A family trip to Vietnam | A two week itinerary

Vietnam is a country that will quickly captivate you. Because of its special geography, the long and narrow S-shape, the climate in Vietnam varies from the north to the south with three distinct climatic zones. Vietnam has also an incredibly diverse landscape, ranging from pristine beaches and untouched islets to towering mountains and tropical forests housing thousands of rare wildlife species.

Many people around the world still see images of war when they think about Vietnam, even if the war has ended over 40 years ago. The Vietnamese are proud of their hard-fought independence and rather prosper in peace. The people we met were all incredibly positive and friendly and happy to give information about their country. You can be sure you will keep a firm memory of the country: eating street food in Hanoi, sailing along the incredible Halong Bay, making your own lanterns in Hoi An…those are just a few of many activities we have experienced in Vietnam.

You can read in different articles about every step of our trip from Hanoi to the Mekong Delta. Due to the length of the country and the long distances between the main cities, we decided to take in-bound flights. If you have more time to travel we recommend the train which connects Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. You will travel through some of the nicest landscapes in Vietnam and along the beautiful coastline of Vietnam.

#1  Hanoi  (3 nights)

Hanoi is chaotic and noisy, but has an unforgettable charm! When you first visit Hanoi you will be overwhelmed by the traffic and certainly need a few hours to get used to it. Start your journey by a walk through the old quarter to dive straight into the exciting city life of Hanoi.

The biggest attraction is the Old Quarter and its street life: honking scooters transporting entire families, street food stalls are all over the place where you can enjoy delicious food and many shops and lot’s of cool cafes lining up along the busy streets. This is pure Hanoi where you can walk around for hours and always discover something new.

On weekends, some roads around the Hoan Kiem Lake are closed and the lakeside promenade becomes a nice car free place, where young street dancers, local families and tourists are enjoying their free time. Do it like the locals and enjoy a peaceful walk around the lake.

We stayed 3 nights in Hanoi which gave us enough time to explore the city and adapt to the climate and time difference. If you have more time to spend in Hanoi, we recommend a visit to the Ceramic Villages Bat Trang or a day trip to the incredible hilly landscape of Tam Coc.

You can find more info about Hanoi in our article about Hanoi.

On our fourth day, we took the bus from Hanoi to Cát Bà (Departure point for Halong Bay cruises) to explore the famous Halong Bay. Most tour operators include the bus ride from Hanoi to the cruise ship. The ride takes about 3.5 hours and you’re ready to board the cruise ship at around 12 am.

#2  Halong Bay  (1 night)

A boat cruise in Halong Bay is an absolute must on your first trip to Vietnam. Almost 2,000 limestone rocks, some of them more than hundred meters high, jut out of the water. It’s an unforgettable adventure  to stay and to sleep a night on a typical wooden junk. What a great adventure to sail around the many small islands, in the middle of the bay, surrounded by water, and having no connection to the land for days.

Most of the cruise boats stay in the very crowded Halong Bay while we had the chance to discover a part of the Lan Ha Bay, lying south and east of Cát Bà Town. The islands and limestone outcrops of Lan Ha are just as beautiful as those of Halong Bay and have the additional attraction of numerous small white sand beaches. We recommend highly to book a trip to this still untouched part of the Bay.

You can read more about our trip to Lan Ha Bay in this dedicated article.

The cruise boats get back to Cát Bà Island around 12 am. From there you can take a taxi to the airport Hai Phong (about 1 1/2 hours drive). Hai Phong Airport offers affordable in-bound flights to the largest cities in Vietnam. We flew with Vietjet to Da Nang to reach our next destination Hoi An.  (Flight time: 1h15min | Taxi from Da Nang to Hoi An about 30min).

#3  Hoi An  (3 nights)

Hoi An has long been an insider tip in central Vietnam. Instagram and the rapid growth of the local tourisme have made this small port town a very popular tourist attraction. It makes you feel a bit like in Disneyland when you stroll through the colorful bright houses and temples in the old town. But when the sun goes down and all the lanterns illuminate the city, you will succumb to the charm of Hoi An.

The small charming village is a mix of different historical eras: You will find Chinese temples in between French colonial buildings and the emblematic Japanese pagoda bridge, built in the 16th century.

The center is car-free and packed with shops, restaurants and bars to explore. The city is constantly alive and full of activities to try out. Hoi An has a vibrant gastronomic scene with over 600 restaurant and a night market with food stalls where you can try out the local food.

Hoi An is a small city and in one full day you have seen the principal sights. But there are many places to visit outside Hoi An, which makes it worth to stay a couple of days longer. You can book a day trip to visit Marble Mountains or the My Son Sanctuary or take a bike tour through the rice fields outside the city. Our highlight was Gioan’s cooking class.

You can read our detailed article about Hoi An with many useful tips and addresses here (coming soon).

Our next stop is Dalat, a city in the southern parts of Central Vietnam. The flight from Da Nang to Dalat takes 1 1/2h. Then you can grab a taxi to the center of Dalat which takes around 60 minutes.

#4  DA LAT  (3 nights)

Surrounded by mountains, Dalat is known to be the perfect destination for nature lovers. Dalat is considered a recreational area for many Vietnamese, mainly because of the pleasant and mild climate and the unique nature of the Valley. It is located in the southern part of the central Vietnam at around 1500m above sea level.

Dalat Valley is an absolute must visit place for coffee lovers. The visit of a coffee farm was one of the highlight of our Vietnam trip. You get to learn everything about the process from tree to cup.

We invite you to read our whole Dalat article with many tips and addresses. I can only mention that Dalat is worth a stay. Dalat gets often overlooked by the fist time travelers. But it was one of our highlights and completely different compared to the other places we visited in Vietnam.

From Dalat we took a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. It’s about 50 minutes flight time. You can find very competitive prices around 30 Euro/person.

#5  HOI CHI MINH CITY | MEKONG DELTA  (3 NIGHTS)

This is the last stop on our journey. After a quiet and restful stay in Dalat, we are catapulted back into the big city life in Ho Chi Minh (called Saigon during the French occupation). Ho Chi Minh is the driving economic force of the country. It is loud, hectic and very western oriented. For tourists, there is an incredible amount of history to admire, including many colonial buildings and many relics from the Vietnam War.

Ho Chi Minh is also the starting point for day trips to the Mekong Delta. It’s the longest river in Southeast Asia, originates in the Himalayas and passes through China, Thailand, and Laos before entering Cambodia and heading toward the delta of southern Vietnam. It offers a breathtaking variety of flora and fauna. Tons of rice, fish, tropical fruits, vegetables, sugarcane and coconuts are produced and traded around the Mekong. You will need to stay at least one night in the area (in Can Tho) to explore the unique landscape and discover the beauty of this place.

Read more about our trip to the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh in the following detailed article (coming soon).

THE BASICS:

Check out if you need a Visa on the website of your Vietnam Embassy in your country or on the official Visa Application site . Your travel document must be valid for six months beyond the validity of the visa.

At your arrival at the International Airport you can buy a Viettel SIM card, so you can use your mobile phone during your stay. It is very useful, especially to check all the itineraries and addresses on Google Maps. We took a card for $10 which was enough for our two weeks trip.

The currency in Vietnam is the Dong (1 Euro = 26 000 Dong). You can pay in almost all restaurants and hotels with credit card. It is common that you pay a 3% credit card commission. ATMs are widely used in all cities and provinces.

GETTING AROUND:

BY AIR: The local airlines are Jetair, Vietair or Vietnam Airlines. An In-bound flight tickets is not very expensive (f.e. 29 Euro/person from Hai Phong – Da Nang) and easy to buy online.

BY TRAIN: Vietnam has one long train railway which goes from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and has various stops along the track. You can check out the details on Website of Vietnam Railway.

https://www.vietnamrailwaycorp.com

IN THE CITY: Be sure to download the Grab app on your phone! It works exactly the same as Uber, except that Uber is no longer available in Southeast Asia. Most taxis have taximeters, if not, you should discuss the price in advance. In the countryside, you can rent bikes to get around. Most of the hotels and homestays provide bicycles free of charge.

WEATHER:

The best time to visit Vietnam is spring (February to April) and autumn (August to October). The temperature are pleasant and not too hot and there is only little rainfall.

A detailed weather overview is available on this following website https://www.insider-journeys.com/blog/best-time-to-visit-vietnam

COSTS:

ACCOMMODATION: In most of the cities and touristic places in Vietnam you can find a wide range of accommodation, from the typical homestay to luxury resorts. All depends if you want to spend a more authentic or more luxury relaxed vacation. Personally, I like to try out different accommodation with a preference for the homestay which are really very nice in Vietnam. You can get a nice family room at a homestay around 40 Euros. 

FOOD: All depends if you want to try Street Food or go for one of the top rated restaurants in the city! But let’s be clear, it’s on the Street we have found the best and cheapest food. F.e. a bowl of authentic chicken Phở cost about Euro 1.50 on a sidewalk restaurant.

SOUVENIRS: You can find all kind of handmade items, from ceramics, weaved straw bags, beautiful silk fabrics. Be aware that you need to pay the price for a handmade high quality product. Unfortunately, you can find many copies of bags and garments from different luxury and outdoor brands.

SECURITY:

When traveling with children, the biggest security problem is the chaotic traffic. Often, there are no sidewalks and small children can easily be overlooked. You should be very careful and always keep the little ones by the hand.

Obviously, there are always people who want to profit in a bad way from tourists or foreigner who don’t know the country rules and habits. But if you are well informed and do not trust everyone on the street, you should not have any problems with scams and tourist traps.

We hope you will enjoy your trip to Vietnam. And don’t forget to send us your best tips and addresses.

See you soon for new adventures!

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