The Ultimate Vietnam Itinerary For Backpackers
“Oh skip Nha Trang.”
“You can’t miss Da Nang, bro.”
“Even just one day in Ninh Binh and you’ll be glad you went.”
Vietnam is very backpacker friendly and the tourist trail is very well-defined, but I figured I’d throw in my own input based on my experience here. My own route made very little sense and was full of mistakes that could have been easily avoided had I looked at a map, but you should be glad that I made the mistake of spending 5 nights on sleeper buses out of 7 days so you don’t have to.
The first thing to consider before going to Vietnam is the visa. While some countries are pretty lax about visas, you shouldn’t risk it in Vietnam. There was a group of Americans on my bus who were turned back at the border because their Visas weren’t ready. To avoid any nightmares, Vietnam Visa can take care of everything for you, whether it is a Vietnam visa on arrival or a Vietnam visa for US citizens. Trust me, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this country for whatever reason.
I had to cut out a week of my Vietnam trip due to an impulse decision to include the Philippines on my Southeast Asia trip, but despite rampaging through the country, I enjoyed every day of it.
Without further ado, the perfect backpacker’s itinerary for Vietnam.
If you’re traveling north to south, read it as is. If traveling south to north, just read it backwards I guess.
Da Nang/Hoi An
By the time backpackers make their way to central Vietnam, they will all likely be too hyped about Hoi An to even bother with Da Nang. Undoubtedly, you will encounter a large percentage of travelers telling you that Hoi An has been their favorite city in Vietnam. I had a quick stop in Da Nang, hiking up marble mountain and checking out the beach, but I was more than ready to kick back in the city of lanterns.
I loved Hoi An but I’ll admit that my expectations might have been a bit too high (the temperatures definitely were). Although it was fun for the first few days, going to the beach, then the night market, then Tiger Tiger 1 and Tiger Tiger 2 before struggling to find a reasonably priced way home got old pretty fast. Regardless, I don’t think I’ve felt as much magic in Vietnam as I did walking through Old Town at night for the first time and seeing all the lanterns lit up.
Hoi An is also a popular place to do all of your shopping. I’m not just talking about your typical souvenirs. Hoi An’s tailors, textile markets, and other craftsmen can make pretty much anything you want and have it ready within a couple of days. I’m talking anything from the high-quality knock-off Birkenstocks that I bought to a leopard suit that my Australian friend had made to his exact measurements. I had my bank account hacked before arriving in Hoi An, which might have been a good thing because I would have likely spent all my money on shopping here. Give yourself three days minimum in Hoi An, but that will likely turn into five or six.
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