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9 Vietnam Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

By Ralph Velasco

Planning your next vacation to Vietnam? With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, Vietnam offers an unforgettable adventure. Whether exploring the bustling streets of Hanoi or cruising through the serene waters of Ha Long Bay, here are nine essential travel tips to make your journey truly remarkable.

1. Start with a Local Guide in Hanoi   

Begin your Vietnamese adventure in the vibrant capital, Hanoi. The city, known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture that melds Southeast Asian, Chinese, and French influences, offers an intoxicating introduction to Vietnam. 

Engaging with a local guide is invaluable for immersing yourself in what Hanoi offers. These guides bring the city’s history and stories to life, providing context and insights beyond the typical tourist experience.

Walking Tours

As you walk the chaotic, scooter-filled streets, a local guide will help you navigate Hanoi’s best sights—from the serene Hoan Kiem Lake to the bustling alleyways of the Old Quarter, where the air is perfumed with the scent of sizzling street foods. Discover hidden gems that only locals know about, such as a tiny coffee shop known for its egg coffee or a small temple tucked away behind a narrow lane.

Food Tours

Take full advantage of a foodie tour, an essential Hanoi experience. You’ll be led through a culinary journey, sampling everything from Bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls) to Phở (noodle soup), giving you a delicious introduction to the rich tapestry of flavors that Vietnamese cuisine offers.

Each dish will tell a story of Hanoi’s complex flavors and culinary traditions, with your guide explaining the origins and ingredients of each food item. This tour not only tantalizes your taste buds but also deepens your understanding of Vietnamese cuisine and its regional variations.

Tip: A Cyclo ride through Hanoi is a must. This traditional mode of transport allows you to see the city from a unique vantage point. Relax and take in the sights as your driver expertly navigates through narrow lanes and crowded markets. It’s an excellent way to feel the city’s pulse and observe the daily life of Hanoians, from street vendors selling fresh flowers to locals chatting over steaming noodles.

Street vendor selling flowers here.

These experiences, enhanced by the knowledge and familiarity of a local guide, provide a comprehensive introduction to Hanoi. 

You’ll better appreciate the city’s historical significance, cultural richness, and incredible hospitality. Starting your journey in Hanoi with a local guide sets a solid foundation for the rest of your adventures in Vietnam, equipping you with a greater understanding and connection to this fascinating country.

2. Embrace the Tranquility of Ninh Binh

Just a short journey from the bustling streets of Hanoi, Ninh Binh awaits with its serene beauty, often referred to as the “Halong Bay on Land.” This picturesque region features dramatic landscapes of lush greenery and towering limestone cliffs, sculpted over millennia into a breathtaking tableau that mirrors its famous maritime counterpart.

Spend a night in this tranquil area to fully soak in the environment. A boat ride along the peaceful rivers offers a unique vantage point to admire the karst landscapes, which rise majestically from the rice paddies and gently flowing waters. These boat tours, often rowed by local villagers, provide an intimate experience of the region’s natural beauty.

Ninh Binh is a haven for those seeking peace and a paradise for photographers and nature enthusiasts. The ancient temples perched among the hills, such as Bai Dinh and Bich Dong pagodas, add a cultural dimension to your visit, inviting contemplation and exploration.

3. Experience Ha Long Bay on a Private Boat

No visit to Vietnam is complete without seeing Ha Long Bay. Opt for a night on a private boat to fully appreciate the bay’s iconic limestone karsts and azure waters. This intimate experience allows for a deeper connection with this World Heritage site.

4. Cycle and Sail in Hoi An

Known as the City of Lanterns, Hoi An is enchanting with its historic architecture and glowing nights. The city’s charm multiplies as the sun sets and the colorful lanterns light up, creating a magical atmosphere that feels like stepping back in time. 

To fully experience the tranquil countryside surrounding this ancient town, take the included bicycle ride. This leisurely journey takes you through lush rice paddies and past traditional villages, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of the local farmers and artisans.

For a different perspective, enjoy a peaceful basketboat ride through the water coconut groves. These unique round boats, a distinctive feature of the region, provide a quiet and intimate setting to explore the smaller waterways inaccessible by larger vessels.

Vietnam Biking

5. Dive into the Colors of the Mekong Delta

Travel south to Can Tho and prepare for a vibrant exploration of the Mekong Delta. A boat ride to the Cai Rang Floating Market offers a glimpse into local life and commerce. It’s a pulsating, colorful market that’s best experienced in the early morning light.

6. Savor the Flavors   

Vietnamese cuisine is not just food; it’s a vibrant expression of the country’s history, geography, and culture. Each meal is a delightful journey through various flavors and techniques perfected over centuries. As you travel through Vietnam, make it a point to immerse yourself in its culinary diversity—from bustling street stalls in Hanoi to serene floating markets in the Mekong Delta.

Street Food in Hanoi

Begin your culinary adventure in Hanoi, where the streets buzz with the sizzle of woks and the aroma of fresh herbs. Don’t miss the chance to try Phở Bò (beef noodle soup), a Hanoian staple, and Bún Chả, grilled pork served over a bed of rice noodles with a side of crispy spring rolls. Joining a foodie tour can provide insights into the ingredients and methods that make these dishes so beloved.

Vietnamese Street Food

Royal Cuisine in Hue

As you move to the central part of Vietnam, Hue offers a chance to taste the refined flavors of its royal culinary traditions. Sample dishes like Bánh Bèo (steamed rice cakes topped with shrimp) and Bún Bò Huế (a spicy beef noodle soup), which are steeped in history and meticulously prepared.

Fresh Seafood in Da Nang and Hoi An

The coastal cities are perfect for seafood lovers. In Da Nang and Hoi An, the seafood is as fresh as possible. Enjoy grilled squid, shrimp, and Cá Nướng (grilled fish) at an oceanfront eatery. Hoi An, with its famous Cao Lầu noodles, which combine local greens, pork, and crispy croutons, reflects the unique blend of local and foreign influences on the city’s cuisine.

Vibrant Flavors of the Mekong Delta

In Can Tho and the surrounding areas of the Mekong Delta, the food reflects the abundance of the waterways. Visit a floating market to try Bánh Xèo (savory pancakes) and Canh Chua (tamarind soup with fish), which capture the sweet, sour, and spicy notes typical of Southern Vietnamese cuisine.

Dynamic Food Scene in Ho Chi Minh City

Finally, experience the city’s dynamic fusion of flavors in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). From upscale restaurants offering international cuisines to local joints where you can try Bánh Mì (Vietnamese sandwich) and Phở, every meal is an opportunity to explore further.

Throughout your travels, remember that Vietnamese cuisine often incorporates five fundamental taste elements: spicy, sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. Each dish balances these elements to achieve a harmonious eating experience that is delicious and visually appealing with its colors and textures.

Indulging in these local flavors isn’t just about eating; it’s about connecting with the Vietnamese culture and understanding the regional nuances that make each dish unique. So, take the time to savor the flavors, and don’t hesitate to ask your local guides for recommendations to experience the very best of Vietnamese culinary offerings.

7. Choose Comfortable Accommodations

After a day filled with discoveries and adventures, the importance of a comfortable place to unwind cannot be overstated. Our carefully selected boutique hotels provide the perfect blend of local charm and modern comforts, ensuring you wake up refreshed and ready to explore each new day.

Throughout your 13-night Vietnam: North to South journey with Continental DRIFTER®, you’ll experience a variety of beautiful accommodations, each chosen for its unique character and excellent service. These range from 3- and 4-star boutique hotels to more unique stays that genuinely enhance your travel experience:

Here’s an overview

  • In Hanoi: Start your journey in the vibrant capital, where your boutique hotel in the heart of the city offers the perfect gateway to explore Hanoi’s rich culture and bustling streets.
  • Ninh Binh: Spend a night amidst the incredible natural beauty of what is often called “Halong Bay on Land.” Your accommodation here will allow you to soak in the rural countryside’s serene landscapes and tranquil ambiance.
  • Ha Long Bay: Spend one of the highlights of your trip with a night aboard a private boat. This unique accommodation floats on the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay, surrounded by towering limestone karsts. A peaceful night under the stars on the bay is truly unforgettable.
  • Can Tho: In the heart of the Mekong Delta, your stay in Can Tho will be at a local hotel with views of the bustling river life. It’s the perfect spot to experience the vibrant early mornings and the colorful sunset over the Mekong.
  • Hoi An: As you explore the ancient city of Hoi An, your accommodations will provide a restful base with easy access to local markets, historic sites, and the beautiful coastline.
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): Conclude your journey in the dynamic southern city, where your boutique hotel blends historical charm with contemporary luxury, placing you close to major attractions and culinary hotspots of the city.

Each hotel provides comfort and reflects the culture and style of its location, offering you an immersive experience from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart. Whether it’s the architectural charm, the friendly service, or the prime locations, these accommodations ensure that every aspect of your stay contributes to a memorable Vietnam adventure.

8. Pack Appropriately for Seasonal Weather

Vietnam’s weather can vary significantly from north to south. Research the weather for the time of year you’ll visit and pack accordingly. Lightweight, breathable clothing works best, but always bring a rain jacket in case of sudden downpours. As I often say, it’s all about layers.

9. Respect Local Customs and Traditions

Vietnam is rich in traditions and customs. Showing respect is crucial—dress modestly when visiting temples, always ask permission before taking photos of people, and try to learn a few basic phrases in Vietnamese to connect with locals.

Tai Chi is revered in Vietnamese culture, particularly in Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake. Locals gather at dawn to practice this ancient martial art, fostering physical health and spiritual well-being. The serene setting of the lake enhances the meditative experience, blending tradition with community in Vietnam’s bustling capital.

Ready to Explore Vietnam?

These tips will help ensure that your vacation to Vietnam is not just a trip, but a profound journey filled with adventure, culture, and unforgettable memories. Ready to experience Vietnam like never before? Click here to learn more about our tailored small-group tour to Vietnam and embark on your next adventure confidently and excitedly.

Ready to explore the captivating beauty of Vietnam? Click here to learn more about our tours and start planning your journey.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Traveling to Vietnam

1. What is the best time of year to visit Vietnam?

Vietnam can be visited year-round, but the best time depends on the region. Northern Vietnam is ideal from October to April when the weather is more relaxed and drier. Southern Vietnam is best from December to April to avoid the rainy season. Central Vietnam is preferable in the spring (February to May) or autumn (August to November) to avoid the hot, rainy summer months.

2. Do I need a visa to travel to Vietnam?

Most travelers will need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can apply for a visa through the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your country or opt for an e-visa if you qualify. Many countries are eligible for a 30-day single-entry e-visa. Always check the most current visa requirements before your trip.

3. What should I pack for a trip to Vietnam?

Packing for Vietnam should include light, breathable clothing, a good pair of walking shoes, a reusable water bottle, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Also, bring a raincoat or umbrella, especially if you’re visiting during the rainy season. Packing a few culturally appropriate outfits for visiting temples and other sacred places is also wise.

4. Is it safe to travel in Vietnam?

Vietnam is generally safe for travelers. Common sense precautions should be taken, such as guarding personal belongings against petty theft, especially in crowded areas, and observing traffic rules. Scams can occur, so it’s important to agree on prices in advance and be cautious with your spending.

Q: How do I get around in Vietnam?

A: Vietnam has a range of transportation options. In cities, taxis and ride-hailing apps like Grab are convenient and affordable. For longer distances, consider domestic flights, which are reasonably priced and efficient. Trains and long-distance buses are available too, offering scenic views, especially along the coast.

Q: Can I use my credit card in Vietnam?

Major hotels, restaurants, and shops in urban areas accept credit cards, but it’s essential to have cash when traveling in rural areas. ATMs are widely available in cities, but be mindful of transaction fees. It’s advisable to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid issues with overseas card usage.

Q: What are some must-try Vietnamese dishes?

Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and flavorful. Beyond phở and bánh mì, try dishes like bún chả (grilled pork with noodles), gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls), cà phê trứng (egg coffee), and chè (a traditional dessert soup). Each region has its specialties, so explore local markets and street food stalls.

Q: What cultural etiquette should I be aware of?

When visiting Vietnam, it’s essential to dress modestly at religious sites, address elders respectfully, and avoid public displays of affection. It’s also polite to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home and use both hands when giving or receiving objects, especially money or gifts.

Q: How can I respect the environment while traveling in Vietnam?

Responsible travel practices are vital. Avoid single-use plastics, respect wildlife and natural habitats, support local businesses, and be mindful of your resource usage, like water and electricity, especially in eco-sensitive areas like Ha Long Bay and the Mekong Delta.

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