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Top Places to Visit in Vietnam

With varying landscapes, atmospheres and offering, it may be hard to choose between all the awesome places to visit in Vietnam. Some have delicious eats under $1; some have the best sunsets you may ever see in your life!

Here are seven of our favorite places to put on your itinerary when planning a trip to Vietnam. With our personal experience and insight, you’ll learn which places in Vietnam are best suited for you!

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Places to Visit in Vietnam for Nature

Sapa

Sapa absolutely can’t be missed. Being immersed in the mountains with rice fields will take your breath away, and every moment of the day from sunrise to sunset is just perfect. Not exaggerating.

When you go to Sapa, you’ll want to stay in the villages, NOT the city itself. Staying in the villages surrounded by the rice fields will give you the full experience you want because to be honest, the city itself is just ok. The rice fields are the true spectacle of this region.

Where to Stay in Sapa

sapa eco bungalows in sapa vietnam
sapa eco bungalows in sapa vietnam

We stayed at the Sapa Eco Bungalows, which I’d highly recommend. Being right in the midst of the rice fields and seeing the glow of the sunrise and sunset from our bungalow each day was a dream.

Between the pool and the amazing customer service by the hotel’s hardworking manager, we truly enjoyed every moment of our bungalow stay!

Book direct or on Booking.com.

What to Do in Sapa

hiking in sapa rice fields

The best thing to do in Sapa is to hike among the rice fields. There are hikes as short as 30 minutes and some as long as four hours. The landscapes vary. For example, you can hike all the way to a waterfall!

To create the best hike for you, hire a expert local trekking guide who will not only take you around to some of the best views but also give you insight on the area.

How to Get from Hanoi to Sapa Eco Bungalows

To get from Hanoi to Sapa, we took a 6-hour luxury bus with Sapa Dragon Express that we booked on 12go.asia.

  • Please try your best to book with Sapa Dragon Express because we took another bus company from Sapa to Ha Long Bay, and it was HORRIBLE.
  • Sapa Dragon Express was awesome because the bus’ guide spoke in both Vietnam and English. They were very clear about when we’d stop and how long we’d be at the stop for.
  • Also, the busses are super comfortable with wide seats and wifi.

To get from Sapa city to Sapa Eco Bungalows’ village, we called a taxi via the Grab app. The app will say that your trip to Sapa Eco Bungalows is only 180K VND, but in reality, it’ll be closer to 250-300K VND.

Don’t be alarmed when your taxi driver changes the price on you. It is normal to pay 250-300K VND, which is what we learned from the manager at Sapa Eco Bungalows after we arrived.

The reason for this is because the drive out to the villages near Sapa is quite rocky. It will be a very bumpy ride! Prepare for 30 minutes of being jostled around in the back seat, but don’t worry. The drivers are used to driving here.

Good to Know About Visiting Sapa

On your ride in from Sapa to Ta Van Village where Sapa Eco Bungalows is, there will be a tax per person about 75K VND from memory. This helps with building infrastructure (i.e. roads) for the area.

Make sure to have cash on you to pay this.

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Halong Bay

Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its turquoise blue waters and thousands of islands topped with lush greenery.

The most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam are a tie between Sapa and here. They’re both very special in their own ways, but being further out in Halong Bay without any other boat in sight made me feel like I was in a different world. It was quite enchanting.

The Best Halong Bay Cruise to Book

Choosing a Halong Bay cruise may be overwhelming. Not all cruises are created equal. Based on many reviews, we were quite nervous of this area being quite touristy, and we wanted to avoid being with hoards of tourist in such a beautiful place.

We thought about booking a private cruise, but because of cost, we opted for the Bhaya Classic Premium 3-day, 2-night cruise. It was exactly what we wanted and more! Here’s why:

on the deck with our boat manager, the two sisters and Mike

First off, we were put on a boat designed for six people with two sisters meaning there were only four of us on board. They didn’t join for all the activities so Mike and I had private tours sometimes.*

Second and the most important, our on-board boat manager was quite experienced with the area. He knew exactly which sites would have the most tourists when and how far we needed to go to be out of sight of other boats. With this, he customized the timing of our itinerary for us.*

We barely were on any sites with other tourists, and at one point, he brought us to a beach that we had to ourselves. I felt like I was in a movie. The landscape was awe-inspiring and definitely in my top five favorite beaches in the world!

I highly recommend booking the Bhaya Classic Premium 3-day, 2-night cruise here, or if you’re on more of a budget, then check out their other cruises.

Get 20% off any cruise-only Bhaya Premium booking with code SARAH20 from 23 Aug 2019 till 20 Dec 2020 (applicable on flexible rate and for travel dates from 24/8/2019 – 20/12/2020, except from 20/12/2019 – 02/01/2020).

*Disclaimer: You may not have the same experience as us in terms of number of passengers and the boat manager customizing the itinerary for you.

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Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is a small city located just two hours from Hanoi, but the biggest draw there is not the city at all. It’s the scenic mountainsides and serene waterways flowing in and out of these limestone mountains that make this UNESCO Heritage Site epic.

Visiting Ninh Binh can easily be done in a one day trip from Hanoi with many tour groups leaving from Hanoi city center daily.

Pro Tip: However, unlike doing a group tour like we did, I’d highly recommend getting a private tour. That way, you can spend more time at the mountains and cut out time in another part of your itinerary (such as visiting the ancient capital or biking).

Nonetheless, a group tour is a fantastic value. You’ll get to visit the ancient capital, get a panoramic view of Ninh Binh from Dragon Mountain, have an authentic Vietnamese lunch and go bike riding!

How to Book: Book a group tour here, but if you have the budget, opt for a private tour!


Places to Visit in Vietnam for City Life

Hanoi

Hanoi is one the most ancient capitals, not only in Vietnam, but in the world. Its old town is full of charming architecture while its streets are bustling with delicious street food.

Where to Eat in Hanoi

Our main goal for Hanoi was to try as much street food as possible so that’s what we did! We ate at about six+ places a day. No joke but keep in mind that we’re not total piggies. Sometimes, we’d literally get one meat skewer just to try out a place.

Bun Cha Hang Quat

Anyways, here are some places we highly recommend eating at:

  • Bun Cha Hang Quat was in our top three favorite meals. There are more touristy spots to go to such as the one that Obama went to but after digging deep, this bun cha is the real deal. I can still taste the chargrilled flavors on my tongue today!
  • Banh Mi 25 has some of the most delicious banh mis in the city neatly packaged in a soft but flaky baguette.
  • Giảng Cafe is where the original egg coffee was invented but we actually enjoyed the egg espresso at Blackbird Coffee better. Try both- one for experience, one for taste!
  • Pho Ganh doesn’t open until 3:30AM but Mike swears that it’s the best pho he’s ever had. I unfortunately missed out on this because I was sleeping!

If you want to be warmed up to Hanoi’s local food scene with a true foodie, then opt for a small group food tour on your first night!

What to Do in Hanoi

PS If you see this little girl who helps her family run the cafe, show her this photo please!

Besides eating, which is basically all we did, we also visited the Hanoi train street where a train runs through multiple times a day. Yah, you heard right– the train runs through a pedestrian street where people live and run cafes. It reaches a mere 12 inches from some parts of the street.

If you like getting pampered, I absolutely looooved the Garden Nail Spa. Their service was so good. Plus the prices?! Wow– I got eyelash extensions, a gel manicure and a spa pedicure with foot massage for about $50USD.

The eyelash extensions itself cost about $17 and were my favorite place to get eyelash extensions in all of Vietnam… and perhaps in my entire history of getting eyelash extensions in New York and Amsterdam too!

Where to Stay in Hanoi

We stayed at a very basic hotel in Hanoi Old Town that was only about $22/night when we went. The bed was clean and comfortable, the service was great, and breakfast was aplenty. But the decor and overall state of the room felt a bit rundown.

If you’re a budget, then the Hanoi Amber hotel is a great option, but if you’re looking for someplace nicer to stay, try May de Ville Old Quarter Hotel, which has a pool!

Booking.com

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Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a modern metropolis with a mix of towering skyscrapers and neo-Romanesque style architecture. Like New York City, it’s a city that never sleeps and is full of energy and life at any time of the day.

What to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

You can get insight behind the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum. It details America’s involvement in Vietnam since the end of the French occupation.

The 19th-century post office and the pink church are sights to see if you like Instagrammable places to take photos at.

There’s so many good things to eat in Ho Chi Minh City if only you knew where to go! If I went back, I’d 100% start my first day out in this city with a street food tour to get a good grasp on the city and its food scene. Book the street food tour here.

Definitely don’t miss out on a day trip to the Mekong Delta, but make sure to go with the right tour group so you can avoid hoards of tourists and go to a special island that only this one tour group goes to. Read more about the Mekong Delta below.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City

Although most of the tourist hotspots are in District 1, we opted to stay in an Airbnb right outside District 1 in District 4. It’s a mere 10-15 min walk into District 1, and with its luxury amenities and super safe security, we couldn’t have been happier with our Airbnb.

Right below our Airbnb was a 7-eleven, which made it convenient to get water or toiletries anytime we needed. But the apartment itself is what shined.

We got two bedrooms for about $330 for six nights. It was very modern and safe and came with nice amenities like a washer and Netflix!

Check out the Airbnb we got here. This owner also has several other properties if you need something smaller and cheaper.


The City to Visit in Vietnam for Custom Clothing, Shoes and Bags

Hoi An

view from our hotel

Hoi An is a small city on the coastline in Central Vietnam that’s better known as the Lantern City because of all the floating lanterns aglow at night.

This is more of a touristy city geared towards Westerner than other cities as they have trendy vegan and smoothie spots and signs in English and Korean. It seemed like Koreans love to vacation here as well.

Because of the touristy aspect, it wasn’t one of our favorite places to visit in Vietnam, but we did like it for two reasons:

1. If you want to be like the locals and try biking or riding a scooter, this is the city to do it because it’s much calmer than Hoian and Ho Chi Minh.

Most hotels like ours offer free bike rentals, but if you want to ride a 50cc scooter (one that you don’t need a license for), then rent one from Hoi An Bike Rental.

The owner himself dropped off and pick up the scooter at our hotel and was so friendly. As for the scooter, it was in great shape, had a phone holder and came with two solid helmets.

Even better, you get an e-mail full of suggestions on where to explore and you can book your scooter through Whatsapp!

getting fitted at Yaly Couture

2. The main reason we loved Hoi An was because of the amazing experience we had getting custom clothing and shoes made there. The tailors will astound you with their skills!

Mike had a tux, two suits, a few pair of pants and multiple shirts made at A Dong Silk. I had multiple dresses, a pink suit, a couple of pairs of pants and shirts made at Yaly Couture, OCHE Boutique and Ha Na Tailor.

  • Mike opted to get all his clothes made at A Dong Silk while I didn’t because they seem more specialized in suits.
  • I decided to try out Yaly because I liked their customer service when we were shopping around for tailors. They’re an institution in Hoi An and have been one of the best for years. The experience throughout the process was truly unparalleled, and the clothing came out beautifully.
  • I actually didn’t know about OCHE Boutique through research. We happened to see it while walking around, and I liked that they had their own women’s fashion line on display in the front so I decided to check them. Their customer service was the most open and friendly so I tried them out and was extremely happy with the end product.
  • Ha Na Tailor is on the lower-priced end of the three tailors I went to, and I tried it out just because I was curious if it’d be that different. Plus, I read rave reviews about Ha Na Tailor from other bloggers. I liked my experienced at Yaly and OCHE better, but that being said, if you’re on more of a budget and are getting simple, non-complicated dresses made, then Ha Na Tailor could definitely work for you!

We also checked out Bebe Tailor but did not like their attitude when we first walked in asking for their opinion on the dresses and suits we wanted made. They were a bit snobbish!

Here’s a summary of tailors we recommend:

Where to Stay in Hoi An

enjoying the pool at our hotel

For only $40-50/night (depending on the season), you can stay in a LUXURY HOTEL. Considering that we don’t get this great of a value at luxury hotels in many countries, we opted to “splurge” and stay at the Le Pavillon Hoi An Luxury Resort & Spa.

It was the perfect location between Hoi An Old Town and the beach with easy modes of transportation to both with the hotel’s shuttle and free bike rentals.

The room was unbelievably spacious and clean, and the breakfast buffet was something that we both looked forward to every morning! The food was actually tasty.

I’d highly recommend seeing if there’s availability for your trip at the Le Pavillon Hoi An Luxury Resort & Spa, and when you’re there, see if they have there 2-for-1 massage deal!

Book Le Pavillon Hoi An Luxury Resort & Spa here.

Booking.com

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The Place to Visit in Vietnam for a Truly Unique, Local Experience

Mekong Delta

coconut trees in the mekong delta
waterways of the mekong delta

The Mekong Delta, a two-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City, is definitely a must-visit if you’re looking to have a truly, unique local experience in this maze of rivers, swamps and islands.

Again, not all tours are created equal though. Mike found out about this particular tour from the owner of a vividly interesting herbal alcohol and tea shop / family-run guesthouse, Nyugen Shack.

The tour he recommended to us is the ONLY AND FIRST tour to go to this specific island in the Mekong Delta. You won’t go to the floating markets or waste time shopping with hoards of other tourists doing the exact same thing as you. Instead, you’ll be in a small group (max. 10) experiencing untouched island life in an authentic setting.

As we were riding on the backs of the tour guides’ scooters floating through all the coconut farms, all I kept thinking was, “This is MAGICAL.” Because it really was one of the most unique and special places to visit in Vietnam for us because of this specific tour.

Pro Tip: At one point, you need to transfer from your van to bikes or scooters (depending on what you request) and won’t have access to the van so bring everything you need with you for the day.

Note: We reached out to Deluxe Group Tours asking for a private tour. It ended up being around $180 for the two of us.

The group tour is only $50/person and maxes out at 10 people so it’s a great economical choice to make. Book it here.

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Thanks for making it all the way down to the end of this post. If you found it to be helpful, you might like what I share on my Instagram @sarchetrit. You might like what I post on there too.

Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!

xo,
Sarah


Disclaimer: We were offered a discount for our cruise by Bhaya in exchange for an honest review of the experience in our post about places to visit in Vietnam. We wholly recommend them as we had such a great experience!

You can get a 20% discount too with SARAH20. It’s applicable on the Bhaya Premium cruises from 23 Aug 2019 till 20 Dec 2020 (applicable on flexible rate and for travel dates from 24/8/2019 – 20/12/2020, except from 20/12/2019 – 02/01/2020).

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