What we loved most about Vietnam was the ability to be in a chaotic city, but then after only a few hours travel be in calmer country areas. Enjoy bustling cities with street food vendors sprawling out onto the roads then find some calm at a city lake, garden or temple. Explore the countryside and villages then top it off with a visit to Lan Ha Bay and Halong Bay. Immerse yourself in the history of Vietnam at temples, cultural sites and excellent museums.
Population: 97.2 million
Money: Vietnamese Dong ₫ (VND)
Beliefs: over 70% identify as non-religious, followed by Buddhism and Catholic
Language: Vietnamese, English
Best time to visit: weather patterns are different across Vietnam. The Vietnam Tourism website has great information on weather and climate for different areas of Vietnam.
A trip to Vietnam should include some time in nature – visit a village, or enjoy Lan Ha Bay or Halong Bay or explore the Trang An area (known as inland Halong Bay).
The larger cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi can be overwhelming, but try and embrace the chaos! Wander down the side streets and seek out the night markets. If you don’t like busy cities then I suggest avoiding Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, or only go for a short visit on an organised tour. Smaller cities like Hoi An are just gorgeous and offer great bases for day trips.
Vietnamese food is cheap and amazing! Learn more about the food by taking a cooking class which usually include a local market trip.
Whipped egg yolk, sugar, condensed milk and Vietnamese coffee – don’t be scared and give it try! Egg coffee is very popular in Hanoi.
Learn about Vietnamese history and visit beautiful temples, ancient cities and excellent museums.
Lan Ha Bay – the quieter alternative to Halong Bay
Enjoy the street scenes
Respect the dress codes at temples and remember that Vietnam is a conservative country.
Remember that people are not tourist attractions – only take photos if it is really clear that the person is OK with it. Support Vietnamese people by shopping and eating local and using local guides.
Plastic is an issue around the World so try and limit your consumption as much as possible. As you travel through Vietnam you will see rubbish along rivers, roadsides and in the bays/oceans and it pulls at the heart strings. Do your bit and try and refuse single use plastic. Although, we found this really hard with straws and still ended up with lots despite carrying stainless steel straws around and asking for no straws! I blame my Aussie accent!
Know what are reasonable prices before you go, and don’t barter too hard. While tourists might think it is fun to barter hard, remember you are bartering with a real person who needs to make a living. We found some shops offered an automatic discount when paying!
Accommodation – Vietnam meets any budget. For our visit we paid around A$50/night for a home-stay and A$90/night for comfortable hotels all with breakfast included.
Food – Vietnamese Pho (soup with noodles) A$2.50, Banh Mi (Vietnamese rolls with meat and salad) A$2.00, Beer A$0.50 on the street or around A$2.00 at restaurants, coffee A$1.50. Overall, very cheap!
Transportation – public buses and trains are cheaper options, but hiring a scooter in quieter areas is by far the cheapest. Hiring a scooter with a driver (if you are too scared to ride a scooter alone like me!) is around A$30 per day, or a car with driver is around A$70 without any real haggling (I hate haggling!).
One of the main issues people have in Vietnam is the scamming with the most annoying being taxi scams. Unless you are on a really strict budget just organise a pick-up through your hotel, or stick to a reputable company such as Mai Linh.
Cost Summary – Vietnam is a cheap travel destination and will provide a wonderful holiday at any budget.
We had pre-booked tickets for shows, cooking classes and bus trips but found we could have saved money by booking once in Vietnam. If there is something you think might book-out that you really don’t want to miss, or you don’t care about spending a few extra dollars then just pre-book, otherwise wait.
SIM cards are cheap and WhatsApp is widely used to book accommodation, tours and transport. A 30 day SIM from Viettel with a huge amount of data was A$13 in Hanoi, plans with lower data start at A$5.
Immerse yourself in the history of Vietnam
Books to provide further inspiration and help plan your amazing journey.
Many Journeys Blog has a range of blog posts to help you plan your visit.