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  • Writer's pictureSaptadeepa Bandopadhyay

Vietnam Travel Guide: An all-inclusive guide to planning your next Southeast Asian trip

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Vietnam as the name suggests is a land of the Ascending Dragons. The shape of the country on the map has a close resemblance to a Dragon emerging from the sea and rising to the sun! The Viet people believe they are the descendants of the rising Dragon that protects the land!

Look beyond the legends and this interesting nation of astonishing landscapes on land and sea, streets that oath a sensory overload and the ever-friendly locals even in the remotest of places is the Vietnam of the 21st Century.

Trang An - UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ninh Binh
Trang An - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Vietnam is a country located at the eastern edge of Southeast Asia sharing borders with Laos and China in the north, Cambodia in the West, an extensive stretch of coast in the South China Sea which the Philipines and Indonesia also share, while south, the country stretches into the Gulf of Thailand. The geographic location of this otherwise seemingly tiny(on maps) nation along with the Indo-China history, authentic culture and lives of the ethnic tribes fascinate a travel enthusiast!


If Vietnam happens to be on your radar of South East Asian nations, here is all the information you need to plan a trip to Vietnam. I visited from India and my experience of travelling through the country on the extensive 16-day year-end trip could help you plan your next Vietnam adventure.


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How to Reach Vietnam -

  • Flights from major Indian cities fly directly into Vietnam. Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet are some carriers operating direct flights. Indigo is yet another carrier that operates daily flights to Vietnam. (*Info based on my experience)

  • Depending on where you would like to start exploring the country, you can land in the capital city, Hanoi in Northern Vietnam or Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam. Da Nang also is an international airport in Central Vietnam.

  • If your country does not have direct connectivity to Vietnam, you could look for flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

  • In case, you are covering this country with multiple other destinations in South East Asia, you can cross land borders from Cambodia or Laos.

Visa Requirements for Vietnam -

E-Visas can be applied in advance to visit Vietnam. If you have the confirmed dates of travel, it is wise to apply for the e-visa on time. A single entry 30-day visa costs $25. Here is the link to the official website - Evisa Vietnam

EVisa processing time is around 3-7 days and you will receive all updates in your email.

Note - Please mention the correct date and city of Arrival and Departure. If this does not match your actual travel, it may cause issues during the immigration check.

Hanoi Old Quarters
Hustle Bustle in Hanoi Old Quarters

Helpful Information for Your Vietnam Travel -

Accommodation and Commute

  1. To get the best out of your budget, start booking your flights, trains, buses and hotels in advance. You will save a lot of bucks. If you are unsure of your stay, you could book your hotels in advance without any payments using websites like Agoda.com and Booking.com

  2. One observation I made along our journey is that you must book hotels close to the city centre or tourist attractions. Like in HCMC, stay close to District 1, in Hanoi, stay in Old Quarters, in Hoi An, opt to stay outside the old town area. This way you can save on your daily commute. Most tour operators agree to pick you up from your hotels if it is close to these areas.

  3. Opt for bus or train journeys instead of domestic flights in the country, because you have to shell out a considerable amount of money to commute from the airports to your accommodations. This is possible if you have some time in hand.

  4. Another good way to save on hotel bookings is, to opt for bus or train journeys at night so you could save on a hotel booking for that night.

  5. Commercial hubs like HCMC and Hanoi have very small spaces in your hotel accommodations, but most other places can get you very spacious rooms with all possible amenities on a very small budget, consider rooms from Rs. 600 to Rs. 2000.

  6. If you are on a budget solo/couple trip, always rent a bike to see around your destination. It is way cheaper than hiring a taxi. A moped bike for an entire day will cost around 100k to 150k VND. We found fuel is very cheap compared to India thus making it an affordable mode of transport.

Currency -

  1. Currency - All transactions in the country are in the local currency i.e.Vietnamese Dong (VND). If you are carrying cash with you, please bring along some VND or USD. You can withdraw cash from international ATMs as well, with a nominal additional charge, which would be applicable as per your bank charges. So withdraw as much cash as possible in a single transaction.

  2. In case you have exhausted your VNDs and do not find any currency exchange / ATMs close by, try asking a retail store to pay in USD and get back the change in VND as per the exchange value. This helped us in Dalat town where we had exhausted our funds and the husband bought a jacket to exchange his USD :)

  3. Given the huge difference in currency conversion rates (1INR = 250 VND, 1USD = 23500 VND), take your time to negotiate a price when buying something. It may tend to get confusing the first few times.

Internet Connectivity/ SIM card -

  1. Buy a SIM card when you enter the country at any of the international airports. Choose a card with a better data plan compared to the number of free calls.

  2. Most hotels, homestays and hostels will provide you with free Wifi connectivity. Cafes also provide Wifi connectivity.

Language in Vietnam -

Tourists in Vietnam are often approached by school students who wish to practice their English literature
English Interaction with a Vietnamese school student
  • English is not a widely spoken language in Vietnam. Hotel receptionists and tour guides know the language but not everyone you meet will be able to converse in English.

  • Vietnamese is widely spoken all around, especially in the interiors of the country. So, 'Xin Chao!' is the conversation starter.

  • Do not hesitate to use your google translate while conversing with the locals. It could be time-consuming, but if you love long interactions, language is surely not the barrier! Mr Husband could strike up some interesting conversations even with google translate!

  • The favourite phrase of non-English speakers across Southeast Asia is "Same Same But No Different" :P

Where can you book your day tours -

It is always good to explore places on your own, however, if you are short of time and open to guided group tours, there are great options available in all the tourist destinations of Vietnam.

Some of the places where you may have to book a tour are -

  • The Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnel of Ho Chi Minh City

  • Any day tours from Hanoi

  • The Halong Bay Cruise

  • My Son Heritage temples near Hoi An

  • Group Bike trips around North Vietnam

Here is how you could choose the best tour -

  1. Once you reach your destination and check in to your hotel, you can ask the hotel reception for any tour company tie-ups with them. They usually hand over a pamphlet with all the details.

  2. The best way to familiarize yourself with a place is to walk around the tourist hubs of the city and look for shops which advertise these tours.

  3. Listen to the tour operators patiently and decide for yourself. Do not feel obliged to book a tour just because they took the pain to explain to you every detail. You can check the same tour with multiple vendors and negotiate a suitable rate.

  4. You can also look for better deals online on websites like Klook and Viator. The key is to book a tour a few days before you visit, this ensures better deals.

The climate around Vietnam -

Vietnam being a tropical country, is majorly warm and humid and can be visited all year round. However, it is wise to check the weather forecast of a certain region before you plan your itinerary.

The climate of Vietnam is divided into Wet and Dry Seasons -

  • North Vietnam is monsoonal between April and September. October and November are pleasant weather. Golden terrace fields are the best to be seen during this time. December tends to get cooler and often misty in the northern mountains of Sapa. January to March are the dry months.

  • Central Vietnam is dry and hot year-round but the coast is breezy which makes it comfortable to explore. Mid- December to early January can experience a few rainy days.

  • South Vietnam has a predictable hot and humid climate all year round. Summers months are from May to August and can experience frequent showers which makes it bearable for tourists to hit the roads.

Be prepared for unexpected showers on your Vietnam Trip
Torrential rains spoiling our day in Hoi An

What to pack for your Vietnam trip?

The short answer to this question would be - Pack Light!

  • Comfortable light clothing is what you need to wear through sunny and humid days.

  • If you are visiting in the winter, carry some warmers and jackets for layering up in the northern parts of the country. December and January could get very chilly around North Vietnam.

  • Do not forget to pack a waterproof raincoat/poncho which will give you the ease to walk around even in rain. Rains are unpredictable in some places like Hoi An and Sapa.

  • Carry your swim wears if you wish to take a dip around Vietnam's beaches or in Halong Bay.

  • Sunscreen cream, mosquito repellent and some basic medicines should be part of your luggage, however, do not stress if you miss out on some things, as they are easily available in supermarket stores around the city.

Planning the itinerary for Vietnam -

It is recommended that you enter Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh City (south) and proceed northwards so that you can plan your exit from Hanoi or the other way round i.e. Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. In this way, you would not have to return to the city of entry again.


Vietnam is geographically vast and diverse, thus I am dividing the regions into North, Central and South from the explorer's view -


Northern Vietnam -

Entrypoint - Hanoi

Overall Climate - North Vietnam is cooler than South and Central Vietnam. Winters can be extremely cold.


Hanoi -

Evening at the Hoan Keim Lake in Hanoi
Evening at the Hoan Keim Lake in Hanoi

Hanoi is the capital city and also has an international airport. To visit northern Vietnam, you will need to start here. Except for the ancient old quarters area, the rest of the city is full of high-rise buildings just like any other modern city. It is a wise decision to stay in the Old Quarters area because of its proximity to tourist attractions, variety of options for food, local brews at Beer Street, tour operators' shops/offices and information.

You can decide your next destination from here, even if you arrive without a plan.

  • When in Hanoi, the best thing to do is to explore the Old Quarters on foot or hire a cyclo. Many heritage architectures influenced by Chinese, French and Vietnamese cultures are visible here. Old Quarters has around 40 lanes and is one of the most happening areas of Hanoi.

  • Evenings can be best spent watching the water puppet show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre which is a 1000-year-old tradition. This place is close to Hoan Keim Lake. The lake looks beautiful by the evening and you could opt to stroll around here. It is also a good place to interact with the locals. People come here for walks, groups of oldies engage in some Zumba dance workouts or some music lovers come to practice their skills.

  • Visit other important monuments like the Temple of Literature, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum and St. Joseph Cathedral. You can also take up half-day tours to the Pottery Village or Quang Phu Cau Incense sticks village.

  • Stroll around the Old Quarters to try interesting street cuisines or local brews through the night.

Halong Bay -

Cat Ba Islands, Halong Bay
On a cruise trip to Cat Ba Islands, Halong Bay

The karst limestone islands spanning across the South China Sea offer some stunning views of this one of its kind geography which should not be missed from your Vietnam Itinerary.

  • The best way to explore Halong Bay is by an overnight cruise. You can pre-book these cruises online which helps you save on your expenditure. These cruises can cost between 15k INR to 25k INR for 2D/1N and would be your highest expenditure for the entire tour. The cruise operators can pick you up from your hotel in Hanoi if you stay around the Old Quarters.

  • Cat Ba Islands (part of Halong Bay) or Bai Tu Long Bay are the offbeat alternatives to the populated Halong Bay. Cat Ba Islands is also listed as a UNESCO Biodiverse Heritage.

Cycling around Cat Ba Island to experience the local village life
Cycling around Cat Ba Island to experience the local village life
  • Things that you get to do on a Halong Bay cruise are - Explore stunningly gorgeous landscapes of the multiple karst mountains scattered in the sea, National Parks, kayak/swim through the turquoise bay, visit some unique caves, cycle through the fishing villages and experience the local way of life on the islands.


Ninh Binh -

Ninh Binh is just 2 hours away from the capital city of Hanoi. It is often referred to as the 'Halong Bay of the Land'.

Ninh Binh - The Halong Bay of the Land
Ninh Binh - The Halong Bay of the Land
  • The best way to explore Ninh Binh is to opt for a Moped ride or a bicycle ride through the narrow alleys between the paddy fields which lie at the foothills of the many karst limestone mountains which is scattered throughout.

  • You cannot miss a paddle boat ride (locally called 'Sampan') in Trang An (UNESCO world heritage site) which takes you sailing through the Red River flowing in between the towering steep karsts and crossing some fascinating cave tunnels. The earliest natural existence in this region dates back to 30,000 years.

  • Tam Coc river boat experience is similar to Trang An, so you could opt for either of them.

  • The Bai Dinh temple complex tour is another exquisite experience of seeing some very beautiful heritage architecture along with modern structures in the same complex. In the evening, all the temples are lit and appear very pretty from a distance. *Note - I would suggest you skip it if you are not so much into man-made structures.

  • Mua Caves(Hang Mua in Hua Lu province) is a short 500-step hike to a mountain peak and offers some astonishing panoramic views of the surrounding green fields, karst mountains and Trang An from a height.

You can book your stay around Tam Coc/Ninh Binh or just plan a day trip from Hanoi.

A stunning bird's eye view of the Red River Delta in  Trang An, Ninh Binh
A stunning bird's eye view of the Red River Delta in Trang An, Ninh Binh

Mai Chau -

Mai Chau is a perfect laid-back holiday destination amidst some pristine nature views. Simply put, you do nothing when you are here. Staying at a local homestay, relishing some traditional cuisines, cycling around the beautiful green and golden fields, buying handmade crafts from the local tribes at the Sunday market or kayaking around the lake are the ways to truly enjoy being in Mai Chau.

Plan a trip to Mai Chau between March to May or September to November to see the greener fields. October is the perfect time to witness the golden harvests glittering around the fields.

Direct buses ply between Hanoi and Mai Chau.


Sapa -

  • Sapa has become the favourite among tourists wanting to explore northern Vietnam. You can take an overnight sleeper bus or Train from Hanoi to reach Sapa.

  • Due to the tourist influx, Central Sapa is quite urbanized but the moment you move away from the centre you get to experience the essence of rural northern Vietnam. The hills of Sapa look very pretty for their terrace farming scenes.

  • Village walks, short hikes, and local market visits to buy tribal handicrafts are some of the ways you could explore rural Sapa.

  • When in Sapa, you can visit the roof of the Indochina peninsula i.e. the Fansipan mountain which is very close to Sapa. Either hike the mountain or take a gondola ride of 20 minutes to reach the summit.

Tip: Avoid visiting Sapa if you travel in the winter i.e. end of November to January. The visibility is the lowest during these months due to heavy rains or dense fog.


Ha Giang -

Quan Ba Pass - Heaven's Gate on Ha Giang Loop
Quan Ba Pass - Heaven's Gate on Ha Giang Loop

Ha Giang is the adventure seekers' heaven. If open roads in mountainous terrains thrill you, then you can join a group tour of bikers to start from Hanoi and ride over the mountain passes and gorgeous canyons to complete the Ha Giang loop in 3-4 days.

You can visit some very unique villages of ethnic tribes and also see a local rural market. The tour fascinates people for its proximity to the Chinese border in northern Vietnam.

You could also reach Ha Giang by bus from Hanoi's My Dinh bus stand. From here the drive would be a short distance. You have the option to hire a car instead of a bike tour.


Central Vietnam -

Tam Quan Ba Mu Temple in Hoi An Heritage Town
Tam Quan Ba Mu Temple in Hoi An Heritage Town

Central Vietnam can be explored starting from Da Nang which also has an international airport. You could fly in directly to Da Nang.

When to visit: Central Vietnam could be hot and dry between January and August and wet or cloudy during August, September and November. December too can be wet on most days.


Da Nang -

Da Nang is the largest city in the central region and along the east coast of the South China Sea which makes it an important port city. It is a gateway to the rest of central Vietnam.

  • Da Nang's cosmopolitan vibes are also reflected in its tourist attractions like theme parks, street markets and resorts.

  • Here, you can plan to visit the Marble Mountains and Ba Na Hills and the Golden Hands Bridge on a day trip or laze around some of the beaches in Da Nang City.

  • Just a day should be fine if you wish to halt here. You could skip this city if you are not much into urban musing.

Hue -

Hue was once the ancient capital of the Nguyen Dynasty along the banks of the Huong River that flows through Hue. It boasts stunning imperial architecture, old pagodas and is heaven for some of the best culinary experiences. Hire a cyclo ride or a bicycle to self-ride around Hue for a day.

Hue has a domestic airport 30 minutes away or you could reach by a 2hours road journey from Da Nang. It is a good alternative to Da Nang City.


Hoi An -

Hoi An is a UNESCO heritage town. It is the only town which was not destroyed by the American war and preserves the original essence of a trading port. Over the past centuries, Chinese, Japanese and Europeans have settled here and built pagodas, homes and shops representing each of these cultures along the banks of the Thu Bon River.

The Heritage Building of the Hoi An Market
The Heritage Building of the Hoi An Market

So what do you do in Hoi An? Just explore as deep as you can get into the Old Town. You will find shops selling anything and everything in these lanes all through the day. They know very well how to entice tourists to visit their stores and buy their stuff. There are clothes, leather goods, souvenirs and books. You cannot miss the performing street artists, calligraphy artists, and some of the cheapest custom-fitted suits/dressmakers. Yet, you will fall for street food the most. We were spoilt for choices. Seafood is in abundance but other options are available as well. Think of Egg Coffees, Italian pizzas, Hoi An special rice pancakes, spring rolls, fresh salads and juices. Night markets are lively and you should check them out for cheaper souvenirs and street food options.

Painted Lanterns on the streets of Hoi An
Painted Lanterns on the streets of Hoi An

While you admire all the colourful lantern-clad streets, don't miss visiting the pagodas and ancient merchant houses to get a closer look into the ancient colonies that existed centuries back. You get a ticket for 60k VND that allows you entry into 5 heritage properties. To visit more, you need to buy the ticket again.

The laid-back lanes of Old Town will host you with its charm for as long as you wish to stay, but you must also try a sampan boat ride in the Thu Bon River. Go sailing from Old Town to Pottery Village. Visit the pottery village to see the terracotta artists at work or maybe try your hands at the potter's wheel.

Rent a bicycle /moped and wander around the villages to see lush green paddies, vegetable farms and the famed water buffaloes of South East Asia. Head to the beaches of Hoi An for sunbathing while gorging on seafood delicacies.

If you have 2 or 3 nights in Hoi An, head to My Son for a day trip. My Son is the only remains of the Hindu Cham Dynasty in Vietnam. The Archaeological Survey of India in collaboration with Vietnam is trying to preserve the ruins.


Nha Trang -

Nha Trang is a city on the southern coast. If you do not want to let go of the comforts of a city yet wish to be closer to the sea, this place is a good alternative to Da Nang. Domestic flights from major cities in Vietnam can bring you to Nha Trang. Road travel from Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang or HCMC is yet another option.

  • Resorts and Theme parks are all around the city, yet you could go looking for some pristine beaches to the south of the city.

  • Opt for water activities like snorkelling, going island hopping, visiting fishing villages outside the city, enjoying hot spring baths and mud bathing for leisure.

  • If you love architecture and history, visit the Long Son pagoda and its 78-foot Buddha statue, Po Nagar Cham towers, and Bao Dai Villa.

Dalat -

The Heritage Dalat Plateau Railway Station
The Heritage Dalat Plateau Railway Station

In the central highlands of Vietnam, the town of Dalat is a perfect respite from the tropical heat of the cities and beaches. Dalat is a lot about its French Heritage that remains around the town, yet just outside the town, it is about its forests, green patches of farmlands, waterfalls and many lakes perfect for sunsets.

Read about our experience in Dalat - The land of eternal spring

Dalat has an extra cuteness factor to it, a rare trait for a hill town I would say. Visit its many cafes to feel it yourself. The best way to get around Dalat is by hiring a moped two-wheeler bike and riding through its winding roads, you will discover beautiful viewpoints to look at the surroundings from a height. Lately, as the town is seeing local tourist influx from the nearby cities over weekends, theme parks have come up which look more like photo booths with the backdrop of a beautiful view. Do not fall for those, instead find your perfect spot by riding aimlessly around the town.

For discovering French Colonial architecture, you could walk around the old French quarters and visit the cathedral and churches and the famous Dalat Railway station which was once a prominent route connecting the south to north. The summer palace of the last King of Vietnam which is designed by a French architect is also open to tourists.

A small scenic route of the Dalat Railway is still open for an experience. It ends at Trai Mat and is next to the Linh Phuoc Pagoda which is uniquely designed using broken glass bottles and porcelain wares. Do not miss this stunning pagoda. If you do not find the train at your desired time (since they run only with a considerable number of passengers), you could ride your bike to Trai Mat.

Linh Phuoc Temple made of broken glass pieces in Trai Mat
Linh Phuoc Temple made of broken glass pieces in Trai Mat

Southern Vietnam -

South Vietnam can be explored starting from Ho Chi Minh City. You can directly fly into this city internationally or choose it as your last destination before leaving the country if you started from Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh appears to be a fast-paced urban setup but once you move outside the city, southern Vietnam will offer gorgeous beaches. You can experience life in its islands around the Gulf of Thailand and have a chance to see life under the ocean.


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)-

Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City
Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City
  • HCMC is very fondly known by its former name, Saigon to date. The largest city of the country holds memories of its French Colonial rule, liberation war and the cruel American war in the War Memorial Museum. Though it may make you sad, your visit to the museum will help you learn about the history of this nation.

  • Most landmarks of HCMC are located around District 1, thus choose your accommodations in the vicinity that will help save on transportation and time. The city has crazy traffic in the morning and evenings when daily commuters speed to and from work. Choose to ride a moped only if you are used to such traffic.

  • Visit the epitomes of the colonial era, Notre Dame Cathedral which stands at the centre of the square and the iconic Central post office next to it. Though crowded, walk inside to see the beautiful hall of the post office and send a postcard to yourself. You could plan to visit the reunification palace which is nearby or sit around the gardens of District 1 while watching the city commuters.

  • Visit the Ben Thanh Market for cheap souvenirs, clothes, bags and dried fruits. If you don't wish to buy anything, just walk around the market to see how and what is sold here.

  • At sundown, head to Nguyen Hue Street which turns into a walking street with the city hall and opera house at one end and glittery-lit skyscrapers at the other end. I call it the times square of Saigon.

  • Saigon's street food is worth the try, you would find your comfort on the little plastic chairs and tables and indulge in your seafood delicacies without having to miss out on the outdoor scenes on the street.


Day Trips from HCMC -

The day trips that often get recommended from Ho Chi Minh City are -

A boat ride through the Mekong Delta
A boat ride through the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta Tour - The Mekong River is one of the largest rivers in South Vietnam and flows from neighbouring Cambodia into Vietnam, before meeting the ocean. The Mekong Delta region is rich in diverse flora and fauna. Many river islands in this region are inhabited by indigenous tribes. These tribes along with the tour operators host you throughout your visit. You get a glimpse into the delta life on this day trip if you do not wish to spend a couple of days here.

Bee Keeping in Mekong Delta
A tour of Bee Keeping in Mekong Delta

Cu Chi Tunnel - These tunnels are the secret tunnels built during the American War for hidden passages under the city of Saigon. These tunnels form a 250-kilometre network underground. It is just 2 hours away from the city. You will get to enter the tunnel as well, so be prepared for the dirt and play.


Phu Quoc -

Phu Quoc is an island, off the coast of Southern Vietnam. The quickest way to get here is by a domestic flight from HCMC. Most of this island is declared a UNESCO Biodiverse Heritage. It has a coastline of 150 kilometres. When in Phu Quoc, you will be blessed with unobstructed sunset views along the white sand beaches and clear starry skies. You can stay at high-end hotels or humble homestays. Visit the fishing villages and try the local seafood.

Short hikes can lead you to beautiful forests and waterfalls. Pick a moped and ride around the island to discover your favourite hidden spot.


Mui Ne -

  • You can reach Mui Ne from HCMC, Nha Trang or Dalat by a bus journey. Alternatively, take the early morning train from HCMC to Phat Thiet from where you could reach Mui Ne by a local bus or a taxi ride.

  • Mui Ne is famous for its Sand Dunes! Yes, you heard that right! Tropical Vietnam also has sand dunes which are lined by green vegetation and blue beaches very close to these dunes. You can visit the White Sand Dunes as well as the Red Sand Dunes, the two are close by.

  • Mui Ne offers some magical sunrises and sunsets along the coast with views of colourful fishing boats sailing in the sea. Visit a local fishing market early in the day to see how locals trade their catches.

  • Mui Ne is also a producer of the famous South Asian Fish Sauce. You can find a fish sauce-making factory around Mui Ne with vats filled with fermented fish! The smell could get unbearable, I warn you!

  • Kite Surfing is yet another activity you can try out here. Mui Ne is Asia's most popular kite surfing site and you will find many training schools for beginners and intermediate levels. Its breezy sand beaches are perfect for the sport.

Woah! I know, I know, that's an extensive list of places to choose from.

So, here are some tips to plan your trip better -

  • The one important thing to keep in mind is not to overdo your itinerary! Have at least 2 days in hand to explore a destination.

  • Keep the local weather in mind before you visit a destination.

  • Places that look gorgeous due to green or golden farmlands in pictures, may not look as spectacular post-Autumn harvest!

  • The Incense villages do not produce them during the rainy wet season, so check the weather before you opt for a visit.

  • The hills of Sapa are so famous that every tourist wants to be there. But if you visit in December or January, you will find it cold, misty and wet thus rendering it difficult to explore the outdoors.

  • I felt some places can be explored on your own. So opt for tour operators only if the places are difficult to reach, expensive to travel or you are looking for some level of comfort. Such tours are more inclined towards hospitality than giving in-depth insights into a place.

  • If buses and trains seem too tiring for you, look for Limousines to your destination. They are cheap and comfortable modes of tourist transport.

Sample Itineraries to Explore Vietnam -

This was our 16 days itinerary for the trip we took in December 2022 -


Ho Chi Minh (Entry)-> Da Lat -> Da Nang (only transit) -> Hoi An -> Da Nang -> Hanoi (only transit)-> Ha Giang -> Hanoi -> Cat Ba Island -> Ninh Binh -> Hanoi(Exit)


Sample 5 or 7 days shorter itinerary trip could look like this -

  1. Hanoi -> Sapa / Ninh Binh -> Halong Bay -> Hoi An/Da Nang -> Ho Chi Minh

  2. Ho Chi Minh -> Phu Quoc -> Dalat -> Hoi An -> Hue -> Da Nang (This will cover only South and Central Vietnam)

  3. Hanoi -> Mai Chau -> Ninh Binh -> Halong Bay -> Hue -> Hoi An (Covers the north and central Vietnam)

Sample Offbeat Vietnam Itinerary (Includes adventure in rural parts of North Vietnam) -

Hanoi -> Cao Bang -> Ban Gioc Waterfall -> Ba Be National Park -> Hanoi

This tour is about 370 km starting from Hanoi to the extreme north of Vietnam and requires at least 3 days. You can club this with another 7 days of leisure trips around the country.

You can take a bus from My Dinh bus station on the above-mentioned route or book an all-inclusive tour with some tour operator in Hanoi.


The Ha Giang Loop

Hanoi -> Ha Giang -> Tam Son -> Quan Ba -> Dong Van -> Ma Pi Leng Pass -> Meo Vac -> Ha Giang -> Hanoi

This is the most adventurous bike tour to the remotest parts of northern Vietnam. Hanoi to Ha Giang is a good 6 hours journey by road which could be in a local bus or tour operator's Limousine. From Ha Giang, one could start the 3-day Loop bike trip. This part of the country would be the most pristine part of Vietnam you will visit, given that very few international tourists take up such adventures.


Food to try in Vietnam -

Presenting A fish and rice meal on the Mekong Delta Tour
Presenting A fish and rice meal on the Mekong Delta Tour

A major part of travelling to a place is knowing about the local food culture. What people eat tells a lot about what is locally grown and the farming cultures! Any trip to Southeast Asia means an ample amount of fresh greens and colours adorning your plates. Authentic dishes use more herbs than spices!

  • A go-to meal to grab when you are short of time for that sit-down kind of breakfast is the Banh Mi. Not sure if the French left their colonial influence on this dish! Banh Mi is baguette bread with a crisp crust that is filled with a few vegetables, a few slices of protein based on your preferences and some sauces to enhance the taste.

  • Another widely popular meal option is the Pho. You will find a few variations of the Pho as you travel to different destinations throughout the country. It is a hot soupy broth with a mix of greens, veggies, and bean sprouts with the base of rice noodles and a type of meat! The aroma and taste of pho stand out because of the use of fresh herbs, Thai ginger, limes and lemon grass.

  • Roadside stalls by evening serve a variety of seafood and meat grills which you must try!

  • Rice pancakes, stuffed dumplings and rice spring rolls are great snacking options to try.

  • If there is a particular meat you avoid as per your dietary preferences, remember to check these words in your menu - Ga stands for Chicken, Bo stands for beef and Thit Heo stands for Pork.

  • For Vegan options, look for the word Chay in your menu or simply ask your restaurant before you enter. Though meat menus are easy to find, vegan and vegetarian menus are also in abundance. On days when we wanted something vegetarian, we would look up these restaurants on Google Maps and always found the variety quite interesting.

  • Colourful salads of raw mangoes, papayas and other veggies were always a delight on the plate and a satisfying filler for the tummy!

Vegan Salads in Ninh Binh
Vegan Salads in Ninh Binh

Vietnamese Coffee -

When we talk of all the food that one must taste when in Vietnam, I must mention its world-famous coffee. Having stayed in south India for over a decade, I wanted to know what is the fuss about the coffee here. So I didn't miss a chance of trying their brews (hot or iced) wherever I found them.

I found them exceptionally strong when compared to what I consume in Bangalore. I love strong coffee but this was a different level! I missed them after coming back home. It seems that the roast is between medium and strong!

A quaint cafe interiors to relax around Dalat Town
A quaint cafe interiors to relax around Dalat Town

For your coffee cravings, try visiting the cafes or 'Ca Phe' as they are locally known. There is a lot of variety you can try Vietnamese coffee in. Like hot coffee poured over condensed milk which you need to stir well before consumption. You can even opt for black coffee without milk. Iced coffees are a go-to cold beverage which you can get even at a roadside stall.

If you fancy a variety of Vietnamese coffee, you can try some of these - Egg Coffee, Coconut Milk Coffee or Yogurt Coffee.


Scene of the Hoi An Night Market
Scene of the Hoi An Night Market

Souvenirs to Pick from Vietnam -

  • Magnets and Postcards are one of the most inexpensive souvenir choices to pick from the tourist lanes of HCMC or Hanoi.

  • Beautiful handpainted lanterns are some cheap home decor options to pick from Hoi An.

  • Pottery is widely practised in villages around Hanoi and Hoi An. If you love ceramics, look for these with traditional blue ink designs on them.

  • Handcrafted Silver Jewellery with fine filigree design is a unique souvenir option though a bit costly investment.

  • If you want to customise some dresses or men's suits, check out the Hoi An market. Leather goods are also available here.

  • If you are easily bitten by the shopping bug, please be careful around the markets as you may easily overspend even though you could get cheap goods around there.

Vietnam is an interesting country to visit and it has something for every traveller visiting here. Your soul yarns for more experiences and an urge to return someday! You will meet people on your tour who have previously come to the country multiple times before.


If you have any queries, leave a comment below!

9 Comments


Samaira
Samaira
May 25

This Vietnam Travel Guide is incredibly comprehensive and well-organized! As someone planning a trip to Southeast Asia for the first time, I found the detailed breakdowns of each region in Vietnam immensely helpful. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Ha Long Bay, the guide paints a vivid picture of what to expect and the best places to visit in Vietnam.


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Shubhika Arora
Shubhika Arora
May 17

Vietnam, aptly named the Land of the Ascending Dragons, holds a charm that transcends mere legend. Its geography, culture, and people come together to create a tapestry of experiences that captivate travelers from around the globe.


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Deepali
Deepali
May 08

Very perceptive. It's a true pleasure to travel to Vietnam.

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akanksha pandey
akanksha pandey
Apr 19

"Great read! I found this article really informative and engaging. It's always fascinating to learn more about Vietnam Travel Guide. Looking forward to more content like this in the future!"

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Lokesh sharma
Lokesh sharma
Apr 03

Vietnam's allure is undeniable, and this comprehensive travel guide serves as the perfect roadmap for anyone planning their next Southeast Asian adventure. From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene beauty of Ha Long Bay and the vibrant markets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam offers a tapestry of experiences just waiting to be explored. This guide brilliantly captures the essence of Vietnam, offering invaluable insights into everything from visa requirements to must-visit attractions and local customs. Whether you're a foodie eager to sample pho in its birthplace or a history buff fascinated by the country's rich heritage, Vietnam has something for everyone

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ABOUT
Me

Hi, I am Saptadeepa, an Indian travel  enthusiast.

My curiosity to explore the unexplored, has led me to some offbeat destinations across India and a few neighbouring South East Asian countries.


Seeking Happiness Diaries is a travel inspired lifestyle blog where I share my adventures, stories, experiences and life lessons  through my journeys.

In leisure, I finds solace in reading books or writing about travel and life experiences on this blog.

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