Vietnam Travel Blog | 10 Things To Know Before You Go
Vietnam is not always at the top of the list of Southeast Asian travelers. With Thailand, Cambodia and Laos in its back garden and the beautiful islands of the Philippines just offshore there is fierce competition. However, traveling in Vietnam is beautiful and has a lot to offer. With this travel blog in Vietnam I’m giving you 20 essential things you need to know before you travel and that help you enjoy this beautiful country even more.
I took my first trip to Vietnam in 2008 as part of my journey around the world. Unfortunately it was my second country before returning home after 12 months of travel and I only had two weeks. That time I traveled from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City and through the Mekong Delta to the DMZ where I crossed Laos. In 2013 I returned to explore the northern regions and in 2017 and in 2018 I was in Ho Chi Minh City and Quang Binh.
As you can see, I love traveling to Vietnam. In total I have been 4 times, but when I get the chance I will come back again. I am sure that with my experience I am able to give you some important travel tips for Vietnam that will be of great use for your next trip.
Do you want to stay connected and not pay a lot of money for roaming costs? Buy a Vietnam SIM card on your arrival. Click on the link to read my article on the best sim card for tourists.
Here are 20 essential travel tips for Vietnam
1. It is safe to travel to Vietnam
Generally spoken should not have any problems when visiting Vietnam. The most common threats are traffic accidents, theft and on rare occasions snatch and grab. Always make sure you use common sense. It seems obvious, but I’ve seen so many ignorant tourists in those 7 years that I’m traveling around the world.
2. You need vaccinations for Vietnam
There is no direct need for you to get vaccinations when you visit Vietnam. I have never taken any particular medicine for any trip to Vietnam. It is advised to have the standard shots of childhood illnesses. Shots against hepatitis A and B are advised to have, but are not necessarily necessary. Malaria occurs in Vietnam but very rarely. I never took malaria pills and went trekking in the countryside. Some people do it, others don’t, but I’ve never heard anyone take malaria while on their way to Vietnam.
3. What is the best time of year to visit Vietnam
For many countries in Southeast Asia it is difficult to determine, but the best time of year to travel to Vietnam is simple: March and April. Spring has the least amount of rain and has moderate temperatures. The rainy season in Vietnam lasts from May to October. Let us be clear that especially the north of Vietnam has distinct summer and winter seasons. Snowfall in Hanoi is very rare, but it has happened before. If you decide to go trekking in Sapa, one of the best things to do in Vietnam, be aware that December, January and February can be really cold. When visiting South Vietnam there is no need to bring warm clothes because Ho Chi Minh’s lowest average temperature is in December: 27 C / 81 F.
4. You need a visa to travel to Vietnam
The visa requirements for Vietnam are becoming easier over the years. I remember my first time I had to leave my embassy passport for 3 days in Cambodia. In 2013 I have already used the visa on arrival and nowadays a tourist visa for Vietnam can easily be obtained online.
Most countries still need a visa, this in contrast to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia where it is possible to enter without a visa.
5. How much does a trip to Vietnam cost?
You can make it as expensive as you want. There are trendy nightclubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, where a cocktail can easily cost $ 20, but you can also go to the club. For your trip to Vietnam on a backpacking trip, you must count on $ 40 a day, which lets you stay in hostels, eat local food, rent scooters, make sightseeing trips and small tours. When you travel to Vietnam as a couple you can count the same ($ 40 per person per day), a mid-range hotel is not much more expensive than $ 30 a night, the food in a small luxury restaurant is around $ 10 and the Private tours cost around $ 25 per person per day. In many Vietnam blogs I have read that you need a minimum of $ 50 a day, but with that money you can live great.
6. The history of Vietnam is hard
You will not be able to hold yourself back from being fascinated by the long and interesting history of Vietnam, even if you are not a history buff. It is one of the oldest cultures of Southeast Asia that dates back to 2000 BC and has since been influenced by many others: Chinese, Khmer, Indian, Japanese and even Western.
Due to colonization, the war eventually rummaged in the country, a series of tragic events in history that are still in the minds of many Vietnamese. For them, however, it is much more than a war. Their nation’s efforts and determination allowed them to defeat the French and withdraw the Americans and eventually become one country.
The country is full of educational sites to help you learn more about these historical events, the Vietnam War and even its consequences. In fact, each city has monuments and museums that show the deep history of the country.
7. Tourist sites related to the war in Vietnam
HCMC War Remnants Museum
In Saigon you can visit both the War Remnants Museum and the excitement, as well as the Independence Palace. The palace is also known as the Reunification Palace, which is a national historical and cultural relic of the Vietnam War. I’m pretty sure the War Remnants Museum will leave you speechless. In 2018 I came back here 9 years after my first visit and I walked for almost 2 hours, reading every photo subscription. These places always give me goose bumps! When you travel to Vietnam, definitely put it on your list of places to visit.
Cu Chi Tunnel
Go to the outskirts of Saigon to have a particular aspect of tunnel life in the Cu Chi tunnels, a vast network of tunnels built by the Viet Cong to protect themselves from American invaders. The galleries are believed to have made a great contribution to the victory of the Vietnamese.
Who is not claustrophobic can try to crawl some small sections of the tunnel network. With my 1.86 meters I can tell you it’s a punishment! Visit the Cu Chi tunnels is great to learn about the Vietnam war and one of the most interesting places to visit in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
In Hanoi, you can visit Ba Dinh Square, the largest square in Vietnam, where important national historical events took place in the modern history of Vietnam. Find out more about the “Father of Vietnam”: Mr. Ho Chi Minh himself at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Ho Chi Minh Building. Whatever you do, when you travel to Vietnam, always be respectful of their history and leaders of the past!
Hoa Lo Prison
In Hanoi you can also find the former Hoa Lo prison, which translates to “fiery furnace”. Today it is a museum that describes what Vietnamese prisoners had to go through during the period when the French were ruling in Vietnam. A special section was designated for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War.
All the sites mentioned above are super interesting and impressed me deeply. Although history is not your reason for visiting Vietnam, these places offer important lessons to understand the culture of the Vietnamese people today.
The streets of the historic center of Hanoi have made me fall in love even more with this country. It was only during my second trip to Vietnam that I ended up in the capital. The welcoming but extremely lively streets of Hanoi always remind me why I love traveling in Southeast Asia. Sounds simple but going out at night in Old City Hanoi is one of the best things to do in Vietnam.
It may have been because of the super cheap Beer Hoi, which sometimes costs only $ 0.20 per pint. It’s not the best beer in the world, but drinking Beer Hoi is something you have to try when you visit Vietnam. Guaranteed fun!
When you want to immerse yourself in ancient village life, visit Duong Lam in Hanoi. It has the basic characteristics of a traditional Vietnamese village in the North, which are water jetties, communal lands and pagodas dotted with banyan trees. You will continue to feel stuck in the past. French colonial architecture, outdoor cafes and wide tree-lined streets are what make this place unfashionable.
9. Ho Chi Minh City
Unfortunately I have been to Ho Chi Minh City several times than to Hanoi, because although I like Ho Chi Minh City I am much more a fan of Hanoi. So if you visit Vietnam and you have to choose between both, I’d say go north and skip Ho Chi Minh City. However I have always had a lot of fun in this crazy big city where modern life meets the local lifestyle. From Ho Chi Minh it is easy to organize excursions in the Mekong delta.
10. Visit Hoi An – everyone’s favorite
Despite the damage caused by the turbulent past of Vietnam, many ancient structures have managed to remain intact. Take Hoi An Old Town, one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for example. This ancient commercial river town with well-preserved buildings and temples dating back to the 17th century was initially home to Chinese merchants. Today, the descendants of Chinese merchants continue to sell their products. Hoi An is illuminated by multiple colored lanterns in the streets at night. Loads of backpackers tend to get stuck here and the great thing is that the beach is only 10 minutes away by bike.
Head to the My Son temple complex, a fantastic day trip from Hoi An. My son, which means “beautiful mountain” was mostly destroyed during the American attacks in the Vietnam war. It is still worth going because some temples have survived the bombing and are well preserved. The complex was a place of worship for the Champa and was built between the fourth and thirteenth centuries. Visiting My Son is one of the best travel tips in Vietnam I found among Vietnam’s blogs.