Backpacking in Vietnam aims to provide you valuable experience at a low cost. You can live in Vietnam, labeled as one of the cheapest countries in Asia to travel, for less than $30 a day.
Right now, Vietnam is providing free 15-days VISA to ASEAN and some European countries. UK, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, and Italy are some of those European countries. But, 15-days free Visa is a bait to lure you in.
Once you get into the country, you will realize that 15 days won’t be enough to explore Vietnam, so plan a 30 days’ trip. For a 30-day Visa to Vietnam, log on to the official Vietnamese government website. Get your electronic Visa within 3 working days at $25.
Set aside 30 days of your life for an awesome lifetime experience.
A glance at the map of Vietnam makes you notice its unusual elongated shape. Thus, you can travel to Vietnam either from north-to-south or vice-versa. You decide on how you want to travel to Vietnam as expenses would be the same.
A 1,725 km long rail line connects Hanoi City in the North to Ho Chi Minh City in the South. A train journey takes about 30-35 hours, but, you will miss most parts of Vietnam if you journey through the train.
30 Days Backpacking Vietnam Itinerary
Here’s a 4 weeks’ itinerary prepared to make sure you won’t miss a thing in Vietnam backpacking:
Day 1-2: Hanoi
The adventure begins right off once you land in Hanoi. Crossing the roads in Hanoi will intimidate most of you. Well, that’s something new to experience, isn’t it?
Shuffle around the streets of Hanoi for yummy street foods. Look into Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum for the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, Father of the Nation.
Explore back streets of Hanoi with Hanoi Bicycle Tour. Rent a bicycle and pedal around the busy Hanoi streets. Cycle further to the War museum. Enter the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university for the rich and genius. Spend the evening at Hoan Kiem Lake aka ‘Lake of the Restored Sword’.
Wondering where to stay in Hanoi? Well, Central Hanoi Backpackers Hostel provides comfortable dorms at only $5 a night. Do not forget the free beer, breakfast, and the internet. Why not check out Chien Hostel for an awesome view of the city from its wonderful rooftop bar?
Day 3-5: Halong Bay
Enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halong Bay, is one of the unmissable spots in Vietnam. Book your trip to Halong Bay from Central Hanoi Backpackers Hostel or the hostel you are staying at.
The 2 days and 2 nights’ package include your food, transport and a night in a cool Junk Boat. you will spend the other night in a beach hut, a new experience. While you are at it, behold the spectacular Karst limestone islands in Halong Bay.
An alternative for peace seekers would be Lan Ha Bay. You can homestay in Lan Ha Bay after you travel around the small white beaches and fascinating caves. A night out here makes you feel at peace, close to nature.
At the end of the tour, you can opt to stay on Cat Ba island for rock climbing or head back to Hanoi. From Cat Ba Island, you can arrange bay tours, trekking, cycling and a visit to ‘Hospital Cave.’
If you are looking for a decent hostel, check out Cannon Fort Cat Ba Hotel or Secret Garden Backpapers.
Day 6-8: Sa Pa
The best way to reach Sa Pa is to take 8 hours overnight train from Hanoi. So, how can you make your days count in Sapa? Once you reach Sapa, leave your backpacks at a hostel, hire a motorbike and roam around Sa Pa at your own pace.
Ride your bike to the beautiful Thac Bac Waterfall. Stare at the waterfall till you see a white dragon looking down, as the legend has it. What else, get lost in the wilderness.
Sa Pa is popular for its trek routes and homestays with the hill tribe communities. An enthusiastic trekker can attempt a hike up to Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain. An alternative would be to take a 6 km-long cable car up to 1,500 meters and cover the remaining 1,643 meters on foot.
As Sa Pa is famous for home stays, it’s always better to stay with indigenous communities. Learn more about Vietnamese culture and food. Otherwise, you can choose to stay in Go Sapa Hostel or Check In Sapa Hostel.
Optional 3 Days: Ha Giang Loop
If you are a motorbike enthusiast, then extend your stay in Sapa. Prepare yourself for a motor-biking adventure of a lifetime.
Unless you are an experienced rider, don’t attempt to drive along the Ha Giang Loop. The off-road route is prone to accidents. Instead, hire a driver from Easy Riders to drive you around.
Ngan Ha Homestay is a great option to stay in Ha Giang. They provide you with a private room and free breakfast. You can rent a bike here. Bong Hostel is another excellent choice to stay before the ride. Not only you can rent a bike and accessories but you also get help to plan your loop itinerary.
Day 9-10: Ninh Binh
The amazing province of Ninh Binh lies about 2 hours ride from Hanoi. If you are in a mood to ride, take a motorbike up to Ninh Binh. Otherwise, you can take a day tour with locals to discover more about Ninh Binh.
Visit mystical ancient temples, mysterious caves, and awesome countryside. Roam around rice paddies, boat ride to astonishing Sao Khe River. Taste mouth-watering Vietnamese cuisine.
Spend a night at Tam Coc Green Garden Homestay to enjoy delightful riverside views. Book a dorm at $5 a night, dive in the hotel swimming pool.
Day 11-14: Phong Nha National Park
Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park houses the biggest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong. After the opening of the cave in 2013, it has become one of the third major tourist attractions in Vietnam. But, the cave has a waiting list of 2 years with a cost of over $3,000 to visit, so it will be unavailable to most of you.
You can explore plenty of other mystical caves such as Paradise Cave, Tu Lan Caves, Hang Toi, and many others. Trek along the beautiful countryside or go cycling or motorbiking. You should stay for at least 3-4 days to absorb the beautiful rural atmosphere of the whole park.
Phong Nha Farmstay is the best hostel to make you feel at home. If not, you can choose to stay in Easy Tiger Hostel.
Day 15-16: Hue
The ancient city of Hue is worth 1-2 days of the visit. Travel through the ancient streets on foot or rent a bicycle. Visit the Imperial Hue Citadel to get insights on Vietnamese history.
Take a boat cruise on the Perfume River to explore tombs of the former Emperors. Don’t forget to taste the local food in Hue as they are the best in Vietnam.
Check out Vietnam Backpackers Hostels Hue to meet up with fellow travelers. For solo stay, it’s better to stay in Tam Family Homestay.
Hai Van Pass
Between Hue and Hoi An, lies the legendary Hai Van Pass, known as “the ribbon of perfection.” Hire a motorbike and ride it through the best coastal road. Enjoy the freedom of the road, stop wherever and whenever you want to.
Not confident about riding a bike? Well, you can opt for Van Pass jeep tour as traveling in a group is often cheaper and you won’t miss a thing. You can sit back and relax while admiring the scenic beauty. You will explore historical sites and deserted beaches along the way.
Day 17-19: Hoi An
Hoi An served as a Southeast Asian trading port dating back to the 15th and 19th centuries. So, the streets of Hoi An are a blend of Chinese, Dutch, French and Indian architecture. You can get a tailor-made suit, a dress and a pair of slippers under $50. Remarkable, isn’t it?
Try out local delicacies as you wander around the streets. The thriving tourism has crammed the streets of Hoi An with bicycles. So, move out to some quieter villages of the Tra Que vegetable garden for a relaxed experience. Experience Stand up Paddle Boarding on the sea.
Vietnam Backpacker Hostel-Hoi An is popular among backpackers. The hostel is popular for a swimming pool and a lively bar so, it is usually packed with party lovers.
Paddy’s Hostel is another option for backpackers that provides swimming pool facilities.
Under The Coconut Tree, which is a 3-minute walk from the beach, offers a cheap and cheerful place at $9 per dorm room.
Day 20-23: Dalat
Dalat referred to as the ‘Alps of Vietnam’ enjoys a cooler climate than other areas. Engage yourself in various outdoor activities; mountain biking, trekking, rock-climbing, and canyoning.
Trek or take a mountain bike to stroll around the city but don’t miss out Datanla Waterfall. The waterfall lies 5 km away from the city.
The temperature around here makes it possible to produce decent wines. So, drink Dalat wine at a cheap price and stroll around the lake that lies in the heart of Dalat.
Red House Backpacker Hostel is a cheap and cheerful place to stay. If you are looking for more, then Dalat Crazy House is always there to provide you a unique experience.
Day 24-27: Mui Ne
Ready to explore the famous white and red sand dunes? Leave your backpack behind in the van and hire a mountain bike for this 3 hours’ downhill journey.
Visit white sand dunes at sunrise for a breathtaking view. Leave your footprints behind while you walk on the sand, untouched at this early hour. Hire a kneeboarding during the day and let yourself loose on the sand.
The tourists swarm around the red sand dunes, so it’s better to make a quick stop out here.
What else, visit Mui Ne Fishing Village. Stroll around the Fairy Spring. Try out kitesurfing and windsurfing. Hey! Wind Chimes International Kitesurfing School offers lessons on both kitesurfing and windsurfing. So if you are up for it, just give it a try.
Mui Ne Hills Hotels have a variety of choices on hotels to suit your budget. If you are seeking luxury, May Bungalow is there to cater to your needs.
Day 28-30 Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)
Known as Saigon, the city is a contrast between traditional and modern, the rich and the poor. HCMC is a starting point if you are exploring Vietnam from the south to the north.
So what can you do in HCMC? Challenge your claustrophobia in the Cu Chi Tunnels. it is the network of underground tunnels Viet Cong guerrillas used during the 1960s war.
Take a boat trip to the Mekong Delta. Book a 2-days Mekong Madness Tour to explore side roads and local wildlife on a motorbike.
Visit War Remnants Museum to feel terrors of the Vietnam war. It provides daunting insights on the life of the front line fighters during the 1954-1975 war.
Admire the architecture of 19th century Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica built by French colonists. Now, it’s time to relax your body and mind. Ease your body with a traditional full body Vietnamese massage.
Looking for a budget backpacker hostels? The Hideout Hostel, located in the heart of HCMC, is the best choice for backpackers. Along with free breakfast and free beers, the hostel owns a pool table, TV lounge, and clean AC dorms. For a friendlier hostel, check out Flipside Hostel, Hangout Hostel or Common Room Project.
Before making a travel decision you need to consider the weather in Vietnam. The climate in the north can be different from that in the south.
The best time to travel North Vietnam would be October-May. The north endures all 4 seasons:
- Summer: April-June
- Rainy: July-November
- Winter: December-February
- Spring: End of February-April
The south remains hot throughout the year. The temperature drops a little in December to January but you won’t need a jacket. The humidity is the highest from February to May.
December-April is the best time to travel to southern Vietnam.
The central part of Vietnam receives frequent rain, but, it remains mostly sunny throughout the year. Thanks to the shoreline, the temperature remains cool even in the summer. To avoid heavy rain, travel Central Vietnam between February and July.
Safety in Vietnam
Aside from occasional muggings, robberies, and scams, Vietnam is safe to Travel.
Be cautious if you are traveling on two-wheelers. The roads in Vietnam city can be hectic, with terrible road standards and high traffic accident rate.
Hide your money safely while exploring Vietnam. Stay wary of the hassles and scams in large cities such as HCMC, Hanoi, and Nha Trang.
Tips for Backpacking in Vietnam
- Instead of booking any tours or transport from a hostel or hotel, use 12Go to buy your tickets in advance.
- Use a currency app such as XE Currency to understand the value of the currency.
- Ask and confirm the price before you eat in the local markets and at sidewalk cafes.
- The vendors usually hike the price. So, travel with a local companion and watch them negotiate with the vendors.
- Rent a scooter or motorbike whenever you can, but make sure you get decent insurance. I recommend World Nomads.
- Download an offline map before journeying through Vietnam. Use Maps.Me to download a full map of Vietnam.
- Be wary of taxi scams. Fix a price beforehand.
Travel Phrases in Vietnamese
- Hello – Xin Chao
- What is your name? – Tên cua ban là si
- What is this? – cái si te nài?
- No Problem – Khong Van De GiThank You – Cám on Ban
- I’m Hungry – Tôi Doi
- I like to Eat – Toi Muon An
- No plastic cutlery please – Không có dao nh?a xin vui lòng
- No straw please – Không có r?m, xin vui lòng
- No plastic bag – Không có túi nh?a
- I don’t understand. – Toi khong hieu
- I am Sorry – Toi Sin Loi
- Goodbye – Tam biet
Must Try Vietnamese Street Food
- Pho: A national dish in Vietnam eaten primarily at breakfast. A nourishing rice noodle dipped in meat soup, sprinkled with fresh herbs.
- Bun Cha: A top choice for lunchtime. Marinated pork belly grilled over a charcoal fire, served with fish sauce and rice noodles.
- Goi Cuon: An alternative to the fried food in Vietnam. Fresh spring rolls packed with noodles, green salad, a slice of meat/seafood and a layer of coriander.
- Xoi: A mix-in with a choice of chicken, pork or preserved eggs savored over sticky rice.
- Cha ca: Favourite dish in Hanoi. Freshwater fish, grilled over a charcoal stove, served with herb and spring onions.
Did this article incite you for a Vietnam backpacking? Well, you can always extend your stay in Vietnam. Do not squeeze your travel to fit your schedule and miss out the fun while traveling. Remember! you are there to enjoy, not to meet a deadline. So, travel at your own pace.
To sum up
- Plan before backpacking for Vietnam
- Try out the local delicacies in Vietnam
- Make sure to convert your currencies in bulk
- Enjoy various water sports and other adventurous activities
- Take a bike or jeep tour in Hai Van pass
- Visit War Remnants Museum, white and red sand dunes, and Phong Nha National Park
- Relax at hostels scattered throughout Vietnam