Search

Vietnam Itinerary: 5 days In The North, Center Or South 2024

Vietnam has quickly become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s a country that’s able to offer a lot of different experiences for travellers, ranging from amazing natural landscapes, beach resorts, sprawling cities, delicious street food and tiny villages.

Please note that this page contains affiliate links. While we only recommend products that we believe in, we may benefit financially from any purchases you make.

Table of Contents

If you’ve only got 5 days in Vietnam, this is the guide for you. Whether you want to explore the beautiful scenery of the North, beaches of the center or the trendy South, we’ll give you the best things to do for a 5 day Vietnam itinerary.

Vietnam Itinerary: 5 days

Vietnam is a massive country, so it’s impossible to hit all the best spots in only 5 days. We recommend choosing a region: North, center or South to focus on.

St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hanoi, Vietnam

1. Northern Vietnam Itinerary – 5 days exploring Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Ninh Binh

Spend 5 days exploring the highlights of Northern Vietnam, including a 2-day cruise, street food tour, and visiting cultural highlights.

How to get to Northern Vietnam: Fly into Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi

Northern Vietnam 5 Day Itinerary Summary

DayActivities
1Spend the day in Hanoi visiting cultural sites and museums and exploring the city
2Travel to Ha Long Bay and set off on your overnight cruise
3Round off your Halong Bay cruise and head back to Hanoi
4Travel to Ninh Binh and explore the amazing landscapes
5Tick off your Hanoi to do list

Day 1

On your first day, you’ll be exploring Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. A blend of Vietnamese, French, and Chinese culture, you’re sure to fall in love with it. Famous for street food and ancient culture, you’ll be visiting some historic sites and museums so you can get to know its history and culture.

First, head to the market – 36 lively trading streets filled with all sorts of goods for sale. Then explore some of the cultural sights – the Temple of Literature, Tran Quoc Pagoda, and One Pillar Pagoda are all good options. When you’re done, head to Hoan Kiem lake for a relaxed walk. Visit the temple there and get some ice cream from a nearby gelateria!

Day 2

After a busy day in Hanoi, today you’ll be traveling to Halong Bay where you’ll be spending the night on board a cruise. There are a lot of different cruises on offer, but most will take you to the same sites, so just check the reviews before you book! They will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the port.

The cruise will gently drift you down past the fantastic limestone islands of the Gulf of Tonkin, passing amazing lagoons, forests, and grottos. You’ll be dropped off at Ti Top Island, a mini paradise with serene views. Spend your time here, swimming, sunbathing, or exploring.

You’ll get dinner on board, and maybe even the chance the catch some squid!

Day 3

Today your cruise will take you back to the port. Make the most of your final hours on the boat, before you make the journey back to Hanoi city. You’ll arrive back about 5pm, so you’ll have time to refresh before heading out for dinner and drinks. If you’re visiting on a weekend, make sure to check out the Hanoi night market that spreads from Hang Dao street to Dong Xuan to create a bustling walking street. Explore the stalls, grab some street food and enjoy the atmosphere!

Day 4

Today you’ll be traveling to Ninh Binh, which is 90km from Hanoi. This is a real hidden gem a bit off the main tourist path but has a lot to offer. As a guide to visiting Ninh Binh we recommend touring the 10th-century palaces and pagodas, and taking a wooden boat down the water, going past riverbanks lined with rice paddies and limestone mountains.

Day 5

Spend your final day of the trip ticking off your Hanoi bucket list and visiting everything that you couldn’t get to on your first day.

Here are some suggestions on how you could spend your time:

  • Explore the old quarter and get a traditional Vietnamese breakfast
  • Visit Hoa Lo Prison to learn about Vietnam’s wartime history
  • Get a pho or banh mi for lunch from a street food spot
  • Walk through Dong Xuan Market for some souvenir shopping
  • Watch a water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
  • Check out the nightlife in the French Quarter
Rusty bike on Vietnamese street Hội An, Vietnam

2. Central Vietnam Itinerary – 5 Days exploring Hoi An, My Son and Hue

Hoi An and Hue are the two most popular tourist cities in Vietnam after Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. On this trip, you’ll explore beautiful beaches, historical sites and delicious food! 5 days is enough to fully explore each of these cities which both feature UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as the ruins of My Son sanctuary.

How to get to Central Vietnam: Fly into Da Nang International Airport

Central Vietnam 5 Day Itinerary Summary

DayActivities
1Land at Da Nang and make a transfer to Hoi An
2Spend the day exploring Hoi An
3Take a day trip to My Son
4Travel to Hue
5Explore Hue

Day 1

After you land at Da Nang airport, you’ll have to make a short transfer to the magical town of Hoi An. Famous for its yellow buildings, tailors, and beautiful lanterns that line the streets, the town is the perfect combination of architecture, food, and beaches. It’s a very unique looking town, making it a must visit in your Vietnam trip. Spend your first day getting your bearings, and wandering through the town. Grab some food at one of the many riverside restaurants, and walk along Thu Bon River. Hoi An is famous for tailoring, so if you’re in the market for custom made clothes, this is the place!

There are plenty of cute boutique stores to explore, and stick around to watch the town transform at night. Lanterns illuminate the streets and river, and you can buy one to release for good luck.

Day 2

For your second day in Hoi An, you have a few options. There’s a lovely beach here where you could easily spend the day. It’s quite small but pretty, with loungers and places to order drinks.

If you want to get more of a cultural experience, then head to Tra Que Village in the countryside. This is full of lush fields, water buffaloes and hard-working locals. Take a walk around the village, or even get involved with a cooking course or tour.

Day 3

Today you’ll be taking a day trip to My Son, a beautiful cluster of abandoned Hindu temples. This is an amazing place to explore and soak in the heritage. It’s 1.5 hours away from Hoi An, so you can travel to and from here easily in a day. We’d recommend joining a tour or hiring a guide, as they’ll be able to explain the history and culture of the temples.

Day 4

Today we’ll be heading to the major city of Hue, located on the banks of the Perfume River. The city is recognised as a World Heritage Site, and combines the old and new. This is the perfect place to learn more about Vietnam’s history and is filled with Buddhist temples, pagodas and palaces.

Book a hotel in the centre of the city for easy access to bars, restaurants and nighlife. While you’re here, you have to try bun bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and banh khoai (Hue pancakes).

Day 5

For your final day, take a tour of the Hue Imperial Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Thien Mu Pagoda and some of the Royal Tombs around the city. We would recommend hiring a local tour guide for this, who will be able to drive you around the sites and fully explain the history of each location.

Sunset Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

3. Southern Vietnam Itinerary – 5 Days Exploring Ho Chi Minh and Mekong Delta

Your time in the south will be centered around the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh. You’ll be exploring the vibrant city, as well as visiting sites from the Vietnam War and travelling along the Meking Delta.

Southern Vietnam 5 Day Itinerary Summary

DayActivities
1Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and explore the city
2Take a day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels
3Travel down the Mekong Delta by Boat
4Beach day at Vung Tau
5Explore Ho Chi Minh

Day 1

For your first day you’ll be immersing yourself in Ho Chi Minh, which used to be known as Saigon. It’s an amazing city home to French-colonial landmarks, and is the economic and cultural hub of the country. We would recommend visiting Notre Dame Catheral, the Reunification Palace, Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Central Post Office and the War Remnants Museum.

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a popular pedestrian area that will give you a good feel for the city. In the evening head to Bui Vien Street, which is known for its bars, clubs and lively atmosphere!

Day 2

Today you’ll be immersing yourself in history as you take a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is a massive network of tunnels used in the Vietnam war, featuring underground chambers and booby traps. It’s over 100 miles long, and was used by 16000 soldiers in the war. It’s a definite must visit during your 5 days in Southern Vietnam.

Day 3

Today, do a day tour that takes you down the Mekong Delta by boat visiting riverside villages and local artisans. This is a chance for you to get an insight into the local life of the Vietnamese countryside.

Your tour might take you to Cai Be floating market, where you’ll be able to watch the locals at work trading goods from their boats. You’ll also probably visit some traditional workshops that make coconut candies, rice paper and other specialties.

You’ll get to enjoy a boat ride down the narrow canals, and get to try some local Mekong Delta food, like grilled fish or clay pot dishes.

Day 4

After all the exploring, today will be much more chill. Vung Tau is a beach city only a couple of hours away from Ho Chi Minh, with sandy beaches and beautiful transparent water year round. The most popular beaches here are Bai Sau and Bai Truoc, where you can swim, watch the sunset and enjoy delicious seafood. There is also a few historical sights here if you want to break up the day. Visit the White Palace or Thang Tam Temple for your culture hit.

Day 5

Spend your last day in Ho Chi Minh further exploring the sights of the city and ticking everything off you haven’t got to see yet. We would also recommend doing a food tour if that’s something you would enjoy, which will take you round the best street food in the city. For the best city views, head to Bitexco Financial Tower Sky Deck – try and make it for sunset if possible!

How to plan your 5 day Vietnam Itinerary

Getting around Vietnam

Vietnam offers a range of transportation choices, including moped rentals, local buses, luxury shared vans, and domestic Vietnamese airlines like Bamboo Airways or VietJet. Riding a rented motorbike through the Hai Giang loop or cycling leisurely in cycle-friendly spots like Danang and Hoi An provides an unforgettable experience of Vietnam’s beauty.

For convenient travel within cities, taxi services like Grab App (similar to Uber), as well as minivans and scooters, are readily available. If you’re drawn to the thrill of two wheels, riding a moped is an excellent way to navigate Vietnam. However, it’s important to keep in mind considerations such as insurance and having a valid driving license. Stay safe on the roads!

Is Vietnam expensive?

Vietnam stands out as a super affordable destination for travelers. With a daily budget of 25-50 USD, it’s a top pick. Even luxury enthusiasts can enjoy the country’s offerings at 100-200 USD per day. Accommodations range from 3-dollar hostel dorms to sub-100-dollar five-star hotel suites in historic cities like Hanoi.

What’s more, dining won’t dent your wallet. Many eateries serve delicious local meals at just $2-3, letting you savor banh mi or beef noodles without breaking the bank. Costs go up a bit for private tours or resorts. Vietnam’s got options for every budget!

How many days do you need in Vietnam?

Typically, travelers spend about two weeks in Vietnam, often concentrating on the northern half for variety in shorter travel times. However, we recommend staying at least 3 weeks to truly experience the entire country.

Feeling more adventurous? If your visa permits and your thirst for exploration persists, spending 30 days in Vietnam provides a comprehensive overview of the country’s diverse experiences.

When’s the best time to travel to Vietnam?

The best time to visit Vietnam, or the ‘high season,’ is generally from November to April, featuring cooler and dry weather across most of the country. This period is favored by travelers for its minimal rain, ideal conditions for trekking to rice paddies, and breathtaking sunrises.

On the flip side, the ‘low season’ from May to October aligns with the monsoon season, bringing heavier rainfall. However, this period offers fewer tourists and lower prices for travel and accommodations. The landscapes also undergo a lush transformation due to the rains. While there are occasional downpours, they rarely last all day, presenting a bonus for those who enjoy nature’s symphony in its full glory.

You may also enjoy