25 TIPS HOW TO BACKPACK VIETNAM
If you are planning to backpack Vietnam, this is the Ultimate Travel Tips and Guides for you!
Whatever you want to do, Vietnam will be your ideal destination for the best experience.
Vietnam is a top travel destination in Southeast Asia for backpackers, it’s known as one of the cheapest and safest place for travelers.
The country extends about 1,025 miles (1,650 km) from north to south and is about 30 miles (50 km) wide east to west at its narrowest part. The most popular backpacking route is heading from Hanoi to Saigon.
Source: Peter Nguyen
Once upon a time, the very mention of Vietnam conjured up images of war torn destination but now Vietnam is a backpacker haven and travelling in Vietnam is a popular part of many Southeast Asian adventures
It is close to the center of Asia, Vietnam is really an exciting destinations with its fascinating history, cultural highlights, tasty food and vibrant energy. This place offers a plethora of flavors, sounds, landscapes, and people. Either you want to go backpack Vietnam with budget travel or travel on a luxury trip, don’t hesitate to see the best of Vietnam.
The best time to backpack Vietnam
Planning your holidays in Vietnam, you might wonder when it is the best time to visit the country. As it is such a long country, stretching over a thousand miles, the climate here is incredibly diverse, and the weather varies a lot from place to place. But the answer for best time to visit Vietnam is quite simple: anytime is the best time!
There are roughly two different climates, the northern climate with four seasons and the tropical climate with only two: dry and wet.
The country can get incredibly hot, so December to February is a good time to travel in land, not for the beach.
Do you need a Visa for Vietnam?
Many nationalities can receive a thirty-day free visa waiver on arrival (if arriving by air; it’s currently 15 days if you arrive overland). This is great if you are paying Vietnam a quick visit, but if you want to stay any longer than this you will have to organise a visa before arrival.
If your nationality requires a pre-arranged visa or you want to sort out a Vietnam visa in advance, particularly for a longer stay, it is fairly simple to receive one. You can apply through Vietnam Embassy and Consulate in your country, apply e-visa online at https://immigration.gov.vn/ or apply through visa/travel agencies if you do not want to organise it yourself.
The fee is about $50 – $100 depends on the number of days you are going to stay.
Vietnam is considered to be part of the East Asian cultural sphere. Vietnam has a long history of warfare, which played a big role in shaping the culture and Identity of the people who now live in the region known as Vietnam.
Costume: In Vietnam, dress has been influenced by Western styles with the wearing of white wedding dresses and black jackets although there were also many who still prefer to choose Vietnamese traditional wedding costumes for traditional ceremonies. Ao dai is the traditional costume.
Religion and Philosophy: Religion in Vietnam has historically been largely defined by a mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Catholicism is also practiced in modern Vietnam.
Ancestor worship is common in Vietnamese culture. Most Vietnamese, regardless of religious denomination, practice ancestor worship and have an ancestor altar at their home or business.
Tipping in Vietnam: Always, I’ll say that tipping is nice all over the world. Tipping is not customary but it is highly appreciated. The locals don’t have a habit of tipping unless you go to upscale restaurants or get a massage from spas.
Some important information you need to know
- Language: The official language in Vietnam is Vietnamese. But it is very easy for you to find a person who can speak English on the street only in the big cities. You’ll find the difficulty and language barrier everywhere.
- Currency: The currency of Viet Nam is the Dong (VND). As well, the people of Viet Nam are refered to as Vietnamese. 1 USD is equivalent to about 23,300 VND.
- Safety: The Vietnamese can be some of the nicest, friendliest, kindest and happiest people you could meet. Of course there are some bad apples and most of the bad stories involve taxi driver scams, so do not forget to be careful walking around with the phone out. In Ho Chi Minh, it’s not uncommon for people to ride up next to you on their bikes and snatch your phone out of hands.
- ATMs: You won’t have a problem finding ATMs in Vietnam big cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Most ATMs accept Visa cards
- Cash and Card Payment: Many places will except cash only although card payment is becoming more common. It is only in the big cities that you will be able to pay with a credit cards.
- What to pack in your luggage: Sunscreen, walking sandals or shoes, water bottle, suitable clothes…
Vietnam Travel Costs
Going backpack Vietnam can be cheap without really having to think about it. Vietnam is such a big country that offers a lot of super budget accommodation, food and travel options. For as low as $25 per day, you can survive and travel around the country.
Average Room cost: VND100,000 – VND600,000 ($5 – $25)
Average Meal Cost:VND20,000 ($1) street food – VND250,000 ($10) meal in a mid level restaurant
Long Distance Bus Service: VND70,000 – VND600,000 ($3 – $25)
Average Day Trip Cost: VND350,000+ ($15+) depending on what you want to do.
Average Motorbike Hire: VND230,000 ($10) per day
Where To backpack Vietnam?
Firstly, there are some International Airports in Vietnam that backpackers can fly directly to the destination in Vietnam
- In the North: Noi Bai, Cat Bi, Vinh
- In the Central: Phu Bai, Da Nang, Chu Lai, Cam Ranh
- In the South: Tan Son Nhat, Can Tho, Phu Quoc
Secondly, there are some highlights province that Backpackers Vietnam recommend for you, check out more in the gallery.
Backpack Vietnam in the North
Northern Vietnam is characterized by its unique landscapes of rugged mountains, rolling hills, and incomparable coastlines.
- Hanoi – Vietnam’s capital
- Ha Long Bay – a natural world wonder
- Sa Pa – Vietnam most Famous Hill Station. Tip: The common route Hanoi – Sapa by train. Check out train tickets from Ha Noi to Sapa.
- Tam Coc Village – Ninh Binh
Backpack Vietnam in the Central
- Hue – the Imperial City
- Hai Van Pass – A Road Through the Clouds
- Danang – The Pearl by the Sea
- Hoi An – A UNESCO World Heritage City
- Mui Ne – Nha Trang – Vietnam’s Diving Center
- Quy Nhon – a hidden beauty gems
Backpack Vietnam in the Southern
- Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s Economic Capital
- Vung Tau
- Phu Quoc – An Island Retreat
- Cu Chi Tunnels – Remnants of the Vietnam War
- Mekong Delta – Experiencing Traditional Vietnam
Must-try experiences when going backpack Vietnam
- Backpacking on a motorbike in Vietnam – the cheapest way to get around!
There is no greater feeling than whizzing through the beautiful countryside on the back of a Motorbike. The feeling of complete freedom is awesome, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the entire time. For anyone wants to go backpack Vietnam, I highly rate buying a Motorbike to explore this beautiful country.
Motorbiking across Vietnam is often more cost effective than paying for multiple train/bus tickets. It gives you the freedom to really explore, get off the highway and go in search of raw adventure.
The fee for renting a motorbike for the few weeks is about VND7,000,000 ($300)
- Saigon’s Nightlife
Ho Chi Minh city is the best city in Southern Vietnam to experience the nightlife. There is a wide range of bars and pubs and the quantity of clubs and discos with regular live music is strongly booming. Pham Ngu Lao Street, Bui Vien Street is the playground and backpacker hub of the city and welcomes a large numbers of foreigners and local Vietnamese who mix freely and chat the night away.
- Visiting vietnam’s ethnic minority villages
Located in far North West corner of Vietnam, you can get off the beaten track while backpacking Vietnam and take a day trip out of Sapa town and visit the incredible ethnic villages here. Set in a stunning mountainous region, the town sit at around 1500m above sea level with breath-taking viewpoints around.
Source: Molang Reiko
This is definitely an unique experience you can find in Vietnam because this area is still home to many hill tribes. If you love hiking and climbing, visit magnificent Fansipan Mountain – the highest mountain in the Indochinese Peninsula, hence its nickname “the Roof of Indochina”.
- Hoi An Ancient Town
is a sweet town that is both less chaotic but still a very popular tourist destination in Vietnam. For that reason, you’ll find all the needed amenities such as wifi and expat foods, and also a community of digital nomads and expat entrepreneurs. As this small coastal town grows, the retiree community is also growing.
Though it’s popular with tourists, expats can live just a bit outside of the city center and have a peaceful life in the rice paddies. It’s small enough that living outside of the city center is still a short, convenient drive or walk into town. The nearby beach also gets a big thumbs up for the quality of life. As a town, you have the quaint, pretty architecture, but still access to a beach and delicious foods. It’s an excellent small-town option if the two big cities don’t quite sound appealing. Spend time to wander around some coffee shops. The local food is amazing. Check out tips about Hoi An food.
Source: Xuân Nguyễn
- Cruise Halong Bay: A UNESCO world heritage sight, often known as the Eighth Wonder of the world and an unmissable stop whilst backpacking Vietnam. Ha Long Bay is the home for more than 2000 limestone islets towering out of the turquoise water.
- Enjoy the beaches across Vietnam
- Wander around The Mekong Delta
- Hanoi’s Fresh Beer
Be sure to visit a Bia Hoi (literally “air beer”) vendor which you will easily find in every corner of Hanoi. The beer is brewed fresh and only keeps for a day or two, so it has a very unique crisp flavour.
- Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Southeast Asia
Vietnam Travel Guide To Getting Around?
You’ll have plenty of options for getting around Vietnam on the cheap or luxury trip.
By Bus: Most backpackers choose to explore Vietnam via bus network. Buses in Vietnam are cheap and there’s plenty of hop on/hop off style tickets and the ever increasing, they are a broke backpackers dream. Travelling by bus in Vietnam by bus is getting more organised.
It’s easy to find long-distance bus tours running the length of Vietnam, starting at Hanoi with stops in Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Mui Ne, and ending in Ho Chi Minh. You can hop on or off at any stop along the way. They cater to tourists, but locals actually use this service too (it’s so cheap!).
Prices depend on route and operator but generally Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh is between 815,585-1,631,175 VND (35-80 USD). This is the most popular backpacking route, so if you’re intimidated by the local bus system, this is a good alternative.
By Train: A great way to get from one end of the country to the other fast and scenically. Ensure to book your tickets in advance, hard sleeper class offers the best value. Once again, the most convenient way to book train tickets is via baolau site because the site accept credit cards.
The rail network also most of the country, so you can get just about everywhere you want to go (except the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta). A train journey between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi costs from 837,000 VND (35 USD).
By Domestic Flight: If you are on a time limit a 2hr flight from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi is a lot more favourable than 30 hours + it can take on the train. Vietnam Airlines, the national carrier and Jetstar both offer cheap and backpacker friendly prices to many destinations within Vietnam.
Flying domestically in Vietnam is a good idea if you’re looking to fit a lot into a shorter trip. For example, a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City takes two hours – the train ride would take at least 30 hours (and a one-way flight starts at around 590,000 VND/25 USD!).
By Motorbike: Many adventurers backpacking Vietnam choose to explore the country by motorbike. With a motorbike, you have a lot more freedom and will see a side of the country that is completely inaccessible if you are travelling by bus or train.
Vietnam is the perfect shape for a motorbiking adventure – long and thin. The traffic in Vietnam can be a little crazy at times and the rural roads a tad questionable. Be aware that accidents among travellers are relatively common, so don’t skip out on the helmet, or travel insurance!
Taxi: An increasingly common sight in Vietnam’s cities, it is not hard to find a ride. Just be sure to use a metered taxi or haggle and agree the price before you get in. Vietnamese taxi drives have a reputation of touring you around town and/or taking you to alternative hotels. Be firm with directions and destination whilst using taxi’s within Vietnam.
Taxis are very affordable in Vietnam, and they are metered in the larger cities. This is a safe and reliable way to get around. Rates start at about 12,000 VND (less than 1 USD) per kilometer.
Public Transit – In some towns and cities, the cyclo (a bicycle rickshaw) is one of the cheapest ways to get around. A short ride will cost you as little as 12,000 VND (less than 1 USD), while a longer night ride will cost you upwards of 40,000 VND (2 USD). A more popular option is the xe om – a motorbike taxi, with fares starting from 15,000 VND (less than 1 USD). You’ll have to hold on tight! Public buses are not great options in Vietnam.
For Train ticket, bus ticket, flight ticket from city to another one in SEA, check out baolau
Where to stay in Vietnam: Hotels, Hostels, Guest Houses, Homestays, Resorts and Apartments
Vietnam provides plenty of cheap accommodation for budget backpackers across the country with the most choices being in the big cities and towns.
Depend on the how much you can spend, it is expect to pay at least VND 100,000 ($5) for budget option and VND3,500,000 ($150) for luxury. Many hostels and hotels have a check in and check out time so make sure you check that in advance to avoid paying unwanted cost. Some of them also offer city tours or trips to surrounding areas. It is better, however, to shop around and ask for opinion from other experienced travelers to avoid scams. Luggage storage is available in most places.
For precaution, lock your entire luggage before leaving them at the hostel. The details of accommodation address and contact are listed in each place’s page.
Check out the suggested location below:
The Best food of Vietnam
Vietnam has some of the best and cheapest street food in the world, it is home to many cultural delights waiting to be discovered. With a wide selections of food, from local cuisine to standard dishes, backpackers can find it really hard to choose.
SSome of street food that backpackers should not miss :
- Banh Mi: a very special & popular sandwich of Vietnam. Banh Mi vendors can be found everywhere in Vietnam, this is a perfect for those slightly unsure about Vietnamese food. If you are a vegetarian, you need to lear the word “chay – vegetarian” in Vietnamese. Lucky for you, “banh mi chay” exists in the country that has meat every where like Vietnam.
- Bun Cha: This cuisine is char grilled meat served with noodles, fresh vegetables, and a variety of dipping sauces.
- Pho: this is the most popular Vietnamese food in the world. Pho originates from the North Part of the country, so try Hanoi Pho to enjoy the original taste.
- Banh xeo: Banh xeo is filled with boiled pork strips, shrimp, and bean sprouts.
- Com Tam: The rice dish cooked from broken rice named Tấm.
Tips you should know before going backpack Vietnam
- If you know how to drive a motorbike, you can buy a super cheap one. It’s a cheapest way to go backpack Vietnam on a motorbike adventure from North to South, or reverse.
- You should have a great Travel Credit Card to avoid a poor exchange rate and extra fees when using ATMs in Vietnam.
- Going backpack Vietnam with A smartphone with 3G/4G data pagekage (popular providers: Viettel, Vinaphone & Mobifone) will help you a lot.You can use Google Translator to speak to local people, especially the Motorbike machanists on the way.
- Be sure that you have a proper driving license and a valid and matching blue card in possession and comply with all the traffic rules, wear a helmet, use signals if turning, etc.
- Make sure that you always bring VND with you when going backpack Vietnam because just a few places or big restaurants accept cards.
With so much on offer, it can be hard to choose. Therefore, do your research carefully so that you don’t miss out on the things that matter most to you.