2 weeks in Vietnam and Laos itinerary: from Hanoi to Luang Prabang

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Hello, there! In this article, I will share our itinerary for 2 weeks in Vietnam in Laos, from Ho Chi Min City to Luang Prabang, featuring the best of these two amazing countries. Laos is one of the most difficult countries to visit in Asia due to the lack of international flights to Laos, but it’s quite easy to get there from Vietnam. Hence, we decided to combine Laos and Vietnam in one trip! 

Here’s a short overview of our itinerary for Vietnam and Laos in 2 weeks:

Days 1, 2 – Ho Chi Minh City, staying at Hammock Inn Ben Thanh

Days 3, 4, 5 – Phu Quoc island, staying at Salinda Resort

Day 6 – afternoon in Hanoi, staying at JM Marvel Hotel

Day 7 – Overnight Ha Long Bay cruise – Paradise Elegance (Book here)

Days 8, 9 – Hanoi, staying at JM Marvel, optional tour to Ninh Binh

Day 10 – Vientiane, Laos, staying at S2 Boutique Hotel

Days 11-13 – Luang Prabang, Laos, staying at The Belle Rive Resort

Day 14 – Flying back to Hanoi

Before we dive into our itinerary, let me address a couple of FAQs:

Vietnam and Laos in one Trip FAQs

What’s the best time to visit Vietnam and Laos? When did we visit?

Vietnam and Laos are both all-year-round destinations, but summer can be hot and humid. We visited during winter, in December and January, and had the best weather in the southern cities of Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh. However, it was unusually cold in Hanoi, with temperatures only reaching 15-16 degrees. This was an unusual occurrence as December is not normally that cold in Hanoi. Vientiane was pretty hot as well, and Luang Prabang was a bit colder but still much warmer than Hanoi. During the day, it was around 24-28 degrees and at night, it was a bit chilly. 

It’s tough to pinpoint the best time to visit Vietnam and Laos as it really depends on what you want to see and do. We chose December as it was the only time we could take time off for the trip over the Christmas holidays. Consequently, we worked around this time and chose destinations with the best weather during the winter season. If we had travelled in October, for example, we would have had to modify our itinerary and choose different places to visit in Vietnam.

We decided to skip the middle of Vietnam, specifically the Hoi An area, as it gets very rainy in the winter.

What’s the best way to travel around Vietnam and Laos?

Travelling around Vietnam is affordable if you take buses and trains, but you’ll need more than a week to do so. Otherwise, you’ll spend most of your time travelling from one place to another. If you have limited time, you’ll need to purchase flights, which can be a bit expensive. However, we found internal flights with Vietnam Airlines to be reliable and good overall.

To travel from Vietnam to Laos, you need to fly. We flew with Lao Airlines, and it was quite an experience. I recommend trying to fly with another airline, even if the tickets are a bit more expensive. Nothing wrong with the service – I just felt that the plane was not in the best condition and was probably retired by North American or European airlines in the 90s and was flying in Laos since then. Luckily for us, nothing happened on all the 3 flights we had with Lao Airlines, but I wouldn’t fly with Lao Airlines again. 

Also, you don’t need to fly from Vientiane to Luang Prabang – there is a speed train that connects these two cities, although buying tickets is somewhat problematic. You can only do it in person (as of early 2023), and it’s hard to buy them without a local payment app (they don’t accept cash or foreign cards). Although, hopefully, it will change soon!

When travelling within cities in Vietnam, we recommend using Grab, an Asian version of Uber. It’s reliable and very affordable. You can use my referral link to install it.

Without further ado, let’s start our itinerary for Vietnam and Laos in 14 days:

2 weeks in Vietnam and Laos itinerary: from Ho Chi Min City to Luang Prabang

Days 1 and 2: Ho Chi Minh City

Exploring Bên Thanh and attending the street food tour

Our flight from London to Ho Chi Minh City was direct, landing at 5 AM. Since we couldn’t sleep on the plane, we booked a cheap hotel near the airport to rest for a few hours between 6 AM and 11 AM. It gave us some time to relax and rest before exploring the city.

We checked in early at the Hammock Ben Thanh hotel, which is situated in a fantastic location for exploring the city – Ben Thanh neighbourhood! It is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and attractions, and most of the major sights are within walking distance. It’s also pretty modern and affordable! 

We explored the Central Market and its fruit, tea, and sweets sections, where we purchased some edible souvenirs. Ho Chi Minh’s City Central market is also famous for its fake bags and watches. For lunch, we tried the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, Bahn Mi – one of the best places for Bahn Mi was located steps away from the hotel – you can always see the large queue outside, but it moves quickly and is 100% worth it!

Later in the evening, we enjoyed a street food tour on bikes with local students, which was a fantastic experience. If you can only do one thing in Ho Chi Minh City, I recommend taking this street food tour! You can check the prices and availability here.

Sightseeing & enjoying Ho Chi Minh City from above

The next day, we headed to Little Hanoi Egg Coffee to try the traditional Vietnamese Egg Coffee, a unique coffee with an egg inside (a must-try if you eat eggs!). Afterwards, we took a stroll around the upscale part of Ho Chi Minh City where most of the boutiques are located – and saw the People’s Committee Building and The Opera House.

We visited the Bitexco Tower Observation Deck, which offers a fantastic view of Ho Chi Minh City. It used to be Vietnam’s tallest building before the Landmark Tower was constructed. We also went to the Blank Lounge Coffee Bar by Nest at the Landmark Tower and enjoyed the cocktails and desserts with a great view – the best view in the city! They also had the best cocktails and desserts we’ve tried in Vietnam! 

Our last stop in Ho Chi Minh City was the old part of the city, where we visited the Sai Gon Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. The post office is free to visit and has a working post office and souvenir shops. Notre Dame Cathedral is a working cathedral that dates back to the middle of the 19th century and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.

Days 3-5: Phu Quoc

Where to stay in Phu Quoc:

Picking a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City was much easier than picking a resort in Phu Quoc! There were many factors to consider, from price to location and, ultimately, whether we wanted a small hotel or a resort. In the end, we decided to pick a resort because we just wanted to rest for a few days, as Ho Chi Minh City is tiring and a bit stressful! 

We picked a resort called Salinda, which was voted Phu Quoc’s best resort a few times. I can definitely recommend it!

Things to do in Phu Quoc: 

If you’re looking to unwind and relax in Phu Quoc, the Salinda Resort is the perfect spot. You can spend most of your time lounging on the beach, swimming in the sea and in the afternoon, take a stroll down the high street and visit a massage or coffee shop, for example.

However, if you’re up for some adventure, you can rent a bike and tour around the island. Alternatively, here are some top activities to do in Phu Quoc:

  1. Visit the bustling night market in Phu Quoc, where you can try some amazing Vietnamese street food and buy souvenirs. It’s only a 9-minute taxi ride away from the Salinda resort.
  2. Book a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion to discover the vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life around Phu Quoc. You can pre-book this tour in advance here.
  3. Take a guided tour of Phu Quoc National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, to explore the lush forests and spot rare wildlife.
  4. Check out the historic Phu Quoc Prison Museum to learn about the island’s past during the Vietnam War and gain insight into the resilience of the Vietnamese people.

Also, if you’re in the mood for some amazing cocktails, there’s a speakeasy bar located just across the road from the Salinda resort that we loved and highly recommend!

Day 6: Hanoi 

On the 6th day of our Vietnam and Laos trip, we flew to Hanoi in the afternoon, leaving us with the morning to enjoy the resort and swim. The flight from Phu Quoc to Hanoi took almost 2 hours and was longer than the one from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc. After we landed at around 3 PM, we took a taxi that we booked through Grab app to our hotel, JM Marvel. However, it took some time for the taxi to arrive.

In December, Hanoi’s weather can be quite unpredictable. During our stay, the temperature was 14C degrees on the first day, 16 degrees on the second day, and 21 degrees a week when we returned from Laos. It is recommended to pack warm clothes, such as a lightweight, packable goose weather jacket from Uniqlo. On our first evening in Hanoi, we dined at Duong’s restaurant, which is a popular spot recommended by many travel guides. They offer traditional Vietnamese dishes with a unique twist.

After dinner, we visited the famous train track cafes to watch the trains pass by. The area is a pedestrian-only street with train tracks running in the middle, surrounded by cafes and shops. When the train approaches, everyone needs to clear the street and stay in the cafes/shops as the trains pass very close to the people. We then strolled around Hanoi’s centre, enjoyed some milk tea, and headed back to our hotel, JM Marvel, to rest early for our early pick-up for the Ha Long Bay cruise.

7-day itinerary for Vietnam.

Day 7: Overnight Ha Long Bay Cruise 

Booking your Ha Long Bay cruise in advance is crucial, as many cruises can sell out weeks in advance. When we tried to book the Athena cruise a month ahead of time, there was no availability, so we went with the Paradise Elegance cruise instead. The agency provided a free transfer service to the cruise and back, which was very helpful, and the minibus was quite comfortable.

We were picked up from our hotel lobby around 8:25 AM and then drove to another hotel nearby to pick up another couple. The journey to Ha Long Bay took around 2-2.5 hours, with a technical stop at the Pearl Museum, where you can visit a museum, a large pearl shop, a few cafes, and a toilet.

After arriving at the hotel for check-in at 11:20 AM, we received different coloured bracelets that dictated your boarding time. Since we got black bracelets, we were among the last ones to board at 12:20 PM and had to wait in the hotel lobby for an hour. On board the Excellence Ha Long Bay cruise, there were 2-3 activities available on the first day and 1 activity on the second day.

We decided to skip the kayaking and pearl farm visit due to the chilly weather but enjoyed the visit to Titov Island, which included a nice beach and great views of Ha Long Bay. There was a free cooking class during sunset and live music after dinner. The next morning, we visited the largest and most famous cave in Ha Long Bay, followed by breakfast and checkout by 9:30–10 AM.

Overall, the 2-day, 1-night Ha Long Bay cruises are more like 24 hours, and we were back in Hanoi by 1:30 PM. If you’re interested in booking a similar cruise, you can check the prices and availability here.

Days 8-9: Hanoi

On our last 2 days in Vietnam, we had plenty of time to explore Hanoi, so we decided to do some sightseeing. Here are some of the landmarks that I recommend visiting:

  • The Imperial Citadel is one of the oldest and most impressive buildings in Hanoi. It was the political centre of Vietnam for over 13 centuries and served as the capital of the country during the Ly, Tran, and Le dynasties. Inside the Citadel, you can find palaces, temples, and residences built in different periods, each reflecting unique architectural styles and cultural influences.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Vietnam’s most famous leader. Visitors can pay their respects to Ho Chi Minh and learn about his life and legacy.
  • The Temple of Literature is a historic temple dedicated to Confucius, with stunning architecture, tranquil gardens, and a rich history. This site is a must-visit for anyone interested in Vietnamese culture and history.

Some other places I recommend visiting in Hanoi include Hoan Kiem Lake, surrounded by beautiful parks, temples, and historic buildings, and the Old Quarter, a glimpse into Hanoi’s past and a great place to experience the city’s vibrant culture.

If you still have time and energy left, I suggest visiting the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, where you can learn about the country’s 54 ethnic groups through interactive exhibits and demonstrations and take a street food tour to sample the local cuisine and experience the bustling atmosphere of Hanoi’s night markets. However, if you already took street food in Ho Chi Minh City, it might be a little bit repetitive. If you prefer to take a sightseeing tour, this amazing Hanoi tour by vintage motorbike is one of the best-rated in the city!

You can also take a day tour to the stunning Vietnamese countryside – to Ninh Binh – one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam! You can check the prices and availability here.

Day 10: Exploring Vientiane

On your 10th day of the Vietnam and Laos trip, it’s time to finally fly to Laos! There are flights to both Vientiane and Luang Prabang from Hanoi, so you can pick whichever works better for you and then adjust the itinerary based on that. 

Laos is very different from Vietnam despite being so close to it. Laos resembles Thailand way more – the languages are very similar, and the culture is also a bit similar (and so is the food). 

Vientiane is a very quiet capital – it doesn’t have that many cars and it’s pretty calm overall (compared to Hanoi, which never sleeps). We spent a day in Vientiane and did a bit of sightseeing. We picked S2 Modern Boutique Hotel as our overnight hotel, and it was pretty affordable but very far from everywhere. However, distances in Vientiane are large (the city is very spread), so regardless of where you stay, you will have to ask for a few taxis. 

Here are some of the best things to see in Vientiane:

  1. Pha That Luang: This golden Buddhist stupa is the most important national monument in Laos and a symbol of the country’s Buddhist faith. It is believed to contain a relic of the Buddha and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
  2. Patuxai: Known as the “Arc de Triomphe of Vientiane”, Patuxai is a grand monument built in honour of those who fought for independence from France. Visitors can climb to the top for stunning views of the city.
  3. Wat Si Saket: This beautiful temple is one of the oldest in Vientiane and features a stunning courtyard filled with thousands of Buddha statues.
  4. Buddha Park: Just outside the city, this park is home to more than 200 Buddhist and Hindu statues, including a giant reclining Buddha. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon exploring and taking in the serene atmosphere.

Also, the night market in the heart of the old town, right next to the Mekong, is an interesting market to visit. However, there isn’t much to buy there unless you’re looking for very affordable clothes with misspelt logos. There are plenty of places to eat nearby, so that might be a bit more interesting!

Days 11 – 13: Luang Prabang

On the morning of the next day, we took a short internal flight to Luang Prabang. While we initially wanted to buy the train, we were not sure we would be able to secure it as tickets tend to sell out and it was not possible to buy them online. To avoid risking losing one day in Luang Prabang, we decided to pay a bit more and get an internal flight instead. 

Where to stay in Luang Prabang?

Finally, let’s talk about accommodation and where to stay in Luang Prabang. We stayed at the Bel Air Resort with stunning river views. However, the location wasn’t the best because every time we needed to go somewhere (all the places except for the airport were across the river), we had to cross a very scary bridge. Not the lovely Bamboo bridge, but the Old French Bridge that looked like it was on the verge of collapse, with missing wooden planks and nails sticking out everywhere. Unlike the Bamboo bridge, this bridge was very high in the air, and any fall would have been lethal. 

Instead, I recommend staying at the following places:

Luxury resorts: If money is not a problem, these resorts would be an amazing option: Burasari Heritage, Rosewood, 3 Nagas

Mid-range hotels and resorts: The Belle Rive, Angsana Maison

Very affordable but pretty nice place to stay in Luang Prabang: Villa Ouis

Best things to do in Luang Prabang in 3 days:

While 3 days in Luang Prabang (which is just a little bigger than a village) sounds like a lot of time, it is actually not! There are so many things you can do in Luang Prabang. If you want to see the full list, I wrote this article about the 18+ amazing things to do in Luang Prabang >>

Here I will just focus on the activities we have enjoyed the most in Luang Prabang:

Sunset cruise along the Mekong River 

A sunset cruise along the Mekong River is a must-do activity in Luang Prabang. There are plenty of options available, from luxurious to simple boats. Head to Khem Khong Street, and you’ll find many boat owners offering their services. We found a flyer for a $5.5 per person sunset cruise from Svan Mekong Cruises and were lucky to have the boat all to ourselves. With bean bags and cosy seats, we were able to enjoy our drinks and snacks while admiring the stunning views. It can get chilly, but blankets were provided. Don’t miss this unique and unforgettable experience!

If you want a fancier experience, you can book a dinner cruise with a 3-course dinner here >>

Walk the Unesco Heritage-protected part of Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994 and that was totally deserved – Luang Prabang is very pretty. One of the best things you can do in Luang Prabang is to wear comfortable shoes and for for a walk or a bike ride around the Old Town – there are plenty of beautiful streets!

Visit the night market on Sisavangvong Road

Sisavangvong Road is the most famous, busy and popular street in Luang Prabang. It gets especially crowded in the evening, around 6 PM, when the night market opens. The night market in Luang Prabang has plenty of stalls selling clothes, souvenirs and art. I’d say it’s mainly aimed at tourists, but it’s a must-visit attraction anyway.

Here are some other amazing things to do in Luang Prabang in 3 days: 
  • Try local street food (right at the start of the Night Market, there is a permanent street food market. The most popular dish in Laos is Laap – a meat or fish salad, which is delicious but very spicy. Actually, most dishes in Laos are very, very spicy!)
  • Visit the Kuang Si waterfall – one of the main attractions of Luang Prabang, 45 minutes away from the town. You can either get there by motorbike, buy a tour or hire a taxi that will wait for you there for 3-4 hours for $20. Alternatively, you can get there by boat if you buy a tour.
  • Walk the bamboo bridge across the Nam Khan River – it’s only open 6 months a year and gets rebuilt every year as it gets destroyed once the water levels rise. You need to pay 10,000 kips ($0.6) per person to cross the bridge, but it’s totally worth it.
  • Climb Mount Phou Si – there are plenty of stairs to climb. However, the views from there are well worth it. The ticket to enter the upper part of Mount Phou Si costs circa $1 per person. 
  • See the most beautiful temples in Luang Prabang – Luang Prabang has so many stunning temples, monasteries and stupas. The most beautiful is undoubtedly Haw Pha Bang, located right at the bottom of Mount Phou Si. 
  • Observe the Alm Giving ceremony with the Buddhist monks – if you’re an early bird and you would like to observe a unique, beautiful ceremony that is very important to locals, head to the Old Town around 5:30 AM. It’s a ceremony where local Buddhists offer alms (homemade sticky rice) to the monks. However, unless you’re a Buddhist, you shouldn’t participate. Instead, you can quietly observe the ceremony. You can also take photos (without a flash), but make sure you’re not in the way and not obstructing anyone.

Day 14: Fly back to Hanoi and home

Even though there are so many things to do in Luang Prabang, it is a perfect destination for relaxing. It’s quiet, the distances are small, and no one is rushing anywhere. I hope that after 3 days in Luang Prabang, you will feel well-rested and ready for a long journey home! 

If you have time between your flight to Hanoi and your flight back home, you can explore another part of Hanoi that is the closest to the airport, next to the Chùa Kim Liên temple! There are plenty of things to see and do there! 

Summary and useful links for your trip to Vietnam and Laos:

I hope you enjoyed this itinerary for 2 weeks in Vietnam and Laos and found it useful! As I mentioned before, we visited Vietnam and Laos in winter, December-January, to be precise, and our itinerary was dictated by the weather in these destinations. If you’re planning this trip in summer, for example, it’s worth checking the weather in all these destinations and see if visiting them still makes sense (it could be the middle of the rainy season, for example) 

I’ve received multiple requests to provide a brief summary of all the important and useful links used in this post for other articles featuring our itineraries, so here’s an overview of useful links for this itinerary for 2 weeks in Vietnam and Laos:

Flights: Skyscanner for the flights to Vietnam and internal flights. I recommend flying with Vietnam Airlines

Taxis: Grab

SIM card: you can either buy one at the airport or buy a multi-country sim like Drimsim that works in lots of different places around the world

Plug type: use this adaptor 

Tours: street food tour of Ho Chi Minh City by motorbike with local students, Ninh Ninh Tour, Vintage motorbike Hanoi sightseeing tour, Luang Prabang cruise with a 3-course dinner

Ha Long Bay cruise: book here

Hotels: Hammock Ho Chi Minh City, Salinda Resort Phu Quoc, JM Marvel Hanoi, The Belle Rive Resort Luang Prabang

Some other articles you might find useful:

Hanoi vs Ho Chi Minh City: if you can only visit one city in Vietnam

18+ amazing things to do in Luang Prabang 

7 days in Japan: a very fast-paced itinerary

48 hours in Kuala Lumpur 

2 thoughts on “2 weeks in Vietnam and Laos itinerary: from Hanoi to Luang Prabang”

  1. Hi there,

    We are thinking a 4 days trip to Laos from Hanoi like you did, but I am wondering how the Vietnam visa worked for your situation. We are an American so we will get a Vietnam visa. Please advise whether you got a Multiple-Entry Visa. Let me know if you have an answer for us. Thank you.


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