12 days in Vietnam: Perfect Itinerary & Comprehensive Travel Guide

You are planning a holiday to Vietnam but wonder if 12 days is enough for a full experience and the country’s highlights? From bustling cities to serene landscapes, Indochina Voyages will get you this 12-day itinerary that takes you on a journey through the heart of Vietnam, showcasing its diverse attractions and hidden gems. Let’s go!

Is 12 days enough for Vietnam?

Yes, 12 days in Vietnam provides an excellent opportunity to experience the country’s highlights. While you won’t see everything in a deep way, this timeframe allows you to explore the diverse landscapes, rich culture, and bustling cities of Vietnam’s most popular regions.

With the duration of 12 days, you can stay at a max is 6 destinations including both cities and the countryside with 2 days at each point. This could be a rush for who those prefer slow travel but you also can shorten to 4 or 5 destinations and stay more in each place to explore more. Hence, before tp go, you should consider where you want to delve deeper into like Hanoi, Saigon, Halong Bay, or the Mekong Delta.

Vietnam's charms
12 days in Vietnam offers you a chance to immerse in country highlights

Perfect Vietnam 12-Day Itinerary

This Classic Vietnam 12-day tour takes you to the most highlight places from the south to the north but also you can experience local life. From the vibrant streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the serene beauty of Halong Bay, you’ll get a comprehensive taste of what Vietnam has to offer. This duration strikes a balance between covering major attractions and having enough time to immerse yourself in local experiences. Let’s go into details:

In the nutshell

  • Suitable for: Families, couples, groups of friends, solo travelers, first-time visitors, culture enthusiasts
  • Transportation: Domestic flights, private transfers, trains, cruise, and boats
  • Highlight destinations: Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh’s arrival

Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. After checking into your hotel, take a leisurely walk around District 1. Visit the iconic Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral and the historic Central Post Office. End your day with dinner at a local restaurant, trying traditional Vietnamese dishes like pho or banh mi.

Day 2: Explore Cu Chi Tunnels

Take a half-day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive network of underground tunnels used during the Vietnam War. In the afternoon, explore the War Remnants Museum for a sobering look at the country’s recent history. Finish your day with a visit to Ben Thanh Market for some shopping and street food.

Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta

Embark on a day trip to the Mekong Delta. Cruise along the mighty Mekong River, visit floating markets and experience rural Vietnamese life. Enjoy a home-cooked lunch at a local family’s house and learn about traditional crafts. Return to Ho Chi Minh City in the evening.

Fascinating Mekong Delta in Vietnam
Fascinating Mekong Delta in Vietnam

Day 4: Flight to Danang – Hoi An

Fly to Da Nang and transfer to the charming town of Hoi An. Spend the afternoon exploring the well-preserved Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk across the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, visit old merchant houses, and enjoy the town’s famous lantern-lit streets in the evening.

Day 5: Visit My Son’s sanctuary

Take a morning trip to My Son Sanctuary, a collection of ancient Cham ruins. Return to Hoi An for an afternoon cooking class where you’ll learn to prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes. Spend the evening at leisure, perhaps getting custom clothes made at one of the town’s famous tailors.

My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary

Day 6: Hoi An – Danang – Hue

Drive to Hue via the scenic Hai Van Pass, stopping at Danang’s Marble Mountains en route. Upon arrival in Hue, visit the Imperial City, the former home of Vietnam’s last royal dynasty. End your day with a sunset cruise on the Perfume River.

Day 7: Enjoy the Hue City Tour

Explore more of Hue’s historical sites, including the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Royal Tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. In the afternoon, take a cycling tour through the countryside, visiting local villages and experiencing rural life around Hue.

Day 8: Flight to Hanoi and enjoy Hanoi Old Quarter

Fly to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. After checking in, dive into the bustling Old Quarter. Visit Hoan Kiem Lake, explore the narrow streets filled with shops and cafes, and enjoy a traditional water puppet show in the evening.

Day 9: Hanoi City Tour

Start your day early with a visit to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda. Explore the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university. In the afternoon, visit the Ethnology Museum to learn about the country’s diverse ethnic groups. End your day with a street food tour, sampling local delicacies.

Enjoy Hanoi City Tour
Enjoy Hanoi City Tour, why not?

Day 10: Begin the cruise in Halong Bay

Depart for Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Board your overnight cruise in Halong Bay and marvel at the thousands of limestone islands jutting out of the emerald waters. Enjoy activities like kayaking, swimming, and a cooking demonstration on board.

Day 11: Explore caves in Halong and prepare to back to Hanoi

Wake up to stunning views of Halong Bay. Visit amazing caves and hidden lagoons before your cruise returns to the harbor. Transfer back to Hanoi for your final night in Vietnam. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Marvelous Heritage of the World Halong Bay
Marvelous Heritage of the World Halong Bay

Day 12: Hanoi departure

Depending on your flight time, you might have a chance for some last-minute shopping or sightseeing before heading to the airport for your departure.

Above is a suggested itinerary of Vietnam for 12 days. The itinerary can certainly be customized further by our local travel expert to best suit your interests and travel preferences. 

How much money do I need for 12 days in Vietnam?

Here’s a breakdown of estimated costs for a 12-day trip to Vietnam:

  • E-visa: $25 USD (single-entry, 30-day visa)
  • Hotel: $30-100 USD per night (varies based on accommodation level from budget to luxury)
  • Food: $10-20 USD per day (local food is very affordable)
  • Transport:
    • Domestic flights: $50-100 USD per flight
    • Local transportation: $5-10 USD per day
  • Tours/Attractions: $20-50 USD per day (depending on activities)
  • Market shopping: Budget $100-200 USD for souvenirs and local goods

Total estimated budget: $1000-2000 USD for 12 days, excluding international flights. This can vary significantly based on your travel style and preferences.

Random Tips

  • Navigate cities effortlessly with ride-hailing apps, offering affordable and convenient transportation.
  • Look into banking options that reimburse international fees to save on transactions.
  • Pack portable chargers and appropriate adapters to keep your devices powered up.
  • Secure mobile connectivity at the airport for competitive rates and generous data allowances.
  • Always carry cash – many places don’t accept cards and Familiarize yourself with the local currency (Vietnamese Dong).
  • Try street food, but choose busy stalls with high turnover.
  • Bargain at markets, but do so respectfully.
  • Be mindful of dress codes when visiting temples and pagodas.
  • Stay hydrated and use sunscreen – the weather can be hot and humid.
  • Use ride-hailing apps like Grab for convenient and fair-priced transportation.
  • Don’t drink tap water – stick to bottled water.
  • Be cautious with your belongings in crowded areas.
  • Respect local customs and traditions, especially in rural areas.
  • Vietnam is quite safe but when in Saigon you should be careful with people snatching your phone in crowded touristy areas.

As you prepare for your journey, keep in mind the budget considerations and travel tips provided. With proper planning and an open mind, your 12 days in Vietnam are sure to be filled with unforgettable experiences, leaving you with a deep appreciation for this beautiful country and a desire to return and explore even more. Happy travel!

Thuy Dang – From Indochina Voyages Team

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