Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country popular with travelers due to its beautiful beaches, meandering rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling megacities such as Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) and Hanoi, the capital. Ho Chi Minh City has Vietnamese War history museums and the Củ Chi tunnels used by Viet Cong soldiers, plus French colonial landmarks. Hanoi pays homage to Vietnam’s iconic Communist-era leader. Awe-inspiring natural beauty, hill-tribe villages and the fascinating cultural complexities compel adventurous tourists to visit time and again.
VIETNAM TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Despite some seasoned travelers considering Halong Bay to be a tourist trap, it’s still one of the most popular things to do in Vietnam and makes the top of our list. Hạ Long Bay is in northeast Vietnam and known for its still blue waters with thousands of towering limestone islands popping up like icebergs. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take you past islands named Teapot and Stone Dog. Halong Bay is also popular for rock climbing, hiking and scuba diving.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Get a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. The site has over 120km of underground tunnels, with trapdoors, kitchens, living areas, armory, hospitals, and command centres. Now part of a Vietnam War memorial park in Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi tunnels have become a popular tourist attraction. The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.
Packed with picturesque pagodas, eclectic street cafes and colorful colonial buildings. Relax on the beaches of An Bang and tuck into Cau Lao (thick rice noodles and pork seasoned with chili and lime) which is Hoi An’s most famous dish. Ride a bike through this ancient town painted almost entirely in deep canary yellow, watch boats glide past as you walk along the canal and stroll through the narrow flower-lined streets of the Old Town. As night falls, Hoi An undergoes a magical transformation; the town lights up, the lanterns glow and the night markets and sidewalks spring back to life.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is in north-central Vietnam bordering the Hin Namno Reserve in Laos. The area’s rich wildlife includes tigers, black bears and elephants. Here you will find mountains, underground rivers and tropical forests, but this park is best known for its huge network of caves and ancient limestone karsts. These include the huge Sơn Đoòng cave and Phong Nha caves which are big enough for a boat tour should you fancy a closer look.
Dodge bikes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh
These two megacities of Vietnam are pretty cool with their rooftop bars, delicious cuisine, and craft beer (yes you read that right). You can easily spend a few days in these cities without getting short of things to do. In Ho-Chi-Minh, visit the War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace and enjoy the street food and cheap beer. Hanoi has Hoan Kiem Lake, the Old Quarter and Nha Tho Lon Cathedral. Alternatively have fun dodging death by venturing onto the motorbike frenzied streets.
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VIETNAM TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Hoi An Full Moon Festival
Every 14th day of the lunar month, the old town of Hoi An prohibits all motorized vehicles from it’s streets and becomes a performance venue for Vietnamese art, Chinese opera, Chinese chess and lots of regional food. Brightly colored lanterns light up the streets and traditional music blasts throughout the town.
Tet in Vietnam is pretty similar to the Chinese New Year and the most important festival of the year with family members coming together to spend the holidays in their hometown. At midnight, as the New Year approaches, the Vietnamese welcome the Kitchen God with firecrackers, drums and goad dogs to bark which is regarded as a lucky omen.
Xen Xo Phon Festival
This is a traditional festival for Thai people in Mai Chau. Held between the 1st and 28th day of the 4th month in the Lunar calendar, when the dry season starts in Mai Chau commune, Xen Xo Phon festival is a plea for rain in the form of songs.
Language: The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese with around 85% of the population speaking this language. In the bigger cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, a large number of people speak excellent English but of you travel to mountain regions and smaller towns you may face language issues.
Currency: Vietnamese Dong.
Visa: Visa requirements for visiting Vietnam are subject to change and will vary depending on your nationality and country of residence. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Vietnam is required, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Vietnam has a 220 V AC electricity supply. The power sockets are compatible with the standard UK and US plugs. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Vietnam: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN VIETNAM
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Vietnam are listed below. Don’t drool!
Pho: Pho by far is the most famous signature dish of Vietnam. Authentic pho is a rich and flavorful broth with meat and vegetables and with a chilli sauce on the side. Pho is typically eaten as breakfast and can be found in most local restaurants and at street vendors throughout Vietnam.
Bun Cha Hanoi: Meat is grilled and then served over noodles along with a broth that is sweet but tangy. This unique combo is eaten with lots of vegetables. This delectable dish originated in Hanoi but later different variations appeared throughout Vietnam.
Banh Mi: A unique sandwich with a French influence and a perfect snack. Banh Mi is a toasted baguette with pickled vegetables, butter, pate, soy sauce, chillis, hot pepper and cilantro. There are a wide array of meat fillings that give each sandwich a unique taste.
Banh Xeo: This is a crispy pancake made of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric and filled with vermicelli, pork, chicken or beef slices, shrimps, bean sprouts, sliced onions, and mushrooms. It comes with rice papers or fresh lettuce and fermented peanut sauce on the side. Find Banh Xeo at most of street vendors, restaurants and local stalls.
Gui Cuon: Gui con is a Vietnamese variant of the spring roll and considered a delicacy in Vietnam. This dish is sold in nearly all the restaurants and street food stalls. The rolls are made of fresh ingredients and are extremely light. Noodles and meat are topped with lots of fresh veggies and then rolled in rice paper to make a roll which is then served with sweet soy sauce, topped with chilli and roasted peanuts.
WHERE TO STAY IN VIETNAM
Vietnam is a reasonably affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Vietnam is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Vietnam affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Vietnam will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Vietnam can cost less than $20 dollars.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. If you’re traveling to Vietnam during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Vietnam is a very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Vietnam. However, if you are backpacking in Vietnam or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Southeast Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT VIETNAM
Vietnam is 1025 miles long and although this might not seem huge it does mean that the weather is going to vary greatly depending on where in Vietnam you are visiting. Generally, the best time to visit Vietnam is in spring which is between February and April and then in autumn between August and October. During this time of year Vietnam’s temperatures are more moderate and there’s less rainfall. In spring, March and April the temperatures will still be quite cool in the far north of the country.
VIETNAM TRAVEL BUDGET
Vietnam is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Vietnam really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Hanoi then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
IS VIETNAM SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Vietnam. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of tourists are common. Female travelers should be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some areas in Vietnam are more dangerous than others so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel in Southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance and recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Vietnam trip.
GET YOUR VIETNAM VISA
VIETNAM FLIGHT DEALS
VIETNAM TOURS & ACTIVITIES
VIETNAM PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Vietnam, like most other places in Southeast Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Vietnam and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for very cold morning and evenings depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater, coat, gloves and hat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Vietnam include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.