Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia known for its diverse culture, delicious cuisine, beautiful beaches, and stunning natural landscapes. Planning a trip to Vietnam can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time. In this article, we will guide you on how to plan your first trip to Vietnam from start to finish.
Who Should Visit Vietnam?
Vietnam is a perfect destination for travelers who love adventure, history, and culture. It is a country that offers something for everyone. Whether you are a solo traveler, backpacker, or a luxury traveler, Vietnam has plenty of options to suit your preferences. Families with children will also enjoy visiting Vietnam, as there are many kid-friendly activities available.
What You Need to Know Before Visiting Vietnam
Before you start planning your trip to Vietnam, there are a few things you need to know:
Vietnam has a tropical climate, which means it can get very hot and humid. The best time to visit Vietnam is between November and April when the weather is dry and pleasant. Avoid visiting during the rainy season (May to October), as flooding and typhoons can occur.
Most visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country. You can apply for an e-visa online before your trip or get a visa on arrival at the airport. Make sure to check the visa requirements based on your nationality before you go.
The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US dollars are also widely accepted in tourist areas. It is recommended to exchange your money in Vietnam to get a better rate.
The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
When to Visit Vietnam
As mentioned earlier, the best time to visit Vietnam is between November and April. During this time, the weather is dry and pleasant, and you can enjoy outdoor activities without worrying about the rainy season.
How to Get to Vietnam
There are several ways to get to Vietnam, depending on your location and budget:
The most convenient way to get to Vietnam is by plane. There are three main international airports in Vietnam: Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang International Airport in Da Nang.
If you are traveling from a nearby country, you can also enter Vietnam by land. The most popular border crossings are from Cambodia and Laos.
Vietnam has several seaports that receive cruise ships from other countries. However, this option is more expensive and time-consuming than flying.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Vietnam
Before you decide to visit Vietnam, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons:
- Affordable prices
- Diverse culture and history
- Delicious cuisine
- Beautiful natural landscapes
- Friendly locals
- Traffic and pollution in big cities
- Language barrier outside tourist areas
- Risk of petty theft and scam
Alternatives to Popular Tourist Destinations in Vietnam
Vietnam is a large country with many beautiful destinations. If you want to avoid the crowds, here are some alternatives to popular tourist destinations:
Instead of Halong Bay, visit Bai Tu Long Bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is a less crowded alternative to Halong Bay. It offers the same stunning limestone cliffs and emerald waters but without the crowds.
Instead of Hoi An, visit Hue
Hue is a charming city that was once the capital of Vietnam. It has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food, just like Hoi An, but with fewer tourists.
Instead of Nha Trang, visit Phu Quoc Island
Phu Quoc is a paradise island with beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and pristine nature. It is less touristy than Nha Trang and perfect for relaxing.
Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Vietnam Trip
Now that you know the basics let’s dive into the step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Decide where to go
Vietnam has many beautiful destinations, so it can be challenging to decide where to go. Research each location and choose based on your interests and preferences.
Step 2: Plan your itinerary
Once you have decided where to go, plan your itinerary accordingly. Make sure to include enough time in each destination to explore and enjoy.
Step 3: Book your flights
If you plan to fly to Vietnam, book your flights in advance to get the best deals. Consider flying during the low season to save money.
Step 4: Book your accommodation
Book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak season when hotels tend to fill up quickly. Consider staying in homestays or guesthouses to experience local hospitality.
Step 5: Apply for a visa
If you need a visa to enter Vietnam, make sure to apply for it in advance. You can apply for an e-visa online or get a visa on arrival at the airport.
Step 6: Get travel insurance
Travel insurance is essential when traveling to Vietnam. Make sure to get comprehensive coverage that includes medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and theft.
Step 7: Pack accordingly
Vietnam has a tropical climate, so pack light and breathable clothes. Bring comfortable shoes for walking and hiking, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a hat.
Step 8: Prepare for cultural differences
Vietnam has a unique culture, so prepare for cultural differences. Learn some basic Vietnamese phrases, respect local customs and traditions, and dress appropriately when visiting temples and religious sites.
How to Compare Tours and Activities in Vietnam
When planning your trip to Vietnam, you will find many tours and activities available. Here’s how to compare them:
Read reviews from other travelers who have taken the tour or activity. This will give you an idea of the experience and what to expect.
Compare prices from different tour operators to get the best deal. Keep in mind that the cheapest option may not always be the best.
Check what’s included in the tour or activity. Some tours may include transportation, meals, and entrance fees, while others may not.
Tour guide quality
Make sure to check the quality of the tour guide. A knowledgeable and friendly tour guide can make your experience much more enjoyable.
Tips for Traveling to Vietnam
Here are some tips to make your trip to Vietnam more enjoyable:
Try local food
Vietnamese cuisine is delicious, so make sure to try local dishes like pho, banh mi, and fresh spring rolls.
Bargain at markets
Bargaining is part of the culture in Vietnam, especially at markets. Don’t be afraid to haggle for a better price.
Watch out for scams
There are many scams in Vietnam, especially involving taxis and tour operators. Make sure to use reputable companies and ask for recommendations from your hotel or hostel.
Vietnam can get very hot and humid, so make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
The Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
Here are some of the best places to visit in Vietnam:
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and known for its rich history, delicious cuisine, and beautiful architecture.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It is a bustling metropolis with a vibrant nightlife and rich history.
Hoi An is a charming town known for its well-preserved old town, colorful lanterns, and delicious food.
Sapa is a mountainous region in Northern Vietnam known for its stunning rice terraces, diverse ethnic cultures, and hiking trails.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning limestone cliffs and emerald waters.
Planning your first trip to Vietnam may seem overwhelming, but with proper planning and research, it can be an unforgettable experience. Follow the steps outlined in this article, and you’ll be well on your way to exploring all that Vietnam has to offer.
1. Is Vietnam a safe country for tourists?
Vietnam is generally a safe country for tourists, but petty theft and scams do occur. Make sure to take precautions like securing your belongings and only using reputable tour operators.
2. What’s the best way to get around Vietnam?
The best way to get around Vietnam depends on your preferences and budget. You can travel by plane, train, bus, or motorbike.
3. Do I need vaccinations before traveling to Vietnam?
It is recommended to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and tetanus before traveling to Vietnam. Consult with your doctor for personalized recommendations.
4. Can I use my credit card in Vietnam?
Credit cards are accepted in most tourist areas, but it’s always a good idea to carry cash since some places only accept cash payments.
5. What’s the best time to visit Vietnam?
The best time to visit Vietnam is between November and April when the weather is dry and pleasant. Avoid visiting during the rainy season (May to October), as flooding and typhoons can occur.