Bokeh photo of traffic on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam

How to Spend Two Weeks in Vietnam: A Quintessential South to North Itinerary

Surprising, fascinating, and dizzying all at once, Vietnam delivers a full-scale assault on the senses. It’s a contradictory country that has both manic metropolises and tranquil seaside towns; towering skyscrapers and centuries-old temples; haute cuisine and humble street food. While its sights, sounds, and scents may overwhelm you at first, give this high-octane country a chance and you’ll quickly discover why Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most enthralling destinations.

Ready to dive in and experience it all? Pull up a plastic stool and brace yourself for an onslaught of motorbikes — here’s how to spend two weeks in Vietnam. 


Travel to: Vietnam


Tip: With the exception of the UK and a handful of other countries, you’ll likely need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can either apply for a visa through your local Vietnamese embassy or consulate, or apply for an e-visa online (which is a cheaper and faster option).

Motorbike driving down a street in Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi streetscapes | © Florian Wehde/Unsplash

Getting around Vietnam

Thanks to its long, serpentine shape, you can travel through Vietnam one of two ways: from north to south or vice versa. There are major airports in both the south (Ho Chi Minh City) and the north (Hanoi), so you can choose between either city as a starting point.

If you’re arriving from overseas, you’ll likely start in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) as it’s home to Vietnam’s largest airport and primary flight hub. If you’re landing in Vietnam from another city in Southeast Asia, you can easily start your journey in either Hanoi or HCMC.

Trains and buses are two of the most common and cost-effective ways to get around in Vietnam. Air-conditioned coaches run between all the popular backpacker hotspots, while trains are typically the preferred mode of transport for longer overnight journeys.

Domestic flights are also extremely affordable in Vietnam, and they’re often the best option for those lengthy stretches (like between Hoi An and Hanoi, for example). Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific are two reliable low-cost carriers for domestic routes.

Street vendor selling fresh produce on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam
A vendor selling fresh produce on the streets of Hanoi | © Jack Young/Unsplash

Two weeks in Vietnam itinerary: south to north

Starting in HCMC and travelling south to Hanoi, this itinerary will take you to some of the country’s most captivating cities and staggering natural wonders. It’s by no means a comprehensive itinerary, but it will give you the perfect taster of what to see on your first visit within a two-week timeframe. 

A recommended length of stay is included with each destination below, but, of course, you can adjust this itinerary accordingly to suit your specific interests and preferences. Also, don’t forget to factor in additional time for travel when mapping out your itinerary!

Bokeh photo of traffic on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam
Confidence is key when crossing the street in Vietnam | © Florian Wehde/Unsplash

Ho Chi Minh City

Recommended length of visit: 2 – 3 days

When you arrive in HCMC (also known as Saigon), get ready to be bombarded by its frenetic energy, incense-infused temples, and motorbike-flooded streets. Yes, it’s a bit chaotic, but spend enough time here, and you’ll learn to embrace the addictive madness of this bewitching city. 

In terms of attractions, some of Ho Chi Minh City’s can’t-miss sights include the Saigon Opera House, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Reunification Palace, and the War Remnants Museum — all of which are scattered throughout District 1 (the city’s most visited area) and District 3. And we can’t talk about HCMC without mentioning its glorious food. This city has some of the best street food on the planet, so set aside some time to fill up on local delicacies like pho, banh xeo, and the insanely delicious banh mi sandwich while you’re here.

Top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City:

  • Refine your haggling skills at Ben Thanh Market, a popular market offering everything from Vietnamese silk to souvenirs and street food
  • Visit the War Remnants Museum, Jade Emperor Pagoda, and the Reunification Palace
  • Try Vietnamese coffee
  • Enjoy cocktails with a view from one of the city’s many rooftop bars
  • Take a day trip to the underground tunnels of Cu Chi or the Mekong Delta
Busy street filled with people at night in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City is a lively place, day and night | © Georgios Domouchtsidis/Unsplash

Nha Trang

Recommended length of visit: 2 – 3 days

You’ll be ready for some downtime after exploring HCMC for a few days, and Nha Trang is the perfect place to unwind. Dotted with tropical islands, postcard-perfect beaches, and thriving reefs, Nha Trang’s claim to fame is its six-kilometre stretch of sandy coastline and crystal-clear turquoise seas. Go island hopping around Nha Trang Bay, indulge in fresh seafood, try snorkelling or scuba diving, or sunbathe to your heart’s content — this seaside town is a paradise for beach bums and ocean-lovers. 

There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities to be had here as well (if you can manage to pull yourself away from the beach, that is). Cosmopolitan restaurants, 19th-century Buddhist temples, mud baths, and hot springs are all within easy reach of Nha Trang’s town centre.

Top things to do in Nha Trang:

  • Experience a mud bath
  • Go snorkelling or scuba diving
  • Take an island-hopping tour around Nha Trang Bay 
  • Visit natural and man-made attractions like Long Son Pagoda, Ba Ho Waterfall, and Po Nagar Cham Towers

Tip: If you aren’t big on beach towns, you may want to spend less time here and add Hue — a historically significant city renowned for its 19th-century citadel and ancient temples  — to your itinerary.

People sitting on a beach facing the ocean in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nha Trang, one of Vietnam’s top beach towns | © Trung Pham Quoc/Unsplash

Hoi An

Recommended length of visit: 3 – 4 days

A quick word of warning about Hoi An: there’s a strong chance you’ll fall head over heels for the place (like many a backpacker before you) and want to stay forever — or at least for the rest of your time in Vietnam. The city is absolutely stunning, characterised by French-colonial architecture, lovely lantern-lit alleyways, and a dreamy riverside setting, but there’s something else about Hoi An — a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will — that’s difficult to put into words. It’s that special, hard-to-explain quality that will make you want to linger here a little longer. 

Hoi An’s Old Town is small enough to explore by foot, and some of the city’s most notable sights can be found here, including the Japanese Covered Bridge, Chuc Thanh Pagoda, and Hoi An Museum of History & Culture. This is also the place to be when it comes to affordable and quality tailors; Hoi An’s tailoring services are notorious, and you can get your hands on custom-made clothing, bags, shoes, and more at a fraction of the price you’d normally pay back home.

Top things to do in Hoi An:

  • Immerse yourself in Hoi An’s heavenly food scene (lao cau, white rose dumplings, and banh mi from Madam Khanh — AKA the Banh Mi Queen — are a few local specialties you don’t want to miss)
  • Explore Hoi An Central Market 
  • Purchase tailor-made clothing
  • Stroll through Old Town at night when the streets and storefronts are blanketed by hundreds of glowing lanterns 
  • Spend a day sunbathing at nearby An Bang Beach
  • Take a Vietnamese cooking class
  • Explore the surrounding countryside on a cycling tour
Vendor selling fruit in Hoi An's Old Town
Fresh fruit is readily available from vendors in Hoi An’s Old Town | © Rene Deanda/Unsplash

Hanoi

Recommended length of visit: 2 – 3 days

The best way to get to know Hanoi is to simply wander through its maze of winding streets. Start in the Old Quarter — the city’s historic heart and commercial centre — where you can get your bearings and explore attractions like Dong Xuan Market and Bach Ma Temple. Hoan Kiem Lake is another must-visit spot in this area; local Vietnamese students are keen to say hello and practise their English with tourists here, so don’t be surprised if you’re approached by several people for a friendly chat. 

When hunger pangs hit, indulge in a steaming bowl of bun rieu cua (crab noodle soup with tomato and tofu) or banh cuon (rice-flour pancakes stuffed with minced pork and black mushrooms). Wash your meal down with a decadent cup of ca phe trung (egg coffee), a Hanoi specialty that’s made with coffee and a creamy, custard-like mixture of sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks.

After the sun sets, do as the locals do and head to Bia Hoi Corner, or Beer Corner, a popular nightlife hotspot at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen. At this lively hangout, shops and restaurants dole out freshly-made lager to people perched on tiny plastic stools that spill onto the street. The best thing about Bia Hoi Corner? A glass of draught beer will only set you back 5,000 VND (0.17 GBP/0.20 USD).

Hanoi also acts as a great jumping-off point for excursions to Halong Bay, Sapa, and the country’s mountainous northern region.

Top things to do in Hanoi:

  • Delve into the city’s legendary culinary scene on a food tour
  • Experience Hanoi’s vibrant coffee culture 
  • Visit the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
  • Walk around Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Grab an unbelievably inexpensive beer and rub shoulders with locals at Bia Hoi Corner
  • Shop at Hanoi’s night market
People sitting on the street eating and drinking beer in Hanoi, Vietnam
The best way to spend an evening in Hanoi? Grab a plastic stool and order an ice-cold Vietnamese lager | © Frida Aguilar Estrada/Unsplash

Halong Bay

Recommended length of visit: 2 – 3 days 

When you think of Vietnam, an image of Halong Bay’s staggering limestone pillars is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Peppered with jungle-clad islands, stalactite caves, and a vast expanse of emerald-green water, this is the country’s premier natural wonder, and one of the most-visited destinations in Southeast Asia. 

An overnight or multi-day Halong Bay tour — which typically includes a cabin on a traditional junk boat, a guide, and all meals on board — is the most popular way to explore this region’s otherworldly landscapes.

Top things to do in Halong Bay:

  • Go swimming, kayaking, or diving
  • Visit Cat Ba Island
  • Tour floating villages
  • Explore Hang Sung Sot Cave
Aerial photo of boats in the water at Halong Bay, Vietnam
Beautiful Halong Bay | © Ammie Ngo/Unsplash

Two weeks in Vietnam cost

Vietnam is an incredibly affordable country, so your money will go far here. If you’re planning to stay in hostels and stick to a modest budget, it’s possible to travel on as little as 40 GBP/50 USD per day. While accommodation, transport, and food are cheap in Vietnam, activities and excursions are likely to eat up a good portion of your budget. Depending on your personal travel style, you should aim to budget anywhere from 460 GBP/560 USD to upwards of 820 GBP/1000 USD for a two-week trip to Vietnam.

Struggling to nail down your itinerary? Check out our range of Vietnam tours and leave the planning to the professionals! A group tour will take you through the country’s top destinations and off the beaten path gems, and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Plus, this style of travel is the easiest way to make fast friends if you’re flying solo!

Ashley is a Content Editor at TourRadar. When she’s not writing, travelling, or obsessively checking flight prices on Skyscanner, you can find her attempting to fine-tune her photography skills or watching a shark documentary.

a man standing in a mountain range with colourful flags fluttering in the air
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