Elk Point Alberta
My boyfriend and I and another couple are travelling Vietnam in mid to late September and we have many questions!
1) Where is the best place to go scuba diving. We are not certified.
2) Should we do north and south Vietnam, or just focus on one as we will only be going for approx 12 days.
If we do both how should we travel internally?
3) What are some budget friendly tours we can do?
4) Best things to do in Halong Bay?
I hope that someone can help answer my questions!
12 days is a little rush but still enough to travel from North to South based on my experience (I did 2 and one more time this year w.my GF). To save time, take flight rather than bus.
My suggestion is:
- Day 3: Sapa
- Day 4: Sapa -Hanoi (take night train back to Hanoi and arrive at early morning, around 5am the day after)
- Day 5: Hanoi - Halong Bay Vietnam (sleep onboard) (activities: travel around by cruise, sightseeing, swimming, do kayaking, squid catching at night)
- Day 6: Halong - Hanoi (by bus, arrive in Hanoi at 5pm)
- Day 7: Hanoi - Hue (visit tombs & Citadel palace)
- Day 8: Hue - Da Nang (by private car or train, by this way you can travel over Hai Van pass, one of the greatest passes in Vietnam and overlook Lang Co bay, marvelous panorama!). Visit Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture & The Marble Mountains, Bán đảo Sơn Trà in Danang
- Day 9: Danang - Hoi An (bus by or taxi)
- Day 10: Hoi An
- Day 11: Hoi An - Danang - Nha Trang (take morning flight)
- Day 12: Nha Trang (you can do scuba diving)
I did the first trip by myself and 2 other trips with travel agency, personally I feel more comfortable, relaxing, time saving than rearranging everything myself. Especially travelling to Halong bay, contacting agence is less costly and safer. I strongly recommend Indochina Best Travel, I found them on Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet, totally satisfied with their service and price.
Mentioned in this answer:
Last January I spent 9 days in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hanoi, Halong Bay Vietnam and Sa Pa District. We travelled mostly by plane because we didn't had much time except to Halong Bay where we took a tour from Hanoi to make a 2 days / 1 night cruise, and then we went to Sa Pa by overnight train.
Mentioned in this answer:
Vietnam is a wonderful country—I'm desperate to go back, so lucky you! :)
1) Nha Trang might be on your itinerary anyway if you want a bit of beach time, and there's definitely diving to be done there. One word of caution—or really, just something to be aware of—when it comes to active pursuits like this in Vietnam, you might not see the level of safety standards you'd be accustomed to in other countries. Prices are low pretty much universally, so it's often worth it to go with the top-of-the-line operators who go out of their way to actually keep their customers safe. Con Dao is another option—a little island off the southern coast—and perhaps its remoteness would mean fewer people.
2) It all depends on how fast you're willing to move and whether you're ok with popping into a place and leaving in short order. If you're cool with moving fairly fast (travel by plane, brief stays in each place), you could do both. But if you think you'd rather dial the pace back, there's really plenty to do in either part of the country, and you can travel by train or bus. I could see spending a good chunk of time in the south and then flying north to Hanoi and doing Ha Long Bay, if you really want to do both. (Personally, I love Hanoi.)
3) Wish I could help you here, but we traveled independently.
4) Ha Long Bay is definitely touristy, but man is it worth it. Again, in the case of going out to Ha Long (or Bai Tu Long), it's worth it to not go with the rock-bottom operators, for reasons of both safety, environmental care and comfort. My advice is to ignore the day trips and at minimum do a one-night stay on the bay. It was quite chilly while we were there, so we didn't swim, but kayaking was absolute magic. They'll often take you to caves, but they're pretty "meh" in my opinion, particularly in comparison with what's outside the caves. Fishing for squid was also pretty fun, but above all, the magic comes from just sitting on the deck and watching how the scenery shifts with every passing second.
I hope you enjoy your trip—eat everything in sight!
With 12 days, it is short time but you can do from North to South Vietnam: 2 nights in Hanoi, 1 night or 2 in Halong Bay Vietnam, then travel to Hue - Hoian by train or flight (1 night Hue - 2 Night Hoian). continue to HCM, should do day trip to Mekong Delta.
Mentioned in this answer:
I spent 5 days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam recently. I loved every minute. We explored the Cu Chi Tunnels (incredible) , went on a boat ride down the Mekong Delta River (awesome!), visited numerous temples and ate the best Pho ever... all in Vietnam. I had an excellent guide who was most helpful and friendly and we still stay in touch. I would highly recommend contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org as a guide and she may be able to answer your questions. She also does tours outside of HCMC.