Vietnam’s slim-line north-south geography makes organising a straightforward itinerary reasonably simple.
In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). There are dozens of travel companies that run short tours (from half a day to 5 days) of nearby attractions that are fantastic value, even if you’re part of a herd.
For example, from Hanoi you can organise 2-3 day trips to Halong Bay and Sapa, while from Ho Chi Minh City you can take 1, 2 or 3-day trips to the Mekong Delta. While most of these places can be done independently, Halong Bay can be hard to do on your own.
Vietnam in 2-3 days
If you’re stopping off in Vietnam for just two or three days in all likelihood be flying in and out of either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, spend a day wandering the city, making sure you visit the War Remnants Museum. Take a day or half-day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, and another day trip to the Mekong Delta for a fantastic taste of rural Vietnam.
Hanoi has enough to see and do to occupy all your time. Spend a day taking in the sights, and a day soaking up the sights of the Old Quarter. Don’t miss spending some time downing the local beer at one of the sidewalk bars. If you’re super keen to spread your wings opt for a night in Ninh Binh, a relaxed town about three hours from Hanoi.
In 7-9 days
The classic route is to start in Hanoi then head south, or start in Ho Chi Minh City then head north. You’ll have a great time either way, but if you’ve got a choice the south-north route is preferable – simply because ending in the more relaxed Hanoi is preferable to the mania of Ho Chi Minh City.
Starting in Ho Chi Minh City, take a half-day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels and a day trip to the Mekong Delta, and then make a beeline out of the place. Fly or take the overnight train to Hoi An – a chilled out historic town and you can also spend a day lazing on the beach. Fly or take an overnight train to Hanoi. From Hanoi you can take a quick two-day tour to Halong Bay.
Two weeks +
As above, but you add do an overnight tour to the Mekong Delta. After Ho Chi Minh city you can stop off along the coast at one of the beach resorts of Mui Ne, Nha Trang (Vietnam’s Majorca) or Quy Nhon, then continue on to Hoi An. From there take the bus to the majestic Hue. Give yourself at least a couple of days in Hanoi. You will also have time to add a trip to the stunning mountainous town of Sapa