If you’re visiting Vietnam for 2 weeks for the first time, where should you go? Vietnam is one of the top destinations to visit in Southeast Asia with so many beautiful places to visit. Since we live in Vietnam, we suggest 2 weeks in South Vietnam as the perfect duration for your vacation.
In this South Vietnam itinerary, we’re sharing our locals’ perspective on where to go, fun things to do in each of the cities, where to stay, and helpful tips when traveling through the country. Feel free to change up the number of days in each of the cities depending on your interests and time frame.
South Vietnam has everything that you can ask for – the melting pot of culture, history, 24/7 city life, nice beaches, amazing waterfalls, and even calm life along the Mekong Delta. You’ll have plenty of relaxing days and getaway adventures to fulfill your wanderlust.
Most visitors tend to spend their time in Vietnam starting north in Hanoi and head south to Ho Chi Minh City or vice versa. It’s doable, yet due to the country’s long S-shape, it’s impossible to see everything in one trip. We’ve done a 10-day tour of the north to south Vietnam with Justin’s family in the past and it was exhausting to travel between the major cities. Therefore, we recommend allocating sufficient time for exploring the southern Vietnam region.
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Days 1-2: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon and HCMC, is the largest metropolitan city in Vietnam that never sleeps. If you just landed at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the first two days are the perfect way to get situated into the chaos and frenzy of this city. You’ll be amazed by the sheer number of motorbikes and the intense honking along the streets. Plus, this may be the first place where you practice how to cross the street with traffic coming onto you at all directions.
While two days is the minimum amount of time to spend in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be surprised at how much you can see here. Prepare yourself with learning about Vietnam’s history and culture to the enjoying cheap and delicious Vietnamese street food.
If want to spend more time, check out our post on how you can spend 6 days in Ho Chi Minh City.
What To Do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Visit several museums and learn about Vietnam history and the war. We suggest the War Remnants Museum (Bảo Tàng Chứng Tích Chiến Tranh in Vietnamese) to learn about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective and also the tragedies entailed. Have a tissue in hand when you visit the Agent Orange section. The Independence Palace (also known as the Reunification Palace and Dinh Thống Nhất) is the location where the president worked in the 1970s.
- Head to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Central Post Office, and Book Street. Luckily these three places are all within the same area. Unfortunately, the Cathedral of Notre Dame (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn) is currently in renovation so you can only take photos from the outside. Central Post Office (Bưu điện Trung tâm Sài Gòn) has the beautiful French architecture and a portrait of Ho Chi Minh inside. The Book Street (Đường Sách Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh) is a great place to relax under the trees, enjoy a cup of coffee, browse through the bookstores.
- Walk along Nguyen Hue Walking Street (Nguyễn Huệ) in the evenings. It’s a pedestrian-friendly walkway and perfect for people watching. Take a photo with the Ho Chi Minh Statue.
- Stop by the iconic Cafe Apartments, located above the Fahasa bookstore along Nguyen Hue Walking Street, to shop at the boutique stores or take a rest at one of the coffee and drink shops. If you want to exercise, take the stairs up to each floor, or pay a small fee to use the elevator.
- Visit Ben Thanh Market (Chợ Bến Thành) for souvenir shopping. It’s the largest market in Ho Chi Minh City. Don’t forget to bargain if you want to purchase something as the prices tend to be tourist prices. In the evenings, both sides of Ben Thanh Market changes to a Night Market.
- Experience the craziness of Bui Vien Street (Bùi Viện) in the evenings. It’s Ho Chi Minh City’s version of Las Vegas. With flashing lights, deaf-defying blasting music, cheap food and drinks, and large crowds, the area is quite the party scene for foreigners. You can also stay in this area for very cheap but it’s a bit far from the local attractions.
- Check out the city’s landscapes from the observatory decks at Saigon Skydeck in the Bitexco Financial Building (in District 1) or Landmark 81 (in Binh Thanh District), currently the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh. Book your fast track ticket to skip the lines at the Saigon Skydeck. Prices at Saigon Skydeck is cheaper than Landmark 81 at the moment.
- Besides delicious Vietnamese food, there are delicious and affordable Japanese restaurants. Check out the Japantown area along Le Thanh Ton.
If You Have Extra Days in Ho Chi Minh City
- Take a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City. Observe the wild monkeys at Can Gio, crawl into the Cu Chi Tunnels that were used during the Vietnam War, learn about the Caodaism religion at the Cao Dai Temple, and more.
- Learn how to make traditional Vietnamese food at a cooking class. Click here to reserve a spot for the class.
- Pose with 3D art and take fun photos at Artinus 3D Art Museum in District 7.
Ho Chi Minh City Accommodations
There are many places to choose from when staying in Ho Chi Minh City. We recommend that you stay in District 1 and around the Ben Thanh Market area. You’ll be close to many restaurants, local eateries, and the city’s attractions.
We’ve stayed at Norfolk Hotel many times. It’s recommended for business travelers or those who want a quiet room. The hotel is in a central location as Ben Thanh Market and Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a five-minute walk. There is a complimentary breakfast buffet (that is delicious), free wifi, on-site gym and spa, and fresh fruits in your room. Reserve a room at Norfolk Hotel here.
Caravelle Hotel and the Grand Hotel are the splurging types of hotels with luxurious amenities in your room. Enjoy the breakfast buffets and access to a swimming pool. Make a reservation for Caravelle or Grand Hotel here.
Day 3: Mekong Delta
With over 40,500 square kilometers, the Mekong Delta (also known as the Nine Dragon River Delta) is a unique place to visit to see with the endless river, how life is like along the river, and the mangroves. The area is technically in the west part of Vietnam and covers overs 12 provinces.
Ideally, you would want at least two days dedicated to the Mekong Delta so you’ll have more time to enjoy the tranquility of the area. Since we have one day along the Mekong Delta, head to either Can Tho, Ben Tre, or Long An. It’s recommended to take a tour if you visit Can Tho and Ben Tre to maximize your time and come back to Ho Chi Minh City on the same day.
Top Things to Do in the Mekong Delta
- Visit the famous Cai Rang Floating Market (Chợ nổi Cái Răng) in Can Tho. Take a sampan boat from the Can Tho dock to the floating market. You want to head out early for the boat ride – around 5:30am. Spend a few hours riding along the calm Mekong Delta and see the daily transactions of fresh fruits and vegetables between buyers and sellers at the market. Enjoy a hot bowl of hủ tiếu noodle soup for breakfast in your sampan. You’ll also stop by a few stops for souvenir shopping and a rice noodle factory. Read more about additional places to visit in our Can Tho travel guide.
- Ben Tre is known for growing a lot of coconuts, especially the sweet ones, dừa xiêm. Most tours will stop at Mekong Thoi Son area where you take a boat ride along the Mekong Delta to visit bee farm and a coconut candy factory (definitely buy these delicious and affordable candies for gifts). You’ll also get the opportunity to listen to traditional music, and even try to catch snakehead in a muddy pond for your lunch. It’s much harder than it looks to catch the fish!
- Explore the mangroves at Tan Lap Floating Village (Làng Nổi Tân Lập) in Long An. You’ve probably never heard of this place, yet is a peaceful escape from Ho Chi Minh City. This place is an eco-tourism spot where you have the opportunity to walk through the quiet mangrove trees, see a pond filled with blooming lotus flowers (if in season), and take a 30-minute boat ride through the Melaleuca Forest. You can take a local bus to visit this location and opt to stay overnight at the hotel.
Days 4-5: Nha Trang
Now we’re headed to Nha Trang for two days, the ultra touristy beach area in the South Central Coast. It’s the place to visit if you want to have a nightlife, relax on the beaches, or snorkel. As you enter the city, you’ll notice many resorts lined up along the coastline for the views of the ocean. Nha Trang is very popular with the Russian and Chinese tourists. There are multilingual signs with both Russian and Vietnamese languages.
Nha Trang is approximately 425 kilometers (264 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City. Getting to Nha Trang is easy with a quick 1-hour plane ride from Ho Chi Minh City. Afterward, take a 30-45 minute taxi or local bus ride to head to the main Nha Trang city area.
Want to stay longer in Nha Trang? Check out our detailed 3 days in Nha Trang itinerary.
What to Do in Nha Trang
- Soak up the sun along the beach. Nha Trang Beach is the most crowded due to the accessibility from the resorts and guesthouses. Rent a lawn chair and enjoy the sounds of the waves.
- Take a mud bath. It may sound weird but Nha Trang has three locations that offer this activity – 100 Eggs Theme Park (Khu Du Lịch Trăm Trứng), Thap Ba Hot Spring (Tắm bùn Tháp Bà), and I-Resort (Suối Khoáng Nóng I-Resort). You’ll get the opportunity to sit in a smooth and warm mud bath which rejuvenates your skin with minerals. While you can opt to use the public areas, we recommend the private rooms for your spa experience at I-Resort. Read more about our I-Resort VIP experience.
- Visit the Po Nagar Towers (Tháp Bà Ponagar) to see one of the largest Cham Towers in Vietnam. The towers are located throughout central and south Vietnam, such as in Danang, Quy Nhon, and Mui Ne. It’s recently restored so you can learn about the Champa civilization, the original inhabitants of Vietnam. Check out the amazing red bricks and the iconic triangle roof architecture.
- If you have kids or want to have some adventure, head to the VinPearl Amusement Park for an extra day of fun with swimming and theme park rides. You’ll need to take a cable car ride from the Nha Trang mainland to the island in order to access the amusement park. Save money on the admission ticket here.
Nha Trang Accommodations
From guesthouses to resorts, which place should you stay at in Nha Trang? Luckily there are a wide variety of options to choose from near the beachfront.
We stayed at the Straw Hat Hostel. This place is an affordable option for the budget travelers who want to be close to the Nha Trang beach (only a five-minute walk) and also nearby restaurants. They offer day tours and also bus transportation to your next destination. Learn more about Straw Hat Hostel and make a reservation here.
InterContinental Hotel and Evason Ana Mandara are the dreamy locations to spend your time in Nha Trang. With the views of the ocean and the privacy on the beachfront, it’ll be hard to leave this paradise. Make a reservation at InterContinental or at Evason Ana Mandara.
Days 6-9: Dalat
If you love outdoor adventures and mountainous areas, then Dalat is the place to visit. Located in the Central Highlands, this place is a breath of fresh air after getting some sun from Nha Trang. From the endless trees on the mountains to the wild hydrangeas growing on the sidewalk, you’ll love how this slower-paced city embraces nature.
Many of the fresh produce and flowers that you see in Vietnam’s local markets are grown in this area due to the ideal cooler weather. Therefore, the days are much cooler than in Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang. We recommend that you have long pants and a jacket for the evenings.
From Nha Trang to Dalat, it’s 140 kilometers (87 miles) and will take 4 hours by bus, including a bathroom break. We didn’t have a sleeper bus for the ride.
For more information on how to get to Dalat and things to do, check out our detailed Dalat 3 days itinerary. If you want to explore the off the beaten path destinations in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, consider a stop at Bao Loc or Cat Tien National Park.
What to Do in Dalat
- Visit Dalat’s Crazy House and wander between the whimsical buildings. You’ll cross narrow bridges, pass by themed buildings, and also see awesome views of the city from the roof. If you’ve been to Barcelona, Spain, it has an Antonio Gaudi-esque architecture. You can even stay overnight at this place.
- If you love flowers, stop by the Dalat Flower Garden in the city center. You’ll see over 300+ flowers in sculptures and animal topiary.
- Go hiking (or take a Jeep ride) to the highest peak, Langbiang Mountain (Núi Langbiang). There is a huge Langbiang sign to take a photo. Consider taking this tour which combines the Langbiang Mountain with a city tour.
- Chase waterfalls! Due to Dalat’s high mountainous regions, it has a high concentration of stunning waterfalls in the area. Check out these incredible waterfalls – Pongour Waterfalls, Elephant Waterfall, Prenn Falls, and Datanla Falls.
- Have an adrenaline rush with canyoning. This is on our bucket list as canyoning looks like fun to rappel down rocks. Reserve your spot for this exciting canyoning experience.
- Pick fresh produce, such as strawberries and avocados. If you prefer to buy the produce, head to the Night Market area.
Dalat has budget-friendly, hotel, and villa accommodations. For the villas, they are catered to those who will have a large occupancy, such as 10-20 people.
Mộc Trà Hotel is a wonderful place to stay in Dalat. Located in a residential alley, this place is good for those who want to have a comfortable and clean room. They can also arrange a bus pick-up to your next destination. Click here to read reviews for Mộc Trà Hotel and reserve a room.
Edensee Lake Resort & Spa and Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel are two options if you want to have more comfortable amenities. Edensee Lake Resort has views of the Tuyen Lam Lake and a golf course. Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel, located in Dalat city center, is a historical palace with the French decor. Reserve a room at the Edensee Lake Resort & Spa or at the Dalat Palace Heritage Hotel.
Days 10-11: Mui Ne
Mui Ne is one of our favorite weekend places to visit. This sleeper beach town is a part of Phan Thiet city and is close to Ho Chi Minh City at 210 kilometers (130 miles) which is about a five-hour bus ride.
Nha Trang’s vibe can be overwhelming yet Mui Ne is still charming and has your much-needed rest after the adventures in Dalat. Most of the two days time spent in Mui Ne is on the beach and at the sand dunes. Read our post about the things to do in Mui Ne in more detail here. Afterward, you’ll return to Ho Chi Minh City.
From Dalat to Mui Ne, it’s 155 kilometers (96 miles) and a 4-hour bus ride with a rest stop in between. Unfortunately, no sleeper bus for this ride.
What to Do in Mui Ne
- Visit the top attractions – red sand dunes (which is more orange than red), white sand dunes, and Fairy Stream. Consider renting a metal sheet to slide down the sand dunes. You’ll cross a shallow stream for the Fairy Stream. If you do the four hour Jeep sunrise tour, you’ll also stop by the fishing village to see the daily catch of the day. In the sunset tour, you’ll stop by the area but there isn’t much to see.
- Relax on the beaches. We highly recommend that you see the sunset from the Mr. Dia Rock (Đá Ông Địa) beach.
- Take lessons and practice your kitesurfing skills. It’s an amazing sight to see all the kitesurfers in the water.
- Check out the intricate sand sculpture designs at the Forgotten Land Sand Sculpture Park. Many of the top sand sculptures in the world display their interpretation of the Vietnamese folklore and fairy tales. You don’t have to worry about the crowds at this place as it’s often empty.
Mui Ne Accommodations
Mui Ne is a budget-friendly place to stay at. There are many choices of guesthouses, hotels, and resorts.
We stayed at two affordable accommodations, Delight Hotel and Coco Sand Hotel. Both are highly recommended as they provide Jeep tour, transportation booking, and are close to restaurants. Check availability at Delight Hotel and reserve a room or consider Coco Sand Hotel.
For those with a higher budget, consider staying at the Sea Links City Resort or Coco Beach Resort. Both have access to the beach. Click to make a reservation at Sea Links City Resort or Coco Beach Resort.
Days 12-13: Phu Quoc Island
Ready for some more island life? Phu Quoc Island is a fabulous weekend getaway from mainland Vietnam. While you’ve had some rest in Nha Trang and Mui Ne, Phu Quoc is one of the best beach destinations in Vietnam. Located off the southern coast of Cambodia, the island has the tourist infrastructure so there are plenty of restaurants and activities to keep guests occupied.
Two days is a good amount of time in Phu Quoc, although, you can easily spend one week relaxing on the beaches. For more information on how to maximize your two days here, check out our detailed Phu Quoc itinerary.
To get to Phu Quoc Island, you’ll need to take a quick 1-hour domestic flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
If you’re looking for more quietness in a paradise, consider going to Con Dao Islands. It’s a remote archipelago of islands off of South Vietnam. Tourism hasn’t developed yet so many of the beaches and snorkeling opportunities are unspoiled. You can easily take a flight or a boat ride to visit this unique area.
What to Do in Phu Quoc
- Take a tour of the locally made products on the island such as fish sauce, peppercorns, and sim wine. You’ll need to visit the producers’ site to get a small tour of the area. Consider taking a tour of the Phu Quoc Island which visits these sites.
- Can you ever get enough beach time? Phu Quoc has dozen of pristine beaches. Whether you want to see the sunrise or sunset, you can choose your location and enjoy the superfine white sand. A visit to Sao Beach and Bai Truong Beach is recommended.
- Take a day trip to go snorkeling on the neighboring islands. We used John’s Tour for the trip. It was an awesome experience to snorkel in two locations and see the coral reefs and fish. Plus, we had a delicious lunch on the boat. Book your snorkeling tour here.
- Face your fear of heights and ride on one of the longest cable cars in Vietnam. The 8 kilometers (5 miles) route goes to An Thoi and Hon Tom Island which has Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.
Phu Quoc Island Accommodations
On Phu Quoc Island, you can choose whether you want to be near the attractions and local restaurants or live the fancy life at the resorts. There are many places to stay in Phu Quoc Island based on your budget.
Sun and Sea Hotel is where we stayed in Phu Quoc. It’s perfect for budget travelers who want to have a quiet room with minimalist decor. Free motorbike parking. Click here to reserve a room at Sun and Sea Hotel
Premier Village Phu Quoc Resort and JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa are on the bucket list of places to stay when we win the lottery. These splurge resort rooms are stunning and also has easy access to private beaches. Reserve a room at the Premier Village or JW Marriott here.
Day 14: Travel Day & Departure
It’s time to say good-bye on the last day of your two weeks in Southern Vietnam. If you have some time in Phu Quoc before your international flight or domestic flight back to Ho Chi Minh City, check out a nearby beach or go for one last swim.
Depending on the season, there are international flights from Phu Quoc Island to other locations such as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bangkok, Thailand, Guangzhou, China, and more.
If you’re taking a domestic flight, head back to Ho Chi Minh City. From the Tan Son Nhat Domestic terminal to the International terminal, exit the Domestic terminal and walk less than 10 minutes along the walkway. Follow the signs in case you get lost. Have a safe flight as you return back home.
Visas for Vietnam
Depending on your country of origin, you may need to get a tourist visa to enter Vietnam. Check out the list of countries that allow e-Visa for single entry only. If you’re coming from the U.S, you’re in luck to proceed with the e-Visa. Follow the process to complete your single entry e-Visa here.
Best Time to Visit South Vietnam
What is awesome about South Vietnam is that there is a constant temperature throughout the year, so you can visit at any time.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the temperature is usually around 30-32℃ (86-90℉) every day. The rainy season is from May to October. However, it shouldn’t deter you from coming as the rain is not constant throughout the day. It’ll pour once a day either in the late afternoon or evening but will stop in less than 30 minutes. Plus, the rain makes the temperature slightly cooler.
How To Get Around South Vietnam
Depending on your budget and your preferred mode of transportation, here are several ways to travel through Southern Vietnam.
What is great about Ho Chi Minh City is that it’s a hub for all domestic flights. You can easily head to Nha Trang, Dalat, and Phu Quoc on a short one hour flight. Find an affordable flight either on the low-cost carriers, VietJet Air, Jetstar Pacific, or Bamboo Airways. You can go with the national preferred carrier of Vietnam Airlines. Remember that the low-cost flights do not provide drinks or food and you’ll need to pay extra to check-in luggage.
Taking a train is an easy way to explore various cities. We have yet to try this form of transportation but heard that it’s a comfortable ride. Choose your destination and your choice of seat preference. Check out the train schedule here.
This is our favorite way to travel through Vietnam. The best part is that you get to recline in your seat and can sleep during your ride. It’s one of the cheapest ways to travel throughout South Vietnam as tickets are often around $5-$7 USD per person. The reputable bus companies include Sinh Tourist Cafe, Futa Bus, and Thanh Buoi.
Grab Ride-Hailing App
Grab is the most used ride-hailing apps to use in Southeast Asia. The concept is the same as Uber in the United States where you can choose your type of vehicle and your starting/ending location. Payment is done through the app if using a credit card. Otherwise, you can use cash but you’ll need to have the exact change.
Riding a motorbike is a way of life in Vietnam. We recommend renting a motorbike within the city that you’re staying at versus riding between the cities. There is a higher chance that you’ll be pulled over by the police for the longer distances. Don’t forget to wear your helmet.
The two weeks in South Vietnam went by quickly! Hopefully, you’ve had some incredible memories from your Vietnam vacation with the help of this insiders’ view of this guide.
What are you most excited for when visiting South Vietnam? If you have more questions about this itinerary, let us know in the comments below.
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