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8 Incredible Places to Visit in Vietnam – Do Not Miss These!

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Vietnam is an essential stop on any South East Asia itinerary. 

Although you will be splashing out on a rather expensive VISA to enter the country and must do this beforehand, it will be worth its weight in gold!

From the busy roads of Hanoi, the Dragon bridge in Danang, The picturesque Hoi An, the countryside of Dalat and the bustling Ho Chi Minh – there are plenty of places to choose to spend your time.

Aside from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, most of their top locations are on the coast which is a welcome break from the rest of landlocked Asia and means one thing – BEACH!

Not only that it has a wonderful culture and the locals want to welcome you with a “Xin Cao” everywhere you go!

Here are the best places to visit in Vietnam! 

(I travelled clockwise and so I’m going to start in the North, but if you’re travelling anticlockwise, not a problem – scroll to the bottom and make your way to the top!)

best places to visit in Vietnam

How to travel to Vietnam in South East Asia

If you’re a flashpacker, you can easily fly into Vietnam’s main airports and save yourself a lot of time.

If you’re on a budget, this is not the case!

Travelling by bus is the most cost-effective option but it does seem to take forever;

  • From Laos to Hanoi – You can get the bus from Luang Prabang or Ventienne and they will take around the same time of 26 hours!! Yes, you’re reading that right a whole day spent on a bus. But, my experience was a pleasant one and I liked having the excuse to just sit and look out the window! I’m also pretty short so I fit into the seats fine but if you’re taller you may struggle a bit. You will stop in the middle for border control and will have to pay $1 stamp duty.
  • From Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Ho Chi Minh – It will take around 7 hours and is a much easier ride. This includes a border control stop and the $1 stamp duty too.

Despite the length of the journey, the coaches are of good quality and stop regularly for breaks.

Top tips for visiting Vietnam before you go!

What is the Currency in Vietnam

The recognised currency is Vietnamese Duong and when you go to get cash out of the ATM you will be surprised to learn that you are a millionaire!

£50 is around 1,467,651.98 Duong, so you’ll definitely need a currency converter app to keep up with the amount of zero’s!

What language do they speak in Vietnam and useful phrases

Vietnamese is a difficult language to grasp as there are so many different words for different people you speak to.

For example, you wouldn’t speak to an old person, the same you would to a young person and so if you’re unsure of ages – things can get messy.

There are also different tones (low, high etc.) that can transform a word into something else. 

Although speaking fluent Vietnamese isn’t expected, it will be appreciated that you’ve made the effort with a couple of phrases under your belt;

Xin Cao (Zin Chow) = Hello

Cam On (Gam Un) = Thank You

Lam On (Lam Un) = Please

Tam Byet (Tam Biet) = Good Bye

places to visit in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay Vietnam

How to travel around Vietnam as a backpacker

There are plenty of ways to travel through Vietnam, it all depends on your budget.

The country is huge and so it may take you more than a few hours to get to your destination depending on how many stops you’re planning down the coast:

  • Air – You can fly from stop to stop if you choose.
  • Train – There are train lines that run the whole way through Vietnam (with the exception of Hoi An). The good news is that prices are fixed and so you won’t be ripped off. The bad news is that you have to book tickets a long time in advance to get a good time/seat and go directly to the station.
  • Bus – a popular way for backpackers as it’s the cheapest way through, but the prices are not fixed and so you will need to negotiate a good deal with the tour offices. For long rides such as Hanoi to Hue, you will be getting the bus at night. These are actually a really good option for solo backpackers as you have your own allotted space/bed. When I was travelling through Vietnam our schedule landed on Chinese New Year or Têt and the bus prices went up three fold so watch out when you travel over public holidays!

8 amazing places to visit in Vietnam

1. Hanoi

Hanoi is most likely the first stop you will find yourself in the North of Vietnam unless you’re heading directly to Sapa.

It is a thriving city with what seems like more scooters than people, but it is so exciting that way!

You’ll see a family of five riding a bike, or a roll of carpet and 50 egg boxes straddling the seat – there’s nothing that gets in the way of their scooters.

Here, you will play chicken on the roads and you’ll have to be quite firm about crossing – don’t hesitate, the scooters will move around you!

Things to see in Hanoi

Hanoi has a wealth of attractions in store for visitors including a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum and palace and to the famous Hoa Lo Prison.

The Hoan Kiem lake, which translates to ‘The Lake of the returned sword’, is beautifully located in the centre of the city.

In the middle lies the mysterious turtle tower and you can cross the Huc Bridge to the Jade Mountain temple on Jade Island.

Places to visit in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh Tomb in Hanoi

What to do in Hanoi at night

In the evening most locals take to the streets and you will see them lined with plastic stools, draught beer for 15 cents and BBQs where you can grill your own meat.

It has a lively nightlife and plenty of bars including Hanoi Rocks where they provide free beer for backpackers at 6 pm!

Places to visit in Vietnam

2. Ha Long Bay

Another essential stop to tick off your bucket list is a trip to Ha Long Bay. If you’re travelling from Hanoi, you can book a pick up that takes you to Ha Long City harbour and you will be on your way!

I bought an organised tour or ‘party boat’ and I had such an amazing time and met so many people.

You will get your own cabin and meals are provided throughout your trip.

On the tour, aside from the partying, you will see some magnificent places. You will tour through caves, go kayaking and jump off the top of the boat into the sea!

There are plenty of tours available so make sure you shop around. If you prefer to go it alone or would like to save money, you can get the bus to Ha Long City and from here get the public ferry to Cat Ba Island and stay there for the night.

Places to visit in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay
Places to visit in Vietnam
Ha Long Bay

3. Hue

Hue really highlights Vietnam’s colourful past and brings some of the Indo-China heritage to life.

Although mostly destroyed during World War II, what remains of the citadel is still an architectural masterpiece!

You can immerse yourself in their amazing fort, stroll along the lake or get a boat ride across it and see their bridge light up at night.

Tip: If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to go to the citadel, you can still wander around outside and see their amazing gates!

4. Danang

Danang has an amazing beach and will be the first main stop to have one, so make sure you check that out when you land in the city.

The highlight for me was their interesting Dragon bridge which lights up at night – on the weekend, it even spits fire!

It’s worth taking a stroll on their riverfront, it reminded me of Canary Wharf in London.

Here, you can eat ice cream in a coconut with the locals!

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5. Hoi An

Another essential stop in Vietnam and if you do nothing else, stop here! It is such a beautiful place and there is a lot to do.

Hire a bike and wander through their many alleyways and streets selling all sorts of souvenirs.

Get a boat ride along their amazing river and sip coffee from the rooftop bars while basking in the sunshine.

My absolute favourite thing was seeing the river light up at night with hundreds of lanterns!

This is also a popular place for tailor-made shoes, dresses and suits and pretty much anything else you want to be made.

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6. Da Lat

Dalat was my favourite place in Vietnam!  

I celebrated my birthday while I was here and it was definitely one to remember.

As it is cooler in the Da Lat mountains and one of the only places which weren’t affected by Agent Orange during the Vietnam war period, this is where the majority of their flowers and produce grow.

Perfect for a countryside tour and this is exactly what I did.

Here, you can see waterfalls, and temples and try some of their famous Weasel coffee which is one of the most expensive in the world.

Places to visit in Vietnam

7. Go Crazy Canyoning

Although not essential by any means, Canyoning in Da Lat is something I would highly recommend if you’re an adrenaline junkie or want to face your fears.

I didn’t think I would ever say this at the time (It was one of THE scariest things I’ve ever done and I almost cried).

I felt so good afterwards for making it through.

On the tour, you will spend the day in the canyon and abseil through waterfalls, jump off cliffs, try out natural waterslides and finish off in the washing machine!

Tip: Book through a recognised tour operator with an experienced guide.

Places to visit in Vietnam | Crazy Canyoning in Da Lat
Crazy Canyoning in Da Lat

8. Ho Chi Minh City

Ah, old Saigon.

Ho Chi Minh is another city that is swarming with scooters and super busy but it’s beautiful chaos!

Here, you can visit the moving War remnants museum, shop in the markets and visit Bui Ven Street for bars and food.

This is also a great connection for tours to both the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta.

I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse now and, for me, floating down the Mekong was surreal!

Places to visit in Vietnam | Mekong Delta

That’s the best 8 places to visit in Vietnam

And those are the 8 essential places to visit in Vietnam that you must try to fit into your manic itinerary.

There are tonnes of other places to visit along the way like Nah Trang, which has a super cool theme park Vin Pearl Land and Mui Ne to visit the sand dunes!

Whatever locations you choose to visit in ‘Nam, it will be a wild ride and will surely create memories for a lifetime.

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Mychael James

Monday 11th of March 2019

Hi Sophie, wow great stuff here thank you! From the url it appears this was written around August 2016. Is that when you were on this trip? You can now get a visa online in 2 days for $17 US. I have also thought about traveling by train but have read that they are very dirty and full of roaches. How did you find the conditions to be? With things like the party boat tour in Ha Long Bay, can I do that on the spot or should I make arrangements ahead of time? did you use a company like Viator? What are your thoughts on concerns about malaria? Thanks

Sophie Pearce

Tuesday 12th of March 2019

Hi Mychael, I actually made a visit in 2015 so thanks for the update, I'll make an edit to this post. I didn't travel by train in the end, I actually went with buses as they were a lot more convenient. Plus, when I was here it was Chinese New Year so pretty much all transport was booked with people wanting to visit family and celebrate. We booked our party boat the night before. There are tonnes of providers and you can go to any hostel or travel office and find a spot! No I haven't used Viator mainly as I find they charge so much more than negotiating on the spot. I had malaria tablets but they made me really sick. I would just try to use as much mosquito repellent as possible :) hope this helps! Sophie x