How to Plan for Your First Trip to Vietnam?
Vietnam is becoming an increasingly popular travel destination attracting millions of tourists every year. The country is rich in culture, history, and natural beauty offering visitors a unique and unforgettable experience. However, planning your first trip to Vietnam can be overwhelming as there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country. In this blog post, we will guide you through everything you need to know before planning your first trip to Vietnam.
Why Visit Vietnam?
Vietnam is a country with a fascinating history, stunning landscapes, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals. It offers a unique blend of modern cities and traditional rural areas that provide travelers with an exciting and diverse experience. Some of the top reasons to visit Vietnam include:
- Exploring the ancient temples, pagodas, and historical sites such as the Cu Chi Tunnels and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
- Enjoying the bustling cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with their vibrant street markets, nightlife, and food scenes.
- Relaxing on the beaches of Da Nang, Nha Trang or Phu Quoc Island.
- Trekking through the stunning Sapa mountains and meeting the ethnic minority groups who live there.
- Sampling the delicious Vietnamese cuisine, which is famous for its fresh ingredients and bold flavors.
When to Visit Vietnam – Weather & Climate?
The best time to visit Vietnam depends on where you want to go and what activities you want to do. Vietnam has a tropical climate, which means it is hot and humid all year round. However, the weather can vary from north to south, and the country experiences two main seasons – wet season (May – October) and dry season (November – April).
If you want to visit the northern parts of Vietnam, such as Hanoi and Sapa, then the best time to go is between September and November or March and May when the weather is milder and drier. If you plan to visit the central parts of Vietnam, including Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An, then the best time to go is between February and April or August and October. These months offer pleasant temperatures, low humidity, and less chance of rain.
If you plan to visit southern Vietnam, such as Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, and Phu Quoc Island, then the best time to go is between December and April when the weather is dry and sunny. The rest of the year can be hot, humid, and prone to heavy rainfall.
How Many Days for Your First Trip to Vietnam?
The number of days you need for your first trip to Vietnam depends on what you want to see and do. Ideally, a minimum of ten days would allow you to visit some of the main attractions in Vietnam without feeling too rushed. Here are some suggested itineraries:
- 10 days: Start in Hanoi, explore Halong Bay, trek in Sapa, and end in Hoi An.
- 14 days: Start in Hanoi, explore Halong Bay, trek in Sapa, take a train to Hue, visit Hoi An, fly to Ho Chi Minh City, and end in the Mekong Delta.
- 21 days: Start in Hanoi, explore Halong Bay, trek in Sapa, take a train to Hue, visit Hoi An, fly to Ho Chi Minh City, explore the Mekong Delta, and end on Phu Quoc Island.
Entering Vietnam: Check out the Vietnam Visa Policy
Vietnam has a visa policy that requires most foreign visitors to obtain a visa before entering the country. However, there are a few exceptions to this policy:
1. Visa Exemption: Citizens of certain countries are exempt from obtaining a visa for a certain duration of stay. For example, citizens of Southeast Asian countries (including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines) can visit Vietnam for up to 30 days without a visa. Citizens of South Korea, Japan, Russia, and several European countries can visit for up to 45 days without a visa. Please note that these durations may vary, and it’s essential to check the specific requirements for your nationality.
2. Visa on Arrival (VOA): Some nationalities are eligible for a visa on arrival, which allows them to obtain a visa upon arrival at one of Vietnam’s international airports. However, a pre-approval letter from the Vietnamese Immigration Department is required before traveling. This option is primarily available for tourists entering Vietnam by air.
3. E-Visa: Vietnam also offers an e-visa system, which allows citizens of all countries to apply for a e-visa online. It is a single-entry visa that allows a stay of 90 days. The application process is straightforward, and the e-visa is usually issued within a few days.
It’s important to note that visa requirements and policies may change over time. Therefore, it’s advised to check with the nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your country or visit the official website of the Vietnamese Immigration Department to get the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding the visa policy.
Where to Go on Your First Vietnam Trip?
If it is your first trip to Vietnam, there are several must-visit destinations that will give you an excellent introduction to this beautiful country. Here are some suggestions:
1. Hanoi: Start your trip in the capital city of Hanoi. Explore the vibrant Old Quarter, taste delicious street food, visit historical sites like Hoan Kiem Lake and the Temple of Literature, and watch a traditional water puppet show.
2. Halong Bay: Take a day or overnight cruise in Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the limestone karsts, go kayaking or swimming, and enjoy the stunning views.
3. Hoi An: Visit the charming ancient town of Hoi An. The town is known for its well-preserved architecture, colorful lanterns, and bustling markets. Explore the narrow streets, visit local tailors, relax at nearby beaches, and try out the local cuisine.
4. Hue: Discover the imperial capital of Hue, famous for its ancient citadel, royal tombs, and historic pagodas. Take a boat ride along the Perfume River and explore the city’s rich history and culture.
5. Ho Chi Minh City: Explore the vibrant and bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Visit the historic landmarks like the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Don’t miss taking a stroll through the bustling streets of the Ben Thanh Market.
6. Mekong Delta: Take a boat trip to the Mekong Delta, known as Vietnam’s “rice bowl.” Explore the maze of rivers and canals, visit floating markets, and experience the rural life of the locals.
These are just a few suggestions, and Vietnam has much more to offer depending on your preferences and interests. Enjoy your trip!
Decide Your Budget & Travel Style
Vietnam is a budget-friendly destination that offers a range of accommodation options, from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts. The cost of traveling in Vietnam depends on your travel style, itinerary, and budget. Here are some estimated costs for different aspects of travel:
- Accommodation: Budget options start at around $5 USD per night, while mid-range hotels cost around $30-50 USD per night, and luxury hotels can be over $100 USD per night.
- Food and drink: Street food is cheap and delicious, with meals costing around $1-2 USD. Restaurants can vary in price depending on the location and type of cuisine.
- Transport: Public transport is cheap, with buses costing around $0.30-0.50 USD per journey. Taxis are also affordable, with fares starting at around $0.60 USD per kilometer.
- Activities and tours: The cost of activities and tours varies depending on what you want to do. For example, a Halong Bay cruise can cost from $100-200 USD, while a trek to Sapa can cost around $50-100 USD.
How to get around Vietnam
Getting around Vietnam is relatively easy, with plenty of options for transport. Here are some of the most popular ways to travel in Vietnam:
1. Domestic Flights: Flying is the fastest and most convenient way to travel long distances within Vietnam. There are numerous domestic airlines that offer flights between major cities, including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, and VietJet Air.
2. Trains: Vietnam has an extensive railway network that connects major cities. The Reunification Express is the most popular train route, running from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Trains offer a more scenic and leisurely way to travel, allowing you to enjoy the countryside.
3. Buses: Buses are the most common means of transportation in Vietnam. There are various types of buses available, ranging from local buses to sleeper buses for long-distance travel. Bus tickets can be purchased at bus stations or through travel agencies.
4. Motorbikes: Renting a motorbike is a popular option for traveling short distances or exploring rural areas. Just be sure to wear a helmet, follow traffic rules, and have a valid driver’s license.
5. Taxis and Ride-Hailing Services: Taxis are widely available in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Additionally, ride-hailing services such as Grab and GoViet are popular and convenient options for getting around cities.
6. Cyclos and Xe ôm: Cyclos are three-wheeled pedicabs, while xe ôm refers to motorbike taxis. These are traditional Vietnamese modes of transport, especially in crowded urban areas. Negotiate the fare before hopping on.
7. Ferries: If you plan to visit the islands of Halong Bay or Phu Quoc, ferries are available for transportation. These can be booked at the respective ports or through tour operators.
8. Walking: For short distances within cities or to explore nearby attractions, walking is an enjoyable and cost-effective option.
It’s always a good idea to plan your transportation in advance, considering distance, cost, and comfort.
Unique experiences you won’t find anywhere but Vietnam
Vietnam offers visitors a range of unique experiences that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Here are some examples:
- Cruising through Halong Bay and admiring the stunning natural scenery.
- Visiting the ancient town of Hoi An and learning about its rich history and culture.
- Trekking through the beautiful Sapa mountains and meeting the ethnic minority groups who live there.
- Sampling the delicious Vietnamese cuisine, from pho and banh mi to fresh seafood and street food.
- Exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels and learning about Vietnam’s war history.
What to Pack for Your First Trip to Vietnam?
When packing for your first trip to Vietnam, it’s important to consider the weather, activities, and culture. Here are some essential items to pack:
1. Lightweight clothing: Pack lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for a tropical climate. T-shirts, shorts, and skirts are suitable for most days. Additionally, pack a light jacket or sweater for cooler evenings or visits to northern regions during the winter.
2. Comfortable walking shoes: Ensure you have comfortable shoes to explore the diverse landscapes and markets of Vietnam. Also, pack a pair of sandals or flip-flops for beach excursions or to keep your feet cool.
3. Rain gear: Vietnam experiences tropical showers, especially during the rainy season. Carry a lightweight, compact raincoat or umbrella to stay dry.
4. Insect repellent: To protect yourself from mosquitoes and other insects, bring along a reliable insect repellent. Preferably, choose one that contains DEET.
5. Sun protection: Pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF. Vietnamese sun can be intense, so it’s crucial to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
6. Medications and first aid kit: Carry any necessary medications you require, along with a basic first aid kit for minor emergencies. It’s also advisable to have any required vaccinations updated before traveling to Vietnam.
7. Travel adaptor and electronics: Vietnam uses Type A, C, and D electrical outlets. Depending on your home country, bring suitable adapters for your electronic devices.
8. Travel documents: Carry your passport, visa, travel insurance, and other essential documents in a waterproof and secure bag. Make copies of these documents and keep them separately as a backup.
9. Money and cards: It’s advisable to carry a mix of cash (Vietnamese Dong – VND) and cards for your trip. Ensure your cards work internationally and inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any card issues.
10. Travel essentials: Don’t forget to pack items like a lightweight backpack or daypack, a reusable water bottle, a travel guidebook, a camera, and any personal items that you can’t travel without.
Always check the weather forecast for your specific travel dates and destinations to ensure you pack appropriately. Additionally, consider any specific activities or cultural norms in Vietnam that might require additional items. Safe travels!
Frequently asked questions
Is it safe to travel to Vietnam?
Vietnam is a generally safe country to travel to, but it’s important to take standard precautions such as keeping an eye on your belongings and avoiding unlit areas at night.
Can I use my credit/debit card in Vietnam?
Credit and debit cards are accepted in major hotels,restaurants, and shops in Vietnam. However, it’s always a good idea to carry cash with you, especially when traveling to rural areas or small towns.
What is the currency in Vietnam?
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US dollars are also widely accepted in tourist areas.
Do I need vaccinations to travel to Vietnam?
There are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Vietnam, but it’s recommended to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies.
Vietnam is a beautiful country that offers visitors a unique and unforgettable experience. From the bustling cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the stunning natural landscapes of Halong Bay and Sapa, there is something for everyone in Vietnam. By following this guide, we hope you feel more prepared and confident to plan your first trip to Vietnam.