We travelled from north to south Vietnam over a period of two weeks, but on reflection, we wish we did more. You can visit Vietnam without a visa for up to two weeks – with a UK passport.
Hanoi is a very busy city (mind the motorbikes they are mad!) When you first arrive it seems impossible to be able to cross the road but after a while you get the hang of it; it really is a case of ‘just walk out in to the road and the traffic will work its’ way around you!’ Personally I would say that Hanoi is more of a stop over place that allows you to get to paces such as Halong Bay and Sa Pa. If you like the vibe of somewhere like Bangkok, for example, then Hanoi is the place for you. The streets are very alive throughout the day and in to the night. With many bars and restaurants you are spoilt for choice.
For food go to Lantern Lounge and eat Bun Cha, it’s amazing! A lot of the time they have unlimited free beers when you order food too – which is obviously great! Also, there’s a really cool lounge upstairs full of lanterns and bean bags to chill on.
We booked our Halong Bay tour when we arrived in Hanoi. There are a number of different options you have when going to Halong Bay. These range from the amount of nights you would like to stay to how nice you would like your experience to be. They are usually separated into the following categories: luxury; mid-range; budget. As you can imagine, you get what you pay for here. If you opt for the budget packages which are obviously a lot cheaper, then you will find that you are on a boat with backpackers, drinking and partying through the night. As you move up the ranks, the more luxury your trip will become. We decided to go for the mid-range and due to various circumstances our boat was changed last minute (without us knowing) to the more luxury level (winner!) Therefore, we ended up exploring with Silversea Cruise company and it was amazing – the food was incredible and our experience of going through the limestone cliffs of Halong Bay was very cool! After staying for one night on the boat, you are then taken to a little island called Cat Ba. This is really secluded and a great chillout place. You can use canoes and paddle out around the island and do some snorkelling. We met lots of great people during this trip that we still keep in contact with now. It’s very sociable and a great experience!
Do this if you can. We got an overnight train from Hanoi to Sapa and then unfortunately we couldn’t get into the hills because of a land slide which was really upsetting to have missed out on, especially as we had to turn around and go all the way back to Hanoi, which ate into our time. The trip we booked on was a homestay in the hills and then one night stay in the town which sounded great – we often talk about how we could incorporate Sapa in to a future trip.
Easily our favourite place in Vietnam. We did a homestay at Minh Phat and thoroughly recommend it! (Some of our friends from London have since stayed here too and equally loved it). He’s on booking.com / Airbnb and FB. So friendly and it’s set in an ideal location, just around the corner from the Old Town. You can rent bikes and cycle twenty mins to An Bang beach – mind the jellyfish! And if you go in July / August it is about 40 degrees so be careful; we were very English and got unbelievably sunburnt!!!
You pay to go into the Old Town but it’s so cheap and your ticket lasts the length of your stay. You MUST eat at Nu Eatery (you can read more about this restaurant in our ‘Top 5 restaurants of 2017‘), if it’s the only thing you do off this list, make sure you do this! It doesn’t look much from the outside but don’t be put off, the food is some of the best I’ve ever eaten.
We booked a cooking course through Minh Phat which was called Eco Coconut Cooking course and it was great. We floated down the river in coconut boats and then got to cook loads of amazing food and eat it afterwards!
Dalat is great! We were unsure at first, but again it turned out to provide us with some amazing memories. We did an amazing home stay with Daisy Homestay, ran by the sweetest little man! Go to the Crazy House which is a really cool building built by a somewhat crazy Architect. You can also stay here overnight too which we were unaware of until the last minute (book a few months in advance) it’s crazy!
Also in the evening you must go to a bar called 100 Roofs – the coolest bar I’ve ever been to. Full of tunnels and secret entrances, you’ll spend hours in there finding new rooms and bars! I’ve ever experienced anything like it!
We booked canyoning through the homestay as well (with Highland Holiday Tours). This is something that attracts most people to Dalat. You can do a combination of canyoning down waterfalls, slide down rock slides and jump of (small) cliffs – terrifying but a really fun day, and they’re very very safe.
Also, Vietnam as a country is long. Many bus journeys can take at least ten hours so try to do as many internal flights as you can. They’re so much quicker and often not much more expensive! There’s VietJet, JetStar, Vietnam Airlines and Nok Air. It saves a lot of time and enables you to visit more places!