Is 2 weeks in Vietnam enough to see everything?
In a nutshell, I would say no – only because I’ve visited Vietnam as a solo traveller before and have always preferred to stay a little longer.
However, 2 weeks in Vietnam is still enough to see many of the countries highlights and popular attractions. It’s also the perfect amount of time stay for British passport holders like myself, as up until June 30 2021, it’s possible to enter Vietnam as a tourist for up to 15 days without needing to pay for a visa.
I recently returned to this beautiful country with my girlfriend and here’s where we went and how we spent 2 weeks in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam by population and the metropolitan area is home to around 10 million people.
The current name was adopted in 1976 and is named Hồ Chí Minh, after the first leader of North Vietnam. Before this the city was known as Saigon, which some people still call it today.
Hồ Chí Minh City is busy, noisy and in your face. It can be a little overwhelming at first but it’s an interesting place to explore with plenty of slights and buildings from Vietnams French colonial past. Most of the popular spots are in District 1 and are within walking distance of each other.
We stayed at the friendly boutique hotel Memoires de Saigon which was within walking distance to many attractions. Some notable places we managed to see in the few days we stayed are:
- The Reunification Palace
- City Hall
- Municipal Theatre
- City Post Office
- State Bank Office
- City People’s Court
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Ho Chi Minh City Museum
- The War Remnants Museum,
Getting to Ho Chi Minh
We arrive via Tan Son Nhat International Airport flying with the budget airline Scoot from Singapore. There are many other airlines flying out of Hoi Ch Minh including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar, Vierjet, Air Asia, Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Etihad and so on.
As the airport is close to the city, we jumped on the airport bus (cost 5000 VND) which is extremely cheap and a crazy experience itself.
Although nowhere as busy as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, Da Nang is the largest city in Central Vietnam, as well as the commercial centre or the area.
For a long time, it was considered just a stop off place for travellers on their way as its located within 100 km of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Imperial City of Hue, the Old Town of Hoi An, and the My Son ruins.
However, a recent development boom over the last few years has seen many high-rise apartments and luxury hotels pop up around the beach area. Da Nang is slowly turning into a popular holiday destination for those looking for plenty of sun and sand.
We stayed at the fancy-sounding but cheap enough Palazzo Hotel & Apartment which was close to the beach. Some places we managed to see around Da Nang are:
- Monkey Mountain & Lady Buddha
- Marble mountains
Non Nuoc& My Khe Beach
- Dragon bridge
- Da Nang Cathedral
- Da Nang Museum
- Avatar hotel (they have
a 18 th floorbar/restaurant with a great 360-degree view of Da Nang)
Getting to Da Nang
Da Nang International Airport is located in the city and is a short Grab ride to most of the hotels and hostels in Da Nang.
The airport has domestic connections to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong, Vinh, Buon Ma Thuot, Da Lat, Nha Trang, and Pleiku, as well as international connections to Guangzhou, Siem Reap, Singapore, Taipei and Kular Lumper.
Want to travel by train? The Reunification Express from HCMC and Hanoi stops at Da Nang train station
There are also various coaches departing from Da Nang daily to Hoi An, Hue, HCMC and Hanoi.
With around 120,000 people the population of Hoi An is fairly small compared to the cities we visited in Vietnam.
However, since it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 it has attracted increasing number of travellers and tourists.
The Old Town in Hoi An is very popular with visitors looking to take traditional Vietnamese photos and for having clothing
We stayed at the Blue Clouds Homestay (it was the second time I’ve stayed with Dung and his family and I highly recommend them) which was within walking distance to the Old Town.
Some things we did during our visit to Hoi An are:
- Ride around the Old Town on bicycle plus see the Japanese Bridge
- Check out the night market
- My Son Sanctuary
- Eat Cau Lai (Hoi An local dish)
- Ang bang beach
- Catch up with my old mate Toan and working out at his gym
Getting To Hoi An
There’s no airport so the easiest way to Hoi An is via Taxi or shuttle bus from Da Nang City or airport. When not travelling during peak hours using a Grab car can be cheaper than a taxi.
There is also a public bus departing daily from Da Nang to Hoi An but we didn’t try it.
Hoi An is well known for it’s lanterns.
Everyone who visits Vietnam loves taking photos of Halong Bay and what brings people here is the thousands of unique limestone island and rock formations. And with a 120 km long coastline that covers 1500 +square km and 1900+ islands, there’s a lot to see!
Those interested in history will be intrigued to know Halong Bay was the location of naval battles with Chinese and the Mongols. More recently it started to become popular with French tourists in the late 19th century.
It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.
Exploring by water is the most accessible way to navigate this vast area and with a mini cruise, you can stay for one or two nights, sometimes longer.
Many of the islands are still uninhabited with the lower parts and caves of some below sea level. While many are shallow, the depths of others are still yet to be measured. For those who enjoy snorkelling, there are many species of coral to be found on the seabed.
We used Secret Halong Bay Cruise which turned out to be very relaxing as there were only 3 other people on the ship with us.
Getting to Halong Bay
Halong Bay is 3 hours and 35 minutes by road from Hanoi.
There are various taxis, minibuses, and coaches making the 182 km journey. These can be booked independently or through most Halong Bay Cruise operators.
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam but slightly behind Ho Chi Minh in population. It has the same mix of French and Vietnamese building design as its southern friend HCMC and the crazy traffic to match!
The city has been rated as one of the world’s top 10 destinations by TripAdvisor and so is very popular with tourists.
If you don’t know Hanoi, then the Old Quarter is a good place to start. We stayed in the An Family Homestay which was centrally located and within walking distance to most of the main attractions.
Apart from the usual city wandering and eating local food some places we visited are:
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- West lake
- Hanoi Hilton (Ho Lo prison)
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral
- Thong Nhat Park (Lenin Park)
- Vietnam Military History Museum
- Read Bean restaurant (I was treated to a birthday dinner here)
Getting to Hanoi
Like us most people arrive at the Noi Bai International Airport which is 35km and around 45 – 60 minutes by road to the north of the city.
There are plenty of public and private buses as well as taxis from the airport to the city. Smaller mini buses run by the airlines were also available for around 40,000 – 50,000 VND.
As we weren’t in a rush to get to the city, we ended up taking the bus from the airport to the Old
Getting around Vietnam
Although there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the transport system in Vietnam is reliable and is cost effective.
The most common options for travellers are:
If you only have 2 weeks in Vietnam, then travelling around by air is going to be the quickest option allowing you to see the most in the least amount of time.
When travelling domestically there are three main airlines to choose from: Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet and Jetstar Vietnam.
Vietnam airlines tends to be the most expensive, with Vietjet and Jetstar Vietnam being similar in price to each other.
Although we did find during our 2 weeks in Vietnam that Jetstar turned out to be slightly cheaper than Vietjet.
The Reunification Express (tàu Thống Nhất) is a popular alternative to flying and a great to explore Vietnam. The train departs from Saigon Railway Station in District 3 and goes all the way to Hanoi (and vice versa) as well as stopping at other cities like Hue and Da Nang.
I’m a big fan of travelling by train and it a great way to see more of the country when not restricted by time. Although with just 2 weeks in Vietnam to spare, just don’t let the name mislead you – there’s not much express about the train!
It’s quite easy to book a coach to the various destination around the country and many can be booked at short notice.
Although we didn’t use them as much on this trip, coaches are normally the best option for shorter to medium length journeys and are the best method for getting to out of the way places.
It’s also possible to cross the border to and from Cambodia.
As with other parts of Asia Grab is popular in Vietnam. It requires you to download the app and from there it will provide a fare estimate before booking the ride.
Grab offers options for different price ranges such as: GrabCar (private car), GrabTaxi (metered taxis using the Grab app) and GrabBike (back of a motorbike with helmet provided).
It’s possible to wave down a taxi and they can be found on the street in most cities, but they do tend to be more expensive than Grab.
Apart from a sharing a taxi with another couple to Hanoi airport we didn’t really use them much.
It’s worth noting that some taxi drivers also work as Grab drivers and will charge a different price for walk in taxi customers compared to Grab customers who book by the app. So it’s best to download the app to get the best rates.
The buses are cheap as chips in Vietnam and we used them in both Hanoi and HCMC. Bus rides are an experience of constant stop and start in the city so expect lots of beeping and hard braking. But when you’re sometimes only paying 5000 VND a journey you can’t complain.
Some of the hostels and guesthouses we stayed at offered either free or paid bicycle hire. In smaller places with slightly less traffic like Hoi An, riding a bicycle offers an alternative way to explore the backstreets and surrounding areas.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The weather in Vietnam can be split by the regions.
I found in Hanoi that May to October tends to be hot and humid with high rainfall. While November to April are the cooler months and preferred by those who don’t cope well with the heat.
In central Vietnam, places like Da Nang and Hoi An have hot, dry weather between January & August with temperature in the mid-30°C’s. I’ve visited in the rainy season (September, October & November) which is cooler but also limits activities die to the rain.
Southern Vietnam and Hoi Chin Minh is generally dry and hot from November to April, and warm and wet between May & October.
What to Bring
Every time I’ve visited Vietnam the weather has been either hot, rainy, or both. The heat can be uncomfortable at times, but it does have its advantages and you can certainly get away with packing less clothing.
For my 2 weeks in Vietnam me and my girlfriend only brought along a carry-on bag weighing around 7kg each. This lasted us fine for all our Vietnam trip, plus onward trips to Indonesia and Taiwan.
What you need to bring will depend on what you plan on doing, but some things that I found invaluable in Vietnam are:
- A comfortable day bag to carry around (ideally that is water resistant or has rain a cover)
- Lightweight breathable clothing because it’s hot and humid
- Hat, sunglasses, & sunscreen
- Rain jacket
- Comfortable shoes or flip flops
- A water bottle
- Travel adaptor for charging electronics
- Local SIM (can be picked up at the airport) or at least download offline maps to your phone.
- Grab app
2 Weeks in Vietnam Cost
The cost of spending 2 weeks in Vietnam can vary a lot depending on how you get there (budget or full fare airlines) and how you travel around once you are there.
The cost of accommodation is Vietnam is quite cheap when compared to western countries. In everyplace town or city we stayed it was possible to pick up a decent standard double room with air-conditioning and sometimes breakfast for between $20 – $35 AUD a night. It possible to go lower or higher in price depending on the size, standard and location of the room.
I like to travel on my version of a budget, but I am aloshopeless when it comes to record keeping and adding up the total cost of a trip.
To give you and a rough idea of the costs for 2 weeks in Vietnam, Webjet offer a 14-day Vietnam tour very similar to our trip, seeing major places such as Hanoi, Halong Bay, Da Nang, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Mihn City.
The price is $1999 AUD per person with return airfares from Melbourne. Transfers, accommodation and breakfast are included.
The only main difference is you get spending the final days at Nha Trang, which we didn’t get to see.