10-Day Itinerary In Vietnam: Nature, Culture & Amazing Food

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Vietnam, a land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, offers an enriching experience for travelers. This 10-day itinerary is designed to showcase the best of Vietnam, from its bustling cities and historical landmarks to its stunning natural landscapes and culinary delights. Journey through a country where history resonates through ancient temples, colonial architecture, and vibrant street life. Vietnam’s diverse landscapes range from the lush rice terraces and forested mountains in the north to the picturesque valleys of the Central Highlands and the fertile delta of the Mekong in the south.

Prepare to be captivated by this incredible land’s sights, sounds, and flavors as we embark on a 10-day adventure through Vietnam.

Disclaimer: despite not being a huge country, Vietnam offers a lot, and 10 days to visit the whole country may not be a lot or enough. We spent 3 weeks in Vietnam, and for this reason, the following itinerary is generic and covers the highlights, but you could also decide to focus only on one area, the Northern or the Southern part, and explore it at its best in your 10 days.

Do you want to know the best places to visit in Vietnam?
Check our comprehensive guide and add these destinations to this itinerary!
Read the guide

Day 1-2: Hanoi


Your adventure begins in Hanoi, the heart of Vietnamese culture and politics. Spend your first day soaking in the city’s historical ambiance. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the revered leader rests in a glass sarcophagus. Wander through the Old Quarter’s narrow streets, where each guild street is dedicated to a specific craft or trade. Don’t miss the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university, built in the 11th century, symbolizing the country’s educational heritage.

On your second day, delve deeper into Hanoi’s countryside. Embark on a cycling tour to explore the city’s lush landscapes and traditional villages. This excursion offers a glimpse into rural Vietnamese life, where you can interact with local farmers and artisans. Witness the serene beauty of rice paddies and learn about local agricultural practices.

Alternatively, consider a day trip to Ninh Binh, often called “Halong Bay on Land” for its stunning scenery of limestone karsts and rivers. Here, you can take a boat ride through Tam Coc, a landscape that blends rivers, rice paddies, and towering mountains, or visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu.

The evening, whichever option you choose, can be spent enjoying a traditional water puppet show, a unique Vietnamese art form from the Red River Delta.

Day 3-4: Ha Long Bay and Hue

Ha Long Bay

Travel to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its stunning scenery of limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes. An overnight cruise is the best way to experience the bay’s ethereal beauty. Participate in activities like Tai Chi on deck at dawn, exploring magnificent caves, and kayaking through tranquil waters. Ha Long Bay’s surreal landscape will surely be a highlight of your trip, but be mindful: Ha Long Bay is very crowded, and the pleasure can easily be taken away.

Our advice
I suggest setting sail for Lan Ha Bay, a serene gem nestled in the inner reaches of the bay. Here, you’ll find a tranquil haven far removed from the bustling activity of more frequented areas. Lan Ha Bay offers a peaceful alternative, where the calm waters invite a more relaxed exploration. As you navigate these quieter waters, you’ll still have the chance to behold the majestic beauty of Ha Long Bay, but from a perspective free from the usual congestion and chaos. This journey through Lan Ha Bay promises a more intimate encounter with the region’s natural wonders and provides a unique vantage point to appreciate Ha Long’s iconic landscapes in a serene and unspoiled setting.

After Ha Long Bay, fly to Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam’s royal past and is home to the imposing Imperial City, a vast complex of palaces, temples, and museums. Explore the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s private residence, and the Thien Mu Pagoda, an iconic temple overlooking the Perfume River. Hue’s cuisine is also not to be missed, offering distinctive flavors that differ from other regions of Vietnam.

Day 5-6: Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh

From Hue, make your way to Hoi An, a charming town known for its well-preserved Ancient Town. Hoi An’s architecture is a beautiful blend of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and French influences. Stroll through the lantern-lit streets in the evening and visit the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge. Hoi An is also famous for its tailors, where you can get custom-made clothing.

Our advice
For the seasoned traveler, Hoi An might be an underwhelming experience. Often bustling with tourists, the town can sometimes feel like a well-curated theme park, where much of its charm and activities are tailored primarily for visitors. This atmosphere might not resonate with those seeking an authentic cultural immersion. Instead, we suggest making Da Nang your base. This vibrant city is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and natural beauty. Allocate just an evening to explore Hoi An, where you can still capture the essence of its lantern-lit streets and architectural beauty, but spend the majority of your time savoring the unspoiled coastal splendor and dynamic urban life of Da Nang. This approach allows you to experience the best of both worlds – the serene allure of Da Nang’s beaches and a taste of Hoi An’s historical charm without the feeling of being in a tourist-centric locale.

Next, head to Ho Chi Minh City, a vibrant metropolis that contrasts starkly with the traditional ambiance of Hoi An. Formerly known as Saigon, this city is a commercial hub with pulsating energy. Visit the War Remnants Museum for a poignant look at the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes. Explore the Notre Dame Cathedral, a remnant of French colonialism, and the historic Central Post Office. The Ben Thanh Market is a must-visit for souvenirs and local street food.

Day 7-9: The Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc

Dedicate a day to exploring the Mekong Delta. This region is a maze of rivers, swamps, and islands, home to floating markets and Khmer pagodas. Visit Cai Rang or Cai Be floating markets early in the morning to see the locals trade goods on their boats. Enjoy a bike ride along the riverbanks and sample local specialties like the Elephant Ear fish.

End your journey on Phu Quoc Island, a slice of tropical paradise. The island is famed for its pristine beaches, such as Sao Beach and Long Beach, perfect for relaxation or water sports. Explore the Phu Quoc National Park, which covers over half of the island and offers hiking, bird watching, and camping. The island is also known for producing some of the world’s best fish sauce, a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine.

However, it’s important to consider your travel logistics, especially if Phu Quoc is the final stop on your itinerary. The journey back to the mainland and subsequently to the airport for your departure requires careful planning. The time and space needed to navigate these transitions may make a visit to the island less feasible for some travelers. In such cases, you might skip the island and spend the concluding days of your trip closer to your departure airport. This alternative allows for a more relaxed end to your journey, avoiding the potential rush and stress of long-distance travel to the airport. It also allows you to explore additional sights and experiences closer to your point of departure, ensuring your trip ends on a comfortable and memorable note.

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Discover a variety of accommodations on Booking.com, ranging from hotels and traditional houses to charming B&Bs. Benefit from the insights of previous guests through their reviews, assess the ratings and browse through photos to get a real feel of each place. Booking.com ensures you have the flexibility to adapt to any changes in your plans. Choose accommodations with flexible options, allowing you to modify or cancel your booking without extra charges. Make your trip worry-free and enjoyable with the right choice on Booking.com.

Explore Culinary Diversity During Your 10 Days In Vietnam

Embarking on a culinary journey through Vietnam is like exploring a mosaic of flavors and traditions. Each region of Vietnam offers unique and mouthwatering specialties, reflecting the country’s diverse culinary landscape.

In Hanoi, the adventure begins with the city’s signature dish, Pho, a comforting noodle soup typically eaten for breakfast. The delicate flavors of the broth, combined with fresh herbs and tender meat, make it a must-try. Another Hanoi specialty is Bun Cha, consisting of grilled pork served over a bed of rice noodles, often accompanied by nem (spring rolls).

bun cha

As you move to Hue, the former imperial capital, the cuisine turns royal. The city is famous for its sophisticated and artfully prepared dishes, such as Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup that packs a flavorful punch. Don’t miss the chance to try Banh Beo, delicate rice cakes topped with shrimp, pork cracklings, and a savory sauce.

In Hoi An, the culinary scene blends local and foreign influences. The town’s signature dish, Cao Lau, is a unique noodle dish rarely found outside the region. It features thick rice noodles, slices of roast pork, greens, and crunchy croutons. Another local favorite is Mi Quang, a turmeric-infused noodle dish with rich broth and various meats.

Ho Chi Minh City, a melting pot of cultures, offers a dynamic food scene. Here, you must try Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich that symbolizes the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine. The city is also known for its seafood; a visit to a local market will offer a chance to savor fresh dishes like grilled squid or shrimp.

Finally, in the Mekong Delta, abundant fresh produce and fish leads to dishes like Canh Chua, a tamarind-flavored fish soup with pineapples, tomatoes, and various local herbs. Another regional specialty is Goi Cuon, fresh spring rolls packed with greens, noodles, shrimp, or pork, and served with a hoisin-based dipping sauce.

This culinary journey through Vietnam is not just about tasting different foods; it’s about experiencing the regional diversity and the stories behind these dishes. Each meal is a discovery, an insight into the history, culture, and soul of Vietnam.

Preparation for the Trip: Packing for Vietnam

Traveling to Vietnam is an adventure that requires thoughtful preparation. Here’s a guide to help you get ready for your journey.

  1. Clothing: Vietnam’s climate varies from north to south. Pack lightweight and breathable clothing for the humid regions, and include a few warmer layers if traveling to the northern highlands, especially from November to April. Rain gear is essential, as tropical showers can be frequent.
  2. Footwear: Comfortable walking shoes are essential for exploring cities and historical sites. Pack appropriate footwear like hiking boots and sandals if your itinerary includes trekking or visiting beaches.
  3. Sun Protection: The sun can be intense, so bring sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and high SPF sunscreen.
  4. Insect Repellent: Protect yourself against mosquitoes, especially if you’re traveling to rural areas or near water bodies.
  5. Health Essentials: Pack a basic first aid kit, along with any personal medications. It’s also wise to include hand sanitizer and a water purification method, like tablets or a portable filter.
  6. Electronics: Don’t forget your camera, chargers, and a universal adapter. Vietnam uses 220V power with a mix of plug types, including two-prong round and flat sockets.
  7. Travel Documents: Keep your passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, and any other essential documents in a safe, easily accessible place.
If you need fast and unlimited internet access for your trip to Vietnam, you can buy an e-Sim with Airalo and install it on your device before arriving in Vietnam. We use Airalo for all our trips and cannot be happier: easy to install, affordable and stable. It’s the best way to make your connection available when you land.
Check Airalo

Cultural Etiquette and Useful Vietnamese Phrases

Understanding and respecting local customs will enrich your experience and help you connect with the Vietnamese people.

  1. Greetings: A polite bow or a nod is common. Handshakes are also acceptable, usually initiated by your Vietnamese counterpart.
  2. Dress Respectfully: When visiting temples and religious sites, dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders and knees, and remove your shoes when entering someone’s home or a place of worship.
  3. Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in rural areas.
  4. Dining Etiquette: Wait to be shown where to sit, and follow the host’s lead. Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest when not in use, not stuck upright in a bowl of rice.
  5. Bargaining: In markets, bargaining is part of the shopping experience. Do it respectfully and with a smile.
  6. Useful Phrases:
  • Hello: Xin chào (sin chow)
  • Thank you: Cảm ơn (gahm uhn)
  • Yes: Vâng (vung)
  • No: Không (khome)
  • Excuse me/Sorry: Xin lỗi (sin loy)
  • How much is this?: Cái này giá bao nhiêu? (kai nai zah bow nyew)
  • Goodbye: Tạm biệt (tahm byet)

Remember, a little effort in understanding and respecting the local culture goes a long way. With these preparations and insights, you’re set for a memorable and respectful journey through the beautiful country of Vietnam.

Do not forget your travel insurance!
Read our travel insurance comparison to choose the best travel insurance for your trip.
Read the guide

Embracing the Essence of Vietnam

Note Coffee in Hanoi

This 10-day itinerary offers a deep dive into Vietnam’s diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From the historical streets of Hanoi and Hue to the natural splendor of Ha Long Bay and the vibrant life of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a country that enchants its unique blend of tradition and modernity.

Whether you’re navigating the bustling markets, cruising along tranquil waters, or exploring ancient temples, each moment in Vietnam is a step further into a world of discovery. This trip is more than just a vacation; it’s an immersive experience that offers a window into the soul of a resilient and captivating country.

So, as you bid farewell to Vietnam, do so with a heart full of unforgettable experiences and a newfound appreciation for this incredible land and its people.

Check out our article about the best beaches in Vietnam to add to your Vietnam itinerary.
Read the article

FAQs: 10 Days in Vietnam

What is the best time of year to visit Vietnam for a 10-day trip?

Vietnam can be visited year-round, but the best time is generally from February to April and August to October when the weather is more temperate and rainfall is lighter.

Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?

Visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. Many countries are eligible for a visa exemption for stays of 15 days or less, while others may need to apply for a visa in advance or get a visa on arrival.

What are the must-visit destinations in a 10-day itinerary?

Key destinations include Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, and if time allows, Phu Quoc Island.

Is it safe to travel around Vietnam?

Vietnam is generally safe for travelers. Common issues are petty theft and traffic safety. It’s always advisable to take standard safety precautions.

What is the average budget for a 10-day trip to Vietnam?

It varies greatly depending on travel style. Budget travelers can get by around $30-50 per day, while mid-range travelers might spend $50-100 per day, including accommodation, food, transport, and activities.

What kind of accommodation options are available in Vietnam?

Vietnam offers many accommodations, from budget hostels and homestays to luxury hotels and resorts.

Is English widely spoken in Vietnam?

English is increasingly spoken by younger generations and in tourist areas, but less so in rural areas. Learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases can be helpful.

What is the local currency, and are credit cards widely accepted?

The local currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). Credit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas, but cash is preferred in smaller towns and rural areas.

What type of food can I expect, and are there options for vegetarians?

Vietnamese cuisine is diverse, focusing on fresh ingredients and subtle flavors. Vegetarian options are available, especially in larger cities and Buddhist areas.

What should I pack for a 10-day trip to Vietnam?

Pack light, breathable clothing, comfortable footwear, sun protection, insect repellent, a basic first aid kit, and any personal medication. Also, bring a universal travel adapter for your electronics.

How do I get around in Vietnam?

Options include domestic flights, trains, buses, taxis, and motorbike rentals. For city travel, Grab (similar to Uber) is a convenient option.

Can I use my mobile phone in Vietnam?

Yes, you can use international roaming or buy a local SIM card for data and calls, which is quite affordable. Airalo is always our choice when traveling abroad and we recommend you check our article for more information.

Are there any cultural customs I should be aware of?

Respect local customs and traditions, dress appropriately when visiting temples, and always ask permission before taking photos of people.

What are some common phrases I should know in Vietnamese?

Basic phrases include “Xin chào” (Hello), “Cảm ơn” (Thank you), and “Tạm biệt” (Goodbye).

What should I know about health and safety in Vietnam?

Drink bottled or filtered water, be cautious with street food to avoid stomach issues, and use insect repellent to protect against mosquito-borne diseases. Always have travel insurance for emergencies.

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