Vietnam Travel Guide

Your ultimate Vietnam travel guide, with tips, and things to see and things to do in Vietnam. Great for first-time and returning travelers.

Vietnam has some amazing sites to see. It is one of our favourite countries that we have ever visited. From great natural wonders to fantastic shopping, mountain adventures and chilling beach life, Vietnam has something to offer for everyone. 

Once you get passed the aggressive nature of the touts on the street, it can be a wonderful and fulfilling travel. The people will soon win over your hearts and it will become one of your top travel destinations like it is ours. 

These Vietnam travel tips will help you plan your next vacation.

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top things to do in ho chi minh city vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City skyline and the Saigon River, Vietnam

Fast Facts about Vietnam

  • Vietnamese power voltage is 220 V 50 Hz; Power sockets A, C & G
  • The Vietnamese currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND) and is around 2,000 VND  for 1 USD
  • Vietnam has some of the cheapest beer in the world – a glass of bia hoi can be as low as 0.16 USD.
  • Get ready to haggle: tourists tend to get charged more than locals so make sure to drive a hard bargain and don’t underestimate the power of walking away.
  • Watch out for gambling scams in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (particularly in the Pham Ngu Lao neighbourhood). The scam starts with a friendly invitation to someone’s home. While waiting, visitors are invited to play a game of cards. Even though the game starts with small wagers, victims have reported losing thousands of dollars over the course of an evening.
  • Etiquette plays an important role in Vietnamese society: public displays of affection should be avoided, when you give something to another person, always use both hands and you should avoid pointing with your finger, putting your hands on your hips or crossing your chest with your arms.
  • Travel is not recommended during Vietnamese New Year (Tet), which falls in late January or early February as prices are sky high and it can be a little hectic.
  • Shop until you drop! Hoi An is a town in Central Vietnam that attracts tourists for its tailor made clothing. The talented seamstresses will have you measured and sized up in an instant.  Just be sure to ask for double stitching, otherwise your clothes won’t last to the next city.

Things to See and Do in Vietnam

  • Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels – fascinating 200 km system of underground tunnels.  You can visit Cu Chi from  Ho Chi Minh City on a day tour.
  • Go on a Mekong Delta Tour – You will explore the Mekong area by tour boat, traditional rowboat and minibus.  The highlight of the trip is a visit to the famous Cai Ba floating market

Culture

  1. Lantern Festival at Hoi An – The lantern festival at Hoi an is something which you cannot miss during your visit to Vietnam. The festival is held on every ‘full moon’ night when people lit a candle at the bottom of a colorful paper lantern.
  2. Floating markets at Mekong Delta – You can binge upon the floating markets and the countryside life at Mekong delta, which is quite an attraction for the tourists coming here from every part of the globe.
  3. Visit the church at Tay Ninh – Tây Ninh, a busy town at the Mekong Delta, accommodates some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals in the country. Visit them to treat yourself with the rich legacy and history of Vietnamese culture.
  4. Visit Ha Long Bay – Located about 165 km East of Hanoi on the Gulf of Tonkin.  It is a spectacular destination.
  5. See Sapa – Sapa has become a little overcrowded with tourists, but if you book a multi-day trek to stay in a home stay with one of the ethnic minority peoples, you will get a feel for traditional life and will be far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Sapa for an authentic experience.
  6. Explore Cat Tien National Park – Measuring around 720km² Cat Tien National Park is a treasure trove of wildlife and it is home to many endangered species.

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Budgeting

Accommodation

Budget – You may need to spend around ($20) on average to stay in Vietnam on a budget. The cheapest form of lodging in Vietnam is a mattress in a dormitory, where you pay for the mattress and share commonplace facilities.

Mid Range – You will spend around $40 to find a room within this range. It will come with all the basic facilities like an air conditioner, hot water and more.

High End – If you are looking for some classy accommodations, you may need to spend around $75-$100 per night. This includes a restaurant, fitness center, and pool.

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.comTripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation in Vietnam.

Food

Pho – Pho comes as one of the most popular soup-based dishes in Vietnam. The dish is prepared with rice noodles & beef and can be enjoyed as a perfect snack at any time of the day.

Cha ca – Cha ca can undoubtedly be termed as the signature dish of Vietnam. Grilled white fish is cooked in the perfect blend of turmeric, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce.

Banh xeo – Bánh xèo is basically a ‘ Vietnamese styled pancake,’ which is prepared out of a perfect mix of rice flour, shrimp and pork belly.

Cao Lau – Cao Lau is another very famous Vietnamese dish that got its origin from the Hoi An town. It is prepared out of rice noodles, pork, and greens while using the age-old Chinese cooking method known as Char siu.

Rau Muong – Also known as stir-fried water spinach or Morning glory, this Vietnamese dish is high on both taste and nutrition.


The Best Ways to Get Around Vietnam

Getting to Vietnam:

Flights: There are 37 airports in total (34 domestic and 3 International) in Vietnam, and you can reach them from almost every major city across the globe.

You can check for the best flights to Vietnam on Skyscanner.

Transportation:

Buses: You can easily find an air-conditioned bus in Vietnam for around $35 to $75 and the same run majorly between Hanoi and HCMC (covering all the major cities during the journey). Still, the price may vary according to the bus operator and preferred route.

Taxis/Uber: Uber is not currently operational in Vietnam, and you will only find taxis from two major taxi companies (Vinasun and Mai Linh) for around $70 (price may vary according to the chosen route).

Car Rental: You may need to shell out around $198 per day to rent a car in Vietnam. The same cost may vary according to the given model or size of the car

You can also compare prices here.


When to go To Vietnam

  • Spring season (February to April) and autumn season (August to October) is the best time to visit Vietnam.
  • The temperatures are moderate, with frequent mild rainfalls. This is a great time to come if you want to explore the beautiful outdoors in Vietnam.

Where to Stay in Vietnam

Eden Boutique Hotel & Spa – Eden Boutique Hotel and Spa is situated on the recently developed Thac Bac street with just 6 minutes walking distance from the Notre Dame cathedral. You will have access to free WiFi, mini-bars, and a spa.

Hanoi Babylon Garden Hotel & Spa – Hanoi Babylon Garden Hotel & Spa offers lodging with free WiFi and breakfast. The hotel is situated nearby Hoan Kiem Lake.

Acacia Heritage Hotel – While staying at this luxurious hotel, you can get the most picturesque views of the famous ‘Thu Bon’ river. The hotel is nearby to Da Nang International Airport while offering an outdoor pool.

Check out our favorite booking platforms Booking.com, Tripadvisor and VRBO for the best deals on accommodation.

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What to Pack for Vietnam

Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, moderated by two monsoons.  The weather varies greatly from North to South, depending on elevation and the type of landscape. Northern Vietnam has four seasons with a cold winter and hot summer.

Central Vietnam has high temperatures all year round, with possible flooding occurring from October to December. Southern Vietnam has a distinct dry season and wet season.

  • Dress modestly. Shorts and beachwear, which includes bikinis and swimsuits, should be worn only at the beach, as this kind of dress is really frowned upon in the towns and cities. People visiting pagodas are recommended to cover their legs and shoulders.
  • The protection basics – Travellers should stock up on the essentials: sun block, mosquito/insect repellant containing DEET or a pyrethroid insecticide, sunglasses and a hat.
  • Pack for Humidity – for humid weather it is best to pack fabrics that breathe as much as possible and natural fabrics, like cotton, linen or rayon (avoiding silk, wool and polyester). Clothing should be loose and comfortable to encourage the flow of air and allow moisture to evaporate. Think: cool but conservative. 
  • Proper footwear – pack a pair of comfortable sandals that can be slipped on and off easily (as many places require footwear to be left at the door) and if you plan on trekking or hiking, a pair of supportive hiking boots. And don’t forget about those flip flops for the beach!

See our packing tips: packing tips


Vietnam Travel Guide: Best Booking Resources

Whenever we travel to we make sure to start with these companies. We have tried a lot of different ones over the years and all of these have consistently proven to be the best when it comes to offering great prices.

We have used every one of these personally and continue to do so.

  • Booking.com: This is our go site to when comparing prices for accommodation. It usually has the cheapest prices, especially in Europe and we love their interface. Not to mention you get free cancellation and you are guaranteed the best price.
  • Trip Advisor: What we like about Trip Advisor is that we can look at all the reviews and then book our accommodation. TripAdvisor is where we go when we want to compare prices with multiple accommodation providers.
  • VRBO: is the main search engine we use when we are looking for a home or apartment rental. It can sometimes be cheaper than hotels and it is the best way to stay in areas that offer a more local feel.
  • Hostelworld: With one of the largest databases of hostels in the world, Hostelworld is the go-to site when you are looking for budget accommodation.
  • Skyscanner: This is the first place we check for flights. It consistently comes back with the cheapest and best options. It allows us to compare a lot of airlines to get the best price.
  • Rome 2 Rio: If you want to see how to get somewhere by plane, train, bus, ferry or car Rome2Rio lays it all out for you as well as related costs.I love how they show it all to you on a Google Map and it works offline.
  • Get Your Guide: For all your day trip and city guide needs, we use Get Your Guide. It has the world’s largest collection of things to do with more than 30,000 activities in 7500 destinations.
  • World Nomads Insurance: When traveling to Italy you should always have travel insurance. We have found the best bang for your buck is by far World Nomads.

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