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Backpacking Tips in Vietnam: The Ultimate Travel Guide (Part 1)

April 13, 2024

Backpacking in Vietnam is an adventure like no other. From the bustling cities to the serene countryside, this Southeast Asian gem offers a diverse array of experiences for the intrepid traveler. Whether you’re seeking cultural immersion, breathtaking landscapes, or delectable cuisine, Vietnam has something to captivate every wanderer’s soul. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unveil the secrets to an unforgettable backpacking journey through this mesmerizing land.

Backpacking Tips in Vietnam

Trekking in Sapa, Vietnam

Don’t Pack Too Much Stuff

Embrace Minimalism

When backpacking, less is truly more. Overpacking not only burdens you physically but also hinders your ability to move freely and embrace spontaneity. Embrace minimalism and pack only the essentials. Invest in lightweight, multi-purpose items that can serve multiple functions, such as quick-drying clothing and versatile accessories.

Rolling vs. Folding

Packing efficiently is an art form. Consider rolling your clothes instead of folding them to maximize space and minimize wrinkles. Utilize packing cubes or compression sacks to organize your belongings and create more room in your backpack.

Overpacking is one of the biggest mistakes backpackers make when embarking on their Vietnamese adventure. Not only does it weigh you down physically, but it can also drain your energy and limit your ability to fully immerse yourself in the experience. The key to successful backpacking in Vietnam is to embrace minimalism and pack only the essentials.

Before you start packing, take a moment to assess your true needs. Invest in lightweight, multi-purpose items that can serve multiple functions. Quick-drying clothing, versatile accessories, and a sturdy backpack are must-haves. Resist the temptation to pack for every possible scenario; instead, focus on the basics and be prepared to adapt as you go.

Remember, you can always purchase additional items along the way if needed. Vietnam is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of affordable clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Embrace the local markets and street vendors, and you’ll not only find unique treasures but also support the local economy.

By packing light, you’ll have the freedom to move effortlessly from one destination to another, without the burden of excess weight dragging you down. Imagine hiking through the picturesque rice terraces of Sapa or exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi without the strain of a heavy backpack – it’s a liberating experience that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the moment.

Ultimately, the key to successful backpacking in Vietnam is to strike a balance between being prepared and remaining flexible. Pack wisely, embrace minimalism, and be open to adapting your needs as you go. By doing so, you’ll not only lighten your load but also open yourself up to the spontaneous adventures and unforgettable experiences that await.

Be Mindful of Your Health

Stay Hydrated

Vietnam’s tropical climate can be unforgiving, especially during the hot and humid summer months. Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining your energy levels and overall well-being. Carry a refillable water bottle with you at all times and replenish it frequently from trusted sources.

Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes

Mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and malaria are prevalent in certain regions of Vietnam. Pack an ample supply of insect repellent and consider wearing lightweight, long-sleeved clothing in the evenings to minimize exposure.

Food safety is another crucial consideration when backpacking in Vietnam. While the local cuisine is undoubtedly delicious, it’s essential to exercise caution when dining at street food stalls or local eateries. Opt for hot, freshly cooked meals, and avoid raw or undercooked dishes. Additionally, carry hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes to maintain good hygiene before eating.

Staying active and getting enough rest are also vital for maintaining your health while backpacking. Vietnam offers a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking through stunning landscapes to exploring ancient temples. Pace yourself and listen to your body’s needs, ensuring you balance physical exertion with ample rest and recovery time.

Finally, consider packing a basic first-aid kit with essential medications, bandages, and other supplies. While Vietnam has a developing healthcare system, access to medical facilities can be limited in remote areas. Being prepared with a few basic medical supplies can provide peace of mind and ensure you’re equipped to handle minor injuries or illnesses while on the move.

Stay in Hostels with Free Breakfasts

Save Money on Accommodation

Hostels are a budget-friendly option for backpackers, offering shared dorms and basic amenities at an affordable price. Many hostels in Vietnam offer free breakfast, which can help you save money and start your day with a satisfying meal.

Meet Fellow Travelers

Staying in hostels is not only cost-effective but also provides an opportunity to meet fellow backpackers from around the world. Hostels often host social events and activities, making it easier to connect with like-minded travelers and potentially find travel companions.

When choosing a hostel in Vietnam, consider factors such as location, amenities, and reviews from other travelers. Look for hostels located in convenient areas, close to public transportation and popular attractions. Additionally, prioritize hostels with clean and well-maintained facilities, as well as basic amenities like Wi-Fi, lockers, and common areas for socializing.

To maximize your savings, consider booking your hostel stays in advance or during off-peak seasons when rates are typically lower. Many hostels also offer discounts for longer stays or loyalty programs, so be sure to inquire about any special deals or promotions.

Remember, while hostels offer a budget-friendly and social experience, they may not be suitable for everyone. If you prefer more privacy or have specific accommodation needs, consider alternative options like guesthouses or budget hotels. However, for the quintessential backpacking experience in Vietnam, hostels are hard to beat – they provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet fellow adventurers, and stretch your travel budget to the fullest.

Travel with a Group to Split Costs

Divide Expenses

Traveling with a group allows you to split costs for accommodation, transportation, and even meals, making your backpacking experience more affordable. Sharing expenses can help you stretch your budget and potentially explore destinations that might have been too expensive solo.

Safety in Numbers

Traveling with a group can also provide a sense of security, especially in unfamiliar destinations. Having companions by your side can help you navigate new environments, share valuable insights, and look out for one another.

One of the best ways to maximize your budget while backpacking in Vietnam is to travel with a group. Whether you’re exploring with friends, family, or fellow travelers you meet along the way, forming a small group can significantly reduce your overall expenses.

By traveling with a group, you can divide costs for accommodation, transportation, and even meals. Instead of shouldering the full cost of a private room or hiring a private driver, you can split these expenses among your group members, making your backpacking experience more affordable. This approach can also open up opportunities to explore destinations or activities that might have been too expensive to tackle solo.

Beyond the financial benefits, traveling with a group can also provide a sense of security, especially in unfamiliar destinations. Having companions by your side can help you navigate new environments, share valuable insights, and look out for one another. This added safety net can be particularly reassuring when exploring off-the-beaten-path locations or navigating cultural differences.

When forming a travel group, it’s essential to find like-minded individuals with similar interests and travel styles. Open communication and establishing clear expectations from the outset can help ensure a harmonious group dynamic. Discuss your preferred pace, budget constraints, and must-see destinations to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Additionally, consider rotating responsibilities within the group, such as navigation, budgeting, or researching activities. This not only fosters a sense of shared ownership but also allows each member to contribute their unique strengths and perspectives, enriching the overall experience.

Of course, traveling with a group isn’t without its challenges. You may need to compromise on certain plans or activities, and conflicts can arise due to differing personalities or preferences. However, by embracing open communication, respect, and a spirit of adventure, you can navigate these challenges and create lasting memories with your travel companions.

Pack a Quality Tent

Camping Adventures

Vietnam offers numerous opportunities for camping and immersing yourself in the country’s stunning natural landscapes. From the lush rice terraces of Sapa to the pristine beaches of Phu Quoc, packing a quality tent can open up a world of outdoor adventures.

Saving on Accommodation Costs

Camping is not only an opportunity to connect with nature but also a budget-friendly alternative to traditional accommodation. By carrying your own tent, you can save money on hotel or hostel costs, allowing you to stretch your backpacking budget even further.

For backpackers seeking an immersive and adventurous experience in Vietnam, packing a quality tent is an essential consideration. This beautiful country offers a wealth of opportunities for camping and exploring its stunning natural landscapes, from the lush rice terraces of Sapa to the pristine beaches of Phu Quoc.

Bring a Microfiber Towel

Lightweight and Quick-Drying

Microfiber towels are a backpacker’s best friend. They are lightweight, compact, and dry quickly, making them ideal for life on the road. Unlike bulky cotton towels, microfiber towels won’t weigh down your backpack or take up precious space.

Versatile and Multipurpose

In addition to their primary function as towels, microfiber towels can serve multiple purposes. They can be used as a lightweight blanket, a makeshift changing room, or even a sun shade, making them a versatile and valuable addition to your backpacking gear.

Pack a Quality Sleeping Bag

Warmth and Comfort

A quality sleeping bag is crucial for ensuring a comfortable and restful night’s sleep, no matter where your backpacking adventures in Vietnam take you. From the cooler temperatures in the mountainous regions to the occasional chilly night in the cities, a warm and cozy sleeping bag can make all the difference.

Lightweight and Compact

Backpacking demands lightweight and compact gear, and sleeping bags are no exception. Look for sleeping bags designed with backpackers in mind, featuring lightweight and compressible materials that pack down small, minimizing the weight and bulk in your backpack.

Eat Street Food

Authentic Flavors

Vietnam is renowned for its vibrant and flavorful street food scene. Eating at local street stalls and markets is not only an affordable option but also a chance to immerse yourself in the country’s culinary culture and savor authentic flavors that you might not find in tourist-oriented restaurants.

Budget-Friendly Meals

Street food in Vietnam is incredibly budget-friendly, making it an ideal option for backpackers looking to stretch their travel budget. From delicious banh mi sandwiches to steaming bowls of pho, you can enjoy filling and delicious meals for just a few dollars.

Eating at street food vendors is not only an affordable option but also a chance to immerse yourself in the country’s culinary culture and savor authentic flavors that you might not find in tourist-oriented restaurants. From sizzling sate skewers to fragrant bowls of pho, each bite promises a tantalizing burst of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds.

One of the best things about street food in Vietnam is its budget-friendly nature. For just a few dollars, you can enjoy filling and delicious meals that will keep you energized and satisfied throughout your backpacking adventures. From the iconic banh mi sandwiches to steaming bowls of bun cha (grilled pork and noodles), the options are endless and incredibly affordable.

Exploring the street food scene also allows you to connect with the local culture and observe the daily rhythms of Vietnamese life. Watch as talented vendors expertly prepare each dish, using traditional techniques and fresh ingredients. Engage with the friendly locals, practice your Vietnamese language skills, and gain invaluable insights into the country’s culinary traditions.

When indulging in street food, it’s important to exercise caution and prioritize food safety. Look for stalls with high turnover, ensuring that the food is fresh and prepared in hygienic conditions. Avoid raw or undercooked dishes, and carry hand sanitizer or wet wipes to maintain good hygiene before eating.

Embracing the street food culture in Vietnam is an essential part of the backpacking experience. Not only will it delight your taste buds and fuel your adventures, but it will also provide you with a deeper appreciation for the country’s rich culinary heritage and the warmth of its people. So, step out of your comfort zone, embrace the sights, sounds, and aromas of the street food scene, and embark on a gastronomic journey that will leave you craving for more.

Carry a Water Bottle, Always

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial when backpacking in Vietnam’s tropical climate. Carrying a refillable water bottle with you at all times will ensure you have access to clean drinking water, preventing dehydration and heat-related illnesses.

Eco-Friendly Choice

Using a reusable water bottle is also an environmentally conscious choice, reducing plastic waste and minimizing your environmental impact as you explore this beautiful country.

Hydration is one of the most important considerations for backpackers exploring the vibrant and diverse landscapes of Vietnam. With its tropical climate and intense heat, it’s essential to carry a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you stay hydrated and energized throughout your adventures.

When choosing a water bottle for your backpacking trip in Vietnam, consider factors such as durability, insulation, and ease of cleaning. A sturdy, leak-proof bottle made from materials like stainless steel or BPA-free plastic will withstand the rigors of travel and ensure your water stays fresh and cool.

It’s also a good idea to invest in a water filtration system or purification tablets, especially if you plan on refilling your bottle from natural sources like streams or rivers. These precautions will help ensure the safety of your drinking water and prevent potential illnesses caused by waterborne pathogens.

Carrying a water bottle is a simple yet invaluable habit that can significantly enhance your backpacking experience in Vietnam. Not only will it keep you hydrated and energized, but it will also contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly journey. So, make sure to pack a refillable water bottle and embrace the convenience and environmental benefits it provides as you explore this captivating country.

Pack a Camera

Capture Unforgettable Moments

Vietnam is a photographer’s paradise, offering a wealth of stunning landscapes, vibrant urban scenes, and cultural treasures waiting to be captured. Packing a camera will allow you to immortalize the unforgettable moments and breathtaking vistas that you encounter during your backpacking adventures.

Choose the Right Equipment

Selecting the right camera equipment is crucial for backpackers. Look for compact, lightweight, and durable options that won’t weigh you down or take up too much space in your backpack. Consider investing in a high-quality mirrorless camera or action camera, which offer excellent image quality while being portable and versatile.

Use Rideshare Apps, Not Taxis

Cost-Effective Transportation

Rideshare apps like Grab, SM Taxi and Go-Viet offer a cost-effective and convenient alternative to traditional taxis in Vietnam. With upfront pricing and the ability to track your ride, you can avoid potential overcharging or scams that are sometimes associated with taxis.

Safety and Convenience

Many rideshare apps in Vietnam incorporate safety features, such as sharing your ride details with friends or family and rating your driver after each trip. Additionally, the ease of hailing a ride through an app adds convenience to your backpacking experience.

Rideshare apps offer a range of benefits for backpackers navigating Vietnam’s vibrant cities and rural areas. With upfront pricing and the ability to track your ride, you can avoid potential overcharging or scams that are sometimes associated with taxis. Additionally, the competitive fares offered by these apps can help you stretch your backpacking budget even further.

Safety is another key advantage of using rideshare apps in Vietnam. Many of these platforms incorporate features that prioritize the safety of both riders and drivers. You can share your ride details with friends or family, enabling them to track your journey, and rate your driver after each trip, ensuring accountability and a positive experience.

When using rideshare apps in Vietnam, it’s important to exercise caution and follow basic safety guidelines. Always verify the driver’s information and vehicle details before getting into the car, and avoid sharing personal information unnecessarily. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the app’s safety features and reporting mechanisms in case you encounter any issues.

Bring Toilet Paper Everywhere

Be Prepared for Public Restrooms

Public restrooms in Vietnam may not always provide toilet paper or other essential supplies, so it’s wise to carry your own roll with you at all times. Being prepared ensures that you can maintain hygiene and comfort during your travels, especially in remote or less developed areas.

Pack Travel-Sized Tissues

In addition to carrying a full roll of toilet paper, consider packing travel-sized tissue packs or wet wipes for added convenience and cleanliness. These compact essentials can be easily stashed in your daypack or pocket for quick access whenever nature calls.

Haggle Your Heart Out

Embrace the Art of Negotiation

Haggling is a common practice in Vietnam’s markets, street stalls, and shops, so don’t be afraid to negotiate prices to get the best deals. Embrace the cultural tradition of bargaining and enjoy the thrill of scoring discounts on souvenirs, clothing, and other goods.

Tips for Successful Haggling

To master the art of haggling in Vietnam, start by researching typical prices, maintaining a friendly demeanor, and being prepared to walk away if needed. By honing your negotiation skills and approaching each transaction with confidence and respect, you can secure great bargains and enjoy a more interactive shopping experience.

Haggling, or the practice of negotiating prices with sellers, is a time-honored tradition in Vietnam that adds excitement and engagement to the shopping experience. Whether you’re browsing bustling markets, perusing street vendors, or exploring local shops, embracing the art of haggling can lead to significant savings and memorable interactions with merchants.

When haggling in Vietnam, it’s important to approach the process with a positive attitude, respect for the seller, and a willingness to engage in friendly banter. While bargaining may feel unfamiliar or intimidating at first, remember that it’s a cultural norm in many parts of the country and an opportunity to connect with locals while securing good deals.

During the haggling process, maintain a polite and patient demeanor, listen attentively to the seller’s counteroffers, and be prepared to make reasonable concessions to reach a mutually agreeable price. Remember that haggling is meant to be a lighthearted exchange, so approach it with a sense of humor and a willingness to engage in friendly back-and-forth dialogue.

If you find yourself unable to reach a satisfactory agreement with a seller, don’t be afraid to walk away and explore other options. Sometimes, simply showing a willingness to leave can prompt the seller to reconsider their pricing and offer you a better deal to secure your business.

By honing your haggling skills and embracing the art of negotiation in Vietnam, you’ll not only save money on purchases but also gain a deeper appreciation for the local culture and customs. Enjoy the thrill of scoring discounts, engaging with vendors, and mastering the fine art of haggling as you shop for souvenirs, gifts, and treasures to commemorate your backpacking adventure in this vibrant and dynamic destination.


Backpacking in Vietnam is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. By following these tips and advice, you can ensure a safe, budget-friendly and culturally enriching trip to this beautiful country. So pack your bags, grab your passport and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Vietnam!