Notre Dame Cathedral with its unique French-style architecture

Vietnam Travel Guide: A List of Things You Need to Know Before Traveling

Vietnam is a beautiful Southeast Asian country with rich history, stunning natural landscapes, mouth-watering cuisine” and welcoming people. As tourism continues to boom in Vietnam, it’s important to be prepared before your trip to make the most out of your time. Here’s a list of essential things you need to know before traveling to Vietnam.

A List of Things You Need to Know Before Traveling

Plan Your Itinerary

With over 2,000 miles of coastline, dramatic mountain ranges, two major cities, and over 54 ethnic minority groups – planning your Vietnam itinerary can feel overwhelming. Focus on a region or two rather than trying to see it all. The most popular routes are Hanoi to Halong Bay, Hoi An and Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. Leave room for spontaneity – some of the best experiences can be had by wandering.

Get Your Visa

Most nationalities need a visa to enter Vietnam, which must be obtained before arrival. Tourist visas are valid for 30 days and can be obtained at a Vietnamese embassy or consulate. Another option is to apply online for an e-visa before your trip, which takes 3-6 days to process. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of your trip.

Book Accommodation

Vietnam offers a wide range of accommodation types to fit any budget. Hostels with dorms are plentiful and great for solo travelers. Guesthouses offer private rooms and a local experience. Hotels range from budget chains to 5-star luxury. Booking a few nights online in advance is recommended for peace of mind, while leaving some nights open for booking once you’re on the ground.

Pack Properly

Vietnam’s climate varies by region, so check the weather before your trip. The North has cool winters while South Vietnam stays tropical year-round. Light, breathable clothing that covers shoulders and knees is acceptable for temples and rural areas. Bring sun protection. Sturdy walking shoes are useful for trekking, and sandals to beat the heat. A small medical kit comes in handy.

Get Local Currency

Vietnam’s official currency is the Vietnamese dong (VND). Have some dong on hand when you arrive, as many shops and restaurants may not accept credit cards or foreign currency. ATMs are widely available in cities to withdraw more cash. Upscale places may accept USD but you’ll get a poor exchange rate. Know the exchange rate to avoid getting ripped off.

Learn Some Vietnamese

Vietnamese is a tonal language and takes time to master. That said, learning just a few polite phrases and words will make connecting with locals much easier. “Xin chào” (sin chow) is hello, while “cảm ơn” (kam uhn) means thank you. Say yes by saying “vâng” (vung) and no with “không” (kohng).

Eat Adventurously

Vietnamese food is sublime. Slurp down pho noodles, devour banh mi sandwiches, and taste fresh tropical fruits. Street food stalls offer delicious snacks for cheap. Be brave and try foods you’ve never had! However, take caution by looking at cleanliness and avoidance of raw foods to prevent illness. Carry diarrhea medication if concerned.

Respect Local Customs

Vietnam’s main religions are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Be respectful when visiting temples – dress modestly, remove shoes, and don’t touch statues. Ask permission before taking photos of locals. Public affection and anger are frowned upon. Cover shoulders and knees before entering homes in rural areas.

Get Off the Beaten Path

Avoid crowds and tourist traps by venturing off the main attractions. Take the road less traveled in Sapa, explore Cat Ba Island, see the pristine beaches of Phu Quoc. Traveling solo allows you to set your own itinerary. Renting a motorbike gives freedom to venture into the Vietnamese countryside at your own pace. Slow down and connect with nature and locals.

Stay Safe

Petty theft does occur in Vietnam, predominantly in large cities. Keep valuables locked up at your hotel and don’t carry more cash than needed when out. Only take licensed taxis or ride shares. Traffic can be chaotic so exercise caution crossing streets. Vietnam is relatively safe, so don’t be paranoid, just take basic precautions.

Respect the Environment

Vietnam is culturally and ecologically rich. Sadly, plastic pollution and mass tourism threaten that. Dispose of trash properly. Choose tour companies with sustainable practices that give back. Don’t support animal exploitation venues. Spread your money to local businesses. Consider offsetting your flight carbon emissions. Be an advocate for responsible travel.

With proper preparation, an open mind, and sense of adventure – you’re sure to have an incredible time backpacking Vietnam! The destinations are amazing, but the people you meet along the way will stay with you forever.

Here are 5 frequently asked questions about traveling to Vietnam:

1. Do I need a visa to visit Vietnam?

Yes, most foreign nationals need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can obtain one before your trip through a Vietnamese embassy or apply online for an e-visa. Be sure to arrange this well in advance of your departure.

2. When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

The best time to visit most regions is from December to April, during the dry season. The weather is less humid and rains are less frequent. For cooler weather, head to the north between October and December.

3. How much money will I need in Vietnam?

Vietnam is very budget-friendly. You can get by on $30-50 per day if you live modestly, stay in dorms, and eat street food. Those wanting more comfort can plan on a budget of $60-100 per day. Have extra on hand for activities.

4. Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Vietnam?

Absolutely! Vietnam is very safe for solo female travelers provided you take the usual precautions. Be wary of scams or unwanted attention. Check reviews of tours and companies. Stick to well-lit public areas at night.

5. What vaccines do I need before going to Vietnam?

The CDC recommends Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and routine vaccines for Vietnam. Malaria prevention medication may be recommended if you are traveling to rural areas. Consult your doctor 4-6 weeks before your trip.


Vietnam is an incredibly diverse, beautiful country with endless things to offer travelers. By getting your visa sorted, booking smart accommodations, packing wisely, and following cultural etiquette – you’ll be set up for an amazing adventure. Vietnam’s mouth-watering cuisine, stunning scenery, and welcoming people create memories that will last a lifetime. Have an incredible trip!

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