A Vietnam has earned its name as one of the most versatile and golden places to visit on earth. It has a lot to offer when it comes to the tourist attractions.
It actually has everything for everyone when it comes to likes and favorite places to visit, foods to eat, and scenery among others. It is a serene tourist destination which is envied by even the frequent travelers.
This article covers everything about Vietnam:
- top things to do
- 10 Smart and basic Travel Tips for Vietnam
- 10 Things not to do
- Shopping: 6 Things to buy (souvenirs, perks and essentials)
- What to pack – a packing list
- handpicked accommodations (hostels, hotels, homestays, resorts)
- Visa to Vietnam
- Safety in Vietnam
- Things to do in Vietnam in 15 days (Itinerary ideas)
- guide books
- your questions
It is said that you cannot truly claim to have explored all what Vietnam has to offer on just one visit.
However, like any other destination, you want to explore and tour, you will need to make some serious preparations if you want to get the most out of your visit.
This is a guest article. Hostelgeeks visited as well Vietnam, and we got back with a bunch of amazing hostels.
Read: all the best hostels in Vietnam.
1) Best Things to Do in Vietnam
Assuming that you have done your research and you know the basics already, below are the coolest things and tours you can do while in your stay.
No worries, we cover the basic tips here.
In this list we share our adventures of 3 months in Vietnam. With the fun things, the cool things and gems we found.
We share how to drive around on a motorbike, explore hidden tunnels and how a tractor took us in a shovel to a lonely beach.
(As for the printed guide book, here is your Lonely Planet to Vietnam.)
1. Take your food fantasy to Hanoi
It is a haven for all the food lovers.
You can find in Hanoi the best delicacies in the country and at a cost friendly price. It is a big city which mean that there are multiple restaurants and places where you can get any type of meal you want.
If you love eating unique and tasty meals, then you need to take a tour to Hanoi. It is better if you have a tour guide to help you explore the city without much hustle while you enjoy the tasty meals which are readily affordable.
Find more information on food tours in Hanoi here.
From pork to noodles and fish dishes, you will find all once you get to Hanoi.
Our absolute favorite restaurant in Hanoi is called NEW DAY in the old town.
Also, Vegetarians will love the food in Hanoi. There are many many options. All over Vietnam you will find An Chay Restaurants.
“An Chay” means Vegetarian. Not everybody actually understands what vegetarian means, so they might want to put chicken on top of your Bahn Mi, for instance. Keep an eye on it and let them know by gestures you do not want chicken on your food, for instance.
Vietnamese street sellers are happy to make you the sandwich you want.
2. Take a Tractor to the beach(central Vietnam)
One of the most adventurous things to do in Vietnam was taking a tractor to the beach.
This is one of the super-NON-touristy things to do!
This beach we went to is North of the Mui Dinh dunes. There was a street food stall near the street. We stopped there, asked, they sent the tractor.
This is the exact location on Google Maps.
No, I am not kidding. This is exactly how Vietnam works!
They brought us to the beach through the Vietnamese dessert.
We agreed they will pick us up again in 2 hours. We were beaching for a bit, took amazing photos, enjoyed the ambiance. There was also a small street food shop on the beach.
Again, this is Vietnam. This is the typical Vietnam experience when you leave the beaten path!
We stayed at the Hon Co Ca Na Resorts for $35 a night.
From here we took our motorbikes along the coast line to the dunes again and then took the tractor.
The resort is super cool as well. You stay 5 meters away from the beach in huge rooms. The food int he restaurant itself was also amazing.
The guy working there became our close friend, we chatted always with him and he gave us amazing tips. So, yeah, come over here!
3. Experience wind and kitesurfing in Mui Ne
The region may paint a picture as being only a fishing destination, since it is famous for that.
However, it has a lot more to offer in terms of adventure.
Mui Ne has amazing sand dunes which you can take advantage of.
You can get your gear ready to surf with the wind and sand dunes. It is a magical experience which adds to the excitement once you tour the area. It ignites a sense of adventure and if you do not want to surf you can watch the beautiful sand dunes to make your trip worthwhile.
Important: If you are coming here by motorbike, pay attention to the police and avoid their scams.
4. Talking about Mui Ne: The Dunes
The dunes of Mui Ne are one of the top places in Vietnam.
Everybody knows about them. If you haven’t heard about it, well, you would have heard it soon enough.
The dunes in Mui Ne are super cool and you even sandboard here. Wherever you stay, a hotel, hotel or home stay, they can offer and organize the tour for you.
The dunes are about 200km East of Saigon aka. Ho Chi Minh City.
Good to know: Mui Ne is known for its dunes AND the corrupt police men. When you plan to come here with your motorbike, chances are the police will stop you. And even if you have all the needed paper work, they want some money from you.
We avoided Mui Ne with the motorbike and drove around it. You can find an alternative route here.
5. Explore the Hang Son Doong cave
Located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, the Hang Son Doong cave is the largest known cave in the world.
Hang Son Doong cave is the largest known cave in the world.
You will be treated to a rare site in the national park where the cave is found. Tourists flock this national park to see the amazing cave which is reputable due to its size.
However, you will have to pay an entrance fee to enter the cave and experience the beauty of greatness.
Good to know: You cannot enter this cave without any guide. You HAVE to get a guide and you can even sleep here.
You can book the tour with Oxalis.com. They are specialized in this cave tour.
Bare in mind, some tours can cost up to 3000$. During these tours you atually sleep in the cave. Now, that’s definitely amazing!
6. Have a Mud Bath in Dark Cave-Hang Tối (and Zipline)
In the same area, near the enormous cave of Hang Son Doong, you find the so-called Dark Cave.
The Dark Cave is a long cave where you enter with a small group and you are armed with a helmet and a light. At the end of the Dark Cave there is a mud bath waiting for you.
It is pure fun!
The group is limited to 15 people (around about). You can also enjoy a bit of Kayaking and a tiny water park with the Dark Cave together. You start with a 400m Zipline, walk in the cave, have the bath and then enjoy the water park with zipline, water bikes and a few more fun games.
There is no need to book anything ahead of time. Just go to the Dark Dave, buy your entrance and enter.
The tour starts as soon as enough people are in.
7. Take a trip to the Vietnam capital
Hanoi has a lot to offer from art galleries to beautiful temples.
If you are a fan of architecture and historical ruins, the city of Hanoi has a lot to offer.
Visit the museums where you will get to learn about the history of the Vietnamese people which you enjoy the sights and sceneries.
While in Hanoi, make sure you visit the corps of Ho Chi Minh. Personally, I had no idea that this is even possible.
You can enter the Mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh is placed. You can see the real dead body of him.
It looks like in the movies, very very interesting!
Many schools with young kids from all over the country visit. They hold a small ceremony, all are dressed accordingly.
You are not allowed to bring in a big camera. You can leave this free of charge outside, and can pick it up later. I did it, the camera was in perfect shape, no worries!
Inside you will find 4 soldiers, not moving at all.
Important to know: You are not allowed to take any photo. If you do, you can end up in jail! Behind the body you will see huge flags in red. One flag is the Vietnamese flag with a golden star on red background. The other one is the Sowjetunion/ Communism flag known as The Hammer and Sickle and The Red Banner.
The entrance is free.
Tuesday – Thursday: 07:30 – 10:30
Saturday and Sunday: 07:30 – 11:00
Location: 8 Hung Vuong, Dien Bien, Ba Dinh, Hanoi
8. See the pagodas
Get to know the religious culture of the Vietnamese.
The pagodas serve as evidence of a rich culture which is still respected in the region.
The pagodas are unique structures or buildings which are found everywhere you go within Vietnam. They are normally used as shrines by the people are which makes them important to the citizens of the country.
They have ancient carvings on them which will be worth seeing and exploring.
Not to worry actually.
You will come across religious buildings in
- Hoi An
No need to add anything extra to the list.
The biggest Pagoda in all Vietnam is Bai Dinh Pagoda, in Ninh Binh province. This is around 100km south of Hanoi.
9. Find solace in Dalat (or Da Lat)
Set yourself up for a relaxing atmosphere on the highlands.
If you want a little action to go with this, you can participate in the sporting events on the hills of Dalat.
You can also tour the villages around which will open up the rich culture of the region while you find solace in that serene place.
We especially enjoyed the tiny, cute coffee shops all over the village.
Our favorite coffee shops in Da Nang are:
- An cafe
- Me Linh Coffee Garden (for a day trip to the area)
- Bicycle up cafe
- ZEN Cafe Dalat – Villa
- K’ Coffee
Dalat is also the region where they produce wine. Try a few local wines, they are tasty!
Another highlight is the night market directly in the city center. You cannot miss it!
10. Visit Hoi An for a shopping adventure
Get suited and put on your suit game as you will find tailor-made suits in Hoi An.
Hoi An is the cutest, typical Vietnamese village you will find. So, at least, it is in the book.
It is really cute, a river flows through the village, many small shops, cafés, restaurants. The whole village is surrounded by rice fields, perfect to take photos.
In this guide we cover as well the best things to buy in Vietnam.
The beach of Hoi An is around 5km away.
Hoi An is a small place where you can opt to take a walk as you explore the authentic suits they have in store.
Most visitors come to this place to shop, see historical building and have coffee at the most exquisite cafes it has to offer.
Also, you can choose to relax at the beaches after a long day of exploration and adventure.
Good to know: The first day we entered the village we went to a beautiful roof top restaurant. The next day we took the same street and suddenly there was a stand asking for an entrance fee. Apparently this is not a scam, but true. Around the city you find a few places asking for entrance fee.
We did not pay, since we thought it is a scam. We went to a different street, same story.
Then we went to the street with Cong Caphe, there we did not have to pay any entrance. I cannot assure you it will be the same for you, but give it a try.
To me it does not seem fair to pay an entrance fee to an ancient city, especially since i leave my money anyway here, buying at least a few souvenirs or coffees.
Anyway, this is just for you to know.
My best tip for Hoi An: Move around and keep walking. There are so many corners and tiny places you can explore. Do not stay only on the main street. At night, the city is lightened up. This is the best time to take beautiful photos.
Last but not least: I loved the Chinese Bridge, so beautiful and picturesque. Here is our photo from the Chinese Bridge.
Update: once a month, every full moon, there is the Full Moon Festival in Hoi An.
If you happen to be around here, stay in Hoi An. You can purchase little floating candles boats and set them free in the river.
Personally, I did not like this that much. When you walk a bit in floating direction, you will see all the trash. Not really adorable anymore.
11. Take a bike tour to Da Nang
Da Nang is the big city near Hoi An. It is in the north of Hoi An.
It has SO MUCH to offer, but it is less known, a real hidden gem in Vietnam.
If you know how to ride a bicycle, then Da Nang will be the best place to tour. A bike tour will go well if you have local guides helping you discover the beautiful landscape.
You will be able to go through villages as you wish away the sunlight.
The tour will start as the sun rises and may go on til the daylight is gone.
It is an adventurous tour, which educates you on what the area has to offer in terms of tranquility and unlimited adventures as you move along with a small crew.
The best hostel in Da Nang is Memory Hostel. Here is our full review of Memory Hostel in Da Nang.
Read: 12 best design cafes in Da Nang.
What to do in Da Nang?
You have to visit the infamous Dragon Bridge. Every Saturday and Sunday at 9pm then dragons spits fire – real fire!
Okay, the dragon spits as well water after spitting the fire… but I think the fire is way cooler!
Below you can find more information, #15.
During the day, hang out at the beach or drive to the peninsula. There is a gigantic Buddha statue.
In the area you find as well restaurants directly at the beach. Just keep driving – there is only 1 street – and keep an eye to the right side. Once you see a restaurant, climb down the stairs, sit down, enjoy the ocean!
Here is the street I am talking about. This will make it easier for you to find the place.
Bare in mind, wherever you park with your motorbike, you pay a bit for parking. It is kind of a tipping for the people watching over your vehicle.
12. Scuba Diving in Nha Trang
It is a favorite destination for all those visitors who love diving in the sea. If you are familiar with scuba diving you can apply for a certification and take a plunge into the sea.
However, if you are not a fun, you can dine and wine in the beautiful resorts found bedside the sea which adds value to your visit.
Vietnam has a lot to offer for your perfect vacation or holiday.
There is a lot to see and a lot of places to visit.
However, this will depend on how well prepared in terms of the necessities you need and the prior knowledge of the area you are visiting. This will prevent you from running into trouble and enjoy your stay while you make the most out of it.
The best hostel in Nha Trang is the container hostel CCASA Hostel.
Update: We wanted to give you even more insights to the essential things to do in Vietnam. So, we at Hostelgeeks, updated this guest article by William Benetton with even more Vietnam tours and places to visit in Vietnam.
13. A vegetarians heaven
Are you a meat lover? No worries, there is LOTS of meat you can eat.
But, also vegetarians will love this country.
During our 3 months adventure, we enjoyed so much food.
This country is a heaven for vegetarians.
The Buddhist only eat vegetarian so there are tons of restaurants and food stalls specialized on this.
Keep your eyes open!
Every full moon, all Buddhist people only eat vegetarian foot. We had no idea and went to a Vegetarian restaurant in Da Nang. They were even out of food!
Try to learn as well the basic words for Vegetarian: AN CHAI!
I can even write you this without looking up the word. Here is a guide to eating Vegetarian in Vietnam.
14. Visit an abandoned water park
We visited Hue, the former capital.
Hue is located North of Hoi An. A bike trip between these two cities is the best you can do in Vietnam! It is one of my favorite routes in Vietnam! This route takes you along the Hai Van Pass. This is where you will find a former US military bunker. It was once one of the most dangerous routes in the world, today it is only beautiful.
It is also the former border between North and South Vietnam.
Hue is a nice place to visit in Vietnam and recommended by so many people. So, yes, it is worth, but…there is a but:
Our highlight was the abandoned waterpark in Hue.
It is right outside the city center, and there is a tiny entrance fee. This park was built in the 2000s and was never really used and adapted by the people.
Today, well, it’s a travelers dream to wander around this impressive scenery. Bring you camera, please please please!
Good to know: There is a tiny food stall around. Here you can get a coca cola and some basic food.
Rumor: Rumor has it, that there are crocodiles living in this area and the water park. When we visited we have seen nothing no evidence of this. Plus, we could not find any information on this.
15. Enjoy Da Nang and the Dragon Bridge
A bit more south of Hue you find Da Nang. Da Nang is a big city, just a few km away from the tiny, yet famous village of Hoi An.
Da Nang is non-touristy!
There is no other city where you can see the growing times of Vietnam. Come here, enjoy the beach and endless awesome coffee shops.
Also, you can visit here roof top terrace with infinity pools.
The fire-spitting Dragon Bridge is another thing you have to see in Vietnam.
The Memory Hostel is the best place to admire the Dragon Bridge. It has a roof top terrace with a direct view to the bridge. EPIC!
16. Visit Sa Pa (trekking and family)
Up in the North of Hanoi, right at the border of China, there is Sa Pa.
It’s a wonderful experience to admire the scenic landscape. Stay with a local family, play with the kids, and mingle with the locals.
Sa Pa is known for the
- rice fields in the mountains
- the magical views and
- trekking experience
You can stay either in the Sa Pa Village itself in a better guesthouse. Or you can stay with a local family.
I totally recommend the local family experience.
The locals will approach you when arriving to Sa Pa. You will go for a trekking with your guide, all the way to the families village and house. Here you hang out in the kitchen, near the fire, can take beautiful photos of the landscape and try rice wine.
Rice wine? It is the drink of the simple people. You have to try this when you visit!
How to get to Sa Pa?
You can take:
1. Night Train: This is one of the best and most adventurous things to do in Vietnam.Book a night train and go over night to Sa Pa.
Very good to know: As a foreigner you cannot book tickets on the official train website with your foreign credit card. There is only a website to buy EXPENSIVE tickets to Sa Pa. BUT: You can buy your cheap tickets directly at the train station. We paid only 7€ per person, while the others who paid online bought a ticket for 50€ – each way.
2. Bus: There is a bus leaving from Hanoi to Sa Pa everyday. There are as well sleeping buses. I am not a big fan of buses, this is why we took the train.
Find our full guide to traveling in Sa Pa here.
Read: all our 99 travel photos from Vietnam here.
17. Enjoy Ha Long Bay (starting from Cat Ba)
Head over to the stunning Ha Long Bay. For me, this is one of the BEST things to do in Vietnam.
There is no way aorund it, do not SKIP THIS!!
You can take a cruise ship and soak in everything there is. We recommend spending at least 1 night here. It is really something special and unique!
You can book your cruise tour in Ha Long Bay here.
You can also ask the team at NEXY Hostel. They know the best tour providers and will let you know what tour operators to skip.
18. Enjoy coffee – over and over again!
Sure, we are big coffee lovers. In fact, we summed up our tips on how to find design coffee shops all around the world.
Vietnam is a country you will start to get into the coffee world as well.
There are many wonderful coffee shops around. But, you can get a regular coffee basically everywhere and it will be fantastic!
You can try the typical Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, coffee with egg or coffee with coconut. YUMMY!
19. Go off the beaten path
The best places to visit in Vietnam are:
- Ha Long Bay
- Hoi An
- Saigon /Ho Chi Minh City
Those are the absolute basic recommendations you will get over an over again. Okay, I get it.
However, if you have enough time, take the pass less traveled.
Visit for instance Kon Tum or the 3 borders triangle between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. There is so much to see apart from the big tourist spots. Go for it!
20. Take a motorbike tour from Hanoi to Saigon
We spent 3 full months in this amazing country. This gave us the time to fall in love with it, to “hate” it, to admire it, to enjoy it, to be annoyed by it – all that in the same day sometimes!
If you bring at least 4 weeks with you (and enough confidence), buy a motorbike and cruise from Hanoi to Saigon.
Travel the world-famous Ho Chi Minh Road. It is a life time experience!
21. At least: Take a motorbike along Hai Van Pass
But okay…we get it, not everyone wants to do this bike trip.
The most scenic road we’ve traveled here was the Hai Van Pass between Hue and Hoi An.
Back in the days of the American War, this was one of the most dangerous roads in the world. There is a former American bunker on the top, and the views are just WOWing you. Have a look on the photo below.
You can join as well organized tours with other travelers from Hoi An to Hue, just ask your accommodation.
22. Visit a roof-top terrace in Saigon
When we think of Ho Chi Minh City, known as Saigon, we think about FUN nights out. Oh my god, it was EPIC! The biggest city in the country comes with amazing roof top terraces.
Wwe had quite some parties here with our friends from The Common Room Project.
Therefore, highly recommend it! Go for a drink at a roof-top terrace.
There are cheaper places for the nightlife, but it is well worth it! The whole hostel moved to the roof top disco, and we stayed until the club closed. A super fun thing to do!
23. Stay at awesome hostels
The quality of hostels varies a lot. There are a bunch of dirty backpackers hostel to crazy party hostels to stunning 5 Star Hostels.
If you are a female solo-traveler, opt-in for the 5 Star Hostels.
You find all 5 Star Hostels in Vietnam here.
Actually, we recommend everybody to stay at the 5 Star Hostels.
You can still join the Party Hostels for their nightlife -even without staying there!
And remember, hostels are the gateway to make lifelong friendships.
Below, you can find a list of accommodations in Vietnam we recommend.
24. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
Impressive, terrifying, curious, crazy, wow…
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a MUST-VISIT in Vietnam, no question about it.
You can take day trips from Saigon or go there by your own.
Just ask the hostel for recommendations. You can ask the team at The Common Room Project. It is the 5 Star Hostel in town. They will help you to organized this trip.
FYI: You can also fire an old machine gun. It was around $15, and it’s real bullets.
Although we are no fans of guns, to hear the gun fire in the background when walking around the area adds a special, uncomfortable atmosphere. It’s quite an experience!
25. Visit the corps of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi
Did you know you can visit the corps of Ho Chi Minh? He is in the Mausoleum and every thousands of people visit him.
This is a free thing to do in Hanoi.
Just check the schedule and plan enough time.
Also: Do NOT try to take a photo of Ho Chi Minh. There are 4 to 6 soldiers in the room. It is forbidden to take a photo.
If you do take a photo, then, well, you will be most likely arrested. Do not risk it!
We mentioned this earlier before in this list. I consider this a must-do, this place tells you a lot about the country. The past, the present and the future!
26. Visit the Vinh Moc Tunnels
We told you we will share with you the less known tunnels. But impressive in the same way.
The Vinh Moc Tunnels are located in the “North”, or shall we say, the former North Vietnam.
These tunnels were used to hide from the bombings. The Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon were used to hide and fight.
You see, in the American war, the North was bombed, while they were fighting man against man in the South.
Not many tourists come here since it is not easy to get here. It is in the area of Hue. You need a motorbike or hire a driver to get here.
The entrance fee is very low and there is a guide you can hire.
I would recommend the guide since he or she will share incredible stories e.g. how many babies were born here, how many tunnels were destroyed and so on. There is as well stories of underground villages that were bombed, and destroyed.
Incredible, terrifying stories.
27. Tour with the Hanoi kids
The locals know their way around the best places to visit in Hanoi.
As such, you will get chance to take some of the Hanoi kids with you in an effort to get the most out of your visit.
It involves signing up for the tour which is organized by an organization that seeks to pair the kids or students with the travelers. The students are learning English and thus offers a great opportunity for them to interact as they show travelers around.
It is a fun experience and you get to learn more during the tour.
Read: our first 24 hours in Hanoi meeting local students.
2) Smart and Basic Travel Tips for Vietnam
Okay, here you have the absolute best things to do in Vietnam. Remember, if you have any questions, just drop them here.
In your quest to prepare for a visit to Vietnam, there are things which you should know as part of your plans, prior to visiting.
To make this list complete, we thought we should cover all the basic tips. These tips are really essential so I recommend reading through them.
1. It is very cheap, you won’t believe it
It is cheap, from the food they serve to the transport and fly costs.
You can fly using FlyVietnam, which is less costly as compared to the usual ones.
When it comes to food, you can opt for the street food, which is cooked and served while you watch it. Life is cheap in Vietnam, all you need to do is know where to get what, as not all transport means, flying and food will be affordable.
In short, there are no fixed prices and you pay whatever amount you will pay.
For accommodation you can pay as little as 10€ for a private double room.
You can eat for as little as 1€.
A Banh Mi cost me everything from 7.000 Dong to 55.000 Dong.
Read more about the currency.
2. The people are friendly
As a foreigner, you will feel like home. In most parts of the countries you visit, if you are foreigner you may feel out of place.
This is especially the case when you look confused while on the streets.
In Vietnam, the mood is totally different as everyone is minding their own business.
The people are friendly and when you ask for direction, they offer a helping hand while they go on with their business.
In short, it will feel like home away from home.
Bear in mind: Some people see you as a walking wallet – those are the more touristy areas. This can bean you can be easily overcharged for a tour, some food and so on.
Don’t worry, this happened to us a lot. And the “overcharging” is not a lot of money in the end. Just keep it in mind.
The non-touristy areas are different. The people will approach you, want to help and give recommendations.
3. Do your homework
You have to know what you are getting yourself into once you are in Vietnam.
You can take time and learn their culture. The most important thing is to know the prices of things in the marketplace and also the cost of transport. As such, ask the hotel and hostel staff from where you are staying about the transport cost from one location to the next.
This will protect you from the taxi scams, for instance which are plenty in this country.
Also, make sure you only stay at safe hostels like the 5 Star Hostels in Vietnam.
And always: Ask the price first BEFORE ordering or jumping in the cab. This way you can avoid a lot of unpleasant discussions.
4. Be ready to bargain hard
You have to be ready to bargain. Here is a simple step by step guide:
- ask for the price
- tell them you are ready to pay 50% of it
and then either
- you both agree and you buy
- or you walk away
- or the seller sends you away (happens as well!)
- you both disagree – you leave, s/he curses you
Even if you are a tourist you have to bargain up to a price that you feel they should charge either for food or transport. There is this notion that tourists are rich and this they should be charged high. Ensure that you have prior knowledge of the price of an item before you go out to buy it.
The price range will help you to bargain.
You thus have to be prepared to walk away if you are not satisfied with how much the vendor is charging.
This will save you a lot of money depending on how much you want to buy or how often you want to travel while in Vietnam.
If you want to become a business man in life, then go to Vietnam!
You will learn here the hard way!
5. Opt for the tourist bus instead of local transport
Local transport will include taxis and motorbikes.
Also, there is the tour buses which are cheaper and safer as compared to the local transport. Taxis tend to overcharge, especially if you are foreigner.
Once they realize that you are not a local, you may end up paying double than what you would have paid if you opted for the tour bus.
6. Travel late at night to save the accommodation cost
If you are planning to travel for a long distance, the best way to do it is to use the late night travel buses.
This means that you will get to your destination the following day and pay less as compared to traveling at any other time of the day.
Also you will save on the cost of accommodation which will prove to be effective on your part.
The so-called sleeping buses are surprisingly modern and comfortable.
Personally, I am not a big fan of buses. We traveled by our motor bike and train.
BUT, I was told the sleeping buses with actual comfy beds in them, are really a great way. They are obviously a bit more expensive than the local transport, but are a great way to go a long sitance.
7. It is well connected to WiFi
How about I tell you the WiFi here is faster than the WiFi we experienced in France, Germany and Spain. Probably all combined…
No, I am not kidding.
It has some of the best hotels and restaurants plus shopping malls.
If you are any of those hotels or dining in a fancy restaurant, there are high chances that it is connected to WiFi. This means that you do not have to use your SIM to browse.
You can simply connect to the internet with the help of the WiFi depending on the establishment you are into. The fast WiFi is usually for free, I have never paid any WiFi.
This will help you to save on the cost of accessing the internet since Vietnam is well connected to WiFi.
Anyway, I recommend buying a SIM Card for your phone when you arrive. We had
Update: when we got back to Europe, we had to laugh. Vietnam is better connected than every European country we know. The fastest internet connection of my life I had in Saigon.
I may have downloaded the whole internet in a few seconds…
8. The traffic is pathetic
In most cities of Vietnam, such as Hanoi and Saigon, you will have to deal with the heavy traffic.
If you are not used to crossing a street with heavy traffic, you might suffer a panic attack. It is almost impossible to cross the street if you choose to wait for the roads to clear so that you can cross.
The best way to deal with such traffic is to cross slowly, keep calm and make sure the drivers see you, to prevent you from being run over.
Again: Slow wins here to get through the traffic.
Nobody here wants to have an accident, so cars and motorbikes will drive around everything. In our experience, nobody complained when you were not in your line or whatever. The traffic is chaotic and at the same time organized.
Find the best hostel in Saigon here, the Common Room Project.
The best hostel in Hanoi for female-solo traveler is the NEXY Hostel.
9. Walk with your head help up high
You have to be bold all the way.
Smile when you can and walk like you are one of the locals in the region.
Although the Vietnamese are friendly, they can be intimidating from the how they carry on their business. Do not be shy or intimated to reach out in the case you want to ask for direction.
Also, when crossing the road, you have to do it in a bold manner. It can be scary and dangerous crossing a street that is heavy with traffic.
However, with the right confidence and knowledge of what you are doing, you will be able to safely get to the other side without much hustle.
10. Be careful where you eat
There are multiple cases of stomach illnesses among visitors due to the food they eat in Vietnam.
As a first time visitor you have to take care of where you eat.
Although Vietnam is a favorite destination for food lovers, there is a need to know where is the right place to eat. Avoid restaurants which have very few customers as their food may not be freshly cooked.
Go to those that have high frequency of customers as they replenish their ingredients and foodstuffs, now and then, making it healthy to consume.
Good to know: Food poisoning mostly comes from undercooked or bad meat. It may be a good idea to leave the meat away on your food. Do whatever you want, just saying!
Also, remember, they eat dog in Vietnam. You can walk around and find grilled dog on a spike – like Western people do with pigs, just with dogs.
I am not adding here a photo………
3. 10 Things NOT to do in Vietnam
We already covered the fabulous and most awesome things to do in Vietnam.
We also shared basic travel tips. This means you already did half your homework.
In this list we want to share with your the things NOT to do in Vietnam. Some of them are really important, others are just important to have heard of.
This is really interesting, so keep on reading.
1. Cross the road without looking
Again, slow wins! If the driver can, they will drive around you, not in to you! Nobody wants to have an accident here.
2. Ordering food or drinks without asking the price
Seriously, don’t do this. Never. This is actually a good advise for every country in the world, wherever you travel!
3. Sleep in a $5 accommodation
Accommodation in Vietnam is really cheap. Compared to Thailand it is even cheaper, and the quality can be really good!
When looking around for hostels and homestays, you will find as well $5 dollar accommodations.
Well, don’t come here. Skip them. Seriously!
It is always worth it to go with the 2nd cheapest accommodation. The cheapest, in our experience come with dirty bed linen and cockroaches. That’s an experience for sure, but one you might want to skip. We did this a few times, it was not worth it at all!
This is one of the things NOT to do in Vietnam to have a good night sleep.
4. Plan and book everything ahead of time
Other than different destinations like Spain, you don’t really need to book and plan everything ahead of time.
In fact, booking everything online will end up being more expensive.
That goes for accommodation as well as tours.
However, that being said, many popular quality hostels are often sold-out. Most likely you cannot show up on the reception desk and get a bed. Then it’s worth it to book ahead of time and pay 50cents more.
Find all best hostels in Vietnam here.
In this article of the coolest things to do in Vietnam, we also over accommodations. Just keep scrolling.
5. Always bargain, always!
As a western traveler, bargaining is something we’ve to learn first, right?!
Let me tell you, Vietnam is the place to learn bargain like a boss. You will learn fast. You will win, you will lose.
Sometimes the vendors even refused to ell at all, because I did not want to pay their price. Fair enough.
If there is something you really, really want to buy, don’t let the vendor know. If the vendor realizes you want this souvenir or tour badly, you will lose.
But, quite frankly, Vietnamese people are tough traders so you will lose once in a while for sure. Take it with a smile, and remember, Vietnam is cheap anyway.
6. Visit all tourist sights in the city
There are a lot of things to do in Vietnam. In fact, there are many tours to join and sights and places to visit in Vietnam, it can be overwhelming.
My best advise would be to slow down.
There are couple of absolute MUST-VISITS such as
- Ha Long Bay
- Old Town Hanoi
- Sa Pa
- Hoi An
- and the Cu Chi Tunnels
Everything else, in my opinion is an awesome add-on. Do not get stressed and don’t feel pushed to do everything.
I must admit, I did not enjoy the old town, ancient city of Hue at all. It was around 10€ entrance fee, which is a lot of Vietnam. Take it sower, more intense!
7. Skip or ignore other travelers
One of the coolest things to do in Vietnam is talking to other travelers. Since there are basically two ways to travel, you will always meet someone coming from the other direction than you.
The two itineraries in Vietnam are:
- South to North (from Saigon to Hanoi)
- North to South (from Hanoi to Saigon)
Simple as that. There is always someone that can recommend you one of the coolest places to visit in Vietnam, a fun thing to do in Vietnam or simple a restaurant, for instance.
This tip goes hand in hand with #4, booking everything ahead of time. Stay spontaneous. I know you might have a limited time here, but still leave some space for the cool stuff.
Seriously, this way we were able to visit so many amazing places to see in Vietnam.
8. Skip the street food
Vietnam is a foodies paradise. No doubt about that!
A few things you have to try are:
- Bahn mi
- Cha ca
- Hot Pot
- Goi cuon
I really loved the food here, but I could not go into the details. Other than Banh Mi and Hot pot. I basically lived on this!
The cheapest Banh mi I got for 7.000 Dong, the most expensive one I got for 55.000 Dong. The most expensive one I got on my first day…I learned my lesson, but hey it was good tho!
Find a food guide to Hanoi here.
9. Take a photo of Ho Chi Minh Corps
As mentioned in the most incredible things to do in Vietnam, you can visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.
This is where you can see the corps of the real Ho Ch Minh.
He is still the #1 hero of the country.
You will see his face everywhere. EVERYWHERE! SO it is better to know who this personality was and what he did.
When entering the Mausoleum, you are not allowed to take photos. If you still want to take photos, against my advise, get prepared for 6 soldiers with machine guns tackling to the ground. There are 6 soldiers guarding the corps.
I am not sure what happens to people that intended to take a photo, but most likely you might end up in jail.
So, again, this is one of the main things NOT to do in Vietnam.
10. Remember, it’s a Communist country
Yes, it is a safe country and yes, it is amazing with so many awesome places to visit in Vietnam.
But, please, remember that Vietnam is a communist country. There are many restrictions and lots of military power all around. Do not take photos of soldiers holding their Kalashnikov, for instance.
When I visited Vietnam, I was so keen to take a photo of a soldier. One day I was standing right in front of a military building with my motorbike without realizing it. A solider approached me. He asked me very kindly to stop on the side, not right in front. His English was very basic, but he smiled – I think he noticed I was lost and did not do this intentionally.
However, I saw the opportunity, one of the unique things to do in Vietnam, to take a photo of a solider with a Kalashnikov. I asked him politely if I can take a photo. He agreed. When I reached for my camera, he walked away.
To be fair, since his English was not the best, I don’t think he actually understood what I wanted.
Read: More short travel stories from the world.
4. Shopping: Things to buy in Vietnam
Vietnam is a kind of shopping-paradise.
You can find so many things to really cheap prices.
The markets here offer everything from delicious coconuts to fake North Face jackets and backpacks. You can even buy here fake football jerseys. However, I would recommend buying fake football jerseys in Kuala Lumpur’s China Town.
So, what about the things you can buy in Vietnam? There’s the following main things I consider worth it to buy to bring back home.
If you want to make me really happy, send me over a bag of real Vietnamese coffee.
If you want to make yourself really happy, buy one for yourself – as well!
The coffee here is incredibly good. It’s creamy, and strong, and really different from the European standard of coffee. Give it a try.
Coffee is a big part of the Culture here. Try the famous Egg-Coffee and of course the refreshing Ice-Coconut coffee.
Once you tried it, you will realize why I am so excited about it. Therefore, this is my #1 recommendation for things to buy in Vietnam.
FYI: It goes without saying, buy the coffee at the end of the trip, so you save the space in your luggage.
Vietnam is known for its silk. So head over to the markets and get the silk of your choice. Every city hand village has at least one market. Night markets are also very common, although I recommend the day markets to choose the silk.
This way you can see the colors of the silk properly in day light.
If you want some tailor-made clothing, have a look on our #4 and #5 on things to buy in Vietnam.
You will find endless options to buy souvenirs. This can be the typical magnet to put on your fridge back home.
But it can be also a snake-alcoholic drink you can buy at the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Propaganda Posters are also very popular to bring back home, same as the famous red-star-t-shirt. All that are classic souvenirs from Vietnam.
Especially in Hanoi you can find plenty of these propaganda poster shops.
I found a different, cool souvenir. This guy below made handmade stamps in every forms and shapes. Just keep walking around the old town in Hanoi or the markets in Saigon. You will get a lot of inspiration.
Personally, I still think Vietnamese coffee is the best thing to buy in Vietnam!
4. Handmade shoes
How about some handmade shoes? Walk in one of the many stores in Hoi An and ask for handmade shoes for you.
You can choose the color, material, look and feel.
Personally, for me it was overwhelming since I don’t know what kind of shoes I really love. I know, odd.
Give it a try. handmade shoes are a unique souvenir for yourself. You can bargain the price. After all, negotiating and bargaining is one of the most important things to do in Vietnam.
5. Wedding dress and a suit
Same as for the shoes goes for wedding dress and suit.
Many, many, many tourists come to Hoi An to admire the small, typical Vietnamese village at day and night, and to get a handmade wedding dress and suit.
There are numerous of tailor shops around, so you won’t have trouble finding a tailor.
We even were approached during our breakfast if we want a suit, shoes or whatever.
6. Vietnamese coffee maker
When ordering a coffee, you will for sure spot the Vietnamese coffee maker. This typical way of making coffee is quite interesting and cute to watch.
The Vietnamese coffee maker is also a popular Souvenir to buy.
5. What to pack – Things to bring to Vietnam
Vietnam is a narrow, long country. There are different climate zones, and therefore, you will have to pack a lot of things.
Read: our perfect hostel packing list
Let us have a look on things to bring to Vietnam:
1. a real jacket – warm and water resistant
It can get warm, it can rain. All the time!
Therefore, bring a jacket that covers both weathers. The best jacket would be a convertible jacket where you can add another layer to keep yourself warm.
You can find a Jacket with detachable hooded 3 In 1 jacket like this here.
Products from Amazon.com
2. Dry Bag
A dry bag is a real good idea to bring to Vietnam.
A dry bag is perfect to keep your belongings, well, dry! This is useful since you never know if it is going to rain. Also, since you end up joining a tour on water for sure (meaning, Mekong Delta, the Ocean, rivers, Ha Long Bay), you can put your phone and wallet here when joining the tour.
We explain all this in our packing list.
3. A lock for your backpack/ suitcase
Make sure you stay safe and lock your suitcase or backpack properly. Best way to do so, is a padlock.
Get a padlock that fits all lockers and suitcases, like this padlock here.
That brings us to the net topic, should you bring a suitcase or a backpack?
4. Bring a backpack and a day bag
We would vote for a backpack to bring. It is easier to travel around, no doubt about it! You will end up carrying your suitcase more than you will role it. This is way more uncomfortable at the end of the day.
I travel with a light backpack, the LOWE ALPINE.
Find more information on my backpack here.
As we mention in the things NOT do do in Vietnam, you should consider bringing a day bag with you. It can be a small one, obviously.
You can put your most valuable things here, not leaving them behind in the hotel, resorts or hostel.
When you are staying in hostels with proper lockers, then you are fine. Remember to bring your own padlock.
5. Remember your visa
We will go into detail later in this article.Keep scrolling!
Remember you NEED a visa to enter Vietnam. You already need your invitation letter when checking in at the Airport.
Scroll down for more information on the visa in Vietnam.
6. Short pants and swim suit
Vietnam has some beautiful beaches, so you will end up having a dip in the ocean.
Pack your swim suit!
As said, one of the nicest things to do in Vietnam is wandering around. It can be really hot, short pants are important.
7. Comfy shoes (maybe even hiking boots)
Some travelers we met made the huge mistakes of only packing flip-flops.
We even met a girl driving her motorbike in Flip-Flops. Needless to say, she got hurt badly and burned her feet when riding. Seriously, how can you do that?!
Anyway, that is one of the things again NOT to do in Vietnam.
Pack proper shoes. If you are considering hiking in Sa Pa for instance, pack some hiking boots.
If you prefer traveling light, you can also buy your new hiking boots in Hanoi, for instance. IN the old town, you will find endless shops selling fake North Face boots and jackets. Some of them are actually good quality.
So, get yourself a pair of waterproof hiking boots, they will come in handy.
BUT: Try to wear the boots before traveling. Your feet will get use to the new shoes and you will avoid blisters .
Read: 10 common backpacker mistakes everybody does
Accommodations in Vietnam
Accommodation in Vietnam is really cheap and the quality can be really high. You can sleep as cheap as $5. However, I would not recommend these places. You can stay at really awesome places for as little as $11 for 2 people. Those are the basic, clean hotels.
Everything less than $11 per night is a bad choice (cockroaches and dirty bed linen included).
You can stay in the following accommodation types:
- Home Stays
So, here is my list of accommodations in Vietnam we reviewed and stayed in person. All of them are recommended!
5 Star Hostel: NEXY Hostel
Ha Long Bay:
5 Star Hostel: Woodstock Beach Camp in Cat Ba Island
5 Star Hostel: Memory Hostel
5 Star Hostel: CCASA Hostel
Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City:
5 Star Hostel: The Common Room Project
“Every one in Vietnam is a millionaire!“, said our guide on the way to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Of course, this was a joke in a way. Let me explain.
The local currency in Vietnam is DONG, in fact Vietnamese Dong. They value is roughly 25.000VDN to 1€.
You can find current exchange rate of Dong to Dollar here.
I recommend to download an exchange rate app for your SmartPhone. It helps you to understand the value of the currency better.
Read: our favorite smartphone apps for traveler
You can pay with American Dollars almost everywhere in the country. BUT….this is usually much more expensive! I recommend you to get Dong from the ATMs and always pay in the local currency, the Dong.
However, having dollars with you as a backup is a good idea.
VND is the shortcode for Vietnamese Dong.
Other than Indonesia, we had no issue when getting money from any ATM machine. It is safe in this sense!
Visa to Vietnam
For entering Vietnam, you always need a Visa.
Usually you can hire some visa agency on the internet. They will prepare an invitation letter for you, and it can costs something between $40 to $80.
Some of the fellow travelers we met even got a last-minute invitation letter. It was done in 30 minutes.
When flying to Vietnam, you already have to show your Vietnam Visa on the airport BEFORE departure.
A great way to find cheap flights is Kiwi.com
Read: our review of Kiwi.com and how to use it
Safety in Vietnam
How safe is Vietnam?
It is very safe, even for female-solo travelers.
We did not hear a single story of physical harm done to any tourist. We always felt very safe, even at night walking back home to our hostel or hotel.
That being said, there are many scams you will be aware of.
For instance, when leaving the Airport , the taxi driver might tell you your hotel does not exist anymore. They want to bring you to a great hotel. This is a common scam, not just in Vietnam. Don’t fall for it.
Also, in Hanoi some people randomly started to talk to us, asking for our plans and if we want to book the Ha Long Bay tour with them for instance. Skip this and ask your hotel reception for help. Although they get their cut as well, they are more likely to help you.
We felt for a Scam a Hai Phong, North Vietnam.
Here is the story:
We took our bikes from Hanoi to Hai Phong. We planned to take the ferry from here to Cat Ba Island. The “official ticket desk” was closed – all the time. One woman walking around sold the tickets. She claimed the bikes were the same price as a person. Well, we had no other chance than giving her the money. It worked, we got on the boat with our bikes. However, it was WAY to expensive. We realized, or better, this was confirmed, when we were leaving again Cat Ba Island, it was not even 10% of the price for the bike.
There are much more scams out there.
Just pay attention.
And remember, all the scams are usually “only” about your money.
So, one of the things NOT to do in Vietnam, fall for scams!
The only concern we had was about the accommodation.
We read a lot about hotel cleaning ladies or men that take money out of your wallet, when you leave it lying around. You probably won’t even realize when a couple of thousands dong are gone. So, always take your wallet and money with you, and don’t leave valuables back in the hotel. Just in case!
10. Things to do in Vietnam in 15 days (Itinerary ideas)
We are currently working on such an itinerary for 15 days in Vietnam. If you have any questions, just leave a comment.
We can already share the rough itinerary and map .
11. Guide Books to Vietnam
Obviously, we are not the only ones with a guide.
12. Questions? Please bother me!
I want to keep this article as useful and great as possible. If you have any questions, please please bother me. Drop me a comment below.
I am more than happy to help you.
We traveled this country for 3 months and know it pros, cons and the sights to see. If you have any questions, it means, we missed to cover it in this article. That’s a shame. Every one of your questions will make this article more useful!
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About the author:
William Benetton is a blogger, traveler and writer. He writes about range of sports and tourism attractions. He has recently launched his own project, vuelta.club, a site dedicated to all things Vuelta de Espana.
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