Popular hangout spots & cafes in Hanoi
Experience limestone mountains, expansive rice fields, and quaint riverboat rides in Ninh Binh Tam Coc on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

Even though Vietnam is sizable, some people try to see the whole country in one go. To do that properly, we’d recommend at least 3 weeks, but ideally 4 weeks.

The Best Places to Travel for Your First Time in Vietnam

In Ninh Binh, be prepared for landscapes that seem almost otherworldly, while Phong Nha invites you to explore the surreal underground world of the world’s largest caves. Further south, Hue welcomes you with pagodas and temples, offering a serene cultural embrace, while Hoi An, a charismatic town, captivates with its undeniable charm through its colonial architecture.

3-week vietnam itinerary Ninh Binh

Bucket List Experiences

Explore Imperial History in Hue: Uncover Vietnam’s imperial history in Hue, where glimpses of the country’s past come to life.

Bike around Ninh Binh’s Countryside: Pedal through the lush countryside of Ninh Binh, exploring its picturesque rice terraces and scenic landscapes.

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

How Long Do You Need in Vietnam?

Hoi An enchanting ancient town in Vietnam with colonial architecture

Vietnam Itinerary Suggestions

Here are some Vietnam itinerary suggestions based on your available time:

Check our comprehensive 3-week Vietnam itinerary guide for detailed suggestions and alternatives. If you follow our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary, all that is left to do is to book your accommodations and transportation for the duration of the trip. We suggest a variety of accommodation options for different budgets, so you can choose whichever one suits you the most. 12Go Asia is the best platform to book your transportation in advance.

Where to start your Vietnam trip: North or South?

Contemplating whether to kick off your Vietnam journey by flying into Ho Chi Minh and then heading north, or commencing the adventure in Hanoi and traveling south? There’s no definitive right or wrong here, as both directions are entirely feasible. While our suggested 3-week itinerary flows from north (Hanoi) to south (Ho Chi Minh), you have the flexibility to reverse it. Two considerations can guide your decision-making process.

First-Time Vietnam Checklist & Travel Tips

First-Time Vietnam Checklist

Best time to travel to Vietnam

Best times to visit different parts of Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Tips | Check Visa Requirements

Before embarking on any international journey, it’s essential to confirm visa requirements. iVisa, a user-friendly website, streamlines this process. Simply input your origin and destination to quickly determine if a visa is necessary. For those requiring a visa, iVisa allows straightforward online applications.



Citizens from 25 countries enjoy visa exemption, allowing stays of 14 to 45 days, depending on nationality. Confirm if your country is on the exemption list and review the associated conditions. This hassle-free option requires no prior approval; you can arrive at the border. However, be prepared to show proof of onward travel, such as your return flight ticket out of Vietnam.


Vietnam travel tips A Complete Trip Planning Guide for first timers

Getting to Vietnam is a breeze, given its popularity and numerous affordable options from around the globe. Several airlines operate flights to Vietnam, making it essential to compare prices and flight schedules to snag the best deal. Skyscanner is a great resource for finding budget-friendly flights tailored to your Vietnam itinerary.

Many travelers incorporate Vietnam into broader Southeast Asian adventures. For a cost-effective approach, consider flying into nearby hubs like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok and then either continuing by land or opting for low-cost flights with airlines like AirAsia.

Travel Tips | Use the box below to easily search for the most affordable flights to Vietnam. With Skyscanner, simply enter “from your city” and “to Vietnam” to discover which city offers the lowest airfare. Additionally, you can explore the calendar feature to find the cheapest dates for flying from your city to Vietnam.

Before embarking on your Vietnam journey, consult your preferred healthcare professional regarding necessary vaccinations. According to the CDC, the following vaccinations are recommended for travel to Vietnam:

Check with your doctor for consideration:

Vietnam Travel Tips on Scams & Safety

Is Vietnam Safe?

Vietnam Travel Tips | Get Travel Insurance

A valuable travel tip is to ensure your insurance provides coverage for riding a motorbike, a popular mode of transportation in Vietnam. For comprehensive and reliable coverage, we recommend  Heymondo.

Heymondo offers a user-friendly app for the management of your travel insurance policy and any requests you may have. Communication is made easy through the app and even via WhatsApp. Coverage includes Emergency Medical Assistance, encompassing medical expenses for accidental injury, sudden illness, and hospitalization costs.

Travel Disruption coverage takes care of basic expenses for meals and accommodation if your travel plans face delays beyond your control. Additionally, Heymondo provides Trip Cancellation Coverage, safeguarding your trip in case it’s canceled or cut short due to family hospitalization, among other benefits. There is much more and Heymondo also covers a few more things at an additional cost such as electronic equipment and adventure sports coverage.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Make sure to check out Heymondo for your upcoming Vietnam trip and enjoy 5% OFF through our link.

The Ultimate Southeast Asia Packing List What To Pack & Wear

What To Pack For Vietnam?

Essential clothing for your Vietnam expedition includes:

  • Hiking Shoes (lightweight and low-cut): Brands like Salomon are recommended for extra support, excellent grip, and stability on diverse terrains. GORE-TEX membrane-equipped shoes provide waterproofing – a valuable feature during sudden rain showers or muddy encounters.
  • Lightweight everyday shoes (we enjoy the ones from Adidas)
  • Pair of leggings – Perfect for the colder areas when you go hiking, but I also use these as loungewear
  • Long sleeve baselayer – as loungewear for overnight train rides and hiking in colder areas.
  • Lightweight cotton scarves (in some fun colors) for covering up when visiting temples, often I also use them to protect myself from the sun when I am wearing a sleeveless top. We always carry one in our backpack as it comes in handy on numerous occasions, as well as a sarong or beach blanket!
  • Fleece or hoodie – to be comfortable on train rides and definitely if you plan on visiting North Vietnam like Sapa
  • Bikinis for Ha Long Bay and the beaches further south

Useful Gear for your Vietnam Adventures:

  • packing cubes for organized packing, no matter which backpack you choose for your travels, these will make packing and life in general so much easier! 
  • Day pack: having a quality daypack for your day-to-day adventures is essential. We recommend light daypack from Deuter.
  • Bring a Reusable water bottle or consider bringing a Life Straw or GRAYL for safe drinking water. 
  • A Microfiber Towel is convenient for going to the beach
  • Action Camera for capturing all your adventures, we have been enjoying the Go Pro Hero 10 on our latest travels.
  • Personal belonging safety can be ensured with luggage locks, along with anti-theft gear like those from Pacsafe bag—an anti-theft bag.
  • Don’t forget to pack a universal adaptor to ensure you can charge all your electronic devices during your trip. 
  • A reliable power bank is highly recommended for on-the-go charging, particularly during long bus rides or full days of exploration when you may not have access to power outlets.
  • Mosquito repellant is essential, especially during the wet season
  • Sunscreen: maybe stating the obvious here, but you want to protect yourself as the Vietnamese sun is insanely hot. Bring your own sunscreen because a lot of the ones you’ll find there have whitening agents in them and the prices are outrageous. For water activities, be sure to pack reef-safe sunscreen to protect our oceans!

For tips on clothing and a more in-depth packing list check out our complete guide on what to pack for Vietnam.

Vietnam Travel Tips Costs Of Travelling In Vietnam

Costs Of Travelling In Vietnam

In general, Vietnam is a budget-friendly destination, offering delicious street food at incredibly low prices and a range of well-priced accommodations across the country. Bus travel is particularly affordable, but if you opt for domestic flights, it might stretch your budget a bit (~$60 one-way flight).

For budget travelers staying in hostels, enjoying street food, and using local transport, a daily budget of $15-$25 per person is reasonable. Those seeking a bit more comfort can expect to spend $30-$60 per day, covering accommodation, three meals, occasional Vietnamese coffee, transport, and sightseeing.

As in many countries, your travel costs can rise significantly if you choose luxury hotels and upscale restaurants, or decrease if you indulge in street food and stay in hostels. Prices remain generally consistent in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, with slightly cheaper options available in the countryside.

Travel Tips on Accommodations in Vietnam

For the best selection, use Booking.com —it’s ideal for finding hotels, guesthouses, or apartments. Budget travelers can explore Hostelworld for incredibly cheap dorms and rooms.

For quick accommodation finds, check our recommendations for each stop on our 3-week Vietnam itinerary. 

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

Here are some essential apps you should download before your trip:

Grab & Gojeck – Easily book taxis or Xe Om (motorbike taxi) and enjoy a fast and safe ride with the nearest driver available.

12GO – Compare various forms of public transport to find the quickest or most affordable travel options.

XE Currency – Stay informed about currency exchange rates and conveniently calculate conversions when needed. 

Express VPN – Protect your sensitive information and ensure online security while traveling in Vietnam and beyond.

Google Translate – Overcome language barriers with this app that helps you communicate, even if you have limited knowledge of Vietnamese.

Google Maps – Navigate easily through Vietnam, especially in remote areas where specific addresses may be unavailable.

Maps.Me – Download offline maps to never get lost, even without an internet connection.

Hue Abandoned Waterpark with the dragon head in Vietnam is a must-visit

VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS | For immediate internet access upon landing, you can explore eSim options, and we suggest checking out Airalo, a global eSIM marketplace offering convenient connectivity without the need to switch out your physical SIM card.

The official currency in Vietnam is the Dong (VND), with an approximate exchange rate of around 23,000 VND to $1 as of now. For the latest exchange rates, you can check xe.com and consider downloading their app. It’s essential to carry cash as most places do not accept credit cards. Having smaller notes is advisable for convenient transactions with street food vendors and small shops, as cash remains widely accepted.

Taking a bus from the airport to the city is the most budget-friendly option. Alternatively, though pricier, taxis are available. For the best rates, download the Grab app (Southeast Asia’s equivalent to Uber).

Vietnam operates on an electricity supply of 220 Volts at 50Hz. The commonly used plug types are A (two flat vertical pins), C, and F (two round pins), which are compatible with most electrical outlets in the country. For plugs with 3 pins, a universal adaptor is necessary, as most outlets lack grounding holes.

Hue the ancient capital of Vietnam a must-see on your 3-week Vietnam Itinerary

Vietnam Travel Tips: How To Get Around Vietnam? 

Opting to travel overnight is a popular choice for backpackers in Vietnam, particularly given the considerable distances involved. Traveling at night can be advantageous, saving both time and money as you can skip booking accommodation for that night. However, it’s important to note that not all night travel experiences are equally comfortable.

For the best prices, opt to book through online platforms like 12GO which offer a range of transport options, including buses, mini-vans, trains, and ferries. Another reliable platform for Vietnam is Baolau.com, with a similar process and pricing structure. Booking in advance, especially during high season, is advisable to secure your preferred seat on specific legs of your journey.

Powered by 12Go system

Exploring Vietnam through domestic air travel is a convenient choice, particularly for those with limited time. With affordable flight options, most journeys between regions take less than 2 hours, averaging around US$50 per person when booked in advance. Both Vietnam Airlines and VietjetAir provide connections between major cities and some regional destinations. To explore flight options, schedules, and fares, you can refer to Skyscanner.

To secure your spot, use a booking platform like 12Go Asia. Upon booking, you’ll receive a PDF document featuring a QR code, along with your carriage and seat numbers. Simply display this on your phone to the attendant, and each carriage has its own dedicated staff member to assist you in finding your seat.

Buses serve as the primary mode of transportation throughout Vietnam, offering an economical and widely accessible travel option. The extensive network of routes spans across the entire road network, connecting cities and towns nationwide. 

However, the quality of bus companies varies significantly. Our journey on VIP buses with 20 sleeper seats from Hanoi to Sapa was a luxurious and enjoyable experience. On the other hand, the Sleeper bus with 34 seats from Sapa to Halong Bay was a challenging ride, and we advise against it, though it’s often the only option for that route.

Many bus companies feature three rows of bunk beds stacked on two levels. The beds, enclosed in plastic casings, can be restrictive, especially for tall passengers. Typically lacking onboard toilets, these buses make regular restroom stops that may disrupt the journey. Unless you’re strictly adhering to a tight budget, consider keeping an eye out for upgraded ‘VIP’ buses for a more comfortable travel experience.

When considering a visit to the Ha Long Bay area, the most captivating way to explore this part of Vietnam is from the water. Ha Long Bay offers a variety of experiences, with prices ranging from 50 USD for a day trip to 250 USD for an overnight cruise. The duration and quality of your selected tour significantly influence the overall experience, and in the case of Ha Long Bay, you truly get what you pay for. Opting for a mid-range option with Dora Cruises, we found it worthwhile to invest a bit more for this unique and unforgettable journey, aiming for a tranquil cruise with fewer crowds. One of the key travel tips for embarking on a boat cruise in Vietnam is to book in advance, particularly if you have a specific cruise in mind, as these slots fill up rapidly. 

Motorbiking in Vietnam

For those seeking scenic routes, self-drive travelers often explore popular options such as the breathtaking Ha Giang loop in the north or the iconic Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. The Hai Van Pass, situated along the coastal line between Hue and Hoi An, was one of our most unforgettable memories on our Vietnam journey. We opted for a tour with the easy riders, allowing us to enjoy the experience without driving ourselves, as we shared the backseat with an experienced driver.

Taxis/grab for getting around town

All the essential Vietnam travel tips & practical Information you need

It is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam as it can lead to food poisoning, even in upscale hotels or resorts. It is recommended to stick to bottled water throughout your trip. Bring a Reusable water bottle that you can refill at drinking water stations. Alternatively, consider purchasing a large jug of water from a supermarket and use it to refill your reusable water bottle.

Another option is to bring your own water filters, such as a Life Straw or GRAYL Water Purifier Bottle, we brought the latter on our latest trip and really came in handy! Especially when traveling to rural areas where access to bottled water may be limited.

Bargaining & Haggling is a common custom in Vietnam check our travel tips for everything you need to know
3-week Vietnam Itinerary experiencing the amazing limestone formations and emerald waters of Ha Long Bay

Best Tours in Vietnam

Lastly, ensure you make advance bookings to secure your spot on the chosen tour. Utilizing reliable sources like GetYourGuide or Viator is advisable. They provide cancellation policies and excellent customer service. These are the services we personally use and recommend.

★★★★★

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!

★★★★★

We explored Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai – Ta Van villages south of Sapa with Vang from Trekking Tour Sapa. This trek offers breathtaking mountain landscapes and showcases Sapa’s significant rice terraces, rivers and valleys. During these treks, you’ll delve into the local culture, customs, and traditions of Sapa’s two main ethnic minorities. Our knowledgeable tour guide shared insights into Hmong’s unique marriage traditions, rice fields, work, house-building techniques, and much more!

★★★★★

Sailing through the serene emerald waters of Ha Long Bay amidst limestone formations and floating villages is truly an enchanting experience that we strongly recommend adding to your Vietnam itinerary. Discovering the islands, cycling around, exploring local fishing villages, kayaking along limestone peaks, and uncovering hidden caves all contributed to an unforgettable adventure for us. Opting for a boat cruise with an overnight stay provides the perfect blend of relaxation and exploration along your journey through Vietnam. To truly grasp the beauty of this mesmerizing part of Vietnam, we can recommend spending slightly more on this once-in-a-lifetime experience and doing some research because there are unfortunately many subpar tours out there. ALSO! Make sure to book upfront as the good cruises always quickly get booked out.

★★★★★

Explore the highlights of the Hai Van Pass and the journey from Hoi An to Hue (or vice versa) on a motorcycle with an experienced driver on this incredible full-day private tour. This famous 20 km winding road weaves through hills and coastlines, reaching 500 m above sea level. This journey is sure to be one to remember, with amazing scenery and visits along the way to Tam Giang Lagoon, Suoi Mo Waterfall, Lang Co Beach, and the Marble Mountains.

★★★★★

we highly recommend going on a motorbike street food tour in Ho Chi Minh! We had a delightful evening exploring various street food spots across the city while being chauffeured from one place to another on the back of a motorbike. As mentioned, the streets of HCM are teeming with motorbikes, and the tour’s expert drivers are skilled at maneuvering through the traffic. Simply driving around was an experience in itself, and the food was equally fantastic!

Sapa Village Trekking in Vietnam

Cultural Tips for Vietnam

Travel tips for crossing the street in Vietnam
Options for extending your Vietnam Itinerary & Travel Tips

Practical Booking Resources

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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