Some travelers plan to drop by Vietnam just for a short time but get mesmerized and decide to linger for months. Discover the charms of Vietnam as manifested in the North, South and Central regions with our guide to one-month Vietnam itinerary!
In this ultimate plan we give you essential know-before-you-go tips, pick out the best places to go, the best things to do and the best food to eat in each region of the country. This is the information you need before setting off to explore the beauty and diversity of our country! And what’s more, an exclusive table of the estimated cost for your entire one-month journey.
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The biggest question is probably ‘when is the best time to visit Vietnam?’, and our advice is simple: Avoid the rainy months with frequent showers, between June and August, which is also the summer months in Vietnam. In South Vietnam, rainy season even lasts until September and October. So head for Vietnam in the dry months from November to March, and you are safe to see Vietnam in beautiful sunshine, although it can be quite hot and humid though around April and May in the south. Learn more about monsoon season in Vietnam and its effect.
Basically, we pick out the 10 best cities and provinces in Vietnam and recommend a 3-day stay in each place. Following this itinerary, you spend 10 days in each of the three main divisions of Vietnam, definitely bracing yourself for a comprehensive experience of the Vietnamese ways!
See how you can get to each city below, what to do once you’re there and must-eats of the place.
In this plan, we’ll start from an island in the south, then moving on to the central lands, and end up in Northern Vietnam.
Vietnam - the winsome letter-S-shaped country
The first 10 days in South Vietnam
If you're flying into Phu Quoc, you will land in the largest and most pristine island in Vietnam. In administration terms, it is a district of Kien Giang Province, a big western province in Mekong Delta.
Transportation and road networks in Phu Quoc are pretty straightforward. The three main roads you can follow to visit various attractions are Tran Hung Dao, 30/4, and Hung Vuong. Follow Tran Hung Dao street, the street of hotels and resorts, to get to the Coi Nguon Gallery, pearl galleries, and Phu Quoc Prison. Sample Phu Quoc cuisines at affordable restaurants alongside 30/4 street. 30/4 is also the way to the famous Ham Ninh fishing village and Bai Vong pier. Lastly, hit Hung Vuong street to reach the Khu Tuong pepper plantation, and Phu Quoc National Park.
Learn more about traveling in Phu Quoc.
Things to eat: goi ca trich (herring salad and rolls), seafood, Phu Quoc noodles.
Phu Quoc Island
From Phu Quoc, you can catch the Superdong Express Boat to Rach Gia Pier in Kien Giang Province (at 7 AM and 1 PM every day, 2.5-hour ride), then get a private bus to take you to Can Tho, the most lively city in the Mekong Delta, and book an early boat to visit the Cai Rang floating market.
The real deal to seeing inhabited stilt houses and exploring Southern Vietnamese countryside lifestyle at its utmost. This humongous region is a must if you’re seeking authentic cultural insights.
In our previous post about the Mekong Delta, we introduced to you local fruits gardens in Tien Giang and Ben Tre provinces, Cai Rang Floating Market and Tay Do Night Market in Can Tho city. Here we would love to recommend Tram Chim Little Egret Fields and Thap Muoi Lotus Lake in Dong Thap province. In these two places, you’ll get to see a varied ecosystem with diverse kinds of birds in the lowlands and get to ride a boat to handpick lotus flowers.
Lotus Lake in Dong Thap province
Eating is the thing in Mekong Delta. Street eats establishments are more than ubiquitous and insanely affordable. Scrumptious bowls of bun mam, bun ca, bun moc (Vietnamese noodles with different broth textures and toppings), and fresh spring rolls with grilled freshwater fish. Simply mouthwatering.
The next destination worthy to be on your Vietnam itinerary is Ho Chi Minh City. It's super easy and cheap to get to Ho Chi Minh City from provinces in the Mekong Delta. There are frequent buses go back and forth from the West Bus Station in Ho Chi Minh City to many provinces and cities connecting the southwest of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City is the land of friendly and open-minded migrants. That is not to say the land has no history or indigenous people, quite the opposite in fact. But the immigrant proportion is big because it is a land of great potentials, of robust developments and countless opportunities.
Ho Chi Minh City
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be drawn to the fast pace of life and the strong entrepreneurship spirits here, as showcased in busy streets, frequent gridlocks regardless of the time and weather, and numerous up-all-night restaurants and businesses. In addition to being a widely known street food paradise, Ho Chi Minh City caters to all the international cravings with gourmet restaurants across its multiple districts.
Described in textbooks as the City of Heroes, Ho Chi Minh City is indeed the witness to many of Vietnam’s most chaotic and victorious historical events. Pay a visit to the War Remnants Museum to gain a glimpse into the unsettling past of South Vietnam. In fact, we have written a Ho Chi Minh City 3-day travel guide on our blog, so check it out!
|To have fun trips in Ho Chi Minh City, check out our authentic motorbike tours with professional local guides!|
The next 10 days in Central Vietnam
Leaving the hustle city, we come to Dalat and Central Highlands, a little mountain getaway in this one-month Vietnam itinerary. From the East Bus Station in Ho Chi Minh City, book a night ticket on a bus because it’s a 7-hour ride to reach Da Lat and begin your journey in the Central Highlands. There are alternative options. You can visit the backpacker's district on Pham Ngu Lao Street in District 1 of the city, and book an overnight sleeping bus. There are many bus operators and travel agencies here.
Regular urban residents, especially those in the southern provinces, would all say they desire a getaway to the chilly breezy city of Dalat, which provides an ideal break from the typical stifling and stuffy weather of where they live.
Situated at an altitude of 1,500 m, Dalat is home to verdant pine forests, beautiful lakes, waterfalls and flower gardens. Due to this diversity of natural scenes, Dalat is known by so many romantic names like the dreamers’ city, the flowery city, the city of love or the city of eternal spring. It is also a city of many no’s - no traffic lights, no cyclos (or cycle taxis, or ‘xich lo’ in Vietnamese), no air conditioners, and…no staying up too late. Not boring at all but in fact a healthy, fascinating way of life.
Attractions: Datanla Waterfalls, Strawberry Home Gardens, Dalat Flower Garden, Xuan Huong Lake, Truc Lam Temple by cable car, Lake of Sighs, Hang Nga Guesthouse, and Art Gallery, Bao Dai’s Palace, and Dalat Central Night Market.
Must-try dishes: Banh can (mini-pancakes), banh trang nuong (Vietnamese grilled pizzas), soybean milk, banh uot ga (steamed rice noodles with chicken) and grilled pork.
See more of what to do in Da Lat.
A slight detour from Da Lat, if you feel fit enough for a 5-hour ride on a bus, head to Buon Don Tourism Complex in Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province to mingle with the ethnic community there and visit the busy local markets. Grilled pork or chicken served with bamboo cooked rice (com lam) or Dak Lak red noodles are also praised by lots of travelers.
Elephant riding in Dak Lak Province
Red noodles in Dak Lak province
From Da Lat, you can reach Nha Trang in 4 hours. There are several bus lines, but one of the most popular choices is Phuong Trang or FUTA Bus Lines.
Although there is a myriad of beach cities along the central coast, Nha Trang is the first name locals would think of when it comes to a coastal city. Its beaches are pristine with developed tourism services and surrounded by state-of-the-art resorts. Besides natural sights, cultural and religious sites are also a must-visit here, while fish noodles and grilled beef are the real deal for foodies.
Nha Trang Beach
Attractions: Institute of Oceanography, Alexandre Yersin Museum, Long Son Pagoda, Po Nagar Cham Towers, Christ the King Cathedral, Monkeys on Hon Lao Island, Yang Bay Waterfall, Van Phong Bay, Dien Khanh Citadel, Doc Let Beach, and Nha Trang Night Market. (Spare the Vinpearl Land if it’s not an economical choice for your budget).
Activities: parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling and taking mud baths.
Must-try dishes: Bun ca (fish noodles and fried fish sausages), nem nuong (grilled sausage wraps), bun sua (jellyfish noodles), grilled sea urchins with green onions and peanuts, and banh trang xoai (mango rice paper).
See details of traveling in Nha Trang.
Da Nang is the city with an incredible appeal to local and foreign tourists alike. It’s quite a long drive from Nha Trang to Da Nang, which takes about 11 hours, so you should spend the night on a sleeping bus to save traveling time and hotel costs. Depending on your bus route, going up north from Nha Trang, you will reach Hoi An first before getting to Da Nang. If you decide to fly domestically from Nha Trang, you will be arriving at Da Nang first, then you can book a transfer south to Hoi An.
Attractions in Da Nang: Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son), My Khe Beach, Asia Park (quite a costly admission: VND 300,000), Museum of Cham Sculpture (mind-blowing experience guaranteed), Fifth Military Zone Museum of Danang, and Dragon Bridge at night.
What to eat: Rice paper rolls with steamed pork slices and herbs, seafood and Be Thui (Veal).
See our detailed Da Nang guide.
Hoi An is about 30 km away from Da Nang. You can easily reach this famous ancient town in Vietnam on a 1-hour-drive bus from the beautiful coastal city.
People in the country are drawn to Hoi An by its charming mystique. The mystique is felt in the air as one placidly strolls along the Old Quarter and the lantern streets, mesmerized by quaint houses and lanterns’ various sizes, shapes, and colors.
Hoi An lanterns
Attractions: Hoi An Ancient Town, Japanese Covered Bridge, Fujian Assembly Hall, Chaozhou Assembly Hall/ Trieu Chau Assembly Hall, Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, Hoi An Arts and Crafts Manufacturing Workshop, Thanh Hoa Pottery Village, Tra Que Vegetable Village, and Cu Lao Cham Islands.
Must-try dishes: Cao Lau - Hoi An noodles served with meat, herbs and little broth (less broth than the regular noodle dishes of Vietnam). The name is interesting because it essentially means ‘high floor’ which refers to the fact that the dish was originally born to serve the elite who lived on high floors. Today it is served in high-floor-based restaurants too, to preserve the original spirits. Beside Cao Lau, we also have My Quang, banh bao, banh vac (white rose cakes), and banh dap - hen xao (smashed rice crackers and baby basket clams)
Get tickets to travel from Da Nang to Hoi An:
Read more on our Hoi An Travel Guide.
Another popular and charming destination in Central Coast you should put on your one-month Vietnam itinerary is Hue. This former capital is 2 hours away from Da Nang.
Hue is the soul of Central Vietnam. The city boasts great royal buildings of the 19th century, ancient tombs, top-notch culinary treats, and hard-working, passionate individuals.
Attractions: Royal buildings, royal tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, Huong River - Trang Tien Bridge, Hue Night Street, Dong Ba Market, Bach Ma National Park.
See details of things to do in Hue.
Royal Tombs in Hue
Must-try dishes: Bun Bo Hue - the famous treat to all Vietnamese which owes its birth to the solemn city of Hue (a sneak peek: it’s spicier in Hue than in other places). Com hen (baby basket clams rice) - Taste the eclectic mix of flavor in one bowl, spicy, a bit sweet and sour, triggering all your taste buds. Banh beo, banh bot loc (water fern cakes and various kinds of Hue dumplings) - another ubiquitous street food which originates from the old capital of the 19th century. Sample the taste of crispy pork skin and seasoned dried shrimps nestling inside a base of rice flour and tapioca flour. Mouth-watering and reasonable price.
The last 10 days in North Vietnam
From Hue, you need to hop on a 1-hour domestic flight to Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) in Hanoi, and from there it would be easier to travel to different places in North Vietnam. The first destination you may want to visit is Ninh Binh, which is 2 hours away from Hanoi.
Brace yourself for the most unbelievable natural wonders! Hardly any other place in Vietnam can rival Ninh Binh when it comes to natural blessing. Gasp at the magnanimity of what was the film set of Kong: Skull Island, Trang An eco-tourism complex with placid valleys, aquamarine lakes, exotic caves, and calming valleys. On top of that, definitely visit Bai Dinh Religious and Cultural Complex right in the vicinity to behold the biggest pagoda in Vietnam, nestling among pleasant greenery at an impressive altitude.
Trang An in Ninh Binh
Read more of the best day trips from Hanoi through a guide to Trang An and Bai Dinh.
But that is not all because Ninh Binh is also a land of history. On your second day in Ninh Binh, drop by Hoa Lu the old capital to see Vietnamese royal architecture of the tenth century, and buy a ticket (around US$3) to enter the most famous national park in Vietnam, Cuc Phuong National Park.
The cuisine of this province is no joke either. Savory sticky rice with ant eggs (cleaned and marinated) and fried shallots. Bizarre but mouthwatering. Rice noodle soup with paddy field eels (‘mien luon’ in Vietnamese, a very popular dish with adapted versions in different regions). Or delectable mountain goat meat hot pot, Vietnamese salad with freshwater fish, and paddy field crabs sauteed with fresh herbs. All sounds scrumptious already. And what's more, the prices are good! An easy US$2.5 for an average meal outside the tourism center.
To get to Halong Bay from Ninh Binh, you can go by bus going back to Hanoi and then take another bus to Halong Bay because there are few buses going straight from Ninh Binh to Halong Bay. From Hanoi, you can book day trips to Halong Bay or if budget allows, you can spend an overnight on a boat surrounded by archipelagoes in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Magnificent caves and sights to visit in Halong Bay: Thien Cung Cave, Sung Sot Cave, Trong Mai Islet, Yen Tu Monuments, and Landscape Complex.
Activities: Kayaking and Rock Climbing.
Food to eat: Steamed sticky rice with savory fried squid sausage, peanut worm, mangrove horseshoe crabs and Gat Gu rolls (one-of-a-kind!)
From Halong, getting back to Hanoi by bus will take you about 4 hours. It is time for you to explore the beauty of the capital city of Vietnam, the second crowdest city after Ho Chi Minh City.
Hanoi is where the norms and conventions of Vietnam can still be seen most vividly in daily life, as opposed to a little more westernized Ho Chi Minh City. Along the course of Vietnam history, the earliest residents of the country migrated from their homeland in the north to establish a new life in the south, a perceivably easier land to live, nature-wise. When they relocated, a slew of conventions was done away with for them to lean towards a more laid-back lifestyle not bound by strict rules like dining etiquettes or even pretentious politeness. Oh, don't be scared though. The people are very nice and courteous, especially to guests; they are only strict to their family members so that the sons and daughters of the family know how to behave themselves when among elders.
Hanoi is known for its time-honored landmarks, many of which are representations of Vietnam early economic and educational developments. Such are the Chua Mot Cot (One-pillar pagoda), Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam (Literature Temple, which was, in fact, the first school ever in Vietnam), and Ngoc Son Temple. These are situated near the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake, or Guom Lake, or Sword Lake of the city. This lake is famous nationwide for the historical tale that goes with it, that long ago a king of Vietnam returned his potent magical sword to its original owner, the Turtle God that governs the lake. The Old Quarter (Pho co Ha Noi) is another spot you shouldn't miss. Walk around there and see how the quaint architecture of Vietnamese residential houses has been preserved until today.
On top of that, the capital is also widely recognized for its distinctive cuisine, starting creative and tantalizing dishes of noodles in diverse forms. The world-famous pho (beef noodle soup) is just one of them. Other must-try delicacies are bun cha (rice vermicelli with grilled meatballs, fresh herbs, and sweet-sour fish sauce), bun thang (rice vermicelli with boiled chicken and sliced cold cuts), and pho cuon (noodle rolls stuffed with minced meat and fresh herbs; there are also colorful noodle rolls, although they are much more expensive than regular beef noodle soup, around US$4 compared to US$2).
Bun thang in Hanoi
Spend 2 days 1 night in the inner-city seeing the sights and sampling the eats above, but save the third day for the outskirts. The way we see it, Hanoi has more appealing traditional acts to offer to a newcomer in the suburbs than its modernized inner-city. Go to Bat Trang Ceramics Village in Gia Lam District, along the Red River, to admire exquisite porcelain products in myriad designs and colors. There's also a chance to experience making one ceramic item yourself with guidance from a ceramic virtuoso! Or, travel 60 km to Ba Vi National Park and enjoy the soothing serenity among spectacular natural feats.
Alternative plan: See our detailed 3-day guide in Hanoi.
From Hanoi, you can get to Sapa, your last destination in Vietnam itinerary, either by a bus going straight to the city (7 hours) or an overnight train (we recommend the sleeping cabin) stopping by Lao Cai Station (8 hours) and another drive to Sapa City (1 hour 15 minutes). It’s quite a long journey, so remember to book a night ticket that saves you a night’s cost at a hotel.
Why Sapa? For the terraced rice fields and the idiosyncratic ethnic cultures, we would say. Like the case of most ethnic minorities, festivals and special rituals are a frequent occurrence here. Imagine how exciting it would be to partake in a dancing night or a grand wedding ceremony in the chilly weather of Sapa. Join the fun whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For Sapa, it is pleasing enough to have a breath of fresh air. Hike or trek along the peaceful paths across spectacular staircase paddy rice fields. Drop by a local market and try on colorful brocade garments. Sample diverse local eats including grilled pork and fish, fresh vegetables simply boiled or made into salads, and Sapa special black chicken.
More details on attractions in Sapa.
For your outbound flight, the only way is to go back to Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi since there is no international airport in Sapa or Lao Cai. You’ll need to travel for 1 hour to get to the airport from downtown Hanoi.
Learn more about ways to save your money in Vietnam.
|Expense category (VND)||Budget travel||Moderate travel||Luxury travel||Notes |
|+25 nights |
+Some nights may be spent on sleeping buses to save hotel costs
+Prices may change depend on the tourism season
|30 days, 3 meals/day|
(13 destinations, 12 trips on bus, trains, or ferry: 200,000/trip, 1 flight with budget airline: 200,000)
(30 days, 500,000/day)
(13 destinations, 12 trips on bus, trains, or ferry: 400,000/trip, 1 flight with economy class: 2,200,000)
(30 days, 1,500,000/day)
(13 destinations, 12 trips on bus, trains, or ferry: 600,000/trip, 1 flight with business class: 3,300,000)
(30 days, 2,000,000/day)
|+Travel between cities and within a city (flights to Vietnam are not included) |
+Prices may change depending on tourism season
|Attractions, Activities, Tours|| |
(30 days, 3 attractions/day, 150,000/attraction)
(30 days, 1 tour/day, 1,000,000/tour)
(30 days, 1 tour/day, 3,000,000/tour)
|If you are not on a budget, you can join on private tours that customize the itineraries and arrange the transportation for you|
|Visa||575,000||575,000||575,000||+Single-entry, for maximum of 30 days |
+Exempted for some countries
|Extra Costs||3,000,000||4,000,000||8,000,000||SIM cards, medication, etc.|
|Total cost in 30 days per person|| |
VND 46,675,000 p.p.
US$ 2,029 p.p.
VND 120,575,000 p.p.
US$ 5,242 p.p
VND 289,075,000 p.p.
US$ 12,568 p.p
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