Backpacking in Vietnam: Route And Advice For First-Timers

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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If you’re a first-timer considering backpacking in Vietnam, this guide is for you. Vietnam is always on the list of places people want to visit in Southeast Asia: it’s cheap, has great street food, and is fascinating both in nature and history.

The hardest part when visiting Vietnam is where to start and how to backpack safely and conveniently.

This article will guide you through the ultimate backpacking route across this beautiful country, highlighting essential stops and providing tips to ensure a memorable trip.

This guide is meant for people setting out for their first backpacking adventure, and it includes everything you need to know about Vietnam’s diverse landscapes, its rich cultural heritage, its food, and logistics.

So, pack your backpack, and let’s get planning to backpack in Vietnam!

Why Go Backpacking in Vietnam

Backpacking through Vietnam is an unparalleled journey that encapsulates the essence of Southeast Asia while inviting a deeper exploration beyond its surface beauty. This land, with its verdant highlands, dense jungles, sparkling coastlines, and remnants of ancient civilizations, offers a lot of experiences that blend exhilaration with introspection. Vietnam carries the echoes of its tumultuous history, visible in the scarred mountains from decades-old conflicts, reminding travelers of its resilience and complexity. Unlike the well-trodden paths of its neighbors, Vietnam retains an authenticity, partly due to its later emergence as a tourist destination in the 1990s, offering paths less traveled and experiences unmarred by overt commercialism.

The affordability of travel here only adds to its allure, with Vietnamese cuisine offering a fantastic journey through flavors and the cities presenting a mesmerizing mix of metropolitan vibrancy and charming chaos. The mountains stand as silent witnesses to time, offering solace and adventure in equal measure. Vietnam has become a haven for those seeking more than just a place to visit but a place to connect and grow, attracting English teachers, digital nomads, and seasoned expatriates who find a sense of community and inspiration among its landscapes.

Experiences in Vietnam oscillate between the serene and the surreal, from secluded villages where time seems to stand still, to lively encounters with the youth, painting a picture of a country at the crossroads of tradition and modernity.

This is a place where every day is an adventure, and every moment holds the potential to challenge and change you. Vietnam represents the heart and soul of Southeast Asia, not just in its scenic beauty but in its capacity to offer a journey that’s as transformative as it is unforgettable. It’s a destination that stays with you, marking a highlight in the chronicles of those who wander, seeking the depth and diversity of the world.

Interested to Vietnam because of its food?
This guide is for you as it includes all the best foods and street foods you can try while backpacking in Vietnam!

How Long Should You Spend Backpacking in Vietnam?

Determining the ideal duration for backpacking in Vietnam hinges on the breadth of experiences you wish to immerse yourself in this vibrant country. Vietnam’s elongated geography, from the misty mountains of Sapa in the north to the fertile delta of the Mekong in the south, offers a diverse palette of landscapes, cultures, and adventures.

Ideally, a month allows for a comprehensive exploration, affording the luxury of wandering through ancient streets, ascending into the ethereal highlands, and relaxing on sun-drenched beaches without haste.

This timeframe accommodates for detours into the lesser-known corners that enrich the backpacking experience, from sleepy coastal towns to hidden mountain retreats. However, for those constrained by time, a two-week itinerary can capture the essence of Vietnam, focusing on the quintessential highlights and offering a taste of the country’s profound beauty and complexity.

Whether you choose to meander slowly, soaking in every detail, or embark on a whirlwind journey through its highlights, Vietnam’s depth and diversity promise an enriching backpacking adventure for every traveler.

Do you want to know the best places to visit in Vietnam?
Check our comprehensive guide and add these destinations to your backpacking trip to Vietnam!
Read the guide

Best Travel Itinerary for Backpacking Vietnam

By following this route and embracing the adventures that come your way, you’ll witness the stunning landscapes and historical sites of Vietnam and connect with its people and culture, making your backpacking journey truly extraordinary.

Starting Point: Hanoi


Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is the perfect starting point for your backpacking adventure. This city is a beautiful blend of French colonial architecture, ancient temples, and vibrant street markets. The Old Quarter is the heart of Hanoi, where narrow streets are lined with shops, street food stalls, and bustling traffic, offering a sensory overload that is quintessentially Hanoi. Spend a day wandering through the Old Quarter, sampling local delicacies like Pho and Bun Cha, and soaking in the chaotic yet charming atmosphere.

No visit to Hanoi is complete without exploring its historical sites, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Temple of Literature, and the serene Hoan Kiem Lake. These sites provide a glimpse into Vietnam’s past and present, showcasing the country’s rich cultural and historical heritage. Evening walks around Hoan Kiem Lake offer a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, revealing a more tranquil side of Hanoi.

Ha Long Bay: A Natural Wonder

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must-visit destination on any Vietnam backpacking route. Famous for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped with rainforests, Ha Long Bay offers a surreal landscape that feels like stepping into another world. Cruise options range from budget-friendly day trips to luxurious overnight stays. Choosing an overnight cruise allows you to experience the bay’s beauty at sunrise and sunset, providing an unforgettable experience.

Activities in Ha Long Bay are as diverse as its landscape. Kayaking through the karst formations, swimming in the bay’s clear waters, and exploring caves like Sung Sot (Surprise Cave) are just a few ways to immerse yourself in this natural wonder. Don’t miss the chance to climb to the top of Ti Top Island for a panoramic view of the bay – the climb is well worth the effort for the breathtaking scenery that awaits.

Personal advice
We arranged our cruise through, opting for Cat Ba Bay instead of the popular Ha Long Bay. Our decision was influenced by the desire for a more serene experience, away from the congestion of numerous ships. The tranquility of Cat Ba Bay offered us the peaceful retreat we were looking for.
Our choice to use was driven by its user-friendly policies, especially the flexibility it offers, including last-minute cancellation options. The platform offers many cruise options, requiring careful selection to find the one that best suited our needs. Despite being time-consuming, this step was essential for choosing the ideal cruise for our trip.
Find the best Ha Long Cruise

The Ethereal Beauty of Sapa


Nestled in the northern highlands of Vietnam, Sapa is a sanctuary for backpackers seeking to immerse themselves in nature’s splendor and ethnic diversity. This picturesque town serves as the gateway to exploring the stunning terraced rice fields that cascade down the mountainsides, a testament to the agricultural ingenuity of the local H’mong, Dao, and Tay communities. Trekking through Sapa’s verdant landscapes offers breathtaking vistas and a chance to experience the rich tapestry of cultural traditions that have shaped the region.

The allure of Sapa lies in its ability to blend physical challenge with cultural exploration; treks can lead you through remote villages where the way of life has remained largely unchanged for centuries, allowing for genuine interactions and insights into the local customs and daily routines.

The cool climate provides a refreshing escape from Vietnam’s tropical heat, making Sapa an ideal destination for those looking to trek, explore, and connect with nature and culture on a deeper level. Whether you’re watching the sunrise over the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, sipping on locally grown coffee in a quaint café, or bargaining for handcrafted textiles in the bustling market, Sapa promises an unforgettable backpacking experience that encapsulates the essence of adventure and discovery.

The Historical Hue

Hue Vietnam

Moving southward, Hue stands as a testament to Vietnam’s imperial past. Once the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue’s Imperial City is a vast complex of palaces, temples, walls, and gates, offering a glimpse into the lives of Vietnam’s ancient royals. Exploring this historical site, you’ll be transported back in time, walking through the same halls as emperors once did.

Hue is also renowned for its unique cuisine, which is considered by many to be the best in Vietnam. Local specialties like Bun Bo Hue (a spicy beef noodle soup) and Banh Beo (steamed rice cakes) reflect the city’s royal heritage, with intricate flavors and presentations. Sampling these dishes at a local eatery is a must-do for any food enthusiast.

Interested a ready-made itinerary?
Check our 10-days in Vietnam itinerary and organize your backpacking trip starting from there.

Hoi An: The City of Lanterns

Hoi An

Next on our route is Hoi An, a city that captivates visitors with its well-preserved Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking through the lantern-lit streets at night, you’ll feel the charm and history of this former trading port. Hoi An is also famous for its tailoring services, where skilled artisans can craft custom clothing within days or even hours, offering a unique souvenir of your travels.

For those interested in Vietnamese cuisine, cooking classes are a popular activity in Hoi An. These classes often include a market tour to learn about local ingredients, followed by a hands-on experience preparing traditional dishes. It’s a fun and interactive way to dive deeper into the culture and flavors of Vietnam.

Da Nang: A Coastal Escape

Da Nang

Da Nang boasts some of Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches, such as My Khe Beach, known for its soft white sand and clear waters. A day spent lounging on the beach or engaging in water sports like surfing and jet-skiing is a day well spent. Not far from the city, the Marble Mountains offer a spiritual and natural retreat. This cluster of five marble and limestone hills, each named after an element, holds caves, temples, and viewpoints with breathtaking views of Da Nang and the surrounding countryside.

As the sun sets, Da Nang comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. The Han River Bridge and the Dragon Bridge light up, creating a colorful spectacle reflected in the river. Rooftop bars, such as Sky36 Bar, offer stunning city views along with cocktails and music. For a more local experience, the An Thuong Night Market provides a bustling atmosphere where visitors can sample street food, shop for souvenirs, and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Nha Trang: The Beachfront Adventure

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is a haven for water enthusiasts, offering pristine beaches and an array of water sports. From snorkeling and scuba diving to explore the vibrant coral reefs to kite surfing and banana boat rides, Nha Trang caters to all levels of adventure. The Vinpearl Land water park, located on a nearby island, provides fun for the whole family with its slides, wave pools, and aquarium.

A popular activity in Nha Trang is island hopping, which takes visitors to various offshore islands, each with its unique charm. Hon Mun Island is a favorite for snorkeling and diving, thanks to its protected marine life. Hon Tam Island offers luxury and relaxation with its resorts and sandy beaches, while Hon Lao Island, also known as Monkey Island, provides a quirky experience with its resident primates and mini-zoo.

Da Lat: The City of Eternal Spring

Da Lat

Da Lat is often referred to as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate climate, which is a pleasant departure from Vietnam’s tropical heat. This highland town is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities like canyoning, mountain biking, and trekking. The Valley of Love, Lang Biang Mountain, and Tuyen Lam Lake are just a few spots where adventure meets stunning landscapes. Da Lat’s unique geography and climate make it an ideal destination for those looking to add a touch of adventure to their Vietnam backpacking experience.

Da Lat is also Vietnam’s coffee capital, with numerous plantations dotting the countryside. A visit to a coffee plantation provides insight into the cultivation and processing of coffee, complete with tastings of locally produced varieties, including the famous weasel coffee. The Da Lat Market offers another glimpse into local life, with vendors selling fresh produce, flowers, and regional specialties. Exploring the market is an opportunity to sample local delicacies, purchase handcrafted souvenirs, and interact with friendly locals.

Ho Chi Minh City: The Bustling Metropolis

Ho Chi Minh city

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is a dynamic metropolis that blends traditional and modern Vietnam. The War Remnants Museum is an essential stop for understanding the profound impact of the Vietnam War on the country and its people. The museum presents a harrowing yet important narrative through exhibits featuring photographs, military equipment, and personal stories. While it may be a sobering experience, visiting the War Remnants Museum is crucial for appreciating the resilience and spirit of the Vietnamese people.

The Cu Chi Tunnels offer a unique glimpse into the ingenuity and determination of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Visitors can explore a section of this extensive network of underground tunnels, learning about the living conditions, booby traps, and strategies employed by guerrilla fighters. The experience is both educational and humbling, highlighting the complexities of war and the survival spirit of the Vietnamese people.

Ho Chi Minh City is famous for its vibrant street food scene, and there’s no better way to dive into it than by visiting one of the city’s bustling night markets. Ben Thanh Market transforms at night into a culinary paradise, where visitors can sample an array of dishes, from Banh Mi and Pho to Seafood and Vietnamese Pancakes. Exploring the night markets offers a taste of the city’s dynamic flavors and an opportunity to mingle with locals in a lively setting.

The Mekong Delta: Life on the Water

The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta, known as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam, is a vast network of rivers, swamps, and islands with a rich ecosystem. A boat tour of the delta is the best way to experience its water-centric lifestyle. Visitors can navigate through narrow canals, visit floating markets, and observe the daily routines of local communities. The Cai Rang Floating Market is a highlight, where boats laden with fruits, vegetables, and goods create a bustling marketplace on the water.

Exploring the floating markets of the Mekong Delta is a must-do activity. These markets are not only trading centers but also vivid representations of local culture and commerce. Beyond Cai Rang, the Phong Dien Floating Market offers a less crowded and more authentic experience. Here, you can witness the exchange of goods from boat to boat and sample fresh produce directly from vendors. A visit to the floating markets is an unforgettable way to see the Mekong Delta’s beauty and the resilience of its communities.

Plan a day trip to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Min
If you are looking for a backpackers friendly tour of the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Min, look no further. This full Mekong Delta on a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect choice; explore the area by bus, motor boat and row boat and enjoy a local lunch with Vietnamese dishes. Prices start from 22$ and the rating are insane with a stunning 5/5 from almost 5000 reviewers.
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Exploring Vietnam Beyond the Beaten Path

Venturing off the beaten path in Vietnam opens a world of unparalleled experiences, far removed from the well-trodden trails frequented by most tourists. While destinations like Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Ho Chi Minh City continue to draw crowds, the true essence of Vietnam’s diverse landscape and rich cultural tapestry lies in its less visited locales. The Ha-Giang Loop, a journey not for the faint-hearted, epitomizes such adventures. Riding through its winding roads on a motorbike not only promises an adrenaline rush but also an intimate connection with the untouched beauty and warm-hearted communities of Vietnam’s northern frontier.

Embracing the freedom of travel by motorbike across Vietnam unveils endless opportunities to discover the country’s hidden gems. This mode of travel allows adventurers to navigate to remote villages and scenic spots, untouched by mass tourism, offering authentic encounters and insights into local life. The charm of Vietnam’s countryside, with its lush landscapes and tranquil villages, becomes accessible, inviting explorers to a world where traditional lifestyles prevail.

Further off the conventional route, the Ta Xua mountain range near Moc Chau village beckons with its ethereal beauty. Here, trails meander through majestic mountains, where you can literally walk above the clouds. Witnessing sunrise over Ta Xua’s sea of clouds is an awe-inspiring experience, akin to finding oneself in a celestial realm.

For those drawn to the sea’s call but yearning for solitude, Vietnam’s coastline harbors secluded beaches beyond the popular sands of Nha Trang. Venturing north to places like Quy Nhon reveals pristine shores where tranquility and natural beauty converge. With a rented motorbike, the quest for secluded beaches becomes an adventure in itself, each turn revealing vistas of Vietnam’s lesser-known yet equally mesmerizing coastal beauty.

In essence, stepping off the conventional tourist circuit in Vietnam is not merely about avoiding crowds; it’s an invitation to immerse yourself in the heart of Vietnam’s landscapes and cultures. It’s about discovering a Vietnam that’s raw, real, and ready to be explored, where each journey is as enriching as the destination itself.

Make sure you have travel insurance!
Before traveling, make sure you have active travel insurance to avoid issues of any kind. Check our travel insurance comparison for an informed choice!

Accommodation Options for Backpackers in Vietnam

Vietnam incense sticks

Vietnam stands out as a haven for backpackers, offering some of Southeast Asia’s most affordable lodging options without compromising on the quality or variety of experiences. The country’s hostel culture is notably vibrant, catering to a wide array of preferences, from lively party hostels buzzing with energy to tranquil co-working spaces designed for digital nomads, and even the more traditional, grungy hostels that hark back to the backpacking days of old. With dorm beds available for as little as $3 USD a night and private rooms starting at $7 USD, the value for money is exceptional.

Beyond just a place to sleep, hostels in Vietnam serve as cultural and social hubs where travelers from around the globe converge, sharing tales of their journeys and offering invaluable advice on hidden gems and must-visit locales. Vietnam’s hotels are a compelling alternative for those seeking a break from the hostel life or desiring privacy or luxury. From cozy apartments to lavish accommodations, options are plentiful, with rooms for under $50 a night, making even the occasional splurge an affordable luxury.

Yet, the heart of Vietnam’s accommodation scene might just lie in its guesthouses and homestays. These options offer a more intimate glimpse into Vietnamese life, often run by local families eager to share their culture, cuisine, and stories. While many of these gems remain off the digital radar, they’re frequently discovered through word-of-mouth recommendations, ensuring a unique and authentic experience.

Whether opting for the communal atmosphere of a hostel, the comfort of an hotel, or the warmth of a guesthouse or homestay, backpackers in Vietnam are assured not just of economical choices but of enriching experiences that resonate long after their stay. Vietnam’s accommodation spectrum ensures that every traveler finds their perfect fit, promising memorable stays beyond mere lodging to become integral parts of the travel adventure.

Personal advice
We organized all our accommodations via, drawn by its user-friendly approach and flexible options, such as the ability to cancel at the last minute. Whether you’re looking for hostels, apartments, hotels, or villas in Vietnam, the platform provides a wide range of choices to fit any budget, allowing you to plan your Vietnam trip affordably or with a bit more luxury.

Backpacking in Vietnam: Costs

Embarking on a backpacking journey through Vietnam shows how adventure doesn’t have to break the bank. With daily expenses hovering around the $20 to $30 mark, Vietnam exemplifies affordable travel without compromising on the richness of experience. For the budget-conscious traveler, this country offers an array of delights that underscore the value of every dollar spent.

Consider the culinary landscape: a mere $3 can secure a meal so hearty and flavorful, it’s bound to leave you both satiated and in awe of the local cuisine’s richness and diversity. The joy of sipping on a local beer for about 80 cents, juxtaposed with the higher cost of imported alternatives, highlights the pleasure of indulging in local offerings. A vibrant evening exploring the local music scene or unwinding in a bar can surprisingly be enjoyed for under $10, blending cultural immersion with budget-friendly fun.

Transportation in Vietnam adds another layer of cost-efficiency, with local transport options being remarkably inexpensive. An air-conditioned bus journey might set you back about $15, offering comfort and convenience for longer distances. It’s a fascinating revelation that stepping away from urban centers not only immerses you in more authentic Vietnamese experiences but also translates to even lower living costs.

Vietnam’s backpacking appeal lies not just in its scenic and cultural tapestry but also in its ability to offer an immensely rewarding journey on a modest budget. This balance of affordability and richness of experience makes Vietnam a quintessential destination for backpackers eager to explore the depth of Southeast Asia without financial strain.

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Understanding Money in Vietnam

Vietnam money

Navigating financial matters in Vietnam is straightforward once you acquaint yourself with the basics of its currency and spending culture. The Vietnamese Dong (VND) is the official currency, and while dealing in millions might seem daunting at first, the conversion rates quickly become second nature. Cash reigns supreme in Vietnam, especially in local markets, street food stalls, and smaller towns, where the tactile feel of Dong is part of the daily transactional rhythm. Credit cards are gaining traction but are predominantly accepted in upscale restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers, primarily in urban areas like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

When it comes to accessing money, ATMs are widely available in cities and tourist spots, making it easy to withdraw cash as needed. However, it’s prudent to be aware of withdrawal limits and transaction fees, which can vary significantly between banks. Carrying a mix of cash for everyday purchases and a credit card for larger expenses or emergencies offers both convenience and security. Additionally, informing your bank of your travel plans can prevent unexpected card freezes due to foreign transactions.

A piece of practical advice for travelers is to carry small denominations to facilitate easier transactions and to ensure a smoother bargaining process in markets. Also, having a secure money belt or pouch for cash and cards can provide peace of mind as you immerse yourself in Vietnam’s streets and serene landscapes. By mastering the monetary basics, you’re set to explore Vietnam’s rich tapestry of experiences without financial worries clouding your adventure.

Best Season for Backpacking in Vietnam

Crafting the perfect timing for your backpacking adventure in Vietnam is crucial to experiencing the country’s diverse landscapes in their prime. Vietnam’s elongated shape means its climate varies significantly from north to south, making a one-size-fits-all approach to planning your visit challenging, yet rewarding with the right insight. In North Vietnam, the window from October to May is marked by predominantly dry weather, offering an ideal backdrop for exploring the region’s terraced rice fields and ethereal mountain vistas. Do brace for cooler temperatures in the highlands, especially during the winter months, while noting that from March, the climate ushers in a touch more humidity and rainfall, adding a lush vibrancy to the scenery.

Central Vietnam shines brightest from February to July, presenting a sweet spot to revel in its cultural landmarks and sandy beaches without the interruption of heavy rains. It’s worth noting that the heat intensifies from June to August, with temperatures soaring into the upper 30s (Celsius), making early morning or late evening explorations more comfortable.

For those venturing to Southern Vietnam, the December to April span marks the dry season, characterized by balmy temperatures that seldom dip below 20 degrees Celsius and can climb up to 40 degrees in the peak of March and April. This period is perfect for delving into the vibrant life of the Mekong Delta or basking on the sun-drenched shores of Phu Quoc Island.

Understanding these regional climatic nuances not only ensures you pack appropriately but also maximizes your enjoyment of Vietnam’s natural beauty and cultural richness. Each season brings its own charm and challenges, paving the way for a profoundly personal and immersive backpacking experience across this captivating country.

Check our selection with the best backpacks to use when traveling!

The Importance of Travel Insurance for Vietnam

Embarking on a backpacking adventure to Vietnam, with its lush landscapes and vibrant cities, also means preparing for the unexpected. Travel insurance is an essential safeguard, providing peace of mind amidst the excitement of exploration. The necessity of having robust travel insurance cannot be overstated; it’s your financial and medical safety net against unforeseen events such as illness, injury, theft, or travel disruptions. In Vietnam, where adventurous activities can lead to unexpected mishaps and healthcare standards vary greatly outside major urban centers, being insured is not just recommended—it’s imperative.

For instance, during my travels in Vietnam, I had a severe food poisoning. While the situation was manageable and I didn’t need to seek assistance from my insurance, the knowledge that I had reliable travel insurance provided a significant sense of security. It was comforting to know that, should my condition have worsened, I had the support of my travel insurance to access the necessary medical help.

Among the myriad options, Heymondo, SafetyWing, and World Nomads stand out for their comprehensive coverage tailored to the needs of global backpackers. Heymondo is celebrated for its user-friendly interface and attentive customer service, ensuring you can easily navigate any crisis. SafetyWing offers the flexibility of subscription-based coverage, appealing to those with open-ended itineraries craving continuous protection without the constraint of fixed-term policies. World Nomads is renowned among the travel community for its extensive coverage, including a wide array of adventure activities that are often part and parcel of the Vietnam backpacking experience.

Choosing the right travel insurance provider should be as much a part of your trip planning as selecting your route or packing your backpack. Whether you’re motorbiking across the Ha Giang loop, kayaking in Ha Long Bay, or simply enjoying the street food in Hanoi, having the right insurance ensures that your adventure in Vietnam is safeguarded against the unpredictable, letting you focus on the beauty and thrill of your journey.

Entry Requirements for Backpacking in Vietnam

passport, travel, customs

Navigating the entry requirements for Vietnam is a crucial step in planning your journey, as regulations can vary based on your nationality. As of March 15, 2022, Vietnam has introduced a visa waiver policy that benefits travelers from specific countries, allowing for a visa-free stay of up to 45 days from the date of entry. This generous policy encompasses nationals from the following countries: the Republic of Belarus, Federal Republic of Germany, Italian Republic, French Republic, Kingdom of Denmark, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Kingdom of Norway, Japan, Finland, Sweden, and the Kingdom of Spain. This visa exemption is in effect until March 14, 2025, providing a window of opportunity for eligible travelers to explore Vietnam’s rich cultural tapestry and breathtaking landscapes without needing a visa.

However, travelers from countries not listed in this visa waiver policy will need to secure a visa prior to arrival. Vietnam offers various visa options, including e-visas for short stays and traditional visas obtainable through Vietnamese embassies or consulates. It’s important to check the most current visa requirements and application procedures well before your trip to ensure a smooth entry into Vietnam, allowing you to focus on the adventures that await in this vibrant and diverse country.

Short on time but still interested in backpacking in Vietnam?

How to Get Around Vietnam

bus vietnam

Venturing through Vietnam presents a myriad of transportation avenues, each offering its own unique flavor and perspective on the country’s stunning landscapes and vibrant cities. Buses serve as the lifeline across Vietnam for the quintessential backpacker, marrying affordability with convenience. The widespread network of buses, including the popular hop-on/hop-off tickets, caters perfectly to those navigating on a shoestring budget, with the added comfort of air conditioning making it an appealing choice for traversing the country’s extensive locales.

For those drawn to the rhythm of the rails, Vietnam’s train network presents an enchanting alternative. Operated by Vietnam Railways, the single-track line stretches from the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the serene northern border with China. Journeying by train offers a window to Vietnam’s soul, with scenic vistas of the countryside and coastline unfolding before your eyes. Despite its leisurely pace, reminiscent of the colonial era’s legacy, train travel in Vietnam is imbued with a charm that’s undeniably captivating. Booking a hard sleeper class ticket in advance allows for a comfortable and budget-friendly experience, especially on the iconic Reunification Express.

For adventurers on a tighter schedule, domestic flights within Vietnam provide a swift and efficient means of covering vast distances. With carriers like Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar offering economical flights connecting major cities, the journey from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi is reduced to a mere two hours, a stark contrast to the longer land routes.

The ultimate freedom in exploring Vietnam, however, lies in motorbiking. Embracing the open road on a motorbike not only offers an economical edge over multiple tickets for public transport but also unlocks the heart of Vietnam’s beauty. It’s an invitation to veer off the beaten path, discover hidden gems, and immerse yourself in the raw, untamed spirit of adventure that Vietnam beckons with. Whether it’s cruising through the highlands, navigating rural landscapes, or simply feeling the wind on your face, motorbiking in Vietnam transforms travel into an exhilarating quest for discovery.

Embracing Responsible Backpacking In Vietnam

Responsible backpacking in Vietnam, or anywhere in the world, is more than just an approach to travel; it’s a commitment to preserving the integrity and beauty of the places we visit. This ethos is anchored in two fundamental principles: respecting local culture and mindful environmental considerations.

Venturing into new territories brings the privilege of experiencing diverse cultures firsthand. To honor this, it’s crucial to approach each interaction with sensitivity and openness. Begin by learning a few basic phrases in Vietnamese; this gesture of effort is often met with warmth and appreciation. Dress modestly, especially when visiting temples and rural communities, to align with local norms. Embrace the opportunity to learn from locals, whether it’s trying your hand at traditional crafts or participating in local festivals. Remember, you’re a guest in their homeland – listening and learning not only enriches your travel experience but also fosters mutual respect and understanding.

As backpackers traverse Vietnam’s breathtaking landscapes, from its lush national parks to its vibrant cities, the responsibility to minimize environmental impact is paramount. Simple practices can make a significant difference: carry a reusable water bottle to reduce plastic waste, support eco-friendly tours that prioritize conservation, and adhere to the adage of leaving no trace in natural settings. Opt for public transport, cycling, or walking where possible to lessen your carbon footprint. Additionally, supporting local economies by purchasing from small vendors and staying in community-run lodgings can contribute to sustainable tourism practices that benefit both the environment and local communities.

By weaving these principles of cultural respect and environmental mindfulness into the fabric of our travels, backpackers can ensure that the footprints left behind are positive ones. Responsible backpacking not only enhances the personal journey but also ensures that the wonders of Vietnam, and indeed the world, remain vibrant for generations to come.

FAQs About Backpacking Vietnam

Is it safe to travel in Vietnam?

Vietnam is generally considered safe for travelers, including solo backpackers and female travelers. Violent crimes against tourists are rare, and the country welcomes visitors with a warm, friendly attitude. However, like any travel destination, it’s wise to exercise common sense: safeguard your belongings, be cautious of traffic when navigating the streets, especially on motorbikes, and stay informed about local laws and customs. Common issues like petty theft and scams can be avoided by staying vigilant and preparing accordingly. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with local emergency numbers and travel advisories from your government can enhance your safety.

Do I need a visa to backpack in Vietnam?

Yes, most travelers will need a visa to enter Vietnam. There are exemptions for citizens of certain countries under the visa waiver program, allowing for stays of up to 45 days. It’s essential to check the latest visa requirements based on nationality and apply in advance or obtain an e-visa if applicable.

What is the best time of year to backpack in Vietnam?

The optimal time to visit Vietnam varies by region due to its diverse climate. For North Vietnam, October to May offers dry weather with cooler mountain temperatures. Central Vietnam is best from February to July to avoid heavy rains, while Southern Vietnam’s dry season from December to April provides warm, sunny weather ideal for exploring.

Can I use credit cards, or should I carry cash?

While credit cards are increasingly accepted in major cities and tourist destinations, cash remains king in many parts of Vietnam, especially in smaller towns and for everyday transactions. ATMs are widely available, but carrying small denominations of the local currency, the Vietnamese Dong, is recommended for convenience.

What are some tips for responsible backpacking in Vietnam?

Responsible backpacking involves respecting local cultures—such as dressing modestly in temples and learning a few phrases in Vietnamese—and minimizing your environmental impact by using reusable items and supporting eco-friendly businesses. Engaging with local communities and participating in sustainable tourism practices also contribute to a more responsible and rewarding travel experience.

How much should I budget per day for backpacking in Vietnam?

Vietnam is known for its affordability, with daily budgets for backpackers ranging from $20 to $30 covering accommodation, meals, and basic transportation. However, this can vary based on your travel style, with options available for both budget-conscious travelers and those wishing to indulge in more luxury or adventure activities.

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