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Trip Report

North and Central Vietnam Two Week Itinerary

North and Central Vietnam is full of culture, history, bustling cities, nature and food. Experience it first-hand with my Vietnam travel itinerary.

by madelineraeawayAbout Me:Madeline Rae Away is a travel and lifestyle blog created by Madeline - A Canadian living in Sweden. read more

AsiaVietnam14 days / January - February 2020

Highs & Lows

Hanoi! I thought this would be my least favourite part of the trip, but it ended up being my favourite.

Hang Mua in Ninh Binh (you should still go, but read on for tips on this).

Itinerary Overview

Vietnam has been on my travel bucket list for so long. I knew it was a country I would absolutely fall in love with - and I was right. I can't put into words how special this country, and its people, are. You just have to experience it to understand.

I chose to visit North and Central Vietnam for my first trip to the country because it seemed more interesting to me. Many itineraries will tell you that you can fit southern Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) into a two week itinerary but I would advise against it. I think it would be really rushed and you wouldn't get to properly immerse yourself.

Things you'll find in my 2 Weeks North & Central Vietnam Itinerary:

- Tips for visiting Hanoi, which was my favourite place we visited in Vietnam. It was chaotic and bustling, and so interesting. And the sstreet food ... It's a must visit for the food alone.

- The best luxury Halong Bay Cruise and tips for choosing a Halong Bay Cruise.

- Tips for visiting the stunning nature in Tam Coc and Ninh Binh, including where to stay and things to do.'

- Lots and lots of tips for Vietnam's most picturesque beach side city, Hoi An

  • 4 Nights: Hoàn Kiếm
    Food, culture, and an authentic Vietnamese city experience.
  • 2 Nights: Hạ Long
    Stunning natural landscapes
  • 3 Nights: Tam Coc Ninh Binh
    Stunning nature and unique culture
  • 5 Nights: Hội An
    Iconic yellow-painted old town, unique food culture and beaches

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    If I were to go back, I wouldn't travel in the middle of the Chinese New Year. While it was amazing to see and experience all the new year decorations and traditions, it meant that many things were closed or we had limited options. I wouldn't advise against going because it is a unique cultural experience, but keep in mind that it is the biggest holiday of the year in Vietnam, and many people take 1-2 weeks off work to celebrate with family.

  • How was the food?

    Look in the city-specific guides for both Hanoi and Hoi An for lots of recommendations!

  • Packing tips?

    Weather in the north of Vietnam in the winter months can be a bit chilly. While we were able to enjoy warm weather through most of the vacation, if you're travelling in the winter, make sure you bring layers for the evenings.

  • Transportation Tips?

    We used Hanoi as a starting and ending spot, flying in and out of the northern city. When arriving in Hanoi, it is best to schedule a driver to transport you from the airport to your hotel. If you email or call your hotel before the trip, they will arrange transportation for you and the driver will be waiting for you upon arrival. In fact, hotels will happily book or schedule all your ground transportation for you throughout the trip. When travelling to Hoi An, we flew from Hanoi (and back to Hanoi). If you're looking to save some money you can take an overnight train or bus, but flying is the most convenient. Within northern Vietnam, we used car and shuttle services to transport us. This was all booked through our hotels. And finally, a quick note on flying within Vietnam. Local Vietnamese airlines are affordable, but we also learned that they are also a bit unreliable. We had our flight times changed on several occasions up until the day before our flights (always on the same day but several hours earlier or later). The key to travelling in Vietnam is to just take these things are they come, because there are many things about the travel infrastructure that are confusing....Read More

  • Any surprises?

    I was shocked by how much I loved Hanoi. I thought Hoi An would be my favourite, but the authenticity and charm of Hanoi blew me away.

  • Booking details?

    We booked everything on our own through our own research. However, I can recommend really leaning on your hotel or home stay staff for booking. They can book rental cars for you, help you buy a SIM card, or make reservations for excursions. Oftentimes this is easier than trying to navigate the booking systems online.


  • Centraltique Homestay is the perfect spot to stay in Hanoi's Old Quarter if you want to really experience the city. It's located atop a busy street in a French Colonial building, so it can be a bit noisy at night. But for me, that was part of the charm. Most rooms have their own balconies overlooking the city, too.

  • Doris Cruise is a high-end Halong Bay cruise line and the experience was exceptional. The prices might seem a bit high for Halong Bay cruises compared to other prices in Vietnam, but if you're going to "splurge" on one thing, the cruise is where you should splurge.

  • Tam Coc Wonderland Bungalows offer an authentic local experience, with cozy bungalows that are common to the region. The property has an amazing location, a pool, and breakfast and bikes are included!

  • MaiChi Villa is a brand new hotel located close to the historic old town. It has very Bali-esque vibes with huge rooms, tons of greenery, a beautiful courtyard pool, and fantastic breakfast included.