On this 8 day trip you will start in the vibrant city of Hanoi with street stalls dishing out spicy flavorful pho, bustling markets, beautiful temples, and a hip nightlife scene.While quite touristy, a trip to Unesco World Heritage site Ha Long Bay is an absolute must, so we’ll put you on your own private junk boat to explore at your own leisure.

Sleeping on one of the islands in the bay will enable you to go on your own kayaking adventures and see the floating villages away from a tour. Finally you can spend the last of your days exploring the most beloved town in Vietnam, Hoi An, with beautiful historic yellow washed buildings and lit paper lanterns floating down the river at night. Hoi An offers some of the best food in the entire country with hundreds of regional dishes from Hue like bahn xeo a crispy mung bean flour crepe stuffed with prawns and pork wrapped up in a spring roll and dipped in chili sauce. You can bicycle around the villages in a small island just across the river to see how different foods and crafts are made, and there are many heritage sites to visit. The best thing about Hoi An? It’s a short bicycle ride away from a stunning beach that stretches all the way to Danang and has nearby islands for diving. This itinerary will show you what I love most about Vietnam, the scenery, the phenomenal food, and the wonderful people.

Hole Up in Hanoi

You’ll likely be jet lagged from long travel, so spend your first day in Hanoi just relaxing. Arrange airport shuttle service from your hotel, Golden Silk Boutique Hotel, an elegant intimate hotel in Hanoi’s atmospheric Old Quarter.

Enjoy the on site jacuzzi, sauna, and steam rooms at the hotel, or book a traditional Vietnamese massage.

If you have the energy, give yourself a walking tour of the Old Quarter and head to Hoan Kiem lake for sunset to watch local couples having their photos taken, older women practicing Tai Chi, and walk into the temple on the bridge the North end of the lake.

For dinner have the classic, simple meal of street pho from a little shop in the Old Quarter. Eating on the street is one of the best ways to experience local culture here, so learn some names of local dishes in Vietnamese. I recommend the crab pho, called “bun rieu.”

Stay: Golden Silk Boutique Hotel

Book here for $100/night for the studio suite with balcony and soaking tub.

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $67

$50 accommodation
$5 lunch
$2 dinner
$10 massage

Soak in the Sights

Begin your morning with a complementary breakfast at the hotel.

Then set off for the sights of the city. Start at the Temple of Literature, which opens at 8am, before the crowds filter in to see some classic architecture and take beautiful photos in the golden light. Next walk over to the Women’s Museum which has an excellent collection of hill tribe textiles and offers insight on the way of life for women in Vietnam.

For lunch, just around the corner from the Women’s Museum is my favorite restaurant in the entire country, Quan An Ngon. The huge menu features specialities from all over the country in an open, airy, beautiful space. My favorite dishes here are the green papaya salad ($2) and the ban xeo (a crispy crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, served with rice paper, fresh, herbs, lettuce, and chili fish sauce for DIY fresh spring rolls).

Early evening catch a Water Puppetry show ($5). Water puppetry originated in Northern Vietnam in the rice fields and Hanoi’s Water Puppet theater replicates the tradition on a beautiful stage. The performance is in Vietnamese but the visuals are spectacular as is the music.

Treat yourself to dinner at La Verticale for some refined French Vietnamese fusion fare inside of a restored villa. The experience will bring you back to old Indochina with modern yet classic dishes incorporating local Vietnamese ingredients and traditional French techniques. Set tasting menus start at $37.

Stay: Golden Silk Boutique Hotel

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $115

$50 accommodation
$5 lunch
$50 dinner and drinks
$5 water puppet show
$5 museum tickets

Cruise the Karsts in Ha Long Bay

Begin your trip into Ha Long Bay early in the morning (8:30am) after having breakfast at the hotel. Leave most of your luggage there and bring just an overnight bag for the boat cruise since you’ll be coming back to Hanoi.

Spend your day and evening touring the caves, kayaking in the emerald water, and hanging out on deserted beach coves.

Find info on how to book your tour in the tips section below.

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $100 – $300 depending on your tour

Return from Ha Long Bay

Wake up to watch the sunrise on the boat deck in Ha Long Bay, a truly magical sight. Make your way back to the harbor, enjoying breakfast and lunch on the boat, before returning to Hanoi in the early evening.

Check back into the Golden Silk Boutique Hotel, and have dinner at New Day in the Old Quarter on Ma May, a local and expat favorite on an adorable street. Sit upstairs which is much breezier with better views. After have a drink in one of the atmospheric bars nearby, or head to Swing Lounge or Hanoi Social Club if there’s a good live show happening that night.

Stay: Golden Silk Boutique Hotel

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $65

$50 accommodation
$5 dinner
$5-10 drinks/entertainment

The Jewel of Vietnam: Hoi An

Spend your morning in Hanoi with a classic Vietnamese coffee on the street with a bahn mi (classic Vietnamese sandwich eaten at breakfast on a French baguette) before catching a one hour flight to Danang next door to Hoi An for under $50 with either Vietnam Airlines or JetStar. From Danang it’s a short shuttle or taxi ride to Hoi An, the Unesco World Heritage town.

In Hoi An, check into your hotel, the luxurious Anantara Hoi An Resort with a swimming pool, or stay a bit outside of town on the beach in An Bang at An Bang Seaside Homestay. The town is dripping with charm, though touristic, full of beautiful buildings, delicious restaurants, and each evening they light lotus lanterns and float them down the river. The benefit of staying at the beach instead is seclusion and relaxation.

Shake off your morning of travel with royal tea at Reaching Out Teahouse, a beautiful peaceful space run by the hearing impaired, and have a cookie sampler and local tea.

Then give yourself a tour of the small town, checking out the temples, visit the historic houses, the local markets, lovely boutiques, tailor shops, or maybe get a massage.

Hoi An has some spectacular restaurants, and Morning Glory is one of the most famous. Have your dinner here, before hopping over to one of the boats docked on the river that have live music and cocktails.

Stay: Anantara Hoi An Resort ($200) or An Bang Seaside Homestay ($50-90)

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $85 to $135

$50-$100 accommodation
$30 food and drinks
$5 for pass to Old Houses

Cooking Class and Photography Tour

Begin your morning with a cooking class at Morning Glory’s cooking school where you’ll shop in the local market for fresh ingredients and learn Vietnamese recipes from the famed chef herself. Or, visit some of the Old Houses you missed yesterday.

In the late afternoon take a photography tour where you will take a scenic boat ride along the river, visit the local communities on the nearby island, walk through the rice fields, and watch the sunset. If you’d rather do your own thing, just rent a bicycle and purchase a ferry ticket to head over to Thanh Ha village where you can cycle around and see traditional Vietnamese life.

If you want a beach day, you can alternatively do your photo tour in the morning at sunrise, then spend the afternoon at An Bang Beach.

For dinner, head to Mermaid, my favorite restaurant in Hoi An. The place is far more casual than Morning Glory, but it’s owned by the same chef who opened it decades ago. In fact it’s the first restaurant ever opened for tourists! Order the green papaya salad, the crispy crab wontons, the white rose, and the tamarind prawns served in a young coconut.

Stay: Anantara Hoi An Resort ($200) or An Bang Seaside Homestay ($50-90)

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $142 to $192

$50-$100 accommodation
$30 food and drinks
$35 photo tour
$27 cooking class

Beach Bliss at An Bang

Cooling down 🌊 #beachtime #anbangbeach #hộian #vietnam #travel

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Be sure to spend at least one day at An Bang beach, a short motorbike drive or a scenic 30-45 minute flat, paved bicycle ride away through rice fields. Walk the endless beach, hang out on a beach lounger, or visit the nearby Cham Islands which have excellent diving and snorkeling when the sea is flat.

Hang out for lunch and/or happy hour at Le Banyan, a chilled out yet chic French owned beach bar and restaurant. On weekends they even have a DJ and an electro beach party. If you end up staying at An Bang Seaside Homestay, you’re sure to spend plenty of time here.

Stay: Anantara Hoi An Resort ($200) or An Bang Seaside Homestay ($50-90)

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $105 to $155

$50-$100 accommodation
$30 food and drinks
$25 to Cham Islands

Stimulating Saigon

Spend your final day in Ho Chi Minh City before flying home. You can fly to HCMC from Danang nearby Hoi An. Take a shuttle or taxi for about a half hour from Hoi An to Danang then a 1 hour flight ($30-$50) to HCMC.

In Saigon check into the adorable boutique hotel Ma Maison down a quaint alley in a local neighborhood. Spend your final day with Vietnam Vespa Adventures getting a spa treatment or wandering the city. At night see Saigon like a local with Vietnam Vespa Adventures tour of the city at night. You’ll ride around town on a Vespa while tasting authentic local street food and experiencing vibrant nightlife. If you want a more chill evening, have dinner at the epic Cuc Gach Quan.

Stay: Ma Maison ($100/night)

Estimated Day Cost Per Person: $165

$50 accommodation
$30 food and drinks
$85 Vietnam Vespa Adventures tour


How to See Ha Long Bay While touristic, Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Unfortunately touring the bay is highly regulated so going with a tour is imperative, and the tour itself must be government approved. If you really want romance and seclusion, you can hire your own boat through Luxury Cruise Halong, but it’s pricey at $300 each for a 2 day/1 night tour. Tours will pick you up from your hotel in Hanoi, take you to the boat dock which takes about 3 hours, then you will cruise into the bay. Meals, drinks, and activities like kayaking and visiting caves are included. Unfortunately tours are not flexible, so be sure to book the exact itinerary you want before departing. Alternatively you can book a group tour on luxury cruises for $150-200 each. If you want to have your own independent schedule entirely, consider taking an inexpensive tour $20-$40 through Ha Long Bay and be dropped off on Cat Ba Island, where you may stay and arrange your own activities around the island and Lan Ha Bay.

Getting Around in Hanoi Hanoi is full of life and energy, but with so much traffic it’s not an easy town to get around. I advise against renting a scooter in the city as there are accidents regularly and the town is small enough to walk and rickshaws and taxis are everywhere. When you take a tuk tuk or rickshaw, be sure to negotiate the rate first, with a taxi make sure it has a meter. If you’re walking, crossing the street can seem impossible. Don’t wait for traffic to cease, it never will. This may sound insane but the best way to cross is to simply step out into traffic and walk at a consistent pace. The motorbikes will weave around you. When in doubt, wait for locals to cross and follow their lead.

Avoid the Scams Unfortunately Vietnam, like many places in the world, has its fair share of scams. Hanoi particularly is notorious, so there are a few things to be on the lookout for. First, it’s quite common for “copycat” business to open to lure customers looking for the real thing. Look up a photo of the business you want to go to (tour office, hotel, restaurant, shop) so that you can be certain it’s the authentic one when you arrive. Taxis at the bus station are known to have meters that change at an alarming rate, so walk a block away if you plan to catch one. Finally, always book tours through reputable, highly reviewed companies, or those suggested by your hotel to make sure you have a quality tour.

What to Eat on the Street Vietnam has some of the best food in the world with incredible variety. There are plenty of phenomenal inexpensive restaurants, but consider having some of your meals on the street with the locals. In Hanoi you will find lots and lots of pho (noodle soup with various meats and fresh herbs), bun cha (vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, herbs, and raw veg), bahn mi (baguette sandwich with different toppings), spring rolls fresh or fried, and much more. Hoi An and nearby Hue have hundreds of traditional dishes and some of the best food in the entire country. Be sure to try the cau lau (thick noodles steamed in spiced water with grilled pork and salad), white rose (steamed dumplings stuffed with shrimp), and bahn xeo (crispy coconut milk crepe stuffed with shrimp and pork served with spring roll wrappers and fresh herbs).

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