The Best Places to Visit in Vietnam
This comprehensive Vietnam guide highlights everything you need to know about visiting Vietnam for the first time. Find out where to go in Vietnam and discover the best places to visit in Vietnam. You’ll also get tons of tips and tricks to help you plan the perfect Vietnam itinerary.
There’s no doubt, Vietnam offers visitors a very unique experience. From bustling cities and gorgeous beaches to lush forests and breathtaking rice paddies – Vietnam has it all! The country which borders China, Laos, and Cambodia, is the perfect SEA destination for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in nature, history, culture, and some of the best culinary feasts across the globe.
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Things to Know Before Visiting Vietnam
Before we dive into the best places to visit in Vietnam, I’ve rounded up all my top tips to help you plan the perfect Vietnam trip. Below you’ll find tons of advice and everything you need to know before visiting Vietnam.
When to visit Vietnam
The weather in Vietnam can be unpredictable. Therefore before booking flights and accommodation, it’s always a good idea to know when is the best time to visit Vietnam.
Peak Season (Jul – Aug)
Vietnam’s peak season runs from July to August. Temperatures are hot and humid throughout most parts of the country (except the far north) and expect some showers. Prices also tend to be steeper during these months, so it’s best to book accommodation well in advance.
If you are traveling on a flexible schedule, you might want to consider only booking your arrival hotel. And, then take it from there. On our two-week Vietnam trip, we had an idea of where we wanted to go, but no fixed plans. We only booked our hotel for the first leg of our journey. Once in Vietnam, we simply booked hotels further afield a day in advance. Even though we visited in August, we were still able to find affordable mid-range accommodation. But just a tip – traveling like this can be quite stressful! So, it’s best to plan accordingly.
Shoulder Season (Dec – Mar)
If you plan to visit Vietnam during the shoulder season, you can expect sunny weather in the south with cooler-to-cold weather in the north. If traveling during Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year (late Jan – early Feb), booking accommodation and transport well in advance is highly encouraged.
Low Season (Apr – Jun, Sep – Nov)
There are a bunch of festivals during these months, so those on the hunt for unique cultural experiences won’t be disappointed. In general, the weather is lovely too, but note that typhoons aren’t uncommon on Vietnam’s northern and central coastline.
Most visitors need a visa to enter Vietnam, but luckily the process doesn’t take more than a few days. Some European passport holders, such as citizens from the UK, France, and Germany, can enter Vietnam 15 days visa-free. Citizens from the US and most other nations do however need to apply for a visa. Some nationalities can also apply for a visa online – you can read more about it here. If you are South African, like me, you will need to apply for a visa (in person) at your nearest Vietnam embassy.
Arriving in Vietnam
Vietnam is served by three main international airports, namely, Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang International Airport.
Depending on your Vietnam itinerary and time, you might want to consider arriving and departing at different airports. That way, you’ll save traveling time and unnecessary traveling costs.
Arriving in Hanoi
Noi Bai International Airport is only about 45km from Hanoi’s city center. However, it’s best to leave at least 1 hour of travel time to reach the Old Quarter (and vice versa). Taxis are plentiful, and you can easily book a transfer through your hotel for roughly USD$30 one-way. Alternatively, grab a private transfer from Noi Bai Airport to Hanoi City/Halong Bay first to save time and money. For those traveling on a shoestring, there are many dirt cheap local buses to consider. These can easily transport you from the airport to Hanoi Old Quarter or Hanoi Train station.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
Tan Son Nhat International Airport is about 8km away from Saigon’s city center. And it takes less than 30 minutes to get there from the airport. Direct transfers through hotels will set you back at least USD$30. Local buses also run every half hour between 6 am-6 pm to the Ben Thanh Market downtown. But if you have a lot of luggage perhaps consider taking a taxi or a private transfer from the airport to HCMC (which is slightly cheaper than getting a taxi directly from the airport).
Arriving in Da Nang
If you are flying in from Siem Reap, Cambodia, the closest international airport is Da Nang International Airport. The airport is only a few km away from the city center, and reasonably close to most of the beach resorts too. Grab a taxi at the airport or book a private transfer for Da Nang here for a hassle-free journey.
How to Get Around Vietnam
Vietnam caters to all kinds of travelers, whether you are on a tight budget or like to travel in comfort.
Long Distance Travel in Vietnam
Open Tour buses and trains are the easiest ways to travel long distances in Vietnam. Both transport methods have overnight options, which allow you to save a few bucks on hotel accommodation. Tickets can also easily be bought at most travel agencies in Hanoi or HCMC.
12 Go Asia is a good go-to site if you want to check train ticket prices or book tickets online. The Sinh Tourist is another great site for booking Open Tour buses, and comes highly recommended by Lonely Planet.
But just a side-note, taking either of these options is not for everyone! The overnight trains and sleeper buses were by far some of the worst transport experiences I’ve ever had! Therefore, if you aren’t used to traveling long distances on stuffy trains or buses, instead opt flying. Domestic flights are cheap and frequent.
Short Distance Travel in Vietnam
Generally, taxis are very easy to flag down on the street. Grab Taxi is also a great alternative if you don’t like waiting around. Although most major cities in Vietnam are very walkable, the traffic here is absolute chaos! Motorcycles often drive on sidewalks, and speeding is not uncommon. You might even find that something as simple as crossing the street to be painstakingly annoying. So, as a rule of thumb, follow the locals when attempting to cross busy streets!
In addition to taxis, bicycle rickshaws or motorbike taxis are excellent modes of transport for more daring travelers. But, remember to fix the price with the driver before going anywhere. You might also need to haggle a bit!
Staying Connected in Vietnam
When traveling to Vietnam, the very first thing we recommend getting is a local SIM card or pocket WIFI. If you aren’t sure which SIM card best suits your needs, these handy tips on choosing the best tourist SIM card in Vietnam will come in handy.
Most hotels do, however, have free WIFI, but if you are out and about, having access to the internet is essential – especially if you are checking train or bus schedules. Picking up a 4G SIM card at the airport is very easy. However, since low-cost carriers often arrive in the early morning hours or late at night, it might be best to grab a 4G SIM card online first. Here are some options:
Arrival in Hanoi – Grab a 4G SIM card delivered straight to your hotel in Hanoi.
Arrival in HCMC – Grab a 4G SIM delivered straight to your hotel in HCMC.
Handy Travel Tips for Vietnam
Scams are widespread in Vietnam, so it’s best to do a bit of research first. If you are booking day trips or transfers on the go, be sure to compare prices from a few local travel agents first. (Finding a tour operator on the street in major hubs across Vietnam is also very easy – they’re everywhere!). Alternatively, book tours and transfers online in advance through reputable sites or tour operators.
#2 Language Barries
You’re not likely to have too much trouble with language barriers in major cities across the country. Most staff members at hotels, better-looking restaurants, and even at the busier markets can speak some English. But knowing a few key phrases can go a long way. Start with a few basics like:
Hello – Xin chào
Goodbye – Tạm biệt
Thank you – Cám ơn
How much is it? – Cái này giá bao nhiêu?
ATM’s are widely accessible across Vietnam, but generally, cash is king here. So be sure to carry enough money with you to avoid hefty international bank charges. Most hotels, tour operators, and fancier restaurants should accept debit or credit cards.
Haggling is standard practice at local markets and even at small stores selling local knick-knacks. So, don’t forget to practice your bargaining skills beforehand! Shopping around a bit first will also give you a good idea of how prices differ. Front entrance stores in main markets usually tend to ask foreigners steeper prices. Estimates are also often given in USD.
Tipping at restaurants is generally not required throughout Vietnam. Expect a 10% fee to be (already) worked into your bill at nicer looking cafes and restaurants. Hotel staff, such as porters often expect a small tip, especially from tourists. So remember to keep some small change or a few small dollar bills (USD) handy.
#6 Tap water
This probably goes without saying, but it’s best not to drink tap water when traveling in Asia. Instead opt to invest in a reusable water bottle that you can easily refill at your hotel’s water fountain.
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The Best Places to add to your Vietnam Travel Itinerary
Wondering where to go in Vietnam and what places not to miss on your Vietnam trip? Here is our list on the 20+ best places to visit in Vietnam – as recommended by fellow travel bloggers!
Best Places to visit in Northern Vietnam
Hanoi’s rich history and vibrant chaotic streets showcasing everything from broken down shophouses to colorful exteriors have long made it one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia. Not to mention an absolute must when stepping foot in Vietnam.
As the capital city, Hanoi offers visitors a glimpse into traditions still evident on the streets today. Here old and new seamlessly blend, making Hanoi a melting pot of culture, history, tradition, and authentic cuisine.
The Old Quarter is the beating heart of Hanoi, and probably where you’ll spend most of your time. With its deep-rooted history dating back more than 1000 years, the Old Quarter has something for everyone, no matter your interests!
Shopaholics and shutterbugs shouldn’t miss getting lost in the maze of shops and alleys lining the 36 Pho Phuong (merchant streets). Here you’ll find local merchants grouped by the wares they sell – from flowers and jewelry to silks and toys to name just a few. Here endless photo ops and a chance to experience the city like a real local awaits you around every corner. Those seeking to explore the natural beauty, albeit not any less chaotic side of the Old Quarter, be sure to head to Hoan Kiem Lake.
Hanoi is a huge must when planning where to go in Vietnam, and any visit here will be rewarded with unique foodie experiences, relaxing strolls, unique architecture, bountiful of museums, and even puppet shows. Whatever you do though – don’t miss popping by Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, stepping foot in the Museum of Literature and getting a bird’s-eye view of the cityscape at the Lotte Tower Observation Deck. Grabbing a bowl of pho and an ice-cold bai hoi, or a Vietnamese egg coffee at one of the sidewalk cafes for some good old fashioned people watching should not be missed either.
Seeing that there’s so much to do in Hanoi, spend at least 3-4 days here. That way, you can get a real feel of what the city has on offer.
Pù Luông Nature Reserve
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For an off-the-beaten-track nature experience in Vietnam, Pu Luong Nature Reserve can’t be beaten.
Located southwest of Hanoi on the border between Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh provinces, Pu Luong – with its pristine forests and rich biodiversity – has been protected since 1999. Thai, Muong and other ethnic minority communities live inside the Reserve. They are responsible for the towering rice terraces and bamboo waterwheels that make the area so iconic.
The Reserve is the perfect spot for trekking. Homestay accommodation can be found in small villages linked by forest paths, with waterfalls, rivers, and mountains to be discovered along the way. For something more relaxing, peaceful Ban Hieu village in the southeast corner of the Reserve is a great spot to unwind.
Pu Luong is more remote than nearby Mai Chau, which makes accessing the Reserve a bit tricky. There is no public transport, so the best way to go about this is by organizing a transfer through your accommodation – either from Ninh Binh (approximately 4.5 hours by car) or from Hanoi. It might cost you a little more time and money, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Ha Long Bay
If there is one place that should be on any visitor’s Vietnam travel radar, it’s Ha Long Bay. Famed for its limestone caves and caverns with centuries-old stalactites and stalagmites, this UNESCO World Heritage Site comprises of more than 1600 limestone islets in all shapes and sizes imaginable – all covered in lush green vegetation.
Although Ha Long Bay has become a victim of over tourism over the past few years, its iconic emerald waters and towering limestone karsts are well worth the 3 hour bus ride from Hanoi and even the crowds!
Most people visit Ha Long Bay on a day trip from Hanoi, and it’s best to pre-book tickets online as it is a very popular destination in Vietnam. A day trip typically lasts 12 hours and includes sailing around on a traditional junk boat, visiting Thien Cung Cave (aka the Heavenly Cave) and some kayaking through the floating markets and towering karsts.
For those who have a bit more time, consider joining one of the iconic Ha Long Bay cruises to spend a few nights onboard a junk boat on these peaceful waters.
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Cat Ba Island is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. The island is easily reached from Hanoi/Hai Phong by bus. You’ll first need to travel to Cat Hai (a small island). Then take a short ferry and finally hop on another bus that makes various stops on Cat Ba Island.
The main town on the island, also called Cat Ba, is a laid back place in a beautiful setting. From Cat Ba town, visitors can tour the island (best done via motorbike) or join a boat tour of Ha Long Bay.
Cat Ba National Park is a stunning area that covers a large chunk of the island. The geography of the park is like Ha Long Bay without the water. For a great view of the harbor and town below, a short hike up to an old fort (now with a monument at the summit) is the perfect place for a panorama of Cat Ba town.
Ha Long Bay is one of the most beautiful natural scenes in Southeast Asia, and Cat Ba Island is the perfect gateway to explore the area. Most visitors come to Cat Ba for a calmer alternative to see Ha Long Bay than from Ha Long city.
Two to three full days on Cat Ba Island is enough time to adequately explore the national park and the bay, although an extra day or so is welcome for most travelers.
Bai Tu Long Bay
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Most people who visit the North of Vietnam head to the magnificent Ha Long Bay. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. However, as a result of overtourism, it’s lost part of its charm. Nowadays, there are so many vessels moving around Ha Long Bay that your experience there ends up being crowded and you often hear loud music coming from the party boats – not to mention the high amount of plastic and garbage that floats around the sea.
One of the best things to do in Vietnam as an alternative to visiting Ha Long Bay is doing a tour of Bai Tu Long Bay. This is very similar in terms of sights and things to do, and in fact, you will be cruising across Ha Long Bay in bits. However, as the final destination is different, you will follow a different route and there will be fewer vessels around – so you will be able to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and you’ll have the views all to yourself
Tours of Bai Tu Long Bay normally last two full days. You will spend a full day on the boat doing things such as kayaking, swimming in the turquoise waters of the bay, exploring the many caves and visiting oyster farms. The second day is usually spent on a local island where you’ll get to sleep in a homestay. There, you’ll have a chance to cook dinner with the family, explore the island by bike and on foot, and get to know a bit of local culture before heading back to Hanoi.
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Located up in the mountains is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam – Sapa. If you are looking to get outside of the cities and into nature, there is no better choice than here.
To get to Sapa the best option is either by bus or train for Hanoi. Both are a long journey taking around 8 hours. Though, from my personal experience, the best option is the overnight train. Buses here can be hit or miss and for us, it was a complete miss. Also, bus crashes along these roads are fairly common.
Whether you prefer to relax with a massage or more thrill-seeking activities there is something to do for everyone. One of the most popular activities is hiking in Sapa. The views are incredible over the green rice terraces and there are different difficulty levels depending on your fitness. For our visit, we split our time between the main Sapa town, where you will find the restaurants and shops, and a local village called Ta Van. There are plenty of homestays in Ta Van where you can gain an understanding of local life by living with a family.
Make sure you spend at least 3 nights exploring Sapa and the surrounding villages. You will be astonished by the beauty which makes it one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.
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Ha Giang Province in the far north is one of the most rewarding places to visit in Vietnam
Remote and rugged, Ha Giang is a mountainous landscape defined by limestone karsts and deep canyons. High-elevation roads with hairpin
A popular way to see Ha Giang is by riding the Dong Van Pass and the Dong Van Loop, a famous road that many choose to navigate on a motorbike (either self-drive or easy rider). If you don’t ride, it’s also possible to visit Ha Giang by car.
Unlike in nearby Sapa, tourism in Ha Giang is still developing. A number of social enterprises and responsible tourism projects have sprung up in the area to ensure things develop the right way. It’s a little more challenging to get around – but the extra time and money visiting Ha Giang involves is worth it.
Independent travelers can reach Ha Giang’s largest town, Dong Van, by overnight bus from Hanoi. From there, you can rent motorbikes or travel by local bus to Sa Phin, Thai Phin and other villages on the loop, staying at homestays along the way. You’ll need a minimum of 3 or 4 days to complete the loop. Allow more time if you want to trek, which I highly recommend.
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Best Places to visit in Central Vietnam
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Ninh Binh is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam. Not only can you take in breathtaking views from the 500 stairs of Mua Caves, but you can also take in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Trang An.
Trang An gives you the opportunity to explore towering limestone karsts via a 3-hour boat tour with a local guide. Explore beautiful hidden temples, take in the set from Kong: Skull Island, and squeeze your way under hundreds of meters of river caves for an unforgettable experience. Most importantly, Mua Caves Ecolodge gives you the chance to fall asleep to the sound of frogs, with not a car horn in earshot!
Get there by bus or train from Hanoi, and make this an overnight trip to really enjoy the stunning countryside. If you have the time, head to Chookies in Tam Coc for sundowners and great pizza. Your Vietnamese bucket list cannot miss out on Ninh Binh, a lush and epic paradise just outside of Hanoi!
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park
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The Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in Vietnam is home to the world’s largest cave and the oldest karst mountains in Asia. This 400 million year old site was only discovered 20 years ago and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. Not only has this incredible cave system made the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park the country’s top natural highlight, but the surrounding forest offers jungle trekking and mountain biking opportunities to the more adventurous. These additional activities have caused the area to become popularly known as the ‘Adventure Capital of Asia’.
There are over 500 caves in Phong Na, but only 30 are accessible to visitors. The most popular are the Phong Nha Cave, Tra Ang Cave, Paradise Cave, Dark Cave, Hang E Cave, Elephant Cave, Hang Over Cave and the Son Doong Cave. Some are easily accessible while others require a guide and even a zip line across a river!
The town of Phong Nha has lots of accommodation, restaurants, and an ATM. Buses run daily to various other towns. The closest town is Dong Hoi, which is a quick taxi ride away. You can also catch the train to Dong Hoi and then bus or taxi to the park.
The Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is so much more than just the caves. Therefore, I would recommend spending at least two or three days, to get the full experience.
Quang Tri Province and the Former DMZ
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Sandwiched between the popular tourist city of Hue to the south and the former DMZ to the north, sits Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. An off-the-beaten-path tourist destination, Quang Tri Province is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for history lovers.
Around Quang Tri Province travelers can visit a number of historical sites relating to the Vietnam war, including the famous former American base at Khe Sanh. Exploring the Vinh Moc tunnels along the former border between North and South Vietnam offers travelers a unique perspective on how the war was fought from the North. Finally, Truong Son Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of soldiers who lost their lives during the war. Adorned with thousands of incense sticks to honor their memories, it is a sight to see. Just driving through the area, though, there are monuments to the war around almost every bend.
The sites around Quang Tri Province are spread out, which requires a local driver and guide who can explain what each site or monument means. Dong Ha, the main city in Quang Tri Province, is a 90-minute drive from Hue. Additionally, it is possible to take a train from Hue to Dong Ha. Travelers looking to dive into the history of Quang Tri Province during the Vietnam War are encouraged to spend 3 to 5 days in the area. The travel time between war sites can vary from short drives to upwards of 2-3 hours.
Accommodations in the region are basic but slowly improving. The Province enjoys access to the sea with a sandy beach area located 10 miles from the center of Dong Ha. It’s a welcome relief from a long day of sightseeing.
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Hue is full of history and nothing captures it more than the great Imperial City of Hue, the fortified complex of royal buildings. This was the center of power during the Nguyen Dynasty, which united Vietnam in 1802 and was the last of the imperial dynasties to rule the country. Although many of the buildings inside the Imperial City were damaged during the Vietnam War, it will still take you several hours to see all the temples and palaces properly.
Other than the Imperial City (also known as the Citadel), the other most popular sights are the tombs of the emperors, which are stretched out along the Perfume River to the south of Hue. You can get a taxi or ride a bike but a lot of people like to visit them as part of a boat cruise. If you’re heading along the river, also look out for the striking Thien Me Pagoda.
Hue is not a particularly large city – especially from a tourist’s perspective – so you can easily walk around its centre. You only need a couple of days to see the main sights and explore a bit. The main north-south train stops in Hue and it’s also well connected by buses to places like Hoi An.
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If you are making your way up through Vietnam, then easily one of the best places to visit in Vietnam is Da Nang. We visited there as a day trip from the city of Hoi An and absolutely loved it! There is so much to do there, such as driving up and over Tho Quang, which is a large mountain located right by the water. From the top, the views are amazing, and it’s a great place to be for sunset.
This actually ended up being one of my favorite experiences from traveling Vietnam and would recommend it to everyone passing through. As well as this, you should visit the famous Marble Mountain, and explore ancient caves and temples hidden amongst the rocks. Another thing you should also do is visit the Golden Bridge.
It is possible to stay in Da Nang for a night or two, but you are also able to see all of the best sites on a day trip from Hoi An. We got there by moped, but you can also arrange bus transfers if you are passing through and wish to stay there.
Steeped in history, and any culture seekers dream, Hoi An is simply a must on your ‘where to go in Vietnam’ list. And for an excellent reason. This sleepy town packs a bunch of exciting activities for anyone craving small-town vibes, especially after experiencing the bustle of bigger cities in Vietnam.
At the heart of Hoi An lies The Ancient Town, which also happens to be a world-renowned UNESCO site. The Old Town is home to everything from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colorful French colonial buildings, decorative Vietnamese tube houses and the mesmerizing Old Bridge built by the Japanese. In short, you wouldn’t find a better place to experience rustic Vietnam than here, where a mix of eras and styles seamlessly blend together. Wander or even bike along quaint streets lined with colorful shophouses, hipster cafes, and funky art galleries. Or better yet, get lost in the maze of nooks and crannies which dot off around every corner. Keep in mind though: there is a small mandatory entrance fee of US$5. This goes towards maintaining and preserving the city.
One of Hoi An’s biggest draws apart from its deep-rooted history is its arts. Whatever you do don’t leave Hoi An without taking a lantern making class and a getting tailor-made outfit. Those seeking to venture beyond the Old Town, don’t miss one of the glorious sandy beaches nearby. Biking to An Bang Beach is a popular activity for sunshine seekers and beachgoers. Foodies also won’t be disappointed as Hoi An is one of the best places to enjoy authentic street food in Vietnam. To get a real feel of the town and attractions, spend at least 2-3 days here.
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Best Places to visit Vietnam – Southeast Coast
Nha Trang is one of Vietnam’s premier beach destinations and a must for anyone looking to soak up some sun while in Vietnam. Spend your days lounging around Tran Phu Beach or dipping in the calm waters of the South China Sea. For those wanting to enjoy the beach vibes with a cocktail in hand, drop by the Sailing Club for a well-deserved sundowner. Excitement seekers, on the other hand, can try their hand at kitesurfing, surfing, snorkeling or cycling along the promenade, nearby. Nha Trang also won’t disappoint shopaholics! Head to the Dam Market which is the perfect spot to pick up local trinkets and cheap knockoffs.
The Vinpearl Amusement Park on Hon Tre Island is also a great spot to spend a few hours. Be sure to also visit the massive aquarium and get a bird’s-eye view of the bay by cable car!
Besides these, Nha Trang also offers visitors a glimpse into age-old traditions and boasts some great outdoor activities. Pop by the religious towers of Po Nagar Cham Towers for breathtaking views over the Cai River and a peek into this Hindu holy place of worship. If you have a bit more time, consider visiting the Ba Ho Waterfalls for a quick dip in the fresh mountain waters. Or better yet, head to the Hon Khoi Salt Fields for fantastic photo ops.
Visiting the nearby hot springs and chilling in a mud bath is another popular treat in Nha Trang. So if you fancy getting yourself covered in mud definitely give it a try!
No matter your interests, there’s something for everyone in Nha Trang – making it one of the best places to visit in Vietnam! Spend at least 2-3 days here to really take in the sunshine and enjoy the ocean.
Mũi Né is a famous beach town, well-known for its quaint fishing village and excellent adventure sports. Although Mũi Né might seem unassuming to most travelers to Vietnam, this weird town (which is just a 4km strip along the coast of Southeast Vietnam) is packed with golden sand beaches and a haven for adrenaline junkies.
Kitesurfing, sailing, and windsurfing are just a few of the water sports you can enjoy here! Stop by White Sand Dune where hopping on a quad-bike is a favorite amongst locals and adrenaline junkies. Then head over to Red Dune for the best sunset in town. Some vendors sell local snacks and coconuts near the parking lot, so be sure to grab some refreshments before heading up the dune! The Fairy Stream – where red clay formations and lush vegetation make an exciting backdrop along a gentle stream – is another popular spot for nature seekers.
Mũi Né might not be on every traveler’s destination hit-list when planning their Vietnam itinerary, but it’s a good pitstop on your travels to or from Ho Chi Minh City. Dirt cheap sleeper buses run daily between HCMC and Phan Thiet, while shared shuttle services between HCMC and Mũi Né are also on offer for a few bucks more. The journey takes less than 5 hours.
Mũi Né has excellent beaches and an endless supply of adventure sports opportunities. However, unless you’ve booked yourself into one of the high-end resorts, don’t spend too much time here. There’s honestly not that much to do, and you can quickly get your adrenaline fix, enjoy some beach time and see the main sights in a day or two.
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Vung Tau is one of the places that you don’t normally see in travel guides about Vietnam, but what you don’t know is that it’s a little hidden gem not far from Ho Chi Minh City. A place where you can surf, hike or simply have a few lazy days between your long and exhausting trip – a place to breathe a little.
Vung Tau is not crowded nor expensive, so you can still enjoy your Vietnam trip. There are hostels for as cheap as $5 or private rooms for as low as $10. You can also rent a motorbike for $5 or less a day. Since it’s a beach town, expect that every restaurant offers fresh seafood dishes without spending too much.
You can either come from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau (about 2-3 hour drive) or from Mui Ne. Either way, you can reach it by bus or motorbike. From Ho Chi Minh City, there is also an option to take a ferry ride.
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Best Places to visit in Vietnam – Southwest Highlands
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Dalat is a wonderful little surprise. After spending your days sweating like crazy, the cool spring weather that Dalat brings will be a welcomed change. The houses of Dalat will surprise and enchant you. The European feel is charming. There is something for everyone in Dalat from those who want to relax, be adventurous, learn the culture and more. Dalat is a great place for solo travelers, couples and families.
There is plenty to do around Dalat but perhaps the most thrilling thing to do is get on a motorcycle or scooter and ride to, or from Dalat. The green hills and valleys are memorable, creating scenes that are sure to stay with you for a long time to come. If you are not confident enough to ride yourself you can jump on the back with a local tour guide.
Another outstanding experience in Dalat is the Mr. Rot Secret Tour. I can’t tell you too much about this tour as it is a secret. Make sure you get the original and not the copies that Vietnam is susceptible to. You are guaranteed an amazing time, plenty of laughs, and a chance to learn more about Vietnamese culture.
The crazy house and the 100 roof bar are simply unmissable! These are places you will not see anywhere else in Vietnam and are both creative, genius, and wonderful.
Adventure junkies can also do canyoning, which is famous in Dalat.
Ho Chi Minh City
As the former capital of Vietnam and often referred to as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is diverse in all senses imaginable. From its vibrant streets and lively markets selling all kinds of bits and bobs to its street food and deep-rooted history – any visit here is bound to be an unforgettable experience.
Ho Chi Minh City might be many things, but the one thing that is bound to leave a lasting impression on you is the absolute chaotic bustle of the city. Which oddly enough seems to be organized chaos! The streets are filled with different smells and sights. Not to mention scooters and motorbikes racing past, all eagerly honking their way through the dense traffic. Navigating yourself here might be a tad harder than the rest of Vietnam. So if there is one tip, I can give you – watch out for the scooters on the sidewalks! If you aren’t comfortable walking, Grab taxis are plentiful.
As for things to do, the options are endless. And any visit here will quickly reveal why HCMC is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. Get a closer look at the city’s pivotal role in the Vietnam War by stepping foot in the War Remnants Museum. Or pop by the Notre-Dame Cathedral – one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. A short stroll away, you can drop by the Saigon Central Post Office where Ho Chi Minh’s picture is on display. The Independence Palace and the Saigon Skydeck are other activities not to miss on your visit here.
Also, don’t miss the chance to shop till you drop at Ben Thanh Market – one of the best spots to hunt for local souvenirs! But don’t forget to haggle!
Best Places to visit in the Mekong Delta
No visit to Vietnam would be complete without cruising along the Mekong River Delta. If you are pressed for time, Cái Bè is the perfect solution.
This small fishing village that is home to stilt houses, unique riverscapes, and delicious fresh produce is just a short 2-hour trip away from Ho Chi Minh City and easily explored on a day trip. Day trips can be booked practically anywhere in HCMC, and travel agencies offer numerous packages to suit every traveler’s pocket. Usually, these will also include stopping by the world-renowned Cu Chi Tunnels where you can get a glimpse into what life was like for the Viet Cong soldiers on the front lines.
Cruising along the Mekong River, canoeing through the mysterious river canals, visiting the floating market, cycling along with lush greenery and sampling some of the local tropical fruit are just a few of the unique things you can enjoy on a day trip to Cái Bè.
Cái Bè doesn’t offer much in terms of accommodation, but it’s a great place to visit in Vietnam even if it is just for a day!
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Not so many travelers make it down to Can Tho in
The Mekong Delta region grows most of Vietnam’s fruit, and is a prosperous area for rice farming, with 3-4 yields per year.
Life here understandably revolves around the river; so as far as attractions in Can Tho go, you’ll want to head out to the water! It’s possible to see the local floating market at sunrise, head to the land market, cycle around the countryside and tour a local cocoa plantation.
There are also some museums and temples in Can Tho city, but a big part of visiting the Mekong Delta area is just relaxing and enjoying the surrounding nature. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country, along with friendly people who love to chat to visitors (because Can Tho is actually quite a large city, many locals can speak great English).
Phu Quoc Island
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Phu Quoc is the biggest Vietnamese island. It is in the extreme south-west, actually closer to the coast of Cambodia than Vietnam’s mainland. Ho Chi Minh City was hot and hectic and I was looking for some beach time. We arrived by air, but there are ferries too. The island is a Special Economic Zone, which means that tourists can stay 30 days without a visa.
Phu Quoc was perfect for our week’s holiday within a holiday. We enjoyed clean beaches, entertainment parks, a modern aquarium, and zoo safaris. My girls especially loved the Bee Farm, and there was even a night market for those times when we found we were missing the city after all. The food is delicious, with any number of options to enjoy a yummy prawn barbecue against an ocean sunset backdrop.
To top it all even transport is fun. Phu Quoc is the only place in Vietnam where I would recommend hiring a scooter. Traffic is minimal, and the island is small enough to explore by yourself. We went in true Asian style with the whole brood perched on one seat.
The island has a full spectrum of accommodation too. Choose from very simple and inexpensive home-stays to a five-star resort. We had a great time on our break in Phu Quoc with kids, and we will be going again for sure.
Have you ever traveled to Vietnam?
What tips and tricks do you have for fellow travelers planning a Vietnam travel itinerary?
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