After enjoying the beach in Mui Ne, we went to Hoi An to visit this beautiful city and make custom-made clothes, including my wedding dress!
Our travel guide to prepare you for backpacking in Vietnam
Our trip to Vietnam was definitely one of the favorites of our travel around the world! We had initially planned to spend 3 weeks in Vietnam, but we finally extended our visa to spend 7 weeks there! So we have some good tips to share with you about what to do and see in Vietnam while backpacking ;).
At the end of this page, you will find all our blog posts written about our trip to Vietnam.
- Map of Vietnam
- Climate: what is the best time to go to Vietnam?
- Things to do in Vietnam
- Tours in Vietnam
- Arriving in Vietnam
- What is the budget for a trip to Vietnam?
- All about accommodation in Vietnam
- Which visa for a trip to Vietnam?
- Vietnam and COVID
- Which vaccines for Vietnam?
- Driving in Vietnam
- Getting around Vietnam
- Some Vietnamese words to travel
- Festivals and celebrations not to be missed
- Vietnamese food, the best in the world?
- WiFi and internet in Vietnam
- Our blog articles about Vietnam
Map of our trip to Vietnam
Vietnam is a long country located in the east of the Indochina peninsula. The capital of Vietnam is Hanoi which is located in the north of the country. During our world tour, we arrived in Vietnam by the south from Cambodia, then we went up the country by bus until finally joining Laos by the northernmost border of the country.
Here is the map with all our articles about Vietnam:
Climate in Vietnam: when to go?
Vietnam has a tropical climate and when you say tropical, you say monsoons. But let's face it, given the length of the country, the climate is not quite the same everywhere!
To begin with, one of the most important points is winter! In the south of the country, this notion does not exist, because it is warm all year round (between 25 and 30 °C on average). On the other hand, in the north and especially if you go up in altitude, towards Sapa, for example, the days are often pleasant between 10 and 20 °C. On the other hand, the nights can be downright cool... 6 °C is not freezing, but you just have to realize that the houses and especially the insulation are not the same as in Europe! So 6 °C outside, it was something like 13 °C in our room ;). #GetTheBlanketsOut
After that, as you can see in the small picture above, there is not really a best time to come to Vietnam, even if ideally, it is better not to come between July and August because of the heavy rains.
Itinerary in Vietnam
Vietnam is a very big country and we spent almost 7 weeks there. In fact, we are VERY FAR from having seen everything! Here are our favorites places in Vietnam from the south to the north:
- The Mekong Delta in 2 days: A beautiful region where you can eat delicious fish. We really enjoyed our few days in the south of Vietnam! Next time, we would like to go to the island of Phu Quoc which looks very nice.
- The magnificent caves of Phong Nha in 2 days: They are (by far) the most impressive caves we have ever seen! Of course, we could not go to visit Hang Son Doong, aka the biggest cave in the world, listed only in 2010! Well, its visit is extremely limited and expensive to preserve it and this is understandable. But the other caves of the National Park are worth a visit!
- Cat Ba Island or Halong Bay in a different way: We wanted to go to Halong Bay but we have to admit that we were discouraged by all the agitation and the massive tourism. So we decided to go to Cat Ba Island and its National Park for 6 days and the least we can say is that we didn't regret one second!
- The magic of the north of Vietnam at Ba Be Lake in 3 days: We looooved this region! Certainly for the magnificent landscapes of Ba Be National Park, but also and especially for the authenticity of the place and the incredible welcome that we received there!
We crossed Vietnam logically from the south to the north because we arrived from Cambodia and wanted to reach the north of Laos. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter... Consider the flights or your itinerary if you are on a world tour :).
Tours in Vietnam
Looking to organize a tour in Vietnam with an agency? We encourage you to have a look at Evaneos' website! Evaneos is an agency that works exclusively with local providers and offers many itineraries for all budgets. They propose a wide range of tours which are either organized (with a guide) or "free" formulas which we find great: they take care of transportation, accommodation and you manage the program. Not bad, right?
This article contains affiliate links to partner sites. When you use our links to book accommodation, a car, or an activity, you don’t pay anything extra, but we get a small commission. This helps us to offer you free, independent, and ad-free content. Thank you for your support!
How to get to Vietnam?
Vietnam is a very large country and therefore has many airports, but only 4 airports receive international flights: Hanoi, Ho Chin Minh, Nha Trang, and Da Nang. As you can see on the map, they are relatively well distributed between the north and the south of Vietnam. Your arrival airport will depend on the region you plan to visit.
For a round-trip flight from Paris to Hanoi, prices are around 400 euros if you plan.
We will talk more about it in the chapter dedicated to itineraries, but in Vietnam, it is really important not to underestimate the travel time. If you are "only" coming for 2 weeks, it will probably be difficult to see the north AND the south of the country, unless you take internal flights along the way.
Tip: If you are crossing Vietnam from north to south (or south to north), try to see if it is possible to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and leave from Hanoi (or vice versa). This will save you from having to travel twice by land during your trip!
We advise you to compare the prices on Skyscanner between the above option and the one of taking a round-trip to the same city (it is often cheaper this way) and to add an internal flight from the north to the south (or the opposite).
What budget for a trip to Vietnam?
Vietnam is a country where backpacking is quite easy. Like other Southeast Asian countries, the infrastructure is top-notch, transportation works well and there are many accommodation options for all budgets! There is also excellent street food!
The currency of Vietnam is the dong (VND). The rate is 1 € = 25 700 dongs. Check the current rate before leaving ;).
Here is what we spent each day on average during our trip to Vietnam to give you an idea of the budget.
|Expense item||Daily budget/person|
That is to say a total budget of about 18,6 € per day and person.
You will find more details about our budget in our article Vietnam review.
A little advice: don't forget to negotiate all the time ;).
Hotels in Vietnam
As far as accommodation is concerned, we looked for hotels and homestays directly on the spot most of the time. Looking for accommodation on the spot is often synonymous with good deals, but it also implies spending some time to look for...
As far as we are concerned, we like this little ritual of going from hostel to hostel to compare prices and rooms. Of course, it is not adapted to everyone, especially if time is limited. If you prefer to book accommodation in Vietnam on the Internet, we recommend you compare prices on the map below. Zoom in on the destination of your choice, then adjust the filters (type of accommodation, price, reviews) to refine your search.
Visa for Vietnam
Single entry visa
French, Italians, Germans, and Spaniards benefit from a visa exemption for stays of less than 15 days thanks to the stamp issued upon arrival. This is the easiest option if you want to spend a vacation in Vietnam, without changing country! For a trip longer than 15 days, you have to apply for an e-visa or leave the territory after 15 days of exemption and enter again with an e-visa (interesting if your trip lasts more than 30 days). It is not possible to obtain an extension of the exemption. To benefit from a second exemption after the first one, you must leave the country and wait 30 days before entering again.
For Swiss and Belgians, obtaining an e-visa for a stay of 30 days maximum with a single entry is necessary.
The e-visa can be done from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection! All you need is your passport, a photo ID, and a credit card. The price of the e-visa is $25 and is valid for 30 days. Be careful to do it, because when you search on Google, you will find a lot of sites that look more or less official... There is only one web address to get your e-visa, it is the one of the government. You are free to go through an agency, but be aware that anything over $25 is the seller's commission...
Be careful: if you exceed the validity of your visa, you will be fined $25 per day...
It was also possible to get a single (or multiple) entry tourist visa when arriving at the airport, but the pandemic has changed the situation...
Multiple entry visas
Following COVID, it is now impossible to obtain a multiple entry visa. It used to be possible to do it online or upon arrival in Vietnam with a letter of approval from the Vietnamese immigration services. Nowadays, the only solution if you want to enter and leave Vietnam several times as a tourist is to make several e-visas (the famous run visas) and/or juggle with the exemption as written above.
Visa extension in Vietnam
So, about visa extensions in Vietnam, we had heard a lot about them at the time. Since the beginning of the sanitary crisis, visa extensions are no longer available, as you can only get an e-visa to enter Vietnam (and it is not possible to extend it if you follow well ;)). The only solution to make a new e-visa is to leave the country 3 days later, the time to get it, and to enter again. Well, you can also take the opportunity to spend a few days in Cambodia or Laos ;).
Vietnam and COVID
Like other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam has reopened its borders. For an update on the measures, go to of Vietnam travel, a website of the Ministry of Tourism.
Which vaccines for a trip to Vietnam?
To travel to Vietnam, there are no mandatory vaccinations. However, some vaccinations are recommended depending on the area of the country visited and the season:
- Hepatitis A et B;
- Japanese encephalitis;
You will find more details about the recommended vaccines to go to Vietnam on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the precautions to take against diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
Driving in Vietnam
Beware of sensitive subjects! We thought we had had enough in Thailand... No way!
As much as crossing Vietnam by motorcycle is conceivable and there is no doubt that the road trip must be magical, driving a two-wheeler turns out to be a bit perilous. The problem is that Vietnamese roads are not easy to ride, traffic in the city is dense, driving rules are sometimes a bit random, Vietnamese people are unpredictable, and the road condition in the countryside can sometimes leave something to be desired. Sometimes it's just a matter of "bad luck".
Yes, it is possible to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam, but you have to be very careful on the roads. An accident can happen very quickly and the damages, materials as humans, can be important. Even if you are in control of your bike, there is always the risk that someone will hit you without you being able to do anything about it... In short, constant vigilance!
It is quite possible to move around Vietnam only by public transport, but in some places like Phong Nha, the scooter is very useful to discover the surroundings by yourself...
Tip: buying a Honda Win for $200-300 is often more interesting than renting a motorcycle for several days.To ride a scooter or a motorcycle properly, you must have an international driving license, with the A1 mention checked. Don't forget to ask for it 6 months before your departure if you want to explore Vietnam on two wheels ;).
For all the equipment, we refer you to this article.
Warning: make sure that your travel insurance covers you for driving a two-wheeler before taking the road! If you don't have a motorcycle license, your insurance may refuse to cover you...
For more information about a motorcycle road trip in Vietnam, we recommend you the complete article of Danny.
Getting around Vietnam
The best way to get around Vietnam is clearly by bus. Some buses go literally everywhere in the country and the prices are very affordable. On the other hand, we advise you not to take the seats at the very front of the bus, because the Vietnamese drivers sometimes think they are Formula 1 drivers... In short, from our experience, it is sometimes better not to see in front when Vietnamese drivers overtake anywhere!
To travel around Vietnam, you can book your bus (train, or boat) tickets online... without negotiating. Otherwise, go directly to the bus stations and be prepared to negotiate to avoid being cheated ;).
Some Vietnamese words to travel
Ok, Vietnamese is not a language you can learn in a few weeks, far from it. But even if you don't speak the language of a country, it's not a reason not to try to learn some little phrases or expressions of politeness. The idea here is not even so much to make yourself understood, but rather to show people that you are trying to be interested in their language and that you are trying. I promise you, a few words here and there will make contact much easier! But don't worry, we found that people spoke English relatively well... At least, their English was largely superior to our Vietnamese, so just for that, we can only appreciate each word!
|Hello||Xin chào||Thank you||Cám ơn|
|My name is||Tôi tên là||How much is it?||Cái này bao nhiêu?|
|I don't want it||Tôi không muốn||Please||Làm ơn|
|It's very good!||Ngon!||Water||Nước|
|Hotel||Khách sạn||Cheers!||Chúc sức khỏe !|
Holidays and festivals in Vietnam
The country has a good number of celebrations. Here is a small selection of the holidays not to be missed during your trip to Vietnam:
- January-February: Vietnamese New Year (Tet Nguyen Dan or simply Tet) is the most important holiday in Vietnam! It is a time for a family reunion during this vacation period which takes place on the first day of the first month of the calendar. Be careful if you travel during Tet, many businesses close during this period!
- February-March: The Lim Festival takes place 2 weeks after Tet. Lim is a small traditional village located northeast of Hanoi, a short hour's drive away. Its festival features traditional Vietnamese games, Quan Ho songs (listed as intangible heritage by UNESCO), and ceremonies.
- February-April: Chua Huong, the Festival of the Perfume Pagoda, is a Buddhist festival that consists of a pilgrimage by boat through karst landforms to reach the sacred cave of Huong Tich. It takes place 70 km south of Hanoi, in Huong Son, and lasts more than 60 days. In fact, it is held from the end of January to about mid-April, with a peak of festivities between the 15th and the 20th day of the lunar month (beginning of February).
- March-April: the fishermen's Festival in Hoi An takes place on the 16th day of the second lunar month. On the program: wicker boat races, parades, shows, fish market...
- April-May-June: the Hue Festival is a major cultural festival that takes place every 2 years in Hue, in the center of the country. Since 2022, there are more than 50 events celebrating Vietnam spread over the year. Don't miss it if you are in Vietnam during this period (and if the year is even)!
- Autumn: Tet Trung Thu, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, is the second most important festival in Vietnam after Tet. Festivities take place all over the country, but it is in Hoi An that they are the most numerous. On the program: lantern processions, shows, salted and sweet moon cakes (banh deo and banh nuong). In short, it is a festival of colors that takes place between August and October, the 15th day of the 8th lunar month!
Is Vietnamese food the best in the world?
Ok, putting a question in my title is maybe a little clue about our opinion ;)! For us, Asian food in general is a big favorite, but I think that Vietnamese food is at the top of the table! In any case, for Benoit it is certain... For me, I would put a small option on the Thai cuisine that I love more than anything! Maybe it's the fact that cilantro is often found in Vietnamese cuisine and that I HATE it (but like really!). In short, it's a flavor I can't stand...
Here are our favorites and must-tries of Vietnamese food:
- Bahn cuon: This is a kind of ravioli made of rice dough with a stuffing made of minced meat and served with fried onions. They are simply amazing!
- Goi cuon ou nem cuon, the famous spring rolls: Who doesn't know this essential of Vietnamese gastronomy? Made with meat or shrimps, and vegetables, all wrapped in a rice cake and served with a peanut sauce, they eat themselves!
- Pho: Pho or the indestructible Vietnamese noodle soup! We ate so much of it during our 7 weeks that in the end, we even got used to the local habits... That is to say? Eating it for breakfast :)!
- Bo bun: Bo Bun is made of rice noodles sautéed with meat and lots of vegetables! Yum yum yum, a real treat!
- Banh mi: The banh mi made us very happy during our world tour when we were in crucial need of bread... Yes, with a good French presence, Vietnamese bread is by far the closest thing to a baguette in Asia! In short, it is not for nothing that it is so appreciated by tourists. It is often made with pate, pork, cucumber, tomato, carrot, and herbs.
- Bun cha: This Hanoi specialty is made of rice noodles, grilled pork, and herbs, all with a small broth.
- Cao lau: Hoi An specialty, cao lau is a delicious mixture of rice noodles, pork or shrimp, green vegetables, bean sprouts, and herbs, served with broth.
- Banh chung: these square-shaped salted glutinous rice cakes are prepared during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. They are stuffed with mung beans and bacon before being wrapped in dong or banana leaves.
- Moon cakes: These cakes are prepared during Tet Trung Thu (the mid-autumn festival or moon festival in Vietnam) and there are 2 kinds. The banh deo are cakes made of glutinous rice flour and filled with candied fruits and sesame or lotus seeds. Banh nuong are baked cakes and often contain a salted egg yolk in addition to meat, seeds, nuts, and lemon leaves. The molds of these mooncakes are nicely detailed which makes them even more appetizing!
- Ca phe den da or Vietnamese coffee: We fell head over heels for Vietnamese coffee. The concept? You put a cup and a container with coffee on top, then you pour hot water through it. Then you wait... a long time... a very long time, even if the coffee is very tight. But how good it is, especially with a little bit of condensed milk in the cup (ca phe sua da) ;)! In short, it became our daily pleasure to order coffee and watch it flow hahaha! Another popular coffee is the ca phe trung or egg coffee, a black coffee topped with a gourmet cream made of egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk...
WiFi and Internet in Vietnam
WiFi is available almost everywhere in Vietnam, but if you want to have unlimited 4G, you can buy a prepaid SIM card from 10 000 dongs in airports, in one of the many phone stores in town, and in supermarkets... You will certainly find the most suitable offer for your stay!
Don't forget that in Vietnam, there is a 6 hours time difference from Europe ;).