Planning to visit this alluring country but not sure where to go or what to do? Check out my travel guide on how to spend 7 days Vietnam.
“The food, culture, landscape, and smell; they’re all inseparable. It just seemed like another planet; a delicious one that sort of sucked me in and never let go.”– Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown
Of all the places I’ve visited, Vietnam has surprised me the most. I suppose when you meet a new person – or place rather, you don’t expect to fall in love so quickly. If you’ve ever fallen in love, which I hope that you have, then you’d understand that euphoric rush of emotions that comes out of no where. It’s an overwhelming feeling that simultaneously feels new yet familiar. Who knew that a simple bowl of broth and veggies would seep so deep into my soul?!
Perhaps there hasn’t been a more tumultuous history than the one we Americans have had with Vietnam. However, like most relationships, you choose to love a person for the good and despite the bad. I came on this journey because I wanted to experience Vietnam first hand and to be able to formulate my own unbiased opinions. My conclusion? I’m in love! Seven days was long enough to fall head-over-heels with Vietnam, but it isn’t, however, enough time to explore this wonderful country. Keep reading below for my travel guide to Vietnam in 7 days.
With an estimated population of just under 100 million, spanning over 128,000 square miles and 2,000 miles of coast line, it can be challenging to decide where to plant your first foot steps. Ho Chi Minh city, formerly known as Saigon, used to be the capitol of southern Vietnam, pre-unification of the two regions. Today, the nation’s capitol, Hanoi, is located in what was formerly the epicenter of the northern Vietnamese regime. Hanoi is also where I recommend commencing your Vietnamese trip.
Traveling to Hanoi
With a population of 8 million residents, Hanoi is actually the second largest after Ho Chi Minh city. Nothing is more evident to how densely populated it is than millions of motorbikes criss-crossing on the streets. Pedestrian crossing can be a serious hazard – not joking (lol). Also aesthetically evident is its past periods of colonization. There were long periods of Chinese domination, followed by the French, who conquered Hanoi in the late 1800’s. Later, the Japanese occupied it during WW2.
The presence of those world powers left an impact on the city’s architecture, culture and food. For example, French influence, from my perspective, was the most prominent. There are buildings, cafes, and even street names that are reminiscent of a stroll down Champs de Elysees in Paris. There’s also the juxtaposition of Vietnamese-French food. You should not travel to Vietnam without trying a “bahn mi” LOL! It’s two slices of French baguettes as the book ends to a delectable, street-style, Vietnamese sandwich. Hanoi is also where the late Anthony Bourdain and the former U.S. President, Barack Obama, shared a meal on his critically-acclaimed tv show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
I’d recommend visiting Hanoi for at least 3 days / 2 nights.
Below are a few places of interest you can explore during your trip to Hanoi. I’ve also included a few notable places to eat. Lastly, Vietnamese street food is incredible! Don’t be shy to give it try.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
- Temple of Literature
- Hanoi Train Street
- Saint Joseph’s Cathedral
- Temple of Jade
- Old Quarter / Pub Street
- Thang Long Imperial Citadel
- Vietnam Women’s Museum
- National Museum of History
- French Quarter
- Bun cha Huong Lien
- Baked by Julie
- The Note Coffee
- Trill Bistro
- Dong Xuan Market
Visiting Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s famously known for the thousands of limestone islet, rock formations, which scientists estimate to have taken approximately 500 million years to form. Ha Long is definitely a travel must-see during your visit to Vietnam.
My friends and I decided to explore this incredible work of Mother Nature by spending 2 days / 1 night on a boat tour. This is also the time frame I’d recommend. In southeast Asia, these small cruise ships are sometimes referred to as “junk boats.” It was during this short trip that I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
There are several varieties of cruises, posting different star-quality ratings. However, most are all-inclusive and jammed packed with activities. Two days should be plenty of time to take in the scenery, as well as, partake in the activities planned by the tour. Many boat tours are advertised online and may be reserved through Booking.com, as I did. I would highly recommend Cristina Diamond Cruise.
Cristina Diamond Cruise arranged a round-trip shuttle service to and from our hostel in Hanoi to the Ha Long Bay port for a fee of $15 USD per person. From there, with the exception of specific alcoholic beverages, all meals and activities are included in the nightly price. The price tag was around $150 USD per night during the month of June.
On board, we enjoyed a blend of western and Vietnamese cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The cruise provides tender transfers to pearl and fishing villages, where guests also have the option to kayak or take a bamboo-boat ride through the small community of people that live in floating houses. They offer Vietnamese cooking classes, a sunset party with drinks, board games and a sundeck where you can take in the incredible views.
Huge shoutout to the crew and our awesome tour guide, Lucky. Our travels to Ha Long was one of my most memorable to date, thanks to the excellent service of the crew and staff!
Traveling to Vietnam’s
Historic Town of Hoi An
Alongside Ha Long Bay, Vietnam boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Having now visited, it’s unsurprising that Hoi An’s Ancient Town would be included on that coveted list. The name, Hoi An, translates to a “peaceful meeting place,” and it definitely lives up to the hype! When you travel to Vietnam, I highly recommend visiting this historic, little town.
There are several ways to arrive to Hoi An. We arrived via plane to Da Nang International Airport, which is the nearest airport of entry. Da Nang is also an incredible city worth visiting. However, we opted to skip it on this short trip; Next time! Instead, we had our hostel arrange for a transfer to and from the airport. The drive from the airport is around 45 minutes and cost us approximately $40 USD total round-trip.
Hoi An is known for the historic town that houses beautifully-painted, yellow buildings. It’s known for the hundreds of colorful lanterns that drape the streets, store fronts, and fisherman’s boats on Thu Bon river. Last, but not least, the street and cloth markets are infamous! Hoi An is renowned in Vietnam for its cloth markets.
The unsuspecting tourist is bound to get swept away by the thousands of yards of cloth and materials. The tailors that work in the cloth market are INCREDIBLE! They can li-ter-rally make whatever your heart desires in 48 hours – well, most things (lol). $250 USD afforded me 6 tailor-made pieces, spanning from pants, skirts, jumpsuits, crop tops and dresses. Need a 3-piece suit in 2 days? You’re in the right place!
Also, you cannot visit Vietnam without spending a day or two at one of its incredible beaches. We spent a day relaxing at An Bang Beach. Luckily, our hostel had a partnership with a beach bar called Kahuna’s Hoi An Beach Club. Kahuna’s is a beachside cafe offering a full-service bar and food menu, pool, and beach amenities, such as lounge chairs and umbrellas. They will even comp your taxi fare to the cafe if arriving locally, which is awesome! Needless to say, we pumped those few bucks saved back into the bar. Nonetheless, it’s a nice benefit!
My friends and I spent 4 days / 3 nights in Hoi An, which is what I’d recommend at a minimum. If you’re up for a day trip, you’re welcome to visit the Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills. The Golden Bridge has been trending all over social media platforms, driving tens of thousands of travelers to visit the 500-foot long piece of art.
The Golden Bridge is actually located inside of a theme park called Sun World at Ba Na Hills. Guests have to take a 3.5 mile cable car ride, non-stop, to get to the Golden Bridge. It took us around 15 minutes to arrive at the peak, so it’s not for the faint-hearted or acrophobic (LOL). The cable car ride is included in the admission price, which will set you back $30 USD per person. Our hostel arranged for a private car to and from Hoi An to Sun World for $40 USD total for around 5-6 hours.
I want to warn you guys, however. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful pictures of the Golden Bridge of Instagram. The exhibit and views are breath-taking – it really is! HOWEVER, due to its popularity, the loads of tourist trekking across it almost made the experience almost unbearable. We arrived to the park as soon as it opened and were still confronted with massive crowds pushing their way through the passage.
In my opinion, it’s probably better visit the Golden Bridge in the afternoon. I thought I’d avoid the tour groups by arriving first thing in the morning, but in actuality, there were less people later on in the day. The Ba Na Hills were majestic, and we enjoyed our time at Sun World. However, this would NOT be my top recommendation if your time is limited while traveling through Vietnam. In retrospect, I would have rather spent another day relaxing at the beach. Just saying . . .
Below, you’ll find a few places of interest I’d recommend to visit in Hoi An. Also, I recommend a few others places of interest that, unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to visit. I hope to on my next trip!
- Hoi An Night Market
- Japanese Covered Bridge
- Central Market
- Hoi An Cloth Market
- Kahuna’s Hoi An Beach Club
- Golden Bridge at Sun World Ba Na Hills
- Assembly Hall of Fujian
- Huyen Khong Cave
There you have it, folks! Vietnam is truly a mesmerizing place. As earlier stated, seven days in Vietnam isn’t nearly enough time to explore all of the remarkable places that Vietnam has to offer. In the short time spent, however, Vietnam has touched my soul in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
To conclude, I hope that you’ve found this guide helpful to, at least, give you a head start in planning your trip to Vietnam. Feel free to drop any questions or comments below regarding this post.
Also, you can find my blogs exploring more cities in Asia here.
Thanks for stopping by, and Happy travels!