Craving a cheap getaway but struggling to decide between a bustling city filled with entertainment or a quiet getaway complete with idyllic beaches? Why not get the best of both worlds, by travelling from North to South Vietnam in just a week! With a comprehensive itinerary spanning three major cities in Vietnam, you are bound to be satisfied with BOTH the retail therapy and beach getaway that await you!
Day 1: Singapore to Hanoi
Day 2: Hanoi
Day 3: Hanoi to Halong Bay
Day 4: Halong Bay to Da Nang
Day 5: Da Nang
Day 6: Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City
Day 7: Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore
Hoan nghênh! (Welcome!) You’ve probably just landed at Noi Bai International Airport, all ready to discover what the famed capital of Vietnam has to offer. Whether you’re here for the cheap shopping or their famous Vietnamese coffee, you’re bound to love Hanoi, a bustling city filled with history, culture, delectable food and really friendly locals! Be careful of the motorcycles that throng the streets though!
Let’s kickstart the day by visiting the famous Old Quarter, located in the Hoan Kiem district, where you will find an array of delicious food, sights and activities! Situated in the heart of Hanoi, this is a tourist hotspot and where you’ll truly get a glimpse of Vietnamese culture. From street shopping to admiring the exquisite French-colonial architecture, you’ll never find yourself bored here! Packed with hostels, shops and cafes lining the streets, we recommend simply strolling and enjoying the buzz of the area, while observing the locals and their way of life.
Image credit: Nsaum25, stuart_spivack, tuhang
For lunch, tickle your taste buds by trying some Hanoi street specialties such as Banh Mi (toasted baguette with meat and vegetable fillings), Bun Cha (grilled pork and noodle) and Cha Ca (fried fish and dill, eaten with rice noodles).
Image credit: shankars
Image credit: Mike Hauser
You can also check out Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi’s largest indoor market. Offering a wide range of goods within its four storey building, you can find everything here. On the ground floor, there is a bustling wet-market section with the freshest produce and if you head upstairs, you’ll stumble upon cheap printed tees, wholesale fashion and a range of accessories. Besides having a huge variety of goods, there is a massive dining area within the market, with vendors selling local dishes and Vietnamese coffee for extremely low prices.
Image credit: Guerretto
Next, head to Hoan Kiem Lake, a scenic lake in the historical centre of Hanoi. An area dearly loved by both the young and old, many throng here to get away from the hustle and bustle of life or to get some fresh air and exercise. If you arrive as early as 5.00am, you’ll spot the elderly actively doing tai chi or aerobics, or the young doing yoga. Not only is it a picturesque place to relax and take photographs, it’s also the perfect picnic spot.
Image credit: lawtonjm
If you’re still brimming with energy, head down to Bia Hoi Junction in the Old Quarter, to experience Hanoi’s amazing nightlife. If it’s a weekend, it's likely that the small junction will be crowded with locals all sitting outside the makeshift bars, chatting whilst drinking Beer Hoi and munching on street snacks. With beers served for as cheap as VND 10,000 ($0.60!), you can easily enjoy a few ice-cold beers without bursting your budget!
Image credit: Pho Bat Dan Facebook
Rise and Shine! Today we’ll continue to explore Hanoi, starting with a pho-bulous breakfast to fuel ourselves! How can one come to Vietnam and not try its national dish? We suggest visiting Pho Bat Dan for arguably the best Pho in Hanoi! Located right in the heart of Old Quarter, this humble shop has been here since the 1960s and it is greatly loved by locals and tourists alike. Selling only one dish – beef noodles, you can be sure that their Pho is as traditional and authentic as it can get.
Get ready to savour a fresh, piping hot and aromatic bowl of beef Pho, complete with clear broth and rich soup made of bone marrow. Not only is the beef extremely soft and tender, the noodles are chewy and with every mouthful of soup you consume, you’ll simply want yet another. Since the shop is only open for breakfast and dinner, remember to wake up early in order not to miss this gastronomic experience!
Image credit: Aaron
After a hearty breakfast, head down to the Ho Chi Minh Museum for a better understanding of Vietnam’s revolutionary struggle against foreign powers. Constructed in the 1990s, it is one of Vietnam’s most famous museums and has a comprehensive depiction of Ho Chi Minh’s life. Filled with various collections of artifacts, miniatures and national treasures as well as written descriptions and guided tours, you’re bound to get a thorough understanding of Vietnam’s national hero and get a better picture of what shaped Vietnam to become the country it is today.
Image credit: Clay Gililand
Our next stop is Hỏa Lò Prison, a prison-turned-museum, which was previously used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and North Vietnam for US Prisoners, during the Vietnam War. Also sarcastically known to the American Prisoners Of War (POWs) as the Hanoi Hilton, it’s the Hilton where no one wants to be. Walking through the museum is a fascinating albeit slightly nerve-wrecking experience, whereby one will be enlightened by the grim history while feeling the shivers down their spine as they pass through prison cells. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy this interesting and informative museum, which will definitely give you a better insight into Vietnam’s history.
Image credit: shankars
Finally, end the night with some shopping at Hanoi Weekend Night Market, for the best late-night shopping experience! Held only on Friday till Sunday, experience the noisy, bustling and warm atmosphere as the roadside stalls and local food vendors lining the street attract the masses of tourists and locals. Selling everything ranging from inexpensive fashion to delicious street food, you’ll definitely enjoy the lively atmosphere and bargaining experience here!
Today you’ll head from Hanoi to Halong City, which is a 3-hour drive away or four hour bus ride. If you’re taking the bus, you can head to Hanoi Gia Lam bus station to purchase tickets for the journey to Mien Tay bus station in Bai Chay (Halong City).
Image credit: Jean-Paul Navarro
No visit to Vietnam will be complete without conquering Halong Bay! From kayaking around the myriad of islets and grottos to visiting a cave, there’s plenty to do around this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Keeping in mind that we only have one day here, we recommend firstly, getting on board a cruise from Halong City to explore the best of the area.
Image credit: Adam Jones
On your tour, you might pass by Sung Sot Cave, one of the most famous caves in Northern Vietnam! Also meaning Surprised Cave, Sung Sot Cave is located on Bo Hon Island and is one of the most magnificent grottoes of Halong Bay. With two partitions in the cave housing stalactites and stalagmites that are over a 100,000 years old as well as a ‘royal garden’ with a clear pond, visitors will definitely be amazed by the beauty of Mother Nature.
Image credit: Christophe Meneboeuf
Another amazing attraction you might pass by is Ba Hang Fishing Village, one of the four floating fishing villages in Halong Bay. Here, admire the rustic and well-preserved fishing village and witness the fishermen’s simple way of life. A small and close-knitted community, Ba Hang Village is home to only approximately 50 families, who rely on fishing as their main source of income.
Finally, one of the most popular activities that tourists enjoy doing is kayaking in Halong Bay! What better way to explore the islands than to kayak? Enjoy the gorgeous views and remember to take selfies!
Getting to Da Nang from Halong Bay takes slightly over an hour by flight, as compared to 16 hours by car, so book your flight for greater convenience!
Upon arriving in modern and vibrant Da Nang, you’ll be greeted by the gentle sea breeze as you step foot into this beautiful coastal city, known for its mesmerizing sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port.
Image credit: Nam-ho Park/Bernard Gagnon/Paul Arps
One does not simply visit Da Nang without visiting the Marble Mountains, a mystical cluster of five marble and limestone hills located south of Da Nang city. One of Da Nang’s most popular tourist attractions, the marble mountains are named after the elements metal, wood, fire, water and earth and is certainly worth checking out!
Within this area, there are also a host of Buddhist sanctuaries, pagoda temples and even a special circular cave, consisting of a chimney leading to the summit, with unbelievable panoramic views. Definitely the best photography location and a cultural gem!
Image credit: Fa2f
You must be tired after hours of exploring the Marble Mountains. From there, head down to one of Da Nang’s most idyllic beaches, My Khe Beach. Deemed by some as the most picturesque beach in Da Nang, My Khe Beach is famous for its majestically blue sky, clean white sand and clear sea.
With the lack of large waves and warm water all year round, it’s the perfect place for an afternoon swim, surf session or even some paddle-boarding! It’s no wonder that My Khe Beach has been commended as one of the ten most popular beaches in Asia. Whether you decide to try some watersports or simply be a beach bum, you’re bound to enjoy My Khe Beach in its full glory.
As many have said, Da Nang is most impressive at night. After dinner, take a stroll by the Dragon’s Bridge situated in the city centre and marvel at the large and magnificent dragon that the entire bridge is designed to be. Not only is the bridge beautifully lit up at night, if you’re there over the weekends, you’ll get to enjoy an exciting show of the dragon spitting fire.
Image credit: Chợ Hàn
Good morning! After breakfast, kickstart your day by visiting Han Market, for an extremely local shopping experience. Unlike major cities in the world, Da Nang might not have impressive malls and international or high street brands; but if you’re looking for handsewn clothing, handicrafts and local produce, this is the right place! If you are hungry, head to the indoor food court and savour the local Vietnamese dishes such as crispy pancakes and Vietnamese spring rolls, which will cost you no more than VND 30000! (~S$1.80!)
Image credit: Asia Park Da Nang Facebook
After lunch, brace yourself for an adrenaline-filled afternoon at Sun World Asia Park, Da Nang’s renowned amusement park consisting of a massive Ferris wheel and plenty of family-friendly rides!
Image credit: Gene Bromberg
After a thrilling afternoon, grab some dinner and take a stroll by the Han River Bridge, Vietnam’s very first swing bridge! Here, you can admire the night view of Da Nang, whilst taking in the beauty of the bridge by night. Remember to snap some pictures! If you’re up for some nightlife, head down to Sky 36 for a luxurious entertainment experience, as well as panoramic views of Da Nang from up above. A famous bar located in the Hai Chau district, enjoy the amazing live performances besides drinking and dancing.
Your Vietnam trip will not be complete without visiting Ho Chi Minh City (also commonly known as Saigon), a city in Southern Vietnam famous for its pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War!
Image credit: Charles Haynes/Stephan Ridgway
Upon reaching Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), head to Ben Thanh Market, a large marketplace right in the heart of HCMC. With everything you could ever want ranging from local handicrafts and Vietnamese souvenirs to branded goods and an array of delectable dishes, you will definitely leave this market with your bellies full and hearts satisfied.
Image credit: Smuconlaw
Next, visit the War Remnants Museum, that contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War. Formally known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, it offers a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam war, through the weapons, documentaries and exhibitions showcased. One of the most commonly discussed exhibits are the ‘tiger cages’ which the South Vietnamese government used to keep the political prisoners, so keep your eyes peeled for them.
Image credit: Riza Nugraha
Afterwhich, catch a glimpse of the Saigon Central Post Office, located just metres from the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Constructed in the 19th century when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina, it is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and arguably one of the grandest post offices in Southeast Asia. Here, you can choose to post a postcard to your friends and family or simply snap photographs of its charming European style architecture.
After dinner, head to HCMC’s most fashionable rooftop bar, Chill Skybar, for a fantastic night out. Situated on the 25th floor of AB Tower, it is one of HCMC’s finest bars boasting drinks and dining complete with spectacular performances. Guests from all over the world gather here for a night of world-class entertainment and stunning views of downtown Saigon, so you’ll definitely make international friends if you visit!
Image credit: Srkarp, Thomas Schoch
Rise and shine! Today is your last day of your Vietnam adventure. If you’re not pressed for time, we recommend taking a half-day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, situated slightly more than an hour’s drive away from HCMC. You can get there by taxi or the public bus as both options are extremely convenient.
Currently part of a huge war museum, the Cu Chi tunnels are an immense network of underground tunnels; and most importantly, where military campaigns were held during the Vietnam War. To get a glimpse of what the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948 was like, try crawling through the tiny underground tunnels! With more than 120 kilometres of underground tunnels complete with trap doors, living areas, kitchens, storage spaces and even hospitals, you’ll definitely be fascinated!
42 Nguyen Hue Street
Image credit: Beautiful Vietnam
However, if you don’t have much time before your flight, we suggest heading to 42 Nguyen Hue Street as your final destination! An abandoned building turned into a shopping centre in HCMC, this quaint building is an absolute hidden gem! Housing a wide array of shops ranging from trendy boutiques to white-washed minimalist cafes, this is truly every hipster and cafe lover’s paradise.
With so much to see and do, Vietnam is definitely on every traveller’s bucket list. Boasting stunning views, cheap buys and undeniably tasty food, there’s just so much to discover and fall in love with!
All hyped up to visit Vietnam now? Book your flights with your UOB Card, and kickstart your pho-bulous adventure today!