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Tips for Backpacking in Vietnam: Traveling around Vietnam

April 14, 2024

Embarking on a backpacking in Vietnam is a captivating experience that offers a unique blend of rich cultural heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant cityscapes. As a solo traveler, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local way of life, forge meaningful connections, and create lasting memories. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the essential tips and insights to help you plan and navigate your backpacking journey through the enchanting nation of Vietnam.

Backpacking around Vietnam

Backpacking around Vietnam

Planning Your Itinerary

Crafting the perfect itinerary for your Vietnam backpacking adventure is the foundation for a successful and fulfilling trip. Begin by considering the duration of your stay, as this will dictate the pace and depth of your exploration. Whether you have a week, a month, or more, it’s essential to strike a balance between must-see destinations and off-the-beaten-path gems.

Prioritize Your Interests

Take the time to reflect on your personal interests and preferences. Are you drawn to the vibrant energy of bustling cities, the serene beauty of natural landscapes, or the rich cultural heritage of historic sites? By identifying your priorities, you can tailor your itinerary to maximize your experience and ensure you don’t miss out on the experiences that matter most to you.

Incorporate Flexibility

While it’s important to have a general plan in place, it’s equally crucial to leave room for spontaneity and flexibility. Vietnam is a country that often surprises and delights, and you may stumble upon unexpected hidden gems or make new friends who introduce you to local experiences. Build in some open-ended time slots in your itinerary to allow for serendipitous discoveries and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Explore Regional Differences

Vietnam is a diverse country with distinct regional characteristics. From the vibrant streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south to the majestic mountains of Sapa in the north, each region offers its own unique charm and cultural nuances. Incorporate a variety of destinations in your itinerary to gain a well-rounded understanding of the country’s diversity.

Utilize Online Resources

Leverage the wealth of online resources available to research and plan your Vietnam backpacking adventure. Travel blogs, forums, and social media can provide valuable insights from fellow travelers, while destination-specific websites can offer detailed information on attractions, transportation, and local customs. Take advantage of these resources to create a comprehensive and well-informed itinerary.

Choosing the Right Accommodation

Selecting the right accommodation is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience in Vietnam. From budget-friendly hostels to more luxurious options, the country offers a wide range of accommodations to suit various preferences and budgets.

Hostels and Guesthouses

Hostels and guesthouses are popular choices among solo backpackers in Vietnam, as they often provide a social atmosphere and opportunities to meet fellow travelers. These budget-friendly options typically offer dormitory-style rooms, shared bathrooms, and communal spaces that encourage interaction and the exchange of travel experiences.

When choosing a hostel or guesthouse, consider factors such as location, cleanliness, security, and reviews from fellow travelers. Many hostels also organize activities and tours, making it easier to connect with others and explore the local area.

Budget Hotels and Boutique Stays

For those seeking a bit more privacy and comfort, budget hotels and boutique accommodations can be excellent choices. These options often provide private rooms, en-suite bathrooms, and additional amenities, while still maintaining affordable prices. Research thoroughly to find the right balance between quality, location, and value.

Homestays and Eco-Lodges

Immersing yourself in the local way of life is an integral part of the backpacking experience in Vietnam. Consider booking a homestay or eco-lodge, where you can live with a local family and gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese culture, traditions, and daily routines. These unique accommodations not only provide a one-of-a-kind experience but also support sustainable tourism initiatives.

Booking Platforms and Reviews

Utilize online booking platforms, such as Hostelworld,, or Agoda, to compare a wide range of accommodation options and read reviews from previous guests. These platforms often offer filters to narrow down your search based on your preferences, budget, and location.

Try the Street Food – Eat Where the Locals Eat

One of the most immersive and rewarding experiences in Vietnam is indulging in the vibrant street food scene. From sizzling pho to delectable banh mi, the country’s culinary delights are a testament to the diversity and richness of its culture.

Embrace the Street Food Culture

Venture out and explore the bustling night markets, roadside stalls, and local eateries where the locals congregate. This is where you’ll find the most authentic and delicious dishes, often prepared with time-honored recipes and techniques. Embrace the lively atmosphere, the sights, sounds, and aromas that permeate the air, and immerse yourself in the Vietnamese street food experience.

Explore Regional Specialties

Different regions of Vietnam are renowned for their unique culinary specialties. From the “bún chả” of Hanoi in the north to the Hue royal cuisine in central Vietnam, each area has its own distinct flavors and culinary traditions. Seek out these regional specialties to broaden your understanding of Vietnamese gastronomy and satisfy your taste buds.

Seek Recommendations from Locals

The best way to discover the hidden gems of Vietnam’s street food scene is to seek recommendations from locals. Ask your hostel staff, tour guides, or even friendly strangers for their favorite spots to enjoy authentic and delectable street food. This approach not only ensures you’re getting the most genuine experience but also allows you to connect with the local community.

Food Safety Considerations

When indulging in street food, it’s essential to take some precautions to ensure your health and safety. Opt for stalls or vendors with high turnover, indicating fresh and well-cooked ingredients. Avoid raw or undercooked items, and be mindful of your personal hygiene, such as washing your hands before eating. By exercising a bit of caution, you can fully immerse yourself in the vibrant and delicious world of Vietnamese street food.

Iconic Vietnamese Street Food Dishes
1. Phở (Noodle Soup)
2. Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Baguette Sandwich)
3. Bún Chả (Grilled Pork with Vermicelli Noodles)
4. Cơm Tấm (Broken Rice Dish)
5. Bánh Xèo (Sizzling Crepes)

Packing Light and Smart

Packing for a backpacking adventure in Vietnam requires a strategic and minimalist approach. Overpacking can weigh you down, both physically and mentally, hindering your mobility and flexibility during your travels.

Choose Versatile and Durable Clothing

When it comes to packing, focus on versatile and durable clothing that can be easily mixed and matched. Opt for lightweight, quick-drying fabrics that can be worn in various weather conditions. Consider items that can serve multiple purposes, such as a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt that can be used for both warmth and sun protection.

Prioritize Comfort and Function

Comfort should be a top priority when packing for your Vietnam backpacking trip. Choose well-fitting, comfortable shoes that are suitable for both walking and hiking. Ensure you have a few sets of breathable, moisture-wicking clothing to keep you cool and comfortable in the warm and humid climate.

Pack Smartly for Diverse Environments

Vietnam’s diverse landscapes, from bustling cities to remote rural areas, require adaptability in your packing. Pack layers that can be easily added or removed, and include items that can protect you from the elements, such as a lightweight rain jacket or a sun hat.

Minimize Toiletries and Electronics

Limit your toiletries and electronics to only the essentials. Consider travel-sized or multi-purpose products to save space in your backpack. When it comes to electronics, prioritize items that serve multiple functions, such as a smartphone that can be used for navigation, communication, and photography.

Utilize Packing Cubes and Compression Bags

Packing cubes and compression bags can be invaluable tools for organizing and maximizing the space in your backpack. These accessories allow you to compartmentalize your belongings and reduce the overall volume, making it easier to pack and unpack during your travels.

Staying Safe and Connected

Ensuring your safety and maintaining connectivity are crucial aspects of a successful backpacking adventure in Vietnam. By taking proactive measures, you can explore the country with confidence and ease.

Personal Safety Precautions

As with any travel destination, it’s essential to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone at night in remote areas, keep your valuables secure, and be mindful of pickpockets in crowded tourist areas. Consider using a money belt or concealed pouch to store your cash and important documents.

Staying Connected

Staying connected is crucial for both safety and convenience during your Vietnam backpacking trip. Invest in a Vietnam SIM cards with data, which will allow you to access maps, communicate with your travel companions or new friends, and stay connected with loved ones back home.

Travel Insurance and Emergency Contacts

Before embarking on your Vietnam backpacking adventure, ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance coverage. This will provide you with peace of mind and financial protection in the event of unexpected medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Additionally, make a note of important emergency contacts, such as your embassy, travel insurance provider, and local emergency services. Keep this information readily accessible, either in a physical document or stored on your smartphone.

Cultural Awareness and Respect

As a solo traveler, it’s essential to be culturally aware and respectful of the local customs and traditions in Vietnam. Research the appropriate etiquette, dress codes, and social norms to ensure you don’t inadvertently offend or disrupt the local communities you encounter.

Exploring Off the Beaten Path

While the well-known tourist destinations in Vietnam are undoubtedly captivating, venturing off the beaten path can uncover hidden gems and unique experiences that will truly enrich your backpacking journey.

Discover Rural Landscapes

Venture beyond the bustling cities and explore the serene, rural landscapes of Vietnam. From the terraced rice fields of Sapa to the tranquil waterways of the Mekong Delta, these off-the-beaten-path destinations offer a glimpse into the traditional way of life and the country’s stunning natural beauty.

Interact with Ethnic Minority Groups

Vietnam is home to a diverse array of ethnic minority groups, each with its own distinct cultural traditions and way of life. Seek out opportunities to visit remote villages, engage with the local communities, and learn about their unique customs and crafts. These interactions can provide a profound and authentic experience that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.

Immerse Yourself in Spiritual Retreats

Vietnam has a rich spiritual heritage, and you can find numerous opportunities to immerse yourself in meditation, yoga, or Buddhist retreats. These serene and introspective experiences can offer a deeper understanding of the local way of life and provide a chance for personal reflection and growth.

Explore Smaller Towns and Villages

Look beyond the major cities and explore the charming smaller towns and villages that dot the Vietnamese landscape. These off-the-beaten-path destinations often offer a more relaxed pace, allowing you to witness the daily routines of the locals and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Embrace Spontaneity and Curiosity

Cultivate an open and curious mindset, and don’t be afraid to veer off the well-trodden path. Be receptive to local recommendations, engage with friendly strangers, and allow your sense of adventure to guide you to unexpected discoveries. These serendipitous moments often become the most memorable highlights of a backpacking journey.

Budgeting for Your Trip

Crafting a realistic budget is an essential aspect of planning your backpacking adventure in Vietnam. By understanding the various costs associated with your trip, you can better manage your finances and ensure a stress-free and enjoyable experience.

Accommodation Costs

Accommodation costs in Vietnam can vary greatly depending on the type of accommodation you choose. Hostels and budget hotels typically range from $5 to $15 per night, while more upscale hotels and boutique accommodations can range from $30 to $100 or more per night.

Food and Dining Expenses

Food is generally very affordable in Vietnam, with street food and local eateries offering delicious meals for as little as $1 to $5 per dish. Dining at mid-range restaurants can cost between $5 to $15 per person, while more upscale dining experiences may range from $15 to $30 or more.

Transportation Costs

Local transportation, such as taking buses, trains, or ride-hailing services, is relatively inexpensive in Vietnam. Prices can range from $1 to $10 for short to medium-distance trips, depending on the mode of transportation and the distance traveled.

Activities and Attractions

Many of Vietnam’s top attractions, such as historical sites, museums, and natural wonders, have affordable entry fees, typically ranging from $1 to $10. Adventure activities, such as hiking, kayaking, or cooking classes, may cost between $20 to $50 or more per person.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Don’t forget to factor in additional expenses, such as toiletries, laundry, and souvenirs. These costs can vary greatly depending on your personal spending habits and the specific items you purchase.

By creating a detailed budget and tracking your expenses, you can ensure that you have a financially responsible and enjoyable backpacking experience in Vietnam.

Agree a Price Before You Do Anything

When navigating the bustling markets, negotiating with vendors, or arranging transportation in Vietnam, it’s crucial to agree on a price before committing to any transaction. This proactive approach will help you avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts.

Haggling and Negotiating

Haggling is a common practice in Vietnam, especially in local markets and with street vendors. Approach these interactions with a friendly and respectful demeanor, and be prepared to negotiate the price. Start with a lower offer and work your way up to a mutually agreeable price.

Prearranged Pricing

For activities, tours, or transportation arrangements, always inquire about the pricing upfront and get a clear understanding of what is included in the fee. Avoid any last-minute surprises or hidden charges by establishing the cost and details beforehand.

Written Agreements

When booking larger purchases, such as accommodation or long-distance transportation, consider obtaining a written agreement or contract that outlines the agreed-upon price, terms, and conditions. This documentation can serve as a reference and help prevent any misunderstandings or disputes.

Tipping Expectations

Tipping is not as prevalent in Vietnam as in some other countries, but it is still appreciated in certain situations, such as for exceptional service at a restaurant or for porters assisting with your luggage. Familiarize yourself with the local tipping customs to avoid any confusion or discomfort.

By being proactive and establishing clear pricing agreements, you can navigate the Vietnamese market with confidence and ensure a seamless and hassle-free backpacking experience.

Getting Around Vietnam

Exploring Vietnam’s diverse regions and destinations requires navigating a range of transportation options, each with its own advantages and considerations. As a backpacker, it’s essential to understand the various modes of transportation available and how to make the most of them.

Public Transportation

Vietnam’s public transportation network is extensive and relatively affordable. Buses, trains, and even domestic flights can be excellent choices for longer-distance travel. Research timetables, class options, and booking procedures to ensure a smoothand convenient journey. Public buses are the most common mode of transport for short to medium distances, with fares typically ranging from $1 to $10, depending on the route and the bus class. Trains are a popular option for longer journeys, offering comfortable sleeper cabins and scenic views along the way. Domestic flights can be a time-saving choice for traveling between major cities or distant regions, with various airlines providing competitive rates.

Motorbikes and Scooters

Renting a motorbike or scooter can offer a sense of freedom and flexibility when exploring Vietnam’s cities and countryside. Many rental agencies cater to tourists, providing well-maintained bikes for daily or weekly rates. It’s essential to wear a helmet, follow traffic regulations, and ensure that you have the necessary license or permit to operate a motor vehicle in Vietnam. Exercise caution, especially in busy urban areas, and be mindful of road conditions and local driving habits.

Cyclos and Xe Om

For a unique and traditional transportation experience, consider taking a cyclo ride or hopping on a xe om (motorbike taxi). These iconic modes of transport are prevalent in urban areas and offer a different perspective on the city streets. Negotiate the fare upfront, and enjoy a leisurely ride while taking in the sights and sounds of Vietnam’s bustling neighborhoods.

By familiarizing yourself with the various transportation options available in Vietnam and planning your routes accordingly, you can maximize your travel experiences and navigate the country with confidence.

Experiencing Local Culture

One of the most rewarding aspects of backpacking through Vietnam is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of local culture. From vibrant markets and traditional festivals to ancient temples and contemporary art scenes, Vietnam offers a myriad of cultural experiences waiting to be explored.

Visit Markets and Artisan Villages

Explore the colorful and bustling markets scattered throughout Vietnam, where vendors sell fresh produce, handicrafts, and street food. Engage with local artisans in traditional craft villages, where you can witness age-old techniques in pottery, silk weaving, and wood carving. Support local businesses by purchasing authentic souvenirs and treasures to remind you of your travels.

Join Festivals and Celebrations

Participate in traditional festivals and celebrations that showcase Vietnam’s cultural heritage and religious traditions. From the vibrant lantern festival in Hoi An to the exhilarating dragon boat races during Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, these events offer a glimpse into the country’s history and customs. Embrace the festive atmosphere, sample festive delicacies, and partake in time-honored rituals alongside the locals.

Discover Historical and Spiritual Sites

Vietnam is home to a wealth of historical and spiritual landmarks that provide insights into the country’s past and beliefs. Visit ancient temples, pagodas, and imperial citadels, each with its own architectural beauty and significance. Pay your respects at sacred sites such as the Perfume Pagoda or the Cao Dai Temple, and learn about the diverse religious practices that shape Vietnamese society.

By engaging with local culture through markets, festivals, and historical sites, you can deepen your appreciation for Vietnam’s heritage and create lasting memories of your backpacking journey.

Sustainable Travel in Vietnam

As a conscientious traveler, it’s important to prioritize sustainability and responsible tourism practices during your backpacking adventure in Vietnam. By minimizing your environmental impact, supporting local communities, and respecting cultural traditions, you can contribute positively to the destinations you visit and help preserve Vietnam’s natural and cultural heritage for future generations.

Reduce Plastic Waste

Vietnam faces challenges related to plastic pollution, with single-use plastics contributing to environmental degradation. As a responsible traveler, carry a reusable water bottle, utensils, and shopping bags to minimize plastic waste during your trip. Refill your bottle at filtered water stations or opt for beverages served in glass or aluminum containers to reduce your ecological footprint.

Support Eco-Friendly Initiatives

Choose accommodations, tour operators, and businesses that prioritize sustainable practices and environmentally friendly policies. Look for eco-certifications, solar energy usage, waste recycling programs, and community engagement initiatives when selecting services and products. By supporting green businesses, you promote responsible tourism and encourage industry standards that benefit the environment and local communities.

Respect Cultural Heritage

When visiting cultural and historical sites in Vietnam, show respect for sacred places, artifacts, and traditions. Follow guidelines regarding appropriate attire, photography restrictions, and visitor conduct to preserve the integrity of these significant locations. Engage with local guides and interpreters to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural context and historical importance of the sites you explore.

Engage in Community-Based Tourism

Seek out opportunities to engage in community-based tourism initiatives that directly benefit local residents and marginalized groups. Stay in homestays, participate in village-led activities, and support social enterprises that reinvest profits into community development projects. By connecting with authentic cultural experiences and contributing to grassroots sustainability efforts, you can make a positive impact on the communities you encounter.

By incorporating sustainable travel practices into your backpacking itinerary, you can promote environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and community empowerment in Vietnam. Through your mindful actions and choices, you can become a responsible global citizen and advocate for a more sustainable approach to travel.


Backpacking through Vietnam offers a transformative journey through a land of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant cultures, and warm hospitality. By following these tips and guidelines for planning your itinerary, immersing yourself in local experiences, and embracing sustainable travel practices, you can create meaningful memories and forge authentic connections during your adventure. Whether you’re exploring bustling cities, serene countryside, or remote villages, Vietnam welcomes you with open arms and invites you to discover the beauty and diversity of this captivating country. Embark on your backpacking odyssey with an open heart and a curious spirit, and let the wonders of Vietnam unfold before you. Safe travels!