VIETNAM

Vietnam Travel Guide: What To Know Before Your Journey

Jul 04, 2024

TABLE OF CONTENT

Vietnam, a country of breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, offers travelers an unforgettable experience. This enchanting Southeast Asian nation stretches from the rugged mountains of the north to the lush Mekong Delta in the south, with over 3,000 kilometers of stunning coastline in between. Its natural beauty is unparalleled, featuring iconic limestone karsts in Halong Bay, terraced rice fields in Sapa, and pristine beaches along the central coast. The country’s complex history has left behind a fascinating blend of ancient temples, colonial architecture, and modern cityscapes. Our Vietnam travel guide will help you navigate the diverse attractions of this gem, from bustling cities steeped in history to serene countryside dotted with rice paddies.

Vietnam Travel Guide experience vietnam

 

Best time to go to Vietnam

Vietnam experiences a tropical monsoon climate, but due to its long, narrow shape and varying topography, weather conditions can differ significantly from north to south. The country generally has two distinct seasons: dry season and rainy season, though their timing varies by region.

Northern Vietnam experiences cool, dry winters from November to April, with temperatures ranging from 15-20°C (59-68°F). Summers, from May to October, are hot and humid, with temperatures reaching 30-35°C (86-95°F) and higher rainfall. This period also sees potential typhoons from July to September. For comfortable sightseeing in the north, find out more about the best time to visit here.

Central Vietnam, home to Hue, Danang, and Hoi An, has a dry season from January to August, with hot temperatures around 30°C (86°F). The most pleasant weather is from February to May. The rainy season, from September to December, brings heavy rainfall and potential flooding, especially in October and November.

Vietnam Travel Guide best time to visit vietnam

Southern Vietnam has a dry season from December to April, with hot and humid conditions and temperatures around 25-35°C (77-95°F). The rainy season, from May to November, is characterized by brief, intense afternoon downpours, but temperatures remain high. The best time to visit South Vietnam is from November to April, during the dry season.

When planning your trip, consider the Tet Holiday (Vietnamese New Year), which usually falls in late January or early February. While it’s a fascinating time to experience Vietnamese culture, many businesses close, and accommodation prices increase. This Vietnam travel guide recommends the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-October for a good balance of pleasant weather and fewer crowds in many parts of the country.

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The Best Time to See Vietnam – Vietnam Travel Guide 2024

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Vietnam visa requirements

Most visitors to Vietnam require a visa, but the requirements vary depending on your nationality, length of stay, and purpose of visit. Travelers from most ASEAN nations can enter visa-free for stays up to 30 days. Some European countries also enjoy visa-free entry for up to 15 days.

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For many travelers, the e-visa is the most convenient option. Available to citizens of over 80 countries, the e-visa allows for stays up to 30 days. To obtain an e-visa, apply through the official government website at least three working days before your arrival. You’ll need to upload a digital photo and passport information, pay a fee of around $25, and receive your visa approval letter electronically.

Vietnam Travel Guide beauty of vietnam

Some visitors opt for a Visa on Arrival, which requires obtaining a pre-approval letter from a Vietnamese agency before travel. Upon reaching Vietnam, present this letter along with two passport-sized photos and the stamping fee (around $25 for a single entry) at the visa counter. While this method is flexible, it’s only available when arriving by air and can involve longer wait times at the airport.

For those planning extended stays or multiple visits, Vietnam offers various long-term visa options. These include three-month and six-month multiple-entry visas, which allow for greater flexibility in your travel plans. This Vietnam travel guide advises initiating the extension process well before your visa expires to avoid complications.

How to get to Vietnam

Air travel remains the most popular and convenient method for most visitors, with three main international gateways serving different regions of Vietnam. The primary airports for international arrivals are Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (northern Vietnam), Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (southern Vietnam), and Da Nang International Airport (central Vietnam). These airports receive flights from major Asian hubs and Europe, Australia, and North America.

Several airlines now offer direct flights from cities like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Sydney, and San Francisco to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. For the most up-to-date information on direct flights and to compare options, check out Skyscanner.

Overland entry is another option, particularly for travelers exploring Southeast Asia more broadly. The most frequently used land border crossings are with Cambodia, Lao, and China.

Sea entry is less common but growing in popularity. Cruises often dock at ports in Halong Bay, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Some travelers also enter via the Mekong River from Cambodia, combining their Vietnam trip with a scenic river cruise. We recommend checking visa requirements in this Vietnam travel guide carefully if entering by sea.

>> Read more: 12 Essential Things to Know Before Going to Vietnam

Where to go in Vietnam

Most visited city

Hanoi

In the north, Hanoi stands as a testament to Vietnam’s complex history. Its Old Quarter, a maze of narrow streets dating back to the 15th century, bustles with traditional markets and artisan shops. The city’s colonial architecture, exemplified by the iconic Opera House, stands in stark contrast to ancient temples like the Temple of Literature. Visitors can immerse themselves in local life by enjoying street food at bustling markets or contemplating the serene beauty of Hoan Kiem Lake, especially stunning at sunrise.

Vietnam Travel Guide hanoi

Ho Chi Minh City

Contrasting Hanoi’s traditional ambiance, Ho Chi Minh City pulses with contemporary energy. Formerly known as Saigon, this southern metropolis boasts towering skyscrapers juxtaposed against colonial-era buildings. The War Remnants Museum offers a sobering look at Vietnam’s recent history, while the Cu Chi Tunnels provide insight into wartime resilience. For a taste of local life, visitors can explore the bustling Ben Thanh Market or enjoy a coffee at a sidewalk café, watching the endless stream of motorbikes that characterize the city’s streets.

Da Nang

Nearby Hoi An, Da Nang has rapidly emerged as a modern beach destination. Its long stretches of pristine beaches, including the famous My Khe Beach, attract sun-seekers from around the world. The city is perhaps best known for its iconic Golden Bridge, held aloft by giant stone hands at Ba Na Hills. Da Nang also serves as a gateway to the historic imperial city of Hue and the nearby Marble Mountains, a cluster of five limestone and marble hills filled with caves and temples.

Sapa

In the northern highlands, Sapa presents a striking contrast to Vietnam’s coastal regions. Renowned for its terraced rice fields and ethnic diversity, this mountain town serves as a base for trekking enthusiasts and cultural explorers alike. Visitors can explore local markets and villages, interacting with ethnic minority groups like the Hmong and Dao. The Fansipan cable car provides access to “the Roof of Indochina,” offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Vietnam Travel Guide sapa vietnam

Vietnamese UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Hoi An Ancient Town

Hoi An Ancient Town, recognized by UNESCO in 1999, is a remarkably well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th to 19th centuries. This charming town captivates visitors with its blend of architectural influences from Japan, China, and France. Visitors can explore the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, ancient merchant houses, and vibrant markets. Hoi An is particularly magical in the evenings when colorful lanterns illuminate the streets, creating a romantic atmosphere.

Halong Bay

No Vietnam travel guide would be complete without mentioning Halong Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage, characterized by thousands of limestone karsts rising from emerald waters, draws countless visitors seeking to cruise its mystical seascape. Tourists can explore the bay’s hidden caves, float past towering cliffs, and witness the daily life of floating fishing villages. Overnight cruises offer a chance to experience the bay’s changing moods from dawn to dusk.

Vietnam Travel Guide halong bay

Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is home to over 300 caves and grottoes, including Son Doong, the world’s largest cave ever discovered. This vast limestone region features underground rivers, stunning rock formations, and primeval forests. While access to Son Doong is limited, visitors can explore other spectacular caves like Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave. The park also offers opportunities for trekking, wildlife spotting, and kayaking along its pristine rivers.

The Complex of Hue Monuments

Recognized by UNESCO in 1993, the Complex of Hue Monuments encompasses the remnants of the last feudal dynasty of Vietnam. The site includes the Imperial City, royal tombs, and pagodas along the picturesque Perfume River. Visitors can explore ornate palaces, temples, and gardens that offer insight into Vietnam’s royal history.

Vietnam Travel Guide The Complex of Hue Monuments

My Son Relic Site

My Son Relic Site is a cluster of abandoned Hindu temples constructed by the Champa civilization between the 4th and 14th centuries. This archaeological site showcases the sophisticated architecture and intricate sculptures of the Cham people. Despite damage during the Vietnam War, the remaining structures offer a glimpse into the religious and cultural life of this ancient kingdom. The site’s jungle setting adds to its mystical atmosphere.

Imperial Citadel of Thang Long

Located in Hanoi, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long represents over a thousand years of Vietnamese history. This cultural complex was the political center of Vietnam for 13 consecutive centuries. The site includes ancient roads, palace foundations, wells, and various artifacts that provide insight into Vietnam’s feudal past. Visitors can explore the archaeological areas and learn about the nation’s long struggle for independence.

Trang An Landscape Complex

Trang An Landscape Complex is often called “Halong Bay on land” for its karst landscapes and riverboat rides. This site combines spectacular karst landscapes with evidence of human occupation dating back over 30,000 years. Visitors can take boat rides through a network of rivers and caves, witnessing breathtaking limestone formations and lush vegetation. The complex also includes Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam, adding historical significance to its natural beauty.

Vietnam Travel Guide trang an ninh binh

Citadel of the Ho Dynasty

The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, recognized by UNESCO in 2011, is an exceptional example of a new style of Southeast Asian imperial city. The citadel’s architecture demonstrates the spread of Neo-Confucian concepts throughout East Asia. The site features an outer wall built of massive stone blocks, a technique rarely found in Asian architecture of the time. This well-preserved structure offers visitors a glimpse into Vietnam’s architectural and military innovations.

Off-the-beaten destinations

For those looking to explore beyond these well-known locations, this Vietnam travel guide recommends several off-the-beaten-path options.

Ha Giang

Ha Giang, Vietnam’s northernmost province, remains one of the country’s last frontiers of tourism. The region is famous for its dramatic landscapes of limestone peaks and deep valleys. The Ha Giang Loop, a multi-day motorbike circuit, takes adventurers through some of Vietnam’s most spectacular scenery, including the UNESCO-recognized Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark. Ha Giang’s rugged beauty and relative isolation make it a favorite among travelers seeking off-the-grid adventures.

Vietnam Travel Guide ha giang

Mu Cang Chai

Famous for its stunning terraced rice fields, Mu Cang Chai offers breathtaking landscapes that change colors with the seasons. In September and October, the rice paddies turn a golden yellow, creating a mesmerizing vista. Visitors can trek through the hills, interact with ethnic minority groups like the Hmong, and experience rural life largely untouched by mass tourism.

Con Dao Island

The Con Dao Islands provide a tranquil escape with pristine beaches and opportunities for wildlife watching, including nesting sea turtles. This archipelago of 16 islands in southern Vietnam offers a stark contrast to the country’s bustling mainland. Once home to infamous prisons during French colonial rule and the Vietnam War, Con Dao now attracts visitors with its unspoiled natural beauty, clear waters, and abundant marine life.

Vietnamese food

Must-try dishes

Pho

This iconic Vietnamese noodle soup is a national treasure and a must-try for any visitor. Featuring a rich, aromatic broth simmered for hours with beef bones and spices, it’s served with flat rice noodles and your choice of meat, typically beef or chicken. The dish is then garnished with fresh herbs like basil and cilantro, bean sprouts, and lime. Customizable with additions like chili sauce and hoisin, pho is enjoyed at any time of day and is particularly popular for breakfast.

Vietnam Travel Guide pho noodle soup

Banh Mi

A perfect fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines, banh mi is a sandwich that encapsulates Vietnam’s culinary history. It starts with a crusty French baguette, split and filled with a variety of ingredients. Common fillings include pork belly, pate, pickled vegetables (usually carrots and daikon), cucumber, cilantro, and chili. The combination of flavors and textures – crunchy, soft, savory, tangy, and spicy – makes it a beloved street food staple throughout the country.

Goi Cuon

Also known as fresh spring rolls, goi cuon offers a light and healthy alternative to fried spring rolls. These translucent rice paper rolls are filled with a combination of cooked shrimp, lean pork, fresh vegetables like lettuce and cucumber, and fragrant herbs such as mint and cilantro. They’re typically served with a rich peanut dipping sauce or sometimes a fish sauce-based dip, showcasing the fresh, vibrant flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.

Vietnam Travel Guide spring rolls

Bun Cha

Originating from Hanoi, bun cha has gained popularity throughout Vietnam and beyond. This dish consists of grilled pork patties and slices of pork belly served alongside rice vermicelli noodles, a basket of fresh herbs, and a bowl of dipping sauce. The sauce, a mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, ties all the components together. Diners typically dip the noodles and meat into the sauce and eat them with the herbs, creating a perfect balance of flavors in each bite.

Fruits to try

Dragon Fruit

Known as “thanh long” in Vietnamese, dragon fruit is as beautiful as it is delicious. Its vibrant pink exterior opens to reveal either white or red flesh studded with tiny black seeds. The flavor is subtle and refreshing, often described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. Rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber, it’s not only a tasty treat but also a healthy one.

Lychee

A favorite summer fruit in Vietnam, lychee is instantly recognizable by its thin, bumpy red skin. Peeling away this skin reveals a translucent white flesh with a floral, sweet flavor and a delicate texture. In Vietnam, lychees are often enjoyed fresh, but they’re also used in desserts, drinks, and even some savory dishes. Whether eaten on its own or as part of a dish, lychee offers a refreshing and aromatic treat that perfectly captures the essence of tropical fruit flavors.

Vietnam Travel Guide lychee

Rambutan

With its hairy exterior, rambutan might look intimidating, but it hides a sweet surprise. The name “rambutan” comes from the Malay word for “hairy,” and once you peel away the red spiky skin, you’ll find a translucent white flesh similar to lychee. The fruit has a sweet and slightly acidic taste, with a pleasant floral aroma.

Mangosteen

Often called the “queen of fruits,” mangosteen is highly prized for its exquisite flavor. Beneath its thick purple rind lies segmented white flesh that’s juicy and fragrant. The taste is an intriguing blend of sweet and tangy, often compared to a combination of lychee, peach, and strawberry with a hint of citrus. Mangosteen is not only delicious but also packed with antioxidants and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Vietnam Travel Guide mangosteen

How to avoid food poisoning in Vietnam?

Food safety can be a concern, so this Vietnam travel guide recommends taking precautions to ensure a healthy and enjoyable culinary experience. Here are some key strategies to avoid food poisoning in Vietnam:

  • Stick to cooked foods: Opt for hot, freshly cooked meals instead of raw or undercooked foods. Street food can be safe if you choose busy stalls where food is cooked right in front of you.
  • Be cautious with water: Drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks unless you’re sure it’s made from purified water. Be wary of raw vegetables and fruits that may have been washed in tap water.
  • Practice good hygiene: Always wash your hands before eating or carry hand sanitizer. Choose restaurants and food stalls that appear clean and have a high turnover of customers.
  • Follow local advice: Seek guidance from trusted sources like hotel staff or tour guides on safe eating establishments and seasonal considerations.
  • Be mindful of dairy and seafood: These can spoil quickly in tropical climates. Be extra cautious, especially with seafood when far inland.
  • Consider probiotics: Taking probiotic supplements before and during your trip may help support your digestive system.

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Unique experiences in Vietnam

Cruise over Halong Bay

Embark on an overnight cruise over Halong Bay to fully appreciate the bay’s changing moods from misty dawns to golden sunsets. As you glide between thousands of limestone karsts rising dramatically from emerald waters, you’ll have the opportunity to explore hidden caves, kayak through secluded lagoons, and witness the vibrant floating communities that call this area home. Many cruises also offer tai chi classes on deck at sunrise, providing a serene start to your day amidst this natural wonder.

Explore the Mekong Delta

Known as Vietnam’s “rice bowl,” the Mekong Delta offers a glimpse into rural life along its intricate network of rivers and canals. Take a boat tour through floating markets where vendors sell fresh produce from their vessels, a tradition that has endured for generations. Visit local orchards to sample tropical fruits, and explore small villages where artisans craft everything from coconut candy to rice paper. Don’t miss the chance to stay in a homestay, offering an authentic insight into local life and customs.

Take coconut basket ride in Hoi An

The coconut boat ride is a must-try experience for visitors in the Hoi An area. Typically taking place in the picturesque rural settings of Cam Thanh Coconut Village or Bay Mau Coconut Forest, this unique adventure offers a scenic escape. The ride usually lasts between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the package or tour you choose.

The ride isn’t just about floating along the river; it’s also an interactive experience. You’ll have the chance to engage in traditional activities such as fishing with nets, and learning local crab-catching techniques. Local guides will show you how to maneuver these quirky crafts and might even treat you to some “basketboat ballet,” spinning the vessels in dizzying circles.

Vietnam Travel Guide coconut basket ride

Take a motorcycle ride

Motorcycles are an integral part of Vietnamese culture and are often the preferred mode of transportation. For an authentic experience, take a guided motorcycle tour through the bustling streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, or venture into the countryside for breathtaking views. The Hai Van Pass between Hue and Hoi An offers stunning coastal vistas, while the mountainous roads of Ha Giang provide a more adventurous ride. Always prioritize safety and consider riding a pillion with an experienced driver if you’re not comfortable navigating yourself.

Try street food

Sampling street food is an essential part of any visit to Vietnam. Join a guided street food tour to discover hidden gems and learn about the cultural significance of various dishes. Must-try street foods include banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), pho (noodle soup), and banh xeo (crispy pancakes). Don’t be afraid to pull up a tiny plastic stool at a busy food stall – it’s often where you’ll find the most authentic and delicious meals. Remember to observe basic food safety practices, such as choosing busy stalls with high turnover.

Sip Vietnamese coffee on the sidewalk

Enjoying Vietnamese coffee on the sidewalk is a quintessential experience that captures the heart of Vietnam’s vibrant street culture. The traditional iced coffee with milk, known as “cà phê sữa đá,” is a must-try. This delightful drink combines rich, robust coffee with sweetened condensed milk, served over ice for a refreshing pick-me-up. For those who prefer a more straightforward coffee experience, the “cà phê đen đá” is an excellent choice, offering a bold, black coffee served over ice.

Whether you’re seated at a small street-side café or perched on a plastic stool along the bustling sidewalks, sipping on Vietnamese coffee while watching the world go by is a uniquely enjoyable way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Vietnam Travel Guide hanoi coffee

Things not to do in Vietnam

Disrespect local customs and traditions

Avoid pointing with your feet or touching someone’s head, as these are considered disrespectful. Don’t publicly display affection excessively, as it’s frowned upon—respect dress codes when visiting religious sites, covering shoulders and knees.

Ignore traffic rules

Refrain from assuming traffic will stop for you when crossing the street. Instead, walk slowly and steadily, allowing motorbikes and cars to flow around you. Only rent a motorbike if you’re experienced with chaotic traffic conditions.

Criticize the government or discuss sensitive political topics

Vietnam has strict laws regarding political dissent. Avoid openly criticizing the government or discussing controversial topics like the Vietnam War. Be mindful of your audience and setting when engaging in political conversations.

Drink tap water

Stick to bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. Avoid ice in drinks unless you’re sure it’s made from purified water. This helps prevent waterborne illnesses that can ruin your trip.

Engage in illegal activities

Don’t participate in drug use or prostitution, both of which are illegal and carry severe penalties. Be cautious of scams, particularly when exchanging money or booking tours through unofficial channels.

Ignore local etiquette

Don’t wear shoes inside homes or certain areas of temples. Use both hands when giving or receiving items from elders or respected individuals. Learn basic phrases like “thank you” in Vietnamese to show respect for the local culture.

How to get around Vietnam

Public transportation

Public transportation in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is both affordable and efficient. The extensive bus networks cover most parts of the city, making it easy to get around. Buses are frequent and fares typically range from VND 7,000 to VND 12,000 (approximately $0.27 to $0.47 USD). When using buses, it’s helpful to keep small denominations of Vietnamese dong handy, as drivers might not have change for larger bills.

Train

Traveling by train in Vietnam offers a scenic and leisurely way to see the country. The train network is extensive, covering both major cities and rural areas. The Reunification Express, which runs from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, takes about 30-40 hours depending on the specific train. There are various classes available, including hard seats, soft seats, hard sleepers, and soft sleeper cabins. For long journeys, soft sleeper cabins are the most comfortable. Tickets can be booked online, at train stations, or through travel agencies, and it is recommended to book in advance, especially for sleeper cabins.

Vietnam Travel Guide vietnam train

Bus

For intercity travel, buses are a popular and economical choice. Sleeper buses, equipped with reclining seats, are ideal for overnight travel between cities. Common routes include Hanoi to Sapa, Hanoi to Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang. It is advisable to choose reputable bus companies like Sinh Tourist or Phuong Trang for safety and reliability. Fares vary based on distance and bus company but generally range from VND 100,000 to VND 500,000 ($4 to $20 USD).

Flying

Flying is the fastest way to cover large distances in Vietnam. Domestic flights connect major cities and tourist destinations. Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air, and Bamboo Airways are the primary domestic carriers. Popular routes include Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang to Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc. Booking flights in advance can secure the best deals, as budget airlines often have promotional fares.

Vietnam Travel Guide vietnamese airlines

Private car

Renting a private car with a driver offers flexibility and comfort, especially for families or groups. Many travel agencies and hotels offer car rental services with drivers, allowing you to travel at your own pace and visit less accessible places. Prices vary based on distance and duration but expect to pay around $50 to $100 USD per day. This option provides a convenient way to explore the country without the hassle of navigating unfamiliar roads.

Motorbikes

Motorbikes are a common mode of transport in Vietnam. While you can rent one if you have experience, be aware of the chaotic traffic. For a leisurely city tour, consider hiring a cyclo (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi). Negotiate the fare before starting the ride to avoid misunderstandings. Ride-hailing apps like Grab are popular for both motorbike and car rides, offering a convenient way to get around cities.

Where to stay in Vietnam

In this Vietnam travel guide, we provide an overview of the various lodging options available across the country, catering to different budgets and preferences.

Hotels

Vietnam offers a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxurious five-star resorts. In major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang, you’ll find international hotel chains alongside local boutique hotels. Many hotels in Vietnam provide excellent value for money, with amenities such as free Wi-Fi, breakfast buffets, and swimming pools often included even in mid-range options.

In popular tourist destinations like Hoi An and Nha Trang, beachfront resorts offer stunning views and direct access to the sand. These often come with spa facilities, multiple restaurants, and organized activities, making them ideal for those seeking a relaxing vacation.

Vietnam Travel Guidevietnam Accommodation

Hostels

For budget travelers and backpackers, Vietnam has a thriving hostel scene, particularly in cities and tourist hotspots. Many hostels offer both dormitory-style rooms and private rooms, often with social areas that make it easy to meet fellow travelers. Some hostels organize group activities or tours, which can be a great way to explore the local area and make new friends.

Homestays

Homestays have become increasingly popular in Vietnam, offering a unique opportunity to experience local life and culture. These can range from simple accommodations in rural villages to more comfortable options in urban areas. Staying with a Vietnamese family can provide insight into daily life, local customs, and traditional cuisine that you might not experience otherwise. Homestays are particularly common in areas like the Mekong Delta, Sapa, and Mai Chau.

Guesthouses

Guesthouses, often family-run, provide a middle ground between hostels and hotels. They typically offer private rooms with basic amenities at affordable prices. Many guesthouses have a more personal touch, with owners often happy to provide local recommendations and assist with travel arrangements.

Airbnb and Vacation Rentals

In recent years, platforms like Airbnb have become popular in Vietnam, especially in larger cities and tourist areas. These can be a good option for families or groups, offering more space and the ability to self-cater.

Travel costs

Vietnam trip costs are often considered reasonable and meet the needs of many tourists. However, costs can vary significantly depending on your travel style, the places you visit, and the time of year. This Vietnam travel guide breaks down typical expenses to help you plan your budget effectively.

Accommodation costs

In Vietnam, accommodation costs vary widely. Budget travelers can find hostel dorm beds for $5-$15 per night, while basic private rooms range from $15-$30. Mid-range hotels typically cost $30-$70 per night. Luxury hotels and resorts can range from $100-$300+ per night, offering premium amenities and services.

Food and drink costs

Vietnamese cuisine is both delicious and affordable. Street food meals cost around $1-$3, while local restaurants charge $3-$7 for a meal. Western-style or tourist-oriented restaurants are pricier at $10-$20 per meal. Local beer is cheap at $1-$2, with cocktails in bars ranging from $3-$8.

Vietnam Travel Guide vietnam food cost

Transportation costs

Getting around in Vietnam is relatively inexpensive. City bus fares are usually less than $1 per ride. Taxis for short trips within cities cost $2-$5, with motorbike taxis slightly cheaper at $1-$3. For longer journeys, domestic flights range from $30-$100, while overnight buses cost $10-$20. Train travel, such as from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, costs around $50-$70 for a soft sleeper berth.

Activities and Entrance Fees

Most attractions in Vietnam are reasonably priced. Museum entrance fees typically range from $2-$5. Organized day tours cost between $20-$50, depending on the activity and location. For a special experience, Halong Bay overnight cruises range from $100-$300 per person, varying based on luxury level.

Vietnam Travel Guide hoa lo prison

Tipping is not traditionally expected in Vietnam but is becoming more common in tourist areas. In local eateries, tipping is unnecessary, while in upscale or tourist-oriented restaurants, 5-10% is appreciated if the service charge isn’t included. For tour guides and drivers, $2-$5 per day is a kind gesture. In hotels, $1-$2 for porters or housekeeping is welcomed but not required. For taxis, rounding up the fare is common. We recommend tipping based on service quality and your satisfaction, keeping in mind it’s always optional.

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Safety tips

When traveling in Vietnam, it’s essential to be aware of safety tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. While Vietnam is generally a safe destination for tourists, taking some precautions can help you avoid potential issues. Here are some travel tips when visiting Vietnam:

  • Secure Your Belongings: Keep valuables secure in crowded areas and use a money belt or crossbody bag. Carry a copy, not the original, of important documents.
  • Traffic Caution: Exercise caution when crossing streets, making steady movements and eye contact with drivers. Be aware of motorbikes and unpredictable traffic.
  • Water and Food Safety: Drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Eat at busy food stalls and avoid raw or undercooked foods from street vendors.
  • Transportation: Use reputable taxis (like Vinasun or Mai Linh) with meters, or opt for ride-hailing apps like Grab. Wear a helmet if renting a motorbike.
  • Health Precautions: Carry a basic medical kit, stay on marked trails during hikes, and ensure comprehensive travel insurance covering medical emergencies.
  • Respect Local Customs: Dress modestly, especially at religious sites. Avoid public displays of affection and refrain from public displays of anger or frustration.
  • Avoid Scams: Be wary of overcharging, fake tours, and incorrect change. Agree on prices beforehand and use trusted sources for bookings.

Cultural customs and etiquette

You should follow these basic instructions to respect Vietnamese culture and etiquette:

  • Dress Modestly: When visiting temples, pagodas, or rural areas, dress conservatively. This means covering your shoulders and knees. It shows respect for local customs and religious practices.
  • Remove Shoes: It’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, a temple, or even some shops and restaurants. Look for a pile of shoes at the entrance or follow the locals’ lead.
  • Greet with Respect: Vietnamese culture places importance on respectful greetings. A slight bow or nod of the head, accompanied by a warm smile, is appropriate. Use both hands when presenting or receiving something.
  • Language: Learning a few basic Vietnamese phrases, such as greetings and thank you, can go a long way in showing respect and building rapport with locals.
  • Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photos of individuals, especially in rural or ethnic minority areas. Some places, like temples, may have specific rules about photography.

Things in Vietnam You Might Not Like

When discussing things people may not like in Vietnam, it’s important to approach the topic sensitively and recognize that these are subjective experiences. Here are some aspects that some visitors might find challenging:

Traffic and noise

The constant flow of motorbikes, cars, and buses in cities can be overwhelming. The seemingly chaotic traffic patterns and frequent honking might be stressful for visitors. The noise level, especially in urban areas, can be significantly higher than what many are accustomed to, potentially disrupting sleep or relaxation.

Vietnam Travel Guide vietnam traffic

Air pollution

In major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, air quality can be poor, particularly during certain seasons. This is often due to a combination of vehicle emissions, industrial activities, and construction. Visitors with respiratory issues might find this especially challenging, and some may experience discomfort even without pre-existing conditions.

Hygiene standards

Public restrooms and some street food stalls may not meet the cleanliness standards that some visitors expect. This can be particularly noticeable in markets or rural areas.

Pushy vendors

In tourist areas, some visitors may feel hassled by persistent street vendors or tour operators trying to sell their services. This can sometimes lead to uncomfortable situations or feelings of being overwhelmed, especially in popular destinations.

Lack of personal space

In crowded areas like markets or public transportation, the concept of personal space might differ from Western norms. People may stand very close while queuing or on buses, which can feel uncomfortable for those used to more physical distance in public spaces.

Challenging pedestrian experience

Sidewalks in cities can be crowded with parked motorbikes, street vendors, and outdoor seating, making walking difficult at times. Crossing the street can be an adventure in itself, requiring a level of assertiveness that some visitors find stressful.

What to buy in Vietnam

Shopping for souvenirs in Vietnam is an adventure in itself! With its rich cultural heritage and skilled artisans, Vietnam offers a treasure trove of unique and memorable items that you’ll want to bring home. This Vietnam travel guide recommends some of the best souvenirs to look out for during your travels.

Silk Products

Vietnamese silk is a must-buy for its quality and beauty. Whether it’s luxurious scarves, ties, or the elegant ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dresses), silk products are perfect gifts and souvenirs. Head to Hanoi’s Hang Gai Street, also known as Silk Street, or the markets of Hoi An for the best selection.

Ao Dai

The ao dai is Vietnam’s national dress, and owning one is a wonderful way to take a piece of Vietnamese culture with you. Tailor-made ao dai are particularly popular in Hoi An, where skilled tailors can custom-fit and design your dress in just a few days.

Vietnam Travel Guide ao dai souvenir

Conical Hats (Non La)

The iconic non la, or conical hat, is a symbol of Vietnam. Made from palm leaves and bamboo, these hats are both practical and stylish. They make great souvenirs and are often used as decorative items.

Coffee

Vietnam is one of the largest coffee producers globally, known for its strong, rich flavor. Vietnamese coffee beans or pre-packaged ground coffee make excellent gifts. Don’t forget to pick up a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter (phin) to complete the experience.

Handicrafts

Vietnam is famous for its handicrafts, including embroidered textiles, pottery, and bamboo products. You can find these items in local markets and craft villages. Sapa and its surrounding areas are known for beautifully embroidered textiles made by ethnic minority groups.

Vietnam Travel Guide vietnam handicrafts

Ceramics

Vietnamese ceramics are known for their quality and beauty. Bat Trang village near Hanoi is a great place to find a wide range of ceramic products, from bowls and plates to teapots and vases.

>> Read more: Top 10+ Best Things to Buy in Ho Chi Minh City

What to bring to Vietnam

When packing for your trip to Vietnam, it’s essential to consider a few key essentials to ensure you’re prepared for the diverse climates and cultural experiences the country offers. Here’s what to pack:

Pack lightweight and breathable clothing suitable for Vietnam’s tropical climate. Cotton tops, shorts, and dresses are ideal for hot days, while long sleeves and pants provide modesty when visiting temples or rural areas. A lightweight rain jacket or poncho is handy during the rainy season (May to October).

Comfortable walking shoes or sandals are essential for exploring cities or trekking through natural landscapes. Flip-flops or sandals are perfect for beach destinations like Phu Quoc or Nha Trang.

Shield yourself from Vietnam’s intense sun with sunscreen (SPF 30+), sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat or cap. A small umbrella offers shade and protection from unexpected showers.

Mosquito repellent or cream is crucial, especially in rural or forested areas. Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants provide added protection during evenings when mosquitoes are most active.

Carry a passport with at least six months validity beyond your stay, printed copies of travel insurance, reservations, and a local SIM card for data and calls. Use a money belt or neck pouch to securely carry cash and valuables. Keep copies of important documents separate from originals.

Vietnam travels themes

Vietnam family trips

Vietnam is an ideal destination for families seeking both educational experiences and fun-filled activities. Kids will delight in traditional water puppet shows in Hanoi, where intricate puppets dance across the water, telling tales from Vietnamese folklore. Engaging in cooking classes is another fantastic way to immerse the family in local culture, learning to prepare delicious Vietnamese dishes together.

Where to stay in Vietnam with family? Numerous resorts throughout Vietnam cater specifically to families. They offer spacious family rooms, swimming pools with dedicated children’s areas, and organized activities such as beach games and arts and crafts sessions. These resorts provide a safe and enjoyable environment where parents can relax while children have fun and make new friends.

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Vietnam adventure trips

For adventurous travelers, Vietnam offers an array of thrilling activities that promise unforgettable experiences. Trekking in Sapa presents stunning landscapes of terraced rice fields and ethnic minority villages, providing a glimpse into rural Vietnamese life. Meanwhile, caving adventures in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park reveal vast underground caverns and awe-inspiring limestone formations, perfect for those fascinated by natural wonders.

Motorbiking enthusiasts can tackle the exhilarating Ha Giang Loop, navigating winding mountain roads amidst breathtaking scenery. For water sports enthusiasts, Mui Ne offers prime conditions for kitesurfing along its windy coast, where adrenaline meets the beauty of Vietnam’s coastal landscapes.

Vietnam luxury retreat for couples

For couples seeking a luxurious retreat in Vietnam, indulge in high-end experiences at exclusive resorts located in idyllic destinations like Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, or Danang. These resorts offer personalized services to cater to your every need, whether it’s arranging private dining on the beach, organizing sunset cruises, or planning adventurous excursions to nearby attractions. Whether lounging by infinity pools overlooking the sea or exploring pristine beaches hand in hand, Vietnam’s luxury retreats promise a romantic and unforgettable getaway for couples seeking tranquility and opulence.

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Vietnam culture and history trips

For a glimpse into Vietnam’s vibrant cultural tapestry, immerse yourself in traditional art forms like water puppet shows, an ancient folk art depicting rural life and folklore, or participate in cooking classes where you can learn the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine from market to table.

Reflect on Vietnam’s more recent history at poignant historical sites like the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, which offers a powerful insight into the Vietnam War through exhibits and artifacts. Discover the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive underground network used by Vietnamese soldiers during the war, providing a testament to Vietnam’s resilience and wartime strategies.

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Vietnam beach getaway trips

Vietnam beach getaway trips are designed for travelers seeking a serene escape amidst Vietnam’s picturesque coastal landscapes and inviting beaches. Vietnam’s beach destinations cater to various preferences and interests. Phu Quoc, renowned for its white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters, Nha Trang, with its stunning bay, blends luxury resorts, and Mui Ne attracts wind and kite surfers with its consistent winds.

During these beach getaways, travelers can indulge in a myriad of activities. Water sports enthusiasts can enjoy snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and paddleboarding in Phu Quoc and Nha Trang’s pristine waters. Accommodation options range from luxurious beachfront resorts to charming boutique hotels. Luxury resorts provide world-class amenities, private beach access, and personalized services, ensuring a pampering experience. Boutique hotels offer a more intimate atmosphere with personalized hospitality, perfect for romantic getaways or family vacations.

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