This Vietnam Travel Guide is a comprehensive resource that offers essential information for travelers exploring this diverse country. It includes details on popular destinations, practicalities such as visas, currency, and language, as well as transportation options like taxis, buses, trains, and domestic flights. The guide also provides insights into the weather patterns month by month, allowing you to plan your trips accordingly. Furthermore, it offers cultural background and inspiration.
- Essential guide
- Getting around
- Vietnam weather by month
Vietnam is a country with a countless of destinations to explore, and this Vietnam travel guide highlights some of the most popular ones.
Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and bustling street life. Visitors come to explore its charming Old Quarter, taste delicious street food, and visit iconic attractions like Hoan Kiem Lake and the Temple of Literature.
Sapa, located in the northwest of Vietnam, is renowned for its stunning terraced rice fields and ethnic minority hill tribes. Travelers flock to Sapa to trek through breathtaking landscapes, experience the unique culture of local communities, and witness the beauty of the Fansipan Mountain, known as the “Roof of Indochina.”
3. Halong Bay
Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is famous for its breathtaking natural beauty. Travelers visit this iconic destination to cruise along the emerald waters, marvel at the limestone karsts and islets, and explore hidden caves and floating fishing villages.
4. Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh, often referred to as the “Halong Bay on land,” captivates visitors with its stunning karst landscapes, ancient temples, and picturesque countryside. Travelers come to Ninh Binh to take boat rides through the Trang An Complex, explore the ancient capital of Hoa Lu, and enjoy the tranquility of the rural scenery.
5. Ha Giang
Ha Giang, located in the far north of Vietnam, offers adventurous travelers an off-the-beaten-path experience. Known for its dramatic mountains, winding roads, and ethnic minority communities, Ha Giang attracts visitors seeking epic motorbike journeys, trekking adventures, and cultural immersion in remote and pristine landscapes.
6. Mai Chau
Mai Chau, nestled in the peaceful valley of Hoa Binh Province, offers a serene escape from bustling cities. This rural destination is famous for its picturesque landscapes, traditional stilt houses, and warm hospitality of the Thai ethnic minority. Visitors can cycle through scenic villages, participate in local homestays, and enjoy traditional dance performances.
7. Phong Nha
Phong Nha, is a paradise for nature and adventure enthusiasts. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its magnificent cave systems, including the world’s largest cave, Son Doong. You can explore the stunning underground wonders, go trekking in the lush jungle of the national park and kayak over the Son River.
Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, is renowned for its historical significance and majestic citadel. Visitors come to Hue to explore its UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Imperial City and the royal tombs, and to experience the city’s rich cultural heritage, traditional music, and delicious royal cuisine.
9. Da Nang
Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam, is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, stunning bridges, and modern skyline. Travelers visit Da Nang to relax on its pristine shores, explore iconic attractions such as the Marble Mountains and the Dragon Bridge, and indulge in delicious seafood.
10. Hoi An
Hoi An, a charming ancient town, enchants visitors with its well-preserved historic architecture, lantern-lit streets, and vibrant riverside atmosphere. People flock to Hoi An to wander through its atmospheric alleys, shop for tailored clothing, immerse themselves in its lantern festival, and savor local delicacies
11. Nha Trang
Nha Trang, a coastal resort city, is famous for its turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and vibrant underwater world. Travelers visit Nha Trang to relax on its idyllic beaches, enjoy water sports and island-hopping tours, and experience its lively nightlife and seafood dining scene.
Dalat, situated in the Central Highlands, is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its pleasant climate and picturesque landscapes. Visitors come to Dalat to escape the heat, explore its French colonial architecture, visit flower gardens and waterfalls, and engage in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and canyoning amidst its natural beauty.
13. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, the bustling metropolis of Vietnam, offers a captivating blend of modernity and history. Visitors are drawn to Ho Chi Minh City to explore its iconic landmarks like the Independence Palace and Notre-Dame Cathedral, indulge in vibrant street food, experience the vibrant nightlife, and immerse themselves in the city’s rich history and culture.
14. Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta, a vast maze of rivers, canals, and lush green fields, is a unique region known as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam. Travelers venture to the Mekong Delta to cruise along its waterways, visit floating markets, witness traditional village life, and taste the fresh tropical fruits and local delicacies unique to this region.
15. Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc, a tropical paradise island, is renowned for its pristine white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning coral reefs. Visitors flock to Phu Quoc to relax on its picturesque beaches, explore its national parks, indulge in water activities such as snorkeling and diving, and savor the island’s fresh seafood.
16. Con Dao
Con Dao, a secluded archipelago, offers unspoiled natural beauty and a rich historical background. Travelers seek out Con Dao for its pristine beaches, lush forests, and diverse marine life, as well as to discover its haunting history at the former prison complex, Con Dao Prison. The island provides a tranquil retreat for relaxation, outdoor activities, and exploring its captivating landscapes.
17. Mui Ne
Mui Ne, a coastal town, is renowned for its stunning sand dunes, vibrant kite-surfing scene, and serene fishing villages. Visitors come to Mui Ne to witness the dramatic landscapes of the Red and White Sand Dunes, engage in water sports, taste fresh seafood, and enjoy the laid-back beach atmosphere and stunning sunsets.
Off the beaten track destinations
Explore the off the beaten track destinations in Vietnam: Cao Bang, home to the stunning Ban Gioc Waterfall; Mu Cang Chai, renowned for its breathtaking terraced rice fields; Quy Nhon, a tranquil beach town; Kon Tum, where you can discover the mountains and ethnic minorities of the central highlands. Experience the unspoiled beauty of Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay, the lesser-known siblings of Halong Bay. Visit Cat Ba, the largest island in the bay, and uncover the hidden gem of Ba Be Lake, the largest natural lake nestled in the jungle.
Health & Safety
When traveling to Vietnam, it’s important to be aware of certain health and safety considerations.
Mosquitoes are prevalent, especially in certain regions, so it’s advisable to use mosquito repellent and take precautions to prevent mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever or malaria.
Road safety can be a concern, with chaotic traffic and different driving habits, so it’s recommended to exercise caution and use designated pedestrian crossings.
It’s advisable to avoid drinking tap water and instead opt for bottled or filtered water to prevent waterborne illnesses.
Additionally, practicing good food safety by eating freshly cooked or hot meals, avoiding street food stalls with questionable hygiene practices, and practicing proper hand hygiene can help prevent food-related illnesses.
It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or travel health clinic before your trip for personalized advice on vaccinations and health preparations.
Vietnam is generally a safe destination for travelers, with a low rate of crime targeting foreign visitors; however, it’s important to remain vigilant and take precautions against petty theft, such as keeping a close eye on personal belongings and being aware of common scams.
Money & budget
Vietnam’s official currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), and it’s advisable to carry local currency for most transactions as other currencies are not accepted. Banks and authorized currency exchange offices are the best places to exchange foreign currencies, but interestingly, gold jewelry shops often offer competitive exchange rates.
The average cost of a trip to Vietnam varies depending on your travel style. For budget travelers, a weekly average budget can range from $150 to $300, including accommodation, meals, transportation, and some sightseeing. Midrange travelers can expect to spend around $300 to $700 per week, while luxury travelers may have a budget of $700 and above per week.
In Vietnam, there is no tipping culture, and service charges are usually included in the bill. However, it’s appreciated to give small tips for exceptional service. ATMs are widely available throughout the country, but it’s important to note that there may be limits on the amount you can withdraw per transaction. Additionally, many local shops and restaurants may not accept card payments, so it’s advisable to carry enough cash for smaller purchases.
Internet & calling
Vietnam has a widespread availability of Wi-Fi networks, ranging from local restaurants and coffee shops to upscale resorts. As a customer, you can typically access these Wi-Fi networks for free.
However, to ensure a reliable internet connection and avoid dependence on Wi-Fi, it is recommended to buy a Vietnamese SIM card. SIM cards are affordable and convenient, allowing you to have internet access for various purposes such as navigating with Google Maps, using Google Translate, booking taxis through ride-hailing apps, or checking reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor. While there are several providers to choose from, Viettel is generally considered the best option for its coverage and reliability.
Electricity & socket adapters
The voltage in Vietnam is typically 220V, and the sockets commonly used have 2 pins, accommodating both flat and round pins. If your devices use a different type of plug, you can either bring a travel adapter with you or easily purchase one in Vietnam at one of the many convenient stores available.
Traveling to Vietnam
Before traveling to Vietnam, it is essential to check the visa requirements for your country. While a few countries, including 11 European countries, are eligible for visa-free entry, allowing a maximum stay of 15 days, those wishing to stay longer or coming from other countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand, must arrange a valid visa before their trip.
For most travelers, the e-visa is the recommended option, which can be easily obtained through the official website of the Vietnamese immigration. The e-visa process typically takes 3 to 4 working days, costs 25 USD, and allows a stay of up to 30 days in Vietnam.
Unlike major hub cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam doesn’t have as many international direct flights from the US, Australia, and Europe, often requiring a transit. It’s important to note that even when boarding your flight to Vietnam, you need to show a valid visa.
In addition to flights, Vietnam can be accessed by land borders from countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and China. Another option is entering Vietnam via a seaport. Fortunately, all of these entry options, including land and seaports, are possible with an e-visa.
1. Domestic flights
Domestic flights in Vietnam are a great option for traveling within the country, offering convenience and affordability. With tickets that can be as cheap as $40 USD, it’s an excellent alternative to avoid long journeys by bus. Vietnam has three major airlines, namely Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air, and Bamboo Airways, providing extensive coverage to numerous domestic airports across the country, totaling around 21 airports.
2. Bus travel
Bus travel in Vietnam is a popular and extensive mode of transportation, with a network that connects every corner of the country. It is known for being very affordable, making it an economical choice for budget-conscious travelers. There are various options available, including day buses and sleeper buses, with different classes such as smaller limousine buses, VIP sleeper buses, normal sleeper buses, and mini vans. Opting for the luxury options may provide a more comfortable and enjoyable experience without a significant increase in cost.
3. Train travel
Train travel in Vietnam offers a unique and nostalgic experience, allowing you to soak in the scenic beauty of the country at a more relaxed pace. While trains may be slower compared to buses, they are generally considered a safer mode of transportation. Depending on your preference and budget, trains offer various options including hard seat, soft seat, and different cabin configurations such as 4 berth and 6 berth cabins. For popular routes like Sapa to Hanoi, there are tourist trains available, providing additional comfort for the journey.
4. Private transfers
Private transfers in Vietnam offer convenience and flexibility for travelers, as foreign tourists are not permitted to drive cars themselves. Renting a car with a driver allows for comfortable and hassle-free transportation, whether for airport transfers or exploring different destinations. Moreover, private transfers can be customized to include stops along the way, giving you the opportunity to create your own personalized tour or embark on a multi-day trip to discover the diverse landscapes of Vietnam.
5. Public transportation
While public transportation options like the metro and buses exist in Vietnam, they are often underutilized by tourists. The metro system is still in its early stages of development, and communication barriers can make it difficult to navigate public bus routes. However, the biggest reason not to use public transportation in Vietnam is the way better alternative of using taxis.
Taxis in Vietnam are an affordable and convenient mode of transportation, offering door-to-door service for travelers. Additionally, taxi apps like Grab have gained popularity, providing an effortless way to book a taxi and communicate your destination, effectively overcoming any language barriers you may encounter.
Walking in Vietnam’s cities can be challenging as sidewalks are often in poor condition and occupied by parked motorbikes, forcing pedestrians to walk on the main road. Crossing roads can also be a daunting task, unless you come across a traffic light. Generally, Vietnam is not considered pedestrian-friendly in urban areas.
However, outside the cities, there are excellent opportunities for trekking in Vietnam, allowing you to explore beautiful landscapes, such as rice fields, jungles, and smaller villages.
Other options for getting around
Apart from practical transportation options, there are leisurely alternatives for getting around in Vietnam. Cycling is a fantastic way to explore the peaceful cities and picturesque countryside, offering a closer connection to the surroundings.
Cyclo rides provide a unique and authentic local experience, allowing you to leisurely explore the streets and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. Boats and cruises are popular for discovering the rivers, canals, and stunning landscapes of the Mekong Delta and the famous Halong Bay.
Vietnam weather by month
Best time to visit Vietnam
Vietnam experiences three distinct weather regions due to its elongated shape. Each region has its own best time to visit, making it somewhat challenging to pinpoint a single ideal time. However, if you’re looking for a period that aligns with all three regions, the best time to visit is generally from January to May, with March being particularly favorable.
Northern Vietnam: In the north, the weather is divided into four seasons. From January to March, it is often chilly with occasional fog in Hanoi and Halong Bay. Spring (April and May) brings pleasant temperatures and blooming flowers. Summer (June to August) is hot and humid, while autumn (September to December) offers cooler temperatures and clearer skies.
Central Vietnam: Central Vietnam has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. From January to August, the weather is relatively dry, making it a good time to visit cities like Hue and Hoi An. However, be aware of potential typhoons from August to November. The region also experiences high temperatures in the summer months.
Southern Vietnam: Southern Vietnam has a tropical climate with two main seasons – dry and wet. From November to April, the dry season prevails, characterized by lower humidity and pleasant temperatures. May to October is the wet season, with frequent rainfall and higher temperatures. Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta are popular destinations in this region.
Vietnam by month
With so many incredible destinations to choose from in Vietnam, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. Here are some inspiring recommendations to help you plan your trip:
- For the best rice fields, consider visiting Sapa, which is easily accessible and boasts vast landscapes. Alternatively, Pu Luong offers smaller, less touristy rice fields but requires a bit more effort to reach.
- When it comes to beautiful beaches, Phu Quoc is renowned for its stunning shores. Along the central coast, you’ll also find picturesque beaches in Hoi An, Quy Nhon, Phu Yen, and Nha Trang.
- Seeking adventure? Embark on a thrilling motorbike journey in Ha Giang, explore captivating caves in Phong Nha on caving expeditions, or try canyoning in the scenic town of Dalat.
- Vietnam is home to some of the most beautiful cities, including the charming ancient town of Hoi An, the bustling capital city of Hanoi, the historic city of Hue, and the picturesque hill station of Dalat.
- If trekking is your passion, head to Sapa, Ha Giang, Pu Luong, or other mountainous regions for unforgettable hiking experiences amidst breathtaking landscapes.
- For nature enthusiasts, Ha Giang, Sapa, Ninh Binh, Halong Bay, and Ban Gioc Waterfall offer spectacular natural wonders to explore and admire.
For more inspiration and detailed information about these and other remarkable destinations in Vietnam, you can check out our Vietnam inspiration list.
To fully immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture, here are some helpful tips to enhance your experience:
- Embrace Vietnam’s culinary pride by indulging in local cuisine. Take a street food tour or join a cooking class to discover the diverse flavors and ingredients that make Vietnamese food so renowned.
- Vietnam is home to 54 ethnic groups, each with its own unique traditions. Learn from them by visiting ethnic markets, staying at homestays, and exploring villages to gain insights into their customs, arts, and way of life.
- Gain a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s history by learning about the Vietnam War. Visit significant sites such as the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, which provide valuable perspectives on the country’s past.
- When visiting temples and pagodas, dress appropriately by covering your shoulders, wearing modest clothing, and removing your shoes as a sign of respect.
- Make an effort to learn some basic Vietnamese phrases. While many Vietnamese may not speak fluent English, they appreciate and welcome your attempts to communicate in their language.
- Celebrate special events with the locals, such as Tet (Lunar New Year), Mid-Autumn Festival, or National Day. Participate in traditional festivities, enjoy local customs, and savor the festive atmosphere.
- When entering someone’s home or certain establishments, it is customary to remove your shoes as a gesture of cleanliness and respect.
- Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, as it shows respect for their privacy and personal space.
- Avoid any disrespectful actions towards the national flag or the country’s leaders. Show reverence and sensitivity towards symbols of national importance.
- Explore traditional craft villages to witness artisans practicing age-old crafts, such as pottery, silk weaving, or wood carving. This provides an opportunity to appreciate Vietnam’s rich artistic heritage.
- Join locals for a casual beer-drinking experience on the street. Sidewalk stalls offer a social and lively atmosphere where you can engage with Vietnamese people and soak up the local culture.
- Experience the warmth of Vietnamese hospitality by joining a family dinner. Embrace the tradition of sharing abundant food and engaging in lively conversations, creating lasting memories of authentic Vietnamese hospitality.