Travel offers benefits to people of all ages. One study even compares the physical and cognitive benefits of traveling to that of doing crossword puzzles or visiting museums.
Of course, deciding to travel is one thing. Deciding where to go is another thing entirely. And if you’ve never considered backpacking in Vietnam before, you’re missing out!
Do It Right: 7 Tips for Backpacking in Vietnam
1. Make a List
Vietnam can be overwhelming in a sense that there are so many things to do and places to see. A list can help you narrow down your choices.
If you’re not just backpacking in Vietnam and have a whole Asian trip planned, a list can help you stick to your itinerary. If it’s a short trip, we recommend that you include these four things on your list:
- A visit to the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin
- Trying out banh mi sandwiches in Vietnam
- A visit to the lively Ho Chi Minh City
- A relaxing Nha Trang beach visit
If you’re planning to stay longer, your list should include these top 10 places. Here, you’ll get a taste of everything that Vietnam has to offer.
2. Sort Out Your Travel Requirements
Having a list of things to do and places to visit is useless if you don’t have your travel requirements in order.
That means two things. First, you need a passport. And second, you need a travel visa.
The good news is as of February 1, 2017, visitors from 40 countries can now apply for and receive a travel visa to Vietnam online. And it’s fast, too! You can get your e-visa within three working days.
Once you have your requirements ready, you can stay in Vietnam for a maximum of six months.
3. Do the Math
The traditional definition of backpacking is that it’s a form of budget travel. But in recent years, the definition has become looser to include flashpackers.
If you’re not familiar with the term ‘flashpacking’, it means adventure traveling in style. It’s still backpacking but with some added comforts. A flashpacker can afford to splash out more on activities such as wine tasting or staying at boutique hotels.
Whether you’re flashpacking or backpacking in Vietnam, it’s still a good idea to crunch the numbers. Even if you have money to spare, staying within budget will leave you money for shopping or extra nights at luxury accommodations.
Plus, you never know when something bad might happen. Budgeting wisely is always a good idea in case of emergencies.
4. Read up on the Do’s and Don’ts
If you’ve been to Brazil, you probably know that using the ‘OK’ gesture is highly offensive. Or that in Thailand, you can’t touch someone’s head, as it’s considered the most sacred part of the body.
In Vietnam, there are also travel don’ts that you should be aware of. For example, if you’re visiting temples and pagodas, you should dress modestly. Vietnamese are very conservative when it comes to clothing, so your best bet is to dress lightly but don’t expose too much skin.
Another ‘don’t’ would be talking about the Vietnam war. If you can avoid talking about politics altogether, that would be best.
You should also mind your manners when eating and drinking in Vietnam. Don’t drink excessively. Finish all your rice. And use your chopsticks correctly.
Like the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Try to study up the culture to avoid offending the locals.
Read more on Vietnamese culture.
5. Use Common Sense Precautions
This tip doesn’t just apply to backpacking in Vietnam, which is a relatively safe country even for solo travelers. Of course, even relatively safe destinations aren’t 100% crime-free so you should do your part in using common-sense precautions.
Always have your valuables in a concealed money belt or a safe. A good practice for all travelers is to have photocopies of important documents in case of theft.
Another precaution would be to keep a low profile, especially in crowded places. Avoid flashy jewelry and accessories. And whenever you’re in public, always be alert and don’t accept any food or drink from strangers.
6. Prepare Your Tummy
Much has been written about Vietnamese cuisine, so I won’t go into detail here. Needless to say, there are just some specialty dishes that you absolutely must try, especially if you’re a foodie.
Just be cautious if you have a severe peanut/nut allergy. Peanut is used heavily in Vietnamese dishes. If you have an allergy card, have someone who is fluent in Vietnamese translate it for you so you can give that to a waiter or one of the kitchen staff.
7. Try a Private Tour
Let’s be honest. Roughing it isn’t for everyone. So if you want to see Vietnam without sacrificing comfort and style, a private tour is just the ticket.
You’ll have your car so you won’t be stuck with people who may not suit your way of traveling. You also have a lot of flexibility when it comes to your itinerary. In a group tour, that’s not always possible.
Plus, you can stay however long you want at an attraction or leave when you please. You’ll also get your money’s worth with a private tour experience. You’ll hit both touristy places, as well as ones off-the-beaten-track.
Ready to Go Backpacking in Vietnam?
Don’t forget to check out our featured tours. From food trips to day and night adventures to shore excursions and more, we have plenty of fun activities for every traveler.
Find the best places to stay for backpackers