Vietnam is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring countries in the world. Aside from the natural splendor, there is a wide selection of scenery and things to do that keep Vietnam traveler’s attention and focus for noticeably longer than the typical visit to a less inspiring destination, this is surely why so many Vietnam travelers keep coming back time after time.
Ancient tombs of past dynasties, Green rice paddies cultivated by farmers in peasant clothes, colorful floating markets, broad pine-lined streets, girls riding their bicycles to school wearing the traditional Ao Dai, and hunger-inducing smells of Vietnamese cuisine are just a few of the things that come to mind when imagining a Vietnam trip.
- Vietnam population (2021): 97,963,329
- Vietnam capital: Hanoi
- Time zone: (GMT+7)
- Currency: Vietnamese dong
- Language: Vietnamese
Must know before you go
Before your trip to Vietnam, there are few things you have to keep in mind about this country. So, here is our comprehensive list of things that we think are important to know:
Before your trip to a new country, no matter where you are coming from, just be sure you have your currency in order. Take care when you take your cash and how much money you convert.
#2 When to Go
The climate is unexpected, very complex and seasons vary depending on your chosen destination.
Vietnam’s north is warm, dry, and sunny between September & December, so you’ll need warm clothes for chilly evenings in the mountains.
December to February can be Unxepectedly cold with low temperatures as 10°C (50F) and the rainy season starts in June with heavy downpours.
On the other hand, the Central region has a very wet climate, though the dry season lasts from February – May, after which is humid and rainy, with temperatures as 30°C (86F).
November to January, the rains subside. The dry season in the lower east coast and South lasts from December to May and is followed by a rainy season and the daily temperatures rarely fall below 19°C and most rain falls in short downpours.
#3 Plan ahead of time
Planning and organizing ahead before your trip to Vietnam means looking for reservations, packing your suitcase, get your travel insurance, check your documents and book your accommodation beforehand.
Also, you can plan your itinerary as well for the area and the cities you plan to visit so that you have an idea of what to do when you get there.
#4 Money and Valuables
Before your depart make sure that you do the following things:
. Your money, your credit cards, and all your valuables must be in a safe place. There are a lot of 4-star hotels that have in-room safes, so, make sure to ask the reception to store your valuables in their safe deposit.
. Never take with you more money than you need nor wear large amounts of jewelry when walking along the street. In Vietnam or any other country, you’re more likely to be a pickpocket’s victim.
. Credit cards are super useful and you can use them in large cities but may be hard to use in smaller towns.
#5 Learn some Generic phrases
Before you go you have to learn some phrases mastered at your fingertips to make your communication with locals as easy as possible.
Here is a list of few words which will help you interact with the locals better:
- I’m sorry/ Excuse me: Xin loi. (sin loy)
- The Bill Please: Xin vui lòng thanh toán
- Hello: Xin chào (sin chow)
- No Sugar: Không đường (Khom duong)
- Thank you: Cảm ơn bạn
#6 Be clever
Vietnam is one of the places where prices can go up without any warnings when it comes to tourists. So, to not get cheated, be clever and fully prepared to haggle with the locals. My tip to you is to exchange other currency notes for a better deal at local stops.
#7 What to Wear
The country is pretty laid back and allows you to dress whatever you want, no questions asked. However, it must be remembered that you need to dress appropriately when you visit some selected places like temples. There are strict clothing regulations there, so make sure to respect the rules!
#8 Wi-Fi Everywhere
You don’t need to worry about internet connections or worry excessively about buying some international SIM cards because Vietnam is super connected to Wi-Fi everywhere like most Asian countries. And the best part of all this is Free!!
#9 Follow Local Customs
As we mentioned earlier, the country allows you to wear whatever you want but some rules must be respected:
- Make sure to remove your shoes when entering temples, pagodas, or Vietnamese homes as well.
- It is considered rude to wear shorts or dresses and tops with low necklines and bare shoulders to temples
- Handshaking is a way of greeting in Vietnam. But Vietnamese people must not be touched on their heads.
Things to see In Vietnam: Best Attractions
If you’re already planning your Vietnam trip, these picks should get you excited, but if you’re still in the process of planning your Vietnam holiday, these are the absolute must-sees.
#1 Ha Long Bay
A highlight of any trip to Vietnam, the enchanting archipelago of Ha Long Bay lies off the northeast coast of Vietnam and comprises around 3000 limestone islands.
Cruising around this mind-blowing bay onboard a traditional junk boat is an unforgettable experience that no trip to Vietnam should be without.
#2 Cu Chi Tunnels
One of the most thrilling places in Vietnam, the Cu Chi tunnels. It is an underground maze covering a whopping 250km, these tunnels were dug by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War to act as living quarters, command centers, and ammunition stores.
Based on my personal experience I found that crawling through the tunnels is an eerie Vietnam travel experience.
#3 Dong Van
Dong Van rock plain or Ha Giang belongs to the global geological park system, with rocky mountains and rock diversity.
This is a tourist attraction attracted by the local cultural life, rich flora & fauna, and the mountains are up to 550 million years old as the locals said.
#4 Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta produces one of Vietnam’s most important exports – rice, and thus acts as the backbone of the Southern country’s economy.
While you’re traveling in Vietnam, you can take a boat trip down the Mekong, where you will pass and enjoy the colorful floating markets of Cai Rang and Cai Be among others.
#5 Can Tho
One of the most amazing cities in the Mekong Delta in Can Tho. Not only the canals, green fruit gardens, Can Tho also has a unique floating market culture that attracts locals and travelers everywhere and over the years.
#6 Son Doong cave
This cave discovered in 1991, Son Doong (Quang Binh) with 3 million years old is now one of the largest caves in the world.
This mysterious world in the ground also has an underground river, slides that bring sunlight, and huge rock stalks. You can visit the cave from February to August each year but the cave only receives a certain amount of visitors.
Hue was Vietnam’s capital under the Nguyen Dynasty between the 1500s and 1945s and located along the Huong River in the Central Highlands.
The city still preserves many historic buildings: The mausoleum, temples, pagodas, and especially Hue ancient relics that are recognized as one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
When you’re in Hue you can take a cruise down the Perfume River and visits historic sights including the Imperial Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda, and the Palace of Supreme Peace.
#8 Thu Bon river
This amazing river starts from Ngoc Linh and flows through Hoi An ancient town (Quang Nam) to Cua Dai beach.
#9 Hoi An
Hoi An is located on the coast in Central Vietnam, and it’s a favorite amongst travelers to Vietnam. It is well known for its tailors, its art galleries, and its narrow streets crammed with tiny wooden cafes serving steaming coffee.
There is a lot of things to do during your stay in Hoi An, from visiting the historic temple complex of Mỹ Sơn to relaxing on the beach, or you can even try your hand at some traditional Vietnamese cooking.
Situated in Lao Cai, Sapa is an awe-inspiring destination for adventurous travelers, who enjoy fresh air, waterfalls, terraces, indigenous cultures, and endless hiking trails, and tourists also conquered Mount Fansipan 3,143 m high.
#11 Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc is a Stunning tropical gateway set with splendid beaches and quaint fishing villages. There are several things to do if you’re looking for more than just lying on a beach though. The interior of the island is a protected area where you can go for walks or even hiking long distances.
Phu Quoc is greatly considered as one of the country’s star attractions so you’d be mad to leave it out of your Vietnam’s bucket list.
#12 Da Rock
Da Rock is a natural landscape with the beauty of the prismatic black columns lying close to each other as arranged.
This destination is in Phu Yen province and about 40 km from the center of Tuy Hoa city.
#13 Ho Chi Minh City
Packed full of interesting things to see and do, HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) has a lot to keep you occupied.
Visits to the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace will offer greater insight into the country’s history, whilst trips to the numerous temples will offer a far more spiritual experience.
This beautiful city is crammed full of local eateries, markets, and shops. If you fancy a weird Vietnam trip, you have to visit the mausoleum of the former president, Ho Chi Minh.
Maybe you may like to finish a busy day with a trip to the Municipal Water Puppet Theatre, on the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake as well.
#15 Da Lat
Situated at an altitude of 1,500 m above sea level, Da Lat (Lam Dong) is a city with many hills, valleys, and cool weather almost all year round.
Not only fascinated by the ancient French architecture, but the romantic scenery surrounding the city is also equally attractive, such as pines, hills, winding roads, and lots of waterfalls.
#16 Hanoi Opera House
Designed by France from 1901 to 1911. Hanoi Opera House is the venue for major events, concerts, contemporary cultural performances by Vietnamese and foreign artists and this theater is also the largest one in Vietnam with a capacity of almost 600 people.
#17 Cookery School
Vietnamese cuisine is known to be among one the healthiest in the world. It is also widely regarded as one of the most fragrant cuisines, making use of an assortment of herbs, including Thai basil, lemongrass, and Vietnamese mint.
So, why not take the opportunity to create some typical Vietnamese dishes of your own during your Vietnam trip?
#18 Hoan Kiem Lake
The Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi is the place to go. The place is known to be the lake where King Le Loi returned the magical sword to the gods. Today, this area is one of the favorite leisure sites in Vietnam both for locals and tourists as well.
Things to do in Vietnam
There are so many things to do in Vietnam that it might take a few years to explore the whole country.
Here are some fun things you can do during your vacation:
#1. Try beef noodle soup in Hanoi.
The famous Vietnamese soup, Pho, was invented in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. It is a beefy noodle that is eaten during the morning but can be eaten anytime during the day. (We’ll talk about this dish later in this guide)
#2. Walk around the numerous lakes around Hanoi.
Hanoi has numerous lakes where you can stroll around and see people exercise in the morning. It is a great way for to people watch and see how they live their daily lives.
#3. Ride a motorbike around the Mekong Delta countryside.
This is perhaps the most fun thing to do in Vietnam. You can stop anywhere you want and eat some local food there. Also, you can see the amazing rice fields and the beautiful kids playing with each other. If you are an adventurous traveler, you could try out the beat cobra heart alcohol drink from some pubs around the area.
#4. Visit the national park of Hanoi.
The National Preserve of Cuc Phuong, is home to over 70 species of fauna, along with thousands of other varieties of flora. You will find all types of interesting creatures to go see, like flying lizards, and you can find some grottoes in which many artifacts were once brought to light.
#5. Try some old-fashioned Vietnamese food.
Of course, you will find several restaurants to check out as well, so if you’re a foodie feel free to take part in some good old-fashioned Vietnamese dishes, including Bho and Bot Chien.
A trip to Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the exotic local cuisines. From freshly cooked vegetables to fluffy boiled rice and fish curries. Vietnamese food is simply divine.
Vietnamese food is mostly based on rice and noodles, like most other Asian countries, but the flavors are different, they come from herbs and spices such as lemongrass, mint, and even curry powder. An everyday meal will consist of a bowl of rice with some side dishes of meat, vegetables, and soup, but the Vietnamese also enjoy some unique dishes.
The most popular and famous Vietnamese dish is Pho, a hot rice noodle soup made with a beef broth boiled from large bones. It is served with slices of filet mignon together with ginger, although you can also order your pho with chicken or vegetables.
Cha Ca is another classic Vietnamese street food, made by mixing minced fish with spices like coriander and dill. They are then grilled or fried, and served with hot dipping sauces.
Hue Mussel Rice
If you want something more unique, try the Hue Mussel Rice. This spicy rice dish is served cold, unlike regular rice dishes, and the reason is that it is meant to be made with leftovers. It is flavored with mussel broth and spices so hot that it will make your eyes water.
To be honest, there are a lot more Vietnamese dishes that you can enjoy during your trip. Here is the list:
- Vietnamese sandwich (Bánh mì)
- Rice paper salad (Bánh tráng trộn)
- Sea snails (Ốc)
- Vietnamese sweet dessert (Chè)
- Hoi An Noodles (Cao lầu)
- Spring rolls (Gỏi cuốn / Chả giò)
- Vietnamese pizza (Bánh tráng nướng)
- Egg coffee (Cà Phê Trứng)
- Spicy beef noodle soup (Bún bò huế)
- Grilled pork with vermicelli (Bún chả)
Travel to Vietnam on a budget
If deciding to plan a trip to any destination around the world, it is necessary to inform yourself thoroughly about the potential cost of your trip, so that you don’t find yourself running out of money after you land at the airport.
Our good news for any potential tourist is that the cost of a visa for Vietnam is very low. Although it is possible to obtain your visa at the Vietnamese Embassy in your home country, there is also the quicker and more cost-effective option of using an online Vietnam visa service.
The cost of obtaining a visa for Vietnam from a reputable online company can range from as low as $17 to $50 per person. Keep in mind that the cheapest cost of a Vietnam visa will still get you very quick and reliable service.
The flights booked to and from Vietnam may be your largest part of the budget. Prices for return flights generally fall between $700 and $1,500 depending on which airline you choose, which class you sit in, and how many stops you make.
To make sure you get the best value for your money, it is worth looking into the best time to book from any particular airline, as they may offer booking reductions, or reduced-price tickets closer to the departure date.
It is also worth searching around for your airline tickets. Many price comparison websites will help you find the best deals, and it is often possible to find the same flight available for a cheaper rate on one website compared to another.
When reserving your stay in Vietnam, you will want to consider the price of your stay in addition to your flight expenses and the cost of your visa as well. Like in many destinations around the world, Vietnam has accommodation to suit a wide range of several requirements, budgets, and tastes.
The cheapest place that you can spend the night in Vietnam is usually a dorm or hostel. These will normally be priced as low as $10.
For a cheap hotel, expect to pay between $10 and $15 per person, and for midrange accommodation, the cost of a room for the night is usually between $20 and $50. On the other hand, If you have money to spare, a luxury hotel room can cost around $70 a night.
Food is also a significant budget concern when traveling, as there is nothing worse than having to resist indulging in new and exotic foods after not having accounted for their expense beforehand.
To get the most out of your culinary experience of Vietnam, count around $2 for a local meal of noodles, and from $15 for an outing at a gourmet restaurant.
The cheapest way to getting around Vietnam is by bus, where you can expect to buy an hour-long bus ride for just $1.
Another popular form of transport in the city is the motorcycle taxi, where you can get a ride for less than $1. It is also possible to hire a motorcycle taxi and its driver for the whole day at around $7. That’s great, isn’t it?
There are, of course, many other factors to consider after totaling the cost of your Vietnam visa, flights, food, stay, and local transport. However, with the cost of a visa, transport, and food being so low, if you are lucky and you have a larger budget you can be able to splurge on more comfortable flights and a first-class experience while staying in Vietnam.
FAQs: First timer traveler
Q: Is it safe to travel to Vietnam?
Vietnam is one of the safest destinations in south-east Asia for sure. Families and individuals can travel in comfort and with peace of mind knowing that the population is friendly, and the incidence of crime is relatively very low. Even if you want to walk around at night it is quite safe.
Q: Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?
A valid passport with 6 months validity and a visa are a must to enter the country. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for only one entry, and If you plan to leave and re-enter from another country you have to keep in mind that you obtain a visa allowing multiple entries.
Q: Do I need travel insurance when traveling to Vietnam?
Of course, you do. No matter what your destination is you have to buy travel insurance.
Q: Do I need medical coverage for my trip to Vietnam?
Health care in rural areas is extremely basic. Be sure that you have arranged comprehensive medical & travel insurance before you go. Also, beware of street food and water while traveling.
Q: What to do if I missed my flight?
Noi Bai (35km northwest of Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat (in Ho Chi Minh City), Danang (in Danang city) airports provide both international & domestic flights as well.
So, in case you missed out on your direct flight, the best way is to take a flight to Bangkok or Hong Kong and gets a connecting flight on arrival.
Q: What are the things that I should avoid during my trip?
– You have to know that foreign tourists are not allowed to invite Vietnamese nationals into their hotel rooms.
– Dress modestly while visiting local places and religious sites as we discussed earlier in this guide.
– Also, NEVER take video cameras to the ethnic minority villages, as it is highly intrusive to the locals.