Vietnam is fast becoming a popular spot for tourism in Southeast Asia. It’s not hard to see why: the country boasts bustling cities, stunning natural landscapes, and delicious, world-renowned cuisine. Use this guide for tips on planning your North to South adventure in Vietnam.
From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and Must-Sees in Between
Start your holiday in Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. There, you can go back all the way to the 11th century with a walk around the Old Quarter, where the 36 historic streets are named for their specialties—China bowls (bat su), silk (hang gai), bamboo products (hang buom), etc.—and you’ll find popular attractions like the Temple of Literature and One Pillar Pagoda. Get a glimpse of the French’s architectural imprint on Hanoi by visiting the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace, or the State Bank of Vietnam.
Next on your itinerary is a stop at Ha Long Bay. Located in the Golf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay is comprised of some 1,600 islands and islets. Schedule a cruise to fully appreciate the Bay’s ethereal beauty. Then head on to Hue, the former capital of the Nguyen dynasty. There, check out the sprawling Imperial Citadel for temples, pavilions, museums, galleries, and shopping, or visit the Tombs of the Emperors along the Perfume River.
Continue your historical path through Vietnam with a stop in Hoi An, whose principal attractions are the landmarks, museums, and houses found in Old Town: the Japanese Covered Bridge, the Quan Cong, and the Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, among others. Next, travel to the coast to take a break and soak up the sun in Nha Trang or Mui Ne, known for their pristine waters and fine sand beaches.
The last stop on your tour is the chaotic Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam’s most populous city. There, you can visit the War Remnants Museum or tour the Chu Chi Tunnels, both stark reminders of the atrocities that occurred during The American War. Explore the city’s French colonial history with visits to the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral, People’s Committee Hall, and the Saigon Central Post Office. For a chill evening out, partake in the local tradition of drinking bia hoi at a pavement bar, or let loose by heading to one of the nightclubs in District 1.
Budget travellers may opt for the “Open Tour” bus ticket, a one-way multi-stop ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City; but be aware that buses can be crowded and chaotic. The Reunification Express train is also an affordable option that runs the entire length of the Vietnamese coast.
Those with a bigger budget can plan to fly the longer stretches of the trip—from Hanoi to Hue or Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City—on Vietnam Airlines.
Important Health & Safety Info
Before travelling to Vietnam, make sure you’re up-to-date on immunisations recommended by the NHS. In particular, tetanus, hepatitis A, and typhoid boosters are advised for travel to Southeast Asia. Be especially aware of diseases that are spread through contaminated food or water—typhoid, hepatitis A, and cholera—during your trip. For safety purposes, drink water or canned beverages or those that have been boiled. Pack a travel health kit with diarrhoea medication, antacids, and iodine tablets in case you catch the holiday bug abroad.
Above all, it is highly recommended that you purchase special traveller’s insurance before your trip. In the event you catch illness or are involved in an accident abroad, you’ll have the right coverage to claim holiday compensation later on.