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Vietnam Classic Tour: 12-Day Highlights of Vietnam Travel Essentials

Explore Vietnam from north to south, getting a taste of the country’s diverse landscapes, intriguing history and rich culture. From the natural beauty of Halong Bay to the buzzing streets of Ho Chi Minh City, enjoy immersive tours to truly connect with the remarkable wonders of Vietnam.

HIGHLIGHTS

Various activities on sites

  • Exploring the city of Hanoi, Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh city
  • Cycling along the countryside of Ninh Binh, Hoi An, and Ben Tre
  • Cruising the sampan along the countryside of Ninh Binh
  • Cruising the beautiful Ha Long Bay
  • Experiencing the local life in Ben Tre with authentic homestay

Unforgettable moments

  • Cruising the Sampan along the countryside in Ning Binh
  • Cruising the World Heritage Ha Long Bay, admiring the sunrise & sunset on the bay
  • Strolling around the century-old town of Hoi An
  • Admiring the ancient citadel of Nguyen Dynasty, the last reign of Vietnam
  • Visiting the ever-green fruit garden in Ben Tre province

Nature exploration

  • The authentic nature of the countryside in Ninh Binh, Hoi An, and Ben Tre
  • The amazing atmosphere of Ha Long bay and the surrounding

Culture experience

  • Learn about the never-fading culture of Hanoi, the last dynasty of Nguyen, and the century-old town of Hoi An
  • Learn about the peasant culture in Ninh Binh and Ben Tre

Map

Detailed schedule

Day 1 - Welcome to Hanoi

Upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport, Sonasia’s guide & driver will pick you up and transfer directly to the hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi.

Vietnam's capital races to make up for time lost to the ravages of war and a government that as recently as the 1990s kept the outside world at bay. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way amid the din of constantly blaring horns, and all-around layers of history reveal periods of French and Chinese occupation – offering a glimpse into the resilience of ambitious, proud Hanoians.

Notes

Check out the Hanoi travel guide

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Day 2 - Hanoi - Exploration

This morning, the tour starts at 08:30. Drive pass the historical Ba Dinh Square where Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam in 1945. Driver drops off at Lenin Garden – communal space of local for taking an easy walk before strolling through areas where sewing shops have been in family hands for generations, and people still practice the old ways, or admire the daily life of local people in the alley of Hanoi.

Proceed to the millennia-old Temple of Literature and explore its role in the country’s past, as both a university and a temple.

If interested, make a stop at the last courtyard where Vietnamese traditional instruments contribute to the oriental feel. For travelers who are musicians, opportunities to play some notes will present themselves, all under the guidance of the artists. 

Afterward, visit the fascinating Ethnology Museum (closed Mondays), which is both a research center and a public museum exhibiting the ethnic groups of Vietnam. 

Towards the end of the tour, embark on a walk-through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Witness the ancient commercial street names, mirroring the crafts and businesses dating back over a thousand years. 

Make a stop at Thuong Tra tea house nested in an old apartment building, just to escape from Hanoi’s bustling life and learn about the importance of drinking tea in Vietnamese society while sipping on a cup of tea.

Then take a stroll around the charming Hoan Kiem Lake to enjoy local daily life passing by. Finish the day with a Water Puppet show. This is a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form depicting scenes from rural life and episodes of national history.  

Overnight in Hanoi.

Notes

Routes can change subject to client’s interest.

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Day 3 - Hanoi - Ninh Binh - Hanoi

Depart the hotel this morning at 08:30 for a 2.5 hour drive through rural northern Vietnam to Ninh Binh Province — one of the most beautiful parts of Vietnam with its dramatic scenery and historical temples. The rice fields here are beautiful and the area has earned the nickname of ‘Dry Halong Bay’, a moniker borne out by the limestone karsts which dominate the landscape.

Upon arrival, begin a leisure 5 to 15 km (according to preference) biking trip around Tho Ha village passing by peaceful villages and enjoying the rustic countryside landscapes. 

Continue to Dong Tam Hamlet to join in some engaging agricultural activities such as catching crabs, fishing and transplanting, watering vegetables and more. 

Enjoy lunch before boarding the sampan for a 1.5 hour boat trip cruising over a small canal among the paddy fields for 1km, then stroll along the winding rocky path of the foot for 200m and go up 20 steps to reach the Galaxy Cave gate. Get inside the cave and admire the spectacular stalactites above the cave ceiling. 

Continue to discover But Hien cave and be attracted by many natural sparkling stalactites with shapes and figures before returning to Hanoi on the same route.
Overnight in Hanoi

Notes
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Day 4 - Hanoi - Ha Long Bay

The scenery of Halong Bay where thousands of limestone islands jut out of the emerald sea, sculpted into bizarre shapes is truly an iconic image for Vietnam. An overnight boat trip is the best way to enjoy this Vietnamese must-see. 

After breakfast leave Hanoi for a 3hr30mins drive to Halong Bay including a 20-minutes stop on the way.

Arrive at the jetty in Halong City towards noon and proceed with check-in formalities. 

After a welcome onboard, lunch will be served while cruising towards the bay itself. 

In the afternoon, enjoy some visits and/or activities (depending on each boat’s itinerary) or just spend some time relaxing on board.

Towards the end of the day the boat sets anchor for the night among the karst formations. Dinner is served on board.

Overnight on Halong Bay

Notes
  • Check out the Ha Long travel guide
  • Hanoi to Halong Bay (160km): 3hrs30mins
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Day 5 - Ha Long Bay - Hanoi // Da Nang - Hoi An

The sun rises on Halong in the morning and breakfast is served (also brunch on some boats) while the vessels cruises slowly back towards port. Disembark and transfer back to Hanoi or Haiphong airport

Take a short flight to Danang, on arrival in Danang transfer 40-minutes to Hoi An, a major Asian trading port in the 17th and 18th centuries whose architecture and relaxed lifestyle has changed little over the years. 

Depending on your flight, you may have ample time to stroll around this charming town by yourselves or just relax by the pool of the hotel.

Overnight in Hoi An.    

Notes

Routes can change subject to client’s interest.

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Day 6 - Hoi An - Exploration

In the morning, go on a walking tour in Hoi An, a charming destination with two faces – the old-world trading port of narrow streets and traditional houses, and the beach with its new resorts and long stretches of clean white sand. 

In keeping with Hoi An’s heritage as a trading port, the town’s tiny shop houses now host a range of craft shops and artisans including some of Asia’s best tailors. 

Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of weather and war, the center of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday. 

The walk will lead you around the center of the ancient town to visit former merchants’ houses, the 400-year-old Japanese Bridge, a Chinese communal hall and the colorful market.

In the afternoon, take a 15 minutes’ drive from Hoi An Ancient Town to Cua Dai Estuary. 

Upon arrival at Duy Hai Fishing Village, enjoy the bustling morning fish market and then visit a family-run fish sauce workshop under the guidance of the owner to learn about this essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. 

Get on a boat and go upstream the ‘Mother River’ from Thu Bon to Duy Vinh Village. These villages are well-known for traditional weaving sedge mat. This land was created by three Alluvium Rivers such as Thu Bon, Truong Giang and Ly Ly which provides the perfect land to plant the materials for the sedge mat. 

Pass by a shrimp and duck farm to get a glimpse about agriculture river life.

Depending on the season (from Feb to Apr and from Jul to Sep), see golden paddy fields during harvest season or green groves of jute along the banks of the Thu Bon River. 

Upon arrival at Ban Thach Mat Village, where abundant sources of raw rush used to weave mats have allowed the villagers to develop their own handicraft and improve their lives for 400 years and start cycling to explore the beauty of a typical village in the Central of Vietnam. 

Learn the full process of sedge mat weaving from cutting sedge on the field to a finished mat following traditional method. See the way locals manage to keep their traditional occupation in a modern and constantly evolving time. Display personal creativity with unique patterns! 

End the trip sharing a simple yet friendly home-hosted brunch and return to Hoi An by bike across Cam Kim Bridge. 

Overnight in Hoi An.

Notes

Routes can change subject to client’s interest

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Day 7 - Hoi An - Da Nang - Hue

Enjoy this morning at leisure before leaving Hoi An for Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Its mesmerizing tombs and mausoleums of the last emperors of Vietnam reveal fascinating insights into the lives of the imperial families and their subjects.

The ancient Citadel reflects the pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers as well as the scars of many years of turmoil, both ancient and modern. The Royal Citadel was severely damaged in the latter stages of the war but retains a sense of grace and majesty even today. 

Overnight in Hue.

Notes

Hoi An to Hue (150km): 3hrs

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Day 8 - Hue - Exploration

At 08:30 this morning, depart from the hotel in Hue for a city tour of the ancient town. Start at the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. From here take a cyclo through dai noi ‘Old City.

Stop for a visit to Tran Dinh Son private museum with a collection of everyday items that past Kings have used. Learn how royal descendants are keeping the family’s traditions alive today.

Continue to visit Thien Mu (Celestial Lady) Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River; constructed in 1601, the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha.

In the grounds of the pagoda is the Austin car made famous when in 1963, a resident monk drove the vehicle to what was then Saigon to protest against the southern regime, the photo of his self-immortalization was captured and was one of the most well-known images of the war.

Lunch at a local restaurant for an authentic Hue style cuisine.

Continue to former emperor Minh Mang’s tomb located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds, inspired by the Chinese Confucianism, a harmonious design of balance and symmetry for the emperor’s resting place.

Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb designed in traditional Vietnamese style with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs in Hue.

Notes

Route can change subject to client’s interest.

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Day 9 - Hue - Ho Chi Minh City

Transfer to Hue Airport after breakfast for the short flight to dynamic Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon by the locals.

Meet with a local guide and set off on a half day tour in Ho Chi Minh City. Start with a visit to the city’s most iconic building: Reunification Hall. Formerly called the Presidential Palace, images of the building were seen around the world on 30 April 1975 when tanks stormed the gates as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese. Hear the echoes of time while walking through this historic downtown site.

Then take a stroll to Ho Chi Minh City’s colonial quarter, walking past scenes of everyday life on the way. Admire the beautiful architecture of the Opera House, City Hall, the old Saigon Post Office, hear about the glory days of French Indochina and how that era continues to influence aspects of modern Vietnamese culture.

Step inside the War Remnants Museum for an insightful, yet somber, investigate Vietnam’s military history. See exhibitions displaying imagery from the French and American wars, learning more about the country’s struggle for independence and hearing tales of the resilience of the Vietnamese people.

Then step off the tourist trail for one last visit on this Ho Chi Minh City tour at a Vietnamese coffee shop, sit down and taste the coffee like locals. After this insightful visit, return to the hotel.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Notes

History Museum is closed on Mondays.
Routes can change subject to client’s interest

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Day 10 - Ho Chi Minh - Ben Tre (Mekong Delta)

Pick up at your hotel and depart for Ben Tre.

After arriving at Ham Luong dock, board the boat & cruise along Ham Luong River, a tributary to the Mekong River. The cool breeze from the river and lush tropical islands along its banks will immediately get you excited to explore all the great things ahead.

Arrive and visit various local workplaces to find many wonderful examples of how local people use ageless techniques to create their crafts, including activated charcoal, dried coconut, handy coconut husk brooms, and many family businesses using coir, or coconut fiber, to create amazing art. 

Cruise around the village roads by “Xe Lôi”, the local vehicle, which is a kind of motorized rickshaw. Kayak through the natural canals to get a unique experience of the peaceful beauty of the Mekong River as well as the rural life there.

Perfect your morning with a delicious and filling lunch at a local host house.

You will have some break time before continuing with more activities- cycling around the village or treating yourself to a relaxing time to relish the beautiful countryside, fishing, and cooking with the locals.

Enjoy dinner and an overnight homestay experience.

Notes

HCMC to Ben Tre (100km): 2hrs

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Day 11 - Ben Tre - Ho Chi Minh City

Early wake up to enjoy the peaceful countryside in the morning, and then have breakfast.

Bike to the local market, and shop for fresh vegetable and ingredients to later be prepared for your lunch. Visit to Hung Nghiem pagoda; it is also a chance to learn how to make natural soy sauce by an in-house nun. Visit a small family’s business workplace producing raw material for coconut fiber.

Later, it is time for cooking and enjoying lunch at the homestay.

After lunch, visit a local fruit plantation, enjoy some seasonal fresh fruit, and spend more enjoyable time on the rowboat through the natural canals. Treat yourself to a relaxing time to get a sense of the beautiful countryside. Embark on the sampan and return to the dock. 

You have ample time to walk around the village before transferring back to Ho Chi Minh

Notes

Ben Tre to HCMC (100km): 2hrs

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Day 12 - Ho Chi Minh - Departure

You are free to stroll around the town for your own exploration before taking the departure flight

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NOT READY YET?

We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below our detailed tips & guide for every places to visit in Vietnam, recommendation regarding the inclusion in each theme you prefer, and what you can do based on the time frame you have.

PLACES TO VISIT IN Vietnam
Hanoi
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Ha Long Bay
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Sapa
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Hoi An
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Hue
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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
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Vietnam PLANS BY TRAVEL THEME
Must-see
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Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury Holiday
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Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Honeymoon Vacation
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Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Wellness & Leisure
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Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

Cruise
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The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

Family Vacation
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The combination of fun and educational activities

Unseen
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Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Cycling & Biking
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Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

Trek & Hike
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Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

Vietnam PLANS BY TIME FRAME
white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
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Vietnam TRAVEL TIPS & GUIDE

Either are you wondering about best time to visit, visa policy, or how to get the cheapest flight, we have your back!

WHAT MORE? Choose the country you plan to visit, then search for your nationality below to see our special travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Tourist Visa Policy
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Best Time to Visit
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Budget & Currency
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Getting Flight There
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Vietnam BLOG ARTICLES

"Should I visit Thailand or Vietnam?" is some of the most frequently asked questions that we have from our travelers

Well, Vietnam and Thailand are the most popular holiday destinations in Southeast Asia. They are similar in climate and food, though obviously different in culture, lifestyle and travel experience.

Below we list 13 major differences between the two countries, to give you a quick overview and help you decide which to visit first. These are based on our own travel experiences, investigations, and partnerships with local operators.

...more

How long to spend in Vietnam may seem like a ridiculous question to address, but if you have plenty of time and aren’t sure how much to dedicate, this blog will definitely help you out.

You can find here and there that you should spend 10 days, 2 weeks, 20 days, or 1 month to best explore Vietnam. So what is the best Vietnam tour duration for you?

Well, as long as you like! From 10 days to a month, there are various ways you can travel across Vietnam and uncover its secrets. Advising an ideal trip length for Vietnam is a bit of a complex challenge, as it depends on several factors such as the places you wish to visit, the activities you plan to join, or if you want to combine Vietnam with its neighbor countries. 

Stay tuned! We are going to sort all these things out including the step-by-step guide to create the best itinerary in Vietnam.

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Vietnam would scrap the Covid-19 testing requirement for all arrivals starting Sunday, May 15th 2022, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has directed.

In a document issued Friday, the Prime Minister requested the Ministry of Health to closely follow the coronavirus situation and provide proper guidance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should direct Vietnamese authorities outside the country to inform people who wish to enter Vietnam to follow appropriate disease prevention measures, he said.

The latest decision has been made as the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths drops both in Vietnam and around the world. Several countries have been taking steps to relax coronavirus restrictions, including scrapping testing before entry.

Current policies issued by the health ministry require entrants to have negative results from PCR tests done within the previous 72 hours, or a negative result from a rapid test done within the last 24 hours.

Those who don’t have a negative test result must refrain from making contact with others during the first 24 hours after entry. They will be able to move freely once they test negative after arrival.

Children under two don’t need to be tested.

Vietnam stopped requiring medical declarations from those arriving from abroad starting April 27, and for domestic travel starting April 30.

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The “Colorful Hanoi” hot air balloon festival is one of the attractive activities within the framework of the program “Hanoi tourism welcomes 2022” taking place from March 25-27, 2022.

...more

The Ministry of Health said on Wednesday, March 16th, 2022, foreigners entering Vietnam only need to furnish a negative Covid-19 test certificate and are not required to quarantine.

...more

Vietnam is determined to fully reopen its tourism industry and will adopt measures to treat foreign and domestic tourists alike, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

...more
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