The Ultimate Travel Guide to Vietnam

Discover Destinations When to Travel How to get around Visa Packing list Places to stay

Discover Vietnam

Planning a trip to Asia to see nature, culture and beach? Vietnam has it all. It’s quite easy to go around the country because there are a lot of transport options and tons of things to see.

Most travellers start to explore the North of Vietnam and then travel down South, but going the other way around also works. I’d recommend checking what time you are going and see if the weather in the North or South improves during the weeks of your trip.

To give you some extra help with planning your trip, I created a top 3 of my favourite destinations in Vietnam. These are Sa Pa, Halong Bay and Hoi An. Continue reading if you want to know why these are my favourite!

1. Exploring the breathtaking karst mountains in Halong Bay or Cat Ba is something you cannot leave out of your itinerary. Check the route of How to get from Hanoi to Halong Bay to find your best transport options. You can also save money by booking a boat cruise that already includes transport from Hanoi.

2. Want to explore the magnificent ricefields in Sa Pa? Traveling by train from Hanoi to SaPa is one of our favourite routes in Vietnam! Thanks to the sleeper train, you can get a good night of sleep during this 8-hour journey to the stunning rice fields in the North of Vietnam!

3. Looking for a vibrant and cultural city in Vietnam? Hoi An is the favourite destination for many travellers. This charming town has a lot of international influence because it used to be one of the most important trade ports in Vietnam. You can either take a bus, train or flight to travel from Hanoi to Hoi An.

Another upcoming destination in Vietnam is Tam Coc. Tam Coc is a small village in Ninh Binh province. Ninh Binh is often called the dry Halong Bay, referring to the gorgeous landscape of limestone rocks that many travellers remember of Halong Bay. It only takes about 2 hours to travel from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by bus. So if you have a few extra days left, don’t forget to include Tam Coc in your itinerary!

Destinations in North-Vietnam

Destinations in Central Vietnam

Destinations in South Vietnam

When to travel to Vietnam

There is quite a long distance between the northern and southern borders of Vietnam. When we measure the distance of this S-shaped country from North to South, we get a total distance of 1,650 km. This is similar to the distance between Amsterdam and Rome.

Reading this, you probably already concluded that this country is dealing with different climate zones. In general, the best months to visit the North are between October and December. If you want to enjoy the beaches in central Vietnam (Hoi An and Quy Nhon), it’s best to visit from January until June.

Another thing to consider is the rice fields in the North of Vietnam and in Ninh Binh. The harvest season starts at the end of September/October. In this season, you see a gorgeous landscape of golden flowered rice fields. Traveling around April? Then you are most lucky in Ninh Binh province. Let a local woman paddle your boat through the magnificent limestone mountains while seeing the full-colored rice flowers on the fields.

How to get around Vietnam

We recommend taking a train whenever this option is available and doesn’t take much extra time compared to the bus. Trains in Vietnam are safer than buses and offer quite a good standard with extras like on-board catering, charging points, and clean toilets.

For certain routes, train rides take much longer than buses, or require extra transport to and from the railway station from the city centre. In this case, taking the bus will save you time and the hassle of arranging transport to and from the railway station.

Luckily, most buses in Vietnam offer a good standard and many people can sleep well on these buses. You can adjust the seats downwards and you have extended leg space. For tall people, this extended leg space is not enough. So if this is you, you will have to raise your knees to find a good sleeping position.

Read more about how to get around Vietnam in our Vietnam Transportation Guide.

Visa Vietnam

Getting a visa for Vietnam is quite an easy process. However, some organisations try to earn as much from tourists as they can and often advise more expensive visas than needed. Also note that for some nationalities, a visa is not required to enter Vietnam.

To make sure you find your right visa or to know if you need one at all, I created a guide in which you just have to answer 3 simple questions to find out which visa you need.

The perfect packing list for Vietnam

Vietnam is going to be HOT, no matter what time of the year you visit. Make sure to bring light and cool clothes to avoid spending your entire day sweating.

If you’re visiting during the wet season, then a raincoat is a must. Even outside of these months, rain can come at any time. We recommend bringing a light raincoat with you anyway.

Aside from the essential travel gear, here are some things that have become permanent fixtures on our packing list: 

  • Reusable water bottle – better for the environment, keeps your water cold and it will save you money because you won’t need to buy bottles of water all the time.
  • A portable charger – everyone experienced these moments: your phone battery dies exactly at the moment you need it the most. A portable charger saves you from these situations.

To see the complete packing list, visit our page where we share our ideal packing list.

Favourite accommodations

Tam Coc Bungalow

Do you prefer to stay close to the river? Tam Coc Bungalow has spacious bamboo bungalows right next to Tam Coc River.

What we really liked about this place is their common area. From the terrace, you can watch the locals paddling back to Tam Coc town during sunset. And in the evening, you can play a game of pool in the open restaurant area.

Bungalows from $32

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HaLo HomeStay

You think you can only find good banana pancakes in Thailand? Wait till you get them for breakfast at HaLo HomeStay. This homestay has it all: the high-end standard of a hotel combined with the family feeling of a homestay. The owners serve a lovely breakfast and will do everything to let you get the most out of your stay. You can explore Hoi An with their free bicycle rental and reach the Old Quarter or the beach within 5 minutes.

Double rooms from: $12

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Thao Nguyen Homestay

Thanks to the great hospitality of the family, this homestay will feel like your own home. After a day of trekking, you can take a dive in the pool or sit back and relax with a Netflix movie. The homestay is located right in front of the bus stop in the centre of Phong Nha. Rooms with mountain views start from $23, including an outstanding breakfast!

Bonus: Free cancellation policy till the last day!

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