Vietnam is slowly but surely emerging as the preferred Southeast Asian destination for backpackers all over the globe. And why not? With so much to offer in terms of exotic street food, long pristine beaches with clear waters, ethnic people and lifestyles, ancient cities and monuments with rich history, breathtaking trekking locations, gorgeous landscapes and a vibrant nightlife, it truly does have all the ingredients that go into making a perfect holiday destination!
Vietnam is increasingly finding favor among eager backpackers in South Asia as well. For example, an increasing number of Indian backpackers now head to Vietnam due to its proximity as well as for its budget-friendliness.
Contemplating a backpacking trip in the near future? Better put Vietnam on the top of your list. Get your hands on a passport, apply for a Vietnam visa, book your flight tickets and get ready to experience Vietnamese culture!
Top 10 travel tips for backpacking Vietnam:
1. Know Your Destination
Before you head to a new location, it is better to equip yourself with pertinent information about it. Did you know Vietnam is officially known as Socialist Republic of Vietnam? Or that Hanoi is the capital city but that Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in this country? The official language here is Vietnamese, and the currency is Dong.
The climate in Vietnam is hot and dry for most part of the year. Heavy rainfall is experienced between May and October, so you might want to avoid traveling in these months.
2. Take Important Documents Along
It is advisable to take along several photocopies of all important documents like your passport, the visa papers, the drivers license, and so on. These documents should be kept in another bag, away from the originals as a backup (just in case you misplace your original papers). To be extra safe, scan these documents and upload them electronically to the cloud (or in your email) so that you can access them whenever required.
3. Get Vaccinated
It is a good idea to refer to reliable websites/travel guides on health precautions that you need to take before leaving for Vietnam. Depending on the places you plan to visit, figure out what vaccinations you need to go for.
In many countries, a cholera vaccination certificate needs to be produced as a condition of entry. Keep the vaccination certificates along with your travel documents so that you can show them at the airport if necessary. Also, do take along other medical supplies, mosquito repellents and sunblock lotions.
4. Money & Currency
Try and carry along some local currency and spend that wherever possible. Do give travel money cards a thought as it is not advisable to carry a lot of cash. Watch out for the special “tourist rates” that the locals might try to charge you. To minimize your chances of getting ripped off, research the going rates of staples such as food and drinks, transport and accommodation.
5. Accommodation & Transportation
The post-war Vietnam has rapidly evolved into a traveler’s heaven, thanks to the development of its tourism industry. You can expect to find all kinds of hotels in major cities. Whether it is a budget lodging facility or a luxurious 5-star hotel you’re looking for, finding one shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure you book your hotel in advance if you’re going to travel in the high season.
Use public transport wherever possible. Buses are available too, but they may not be as comfortable as you would want them to be. You could opt for VIP buses though. Travelers also have the option of riding on/renting scooters. Tuk-tuks are one of the most popular means of commuting as they’re easily available. Apart from these, you can also use trains and planes.
6. Places of Interest
Take your time to explore the beauty of Vietnam. Do visit Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi for their gleaming skyscrapers, the caves of the Halong Bay for their exquisite splendor, Hoi An for its architecture and food, Dalat for its tranquility, Mui Ne for its stunning natural landscape, Nha Trang for its panoramic coastline, and Ha Giang to experience a different world altogether. Get there and you will know what I’m talking about.
7. Travel Light
Make sure your backpack does not weigh more than what you can carry. Keep it light by taking along only what is necessary. Keeping the Vietnamese weather in mind, it is better to carry lightweight and washable cotton garments, as you can stay cool and comfortable in them. Although you might want to look stunning in your photographs, remember, you’re going backpacking and not on a fashion parade. This reminds me – don’t forget to pack your camera!
8. Try the Local Cuisine
One of the best ways of experiencing a new place is through its authentic and exotic culinary delights. Vietnamese cuisine is colorful, aromatic, delicious, with some flavors similar to those back home in India. So do give the local cuisine a try. You don’t have to be over-adventurous with food though. Stick to what you’re comfortable with. There are ample options available for vegetarians too.
9. Always Confirm the Rates
Always ask for the price before you buy something to wear, eat on the street side, or get into a tuk-tuk (or the local auto rickshaw). Confirming rates beforehand will deter locals from taking you for a ride and ripping you off. We’ve all heard stories about foreigners being charged substantially more than others for everything. In such cases, forewarned is forearmed.
Hear it from both sides: Why Most Tourists Never Return To Vietnam
10. Be Careful with Your Drinks
To be on the safer side, avoid unpackaged water and drink only bottled and filtered water. Do give the local beers a try. Another interesting (and daring) option to be sampled here is the Vietnamese snake wine.
Conclusion Each city in Vietnam has different experiences to offer. Make sure you lap those up. Keep the above tips in mind for a fun and safe backpacking journey in one of the most wondrous countries in the world.