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Vietnam Travel Guide: Requirements and tips for visiting Vietnam in 2023

Vietnam Travel Guide: Requirements and tips for visiting Vietnam in 2023

Welcome to Vietnam

Vietnam is home to some of the most spectacular scenery and jaw-dropping natural attractions in Southeast Asia, such as the world's largest cave in Phong Nha National Park and the stunning “Sky Path” of Hà Giang. Additionally, foodies and culture enthusiasts will love it here. Let’s explore!

Using the practical tips and entry and exit requirements in this ultimate Vietnamese travel guide will ensure you have an unforgettable experience in Vietnam.

Document checklist for Vietnam

  • Visa (if applicable)

  • Valid passport (must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry and have two blank pages)

  • Sufficient funds to cover your trip

  • Return or onward ticket

Essential Vietnam travel information

  • Currency - Vietnamese dong (VND). $1 is equivalent to approx. VND 23,740.

  • Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of approx. VND 1,187,000 ($50).

  • Languages - The official language is Vietnamese. English is spoken in major tourist destinations. Additionally, French, Chinese, Khmer, and various highlander languages are also spoken.

  • *Number of travelers per year** - Tourism is an important part of today's Vietnamese economy. The number of international arrivals in Vietnam increased from 2.1 million in 2000 to 18 million in 2019.

  • Socket type - Types A, C, and F, 220V supply voltage and 50Hz.

  • Time zone - Indochina Time (GMT+6).

  • Top 3 cities to visit - Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hội An.

  • Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Ha Long Bay, the Ho Chi Minh Museum, and Phong Nha–Kẻ Bàng National Park.

Visa information for Vietnam

Before taking off to one of Southeast Asia's most visited countries, Vietnam, you'll need to know if you need a visa, how to apply online, and the visa fees. Learn more about your specific requirements with our handy Visa Checker Tool or continue reading for more info.

The Vietnam Tourist Visa explained

The Vietnam Tourist e-Visa is an electronic visa introduced in 2017. This means travelers can apply for a Vietnamese visa online, without visiting the Vietnamese local authorities.

With a Vietnam visa, people from over 80 nationalities can visit Vietnam for tourism or business. This travel document is valid for 30 days after arrival and is a single entry visa.

The Vietnam Visa Exemption Certificate explained

Vietnamese citizens with a permanent US Resident Card can apply for a Visa Exemption Certificate instead of a visa. Visit the Vietnamese government site for further information.

As of January 2022, nationals of 25 countries are visa-exempt for Vietnam. The length of stay varies from 14 to 90 days, depending on your home country. These travelers do not need a visa to enter and simply show their passports at the Vietnamese border control to get a visa on arrival.

Visa difficulty index for Vietnam

Accessibility: 5/5 It’s become much easier to get a Vietnamese Tourist Visa since the application process can be done online. You also do not need to provide an extensive list of documents. Get yours online now with iVisa!

Time to get your visa: 3/5 While the online application process is easy, it still takes a minimum of 10 business days to receive your approved Vietnamese eVisa.

Costs: 4/5 The government fees for the Vietnamese Visa are very affordable (although prices depend on your nationality) and iVisa offers three different processing options, depending on your budget and time.

Apply instantly online for the Vietnamese Tourist Visa

Typical costs and budget for Vietnam

A guide to what you'll spend on a daily basis traveling through Vietnam on a mid-range budget.

  • Daily spending - Around VND 1,187,000 ($50) per person, per day. This includes:

  • Meals - A meal in a cheap restaurant costs between VND 28,000 - 100,000 ($2 - 4).

  • Transport - Depending on your standards, local transportation may cost up to VND 10,000 ($0.50) for a short bus ride, or VND 474,800 ($20) for long-distance bus transportation.

  • Hotel - The average hotel price in Vietnam for a double room is VND 474,800 ($20). On average, a trip to Vietnam for two people on a budget for one week will cost VND 5,767,000 ($242). If you’re more of a high-end traveler, expect to spend up to VND 40,489,000 ($1705) for a week of luxury holidays in Vietnam for two people.

Transport and best ways to travel around Vietnam

There are many ways to get to and around Vietnam, whether by boat, bus, or even motorcycle. Here are some tips for getting around safely.

Getting to Vietnam

In recent years, direct flights to the major international airports of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang, have increased steadily. Indirect flights routed through Bangkok, Singapore, or Hong Kong are cheaper, and you can often add a stay there to your itinerary at no extra charge.

Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat Airport is the largest airport in Vietnam. However, many people choose Ho Chi Minh as a transit point to transfer to other destinations in the country.

The major airlines that fly to Vietnam are:

  • Vietnam Airlines (direct from several countries)

  • Qatar Airways (via Doha)

  • Singapore Airlines (via Singapore)

  • Malaysia Airlines (via Kuala Lumpur)

  • Emirates (via Dubai)

  • Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong)

  • Tiger Airways (from Singapore)

  • Air Asia (from various Asian airports)

  • Thai Airways (via Bangkok

Overland border crossings from neighboring countries are pretty straightforward, which lets you see more of the region than flying. Take the overnight train from China to Hanoi, a long-distance bus from Laos or Cambodia, and even boat-plus-bus services, a fun way to cross the border and explore the Mekong Delta.

Arrival and immigration tips for Vietnam

To avoid confusion due to the language barrier, getting lost, and more, check out these tips to make the arrival process in Vietnam easier:

  • Apply for your Vietnam Tourist eVisa in advance to avoid being denied boarding and delays.

  • If you can enter Vietnam with a visa on arrival, go to the visa office to get the form, fill it out, pay the fee, and proceed to the usual entry procedures.

  • There is free Wi-Fi at all airports in Vietnam, simply click connect when logging into the webpage (no mobile phone number is required).

  • Ho Chi Minh Airport and Hanoi Airport provide overnight luggage storage service charged according to the luggage size.

Motorbikes in Vietnam

A motorbike is the most popular transportation choice in Vietnam. It is the easiest, most affordable, and most flexible. You can rent or buy a motorbike from one destination to travel through the country, then sell it to get the money back. Motorbike taxis can be flagged down in any major city.

But, as anyone who's been to Vietnam can tell you, it's not the safest. You have to get used to navigating the busy roads since there aren't many rules (at least not followed). If you’re a nervous driver, it’s best to stick to buses and taxis.

Touring Vietnam on the back of a motorbike with a guide or doing a self-drive group tour is a unique way to see the countryside. You can rent a motorbike with a valid Vietnamese driver’s license or an international driver’s license.

Taxis in Vietnam

Taxis are the second most popular transport in the country and major cities. The most popular taxi service in Vietnam is Grab, similar to Uber (but cheaper!). Just download the app and register your phone number to use it.

Trains in Vietnam

The railway network in Vietnam covers the whole country from North to South, along the South China Sea. This way of transport allows you to admire the beauty of Vietnam in another unique way. Make sure to book railway tickets in advance. To avoid ticket scams, book directly at the train stations, or use reputable travel agents and hotels, which charge about 5% extra.

Buses in Vietnam

Buses are one of the cheapest ways to travel around Vietnam, making them popular with budget travelers. Their extensive bus network reaches every corner of the country, making them highly convenient to get to your destination. There is a bus station in every town.

Many of the country's backpacker destinations advertise Open Tour or Open Ticket buses. Most of these services cater to foreign budget travelers and run between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (as well as other routes to northern Vietnam) allowing passengers to hop on and off at any major destination.

Safety in Vietnam

Visiting Vietnam is a safe and friendly experience. As long as you use common sense, your trip should be smooth and trouble-free. Overaggressive street vendors, bad tour operators, and dangerous driving are some of the complaints tourists make.

Here are some safety tips for Vietnam:

  • Get travel insurance that covers medical evacuation, medical services, and private medical facilities. Local hospitals may not meet international safety standards.

  • Always follow local laws and do not buy illegal drugs. Vietnamese laws on drugs are some of the harshest in the world and can even result in the death penalty.

  • If you encounter a problem, local police officers are helpful, but may not always speak English. Keep a translating app and the number of the consular assistance of your country on hand.

  • Monitor local news and local media to stay updated about entry rules in light of COVID-19 and other safety procedures.

  • Only eat in reputable restaurants and drink bottled water, as unsanitary conditions can cause food poisoning and other stomach problems.

  • Solo female travelers should have no issues, but it is not advised to walk around at night by yourself.

Weather in Vietnam

The best time to visit Vietnam is from March to April, when rainfall is low and temperatures are pleasant. However, in a country more than 1,600 km (ca. 1,000 miles) long, the weather in Vietnam changes from temperate to tropical as you travel north to south.

Central Vietnam experiences hot, dry weather between January and August when temperatures are high. Most rainfall occurs in September, October, and November.

Southern Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City generally experience dry and hot weather from November to April, warm and rainy weather between May and October, and full-on rainy season in June, July, and August.

Must do and see in Vietnam

Take a look at our favorite things to do in Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as the rural north.

  1. Visit Hoi An during a lantern ceremony - Every Tết (Vietnamese New Year), Hoi An is transformed into a rainbow of colors and lights. Over the course of seven days, thousands of colorful lanterns line the road from Hoi An Bridge to the Hoai River Square. If you cannot make it to Hoi An for New Year, there are smaller lantern festivals every full moon.

  2. Visit dazzling Ha Long Bay - A UNESCO World Heritage site, Ha Long Bay boasts 1,600 limestone towers rising from its turquoise waters. Hundreds of cruise boats ply the waters each day, offering visits to uncrowded caves, tiny beaches, and a bunch of super-fresh seafood.

  3. Spend a night on the Mekong - Taking a boat trip from Cai Be to Can Tho is a great way to experience life on one of the biggest rivers in the world. The Mang Thit River, which links Tien Giang and Bassac systems, becomes so narrow that you can peer into the rickety stilted houses along its banks as you travel south.

  4. Phong Nha National Park - This national park is riddled with hundreds of deep caves, including one of the largest in the world: Hang Son Doong. There is a cavern so tall that a skyscraper could fit inside.

  5. Learn more about the Vietnam War - More than 60% of Vietnam’s population was born after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Learn more about this notorious part of history in the nation’s capital at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Gia Long Palace, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and the War Remnants Museum.

  6. Cycle around Hue - Halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Hue marked the divide between the north and the south during the Vietnam War. It is dotted with important historical sites that can be explored by bicycle.

  7. Hike to Sapa - The market town of Sapa, in Vietnam’s mountainous north, boasts fabulous views and a colorful market every Saturday. You can hike the most rural parts of this area on a group hike, with an overnight homestay experience.

  8. Admire the Tam Coc rice fields - In 2014, UNESCO inscribed Tràng An Scenic Landscape Complex as a World Heritage Site. Those who have seen it for themselves will agree: the dramatic limestone mountains and sweeping, deep green valleys of rice fields, often with boats cruising along the Red River Delta, is a sight to behold.

Typical Vietnam food to try

There is nothing like Vietnamese food! Here are a few things to try while on a trip to Vietnam:

  • Pho: The most well-known Vietnamese dish is a soup consisting of rice noodles, meats, and veggies, served with a side of fermented fish or chili sauce.

  • Gỏi Cuốn These raw rice paper rolls (also called “fresh spring rolls”) make the perfect Vietnamese snack, with staple ingredients like shrimp, vermicelli, pork, and healthy greens. It is typically served with a peanut/hoisin sauce.

  • Banh Mi: A tasty on-the-go snack, consisting of a Vietnamese version of a French baguette with a variety of meat and other fillings, added to pickled vegetables, pate, soy sauce, and chilies.

Vaccine information for Vietnam

It's important to know what routine vaccines and COVID-19 measures are required to enter Vietnam before booking your trip. The most commonly advised vaccines are Diphtheria and Tetanus. We advise you to check the CDC website for more info about all vaccine requirements.

A guide to visiting Ha Long Bay in Vietnam

Known for its jagged limestone pinnacles, Ha Long Bay is one of the top tourist attractions in Vietnam. Cruise ships carry the vast majority of the area's 10 million visitors each year.

It can be overwhelming to choose from the many trips on offer in Ha Long Bay. Most Halong Bay visitors opt for midrange or budget cruises, but there is a wide range of prices and value for money.

Here are some tips:

  • If you're short on time, take a day trip from Tuan Chau Marina in Halong City. You can rent cruise boats by the hour (around $30 per hour for a boat that accommodates up to 20 passengers) or join a four- to six-hour cruise for about $50 per person. There are many options, so be sure to check whether lunch is included in the price.

  • There are some excellent midrange options offering cozy hotel-style cabins, knowledgeable onboard tour guides, and awesome kayaking stops. A decent overnight trip should cost around $110.

  • Safety is one of the most important reasons to avoid ultra-budget cruises. All kayaking stops must be accompanied by a guide due to the surprisingly strong currents.

  • The Ha Long Bay entry fee is around $13 per person for a day trip and $25 for an overnight trip. This is generally included in your ticket.

  • When comparing prices, check whether transfers between Hanoi and Ha Long Bay are included, if it’s a one-way or round-trip, and if it uses the new expressway or not.

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