Don’t travel to Vietnam without these!

What to pack for Vietnam?

Even though you are a seasoned traveller and you know what to pack and take with you, there are some issues you should know about Vietnam before packing your luggage.

Although you can buy almost anything you need in Vietnam, it can be difficult to find your sizes or familiar western brands. There are some items that you should remember to pack to avoid any extra hassle during your vacation. This is my “must bring” list:

  1. Sunscreen

Sunscreen products are not widely sold in Vietnam. Having sunbaths does not belong to the Vietnamese culture. Local people avoid getting tanned by staying in the shade or wearing long sleeve shirts. During my six months in Vietnam, I have seen only one small bottle of Nivea sun lotion in a small shop in Hoi An!

Phu Quoc and other popular beach resorts may have better selections. However, you will need sunscreens also in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Better bring them with you!

  1. Bandages

In Vietnam, bandages are not sold in supermarkets. If you get a cut or a scrape, you don’t want to spend any time searching for the pharmacy. I always carry some bandages and disinfection wipes in my bag.

  1. Pain Killers and Medication for Diarrhea

These do not take much room in your luggage. In case of illness, it is much nicer to treat it with familiar medication.

  1. Good Walking Shoes

When travelling in Vietnam, appropriate shoes are even more important than in many other travel destinations. Bring a spare pair, too. If your shoe size in a Western scale is average or big, you will probably not find proper shoes in Vietnamese stores. Flip flops are then your only choice.

You really need good walking shoes in Vietnam. Even in big cities, sidewalks can be in bad condition. They are uneven and have holes, cracks and garbage. In Hanoi, sidewalks in Old Quarter are taken over by motorbikes, shops and restaurant tables and you must walk in a roadway. I would not feel comfortable there wearing flip flops.

  1. Underwear and swimsuit

This especially concerns women. If you forget these home, you may have serious troubles in finding bras or bikinis big enough for you. If your size is petite, you have more choices.

  1. Earplugs

Vietnamese people are early birds and the cities are full of life and noise – even karaoke singing! –  already at seven in the morning. Earplugs may help you sleep later.

When to come and where to go?

Vietnam for different travellers and tastes

Whether you are a beach life lover or history enthusiast, Vietnam has a lot to offer. However, planning your vacation gets easier if you know a little bit more about the country and its different regions. I give you here some tips which help in making your travel plans.

If you just want to relax under palm trees and enjoy beautiful sea scenery, go to central or southern parts of the country. In mid-winter, south is the best direction for you. Danang, Nha Trang, Phan Tiet and Phu Quoc island are nice beach destinations.

If you are interested in historical buildings and landmarks, old emperor culture, museums or war memorials, your best targets are Hanoi and Hue. The cities are full of historical sites, and there are also day trips and excursions to nearby attractions.

You can find modern, international city lifestyle with department stores, cafes and fine dining in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, the biggest city in Vietnam with almost 10 million people.

If you are rather a nature lover and want to discover Vietnam’s most beautiful sceneries, you have plenty of choices. There are several national parks and protected areas in the country. Ecotourism, travelling sustainably, is growing strongly and there are many travel agencies and hotels which promote green values.

The central coast area is a great place for combining beach holiday, shopping and history. Cities to explore are Danang, Hoi An and Hue. You can live at a beach hotel and make day-trips to many fascinating historical places. Here you can also enjoy perhaps the best food in the whole country. If I had only one week for a holiday in Vietnam, I would go there.

If Halong Bay is your number one target, remember to allocate at least three days of your vacation to get there, enjoy the cruise and get back. Most of tourists travel to Halong Bay from Hanoi. Driving there takes at least 4 hours.

When would be the best time to visit Vietnam?

Vietnam is a long narrow country and the weather conditions are quite different in north and south. In south, it is 30 degrees all the time but in north winters are cooler. It rains a lot between May and October. The main tourist season is from November to April when it is dry but not so hot than in summer months.

During Tet-celebration in January or February there can be some changes in normal services and schedules. Tet is Vietnamese New Near and it is usually at the same time with Chinese New Year. Tet is the most important celebration in Vietnam, and it is important to Vietnamese to spent it with the closest family members. For many Vietnamese people, this is also the only holiday from work in the whole year. During Tet-week there are several national public holidays and many museums, restaurants and shops are closed.

One or two days before Tet-season the planes, trains and buses are fully booked since people want to get to their home towns.

In 2018 Tet-celebration begins in 16 Febuary and starts the Year of the Dog