The perfect itinerary for 1 week in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Hanoi & Ha Long Bay

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In this article, I will share our 7-day itinerary for Vietnam. 1 week in Vietnam is not much, but it’s possible to visit some of the main highlights of this amazing country: from Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Long Bay.

Hey there! Are you planning a trip to Vietnam but not sure where to start? Look no further because we’ve got you covered with this 7-day itinerary! Get ready for an exciting adventure through some of Vietnam’s most stunning destinations, from the bustling city streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the serene waters of Ha Long Bay.

I will share with you the exact itinerary that we followed in Vietnam: we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, then went to explore Phu Quoc because of its nice beaches and the fact that it was the only warm beach destination in Vietnam in winter. Afterwards, we flew to Hanoi and, from there, went to Ha Long Bay. In total, we spent 7 days in Vietnam, which is not a lot, but we loved it so much and will gladly be back to explore the middle of Vietnam (Hoy An, Da Nang and other amazing destinations). 

Useful links for your trip to Vietnam:

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 the Vietnam 1-week itinerary:

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 multi-country adapter 

Tours: street food tour of Ho Chi Minh City by motorbike with local students, Hanoi sightseeing tour, Phu Quoc snorkelling tour

Ha Long Bay cruise: book here

Hotels: Hammock Ho Chi Minh City Ben Thanh, Salinda Resort Phu Quoc, JM Marvel Hanoi 

Before we start with the itinerary, here are a couple of FAQs:

What’s the best time to visit Vietnam? When did you travel to Vietnam?

Vietnam is an all-year-long destination. However, summer in Vietnam can be very hot and humid. We visited Vietnam in winter, December & January, and we had the best weather in the South – Phu Quoc and Ho Chi Minh City, but it was very cold, unusually cold, in Hanoi. When we were in Hanoi, it was just 15-16 degrees. However, it was rather unusual – it’s not generally that cold in Hanoi in December! 

It’s hard to say what’s the best time to go to Vietnam – it depends on what exactly you would like to visit. Since we picked a time of the year first – we knew that we could only have enough annual leave for this trip in December; over the Christmas holidays; we had to work around that and include the destinations that have the best weather in winter. If we were to travel in October, it would have been a different scenario, and we would likely tweak this itinerary a little bit and visit different destinations.

The middle of Vietnam, the area of Hoi An, gets very rainy in winter – hence, we decided to skip it and visit other destinations with better weather. 

What’s the best way to travel around Vietnam?

Travelling around Vietnam is very affordable, but only if you travel by bus and train. However, for that, you need to have more than 1 week in Vietnam. Otherwise, you spend most of your time in Vietnam just getting from one destination to another. If time is limited, you will need to buy flights – and those aren’t too cheap. However, I found internal flights in Vietnam to be very reliable and pretty good overall, especially if you fly with Vietnam Airlines. 

When travelling inside the cities, I recommend using Grab – which is an Asian version of Uber. It works in many countries, and it’s pretty reliable and very affordable. You can use my referral link to install it.

Alright, without further ado, let’s start with the itinerary for Vietnam in 7 days – the best places to visit in Vietnam in winter. 

The perfect itinerary for 1 week in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Hanoi & Ha Long Bay: a day-by-day overview

Before I go into too much detail on what we did do on every day of our trip to Vietnam, I wanted to provide a brief overview of our itinerary.

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

Day 3: Morning flight to Phu Quoc, staying at Salinda Resort

Day 4: Exploring Phu Quoc

Day 5: Afternoon flight to Hanoi, a night at JM Marvel

Day 6: Morning pick up from the Ha Long Bay cruise company, cruising the Ha Long Bay

Day 7: Getting back to Hanoi, exploring the city 

Day 8: Morning in Hanoi and flying back 

Now, let’s talk about this itinerary in more detail.

Days 1 & 2: Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

Landing in Ho Chi Minh City

If you only have one week to spend in Vietnam, I recommend buying multi-city flights, just like we did. We landed in Ho Chi Minh City and departed from Hanoi, which was very convenient. 

Our flight to Ho Chi Minh City was a direct flight from London, and it landed very early in the morning, around 5AM. Since we hadn’t managed to sleep on the plane, we decided to book a very affordable hotel next to the airport just to sleep for a couple of hours. We ended up booking Victoria Airport Hotel, which wasn’t a great place to sleep as it was very noisy, but at least we could relax for a few hours, from 6am to 11am. 

Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

We arrived at our home for the next 2 nights, hotel Hammock Ben Thanh around 12pm and, luckily, managed to check in early. Hammock Ben Thanh is located in the best area of Ho Chi Minh for exploring the city – there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and attractions nearby, and you can walk to most of the other major attractions.

Central Market

We went for a walk around the Ben Thanh area, tried a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, Bahn Mi, for lunch, and then later spent some time exploring the Central Market. The Central Market is famous for its replicas of designer goods. However, we were interested in another section of this market – the area with fruits, teas and sweets from Vietnam. We managed to buy a few edible souvenirs there. If you’re looking to buy some gifts, e.g. sweets, coffee or tea from Vietnam – it’s a good place to shop for them. 

Street food tour by bike

In the early evening, we had our Ho Chi Minh City street food tour by bike with local students. We booked this tour in advance on GetYourGuide here. It’s a tour that I definitely recommend to everyone visiting Vietnam. Not only we tried lots of different dishes we wouldn’t have tried otherwise, but we also learned a lot about the history of Vietnam, rode a motorbike in the city with most bikes in Vietnam (and probably the entire world) and spent time in great company! Each of us got assigned a student who drove us around by bike and showed us the best things to eat in Vietnam. The tour lasted for almost 4 hours, and it was fantastic! We ended the tour near the Walking street – the party street of Ho Chi Minh City!

Trying Egg Coffee

A few people recommended we try the traditional Vietnamese Egg Coffee, and the next morning; we headed to the most iconic place to try it, Little Hanoi Egg Coffee. Egg coffee is a very unique thing, and I haven’t seen it anywhere else but Vietnam. It’s coffee with an egg inside, and it should be consumed hot (I’ve tried the cold version as well, and it wasn’t that great).

Walking around the upscale part of Ho Chi Minh City

Later, we went for a walk around the more upscale part of Ho Chi Minh City, where most of the boutiques were located, right next to the Ho Chi Minh Monument, the People’s Committee Building and The Opera House. This is probably the most beautiful part of Ho Chi Minh City, so it’s definitely worth exploring.

Looking at Ho Chi Minh City from above in Bitexco Tower

Another must-visit place in Ho Chi Minh is the Observation Deck at the Bitexco Tower. The entrance costs less than $10 per person, and the views from there are great! Bitexco Tower used to be Vietnam’s tallest building for a long while before Landmark Tower was built. However, Bitexco Tower is still one of the most iconic buildings in the country and even in the entire world.

Sipping cocktails with the best view at Landmark Tower

Our next destination, the Landmark Tower, was a short Grab drive away (btw as I mentioned before, Grab is an Uber alternative in Asia), and you can use my link to install it.

At Landmark Tower, we were heading to the Blank Lounge Coffee Bar by Nest – one of the highest cafes/bars in Asia. We didn’t have a reservation, but luckily, there were some available spots on the open-air terrace, which was terrific. We also loved the cocktails and desserts there – the menu was creative and very delicious. If I was to recommend one place in Ho Chi Minh City, it would be Blank Lounge. 

Exploring the Old Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral

Our final destination in Ho Chi Minh City was the old part of the city with the Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. The post office (Sai Gon Central Post Office) is free to visit, and inside, it has a working post office and a few souvenir shops. Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Ho Chi Minh City (it was finished in the middle of the 19th century), and it’s a working cathedral that you can easily visit. 

Days 3-4: Phu Quoc

On the third day of our 7-day trip to Vietnam, we woke up pretty early to go to the airport and grab a flight to Phu Quoc. Out of all the beaches, there in Vietnam, we decided to pick Phu Quoc because it was pretty much the only place with good weather in December!

Where to stay in Phu Quoc?

There are plenty of options for accommodation in Phu Quoc, and we did a lot of research before committing to one place. We booked Salinda Resort – which is one of the best resorts in Phu Quoc, it has great ratings, but is not overly expensive. It has a lovely beach, and it’s just a short taxi ride from Phu Quoc town with its night market. 

Things to do in Phu Quoc in 2 days:

If you just want to rest, you can do that perfectly well at Salinda Resort. You can spend most of the time relaxing on the beach and swimming and in the afternoon, walk along the high street and go to a massage place or a coffee place, for example.

If you’re keen on doing a bit more sightseeing in Phu Quoc, you can hire a bike and do a tour around the island. Alternatively, here are the top things to do in Phu Quoc:

  1. Explore the bustling night market in Phu Quoc, where you can sample delicious Vietnamese street food and purchase souvenirs. The market is easily accessible by taxi (just 9 minutes by taxi from Salinda Resort).
  2. Take a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion and discover the colourful coral reefs and diverse marine life around Phu Quoc. You can pre-book this tour in advance here
  3. Embark on a guided tour of Phu Quoc National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where you can explore lush forests and encounter rare wildlife.
  4. Visit 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.

There is also an amazing cocktail place/speakeasy bar located across the road from Salinda Resort, which we loved and I can 100% recommend! 

Day 5: Afternoon flight to Hanoi 

On our 5th day in Vietnam, we took a flight to Hanoi. Our flight was in the afternoon, so we had a chance to spend the morning at the resort and swim a bit more. The flight from Phu Quoc to Hanoi is much longer than the one from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc and takes almost 2 hours (it’s far!). We landed in Hanoi around 3pm, and it took us almost an hour to get to our hotel, JM Marvel. We booked a taxi via Grab app, as always, but it took a while to arrive. 

Things to do in Hanoi in December

We had a whole evening to so spend in Hanoi. However, it was very cold. The weather in Hanoi in December can be pretty temperamental. It was just 14 degrees on our first day in Hanoi, 16 on our second day and 21 degrees in a week when we returned from Laos. When packing for this trip in winter, make sure to bring some warm clothes with you. I recommend bringing a lightweight, packable goose weather jacket (like the ones from Uniqlo) – I wore It on our first and second days in Hanoi and also in the evening on the Ha Long Bay Cruise.

On our first evening in Hanoi, we decided to have dinner in a restaurant that’s recommended by a lot of guides, Duong’s. They have a lot of traditional Vietnamese dishes with a twist.

Afterwards, we went to see the trains at the famous train tracks cafes. Basically, it’s a pedestrian-only street with train tracks in the middle and cafes and shops on both sides. Every now and then, a train passes, and everyone needs to clear the street and stay in the cafes/shops – the trains pass very close to people!  

After that, we walked a little bit around the centre of Hanoi, had some milk tea and headed back to our hotel, JM Marvel, to sleep early to prepare for the early pick up for the Ha Long Bay cruise.

Day 6: Overnight Ha Long Bay Cruise 

Which Ha Long Bay Cruise to book

It’s essential to book your Ha Long Bay cruise in advance – we booked ours a month in advance, and lots of cruises were already sold out. We tried to book Athena, but there was no availability, so the agency suggested Paradise Elegance Cruise instead. Paradise Cruises provided a free transfer to the cruise and back, which was very helpful, and the minibus was very comfortable. You can check the availability of the cruise here.

Getting to Ha Long Bay

Our pick-up was around 8:25am from the lobby of our hotel. Then we drove to pick up another couple from a hotel nearby. 

The drive to Ha Long Bay takes around 2-2.5 hours, depending on the traffic. Most transfers also make a technical stop at the Pearl Museum, where there is a museum, a large pearl shop, a few cafes and a toilet. 

By 11:20am, we arrived at a hotel for a cruise check-in, where we got bracelets of different colours. The colour of your bracelets dictates your boarding time. We got black bracelets and were among the last ones to board. Our boarding started at 12:20pm, and we had one hour to kill in the hotel lobby. There was just one cafe and not enough sitting space for all guests, so the wait was pretty tiring. 

Onboard experience on Elegance ship (Paradise Ha Long Bay cruise)

By 1:30pm, we had boarded and already had a quick briefing and lunch (it was a buffet, and the quality and variety were excellent). There are 2-3 activities you can do on the first day and 1 activity on the second day of the cruise.

The first activity included kayaking and a visit to the pearl farm, which required an additional payment of around $12 per person. However, since it was only 16 degrees outside and you had to be in a swimsuit, we decided to skip the activity.

At 4pm, the second activity started – it was a visit to Titov island – there is a nice beach – if there weather permits, it’s nice to swim there. Alternatively, there is a hill in the middle of the island, and you can climb it to see magnificent views of Ha Long Bay – some of the best views were seen during our visit to Ha Long Bay.

However, the island is insanely busy, so it takes 20 minutes and a lot of stairs just to go up and probably, even more, to go downstairs. 

We got back to the boat around 5:30pm, just in time for the sunset. During sunset, there was a free cooking class, and after dinner, there was live music in one of the rooms on the cruise.

The next activity was very early in the morning, and it included a visit to the largest and the most famous cave in Ha Long Bay. However, you had to be ready by 6:35am to go on this tour. By 8:15am, you had to be back on the boat and have breakfast and the checkout was at 9:30-10am. 

As you can see, the 2-day, 1-night Ha Long Bay cruises do not really take 2 days – it’s more like 24 hours. By 10:30am, we were already in the lobby of our hotel, waiting for the return transfer and by 1:30pm, we were back in Hanoi! 

Day 7: Exploring Hanoi 

On our last day of 7 days in Vietnam, we had all the time since 1:30pm to see the city, so we decided to do some sightseeing. Here are some landmarks I recommend visiting:

Imperial Citadel 

It’s 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, there is a variety of structures, including palaces, temples, and residences. These structures were built in different periods, and each reflects the unique architectural styles and cultural influences of its time.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

This imposing building 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

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: 

  • Hoan Kiem Lake: This is the heart of Hanoi, surrounded by beautiful parks, temples, and historic buildings. Take a stroll around the lake or sit by the water and people-watch
  • The Old Quarter with lots of traditional shops, street food stalls, and ancient temples. This area is a glimpse into Hanoi’s past and a great place to experience the city’s vibrant culture. However, it’s likely that you have seen most of it already during your first evening in Hanoi
  • Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre: a unique and traditional art form that originated in North Vietnam, water puppetry is a must-see experience in Hanoi. Performances are held at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, featuring elaborate puppets, live music, and colourful lights.
  • Cong Ca Phe – our favourite coffee place in Hanoi. It’s a chain with a few coffee shops, and they have amazing unique drinks. 

Alternatively, you can take a sightseeing tour in Hanoi – a knowledgeable guide will be able to bring you to some of the most important landmarks and share the history of Vietnam with you. This tour, for example, is amazing – as you get to be driven around the city on a vintage motorbike!

Summary of 7 days in Vietnam: from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City

I hope you enjoyed this itinerary for a week in Vietnam, visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Ha Long Bay and Hanoi. I recommend taking this itinerary in winter, as it’s the best season to visit the South of Vietnam, and it’s also a dry season in the North (however, it can get a bit chilly). You can also invert this itinerary and start from Hanoi and finish in Ho Chi Minh City!

Here are some other articles you might enjoy reading:

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The itinerary for 4 days in Uzbekistan

Bali vs Sri Lanka: where to do on holiday

16 days in South Asia: Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and more

2 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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