Welcome to your comprehensive guide to traveling to Vietnam in 2023. If you’ve been searching for the best destination in Southeast Asia, look no further. Vietnam has it all – adventure, culture, stunning landscapes, and amazing food. As experienced travelers who have explored the world for over a decade, we can confidently say that Vietnam is our all-time favorite country.
Vietnam is more than just a country—it’s an experience. From the vibrant coral reefs of Nha Trang to the majestic mountains of Sa Pa, Vietnam offers an adventurous yet culturally enriching journey. Imagine haggling for banh mi on the streets of Saigon in the morning and witnessing a breathtaking sunset on the Mekong Delta in the evening. This country has it all.
The Must-Do Experiences in Vietnam
With so much to see and do, it’s hard to narrow down the top experiences in Vietnam. However, we believe these five activities are essential during your visit:
Learn to Cook Vietnamese Food
Eating delicious Vietnamese cuisine is one thing, but learning to prepare it yourself is a whole new level of enjoyment. Get hands-on experience with banh mi, pho, and other local dishes.
Scuba Dive in Nha Trang
While not typically known as a scuba diving destination, Nha Trang offers incredible underwater experiences. Explore the vibrant marine life and discover hidden treasures beneath the surface.
Go Canyoning in Dalat
Rappel, slide, jump, and climb your way through the stunning canyons of Dalat. This adrenaline-pumping activity will leave you feeling exhilarated and in awe of nature’s wonders.
Explore the Marble Mountains in Da Nang
Visit the marble mountains, which have been mined for centuries, and take in the breathtaking views and temples. Marvel at the intricate marble carvings and learn about the rich history of the region.
Sandboard Down the Sand Dunes in Mui Ne
Experience the thrill of sandboarding down the massive sand dunes of Mui Ne. It’s like snowboarding, but with sand. Feel the rush as you slide down these natural wonders.
Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
Vietnam has numerous incredible destinations to explore, each offering its own unique charm. Depending on your interests, trip duration, and the time of year, you’ll find plenty of things to do during your stay.
To learn more about specific things to do in each place, check out our city travel guides. We provide detailed information on the top attractions, accommodations, and local tips for each destination.
Vietnam Travel Itinerary
Planning your Vietnam itinerary can be overwhelming due to the country’s size and diversity. Whether you have a week, a month, or more, we have carefully crafted itineraries to ensure you make the most of your time in Vietnam.
For a one-week trip, consider exploring either Northern, Central, or Southern Vietnam. Each region offers its own unique experiences and attractions. Alternatively, you can combine multiple regions for a more comprehensive journey.
Best Time to Visit Vietnam
The best time to travel to Vietnam depends on your preferences for weather, scenery, and budget. Peak season occurs from mid-December to February when prices are higher. The low season, from April to June and September to November, is perfect for budget-conscious travelers.
Different regions of Vietnam have varying weather patterns, so it’s essential to plan accordingly. Generally, April to May and September to October are favorable months for Northern Vietnam, while January to June is ideal for Central Vietnam. Southern Vietnam can be enjoyed year-round, but January to April offers the best conditions.
Vietnam Travel Budget Guidelines
Vietnam is known for being a budget-friendly destination, but your expenses will depend on your preferences and travel style. Here are some budgeting tips to make your money go further:
- Enjoy street food: Try the delicious street food options, which are not only affordable but also allow you to experience authentic Vietnamese flavors.
- Travel in groups: Share transportation costs and negotiate prices by traveling with others, especially when using taxis or hiring private transportation.
- Negotiate taxi fares: Don’t be afraid to negotiate taxi fares before getting in. It’s common practice in Vietnam.
- Drink bia hoi: Bia hoi is a fresh, locally brewed beer that is inexpensive and popular among locals. Give it a try and save some money.
- Take in free attractions: Research and explore free attractions and activities available in each destination. You’ll be surprised by the number of cost-free options.
- Sleep on overnight buses: Save money on accommodation by taking overnight buses for longer journeys. Combine transportation and accommodation expenses into one.
Remember to plan your budget according to your preferred travel style, and always have travel insurance to ensure peace of mind during your trip.
Getting to and Around Vietnam
Getting to Vietnam is relatively easy, with international airports in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Direct flights from major cities around the world are available, but some routes may require a layover.
Once in Vietnam, there are several transportation options to explore the country. Domestic flights offer convenience and speed, while buses are an affordable way to travel between cities. Trains are also a popular choice, particularly for longer journeys, and provide a chance to take in the scenery.
For local transportation within cities, taxis, tuk-tuks, and moto-taxis are widely available. Additionally, renting a motorbike is a popular option for exploring Vietnam at your own pace. Just remember to always wear a helmet and exercise caution.
Apps and Technology
Technology has made traveling in Vietnam easier than ever before. Here are some essential apps to download before your trip:
- Grab: Use this app to book rides and get around metro areas in Vietnam conveniently.
- XE Currency: Keep track of currency conversions and rates on the go.
- Express VPN: Stay connected and protect your sensitive information while using public Wi-Fi networks.
- iTranslate: Communicate with locals by translating common phrases and words in Vietnamese.
- WiFi Finder: Find Wi-Fi hotspots and stay connected during your travels.
These apps will enhance your Vietnam experience and ensure a smooth journey.
Best Things to Eat in Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is a highlight of any trip to Vietnam. Here are some must-try dishes that will delight your taste buds:
- Goi Cuon: Fresh spring rolls filled with greens, herbs, and your choice of protein, served with a delicious sauce.
- Banh Mi: Baguette sandwiches with various fillings, including meat, pickled vegetables, and herbs.
- Pho: Flavorful and comforting noodle soup with beef or chicken broth, topped with herbs and meat.
- Bun Cha: Grilled pork served over rice noodles with a side of dipping sauce.
- Cao Lau: A specialty of Hoi An, featuring chewy rice flour noodles with barbecue pork, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs.
These dishes represent just a fraction of the incredible flavors that await you in Vietnam.
Places to Stay in Vietnam
Vietnam offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels, you’ll find something for everyone. Some popular options include:
- Hostels: Perfect for budget travelers looking to meet fellow backpackers and save money.
- Hotels: Provide more comfort and privacy, with a range of options available at affordable prices.
- Airbnb: Offers unique and local accommodations for a more personal experience.
Remember that in Vietnam, accommodation providers typically keep your passport for the duration of your stay, as required by the government. This is a standard practice to ensure compliance with regulations.
Vietnam Travel Tips
To make the most of your trip to Vietnam, keep these tips in mind:
- Respect local customs and traditions. Vietnam has rich cultural heritage, and being mindful of local customs shows respect.
- Be aware of your belongings and watch out for pickpockets, especially in crowded areas.
- Book tours and activities through reputable agencies or operators to avoid counterfeit services.
- Drink bottled water and carry toilet paper with you, as public restrooms may not always provide it.
- Embrace Vietnamese customs, such as using the “bum gun” and removing your shoes when entering temples or someone’s home.
- Be mindful of road safety and always wear a helmet when riding a motorbike.
- Purchase travel insurance to ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies or unexpected events.
- Be confident when crossing the road and remember that traffic will adjust around you.
- Respect local dress codes, especially when visiting temples or religious sites.
Following these tips will help you have a safe and enjoyable experience in Vietnam.
Responsible Travel in Vietnam
We encourage responsible and sustainable travel practices in Vietnam. Here are some tips to reduce your impact and support local communities:
- Use sustainable transportation options such as walking, cycling, or using public transport.
- Minimize plastic waste by carrying your own reusable water bottle and shopping bags.
- Support local vendors by shopping at markets and eating at local establishments.
- Respect wildlife and avoid participating in activities that exploit or harm animals.
- Make an effort to learn and use basic Vietnamese phrases to communicate with locals.
- Choose eco-friendly accommodations and tours that prioritize sustainability.
By practicing responsible travel, you can contribute to the preservation of Vietnam’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Key Vietnamese Travel Phrases
While not essential, learning a few key Vietnamese phrases can enhance your travel experience and make interactions with locals more enjoyable. Here are some phrases to get you started:
- “Xin chào” (sin chow) – Hello
- “Cảm ơn” (kahm uhn) – Thank you
- “Xin lỗi” (sin loy) – Excuse me/sorry
- “Tôi không hiểu” (toy kohng hyoo) – I don’t understand
- “Tôi muốn” (toy moon) – I want
These phrases will come in handy during your stay in Vietnam.
Books to Read About Vietnam
If you want to dive deeper into Vietnamese culture and history, here are a few book recommendations:
- “The Quiet American” by Graham Greene: A classic novel set in 1950s Vietnam that provides insight into the country’s history and conflicts.
- “At Home In The World” by Thich Nhat Hanh: A collection of stories and reflections by renowned Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, offering Buddhist perspectives on life.
- “Vietnam: Rising Dragon” by Bill Hayton: A nonfiction exploration of Vietnam’s past, present, and future, shedding light on its place in Southeast Asia.
- “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen: A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that follows the journey of a double-agent during the Vietnam War.
These books will deepen your understanding of Vietnam and enrich your travel experience.
Vietnam is a destination that has it all – breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a food lover, Vietnam will captivate your heart. Use this comprehensive guide to plan your trip, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in this beautiful country.