Vietnam is oozing with charms and contrasts – it’s chaotic yet calming, adventurous yet meditative, exotic yet feels like home.
While we were intimidated to visit at first, it quickly became one of the most unforgettable trips we’ve ever taken! Between the sweeping landscapes of rice fields and mountains, drool-worthy food, and buzzing cities – Vietnam will awaken your senses and offer you the best of many worlds.
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What to Pack for Vietnam – 31 Essentials
1. Universal Power Adapter
Vietnam uses a wide array of power outlets such as Type C, E, F, and G. These are all different from outlets in the U.S., so it’s essential to have a universal power adapter that will work in every different scenario. We recommend using an adapter with a built-in fuse protection like this one to protect your devices even if there’s a power surge, which is common in SE Asia. It’s handy to have 2 USB ports, and it also comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee.
A lipstick-sized portable charger will be a total game-changer during your trip. If you plan to use your smartphone for navigation, photos, and communication, you won’t want to get stuck with a dead battery when you’re deep in the canal network of Cần Thơ or boating through the Ben Tre islands. Use this as a backup battery when you’re on-the-go. Thank us later!
Vietnam ranks in the top 3 most targeted countries for online attacks in all of SE Asia, according to global security provider Kaspersky. With growing threats each day, a VPN is a non-negotiable for all travelers. It adds an extra layer of security encryption to your private data to keep you safe. If I had used one in Paris when I visited recently, I wouldn’t have had my credit card information stolen. You may not realize it, but joining public Wi-Fi networks at cafes, airports, hotels, and Airbnbs can lead to a vulnerable crack in your connection. Even at home, you may have snoopy neighbors, hackers, or third parties like the government monitoring your online activity.
Another advantage for me is the ability to browse the internet uninhibited while traveling, even if the countries where you’re surfing limit, monitor, or censor internet use. In many Eastern countries, PayPal, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, and YouTube are regionally-locked. All it takes is the push of a button and your VPN will give you access to the internet, no matter where you may roam.
Vietnam is fairly safe for travelers, but petty theft remains one of the biggest concerns. You’ll want to carry your important documents with you, along with any small amounts of cash or other payment methods you may need for the day. This neck wallet will allow you to do that much more safely than if you carried them in your bag or pocket. It stays tucked discreetly under your shirt but remains accessible so that you can get to the things you need without advertising them to potential thieves.
This region’s drinking water availability is limited to bottled or manually filtered water. Even the locals avoid the tap water or boil it at home. You’ll have to buy bottles or bring your own method of purifying water to ensure it’s safe to consume. I highly recommend bringing this Grayl water bottle because it’s top-notch, eliminating the health risk of dangerous parasites, bacteria, viruses, microplastics, and more. It also improves the taste of your water by reducing the levels of chlorine and harsh chemicals.
You may not realize it – but your domestic coverage only provides support within your home country, so health insurance typically does not follow you overseas. If things take a turn for the worse, you’ll need to be well-protected and insured for a variety of problems like hospital visits, medivac transfers, emergency trips home, theft, baggage loss, flight delays, etc. It’s best not to take your chances with out-of-pocket expenses when insurance plans are very affordable and offer sincere peace of mind.
Our go-to provider is Faye because they make it easy to create a customized insurance plan that is tailored to your specific trip. You can add on policies that are rarely offered, like “cancel for ANY reason,” which is a huge benefit! When we had an incident, the funds were wired quickly through their mobile app and the claims process was way less daunting than with most providers. We’ve been singing their praises ever since and can’t recommend them enough!
Having an organized suitcase is an underestimated treat. Instead of throwing items all around the hotel room to find what you’re looking for – these packing cubes make it easy to classify your items into groups and keep everything in order. It can be a serious help when you’re staying in multiple locations, having to unpack and repack multiple times. Bonus points for the laundry bags that keep your clean and dirty clothes separate!
Having an upset stomach or traveler’s diarrhea is difficult to avoid in these countries. It’s best to bring activated charcoal with you, just in case. It absorbs any toxins that may be plaguing your system and can help you regain digestive balance after a variety of stomach ailments. This could save you hours or days of distress and get you back on your feet in no time!
Tropical locations throughout the world are well-known for rain. And Vietnam is no exception. Rain can come and go quickly, so it’s best to ready yourself for all conditions with a reliable windproof umbrella that can be carried in your day bag. This one’s great because it can fit two people underneath and won’t collapse under gusty winds. It’s the sturdiest umbrella I’ve owned!
Sturdy sandals are a must for any trip to Southeast Asia. You’re likely to be doing a lot of walking and will want to feel comfortable and supported. These sandals are perfect because they’re durable and dry quickly, so you’ll be prepared for anything from sandy beaches to muddy hillsides to thick jungle marshes. They’re also well-suited for temple visits since they easily slip on and off.
Your phone is an important part of travel planning, navigating, and communicating with folks back home. You’ll want to keep it protected from water, dirt, dust, scratches, and shocks while you’re moving from place to place. This case does it all, so you can stay connected while covering hot spots from land to sea.
Don’t neglect to bring this main accessory for your waterproof phone case – a case won’t be useful if your phone sinks to the bottom of the South China Sea! These flotation straps attach to your phone, keys, or any other necessities you wouldn’t want to see disappear into the sharp reefs of Nha Trang or the murky Mekong River.
Watersports are a huge draw in Vietnam and you’ll need a quick way to dry off without carrying around bulky hotel towels. Moreso, your accommodation may not provide a towel or the one they provide could be sub-par. This one is our go-to because it’s light as a feather yet dries 10x faster than cotton. Plus, it’s small enough to carry with you if you need to.
Get Your Guide offers top-rated tours booked through local guides with flexible cancelation. While visiting the paradise of Vietnam – you must discover the rich history at archaeological sites like the Imperial City, the Vinh Trang Temple, and UNESCO World Heritage Site, My Son Sanctuary.
Vietnam is generally safe, but areas like Ho Chi Minh City have a decently bad rep for con artists and bag snatching. Not to mention, your checked luggage is out of sight for dozens of hours while in transit. After having things stolen out of our unlocked suitcase, we learned the hard way not to travel without luggage locks. Bring a set or two for lockers, backpacks, purses, or anything else that requires extra protection.
Vietnam has over 15,000 religious buildings, including Buddhist temples, viharas, and pagodas. These ancient sites hold stories of the country’s past and glimpses into the spiritual depth of the culture. Visitors must be aware that an improper dress code (uncovered legs and shoulders) can lead to denied entry. So pack along a multifunctional shawl to ensure that doesn’t happen while also displaying modesty and respect.
We never travel to balmy destinations without these magical cooling towels that provide sweet relief on a hot day. Simply add water and they will remain 20-30 degrees colder than the outside temperature for up to an hour. When the frosty effect diminishes, add more water, and boom! You’ll be able to withstand long days outside and beat the heat without any unbearable hot flashes.
The items you’ll want to carry with you each day can be unwieldy if you don’t have a good day bag to carry them in. A backpack is ideal since it will keep you hands-free and reduce back aches from one-shouldered bags. This backpack is designed for traveling – it’s light, easy to use, and can be stowed away in its own inner pocket.
There’s no doubt that much of your trip to Vietnam will be spent in and out of the water. Whether you’re diving into Ha Long Bay or sunbathing at Nha Trang Beach, you’ll want a trendy and lightweight swimsuit cover-up to throw on over your suit whenever you need it. This one’s cute and relatively inexpensive.
You’ll be hopping from ancient cities to luscious lagoons and beaches to floating markets to rice terraces! So you’ll need a pair of shoes that can keep up with your grand adventures. This pair is fast-drying and super lightweight. The mesh top creates airflow, which reduces the risk of blisters or sweaty feet, and you’ll appreciate being able to move between different terrains with ease.
Some accommodations and bungalows may not have the cleanest of sheets… especially if it’s a hostel or motel! Bringing your own can offer peace of mind against bed bugs or moldy pillowcases. We recommend this set which is made for travel – it’s very compact but doesn’t skimp on the silky softness. It’s also great for future camping trips, long bus journeys, plane trips, etc.
The best way to get around the unique waterways of Vietnam is by cruisers, kayaks, or basket boats. While you’re exploring caves, beaches, and snorkeling islands like Cham and Nha Trang, you’ll need a trusty dry bag to protect your valuables. You don’t want to watch your backpack slosh around a deck or pull out disintegrated cash! This case is an affordable way to ensure everything you care about remains 100% dry.
Mosquitoe-borne illnesses like malaria, dengue, and Japanese encephalitis are prevalent in areas of Vietnam, so it’s best not to take any chances. These wristbands keep you protected without having to apply messy, smelly, chemical-laden sprays, and they’re comfortable enough that you’ll forget you’re even wearing them! They’re deet-free which means they’re safe for both adults and kids. An absolute must-pack for your Southeast Asia trip.
Since Vietnam is close to the equator, the sun can be more powerful, and the UV index has even been alarming to locals in recent years. Something as mild as a tan is considered ‘sun damage’ in the eyes of a dermatologist, so protect your delicate skin with a long-sleeved rash guard. For long days on dragon boats or playing in the Ban Gioc Waterfalls, this top offers a UPF of 50+ to prevent any painful burns.
Sticky and icky is not the vibe. While a tropical destination incites images of paradise – it can also mean humidity, heat, and sweaty pits! I keep these deodorant wipes with us for a quick refresh and immediate relief. They’re pocket-sized which is perfect for on-the-go odor control, and they leave zero white residue behind (which we can’t say for most deodorant brands!)
The Vietnamese people value humility and modesty. Tourists should not wear short shorts or crop tops as these can be seen as inappropriate and tasteless. In addition to this, temples may reject your entry if your legs are not covered below the knee. When visiting the stunning Cao Dai Temple or Tran Quoc Pagoda, this beautiful skirt will help you blend in with the regional garb and not look like a hokey tourist.
Countertop space can be limited in Vietnam bathrooms and most budget lodgings will provide a squat toilet. While the water closets may not be glamorous, you can make up for this with a hanging toiletry bag! Keep your products confined to this compact case that turns any door, branch, or hook into a convenient shelf-like storage system.
TSA will throw away any of your beloved products if they exceed the 3.4-ounce limitation for liquids in your carry-on. Prevent this tragedy by opting for these travel-sized bottles. They’re the best ones we’ve used since they have a 3-layer leakproof design, and the shape allows you to get out every last drop!
While your domestic carrier will be more than happy to price-gouge you with outrageous roaming rates, there is another option. We recommend using a local SIM card to stay connected – this one offers 10GB of data for up to 30 days of travel time, giving you a regional phone number and simplified access without the sneaky hidden fees. Simply swap out your SIM card once you’ve landed, turn on data roaming, and restart your device. Easy peasy and it could save you hundreds of dollars!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Vietnam’s winters can be harsh due to the monsoon influence. Temperatures can vary depending on how northern or southern you are in the country, or as you climb snowcapped mountains. But if visiting in the autumn or winter, prepare for the frost and windchill with a thick jacket. Even in warmer months, you’ll need at least one reliable option for chilly nights, and Columbia is our go-to brand for affordable quality.
You should always bring along a backup bag for any shopping you may do on your adventure. This tote counts as your personal item on the flight home and fits neatly under your plane seat! The local markets and boutique shops hold the most gorgeous items that you’ll want to bring home to friends and family – local goods like Vietnamese silks, jewelry, lacquerware, Áo dài (dresses), Nón Lá (hats), bamboo products, pearls, rich coffee beans, and much more.
Layers are good here, and fabrics that dry quickly. Zip-off quick-dry pants, moisture-wicking garments, and anything that will protect you from the sun will serve you well.
Opt for good sunglasses, a quality sunhat that can get wet without damage, and good hiking/walking shoes that can also get wet.
It’s best to dress a little more conservatively here, too, in order to respect local culture and customs.
Packing for the Seasons in Vietnam
The Dry Season – November, December, January, February, March, April:
This is also the high season for tourism in this region. You’ll find that different areas in each country vary a little with regard to weather, but for the most part these countries follow very similar seasonal patterns. Layers are most important here, and even though it’s the dry season you should make sure that your fabrics are light and quick-drying. A hat is also a good idea to keep the strong sun off of your face and neck. During the dry season, expect less humidity and fewer rain showers – though still be prepared for some rain while you’re there. Bring a good rain jacket that you can carry with you in case of pop-up storms. Temperatures are typically around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Wet Season – May, June, July, August, September, October:
It’s called the wet season for a reason – the vast majority of annual rainfall for these countries falls between May and October, with the least rain in the beginning of the season and the most near the end. It may surprise you that the temperatures are often warmest during this season, too, so plan to wear fewer layers, and to have your rain jacket and umbrella handy at all times. Waterproof shoes are essential, too. Don’t worry, it’s still a lovely time to visit if you pack appropriate rain gear. The area is lush and beautiful, and tourist attractions are less crowded. Temperatures in the wet season hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit but can reach as high as 100 degrees.
What NOT to bring to Vietnam
1.DON’T PACK offensive or revealing clothing
Most temples have clothing requirements — long pants for men and no shoulders or legs showing for women. Avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, and avoid insulting locals by preparing to dress more modestly.
2.DON’T TAKE valuables like jewelry
Leave all but essentials at home. Don’t bring anything that you can’t bear to lose, damage, or have stolen. While violent crimes are rare, crimes of opportunity — petty theft, for example — can occur.
3.DON’T TAKE expensive electronics
These can too-easily get damaged en route or at your accommodations, and can easily paint you for a thief’s target. Unless you’re a risk-taker and/or your insurance policy covers these items while traveling, leave them at home.
4.DON’T BRING extra books
Besides a trusty guidebook, you really shouldn’t bring any books with you. They’re heavy, they take up a lot of space, and they can easily get ruined. I’ve found that e-readers like a Kindle hold up well and are light and compact.
5.DON’T PACK your hair dryer
Western hair dryers are too much for outlets in this area. You’ll short out in no time flat. Save the space and stick with a provided dryer, or just air-dry and rock your best beach hair!
6.DON’T BRING local currency with you
Don’t get it exchanged before you go, just use an ATM at the airport for the best exchange rate! Most international airports will have an ATM within them or nearby. It’s always my first stop upon landing.
FAQs for Vietnam
1. Can I drink the water in this region?
NO. It is not safe to drink the tap water in Vietnam. Bottled water is easy to come by, but you’ll have to pay for it each time.
Some accommodations do have a water dispenser if you bring along a reusable bottle. You can get the best of both worlds with a filtered water bottle which will allow you to control the drinkability of your water, and always have a supply on hand.
2. What type of accommodations are there in these areas?
Accommodations in these countries range in style and price. Guesthouses are common budget options. On the higher end, look for hotels or resorts. If you’re doing a Mekong River cruise or Halong Bay tour, overnight boats are usually a bit pricier, but most include meals, and it’s certainly a memorable experience!
3. Do I need additional health insurance on top of my own?
Make sure your health insurance covers emergency evacuation before you leave. If not, you should look into travel health insurance. Additionally, it’s a good idea to cover your trip as well, in case of last-minute changes due to emergencies.
4. What’s the best time of year to go?
The wettest part of Vietnam’ rainy season runs from May or June until September or October.
For Vietnam, fall and spring are the most popular times to visit for international tourists. I encourage you to look outside of those times, though — low and shoulder seasons can have better prices and smaller crowds, which will add to your overall experience.
5. Do people speak English?
While English is more common in major cities, don’t count on everyone you meet to speak it. Have a few key phrases on hand, and be sure to print out all your travel information with the local address (in the respective language) ahead of time.
6. What vaccinations do I need?
This depends on your itinerary and length of stay. Visit a travel health clinic for the most accurate advice.
7. Is Angkor Wat worth it?
Yes. While crowds are crazy, especially at sunrise, it’s worth scoping out a spot away from the main lake for a good view and fewer people. As the sun comes up, you can wander around to different locations to get a variety of photo angles.
Most people will visit for sunrise, head back to their hotel for breakfast and a nap, and then return at a later hour. If you can power through starting at daybreak, you’ll be able to see the inside more quickly and easily.
We opted for a half-day tour guide who showed us through different temples, including Angkor Wat. It was helpful to hear a local’s perspective.
8. What’s the best way to pick a Halong Bay tour?
Tours on Halong Bay range from budget party boat to luxury high-end getaways. Start with what fits your budget and go from there. Most will provide a transport to pick you up from your Hanoi hotel and drive the four hours (or so) to the docks before setting off.
9. What’s the best day trip from Luang Prabang, Laos?
While it’s a better idea for a long weekend, I highly recommend Nong Khiaw just north of Luang Prabang. It’s about 3.5 – 4 hours ride via minibus.
You can either book minibus passage in town or take the public bus from Luang Prabang’s northern bus station. The town has a laid-back vibe, with many options for activities, including visiting nearby caves, kayaking, and trekking.
10. What’s a food tour?
While “which Southeast Asian country has the best food” is a hot-topic debate among travelers, Vietnam gets my vote. Its street food is truly unique. An easy way to sample a wide variety of foods is to book a food tour. You’ll hop on the back of a motorbike and get a quick tour of the city while you’re at it. If you’re adventurous enough, try the fertilized duck egg — tastes like a hard-boiled egg, with a few almost-formed feathers.