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Must-see sights in the old town of Hanoi during your 3-week vietnam itinerary

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Safeguard your backpacking journey through Vietnam with comprehensive coverage from Heymondo for trustworthy travel insurance. Get 5% OFF through our link.

Things to know before you go on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

READ MORE | The Ultimate Vietnam Packing List | What To Wear For All Climates

Discover the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner

3-week Vietnam Itinerary kick-off in Hanoi the capital

READ MORE | The Best Cafes in Hanoi | The Ultimate Vietnam Coffee Guide

The ultimate introduction to Vietnamese street food? Embark on a street food tour! Our first evening in Hanoi was made unforgettable by a delightful small-group street food adventure led by Minh, our fantastic guide. Amidst exploring the bustling streets, we sampled Hanoi’s finest dishes. Minh’s expertise led us to hidden gems we’d have missed otherwise. With insights into each dish’s nuances, alongside fascinating tidbits about Hanoi and its culinary scene, this tour emerged as a highlight of our trip. Without a doubt, an experience we wholeheartedly endorse!

Explore the colors of Vietnam on this 3-week itinerary around the country

Arriving at Hanoi International Airport? Opt for the most economical route to the city center: hop on the Hanoi Airport Bus 86, stationed just outside the arrival terminal. Departing every 30 minutes from 6:20 AM to 11 PM (the bus waits until it’s reasonably filled), the bus takes around 1 hour to reach its final stop, Hanoi Railway Station near the Old Quarter. The ticket costs 45,000 VND (less than 2 USD) and can be paid directly on the bus. If you’re short on cash, hit up an ATM inside the airport beforehand.

Alternatively, though pricier, taxis are available. For the best rates, download the Grab app (SE Asia’s equivalent to Uber).

Hanoi offers exceptional hotel quality for the value you invest. Opt for accommodations in the Old Quarter or near Hoan Kiem Lake to conveniently explore all the attractions in the city center by foot.

READ MORE | The Best Hanoi Street Food Places | Ultimate Vietnam Food Guide

READ MORE | Vietnam Travel Tips | Complete Trip Planning Guide For First Timers

After absorbing the bustling energy of Hanoi, it’s time to venture north to the captivating rice terraces of Sapa. To reach this scenic destination, you can opt for a bus, take the sleeper train, or hire a private driver. We recommend the bus for its comfort and affordability. Trains don’t go directly to Sapa, so you’ll have to transfer to a bus in Lao Cai regardless. The approximately 6-hour bus ride is best taken early in the morning, rather than overnight, with prices around US$18 per person for semi-sleeper buses. 

Secure your tickets in advance, as Sapa is a highly popular tourist destination, especially during peak seasons. Booking bus or train tickets online through 12go in advance is a convenient way to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

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3-Week Vietnam Itinerary Sapa
Suggested two-day Sapa village trekking in Vietnam
Where to stay in Sapa during your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary
Rice terrace & mountains views with surrounding clouds in Sapa Northern Vietnam Itinerary

Traveling between Sapa and Ha Long Bay, both popular spots among backpackers has become more convenient. In the past, the vast distance required travelers to go through Hanoi. We recommend booking a sleeper bus via 12go from Sapa to Ha Long Bay to avoid losing a day of travel. The journey takes approximately 10 hours, costing around $19. While the bus is generally comfortable, our personal experience wasn’t the best. We traveled during the day, and the bus made frequent stops, resembling a regular bus, picking up and dropping off locals and goods. Similar stories are common, so brace yourself for what might be an unpleasant bus ride (hopefully the overnight bus doesn’t make that many stops).

Most buses conclude at a large bus terminal on Ha Long Bay. From there, you’ll need to take a Grab to the specific dock where your Ha Long Bay boat tour departs. Most overnight cruise tours take off around noon, so you have plenty of time to get there.

Alternatively, consider returning to Hanoi, as many Ha Long/Lan Ha Bay boat tour companies provide transportation between Hanoi and Ha Long (depending included in the price or at extra cost).

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3-week Vietnam Itinerary experiencing the amazing limestone formations and emerald waters of Ha Long Bay

3-Day / 2-night Halong/Lan Ha Bay 5-Star Cruise & Balcony Cabin

2-Day / 1-night Halong/Lan Ha Bay 5-Star Cruise & Balcony Cabin

1-Day Ha Long Bay Cruise w/ Titop Island & Luon Cave

Lan Ha – Ha Long Bay 1 Day boat trip – Kayaking from Cat Ba

Many activities during your boat cruise trip in Ha Long Bay Vietnam

OUR BIGGEST TIP: BOOK IN ADVANCE! Especially if you have a specific cruise in mind, as these spots fill up fast. We booked a month ahead, and options were already limited. Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity—plan ahead!

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3-week vietnam itinerary Ninh Binh
Experience limestone mountains, expansive rice fields, and quaint riverboat rides in Ninh Binh Tam Coc on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

You will find plenty of cozy and delicious places to eat while biking around Tam Coc & Ninh Binh area. Just in case you get hungry pin the following ones on Google Maps when you need to find something quick.

Trang An Boat Tour through the scenic waterways of Ninh Binh in Vietnam
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Hue the ancient capital of Vietnam a must-see on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary
Hue Abandoned Waterpark with the dragon head in Vietnam is a must-visit
Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Hue's Imperial Citadel on your 3-week Vietnam itinerary
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Easy Riders Day trip along the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam
Panoramic views along the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam during the Easy Riders daytrip
Hoi An enchanting ancient town in Vietnam with colonial architecture
The colorful lanterns of Hoi An are a must on your Vietnam Itinerary
Colonial buildings in the old town of Hoi An in Vietnam
Hoi An in the evening with the colorful lanterns on the riverboats in the old town
Ho Chi Minh City last stop on the 3-week Vietnam Itinerary
Ho Chi Minh City the fast-paced economic center of Vietnam

Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City?

3-weeks in Vietnam the perfect itinerary from north to south

Phong Nha (2-3 days)

Da Nang (1-2 days)

Quy Nhon (2 days)

Da Lat (2-3 days)

Mui Ne (2 days)

Mekong Delta (2-3 days)

Phu Quoc

Practical Travel Basics & Links for your Vietnam Itinerary

TRANSPORTATION | For booking ferry, bus, and train rides online, we recommend using the website 12go. This platform has been our go-to across Asia, saving us from the hassle of queuing at travel agencies or bus stations. If you’re traveling during peak season, consider booking tickets ahead, some routes in Vietnam can get booked out quickly.

ACCOMMODATION | Finding affordable places to stay in Vietnam is a breeze with Booking.com. It’s the ideal platform to discover budget-friendly hostels and hotels.

FLIGHTS | Discover the best flight deals to Vietnam on Skyscanner. We love that they highlight the days with the cheapest prices for a destination, and the ability to search by month or region for flexibility.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | When it comes to travel insurance, especially for backpacking in Vietnam, consider Heymondo. It’s our top recommendation for comprehensive and trustworthy coverage.

INTERNET | Secure reliable internet access for your Vietnam trip with Airalo. Simply install it on your eSIM-compatible smartphone before your journey.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS | For the best and most affordable city tours, day trip excursions, food tours, and cooking classes in Vietnam, check out GetYourGuide or Viator.

VISA ORGANIZATION | Before your trip, ensure you check the visa requirements for your passport nationality. Explore details on travel documents at iVisa.com.

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