cai Rang Floating Market. Will we see villages enroute? Is there a coconut sweet factory in Can Tho or near Cai Rang that we can visit? Evening flight Can Tho to Dalang. Travel to Hoi An (Hue is just too far for us to travel to that day).

Day 4

This is where I'm reluctant to plan activities in case our flight the day before is cancelled/delayed.

Day 5

Hoi An

Day 6

Hire private driver travel Hoi An - My Son - Hue Here we can omit Hue if necessary, still debating.

Day 7

am Hue (or Hoi Ann)
evening flight to Hanoi

Day 8

Day trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay

Day 9

Hanoi

Day 10

Hanoi

Day 11

Depart
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 06:46 PM
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I'm not a fan of Halong Bay, but if I was going to go there I would definitely spring for a night on a boat.

I'm not sure where you re getting 3.5 hour drive between Hanoi and Halong, but I do believe that is overly optimistic.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 07:01 PM
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Sorry, forgot to acknowledge Crellston's kind offer for the link on the restaurants. Yes, we're interested in the link if it's possible.
For dinning, we're interested in authentic local fare. Not necessarily upmarket establishments, but we're looking for good quality meals.

I will check on the driving time from Hanoi to Halong Bay again. I'd read it takes three hours now, but I guess that's sadly, too ambitious based on the replies in this thread.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 10:59 PM
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The most authentically Vietnamese way of getting from Hoi An [Danang] to Hue is by 3rd Class train. The views are stunning if you sit on the right hand side.

Why 3rd Class? You 'll be mixing with locals, you know the type, the ones you've paid a lot of money to visit their country,. plus the windows will be open. Travel 2nd or 1st Clas and the windows will be fixed and grubby.

The 0835 from Danang takes approx 4 hours.

Ask your accommodation to reserve seats for you, but make sure that they're on the right hand side.
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Old Oct 18th, 2018, 11:05 PM
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Personally I have never had any issues with Vietjet but that’s not to say they don’t happen. They are the only carrier to fly direct and only have the one flight a day to CT. I am pretty sure that the6 have only the one flight a day and that is in the morning. Vietnam Airways fly indirect with one or even two stops probably at 4x the fare.

The only other option is to go straight from CT by to Tan Son Nhut by taxi after visiting Cai Rang and catch a midday Vietnam Airways flight to Da Nang.

I have spent a fair amount of time in the delta over the years and the only place I have seen a coconut sweet "factory" is around Ben Tre.

Your Itinerary looks a bit better, subject to the flights above getting sorted.

Like Kathie I am not a fan of Ha Long but do see why other love it. As for the new roads, I would make 110% sure that whichever operator you use, will take the new road ( I have a feeling it may be a toll road). Many, if not most Vietnam tour operators, will tell you whatever you want to hear. Last I heard, the authorities had banned swimming in the bay as the trash had become a big problem. If you do want go, spend the night on a boat. Otherwise you will likely see very little.

My son is in a different direction from Hue so to include that on the same day would mean backtracking to Hoi An first. Possible but it would be a very long day especially if you include a top at the Marrble Mountains, Hai Van Etc. If you go to My Son make sure it is in the early morning as it gets blisteringly hot there! Leave at 7.00 and you will get to te ruins before the bus groups and be back in Hoi An for lunch ( or on to Hue)

IMO the Imperial Tombs and Citadel in Hue are way more interesting and impressive than My Son.

One final thought is that as you have not yet booked your flights, the Can Tho to Da Nang issue could possibly be avoided by changing your international flights to fly in to Hanoi and out of Saigon. There would be way more options for flights between Da Nang and Saigon and, if you had a late flight out of Saigon, you could even do what we usually do and get the overnight train.

I will look out those food maps and send you a PM with the link.
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Old Oct 19th, 2018, 10:28 AM
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Thank you for the replies.

I'm really confused by crellston's last paragraph suggesting a flight into Hanoi and leaving from HCMC. Are you suggesting we skip HCMC sightseeing and just use the airport? Which overnight train are you referring to from Dalang area to HCMC? If we reverse the itinerary we'd still be travelling from Can Tho to Dalang or vice versa? Correct?
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Old Oct 19th, 2018, 12:52 PM
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This is what I suggested ( sorry if you found it confusing)

Fly in to Hanoi

Trip to Ha Long Bay

Spend time in Hanoi

Fly to Da Nang and Taxi to Hue and Hoi An

Taxi back to Da Nang and Fly to HCMC ( or get overnight train from Da Nang - see https://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm for info. - takes a while but a great experience!)

Bus/taxi from HCMC to Can Tho for Cai Rang

Taxi or bus back to Saigon for a couple of days and then flight home

Travelling north to south in this way means you would avoid the problem of there being no convenient flights from Can Tho to Da Nang. If you were to fly from Can Tho to Da Nang because the direct Vietjet flight leaves in the morning, you would need to spend two nights there. Too much in the context of your overall time IMO. The later Vietnam Airways flight is a) way more expensive and b) is indirect with either one or two stops.
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Old Oct 19th, 2018, 05:48 PM
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Thank you for clarifying the itinerary you suggest.

I've been doing lots of thinking and looking at flight schedules.

At present Viet Jet is showing two flights a day from Can Tho to Danang (and vice versa) for May, 2019. It's anybody's guess if there will be two flights a day and if the flight times will change. I'd rather stick to air routes with lots of flight options than be at the mercy of one airline for a segment we need.

I did look at international flights and flying into HCMC and leaving from Hanoi gives us better flight connections in both directions.

I suppose we could do something like this:-

Day 1,

HCMC sightseeing, evening (5 pm?) bus to Can Tho.

Day 2.

Early morning to Cai Rang. Return to Can Tho and take bus to HCMC. Sightseeing in HCMC this afternoon/evening. We'd omit the sweet factory as it really isn't a must do for us.

Day 3

Morning flight to Hue/Danang, depending on where we base ourselves in the region.

Day 4 - Day 11

Would keep the itinerary the same as my previous post. The only thing I might change is the Halong Bay trip to an overnight stay, much of this depends on what my travel companion has to say and how long they'd like to spend in HB.

Think we'd travel from HCMC to Can Tho by public bus.

Does this itinerary make more sense?
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Old Oct 19th, 2018, 07:47 PM
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Which website is best to book domestic flights? I've searched schedules on Expedia, but would like to use a Vietnamese website or travel agent to book the flights.
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Old Oct 19th, 2018, 10:27 PM
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I think that could work. One concern would be getting a bus from HCMC to Can Tho at 5 pm. Vietnamese buses do not have a great safety record so I avoid using at night. It is around 3 hours by bus. Note that buses from HCMC leave from a bus station in D5 so you will need to get a taxi there first.

Also, you are splitting your time in HCMC. Which will reduce the actual time there sightseeing. Bear in mind that many sights close at lunchtime. If you get a private boat to Cai Rang at say 5.30, you could be back in CT by 8-30 and on a bus by 09.30 and back in Saigon for lunch.


There will likely be way more flights to Da Nang than Hue. Probably only worth flying to Hue if you are not going to Hoi An. I could only find one flight per day from CT To Da Nang at 09.25.

Most times I use kayak or Skyscanner to check flight times and then book on the airlines own website. That way it is easier to check in online and print/download passes and be kept informed of flight changes. That said, I have occasionally got some good deals on Expedia.

I am about to send you a pm with links to our food maps for Saigon, Hanoi and Hoi An. Hopefully they still work ok.
If you do make it to Hue here is a link to my wife’s blog post about food there https://accidentalnomads.com/2017/06...c-food-in-hue/ not mentioned there is one place definitely worth trying is Lac Thien, close to the citadel. The best Ban Xeo in Vietnam.
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Old Oct 20th, 2018, 06:29 PM
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Thank you cresllston. Didn't think about the safety issue on buses (and roads) - will think this over and might rework the itinerary again. Realistically, that would mean omitting a destination.

I was using Google to search flight times/routes. I'm certain flight schedules will change for May next year. It would be great if some other airlines add a Can Tho to Danang route too.

I really do appreciate everybody's help.
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Old Oct 21st, 2018, 11:26 PM
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Use the OFFICIAL airline websites for booking flights, there are plenty of look-alike sites so be careful.

The earlier you book domestic flights the greater the likelihood that the schedule will change.....they do often, turning a convenient time into a real bummer. But that's the way it is.

Leave your booking late, and you risk the flight being full.

I would seriously consider going Danang to Hue or visa versa by train.....It's a great journey. And very inexpensive.
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Old Oct 21st, 2018, 11:39 PM
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We spent 6 hours in Danang Airport due to a weather delayed flight. It's very hot in the Departure LOund, and the woman on the PA system was a damn nuisance.

Vietjet have a very modern fleet, and are great in the air. You can't do much about bad weather and knock on delays. That's one reason why rushing around ain't a good idea. Less = More.

Traveling by road is fraught with pitfalls. We got a bus from Hue to Hoi An. The vehicle wasn't fit for purpose and never got above 30 mph. After an hour it died, purposely by the driver. We all got off, luggage too, and waited by the roadside. Eventually a sleeper bus stopped, it was almost full. For the next 5 hours me and the cook were uncomfortably stood down an aisle, with some woman snoring in my ear-hole.

Car, taxi, train or fly. The bigger the vehicle on the road, the safer you'll feel.
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