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Vietnam Round Trip - From North to South in 3 Weeks

Vietnam is a truly diverse travel destination where you can immerse yourself in its rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking natural landscapes.


We spent three weeks exploring Vietnam from north to south, and in this article, we'll share our highlights and the various modes of transportation we used throughout our journey.



 

Table of Content

 


1. Arrival in Hanoi - Exploring the Capital Amidst Rivers


Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, located in the northern part of the country, is often the starting point for many travelers. Alternatively, some may begin their journey in the south, in Ho Chi Minh City.


One of the most iconic landmarks in Hanoi is Hoan Kiem Lake, situated in the heart of the city. Surrounded by a park and historic buildings, the lake is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. According to legend, a giant turtle resides in the lake, and sightings of the creature are considered auspicious.


Rundreise Vietnam: Hanoi

Another must-see attraction in Hanoi is the Old Quarter, a maze of narrow streets and alleyways adorned with colorful buildings and shops selling everything from souvenirs to street food. The Old Quarter is also home to many historical sites such as the Bach Ma Temple and the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.


Rundreise Vietnam: Hanoi

Hanoi is also a paradise for food lovers, offering a diverse selection of culinary delights. Some of the city's most popular dishes include Pho (noodle soup), Bun Cha (grilled pork with noodles), and Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich).


You might already be familiar with some of these dishes from Vietnamese restaurants in Germany, but they taste even better when enjoyed locally!


Additionally, Hanoi serves as the starting point for night buses and private transfers that can take you to many other destinations throughout the country.

We opted for a private shuttle to Ha Long.




2. Cruising Through Ha Long Bay


The town of Ha Long is world-renowned for Ha Long Bay. This picturesque bay is perfect for boat trips. We booked a 2-day boat tour and were completely amazed by the incredible nature.


A captivating image capturing the essence of a 3-week journey through Vietnam, showcasing vibrant landscapes

The Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination in northern Vietnam, specifically in the Quảng Ninh province. It is characterized by thousands of limestone islands and rocks in various sizes and shapes rising from the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.


The name Ha Long translates to 'descending dragon' in Vietnamese legend, as it is said that the islands were created by a dragon descending from the mountain to the sea and using its tail to carve valleys and crevices in the area. There are also several caves and grottos in the area that you can visit.


The best way to explore this natural wonder is from the water by booking a multi-day boat tour with excursions. We opted for this cruise and had a cabin with an outdoor balcony.


Es gibt auch mehrere Höhlen und Grotten in der Gegend, die du besichtigen kannst.




Our third destination after Ha Long was Sa Pa. From Ha Long, the easiest way to get back to Hanoi is by shuttle (the transfer is already included in the offer linked above) and from there, take the night bus to Sa Pa.



3. Far North: Traditional Village of Sa Pa near the Chinese Border


Our journey on the night bus to Sapa was quite swift, although the buses are fairly comfortable. Each passenger gets their own sleeping berth. Large backpacks and luggage are loaded, while small bags like your daypack can be kept with you.


Sapa is a beautiful mountain village in northern Vietnam, near the Chinese border. It's renowned for its stunning landscape, featuring spectacular rice terraces and impressive mountains. The village itself is inhabited by a variety of ethnic minorities who have preserved their traditional culture and way of life.


Rundreise Vietnam: Reisfelder in Sa Pa

When in Sa Pa, don't miss out on taking a trek through the rice fields and mountains, visiting the villages of the ethnic minorities that lie just outside the town center.


Moreover, exploring Sa Pa itself, with its market and small restaurants, is a must. You'll notice many children in traditional attire trying to sell goods, and it can be a bit challenging to know how to best approach this as a tourist.


We opted to buy from the adults and got some items like toothbrushes and small treats from the local supermarket for the children, which they greatly appreciated.


Sa Pa is also renowned for its unique festivals and celebrations, which reflect the culture and traditions of the ethnic minorities in the region. Additionally, you can take a cable car up to the summit of Mount Fansipan, over 3,000 meters high, for a breathtaking view.

You can book a tour of Sa Pa to explore the rice fields and villages here.


For our next fascinating stop, we boarded the night train.






4. Hoi An: Relaxation, Beach, and Charm


Hoi An is a charming coastal town in Vietnam, situated along the South China Sea. It's renowned for its well-preserved historical buildings, ancient temples, and colorful lanterns that adorn the streets at night, creating a beautiful atmosphere.


Once a thriving port city, Hoi An was a hub of trade and commerce in Southeast Asia. Its rich history is reflected in the architecture of its old town. The buildings blend Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese styles, with many of them designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Sehenswürdigkeiten Hoi An

One of the most popular attractions in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge, a beautiful wooden bridge dating back to the 16th century. Adorned with intricate carvings, the bridge symbolizes the city's cultural heritage.


Another highlight in Hoi An is the Old Town, a pedestrian-friendly area brimming with shops, restaurants, and cafes. You can wander through the narrow streets, admire the colorful buildings, and shop for souvenirs, clothing, and handicrafts.

Hoi An is also famous for its tailors, where you can have custom-made clothing tailored at affordable prices.


We absolutely loved our time in Hoi An. Most hotels offer complimentary bike rentals, allowing you to explore different corners of the city. In our opinion, this destination is a must-visit on any Vietnam itinerary, as it offers a relaxed immersion into the country's culture without sacrificing Western comforts.


Sehenswürdigkeiten Hoi An

We particularly enjoyed browsing the shops of various artists, where you can purchase paintings and other artworks. The custom-made fashion was also an absolute highlight for us.


If you're looking to relax from the tour, you can soak up the sun on the beaches of Hoi An. Or take a trip to small islands with dreamy beaches, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.


The Imperial City of Hue is located near Hoi An, so if you have some extra time, you can also make a short stop in Hue and admire the temple complexes.




5. Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta


Our Vietnam tour concludes in Ho Chi Minh City. We flew from Danang near Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City as we decided to extend our stay in Hoi An due to how much we enjoyed it there, and traveling by train or shuttle would have taken too long.


Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a bustling metropolis in southern Vietnam. With over 8 million inhabitants, it's the country's largest city and serves as its economic hub. The city is steeped in history, having been a French colony in the past and the capital of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.


Today, Ho Chi Minh City boasts a blend of modern skyscrapers, historic buildings, and vibrant street markets. Visitors can explore landmarks like Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, and the War Remnants Museum. Additionally, Ho Chi Minh City offers a diverse culinary scene, ranging from street food stalls to gourmet restaurants.


Vietnam Rundreise: Ho Chi Minh Skyline

Ho Chi Minh City is also the gateway to the Mekong Delta, where you can explore lush landscapes, floating markets, and traditional villages. If you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to book a tour of the Mekong Delta, as it's undoubtedly one of the highlights of a Vietnam tour.


Sehenswürdigkeiten Ho Chi Minh Mekong Delta

If you've been to both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, you'll notice that these two metropolises differ fundamentally from each other. While Ho Chi Minh City is more Westernized and modern, Hanoi maintains a more traditional, labyrinthine, and less touristy atmosphere.


However, both cities share one thing in common: they are bustling with people, motorbikes, and other vehicles, so always keep your eyes open before crossing the street.


From Ho Chi Minh City, it was time for us to head back to Germany.



6. Transportation Options in Vietnam


As you may have noticed while reading our article, we used just about every mode of transportation during our Vietnam round trip. To give you a better overview, here's a list of all the transportation options you can use during your journey through Vietnam:


  • (Night) Train: Vietnam has a well-developed railway network connecting most major cities in the country. It's a comfortable and affordable way to travel long distances. Night trains are especially convenient, as you can essentially sleep your way to your next destination! We recommend booking a private cabin for added comfort.

  • (Night) Bus: There are many public buses operating in Vietnam. They're a budget-friendly option for traveling long distances but can sometimes be crowded. For this reason, we recommend traveling by night bus, where you'll have your own "bed" and can travel quite comfortably.

  • Private Shuttle: Ideal for routes, especially where there are no bus or train connections. A private transfer is much more affordable than you might think, though naturally more expensive than public transportation. However, you'll be traveling in a small group, usually with Wi-Fi onboard, and can be driven wherever and whenever you want, which can be very convenient.

  • Taxis: Taxis are widespread in Vietnam's major cities. However, make sure the driver turns on the meter or negotiate the fare before the ride to avoid potentially inflated prices.

  • Scooters: Scooters are the most popular mode of transportation in Vietnam. There are many rental shops where you can hire a scooter. Prices are usually very reasonable. However, it's important to drive very carefully as traffic in Vietnam can often be chaotic. We would therefore advise against using this mode of transportation in larger cities.

  • Domestic Flights: Depending on how much time you have for your round trip through Vietnam, a domestic flight may be necessary.




7. Finding Cheap Flights to Vietnam and Booking Transportation


You can easily travel through Vietnam using various modes of transportation. We'll show you where to book tickets and how to find cheap flights to Vietnam!


Finding Cheap Flights to Vietnam


To find the most affordable flights to Vietnam, we recommend booking at least 3 months before your departure. It's also essential to us that the flight duration is as short as possible and that you only have to transfer once at most. If this is less of a priority for you, you may be able to save additional money.


If you're planning to book our round trip, you'll also need to ensure that your outbound flight goes to the capital, Hanoi, and your return flight departs from Ho Chi Minh City.





Booking Transportation in Vietnam


The railway network in Vietnam is well-developed, allowing you to cover long distances comfortably by train. Please note that train reservations are mandatory. To ensure you get your desired tickets, it's essential to book at least a few days in advance.


The website of the Vietnamese railway is dsvn.vn, but you cannot pay with a foreign credit card here. Therefore, we recommend the English-language portal baolau.com. Of course, you can also purchase tickets at the train station upon arrival.


Alternatively, you can travel by bus or private shuttles in Vietnam. Bus tickets can also be booked through baolau.com.





Generally, the Vietnamese are very friendly and helpful. If you need assistance, people are always willing to help you out.

 

You need more tips for planning your Vietnam tour? These articles will help you:

 

Are you looking for more insights into our travels? Check out our Instagram channels, tom_rbg_ and anna_mser! If you have any questions about the routes, feel free to contact us through these channels anytime!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You won't incur any additional costs by purchasing through these links; you're simply rewarding our efforts.


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