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Let’s Explore Vietnam

In 2016 I made a bold move to Vietnam; a country I had never glimpsed and knew next-to-nothing about, with no idea of the possible adventures. This venture into the unknown definitely aided my love affair with Vietnam as every trip I took showcased a side that I didn’t know Vietnam had. This Vietnam travel guide shares everything I’ve learned about travel in Vietnam to help you plan a once in a lifetime trip to Vietnam.

From rice terraced mountains to exotic beaches, Vietnam is overflowing with natural beauty. Beyond the natural beauty is a rich culture that seeps into the customs, food, and kindness of the locals. Aside from being an extremely varied country in terms of culture and scenery, some of the most interesting elements of Vietnam stem from its fast development, leaving a country straddling two worlds. It’s a place where you’ll find the youth frequenting hipster bars, yet also grabbing a bowl of street pho on the way home. The dynamic combination of nature, culture and an emerging urban edge makes a trip to Vietnam like no other.

This Vietnam travel guide destinations is one of the most comprehensive guide I’ve ever compiled, sharing all the information you need for planning your trip. Click to find out specifics:

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, all marked with * Booking through these links generates a small commission for me at no extra cost to you.

Vietnam Travel Basics

Vietnam visa

To visit Vietnam you will most likely need a visa. Some nationalities, like the UK, are granted visa exemptions, but most travellers will need to obtain a visa to visit Vietnam (check for your nationality). Thankfully there is now an online e-visa portal through which you can apply for your Vietnam visa (check if your nationality is eligible). The e-visa costs $25 USD and a printed copy needs to be presented with your passport at immigration. Apply for an e-visa on the official website here.

The e-visa only offers a single entry so if you wish to leave and return to Vietnam you will need to apply for a Visa on Arrival. A visa on arrival is more complex to apply for; either you need to go to your nearest Vietnamese embassy or consulate to apply, or you need to obtain a visa approval letter from an independent party. The Vietnam Tourism website shares information on how to do this.

Currency

The only legal currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (VND). There is sometimes confusion as tours and accommodation often quote prices in USD, however, you are always expected to pay for things in VND. The only thing you might need to pay for in USD is your visa if entering with a Visa on Arrival. Throughout my site, you will see prices for things written in VND, normally with a “k” to denote thousands. On average, $1 USD ~ 23k VND / £1 GBP ~ 30k VND / €1 EUR ~ 25k VND.

Plugs

The majority of plug sockets in Vietnam are suitable for both type A (flat two-prong pins) and type C plugs (round two-prong pins). If you don’t have a suitable adaptor you can often find them in FamilyMart’s around tourist hotspots.

SIM cards and mobile data

Vietnam is one of the best-connected countries in Asia, with wifi available everywhere from cafes and restaurants to minimarts and even on buses. Having mobile data is not essential for travelling around Vietnam. However, SIM cards and data are cheap and easy to set up so the convenience might be worth it. If you’re motorbiking in Vietnam then I consider it essential to have mobile data for safety reasons.

The two main mobile providers in Vietnam are Mobifone and Viettel (I’ve been using the same Viettel SIM for 3+ years). SIM cards can be purchased at most of the ports of entry, as well as many of the tech stores like TheGioiDiDong or directly through a Viettel or Mobifone store. Mobile data top-ups can be purchased online through websites like Payoo or Ding.com, or at minimarts by asking the teller for a “Payoo top-up”.

How to travel around Vietnam?

The cheapest and most common way to travel around Vietnam is by bus. Trains in Vietnam are cheap, punctual and generally considered to be safer than buses. However, the train network isn’t as extensive as the bus routes so for some parts of the country bus is the only option. I book all my transport in Vietnam online through Baolau*, a transport search engine that compares buses, trains and planes. Another website that is great for booking buses in Vietnam is Vexere, a local website that sometimes has more options than displayed on Baolau.

For travelling longer distances, flying is the only real option. It’s also the best option if you are short on time. The main budget airlines operating in Vietnam are VietJetJetStar and Bamboo AirwaysVietnam Airlines are less budget-friendly but the most reliable option.

Motorbikes dominate the roads in Vietnam and are a great transport option for those who have experience riding and are looking for the adventure of a lifetime.

✍  Find out more about motorbiking across Vietnam in my Complete Guide to Motorbiking in Vietnam.

How to travel within cities

Within cities, the easiest way to explore is using ride-hailing apps like Grab (most locations in Vietnam) and GoViet (Saigon only), or conventional taxis. Of course, follow the usual travel precautions and make sure that the meter is working when you get into the taxi. The main taxi companies are Vinasun Taxi and Mai Linh Taxi.

There are lots of public buses within the major cities that you can use to travel around. For bus travel in Saigon, Hanoi and Da Nang you can use the app BusMap to plan routes, find out wait times and find bus stops near your location.

Vietnam travel guide bucketlist itinerary

What to do and where to go in Vietnam

Unsure where to go and what to do in Vietnam? I’m incredibly lucky to have explored a lot of what Vietnam has to offer travellers. These are some of the highlights which you should try to include in your itinerary.

My favourite places

1️⃣ Phong Nha – think limestone carts, caves, and the most friendly locals
2️⃣ Ha Giang – think dramatic valleys, rice terraces, and home to ethnic tribes
3️⃣ Hoi An – think yellow colonial houses, lantern-lit streets, and boutique shopping
4️⃣ Quy Nhon – think empty untouched beaches and stunning turquoise bays
5️⃣ Saigon – think a mix of old and new Vietnam, hipster cafes, and high energy

Top bucketlist activities

1️⃣ Motorbike the full country – see my complete guide for motorbiking Vietnam
2️⃣ Hike the caves of Phong Nha – I did a tour with JungleBoss and highly recommend them
3️⃣ Go trekking in Sapa – be sure to book with an ethical company like Ethos Vietnam
4️⃣ Do an easy rider motorbike tour – the Hai Van Pass and Ha Giang are popular routes
5️⃣ Go surfing in Mui Ne – If you want to learn then Mui Ne is a great place to catch waves

Creating an Itinerary for Vietnam

Being a long thin country makes Vietnam particularly easy to create an itinerary for. Most visitors arrive via Hanoi in the north or Ho Chi Minh City in the south. From there your itinerary can easily be planned in order of location.

Vietnam Travel Guides

Now you know where you’re going to go, you need to plan how you’re going to travel there, what you’re going to do and where you’re going to sleep in each destination. Click to explore my Vietnam destination travel guides, which share all these details as well as what to eat and a suggested budget.

Resources for planning a trip to Vietnam

While there are hundreds of resources out there that are useful for planning your trip to Vietnam, I’ve found these to be some of the best sources for information and tips.

✍️ The Next Somewhere is a travel blog curated by Millette, an ex-Saigon-expat. Check it out for lots of foodie recommendations and travel tips for the south of Vietnam.
✍️ Miles of Smiles is another expat-created travel blog written by ex-Hanoi-expat, Kelsey. Check it out for Hanoi travel tips and more information on teaching in Vietnam.
✍️ The Vietnam Coracle is the ultimate resource for motorbiking in Vietnam. Check it out for an extensive series of routes and tips on motorbiking in Vietnam.
✍️ Visit Vietnam is the official tourism site for Vietnam and is full of useful information on the logistics of visiting Vietnam as well as travel suggestions for across the country.