This is a 4 week itinerary for Vietnam with kids – Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hai Van Pass, Da Nang, Hoi An, Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc. How we explored all these places in Vietnam with kids.
This was our first time in Vietnam and our first stop in Southeast Asia so it will always be a special country for us. We wanted to see as much as we could with our 30-day visa; so here is how we filled 4 weeks up in Vietnam. A jam-packed month of exploring the gems of Vietnam and eating some of the best food in the world.
What You'll Find in This Post
We had a long haul flight into Ho Chi Minh City from South Africa, so we did buffer a few extra days for our family to recover from jetlag, catch up on school work, finalize a few of our travel plans (since we didn’t have our flight out of Vietnam yet – yikes) and spend some time discovering the city.
Things To Do:
Highlights for us were walking around the streets, honestly learning how to walk amongst scooters, cars, honking, a range of smells, and hustle made the city feel alive. It was definitely a culture shock for our family, but we loved it instantly.
We knew the weather was going to be raining, and it rained – a lot! So we sought things to do inside during the mad rain pours. The kids loved the fun at the 3D Art Museum, we had never been to one before so this was a whole new experience for all of us. You basically walk around an art gallery and get to pose with art that when you take a photo it appears to be in 3D. Tons of fun and a great way to spend a few hours.
A must in the city is to go to the War Remnants Museum. It was probably a bit much for the age of our kids but we wanted to go and learn for ourselves more about the Vietnam war. There was so much we honestly did not know about, the history, impacts and so much more. Jamie and I took turns going in and out of the exhibits while the other entertained the kids in another area. There was so much to absorb that we could have spent longer, but can completely understand the kid’s inability to stay focused. They did love seeing all the old planes, helicopters and tanks in the courtyard.
Another option that we thoughts about doing were the Cu Chi Tunnels, they are about an hour drive away and lots of day tours that can take you there.
The food is absolutely amazing in this city. We would go back, just for the food! Our favourite spots that we went to were for food were: Bun 145, Temple Club and Secret Garden.
Places to Stay:
We stayed in an Airbnb just across the river and decided to stay a bit outside to be able to rent an apartment. This allowed us to have more space with more modern fixings for a better price. We also wanted to stay in a place that had a pool since we knew a couple days we wouldn’t be going too far from the apartment while dealing with jetlag. Here was our Airbnb choice and was happy with the location (only $2 Uber ride into the city centre). Plus, it was very quiet being on the 20th floor. If you are considering a hotel option, check out the prices of places to stay in Ho Chi Minh City here.
- If you are pressed for time, I would recommend 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh City with kids. We just stayed a bit longer for jetlag recovery.
- Get a SIM card from the Saigon airport if you are flying in. I think you might pay a little bit more but it cost us $22 Cdn for 30 days from Viettel. I think we had 5 GB and we didn’t use it all before we left Vietnam.
- Uber works fantastic in Ho Chi Minh city! It is cheap and easy to use with being able to communicate with the driver using the app.
Hanoi – 4 nights
We then took a short 2-hour flight to get up north to Hanoi. Hanoi can be used as a great stopover and base if you are planning on visiting Halong Bay or Sapa area. So we had 1 night booked at our hotel and then the following morning left for Halong Bay tour. After our Halong Bay tour, we came back for 3 nights to check out the city.
Things To Do:
Spend some time walking around the Old Quarter and get lost in the narrow streets. Walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake and visit Ngoc Son Temple, an 18th-century pagoda sitting in on a small island that’s can be reached by the red wooden bridge.
If at all possible visit the night market on Friday and Saturday nights. The night market starts at about 7 pm, where the streets are closed down and allow you to walk on the streets. Restaurants pop up in the streets, fresh fruit, shopping stalls and the streets are filled with people and not the scooters! The best was seeing kids learning how to ride their bikes, street performers, and artist all coming out for the evening. It was the only time we could relax walking around and not worry about the scooters.
A very cool thing to take the kids to is the water puppet show, there are a few in the city but we went to Thang Long Water Puppet Show. We all loved it and very inexpensive to take the kids. We also like the earlier show times for the kids starting at 3 pm and approximately 45 minutes.
Plan to spend half a day in the area of Hanoi that is all about Ho Chi Minh! We went to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square, One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh Museum and his house on stilts. All was very easy to walk around to see within half a day. Although, we could not go into the mausoleum because it is closed in October and November for upkeep.
Our hotel was excellent at providing us with great recommendations on where to eat close by. So our tops choices were New Day, Bun Cha Ta, and Orchid. We even had a few food tours come by these restaurants with their tours.
Places to Stay:
We stayed at Hotel Stella Hanoi which is in the old quarter. If there is one piece of advice it would be to stay in the Old Quarter with an amazing atmosphere in the heart of the city. There was streets noise, but earplugs fix that problem if you can’t sleep with the constant sounds of scooters and honking.Check out the latest prices and more details.
- Stay in a hotel or place in the Old Quater. If you are getting a pick up from any tour group for Sapa or Halong Bay, you will most likely be able to get transport pick up from your hotel in Old Quarter.
- Sit your butts down on a plastic chair and eat some street food!
- We were happy that we booked a night before and after our Halong Bay tour, we do know a family that was stressed on the boat tour because they needed to catch a flight that day and the roads can take longer than you expect.
A bucket list must is to visit Halong Bay when in Vietnam. The beauty of the bay is impressive and out of this world. We constantly pinched ourselves if this was real. The boat tour included so many amazing experiences for our entire family including visiting a pearl farm, kayaking in the bay, hiking up Ti Top island, surprise cave, making spring rolls and fresh rolls, swimming, jumping off of our day boat, squid fishing and making so many friends from around the world. Exploring Halong Bay by boat is an amazing experience and one of the best experiences of our time in Vietnam.
We decided to splurge for the tour and go on Pelican Cruise for 3 days and 2 nights. We figured that 1 night would be too quick since the drive time was three hours from Hanoi and three hours back. Plus, with the extra day on the boat, we were able to go deeper into the bay and explore parts where fewer boats were. Another awesome first for all of us was to sleep on a boat, we checked that off our list too!
The Pelican Cruise itself was more than enough for us. Clean, courteous and everything was very clearly scheduled, outlined and orderly. We had to get 2 cabins that joined together, so lots of space for the four of us, but of course it added cost when you need 2 rooms. Our cost for this was $1700 Cdn, which included everything except alcohol. We did get a free bottle of wine though, so that was a nice bonus.
- Bring US cash with you on boat tours for paying for any extras, like alcohol or remainder of your trip costs. Bank machines are not easy to find.
- Be aware of the jellyfish, depending on the time of year when you go they are sometimes around.
- Buy something from the ladies selling items on their boats. In the morning, open your doors and they will sell you chips, wine, beer, candy and other treats. It’s worth the experience.
- Give yourself time after the boat tour to get back to Hanoi, spend at least 1 night there in case of delay.
Hue – 3 nights
After spending our final nights in Hanoi we flew 1 hour to the middle of Vietnam to Hue. A slower paced and smaller scale city that has a ton of history packed into it.
Things To Do:
We hired a boat guide to take us along Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda and Citadel (Imperial City). Inside the Imperial City, we hired a local guide to provide us with a tour of the city. So much condensed in this one area to see so many historic monuments.
Another half day tour was going to to see some of the Tombs including Minh Mang Tomb and Khaki Dinh Tomb. Both easily accessible with a driver and close together to see.
The walking street in Hue closed to traffic on Sunday nights, so wandering around to restaurants, shopping and mingling with the locals provides a calmer atmosphere than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
Our best food we had was on the plastic chairs and street food from a family spot. Good food, good conversation and friendly people. Spring rolls and Pho soup were always a hit with the kids.
Places to Stay:
We stayed close to the walking street at Rosaleen Boutique Hotel. The accommodations were good, included breakfast and easy access to everything. The staff and the people helped with arranging our transportation and provided us with great information. Check out the latest prices and more details.
- Ask your hotel reception if they can arrange transportation to the sites in and around the city. We found ours to be most helpful and just a few dollars more than arranging it ourselves.
- If you are pressed for time, two nights would have been enough time to see the sites we went to.
Hai Van Pass
We opted to hire a driver to take us from Hue to Hoi An through Hai Van Pass and make a few stops along the way. The drive alone is amazing with cliff side of the water, windy roads and mountains to climb up and down. One of the best drives we have ever been on. A few stops included Marble Mountain, an oyster farm, Lang Co Beach (if it was warmer), and look out point over the clouds.
Hoi An is one of those cities that must be on your short list when visiting Vietnam. We initially decided not to stay in Hoi An, but after talking with locals and other travellers we made the change in our travel plans to squeeze in a couple days. So glad we did and would highly recommend this ancient city.
Things To Do:
Walk through the ancient town, there will be ticket booths around the town that you can purchase. It is free to walk around, but if you want to go into any of the historic buildings you will need the tickets. We bought one pack, which gets access to five places of our choice.
We also loved going to the markets, both the day market for fresh produce, meat and flowers. The evening market had beautiful paper cards, lanterns, souvenirs and sweet treats to snack on.
If you plan it right or get lucky (like we did), you can see the lantern festival which takes place every full moon. All the street lights are turned off and the town is illuminated with only the glow of the lanterns.
Our best find in Hoi An was trying Bahn Mi sandwich at Banh Mi Phuong restaurant. By far the best sandwich we found in Vietnam! Go give it a try.
Places to Stay:
We stayed at Sunset Hotel just across the river into the ancient town. It was not our best hotel, but location and price made up for the noise from our room location. I would recommend you stay within walking distance to the ancient town, but be aware that depending on your room or hotel location you will have noise until early hours. Another option is the stay in DaNang (some upscale resorts looked nice), and you can come into Hoi An for a day trip. Check out the latest prices and more details.
- Try to plan your stay for the lantern festival which occurs every month.
- If we had more time, we would have looked into taking a cooking class that takes you out the farmland by bicycle and take the food back to cook. Would be a great day activity for the family.
- The beach is close by, so you can split your time between Da Nang and Hoi An in the summer months.
We were in Da Nang during the rainy season, so spending time along this beautiful beach was not an option for our trip. But, it does offer great beach life atmosphere. The views along the beach offer a city skyline and a great walking path all along the beach. If it was better weather we would have spent more time in Da Nang, instead, we opted for two nights more in Hoi An. It is about 30 minutes from Hoi An (all a long stretch of beach), close to making day trips to either.
Things To Do:
- We pushed through the rain and walked along the beautiful Da Nang beach and burned some energy for the kids on the play structures.
- Check out the Dragon Bridge that breathes fire on Saturday and Sunday night!
- Very close to Hai Van Pass and Marble mountain if you fly into Da Nang versus drive.
- Long Ung Pagoda and Cham Museum are another great attraction if you have time.
Da Nang appears to have many options for food. With only being there for one night, we lucked out and got the best iced coffee from Pho Viet Kieu and the Pho was pretty good too.
Places to Stay:
There are many 4 and 5 star resorts along this stretch of beach if you can afford it. But, otherwise, there are many hotel options that are a close walking distance to the beach or short Uber/bicycle ride. We stayed at Lis Hotel, which was just a short drive from the beach, clean, basic, and great price for a one night stay ($35 Cdn). Check out the latest prices and more details.
- If visiting Da Nang during the dry season (April – August), I would recommend you stay for a few more days to enjoy lazy days at the beach.
Can Tho is part of the Mekong Delta area, famous for its waterways and river life. It is the lifeline of these areas and gave us another perspective on a different region of Vietnam.
Things To Do:
The best things we loved in the Mekong was going for an early morning boat tour that took us to the floating market. Sampling fresh Vietnamese coffee, soup, fruit and so much more. Seeing the way of life that is lived on the river.
We also did an evening sunset river cruise, walking through the local market, fishing off our dock and bicycling around the area with just the four of us. If we had been here during the week, we would have also gone with the homestay to the school to help and a cooking class.
The best part of going to the Mekong area is trying the floating market food. This woman has been selling soup off her boat for over 30 years. An amazing experience to eat soup on a boat. The homestay also had great options for food at a very good price.
Places to Stay:
Try a homestay on the river to get close to an authentic experience in the Mekong area. We loved our time at Nguyen Shack – Mekong River, an amazing group of people who hosted us in these bungalows on the river. Great food available, amazing guides and unique stay for all of us. Check out the latest prices and more details.
- Hire a local guide to take you around the floating market and day market to get the best food experience.
Phu Quoc – 10 nights
A short flight to the island in the south of Vietnam will give you the serenity you will need at the end of a busy few weeks exploring Vietnam. It was just what we needed to relax and soak up some sun and beach time. The beaches are golden brown and soft sand for kids to build sand castles along Long beach.
Things To Do:
We honestly stayed close to our beach by our bungalow. Beach life, sun, water and relaxation. But, some other options we considered to do was going to Sio Beach, Pepper farm, Safari Park, waterslides (Viperworld) and renting scooters.
Our favourites restaurants on the island were Crab House, Rory and Kim Lin. All the restaurants tended to have more westernized food, so in comparison to other places in Vietnam, the Vietnamese food was average.
Places to Stay:
Anywhere along Long Beach is a great spot to stay on the island. We stayed at Viet Than Bungalows, which was directly on the beach. The bungalows were basic, a step up from camping, but for the price, it was an experience to stay in a beachfront bungalow. Check out the latest prices and more details.
- Mostly cash for everything on this island, so have money on hand before sitting down at a restaurant.
- Good prices on massages and pedicures if you are looking to treat yourself to a spa.
Vietnam Insider Tips:
- Uber was the cheapest and easiest mode of transportation for us in the cities for us.
- Currency: Vietnamese Dong
- Language: Vietnamese – Very minimal amount of English
- We used VietJet and Vietnam Airlines, both were fine budget airlines. No frills so remember to bring snacks and charged IPads for the flights. Also, many of the airports had different terminals for domestic flights, so just be aware.
- Look into Visa requirements, being Canadian we needed to get a 30-day Visa. We did everything online ahead of time (from Malta) and saved us lots of time after our arrival at Ho Chi Minh City airport. We acquired ours through Vietnam-Visa. It was extremely easy and straightforward, so just follow the process and click here to start your visa.
We travelled to Vietnam from October 16 – November 17, 2017.
Our kids were 5 & 8 years old
Use this as a guide to start planning your own 4 week itinerary to Vietnam with kids. If you have any questions or think we have missed a great part of Vietnam, let us know in the comments below.
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