Vietnam is with no surprise one of the favorite destinations for backpackers around the world.

Is also becoming a trendy destination, and more and more people are venturing to the secrets of this amazing country. But as you know, when starts the mass tourism, is not enjoyable anymore for the tourist.

That is why you should go backpacking Vietnam as soon as you have a chance.

Luckily, there are still many hidden gems out of the big cities, so you are are on time to live an excellent experience before it gets crazy.

For us, it is one of our top destinations due to many reasons: Stunning nature, lovely people good food, etc. But we already saw massive and uncontrolled tourism in Phu Quoc, which was our less favorite part of the country mainly due to this.

Backpacking Vietnam means having the freedom to explore and you still can go further than anyone else. It means being able to get off the beaten track to discover the many hidden gems that this country still has waiting for you. And we want to tell you how to do it here.

vietnam landscape

A beautiful landscape somewhere in central Vietnam | Nomads RTW

There is an endless list of reasons why backpacking Vietnam should be on your bucket list:

  • The scenery that you find in Vietnam is unique, and so it is its natural wonders. It is a country of truly natural beauty.
  • It is a place rich in history and culture with lots of ancient historical sights to visit.
  • Food is a highlight of Vietnam. It is hard to say what exactly makes Vietnamese food so delicious and worldwide acknowledged but it is a real fact.
  • People. Honestly, traveling Vietnam from the most touristic places to the most rural and remote areas makes you realize that there is no place in Vietnam, where a Vietnamese will not stop what they are doing to help you. Their kindness has no limits.
  • Moving around is easy. Vietnam is under development work constantly so that the country road network is in a very good state and so it is quite comfortable to drive around even on secondary roads.

Backpacking Vietnam Tips

Sometimes people get worried when it becomes to preparations.

Some common questions are what should I pack, what is the best itinerary, how to get the visa or what would be the daily budget.

Here, we give you the answers to those questions adding also some helpful tips for travelling Vietnam.

What to pack for backpacking Vietnam

The key to being efficient when packing up is taking only what is necessary.

You don’t want to carry around a heavy bag full of unnecessary stuff. Also, take into account that in any major city, in Vietnam, you would be able to buy anything you need, probably cheaper than back home. So instead of guessing, pack what you’ll need and worst case scenario, you can buy more there.

In terms of clothes, bear in mind whether you will visit the country from north to south or whether you will just stay in one area. We say so because temperatures differs a lot from southern to northern areas so we recommend you to be prepared.

Pack up all you need for beach days and breathable clothes as well as proper shoes to undertake long treks if you are visiting the South as temperatures are warmer with a possibility of rain too.

To visit the northern region, you should pack clothes that protect you from the cold and the rain and a good pair of shoes is always a great choice. Also, if you are thinking of renting a motorbike to travel Vietnam by motorbike, you may want to take special clothes and layers so you can put them on or remove them depending on the weather.

Here in this post, we tell you some tricks about how to pack effectively and you can also see a list of the things we packed.

Visa in Vietnam

If you are United States citizen, you are required to have a visa to enter Vietnam. To apply for a Vietnam travel visa you need to visit www.vietnamvisa.govt.vn submit an application form and wait for approval. A travel visa for Vietnam will cost you less than $20.

if you are a British Citizen passport holders can enter Vietnam without a Visa until June 30th, 2019 for a maximum of 15 days. For a staying of 15 days onward, you need to get an e-visa online. For visits of over 30 days, you are required to get a visa from the Vietnamese embassy before travel.

If you are Australian Citizens must have an appropriate visa. Australian Citizens are eligible to apply for an online single entry visa, valid for a maximum of 30 days here.

Alternatively, you can check visa requirements from any nationality from Travisa website

Travel insurance for backpacking Vietnam

As we all know, sometimes unpredictable things happen and all you can do is be prepared. That is why you should buy a travel insurance policy that covers you when you might need especially when you are traveling to an unknown country.

We always use World Nomads for our trips, and so far it has worked like a charm. You want to know why? We tell you here:

Why buy travel insurance from World Nomads.com?

  1. Backed by specialist insurers and global assistance partners
  2. Buy Online, even if you’ve already left home
  3. Buy more cover and claim online while travelling
  4. Covers a range of adventure sports and activities
  5. Give a little back and support a community development project

You can also get a quick quote here:

Helpful apps to download before backpacking Vietnam.

When you are backpacking Vietnam there are some apps that can come really in handy for you. The following ones are the ones that we have used the most and that we strongly recommend you to download and have on your phone.

Maps. Me: This app allows you to download full maps of countries and use them even when you are offline. This is especially helpful when you are in the middle of nowhere and you need to plan your way from a point to another. It is completely free and it has worked everywhere we have been to.

Currency exchange. Are you good with instant math? Even if you are, this app is the best thing to know how much you are paying in any country as it gives you the last minute exchange rate and you can use it offline too. So this will avoid overpaying and getting rip off as much as it will help you to know the money and keep your trip on a budget.

Skyscanner. This app comes in handy when you need to book flights as it will find you the best deals on site instantly.

Booking. com. We have used booking so so so much during our trips. Not only when we are planning in advance but also when we try to find last minute accommodation, we know that we will find the best deal here. Also, not only you can use some discount codes but also, after a while your account becomes genius so that you will find even better deals.

Hostelworld. If you are a solo traveler, this is the way to go. It offers the best choices of cheap hostel accommodation and also the chance to know many interesting people.

Best time for backpacking Vietnam

As we mentioned before in our Vietnam Travel Guide, there is no perfect time to visit Vietnam when you will find nice summer temperatures throughout the country. As it is such a long country, there are considerable differences between the southern areas and the northern, that is why you should expect nice summer in the south and cooler temperatures as you keep going further north.

The best time to visit the northern areas of Vietnam such as Sapa, Halong, and Hanoi is, from March to May. During this time, the average temperature is between 18-22 degrees. However, you should be prepared to face temperatures of 15 degrees and some rain.

The best time to visit Central Vietnam, Hue is from February to July to avoid heavy rain and when the temperatures are in the mid 20’s which is hot enough to go to the beach and cold enough to not melt in the middle of the street. Temperatures will rise up to 30 degrees from June to August.

The best time to visit the Southern areas of Vietnam such as Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc is From December to March. This is the dry season so you should expect hot and humid weather and sunny days to enjoy the sea breeze and a dip in the sea.

girl on a swing in a beach in Phu Quoc

Views from the top of the national park in Catba | Nomads RTW

Proposed Vietnam travel itinerary

For our proposed Vietnam travel itinerary, you should ideally have at least 21 days.

Probably, you won’t have all this time. In this case, we would recommend skipping the southern part of the country and focusing only on 2 areas. One area if you have a week only. 

In the south, you wouldn’t miss much if you skip Phu Quoc. As per Ho Chi Minh, it may have some interesting things to do like the Mekong Delta, but sacrificing your days only for this is not what we would recommend when there is so much to see.

The other places have much more to see and do.

Secondly, it doesn’t make a big difference if you prefer to start from the south and move up to the north or if you rather do the other way around. What we did was starting in Phu Quoc and then traveled all the way up to Hanoi.

The only reason why we spent two nights in Ho Chi Minh was that we were looking for a motorbike, otherwise, a day was more than enough in our opinion. Also, we spent a total of 40 days in Vietnam.

Finally, if you have more the time, we’d recommend you to visit also Hue after Dalat as it has interesting historical sights, The Imperial City that has earned a place in  UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Also Ha Gian province in the North.

backpacking vietnam itinerary

click to zoom in

  • Phu Quoc

  • Ho Chi Minh

  • Dalat

  • Hoi An

  • Phong Na

  • Trang An

  • Hanoi

  • Halong Bay

How to move around in Vietnam

  • Bus. Buses in Vietnam are normally pretty well equipped and comfortable and it is a great of way of backpacking on a budget. The best way to book your bus tickets is from 12GoAsia where you can check times and prices.
  • Trains in Vietnam are also a good way of traveling cheap and enjoy the scenery of Vietnam. Trains operate a single way route from Ho Chi Minh all the way to the Chinese route. Again, if you are planning on taking a train you should check the itinerary first and book in advance.
  • Domestic flight. This is a great option for you if you don’t have much time to visit the country as it saves lots of time. However, prices are higher than any other transport.
  • MotorbikeThat is what we did when we were backpacking Vietnam. We rented a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh and traveled all the way up to Hanoi where we returned the motorbike. For us, this was the highlight of our trip due to being able to get off the beaten track and find ourselves in the middle of rural areas as well as having more freedom. Luckily we didn’t have any issues but driving in Vietnam is not easy, so you must be an experienced driver as we did meet lots of people who ended up their trip in the hospital, so If you are up for this, please be safe and sensible.
  • Taxi.  In big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, taxi is a good option to move around as it is not expensive. You can download Grab to use it from your device.
Hanoi

Traffic in Hanoi | Unplash

Backpacking Vietnam Budget

These prices are only as a reference. And it is always hard to say how much will cost you to travel somewhere because ultimately, it depends on your travel style.

If you go only for a week, it might be easier to stick to these prices than if you go for 3 weeks for example. You will hardly move the same way or eat the same stuff over different periods.

If you want to see how much it was exactly for us you can see it here.

Top tips for saving money while backpacking Vietnam

There are so many ways of saving money when traveling to Vietnam. These ways not only will help you to save money but also, you’ll get the insight into the local culture and lifestyle.

  • Volunteer. You can find volunteer jobs almost everywhere. These jobs could be from teaching English to helping in hostels, to help in farms, to look after animals and a long etc. We used Workaway to find volunteer jobs abroad. The only thing you need to do is register, pay 40 $ per year for a single person or pay 54$ per year if you are a couple or two friends.
  • TrustedHousesitters. You can also save money by looking after pets in their owner’s house while they are away. For this, you need to commit the full time they need you. We used TrustedHouseSitters. 
  • Couchsurfing. This platform allows you to stay in people’s house which is a great way of integrating with the local culture and get an insight view of the places you are staying apart from making new friends.
  • Hitchhiking. This is a very common way of moving around for people who don’t mind waiting a bit for someone to take them. We didn’t do hitchhike though, but we did meet lots of people who normally moved around like this and they quite enjoy it.
  • Keep it local. This is definitely one of the best ways of saving money wherever you go. In our case, we tried to stick as much as we could to local places. In terms of where to eat, our choice in Vietnam was always local and what a great choice! Also, taking public transport is always cheaper than private. If you want to find the good stuff, just follow the locals, they are the experts.
  • Use your filter water bottle. You cannot imagine how much you can save with this. Imagine how much plastic and money you will be wasting every single day with plastic bottles, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Instead, get yourself a water filter bottle and use it EVERYWHERE. Not only you will help your pocket but you will also help the planet. Please, do it!
  • Know the money. There is nothing worse than thinking that something is cheap and then ending up your trip absolutely broke realizing how confused you were with the currency. When this happens is because you have been paying way more than what actually you should have. To avoid this, we recommend you to use the app XE Currency and be aware of the average prices to avoid scams.

Conclusion

Backpacking Vietnam is indeed good fun and it is safe.

Now is the right time to visit the country, but not the big cities. Go further and explore areas like Ninh Binh, Tam Coc, Cuc Phuong, etc

There are still many places in Vietnam where not many tourists go and they happen to be simply astonishing.

If you want to see the true beauty of this country, there is no better way of doing it than crossing Vietnam by motorbike.

We are convinced you will find this a hell of an experience not to be missed!

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Girl at the top of a mountain in Vietnam after a trekking