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8 Must-Stops in Vietnam

After visiting Vietnam twice I absolutely fell in love with everything the country has to offer. You can find incredible natural beauty, busy cities, rich history and amazing food. Vietnam is a very budget friendly country so you can see a lot more without spending as much! The markets in Vietnam are some of my favorite I’ve every visited and you can get around most of the country on the night buses, both of which are very easy on your wallet. If you’re backpacking Vietnam, click here to read some tips for traveling Southeast Asia before you go! I’ve only been to Vietnam twice so there’s a lot more for me to discover but these are 8 of my favorite places that I have explored so far.

Hanoi

Known for it’s iconic Train Street and egg coffee, Hanoi is the perfect first stop in Vietnam especially if you’re looking to explore the north. You can get buses to Ha Giang, Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh and even more. You can enjoy a coffee on Train Street, learn about Vietnamese culture at the Women’s Museum and learn some Vietnamese history at Hoa Lo Prison. If you’re going to Train Street make sure you do some planning ahead of time because the train only comes through a couple times of day and you don’t want to get it wrong! Make sure you spend some time wandering around the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the streets are narrow and busy but you can find amazing cafes and restaurants and plenty of little shops to wander around.

Ha Giang

Tucked up in the mountains just a night bus away from Hanoi is the city of Ha Giang and the starting place for a very wild adventure for many people! You can rent a motorbike and brave the Ha Giang Loop, seeing the beautiful mountains and valleys of north Vietnam, stopping at waterfalls and even the border to China. I booked a 4 day tour through Jasmine Hostel and they organized everything, bikes, itinerary, accommodation, food and even helped you book a bus to your next destination! I know a lot of people who didn’t want to be in a big group so they rented a motorbike and did the trip on their own. Alone or with a group, wear your helmet and be careful!

Ha Long Bay

If you’re looking to have some peace and quiet I recommend heading to the coast and exploring Ha Long Bay. You can relax on the island of Cat Ba or board a boat and spend a night enjoying the beauty of Ha Long Bay. You can find day trips or overnight cruises and price points from affordable to luxury. I did an overnight cruise and really enjoyed it, we got to stop and swim and then explore some caves before heading back to the boat for the night. A couple people I was on the cruise with said they would’ve preferred to do a day trip but personally I loved seeing sunrise over Ha Long Bay while floating in the middle of it!

Ninh Binh

While traveling to Vietnam for the second time I heard from a few other backpackers how nice Ninh Binh was and decided to make it my next stop after doing the Ha Giang Loop. We stayed at a quiet hostel that was mostly families on vacation and it was the perfect switch up from sharing a room with 40 other backpackers. Our first night we went to Hang Mua Viewpoint for sunset and although it’s a bit of a trek to get to the top it’s worth every stair you have to climb. We explored the ancient capital Hoa Lu and then went across the street to see the lake, temples and caves at Tuyet Tinh Coc. If you have the time I definitely recommend doing a boat ride on the Tam Coc River, it was on the expensive side considering the usual cost of activities but so cool! You get to pick your route and then spend the next couple hours going through caves before returning back to the start. Don’t worry about it being too sunny, they have umbrellas for everyone!

Hoi An

Traveling a few hours south you’ll find Hoi An, home to basket boats, many many cooking classes and lots of custom made clothing and it’s even protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I personally haven’t had clothing custom made here but the process is amazingly quick! I had lots of friends who got clothing made and they have it ready for you in usually 2 or 3 days and if you don’t want to take it on your travels with you they’ll ship it to your home. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to walk around the ancient town and enjoy the night market as well, you can even pay for a boat ride on the river. Both times I’ve been to Hoi An I did a cooking class and had a wonderful time; some places even offer a tour including a cooking class and a basket boat ride. In my opinion Hoi An was a bit quieter than there places I stopped so I recommend leaving the scooter for a couple days and renting a pedal bike instead!

Mui Ne

In Mui Ne you can find beautiful beaches lined with resorts, sand dunes and waterfalls waiting to be enjoyed! One thing we did that I thought was so fun was ride around on the sand dunes; you can drive around on a four wheeler, be driven in a jeep or surf the dunes if you’d like! You can also go walking through the sand dunes to visit the Fairy Stream, a beautiful waterfall near Mui Ne. Depending on the weather the waterfall might look a bit brown and be prepared most of the walk to the waterfall is through a stream so your feet will get wet! Near my hotel was a busy fishing village so the beach was full of perfect sea shells, make sure to take a walk along the water and see what you find.

Ho Chi Minh City

I will be honest and say Ho Chi Minh City was not my most favorite city but I did love how rich in history it was! You can visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and learn about the Vietnam War and how the tunnels were utilized by the Viet Cong. There’s a couple spots where you can climb in to one of the tunnels so definitely give it a try if you’re not claustrophobic and you can see all the different types of traps the Viet Cong used during the war. If you’re looking for more history I would definitely head to the War Remnants Museum, you can find history of the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War. You can also go visit Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Convention Hall. During the 50s and 60s it served as the home to the President to the Republic of Vietnam and in 1975, this is where the Vietnam War came to an end. You can find some amazing markets in Ho Chi Minh City so make sure you wander around and see what you can find, just don’t have you phone out while doing it!

Can Tho

About two and a half hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City is Can Tho. We spent a day exploring the floating market and had a wonderful time. You can find pretty much anything at the markets, starting as small as a coffee or fruits and veggies and getting as big as a boat! Although I didn’t spend a lot of time here I still absolutely loved it! You could pass through here very easily on your way to Ho Chi Minh City or your way out if you’re heading to Cambodia.

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