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Planning Your First Trip to Vietnam

Planning Your First Trip to Vietnam

By RitaUpdated Sep. 1, 2022

Vietnam relaxed its entry requirements from March 16, 2022. All travelers are now exempt from quarantine in Vietnam. As one of the top 20 safest countries in the world, the friendly Vietnamese welcome you.

The relaxing and charming Vietnam satisfies the appetites of many travelers: foodies, nature lovers, history buffs, and adventurers.

Many travelers visit Vietnam with nearby countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos) when celebrating big moments like a honeymoon, anniversary, family reunion, birthday, or a dream trip longed for years.

The following travel guide will help you to plan your perfect trip to Vietnam, especially if this is your first trip to Vietnam!

How to Organize Your Vietnam Itinerary?

Most of our clients spend 7–15 days in Vietnam, covering Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Mekong Delta. But their schedules have been slightly different based on their available holiday time.

With 7–10 days, you are suggested to fully immerse yourself in Vietnam and explore the Best of Vietnam with Mekong Delta. Or discover 2–3 cities in Vietnam, and then explore another Southeast Asian country. Thailand-Vietnam, Vietnam-Cambodia, and Vietnam-Laos are popular choices.

90% of our clients prefer 2 to 3 weeks for their first Southeast Asia trip. The best-selling itineraries usually include Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket / Koh Samui), Vietnam (Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh, the Mekong Delta), and Cambodia (Angkor Wat). Get some inspiration from our 19-Day Highlights of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

For a trip of 20–30 days, you can enjoy an in-depth tour of the whole peninsula area (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos). Check our 28-Day Grand Indochina Tour for more info.

The above sample itineraries are just for your information. You are welcomed to contact your own experienced 1:1 tour consultant for a tailor-made itinerary.

The Best Southeast Asia Tour for First-timers

How Much Does a Vietnam Trip Cost?

The biggest part of your tour costs may be the international flights. The airfare ranges a lot for different routes. So, make a comparison before booking. Check with your consultant: he/she may get a better rate.

Vietnam’s domestic flights are very affordable. For instance, a single airfare costs around just US$80 for economy class in low season. Airfares from Vietnam to other Southeast Asian countries are similar.

When arriving in Vietnam, you can enjoy a private day trip at US$100–150 per person. The bigger your group is, the lower the price you get. Your professional guide and conscientious drive will brighten your trip.

Hotel room rates vary from guesthouses’ to deluxe hotels’. As Vietnam’s system is different from international hotel star ratings, it would be better to classify Vietnamese hotels as ‘Comfortable’/‘Boutique' (US$50–100 per room), ‘Luxury’ (US$150–200 per room), or ‘Guesthouse (from US$10 per room)’. More on Top Hotels in Vietnam>>>

As for food, you could choose to taste the street food at just US$1–2 per meal or have fancy cuisine at only US$20–50 per meal, or anything in between.

Yummy Pho in Vietnam Yummy Pho in Vietnam

What Are the Main Destinations in Vietnam?   

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are suggested as gateways to connect with your international flights. The following cities are the top destinations: 2 days are recommended for each.

  • Hanoi is rich in history and street foods. 
  • Halong Bay is always on travelers’ bucket list for its island scenery.
  • Hoi An, a millennia-old town, attracts thousands of visitors for its exquisite ao dai / suit tailoring and historic relics.
  • Ho Chi Minh City represents modern Vietnam. 
  • The Mekong Delta, 2–3 hours’ driving from Ho Chi Minh, shows a harmony of life and nature.
Map of Vietnam Tour Map of Vietnam Tour  

1. Hanoi

As the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is a must when planning a trip to Vietnam.

Get up early, jog around Hoan Kiem Lake and say hi to locals to see the most peaceful and real Hanoi life. After tasting a bowl of pho, cycle around the old quarter, browse the local market, and sip a cup of coffee at a sidewalk café.

Cyclo in the Old Quarter Cyclo in the Old Quarter

2. Halong Bay

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Halong Bay is one of Vietnam's most beautiful natural scenery spots in Vietnam. Its unique and stunning seascape is attractive to newly-weds for honeymoon tours.

Hop on a luxury cruise, visit the special floating villages and do some kayaking. In the late afternoon, lie idly on a deck chair with your favorite drink at your side, enjoy the cool sea breeze, and watch the sun slowly going down...

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3. Hoi An

Hoi An, also in Central Vietnam, is a wonderful spot for relaxing on the beach, taking cooking classes, visiting the historic buildings, as well as exploring the countryside.

As a town of lanterns, the ancient city is charming at night, illuminated by beautiful lanterns. You can learn about Vietnamese lanterns and how to make them. If travelling on a full moon day, you can join in local traditions and float paper lanterns.

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4. Ho Chi Minh City

As the biggest city in the south of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a wonderful place for urban travelers as well as foodies.

You could learn about the Vietnam War from world-class museums and the Cu Chi Tunnels, have a cup of coffee atop skyline towers, or try the street foods.

When night falls, stroll into the bustling nightlife. Sit on a stool, order some local beers, and taste the delicious barbecue.

Ho Chi Minh City Ho Chi Minh City

5. The Mekong Delta

As the rice bowl of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is vibrant with life: see busy floating markets, lush-green rice fields, and fruitful gardens. No matter whether you take a boat trip or cycle around the villages, you can get an insight into authentic local life.

Just 2-3 hours' driving from Ho Chi Minh City,  you are flexible to take a day trip to Mekong Delta or spend overnight there to catch the early-morning floating markets (traditional and authentic ones).

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When Is the Best Time to Visit Vietnam? 

  • For mild and dry weather: December to March
  • For less crowds and good deals: March to October

As a long and narrow country, stretching north to south, with a long coast, the weather is pleasantly milder all year round, with fewer extremes of temperature than inland countries.

Mild, Dry Season and Festival Season: December–March

Celebrating Tet with locals Celebrating Tet with locals

This season is blessed with Vietnam’s most comfortable weather. You can also get the chance to immerse yourself in the atmospheric festivals and holidays, such as Christmas, New Year, and Tet (Vietnamese New Year, during January or February).

In this peak season, hotels are easily booked up, and tour costs go up accordingly. Due to the high demand, you’re suggested to prepare your tour at least 3 months in advance.

If traveling during the Tet festival, you’ll have limited access to sightseeing, shopping, and restaurants (due to some places closing for the holiday). The big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are still fine to visit, but the Mekong Delta will be closed for at least the first 4 days of Tet. Contact our consultant for more info.

Warm, Dry Season and Blooming Season: March–April

This period is the best time to visit for those wishing to find a compromise between the price and the weather.

Blooming flowers weave a stunning picture: red kapok, yellow canola flowers, white plum flowers, and pink peach flowers. You can meet them in the countryside of northern Vietnam or flower villages in Hoi An.

Hot, Rainy Season and Low Season: May–November

Ninh Binh in June Ninh Binh in June

Visiting Vietnam in the rainy season, you can enjoy lower prices (US$200–400 per person less for a 10-day tour) and fewer crowds.

Thanks to its long and S-shaped coastal geography, the rainy days are not often persistent. The rainfall mainly comes in the afternoon or evening, which allows you to enjoy most of the day. Outdoor activities in the morning and taking rain gear are recommended.

Typhoons are likely to happen in July and August in Northern Vietnam, but in October in central Vietnam. Thus, a flexible itinerary and buying travel insurance are helpful to make possible adjustments.

Note: Rainy seasons vary in Vietnam — north and south: May–October; central: September–December. >>>More on Vietnam weather and seasonal travel tips

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What Are Vietnam’s Visa Requirements?

About 23 countries enjoy visa exemption in Vietnam, mainly European countries, such as the UK, Germany, and France. Check if your country is on the list: see Vietnam Visas and Exemptions. 

If you're from America, Canada, Australia, or about 80 other countries not on the list for visa-free entry, the most convenient way to enter is to apply for an e-visa online. It usually costs around US$25 for a 30-day single entry. Double-entry or multiple-entry visas cost more. Contact us for more info.

If your country is not in the list for visa exemptions or e-visas for Vietnam, you will need to apply for a Visa Approval Letter in order to obtain a visa on arrival or a visa via a Vietnamese Embassy.

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How to Get To Vietnam?

flight

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City receive most of Vietnam’s international flights. For American and European travelers, you’re recommended to make stopovers in popular travel hubs, such as Bangkok, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. 

International trains are available from its neighboring countries of China, Laos, and Cambodia. You’re suggested to apply for your visa before you depart your home country, as Visa on Arrival is not applied to arrival in Vietnam by land.

For those who like a relaxing tour, traveling by cruise is a great idea. International cruises pass through the most beautiful places of Vietnam such as Halong Bay, the Mekong Delta, and more.

Sync with Indochina's Heartbeat

How to Get Around Vietnam? 

When travelling around Vietnam, flights are the most comfortable and time-saving means. For example, from Ho Chi Min City to Hanoi in low season, a 2-hour flight (about US$80 for economy class) is even cheaper than a 32-hour overnight train (US$90 for a soft sleeper).

The main domestic carriers are Vietnam Airlines, the best airline in Vietnam, and VietJet Air — a private low-cost airline. 

Almost all of Vietnam's main cities can be reached by air, such as Hai Phong, Hue, Da Nang (the closest airport to Hoi An), Nah Trang, Da Lat, Can Tho, and Phu Quoc. More on Internal Flights in Vietnam.

If you are travelling by road, just prepare for motion sickness. Vietnam's roads are notoriously narrow and under-developed, often winding through hilly areas.

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What Is Vietnam’s Currency and Money?

The official currency of Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (abbreviated as VND). The exchange rate from USD to VND currently hovers around 1:22,500 and a bottle of water costs around 5,000 VND.

US dollars and credit cards (like Visa and MasterCard) are usable in major cities, especially in local skyline shopping malls, fancy restaurants, and 4–5-star hotels.

However, carrying VND is much wiser for small charges/purchases from street vendors, taxi drivers, and local shop owners. Because they will use their own exchange rate (usually costlier than banks’).

You can withdraw money from ATMs, though you might be charged two commissions (one by the local bank and the other by your issuing bank). So, it is better to bring some US dollars in cash and then exchange some at the airport, banks, or hotels.

You'll find more information about money in Vietnam here.

A Journey to Mysterious Cambodia and Idyllic Vietnam

Why Travel with Asia Highlights During the Pandemic

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Your 1:1 travel consultant in Asia will take all the uncertainty out of your planning, helping you navigate any travel restrictions. 
  • No-risk booking: 100% refund policy! (up to 14 days before departure)
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