10 days in Vietnam is the ideal trip to take for first-timers in Southeast Asia. It’s so easy to get about and there is so much to see and do that you are guaranteed to have the most amazing trip.
I’ve put together a 10 day Vietnam itinerary to take all the hassle out of planning your trip and to make sure that you can pack all Vietnam’s highlights into a short period of time.
Vietnam has become a really popular destination for travellers and with good reason. It has charming old towns, fascinating temples, mountains full of rice paddies and beautiful limestone karst islands. The food is delicious and the culture fascinating. There is an obvious well-trodden backpacker route making getting about, super easy and convenient.
If you’re short of time and only have 10 days in Vietnam, it can be a challenge to pack in all of the best bits. But I’ve been busy putting together a perfect 10 day Vietnam itinerary that does just that.
Now you should know, this is a fast-paced Vietnam itinerary and in an ideal world, you’d take longer to explore more leisurely. But if you are restricted by finances or annual leave and can only manage 10 days in Vietnam, then this itinerary is for you!
If you have more time in Vietnam, you can still follow this 10 days in Vietnam itinerary but you will be able to allow yourself the luxury to stay longer in each place and explore at a more leisurely pace.
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What you can expect from this article...
- 1 10 day Vietnam Itinerary Overview
- 2 A Map of this 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary
- 3 Things to know before visiting Vietnam
- 4 Planning your trip to Vietnam
- 5 Your 10 day Vietnam Itinerary
- 6 Frequently asked questions about Vietnam
- 7 The Best Group tours in Vietnam
- 8 Vietnam Reading Material
10 day Vietnam Itinerary Overview
Day 1: Hanoi – Experience bustling city life
Day 2-3: Sapa – Mountain trekking amongst the rice paddies.
Day 4-5: Halong Bay – Overnight sailing trip
Day 6-7: Hue – Royal city
Day 8-9: Hoi An- UNESCO heritage town
Day 10: Ho Chi Minh – Including a trip to the Mekong Delta
A Map of this 10 Day Vietnam Itinerary
Things to know before visiting Vietnam
Population 95 million
Capitol city Hanoi
Currency Vietnamese Dong. As of May 2019, 10,000 dong = $4 or £3
Cuisine Lots of tasty flavoursome noodles and soups. Less spicy than Thai cuisine. Ingredients often used include fish sauce, lemongrass, ginger, soy sauce and coriander.
Weather Vietnam has both a lot of sunny weather but also a lot of rain and it is often very humid. Most hotels are air-conditioned or more budget hotels have fans at a minimum.
Planning your trip to Vietnam
Getting to Vietnam
There are 5 international airports in Vietnam which are;
- Tan Son Nhat – Ho Chi Minh city (south)
- Noi Bai – Hanoi city (north)
- Danang – Danang city (central)
- Cam Ranh – Nha Trang city (south)
- Phu Quoc – Phu Quoc Island (island)
There are also land boarder crossings with China, Laos and Cambodia.
For the purposes of this 10 day Vietnam itinerary, you will need to fly into Hanoi and out from Ho Chi Minh airports. You could also choose to spend your 10 days in Vietnam in reverse order.
Getting around Vietnam
Given that there is a typical Vietnam backpacking route, travel between all of Vietnam’s highlights is super easy. You have the choice of flying, taking a bus or travelling by train. You could even hire a motorbike but be warned that the traffic in the cities is hectic and other road users are a little bit crazy!
I would recommend either flying between places which is quick and affordable, or taking overnight trains. I personally feel that every Vietnam itinerary should include at least one overnight train journey as it is an experience in itself.
Most overnight trains have cabins shared between 4 people on 2 bunk beds. It was surprisingly comfortable and always a fun experience. I would, however, always advise you to keep valuables in a locked small bag which you can tuck under your pillow. Then make sure you always lock the door when you are sleeping.
Booking your Vietnam Trip
There are a few resources that I use personally and recommend for booking any trips.
I book my flights with Skyscanner. They have the option to leave the dates blank so that you can find the cheapest dates to fly. You can even leave the location blank if you just want to find the best flight deals for a given time.
I book accommodation with Booking.com. It’s a simple process and you can narrow down your search based on hotel review scores, facilities, price and location. You can get a discount code here.
If you are looking for a group tour, then I always recommend G Adventures. We’ll talk more about group tours in Vietnam shortly…
As for public transport, a great option is 12GoAsia. You simply type in your dates of travel and start and end point and it’ll give you options for all modes of transport and links for you to book tickets. Simple!
Right, with the practical aspects under our belts, let’s crack on with the fun bit, what you’ll be doing on your 10 day Vietnam itinerary…
Your 10 day Vietnam Itinerary
Day 1 Hanoi
Hanoi is a love-it-or-hate-it city. Many find it chaotic, overwhelming even. However, many fall in love with its bustling streets teeming with market vendors, packed out with motorbikes sometimes carrying whole families! This ancient city, Vietnam’s capital city, has a rich history, beautiful architecture and a bustling old quarter filled with temples, pagodas, restaurants and cafes.
Hanoi is where you will begin your 10 day Vietnam adventure so arrive early and spend the day there exploring its culture, history and unique character. Just watch out for those reckless motorbikes…
Things to do and see in Hanoi
- Visit Hoan Kiem Lake including the serene temple Ngoc Son Pagoda. If you want a bit of peace and quiet in Hanoi, this is the place to go.
- Explore the Old Quarter, the bustling heart of this ancient city.
- Take a Vespa tour of the city. If you can’t beat the millions of motorbikes in the city, join ’em!
- Experience a Vietnamese puppet show performed in a pool of water in a modern-day theatre, depicting old traditional puppet shows in flooded rice paddies.
- Take a cooking lesson and learn how to make some delicious Vietnamese meals.
- Take a street food walking tour and sample some of the cities best food.
Where to stay
If you follow this exact Vietnam itinerary, you won’t need accommodation tonight as your overnight train trip will be included in your Sapa package. That said, if you get to Hanoi a day or two early, then there are some fantastic options for where to stay.
Accommodation in Hanoi is an absolute bargain so no matter what your budget is, you will no doubt find somewhere fantastic to stay. Here are a few options for any budget starting at just $3!
- Shoestring Legia’s Hostel
- Budget Malo hotel
- Affordable luxury Hanoi L’heritage Diamond Hotel and Spa
- All-out luxury O’Gallery Majestic Hotel and Spa
Day 2-3 Sapa Hill Tribe Trekking
I think this may have been my favourite part of my trip to Vietnam. The mountains near Sapa are at higher altitude providing welcome relief from the muggy heat in Hanoi. The rice paddies and mountains create the most spectacular scenery. But most of all, I loved learning about the local culture, sleeping on a mattress in a house in the village perched on the top of a mountain.
By day we trekked through rice paddies and tiny villages and in the evening we ate local food and drank rice wine whilst exchanging travel stories.
This 2-day 3-night tour of Sapa will include your train journey, guided hike and simple hotel and fits in perfectly int this action-packed itinerary! If you want the homestay experience, you will need to take a slightly longer 3-day tour but this one fits in perfectly with your overall itinerary.
How to get there
The sleeper train will be included in your Sapa trip if you book the tour above. Most trains depart in the evening around 9 or 10 pm and arrive in Sapa early morning after an 8-hour journey. Accommodation will be in shared sleeper carriages with 2 bunk beds. If you don’t fancy a sleeper train then you will need to factor in an extra day to take a bus trip instead.
Day 4-5 Halong Bay Cruise
I first became aware of Halong Bay when I watched the Top Gear Vietnam Special episode. As Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond goofed around building their own boats to explore Halong Bay, I became a little bit obsessed with the beautiful limestone karst islands. It was one of the major pulling factors which had me arranging a sabbatical in Southeast Asia.
I actually visited Halong Bay twice. The first time was just for a day trip but it was not enough time and within a week I was back again, this time for a 2 day sailing trip on a traditional Vietnamese junk boat.
Spending 2 days on a sailing trip here gave me a good feel for the area visiting different islands, caves and viewpoints. One of the main highlights of my trip was kayaking around these beautiful islands.
How to get there
Most cruises on Halong Bay, including this one, will include a bus transfer from Hanoi.
Where to stay
You have a couple of options here. Most Halong Bay tours include transfers to and from Hanoi. You could take the transfer then fly from Hanoi to Hue the next day. Alternatively, you could skip the transfer back and instead take an overnight train to Hue the same evening arriving early morning so that you have a full day to explore.
Day 6-7 Hue
Hue, previously the capital city, is steeped in a rich history and home to the ancient imperial city is a great place to spend a day or two. In an ideal world, you would spend at least 3 days here but since we’re restricted to only 10 days in Vietnam, 2 days there will be sufficient to see the highlights although it will be a packed few days!
Things to do in Hue
- Visiting Hue Imperial City is an absolute must-do in Hue. This place was previously home to the Vietnam emporers and is being slowly restored to its former glory. I’d recommend getting up early to spend a few hours here before the crowds arrive leaving you with plenty of time to visit other temples or take a motorbike tour.
- Explore the beautiful Perfume River by taking a boat trip or just strolling along the shores.
- Visit Thien Mu Pagoda. This was one of my favourite temples and has beautiful views overlooking the Perfume River.
- Take a motorbike tour of the countryside visiting villages and rice paddies. Or if photography is your thing then you could take a motorbike photography tour of Hue with a professional photographer.
- If you’d rather escape to the countryside, a day trip to Mooc Spring where you can hike, swim, kayak and admire the beautiful scenery..
Since you only have two days in Hue and a lot to see, it may be a good idea to take a city tour which encompasses multiple city highlights. This particular Hue tour will take you to the Imperial Citadel, on a river cruise along the Perfume River, into the markets and nearby countryside. You will also visit the Tomb of King Tu Duc and witness locals making traditional Vietnamese hats.
How to get there
The best way to get to Hue is to catch an overnight train from Haiphong near Halong Bay. This way, you will arrive early, ready to make the most of your time in Hue.
An alternative option would be to fly to Da Nang then hop on a bus to Hue. However, this will take the best part of 5 hours which would eat into your time in Hue.
Read Next: A 3 day Da Nang itinerary
Where to stay in Hue
Shoestring Shark Homestay
Affordable luxury Rosaleen Boutique hotel
All-out luxury Azerai La Residence
Day 8-9 Hoi An
Hoi An was my favourite town in Vietnam. The Old Town in Hoi An oozes charm with its colourful buildings packed with temples and pagodas and decorated with thousands of lanterns.
It has a really relaxing vibe and you could spend two days just sampling all the amazing food in all the lovely cafes and restaurants and browsing the quaint shops. But Hoi An really comes to life in the evening when the river is lit up with colourful lanterns.
Things to do in Hoi An
- Go Shopping. Hoi An is the best place to buy souvenirs. Known for its paper lanterns, silk and jewellery shops, shopping is one of the most popular things to do in Hoi An.
- Get custom-made clothes. It’s common to have clothes made for you by experienced Tailors in Hoi An. It is really reasonable and I had several pieces created especially for me by Yaly Couture.
- Enjoy the cafe culture. Hoi An has some of the best cafes, restaurants and bars. Make sure you take some time just to enjoy the cafe culture at a relaxed pace.
- Relax on the beaches. I’m so sad that I didn’t discover how beautiful the beaches in Hoi An are until after I had left! Whilst Hoi An’s old town is easy to get distracted by, take at least a few hours out of your day to relax on the beautiful beaches. You could even take a snorkel trip.
- Given that Hoi An has some of the best restaurants, it would make sense that it’s a great place to take a cooking class too. This particular class includes a tour of the market and a ride down the river in a traditional basket boat.
- Make sure you visit the Japanese bridge, an iconic spot in Hoi An. This well-preserved bridge was built to improve relations between the Japanese and Chinese inhabitants in the 1590s.
- If you are looking for a day trip from Hoi An to experience more rural Vietnam, then consider a cycling tour of the countryside or a trip to the ancient ruins at My Son.
How to get there
You could consider hiring a motorbike from Hue to drive yourself along the Hai Van pass to Hoi An. This is a particularly scenic mountain coastline view spectacular views. If you’re not comfortable diving it alone, then there are motorbike tours which start in Hue and end in Hoi An.
Alternatively, the bus will take about 3 hrs 30 minute or the train a little less at 3 hours. I suggest you take an early bus so that you can make the most of your 2 days in Hoi An.
Where to stay
Try to stay either near the beach (if you want relaxation) or near the old quarter (if you want to be pat of the action.) Here are a few great options for every budget…
Shoestring Hoi An Love.Ly Hostel
Budget Vinci Villa Hoi An
Affordable luxury Hoi An Central Boutique Hotel and Spa
All out luxury Anantara Resort
Day 10 Ho Chi Minh
Your final stop is Ho Chi Minh, otherwise known as Saigon. I found Ho Chi Minh to be a lot more modern and built up than ancient Hanoi city centre. I don’t think I have ever seen so many motorbikes in my life!
Whilst Ho Chi Minh is a convenient place to end and also a great location to take day trips to the Mekong Delta and to Chu Chi Tunnels, if you had to shorten this trip at all, I would recommend ditching Ho Chi Minh. That said, I’ve always preferred smaller towns and rural paces when I travel so you may still love Ho Chi Minh – I know many people do. This is the reason there is only 1 day in Ho Chi Minh but if you do have more time, you may want to tag an extra day or two here so you can arange some great day trips.
Things to do in and near Ho Chi Minh
- Since you’re short of time in Saigon, consider taking a city tour to see all the best bits in a short period of time. Visit Cha Tam Church, Ben Thanh market and the Museum of War Remnants to learn about the Vietnamese war.
- Visit the Mekong Delta and experience village life on the banks of the Mekong Delta including a floating market.
- Visit Chu Chi Tunnels. This one is not for the claustrophobic! You can climb through the extensive network of tunnels which people hid in during the Vietnamese war.
- Enjoy the nightlife. Saigon has a brilliant bar scene so celebrate a brilliant trip to Vietnam with a few drinks on the town before your trip comes to an end.
How to get from Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh
The best way to reach Ho Chi Minh from Hoi An is by flying from Danang which is a half hour drive from Hoi An.
Alternatively, you could get an overnight train but this will be a long one, 19 hours! So you would miss out on some precious time in your 10 day Vietnam itinerary!
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh
Try to stay somewhere central since you only have one full day to explore Saigon. Here are some great accommodation options for every budget.
Shoestring B&P Just like home
Budget Full House Homestay
Affordable luxury Silverland Yen Hotel
All-out Luxury The Reverie Saigon Residential Suites
Packing for Vietnam
This Vietnam itinerary includes the opportunity to visit some temples so you will need to bring clothes which are appropriate temple attire. This usually involves covering your shoulders and knees.
Maxi skirts and dresses, t-shirts with short sleeves or kaftans to cover your shoulders make ideal outfits to keep you both cool in the warm weather and also respectable!
The skirt here comes in a zillion different designs and won’t need to be ironed so it makes an ideal travel skirt. Again, this kaftan has a variety of styles and patterns. I wear mine on the beach or to temples, and I also pair it with leggings in the evening to avoid being bitten by midgies!
Vietnam has its fair share of beautiful beaches and islands and this itinerary includes a 2 days boat trip in Halong Bay where you will be swimming a lot. So make sure you take swimwear and a quick dry towel. I personally, choose to wear more conservative swimsuits in Southeast Asia so as not to offend any locals. Whilst bikinis are fine to wear, try to get one which actually covers your butt!
The tap water in Vietnam is not safe to drink. Save money and help the environment by taking a Water-to-go Bottle. They contain a filter making any water safe to drink (except for seawater as it can’t filter salt.) I absolutely love mine and have it in 2 different sizes. You can get 15% off by quoting GLOBETROTTERGP at the checkout on their website.
Anti-theft luggage comes in really handy on the night trains and these days, they make some really nice bags, like this one…
Frequently asked questions about Vietnam
How much does 10 days in Vietnam cost?
Vietnam is very cheap to travel to. You can find a bed in a decent hostel for about $3! For $15 you’ll be able to get yourself a really nice double hotel room and you can even find a 5-star hotel for less than $100 a night in Hanoi!
Transport is also cheap. A Bus between Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh (an 860Km journey) will cost around $20, a sleeper train around $35 and a flight just $45.
Eating out is very affordable with many restaurants charging around $2-3 for a meal. You can eat even cheaper if you eat street food alone. Here is a good breakdown of costs in Vietnam.
You can easily survive on $25 per day (in fact this would be quite luxurious!) Your biggest splurges will be on your Halong Bay cruise and Sapa trek but even with these accounted for, you may only need to spend $400-500 + cost of flights to see Vietnam in 10 days.
Is Vietnam safe to travel alone?
I felt pretty safe in Vietnam though I was travelling with a group. As places in Southeast Asia go, Vietnam is considered fairly safe and has a low rate of violent crime against tourists.
There is a risk of theft and pickpocketing and as such, you should always stay aware of your surroundings and belongings, especially when travelling on night trains.
Vietnam is a fairly conservative country so it would be wise to dress appropriately to avoid any unwanted male attention. But in general, I didn’t get unwanted attention in Vietnam.
What injections do I need for Vietnam?
Most of the immunisations required are the ones you will have had anyway as long as you had your vaccinations as a child, for example, MMR, diphtheria, tetanus etc. They also recommend considering Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Rabies. You can check whether any of these are indicated for you and your style of travel on the Fit For Travel Website.
When it comes to Rabies, I usually only recommend having it if you will be staying somewhere very rural as it only gives you additional time to get to a hospital. You will still need to have the immunoglobulins if you have potentially been exposed to Rabies (eg through a dog bite.) As it is an expensive vaccination to get and on this Vietnam itinerary, you will always be able to reach a hospital quickly, I would not think it is necessary.
Yellow fever certification is not required for travel in Vietnam.
Is there malaria in Vietnam?
There is Malaria in Vietnam but the risk is low. For all places featured on this 10 day Vietnam itinerary, the risk is considered very low and no antimalarials are advised. If you are going anywhere not on this itinerary, then you should check this Malaria map to see if you need antimalarials.
Do I need a visa for 10 days in Vietnam?
There are several nationalities which do not require a visa for a short stay. Most people from surrounding Southeast Asian countries will not require a visa for up to 30 days. UK nationals can enter Vietnam visa-free for up to 15 days. US, Canadian and Australian residents are not eligible and will require a visa. You can check if you need a visa here.
What is the best time to visit Vietnam?
Whilst the climate varies throughout the country, in general the best time to visit Vietnam is either side of the rainy season which is between May and September. In the months of February-March and September-October, you are more likely to have dry weather. That said, I was there in early May and the weather was mostly beautiful with just the occasional cloudy day.
Are there any festivals in Vietnam worth going to?
‘Tet’ is the New Year celebrations usually celebrated in January or February. This is usually the biggest, most celebrated festival with religious rituals during the day and big parties at night often with fireworks.
Hoi An Lantern festival is one of the most popular with tourists. Hundreds of lanterns float down the river once every month.
The Hue Arts festival which takes place twice a year is fantastic for culture vultures. With dance, music and theatres performances as well as boat races and even human chess games!
The Best Group tours in Vietnam
Group tours can be a brilliant way to travel and I’ve been on many adventure group trips myself. In fact, my first trip to Vietnam was with G Adventures. The companies I have travelled with the most and always recommend as sustainable, ethical adventure companies, are G Adventures and Intrepid Travel. Here are a few of the best group tours in Vietnam that you may want to consider if you think group travel could be your thing too…
This is a classic (mid-range) G Adventures tour which roughly follows the same itinerary as above but without the trekking in Sapa. Instead, it spends a little more time in Hoi An and Saigon. It’s a way of seeing Vietnam in 10 days without the hassle of organising it yourself. You could always choose to do a Sapa add-on with Intrepid travel.
If you are travelling as a family unit then consider a G Adventures family trip in Vietnam. This trip for families with children over 6 years of age, travels from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh including a visit to the Mekong Delta.
Since most of the best bits of Vietnam are found not far from the coast, adventure cruising with Intrepid Travel can be a great way to see Vietnam. This trip is a ‘comfort’ trip meaning the accommodation is a little luxurious. There are up to 49 passengers and the boat stops at most of the places on this Vietnam itinerary but with the addition of a few places like the spectacular Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
This G Adventures tour follows almost the exact same route as in this 10 day Vietnam itinerary (including Sapa) only it takes 15 days and spends longer in Hoi An, Saigon and on the Mekong Delta.
If you like the idea of having the trip organised for you but you don’t want to travel as a group then a G Adventures tailormade adventure might be right for you. You can choose to pay extra for a tour guide to stay with you or just enjoy being transferred between your hotel, transport and accommodation with no need to travel with people you don’t know beforehand.
To check out more G Adventures trips, visit the G Adventures and Intrepid websites by clicking these links…
Vietnam Reading Material
If you’re the type of traveller who still loves to carry a guidebook, (I don’t blame you, I’m book obsessed,) then the two I recommend are The Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books.
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