The Ultimate 2 Week North & Central Vietnam Itinerary
Vietnam14 days / January - February 2020
Vietnam is rich in culture, history, bustling cities, nature, and some of the best food you'll find in South East Asia. Here we'll explore all the best things to do (and eat!).
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).
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!
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.
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....
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.
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.
- Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
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.
- Hạ Long, Quảng Ninh, Vietnam
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.
- Đội 2 văn lâm, Ninh Hải, Hoa Lư, Vietnam
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!
- Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam
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.