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With bustling cities, flawless beaches, and some of the best food in the world, Vietnam deserves a place on every person’s bucket list. One of the greatest gems of Southeast Asia, you could come back a dozen times and never have the same experience.
Soak in the idyllic countryside as you trek through the scenic rice paddies in Sapa and admire the Buddhist pagodas. Learn about the history and culture in the dynamic cities like Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Set sail through the otherworldly beauty of the Halong bay before docking to soak in the sun at the stunning beaches of Da Nang. Planning to visit Vietnam? This travel guide provides everything you need to know before heading out on a trip to Vietnam.
If you’re coming from outside of Southeast Asia, you’ll likely want to fly into the country. The two main international airports are Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. You’ll also find a limited number of international flights into Da Nang Airport along with domestic airports everywhere.
If you’re in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, you can take the high-speed ferry offered by Mandarin Cruises. It’ll take you along the Mekong River to Chau Doc, Vietnam. Alternatively, you can take a six-hour bus trip from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
While it’s hard to narrow it down to the best, here are a few of the key Vietnam tourist places: While it’s hard to narrow it down to the best, here are a few of the key Vietnam tourist places:
- Halong Bay: Famous for the iconic limestone rock islands that tower above the sparkling emerald water, Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places in the world for a cruise. Take one of the so-called junk boat tours or go on a cruise expedition for unforgettable views.
- Ninh Binh: You can’t just visit Vietnam for its cities! Explore this rural Northern Vietnamese spot to see the authentic side of Vietnam. Rent a bike, bring your camera, and soak in the quiet serenity of the countryside. You might want to consider a motorbike rather than a bicycle to cover more ground.
- Hanoi: The capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is an urban wonderland. Walk the chaotic streets of the famous Old Quarter, visit the temples, shop the market, then unwind at Turtle Lake. Be sure to sample the street food then get a one of a kind souvenir from Dong Xuan Market.
- Hoi An: On Vietnam’s central coast, you will find the gorgeous city of Hoi An. Famous for its well-preserved Ancient Town and lovely canals, you can explore the countless years of history of this city as you take in the Chinese, French, Japanese, and Vietnamese influenced architecture.
- Ho Chi Minh: Also known as Saigon, this French-inspired city is perhaps best known for its role in the Vietnam War. Explore the fascinating Cu Chi Tunnel and take in all of the historical sites to better understand the culture of Vietnam. It’s not just for history buffs though! Ho Chi Minh City is actually the business and financial heart of Vietnam.
You can travel to Vietnam on a shoestring budget or live it up in luxury for a fraction of what you'd pay elsewhere. It’s all up to you. You will find modern and comfortable backpacker hostels for as little as USD 10 per person. In places like Ho Chi Minh City, you can get into a three-star hotel for under USD 40 per night. If the countryside of Ninh Binh, a cozy resort will go for around USD 40 as well. If you want a full five-star experience, you will get it anywhere in the country for around USD 150 per night.
Getting around Vietnam is inexpensive. A motorbike taxi will set you back around USD 1 for hopping around the city while a taxi car will go for around 60 cents per kilometer. If you’re looking to travel farther, a domestic plane ticket runs from USD 30 to 90. Train prices also range from about USD 30 to 90, depending on distance and class.
The best way to get around Vietnam depends greatly on where you are and where you’re going. Within the city, you can hop on the back of a motorbike, take a taxi, or be peddled down the street. In the countryside, a bicycle is a great way to take it all in. You might even consider getting a motorbike. They are nearly ubiquitous in Vietnam. While driving a motorbike can be a bit scary in the city, it’s an easy way to get around rural roads.
If you are in one of the remote northern areas, you might want to consider the train or renting a car for the day. If you’re city-hopping between the main areas of the country, booking a flight is both cost-effective and timesaving. Buses aren’t generally a good way to get around so avoid them unless you’re going with a privately booked tour from a reliable company.
When you visit Vietnam, you’ll want at least a two-week itinerary to see all of the highlights. The best Vietnam tourist places can be a bit far-flung and require travel. The key cities like Hanoi, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City require at least two days each. You’ll also want to spend at least two exploring the countryside of the north as well as two days for the islands and bays.
If you are short on time, a 5-day or 7-day Vietnam itinerary is enough time to travel in two to three major destinations in Vietnam including time for transportation. Tour packages including Halong Bay, Hanoi and Sapa or tour packages for Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta are popular choices.
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Vietnam is anytime from December to February. Temperatures are comfortable and it’s the driest part of the year in a country that sees more than its fair share of rain.
One of the key Vietnam travel tips is to know your region too! A long narrow country, Vietnam is broken up into three regions: the south, central, and north. The north can get far colder than you might expect while the south has a tropical climate. As you plan your Vietnam travel, check the typical weather for each spot on your tour plan.
Vietnam offers a Visa on Arrival (VOA) for most visitors. You can apply for this online before you go, then collect the visa. Before you arrive be sure your passport is valid for at least six months from your departure date and you have one blank page.
Vietnam is a very safe country. The police keep the streets well-enforced and it’s rare to hear of robberies or assaults.
All in all, Vietnam is an extremely safe country to travel in. In terms of crime, the biggest things to look out for are scams aimed at tourists. When you visit Vietnam, be aware of your cash. Know what you are paying for and agree to the price ahead of time, especially in taxis. Pay attention to make sure you aren’t shortchanged.
Be careful as well on the road. The most likely cause of the serious issue is traffic accidents. Be especially careful on motorbikes. If you’re uncomfortable with your driver, don’t be shy to demand an early stop.
When it comes to things to bring on a Vietnam trip, don’t overpack! Having a huge bag can be a major detriment when you're trying to explore the country. Essentials like comfortable shoes and diarrhea medication will go a long way. Opt for lightweight materials that’ll keep you cool and be sure to pack conservative outfits (covering knees and shoulders) for visits to holy spots. Other than that, you’ll find it quite easy to pick up whatever you need on the go.
Whichever Vietnam tourist places you explore, you are sure to fall in love with this dynamic and fascinating country! From the glamour and grit of the cities to the lush sands and turquoise waters of the coastline, keep our Vietnam travel tips in mind to make the most of every moment.
Travelling to Vietnam? Chat with a local travel specialist in Vietnam who can help organize your trip.
Linh Do Travel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam
Ashley Tran Travel Expert in Laos & Vietnam
Hanah Pham Travel Expert in Cambodia & Vietnam