Vietnam has a lot to offer tourists, from the breathtaking vistas of Sam Mountain and Ha Long Bay to the man-made artistry of the sacred temples and pagodas to the rice terraces and beaches. Undoubtedly, trekking in Vietnam offers an unforgettable experience amidst breathtaking scenery, bustling urban centres, and delectable cuisine.
Although there was initially hostility towards international tourists (for good cause), the nation has now grown much more welcoming, and Ho Chi Minh City has even developed into a hotspot for digital nomads.
Vietnam offers a lot of things to see and do in a relatively short region, from touring the Old Quarter of Hanoi to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine and elegant clothing in Hoi An. Take your time; there is a lot to do in this nation. Don’t travel too quickly.
You may make the most of your vacation to Vietnam by planning ahead, avoiding typical scams, and using our inexpensive travel guide.
Things to See and Do in Vietnam
See the Delta of Mekong
Taking a boat or bike excursion is the greatest way to see the area and immerse yourself in rural Vietnamese culture. A trip to the delta includes cruising past temples, exploring the untamed and overgrown forest, eating delectable native cuisine, and shopping for fresh fruit and cut flowers on tiny boats known as “floating markets.” You get to spend a few days away from the bustle of the cities, truly getting to know the area. River day tours start at about 575,000 VND per person.
Discover the Old Quarter’s winding lanes, pay a visit to the many temples and art galleries, explore the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, and view the history museum. The city is replete with temples, other religious buildings, old French colonial architecture, and historic Vietnamese sites. It was designated a UNESCO “City for Peace” in 1999 as a result of its initiatives to advance equality, education, environmental preservation, and the upbringing of future generations. Hanoi serves as an excellent starting point for multi-day trips to Ha Long Bay. Welcome to this busy, crazy city!
Explore Ha Long Bay
Ha Long, which means “descending dragon” in Vietnamese, is associated with a narrative that dragons were sent by the gods to aid the Vietnamese in a previous fight. The jade diamonds that the dragons spat forth developed into islands that defended the mainland from intruders. The 370,000-acre region is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thriving forests cover the islands. Hiking is a popular activity on Cat Ba Island, and many visitors end up joining a cave tour. Typically, tours here span three or five days and depart from Hanoi. Just remember that it gets really busy in the bay!
Spend time in Hoi An
There are many charming eateries and old houses in Hoi An. Between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was a bustling port city, and the entire Old Town is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is very well maintained. It’s small and ideal for strolling, dining, lounging by the river, and purchasing suits (they have a sizable fashion and tailor market). An Bang and Cui Dai, two of Vietnam’s most stunning white sand beaches, are located near Hoi An. On a trip to Hoi An, there is something to enjoy for everyone, regardless of their interests in history, culture, cuisine, nightlife, nature, or shopping. Undoubtedly, it was my favourite location in Vietnam.
The best hiking location in northern Vietnam is this one, and a wide variety of tourists frequent it. The hill tribes, luxuriant greenery, lovely trekking paths, and magnificent mountains that define Sapa are its main draws. This is the spot to go if you want to take in the landscape and outdoor activities that Vietnam has to offer. For the most breathtaking views, go to the peak of Mount Fansipan, sometimes referred to as the Roof of Indochina. After that, unwind with a traditional herbal bath, revered for its therapeutic properties by the Red Dao people. It’s a great area to explore, hike, cycle, and camp. Visit during the off-season to avoid the crowds, or go on longer walks to less visited areas.
Go to the National Park of Cuc Phuong
Cuc Phuong, Vietnam’s first national park, is located south of Hanoi.
More than 2,000 different kinds of trees may be found here, along with some extremely uncommon types of fauna including the Clouded Leopard, Delacour’s Langur, and Owston’s Civet. It was the only park in Vietnam where I didn’t see throngs of people, and it was also my favourite park overall. There is a 50,000 VND admission charge.
Become part of Mui Ne
Mui Ne is a fishing community, but because it’s a popular spot for wind- and kite-surfing, it has a sizable tourism industry. The primary attraction is the neighbouring undulating sand dunes, which are worth spending a day or two exploring if you’re only stopping by by bus.
Explore the Phong Nha-Ke Bang caves.
Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Hang Son Doong is said to be the biggest cave in the world. A local made the discovery in 1990, and a British caving team “rediscovered” it in 2009. You may plan excursions to view this magnificent cave. You will be astounded by its splendour. Each person must pay around 150,000 VND to enter the caverns.
The most basic accommodations at hostels start at about 100,000 VND per night. You may pay nearly twice as much for a nicer house. A double room in a private room costs at least 350,890–425,000 VND per night. Although they were formerly rare, hostels are now springing up everywhere in the nation to serve low-cost tourists.
In addition to offering free WiFi, the majority of hostels also provide free breakfast and free beer at specific times of the day. Since eating out is so inexpensive, self-catering accommodations are not particularly frequent.
A double bed in a cheap hotel should cost about 225,000 VND a night. Free breakfast and free Wi-Fi are typically included with this.
Vietnamese food is tasty, fresh, and mostly vegetable and herb-based. Foods like rice and noodles are popular, as are other soups like the well-known pho (a beef noodle soup). Popular meals include grilled fish, pork curries, fresh French bread called bahn me, and wonton soup are just a few of what you’ll find. Fish sauce, lemongrass, chilli, lime, Thai basil, and mint are typical components.
For 20,000 VND, you may get a rice dish or a bowl of pho. The majority of sit-down eateries have prices between 45,000 and 95,000 VND. The more costly a restaurant, the nicer (and more touristic) it is. Avoid Western food if you’re on a tight budget, as it’s often more costly, costing around 110,000 VND for a fast food lunch.
A litre of soda or beer costs between 20,000 and 35,000 VND at a convenience store, while water costs around 15,000 VND.
If you want to prepare your own food, basic items should cost at least 400,000 VND a week. To find the best deals and freshest food, make sure to buy in the local markets. Having said that, eating street food is merely easier and more affordable in this nation due to the low cost of food.
Vietnam Travel Budgets Suggestions
You may go to Vietnam for 600,000 VND per day on a backpacker’s budget. This budget allows you to stay in a spacious hostel dorm, eat all of your meals on the street, drink in moderation, and travel by bus between towns. You may receive free walking tours and other free activities, including hiking and beach time, on this budget. Increase your daily spending by 20,000–40,000 VND if you intend to drink.
A daily budget in the midrange of 1,125,000 VND will get you a cheap hotel, some street food and sit-down restaurants, a few more beverages, the occasional taxi ride, and more paid activities like visiting museums and attending water shows.
You may stay in a great hotel, dine out anywhere you choose, have a lot of beverages, take more cabs, and engage in whatever excursions or activities you like, including a multi-day trip to Ha Long Bay, all for a “luxury” budget of 2,460,000 VND. But this is only the lower end of luxury. There’s no ceiling!
Vietnam Travel Guide: Cost-Effective Strategies
Vietnam is a fairly reasonably priced nation. It’s really among the least expensive in all of Southeast Asia. Despite the surge in travel over the past five years, it’s still quite inexpensive. Here are my suggestions, though, if you want to travel even more affordably and save some cash:
Enjoy mouthwatering street cuisine: You can witness the food being prepared in front of you, and it is quite good and reasonably priced. You’ll save money if you just eat locally grown food. Your best bets are on the street-side pho, bread, sandwiches, donuts, and bananas.
Travelling late at night: If you’re going a long way, attempt to take the late-night “sleeper” buses or trains. You’ll save money by not having to pay for a hotel room.
Take the tourist bus: Due to the “tourist” charge you pay at the bus station, travelling across the nation on the tourist bus is really less expensive than travelling locally.
Bargain: Prices for everything from street food to cyclos (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi) are often more for visitors than for residents. Strike a better deal than you usually would, and remember that it’s always better to walk away.
Ignore the SIM card: Wi-Fi is widely available in Vietnam and is free of charge in almost all hotels, shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. I would not use a SIM card and take a break from connectivity unless it was necessary, such as for a long bus journey or while travelling in a remote place.
Reusable water bottle: It is not safe to drink the tap water in Hanoi, therefore bring a reusable bottle. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to cut down on plastic consumption and save money.
Ways to Navigate in Vietnam
Public transport: The bicycle rickshaw is among the least expensive means to move around in some towns and cities. A quick ride might cost as low as 12,000 VND, but a nighttime journey can cost as much as 40,000 VND. The most well-liked choice is the motorbike taxi with rates beginning at 15,000 VND.
Train: Although certain trains may be sluggish, travelling by rail in Vietnam is a popular choice for travellers since it’s inexpensive, safe, and comfortable, and it offers some breathtaking views of the country’s landscapes. You may go almost anywhere in the nation (apart from the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta) because to the train network, which spans the majority of the nation.
Bus: Long-distance bus excursions covering the whole length of Vietnam are readily available; they begin in Hanoi and stop in Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and Ho Chi Minh City before returning to Hanoi. At any point along the route, you can get on or off. Although they cater to visitors, because this service is so reasonably priced, locals also utilise it.
Car rental: Since buses are a great way to get about Vietnam, I wouldn’t advise hiring a car here, especially given how congested and accident-prone the cities’ traffic is. Nevertheless, rental cars are reasonably priced, coming in at around 500,000 VND a day. It is necessary to have an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
The rainy season in the southern region of Vietnam runs from May to the end of November, whereas the dry season lasts from December to late April or early May. Although the Mekong Delta occasionally floods, the rainy season mostly consists of afternoon thunderstorms that are intense but fleeting.
Even so, May through November is a fantastic time to travel. In the warmer months (March to the end of May), temperatures can occasionally go as high as 40°C (104°F), although they seldom fall below 20°C (68°F).
There are significant variations in the rainfall pattern throughout the central coast. Rainfall in the region’s northern regions, such as Hué and Da Nang, occurs from September to February. The ideal months to visit this area are February through May. From June to August, the temperature soars, frequently reaching the upper 30s°C (80s°F).
October through December is when the weather in Northern Vietnam is at its most lovely.
It’s challenging to choose the ideal time to visit Vietnam because local conditions differ so greatly. Generally speaking, though, if you want to experience the nation as a whole, you should go between September and December and March and April.
Ways to Remain Secure in Vietnam
Vietnam is a very safe country to visit on a backpack. While small-time thievery is relatively uncommon, violent crime is rare. Just to be cautious, always keep your valuables protected when you’re out and about.
In Vietnam, frauds like the motorcycle scam are rather widespread. Vendors attempt to bill you for damage to your rental bike that was there before you rented it. Take pictures and videos before renting anything, just in case.
Make sure you count your change every time. People frequently “mistakenly” give you the wrong change since the money looks identical here. They do this in the hopes that you won’t realise that the 200,000 VND bill you just received is actually only 20,000. Count your change here at all times!
To get help in case of an emergency, dial 113.
Make copies of all of your crucial documents just in case they get stolen.
Getting quality travel insurance is the most crucial advise I can give. You’ll be covered against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations with travel insurance. It offers complete protection in the event that something goes wrong. Since I’ve needed to use it so much in the past, I never travel without it.
Vietnam’s travel visa requirements
The majority of foreign visitors to Vietnam require a visa; however, some Asian and Nordic nationals are exempt from this requirement for 15 to 30 days, and as of 2016, passport holders from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain are also eligible, albeit this is only valid for a short period of time, so be sure to check with your local consulate.
You must submit an application form, the required fee, and passport-sized photos (processes vary) in order to apply for a tourist visa. The visa is valid for admission by any international airport in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Da Nang, as well as any land border in Vietnam that is accessible to foreigners.
Although longer terms can be negotiated, visas are typically good for thirty days. To apply, visit any Vietnamese embassy or consulate, or work with a specialised agent. Obtaining a “visa on arrival” online takes only a few days, compared to several weeks.
Show immigration your acceptance letter, the application form (available at airport counters), a photo (available at the airport for a cost), and the stamping fee upon arrival. The procedure is rather simple and effective, but keep in mind that land border crossings cannot pick them up; only the airports in Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, or Hanoi can.
Travel agencies in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An may arrange for thirty-day extensions. They typically cost $25 and take three days to process. If your visa is overstayed, you will be fined $10–25 each day, and border officials at the airport could request that you return to the closest city to pay the fine at an immigration office.
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