So you’ve booked your trip to Vietnam, one of the most vibrant and interesting countries in the world. Vietnam is a very long country that stretches all the way up to China. It is a country of vast landscapes and contrasts.
From lying on the beach in Phu Quoc to speeding around the concrete jungle of Ho Chi Minh City to 4 wheeling the dunes of Mui Ne to trekking the rolling hills of Sapa to exploring the ancient wonders of the capital Hanoi, Vietnam will astound you with its unique beauty. So in order to ensure a successful and enjoyable trip, a proper Vietnam packing list is necessary for your travel bags.
Essentials in your Vietnam packing list
Passport and visa
Anyone traveling to Vietnam will require a visa. When traveling to Vietnam by air you will have to get a visa on arrival. The first step in acquiring your visa is the online application which is filled in online, you will then pay a tourist visa application fee. After that, you will receive some paperwork which you will print and take to Vietnam with your passport and some passport photos.
At the airport, you will be asked to fill in some paperwork and you will pay a second fee to the immigration officer. This fee is usually $25 US (it must be US dollars) but can change depending on what kind of visa you are applying for.
If this process confuses you, there are many companies that specialize in Vietnam visas and for a small fee will do most of the paperwork for you. It is also possible to apply for a visa through the Vietnamese embassy in your country.
Cash and cards
The currency of Vietnam is Vietnamese Dong. Many blogs mention using American dollars in Vietnam but I have never found this to be the case. You can exchange your money at the airport or you can find many bureau de exchanges in major cities. It is best to either exchange your native currency to Dong before your trip or at the airport. Cards are also widely accepted but be sure to have cash on you before traveling to more remote areas of the country.
There are no real words that will accurately convey just how beautiful some parts of Vietnam are. You will find yourself in the middle of the jungle or in the lantern-lit ancient town of Hoi An or on the deck of a dragon boat in Halong Bay or stare at the French architecture, modern buildings, overloaded motorbikes and ao dai clad women in Ho Chi Minh City and you are going to want to capture it all. That is why you could not miss a camera in your travel bag.
Whilst you can use your phone as a camera, if you are more serious about your photography will be presented with a thousand and more once in a lifetime shots.
It is very easy to get a SIM card in Vietnam and data is fairly cheap. On arrival at the airport, you will find Viettel and Mobifone counters where you can purchase SIM cards and data/airtime. I do recommend purchasing a SIM card as you will then be able to use google maps and translate which will definitely come in handy!
Every day wear
Something people don’t always think of when picturing Vietnam is how cold it can get up in the North! Why do not you carry some T-shirts, shorts, light dresses, bathing suits in your travel bag? Maybe, a light cardigan is perfect for the South pretty much year round while the same for the North in summer plus jeans, jackets and socks are good for the North in winter.
Sandals and sneakers are great for most areas when traveling Vietnam. Be mindful of choosing comfortable shoes on days you are going to be doing a lot of walking. If you are going to be doing jungle trekking or visiting Sapa remember to pack a pair of hiking boots.
If you do happen to forget your glasses you will absolutely have no problem finding a smiling man carrying about a hundred imploring you to view his goods. While these Raybans and Gucci knock offs certainly look cool (I have more than a few!) they are not polarized. If you struggle with sensitive eyes you should be certain to bring your sunglasses. That Vietnam sun is no joke!
When exploring the country it is recommended to carry a backpack instead of a hand bag on a strap. There are in certain areas of the major cities dangers of bag snatching so keep your valuables and souvenirs safe! Forgot your backpack at home? Don’t worry! You’ve come to the right place to pick one up for a very low price!
One of the best ways to spend an evening in Ho Chi Minh City is to sit at a rooftop bar, sipping a cocktail while watching the sunset over the tall buildings and traffic jammed streets. The rooftops are mostly situated on top of very nice hotels and they do have dress codes.
Long pants, nice shirts, nice dresses, closed shoes and formal women’s shoes are recommended. No shorts on men and no sandals
For almost half of the year at about 1 or 2 pm, the skies will open and rain will POUR down for about an hour. It really is something to see. Streets turn into rivers in a matter of minutes. One way to ride out the daily torrential downpour like a pro is to carry a rain poncho in your backpack.
Do not explore in any shoes susceptible to water damage during the rainy season and put your valuables and electronics inside a waterproof bag inside your backpack. Trust me, you will get soaked!
Street food. The aromas, the tastes, the variety. Vietnamese street food is undoubtedly going to be a highlight of your trip. I seriously recommend doing some research before you come, make a list, then eat everything on the list, as well as everything you walk past! Vietnamese food is fresh, sweet, spicy, smokey ad everything in between.
It is unfortunately not unheard of to get an upset stomach after eating street food so it is recommended to bring anti-diarrhea medication and perhaps some electrolyte-restoring powders.
Bug sprays and creams
Taking a trip on the Mekong Delta, trekking Sapa with the locals and sustainable jungle tours are some truly unmissable outdoor experiences in Vietnam.
The further you go from the city though, the more mosquitoes you are going to encounter. Be sure to pack some mosquito repellent and some bug bite soothing cream to keep yourself feeling comfortable whilst adventuring!
November to May are the months of uninterrupted sunshine in Saigon. Take advantage of it by touring the city on foot or laying out at any of the hotel pools especially at the Saigon Soul pool party at The New World hotel where you can mingle with city locals, expats and tourists.
You will also undoubtedly be spending some time relaxing on the beach. Hoi An, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. There is also nothing worse than traveling and lugging around bags on your sunburnt shoulders, so remember your sunscreen and use it!
Whilst there are pharmacies all over the major cities, you will have to see a doctor to get any prescription medication and seeing an English speaking doctor does not always come cheap! Remember to pack any prescription medications you need daily.
Something to remember about Vietnam (especially the major cities) is that it truly is the land of the plenty so if you do find yourself without any of these items you will be able to find them, albeit perhaps with some difficulty.