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What’s a Trip to Vietnam Really Like?

What’s a Trip to Vietnam Really Like?

A long, thin slither of land hemmed in by mountains and the South China Sea, Vietnam has morphed into one of Asia’s top tourist destinations over the last couple of decades. But what’s a trip to Vietnam really like? You’re about to find out!

There’s a Clear Tourist Trail

Due to Vietnam’s geography there’s a very clear plan of attack when planning a trip there. Fly into Ho Chi Minh City and head north from there or into Hanoi and travel south. Having the two biggest cities at opposite ends of the country makes travelling between the two easy. And there’s heaps to see along the way, from stunning coastlines, historic cities, limestone mountains.

Or fly into Da Nang / Hoi An and stay in Central Vietnam without ever visiting the big metropolises.

READ MORE: Two Week Vietnam Itinerary: Skip the South!

It’s the Perfect Country for an Overland Backpacking Trip

The first time I visited Vietnam I spent a month travelling south to north. I was on a budget and mostly took the cheap night buses between cities, ate cheap (but delicious) food and stayed at budget guesthouses (great value for money). Tourist buses, trains and cheap local flights are also good options for getting around, and you can rent a driver to take you between cities for a reasonable price.

It’s easy to fly into Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi and travel from there without any bookings. Show up in a place, find a room and decide in the moment how long you want to spend there. This kind of travel is quite different to a typical holiday — you can’t beat the freedom of a long, unplanned trip!

READ MORE: Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

It’s Great for Short Trips Too

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are great short city break options if you live in Asia. Hanoi is close to Ha Long Bay — a night or two in the big city then a cruise of Ha Long Bay would be one of the better short trips you could do in the region. Ho Chi Minh City is close to the Mekong Delta and various other day trip destinations — lots to explore on a short trip!

READ MORE: 10 of the Best Things to Do in Hanoi

Hoi An is even better for a short trip. It’s my favourite city in Asia and there’s so much to do nearby (if you can drag yourself away from the atmospheric streets of the historic district).

READ MORE: Best Things to Do in Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town, Vietnam -- the nicest town in Southeast Asia?

 

Food

The food in Vietnam varies a lot, with each region having specialty dishes you’d struggle to find elsewhere in the country. Lots of noodle soups (Pho, but many others too including my favourite — Cau Lau), coffee, baguettes (Banh mi — one of the world’s best sandwiches) and lots of others. If you’re keen to try lots of new dishes you’re in for a treat in Vietnam!

Eating out in Vietnam is cheap, mostly healthy (lots of fresh green vegetables etc) and there’s often an eclectic mix of locals and tourists enjoying the food.

Nature / History

Vietnam is full of interesting history, from the crumbling Cham temples in central Vietnam to the various Vietnam War sites. Cities like Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An are perfect for strolling between historic sights — strolling might not be the right word as walking in Vietnamese cities is rarely relaxing.

READ MORE: Best Things to Do in Hue

 

The nature in Vietnam is varied for a relatively small country. In the south you’ve got the Mekong Delta (a maze of waterways), Central Vietnam has some incredible limestone mountain scenery (Phong Nga and Ninh Binh especially) and the north has mountains as well as Ha Long Bay, Vietnam’s most iconic nature spot.

A tour to Trang An Grottos and Mua Cave, near Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Other Travellers

Vietnam is an easy place to meet other travellers, and due to the tourist trail funnelling people in two main directions, you’ve got a good chance of bumping into people you met along the way. There are lots of cheap tours from the main tourist spots and they are good ways to meet other travellers. Tours such as Mui Ne Sand Dunes, Cu Chi Tunnels, My Son and Ha Long Bay are good examples of tours like this. There are also plenty of hostels for the younger travellers.

The Mui Ne sand dunes tour, Vietnam

Value For Money

Vietnam is probably the best value country I’ve travelled to. Food, accommodation and transport is cheap and good quality (ok, maybe not always the transport!) and tours to places like Ha Long Bay won’t break the bank.

You could spend very little by eating local food, staying in budget accommodation and not doing many tours and it’d still be a fun trip! Gia and I spent over a month in Hoi An on very little money and had a great time. Of course, if you have a higher budget you can definitely spend it in Vietnam — nice hotels and private transfers will probably be what most of that budget goes to.

Have I Convinced You to Visit Vietnam?

I hope so! Vietnam is perfect if you’re looking for an adventure instead of an easy holiday. And it’s also perfect for an easy holiday! It’s a special country and the kind of place that implores you to return — which is exactly what I’ve done over the years.

Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.