3 weeks in Vietnam - some basic q's
Replies: 20 - Last Post: Mar 9, 2013 2:26 AM Last Post By: mooslie
Mar 5, 2013 10:12 AM
3 weeks in Vietnam - some basic q'sHi all,
I'm contemplating a trip to Vietnam for the first time and have a few questions.
1) I think I will be able to get some time off work in September, I've read some info about climate there and it seems to be a bit inconclusive about September kind of time, is it missing the worst of the rain season then? I've read that it would be OK in the north at that time but maybe not so good in the south, is this fair and is the difference between the two an extreme one? September appears to be out of season for the tourist industry, I wondered if that was solely because of the weather?
2) If I were able to get 3 weeks holiday from work, how much of Vietnam would this allow me to see? For a person who isn't keen on rushing around trying to see everything all the time. From what some people are telling me I could consider visiting other countries in that area as well, but I'm the kind of person who would rather see one country really well than just a few bits of 3. Also if 3 weeks gave me a few lazy days sitting around on a beach doing nothing that wouldn't be the end of the world.
3) i haven't set my mind on seeing anything definite yet beyond Ha Long bay. It seems to me the cheaper flights from UK go to Ho Chi Minh, but there are reasonably cheap direct flights to Hanoi so I might go there instead, especially if 1) the weather in the south was bad at that time 2) i didn't have enough time to see the south in any kind of depth (bearing in mind that I already know I want to see Ha Long bay, I know I will spend some time in the north). 3) there wasn't that much to see down south in comparison with the north
With these thoughts in mind, which would you recommend flying to?
Thanks all, I look forward to reading any replies
Mar 5, 2013 3:53 PM
1it's not unreasonable, and pretty popular, to fly in to one city and out of the other. Saves you having to backtrack within a long narrow country.
If you want to go slow, three weeks in Vietnam is about right. I've done south to north in 2 weeks but missed out on Halong Bay due to lack of time. Then I've spent a month just exploring the north east and northwest of Hanoi, so yeah there's a lot to do.
With the weather, it's so unpredictable these days so noone can say if the monsoon will be over by September completely, but don't let that put you off going to the south. Mekong Delta is great, and the best beaches are in the south too.
Perhaps you should fly in to Hanoi and make your way south, and fly out of HCMC.
Mar 5, 2013 6:43 PM
2_I don't think you would like to spend all 3 weeks only in one area. Besides, in Hanoi still rain a bit during that time and it will be extremely hot (bear in mind that in the North there's not much thing you can call "beach"). Since you said you want to be lazy on the beach, you have to move to the South.
_You didn't say the exact time frame so hard to arrange the itinerary to avoid the rain as much as possible. Depends on the time frame, you can choose where to fly into also. I also agree that maybe you can fly into one end and fly out from the other end.
_What I would suggest is you start from Hanoi and slowly move down South (or vice versa). To me, the most beautiful beaches are in the South such as beaches on Phu Quoc island (Sao beach is amazing). The spots you should visit besides Ha Long are: Sapa (not very fantastic during that time though. April is the best time), Ninh Binh, Phong Nha cave, Hue, Da Nang (beach), Hoi An (beach), Nha Trang (beach), Da Lat (highland, famous for coffee, quiet town), Mui Ne (beach, famous spot for kitesurfing, not much wind in September though), Saigon, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc island (best beaches in the country and not as touristy as Da Nang, nor Nha Trang, Mui Ne). You can look up these places for photos, info,...to see where you want to go most.
_Be careful in Ha Long bay. It now turns out a tourist trap. Was much much much better 10 years ago.
Mar 5, 2013 7:08 PM
3For most tourists, Halong Bay is a must when visiting VN, but you can combine to see the less touristy Bai Tu Long Bay with the junk boat. Let's fly to Hanoi first, then move down to the central and the south. I agree that the best beaches are in the south like Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc Island. Note that it is hard to get a visa to Vietnam if starting on Vietnamese Independance Day, 2nd Sep. So, make sure you can get visa on the time.
Mar 5, 2013 8:27 PM
4While Hanoi and HCMC are the two most well-known spots, Hoi An was the highlight of my month in Vietnam in 2008. A very mellow ancient trading port. Hue is also impressive. The Reunification Express train is a great way to travel at a leisurely pace up the country. Certainly fly into either Hanoi or HCMC and out the other. I took a very leisurely month, including about a week in Nha Trang (which was a good pit stop after around nine months hard core travel, although nothing particularly special). I went HCMC, Nha Trang, Que Nhong, Hoi An, two day/one night motorbike trip by the Ho Chi Minh Trail which took me to Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay/Cat Ba island, and back to Hanoi. All in around a month, including a week in Nha Trang. Hoi An is a stone's throw from China Beach BTW, which is very nice.
Mar 6, 2013 12:48 AM
5Thanks all, a lot to digest here! I really appreciate your feedback. It seems my original plan wasn't completely nuts which is a normally a good start when planning these things
To clarify, the flights I was currently considering were leaving UK on 6th Sept and returning on the 27th. So I'd definitely be missing independence day.
My next questions are:
1) would there be a great benefit in putting the trip back say, 2 weeks? It sounds like I'm gonna be close to the end of the rain season in the south. If I can just wait a little while longer for a huge benefit then that sounds good to me. So maybe I could arrive in Hanoi around the last week of September and travel south from there.
2) Is that rain going to be all day, or is it just for a few hours in the afternoon but nice and sunny the rest of the time? If the latter I can live with this
3) Whilst I totally see the logic of flying into Hanoi and out of HCMC, when I checked this option it seemed much more expensive this way, an extra 50-75%. Any tips/websites for getting cheaper tickets this way? Alternatively I could buy an internal flight back from HCMC to Hanoi right at the end before flying back. Which of those two is the most cost effective option?
Mar 6, 2013 12:58 AM
6If you're planning to go in September, you should choose Hanoi as your first destination. Because Hanoi is the most beautiful that time compared with other periods of the year. Then you should visit some places nearby of course, a tour includes Ha Long bay, Sapa, Ninh Binh is a good idea, I guest. The weather is not much good in the South. However the vacation lasts for 3 weeks, so don't miss any amazing beaches and landscapes in the Central and the South such as Da Nang, Hoi An, Phu Quoc and Nha Trang ...
Mar 6, 2013 1:14 AM
73/ Just did a quick search on kayak.com and put in those dates. There is only a US$10 difference (US$922 with Malaysian Airllines for flying into Hanoi and out of HCMC, compared to US$912 with Finnair into and out of Hanoi. Both from London.
1/ if you put the trip back 2 weeks you'll be heading further into the rainy season in the centre, which, as I mentioned, I think is the best bit.
Mar 6, 2013 3:28 AM
8Gosh, I LOVE hunting cheap airfares! I paid 600 euros for my flight from Saigon to Switzerland, return tickets last year during high season.
You did not say where you'll be flying from in the UK but as far as I know, flying from London Gatwick and Newcastle to Saigon are cheapest (526 GBP for return tickets during promo ~ 795 USD according to currency converter. Flights in September would be from ~554 GBP).
There is quite a "bit" difference from flying to Saigon or Hanoi though (Saigon is ~200 GBP cheaper than Hanoi for return tickets).
In case you want to save some quids, fly from Saigon to Hanoi (or vice versa.....??) is not expensive (~30 GBP).
End of September and October in Saigon only a bit rain in the afternoon for half an hour or 1 hour, sometimes in the evening also but not so annoying.
Mar 6, 2013 4:13 AM
9"from" 554 uk pounds equates to 840 us dollars due to the weak pound. Not a massive saving on 920. Malaysian are a good airline - Asia has most of the world's highest standard airlines nowadays. Transfer at KL means a pleasant airport. What airline was the 554 pound fare on? (did you type in those dates? It may make a difference as they involve peak Friday evening flights ) The 920 fare was including all taxes BTW.
Mar 6, 2013 4:40 AM
10thanks again all for your feedback, this is all very encouraging
octupus29 - what's to love about searching for cheap flights? you must be way more patient than i am :) i will have to go back to searching for singles to hanoi and from HCMC, I tried a few combinations and all looked much more expensive. You all seem to be getting much better results than me. Anyway, I can't book anything for a while as my boss is away right now so I have to ask when they get back...
I did find one flight to Hanoi that was direct and not too expensive. I'd probably pay an extra £50 for a more convenient journey, so it isn't 100% about finding the absolute cheapest I suppose. I guess there is an optimum of the two factors of cost vs convenience
Theoretically I'd be departing from anywhere in UK that had the cheapest airfare, I figured London would be the way to go but I've also been searching Birmingham and Manchester.
thanks for your information about the rain. i can live with a bit of rain, as long as it isn't 24 hours that'll be fine.
thanks also to tungurahua there for the info on october. September it is then!
Mar 6, 2013 7:33 AM
Imagine your friend paid almost 1000 euros but you only paid a bit more than 600 euros for the same route (your friend booked way earlier than you did and you flew on peak season), don't you love it that you saved 400 euros?? Many people in Asia live for a month with only 100 euros, or even less.
If I were you and had the possibility, I would push my trip to October (November would be best) or at least start from late September (August is the worst month to be and maybe beginning of September will still be a bit affected).
Last year, early September 2012, many places in the North flooded and heavy rain in Hanoi. Some photos during that time:
I visited Hanoi once sometime end August, during wet season and because Hanoi has small streets so it made rainy season there even more annoying. Anyway, I didn't let the rain spoil the fun, I visited museums instead ( probably not even close to "fun" to some people =D ). Keep yourself updated with the weather in Vietnam. This area has storm, typhoon, monsoon,...every year!
I'm heading to Palawan island in the Philipines now. Not sure about internet connection there so wish you a nice trip in Vietnam in advance! =)
Mar 6, 2013 11:06 AM
12"If I were you and had the possibility, I would push my trip to October (November would be best) or at least start from late September (August is the worst month to be and maybe beginning of September will still be a bit affected)."
thanks octopus, i did suggest this earlier but
"if you put the trip back 2 weeks you'll be heading further into the rainy season in the centre, which, as I mentioned, I think is the best bit. "
was the response tungurahua gave. It seems a bit of a pickle. I'm not trying to suggest one of you is a liar/doesn't know what they are talking about but it seems they are 2 conflicting pieces of advice!
I have been reading this site:
and from what they say it does seem better overall to arrive in Hanoi mid/late September and head south from there.
What do you think?
Enjoy your trip octopus and thanks again for all your advice
Edited by: ruffo
Mar 6, 2013 5:59 PM
13To be honest I was getting my weather info from Lonely Planet - click on the Hoi An link and it warns of potential flooding in October and November. To be honest though, I live in Singapore and, while there are rainy seasons, they vary in terms of timing every year, and I expect the same is true for Vietnam. Vietnam also has considerable geographical variation, making things more tricky, and also gets typhoons which we don't have in Singapore.
Mar 7, 2013 2:54 AM
14I agree with # 14!
I have been living in Vietnam more than 20 years and still cannot guess the weather correctly. It's different every year. The typhoon/monsoon does not come exactly the same time.
Like in year 2011, central Vietnam flooded in November. But in 2012, central Vietnam flooded in September. Started from September 5th, 2012 to be exact. And one more time in January, 2013 but just a bit, affected by the storm in the Philippines.
Anyway, I think you should keep yourself updated with the weather! If it's too bad in the North, you can just fly to the South and vice versa. Good thing about Vietnam is the country is long enough to have different weather conditions at the same time. Domestic flights don't cost much anyway. And the spots in Central like: Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang won't be badly affected like the area close to the North so don't worry much!
My friend was in the Philippines in January for vacation during the very bad Bopha storm that killed many Filipinos. I helped him update the weather, tried to guess where the storm would be next and discussed what he could do. He either went somewhere not affected by the storm or he changed his itinerary that he decided to go to B first instead of A so that he arrived at the place few days before the storm came. Then he came back to A when the storm left. Not perfectly fine but it worked!
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