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3 WEEK VIETNAM ITINERARY: What To See, Eat, Do, Tips

3 WEEK VIETNAM ITINERARY: What To See, Eat, Do, Tips

Vietnam is one of the most famous destinations in Southeast Asia. It offers travellers a raw Asian experience. With its good food, exotic treats, marketplaces bustling with people, unique culture, and even the local wildlife, passionate travellers will surely remember each and every minute that they spend here.

This country has several tourist attractions worth visiting. It boasts of several places with picturesque views which seemingly exists for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and Instagram influencers.

If you are planning on visiting this lovely spot in Asia and you need an idea for your Vietnam itinerary for 3 weeks, you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve created this article to help structure your vacation in Vietnam! Read on to learn more.

VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS

Here are some Vietnam travel tips that can help you have an easier, less hassle, and more fun 3 weeks in Vietnam:

WHAT TO REMEMBER BEFORE YOU VISIT VIETNAM

Knowledge gives you the power to prepare, and when you are as prepared as you can be, you’ll make the most out of your vacation for 3 weeks in Vietnam. As with anything else in life, if you want your experience to be as smooth as possible, you’ll need to know the things that you need to know. So, we’ve listed below the things to consider before going to Vietnam:

When is the Best Time to Visit Vietnam

The best time to go to Vietnam depends on whether you love sunny weather, or if you prefer a colder one. The northern parts generally enjoy warm weather, with heavy rainfalls every now and then between May to October; November to April enjoys colder temperatures.

Setting foot in Central Vietnam between January and August will give you a summer weather experience, and a wet one between September and November. The southern parts’ climate temperament is in the warmer months are from November to April, and the wet season is from June to August.

Visa For Vietnam

A visa is one of the basic requirements for going to Vietnam (unless you are from one of the visa exempt countries). You can apply for it online or with many travel agencies. You should start your application as early as a week in advance. The process can take longer if you apply on Thursday or Friday.

Getting the evisa is the best route for your if you plan to stay for 3-weeks. Having this visa allows you to have plenty of time.

Typically, you’ll need to pay two kinds of fees: the processing fee, which is around $18, and the stamping fee, which is around $25 paid upon arriving at the airport in Vietnam(not needed if you are going to use evisa).

There are a limited number of countries that can enter Vietnam without a visa, and you may want to check if your country is included in the list.

ivisa table guide - Vietnam

Backpacking and Motorbiking in Vietnam

Vietnam is not only a place of unique culture, good food, and picturesque views, it is also a low-cost country to go backpacking. It can be compared with Thailand and Cambodia in terms of affordability. Motorbiking is one of the most famous activities in the country. Sure, its roads may be tough, but its surroundings will take your breath away.

International Drivers Permits are legal, but only if your home country signed the 1968 convention, you just need to have your motorcycle license registered on IDP or convert your international license into a Vietnamese one.

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Vietnam Travel Cost

Knowing the average daily budget will help you plan your three weeks in Vietnam. The average cost for backpacking in Vietnam can be as low as $20 per day, per person, and as high as $94 per day, per person, depending on your budget. On the luxurious side, the average cost per day is around $94 (accommodation $69, meal $22, and bottled water $3, sim card with mobile data).

Mid-range budget per day is about $33/day (accommodation $22, food $9.50, bottled water $1.15). Most backpackers prefer traveling on a budget because let’s face it, minimizing your travel costs mean you can travel more, plus you’ll be more “intimate” with the country’s culture.

For those on the budget, we’re looking at $12 per day (accommodation 7.59, food $3.90, and bottled water $0.45 or $20 should be on the safe side. Read this Vietnam travel budget post for a more detailed discussion about this topic.

Vietnam Packing List

Your packing list must be according to the weather and activities you will do. As Vietnam’s weather can be hot daytime and cold in the evenings, factor in the frequent rainfall, you should pack clothing that matches with the weather.

Also, if you might do some physical stuff, like hiking, it would be ideal to bring athletic type gears. Of course, you can never go wrong in following veteran travelers’ philosophy: travel light! check this in-depth packing list for travelling in Vietnam and dress code in Vietnam.

3 WEEK VIETNAM ITINERARY

If you have three weeks in Vietnam or two or four, this itinerary guide will help you design and plan your whole trip, from accommodation, places to see, food and drink to try, and more tips.

North of Vietnam

Hanoi

Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital and one of its largest cities. It is a melting pot of French and eastern culture, evident in many of its buildings’ architectural style. The food also has western influences, which you would certainly want to experience.

In addition, there are several tourist spots to visit, such as the Museum of the Revolution where you can learn more about Hanoi’s history. Then there’s Hoan Kiem Lake with its unique color and Ngoc Son temple, one the most iconic Vietnam temples. You’ll also have fun haggling with the night market vendors!

ALSO READ: Educational and fun things to do in Hanoi

Sa Pa

In the heart of Lao Cai province lies the small town of Sa Pa. It is a popular place to go hiking, as it is home to the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. You will also have the chance to immerse in the culture of 5 different tribes, namely the Dao, Tay, Giay, Xa Pho, and Hmong. In addition, you’ll have plenty of panoramic views you can take a picture of, for your Instagram followers.

Ha Long Bay

best halong bay cruises midrange cruise 3

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its geological and geomorphological beauty. With its incredible emerald waters and surreal islands of limestones, you’ll think that you’re in a different world! An Instagram-worthy paradise for people who love taking pictures of awe-inspiring places.

We compiled the best Halong Bay cruises for your to choose from according to your budget, time frame, and activities to do.

Ninh Binh

If you can’t get enough of Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh is the next best thing! Known as Ha Long Bay on land, because it’s like being in Ha Long Bay but without the waters. There are hundreds of fascinating limestone natural structures that will take your breath away! There are also a ton of affordable accommodations in these parts where you can get a decent shared place to stay in for as little as $8 per night!

There are several options to get to Ninh Binh from Hanoi; you can ride a taxi, bus or minivan, and even rent a limousine, but the cheapest and fastest option is a train ride for only $3 and 2.5 hour travel time. If you’re coming from Phong Nha, we recommend taking a direct route to Ninh Binh on a bus, but you’ll have to get to the bus station early as possible because the buses can get overbooked.

Central of Vietnam

Phong Nha

hong Nha is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. It has attracted tourists from around the globe because of the beauty of its caves and underground rivers nestled in the oldest karst mountains in Asia. It is also famous for hikers and mountain bikers because there are several spots to enjoy these activities in the area.

We recommend riding a bus, as it will bring you directly to the main street of Phong Nha. If you want a quicker travel time, you can take a plane from Hanoi to Dong Hoi airport. If you’re coming from Hue, you can either travel by train, private car or bus from Hue to Dong Hoi.

ALSO READ: Best hikes in Vietnam

Hue

Hue is the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam, which makes this spot rich in history and is recommended for history junkies. It is home to the Forbidden Purple City, which was once home to the ancient rulers of the country. Being near the Perfume River, you’ll have plenty of time contemplating the beauty of nature by the riverside.

From Hanoi, you can travel to Hue either by train, bus, and the quickest is via aeroplane. For travellers on a budget, the best option is riding a train. From Da Nang, the most recommended ride is by train, as it is the cheapest and also the fastest.

From Hoi An, the most recommended and most popular travel option is via a train, not only because it’s cheaper and quicker, but tourists will also have the opportunity to witness the panoramic views along the way.

ALSO READ: Yummy Vietnamese snacks to try

Da Nang

Perhaps, the most famous site in Da Nang is its Golden Bridge: a 150 meter (about 490 feet) long bridge that’s being held by gigantic stone hands dubbed as the hands of the gods. It is also an emerging startup hub, where young entrepreneurs and digital nomads thrive, thanks to the support of its government.

Heads up: its stunning surroundings, affordable cost of living, and being a street food haven, Da Nang might make you want to extend your Vietnam itinerary 3 weeks to 4 instead.

From Hanoi, you can get to Da Nang by bus, train, or plane. The best option to get to Da Nang is by train if you want to go sightseeing while traveling. There are two options to get to Da Nang from Hoi An; one is through a motorbike, and the second option is through a bus. There are even free bus rides, just ask the hotel you’re staying at, and they’ll point you to where you can get a free ride.

Hoi An

For beach lovers, Hoi An is one of the most famous places in Vietnam and even in Southeast Asia. It boasts of its clean surroundings, azure waters, and less crowded as compared to other famous beaches, so tourists can relax without much distraction. A breath of fresh air from the bustling streets of Hanoi, Hoi An has a slow-paced lifestyle, ideal for people looking to escape the busy city life.

There are several options to get to Hanoi from Hoi An; by plane, train, or a sleeper bus. The first two options, you’ll need to transfer to another mode of transportation to get to Hoi An, and the sleeper bus is the cheapest and the only public vehicle that will take you straight to Hoi An. The most preferred option to get to Hue from Hoi An is through a train because you’ll get to see the beautiful scenery as you travel.

From Da Nang, private car, bus, and are the way to go. However, if you prefer the cheaper option, riding on a bus is your best choice. Riding a bus may take longer, but if you like to take things slowly and appreciate the sights you’ll see along the way, it’ll be worth it.

South of Vietnam

Da Lat

where to stay in dalat

Dubbed as the City of Flowers, Da Lat blooms all year round! Thanks to its moderate climate, tourists will get to enjoy the sights of its colorful blossoms. If you love French food, that is another reason to visit Da Lat; you will get to taste Vietnamese food with a touch of French influence that will make your taste buds jump in joy! In addition, the people in Da Lat are known to be extremely hospitable, you’ll have more friends when you get back home!

You can get to Da Lat from Hanoi by riding a plane, train, bus, taxi, or a private car. You’ve got the same modes of transportation from Hoi An, but the cheapest is by a direct bus, though it will take longer to get to Da Lat. From Nha Trang, the best and easiest option is a bus ride, because there is no connecting railway, so travel by train isn’t available. There’s also no direct flight to Da Lat by plane, so air travel isn’t practical.

There is no direct route by train from Ho Chi Minh to Da Lat. The only option for direct travel is by plane or bus. If you want a faster travel time, go for a plane ride, but it’s going to be more expensive. But if you want the experience of land travel, as many other travelers prefer, a bus ride is your way to go!

Nha Trang

Adding Nha Trang to your Vietnam Itinerary for 3 weeks will not disappoint you. If anything, it will inspire, amaze, and entertain you! With its white sandy beaches coupled with its almost always sun-favored weather, exciting island hopping and water sports activities, fresh seafood, and a lot of opportunities for a great nightlife! All these plus affordable souvenir shops!

The most recommended way to get to Nha Trang is via an airplane, as it is a lot faster, and just slightly higher than traveling by train. If you’re coming from Mui Ne, the cheapest and fastest option is going for a bus ride. From Ho Chi Minh, you can board a plane and arrive much earlier, or you can go for a night train, which is the cheaper option.

Mui Ne

Mui Ne is less touristy as compared to other destinations in Vietnam. Regardless, it is still a fascinating place like every other tourist spot in the country. One of its features that appeals to tourists the most are its sand dunes. And you know what sand dunes mean? ATV ride!

In addition to its sand dune, you’ll also have plenty of opportunities to feast on fresh seafood, and observe the way of life in the fishing village, and maybe connect with the locals. There’s also plenty of opportunities to capture the interesting activities of the fisherfolks here. Last, but not least, you can go on a hiking adventure in the Red Canyon.

The fastest way to get to Mui Ne from Hanoi is by flying to Nha Trang and taking a private car to Mui Ne or riding a bus. Travelling by train may take up to 30 hours. From Ho Chi Minh, you can ride a train from Phan Thiet, but you’ll need to transfer to another bus just to get to the centre of Mui Ne. If you want a straightforward trip, it is better to ride a bus from Ho Chi Minh which goes directly to Mui Ne’s centre.

Ho Chi Minh City

Formerly known as Sai Gon, it is the most populated city in Vietnam. It is home to many historical sites, so if you have a thing for each country’s history, there’s a lot in store for you here. Street photographers will have a lot of subjects to here, as it is home to 8.5 million people. In addition, the city has a ton of eateries to satisfy your food cravings, and a ton of bars to party all night long!

The fastest way to get to Ho Chi Minh from Hanoi is no doubt, by plane. However, if you would like to see more of Vietnam, a train ride is recommended, because you’ll have the opportunity to explore each area it stops at. The most recommended mode of transport from Hoi An is also by plane, but if you still prefer riding a train, you’ll have to go to Nha Trang Train Station, which may be the more viable option if you’re looking to first explore Nha Trang.

FOOD AND DRINKS TO TRY

There are a lot of dishes and drinks that you can’t miss when visiting Vietnam. You probably have tried some of them in a little Vietnamese restaurant in your city, but the best way to actually get to know these dishes is to try them where they are from; it’s much fresher and a lot cheaper.

Food

Vietnamese Food - Bun bo nam bo
Bún bò Nam Bộ 

A little list of the all time favourite Vietnamese food:

  • Phở – a beef noodle soup, also available with chicken or even vegetarian
  • Bún đậu mắm tôm – is great for sharing, comes with noodles, fish sauce, rice cakes, meat, and a lot of vegetables and placed in a big wooden round tray
  • Bún chả – originated from Hanoi – grilled pork, rice noodles, and vegetable, all together must be soaked on a special dipping sauce
  • Bún bò Nam Bộ – also known from Hanoi but the province of Hue has their own version – rice noodles, beef, vegetables, fried garlic are all soaked on a special dipping sauce
  • Nem nướng – is a specialty of Lam Dong Province – grilled sausages, friend rice paper, leafy vegetables, and pickled vegetables are wrapped in a rice paper then dipped on peanut sauce, you can ask the restaurant to roll this for you if you can’t do it
  • Bánh Tráng Nướng – is originally from Da Lat – it’s pan fried battered egg with spices, you can add meat and cheese as toppings , it’s either served like a pizza or rolled 

Drinks

A little list of the all time favourite Vietnamese drinks:

  • Vietnamese Egg Coffee or Cà Phê Trứng – originated from Hanoi, egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and coffee are whisked together to create a foamy, fluffy, and creamy hot drink
  • Vietnamese Condensed Milk Coffee or Cafe Sữa đá – is sometimes served as cold or hot drink, it can be found all over Vietnam
  • Bia Hoi – or draught beer is one of the cheapest and freshest beer you can find in Vietnam, they are often sold on street or corner bars with tiny plastic chairs and table
  • Vietnamese Green Tea – are one of the most common drink all over Vietnam, you will often find them being enjoyed on a small ceramic kettle by locals hanging around the streets, despite the bitter taste, a lot of Vietnamese drink this tea even when its cold

WHAT TO SKIP AND COMBINATION TIPS

This itinerary is very filled up, trying to see all of these for three weeks will be a very tough one. We listed these places as a guide, we highly recommend you skip some of them to be able to enjoy and relax during your trip or extend your stay if you can.

Here are some places you can skip

  • Choose between Phong Nha and Ninh Binh: they are almost identical it terms of visiting caves, exploring the nature
  • Choose between Nha Trang and Mui Ne: they are both great places for beach bumming and taking a breather
  • Combine Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An in 4 days

Here are some tips to kill two birds with one stone

You can spend a week in Hanoi and do day tours for Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, around Hanoi, and Ninh Binh.

You can explore Hue in just a day, the next day you can motorbike the Hai Van Pass, where you will pass through Da Nang to reach Hoi An in just a day (about 6-7 hours with stops in between). The downside is you will skip Da Nang. On the other hand, Da Nang is not far from Hoi An, you can easily do a day trip from there and explore Da Nang for a day.

So that’s a lot of places to visit in Vietnam for just 3 weeks! While you may want the days to stretch out, time is limited. And the limits of time is what makes us appreciate each moment. And that’s one of the best things to experience internally in Vietnam: the appreciation of the simple things in life.

That’s us wrapping up this 3 week Vietnam itinerary. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do let us know why you want to travel to Vietnam! And if you’ve already been to Vietnam, let us know the things you’ve learned, and your experiences, too!

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