Vietnam

Most people come to Vietnam with images of rice fields, straw hats, and spring rolls in their head. And they aren’t wrong…but Vietnam is a country whose colorful, delicious and tragic layers only unravel in person.

The north is a mountainous region with unspoiled nature, ancient traditions and the trekking capitol of Sapa; Central Vietnam is home to beaches and bicycle rides in Hoi An; The south holds a heavy history left by the Vietnam war. And that’s only the beginning.

Vietnam feels like 50 different worlds pushed together into one country. Come to Vietnam with 2 weeks at the very least, 4 weeks is ideal.

One minute you’re exploring the largest cave in the world in Phong Nha, the next you’re sipping cocktails at a rooftop bar in Saigon. You’ll never understand Vietnam until you come.
Ninh Binh, Vietnam

AT A GLANCE

Where: This s-shaped southeast Asian country stretches 1,030 miles from south to north, bordering Cambodia and Laos to the west and China to the north while facing the South China Sea to the east.

Best For: Trekking, Eating, Shopping, Motorbike Road Trips

Language: Vietnamese

Religion: Officially, Vietnam is a non-religious country. However, you’ll find some Vietnamese who practice Buddhism.

Population: 95.5 million

 

Currency: Vietnamese Dong (VND)

Cards & Cash: You can withdraw VND from the ATMs in Vietnam using your debit card for home. Many restaurants, hotels, and shops accept cards, as well. Visa is widely accepted, AMEX is sometimes accepted, and Discover is not accepted. For street shopping, taxis, and transportation – have cash on hand.

Visa: Apply for your Vietnamese visa online at least 10 days before your visit. You will be given a “letter of invitation” that allows you to enter the country. Depending on your purpose of travel, the most common visas to apply for are 1-Month Single Entry &  3-Months Single Entry.

WHEN TO VISIT

The Best Time to Visit Vietnam: February-April & August-October

Because the county is so long, each region experiences different weather…

  • If you’re visiting during Spring/Summer, travel South to North
  • If you’re visiting during Autumn/Winter, travel North to South

 

Northern Vietnam

Hottest Months: July – September

Coldest Months: January – March

Wettest Months: July – September

Official Monsoon Season: May – October

Most Ideal Time to Visit: August – October for a mix of warm and dry weather

 

Central Vietnam

Hottest Months: June – August

Coldest Months: December – February

Wettest Months: October – November with heavy, short showers

Official Monsoon Season: September – December

Most Ideal Time to Visit: December – May for moderate temperatures and dry weather

 Southern Vietnam

Hottest Months: March – May

Coldest Months: October – December

Wettest Months: June – August with short, heavy afternoon showers

Official Monsoon Season: May – November

Most Ideal Time to Visit: December – March for smaller crowds and dry weather

Beach in Vietnam
Vietnamese Woman

TOP 5 AREAS TO CHECK OUT

Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam War history, market shopping, and backpacker streets

Hoi An

Vietnam’s “Old Town” with bright yellow walls, rice fields, suit tailors and amazing coffee

Hanoi

Incredible food, authentic markets, and a growing expat community

Sapa

The mountainous trekking region in the north

Phong Nha

Home to the world’s largest cave and underground cave system, perfect for trekking and camping

PRO TIP

Get a SIM Card when you land at the airport…it will be your lifeline on during your travels. Look for the carrier Mobifone or Viettel. A 4G plan with UNLIMITED Data for 1 month is around $9 USD/ 200k VND.

Don’t get an “International Plan” with your phone carrier at home. Their coverage is much more expensive and you’ll experience low coverage across Vietnam.

PACKING

Bring

A Light Rain Jacket, A Backpack (not a rolley suitcase), Power Adaptors, Sunscreen, Active Shoes, Purse with a Zipper

Leave

High Heels, Rolley Suitcase, Hair Straightener, Curling Iron, Discover Card, Flashy Jewelry

beach of vietnam
Banh mi Vietnam

GETTING AROUND

The ‘Hop On / Hop Off Bus: Travel the length of the Vietnam with an open bus ticket! Your little packet of tickets can cover however many cities you wish to see. The most popular route looks like this….

  1. Ho Chi Minh > Mui Ne = 4.5 Hours
  2. Mui Ne > Da Lat = 4 hours
  3. Da Lat > Nha Trang = 3.5 hours
  4. Nha Trang > Hoi An = 10 hours (overnight sleeper bus)
  5. Hoi An > Hue = 3 hours
  6. Hue > Hanoi = 14 hours (overnight sleeper bus)

Expect to pay anywhere from 900k VND to the 1,230,000 VND. The two most popular companies are Viet Nhat and Hanh Cafe.

 

Buy a Motorbike: Adventure tourists can buy a motorbike in the South and drive all the way to the north (or vice versa) and then sell their motorbike at the end of the trip.

Rent a Motorbike: Mellow cities like Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Nha Trang are calm traffic towns where renting a motorbike is the best way to get around.

Bicycle: In towns like Hoi An and Ninh Binh, bicycles are your #1 mode of transport!

Grab Taxi: Grab Bike (motorbike taxi) costs around $1-$2 per city trip and Grab Cars typically cost $3-$5 depending on the length of your journey. Download the app. 

Taxis: I do not recommend getting a taxi in the big cities. It’s common for taxi drivers to charge you 100k for a 30k journey. If you have no choice, look for the most trustworthy company, Mai Linh Taxi.

Hire a Driver: For airport pick-ups and private day tours, visit any city’s Expat Facebook Page and get driver recommendations from locals.

Plane: There are 33 airports in Vietnam. If you’ve got the budget, flying will allow you to see more cities in less time. For $30 – $150, you can fly domestically throughout Vietnam.

Train: There is always a bathroom, the sleeper trains are comfy, and the train takes some seriously scenic routes.

HOW TO GET TO

 Fly directly into one of Vietnam’s International Airports

  • 1-Hour from Bangkok
  • 5-Hours from Melbourne
  • 12-Hours from Frankfurt
  • 14-Hours from London

There are no direct flights from the US, so this means that you’ll find a flight with a layover.

For example; you can fly from Seattle to Saigon on a 17-hour journey – with a layover in Taipei.

(Try to make it a long layover…Taipei is amazing)

 

From Cambodia, you can travel to Ho Chi Minh via bus from Phnom Penh. The best bus company to use is Giant Ibis.

Where: Giant Ibis Bus Terminal

When: Daily at 8 am and 12:30 pm

How Long: 6.5-7 hours

How Much: $18

Want all the inside info?

Halley Hostel, Hanoi

Free food tour. Movie Night. Family Dinners. Come alone but stay as part of the pack. It’s so easy to make international friends at Halley Hostel. Plus, the location is within walking distance to all the good stuff!

Best For: Making Friends and Exploring Together

Starts at: $5 for dorms / $20 for a private room

Where: Hanoi

Hmong Sister House, Sapa

Get off the beaten path…way off the beaten path in Sapa and stay with a pair of Hmong sisters in their breathtaking homestay. Perfect for solo girls and small groups, you’ll be treated like family with homemade breakfast – and be welcomed as a part of the community as you trek the local hills, meeting school kids and learning about Hmong culture from Hmong people themselves.

Best For: Nature Trekking and Making Friends with Locals

Starts at: $10 USD

Where: Hau Thao Village Ban Pho

 

Nguyen Shack, Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Do. Not. Skip. This. Nguyen Shack is unlike any other place you’ve ever stayed. Nestled into the limestone cliffs of Ninh Binh, wake up on the ocean, watch mountain goats scaling the cliffs, listen to ducks quacking in the lake, and walk to the jaw-dropping Mua Caves.

Best For: Exploring an Alien Planet

Starts at: $38 for a Waterfront Bungalow

Where: Ninh Binh

The Hideout Hostel, Ho Chi Minh City

The Hideout Hostel is in the BEST location. Just a 1-minute walk from the main shopping, eating and drinking street called Bui Vien. Across the street, you’ll find the main park with street food and the night market!  And all along the main road are the travel bus companies for the hop-on / hop-off bus. Hideout also does pub crawls, pub quiz and have a lazy movie room!

Best For: Social Party Girls & Hop-on Hop-off Bus Travelers

Starts at: $5 for Dorms & $20 for Privates

Where: District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

 

MK Premier Boutique Hotel, Hanoi

Just steps away from Hanoi’s famous Beer Street and Old Quarter, MK Premier Boutique Hotel offers the ultimate spot for exploring Hanoi’s nightlife. Start at the hotel’s rooftop bar and go from there! You’re surrounded by markets, street food, and street beer!

Best For: The Best Location

Starts at: $61 USD

Where: Hanoi

Sunshine Hotel, Hoi An

Sunshine Hotel

I love this place so much that I lived here for a month! Grab a free bicycle and take it for a spin. The bright green rice fields are a 10-minute ride to the right and the famous old town is a 20-minute ride to the left. Plus, best breakfast in all of Hoi An! Get a room overlooking the rice fields!

Best For: Adventure Travelers who love the Sun  

Starts at: $24

Where: Hoi An Town

Nguyen Shack – Phong Nha Eco Resort

Become one with nature at this eco-resort in Phong Nha! Surrounded by lush tropical jungle and river canals, this is a side of Vietnam that you don’t get to experience elsewhere. Where other eco-resorts tend to strand you in the middle of nowhere, Nguyen Shacks offers bicycles and motorbikes for rent, shuttles into town and BBQ dinners to give you that perfect balance of convenience and serenity.

Best For: Nature Vacation + Cave Trekking in Phong Nha

Starts at: $34 USD

Where: Phong Nha

Hidden Beach Bungalow, Hoi An

Hoi An, Vietnam

The best beach in Hoi An is right at your toes, without all the tourists. Hidden down a local road, you’ll find these breezey bungalows attached to the perfect beachfront restaurant with cold coconuts and lounge chairs just waiting for you and your book.

Best For: Beach Days

Starts at: $60 USD

Where: Hoi An Beach

 

Alagon Saigon Hotel & Spa, Ho Chi Minh City

Don’t let the lobby fool you. This place is sexy! Chic rooms with a soaking bathtub, breakfast in the garden, rooftop pool with jacuzzi, spa & gym with sauna, social rooftop bar, and walking distance to all the action…it all makes this hotel a fabulous and convenient choice for travelers wanting a true Saigon experience.

Best For: Couples and Solo Travelers

Starts at: $60 USD

Where: District 1

Topas Eco Lodge, Sapa

Topas Ego Lodge
Booking.com

Featured on National Geographic, Topas Eco Lodge is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that blends unspoiled eco-trekking with a luxury stay in your very own mountain bungalow.

Best For: Luxury Accommodation in the Vietnamese Hills

Starts at: $255 USD

Where: 45-minutes Outside Sapa Town – The Ecolodge will arrange transport

 

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