What to Visit in Vietnam?

This site is mainly about the city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), but in this page I will show you what are the main places to visit in Vietnam and how to get there.
Look at the following map, click to enlarge :
Vietnam
On this page :

The direction to take

As you can see from the map above, Vietnam has a vertical long shape and this shape makes it very convenient for visiting, you just travel from one extreme to the other (avoid countries that have a round shape). You usually arrive to Vietnam by landing in one of the 2 big cities : Hanoi (north) or Saigon (South). Then you travel from Saigon to Hanoi (or the opposite direction, it doesn’t matter) and visit places along the way.

Feel the distances and timing

The aerial distance between Saigon and Hanoi is 1130 Km. Da-Nang (the third largest city) is midway.
The trains and buses are slow in Vietnam (the airplanes fly normally) and if you will decide to travel by train non-stop between Hanoi and Saigon (why??) it will take you more than 24 hours. You are supposed to stop and visit places on your way, if not just take an airplane.
Vietnam
In 1 month you can easily visit the main places in Vietnam. In my first visit in Vietnam, I went from Saigon to Hanoi and in 1 month I stayed in just 6 cities. I travelled by trains and buses, no airplanes. Of course that you can visit much more places in one month but you may see the background blurred. I recommend to travel slowly and enjoy each place.

How to move in Vietnam ?

Flights in Vietnam

As you can see from the following map, the main attractions are grouped in 3 zones, so you may decide to fly between them in order to gain time (or comfort). The 3 main airports are in Hanoi, Saigon and Da-Nang (International airports). There are domestic airports near most places, except Sapa which is in the mountains.
There are many internal flights in Vietnam and they are not expensive.
star See below how to reach each touristic city.
star You can find flights inside Vietnam with the site 12Go Asia or your favourite flight search site.
Vietnam

Trains in Vietnam

As you can see from the following Map, there is a main railway that goes vertically in Vietnam. It’s called the “reunification line”.
Click to enlarge the Map :
VietnamIt’s possible to reach with the train all the touristic towns mentioned on this page (except Dalat). In most cases the train station is in town, but for some destinations it is 30 or 50 km away and then you need to complete the journey with a short ride in taxi or a bus (it is the case of Hoi-An).
The trains in Vietnam are fun and comfortable and they have sleeping wagons because a trip from Saigon to Hanoi takes one day and a half. There are no bullet trains like in Japan or China, yet.
The trains are not expensive. Travelling from Hanoi to Saigon in a sleeping coach is about 50 dollars.
star See below how to reach each touristic city.
star You can buy a train ticket at the train stations in Vietnam or online via the site 12Go Asia.
star You can read more details about the trains in Vietnam in the excellent site : Seat61.

Buses in Vietnam (long distances)

Two main categories :

  1. Public buses (regular lines) that travel between central bus stations in the towns.
  2. Private bus companies that collect and drop passengers in tourist areas and even pick up from the hotels.

The open bus “Hop-on /Hop-off ” tickets of the private bus companies :

The open ticket goes like this : You pay in advance for a long trajectory, let’s say from Saigon to Hanoi. You don’t travel all the trajectory at once but spread it on time. For example : you first travel from Saigon to Mui-Ne, you stay in place for 3 days, later travel from Mui-Ne to Nha-Trang and so on.  Each time that you want to use the buses, you need to contact the company and reserve your place in advance (but not pay).
Of course that you can also purchase individual travels with these companies (not an open ticket).
For journeys at night, there are usually beds inside the bus (the beds are not like at the hotel…).
star See below how to reach each touristic city in Vietnam.
star You can buy bus tickets in the many travel agencies in Vietnam or online with the site 12Go Asia.
Vietnam

What to Visit in Vietnam ?

Let’s start from Saigon and head north to Hanoi :

Saigon – Ho Chi Minh city

What is it ?

Saigon is the biggest and most modern city in Vietnam, it is the economy center of the country. Don’t expect a huge city like London or Tokyo, there is even not a metro in Saigon, the town center is compact and can be visited by foot.
Vietnam
The main attractions in town are :
The Independence Palace (museum), the War Remnants Museum, some temples, and a cool nightlife.
Vietnam
You may also go to one day trips to :  Cu Chi tunnels (related to Vietnam war) and to the Mekong delta (floating houses on rivers, markets).
See details about all the attractions of Saigon in the Saigon visit page.

How to get there ?

Saigon may be your arrival point in Vietnam (by airplane, for example). If not, you may arrive to Saigon by an internal flight, train or bus. See Saigon on the map above.
star See the Saigon Transport page for details about Airport location, Bus Stations, Trains etc.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Saigon ?

See this in the Saigon Stay page – Advantages and disadvantages of each zone.
Vietnam

Mui-Ne

What is it ?

Mui Ne is a small town on the beach, it has a fishing village with small boats, some of them in circle shape (very nice photos to take).
Vietnam
South of the city there are quiet and long beaches with resorts to stay (for all prices). It is common to rent a motorbike and visit an area with sand dunes.
Vietnam

How to get there ?

Mui-Ne is relatively close to Saigon (180 Km aerial distance). See Mui-Ne on the map above.
By train : Phan Thiet station (4 hours from Saigon) and then 5 Km to Mui-Ne by Taxi or bus. Mui-Ne is not on the main train line Saigon-Hanoi.
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will deposit you inside town.
By airplane : You need to land in Saigon.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Mui-Ne ?

See Hotels in Mui-Ne and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.
Vietnam

Dalat

What is it ?

A medium sized town in the mountains. A little bit off track the Saigon-Hanoi path.
The weather is cooler than on the beach level. There are waterfalls, pagodas and walking tracks to do.

How to get there ?

Dalat is close to Nha-Trang (88 Km aerial distance) and not very far from Saigon (230 Km aerial distance). See Dalat on the map above.
By Bus : The common way to reach Dalat. It is a touristic place, so the open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
By Train : Not really an option. The effective closest station is in  Nha-Trang , 135 kilometres away.
By Airplane : Yes, there is a domestic airport about 30 Km from town. You can find flights.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Dalat ?

See Hotels in Dalat and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.

Nha-Trang

What is it ?

It is a medium sized town on the beach. In the background there are mountains and small islands and it is common to take a organised day excursion by boat.
Vietnam
Nha-Trang is a good place because it has the advantages of a city (nightlife) and it is on the beach.
Vietnam

How to get there ?

Nha-Trang is still close to Saigon (320 Km aerial distance). See Nha-Trang on the map above.
By Train : There is a station in town. The main line Hanoi-Saigon passes here. The trip from Saigon takes about 7 hours.
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
By Airplane : Yes, there is a domestic airport (Cam Ranh Airport (CXR)) about 30 Km from town. You can find flights.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Nha-Trang ?

See Hotels in Nha-Trang and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.
Vietnam

Da-Nang

What is it ?

The third largest city of Vietnam, on the coast. It has beaches. Tourists are usually skipping this town (because there are many things to see in Vietnam).

How to get there ?

Da-Nang is located in mid way between Hanoi and Saigon. See Da-Nang on the map above.
By Airplane : It is a big city with an International airport.
By Train : There is a station in town. The main line Hanoi-Saigon passes here. A train from Saigon about 17 hours. A train from Hanoi 16 hours.
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Da-Nang ?

See Hotels in Da-Nang and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.

Hoi-Han

What is it ?

An old town with 2000 years of history, a UNESCO world heritage site. Beautiful pagodas and old structures beside a river. It is a very touristic destination.
Vietnam

How to get there ?

Hoi-Han is close to Da-Nang (24 Km to the south). See Hoi-Han on the map above.
By Airplane : No airport. You need to land in Da-Nang and continue a short distance by bus or taxi (around 20 $).
By Train : There is no station in town. You need to get down at Da-Nang and continue a short distance by bus or taxi (around 20 $).
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Hoi-Han ?

See Hotels in Hoi-Han and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.
Vietnam

Hue

What is it ?

An old, medium sized city related to Nguyen Dynasty emperors. There is a big river in town (Perfume River) and a famous citadel to visit.
Vietnam

How to get there ?

Hue is close to Da-Nang (80 Km to the north). See Hue on the map above.
By Train : There is a station in town. The main line Hanoi-Saigon passes here.
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
By Airplane : Yes, there is a domestic airport (“Phu Bai” (HUI)) about 15 Km from town.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Hue ?

See Hotels in Hue and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.
Vietnam

Hanoi

What is it ?

The capital of Vietnam. The second largest city after Saigon. Most tourists to Vietnam visit Hanoi. The city center is compact, there is a nice lake. You mostly walk, there is still no metro.
Vietnam
A top tourist attraction is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in which the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh leader is preserved. Next to the mausoleum, there is a museum about Ho Chi Minh.
Hanoi is also a starting point for excursions to Halong-Bay and Sapa.
Vietnam

How to get there ?

Hanoi may be your arrival point in Vietnam (by airplane, for example). If not, you may arrive to Hanoi by an internal flight, train or bus. See Hanoi on the map above.
By Airplane : There is an International airport (No Noi Bai). It is 35 Km from the city.
By Train : There is a train station in town. The main line Hanoi-Saigon passes here.
By Bus : The open buses that run along the Saigon-Hanoi path will have a stop in town.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Hanoi ?

See Hotels in Hanoi and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.

Ha-long Bay

What is it ?

A bay with amazing isles and rocks in the water. The top attraction of Vietnam. A UNESCO world heritage site. In order to enjoy the view, you need to sail on a boat.
Vietnam
There are many organised boat tours in the bay, for 1, 2 or more days. There are some points with caves. There is a big island called Cat-Ba, with a town. The organised tours make a stop in the island, the guests are sleeping in a hotel on the island or on the boats.

How to get there ? (from Hanoi)

The bay is located 170 Km, east of Hanoi. See Ha-Long Bay on the map above.
By organised tour : There are many organised tours starting from Hanoi, for 1 or more days. They include all the transports.
By Bus : From Hanoi, you can take a bus to Halong city (about 4 hours) or Haiphong city, then reach the pier and take a boat that goes to Cat-Ba island. During the sail, you will see the special scenic view of the bay.
By Train :There is a train to Halong city, it seems that you will need to wake up at night to catch it.
By airplane : There is a domestic airport at Hai-Phong (Cat Bi airport).
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay on Cat-Ba island (Halong Bay)?

See Hotels in Cat-Ba island and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.
Vietnam

Sapa

What is it ?

A scenic town in the mountains (1500 meters high). There are hill tribes in the surroundings. It can get cold in Sapa, especially at night, there were even cases of snow.

How to get there ?

Sapa is located 262 Km to the west of Hanoi. See Sapa on the map above.
By Train : From Hanoi about 8 hours. You arrive to Lao Cai Railway Station and then you need a Taxi or Bus for the remaining small distance.
By Bus : Many buses from Hanoi. About 6 hours.
By airplane : No flights to Sapa (airplanes don’t like mountains). You need to land in Hanoi.
star Read above information about the Transport in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Sapa ?

See Hotels in Sapa and read opinions of travellers for each hotel.

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