A fantastic Vietnam Itinerary by Thrifty Family Travels

Vietnam is a fantastic family friendly destination.  With its chaotic cities, majestic bays, peaceful countryside, stunning beaches and exotic waterways your family will be mesmerized by the variety of places to visit.

I recently took my family on a three week adventure from the north of Vietnam down to the tip of the south.  Whilst we didn’t get to see everything in this trip, we certainly managed to see the main highlights of Vietnam.  3 weeks travelling through Vietnam is an ideal time travelling with a young family as it gives you plenty of down time to relax as well.

A fantastic Vietnam Itinerary by Thrifty Family Travels

Hanoi

Hanoi
Hanoi – by Thrifty Family Travels

We arrived in the chaotic city of Hanoi where we spent 4 nights in the Old Quarter.

The Old Quarter is full of life. As soon as you arrive, your senses come alive.  You are bombarded with the sounds of the traffic, motorbikes, and cars continually beeping their horns.  Your eyes are drawn to the fabulously bright colours of the French influenced buildings, as well as the colourful fruits and vegetables that fill the little stalls that spill onto the pavements.

During our stay in Hanoi we did a food tour with Hanoi Street Food Tours, a city tour with Hanoi Kids, a cyclo tour around town and lots of exploring on our own.  Other activities and attractions include:

  • Full day Tour of Hoa Lu and Tam Coc
  • Water Puppet Show
  • City Cyclo Tour
  • Ho Chi Minh Complex
  • Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum
  • The Temple of Literature and Museum of Ethnology
  • Hoan Kiem Lake
  • French Quarter
  • Perfume Pagoda Day Tour
  • Bai Dinh Pagoda and Trang An Eco-Tourism Complex

I’d recommend staying in the Old Quarter where there is plenty of great budget hotels.  We stayed at the Real Hanoi Hotel which is in a very central location.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay
Halong Bay – by Thrifty Family Travels

After a few days in Hanoi, we arranged an overnight cruise on Halong Bay.

Located 4 hours from Hanoi, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for its almost 2,000 limestone islands formations within an area of 1,553 kms.

The best way to visit the area is by a 2 day / 1 night Halong Bay cruise on a classic oriental junk boat cruise.  There are numerous boats to choose from, from budget, mid-range through to luxurious boats.  We choose a mid-range cruise with the Royal Palace and had a fantastic time.

Most cruises follow a similar itinerary and include kayaking, swimming, fishing, a visit to Dau Go Caves and some fantastic meal served on board.

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh – by Thrifty Family Travels

After our cruise on Halong Bay we arranged for a driver to pick us up at the harbour and drive us to Ninh Binh, a small city in the North of Vietnam, 95 km south of Hanoi.

The city of Ninh Binh is surrounded by stunning landscape of lush green paddy fields, striking limestone mountains and is a tourist hub for many sights and attractions.

Many tourists choose to visit the sights of Ninh Binh by an organized day trip from Hanoi.  This is a great way to see 1 or 2 of the area’s sites, but to see multiple sights you will have to stay at least overnight in the area.

We spent the night at La Belle Vie Homestay a lovely little place in Tam Coc.

The main attraction in Ninh Binh is a boat ride down either Trang An or Tam Coc.  These areas are often referred to as the Inland Halong Bay due to the spectacular limestone cliffs coming out of the land surrounded by beautiful waterways.

We opted for Trang An and the journey there was just as awesome as the actual destination.  We hired a motorbike to get there and drove through the local rural villages, rice paddies and gorgeous limestone cliffs absolutely gorgeous!

Other things to do in Ninh Binh include:

  • Bich Dong Pagoda
  • Phat Diem Cathedral
  • Thung Nham
  • Thai Vi Temple

Hoi An

Hoi An
Hoi An – by Thrifty Family Travels

From Ninh Binh we arranged for a private car to drive us back to Hanoi for a flight to Danang.  From Danang we had another private transfer to Hoi An.

We stayed at An Hoi Hotel, a great hotel just outside the Ancient City which is a fantastic location for exploring Hoi An.  We spent 4 nights here.

During our stay in Hoi An we:

  • Hired a motorbike and checked out An Bang Beach.  You can also hire bicycles and ride to An Bang Beach.
  • Took a day tour and visited the Cam Thanh Water Coconut Village, rowed traditional bamboo basket boats, visited Tra Que a traditional Vietnamese farm and the local orphanage where we delivered milk and candy to the kids.
  • Lots of wandering around the ancient town of Hoi An, checking out the beautiful old buildings and a bit of shopping – this place is paradise for shoppers!
  • Tour of My Son and Marble Mountains.

Ho Chi Minh City

Thrifty Family Travels
Ho Chi Minh City- by Thrifty Family Travels

After our visit to Hoi An we took a flight to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it is sometime referred to.  Ho Chi Minh City is one of South East Asia’s most bustling cities and a perfect spot for street food aficionados and history buffs.

In Ho Chi Minh City we stayed in the Backpackers District at the Graceful Saigon Boutique Hotel for 3 nights.  This is an ideal location to visit all the main attractions of the city.

Must see places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City include a visit to the various outdoor food markets, the famous indoor Ben Thanh Markets, the War Remnants Museum and the nearby Chu Chi Tunnels. In the evening, we loved sitting outside one of the various restaurants eating delicious food and watching the street life.

Can Tho

From Ho Chi Minh City we arranged for a private transfer to Can Tho.  Can Tho was one of the highlights of our entire trip in Vietnam.

Can Tho is an ideal location to explore the Mekong Delta region from.  We stayed at a gorgeous place just outside the city at the Nguyen Shack.  The Nguyen Shack offers rustic bungalows with balconies looking out over the river.

Thrifty Family Travels
Nguyen Shack – by Thrifty Family Travels

Another great reason to stay at the Nguyen Shack is that they offer a variety of tours leaving right from the homestay.  Tours include the floating markets, the river ways of the Mekong Delta, food tour in Can Tho and a bicycle tour around the local villages.

We only spent 2 nights at the Nguyen Shack, but I would have loved to have spent at least another night or 2 to relax at this peaceful location.

Phu Quoc

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Phu Quoc – by Thrifty Family Travels

From Can Tho we took a taxi to Rach Gia and then the Super Dong ferry over to the stunningly beautiful Phu Quoc island.

There are so many gorgeous beaches to choose from on Phu Quoc, but the main beach where most of the tourists stay is Long Beach.  We stayed here too at Viet Thanh Resort- a simple little resort with bungalows right on the beach.  We love the location of this resort.

We loved Phu Quoc island – our favourite thing was just taking the day slow with swimming in the gorgeous ocean, followed by some food and drinks as we watched the sunset.  We also hired a motorbike to explore the other stunning beaches on the island.

Other activities you might like in Phu Quoc include:

  • Ham Ninh Village – a picturesque fishing village, ideal spot if you are into fresh seafood.
  • Bach Dang Street Night Market – is an open air night market operating from 5pm to 10pm.
  • Hire a driver and take a tour of the south of the island –  attractions include Pepper Farm, Fish Sauce Factory and Sao Beach.
  • Take a snorkelling trip – it is recommended to snorkel around the An Thoi Islands to the south or Turtle Island to the north.
  • Hire a boat to Fingernail Island located in An Thoi Islands.  Fingernail Island is a gorgeous small island with small beach in the south of Phu Quoc.  Don’t get confused though there is another island with the same name in the North.