Comprehensive Vietnam Travel Guide for First Timers

This Vietnam Travel Guide holds all the information you need to have the best backpacking experience of your life!

Traveling through Vietnam will be one of the most satisfying backpacking adventures ever. I can say that quite confidently. In this Vietnam Travel Guide, I’ll take you through all the information you need to ensure smooth travels for yourself.

There are several reasons I believe Vietnam is the best backpacking country. However, chief amongst them is its general shape. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Vietnam is one elongated mass. As such, you can complete it in one simple arc:

You can either go from Ho Chi Minh (South) to Hanoi (North), or vice verse.

This largely depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re entering from Laos, you’ll start from Hanoi. And if you’re entering from Cambodia, you’ll start with Ho Chi Minh.

I spent one month traveling through Vietnam — South to North — and I still feel it wasn’t enough. However, that’s mostly because, in hindsight, I wasn’t prepared well enough. Like most things, I decided to just fling it, instead of doing some (any) prior research.

I ended up wasting too much time down south and in Ho Chi Minh City. Consequently, I had to rush through the amazing destinations on the northern end of Vietnam.

When you travel to Vietnam, you should read up on all of the best places to visit beforehand. This will help you decide which places to visit, which ones to brush through, and which ones to ignore entirely.

In this Vietnam travel blog, I’ll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.

I’ll also give you plenty of advice so you can avoid making the mistakes I did. Be it food, hostels, or Visa, I spill all the deets.

Now quit wastin’ yo’ time and read my Vietnam Travel Guide!

Vietnam Travel Tip #1: Vietnam Tourist Visa Process

I’m kicking off my Vietnam travel guide with everyone’s first question:

How to apply for a Vietnam tourist visa?

Lucky for you, the Vietnam tourist visa is extremely easy to obtain. Your best option is to get a Visa-on-Arrival. However, unlike several other Southeast Asian nations, you can’t just show up at the airport for a Vietnam tourist visa. You have to go through one additional step:

You have to fill out an online application form and pay the Visa application fee in advance. However, this is an insanely simple three-step process:

  1. Fill in the application details online. This will include basic details about the type of visa you want, your dates of travel, your passport details, etc.
  2. Next, you have to simply review your details and make the payment online.
  3. Wait to receive the approval letter over your eMail.

Vietnam Tourist Visa Fee

This depends on several factors:

  1. The type of visa you want, i.e., single-entry or multiple-entry.
  2. The duration of visa — 1 month, 3 months, or 1 year (only for US passports, go figures.)
  3. The immediacy of your requirement. You can choose the normal processing time of 2 days. Or you can go for the urgent processing time of 1 day. Finally, you can also go for the super-urgent processing time of 4 hours or 2 hours.

Once you have your Vietnam Tourist Visa approval letter, you need to download it along with the visa application letter. When you land in the Vietnam airport, you’ll have to show them to the authorities.

Documents to Carry

  1. Passport: From an eligible country, with minimum 6 months validity.
  2. Approval Letter: Download the approval letter and keep it with yourself.
  3. Visa Application Form: You’ll receive the application form along with the approval letter. Print it out and fill it up.
  4. Passport Size Picture: Carry two 4 x 6 cm passport pictures.
  5. Stamping Fee: This isn’t a lot, but you should carry some cash on you when you travel.

You can find out additional details about the Vietnam tourist visa in the Vietnam-Visa site.

vietnam tourist visa
My Vietnam Tourist Visa.

Vietnam Travel Tip #2: Currency

Coming to the second part of my Vietnam travel guide…

What is the Vietnam currency? What’s the exchange rate? And how/ where do I get my currency exchanged?

The national currency of Vietnam is Dong (₫), and it’s an extremely devalued currency. It’s nowhere near as weak as the currency in Zimbabwe! However, it’s right up there with some of the weakest currencies in the world.

You can use XE Currency Converter to determine your currency conversion rates.

Currency Conversion

There are several ways in which you can get your currency converted:

  1. Use the ATM: This is the most convenient means of getting money and it’s not much different than withdrawing money anywhere else. You’ll have to pay a little extra for conversion, however, that’s unavoidable in any scenario.
  2. Currency Conversion Kiosks: You can find plenty of currency exchange kiosks at the airport. If you have popular currencies like pounds, euros, or US dollars, you’re good to go. However, if you’re using less popular currencies — such as the Indian Rupees — the kiosks might not accept your currency.
  3. Random Restaurants and Shops: A lot of restaurants and shops in Vietnam run ATM-like services. They swipe your card through their machine and give you the cash after deducting a currency conversion tax. You can use this service if you’re absolutely desperate and can’t find an ATM in sight.
vietnam currency dong
Vietnamese Dong | Image Source: Pinterest Hoi An Food Tour

Fair Warning:

Never lose sight of your ATM Card. This is one of the most valuable Vietnam travel tips I can give you.

Some ATM machines (and even card machines in shops) don’t require you to enter your PIN. I know, it’s crazy!

As such, if you lose your card, or leave it somewhere, it will be VERY easy for someone to drain your bank account.

In fact, while swiping my card at a restaurant I made the grave error of leaving it behind. When I woke up the next day, I found that my entire bank account had been drained! I immediately rushed to the shop and asked them to return my money.

Eventually, they did. However, they asked for a 5% “conversion tax”! However, I was a stranger in a strange land, so I decided to cut my losses and think of this as a learning experience.

Moral of the story?

Hold on to that friggin’ card for dear life!

Vietnam Travel Tip #3: Internet in Vietnam

One of the things that surprised me most during my Vietnam trip was how well connected the country is.

I really don’t need to give you any Vietnam travel tips on Internet connectivity because I can guarantee you that won’t be a problem.

In fact, I can say that Vietnam has the best internet connectivity in the world, and that isn’t hyperbolic. I met people from a lot of nationalities during my Vietnam travels. They all concurred: it’s crazy how well connected Vietnam is.

You can find free WiFi wherever you go in Vietnam. Little street food stalls offer you their WiFi password. Taxis have their WiFi password mentioned in the window. Even if you’re taking a cross-country bus, they’ll declare their WiFi password to you. If you’re ever outside, without internet, you can hop into literally any shop around you, and they’ll offer you free WiFi.

However, if you don’t want to be dependent on that, you can also get yourself a local SIM. That’s what I always do.

You can get the SIM card from a kiosk right outside the international airport. Beside that, you can find these kiosks all around the cities as well.

I traveled for 1 month, and for that period I used the Viettel SIM Card. It cost me just ₫ 200,000 (Approx. $9 | ₹600).

The Viettel SIM always gave me great connectivity — when I needed it, which wasn’t often for the aforementioned reasons. I also got several gigs of data with it, and it comfortably lasted throughout the month.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the Viettel SIM Card.

vietnam sim card booth
A Sim Card booth at the Ho Chi Minh Airport Terminal | Image Source: blog.christinas.vn

Vietnam Travel Tip #4: Where to Go in Vietnam

In this part of my Vietnam travel guide, I’ll take you through a brief rundown of all the places to visit in Vietnam.

Vietnam has so many great places to visit that even a 30 day Vietnam trip wasn’t nearly enough for me. Most countries I’ve been to have a handful of great places you need to check out. But not Vietnam, it has a whole volley of Vietnam travel spots, and all of them are fucking amazing! Sorry for the language, but that’s the ONLY way to express how overwhelming and exciting the options area!

This part of my guide to Vietnam offers a short summary of the best Vietnam tourist spots, south to north.

1. Phu Quoc Island

Phu Quoc is an island off the southern coast of Vietnam. You have to get there via a ferry you can take from Cat Ba down south. It’s a relatively quiet island, has a great night market, and is famous for its waterfalls and beaches. I spent 3 days here, and it was all worth it.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Q Hao Hostel

Approx. ₫ 120,000 ($5.50 | ₹350)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Phu Quoc Booking page.

Read: Top 5 Things to do in Phu Quoc

Rohan Tandon vietnam phu quoc island
Striking a “natural” pose at a waterfall in Phu Quoc Island.

2. Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta is popular for its floating markets and nothing else. As such, you should spend just one night here. Stay at a hostel in Can Tho. Spend the night there so you can check out the floating markets early in the morning. Leave immediately after. I spent three days in Mekong Delta and I regret it because it took time away from more valuable experiences.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Mekong Delta Inn

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Can Tho Booking page.

Read: Explore the Mekong Delta Floating Markets

vietnam floating market mekong delta
Exploring the floating markets of Mekong Delta at 5 in the morning.

3. Ho Chi Minh City

Assuming you don’t have all the time in the world, you should spend 2-3 days in Ho Chi Minh. As far as cities go, it’s not the most exciting city in Southeast Asia. It has a few good sights, and some nice eateries, but that’s about it. Mostly, you should use your time in Ho Chi Minh to do two things — check out the Cu Chi tunnels, and party at But Vien.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Bui Vien Hostel

Approx. ₫ 150,000 ($6.50 | ₹420)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Ho Chi Minh Booking page.

Read: Top 5 Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City

ho chi minh city vietnam
View of Ho Chi Minh at night from a Rooftop Bar.

4. Mui Ne

Mui Ne is a charming coastal town north of Ho Chi Minh. You’ll find some great resorts, restaurants, and beach clubs here. Other than watersports, there’s not a lot to do here. However, you should spend a few days here to relax and catch your breath. Backpacking through Vietnam can be tiresome. Hang your head back, dig your toes into the sand, and relax.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Mui Ne Backpacker Village

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Mui Ne Booking page.

Read: Top 5 Things to do in Mui Ne

mui ne vietnam rohan tandon
At Mui Ne, a quaint coastal town in South Vietnam.

5. Da Lat

From a quaint coastal town, you go straight to a quaint mountain town. Da Lat was one of my favorite towns in Vietnam. It’s at a bit of an altitude, so you’ll have to whip out something a little warm. There are some great sights to see here, such as a surrealist house, some temples, etc. However, the real highlight of Da Lat is that you can go Canyoning here.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Mooka’s Home

Approx. ₫ 100,000 ($4.50 | ₹280)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Da Lat Booking page.

Read: Top 5 Things to do in DaLat

canyoning dalat vietnam
Abseiling in Dalat… don’t zoom in, I look constipated in terror.

6. Nha Trang

Nha Trang is the next important city that falls along the path. It’s a really popular coastal town, however, it doesn’t hold a candle to Mui Ne, or to Hoi An (coming next). As such, I suggest you skip it altogether.

Best Hostel Accommodation

iHome Nha Trang

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Nha Trang Booking page.

nha trang vietnam
I didn’t spend enough time here to take pictures. So here, have a generic picture that makes it look like the best place in the world! | Image Source: Vietnam-Guide

7. Hoi An

So you’ve reached central Vietnam. Hoi An, in my opinion, is the best city in Vietnam. In fact, it might just be one of the best cities in Southeast Asia, period. It offers the best of both worlds really. It’s a thriving city with rice fields on the outskirts, and the coast right next to it. The beaches here are quiet, peaceful, and clean. The city glows up in bright embers every night. As such, there will be plenty for you to do even if you spend several days here. I suggest you stay near the coast and use bikes to travel around the city and the neighboring hilly regions.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Vy’s Seaside Homestay

Approx. ₫ 160,000 ($7 | ₹450)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Hoi An Booking page.

Read: Top 7 Things to do in Hoi An

hoi an vietnam
Hoi An Ancient Town… undoubtedly the most stunning city I’ve ever been to.

8. Ba Na Hills

Ba Na is one of Vietnam’s most fabulous hill stations. It looks (and feels) like an old medieval European town high up in the mountains. It’s pretty difficult (and expensive) to get to. You have to take a bus to Danang, and from there you have to arrange a bus to take you to the BaNa foothills. Once you’re there, you’ll have to take cable cars up to the mountain town. The whole process cost me $90 (yikes!) but it was totally worth it.

There are no hostels available here, only overpriced resorts. As such, unless you’re loaded, I suggest you take the cable cars back later in the evening. However, that’s quite alright because this town feels more like an amusement park anyway. It’s great to gape at it for a day, try out the rides and restaurants, check out the street shows and dances, but I suspect any more of it will give you a migraine.

Best Resort Accommodation

Mercure Danang French Village Bana Hills

Approx. $80 | ₹5,200

Read: Exploring BaNa Hills, Vietnam’s French Medieval Fantasy Town

ba na hills vietnam
The Ba Na Hills Skyline as seen from the cable cars.

9. Hue

Hue is another one of the important cities in Vietnam, comparable to Siem Reap in Cambodia. While there’s a lot to do in the city itself, it’s popular for all of the temple compounds in it. Unfortunately, at this point in my travels, I was in quite a rush to get to Hanoi in time to catch my flight. So I had to skip it altogether. However, the guys I’d been traveling with till Hoi An said some pretty great things about it.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Freedom Hostel

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Hue Booking page.

vietnam hue
A Monuments in Hue, Vietnam | Image Source: Youtube

10. Phong Nha

This is another crucial Vietnam travel experience that I sadly had to skip. Phong Nha is home to some of the most beautiful and vast caves in the world. In fact, the central cave — Phong Nha Cave — has been inducted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Phong Nha Gecko Hostel

Approx. ₫ 130,000 ($5.75 | ₹380)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Phong Nha Booking page.

Phong Nha cave vietnam
The Phong Nha caves | Image Source: VietnamTravel

11. Ninh Binh

Now we’ve come to another one of my most cherished Vietnam tourist spots. Ninh Binh is a great place to explore for a period of 2 to 3 days. If you’re even remotely familiar with Vietnam, I suppose you might be excited about exploring Ha Long Bay with its waterways and gondola rides. Well, Ninh Binh is like its smaller, less-popular sister. Ha Long Bay is certainly larger and grander, but it doesn’t have what Ninh Binh has — some peace and quiet. I highly recommend exploring the grottoes here.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Tam Coc Bamboo Homestay

Approx. ₫ 160,000 ($7 | ₹450)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Ninh Binh Booking page.

Read: Top 3 Things to do in Ninh Binh

ninh binh vietnam
Taking a boat ride through the grottoes of Ninh Binh.

12. Hanoi

I didn’t find anything particularly noteworthy about Hanoi, one of Vietnam’s most popular cities. It’s not nearly as beautiful or interesting as Hoi An. And if you’re looking to party in backpacker streets, there’s nothing here to rival Ho Chi Minh’s But Vien. However, this is likely where you have to reach to catch your flight. And this is a great spot from which to explore your final two Vietnam tourist spots — Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Central Backpackers Hostel — Old Quarter

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Hanoi Booking page.

hanoi vietnam
A bird’s eye view of Hanoi | Image Source: Vietnam-Guide

13. Sapa Valley

Sapa is one of the much-touted treasures of North Vietnam. People usually come here to explore the local villages and the massive rice terraces and fields. It’s a stunning sight and presents a bunch of photo opportunities. It’s best to take a 3-day tour of the rice fields. However, if you’re short on time, one day would also suffice.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Sapa Odyssey Hostel

Approx. ₫ 130,000 ($5.75 | ₹380)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Sapa Booking page.

Read: Top 5 Things to do in SaPa

sapa vietnam
Exploring the waterways in a small village in Sapa.

14. Ha Long Bay

For most people, Ha Long Bay is the final and most wonderful end to their Vietnam travels. You can set aboard the boats here and explore all of the islets and the forests that seem to rise up out of the depths of the ocean. This is definitely one of the most aesthetically stunning locations in Vietnam. Some people also go on a 2 or 3-day tour of the neighboring caves and islands.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Halong Happy Hostel

Approx. ₫ 110,000 ($5 | ₹320)

Best Cruise

Halong Paloma Cruise

Approx. ₫ 4,855,500 ($215 | ₹13,750)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Ha Long Booking page.

halong bay vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam | Image Source: Sinhbalo

15. Cat Ba Island

While exploring Ha Long Bay, you can also spend a day or two at Cat Ba Island. This is the largest island in the Cat Ba Archipelago, southeast of Ha Long Bay. It’s great for exploring the villages, trekking in the forests, and engaging in watersports.

Best Hostel Accommodation

Central Backpackers Hostel — Catba

Approx. ₫ 230,000 ($10 | ₹650)

You can find other resorts, hotels, and accommodations in the Cat Ba Booking page.

Cat Ba Island Vietnam
Cat Ba Island | Image Source: Youtube

Well, so that brings us to the end of this tedious part of my Vietnam travel guide.

I hope you now have a fair idea of which Vietnam tourist spots you’d like to focus on and which ones you’d like to skip altogether. Or, you know, if you have over 2 months to explore Vietnam, you don’t have to skip any of it!

Read: Top 15 Places to Visit in Vietnam



Booking.com

Vietnam Travel Tip #5: When to Visit Vietnam

When it comes to the Vietnamese weather, it’s hard to determine just when to go for perfect all-around sunniness. This is because different parts of the country register different monsoon winds.

As such, when traveling through Vietnam, it’s hard to find a time when the weather will be perfect all around.

However, here’s a brief glimpse at the climatic conditions in different parts of Vietnam.

South Vietnam

Dry: December to April

Wet: May to November

Central Vietnam

Dry: February to August

Wet: September to January

North Vietnam

Warm and Wet: May to December

Cold and Dry: January to April

These are, of course, the broad strokes of climatic patterns in the country. These also change depending on how close you are to the coast, whether you’re at one of the hill-stations, etc. As such, there’s no perfect time to travel through all of Vietnam.

I went there during September and I faced quite a bit of downpour down south at Ho Chi Minh and Phu Quoc.

However, if you’re interested, you can learn further details about the weather in Vietnam to decide upon an ideal time.

Vietnam Travel Tip #6: Transportation in Vietnam

Transportation in Vietnam is quite advanced. They have everything you could possibly need.

Vietnam Travel on Bikes

One of the most popular means of backpacking through Vietnam is by bikes. A lot of people I met along the way would purchase a bike either in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. They would then take their own time to travel through the whole country.

Once they got to the end of their Vietnam travels, they would sell the bike to yet another backpacker for about the same cost. This might seem strange, but it’s true.

Buy a secondhand (or third or fourth) bike from a backpacker. Travel through the country. Sell the bike to another backpacker for the same cost. As such, you only end up paying for gas.

However, if that’s not your thing, you’ll have to use public transportation.

vietnam phu quoc island rohan tandon
What do you do if you don’t know how to ride a bike? You befriend someone who can!

Forms of Public Transportation

1. Overnight Buses

This is the most popular means of traveling through Vietnam, and this was my favored transportation as well. Buses are easily available and they’re surprisingly comfortable. You can go anywhere you want for something between $5 to $15 (Approx. ₹330 to ₹990). Furthermore, the buses come with WiFi connectivity and are air-conditioned. However, be prepared for a lot of overnight journeys.

overnight bus in vietnam
The overnight buses in Vietnam are always doused in blue & pink fluorescents.

2. Trains

I didn’t travel by trains in Vietnam. However, those who did seemed to like it. You get to choose the type of seat you want as well. Depending on the distance of the destination, and the type of seat, you may have to pay anything between $15 to $70 (Approx. ₹990 to ₹4,950).

3. Flights

They have a number of airports in the major cities in Vietnam such as Da Nang, Hanoi, etc. Domestic flights are extremely convenient and they’re usually quite cheap as well. I took a flight from Phi Quoc island to Ho Chi Minh and it cost me $50 (Approx. ₹3,330).

4. Taxis

There are plenty of taxi services available as well. A lot of backpackers pool together and get a large taxi to take them cross-country.

Vietnam Travel Tip #7: Food in Vietnam

Now we come to my favorite part of this Vietnam travel guide: Food!

One of my strongest Vietnam travel tips to you is this: try everything local.

Vietnam has arguably got the best cuisine in all of Southeast Asia. Not only is it the most delicious, but it’s also ridiculously cheap.

Vietnam has a lot of unique cuisines so I can’t possibly list out all of them. However, in the list below I’ll tell you about all the best food items that you have to try.

My Favorite Vietnamese Dishes and Beverages

Bahn Mi

This is, without a doubt, the best food in Vietnam. It’s a baguette stuffed with vegetables and all kinds of meat. It’s kind of like a subway but it’s available in little street stalls everywhere. Furthermore, it only costs ₫ 20,000 (Approx. $0.85 | ₹60).

bahn mi vietnam food
The delicious Bahn Mi.

Pho

This is another one of my favorite dishes in Vietnam. While Bahn Mi makes for great breakfast, Pho makes for a great lunch or dinner. This is a kind of thick noodle soup with lots of pieces of meat (chicken, pork, beef) in it. In small street food joints, you can get one large bowl for ₫ 40,000 (Approx. $1.70 | ₹120).

Vietnamese Pho Soup
Vietnamese Pho Soup | Image Source: Inspired Taste

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnam has a special style of preparing coffee that I haven’t seen anywhere else. In fact, while traveling through other parts of Southeast Asia, people kept telling me about how great their coffee was. I initially assumed they were being hyperbolic, as it happens so often while traveling. However, they were correct. It was the best coffee I’ve ever had. They prepare hot coffee with an elaborate drip system, using a coffee filter. It takes time to prepare, but the flavor is extremely powerful. Even their iced coffee is pretty unique as it’s flavored with some coconut milk.

vietnamese coffee
Vietnamese Coffee | Image Source: VietnamNet

Vietnamese Lemonade

Vietnam also has the best lemonade I’ve ever tried. They flavor the lemonade with dried plums settled at the bottom. As you drink up, the peel starts coming off and drifts upon the surface. It’s an interesting mix of flavors.

vietnam lemonade
A delicious plum-infused lemonade.

Experimental Stuff

And then there’s all the other stuff you find in menus for some of the local joints. Besides all the regular meat, they also offer crocodile, snails, snakehead, porcupine, etc. I tried some snails and grilled porcupine. The latter was leathery and chewy and I didn’t much care for it. Chalk it down to experience.

vietnam food
Grilling them porcupine meat.

Anyway, so these are some of the things I loved trying out in Vietnam.

However, there’s a lot more just waiting to be discovered. So follow my valuable Vietnam travel tips and try everything local. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Vietnam Travel Tip #8: Things to Do in Vietnam

In this part of my Vietnam travel guide, I’ll recount some of the most popular activities in Vietnam. I’ll start from down south, and make my way up north.

1. Exploring Floating Markets in Mekong Delta

A lot of the commerce in South Vietnam takes place by waterways. You can wake up early in the morning and catch a ride on a boat to explore the Cai Rang Floating Market. The trip will also likely consist of Pho for breakfast.

floating market mekong delta vietnam rohan tandon
Exploring the floating markets with two Swedish backpackers I met the previous night.

2. Learning Vietnamese History at The Cu Chi Tunnels

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnel is one of the most essential activities in Vietnam. 120 kilometers of tunnels had been dug up to launch guerrilla warfare against the American troops during the Vietnam War. Some of these tunnels are open for tourists to get through. Most people can’t get through more than 40 meters or so because of the claustrophobia.

cu chi tunnel vietnam
Descending into the Cu Chi Tunnel.

3. Partying in Bui Vien

If you enjoy partying in backpacker streets, you’ll love Bui Vien. The ribaldries here never stop, and the parties go on until the wee hours of the morning. There are plenty of fun dance clubs here, and all hostels usually arrange pub crawls as well. I found it to be even more overwhelming than Bangkok’s Khao San Road, or Siem Reap’s Pub Street.

Read: A Night at Ho Chi Minh’s Famous Bui Vien Backpacker Street

bui vien ho chi minh city vietnam
Partying in Bui Vien with backpackers from Russia, Catalonia, and France.

4. Sand Dune Explorations in Mui Ne

Mui Ne may be a quaint coastal town. However, it’s located next to vast swathes of red and white Saharan-type sand dunes. You can either rent a bike and go there on your own. Or you can go via a tour operator. A Private Day Tour will cost you $75 (Approx. ₹4,840).

mui ne sand dunes vietnam
Skiing down the red sand dunes of Mui Ne | Image Source: Vietnam-Guide

5. Canyoning in Da Lat

If you enjoy adventure sports, you’ll love canyoning in Da Lat. This includes a series of activities, including river-crossing and abseiling. Abseiling is an activity in which you have to climb down waterfalls.

I think it goes without saying, but I was pretty terrible at it. I got to confirm what I always knew — that my limbs are incommunicado with each other and I have no business engaging in physical activities. However, barring my ego, nothing else was severely bruised. So cheers to that! Even if you’re a total klutz like me, you should still do this just for the memories.

You can contact DaLat Canyoning Tours from your hostel. Their rate is $50 (Approx. ₹3,330).

Read: The Thrill (and Terror) of Canyoning in DaLat

canyoning dalat vietnam rohan tandon
With my Canyoning group in Dalat. That’s me on the right!

6. Explore Hoi An’s Ancient Town at Night

Hoi An’s ancient town is now considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, to get in, you have to pay an entrance fee of ₫ 120,000 (Approx. $5.25 | ₹340). There are a lot of great restaurants and cafes by the canals here. It’s also a nice place to go shopping. However, the best aspect of the city is how it glows up in beautiful embers at night.

hoi an ancient town vietnam
The glowing embers of Hoi An Ancient Town.

7. Bestival in Ba Na Hills

Ba Na Hills, as I mentioned earlier, is a French medieval-esque town high up on the hills. You have to take cable cars up to them.

When I went there, the whole town was engaged in a month-long event called the “Bestival.” It’s a beer drinking festival that lasts from the 1st of August to the 3rd of September.

Performances were held on the streets every half-hour, everyone was chugging beer from casks, and loud music played everywhere. It was pretty overwhelming but it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The only thing that confounded me was that all the performers were White folks.

An organized tour to Ba Na Hills will cost you $90 (Approx. ₹5,812).

bestival festival at ba na hills vietnam
“Bestival” time at Ba Na Hills… #BaNaSoWhite

8. Exploring the Complex of Hue Monuments

The Complex of Hue Monuments is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comparable to Angkor Wat and the neighboring ruins. There are various monuments and temples in the region dating back to the 19th century. The entrance fee for the Complex of Hue Monuments is ₫ 150,000 (Approx. $6.60 | ₹430).

Complex of Hue Monuments vietnam
Complex of Hue Monuments | Image Source: Indochina Day Tours

9. Exploring the Caves at Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

This national park boasts some of the largest caves in the world. The world’s highest cave — Son Doong — sometimes reaches 200 meters in height. You can explore the grottoes and the limestone caves, while also going hiking on the outskirts.

The cost of entrance to the National Park is ₫ 40,000 (Approx. $1.75 | ₹115). However, you have to pay an additional amount of about ₫ 80,000 to ₫ 150,000 for the individual caves as well. As such, it can be pretty expensive.

Phong Nha cave vietnam
The Thien Duong Cave in Phong Nha | Image Source: Vietnam Package Travel

10. Exploring the Grottoes in Ninh Binh

If you’ve explored the caves in Phong Nha, you can skip this. It’s a smaller version of the grottoes there. However, if you found that to be too “touristy”, these grottoes offer a quieter alternative.

Taking a boat trip through Tam Coc will cost ₫ 150,000 (Approx. $6.60 | ₹430).

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Exploring the grottoes of Ninh Binh.

11. Trekking through the Rice Terraces in Sapa

Sapa Valley is famous for its rice terraces. You can spend a day or two in Sapa exploring all of the little villages and being led through the swatches of rice terraces.

sapa rice terraces vietnam Rohan Tandon
Staring wistfully at the rice terraces of Sapa… sigh.

12. Cruising through Halong Bay

Halong Bay is one of the most picturesque locations in all of Vietnam. I’ve already mentioned it earlier. However, one of the most popular activities here is to embark on a boat cruise to explore small islands and hidden caves.

You can avail of the services of the Halong Paloma Cruise, which will cost you approx. ₫ 4,855,500 ($215 | ₹13,750).

halong bay vietnam
Bird’s eye view of Halong Bay | Image Source: Lonely Planet

So that brings us to the end of my Vietnam travel guide on Vietnam sightseeing and attractions. This is, of course, just a brief compilation of the most popular Vietnam tourist attractions. When you do go to Vietnam, I suggest you also ask around and discover things for yourself.

Vietnam Travel Tip #9: What NOT To Do in Vietnam

This might just be the most important part of my Vietnam travel guide. Here, I’ll tell you about a couple of things you absolutely mustn’t do, for safety reasons or for civility.

Be Careful What You Post Online

Vietnam is a communist country and the government keeps a strong watch on the information released online. Be careful not to post anything negative about the government while you’re there. In fact, err on the side of caution and don’t post anything remotely political at all. Got opinions on the Vietnam War that you’re dying to share with your 12 Twitter followers? Before you twiddle those thumbs, wait till you’re out of the country. Or you might just be left twiddling your thumbs in a cell.

Don’t believe me? Just go to Google and hit “Vietnam blogger arrested”. You’ll find several articles on bloggers arrested just recently for reporting on toxic spills, “defaming” the government, etc. Furthermore, they get jailed for a LONG time.

Be Careful What You Wear

You might notice that women in Vietnam (barring those in the cities) have their limbs covered at all times. The dress code for women is extremely strict in Vietnam. As a tourist, you do have more leeway, however, you should be careful not to push any boundaries. It’s best not to wear anything shorter than the knees or the elbows, especially while exploring temples, monuments, etc.

Be Careful Not To Drive In Vietnam

In Vietnam, they’re pretty strict about a drivers license. Furthermore, they only accept a Vietnamese driving license, not even an international one. As such, you should stay away from cars while you’re there.

Be Careful What You Accept From Strangers

Vietnam has a very strict hardliner policy on drugs. By that I mean the upper limit of their punishment for possession (or consumption) of drug is the death penalty. I know! So be very careful not to accept anything from strangers. If you see someone consuming drugs and they offer, it’s best to say no.

Be Careful About Your Debit or Credit Cards

In Vietnam, for some strange reason, they don’t ask you to enter the PIN when you swipe the card. As such, you should never lose sight of your card. If someone gets it, they can very easily drain your entire bank balance, leaving you high and dry.

These are some Vietnam travel tips I can give you to remain safe while traveling. You can also read about more in details in this excellent article by Quang Mai.

Conclusion

I suppose you now have a decent idea how to travel to Vietnam and backpack through the country. I hope my Vietnam travel guide has answered all your questions.

Of course, a single Vietnam travel guide can never be enough to capture all there is to the country. As such, feel free to comment down below if you feel I’ve missed out on something vital.

Do let me know whether you found this Vietnam travel guide useful. And happy backpacking!

How Much Did I Spend In Vietnam (Approximately)

Days in Vietnam: 28 days

Total Money Spent: Approx. ₹60,000 | $1000

vietnam travel guide rohan tandon