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Vietnam Trip Itinerary and More - Synopsis of the Big Picture

Starting with a video log of our journey from India to Vietnam is provided below

Every year we do a vacation to celebrate our kid's birthday (June 20) and to take advantage of the summer vacations. This summer (2023) we visited Vietnam for our vacation. It is a great country from any perspective and hence a perfect destination. Vietnam offers a glimpse into the history of its colonial past, rich & varied culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and immaculate natural beauty. We spent ten days in the country and were able to experience something new every day of our Vietnam Trip.

In this article, we bring a concise view of our entire trip including a broad itinerary, key destinations covered, some thoughts on the country, and important things you should consider while planning a trip. The purpose is to give you all the important information in one place and then allow you to venture to other articles for more details.

Vietnam - An Introduction

Vietnam is a South-East Asian country that has seen a lot in its past. At the same time, there is so much natural beauty unique to the country. This combined with its rich culture and spiritual society, makes it such a vibrant and diverse society.

History - Long, Cold, and Impactful

Vietnam has a long history of colonial rule. While initial years were spent under Chinese influence, they later came under French occupation. While at the end of the Second World War, the French withdrew forces and provided some autonomy to the country as part of the Indo-China region. However, this was only a temporary benefit and did not do a lot of benefit to the country. Under various regimes, Vietnam saw numerous divisive attempts.

The first division happened early on when the country was divided into three Indo-China countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Later, another divisive attempt led to the creation of North and South Vietnam based on economic beliefs.

North Vietnam was led by Ho Chi Minh who developed the area as a Communist state supported by the Chinese. South Vietnam opted for a Capitalist outlook towards economic development and hence gained recognition from the United States. This created an inherent conflict between the two areas and one kept trying to win over the other. In 1975, after a long-drawn war involving the two parts and the US, Saigon fell and North Vietnam took over the country and united it for good.

The country has a rich history - get an insight at various museums

The war for reunification was fought in jungles and the North Vietnam army used guerrilla warfare to avoid casualties and perform operations within the South Vietnamese territory. All this history provides a number of sites that provides a glimpse into the struggle of Vietnam as a country and makes it an interesting destination for history enthusiasts.

Geography - Elongated and Beautiful

Vietnam is located in the South Eastern part of Asia and is blessed by a variety of natural beauty. The country is shaped as an "S" and hence is elongated vertically.

It has a long coastline along the South China Sea. This has led to the development of a lot of beach destinations and islands within the country. The location also makes it strategically crucial from a geopolitical point of view. The access to sea also creates opportunities for economic development for the country. For a long time, there have been a number of trading ports in the country and their existence showcases the importance that the country has enjoyed in the past.

Further, the natural phenomenon has led to a number of limestone structures over water and land. These structures or Karsts have led to mountains with heavy vegetation which provides a mesmerizing view from the outside. The action of water over the years has also led to the creation of caves within these limestone mountains creating caves that have become an attraction for tourists.

How to Get into and Around Vietnam

Vietnam has gained significant popularity as a tourist destination (especially for Indian) post the Covid lockdowns. There are various factors that favor it as a tourist attraction. Here are some logistics that would help you plan your travel to Vietnam.

Flights into and out of Vietnam

Vietnam Airlines Plane at Hanoi Airport

Vietnam is well connected by air to most countries across the world. A number of international airlines fly into the big cities - Hanoi, Danang, and Saigon. India has direct flights to these cities both by Indian Airlines (Indigo & Air India) and Vietnamese Airlines (Vietnam Airlines & Vietjet). There are options with layovers in other countries but they come out pricier and hence direct routes are the best options. Flying time from most Indian cities is about 5 hours. Below is our set of flights into and out of the country during the Vietnam Trip:

New Delhi to Ho Chi Minh City
(via Kolkata with 5.5 hours layover)
Hanoi to New Delhi
(direct flight)
Indigo 6E 6557 & 1641 (total 13 hours)
Landed in Ho Chi Minh City at 2 AM
Vietjet VJ971 (4.5 hours)
Landed in Delhi at 8:40 PM

Traveling within Vietnam - Intercity

There are multiple options to travel within Vietnam. There are internal flights that connect all important cities. Their frequency and connections are adequate to suit your itineraries. Three important airlines for internal travel are Vietjet (low cost), Vietnam Airlines (full service), and Bamboo Airlines (apparently luxury). Their prices are competitive and after accounting for check-in luggage fees, it comes out to be similar.

Buses also connect all the important cities with a decent frequency. The road infrastructure in Vietnam is pretty good and there are now expressways on major routes. There are sleeper buses available that take you from one city to another. Given the distances involved, these may be good options as they allow you to use your night for travel and also save on hotel nights. For road travel, car rentals are also available. There are a number of rental companies who have started business in Vietnam so if you are here for a really long time, these could be a good option. However, if you are here only for a limited time, we think they would lead to spending a lot of time driving with very less to see on-route.

The country has trains too - Train Street in Hanoi

Trains are also an option if you have the flexibility and time. There are limited connections and departures so you may want to choose cautiously. However, the trains in Vietnam are luxurious from the inside for certain cabin classes.

We chose flights and recommend them!

To save time (and after getting decent deals), we chose the below flights for our travel within Vietnam. We had in general a good experience through all these flights. Compared to India, airports in Vietnam are smaller and less crowded so your checking and boarding times are comfortable. In general, you could reach the airport an hour ahead of departure time and safely board the flight with some buffer (this included checking in your luggage).

Ho Chi Minh City to DanangDanang to Hanoi
Vietnam Airlines - VN 6064 (1 hour 30 minutes)
(operated by Pacific Airlines)
Vietnam Airlines - VN 184 (1 hour 30 minutes)

Local Travel - Intracity

There are a number of ways you could navigate cities within Vietnam. To start with, in order to ease your travel, we recommend choosing your accommodations carefully. If you (and it is pretty easy) find hotels/hostels around the sites of interest, you would save a lot on local travel. In most cities, key areas of tourist interest are pretty close by easing your woes.

If you are a solo traveler or traveling without small kids, renting a bike is the best way to travel around. Bikes are easily available and can mostly be arranged by your hotels. They make it easier to navigate some of the alleyways and narrow streets. There is adequate parking available near major tourist points so that is not a big hassle as well.

Flights are still the best way to travel intercity in Vietnam

For a more comfortable movement, there are taxis available in most major cities. Though there are union taxis available everywhere, these have been notorious for mischief and scams. One, they would avoid metered trips and ask for money usually double (or triple) the going rates. If you insist on meters, you may end up seeing the same square four times on one ride! We recommend using Grab or Gozek which are competitively priced and very easy to find. We did not have more than a couple of minutes of wait time for any of our rides.

Some cities like Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Hanoi have a decent city bus network for economic travel. If you are a family, Grab may end up being more economical. Saigon also has a waterbus for some travel distances that you can try. However, cities like Danang may not provide you with adequate options for public (city bus) transportation.

Logistics - Visa, Accommodation, Currency, Language

Visa and Other Formalities

Visa, although required for Indian nationals, is a very easy process. There is a set of countries including India (view here) which are allowed the issuance of e-visa which makes the process really smooth and quick. We had our visa applied online on the portal (Visa Portal) and the form is very simple. Below are the details/documents you should be aware of before applying

  • Scanned copy of passport's bio pages
  • Scanned photograph (preferably a recent one)
  • Date of the journey (at least tentatively close)
  • Ports of entry and exit (the former is really important as it is printed on the e-visa)

After you input the relevant details you are asked to make a payment of 25 US Dollars. You could use any Visa or Mastercard for the purpose but if your payment fails, you need to restart the entire process (including filling out the form) right from scratch. Once you apply, it takes about 3-5 days (have a buffer of a week to be on the safer side) for the e-visa authorization letter to come in your mail. This is all you need to travel - please take a printout for the immigration formalities. When you enter Vietnam, the immigration officials with a stamp entry mark based on the authorization letter (without a question asked) and you are good to go.


Choosing an accommodation is an important part of trip planning. In Vietnam, most tourist attractions are pretty close to each other (other than the ones that need a day tour). If you choose accommodation around these areas, you will find it easier to navigate and save on some travel time. Here are our recommendations for the areas you should look at. Hotels in Vietnam are not too pricey and you can get a decent option in 40 - 50 USD (3000-4000 INR) The specific hotels where we stayed are available in Day Wise Log but there are plenty of options to choose from.

CityPreferred Areas of Accommodation
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh CityDistrict 1, preferably by the riverside
DanangDanang Island, preferably with a beach/ocean view
Hoi AnAncient Town, anywhere is good but nearness to the river helps
My ThoOn cruise - that is why you are there anyways
HanoiDistrict 1, preferably by the riverside
Right Accommodation Could Lead to these Views


The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). It is a devalued currency and hence you may end up spending big bills for small things. As per the current conversion rate, 1 USD is equal to 23, 690 VND, and 1 INR is 290 VND. For your conversions, while airports are good places for initial money exchange, you would easily find money exchangers at every nook and corner of the towns. The general rates offered are decent and would not impact you much as tourists. Also, if you are running short on VNDs, a lot of local shops and activities operators happily accept US Dollars. At a few places, we were even given the return change in USDs.

Apart from cash, all international cards (at least the Visas and Mastercards) are accepted across all places. If you choose your card carefully, the fees would account for an amount equivalent to your exchange commissions and hence you may save on carrying cash. However, there are a few local shops that may ask for a 3% bank charge for using cards, so you cannot totally do away with cash.

Quick tip for Indians - We would take out the last 3-zeros from the quoted price in VND and multiply by 4 to get an equivalent INR value (which would take care of conversion fees/commissions).

Communication - Language and Networks

Language is a major barrier to communication but as they say, where there is a will, there is a way! Though your guides and some hotel/restaurant/branded showroom staff may know English, most of Vietnamese people will not. You may not understand what they are saying and vice-versa but there is enough technology in place to help the communication. While you act out on the basic premise of the topic, they will quickly take out the calculators (or mobile phones) to type the amount of any item you are asking about. Also, they have become quite adept at using Google translate and we saw a lot of taxi drivers and shop owners (especially the younger generation) use the voice translation features pretty smoothly.

While we are on the topic of communication, let us also talk about being connected. You can easily find prepaid sim cards when you land at any of the airports. We took one from the Viettel store at Saigon airport for 300,000 VND (about 1200 INR or 13 USD) which was good for the entire month. It provided unlimited internet and 20 minutes of calling time. While most tourists can manage without the calling time, we wanted some calling minutes just in case we had to call a tour guide or Grab Driver, or someone else.


Vietnam has a rich and varied cuisine that is primarily focused on seafood but includes a lot of components of Rice. Based on one of our guides, Vietnamese eat a rice component in each meal. While the primary and staple food is mostly non-vegetarian, it is not difficult to find vegan or vegetarian options as well. There are international restaurants available from almost all countries and you should be able to find something to suit your requirements. Especially for Indians, you get Indian food pretty easily. Also, some of the signature dishes of Vietnam can be requested in a vegetarian version at some restaurants.

Vegetarian Bahn-mi in Saigon

The Trip in Summary - A Day Wise Log

We spent a total of 11 days (actually 10 within the country and 1 in travel) on the Vietnam Trip and covered six key cities across three regions (north, central and south Vietnam). We stayed at 5 of them and took day tours for others. Each city has a unique flavor, ranging from natural beauty, culture, history, and food. The table below provides a quick summary of our entire itinerary and a day-wise description of what we did during the trip.

Day wise activities

Day and DateCity We CoveredAccommodationDescription
Day 0 - 17-Jun-2023Kolkata (Travel Day)Riverside Hotel SaigonTraveling from New Delhi to Saigon with a layover in Kolkata
Arrived in Saigon very early on June 18
Day 1 - 18-Jun-2023Saigon or Ho Chi Minh CityRenaissance Riverside Hotel SaigonExploring District 1
Experienced local cuisine
Took a ride on the WaterBus
Day 2 - 19-Jun-2023Saigon or Ho Chi Minh CityRenaissance Riverside Hotel SaigonDay Tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta experiencing two different flavors in a day
Day 3 - 20-Jun-2023DanangFour Points by Sheraton DanangCelebrated Rishik's Birthday
Traveled from Saigon to Danang
Explored Danang City
Day 4 - 21-Jun-2023DanangFour Points by Sheraton DanangDay Tour to Bana Hills enjoying the Golden Hand Bridget and the Theme Park
Explored Fashion Street in the evening
Day 5 - 22-Jun-2023Hoi AnLittle Hoi An Boutique Hotel & SpaExploring the ancient town of Hoi An on a bicycle
Traveling from Hoi An to Hanoi
Exploring the old quarters of Hanoi
Day 6 - 23-Jun-2023HanoiLotusama Hanoi HotelExploring the ancient town of Hoi An on a bicycle
Traveling from Hoi An to Hanoi
Exploring old quarters of Hanoi
Day 7 - 24-Jun-2023Halong Bay (My Tho)Halong Sapphire CruiseTraveling to My Tho City
Unwinding onboard the cruise
Exploring limestone caves on the small boat (sampan)
Day 8 - 25-Jun-2023HanoiLotusama Hanoi HotelKayaking and Swimming on the Cruise
Returning to Hanoi
Exploring the Night Market and other lakeside weekend activities
Day 9 - 26-Jun-2023HanoiLotusama Hanoi HotelDay Tour of Nihn Bihn Area - Hoa Lu City and Lime Stone Caves in Trang An
Day 10 - 27-Jun-2023HanoiN/ASouvenir shopping in the old quarters
Traveling back to New Delhi

Key Destinations Covered during Our Vietnam Trip

Summary of the Ten-Day Vietnam Trip

Below is a list of key destinations we covered during our visit along with a brief description of what to explore there. In the end, we have also provided a quick few recommendations to consider if you have more time at your disposal.

Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon (South)

While it is not the capital of the country, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and the most populous city in Vietnam. CIty's original name was Saigon which was changed in 1975 in honor of the great North Vietnamese leader who became synonymous with the independence movement of the country. Before the reunification of Vietnam, it was the seat of South Vietnamese power. It is the face of the economic development of the country and is the financial capital in many ways - think of it like New York for US or Mumbai for India. While it can be debated, we conjecture that it was because of its historic positioning as the pillar of the Capitalist movement in Vietnam.

Night Views of Saigon

The city welcomes you with towering skyscrapers, large squares, water transport, and all modernities you would expect. Key areas to visit:

  • District 1 - Museums, Independence Palace, Saigon Post Office, Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market, Walking Streets, Skyscrapers (observation decks)
  • Cu Chi Tunnels - Live visualization of the tough life that soldiers lived during the Vietnam War (called the American War here)
  • Mekong Delta - A natural and scenic excursion to the My Tho city and the canal system called the rice bowl of Vietnam

For more details of the city and our experience there, visit our detailed article - Things to Do in Saigon – The Largest City in Vietnam

Danang (Central)

Danang is a beach destination in Vietnam located by the South China Sea. It is a beautiful city that is following Saigon in showcasing economic development and progressive structures. It has big shopping malls and branded hotels for you to enjoy your stay. Some of the areas to explore during your Danang stay include:

  • Dragon Bridge (preferably on a weekend) and Han River Bridge
  • Bana Hills and Sunworld Theme Park
  • Sun Wheel (Danang Eye)
  • Marble Mountains

For more details of the city and our experience there, visit our detailed article - Danang, Vietnam – Amazing Five Things to Experience

Sunworld Bana Hills - A Scenic Theme Park in Danang

Hoi An (Central)

Hoi An is a small town near Danang but very different from the big city that Danang. This beautiful town takes you to the past of the region and provides a very cozy and romantic charm. It is known for the beautiful lighting of the town after dark. All the streets and the river are lit by lanterns providing a unique aura all around. This is a city you may want to explore on a bike which is easily available for rent.

Hoi An - A Beautiful Small Town with Romantic Charm

For more details of the city and our experience there, visit our detailed article - Spending a Day in Enchanting Hoi An - Town with a Romantic Charm

Hanoi (North)

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and is a perfect blend of modernity and old-world charm. As you move out of the airport, you see all the glass facade buildings touching the sky. However, move a bit farther and the ancient origins of the city come to face. The old quarter area around Hoan Kiem Lake is a great place to spend wandering around. Also, of all the cities, we found Hanoi to be the best place for souvenir shopping. Explore all the museums and temples around the area to dive into the history and culture of the country. Do not forget to take a cruise ride in Halong Bay!

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi - The Centre of Tourist Hub

For more details of the city and our experience there, visit our detailed article - Exploring the Enchanting Capital: Hanoi, Vietnam

Hoa Lu (North)

Hoa Lu is the ancient capital of Vietnam before it was moved to Hanoi. It is a small town about 2 hours away from Hanoi and is known for its temples and natural beauty. Tourists visit the city for a boat ride in the Trang An or Tam Coc areas to go through the caves in the limestone mountains. Also, if you are physically fit, a hike to the Mua Caves will reward you with the most awesome views of the entire region.

Things to Remember for Vietnam Trip

Okay, now since we have enough to keep us going, it is time to get to specific pointers that you should keep in mind while making the plans for a Vietnam Trip.


  • Visa - There are a lot of websites (resembling official ones in URL or visuals) that offer quicker visas for $50 (or close by). This is not needed as it is a simple visa process and costs $25 - get it from the official site
  • Currency - Use a good global credit card for most expenses and carry USDs for cash. Get money exchanged at local shops or try paying using USDs for better rates
  • Sim Card and Mobile - While you may get wifi in hotels and restaurants, you need to have a data plan in general if you want to stay connected (get a grab maybe)


  • Luggage restrictions per bag - Sometimes Vietnamese airlines enforce weight per bag restrictions (similar to the US) against the total weight considered by Indian airlines. Pack your bags accordingly or be ready to pay or repack at the airport
  • Kolkata Layover - If you are traveling via Indigo, you may have a layover in Kolkata. Immigration and Security at Kolkata airport are relatively easier and smoother. A 2-hour layover is more than enough to do everything with ease.
  • Crossing roads - While Indians will not be very intimidated by the traffic, crossing roads is slightly more difficult. Do not assume that motorists will always follow the traffic lights - just show a hand and walk
  • Tours and Tickets - We found the Klook offered good deals for the day tours and tickets to some of the local attractions (including the hop-on-hop-off busses)


  • Google Translate - Download a translator that supports offline pack for the Vietnamese language as you would need it frequently
  • Apps - Download apps for Grab, Gozek & Google Translator, at the least before you leave
  • Adapter - There is a slight variation in electric sockets in Vietnam compared to India (and other countries as well). Your Indian 2-pin plugs would work but not the 3-pin ones so carry an international adapter if you plan to use those devices
Leaving you with a picture of views from our room on Halong Bay Cruise
Leaving you with a picture of views from our room on Halong Bay Cruise

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