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Hanoi to Saigon: One month in Vietnam

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Hanoi to Saigon: One month in Vietnam

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Vietnam is the jewel of Southeast Asia, a country thousands of years old. Its official name is "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam". Vietnam has been invaded and colonized many times throughout history. Americans and Australians will receive little overt animosity in Vietnam despite the Vietnam War. The only political party in Vietnam is the Communist Party. Vietnam has a 5% return rate on tourists visiting the country - a much lower rate than neighbouring Thailand. There is a sizable Chinese population living in Vietnam. Buddhism is the major religion. Tet is Vietnam's biggest holiday, kind of like if you rolled Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all into one. Tet occurs between late January and March. Fortunately, almost all of Vietnam's major tourist attractions can be visited by traveling south from the capital, Hanoi, to the largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, (commonly called by its old name, Saigon).

Get in

This itinerary can actually be started from either Hanoi, Vietnam's capital city, or Ho Chi Minh City, its largest city.

To Hanoi

By plane

Hanoi's major airport is Noi Bai International Airport, 35 km north of the city. 25 airlines have direct flights to Hanoi. Taxis, public buses, shuttle buses, and hotel pickups can all get you into Hanoi's city centre.

By train

The trains from Nanning and Beijing, China arrive in Gia Lam station. (All others arrive in Hanoi station). The train from Nanning departs at 18:20 daily and arrives in Hanoi at 04:45 the next day. An overnight bus+train combo runs from Kunming, China.

By bus

Buses go from all over Vietnam to Hanoi. Some buses also run from Vientiane or Savannakhet, Laos.

To Ho Chi Minh City

By plane

Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airport is Vietnam's largest. It has two terminals: a rundown domestic one and a shiny new international one. Taxis and minibuses run from the airport to Ho Chi Minh City's city centre.

By train

The Reunification Express runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, with five daily departures from Hanoi. The trip takes about 30 hours and ends at Ho Chi Minh City's Ga Sài Gòn train station, northwest of the city centre.

By bus

Several bus companies run buses from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to Saigon. However, a Vietnamese visa 'cannot be obtained at the border, so you must arrane one in advance. Buses also depart from most major cities in Vietnam, arriving at one of these four stations:

  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station. This is right in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, within walking distance of accommodation options and tourist sights.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station. Buses heading north arrive and leave from here. You can take bus No. 19 from Cho Ben Thanh Bus station to this station.
  • Mien Tay Bus Station. Take bus No. 139 from Tran Hung Dao Street to get here.
  • Cholon Bus Station.



see also Vietnam#Get in

Citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa on arrival and stay for the number of days listed:

  • 15 days: Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Russia
  • 21 days: Philippines
  • 30 days: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand

Residents of all other countries must have a visa arranged beforehand OR can secure a visa on arrival with a letter of recommendation from a travel agency.


Day 1

  • Arrive in Hanoi.
  • Spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 2

  • Spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 3

  • Spend the night in Hanoi.

Day 4

  • Arrange a 3 day/2 night cruise of Ha Long Bay. Several companies offer various cruises, ranging from $75-$600. 2 nights is enough time to see Ha Long Bay and several of its sites, most of which the cruises stop at.
  • Ground transportation from Hanoi is included in the purchase price of most cruises, usually by means of a private bus departing Hanoi at around 07:30. If not, a bus from Hanoi to Ha Long City costs about $10.
  • Spend the night on your cruise boat.

Day 5

  • Spend the night on your cruise boat.

Day 6

  • Most Ha Long Bay cruises arrive back in Ha Long City at about 12:00.
  • Take the 13:00 bus to Haiphong, departing from Mien Tay bus station.
  • Arrive in Haiphong at 14:30. Cost: $2
  • Spend the night in Haiphong.

Day 7

  • Take the 09:00 bus to Ninh Binh, departing from the Niem Nghia bus station.
  • Arrive in Ninh Binh at 11:30. Cost: $8
  • Hire a taxi driver for the rest of the day. It will be about $10. First, tell him to drive the 30-minute journey to Van Long Nature Reserve.
  • Arrive at Van Long Nature Reserve at 12:30.
  • The entrance fee to the reserve is $1.
  • Rent a sampan (bamboo boat) for a 90-minute journey through the reserve, often described as "Ha Long Bay on land". Cost: $3
  • Next, have your driver take you to Bai Dinh, an old Buddhist temple.
  • Arrive in Bai Dinh at 14:40.
  • After exploring the temple, ask your driver to go to Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam.
  • Arrive at the Hoa Lu complex at 15:30.
  • After viewing the ancient ruins, drive to the Hang Mua pagoda for a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.
  • Arrive at Hang Mua at 16:40.
  • Head back to Ninh Binh after taking in the view at Hang Mua.
  • You will enter Ninh Binh at about 17:15.
  • Spend the night in Ninh Binh.

Day 8

  • Take the sleeper train to Hué, departing at 21:39.

Day 9

  • Arrive in Hué at 09:55. Cost: $34 for an air-conditioned lower-berth soft sleeper.
  • Spend the night in Hué.

Day 10

  • Spend the night in Hué.

Day 11

  • Take the 10:50 train to Da Nang.
  • Arrive in Da Nang at 13:12. Cost: $3 for an air-conditioned soft seat.
  • Spend the night in Da Nang.

Day 12

  • Spend the night in Da Nang.

Day 13

  • Spend the night in Da Nang.

Day 14

  • Take the bus to Hoi An at 10:00.
  • Arrive in Hoi An at 11:00. Cost: $3
  • Spend the night in Hoi An.

Day 15

  • Spend the night in Hoi An.

Day 16

  • Spend the night in Hoi An.

Day 17

  • Take the 09:00 bus to Da Nang.
  • Arrive in Da Nang at 10:00. Cost: $3
  • Take the 10:46 train to Nha Trang.
  • Arrive in Nha Trang at 20:33. Cost: $16
  • Spend the night in Nha Trang.

Day 18

  • Spend the night in Nha Trang.

Day 19

  • Spend the night in Nha Trang.

Day 20

  • Take the 15:00 bus to Da Lat.
  • Arrive in Da Lat at 18:30. Cost: $5
  • Spend the night in Da Lat.

Day 21

  • Spend the night in Da Lat.

Day 22

  • Spend the night in Da Lat.

Day 23

  • Take the 12:00 bus to Saigon.
  • Arrive in Saigon at 18:30.
  • Spend the night in Saigon.

Day 24

  • Spend the night in Saigon.

Day 25

  • Spend the night in Saigon.

Day 26

  • Take a 3 day/2 night cruise of the Mekong delta. Numerous tour companies offer these, usually starting with a transfer from Saigon at about 08:00.
  • Spend the night on your cruise boat.

Day 27

  • Spend the night on your cruise boat.

Day 28

  • Arrive back in Saigon at about noon.
  • Take the 13:30 bus to Rach Gia.
  • Arrive in Rach Gia at 20:00. Cost: $6
  • Spend the night in Rach Gia.

Day 29

  • Take the 08:20 hydrofoil to Phu Quoc island.
  • Arrive at Phu Quoc Island at 12:30. Cost: $11
  • Spend the night in Phu Quoc.

Day 30

  • Spend the night in Phu Quoc.

Day 31

  • Fly back to Saigon from Phu Quoc, and then fly home.




  • Naval Museum, 353 Street, Anh Dung Commune, Kien Thuy District, +84 31 3814 788.
  • Military Zone III Musuem (254 Le Duan Street, Kien An District), (5km southwest of town.), +84 93 196 93 88.
  • Hai Phong City Museum (Bo tàng Hi Phòng), 11 Đinh Tiên Hoàng Quận Hồng Bàng. Mornings, and afternoons from 2PM. Closed all saturday. Open late evening Tuesday and Sunday..
  • Hai Phong Brewery (Hia Phong Local Beer), 16 Lach Tray, Ngo Quyen, Hai Phong, 0313640681. Bia Hoi, fresh from the brewery that is situated directly behind this location. Many stands selling beer here. Look for the joint on the right of the alley where motor bikes are carrying yellow kegs in and out of the brew works. Decent food in a open kitchen. 10,000 for a tall glass (500 ml), 4,000 for a regular. The beer is pleasant with a slightly sweet aftertaste. Way better than Hanoi beer! Arguably best beer in Vietnam. A MUST visit if you are in town and thirsty. (March 2012) 4000.

Ninh Binh


Da Nang

Hoi An

Nha Trang

Da Lat


Rach Gia

Phu Quoc

Stay safe

Get out