Vietnam Travel Guide for 2023: Visa Info & Trip Essentials

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By Visaly

Our Vietnam travel guide will become your most important companion to prepare your trip. It distills visa essentials and trip must-knows into an accessible blueprint and ensures your exploration of this country is as rich in experience as it is in ease.

Whether you plan on trekking through the terraced rice fields or weaving through the bustling streets of Ho Chi Minh City, this guide to travelling Vietnam provides targeted advice without overwhelming detail. Prepare to immerse yourself in Vietnam, one of the most exciting countries to visit in Southeast Asia!

What Can You Expect When Visiting Vietnam?

Vietnam is both exotic and compelling. As a curious traveler or an adventurous expat, you're on the brink of discovering a nation that's as heartwarming as it is thrilling! Let's delve into quick and vital snapshots of what Vietnam has in store for you and set the stage for a journey you'll want to relive time and again. Don’t hesitate to bookmark this expansive Vietnam travel guide, an important resource before you set foot in this country.


Vietnam's culture is a mix of vibrancy and solemn tradition. From the ancient customs preserved in the highlands to the modern energy of Ho Chi Minh, cultural experiences are as diverse as the landscape. This guide to Vietnam travel ensures you understand these cultural intricacies with respect and ease.


The Vietnamese climate varies dramatically from one place to another! While the south basks in tropical warmth year-round, northern Vietnam experiences distinct seasons. Our free travel guide to Vietnam advises on the best times to visit: the dry season.

Is Vietnam Dangerous?

No, even if some misconceptions may paint a different picture. Here, safety concerns are minimal. So let’s debunk myths and provide you with peace of mind. But for that, you’ll have to keep reading!

Do I Need A Visa For Vietnam?

This will mainly depend on your nationality. Since August 15th 2023, some nationalities like the French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Swedish don’t need a visa for stays up to 45 days. Other nationalities will need a visa, with options ranging from e-visas to visa on arrival.

How Long Can I Stay In Vietnam?

Stay durations vary by visa type. The waiver program allows stays up to 45 days whereas the tourist visas offer 30 to 90 days. There also exists some long term visa if you’re planning on staying there for a few months.

Can You Drink In Vietnam?

Absolutely, and it's an integral part of local life! Sip on bia hoi, the famous street-side draft beer, and enjoy Vietnam's drinking culture responsibly.

Seeing It All Isn't Possible

Vietnam's allure lies in its endless diversity, which cannot be fully explored in a single visit. Use this guide as your travel oracle to prioritize experiences for this trip, and perhaps inspire the next. We’d recommend you to bookmark this guide to fully prepare for your next adventure!

Key Advice From Locals Before You Go

Vietnam opens its arms to visitors with its bustling city life and tranquil countryside, but also some cultural norms you might not be used to. To ensure your trip allows you to immerse yourself in respect, take these pearls of wisdom from the people who know Vietnam best: the locals. This list is of course not exhaustive but captures the quintessence of Vietnam's travel guides with a collection of tips and what to know about traveling to Vietnam.

  • Be respectful: Vietnam is a cultural kaleidoscope. Pay homage to its customs and religious sites and dress modestly. You’ll absolutely have to understand local etiquettes as highlighted in our best of Vietnam travel guide.
  • Currency: the Vietnamese Dong is the local money. Familiarize yourself with the currency and, as advised by the Vietnam tourism guide, carry small notes for convenience.
  • Credit cards and ATMs: major cities accept credit cards but cash is king in rural areas. ATMs are widespread, yet it’s better to carry a cash buffer especially when you travel off the beaten path.
  • Time zone: Vietnam operates on Indochina Time (ICT), on GMT +7. Sync your watches to stay on schedule with tours and transport.
  • Sockets: the country uses Type A, C, and D sockets. A universal adapter will serve you well.
  • Budget: plan your finances with care. Plan your budget per day or per month for a stress-free stay. Good news: Vietnam offers options for every wallet, from backpacker hostels to luxury resorts.
  • Traffic: traffic in Vietnam cities is an adrenaline-fueled spectacle. Cross streets with caution and patience: motorbikes flow like water! Some locals won’t hesitate to help you cross. Follow the locals’ lead and you'll navigate it like a pro.
  • Scams: be vigilant. Opt for reputable taxi companies or book airport transfers in advance to avoid scams.
  • Street food: Vietnamese food is a culinary adventure not to be missed, especially in markets. Don’t miss the famous banh mi.
  • Language: wondering what to do before going to Vietnam? We would advise you to learn a few phrases of Vietnamese that will unlock heartfelt smiles and a richer connection with locals. It’s a gesture of respect that may transform your travel experience. If you don’t have the time, there’s still the option to use Google Translate.
  • Public holidays: Vietnam's festive calendar is packed. Check for public holidays which can affect opening hours and transport.
  • Respect nature: dispose of waste responsibly and support eco-friendly tours.
  • Health precautions: visit a travel clinic before departure for health advice and vaccinations. Always carry with you a basic first-aid kit and mosquito repellent.

Requirements To Enter Vietnam

Vietnam beckons travelers with its stunning landscapes and rich heritage. To ensure you enter smoothly into the country, there are several requirements and procedures you’ll have to follow. This part of our guide offers a concise yet thorough overview of the essentials you need to know before you book your vacation to Vietnam. Whether you're visiting Vietnam as an American or coming from another part of the globe, visit Vietnam with the requisite legalities and plan your trip with confidence.

List Of Documents You Need to Enter Vietnam

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Prepare to present the following documents:

  • A passport with at least six months' validity post your travel dates
  • Visa or pre-approval for a visa on arrival
  • Travel insurance (recommended, though not mandatory)
  • Proof of onward or return travel.

You should also carry photos for visa purposes and may need to show proof of sufficient funds for your stay.

Types Of Visas for Vietnam

Vietnam offers several visa types to suit different travel needs. Tourist visas are commonly used by Americans visiting Vietnam and are available for 30 or 90 days, single or multiple entry. Business, student and working visas are also available for travelers with respective purposes. A newer category is the e-visa: it simplifies the process for travelers from eligible countries planning to visit Vietnam. At the moment, there is no specific Vietnam digital nomad visa.

How To Get Vietnam Visa (Step By Step Application Process)

Here is the step by step process to get a Vietnam visa:

  1. Determine the type of visa you need.
  2. Complete the application form available on the official Vietnam immigration portal or through a travel agencies.
  3. Submit the required documents, which will usually include a passport photo and an invitation letter depending on the visa type.
  4. Pay the visa fee.
  5. For an e-visa, await approval online. For other visas, you may need to send your passport to the embassy or pick up the visa on arrival.

Overstaying And Penalties

You might be subject to fines, deportation and potentially being barred from future entry if you ever overstay your visa. So conform yourself to the permitted duration and apply for an extension if you wish to stay longer. Don’t forget to keep track of the dates to avoid the repercussions of overstaying your stay.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Vietnam

Wishing to know when to travel to Vietnam? The best time will depend on which region you plan to visit. The peak season falls between November and March when the weather is cooler and dry. It’s the perfect time to explore the cities and indulge in outdoor activities. Northern Vietnam is best visited in spring (March and April) or autumn (October and November) for mild temperatures, while South Vietnam enjoys a consistent tropical climate year-round. We find the shoulder seasons of April to May and October to November to be the perfect balance as they offer pleasant weather with fewer crowds.

How To Travel to Vietnam

Here's a snapshot of what you need to consider to make sure your trip aligns with your time frame and travel aspirations. From the moment you decide how to visit Vietnam, this condensed guide will help you through the essentials of Vietnamese travel and travel tips Vietnam.

Decide On Your Itinerary

Vietnam's diversity calls for a well-thought itinerary. Soak in the cultural majesty of Hanoi or enjoy the beautiful beaches of Phu Quoc. No matter what you decide, your journey should reflect your interests and timeframe.

Budget To Plan

Tourism in Vietnam is quite cheap. For short stays, consider around $50 per day for a modest budget. Longer stays could range from $600 to $1200 per month depending on your lifestyle.

How To Get To Vietnam

Most travellers arrive by air as international flights land in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Overland entry is also possible from neighboring countries, but it’s reserved for adventurous travelers.

Transport Around Vietnam

Vietnam offers different transport options: planes for long distances, train ride for scenic routes and buses for budget travel. But the most commonly used transportation here is clearly motorbikes, even if the traffic is often crazy in cities. It’s probably the best way to see Vietnam.

Cost Of Living

Thanks to affordable meals and accommodation, daily expenses are usually pretty low. Tourist hotspots however come with higher prices, so tailor your budget to your itinerary.

Packing Things

Pack light but versatile. Include layers for varying climates, a raincoat for sudden showers and comfortable shoes for exploration. Don’t forget your adapter and essential electronics.

Research Visa And Entry Requirements

Ensure you're up to date with the visa and entry requirements. Refer to our best travel guide Vietnam for a deeper dive into visa requirements.

Get Travel Insurance

Travel insurance isn’t mandatory but it’s a safety net. It covers unexpected medical expenses and travel disruptions. As a Vietnam tourist, it will give you some peace of mind for your whole stay.

Where To Stay

Accommodation choices range from budget hostels to luxurious hotels’ private rooms. Airbnbs offer a homey feel, while staying with locals will provide an authentic experience.

Now you know how to travel in Vietnam, let’s have a look at some useful safety tips and more Vietnam travel tips.

Safety Tips from Locals Often Overlooked by Tourists in Vietnam

Below are safety tips distilled from the best Vietnam travel guide, some sage advice that often flies under the tourist radar.

  • Respect nature and culture: Vietnam's natural and cultural sites are sacred. Disrespect may lead not just to trouble but to a loss of the very experiences you came for.
  • Wear a helmet: the frenetic traffic is often jarring; where a helmet: it isn't just a legal mandate, it's very important for your safety, even if you're just on a short scooter ride.
  • Photography permissions: always ask before taking photos, especially in rural areas. It's respectful and even mandatory in some places.
  • Avoid driving: local driving customs are overwhelming. Why not hiring a travel guide in Vietnam or use public transport?
  • Learn basic phrases: simple Vietnamese phrases will help diffuse tense situations and will be appreciated by locals.
  • Beware of petty theft: keep your belongings secure and be mindful of your environment, especially in crowded tourist places in Vietnam.
  • Stay hydrated: the heat can sneak up on you, so drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Know your routes: research your destinations and have a map handy, even if it’s a digital one on your phone.
  • Emergency information: keep emergency contacts at hand while traveling to Vietnam as an American or from any other countries.
  • Vietnam places to visit: popular sites are sometimes the most chaotic. Stay alert and keep your possessions close in must-see places in Vietnam.

Best Places To Visit In Vietnam & Things To Do

Vietnam displays spectacular urban landscapes and beautiful natural retreats. Let’s introduce you to must-visit locales and lesser-known places that will allow you to see the different faces of the country. Whether you're seeking the buzz of urban life or the solitude of nature, our curated list will guide you to where to visit in Vietnam.

Top Urban Destinations In Vietnam

Vietnam’s cities are wonderful for history, culture and modernity enthusiasts. Let’s have a look at Vietnam's top urban spots and cool places to go in Vietnam.


The capital city mixes old-world charm and modern bustle. It’s rich with centuries-old architecture and an ever-vibrant street food scene. A great place to visit in Vietnam if you like big cities.

Ho Chi Minh City

Formerly called Saigon, this city is a powerhouse of energy. You will love walking through its skyscrapers and historic sites. It really is a top Vietnam vacation spot and a central character in any Saigon Vietnam travel guide.

Da Nang

This coastal city acts as a gateway to both cultural antiquity and seaside peacefulness. Its proximity to Hoi An and stunning beaches makes it a top destination in our Central Vietnam travel guide.


The imperial citadel of Hue offers a journey through time with its citadels and tombs, a cultural treasure that will enrich any Hue Vietnam travel guide.

Hoi An

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a beautifully preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port and is often mentioned in Vietnam travel guides for its atmospheric lantern-lit evenings.

And let’s not forget other Vietnam famous places like the beautiful Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay and the Mekong Delta.

Lesser-Visited Places In Vietnam

Venture beyond the common tourist trails and you'll discover Vietnam's hidden jewels, places that are not so often mentioned in Vietnam places to visit.


In the misty highlands, Sapa displays stunning rice terraces and amazing cultural diversity. A must-see in any North Vietnam travel guide.

Phu Quoc

An island paradise with white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters! Phu Quoc still retains an untouched tourist spot despite its beautiful landscapes.


Nestled in the hills, Dalat is Vietnam's floral and honeymoon capital, with a cooler climate and French-colonial charm.

Cao Bang

Home to the breathtaking Ban Gioc Waterfall, Cao Bang is a haven for eco-tourists and adventure seekers, a highlight in off-the-beaten-path Vietnam places to visit.

Mui Ne

With its red and white sand dunes, Mui Ne is a unique coastal escape that offers both beach relaxation and adventure sports, a cool place to go in Vietnam.

Important Dates In Vietnam

Vietnam's calendar is dotted with amazing festivals and solemn holidays. A great way to immerse yourself in its tradition and culture. Knowing these dates will for sure enhance your travel experience, no matter if you're looking to join the festivities or simply wish to be aware of the local customs during your visit.

World Famous Events In Vietnam

  • Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year): the most celebrated event across the country. It marks the first day of the lunar new year and comes with family reunions, traditional foods and street festivals.
  • Hue Festival: a biennial celebration of arts, culture and historical heritage in the former imperial capital of Hue. It showcases beautiful performances and cultural displays.
  • Hoi An Lantern Festival: held monthly on the full moon, the ancient city transforms into a magical array of silk lanterns, floating candles and cultural music.
  • Da Lat Flower Festival: a biennial event where the city blooms in a colorful exhibition of flowers. This event attracts both tourists and botany enthusiasts.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival: a family-centric festival with mooncakes, lion dances and lantern parades. This festival celebrates the harvest and the full moon.

Most Important Holidays In Vietnam

  • International New Year's Day (January 1st): celebrated across Vietnam with modern festivities and fireworks.
  • Hung Kings' Festival: a public holiday dedicated to the ancient Hung Kings, considered the founding fathers of Vietnam. From the 8th to the 11th of the third lunar month each year, it’s celebrated with temple offerings and ceremonies.
  • Reunification Day (April 30th): commemorates the end of the Vietnam War and the reunification of North and South Vietnam.
  • International Labor Day (May 1st): a day off for workers throughout the country, often combined with Reunification Day for extended holidays.
  • National Day (September 2nd): it marks Vietnam's declaration of independence from France and it’s celebrated with official parades and speeches.

Things You Simply Must Experience in Vietnam

Vietnam offers lots of unforgettable experiences. From culinary delights to magical sunrises, the memories you create here are bound to last a lifetime. This section of your best travel guide for Vietnam highlights a few simple yet profound experiences that are within reach.

3 Foods You Must Try

Vietnamese cuisine boasts an exotic mix of flavors. Taste the national dish, Pho, a fragrant beef or chicken noodle soup that can be eaten at any time of the day. Bite into a Banh Mi, a French-influenced baguette sandwich filled with different meats and vegetables. And don't miss out on Goi Cuon, fresh spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and seafood or pork, paired with a tangy dipping sauce.

3 Things You Should Do

Witness the sunrise from a mountain in Sapa or the sand dunes in Mui Ne or take a cyclo ride through the bustling streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to see the city from a unique perspective. Don’t hesitate to meet with the local culture and join in a traditional Vietnamese cooking class!

Top 3 Souvenirs To Bring Home

A set of hand-painted Vietnamese silk is a must in any Travel Vietnam guide! It’s perfect for fashion or home décor. Coffee aficionados will bring home Vietnam's robusta beans, renowned for their strong flavor. And let’s talk about lacquerware: it showcases the craftsmanship of Vietnamese artisans and will be a great memento!

Few Useful Tips For Solo Travelers In Vietnam

Many men and women travel solo in Vietnam. If you’re going to Vietnam with a backpack in tow, the country offers a safe and welcoming environment! Your backpackers travel guide Vietnam should include these useful tips:

  1. Choose accommodations that are well-reviewed by fellow solo travelers for both safety and social opportunities.
  2. Engage with other travelers at hostels or group tours to enrich your experience.
  3. Always keep your essentials secure and distribute your money in different places.
  4. Local SIM card is inexpensive and ensures you stay connected.
  5. Use the local transport, but be wary of the bustling traffic.
  6. For where to travel in Vietnam on your own, cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Hoi An are perfect solo traveler spots.
  7. This solo travel guide to Vietnam will help pave the way for a trip that's as safe as it is memorable.

14 Etiquette Tips for Your Vietnam Trip

When you travel to a new country, you have to be aware of local customs and etiquette. And Vietnam is no exception. These cultural pointers, found in the ultimate Vietnam travel guide, are essential things to know when travelling to Vietnam and can make the difference in having a smooth journey as you travel across Vietnam:

  1. Dress conservatively: at religious sites, cover your arms and legs; your Vietnam travel guide attire section will have more details.
  2. Remove your shoes: when you enter someone's home or visit a religious site.
  3. Handshake greetings: shake hands upon meeting, but wait to see if your host extends their hand first.
  4. Use both hands: when you give or receive something, use both hands as a sign of respect.
  5. Avoid public displays of affection: keep it modest as public displays of affection are frowned upon.
  6. Table manners: wait for the eldest to start eating before you eat at meals.
  7. Photo courtesy: ask for permission before you take photos of people, especially in hill tribes and ethnic minority areas.
  8. Quiet voices: keep your voice down; loud speaking may be considered rude.
  9. Pointing protocol: use your whole hand to point, not your finger.
  10. Temple behavior: at temples, always pass Buddha statues with your left side facing them, as the right side is considered impolite.
  11. Bargaining etiquette: bargaining is expected but do it gently and with a smile.
  12. Gift giving: if invited to a local's house, bring a small gift as a kind gesture.
  13. Street food savvy: eat street food but observe locals for the cue on how to eat certain dishes correctly.
  14. Non-verbal communications: a smile or a nod can make the difference in Vietnam and all South East Asia.

Are Digital Nomads Welcome In Vietnam?

Vietnam is getting more and more popular among digital nomads. Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, especially, offer multiple coworking spaces and a lively expat community. While there isn't a specific Vietnam digital nomad visa, the country's standard tourist visas are often used by people working remotely.

Can I Travel To Vietnam Without Vaccine?

Traveling to Vietnam doesn't require mandatory vaccinations, except for yellow fever if coming from an endemic area. However, health authorities do recommend routine vaccinations and hepatitis A shots to ensure your well-being during your stay.


What to eat in Vietnam

We would advise you to try Try Pho, Banh Mi and Goi Cuon to experience Vietnam’s culinary tradition.

How expensive is Vietnam to visit?

Vietnam is quite affordable; you can travel comfortably on a backpacker budget of around $50 per day.

What's the currency in Vietnam, and where can I exchange money?

The Vietnamese Dong is the currency. It’s exchangeable at banks, airport kiosks like Tan Son Nhat Airport or hotels.

Is street food in Vietnam safe to eat?

Yes, street food in Vietnam is pretty safe and deliciously reflects local culture.

What's the best time of year to visit Vietnam in terms of weather?

Visit from November to April for the best weather, especially in Southern Vietnam.

How many days are enough to visit Vietnam?

To cover highlights like Ha Long Bay and Nha Trang, we would recommend at least 10 to 14 days.

Is it safe to travel to Vietnam as a woman?

Yes, Vietnam is pretty safe for solo female travelers as long as you stay cautious with traffic and avoid wandering alone in the dark.

Are people in Vietnam friendly?

Yes, Vietnamese people are known for their warmth and hospitality towards tourists.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Vietnam?

We would not recommend drinking tap water. Stick to a reusable water bottle for your health.

Do you have to be vaccinated to go to Vietnam?

No mandatory vaccines are required except for yellow fever from some countries.

Is Vietnam safe for tourists?

Vietnam is safe for tourists, with of course common sense safety practices advised.

Wrap up

Vietnam is a treasure trove of experiences from the labyrinthine streets of Hanoi to the tranquil Vietnamese countryside. Whether on a mid-range budget or looking for luxury without the extra cost, Vietnam's entire country offers a journey through history, culture and natural wonder. Don't miss the majestic Halong Bay or the verdant expanses of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: a true feast for the senses!

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