Looking for the ultimate Vietnam backpacking route? We’ve got you covered with our guide including tips for each place along the way…

Vietnam is an incredibly diverse country and many peoples’ favourite in the whole of Southeast Asia. Knowing the best course to take before you go can be tricky, so we have written the ideal Vietnam backpacking route for you.

Where you stop will most likely depend on how much time you have in the country. If you are a UK citizen, you are entitled to a 15-day visa on arrival. Despite this, most people opt for a 30-day visa which must be organised before arriving. We personally chose a three-month single entry visa to avoid the hassle of trying to renew it while in Vietnam. It’s worth checking out your visa requirements well in advance.

The ideal length of time needed for this entire Vietnam backpacking route is 6 weeks. However, the unmissable places will be highlighted with stars for those with less time.

South to North or North to South?

There is much debate on which end to start your Vietnam backpacking route, but we advise to go from South to North.

The whole of Vietnam has incredible things to see and do, however, the north has breathtaking views unlike anywhere else. In our opinion, it’s better to work your way up and be constantly impressed while your journey gets increasingly better.

Our suggested route from South to North

Weather/time of year

Choosing which time of year to start your trip can also be tough. As such a long country, the weather can vary drastically between the north and south. Sometimes the rainy season means more lush greenery to be seen up north. But constant rain isn’t brilliant either.

To follow this Vietnam backpacking route we would recommend heading to the country between February and April. Read this best time to visit Vietnam post for more information.

How to get from place to place?

The most cost-effective way to travel around Vietnam is by bus. Night buses are even better in some cases as they save you a nights fee on accommodation, give you more time to explore during the day AND let you lie down and have a rest while travelling from A – B! You can book most onward journeys from a travel desk or your hotel/hostel usually up to the day before your required travel date.

Alternatively, 12Go is a great site to book travel. They operate around the whole of Southeast Asia and various other countries, providing journey information and multiple options across different modes of transportation.

Vietnam backpacking route

1. *Ho Chi Minh / Saigon*

Recommended duration: 3 days

If you’re flying into Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, otherwise known as Saigon, is a great place to start.

If you fancy some beach time, it is cheap and easy to fly to Phu Quoc from here, or, to discover a whole new world on water, head towards the Mekong Delta for a river tour.

Eat to your heart’s content at then Ben Thanh Street Food Market. Learn about the shocking history of the Vietnam War at the Cu Chi Tunnels and War Remnants Museum. Or, for some light-hearted tourism, have a tipple at some of the best bars in Ho Chi Minh.

War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh city

We only spent 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh but could’ve spent a lot longer exploring the city. From here you can take a bus to Mũi Né for as little as ₫160,000 (£5.60/$6.90 US) per person.

2. Mũi Né

Recommended duration: 2-3 days

Home to amazing sand dunes, this beach resort town is known for being Vietnam’s top spot for water-sports. Watch the kite-surfers soar across the waves, or give it a go yourself. Wander down the fairy stream, take a quad bike ride over the pristine white sand dunes and visit the red dunes for sunset. Be careful with renting scooters in Mũi Né as police are said to be stricter here.

Matt on the fairy stream in Mui Ne
Matt on the Fairy Stream in Mui Ne

3. *Dalat*

Recommended duration: 3 days

Dalat was up there with one of our favourite places in Vietnam. Located in the Central Highlands, there is so much to explore in this picturesque city. Go chasing waterfalls, relax in a sauna or visit the weird and wonderful Crazy House. You can even try canyoning in Da Lat which is a super fun adventurous activity. Make sure you have a warm jacket as the climate can get chilly in the evenings!   

Matt canyoning in Da Lat
Matt canyoning in Da Lat

4. Nha Trang – Ninhvana

Recommended duration: 2 days

Nha Trang is a coastal resort town popular amongst Russian tourists. Explore the lush beach or underwater world with the diving opportunities on offer. Or, head towards Ninh Van Bay and stay at Ninhvana for a piece of remote partying and tan building. Ninhvana offer busses to and from Nha Trang for links to other places.

5. *Hội An*

Recommended duration: 4 days

Hội An is without a doubt a must-see on any Vietnam backpacking route. Walk or cycle around the quaint Ancient Town, try the ever-famous Cau Lau and other traditional Vietnamese foods or get some clothes made to fit at one of the tailors in Hội An. If you want to learn more about the food in Vietnam, Hội An is the perfect place to try a cooking class.

Lorna on bicycle in Hoi-An-Vietnam-backpacking-route-Two-Souls-One-Path
The best way to get around Hoi An is by bicycle

6. Da Nang

Recommended duration: 2 days

Another coastal town, Da Nang is home to a few attractions you may well have seen on your Instagram feeds. Spend a few hours exploring The Marble Mountains, visit the sandy beaches, and cross the famous dragon bridge, admiring the contrast between day and night. Or, head up the cable car to Ba Na Hills and take a snap with the Golden (Hand) Bridge.

Marble Mountain Da Nang
Us at The Marble Mountain in Da Nang

If you want to drive the Hai Van Pass in style from Hoi An or Da Nang to Hue, there are various tour options. We opted to rent a semi-automatic motorbike one-way with MotorVina from Da Nang. They take your luggage for you which can be collected on the same day from their office in Huế upon returning the bike.

7. Huế

Recommended duration: 2 – 3 days

As the former imperial capital, Huế is widely visited for its vast Citadel. The abandoned waterpark is also a popular site among daring backpackers due to its highly Instagrammable qualities. This eerie sight is illegal to enter, so you may have to bribe your way in..

Hue abandoned waterpark

8. *Phong Nha*

Recommended duration: 2 – 3 days

Often skipped by backpackers and tourists alike, Phong Nha is not to be missed! Famous for its cave systems and limestone mountains, the scenic landscapes are sure to blow you away. Spend the day exploring caves, and incredible nature – you can even visit a duck farm if that’s something you’re into.

Us with some friends in Phong Nha

9. Ninh Binh

Recommended duration: 2 – 3 days

Similar to Phong Nha, Ninh Binh boasts dramatic landscapes which would be a shame to miss. The town itself doesn’t offer much, so we would recommend renting a scooter to reach the outskirts.

Take a boat ride in Trang An, where a lady will row you around and through an impressive cave system for a couple of hours. Nearby Tam Coc also offers similar boat rides which are somewhat more popular (making them busier).

Head to Bich Dong Pagoda or the beautiful Hang Mua Peak (also known as the Lying Dragon Mountain) which offers great views over Tam Coc.

Lying Dragon Mountain

10.*Hạ Long Bay/Cát Bà*

Recommended duration: 3 days

The much spoken about Hạ Long Bay is famous for its dazzling waters and thousands of mini limestone islands covered in rainforests which soar over the ocean.

Cát Bà is the largest island in the Hạ Long Bay area and is often visited as part of some of the tours on offer. Cát Bà boasts many hiking opportunities as half of its area is a national park.

A boat tour around this natural wonder of the world is a must to truly get a feel for and view of the life and beauty surrounding the area.

People live on floating houses in the middle of the ocean near to Ha Long Bay

What tour you do will depend on your budget, as prices can vary drastically. We did a day tour from Cát Bà island, including lunch, for just ₫280,000 (£9.90/$12.10 US) per person.

11. *Ha Giang Loop*

Recommended duration: 4 days

The Ha Giang Loop was hands down one of the best trips we did in the whole of Southeast Asia. Spend 4 days motorbiking around Northern Vietnam and you will not regret it! Take in the breathtaking views, experience rural Vietnamese culture and visit the most northern point of the whole country. Read a more detailed itinerary in our Ha Giang Loop Northern Vietnam: All you need to know post.

Matt and Lorna sitting overlooking views during the Ha Giang Loop
One of the many amazing views on the Ha Giang loop

12. Sa Pa

Recommended duration: 2 – 3 days

Sa Pa is a mountainous area in Northwestern Vietnam, famous for trekking and its vast views over lush rice paddies. Hike around the area which is predominantly populated by various Hill tribes, who all converse in their own languages. For the ultimate cultural experience like no other, stay in a homestay in one of the rural villages.

We woke up to this view in beautiful Sa Pa

We stayed with Mamma Mu for two nights, a lady from the Hmong tribe. She cooked for us, guided us through the beautiful landscapes and shared her homemade local alcohol with us.

13. *Hanoi*

Recommended duration: 3 days

As Vietnam’s capital and a city that never seems to sleep, there is so much to do in Hanoi. Wander down the narrow streets that make up the Old Quarter, saunter around Hoàn Kiếm Lake or check out some of the local temples. For a piece of tradition watch a water puppet show, visit the famous train street and try some of the best restaurants in Hanoi. You can’t leave without trying the local Bia hơi draft beer, found on many street corners for as little as ₫5000 (£0.18p/$0.20c) a cup!

Us on the famous Train Street in Hanoi

Ending your journey in Hanoi is ideal. There are great transport links on offer including an international airport which can take you to wherever you need to go.

Any questions?

Have any more questions about our Vietnam backpacking route? Or Vietnam in general? Please don’t hesitate to get in contact! If you found this post interesting, please don’t forget to share and subscribe for similar content.

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Hi, we're Matt & Lorna. Two travellers on one path hoping to share some of our experiences with you.

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