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14 Best Places to Visit in Vietnam (2023 Guide + Tips)

Best Places to visit in vietnam

If you are looking to travel in Southeast Asia at any point, then you should know the best places to visit in Vietnam.

It is a country that has embedded itself in the imagination of tourists from all over the world – stories of an ancient past, retellings of the horrors of the Vietnam War and the increasing allure of beaches and tropical flora.

If you’re planning your next vacation in Vietnam, I hope this guide, put together from my experiences in the country, will help you have a better experience! Let’s see what are the best places to visit in Vietnam and the best Vietnamese attractions.

Halong Bay Vietnam visit

Vietnam Quick Information

Schedule a trip

The usual trip to Vietnam is generally scheduled for 10-14 days. The best time to travel to Vietnam is in the first half of the year – think December to May. It’s warm all year round but becomes extremely humid and wet, in addition to the heat, once the rainy season sets in around June.

Planning an itinerary isn’t too much of a hassle – Vietnam is a vertical stretch of land along the coast, so it’s best to plan all your stops either going up the length of the country or going down it.

Vietnam Visa

The Vietnamese government offers a tourist visa for 30 days, which can be extended further to 3 months.

It is a simple enough process – you have to apply for an e-visa online on the government website with a fee of around $25-40 USD and show the accompanying documents at the airport.

Do look up the list of exempted countries – Vietnam offers visa-free stays of differing periods to citizens from particular Southeast Asian and some European countries.

Getting Around

Vietnam has 11 international airports but most of the flights are going in and out of 3 major airports – in Hanoi, Da Nang, and in Ho Chi Minh City. To get to the main city, taxi fares will cost around 400,000 VND, although it’s nearly half the price in Ho Chi Minh City.

You can also take the shuttles and mini-vans run by a few domestic airlines. To get around the country, you could consider using the train network, but flights are just as good an option.

To get to tourist spots a little outside of the Vietnam cities, ask the hotel you’re staying at for tourist bus options.

For travel within cities, you’d do well to use the Grab app – it’s Vietnam’s Uber and works just as well- providing reasonable rates in a secure and familiar system.

If the app doesn’t work for you, you can turn to the local taxis, but only get on those which come from reliable agencies. Anything else will most likely try to scam you.

Walking around the larger cities is a big part of the Vietnam experience – but make sure to be on high alert while crossing the country’s infamous bike-jammed roads and streets.

Vietnamese SIM Card

This brings me to my next point -consider getting a Vietnamese SIM Card. A data plan always comes in handy if you find yourself lost in the language gap.

It is best to get a sim card at the airport with 3G or 4G connectivity, which usually has unlimited data plans for around 13 USD. They are a bit more expensive in the airports but they will change the SIM card and activate it for you.

Vietnam Currency

The country’s currency is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which you can exchange your currency for at international airports, banks, or local exchanges.

You’ll find yourself heavily reliant on cash while you travel, and it is not advisable not to carry your cards visibly on you – for all its safety, Vietnam still has quite a few wallets and phone snatchers.

Just remember that every time you are using an ATM machine to cash out you will pay a withdrawal fee of 20.000-50.000 VND.

6 Best Cities In Vietnam

Hoi An

hoi an vietnam

Visiting this city is essential if you love quaint tourist spots, as it is filled with a lot of Vietnam’s landmarks. The ‘Ancient Town’ is the first stop in this city, a well-preserved section of an early colonial trading port, now home to tourist-friendly shops and cafes.

Drop by the Japanese Covered Bridge to see how trade influenced local architecture. Other sites to look out for are the Tan Ky House and the Fujian Assembly Hall.

Hoi An has its own nightlife and the Lantern Market by night is a must-do, walking through the lit lanterns and lights makes for an evening straight out of a film.

While you’re here, you should also plan a stop at the My Son ruins, which house ancient temples dating back to the 4th century.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Saigon Vietnam

Named after Vietnam’s most famous leader, this city has many of Vietnam’s tourist attractions – local markets selling fresh fruit and handicrafts, and delicious roadside pho around every corner. This city also hosts the remnants of Vietnam’s colonial past – where you can visit the stunning

  • Central Post Office
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Saigon Opera House
  • Reunification Palace
  • Chinese Jade Emperor Pagoda
  • Bitexco Financial Tower is one of Vietnam’s more modern wonders.

I consider Ho Chi Minh is one of the best places to visit not only in Vietnam but in southeast Asia for its nightlife.

Also, make sure you try their local food.

Hanoi

Hanoi Vietnam

Hanoi is perhaps the more famous of Vietnam’s cities. Steeped in Vietnam’s colonized past, Hanoi harks back to the days of French imperialism, leaving its touch on nearly everything in sight – but the city is still distinctly Vietnamese. Begin by visiting the

  • The Citadel of Thang Long (Hanoi Citadel), was constructed by the Vietnamese empires
  • Pay your respects at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
  • Visit the Hoan Kiem Lake with its iconic red bridge flanked by gentle hills
  • While you walk around the city, soak in the architecture of St Joseph’s Cathedral
  • Temple of Literature
  • Old Quarter
  • Go to the Hoa Lo Prison to see what life was like under the French colonizers.
  • Don’t miss the Dong Xuan Market either, which is a popular place for tourists to shop.

If you are into nightlife, just like me, you should check my Hanoi nightlife guide. Before going to the next destination, check out these day trips from Hanoi to the nearby attractions.

Hue

Hue Citadel Royal Palace

This Vietnamese city is everything ancient. Older than the American and French influences, it tells stories of its indigenous empires. Start off your trip to Hue with a visit to

  • The Imperial City and its stunning royal tombs.
  • See the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is still a spiritual site for pilgrims
  • Take a boat ride on the Perfume River.
  • The final must-do is the Ho Quyen fighting arena, Vietnam’s very own Colosseum.
  • If you’re willing to spend some more time, head to the Bach Ma National Park, which holds within its boundaries stunning forests and waterfalls.

Sapa

Sapa Vietnam

This city is not on every backpacker’s itinerary, but it is well worth a visit and is growing increasingly popular among visitors. It is not what you’d think Vietnam would have, but these colonial hill stations are a serene retreat in the mountains.

Here, you can take things a bit more slowly and learn about the country through its living, not just the past. Trek the hills and the fields on misty mornings to see the

  • Dragon Jaw Mountain
  • Muong Hoa Valley
  • In town, visit the French Stone Church and interact with the local people and their culture.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang

If you’re big into beach partying, then Nha Trang is the place for you. This coastal resort city has beach resorts, bars, and nightclubs and is dotted with tons of places to party.

While this can get a little pricey, Vietnam’s local drinking culture is not just more affordable but is also a lot more authentic.

Perch yourself on one of the stools in front of the frequented drinking joints on the big roads, and you can drink away at minimal expense – one glass of cold beer costs about 5000 VND, a quarter of a dollar!

I’ve found Nha Trang one of the best places to visit in Vietnam.

3 Best Islands in Vietnam

There are several islands dotted along the Vietnam coast, of which the following three offer the best tourist experience.

Phu Quoc

phu quoc vietnam

Is everything you want from a tropical island – from picturesque beaches to delicious seafood.

Here, you’ll be able to do the usual water activities, but diving and snorkeling are unmissable as the reefs here are some of the best in the world.

Although it is a popular spot and is quite busy with resorts, bars and street food outlets, the beach is a long stretch and you can still catch a quiet place for yourself.

Cat Ba

cat ba island vietnam
Source: catbaexpress.com

Cat Ba is situated amidst the dotted rocks of Ha Long Bay. While it does have its own beaches and fishing villages to visit, the main attraction here is its growing alternative to the usual routes to Ha Long Bay.

If you have an extra day, consider spending a night on this island to see some of the limestone cliffs not easily visited by the hordes heading to Ha Long Bay.

Nam Du

nam du island vietnam
Source: itourvn.com

Nam Du island is a good break from the rest of the busy country. Although the wi-fi and connectivity aren’t great, the stunning coral reefs, sea life, and water sports will keep you more than busy here.

The island also has its fair share of historical sites to visit and terrain to go hiking and trekking.

Best Things to Do in Vietnam

Apart from its cities, geological and natural formations are also attractions Vietnam is famous for.

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Is perhaps the most photogenic of the many attractions Vietnam has to offer. The thousands of limestone cliffs in the blue waters of the bay offer stunning views.

Going out to see the cliffs, caves, and shaggy rocks on local boats is the most popular thing to do – it makes for a truly unique experience. However, it is falling out of tourist favor due to the crowds and pollution – an emerging alternative is Cat Ba.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Vietnam War is one of the most iconic wars fought after World War II, and the Cu Chi Tunnels offer you a first-hand experience of what it was like.

If you’re not claustrophobic, you can go down the tunnels running several kilometers long to see how ordinary Vietnamese beat an overpowering army.

As you can see in the picture above, I picked the shortest tunnel since I’m not feeling comfortable in narrow spaces. You can also fire AK-47s to finish off the experience here!

Mui Ne Sand Dunes

best places to visit in vietnam

An anomaly in the tropics of Southeast Asia, Mui Ne offers sand dunes for a surreal experience. It is yet another one of Vietnam’s landscapes. Surfing on the sand and spending a few hours wind and kite surfing are some of the fun things to do here.

Floating Markets in the Mekong Delta

best places to visit in vietnam

If you love the more rural parts of cities, then the Mekong Delta is a perfect getaway. Here, you’ll be able to be a part of life at the heart of one of the most important rivers in the region.

You can spend some time witnessing the marvel of rural floating markets and houseboats, as well as drop by some of rural Vietnam’s towns.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

best places to visit in vietnam

This park count’s the world’s largest cave among its many extraordinary sires. You can walk through the gigantic caves and enclosures here and marvel at geological wonders. It truly is an experience you’ll never forget.

Vietnamese Food

vietnamese food

Food is another thing Vietnam is known for. Vietnam’s famous food will keep you in good stead throughout your holiday.

You can begin your mornings with filling bowls of Pho, while snacking throughout the day on scrumptious Banh Mi, Goi Cuon and Bun Cha – all cheap, delicious and essential to the Vietnamese experience!

These were the things I think every holiday-goer should know before planning a holiday in Vietnam.

The country is still opening up and has a lot to offer – it is a wonderful country if you’re interested in history and love the outdoors.

Be it late-night shopping at the night markets or spending a little bit more on a show at the Opera in Hanoi, Vietnam has a little bit for everyone! I hope this guide has helped you think about what Vietnam can be for you!

See also: Where is the Best Vietnam Massage

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