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21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

isle of wight
Level Contributor
117 posts
19 reviews
21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Hello you helpful bunch. Having spent many hours reading forum posts and reviews I have narrowed down our trip but would really appreciate any travel advice and suggestions of special places. We are a couple in our early 60's travelling to Vietnam to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We have travelled quite a bit in this part of the world and totally love it. I plan to stay in the north and central areas. We love history, nature, curlture, scenery, food and most things Far East. We want to get a flavour of Vietman but also take time to relax and soak up the atmosphere. We land in Hanoi at 5.00 am on 22 February and leave from Hanoi at 1.00 am on 15th March 2019. So far I have booked our international flights from Heathrow, London and three nights at the E Central in Hanoi.

Rough plan so far: 22 to 25 Feb - Hanoi. 25th Feb travel to Hue (travel advise please) 3 or 4 nights in Hue. Visit citadel, Perfume river trip and generally mooch around. From Hue we want to go via the Hoi Van Pass (I hope that's right but open to suggestions) to Hoi An. 7 or 8 nights in Hoi An basing ourselves in a comfortable hotel with a pool. Not really sure whether to opt for beach or city or in between. Not so sure of the weather in early March. We plan to celebrate our anniversary here. So around the 7th or 8th March we want to head north again. I have discounted Sapa due to the time of year and weather. Instead we would love to visit the Ninh Binh area for a night or two; possibly homestay. Scared of motorbikes!!! I have since childhood wanted to go to Halong Bay but the more I investigate the more confused I am. I think one night would be enough as it is the bay I want to see and not the various excursions that seem to be on offer. We would like to spend at least two further nights in Hanoi before our return flight at 1.00 am on 15th. I did think overnight sleepers could be fun but have since changed my mind on reading reviews but would love a day time train journey. Thinking I can maybe book Halong bay when we first arrive in Hanoi.? Please if you experts have any suggestions I would be grateful. S


14 replies to this topic
Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
2,399 posts
42 reviews
1. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Nice to read a post from someone planning to 'mooch around'. So many every day are from first-timers wanting to rush around to 'see' as much as possible. Vietnam is certainly best enjoyed 'mooching' ;-)

For accommodation in Hoi An, go to Booking.com and use the search filters to select your criteria.

If going to Ninh Binh, I can recommend the Tam Coc Family Hotel. One of the nicest places I've stayed in SEAsia. Run by a lovely family.

Train travel? Overnight sleepers are fine, despite what some complainers say. I took the one from Hanoi to Lao Cai and back. It was comfortable and I'd certainly recommend it.

If you want to visit Ha Long bay, don't book online. Cheaper to do it locally.

I'd suggest considering Lan Ha bay instead. Same karst scenery as Ha Long but with far fewer tourists and not the polluted water. It would mean staying on Cat Ba island since it's not a day trip. I did a full day cruise last year for only 340,000VND including kayaking and a good lunch on board. (Same trip advertised online costs double that.)

isle of wight
Level Contributor
117 posts
19 reviews
2. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Thank you for your quick reply. I can probably wave to you over the Solent from Ryde. Small world!! In a way sleepers are a good idea as you can spend a whole day checking in etc when flying. Did you book from the UK or when you were out there? Will check our your Tam Coc hotel. Is two nights enough and best way to get there> Will also take your advice about Lan Ha bay. I am fast putting myself off the whole Halong thing. I had already looked at Cat Ba island. I would imagine I could probably go straight there from Ninh Binh which would make perfect sense. Any advise on web sites for local travel, or again should I jack that up when we are first in Hanoi?.

Ben Tre, Vietnam
Level Contributor
2,544 posts
1 review
3. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Ninh Binh private transfer to Cat Ba island if your budget is ok.

Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
2,399 posts
42 reviews
4. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Hi Bridget

I booked the sleeper train from UK because berths are limited so can sell out quickly for some dates. Paid half as deposit then the rest when I picked up the ticket in Hanoi.

If you stay in Tam Coc, don't bother with the boat ride there; the one at Trang An is much nicer. (I've done both.)

Getting to Cat Ba from Ninh Binh is very straightforward; bus to Hai Phong, then ferry/bus to Cat Ba town.

Booking trips/excursions is better value when booked locally. Online in advance costs more. (Note what I said about the cost of my Lan Ha bay cruise.)

Edited: 05 August 2018, 17:12
Level Contributor
586 posts
65 reviews
5. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

Land in Hanoi and check it out, go to Halong Bay and enjoy, fly to Hue and spend 2-3 days then travel by road to Hoian

( I’m bias ) Hoian is no.1, you can do as little or as much as you like, I would recommend staying in town because of

your options are far greater than staying at the beach, being similar age I recommend you check out River Suites for

your stay, very central, smaller hotel and quieter, enjoy. 👍👍

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
8,931 posts
4 reviews
6. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

I have a few suggestions for you bridget; see if they work for you.

Ha Noi - Hai Phong (day train; there are a couple of them daily).

You can do the Lan Ha Bay cruise from either Hai Phong or Cat Ba island.


(Going to Cat Ba only makes sense if you plan to stay at least a night there.

Hai Phong is an underrated city. IMO, if you want to look at a few French Indochina structures and an old pagoda or two, you can do it here.)


Hai Phong - Da Nang (Fly Vietjet)

Travel south to Hoi An.

Travel up to Hue.

Hue - Ha Noi (Fly)

Ha Noi - Ninh Binh and back.


The only trip that takes up much time is the one between Hoi An and Hue.



Portsmouth, United...
Level Contributor
2,399 posts
42 reviews
7. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

If you like the idea of a full day cruise around Lan Ha bay (from Cat Ba island), I'd recommend you don't consider it as a day trip.

The one I went on was pick-up from hotel around 08:30, the arrival back at port 17:30.

Lovely full day out with kayaking and a great lunch on board. A stop in the afternoon for some who fancied a swim (in much cleaner water than Ha Long bay). Cost: 340,000VND. Advertised online, it's double that.

Vietnam is a wonderful country with wonderful people (this year will be my 4th visit).

So many first-timers seem to feel the need to cram, cram, cram in as much as possible to just 'see' places and don't understand that 'experiencing' is the way to enjoy this country.

Regarding Cat Ba island.... the full day trek in the national park is a great day out (booked locally, not online at double the price). So maybe a 3-night stay for 2 full days?

Hanoi, Vietnam
Level Contributor
15,197 posts
74 reviews
8. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

I don't think you can beat Riverside Impression Homestay in Hoi An - super location, pool, walk everywhere and very nice family as hosts.

In Hanoi my favorite is Hanoi 3B Homestay.

Edited: 07 August 2018, 05:51
Taranaki Region...
Level Contributor
2 posts
3 reviews
9. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

totally agree with Ken.We did exactly that last year for 21 nights and enjoyed the country and the people so much were going back.We are also in our 60s so enjoyed the relaxed pace.

Christchurch, New...
Level Contributor
22 posts
91 reviews
10. Re: 21 nights in Vietnam. Travel advise please.

We spent 3 weeks in Vietnam in July (50s couple with two teenage boys) and spent three nights staying just out of Ninh Binh in Tam Coc. This is a very small rural town, surrounded by rice fields and tall limestone mountains. There are lots of restaurants in the town so there's lots to do in the evenings. We stayed at the Hidden Charm Hotel because we wanted somewhere with a pool for the teenagers; it was a nice small/med sized hotel just a 5 minute walk into the town, with beautiful views over the ricefields, a lovely pool, and good breakfasts. We hired bikes from the hotel and biked to some of the local attractions. Three nights was only two full days and I don't think it's worth going there for less than two full days if at all possible. We loved the peaceful countryside after the busy cities and could have easily stayed longer. I know you said you don't like motor bikes, and I hadn't been on one for years, but we booked a day out with a popular tour guide called Toan. Toan and his three men took us pillion-style to Trang An for the boat trip (great trip, go really early to avoid the crowds) and then to the Bai Ding Pagoda where he was our tour guide. We rode down tiny little paths through rice fields and and little towns and saw things you would never see on the main tourist roads. We felt very safe and well taken care of, and all had a wonderful day out.

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