Vietnam Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Discover the enchanting beauty and cultural wonders of Vietnam with this comprehensive guide. From the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the ancient temples of Hue, explore the must-visit destinations, entry requirements, local transportation options, weather tips, and more. Immerse yourself in the rich heritage and flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, and learn about the importance of travel insurance for a worry-free trip. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Vietnam's captivating landscapes and vibrant cities.

Image: Vietnam Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and Must-See Attractions

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and diverse culture. From the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the ancient temples of Hue, there is something for everyone in Vietnam.

Popular Tourist Attractions

Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Vietnam:

  • Ho Chi Minh City: The former capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant metropolis with a mix of French colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers. Must-see attractions include the Notre Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
  • A panoramic view of the Ho Chi Minh City skyline at night, with the city's tallest buildings illuminated.
    Ho Chi Minh City skyline at night
  • Hanoi: The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a charming city with a centuries-old history. Must-see attractions include the Hoan Kiem Lake, the Temple of Literature, and the Hanoi Old Quarter.
  • A view of the Hanoi Old Quarter at dusk, with the city's ancient buildings bathed in golden light.
    Hanoi Old Quarter at dusk
  • Ha Long Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay is a stunning natural wonder with over 1,600 limestone karsts and islets. Visitors can take boat tours to explore the bay, go kayaking or rock climbing, or simply relax on one of the many beaches.
  • A cluster of limestone karsts rising up from the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay.
    Ha Long Bay limestone karsts
  • Mekong Delta: The Mekong Delta is a vast river delta located in southern Vietnam. It is known for its lush green rice paddies, floating markets, and traditional villages. Visitors can take boat tours to explore the delta, go cycling or hiking, or simply relax in one of the many resorts.
  • A traditional floating market in the Mekong Delta, with boats laden with fruits, vegetables, and other goods.
    Mekong Delta floating market
  • Da Nang: A popular beach destination, Da Nang is home to the iconic Marble Mountains, the Cham Museum, and the Son Tra Peninsula. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and surfing on the beach, or go hiking or biking in the mountains.
  • The Marble Mountains, a group of five limestone mountains located in Da Nang, Vietnam.
    Marble Mountains in Da Nang
  • Hoi An: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An is a charming town with well-preserved Chinese and Japanese architecture. Must-see attractions include the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Old Town, and the Tan Ky House.
  • The Japanese Covered Bridge, a 17th-century bridge in Hoi An, Vietnam.
    Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Vietnam depends on your interests. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to visit is during the shoulder seasons (April-May and September-October). If you want to experience the best weather, the best time to visit is during the dry season (November-April).

Weather Conditions

The weather in Vietnam varies depending on the region. The north has a monsoon climate with hot, humid summers and cool, dry winters. The central coast has a tropical climate with hot, wet summers and mild winters. The south has a tropical wet and dry climate with hot, wet summers and dry winters.

Local Customs, Etiquette, and Cultural Practices

Here are some important things to know about local customs, etiquette, and cultural practices in Vietnam:

  • Vietnamese people are generally very friendly and welcoming. They appreciate it if you learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases, such as hello, goodbye, thank you, and please.
  • When shaking hands, it is customary to do so with both hands.
  • It is considered rude to point with your finger. Instead, use your whole hand or your palm.
  • When eating, it is considered polite to use your chopsticks with your right hand. Your left hand should be kept in your lap.
  • It is not considered polite to slurp your soup or noodles.
  • When visiting a temple or pagoda, it is important to dress respectfully. This means covering your shoulders and knees.
  • It is also important to remove your shoes before entering a temple or pagoda.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you have a pleasant and respectful visit to Vietnam.

Flight Options and Prices

There are a variety of flight options available to Vietnam, with airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia, and Jetstar offering direct flights from major cities in Asia, Europe, and North America. Flight prices vary depending on the time of year, the city of departure, and the airline.

Local Transportation Options

There are a number of local transportation options available in Vietnam, including:

  • Trains: Vietnam Railways operates a network of trains that connect major cities throughout the country. Trains are a relatively affordable way to travel, but they can be slow.
  • A train traveling through the countryside in Vietnam.
    Train in Vietnam
  • Buses: There are a number of bus companies that operate intercity bus services in Vietnam. Buses are a more affordable option than trains, but they can be more crowded.
  • A bus traveling along a highway in Vietnam.
    Bus in Vietnam
  • Taxis: Taxis are a convenient way to get around in Vietnam, but they can be expensive. It is important to negotiate the fare before getting in the taxi.
  • A taxi driving through the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.
    Taxi in Vietnam
  • Motorbikes: Motorbikes are a popular way to get around in Vietnam, but they can be dangerous for inexperienced riders. It is important to wear a helmet and to be aware of the traffic conditions.
  • A motorbike rider weaving through traffic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
    Motorbike in Vietnam
  • Grab: Grab is a ride-hailing app that is popular in Vietnam. Grab is a more affordable option than taxis, and it is easy to use.
  • A Grab ride-hailing app being used by a passenger in Vietnam.
    Grab ride-hailing app in Vietnam

Airport Information

Vietnam has 23 international airports, with the largest and busiest being Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Noi Bai International Airport, the largest airport in Vietnam, located in Hanoi.
Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi

Airport facilities in Vietnam vary depending on the size of the airport. However, most airports have currency exchange counters, ATMs, restaurants, and duty-free shops.

Baggage Rules

The baggage allowance for international flights to and from Vietnam varies depending on the airline. However, most airlines allow passengers to check two bags weighing up to 23kg each.

Public Transportation Maps and Routes

Public transportation maps and routes are available online and at tourist information centers. You can also download a public transportation app, such as Google Maps or Grab, to help you plan your travels.

Types of Accommodations Available

There are a variety of accommodation options available in Vietnam, to suit all budgets and preferences. Some of the most popular types of accommodations include:

  • Hotels: Vietnam has a wide range of hotels, from budget-friendly options to luxurious five-star resorts.
  • A modern hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam.
    Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Hostels: Hostels are a popular option for budget travelers. They offer shared dormitories and private rooms.
  • A hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with bunk beds and shared bathrooms.
    Hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Vacation Rentals: Vacation rentals are a great option for families or groups of friends. They offer more space and privacy than hotels or hostels.
  • A vacation rental in Hoi An, Vietnam with a private pool and garden.
    Vacation rental in Hoi An, Vietnam
  • Homestays: Homestays are a great way to experience Vietnamese culture. You will stay with a local family and learn about their way of life.
  • A homestay in a rural village in Vietnam where guests can stay with a local family.
    Homestay in a rural village in Vietnam

Reviews and Ratings for Hotels and Accommodations

There are a number of websites where you can read reviews and ratings for hotels and accommodations in Vietnam. Some of the most popular websites include:

  • TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is a popular travel website where users can share their reviews and ratings of hotels and other travel-related businesses.
  • Booking.com: Booking.com is an online travel agency where you can book hotels and other types of accommodations. The website also has a reviews section where users can share their experiences.
  • Agoda: Agoda is another online travel agency where you can book hotels and other types of accommodations. The website also has a reviews section where users can share their experiences.

Traditional Dishes and Local Food Specialties

Vietnamese cuisine is a delicious and diverse blend of Chinese, French, and Southeast Asian influences. Some of the most popular traditional dishes and local food specialties include:

  • Pho: Pho is a hearty noodle soup made with beef broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced beef. It is often served with fresh herbs, lime, and chili peppers.
  • A bowl of pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup made with beef broth, rice noodles, and thinly sliced beef.
    A bowl of pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup
  • Bun cha: Bun cha is a grilled pork dish served with rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
  • A plate of bun cha, a grilled pork dish served with rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
    A plate of bun cha, a grilled pork dish served with rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce
  • Banh mi: Banh mi is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients, such as pork, ham, pate, pickled vegetables, and cilantro.
  • A banh mi sandwich, a Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients, such as pork, ham, pate, pickled vegetables, and cilantro.
    A banh mi sandwich, a Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients
  • Goi cuon: Goi cuon are fresh spring rolls made with rice paper, shrimp, pork, and vegetables. They are often served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
  • A plate of goi cuon, fresh spring rolls made with rice paper, shrimp, pork, and vegetables. They are often served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
    A plate of goi cuon, fresh spring rolls made with rice paper, shrimp, pork, and vegetables
  • Cao lau: Cao lau is a noodle dish from the central Vietnamese city of Hue. It is made with rice noodles, pork, shrimp, and greens, and is served in a broth made from pork bones and shrimp shells.
  • A bowl of cao lau, a noodle dish from the central Vietnamese city of Hue. It is made with rice noodles, pork, shrimp, and greens, and is served in a broth made from pork bones and shrimp shells.
    A bowl of cao lau, a noodle dish from the central Vietnamese city of Hue
  • Nem nuong: Nem nuong are grilled pork meatballs wrapped in lettuce leaves and served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
  • A plate of nem nuong, grilled pork meatballs wrapped in lettuce leaves and served with a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
    A plate of nem nuong, grilled pork meatballs wrapped in lettuce leaves and served with a dipping sauce

Popular Restaurants and Street Food Markets

There are many popular restaurants and street food markets in Vietnam where you can sample the local cuisine. Some of the most popular spots include:

  • Pho 2000: This Hanoi institution is a great place to try pho. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the beef is tender and perfectly cooked.
  • Pho 2000, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup.
    Pho 2000, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves pho
  • Bun cha Huong Lien: This Ho Chi Minh City restaurant is famous for its bun cha. The grilled pork is juicy and flavorful, and the dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Bun cha Huong Lien, a popular restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City that serves bun cha, a grilled pork dish served with rice noodles, herbs, and a dipping sauce.
    Bun cha Huong Lien, a popular restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City that serves bun cha
  • Banh mi Ngon: This Hanoi shop is known for its delicious banh mi sandwiches. The bread is perfectly crusty, and the fillings are fresh and flavorful.
  • Banh mi Ngon, a popular shop in Hanoi that sells banh mi sandwiches, a Vietnamese baguette sandwich filled with a variety of ingredients.
    Banh mi Ngon, a popular shop in Hanoi that sells banh mi sandwiches
  • Banh cuon Thanh Tri: This Hanoi restaurant is a great place to try banh cuon. The spring rolls are fresh and delicate, and the dipping sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
  • Banh cuon Thanh Tri, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves banh cuon, fresh spring rolls made with rice paper, shrimp, pork, and vegetables.
    Banh cuon Thanh Tri, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves banh cuon
  • Cao lau Huong Giang: This Hue restaurant is a great place to try cao lau. The noodles are perfectly cooked, and the broth is rich and flavorful.
  • Cao lau Huong Giang, a popular restaurant in Hue that serves cao lau, a noodle dish made with rice noodles, pork, shrimp, and greens.
    Cao lau Huong Giang, a popular restaurant in Hue that serves cao lau
  • Nem nuong 36: This Hanoi restaurant is famous for its nem nuong. The meatballs are juicy and flavorful, and the dipping sauce is the perfect accompaniment.
  • Nem nuong 36, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves nem nuong, grilled pork meatballs wrapped in lettuce leaves and served with a dipping sauce.
    Nem nuong 36, a popular restaurant in Hanoi that serves nem nuong

Dietary Restrictions or Considerations

Vietnamese cuisine is generally accommodating to most dietary restrictions. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Vegetarian and vegan options: Vegetarian and vegan options are widely available in Vietnam. Many restaurants have dedicated vegetarian or vegan menus, and even non-vegetarian restaurants will often have a few vegetarian or vegan dishes.
  • Gluten-free options: Gluten-free options are becoming more common in Vietnam, but they are still not as widely available as vegetarian and vegan options. However, there are a few restaurants that specialize in gluten-free cuisine, and many other restaurants will be able to accommodate gluten-free requests.
  • Pescatarian options: Pescatarian options are also widely available in Vietnam. Many restaurants will have seafood dishes that do not contain meat or poultry.

It is always a good idea to ask your waiter or waitress about dietary restrictions when you are ordering food in Vietnam. They will be able to help you find dishes that fit your needs.

Exploring Vietnam's Marvels: Sightseeing and Enriching Activities

Here are some museums, galleries, and historical sites in Vietnam:

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Pay your respects to Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese independence movement, at his mausoleum in Hanoi.
  • War Remnants Museum: Learn about the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Imperial City of Hue: Visit the Imperial City of Hue, which was the former capital of Vietnam.
  • My Son Sanctuary: Explore the My Son Sanctuary, a group of Hindu temples that were built in the 10th and 11th centuries.
  • Chau Doc Floating Market: Visit the Chau Doc Floating Market, where you can see vendors selling a variety of goods from their boats.

Here are some outdoor activities in Vietnam:

  • Hiking: There are many hiking trails in Vietnam, from easy walks to challenging treks.
  • Snorkeling: Go snorkeling or diving in the clear waters off the coast of Vietnam to see a variety of marine life.
  • Cycling: Cycle through the countryside or along the beach in Vietnam.
  • Whitewater rafting: Go whitewater rafting on the rapids of the Mekong River or other rivers in Vietnam.

Here are some events, festivals, and cultural celebrations in Vietnam:

  • Tet Nguyen Dan (Vietnamese New Year): Tet Nguyen Dan is the most important holiday in Vietnam. It is celebrated in late January or early February.
  • Hoi An Festival: The Hoi An Festival is a cultural festival that is held in Hoi An in April.
  • Mekong Delta Water Festival: The Mekong Delta Water Festival is a festival that is held in the Mekong Delta in November.
  • International Jazz Festival Ho Chi Minh City: The International Jazz Festival Ho Chi Minh City is a jazz festival that is held in Ho Chi Minh City in October.
  • Saigon Arts Festival: The Saigon Arts Festival is a performing arts festival that is held in Ho Chi Minh City in June.

Here are some shopping districts and markets in Vietnam:

  • Ben Thanh Market: Ben Thanh Market is a must-visit for any shopper in Ho Chi Minh City. You can find a variety of souvenirs, clothes, and food at the market.
  • Nguyen Hue Walking Street: Nguyen Hue Walking Street is a pedestrian street in Ho Chi Minh City that is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
  • Cho Lon Market: Cho Lon Market is the largest Chinese market in Ho Chi Minh City.

Travel insurance

It is recommended to get travel insurance before traveling to Vietnam. This will cover you in case of medical emergencies, lost luggage, and other unforeseen circumstances.

Health and vaccination recommendations

There are no compulsory vaccinations required for travel to Vietnam. However, it is recommended to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid. You should also make sure that you are up-to-date on your routine vaccinations.

Travel tips

Here are some travel tips for Vietnam:

  • Be prepared for hot and humid weather.
  • Pack light clothing, as you will likely be doing a lot of walking.
  • Bring a raincoat, as it can rain at any time of year.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against petty theft.
  • Drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes.
  • Tipping is not expected, but is appreciated.
  • Learn some basic Vietnamese phrases.

Visa requirements

Citizens of most countries need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can apply for a visa at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country. The visa application process can take a few weeks, so it is important to apply well in advance of your trip.

Language and cultural information

The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. However, English is widely spoken in major cities and tourist areas. It is polite to learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases before you travel.

Vietnamese culture is a blend of Chinese, French, and Japanese influences. The people of Vietnam are known for their hospitality and friendly nature.

Internet access and mobile network availability

Internet access is widely available in Vietnam, both in cities and rural areas. You can find Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Mobile network coverage is also good, and you can buy a SIM card from a local carrier when you arrive.

Currency exchange rates and banking facilities

The currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (VND). The exchange rate is constantly fluctuating, but you can expect to get around 22,000 VND for US$1. You can exchange currency at banks, exchange bureaus, and some hotels. ATMs are also widely available.