3 Weeks In Vietnam Itinerary Perfect For First Time Visitors

Come find out the ideal 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary for the ultimate adventure. Let’s talk about the best route, things to do, transportation, accommodation, and more during your 3 weeks in Vietnam!


Now Vietnam is for sure one of the best countries you can choose to backpack. It has such varied landscapes, delicious food, and awesome locals. Though it is actually a huge country with so much to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out where exactly to go on your travels. Though thankfully there is a well-established backpacking route that I focused on travels in completing during my time in Vietnam.

Therefore I know how long you should spend in each spot, how to travel between them, as well as the best places to eat, sleep, and stay.

Our itinerary will start in the North of Vietnam, in the city of Hanoi. This place has excellent international flight routes ensuring you will easily be able to start your travels there. Though we will end in another city called Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, another spot with excellent international transport links. This means you will easily be able to switch this itinerary around and do it back to front if your heart, and travel plans, desire.

We actually spent 4 weeks traveling this route in Vietnam, 28 days on the dot. Though we spent too long in some cities, so I have altered this Vietnam itinerary for 3 weeks. Keep in mind that 3 weeks is the minimum amount of time to complete this route with the days in each city I have recommended. Therefore I do not support trying to shorten it anymore.

If you are looking at getting off the beaten track and away from other travelers, then I will say it now; this is not the itinerary for you. This is assuming you are visiting Vietnam for the first time and want to see some of the best places it has to offer. We will keep you on the well-trodden backpacking Vietnam route. Though with a few extra tips and tricks are thrown in to take your adventure to the next level.

Now, let’s get into this 3 week Vietnam itinerary with all the information you need to know to have the ultimate adventure.


The Best 3 Weeks In Vietnam Itinerary For First-Time Visitors


Hanoi (Day 1 – 3)

Welcome to Hanoi! It can be a bit overwhelming when you first touch down for your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary but trust me, this is one of the craziest cities in Vietnam. Enjoy being among the action!

Enjoy Vietnam’s capital city boasting a well-preserved mix of French and Chinese architectural influences. Wander the small alleyways discovering delicious hidden way local food stalls. Look in awe at the incredible cathedral contrasting against the noisy motorbikes fulling the road. This city is an excellent starting point for some excellent multiday trips such as Sapa, Ha Long Bay, and Mai Chau.

You will actually need to pop into Hanoi for a couple of extra nights as stop-offs between these multiday trips and other destinations in Vietnam. This is simply because you don’t want to book your other transportation on the same day in case you miss it due to weather, traffic, or simply unforeseen circumstances. I know it is a hassle, so ignore the extra overnight extra if you want. Though just be extra cautious of possible delays on the road.

I have actually written a full 3 days in Hanoi itinerary, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

exploring one of the markets in hanoi
exploring one of the markets in hanoi

Getting From Noi Bai Airport To The Old Quarter

There are quite a few options you can take when figuring out how to travel from the Noi Bai International Airport to the Old Quarter, which is the best area to stay in Hanoi. They are also a surprisingly long distance apart as Hanoi is a crazy huge place. Depending on your transport method of choice it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour to travel the distance.

Prepaid Taxi: Taking a prepaid taxi is one of the most popular options when figuring out how to travel from the airport to the Old Quarter. This is also one I highly recommend. You can book a prepaid taxi via your accommodation before arriving in Hanoi. They will make sure the taxi driver is waiting at the airport holding up a sign with your name on it. When I was in Hanoi I paid $20.00 for my taxi from Noi Bai International Airport to The Old Quarter. We also arrived in the country in peak traffic and it took us over an hour to travel the distance in gridlock.

Taxi: You will find taking a regular taxi will be slightly cheaper than a prepaid taxi. It will be super easy to find a taxi. Simply exit the airport terminal and there will be a line of taxis waiting out the front. Your typical 4-seater car will cost somewhere between $14.00 – $18.00 depending on traffic. Organize a fixed price for the journey and do not pay for the meter.

Bus: The cheapest way to travel from Noi Bai Airport to the Old Quarter in Hanoi is by public bus.

  • Number 86 Bus is the newest, and most highly recommended bus. It will take you directly to the Old Quarter and finishes at the Hanoi Central Railway Station. The journey will take around 1 hour and cost $1.30 per person.
  • Number 7 Bus runs from the airport to Kim Ma bus station, on the western side of the Old Quarter. This is a long journey at an hour and a half and costs $0.40.
  • Number 17 Bus: This is a similar bus to the above, though instead finishes at Long Bien bus station. It takes an hour and a half and costs $0.40 as well.

Top Things To Do In Hanoi

Time to start exploring the best of what Hanoi has to offer. You should have one half day and a full day to explore if you are following this Vietnam itinerary, giving you time to check out what you would like. This is a list of my personal recommendations:

Wander The Old Quarter – The Old Quarter in Hanoi is a crazy busy place. Think small alleys, stores spilling out the side of buildings, and motorbikes speeding down the street. There is nothing better to do here than simply get lost. Stop at that store selling those cute trinkets, grab a banh mi from that food cart and follow your nose to that delicious-smelling hotpot from around the corner.

St Joseph’s Cathedral – I was lucky enough to stay in a hostel next to St Joseph’s Cathedral during my time in Hanoi. If you are there on a Sunday pop inside during the service and watch. Just remember to be respectful and stay quiet down the back, so as to not interrupt.

Hoan Kiem Lake & Ngoc Son Temple – Hoan Kiem Lake is such a happening place in Hanoi and it is only a short stroll from The Old Quarter. This is the perfect spot to come and people watch as the world passes by. In the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake is Ngoc Son Temple. It is very picturesque, even looking at it from a distance from across the lake you can appreciate the beauty.

Train Street – One of the most popular attractions in Hanoi is Train Street. This is simply a narrow bit of train track that weaves between buildings in the busy city. Though the presence of quaint cafes in close proximity to the moving train has created a phenomenon and quite the Instagram hot spot.

Here are some other tours and attractions that come highly recommended as well:

checking out the small alleyways and the lake in hanoi
checking out the small alleyways and the lake in hanoi

Where To Stay In Hanoi

The area of Hoan Kiem, or The Old Quarter, is the best part of Hanoi for travelers. It is full of culture with temples, old gates, small alleys, and traditional shops, making it a picture-perfect spot. It’s an obvious choice why many choose to stay here. Everything is within relatively close walking distance with plenty of affordable eateries, backpacker hostels, and luxury hotels.

On my most recent visit, I stayed at a hostel in the Old Quarter. You can check out my review of Chien Hostel for more information, though unfortunately, it has now shut down. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of affordable, but lux, hostel options in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. One of these is Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel. Here you can find dorm beds starting from $5.00, and with a privacy curtain, personal lights, sockets, and more this is real value for money!

Here are my top picks for the backpacking Hanoi travel guide:

Find the best hotels in the area

hanoi city backpackers hostel

Hanoi City Backpackers Hostel

A modern and upscale hostel. From $5.00 per night in the heart of the city.

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little charm hanoi hostel

Little Charm Hanoi Hostel

A favorite with travelers. A hostel with all the amenities, from $4.50 per night.

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de lanna hotel

Hanoi Sunshine Hotel

Beautiful private rooms for $9.00 per night and in a great location.

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vieng mantra hotel

Rising Dragon Villa Hotel

A walk from the city attractions, starting from $18.00 per night.

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How To Get From Hanoi To Sapa

Sapa is the most Northern this 3 week Vietnam itinerary will take you. Hanoi allows for an easy and simple starting point to travel with plenty of direct options available to book.

Though getting from Hanoi to Sapa can take quite a lot of time due to being such a large distance apart, trust me it is worth it. Unfortunately, air travel is currently not an option. This means you will need to travel overland.

Bus: the trip from Hanoi to Sapa takes approximately 5.5 to 6 hours. Plus it is a direct route so there is no need to stop in Lao Cai like the train. Though as someone who has taken the bus from Hanoi to Sapa let me just say, pick your bus company wisely. Conditions in Vietnam vary greatly and even though your accommodation recommends it, that doesn’t mean it is just a good choice. This just means they are likely getting some sort of commission from it.

Train: from Hanoi to Lao Cai takes 8 hours and 5 minutes. Lao Cai is the nearest railway station, 35 kilometers from Sapa town. From Lao Cai Train Station, it takes approximately an additional 65 minutes to reach Sapa, though minivan journeys the rest of the way are super easy to book. Currently, Vietnam Railways operate this journey twice per day, with either the SP1 or SP3 train.

Car or taxi: it takes between 5 and 5.5 hours to travel from Hanoi to Sapa via the highway. If you have a bit more money to spend why not book a private taxi from Hanoi to Sapa. No doubt this will be the fastest and most comfortable journey you could take. It may even take you less than 5 hours if you don’t do any stops! The easiest way to prebook your private taxi is online with 12.Go Asia. They have a variety of companies on offer who can take you the distance. Prices start from $170.00 for a 9 person van one way.

Mini Van: Taking the minivan is another great way to travel from Hanoi to Sapa. This is slightly a more expensive option than the bus, but some of these minivans are fancy AF. Like they are known as limousine vans. Think plush, lazy-boy-style seats. One of the most popular companies to book with is called Eco Sapa Bus. You get 5 and a half hours of luxury where you can just relax in comfort for the whole time. There are two services every day with the first at 7:30am and the second at 3pm.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau. Their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!

Time Cost Highlight
Train 8 hours from $23 Comfortable journey
Luxury Train 8 hours from $30 Super comfortable journey
Bus 6 hours from $10 The cheapest way to travel
Tourist Bus 6 hours from $15 More comfortable than the regular bus
Taxi 5 hours from $200 The fastest way to travel
Mini Van 5 hours from $20 A fast and relatively affordable way to travel

Sapa (Day 3 – 6)

If you are wanting to experience the countryside in Vietnam then Sapa is the perfect place to do this.  Think of bright green rice terraces, mountainous landscapes, and witnessing life in rural Vietnam. This place is absolutely gorgeous and honestly quite different from other popular towns and cities along the tourist trail in Vietnam.

Whether you want to check out some incredible waterfalls, witness the amazing rice terraces, make friends with the local animals or even hike Fansipan Mountain known as the roof of Indochina.

Once you get here one of the best things to do on your Sapa itinerary is go trekking, allowing you to explore the magnificent rice fields which line the hilly countryside making for the most picture-perfect opportunities. You can also stay at a homestay with a local family. Ta Van is an excellent village to do this.

I have actually written a full 3 days in Sapa itinerary, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

looking over the rice terraces in sapa
looking over the rice terraces in sapa

Trekking In Sapa

One of the best ways to go trekking around Sapa is on a guided tour. These are surprisingly affordable costing less than $20.00 for the day. The price general includes lunch and water as well.

You will be able to visit ethnic minority villages here in Sapa, which depends on exactly what tour you book. Though, your guides will be able to take you through the beautiful rice terraces and to some of the most picturesque spots. You will be given plenty of opportunities to interact with the local villagers and learn about their way of life.

If you are wanting to trek Sapa without a guide I first highly recommend you download Maps.Me on your phone. On it, you will be able to get an offline version of a map of Sapa, perfect if you do not have a local sim card. Alternatively, you can pick up a map of the surrounding area from the Tourist Information Office. If you are traveling during a part of the year with good weather then you can likely do a variety of hikes. The tracks will be maintained and dry so you should have no problem getting around.


Other Things To Do In Sapa

Sapa is a nature lover paradise full of plenty of things to do.

Mount Fansipan –  Mount Fansipan is often referred to as the roof of Indochina. This is because it is not just the highest peak in Vietnam at over 10,000 feet, but also in the whole Indo-Chinese Peninsula which includes Laos and Cambodia! Therefore it is a must-visit!

Waterfalls – Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall are well worth the visit while you are in Sapa. Love waterfall is a short 15 to 20-minute hike away from the main road. Though it is a peaceful walk underneath a beautiful forest. The entry fee is $3.00 / 70,000VND and it is definitely worth it. A few kilometers drive away is also Silver Waterfall. This can be seen from the roadside. Though I definitely recommend hiking up the stairs to the top for the best view. 

Sapa Night Market –  This is only held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  It runs from 4:00pm to 10:00pm and is located on N1 street in the middle of town so is super accessible. This is the perfect place to partake in a little bit of souvenir shopping or perhaps dinner.

Home Stay In Ta Van –  You will want to book your homestay in Ta Van in advance. There are so many places to choose from and the easiest way to book your Homestay is through Booking.com. This is what I used to book my homestay making it a hassle-free experience. You will just need to go through the listings and choose one of the homestay options or look at the map view and choose something, not in the main town.

Cat Cat Village – Cat Cat Village is a popular spot for tourists to visit while in Sapa. It is super accessible being located in the Muong Hoa Valley, just 3 kilometers from Sapa Town. It is a super easy walk to get here and the pathway is well maintained. The entry fee is $1.10 / 25,000 VND. This place is home to the ethnic H’Mong and Dzao people and here they come together to demonstrate their handicrafts and skills to those interested. These skills include cultivating rice and corn as well as weaving fabric and creating handicrafts.

impressive green landscapes around sapa
impressive green landscapes around sapa

Where To Stay In Sapa

When choosing where to stay in Sapa you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. No matter your budget or the type of traveler you are there is something to fit all your needs. Though most people a mixture of a hotel in the main town and a homestay among the rice terraces.

Sapa town is absolutely full of affordable and more luxurious hotel options. From comfortable guesthouses to sparkling brand-new hotels, it all comes down to your budget and what you are willing to spend. The township is nice and compact making it easy to travel everywhere on foot.

I also recommend while you are in Sapa to do a homestay experience. This is where you will live alongside a local family. You can eat what they eat, see the incredible countryside and explore to your heart’s content. When I stayed in Sapa I booked mine on booking.com and there were so many choices available. Make sure you read reviews so you know what exactly to expect. Some will have heating, electricity, and wifi while others may not. They seem to be cheaper than the hotels in the main town, though they will be a lot more basic. Our homestay had limited electricity which meant evenings cuddled up around the fire while eating warm sugarcane.

Find the best hotels in the area

the common hostel

Sapa Hills Hotel

A modern and clean hotel. From $20.00 per night including a great breakfast.

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stay with hug poshtel

Stunning Homestay

A favorite with travelers. A homestay with all the amenities, from $5.00 per night.

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de lanna hotel

Sapa Clay House Mountain Retreat

Beautiful private rooms from $82.00 per night and in an incredible location with a pool.

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vieng mantra hotel

Bamboo Sapa Hotel

A super modern and luxurious hotel, starting from $40.00 per night with an amazing pool.

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Hanoi ( Day 6 – 7)

This one night in Hanoi is simply to allow you enough time to get back to the city before you’re Ha Long Bay adventures tomorrow. It is a long journey, no matter if you book a train, bus, or private taxi, so no doubt you will need a good night’s sleep before venturing on.


Ha Long Bay (Day 7 – 8)

One of the most popular things to do when in Hanoi is take a tour of Ha Long Bay. This amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site is no doubt one of the top experiences to do when in Vietnam and leaves visitors breathless.

Though the problem is, that there are so many options to explore Ha Long Bay. They range in price from the horribly cheap ‘I am not sure how this boat is floating’ type to the luxury junk boat cruise with a six-course dinner included.

Halong Bay is easy to get to from Hanoi by day trip, overnight trip, or even for two or more nights, or you can jump on a day or multiple-day cruise from Halong City. Though I recommend booking the overnight cruise for the 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Doing the day trip won’t be long enough as it is a couple of hours one way to Ha Long Bay, and the multi-night trip will be too long. All tours you book should include a return transfer to Hanoi, and I recommend utilizing this service for ease.

Klook.com

appreciating the serenity in ha long by from our junk boat
appreciating the serenity in ha long by from our junk boat

Choosing A Ha Long Bay Cruise

Now there is an absolute assortment of cruise options you can book for exploring Ha Long Bay. Honestly, it can get quite overwhelming, though I recommend checking out reviews and booking based on other people’s experiences. Just because it is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be bad, and just because one might be the most expensive doesn’t mean it is going to be the best.

Unfortunately, since covid, the one I booked doesn’t seem to be operating anymore. Though I did a 2 night trip on Cat Ong Island. Our first day was spent on board the junk boat, the second day exploring Cat Ong Island, and the last day checking out the nearby Cat Ba Island. This gave us great variety as we weren’t just stuck on one boat for three days (though I did do an 11-day cruise and loved it). This tour was actually one of the budget backpacker ones, but that the infamous one where everyone gets drunk and vomits everywhere, this cruise was a bit more chill.

Luckily Klook and Get Your Guide have some excellent options available for Ha Long Bay cruises perfect for your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary:

kayaking in ha long bay, a must on your 3 weeks in vietnam
kayaking in ha long bay, a must on your 3 weeks in vietnam

Hanoi To Ninh Binh

After your time venturing Ha Long Bay has come to an end your tour operator will transfer you back to Hanoi so you can continue your travels. Luckily the journey from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is relatively short, so you will be able to do this on the same day.

Bus: You will find plenty of buses traveling from Hanoi to Ninh Binh.  Most hostels and hotels will be able to book a bus for you which includes hotel pick up, and it should cost between 200,000 – 250,000 VND / $8.50 – $10.70.

Train: There are 6-7 trains leaving from Hanoi to Ninh Binh railway station every day, of which SE5 is the most popular option as it offers very convenient travel times. Soft seats sell between 73,000 VND / $3.10 and 99,000 VND / $4.25. Though you also have the option of booking a sleeper berth from 115,000 VND / $4.90.

Taxi: If you are in a rush, or perhaps traveling with a group of people then you can always book a taxi. The journey is much quicker than the bus, only taking 2 hours to complete and you don’t have to go in circles picking up other passengers.

Mini Van: Taking the minivan is another great way to travel. This is slightly a more expensive option than the bus, but some of these minivans are fancy AF. Like they are known as limousine vans. Think plush, lazy-boy-style seats.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia. I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!


Ninh Binh (Day 8 – 10)

Ninh Binh is certainly a place that has grown in popularity over the past few years thanks to those beautiful Instagram posts from the tall karst mountains with views for days.  Here you can hike to the tallest viewpoints, paddle through caves, or soak up the culture. It is another beautiful spot in Vietnam and highly worth visiting during your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary,

For a lot of people, this is the most beautiful destination in Vietnam and will leave you in awe. Nearby Ninh Binh you also have the picturesque town of Tam Coc which is surrounded by mountains with homestays and dreamy accommodation galore.

This spot is a lot less touristy than the forever popular Ha Long Bay. Even though there might not be any sea, here you will find rivers and lakes in contrast with the huge karst mountains. You are actually able to enjoy the peace and nature here without all of the crowds.

incredible views of limestone karst mountains in ninh binh
incredible views of limestone karst mountains in ninh binh

Things To Do In Ninh Binh

There is an assortment of awesome things to do in Ninh Binh that’ll get you in touch which nature and its impressive landscapes.

Trang An Boat Ride: No doubt this is the most popular thing to do in the region, and where the majority of people get those fancy Instagram pictures. This boat ride will take you through the limestone mountains on a maze of rivers and pass through caves. There are three different tour routes to choose from varying in length, but they all cost the same.

Hang Mua Viewpoint: For the ultimate view it is definitely worth checking out Hang Mua Viewpoint. It may be quite a climb up the 500 stairs, but it is so worth it. Be aware that the staircase splits about halfway up. The right leads to a tower on the lower point. The left continues upward to the highest point where you can find the pagodas and an elaborate white dragon statue, oh and of course the incredible view.

Hire A Bicycle: One of the best things to do in Ninh Binh is simply to explore at your own pace. Many hostels and homestays offer super affordable bike rental, and since the region is relatively flat it is super easy to ride around. It is definitely worth cycling to the nearby Tam Coc and exploring the main street and around the lake.

Bich Dong Pagoda: This picturesque spot is found hidden underneath one of the limestone mountains that dot the region. As you explore you will discover more temples protruding from the mountainside. The great thing about this Pagoda is that it is an easy bike ride from downtown Tam Coc, or alternatively, you can take a taxi or a grab car.

one of the many popular viewpoints in ninh binh
one of the many popular viewpoints in ninh binh

Where To Stay In Ninh Binh

Now as you will see you can either choose to stay in Ninh Binh or the small nearby town of Tam Coc. They are about 15 minutes apart from each other, though the main difference between these two places is what you can find in the towns themselves.

Ninh Binh is larger than Tam Coc. Here you will be spoilt for choices in terms of accommodation, restaurants, and cafes. It’s easy here to find a hostel or a modern hotel. Though being a larger place means Ninh Binh doesn’t have that whole quaint nature town that a lot of people travel to this region to experience.

In contrast, Tam Coc is a much smaller quaint place. You will be sleeping in a homestay here, though you will get to experience the best this region has to offer. Once the crowds pack out during the day you will have this piece of paradise to yourself.

Find the best hotels in the area

the common hostel

Trang An Lamia Bungalows

Impressive bamboo rooms in nature. From $25.00 per night including a great breakfast.

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stay with hug poshtel

Tam Coc Friendly Homestay

A friendly homestay with clean and modern rooms. Prices start from $20.00 per night including breakfast.

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de lanna hotel

The Banana Tree Hostel

Beautiful hostel with modern dorm rooms from $8.00 per night and in an incredible location with a pool.

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vieng mantra hotel

Ninh Binh Central Backpackers Hostel

Located in the town of Ninh Binh, providing a great option for travelers. Prices start from $5.00 per night.

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Ninh Binh To Hue

Next up you will be needing to travel from Ninh Binh to Hue. Unfortunately, this is going to be quite a long journey. Though if you time it right you could organize your transport overnight so you don’t lose out on a day of exploring.

Train: There are 6-7 trains leaving from Ninh Binh to Hue railway station every day, though you will be best off taking the overnight train. There are two different overnight trains, taking between eleven and a half to twelve and a half hours. This should give you more than enough time to have a decent night’s sleep, and enough energy to explore the following day.  Prices cost between 500,000 to 600,000 VND / $21.40 – $25.70, though you also have the option of booking the more pricey luxury carriage at a higher price.

Bus: You will find plenty of buses traveling from Ninh Binh to Hue. The bus ride takes 11 to 12.5 hours. Although this option is the cheapest at 325,000 VND / $13.50, it is not recommended. The overnight sleeper buses in Vietnam are notorious for being dangerous, and the train isn’t that much more expensive, for a whole lot more comfort.

Fly: As Ninh Binh does not have an airport you will need to travel back to Hanoi in order to catch a flight to Hue.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia. I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!


Hue (Day 10 – 12)

Hue is well worth checking out while on your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Imagine a city equal amounts quaint and bustling, a beautiful river running along the middle, and an impressive citadel smack bang right in the middle. This is Hue and it is such a unique place.

Honestly, it is quite different from the other towns you’ll visit on this Vietnam itinerary and that is why it is a must-visit. It may not have too much in terms of incredible nature. Though to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of Vietnam I highly recommend a visit to Hue.

Honestly, you do not need too long to explore here which is why I have recommended spending two days in Hue. Though I have heard of people just spending the day here. Where they arrived early morning on the overnight train from Hanoi and then took a late-night train out. This has given them a decent chunk of the day to explore the main thing to do here which is the Hue Citadel or the Imperial City Of Hue.

I have actually written a full 2 days in Hue itinerary, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

crossing the moat into hues imperial city
crossing the moat into hues imperial city

Best Things To Do In Hue

Well, the Imperial City of Hue is no doubt the main reason why most people travel to Hue. Though, in saying, that there are plenty of other things to do here. as well.

The Imperial City of Hue: Let’s start with the most obvious thing to do here in Hue, visit the impressive Imperial City of Hue. It was built in 1362 and in 1993 was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Between these two periods of time, the walls of the city have witnessed a lot of history, even serving as the capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 during the reign of the Nguyen dynasty. Purchase your entry ticket for $6.60 / 150,00 VND and enter inside to explore. The grounds are massive! Personally, we spent 3 hours exploring Hue Citadel. Though in all honesty that felt a bit rushed and we would have stayed longer if it wasn’t so hot.

Thien Mu Pagoda: Thien Mu Pagoda is best known for how high it is. Reaching seven stories, and climbing up the stairs you will be treated to incredible views across the river over the pagoda gardens. To get to Thien Mu Pagoda I recommend either hiring a motorbike from in town, or you can just simply take a Grab taxi (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber).

The Abandoned Waterpark: It will be best to get yourself some wheels to explore The Abandoned Waterpark. Apart from being a reasonable distance away from the city of Hue, the park itself is pretty spread out, and to see it all you will need a motorbike to get around. Also, bring along some extra cash as you will need to bribe a security guard to enter the premises.

The Royal Temple of Tu Duc: The Royal temple of Tu Duc is a beautiful temple site with a lot of Chinese-inspired architecture. This is also where you will find the tomb of Tu Duc who was the Emperor between 1847 and 1883. The entry fee is $4.10 / 100,000 VND.

Tu Hieu Pagoda: This is actually a free pagoda to visit and is home to approximately 70 monks. It’s a much more understated pagoda, though it provides a good contrast to Tu Duc Temple.

Also, here are a few popular tours you can do in Hue:

impressive architecture inside the imperial city of hue
impressive architecture inside the imperial city of hue

Where To Stay In Hue

When choosing where to stay in Hue you will be absolutely spoilt for choice. No matter your budget or the type of traveler you are there is something to fit all your needs. Whether you want an affordable hostel, welcoming guesthouse, or luxury hotel.

I personally stayed in a lovely little guesthouse in Hue, which was the perfect budget option. There are some great guesthouse choices for less than $20.00 per night. Alternatively, if you are traveling solo you can find plenty of cute, modern, and clean hostels here also.

Find the best hotels in the area

shark hostel

Shark Homestay

A social hostel with a great vibe, and breakfast, it is well worth $5.00 per night.

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Bon Ami Hostel

A great and comfortable spot, from $6.00 per night including breakfast.

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Nice Hue Hotel

Beautiful private rooms from $15.00 per night and in the heart of the city.

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Hue Nino Hotel

Affordable rooms starting from $18.00 per night with breakfast.

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Hue To Hoi An

It is relatively straightforward to travel from Hue to Hoi An by plane, bus or train. Though the way I highly recommend is to do a Jeep Tour over the Hai Van Pass. This will turn a mundane few hours into an exciting few, checking out some more of the incredible landscapes, and roads, Vietnam has to offer.

This is the perfect top gear moment where you will ride in an army-style Jeep over the Hai Van Pass. Depending on which tour you decide to book you will also get a chance you check out some other spots of interest along the way. This could include Marble Mountain, Lang Co Bay, Tam Giang Lagoon, visiting some local villages, and more.


Hoi An (Day 12 – 15)

Hoi An is a great spot to stop off for a few days to enjoy the beach, culture, and countryside. This is one of the top tourist destinations in Vietnam. It is equal parts quaint and beautiful, especially in the ancient town. Imagine lanterns lighting the night sky, delicious food, and some incredible photo opportunities.

There are so many things to do here in Hoi An you will be spoilt for choice. Whether you enjoy laying by the beach, exploring the jungle, or love hitting the shops, there is something here for everyone.

I backpacked Hoi An in the middle of my Vietnam adventures as I made my way overland from North to South. We found this township quite unlike anything we had come across in this country so far. Honestly, it was extremely touristic, though nevertheless very beautiful. We stayed a short walk from the ancient town meaning we could be among the action when desired, but could also enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. During our stay, we also traveled around by motorbike and bicycle to check out the best attractions on offer.

I have actually written a backpacking Hoi An itinerary guide, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here. This includes what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

exploring the streets of hoi an by night, a must on the 3 weeks in vietnam itinerary
exploring the streets of hoi an by night, a must on the 3 weeks in vietnam itinerary

Things To Do In Hoi An

Hoi An is an awesome town with literally so many things to do. It can quickly become any visitor’s favorite spot in Vietnam and it is easy to see why. So let’s get into what you should do in Hoi An for an epic time on your 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary adventure.

Take a cooking class: This is a famous activity to do here in Hoi An and is an excellent way to learn some of those delicious Vietnamese dishes. You can check out Get Your Guide for an excellent cooking class that is very popular with travelers. Highlights include exploring the markets in Hoi An to pick up ingredients, cruising down the Thu Bon River, exploring the coconut palm forest by the crazy-looking bamboo basket boats, and tasting some delicious local dishes.

Shop In The Ancient Town:  This ancient town is what makes Hoi An so special. It managed to survive the Vietnam War mostly unscathed and is said to have been settled for at least 2000 years. There is an entry fee to the ancient town of 120,000 VND / $5 USD per person.

Fujian Assembly Hall: This was originally a pagoda built by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. It was then sold to Hoi An’s Fujian-born community as a meeting place to socialize.

The Old House Of Tan Ky: One of the most popular houses in the Ancient Town is the Old House Of Tan Ky. It belongs to the descendants of a wealthy family of local merchants. It was built back in the 18th century. You will notice a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and traditional Vietnamese architecture throughout the house.

Japanese Covered Bridge: One of the most iconic landmarks in Hoi An is no doubt the Japanese Covered Bridge along the river running through the Ancient Town. This structure dating back to the 16th century has been incredibly well preserved over the years.
Get Some Tailor-Made Clothing: Once you’re in the city you will notice the wide variety of clothing stores. A popular choice is Kimmy’s Custom Tailor which is located just outside of the old town. They are well known for their professional service and quality materials.

My Son Sanctuary: This is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is marketed as the Angkor Wat of Vietnam. Booking a tour is probably the most popular option and is surprisingly affordable. I recommend booking a sunrise tour of My Son Sanctuary. This allows you to beat the crowds, and the heat, while having the grounds for your tour group.

Cycle To The Beach: Hire a bicycle and make your way to the coast to An Bang Beach. This is an easy straight cycle 4 kilometers from the ancient town. Seriously it is near impossible to get lost, and if you do, just follow all the other bikes.

Tra Que Vegetable Village: Located outside of the popular tourist destination of Hoi An city center and in the countryside is Tra Que Vegetable Village. Full of lush green fields, roaming water buffalos, and locals hard at work making a living. It is the perfect contrast to the bustling Vietnamese streets which lay a few hundred meters away.

Thanh Ha Pottery Village: Here you will find cups, jars, bowls, and pots crafted here are exported all over the world. There is an entry fee into Thanh Ha Pottery Village of $1.30 / 30000 VND. This amount includes a little souvenir which you will receive from one of the houses, but I will leave what you get a surprise!

An Bang South: For a bit more of a quiet beach, head to An Bang South. This is another excellent beach you can chill out on for the afternoon. Hire a sun lounger and an umbrella and sit back as you listen to the waves slowly crash onto the shore.

Marble Mountain: If you are willing to head further away from Hoi An you can visit Marble Mountain in Da Nang. Marble Mountain, also known as Thuy Son, is one of five marble and limestone mountains that rise out of the ground in central Vietnam. On top, you will find colorful Buddhist temples, marble statues, caves, and tunnels.

Hoi An Central Market: This is an excellent place to purchase some souvenirs while you are in the town. Here you will find a huge mixture of products here including silk pieces, lanterns, and other textiles, as well as local food and aromatic spices.

Cam Kim Island: Cam Kin Island is about 30 minutes away from Hoi An. It is easy enough to catch a local ferry here from D Bach Dang. Here you will see numerous artisan woodcarvers who are known for having carved some of the most famous public buildings in Hoi An. Personally, I thought it was a little bit touristy. Though if it is something you are interested in checking out, why not do it.

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tourists having boat rides in hoi an
tourists having boat rides in hoi an

Where To Stay In Hoi An

Whether you want a beachside hotel, city homestay, or hostel set in the countryside there is something here for everyone. Though if you are limited for time in Hoi An, I recommend you stay in the central township area. This will keep you near to plenty of delicious restaurants, things to do, and you don’t have to deal with hiring a motorbike to get around.

The homestay I stayed in while visiting Hoi An is called Little Leo. This was such a friendly and welcoming hostel/ homestay. It was the perfect choice for 2 travelers on a budget. We paid $7.00 for a 4-bed dorm room which also included a delicious breakfast and free bicycle hire. The lady who ran it was super helpful and they offered super cheap tours which was a bonus.

Here are my top picks for the backpacking Hoi An travel guide:

Find the best hotels in the area

the common hostel

Vietnam Backpackers Hostel

A fun and tropical hostel with a pool. Dorm rooms start at $8.00 per night.

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stay with hug poshtel

Hoi An Central Hotel

A beautiful hotel in the heart of the old city. Private rooms start at $24.00 per night including breakfast.

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de lanna hotel

Mulberry Collection Silk Village

Enjoy luxury on a budget in this 5 star hotel. Rooms start from $75.00 per night.

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vieng mantra hotel

Hoi An Ancient House Resort & Spa

Another great hotel in the middle of the old city. Room prices start from $30.00 per night including breakfast.

BOOK NOW

Hoi An To Nha Trang

Now you will need to travel from Hoi An to Nha Trang for the next part of our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Once again, this is going to be another long journey as it’s a 500-kilometer distance being covered, but don’t worry this will be the last long one. Though if you time it right you could organize your transport overnight so you don’t lose out on a day of exploring.

Train: It is a 10-and-a-half-hour train from Hoi An to Nha Trang. Well technically you will need to travel to Da Nang to catch the train, but this is super easy to do and you can read more about how to do this in my Da Nang to Hoi An post. Prices cost between 500,000 to 600,000 VND / $21.40 – $25.70, though you also have the option of booking the more pricey luxury carriage at a higher price.

Bus: The trip from Hoi An to Nha Trang takes approximately 11 hours. Though this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Hanh Cafe and The Sinh Tourist are the recommended companies who service this route.

Fly: Thankfully it is only a 1-hour flight, though you will need to travel from Hoi An to Da Nang which is where you will find the nearest airport. Flights in Vietnam are pretty cheap with an assortment of affordable airlines operating.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia. I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!

Time Cost Highlight
Train 14 hours from $40 Comfortable journey
Luxury Train 14 hours from $60 Super comfortable journey
Bus 12 hours from $13 The cheapest way to travel
Tourist Bus 13 hours from $14 More comfortable than the regular bus
Plane 1 hour from $35 The fastest way to travel

Nha Trang (Day 15 – 17)

Nha Trang is an awesome coastal destination boasting some of the best beaches in Vietnam. I am not going to lie, one of my personal favorite things to do here in Nha Trang is to simply relax, and after all that traveling in Vietnam, it is likely you need some relaxation time as well.

Pull up a chair on the beach, listen to the waves lapping on the shore, and the palm trees swaying in the wind. Honestly, if you are not a beach-goer type of person, then you may want to give Nha Trang a miss. Perhaps swap it out for Da Lat. Though if you are ready to work on that tan and catch some rays this is the place to be.

I have actually written a backpacking Nha Trang and 3-day itinerary post with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time in this city, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

exploring the beach in nha trang while on my 3 weeks in vietnam itinerary
exploring the beach in nha trang while on my 3 weeks in vietnam itinerary

Things To Do In Nha Trang

Don’t worry there is more to do in Nha Trang than just visiting the beach! Even though that may be my favorite. Here are my top picks of things to do in Nha Trang:

The Beach: It’s incredible how such a beautiful beach is located right in a city. The beach itself stretches 6 kilometers along the coast side, providing plenty of areas to swim. The most popular area is Tran Phu Beach nearby a lot of the guesthouses and resorts. Be aware little beach bars are located quite some way along the shoreline and each one sets up their own chairs. Some of these locations charge just for use of the chairs and others have a minimum spend that you need to do at their little beach shack, either that is on drinks or snacks up to you.

Po Nagar Cham Towers:  This place is one of the most popular sights of Nha Trang and is still an active site for worship by Cham, Vietnamese Buddhists, and Chinese people. The Cham people are an important part of the Vietnamese culture as one of the ethnic minorities in the country. It is located just 2 kilometers out of the city center so is very accessible.

Snorkeling Tour: Why not go snorkeling in Nha Trang! Luckily for ocean lovers like me, Nha Trang has over 12,00 hectares of marine reserve. This coral-filled area is known as Hon Mun Marine Protected Area and is where you will visit. It is the perfect place for both diving and snorkeling as the water is not too deep. Ultimately making it ideal for people of all expertise.

Vinpearl: Here you can find shows, rides, a zoo, an aquarium, gardens, and even a large water park area, all under VinWonders. You will definitely need a full day to explore it all! The tickets for VinWonders and the cable car return trip cost 880,000 VND / $38 USD for adults. It is more of a pricey activity to do in Nha Trang. Though it is certainly worth it for a day of fun out in the sun.

Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths: Nha Trang is also known for its mud baths. Thap Ba Hot Springs and Mud Baths are one of the most popular places for this experience. The mud is said to have healing properties thanks to its high mineral content and people usually slather their skin with the mud and then lie down in the bath and let it work its magic.

Visit the Buddha: One of the main landmarks of Nha Trang is the large Buddha which sits on one of the hills overlooking the city. You can find it on the summit of a hill behind the Long Son Pagoda. It is sitting on a pretty lotus blossom and measures an impressive 14 meters in height.

snorkeling in nha trang at the hon mun marine reserved
snorkeling in nha trang at the hon mun marine reserved

Where To Stay In Nha Trang

There are heaps of options for where to stay in Nha Trang. Whether that is a hotel in the city, a cheap guesthouse, a beach resort, or a seaside hostel a little bit further out of town, there is something here for everyone.

I can highly recommend Tabalo Hostel which is where we stayed. It was a super modern spot and very aesthetic looking for an affordable hostel. The bathrooms were great and always super clean and the beds were comfortable with a sturdy wooden design, much better than those flimsy metal bunk beds.

There are also heaps of affordable guesthouses here in Nha Trang. It won’t be anything fancy, but it will have everything you need for a decent night’s sleep.

Nha Trang also has an incredible amount of quite nice fancy beachside resorts. Unfortunately, this wasn’t in my budget, and if you’re reading this backpacking guide it’s unlikely to be in yours. Nevertheless, you can find 3 to 4-star resorts for just $20.00 per night. For such a small step up in price you get a lot more including a pool to relax in.

Find the best hotels in the area

the common hostel

Vietnam Backpackers Hostel- Ninhvana

A fun and tropical hostel with a pool right on the beach. Dorm rooms start at $9.00 per night.

BOOK NOW
stay with hug poshtel

Soho Hotel Nha Trang

A beautiful hotel in the heart of the old city. Private rooms start at $15.00 per night.

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de lanna hotel

V Hotel Nha Trang

Enjoy this modern hotel and a rooftop pool. Rooms start from $35.00 per night.

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vieng mantra hotel

Vinpearl Resort & Spa Nha Trang

Why not stay in the incredible Vinpearl Resort. This place has everything you could want. Prices start at $115.00 per night.

BOOK NOW

Nha Trang To Mui Ne

Next up we need to travel from Nha Trang to Mui Ne for the next stage of our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary. Thankfully this is a relatively short travel day compared to the others. The distance from Nha Trang to Mui Ne is approximately 220 kilometers. If you are wanting a more detailed breakdown of this journey you can check out my Nha Trang to Mui Ne transport guide.

Train: The train ride will take around 4 and a half hours from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. Though you will also need to account to travel to Mui Ne from the Phan Thiet train station. This takes between twenty to thirty minutes. This route will also have you backtracking slightly. Prices start at around 120,000 VND / $5.10 for a soft seater journey.

Bus: The journey from Nha Trang to Mui Ne by bus takes around 5 hours. Though this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Personally I have done this route with The Sinh Tourist and had a stress-free experience.

Fly: Unfortunately at this time, you are not able to fly from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. There may be an airport in Nha Trang called Cam Ranh Airport (CXR), though there is not one just yet in Mui Ne. Don’t be too disappointed as it is in the works! The nearby town of Phan Thiet is getting an airport said to be completed at the end of 2022.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia. Though in this route I think 12.Go.Asia is the best bet for booking with. For some reason Baolau isn’t showing direct journeys between Nha Trang and Mui Ne, instead insisting on a stopover in Ho Chi Minh City. Though that is not necessary.

Time Cost Highlight
Train 4 hours 30 minutes + Taxi from $7 Comfortable journey
Private Transfer 3 hours from $75 Super comfortable journey
Bus 5 hours from $7 The cheapest way to travel
Tourist Bus 5 hours from $12 More comfortable than the regular bus
Plane N/A N/A An airport is currently being built outside of Mui Ne

Mui Ne (Day 17 – 19)

Don’t worry we are not leaving the beach just yet, next stop is Mui Ne. This cute little seaside town would be like any other if it wasn’t for the landscapes that surround it. Think huge sand dunes with impressive views over the ocean, small village vibes, affordable accommodation, and food as well as nearby beaches to visit.

The main thing to do here in Mui Ne is to take a sunrise tour. This tour will take you to all the best things to do in Mui Ne so you can check out those impressive landscapes.

I have actually written a backpacking Mui Ne in 2 days itinerary, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here. This includes what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

the main strip of shops and restaurants in mui ne
the main strip of shops and restaurants in mui ne

Choosing A Sunrise Tour

Now I will let you know everything you need to know about booking a sunrise tour and why this is the best way to see the sights around Mui Ne. Walking down the street you will see all the hotels, travel agencies, and even restaurants, advertising this tour. Sure it is an early wake-up time with your pick up somewhere between 4.30am and 5.30am, but trust me it is worth it.

That early start allows you to see the sunrise over the impressive white sand dunes. Plus this tour only costs 160,000 VND / $7.00 so it is a super affordable way to see the best Mui Ne has to offer. For this price, we shared a jeep with other people staying at our accommodation. Though if you are wanting a bit more freedom you can book a private jeep tour, which is still pretty affordable starting from $20.00 for the entire jeep!

White Sand Dunes: The first stop on your tour will be the White Sand Dunes to watch the sunrise. This will no doubt be one of your highlights here as it was mine. You can either pay a jeep to take you out or hire an ATV. Instead, if you are on a budget like I happened to be you can simply walk out to the dunes from the car park. It is a nice stroll and since it is the morning the heat of the day hasn’t started yet.

Fishing Village: Here you can see all the brightly colored fishing boats bobbing around in the water and fishermen pulling in their catches.

Red Sand Dunes: The third stop of the day is the famous red sand dunes. These are a lot more touristy than the white sand dunes simply because they back right onto the road, literally. This means you can often find large tour buses here, whereas in the white sand dunes you need a 4WD vehicle to access without getting stuck.

Fairy Stream: It is a really nice walk upstream to a waterfall. Though my favorite part was the colors. It was so incredible seeing these bright orange sand cliffs contrast against the green lush jungle.

watching the sunrise over the white sand dunes in mui ne
watching the sunrise over the white sand dunes in mui ne

Where To Stay In Mui Ne

There is a wide assortment of places to stay in Mui Ne. Whether you are looking for an affordable hostel, beachside resort, or friendly guesthouse. There is a huge selection to be found.

Just be aware it can actually be super difficult to access the beach unless you are staying at beachfront accommodation. This was the mistake we made staying on the other side of the road, luckily there was a pool, but the beach would’ve been nice as well.

A good affordable option I would recommend is called EVA HUT Mui Ne Beach Hostel. With prices starting from $6.00 for a dorm room this beachfront backpackers hotspot is the perfect place to stay in Mui Ne. This place is smack bang right on the beach, which was definitely something we were lacking during our stay. Depending on your exact location on the main strip through town it can be quite difficult to access the beach due to all the buildings and no alleyways.

Find the best hotels in the area

EVA HUT Mui Ne Beach Hostel

The ultimate backpackers paradise in Mui Ne. Dorm rooms starting at $6.00.

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Phuong Nam Guesthouse

Live in luxury for less with prices from $19.00 per night for a double room.

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Mui Ne Hills Bless Hotel

Topical private rooms starting at $50.00 per night including breakfast.

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Four Oceans Resort

Extravagant rooms starting at $42.00 per night including a delicious breakfast.

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Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City

The last stage of the 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary is traveling from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, this is another relatively short journey, so it shouldn’t be too painful. The distance from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh city is approximately 225 kilometers. You will find if you travel by road the start of this route is along the coast before heading inland to the bustling city. If you are wanting a more detailed breakdown of this journey you can check out Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City transport guide.

Train: If you want to take the train you will also need to account to travel to Mui Ne from the Phan Thiet train station. This takes between twenty to thirty minutes. This route will also have you backtracking slightly. There is only one train that operates on this route daily, leaving Phan Thiet railway station at 13:20 and arriving in Ho Chi Minh at 17:35.

Bus: The journey from Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City by bus takes around 5 hours. Though this timeframe can vary depending on how often the bus stops and for how long. Personally I have done this route with The Sinh Tourist and had a stress-free experience.

Fly: Unfortunately at this time, you are not able to fly. There may be an airport in Ho Chi Minh City, though there is not one just yet in Mui Ne. Don’t be too disappointed as it is in the works! The nearby town of Phan Thiet is getting an airport said to be completed at the end of 2022.

I recommend booking your journeys online with Baolau or 12.Go Asia. I used Baolau and their website said I didn’t need to print off my ticket and instead just show my ticket on my phone to the attendant on the train. This is what I did throughout my travels in Vietnam and never once had an issue. Being a third-party agent there is a small additional fee built into the ticket cost. Though this way is easier and cheaper than having to go to the train station!

Time Cost Highlight
Train 4 hours + Taxi from $7 Comfortable journey
Private Transfer 3 hours from $75 Super comfortable journey
Bus 5 hours from $7 The cheapest way to travel
Tourist Bus 5 hours from $12 More comfortable than the regular bus
Airport N/A N/A An airport is currently being built outside of Mui Ne

Ho Chi Minh City (Day 19 – 21)

Welcome to our last stop on our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary, Ho Chi Minh City. This is the perfect ending point for your adventures where you can easily venture into neighboring Cambodia, or take an international flight further afield. Ho Chi Minh City is a huge bustling place with loads of history. It is an excellent spot to educate yourself about the country, the culture, and the war.

If I am being honest Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t my favorite stop in Vietnam, I was still glad that I visited. There is a lot of history to explore in this city as well as numerous other things to do. Also, you need to dedicate some of your time to checking out the delicious foodie spots. It is well worth spending a couple of nights here, and since it is such a huge place with so much on offer there is something for everyone.

I have actually written a full Ho Chi Minh City Backpacking Travel Guide, with absolutely everything you need to know about spending time here, including what to do morning, afternoon, and night. Though for now, let’s chat about some of the highlights this city has to offer and what you need to check out while here.

ho chi minh city hall by night
ho chi minh city hall by night

Things To Do In Ho Chi Minh City

Time to explore our last destination on our 3 weeks in Vietnam itinerary, Ho Chi Minh City. This place is perfect for discovering some more of the history of the country.  Whether you enjoy a spot of shopping, experiencing a different religion, or want to discover the history of the country, Saigon has something for everyone.

Cu Chi Tunnels: The series of underground tunnels played an important part in the War and was an impressive feat of both architecture and engineering. At its peak, there were over 250km worth of tunnels stretching along the countryside, some even leading from Saigon right to the Cambodian border. It is super easy to book a Cu Chi Tunnel tour once in Ho Chi Minh City or in advance online. I booked mine through a local travel agency and paid just $6.00!

Reunification Palace: This is one of the most significant places to visit while you are in the city. It is the former presidential palace for Southern Vietnam, where Saigon fell to the north in what marked the end of the war. You can see the palace from the outside for free. Though if you would like to go inside there is an admission fee of 40,000 VND / $1.70.

The City Hall: The City Hall is a super impressive and beautiful building that is a popular landmark in Saigon. If you head here in the evening there always seems to be something going on and people chilling together. You can often find delicious snack-like street food here as well!

War Remnants Museum: The museum is dedicated to the terrible Vietnam War, here you can come and learn all about it and what people had to suffer through. The admission cost is 40,000 VND / $1.70 and you do need to set aside about 2 to 3 hours to see everything.

Notre Dame Cathedral: Surprisingly enough all around Vietnam, you can find colonial buildings from when the French were in charge. One of these is the Notre Dame Cathedral and it has become a popular attraction here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Central Post Office: The Central Post Office is located right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, so you may as well visit while you are nearby. It is free of charge to enter and you can even send a postcard back home from here.

Ben Thanh Market: It may be a bit touristy but no visit to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without checking out Ben Thanh Market. This is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, try out some local food, and simply watch the locals go about their day.

Bitexco Tower and Skydeck: If you are looking for an amazing view overlooking Ho Chi Minh City then you need to check out the Bitexco Tower. This is one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam! Make sure to visit the 49th floor where you can find the sky deck with a 360-degree view. The entry fee is a little more pricey compared to other things to do on this list at 200,000 VND/ $8.90, but still incredibly affordable.

Do A Free Student Lead Tour: I actually tried out a free student lead tour during my time in Ho Chi Minh City and it was no doubt one of the best things we did in the city. We heard about it from other travelers who constantly raved about their experience, so we knew we had to give it a go.

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trying out the cu chi tunnels in ho chi minh city
trying out the cu chi tunnels in ho chi minh city

Where To Stay In Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh is a huge city split into districts. The majority of backpackers and travelers decide to stay in district 1. This is well set up for tourists with plenty of restaurants, activities, accommodations, and transport links. Nearby is the famous Ben Thanh Market, and the popular nightlife spot of Bui Vien Street.

During our stay in Ho Chi Minh City, we decided to stay on quite a budget and book a small little hostel about a 15-minute walk out of the center. The hostel was run by a lovely gentleman, but it was more rooms in his house he had converted to dorm rooms. It also featured those horrible old-school metal bunk beds you had as a child. Lastly, it was 35 degrees celsius plus every day and we only had fans. For those reasons, I am not going to recommend it.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of affordable hostel and hotel options available in the city. Here are my top picks for this backpacking Ho Chi Minh City travel guide:

Find the best hotels in the area

9 Hostel & Bar

A backpacker’s favorite in this city. Dorm rooms start at $10.00.

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Gia Long King Hotel

Live in luxury for less with prices from $30.00 per night for a double room.

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City Backpackers Hostel

Excellent value for money with modern dorm rooms starting from $8.00 per night.

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Beauty House Hotel

A quaint little guesthouse in the perfect location. Rooms start from just $24.00 per night.

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Extend Your 3 Weeks In Vietnam Itinerary

Maybe you want to make the most out of your tourist Visa in Vietnam and spend the entire 30 days exploring this incredible country! It is a great country and there is so much more you can do to turn this 3 week Vietnam Itinerary into a much longer journey. Though be aware you only really have an extra week available as you don’t want to overstay!

A lot of travelers will actually buy their own motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi and travel the country themselves. This allows you to get off the beaten track and explore at your own pace. As cool as this sounds just be aware that riding a motorbike long distance isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world and you’ll be traveling much slower than if you were to take the bus or train.


Da Lat

Da Lat is a beautiful mountainous town in South Central Vietnam. It is a popular adventure and honeymoon destination which plenty of activities to keep you busy. Some travelers venture here instead of going to Mui Ne. It is a long the main railway network in Vietnam so it is quite easy to get to.

Da Lat is mostly comprised of a scenic mountain town that used to be a hill station during the French colonial period. As a result, you can find some beautiful architecture here.


Da Nang

Da Nang is the gateway to Hoi An which is why many people stop over here. I only stayed one night in order to catch a train the next day. Though there are still plenty of things to do here, the most popular being Marble Mountain. It is also a popular spot for digital nomads being a modern city right next to the beach.


Phu Quoc

Located on the Southern Coast of Vietnam you will find the island of Phu Quoc. Imagine soft, white sand lines its shores with palm trees swaying. This is Vietnam’s version of the Maldives. On land, you’ll find protected tropical rainforest, plenty of accommodation options, and great diving opportunities.

The Phu Quoc district itself encompasses 28 islands. Though you will find the majority of travelers visit and stay on Phu Quoc island, the largest in Vietnam.


Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!


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