If you’re planning a holiday in Vietnam, you’ll have to wait! Vietnam isn’t issuing visas or allowing entry to travelers right now. This ban includes travelers who already hold visas or visa exemptions.
Only Vietnamese nationals, foreigners on diplomatic business, and skilled workers are entering. Anyone entering Vietnam undergoes medical checks and endures a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
Ho Chi Minh City is preparing 27 extra hotels as paid quarantine facilities for arrivals. Hanoi currently has eight hotels as paid quarantine facilities.
For the full update on COVID-affected travel in Vietnam, click the link below.
2. Very Important Things To Know About Vietnam Before Planning Your Trip
You Need A Visa
One does not simply holiday in Vietnam. You must organize an online visa before you arrive! For visa approval letters and e visa steps, please follow below.
Vietnam Is Enormous. Way Bigger Than You ImagineVietnam offers 3 or 4 completely different experiences depending on where you go. In a later section, we cover the different areas in detail.
The Weather Varies Drastically
Track the weather from place to place and time of year. Vietnam can get really cold, especially up north, where they experience four seasons.
Learn About The Locals
Vietnamese are friendly but hardly speak English. You’ll benefit by learning a couple of phrases, especially when ordering food. We cover this in a later section on Vietnamese people and the culture gap. Using google translate is a must! Please become familiar with it.
Be Cautious On The Roads
If you’re planning on driving a motorbike, make sure you’re an experienced driver. Traffic is insane, and road rules are more of a suggestion. Accidents (especially involving tourists) happen often. Rather take grab (the Asian Uber) in the cities and watch where you’re walking- pavements aren’t always around.
Vegetarians Good Luck!
It’s not that easy finding something completely free from meat or dairy. Fish sauce is a staple in most Vietnamese dishes, but Vietnamese people are very accommodating- you have to ask.
Local food is delicious! Embrace it and eat less of the usual western meals- which are usually below average and more expensive.
This relates more when visiting the bigger cities in Vietnam and places with loads of locals. You don’t need to cover-up like visiting a Muslim country, but it’s still more conservative than visiting Thailand or Indonesia.
Dress well when visiting pagodas: no shorts or tatty beer t-shirts. Shoes are fine, and rarely will you have to remove them. If unsure, follow what the locals do.
Girls should avoid wearing crop tops, string straps, and mini shorts/skirts. It’s not really a problem if you do, but you’ll feel like you’re the only one doing it. Young Vietnamese girls have a very stylish but not flashy dress sense.
Guys should always wear shirts in the city and most definitely wear closed shoes. The filthy city streets will have your feet turning black in no time!
Pay Attention When Handling The Local Money
Even though Vietnamese dong is coin-free, the notes are confusing and look like one another. It’s easy to confuse a 10,000 or 20,000 Dong note with a 100,000 or 200,000 one. And if the millions of zeros aren’t confusing enough, the notes’ colors are also a problem. A 20,000 dong note looks awfully like a 500,000 one!. Pay attention to the number of zeros and note colors.
3. Visas in Vietnam
You will need a Visa or Visa on Arrival (VOA) approval letter to enter Vietnam.
There Are Three Main Ways Of Getting Into Vietnam:
- Visa acquired through an embassy. (not recommended)
- Visa On Arrival (VOA) Approval Letter (a most popular choice).
- E visa for Vietnam (newish process, not completely hassle-free)
VOA Approval Letter Process:
The online visa application process takes around 4 days. But make sure you leave a week or two to be safe.
Doing an e visa online is far cheaper and faster than going to your embassy to get a Vietnamese visa. It’s what everyone does and is 100% safe; follow the steps below.
To obtain your Visa On Arrival, you will need to fill out an online application form and pay an agency fee (around 20 USD). Below are our recommended agents to use.
You’ll then receive your VOA approval letter via email. Read this letter to make sure your details are captured correctly. Check your passport number, date of birth, and spelling. Also, make sure the Vietnamese immigration signs it. You must print out this approval letter and show it on arrival in Vietnam. Below the next image are two organizations we’ve used to obtain the Visa On Arrival in Vietnam.
You must also have two color photos– passport-sized (4cmX6cm).
Before you arrive, Make sure your passport is valid!
Make sure your passport won’t expire six months beyond your entire trip, and you have at least two blank pages in it.
Before you arrive in Vietnam, make sure you have:
- A Valid Passport- Check Expiry and Pages
- Photos- 2 in color sized 4cmX6cm
- VOA approval letter printed out- check all your details are correct
- Cash: USD 25USD or 50USD/ person depending.
- A Pen: Just in case, we waited forever for one.
What is an E visa for Vietnam?
This process started in 2017. It allows tourists to apply for visas through the Vietnam Immigration Department. The e visa process takes between 3-5 working days. This type of visa is only valid for 30 days and is limited to a single entry.If you’re interested in the e visa option, visit the official site below for the application process. Not all countries are accepted for e visa, so check the list.
If you’re visiting Vietnam for less than 15 days, you could be visa-exempt. This excludes multiple-entry trips.
At the time of writing this article, the following countries are visa-exempt:
15-day visa exemption:
- South Korea
30-day visa exemption:
Make sure you visit the Vietnam Embassy website for up-to-date information and changes made to this list.
4. Vietnam Vaccines. What’s advised
The four main vaccines recommended for Vietnam are:
- Hepatitis A
Other suggested vaccines include cholera, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, and rabies. Depending on your location and activities.
5. Is Vietnam Safe For Tourists?
For the most part, Vietnam is a safe place to travel to, with little to no major or violent crimes.
Petty theft is more common. If you’re out in public or on the streets, keep your money, expensive jewelry, and camera equipment in your bag. Especially when in the big cities. Even so, there are seldom reports of muggings, robberies, or sexual assaults.
Be on the lookout for tourist scams. Particularly in Hanoi, HCMC, Nha Trang, and occasionally Hoi An. Be familiar with all possible scams going around.
There is a bit of an unmanaged influx of visitors into Vietnam. Especially to the coastal areas and rural parts. The lack of infrastructure in these areas has caused a huge amount of pollution and waste. Copious amounts of litter come from the restaurants catering to tourists. And without proper waste removal methods, all the waste lies around for all to see. It’s a tad miserable and can put quite a damper on your mood.
Vietnams poverty rate is declining from year to year. The country has gone from one of the poorest in the world to now a lower-middle-income country. The boom in tourism is boosting the economy, and it’s evident when visiting the major cities. Most of the poorest Vietnamese people live in rural areas. And even then, you’ll meet some of the humblest and sweetest people out there.
6. Is It Expensive To Visit Vietnam?
The short answer is NOT AT ALL.
For the most part, holiday expenses are cheaper in Vietnam than in Thailand or Bali- where tourism is well-established.
As tourism increases in Vietnam, so do the prices. And prices seem to fluctuate from place to place and from person to person. Don’t make it obvious if you’ve got money to spend- you’ll pay the price, so to speak!
Even the sweet Vietnamese ladies selling fruit from their baskets will try to take advantage of you if you let them!
When it comes to accommodation, you’ll have a wide selection to choose from. Some tourists stay in expensive hotels, others in medium-range villas or Airbnb’s. Backpackers flock to Vietnam for its variety of cheap hostels and homestays. There’s a price suited to just about anyone.
Most restaurants are reasonable and offer both local and international cuisine. Local beers are cheaper than water and of great quality. Day excursions or experiences with the locals are cheap and in plenty. It’s worth doing an excursion or two to understand this unique culture better. We recommend doing a food tour in Hanoi and Hoi An.
7. Vietnam Budget Per Day
If you’re spending a considerable amount of time in Vietnam, you can do it easily at 40USD/per day. This is possible for backpackers and budget travelers splashing out once in a while.
A week in Vietnam can cost half the price compared to a week in Thailand or Indonesia. When booking accommodation, make sure you read the reviews and search images for realistic expectations.
A vacation to Vietnam for one week usually costs around d6,572,372 for one person. So, a trip to Vietnam for two people costs around d13,144,744 for one week. A trip for two weeks for two people costs d26,289,488 in Vietnam.
Look at Airbnb, Booking.com, Hostelworld, and Agoda to get estimates on accommodation costs. These sites (or apps) are completely transparent and come with photos and honest reviews, so you know what to expect.
If you’re staying in a homestay or hostel in Vietnamese cities like Hanoi or Da Nang, you’ll find accommodation for as low as 10USD/ night. Keep in mind your privacy in these places is usually limited.
Middle range accommodation in the cities goes for around 35USD night and is often best found on Airbnb. You’ll even find amazing places for as little as 18 USD; you need to do some filtering.
Fancier resorts and hotels are great to search on booking.com and go for 50USD-250USD/night.
Advice when booking accommodation:
Stay in Airbnb’s, hostels, and homestays instead of hotels.
If you rent an Airbnb for 30 days, you usually get a long-stay discount, which can be as much as 50% off! Paying for a month’s stay could be cheaper than 2-3 weeks! Play with dates to see for yourself.
Try to stay in accommodation where breakfast is included or offers a kitchenette with cooking basics. If you skip at least one restaurant meal a day, you’ll save a ton of money.
When it comes to food and drink, Vietnam won’t disappoint. Local dishes like pho (noodle soup) and banh mi sandwiches are available from 15,000 to 50,000 dong (0,5-2 USD).
You’ll pay quite a lot more for international dishes at Western eateries since a lot of the ingredients are imported. A large pizza costs between 100,000-150,000 dong and a steak above 400,000 dongs!
Locally brewed beer is dirt cheap and well worth having. Expect to pay between 5,000-50,000 dong for a beer- depending on where you go. You’ll find beer cheaper than bottled water in most places. Wine is gaining popularity in Vietnam. Local wines aren’t expensive (around 50,000 dong), but be selective! Not all Vietnamese wines are palatable. Imported wines are costly and in limited supply.
The same goes for spirits. Cheap and nasty vodka, gin, rum is available but suspect in taste. Imported spirits are really expensive and aren’t always available.
Advice for eating in Vietnam:
Eat at some of the local restaurants instead of western eateries. Buy fresh fruit from the locals and snack on it throughout the day. Visit the local fresh food markets and try cooking a Vietnamese local meal.
The cheapest transport option in Vietnam is renting a motorbike or scooter. If you’re traveling around Vietnam long-term (a few weeks/months), it’s even cheaper to buy a scooter and re-sell it when you leave. Scooter rental is from 5 to 15 USD per day. Buying a motorbike can be as cheap as 175 USD.
Grab and Go-Jek Taxi Services
Both Go-Jek and Grab services have the option of paying cash on arrival instead of using your card. The rate is around 1USD per 2km. Grab services are in all the major cities like Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
Public and Private Buses
Public buses in Vietnam cost next to nothing to ride on and tickets are bought at booths at some bus stops.
If you’re going on a long journey outside of the cities, you can travel on sleeper buses. The seats are usually reclined beds and, depending on the price you pay, can include massage chairs and secluded mini cabins. For a 6-hour two-way sleeper bus experience, look to pay around 10 USD per person. Mini-buses are more intimate and ideal if you’re traveling in groups of around 5 to 10 people. The same trip above will cost 20 USD per person in a round trip VIP Minibus.
Traveling by train is a cheap and interesting way to see the country. There aren’t too many train options around Vietnam so if you get the opportunity to try it out, do so. The only downside is the price you’ll pay above the train ticket for you to arrive at your next accommodation from the train station. Sometimes you’ll pay three times as much for a taxi to complete the journey a short distance away. This often happens if you’re arriving at the train stations at strange hours at night.
A train trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi will cost 8 USD round trip and take 3 hours. A minibus will cost 12 USD, do it in 1 hour, and directly take you to your accommodation.
Private Car and Taxis
Hiring a private car or taking a private taxis is not advisable. You’ll pay ten times the price when compared to a minibus or train ticket. It will cost 60 USD for a private car to take you to Ninh Binh from Hanoi.
Refer to section 18 for more detail about booking flights in and out of Vietnam and locally.
A Quick Word On Travel Insurance
It would be best if you considered taking out travel insurance when visiting Vietnam. Something unexpected could happen and might cost a lot of money. i.e., medical help, replacing lost luggage, missed flights, and so on. World Nomads is a well-known and trusted travel insurance provider. Both Lonely Planet and National Geographic recommend it.
8. How Many Days Are Enough To Explore Vietnam?
Because of Vietnam’s sheer size, you’ll need at least a week per region to explore. By regions, I’m referring to North, South, and central Vietnam. If you don’t have oodles of time to explore Vietnam, rather cut out one or two of the regions and spend more time exploring one area.
You’ll be exhausted if you try to take on too much. Traveling in and around Vietnam is not the most pleasurable experience. You don’t want to spend a huge chunk of your Vietnamese holiday in transit.
One to two weeks in Northern Vietnam
One week is enough time to give you a taste of North Vietnam. The North has a lot of diversity, so two weeks would be far better and less rushed.
You’ll want to spend a day or two in Hanoi, exploring city sights and going on food tours. After that, we recommend 4 days visiting a more rural side of Vietnam. Ninh Binh, surrounded by limestone mountains and rivers, is only a one-hour drive from Hanoi. Sapa or Ha Giang are higher up in the mountains and offer breathtaking views of lush rice fields. Spend another four days on a boat cruise to Halong Bay and explore Cat Ba island nearby.
One to two weeks in central Vietnam
Central Vietnam is full of culture. Two days in Hue is enough; you could even explore hues sights on a day trip. In Hue, you’ll visit sights like the Citadel, the Emperor’s Private House, the Perfume River boat ride, Thien Mu Pagoda, and Khai Dinh Royal Tomb.
Da Nang is a large city with a great vibe and excellent beaches. Visit Ba Na Hills, Son Tra peninsula, Lang Co beach, Cu Lao Cham island, and Marble Mountains when staying in Da Nang. Hoi An is the cultural hub and café haven of Vietnam. You’ll need three days in Hoi An to see what this ancient town has to offer. Include an early morning visit to My Son in your stay at Hoi An.
One to two weeks in the South of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City is enormous, so you need to plan your stay here carefully. Spend two nights in HCM city and visit the Cu Chi tunnels and do a Saigon city tour. After that, spend one to two nights in the Mekong Delta. For a beach experience, spend two days in the Mui Ne beach area or a relaxing four days on Phu Quoc island.
What Is The Best Month To Visit Vietnam?
This is somewhat dependent on what type of holiday you’re planning and what area you’re visiting. Generally speaking, March and April are spring months in Vietnam and the best time to visit, weather-wise. During this time, days aren’t too hot, and rainfall is light.
Winter in Vietnam is only experienced in the North and takes place between October to February. Hanoi and Halong Bay can have winter temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. Areas higher up in the mountains, like Ha Giang and Sapa, experience winter temperatures well below 0 degrees Celsius. For the most part, winter temperatures usually stay around 17-22 degrees Celsius.
Majority of Vietnams’ rainfall taking place in October and November. If you’re planning a beach holiday, you’ll want to avoid the typhoon season running from August- November.
Southern Vietnam sits near the equator and is hot pretty much all year round. The two defined seasons are wet (May-November) and dry (December-April). It’s best to avoid the wet season, especially if you’re planning a beach holiday. Others have found it to be unbearable hot from March-May, and avoid these months in the south.
10. What Are The Best Places To Visit In Vietnam?
Vietnam offers an array of experiences. If you’re interested in a cultural trip, you’ll want to explore places like Hanoi city and Hoi An.
For a beach holiday, visit some Vietnamese islands and coastal spots offering powder sand and warm waters. Mui Ne coastal town is a quick weekend getaway from Ho Chi Minh City. Da Nang is a vibrant city offering some of the most beautiful beaches Vietnam has to offer. Islands like Phu Quoc or Don Cao are great beach locations with awesome diving and snorkeling opportunities.
You might consider exploring the rivers and caves at Ninh Binh or jungle hiking at Cat Ba Island for a more adventurous holiday. If you’re confident on a motorbike or scooter, you could even ride around the mountains in the Ha Giang loop or Sa Pa.
Digital nomads flock to Da Nang and Hoi An. Da Nang is big-city living – It’s modern and vibrant and has less crime than at Ho Chi Minh city. Hoi An is quant and offers plenty of cafes and restaurants suited to digital nomads.
Each area offers a completely different experience; you’ll need to read up on each area first and decide what suits your taste.
11. North, Central, Or South Vietnam, What’s Best?
The most popular tourist locations in north Vietnam are Hanoi, Sa Pa, Halong Bay, and Ninh Binh.
Central Vietnam’s popular destinations include Hue, Hoi An, and Danang City.
Ho Chi Minh City, AKA Saigon, is Vietnams biggest city that attracts most tourists to the south. The South also has a few coastal towns (Mui Ne)and islands for honeymooners (Phu Quoc, Don Cao). The Mekong River is also in the south. It carries diverse wildlife and incredible views.
The North For First-Timers
If you’re planning your first trip to Vietnam, you should consider visiting the North. More of Vietnam’s culture is preserved in the North, and you’ll get to experience an all-rounded trip.
Beach Holidays In The South
If your holiday is more about relaxing on the beach and sipping cocktails, visit the islands in the south.
Central Areas For Cultural Trips and Digital Nomads
On your second trip to Vietnam or for digital nomads looking to work while travel, the central areas offer a mix of beach, city, and culture all-in-one.
12. Accommodation In Vietnam
Book Through Apps
Find the best hotel deals in Vietnam on apps or sites like Agoda and booking.com. Book a Vietnam hostel or homestay with Hostelworld. Find plenty of elegant and well-kept apartments through Airbnb.
Vietnam accommodation options are plentiful and cater to all walks of life. Whatever option you go for, you’re almost guaranteed a cheaper Vietnam rate than in a neighboring country like Thailand
Accommodation Costs in Vietnam
One of Hanoi’s best hotels, situated in the city’s heart, will cost around 70USD for a room (2 people).
A stylish, clean apartment in Hanoi, near the bus station taking you to the Old Quarter, costs under 20 USD per night.
An apartment in Phu Quoc with a pool and gym costs under 20 USD per night.
A beach resort with a sea view in Mui Ne costs under 20 USD per night.
Most places in Vietnam give discounts for long stays (over 28 days). When done through Airbnb, this saving can be as much as 50%.
If you’re staying in Vietnam for a month or longer, it’ll benefit you to pay for a month’s stay in one place. It doesn’t matter if you don’t stay there every night and land up paying for a few days elsewhere (if you’re exploring nearby). You’ll still save paying for both, and you don’t have to bring all your baggage to every new spot. This worked for us when we stayed in Hanoi. We explored Ha Giang, Halong Bay, and Ninh Binh but used our apartment in Hanoi as our base.
Below are links to apartments, hotels, and hostels we stayed in on our trip to Vietnam. We’ve only included the places we recommend and would go back to.
13. Vietnam Cities
Hanoi vs. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh is Vietnams financial hub, making it more urbanized and westernized than Hanoi. HCM has impressive skyscrapers, shopping malls, colonial buildings, and war museums.
Hanoi is far more charming with its picturesque Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem lake. Hanoi embraces local culture with street vendors, local restaurants, and fresh food markets. HCM nightlife is impressive, with rooftop bars and flashy nightclubs. Hanoi offers a more laid-back vibe with cheap beer served at local roadside bars and restaurants.
In the central region of Vietnam, this city brings a little bit of everything to the table. It’s filled with ancient pagodas, beautiful beaches, marble mountains, and national parks. It’s also a brilliant location for digital nomads and city lovers. Rooftop bars offer sunset views of the city, beaches, and mountains.
Ba Na Hills and the golden bridge is one of Da Nang’s biggest attractions. Da Nang is also close enough to Hoi An, so you’ll be able to visit this ancient town on a day trip. From Da Nang, spend a night on Cham island (an hour away from Da Nang). Cham island is home to some of the best coral reefs in Vietnam.
Hoi An vs. Hue
Both Towns are reachable from Da Nang and small enough to explore over a weekend or a day trip. Hoi An is a 45-minute ride away, whereas Hue is 3 hours away by train or bus.
Hue used to be Vietnam’s capital, so it’s a place to immerse yourself in Vietnam’s history and culture. The 19th-century Citadel of Hue is imposing. Historical Highlights in Hue are the old Imperial Palace, the Old Theatre, and Purple City.
Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site offering a mix of eras and styles. You’ll find wooden Chinese shops and temples amongst colorful French colonial buildings. The iconic Japanese Bridge and pagoda are some of the biggest attractions in Ancient Town. Both cities offer cultural and historical places of interest.
The food and drink scene in Hoi An is far better than that in Hue. Cafes and eateries in Hoi An are a real treat! Hoi An is also better set up for shopping and has a far superior night vibe. Even though Hoi An is a coastal town, most activities take place in Ancient Town. Depending on what season you visit Hoi An in, it can get pretty busy in Ancient Town, even Motorbikes are restricted from zooming around Ancient Town, so you won’t have to watch your step or worry about the noise, unlike in Hue
All-in-all, Hoi An offers more than Hue. It has culture, food, vibe, ocean, and scenic landscapes. Hue is your choice if your main interest is in Vietnam’s historical sights and absorbing all its culture.
We had the pleasure of writing a feature article on Hoi An for Magnificientworld.com. Check out the link below for all details relating to Hoi An, Vietnam.
This gorgeous Vietnamese town sits above Ho Chi Minh City, in the South of Vietnam. It has beautiful French villas and gardens, surrounded by farmlands and natural landscapes. It’s coined the phrase ‘Le Petit Paris’ and even features a mini Eiffel Tower. Dalat sits 1,500 meters above sea level, making it cooler than the other cities in Vietnam. It’s quiet and laidback.
The region is home to Vietnam’s enormous coffee industry and its ever-growing winery’s. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Dalat for its hiking, rafting, canyoning, and bike riding tours. If you’re interested in bustling nightlife or modern day shopping, Dalat may not be for you.
Nha Trang is one of the most popular beach towns in Vietnam. Other than the white sands and blue sea, it hosts nightlife and some of the tastiest seafood spots. Scuba diving in the warm, clear bay has become very popular in recent times.
Nha Trang is ideal for family getaways. Kids enjoy the resorts, amusement parks, water parks, and the Vinpearl Cable Car.
Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong Delta and the fourth largest city in Vietnam. It mixes traditional Vietnamese culture with modernized tourist infrastructure. It has a relaxed, local feel for the Mekong Deltas visitors.
14. Vietnam Vacation For Couples
Most Honeymooners are looking to unwind and relax. We wouldn’t recommend visiting the big cities like Hanoi or HCM if that’s the case. Below are a few ideal places in Vietnam for honeymooners to consider
Vietnamese Islands For Honeymoon
Vietnamese islands are ideal for couples who want to relax in a decent hotel or villa’s comfort. Eat fresh seafood while sipping on cocktails and swim in the calm, warm sea.
The biggest Vietnamese island tops our list when it comes to Nam island experiences. The only downside is that it’s heavily built up for tourism. If you’re a confident scooter driver, you’ll enjoy zooming around the island, visiting the more secluded beaches it has to offer.
Cat Ba Island
Cat Ba Island is a small islet reachable via Halong Bay. There’s not much to do on Cat Ba, but it offers amazing jungle hikes and scenic mountain views.
A somewhat untouched island, but we wouldn’t recommend spending more than two nights on it. Your choices of accommodation are limited to a few homestays and basic quest houses. It’s more of a rustic and raw experience away from the crowds than a luxurious getaway. Most tourists visit the cham island on a day trip from Hoi An. You can also arrange a trip to Cham as part of a holiday package. Snorkeling and diving are popular on Cham Island.
This bay is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam. The bay is set between limestone karsts. For honeymooners, we recommend a short trip or cruise through the area.
Honeymoon Cities and Towns in Vietnam
If you need a little more excitement, cities like Da Nang, Ha Long Bay, and Hoi An are for you. These areas have gorgeous seascapes and offer luxurious accommodation. You’ll have no problem finding great restaurants or places to shop. Vietnams cultural heritage still shines bright in these locations. They’re considered relaxing cities but offer more nightlife and a variety of attractions.
Vietnam Honeymoon Locations Not At The Beach
If you’re looking for a complete alternative to a beach holiday, Vietnam has other options for you.
Sa PA, Ha Giang and Ninh Binh
The rural side of Vietnam is really scenic and much quieter than its neighboring cities. Places like Sa PA, Ha Giang, and Ninh Binh are mountainous areas surrounded by rolling rice fields and rivers. You’ll enjoy riding bikes in these areas without worrying about crazy traffic conditions.
Dalat is also a top honeymoon destination and is often visited by wealthy Vietnamese. It rests on a plateau 1500 meters above sea level. The valley of rolling hills has a mesmerizing glassy lake at its center point. Vallée D’amour, as the French called it, truly is the Valley of Love.
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy exploring waterfalls, hiking, and riding bicycles around the area.
15. Adventure And Outdoor Locations In Vietnam
Sa Pa and the Ha Giang Loop
Because these areas are in the far North, watch out for low temperatures in the winter months.
Its location less than 100km southeast of Hanoi makes it an ideal day or side trip from the capital.
Rice fields look their best in September and again in March/April before harvesting.
Ninh Binh has the same rock formations you see in Halong Bay but on land. Hidden amongst these rocks are temples and ancient ruins waiting to be explored. From mountaintops, you’ll observe winding rivers and vast rice fields.
Rice fields surround Ninh Binh, so it’s a good idea to consider the rice harvest’s timing when planning your visit. November to early February (peak winter season) has nice, cool temperatures—but the landscape is parched and brown. The fields are fully developed and fluorescent green around September (when I took most of the photos featured here) and again in March/April. They turn a brilliant shade of golden yellow in October and May/June ahead of the bi-annual rice harvest.
Cat Ba Island
Mui NeMui Ne is a booming little seaside town in the south of Vietnam. Some visit here to soak up the sun on loungers at the beachfront. Others take advantage of the watersports on offers like kitesurfing and jet skiing. One thing is for sure; you can’t visit Mui Ne and miss a trip to the white dunes. The towering dunes are epic and create an unexpected desert-like scene in such a small town. Lots of activities happen in Mui Ne, so you won’t want to miss them if you’re an outdoor enthusiast.
In Dalat, the hills and valleys surrounding the city are blanketed in coffee plantations. The areas’ forests offer some great canyoning through dense valleys and over misty waterfalls for nature lovers. On the way in or out of the city, make sure to stop at Elephant Falls, the most famous waterfall in the Central Highlands.
Boating along the Mekong Delta
The area is the ultimate example of a tropical climate with its endless green landscapes, rice paddy fields, and thousands of colorful fruit vendors on every street. Local women and men wear circular cone hats called nón lá, which I had only previously seen in National Geographic photos. It is a site that can’t be erased from memory.
16. Vietnam Beaches
Nha Trang ‘City’ Beach
The Beach is better known as the city beach. The promenade, with its luxury and mid-range resorts, separates the beach from the city noises. The water at Nha Trang is a brilliant turquoise blue and crystal clear. There’s plenty of beach bars and eateries at the beach. There’s also a lot of little islands to explore nearby, all reachable by boat.
My Khe Beach – Da Nang
AKA China Beach was once named one of the most attractive beaches on the planet. Even though it’s 5kms from the city center, it still attracts tourists with powder white sand and a calm blue sea. There are lots of activities going on, like surfing, snorkeling, and jet-skiing.
Long and Sao Beach – Phu Quoc Island
This Palm tree paradise island is Fascinating! Thick, unexplored jungle covers 60% of the island. Some parts of the island are very built up, and other parts are completely rustic.
Long Beach and Sao Beach are the most popular beaches on Phu Quoc. They have plenty of bars, cafes, and shops along the coastline. Parasailing, jet skiing, and boat riding are all available too. Sao beach could do with a bit of a clean-up; we found tons of litter piled into heaps at the end of the bay.
Starfish Beach- Phu Quoc
Starfish beach up north attracts tourists to see groups of red starfish washing up on the shore. It’s a beautiful beach with crystal clear water, but it’s tiny and over-hyped. It’s actually quite sad seeing so many people man-handling these sea stars. The beach has become very touristy, and I fear its rustic charm is waning.
Vung Bau and Ong Lang Beach – Phu Quoc
The Lesser-known beaches on Phu Quoc island are far prettier but offer few to no amenities. Vung Bau is almost completed deserted, a sight you rarely see when traveling. Some days we got to enjoy miles of soft sand and crystal clear calm water all to ourselves! If you’re on the island, it’s definitely worth seeing. Make sure you pack some food and water – cause you ain’t buying anything here!
An Bang Beach – Hoi An
Most people come to Hoi An to enjoy the sights, shopping, and atmosphere in Ancient Town. Few even visit the beach when staying here.
But if you come to Hoi An in the summer months, you might as well visit An Bang and Cua Dai beaches. The beachfront gets a little crowded, but there’s plenty of restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the ocean view. The sea also isn’t the clearest, and bits of plastic wash up now and again. If you’re staying in Hoi An and want a paradise beach experience, it’s worth driving up north to beaches in Da Nang. We spent December in Hoi An and had a month of cold rainy weather, so we have no great beach stories to tell.
Mui Ne Beach
This small coastal town south of HCM City is very, very windy. It’s the ideal spot for kitesurfing, sailing, and windsurfing. Every year, thousands of tourists come to Mui Ne for these activities. Beautiful resorts and a few backpacker hostels sit side by side along the coastline. The water isn’t the clearest, and the beaches aren’t the cleanest, but there’s a great vibe on the beachfront. Further inland, the town is run down with plenty of ‘half-built’ and deserted buildings.
Con Dao Islands
16 different islands are making up the Con Dao Islands. Most of the beaches are immaculate, with soft white sand and crystal blue waters. Con Son is the biggest of the islands. Here you’ll find accommodation ranging from budget hotels and homestays to high-end resorts. Divers come to see the coral reefs in this area.
Bai Chay Beach – Halong Bay
Google search ‘Halong Bay’ and you’ll find images of emerald green water amongst high rise limestone karsts. It’s truly a beautiful sight, and cruising through the bay makes you feel like you’re in a scene from Jurassic Park. If you’re staying in Halong Bay, there’s not a whole lot of beach you can visit. Bai Chay Beach is Halong Bays human-made beach. It’s filled with beach chairs and umbrellas, but somehow you still feel like you’re sitting in a harbor.
Monkey Beach – Cat Ba island
Monkey Island is a fantastic little island (3km’s in size) just off Cat Ba Island. It’s reached via a 10-minute boat ride from Cat Ba. You can also stay on monkey island at the monkey island resort, which has a great reputation. Most tourists visit the island through day or weekend trips from Hanoi or Halong Bay. The island’s monkeys are cheeky and love to interact with the tourists. It’s a beautiful spot to relax with crystal clear water and soft white beach sand. There’s also a small hike up to an impressive viewpoint.
17. Temples, Tombs, And Ancient Relics To Visit
Ho Chi Minh City
Cu Chi Tunnels
If you’re in HCM City, It’s definitely worth seeing these elaborate underground tunnels. The Vietnamese created them during the Vietnam War to protect themselves from Americans. The tunnels’ fascinating thing is how narrow they – even though they’re even 40% larger now.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
Every day locals come to this alluring shrine to pray, light candles, and make offerings. Another part of their daily ritual is feeding the tortoises in a large pond by the temple. Besides the Jade Emperor statue, the temple features Generals, Gods, and women representing our human traits. Gruesome carvings on the walls depict the punishment awaiting those living a life of purgatory. It’s a fascinating temple, giving insight into the many faiths held in Vietnam.
The temple is free to enter, but donations are appreciated.
Thien Hau Temple
The temple is more like a courtyard, with the main feature being an altar to Mazu, the Chinese sea goddess.
Decorating the roof are small porcelain figurines showing Ancient Chinese legends. Chinese Lanterns hang all along the entrance.
The temple is located in the Chinatown area, district 5. It’s a peaceful spot in a quieter part of HCM City.
Peoples Committee Building
The People’s Committee Building is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. It’s found in district 1, at the end of the Nguyen Hue walking promenade. This gorgeous French-designed building was once a hotel but now serves as a city hall.
It’s three buildings with Ho Chi Minh’s statue in front of the main building. The best time to visit is at night when LED lights light everything up.
Tan Dinh Church
This vivacious Roman Catholic church is in District 1 of HCM City. Its formal name is the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s commonly called “the pink church.” Both the exterior and interior of the church is painted the most beautiful pastel pink color. It’s well worth the visit, even just for the Instagram pic.
Mui Ne/Phan Thiet
Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda
Not far from Mui Ne’s town are Vietnams most giant reclining buddha and an ancient pagoda dating back to 1879.
Both elements sit at the top of Ta Cu mountain. It’s either a fun hike or cable car ride to the top.
Van Thuy Tu Temple
This small whale temple sits in the heart of Phan Thiet. Whales are significant to the Vietnamese locals as they’re believed to protect fishers out at sea. The temple keeps the remains of more than 500 whales and remnants from old fishing boats. It’s said to house the remains of the longest whale skeleton in the whole of Southeast Asia.
Phu Quoc Prison
This was the largest prison for communist soldiers and high-ranking leaders during the Vietnam War. The prison closed after the war but is now available to tourists.
If you visit this site, you’ll understand how extreme the torture and punishments were during this time. Thousands died as a result. The most famous site in this prison is the “tiger cages.
Ho Quoc Temple
Ho Quoc Pagoda is a Buddhist temple established in 2012. The Temple itself features a statue of Quan Am and a giant functioning bell. When you reach the top of the dragon stairs, you’ll have a panoramic view of the island’s mountains and spectacular sea below. It’s an incredible spot to watch the sunrise from. It’s the definition of “a temple with a view’.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
This temple is magnificent and well worth the visit. It’s completely covered in colored mosaic tiles that shine and shimmer in the light. It’s also called the broken glass pagoda because of a 50m long dragon constructed from beer bottle glass.
Linh Phuoc is home to the highest temple bell tower in Vietnam, with the bell weighing over 8,500 kgs!
Bao Dais Palace
The palace sits on top of a hill in DaLat, offering a beautiful view of Da Lat and the palace’s gardens. Kids can ride horses on the grounds.
Hue Imperial City- The Citadel
You enter the Citadel by crossing a moat and going through one of ten ornate gates guarding the palace. The interior grounds have been well-maintained, with beautiful gardens to walk in. It’s a must-see location when in Hue.
Tran Quoc Pagoda
The Tran Quoc Pagoda is the oldest in Hanoi. It is one of the Tran Quoc Temple’s main parts, holding the ashes of important monks.
Monks have lived at the Pagoda for centuries, teaching the ways of Buddhism to the public. They pray at multiple shrines spread around the grounds. At the main shrine, visitors light and burn incense to send wishes to the gods and to receive good luck in return.
The pagoda is a picturesque attraction with beautiful views of the lake in front of it. The sunsets seen from the temple grounds is worth the visit alone.
St Joseph’s Cathedral
This Cathedral is the oldest church in Hanoi. It’s a late 19th-century Gothic Revival church serving the Catholic Community of Hanoi. It’s named after Joseph, the patron saint of Vietnam.
The cathedral conducts mass several times a day. For Sunday evening mass, large crowds gather in the streets and listen to hymns being broadcast.
Tam Coc Bich Dong Pagoda
Bich Dong is three stories high, going up the side of a mountain. Each level joins onto a cave behind it. At some point, you enter the cave, passing through it to ascend steep stairs on the other side. The view from the highest level is incredible.
Bai Dinh Pagoda
Bai Dinh is the largest pagoda complex in the whole of Vietnam. It consists of a series of Buddhist Temples, halls, and courtyards set on a mountain. The new complex includes 700 hectares and took seven years to build, from 2003-2010. The ancient temple consists of a series of small caves. You’ll get there after ascending 300 stone steps. Both areas are spectacular and well worth the drive out to witness.
Japanese covered bridge
This is one of Hoi An’s most iconic structures. It’s over 300 years old and has been renovated 7 times.
When you walk along its pedestrian passageway, you’ll see elaborate carvings and statues of both a monkey and a dog. The statues represent the Chinese zodiac years for the construction and completion of the bridge.
Fukian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien)
If you buy tickets to see historical buildings in Hoi An’s Ancient Town, make sure you visit this Assembly Hall. Once you’re through its bold, colorful entrance, you’re surrounded by mythical animal statues. Such statues include dragons, turtles, and even and a phoenix.
My Son Cham Ruins. The ancient Cham ruins are worth a visit if you’re in Vietnam. The Champa Kingdom existed between the 4th and 14th centuries, with My Son’s buildings constructed over those 10 centuries. Unfortunately, they were damaged during the Vietnam war, and only 17 of the 71 original structures are still standing. The ruins make for great photos though.
18. Traveling in Vietnam. How Do You Get Around?
When it comes to traveling around Vietnam, public transport options are really not a problem. Usually, there are two to three options, depending on where you’re going and coming from. Below are a few of the best transport options in Vietnam. All these options are available through online sites called 12GoAsia and Book away (see links below).
For minibusses and private group tours, we suggest using XYZ. Their service is impeccable, and prices are competitive.
Renting A Motorbike In Vietnam
You need an international motorbike license by right, but the chances of being stopped and asked are slim to none.
The downside to riding around on a scooter has to deal with the insane traffic in the cities. Rules of the road are not followed as they should be and can result in severe accidents. You’ll need to be confident riding amongst swarms of bikes weaving in every direction. It’s best described as organized chaos.
Safety Inspection and Checks
Before you set off on your new rental scooter or motorbike, make sure you go through these checks below.
- Take photos of any existing damage to the body of the bike.
- Check the suspension by bouncing up and down on the bike.
- Test the brakes- Make sure the bike has enough rear brakes.
- Inspect the tires and make sure the tread is decent enough.
- Make sure you get a helmet. It should fasten tightly and be free from cracks.
If the bike comes back with any additional marks, you will be charged for this. Some motorbike rental companies will take advantage and make a bit of extra income this way.
Go-Jek and Grab Services
In 2018 Uber sold its rights in Southeast Asia to Grab. Grab works in the same way as uber, making it a keen favorite for tourists. Before using Grab, you need to download the Grab app and load your credit card details on your profile. You request a bike or car through the app on your phone and track the driver as he/she progresses to you. It’s cheaper and more popular to order a grab bike (with a driver) than a whole car, especially if you’re a solo traveler.
Go-Jek is an Indonesian-based company in direct competition grab. It’s gaining popularity throughout South East Asia and is usually a bit cheaper than grab.
Buses: Public, VIP, Sleeper and Minibus/Van
Wherever you are in Vietnam, you can google ‘buses near me’ for a list of the most up-to-date bus options in your area.
Google maps have integrated with the public bus system in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. When you open the google maps app, you’ll see if a public bus route is available for your direction and the times it’s running.
For longer journeys outside of the cities, you can travel on sleeper buses. The seats are usually reclined beds and, depending on the price you pay, can include massage chairs and secluded mini cabins. The ride is really worth the reasonable price you pay.
Mini-buses are more intimate and ideal if you’re traveling in groups of around 5 to 10 people. The trip will cost more than a sleeper bus but takes fewer people, and the seats are bigger.
19. The People Of Vietnam Explained
20. What To Wear In Vietnam?
This relates more when visiting the bigger cities in Vietnam and places with loads of locals. It’s unnecessary to cover up as if you’re visiting a Muslim country, but it’s still far more conservative than visiting places in Thailand or Indonesia.
Avoid wearing crop tops, string straps, and mini shorts/skirts. It’s not really a problem if you do, but you’ll feel like the only one doing it. Young Vietnamese girls have a very stylish but not flashy dress sense.
Guys should always wear shirts in the city and most definitely wear closed shoes. The filthy city streets will have your feet turning black in no time!
21. What To Eat In Vietnam?
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its rich flavorful broths and fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat is always complemented with handfuls of herbs, spices, and delicious sauces. The food is seldom greasy and hardly ever over-processed.
Ensure you have a little understanding of the dishes and learn a few Vietnamese food words. Most menus will be in Vietnamese only, and you’ll seldom get pictures of them.
There are plenty more dishes not mentioned below, and a lot of specific dishes are only found in certain areas of Vietnam. We’ve mentioned the basics and most commonly seen options. We urge you to be adventurous and go beyond this list.
Vietnam Dishes Explained
This has got to be the most popular Vietnamese dish in the world. It’s a clear broth with fettuccine-style rice noodles inside. Usually, it’s accompanied by a few chicken pieces (Pho Ga) or beef (Pho Bo) on top. It burst with flavor and is a keen favorite for the majority of Vietnamese.
This is a french baguette filled with different types of meat (sometimes more than one), paté, cucumbers, and fresh cilantro. It’s often eaten as a snack by the locals and served at any time of day.
Better known as rice paper rolls. Once the rice paper is damp, it becomes translucent, soft, and pliable. It’s filled with shrimp, vermicelli, pork, and healthy greens. It’s usually accompanied by a powerful dipping sauce made with lime, soy, fish sauce, chili, and peanuts.
Commonly referred to as a Vietnamese crispy pancake. It may look like an omelet, but it’s egg-free. The pancake batter consists of rice flour mixed with coconut milk, water, and turmeric. Once cooked, It’s served with rice rolls, a plate of greens, cuts of meat, tofu, and sauces.
To eat it, you fill the pancake with your fillings of choice and wrap it up in the rice rolls or leaves. You then dip the end in sauce and take a giant bite.
Egg Coffee is more of a dessert than a beverage. It’s a rich espresso-style coffee made with egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk.
The egg mixture forms a decadent and rich meringue-like mixture on top of your coffee. You stir the mix in before trying to drink the thick coffee. If it’s made properly, though, you’ll need a spoon to eat your way through that rich top layer.
22. Can You Drink The Water In Vietnam?
No, it is not advisable to drink tap water in Vietnam. Most locals will avoid it too and opt for bottled or boiled and cooled water instead. Some homes have water filters fitted to their kitchen taps but stay away if they’re not cleaned and maintained often
Ta-Da is a homemade Vietnamese ice-tea served at most restaurants in Vietnam. It’s made with boiled and cooled water most of the time, so it should be safe to drink but be cautious if you’re not sure.
23. What should I avoid In Vietnam?
Sauces and Condiments Left On Tables In The Sun
If a sauce looks bloated or bubbly- stay away. In fact, it’s best to stay away from any sauce left out and not made fresh.
Unrecognizable Meat- Especially From Roadside Vendor
You don’t know what you might be eating if you can recognize what cut of meat it’s from. Meat that’s been minced and rolled into balls is especially suspect. Dog meat is sold in Vietnam, so be cautious.
Tap Water and Ice From Questionable Establishments
The tap water is not safe to drink- even from the opinion of the locals. Ice is meant to be regulated by the government but use it with caution and in small amounts.
Any Form Of Raw Meat
No carpaccio for you!
Flies sit on meat in local markets all over Vietnam. Don’t risk eating meat that hasn’t been cooked properly. You could be getting a hefty dose of bacteria and parasites if you do so.
Strays and even Pets Belonging To Locals
Avoid a stray animal that might be carrying diseases. Rabies isn’t the only thing you need to worry about in Vietnam. Dog bite infections can become very serious, especially if not treated. You’re going to see a lot of innocent-looking strays on your travels but don’t become too familiar.
If you’re in awe over a locals pet, ask the owner if you can approach them before petting. Sometimes the locals don’t like it if you approach their pets without their permission, and you also don’t know how friendly the animal is.
Avoid Sun Over-Exposure When Possible
Vietnam is hot and Humid. For this reason, you risk getting dehydrated and might feel the effects of sunstroke more.
Keep hydrated and do as the locals do- stay out of the sun!
24. What are the common scams in Vietnam?
Be More Money Savvy
When someone asks for 10 in Vietnam, it could mean more than one thing. It could mean 10 dollars, or more likely, 10,000 dong, which is far less in value. Always try to pay in dong first. That way, you won’t have to worry about exchange rates when working out your change.
The Confusion with Bank Notes
As seen on my image of dong earlier, Vietnamese notes look very similar—especially the blue 500,000VND and 20,000VND. Always try to pay with small bills first. Break your larger notes at places you can trust- like restaurants and hotels. Changing money on the streets could become messy, and mistakes can happen. Stay away from vendors, taxis drivers, and tourist facilitators when swapping notes out.
More Than One Business By The Same Name
There are plenty of imitator businesses in Vietnam. For every flourishing business, you’ll find three lesser versions using the same name. Copycats happen with restaurants, massage parlors, hotels, and tour companies. Make sure you know the address of the place you’re going to. Also, check reviews to verify it’s indeed the right place! Taxi drivers are often in on the scams and take you to their friends’ places.
Photo Opportunities Aren’t Free
Vietnamese locals are very accommodating. They’ll pose for your photo or let you hold their fruit basket as props in your perfect insta shot. But this always comes at a price. You’re guaranteed to be asked for money as soon as the photo’s taken. There is a way around this, ask permission first. You’ll quickly find out if there’s a price to pay or not. Most of the locals want to be asked first and don’t mind the occasional freebie!