Saturday , July 24 2021

Backpacking Vietnam – The 15 Issues to Know Earlier than You Go

Should you’re enthusiastic about backpacking Vietnam, the very first thing it’s worthwhile to know is that you just positively ought to! Now that call is made, listed here are the important journey suggestions to assist take advantage of your Vietnam backpacking journey!

What’s in our information to Backpacking Vietnam?

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Vietnam is likely to be the proper vacation spot for backpackers, particularly for individuals who are travelling to Asia for the primary time. The individuals are extremely welcoming, the infrastructure for tourism is effectively organized, and there’s a large selection in landscapes, tradition, meals, and fascinating issues to do.

Past that, Vietnam remains to be terribly low cost, so you possibly can backpack on a finances and nonetheless have a good time.

hotel sign cat ba vietnam
In Vietnam you possibly can typically pay only a few {dollars} per individual for finances resort rooms.

I’ve travelled to Vietnam so many occasions now that I’ve misplaced depend. I’ve been there as a solo backpacker, as a cycle tourist, as a home and pet sitter, as a volunteer, and most just lately as a brief expat in Hoi An.

These adventures have taken me from the far north-eastern border with China all the best way to the southwest coastal border with Cambodia, and all stops in between.

If it’s your first time backpacking in Vietnam, the guidelines beneath will allow you to make absolutely the most of your journey to Vietnam.

So learn on on your information to…

Backpacking Vietnam – The 15 Issues You Should Know Earlier than You Go

1. How lengthy do it’s worthwhile to backpack Vietnam?

Despite the fact that it looks small on a map, that slender strip of land is deceiving. Vietnam is a few thousand miles from north to south, and on sluggish trains and in a single day busses, it is a large distance. Not solely that, however throughout this distance there’s an enormous variation in tradition, meals, panorama, and environment.

women selling bananas in hanoi vietnam
Scenes like this are widespread throughout Vietnam, which is among the causes we like it!

We’ve spent near a 12 months in Vietnam over the course of not less than 7 completely different journeys and have nonetheless not seen all the things there may be to see or realized almost as a lot in regards to the tradition as we’d like!

Alas, you most likely don’t have limitless time to spend wandering Vietnam’s many incredible destinations. If not, listed here are our suggestions for what you possibly can see within the time you’ve gotten.

One month to 6 weeks

If you wish to cowl the three principal areas of Vietnam – north, central, and south – with out flying or dashing from place to put, you’ll want not less than a month. Six weeks will provide you with a greater probability to get off the overwhelmed observe, spend a while stress-free on the seaside, and to keep away from hellish 15-hour bus rides!

Three weeks

When you have 3 weeks or much less, we suggest concentrating your go to within the north and central areas of Vietnam. Go away the south for one more time until your principal aim in life is to visit beautiful beaches. If that’s the case, go seaside and island hopping within the south and add in some adventures in Dalat and the Mekong Delta.

mekong delta tour vietnam
The Mekong Delta is so peaceable after hectic Ho Chi Minh Metropolis.

Two weeks

Should you solely have two weeks or much less in Vietnam, simply go to the north or the central area. The north is healthier for rugged adventures and breathtaking wild surroundings, whereas central is healthier in order for you a mix of historical past, tradition, and seashores.

One week

Should you solely have one week in Vietnam, rethink whether or not it’s price going. Should you solely have every week of trip, it could be a lot better to journey someplace in your house nation – you’ll have extra time to take pleasure in your self and fewer stress.

Should you’re planning one week in Vietnam as a part of a Southeast Asia journey, assume once more. With restricted time, it’s a lot better to only go to 1 nation and spend longer there, than to try to pack a number of nations into a few week’s trip!

2. How a lot does it value to backpack in Vietnam?

The nice information about Vietnam is, though it’s a massively standard backpacking vacation spot, you possibly can go to very cheaply and nonetheless have a good time. Backpackers with a way of journey and a decent finances can nonetheless journey in Vietnam for underneath $15 per day.

banh mi from phuong hoi an vietnam
The tofu banh mi from Banh Mi Phuong doesn’t look all that fairly nevertheless it was the tastiest vegan banh mi in Hoi An.

Listed below are some typical prices of issues in Vietnam:

  • A filling banh mi or noodle soup from a avenue stall is lower than $1.
  • Hostel beds, in good hostels with numerous facilities, value $5–10.
  • A clear and cozy double resort room is about $12–20 per evening.
  • A 5-hour bus trip will run you about $6.
  • A pair of elephant pants is $3–8.
  • A street food tour is $15–25.

Not together with your flights or visa, for 3 weeks in Vietnam, finances $500–700. This leaves room for just a few nights of extra comfortable lodging, just a few excursions, and a few nicer meals.

Dealing with Vietnamese dong

In Vietnam, the foreign money is Vietnamese Dong (VND). It’s used for all the things besides paying on your visa on arrival. For that, you will want USD or Euros.

Dong is a type of currencies which may be desperately complicated as a result of there are such a lot of zeros.

$1 USD is price about 23,000 VND. 100,000 VND is rather less than $5.

When coping with foreign money like this, it’s essential to all the time concentrate and take your time when paying for issues.

It may be all too simple at hand somebody 500,000 VND as a substitute of fifty,000! I’ve accomplished it numerous occasions. Whereas most Vietnamese individuals are very trustworthy and can level out your mistake, there are all the time just a few dangerous apples ready to reap the benefits of wealthy, mathematically challenged foreigners.

3. The place to go when backpacking Vietnam

We love travelling in Vietnam a lot – there are seemingly infinite choices for enjoyable, journey, lovely landscapes, and deep cultural experiences.

trekking in Sapa Vietnam
Trekking within the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam is an unforgettable expertise.

Our don’t-miss highlights for backpacking Vietnam embrace:

Northern Vietnam

  • Hanoi, simply an incredible metropolis
  • Sapa / Ha Giang, for unbelievable views and cultural immersion
  • Bai Tu Lengthy Bay / Cat Ba Island, slightly touristy however you actually should see these karsts
  • Tam Coc / Ninh Binh, luscious inland karst landscapes

Central Vietnam

  • Phong Nha, unbelievable caves and a small village expertise
  • Hoi An, touristy however so fairly and distinctive in Vietnam
  • Hue, nice meals and imperial historical past
  • Da Nang, seaside metropolis with numerous nightlife
winter in mui ne vietnam
Folks love visiting Mui Ne, Vietnam – this white sandy seaside is among the principal sights!

Southern Vietnam

  • Mui Ne, finances seaside vacation spot
  • Dalat, for highland trekking and the Loopy Home
  • Ho Chi Minh City, huge metropolis life in Asia
  • Can Tho, to expertise the mighty Mekong Delta

It is a only a shortlist of locations to go to in Vietnam. For a extra detailed have a look at our favourites, try our Vietnam 2-week itineraries and our information to transformational things to do in Vietnam.

4. What’s the perfect Vietnam backpacking itinerary?

Whereas there isn’t any optimum route for backpacking Vietnam, we are able to make some ideas based mostly on variations within the size of time you’ve gotten there and the place you propose to go subsequent.

Right here’s a route that you could develop or reverse, relying on how a lot time you’ve gotten and which different nations you’re visiting.

10 days to 2 weeks in Vietnam

Should you solely have 10 days or 2 weeks in Vietnam, we suggest travelling solely within the north. Fly out and in of Hanoi.

  • Day 1–3: Take in the tradition in Hanoi
  • Day 4–5: Trek in Sapa or Ha Giang
  • Day 6–8: Cruise Ha Lengthy Bay or Bai Tu Lengthy Bay
  • Day 9–11: See the karsts in Tam Coc
  • Day 12–13: Keep at a homestay in Mai Chau
  • Day 14: Again to Hanoi on your flight

3 or 4 weeks in Vietnam

When you have extra time, you too can go to central Vietnam. After your northern adventures, head south to go:

  • Day 15–18: Caving in Phong Nha
  • Day 19–20: See the Imperial Palace in Hue
  • Day 21–23: Take within the evening life in Da Nang
  • Day: 24–28: Go to the traditional metropolis of Hoi An

You possibly can then fly out of Da Nang or return to Hanoi and fly from there.

stephen walking along the street in hoi an
Hoi An, considered one of Vietnam’s hottest cities, is uniquely lovely.

5–6 weeks in Vietnam

When you have much more time, then you too can add the south to your itinerary. Fortunate you! From central Vietnam, you can also make the lengthy trek south by prepare or bus.

  • Day 29–31: Seaside time in Nha Trang or Mui Ne
  • Day 31–33: Trek in Da Lat
  • Day 34–35: Marvel at Ho Chi Minh Metropolis
  • Day 36–39: Boat journey on the Mekong Delta
  • Day 40–42: Luxurious seaside escape on Phu Quoc

Arriving from Laos

Should you’re coming overland to Vietnam from Laos, you’ve gotten a few choices.

  1. You possibly can take the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi however that’s 18 hours of pure torture!
  2. Make your final cease in Laos at Muang Khua after which take the bus throughout the border, arriving in Dien Bien Phu. Significantly better choice.
Ladies working at the market in Dien Bien Phu Vietnam
Women promoting their fruits and nuts at market in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam.

Leaving by way of Cambodia

Should you plan to go away Vietnam and head to Cambodia, do it! We love Cambodia too.

There are two principal routes out of Vietnam and into Cambodia.

The primary choice is to go by bus, or bus and boat, from Ho Chi Minh Metropolis to Phnom Penh. You possibly can break this up by stopping in Chau Doc in a single day.

The second choice is a bit more adventurous. Take the bus south to Hat Yai after which journey by employed scooter throughout the border to Kep. That is how I did it final time and it was an incredible unbiased journey.

5. What’s the perfect time to go to Vietnam?

For backpackers heading to Vietnam, the perfect time to go is proper now.

Critically. Vietnam’s lengthy shoreline and various geography implies that it has three distinct local weather patterns (or extra). For the reason that climate varies a lot from place to put, it’s exhausting to discover a particular month or two when all the things will probably be excellent all over the place.

Plus, finances travellers are likely to have a greater tolerance for “adventurous” climate and we’re happiest when fewer individuals are round – that means we are able to get higher offers on lodging and excursions!

6. What’s the climate like in Vietnam?

Right here’s what you possibly can anticipate from the seasons in northern, central, and southern Vietnam.

kayaking cat ba island vietnam
Small kayak, huge rock, Ha Lengthy Bay, Vietnam.

Northern Vietnam Climate

Finest time to backpack: October & November, March

In northern Vietnam the perfect climate is from October to December, when it’s often sunny however not unbearably sizzling — though we’ve got sweated buckets in October loads of occasions!

December is excessive season, so in case you can go earlier within the 12 months, you’ll discover all the things much less crowded and cheaper.

For backpackers, March can also be a good time to go north. It’s simply earlier than wet season and never often too sizzling. You’ll see fewer crowds than in December however it might nonetheless be busy presently of 12 months.

Central Vietnam Climate

Finest time to backpack: February–April

The wet season on Vietnam’s central coast tails off in direction of the start of February, making this month the perfect time to go to. E-book your ticket for after the Tet holidays, which may shut down numerous locations for a few week as locals have a good time their new 12 months.

Should you’re a seaside bumming backpacker, June to August are excellent in central Vietnam. It’ll be too sizzling to do a lot sightseeing however will probably be excellent seaside climate virtually day by day.

an bang beach hoi an vietnam
An Bang seaside outdoors Hoi An, Vietnam in December.

We lived in Hoi An throughout November and December final 12 months and actually liked it. The climate was typically cool and wet however we additionally had loads of sizzling sunny days to get out and discover. Hoi An is quieter presently of 12 months too, so that you’ll have fewer crowds to wrangle.

South Vietnam Climate

Finest time to backpack: Jan–March

Southern Vietnam has the least risky local weather of the three areas, with temperatures remaining sizzling however bearable all through many of the 12 months. Wet season is from Might to November — however the rain tends to fall in a predictable sample with a brief mega-downpour each afternoon.

This leaves the remainder of the day for sightseeing, and retains the mud down, too.

It may be very busy in December, particularly in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis, when costs will rise accordingly. Wait till late January to go to for cool(ish) climate plus a much less crowded expertise.

7. Is backpacking Vietnam protected?

We don’t depart house with out journey insurance coverage and neither do you have to. World Nomads is right for short-term journey — reasonably priced, nice protection, and responsive. For long-term journey, try Safety Wing.

Sure! Vietnam is a really protected nation to journey in. Whether or not you’re a solo feminine traveller, travelling with young children, or going as a part of a bunch, you’ll discover little to fret about in Vietnam.

All through my many months of travelling in Vietnam, in each busy cities and distant mountain areas, each alone and as a part of a pair, I’ve by no means as soon as felt threatened or had an disagreeable incident.

Actually, by far essentially the most harmful factor about Vietnam is attempting to cross the road in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh Metropolis!

In fact, as with every place you go, slightly widespread sense goes a great distance.

Identical to anyplace, there are bag snatchers and scammers and dodgy guys in Vietnam – so all the time pay attention to your belongings and environment to be sure you’re not a goal.

Don’t get so drunk you don’t know what you’re doing and don’t wander round alone in unfamiliar areas late at evening. Similar stuff you’d do anyplace on the planet to remain protected.

8. How do you get a visa for Vietnam?

Vietnam has a barely extra difficult visa system than the opposite nations in Southeast Asia. The necessities fluctuate relying on which passport you maintain, how lengthy you wish to keep, the place you’re arriving, and whether or not you want a number of entry or not.

how to get visa to vietnam
That is what the Vietnam e visa official web site seems to be like. Don’t get fooled by fakes.

Nearly everybody might want to begin by getting a visa letter from an internet visa company earlier than you arrive in Vietnam. Carry your letter with you to the airport or land border and apply on your visa whenever you arrive.

Want your visa?
Our fast and simple guide to Vietnam visas will get your sorted in minutes, it doesn’t matter what passport you’ve gotten.

9. Easy methods to get round in Vietnam?

One other bonus for backpackers in Vietnam is the organized and cheap transportation community. The system is tremendous simple for travellers in Vietnam to get round!

Listed below are our favorite methods to journey in Vietnam.

By Bus

The bus community in Vietnam is intensive and until you’re going someplace actually loopy, you received’t have an issue getting a bus. Normally, you possibly can e book your bus ticket at your hostel, and somebody will come and choose you as much as take you to the bus station. You may pay an additional greenback for the service nevertheless it’s completely price it! Busses are additionally extraordinarily low cost in Vietnam.

They’re often barely run down sleeper busses, the place the seats recline three-quarters of the best way and there’s a raised spot on your legs to stretch out. Should you’re taller than about 6 ft, they are often fairly uncomfortable, so that you may wish to restrict your time on the bus.

Busses can be noisy, vibrant and smelly, so don’t plan on getting an incredible evening’s sleep. I’ve discovered it doable to get some shut-eye on just a few in a single day bus rides although, so it may be accomplished.

Lately, some bus firms have launched snazzy VIP busses with larger, comfier seats, higher air-con, WiFi and extra. So in case you hate busses, you may wish to look into this feature, which prices slightly extra however is likely to be price it.

We use to e book our bus and prepare tickets in Vietnam.

By Airplane

There are inner flights in Vietnam and for the reason that nation is so large, it may be tempting to fly. We are saying “don’t do it!”.

Initially, there’s a local weather disaster on, so that you don’t have to be including additional CO2 into the environment. Second, you got here to expertise Vietnam, so why spend your time flying over it? Third, Vietnamese airways are notoriously unreliable so you’ll virtually sure face flight delays and spend hours sitting within the airport as a substitute of absorbing the tradition.

Should you’re quick on time, plan a Vietnam itinerary that’s focussed on one area of the nation. You’ll discover loads of wonderful experiences with out having to fly.


The prepare community is restricted in Vietnam. You possibly can take the prepare from Ho Chi Minh Metropolis to the west coast and up north alongside the coast, however stations are sometimes fairly removed from vacationer locations. The few trains I’ve taken in Vietnam have been fairly uncomfortable and noisy. Together with frequent delays and a better value, I might suggest taking the bus as a substitute.


Shopping for an inexpensive bike and driving round Vietnam your self is a well-liked choice which will provide you with numerous freedom to return and go as you please. Nevertheless, visitors in Vietnam is totally loopy so in case you’re not an skilled driver, take the bus as a substitute. Nobody desires to spend their Vietnam vacation within the hospital.

10. How do you have to gown in Vietnam?

In contrast to a few of the neighbouring nations, the place faith (or sexism) dictates a sure form of clothes, there isn’t any strict gown code in Vietnam. In cities and small cities, most Vietnamese folks put on Western-style clothes and within the cities, some girls put on extraordinarily revealing outfits. In distant areas, many native folks nonetheless put on their traditional costume and are typically extra conservative with their clothes.

woman and child traditional head dress vietnam
Mom carrying a conventional head gown together with her youngster, Tuan Giao, Vietnam.

As a vacationer, you possibly can select to put on absolutely anything. It’s OK to put on shorts, tank tops, quick clothes and no matter else you may pack for warm climate.

Nevertheless, to point out respect on your hosts and for these locally who’re extra conservative, overlaying up slightly bit just isn’t a nasty thought.

For ladies, I’d suggest leaving your tremendous quick shorts at house, alongside together with your low-cut tank tops and additional tight mini-dresses. For guys, keep away from carrying your chest-revealing sleeveless shirts besides on the seaside.

Should you’re visiting temples or different non secular websites, you may be requested to cowl your shoulders and knees. That is the place a sarong and a light-weight scarf can come in useful.

To assist take care of the new climate and shield your pores and skin from the solar, mild unfastened clothes with lengthy sleeves and lengthy pants works greatest.

11. What to pack for Vietnam

Our largest tip about packing for Vietnam is to pack mild!

There are just a few nice causes for this:

  • In Vietnam, many hostels and lodges are hidden down slender alleys the place vehicles can’t go, so you may be carrying your baggage quite a bit.
  • Resorts are often slender and tall, with no elevator, so be ready to lug your bag up a number of staircases as effectively.
  • Should you don’t pack one thing you want, it might often be purchased in Vietnam simply and cheaply.

Packing made simple!
Use our comprehensive packing list (with printable guidelines) for Vietnam to make sure you don’t neglect something.

12. Is avenue meals protected in Vietnam?

Sure! And no! There are an enormous vary of avenue stalls in Vietnam and they’re solely as protected as the one who runs them makes them.

vietnamese che selection in hoi an
Che may look slightly unusual — and it’s — nevertheless it’s one of many few avenue meals which are vegan, so attempt it out!

As soon as, in Vietnam, we had been sitting ready for our meals at a avenue stall once we noticed the cook dinner tip some honey from a jar into the dish after which, earlier than placing the lid again on the honey, she LICKED THE EDGE OF THE JAR to wash away the surplus honey.

So gross and probably virulent.

Nevertheless, most avenue stalls usually are not run like this and we extremely suggest you attempt not less than some avenue meals throughout your journey.

Listed below are just a few safe ways to eat street food in Vietnam.

  1. Take a avenue meals tour. These are run by execs who already know the place the perfect stalls are and have already fed the identical meals to different vacationers, so you realize you’ll be protected.
  2. Search for stalls with lengthy strains or crowds. If locals will spend additional time in line at a stall, you realize that the meals just isn’t solely clear, however scrumptious. Don’t neglect to verify who’s in that line. A extra various crowd, together with girls and youngsters, signifies a greater providing. Whereas if it’s only a line of native workmen, they’re most likely not as choosy with what they eat.
  3. Eat at native mealtimes. Vietnamese folks eat early. Normally 7am for breakfast, 11am for lunch, and 6pm for dinner. Should you’re consuming avenue meals, go at these occasions so that you’ll get freshly ready meals.
  4. Carry your individual cutlery. Typically in Vietnam, whereas the meals is nice, the chopsticks are disgusting. Carry your individual moveable cutlery, like these ones we use, for cleaner avenue consuming.

Are you vegan or vegetarian?
You don’t must miss out in Vietnam! Simply seize our information to discovering vegan food in Vietnam.

13. Three issues keep away from in Vietnam

There’s probably not lots you must be careful for in Vietnam. However there are a few issues we suggest you keep away from in Vietnam.

Keep away from Mosquitos

Should you’re a frequent reader of this weblog, you’ll know that I almost died of malaria a few years in the past. I’ve additionally had dengue fever a few occasions and so has Stephen. The excellent news is, we’ve got by no means gotten mosquito-borne diseases in Vietnam.

The dangerous information is, malaria and dengue fever do exist in Vietnam, together with Zika and Japanese Encephalitis. Put on your mosquito repellent and canopy your legs and arms through the peak mosquito hours close to daybreak and nightfall.

malaria hospital thailand
Me with the Thai hospital workers who saved my life after I bought malaria.

Keep away from taxi scams

We don’t know why however all world wide, taxi drivers appear to take nice pleasure in scamming their clients. They’ll both overcharge, faux they don’t have change, or drive you round in circles to up the fare. To keep away from this, we use Grab (a ride-hailing app) each time we are able to.

If it’s not doable, then hop right into a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi that are respected firms with (principally) trustworthy drivers. No matter you select, convey small change with you and all the time comply with your route on the map so you possibly can hold observe of the place you’re and the place you’re going.

Keep away from bag snatching

Not an enormous drawback in Vietnam however bag or telephone snatching does occur. It really works like this. Bike driver sees unaware vacationer dangling their digital camera, bag, or telephone close to the facet of a busy avenue. Driver revs the engine, grabs the merchandise, and drives away. Say goodbye to your stuff. You’ll by no means see it once more.

To keep away from this, both put on a backpack or cross-shoulder bag or carry your shoulder bag on the shoulder that’s away from the road. If you must verify your telephone, don’t do it whereas strolling. As a substitute, step right into a doorway or nook away from the road to look.

14. What Vietnamese phrases ought to you realize?

Most Vietnamese folks in vacationer areas converse not less than sufficient English that it is possible for you to to get by with out studying any Vietnamese. However the place’s the enjoyable in that?

Hiya = xin chào (sin chow)
Please = làm ơn (lahm uhn)
Thanks = cảm ơn (kahm uhn)
Sure = dạ (ya)
No = không (khohm)
I’m vegetarian = tôi ăn chay (toy ahn jai)

It’s very exhausting to pronounce phrases accurately however not less than you’ll get just a few smiles for attempting!

15. Our Favorite Hostels in Vietnam

In terms of hostels and different cheap lodging, Vietnam is the perfect nation in Southeast Asia. Hostels are usually of very excessive normal, workers are amazingly pleasant and useful, and you will get a snug, protected mattress for $5 or much less per evening!

bunk bed in nguyen shack hostel phong nha vietnam
At Nguyen Shack in Phong Nha, dorms include two bunk beds and solely three partitions!

It’s virtually all the time price spending a greenback or two extra as a substitute of getting absolutely the least expensive mattress you’ll find. A few {dollars} can take you from dingy cockroach-infested fleapits to a stunning boutique hostel with all of the bells and whistles. Completely price it!

A Ultimate Word About Backpacking Vietnam

Many backpackers to Vietnam make the large mistake of attempting to cowl an excessive amount of of the nation in a single journey. Although it seems to be small on a map, Vietnam is deceptively large and it might take a very long time to get between locations.

When planning your journey, stick to 1 or two areas and immerse your self within the number of actions obtainable there. We wish you to satisfy native folks and get an opportunity to expertise just a few transformational actions! Should you attempt to do an excessive amount of, your recollections of Vietnam will principally be of lengthy, uncomfortable bus journeys!

By planning extra actions in fewer places, you’ll get to see and expertise the perfect of Vietnam.

We hope the following tips for backpacking Vietnam are an enormous assist in planning and taking your journey. Our aim is that will help you make each journey a transformational one, the place you come again house slightly completely different than whenever you left. When you have any questions on backpacking in Vietnam, give us a shout on Instagram or by email.

♥  Comfortable transformational travels, Jane & Stephen

If you're thinking about backpacking Vietnam, we say go for it! It's one of our favourite countries in the world and is perfect for budget travel. In this post we answer all your Vietnam questions based on our many trips to the country! #travel #vietnam #backpacking #budget #asia #transform #myfiveacres
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