The Ultimate Guide To Backpacking Vietnam: Tips, Itineraries, And Budgeting

A captivating aerial photo of terraced rice fields in Vietnam with a diverse group of people.

Does the thought of backpacking Vietnam feel a little overwhelming? You’re not alone. With its rich historydiverse landscapes, and delectable culinary experiences, planning a trip here can be daunting.

This guide is your comprehensive resource for everything you need to make your backpacking adventure through Vietnam an unforgettable one. Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Plan your route by looking at a map of Vietnam, considering the time you have and booking your flight in advance.
  • Visit popular attractions like Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Sapa, Hoan Kiem Lake, Nha Trang’s beaches, Hoi An ancient town, Hue for history, and Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Avoid tourist traps by exploring lesser-known destinations and seeking recommendations from locals or fellow backpackers.
  • Stretch your budget by eating local food, drinking affordable beer like bia hoi, haggling when shopping, carrying small denominations of money for transactions, and choosing cheaper transportation options like buses or trains.
  • Find affordable accommodation options such as guesthouses and hostels in Vietnam. Check out Nomadic Matt’s travel guide for more information.
  • Choose between different modes of transportation in Vietnam including flights for long distances quickly and comfortably; trains for relaxed scenic routes; motorbikes for flexibility; public buses covering various destinations; buffalo rides to experience rural areas; moto-taxis (xe om)for quick city navigation.
  • Best time to visit Vietnam’s popular beaches is during the cool dry winter months. March is ideal for Halong Bay. Make reservations in advance due to high demand.

Planning Your Vietnam Backpacking Trip

A diverse group of backpackers trekking through a lush mountain trail, capturing the adventure with professional cameras.

To plan your Vietnam backpacking trip, you’ll need to decide on a route, choose between the north or south, and make sure you have your Vietnam visa in order.


How to Plan a Route

A scenic road through the mountains of Vietnam with diverse people and vibrant surroundings.

Planning a trip to Vietnam is fun. Here are some steps on how to plan your route.

  1. Look at a map of Vietnam. Find the places you want to see.
  2. Think about how much time you have. This will help you choose between the north and south parts of Vietnam.
  3. Book your flight in advance. This can save you money.
  4. Do research on tourist attractions in each area.
  5. Write down all the adventure travel spots you don’t want to miss.
  6. Plan a route that lets you visit these spots.
  7. Make sure to leave extra days for rest or sightseeing destinations not in your initial plan.
  8. Mix cities and countryside stops for various cultural experiences.

Places to Visit

The photo captures the busy streets of Hanoi with vibrant architecture and a diverse crowd of people.

Start your backpacking trip in Hanoi. This city is a top attraction in Vietnam. It offers lots of fun things to do.

  • Visit the Old Quarter for a taste of old Hanoi.
  • Take a side trip to Sapa from Hanoi.
  • Swing by the Hoan Kiem Lake for some peace and quiet.
  • Don’t miss out on the bustling Night Market.
  • Explore the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang.
  • The ancient town of Hoi An is also worth a visit.
  • Head to Hue for a history lesson about Vietnam’s past.
  • Lastly, make your way southward and explore the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh.

Choosing North or South

A diverse group of backpackers hiking through the scenic mountains of Vietnam.

You can pick your starting point in Vietnam. Some start at the top, in the capital city of Hanoi. Others kick off their trip down south. Both ways have a lot to offer for backpackers and first-time visitors alike.

If you choose north, there’s a 3-week plan with great spots to visit. It takes you from Hanoi all the way southward. For those who like southern warmth, we also have a 2-week travel guide that covers must-see places from South up to North!

Getting Your Vietnam Visa

A traveler proudly holds their passport with a Vietnamese visa stamp, in front of a world map.

To backpack in Vietnam, you need to obtain a visa. The process of getting a Vietnam visa is explained in this article, along with other important facts. You will learn about the options available for obtaining a visa and how to plan your trip accordingly.

Additionally, the article provides information on top activities and destinations for backpackers in Vietnam. By following these guidelines and acquiring the necessary visa, you can embark on an exciting backpacking adventure through Vietnam.

Budgeting Tips for Backpacking in Vietnam

A diverse group of backpackers enjoy a campfire meal surrounded by beautiful mountains in a bustling atmosphere.

Avoiding tourist traps, finding affordable accommodation, and ways to save money – learn how to stretch your budget for an unforgettable backpacking adventure in Vietnam.


Avoiding Tourist Traps

A photo capturing a bustling Vietnamese street market with a variety of vendors selling fresh produce.

To have an authentic travel experience in Vietnam, it’s important to stay away from tourist traps. These are places that are often overcrowded and expensive, catering mostly to tourists.

Instead, venture off the beaten path and explore lesser-known destinations where you can interact with locals and immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture. By avoiding tourist traps, you’ll not only save money but also have a more meaningful and genuine experience in this beautiful country.

When exploring Vietnam, be cautious of scams targeting tourists. Some common scams include overcharging for goods or services, fake tour operators, and pickpocketing in crowded areas.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, do some research beforehand to familiarize yourself with local prices and always negotiate prices before purchasing anything. Additionally, consider joining group tours or hiring reputable guides who can provide local insights while ensuring your safety.

Remember that one of the best ways to avoid tourist traps is by seeking recommendations from locals or fellow backpackers who have already visited Vietnam. They can offer valuable advice on hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions that might not be widely known but are definitely worth exploring.

Ways to Save Money

A diverse group of travelers on a train discussing budget-friendly ways to save money.
  • Eat local food to experience the local cuisine at a cheaper price.
  • Drink bia hoi, a popular and affordable local beer.
  • Haggle when shopping or negotiating prices to save money.
  • Carry small denominations of Vietnamese dong for easier transactions.
  • Consider the environmental impact when choosing budget flights.
  • Opt for cheaper transportation options like buses or trains for long journeys in Vietnam.

Finding Affordable Accommodation

A group of diverse backpackers enjoying the view from a rooftop terrace in a bustling Vietnamese city.

Looking for budget-friendly accommodation while backpacking in Vietnam? You’re in luck! Vietnam offers a range of affordable lodging options that won’t break the bank. From low-cost guesthouses and hostels to homestays and budget hotels, there are plenty of choices for every traveler.

Check out Nomadic Matt’s updated travel guide for detailed information on affordable places to stay in Vietnam. With these cost-effective accommodation options, you can save money without compromising on comfort during your backpacking adventure.

Traveling and Getting Around in Vietnam

A group of friends riding motorbikes through the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City in a cinematic style.

Navigating Vietnam is made easy with various modes of transportation available, including trains, buses, and motorbikes.

How to Travel VIETNAM in 1 MONTH - Travel Guide!

Modes of Transportation

A colorful group of traditional Vietnamese motorbikes parked in front of a vibrant street market.

In Vietnam, there are several modes of transportation available for both locals and tourists. These include flights, trains, motorbikes, buses, buffalo, and moto-taxis. Each of these options provides its own advantages and experiences, depending on your budget and preference.

Mode of TransportationDescription
FlightsFlights are ideal for covering long distances quickly and comfortably. Several airlines service domestic routes within Vietnam.
TrainsTrains are a good option for those who prefer a relaxed pace and enjoy scenic routes. The rail network in Vietnam is well-developed, covering many popular destinations.
MotorbikesMotorbikes are a popular choice among budget travelers. They provide flexibility and allow you to explore at your own pace. Remember, always wear a helmet for safety.
BusesBuses are the most common mode of public transportation in Vietnam. They are highly affordable and cover a wide range of destinations, making them a viable option for budget travelers.
BuffaloIn certain rural areas of Vietnam, buffalo are used as a mode of transportation. This is a unique experience that provides a glimpse into the traditional Vietnamese lifestyle.
Moto-taxisMoto-taxis, also known as “xe om,” are a convenient option in crowded cities. They are quick, inexpensive, and can easily navigate through traffic.

Choosing the right mode of transportation can greatly enhance your backpacking experience in Vietnam. Whichever option you choose, remember to prioritize your safety and respect local traffic regulations.

Tips for Navigating

  • Use public transportation options such as buses, trains, and bikes to get around in Vietnam.
  • Consider renting a motorbike for more flexibility and freedom during your travels.
  • Research and plan your routes ahead of time to avoid getting lost or wasting time.
  • Have a map or GPS app on your smartphone to help navigate unfamiliar areas.
  • Be cautious when crossing the roads in busy cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Look both ways and try to find a local to help you if needed.
  • Take advantage of organized tours or hire local guides for sightseeing trips to make navigation easier.
  • Familiarize yourself with the local transportation schedules and timetables to avoid missing buses or trains.
  • Carry a small phrasebook or use translation apps to communicate with locals, especially if English is not widely spoken in certain areas.
  • Stay alert and aware of your belongings while using public transportation, as crowded buses or trains can be targeted by pickpockets.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help or directions from locals if you’re unsure about how to get somewhere. Vietnamese people are known for their friendliness and willingness to assist travelers.

Best Time to Visit and Popular Beaches

A diverse group of friends enjoy playing beach volleyball at sunset, capturing the bustling atmosphere in a vibrant photograph.

The best time to visit Vietnam’s popular beaches is during the cool, dry winter months. The weather during this time is pleasant and perfect for enjoying the coastal areas. March, in particular, offers optimal weather conditions for exploring Halong Bay, renowned for its stunning scenery.

It’s advised to make reservations in advance at beach resorts due to high demand. Vietnam’s beaches are most enjoyable when it’s not too hot or rainy, making the cool, dry season the prime time to visit.

Plan your trip accordingly to avoid overcrowding at these beautiful beach spots and embrace the adventure of backpacking Vietnam on a budget.

Must-Try Food and Local Cuisine

A street food vendor in Vietnam prepares a traditional dish in a bustling atmosphere.

Vietnamese cuisine is known for its delicious and unique flavors, making it a must-try for any traveler visiting Vietnam. From traditional dishes like pho and banh mi to street food favorites, you’ll find a wide variety of culinary delights to explore.

Vietnamese food is all about fresh ingredients, bold spices, and vibrant flavors that will leave your taste buds wanting more.

When backpacking through Vietnam, be sure to indulge in authentic recipes that highlight the local flavors of each region. Whether you’re in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, there are foodie destinations everywhere offering regional specialties that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters.

Don’t miss out on trying exotic flavors like fish sauce or lemongrass-infused dishes that are staples in Vietnamese cuisine.

One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in the local culture is through culinary exploration. Take part in cooking classes where you can learn how to make traditional Vietnamese dishes from scratch.

Not only will you get a taste of the country’s rich gastronomic heritage but also gain valuable skills that you can take home with you as souvenirs. So don’t hold back when it comes to sampling the incredible array of flavors waiting for you in Vietnam!

What to Pack for Your Vietnam Backpacking Adventure

A backpack filled with essential items for a Vietnam adventure, surrounded by lush greenery and diverse individuals.

When backpacking in Vietnam, it’s important to pack wisely and be prepared for the unique climate and activities in the country. Here are some essential items to include in your backpack:

  1. Lightweight and breathable clothing: Pack light, quick-drying clothes that are suitable for the tropical climate. T-shirts, shorts, and comfortable pants are recommended.
  2. Rain gear: Vietnam experiences occasional downpours, so a lightweight rain jacket or poncho is essential.
  3. Good quality hiking shoes: Opt for sturdy shoes that provide good traction for hiking and exploring different terrains.
  4. Swimwear: Vietnam has beautiful beaches and swimming spots, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit!
  5. Travel towel: A compact, quick-drying towel will come in handy during your adventures.
  6. Insect repellent: Protect yourself from mosquitoes and other bugs by packing a DEET-based insect repellent.
  7. Travel-sized toiletries: Bring travel-sized toiletries such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen to save space in your backpack.
  8. First aid kit: Include essentials like band-aids, antiseptic cream, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications.
  9. Reusable water bottle: Stay hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle that you can refill throughout your trip.
  10. Electrical adapters: Vietnam uses Type A or Type C electrical plugs, so make sure you have the appropriate adapters for charging your electronics.

Important Tips and Things to Know Before Going

A traditional Vietnamese temple stands amidst a beautiful natural landscape, capturing the essence of its bustling atmosphere.

Ensure to research and understand the local customs, traditions, and cultural etiquette of Vietnam to show respect to the locals.

Safety and Health Considerations

Safety and health considerations are crucial when backpacking in Vietnam. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe trip. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, as petty theft can occur in crowded areas.

Additionally, it’s recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, as healthcare costs can be high in Vietnam. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking bottled water, and avoid street food if you have any concerns about food safety.

Taking these safety and health measures will help ensure a smooth and enjoyable backpacking adventure in Vietnam.

Cultural Etiquette

When backpacking in Vietnam, it is important to be mindful of cultural customs and etiquette. Understanding and respecting the local culture will enhance your experience and help you connect with the locals.

Be aware of the different social norms, such as removing your shoes before entering someone’s home or temple. It is also considered polite to greet people with a slight bow or a handshake.

Taking the time to learn a few basic phrases in Vietnamese, such as “hello” (xin chào) and “thank you” (cảm ơn), shows respect for the local language. Remember to dress modestly when visiting religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees.

Responsible Tourism Practices

When backpacking in Vietnam, it’s important to practice responsible tourism. This means being mindful of the impact you have on the environment, culture, and local communities. One way to do this is by practicing sustainable travel.

You can minimize your carbon footprint by choosing eco-friendly modes of transportation, such as walking or cycling whenever possible. Another aspect of responsible tourism is being culturally sensitive.

Respect local customs and traditions, dress appropriately when visiting temples or religious sites, and always ask for permission before taking photos of people. Additionally, you can support conservation efforts by avoiding activities that harm wildlife or contribute to environmental damage.

Recommended Itineraries for Backpacking Vietnam

A diverse group of backpackers hiking through the lush mountains of Vietnam.

Explore the stunning landscapes of Vietnam with these recommended backpacking itineraries.

Shorter Trips

If you’re looking for shorter trips when backpacking in Vietnam, here are some recommended itineraries:

  1. Hanoi and Halong Bay:
  • Explore the vibrant city of Hanoi with its bustling streets and delicious street food.
  • Take a cruise through the stunning limestone karsts of Halong Bay and spend a night on a traditional junk boat.
  1. Hoi An and Da Nang:
  • Visit the charming ancient town of Hoi An, known for its well-preserved architecture and lantern-lit streets.
  • Relax on the beautiful beaches of Da Nang and try out water sports like surfing or paddleboarding.
  1. Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta:
  • Experience the vibrant energy of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, with its lively markets and historical sites.
  • Take a boat tour along the Mekong Delta to explore its floating markets, verdant rice paddies, and traditional villages.
  1. Hue and Phong Nha National Park:
  • Discover the imperial history of Vietnam in Hue by visiting its ancient citadel and royal tombs.
  • Venture into Phong Nha National Park to explore its stunning caves, including the famous Son Doong Cave.

Longer Adventures

If you have more time to explore Vietnam, here are some recommended itineraries for longer adventures:

  • 3 Weeks Adventure:
  • Start in Hanoi and explore the bustling city
  • Take a cruise in Halong Bay to see stunning limestone islands
  • Travel to Sapa and trek through rice terraces and visit local hill tribes
  • Head south to Hue and experience the imperial history of Vietnam
  • Visit Hoi An for its charming old town and beautiful beaches
  • Continue south to Nha Trang for water activities and relaxation
  • Explore the vibrant city of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) and learn about Vietnam’s history at the War Remnants Museum
  • Take a trip to the Mekong Delta and float along the river on a traditional boat
  • 2 Weeks Adventure:
  • Begin in Ho Chi Minh City and discover its bustling markets and historical sites
  • Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels to learn about Vietnam’s wartime past
  • Travel to Dalat, known for its cool climate, waterfalls, and scenic landscapes
  • Make your way to Hoi An and immerse yourself in its rich culture and heritage
  • Relax on the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang
  • Explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter, taste local street food, and visit iconic landmarks like Hoan Kiem Lake
  • Take a scenic boat trip in Halong Bay

Conclusion: Embracing the Adventure and Making Memories in Vietnam.

A diverse group of backpackers hike through lush rice terraces, capturing the beauty of nature on their journey.

In conclusion, the Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Vietnam offers a wealth of information and tips for an unforgettable adventure in this beautiful country. With suggested itinerariesbudgeting advice, and safety tips, you’ll be well-prepared to explore all that Vietnam has to offer.

So pack your bags, embrace the adventure, and get ready for an incredible journey filled with memories that will last a lifetime.


1. Is it safe to go backpacking in Vietnam?

Yes, Vietnam is generally a safe country for backpackers. However, it’s always important to take common safety precautions such as staying alert and being aware of your surroundings.

2. How much money should I budget for backpacking in Vietnam?

The amount of money you need depends on your travel style and preferences. On average, a budget traveler can expect to spend around $20-30 per day for accommodation, food, transportation, and activities.

3. What are some must-visit destinations in Vietnam for backpackers?

Some popular destinations for backpackers in Vietnam include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Ha Long Bay, Hoi An Ancient Town, and Sapa. These places offer unique cultural experiences and beautiful landscapes.

4. Do I need any specific travel documents or visas to visit Vietnam as a backpacker?

Most visitors to Vietnam will need a visa except those coming from countries that have bilateral agreements allowing visa exemptions. It’s best to check with the Vietnamese Embassy or Consulate in your home country before traveling.

5. Can I easily find accommodation while backpacking in Vietnam?

Yes, there are plenty of accommodation options available for all budgets in popular tourist areas of Vietnam. From hostels and guesthouses to hotels and homestays, you’ll find something suitable for your needs.

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