Many travellers and tourists who have been to Vietnam enjoyed their time here, their recommendation of places to see, food to try, and things to do is endless and can be overwhelming. The size of Vietnam is undeniably pretty big while not every visitor have the time to explore its every corner. We decided to pull a list of fun things to do in Vietnam depending on where you are going or what activities you like.
We asked a handful of travel bloggers who explored Vietnam and have them tell us what they love most about this region and what is the must do in Vietnam that they can recommend. Check this post to know when is the best time to go to Vietnam.
If you are are planning a big trip in here, you may want to check our backpacking in Vietnam article to find out everything you need know before you arrive here. While here are the best hostels in Vietnam that we recommend. If you need help in deciding what to pack, here is our Vietnam packing list essentials.
This post: UPDATED JUNE 2019 | Originally Posted September 2018
NOTE: Prices are in US Dollars and Vietnamese Dong (VND)
You may use the table of contents below to navigate faster.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN THE NORTH OF VIETNAM
The North of Vietnam is probably one of the greenest places you can explore in the country. The highest peak in Indochina is also located in this part of the country, which is called Fansipan. You should know that the North of Vietnam has a winter and it can get freezing, the temperature can drop down to zero degrees Celsius.
Eating in Hanoi
Recommended by Gemma of Two Scots Abroad
Forget McDonalds or KFC, there is a fresh and unique kind of fast food in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi! Locals, and tourists if they brave it, sit on small plastic chairs at tiny tables on the street corners of the city but you can’t just order what you like.
Each street vendor sells one type of food whether that be duck, chicken or other meat types. you need to know which street to go to! Our first attempt was hilarious. We did not know that the vendor only sold one type of food so Craig sent the food away as it arrived. His friend is an expat in Hanoi and had to request for the food to return!
It really is a cool experience dining in Hanoi and eating not only what but also how, the locals eat. It’s definitely one of the must do things in Hanoi. For a more convenient way to do this and to make sure that you don’t miss anything, check this guided food tour in Hanoi or a cooking class.
Roam around Hanoi
Hanoi, the capital and one of the oldest cities in Vietnam has so much must see and explore to offer. First, you must remember to stay in the Old Quarter, from here, you can access the top places to visit in the city.
The ones that you should not miss are Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where you can see Ho Chi Minh’s body for a few seconds, make sure you dress up properly to be able to enter the vicinity, also, check the opening hours and days), Hoa Lo Prison, Traditional Vietnamese Puppet Show, the weekend night market in the Old Quarter, and of course, take a seat on the beer corner where you can get fresh beer for $.50 (15,000 VND).
Hiking in Ba Be
Recommended by Josh of Veggie Vagabond
In a country as vast and diverse as Vietnam it’s difficult to pick a single top thing to do – especially as we spent a year exploring the country! Out of all of our experiences hiking in Ba Be National Park was definitely one of our most rewarding and memorable for so many reasons.
Located in northeast Vietnam the National Park is centred around Ba Be lake, the biggest of it’s kind in the country. Surrounding the lake is dense jungle, unexplored caves, pristine ‘fairy ponds’, waterfalls and a whole host of incredible wildlife. Besides the natural beauty there are also fascinating traditional tribal groups that still live in the area.
The whole landscape is connected by hiking routes that take you up and over the limestone castes, through tropical vegetation and to a whole host of incredible sights. As you go past the local tribes are welcoming and unquestionably curious to see foreign travellers wandering through the bushes!Altogether it makes a trip to the area unforgettable, whether you’re wanting to explore the jungle or to observe the traditional customs and local way of life.
Still, despite the awesomeness of Be Ba it’s definitely still an off-the-beaten-track destination. Outside of the busier dry season (February – April) you’re unlikely to find many other travellers which makes the experience even more special.
Trekking in Sa Pa
Recommended by Kathy of 50 Shades Of Age
Although we’ve travelled to Vietnam on two occasions we hadn’t visited the far north of the country. On our most recent trip we set off on a guided tour up into the mountains of North Vietnam. Our 3 day Sapa tour involved a couple of days of trekking in Sapa through tiny villages and the hillside terraced rice fields.
There were two separate treks over two days, the first being the Y Linh Ho – Lao Chai – Ta Van Long Trek, a distance of 9kms. We set off to explore the Muong Hoa valley, descending down a track through rice fields in the valley below. This section of the trek offered spectacular scenery of the highest part of Hoang Lien Son mountain range and Fansipan Peak.
Eventually we came to a bridge and crossed the river, continuing our trek uphill to Y Linh Ho village. Here we visited some H’mong families, watching them go about their daily chores. We set off again until we reached Lao Chai, a large village of the H’mong people and then followed the riverbank to Ta Van of the Giay ethnic people in their stilted houses.
On our second day we set off on the Short Trek to Cat Cat Village, a distance of 4kms. Cat Cat village that is the home of Black H’mong ethnic people, located near the bottom of a deep valley at the foot of Fansipan Peak. The spectacular scenery of mountains and terraced rice paddies unfolded before our eyes, as we walked downhill.
Cat Cat Village is dotted with shops and market stalls and as you continue down the stairs into the valley they also line the side of the Cat Cat trail. The wares that the local villagers try to sell range from food to clothing with a lot of emphasis on hand-woven textiles in bright colours and some indigo-dyed dark blue.
Motorbiking the Ha Giang Loop
Recommended by Marco of Monkey Rock World
When thinking of North Vietnam, most travelers believe that Sapa is the place to go. I beg to differ: Sapa is overcrowded, ultra-touristy, and most important, its hill tribes have grown used to see foreigners as walking cash machines. A sad and bothersome experience, indeed.
But to the east of Sapa there’s another area that not only is beautiful, but also sees lesser visitors, and offers a much better chance of interacting with locals. I am referring to Ha Giang, and in particular, the loop to the villages of Meo Vac and Dong Van, that skirt the border of the southern Chinese province of Guanxi.
The 350km ride goes across the Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, a Unesco-protected area, and over the stunning Mã Pí Lèng Pass. It’s a continuous series of stunning peaks that look as if they came out of a Chinese painting – sharp, jagged rocks that alternate to viridian cones and rocky spikes that seem like a series of petrified waves.
Trust me, I have been on many adventures in Asia, like when I rode folding bikes in Indonesia, and have seen many incredible places, but the scenery that awaits you on the Ha Giang Loop is not just one of the best in Vietnam — it’s some of the best in Southeast Asia.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Hanoi, catch a bus north to the uninspiring town of Ha Giang (8 hours) and rent a motorbike. The amazing scenery starts just outside of town. You can complete the loop in two days, but a minimum of three will give you more time to enjoy the sites. More hardened bikers may continue to the neighboring province of Cao Bang instead of looping back to Ha Giang town.
Exploring the Cat Ba Island
Recommended by Elisa from World in Paris
Cat Ba island is a nice island located in Northern Vietnam, not far from Hanoi the capital. It has an exuberant vegetation, nice beaches and nice hotels with sea view to keep you busy for a while. If this was not enough, Cat Ba island is one of the main points of access to Ha-long Bay, usually visited with an organized tour.
More than half of Cat Ba island is occupied by a natural park, with a thick jungle and plenty of lakes and waterfalls to enjoy on a day trip. Also, there is a beautiful coastal walk linking some small bays with no more than a string of sand and a beach bar.
History lovers will enjoy the Cannon Fort, located at the top of the island’s hill, from where you can enjoy one of the best views in Vietnam. Around the fort, visitors can explore some underground tunnels excavated by the Japanese during the WWII.
On Cat Ba island we also enjoyed the food, a mix of traditional dishes like Pho Bo and fish dishes with the daily catch for a very good price. The island (and the Ha-long Bay tour) was definitely one of the highlights of our Vietnam trip.
Cat Ba island is a very popular weekend destination amongst locals so I recommend going to Cat Ba during the week for a quiet stay.
Visit the unbeaten path of Bai Tu Long
Recommended by Claudia of My Adventures Across The World
Think of Vietnam, and one of the first places that people think about is the famous Ha Long Bay. Yes, Ha Long is really beautiful. But forget about having a solitary experience there; put the thoughts of a beautiful, solitary boat slowly cruising along far away from your mind. The typical scenario on Ha Long Bay is that of dozens of boats, all following the same itinerary, making so much noise that a place that should be so magically quiet completely loses it charm.
That’s why Bai Tu Long is a fantastic alternative, and visiting is one of the nicest things to do in Vietnam. Much like Ha Long Bay, it is better to go on a guided tour. However, not many tour companies offer this route, and most travelers haven’t even heard about it. That’s why Bai Tu Long has managed to retain its original charm, without any of the crowds of Ha Long.
A good tour of Bai Tu Long usually includes activities such as fishing from the boat; exploring caves on the uninhabited islands; kayaking around the bay and also getting off the boat and spending a day on one of the islands, in a village that doesn’t know mass tourism, biking around the island and admiring the gorgeous beaches, and finally spending the night with a local family that typically involves guests in activities such as cooking.
Cruise in Ha Long Bay
Recommended by Melissa of Thrifty Family Travels
Halong Bay is one of the most scenic regions in Vietnam and is a must do for anyone visiting the country. The bay is filled with thousands of giant limestone cliffs which jut from the water and are covered with lush rain forests.
Halong Bay is best visited by a 1 or 2-night cruise. During the day you will love kayaking among the spectacular scenery and during the warmer months you can even jump right off the boat for swimming. Most of the boats follow a similar itinerary which includes a stop to explore some caves as well as climbing to a look out where you can get a fantastic view across the bay – perfect photo opportunity!
All meals are provided on board and most boats even have a bit of a karaoke party and disco. Other activities during the cruise include night squid fishing and if you can manage to get up early enough, Tai Chi. Some boats even have cooking classes. If you can manage to get a few minutes alone, for me, I just loved sitting on the deck and watching the gorgeous scenery pass me by.
There are a range of cruise boats to choose from, but I recommend looking for a mid range one. Cruises depart from Halong Bay, but the cruise operators will arrange transfers for you from Hanoi, around a 4 hour drive from Halong Bay.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN CENTRAL OF VIETNAM
The central of Vietnam is mostly known for its beautiful caves, calming beaches, and cute little towns. It is also a speculation that many popular Vietnamese dishes originated in this part of the country.
Remember that the central of Vietnam is prone to heavy rain during the rainy season (end of May to end of October), make sure to consider this before booking your flight tickets, accommodations, and tours.
Cycling around Phong Nha
Recommended by Emily of Wander-Lush
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003—is one of the last truly pristine areas of Vietnam. Located in the centre of the country, 200km north of Hue, Phong Nha is well-known for being home to Son Doong, the world’s largest cave. The park itself is incredibly beautiful, combining thick primary rainforest with impressive karst plateaus (rock formations similar to what you see in Halong Bay, only on land).
One of the most exciting things you can do in Phong Nha is explore the National Park on two wheels. Dirt trails and roads snake through the park, taking in peanut fields, waterfalls, caves and small villages. The roads you travel on have a long and fascinating history—they actually constituted part of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was used to ferry soldiers and supplies during the Vietnam-America War. Since Phong Nha is located in the ‘skinniest’ part of Vietnam, you can cycle almost all the way to the Lao border.
If you want to explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang by bicycle, I highly recommended booking a full-day cycling tour with Phong Nha Adventure Cycling. A local outfit, they can fit you out with proper mountain bikes and safety gear. Expert guides narrate the entire journey, sharing fascinating stories about the Trail. They’ll even introduce you to locals along the way, many of whom are happy to invite you in for a cup of tea and talk about their memories of the war.
The nearest airport and train station to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is at Dong Hoi.
Adventure at the Paradise Cave
Recommended by Josie of Josie Wanders
With a spare day in Hue in Central Vietnam and we decided to do a day trip to see Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. Only discovered in 2005, Paradise Cave is 34km long. Most visitors will only walk into the cave for the first kilometre, although special tours are available to venture further.
To get to the entrance of the cave it’s first an easy 1km walk on flat, well maintained paths through the jungle. The last 500m up to the entrance of the cave is at a decent incline with quite a few steps, so be prepared to be puffing a bit before you even enter the caves. On entry though, there are are a few steps downwards, and you will be on flat boardwalks with plenty of room to walk around as you explore the cave.
Paradise Cave lives up to it’s name. There are so many beautiful rock formations throughout the cave. This is not a wet cave, so there is very little water dripping, although there is more in the wet season than the dry season. The blue colour of the rock was like nothing I have seen before.
Paradise Cave is a long three hour drive from Hue, so while a day trip is doable, I recommend staying in the area and enjoying not only Paradise Cave, but some of the other caves and activities in the area too. You can’t leave Vietnam without visiting this one of Vietnam tourist destinations.
Enjoying Dong Hoi Beach
Recommended by Helen of Bristolian Backpacker
Dong Hoi might not be the town in Vietnam that immediately springs to mind when somebody says ‘beach’. Yet, it was here that I found yellow sands, gorgeous blue sea and an empty beach apart from a few locals.
I went to Doing Hoi before heading to Phong Nha to visit the amazing caves. It was only a brief stop but it was 100% worthwhile. My night train stopped off there from Ninh Binh though I have no doubt that many buses make regular journeys there as well.
In one day, you can wander around the quiet town and easily be the only tourist apart from the others stopping there before or after a trip to the caves.
After wandering around the town, I had a drink at the calm and welcoming Tree Hugger café. A lovely way to catch up on my reading and plan the rest of my trip! Next stop… The beach! It can’t be found immediately, which is, in my opinion, the appeal. You have to walk across the bridge, past some closed restaurants which look like they could be much busier at a different time of year (I was there during August) and then you stumble across the yellow sands and blue sea.
It’s a real treat to spend a relaxing afternoon there and the city itself becomes more lively in the evening, with lights adorning the bridge and the locals hanging out by the river.
Exploring the countryside of Hoi An on a Vespa
Recommended by Natalie of Love And Road
A trip to Vietnam is not complete without a visit to the picturesque and beautiful Hoi An. The city is famous for its historical buildings and Unesco Heritage Sites but what many people don’t know is that the countryside of Hoi An is as beautiful and interesting as the city itself.
The best way to explore the rice fields, fisherman villages and go beyond the tourist attractions in hopping on a motorbike for a day tour. Driving a motorbike in Vietnam can be a bit scary and not all the travelers can do it, that’s why we chose to explore Hoi An countryside on a backseat of vintage Vespa. At the Hoi An Countryside Adventure by Vespa Tours, the motorbike driver and guide gives you an inside look about the city economy, culture, and food.
It feels like you are going on a ride with a friend and in every corner a new surprise or stunning place. We spent a couple of hours driving along beautiful scenery, passing by rice fields, meeting locals and trying delicious food and rice wine.
Motorbiking the Hai Van Pass
Recommended by Alan of Brogan Abroad
A few people told me that if you are motorbiking in Vietnam, a motorbike trip with the Easy Riders was a must thing to do when I mentioned that I was travelling to Vietnam. I didn’t even know what the Easy Riders were!
They are a group of professional motorbike tour operators and guides that will take you on a long-ish distance tour on the back of the motorbike. You can find them all over the country, but there are a few routes that are the most popular. The route I picked was the one that goes from Hoi An to Hue – I wanted to go over the Hai Van Pass and enjoy it from the open road.
The Hai Van Pass is a 21km long mountain pass that has been made famous by TV shows such as Top Gear. And it’s easy to see why they chose it! The view of the coastline one side and the mountains on the other is breathtaking, and it’ll be one of the most awe-inspiring images of Vietnam that will stay with you.
This sort of experience is ideal when you want to enjoy the scenery while enjoying the excitement of riding a motorbike. And if you are not planning to return to your departure point, you don’t have to worry about returning a rented motorbike.
Walk around in Hoi An
Recommended by Penny of Globe Trove
I think that one of the most intriguing experiences that I have had while travelling through Vietnam was in Hoi An. We happened to be passing through the little city of Hoi An. While we were spending Christmas in the Hoi An, which was for us the first time that we celebrated the festival out of our own country, we found the city fascinating.
The old town of Hoi An is a UNESCO heritage site. Yes! We were surprised to hear that too The entire town is being preserved which is just as well because it is gorgeous. But what really blew our minds was the markets of the city.
As dusk descended a sprinkling of small lights began to appear across the streets. These lights were none other than Hoi An’s famous lanterns being turned on. As darkness descended the markets came alive with food stalls and with a lot of local venders selling everything from keychains to brightly coloured lanterns. To say that it was magical was an understatement.
he market may not have been enormous, but it certainly transformed the streets. Music soon wafted to our ears and we found a couple of musicians adding to the festive mood. Hoi An was gorgeous and it is certainly worth visiting.
Take a cooking class in Hoi An
Recommended by Rachel of Adventure And Sunshine
The food in Vietnam is exceptional. It is fresh and tasty, with unique dishes to try all the way from the north to the south. When traveling to Vietnam, one of the best things to do is take a cooking class. Not only is it a fun day out, you meet new people and come away with local recipes to try at home.
Hoi An is a favourite destination of many travellers to Vietnam. It is a great place to book a cooking class as there are a number of well-respected companies based in town. Most will pick you up from your accommodation, take you to a local food market to explain some of the local delicacies before heading to the kitchen to whip up a storm.
Each company offers a different menu and some allow you to choose the meals you will prepare. You might learn how to make the ubiquitous Beef Pho, make rice paper from scratch for fresh spring rolls or fry up a delicious Banh Xeo (crispy pancake). There are countless delicious salads too. And the best bit? Once the cooking is finished you sit down and share a meal with your fellow cooks.
A cooking class is a great way to learn more about the country and is also a great alternative to sightseeing. We try and squeeze in a cooking class in every place we visit. They are a unique and rewarding experience for the traveller.
If you enjoy cooking, perhaps you should join a cooking class in Hoi An as well. The tour takes about 6 hours with stops at the market, basket boat ride, then then cooking class to learn how to make rice noodles, rice wine, and other traditional Vietnamese food.
Try out the round boats in a fishing Village
You can join a super affordable tour or hop on your motorbike or push bike and head to the fishing village where you can try out the round boats or basket boats. A local person will “sail” you around the river where you can go catch some crabs.
After the tour, you may enjoy a fresh coconut or learn how to cut open one. You should also expect that the locals in the village will offer you a rice wine to show hospitality.
FUN THINGS TO DO IN THE SOUTH OF VIETNAM
If you are looking for a combination of a beach holiday, fun city experience, and a place to learn more about Vietnamese history, the South of Vietnam might be just the place for you.
Nha Trang, Mui Ne, and Phu Quoc are the places where you can enjoy water activities. While Ho Chi Minh City is popular with the crazy parties, must visit museums, and known as the modern city of Vietnam.
Sea Kayaking near Nha Trang
Recommended by Sandy of Tray Tables Away
On a recent visit to Vietnam a friend and I stayed at the stunning Anam resort south of Nha Trang. The beach there is a long stretch of white sand known as Long Beach as is very clean, clear and fairly calm. After a few days we decided to take the Kayaks out for a bit of a paddle.
The (Australian trained) Life Guard was keen for us to wear flotation vests but being strong swimmers we loudly deflected his advancing declaring that we were ‘Australians mate!” and besides “the waves are TINY compared to what we are used to!”.
Well, before I even had a chance to get on my Kayak I looked around to see my friend (who OWNS a Kayak!), face down in the water with her Kayak on her head. As I rolled my eyes and laughed to myself I lifted myself onto my own Kayak only to immediately topple over into the water on the other side face down. Could not stop laughing for days.
The kayaked we used we provided complimentary as part of the tariff at the Aman but it is easy to find Kayaks to rent on most beaches around Nha Trang and indeed Vietnam. Expect to pay around US$5-10 per hour per Kayak. You can also try snorkelling and fishing.
Walk through the Fairy Stream
Recommend by Sophie of The Wanderful Me
When many think of Vietnam, shimmering rice paddies, motorbiking through mountains, and bustling cities come to mind. Yet, a secret sanctuary lies hidden amongst the small fishing village of Mui Ne! And it’s called the Fairy Stream.
Found on the outskirts of the small village, the Fairy Stream almost seems like a magical portal that takes you to another world. A world similar to the look of Mars. Winding its way through bamboo forests and incredible sand dunes throughout Mui Ne, the Fairy Stream is home to a smooth red dirt creek with towering dune walls, a silky soft river bed (perfect for walking!), and an unbelievable magical feeling you’ll not find anywhere else.
While the Fairy Stream is simple enough to find, you can go on a small group tour with one of the many hostels or hotels in Mui Ne. Not only does the tour take you to the magical Fairy Stream, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the breathtaking red and white sand dunes, as well as getting a peek inside the local’s lives!
If you’re searching for exciting things to do in Vietnam, don’t miss out on the Fairy Stream, definitely one of the best things to do in Mui Ne. You won’t be disappointed!
RELATED POST: How to get from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne via bus, train, or motorbike
Watch the sunrise and sunset on the sand dunes
To watch the sunrise and sunset either on the red sand dunes or white sand dune, this is one of Vietnam must see that you cannot skip if you stop by Mui Ne.
In the white sand dunes, which is a little further out of Mui Ne, you can rent an ATV. An authorised driver will drive you and your friend/s or family around. Make sure to hold fast, this drive can be very adventurous and intense. There are also locals who will let you rent their plastic sledging pad for about $1 (20,000 VND).
You can easily hop on a day tour for as cheap as $5, where the tour will transport you to the top places to see in Vietnam, such as these two sand dunes, Fairy stream, fishing village, and more.
If you have a motorbike (which you can also rent in Mui Ne town proper), you can drive yourself to these places, just remember to have a mobile data on your phone so you can use the map and/or contact your hostel or hotel if you get lost, enough cash but don’t bring your bank cards and passport, a helmet with glass visor on especially if you are staying out for the sunset. The sand and insect will bother you greatly while driving. A raincoat or poncho and waterproof bag if you are coming during the rainy season.
Take a Food Tour and see the Sights of Saigon with XO Tours
If you ask people to describe their first impressions of Saigon, they will usually respond with something like “There are so many motorbikes! The traffic is crazy! And the smells, everywhere I go there is a delicious aroma of street food!”. It’s no surprise then that one of the best ways to experience Saigon is on the back of a motorbike as part of a street food tour.
Being already familiar with the most well known Vietnamese dishes such as Phở and Bánh mì, I was curious to find out what else the locals ate in Saigon on the Foodie Tour from XO Tours. At the first stop, our tour guide informed us that we wouldn’t just be experiencing the food of Saigon but also some it’s diverse districts and the people who reside in them. The itinerary for the evening was:
- Eating Bún bò Huế and getting to know each other in District 1
- Visiting a Wet Market and learning the history of District 5, also known as Saigon’s Chinatown
- BBQ Goat and Beef and chopstick games in District 8
- Seeing the newly developed and westernized area of District 7
- Ending the evening with seafood and dessert in the old Mafia District 4, famous for its amazing seafood
Each person on the tour has their own female driver dressed in an Áo dài to whisk them to each stop and to provide information about each dish and the best way to eat them (surprisingly very important!). A tour guide met us at each stop to give insightful information about the history of the district we visited and how its history impacts the type of food we would be eating. In total, we tried 11 tasty (and sometimes adventurous) Vietnamese dishes accompanied by games, laughter and local beers.
If you feel like some sighting then check out the Sights of Saigon tour. This morning tour takes you to 9 of the most famous and iconic places in Saigon. I was the only one who took part in this tour but my driver and tour guide were just as friendly and witty as the guides in the previous evening. It’s the perfect chance to get a brief history of Saigon and to learn about some of the notable moments in its history.
The Foodie Tours costs $75 in total including the free-flow food and beers and the Sights of Saigon costs $48. At first, this seemed expensive but I soon realized the price is more than justified for the unique experience and personal touch offered by XO Tours. My driver and tour guide were friendly, funny, charming and did an excellent job to make sure I and the rest of the group had a memorable evening. More importantly, they made sure we went away with a true and unbiased impression of Saigon, it’s food and diversity.
Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
Recommended by Sally of Our3KidsVTheWorld
I have had the opportunity to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels a few hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City on two occasions. Both times I was stunned at the level of sophistication of the tunnel network coordinated by the VietCon during the Vietnam War. It is without a doubt how the VietCon were able to win the war against the American’s entirely due to the hundreds of kilometres of tunnelling underground that enabled them to move across vast areas without being seen.
At the Cu Chi Tunnels there are entrances to the tunnel network and if you are very brave and not claustrophobic, you are able to enter the tunnel and travel for either 50m or if really brave 100ms. When you go through the tunnels it is striking to think that many soldiers and civilians lived in these cramped, dark and confided space for up to 4 years! The tunnels that are currently open to the public have been widened so that western people are able to fit down there and experience it.
There are a number of American army tanks that have been left behind from the war and are now on display at Cu Chi Tunnels, there is also a rifle range where the big boys are able to experience firing rifles that were utilised during the war. My husband had a couple of rounds of an AK47 and thought that was pretty impressive. While I thought it would be a very depressing experience for the kids, I found it a great place to discuss to outcomes of war and why we never want to see this type of war or any war again.
RELATED POST: Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
Ride a boat on the Mekong Delta River
Recommended by Aleah of Backpacking Abroad
There are lots of things you can do in Vietnam, and one of the must-dos is going to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh City.
There are a number of tours you can book from Saigon, but I wouldn’t recommend just the one-day Mekong trip. You will just see Cai Be and Vin Long, and end up spending more time on the bus than on the river.
Get the 2-day trip (I booked mine with Sinh Café along De Tham St. in Saigon); you will spend the night in a homestay and go boating along the Mekong the next day. There’s lots to see, starting with visiting a floating market early in the morning, and then (my favorite) being divided into small groups to go around the small canals in a row boat.
My tip: sit on the frontmost part of the boat so you can get the best photos.
You’ll also get to visit some candy factories, see the My Thuan suspension bridge, and get a glimpse of the only Catholic church in the area which is by the riverbank.
Explore the Xa Loi Pagoda
Recommended by Priyanko of Constant Traveller
It’s a constant surprise to me when people who visit Vietnam in general and Saigon in particular come back without visiting Xa Loi. After all, it is the biggest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. It might have to do with the fact that the pagoda lies in District 3, off the tourist trail. Even so, I would highly recommend visiting this place when you’re in Saigon.
Xa Loi, after all, is no ordinary pagoda. During the Vietnam War, the Buddhist relics here were vandalised in what is popularly called ‘the raids’. Today, there are still enough artifacts to keep you occupied for a few hours. Monks jumped out into the compound next door occupied by US Aid Mission and were granted asylum. However, the Buddhist patron saint of Vietnam was taken prisoner and military control of Saigon was announced soon after.
Today, locals enjoy the calm environs in the evenings and monks move around purposefully the rest of the day. I encourage you to climb up to the bell tower after passing through the relics across all the seven floors. At 32 metres, Xa Loi pagoda’s bell tower is the highest in all of Vietnam. As you look down and beyond at the urban sprawl of Ho Chi Minh City, the peaceful virtues of Buddha are worth remembering in context of the war horrors the place has seen.
It’s easy to get to the pagoda. Just ask your motorbike driver to bring you to Xa Loi after negotiating a fixed rate beforehand. The best time to visit would be just after lunch hours according to me. You don’t need a tour per se but I recommend reading up on the place before going. Another tip, the street vendors outside the pagoda serve some of the best snacks and coffee. Make sure you replenish yourself before heading to your next adventure.
Have fun at Phu Quoc Island
Recommended by Alex of Swedish Nomad
“Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam, and it’s also mentioned as the southern paradise. It’s a true paradise island with beaches stretching all over the coast. Tourism has been boosted heavily in recent years, and just 20 years ago this was just a small fishing and farmer community.
Nowadays, more and more hotels are opening and there’s also an international airport at Phu Quoc. My best suggestion on things to do in Phu Quoc would be to rent a scooter or hire a driver for the day. In this way, you can visit all the dreamy places and discover your own favorite places as well.
A visit to the famous beach Bai Sao, also known as Sao Beach is a must if you want to spend some time in a real tropical paradise. When you’re driving across the island, make sure to stop at some of the local restaurants serving authentic Vietnamese food. These places are a lot cheaper than the regular tourist restaurants along Long Beach.
Long Beach is a great place for a relaxing beach vacation since you can choose from lively areas of the beach, and more secluded areas of Long Beach. Friendly Vietnamese ladies are walking the beach, selling handmade items, fruits and beverages. “
THINGS TO BUY IN VIETNAM
After your trip, make sure to get yourself a souvenir to remind you of the fun things you did in Vietnam. Here are our suggestions:
- Silk – if you are crossing Hoi an, you can get a really good quality of silk here for great prices compared to the North America and Europe
- Customised clothes, shoes, bags – again, in Hoi An, you can get any customised item for affordable prices, however, make sure you gather recommendations to get the best quality and price
- Vietnamese hat – it’s one of the common souvenirs that many tourists and travellers don’t forget to bring home is traditional Vietnamese hat, you can get them anywhere in the country
- Vietnamese coffee – Vietnamese is actually one of the top exporters of coffee in the world, go try them yourself and be the judge
VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS
To make sure that you will have the best time in Vietnam, keep these tips in mind before you arrive, during your trip, and after you leave.
- Check if you have your visa ready – read here if you need a visa and how you can apply for one
- Look up the weather – check the weather of the time you are planning to go, rainy season is not fun if you are planning to spend most of your time on the beach, the weather in the north, central, and south of Vietnam is different from each other
- Pack what you need – Vietnam doesn’t have a dress code, but remember to pack what you need when visiting certain places, read this article about the dress code in Vietnam
- Plan how to get to your hotel – book your pick up service, or find out the bus schedule or how to use Grab (phone app like Uber), screenshot or write down the address of your hotel/hostel and their phone number, remember to ask if they have a 24-hour reception because, in Hanoi, everything closes at midnight – check these phone apps that you can use in Vietnam
- Motorbiking – you must have heard it already, many tourists, backpackers, and expats drive a motorbike in Vietnam, read this motorbiking in Vietnam article to find out if it’s for you
We hope that you found this article about exciting and fun things to do in Vietnam useful especially for your planning stage. We would like to thanks all the travel bloggers who contributed on this posts.
If you have any questions or suggestion to add, let us know in the comment section below.
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