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What to pack for Vietnam, What to wear

backpacking in vietnam travel cost and budget

Updated June 2019 | Originally Published September 2018

Packing for a trip to Vietnam is more than just throwing everything that you think you need on your suitcase or backpack. There are a few things that you should consider before hopping on that flight, such as the time of the year of your trip, the season in Vibaetnam, the public holidays, the places you will be visiting, and most importantly, taking into account the Vietnamese culture.

It is a responsible thing to do to keep in mind that respect should be one top of thing to consider, not just for a travel trip in Vietnam but everywhere. There is no dress code in Vietnam, but if you are visiting places that are sacred or religious, dress code will be strictly implemented. If you don’t know what to wear in Vietnam before visiting certain places, simply ask your hotel receptionist.

In this article of Vietnam packing list, we will discuss what to pack for Vietnam trip; backpacking or motorbiking. To make sure that you will have a smooth, fun, and be ready on a trip that you will never forget.

If your trip to Vietnam is a backpacking one, you may want to check this article for an in-depth post about everything you need to know.

Fun things to do in Vietnam


Either you are a woman traveller or a man and even as a family traveller, this article should be able to guide you on the essential things to take in Vietnam. From head to toe, emergencies, and of course the documents you need. No one wants to show up at the airport and not being able to fly.


Here are some questions that can help you write down a checklist so you can pack easier and most importantly, to make sure that you don’t over pack.

Which time of the year are you planning to go to Vietnam

Vietnam’s geographic location makes the weather and climate a little more complicated. Rainy season can be very crazy, which is between May to end of October. While the warm months which is from the end of February to April is very hot. If you think that’s it, well, to add more surprise, Vietnam has winter which means, a winter jacket is a must to pack. This leads me to the next question. Check this post to know the ​best time to travel to Vietnam.

Which part of Vietnam are you going to explore

Winter can hit very hard in the north of Vietnam such as Sa Pa, Lao Cai, Hanoi and other northern parts of the country. The temperature can drop to zero, while the houses don’t have insulation system inside, resulting in the locals and tourist wearing their jackets inside their home.

The winter starts at the end of January until the middle of February, it’s not very long but it can be a pain if you are not ready.

How long are you thinking to be travelling in Vietnam

Depending on how long you are planning to travel can definitely affect your packing list. If you will be caught in the middle of the season change, there is a reason to pack warm clothes, rain jacket, and waterproof shoes. You will also have to get a waterproof cover for your backpack.

Which other countries are you going to after Vietnam

It’s simple, if you are heading somewhere else after Vietnam, you need to check its climate and weather as well.

RELATED POSTS: How to get from Vietnam to Laos and How to get from Vietnam to Cambodia

What activities are you going to do

Anything adventurous such as motorbiking, hiking, water activities? Visiting temples and churches?

If you are planning to hike, get the best hiking shoes you have, if you are going to do professional sports, it’s better to pack your own gear for it. And if you are going to visit temples, make sure to pack appropriate clothing for places like that.

moving to vietnam checklist

The first thing you need to keep in mind is to not overpack, it’s not only inconvenient but can also be costly. Make sure that you only pack what you really need, stop the “just in case” motto. As long as you can keep your self dry and warm, you have everything you need


Before we start packing, make sure that you have all these documents or else, no trip to Vietnam will be happening.

  • Passport – must be valid for the next 6 months when you arrive or enter in Vietnam
  • Visa – check if you need a visa or if your free visa days are not enough – here is how you can apply for a Vietnam visa, if you need one or not and how to extend your visa if you need to
  • Return ticket – when you land or enter Vietnam, it’s not common for the immigration officer to ask for your exit ticket, however, if they do, you should have one ready. You can also tell them that you are crossing the border to Cambodia or Laos, which is acceptable.
  • Accommodation confirmation – it is proven that depending on your length of stay or nationality or immigration officer, a confirmed hotel or accommodation booking will be asked, book at least the first three nights, save the email confirmation (screen shot on yor phone)
  • Travel insurance – the immigration will not be asking this, however, activities in Vietnam can be extreme not to mention unpredictable event. I was hit by a motorbike when crossing the street in Ho chi Minh City, I have a friend who was on a motorbiking accident while some people i know got their stuffs stolen – be prepared and have a peace of mind than taking a risk especially if you are planning to go motorbiking or do adventurous trips – get one for your trip
  • Photocopy – get a photocopy of your passport and visa page


This is obviously a personal preference, backpacks are common and pretty easy and cheap to get in case you are planning to buy one here when you land. While suitcases are not a problem either, however, many streets of Vietnam are uneven and not properly done which makes towing one behind you can be difficult.

It’s also very rare to find hostels in Vietnam that have a lift to make a rolling suitcase life a little easier. If you don’t have a luggage for your trip yet, you might want to check out these best-wheeled backpacks or a 40L bacpack for this trip.



Packing list for women

For women travelling to Vietnam, here are the important things you need to pack for your Vietnam trip, laundry services are affordable and fast enough, this list is basically can fit in a carry-on bag plus a personal bag (+ the toiletries and gadgets) and if you have great packing skills:


  • 1 cotton shirt – preferably in coloured to wash easier
  • 2 dresses – 1 maxi, going/short dress
  • 3 pair of shorts – 2 sports types, one board/denim type
  • 1 pair of leggings – I won’t use it as it is but perfect to use underneath a skirt
  • 1 long sleeve – will be useful for places where you need to cover up (doesn’t have to be thick)
  • 4 pair of socks – especially if you are planning to hike a lot (thick one if you are going during winter on the north)
  • 2 pairs of sports bra, 2 pairs of regular bra
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • comfortable walking/hiking shoes – if you have North American or European size, those sizes cannot be found here
  • 2 pairs of bikinis
  • 1 lightweight big scarf/sarong – use it with leggings when visiting sacred places or blanket in airports or bus journey
  • 1 walking shoes/hiking shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops – don’t bring expensive ones, you might lose them anyway
  • 1 pair of cute sandals
  • 1 rain jacket – lightweight
  • 1 quick dry towel
  • 1 security/waist belt

Packing list for men

While for men who are going backpacking or travelling in Vietnam, here is a sample packing list, items that you must have before leaving home. These should also be able to fit in a carry-on backpack (plus the toiletries and gadgets) if you have great packing skills:


  • 3 shorts – 1 travel short, preferably with lots of pockets, 2 day/board shorts
  • 5 T-shirts – 3 cotton, 1 athletic shirt
  • 1 tank top – unless you prefer tank top over T-shirts
  • 1 long trouser
  • 1 long sleeve thin shirt
  • 4 pair of socks – at least one pair for hiking and winter
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 1 lightweight scarf/sarong – can be useful for sacred places and as a blanket
  • 1 quick dry towel
  • 1 pair of flip-flops – don’t bring an expensive one, you might lose it anyway
  • 1 hiking/walking shoes/boots
  • 1 closed shoes
  • 1 security/waist belt
  • 1 pair of swim shorts – fast dry and lightweight

Packing list if riding a motorbike in Vietnam – men and women

If you are planning to drive or ride a motorbike, you might want to add these on your packing list:

  • 1 long trouser – to cover and protect your skin under the very hot sun and possible crash
  • 1 polarised sunglasses
  • 1 face mask – to cover your nose and mouth with dirt and smoke
  • headwear
  • translation app or Vietnamese dictionary
  • an offline or online map on your smart phone

Packing list for kids – a few essentials that you cannot find here

Travelling with kids will be fun but can also be a nightmare especially if you fail to pack the must bring items and accessories. Here are some:

  • medicine – they can be found here however, it will be consuming and the risk of getting not the right dosage or exact equivalent of the medicine you need is too much to risk
  • cotton clothing – cotton shirts can be expensive in Vietnam while the sizes can be an issue too
  • entertainment items – such as colouring books, toys, shows to watch
  • wet wipes and toilet paper – they are pretty easy to find
  • bag for rubbish – always whenever, wherever
  • comfortable shoes
  • swim wear
  • sunblock for kids – get a reef-friendly sunblock
  • floaters and goggles
  • hat/sun hat
  • underwear
  • de-tangling hair spray, hair comb, and hair ties
  • water bottle
  • their own suitcase – if your kids are big enough, you should let them have their own suitcase

You should remember that sizes can be an issue in Vietnam.

moving to vietnam checklist (4)


Packing Accessories

To help you pack wisely and smartly, here are some packing accessories that can be useful:

  • packing cubes – it will help you pack faster and access whatever you need in bag easier
  • ziplocs – it is very useful for keeping your gadgets and documents dry especially during rainy season and if you are going motorbiking
  • laundry bag – the best ones are the plastic with Ziploc on to contain the dirt and smell

Accessories for motorbiking

If you are going motorbiking in Vietnam, make sure you have these with you as well:

  • rain cover for your backpack
  • rain cover for your motorbiking
  • overall onesie rain suit/rain jacket
  • rain boots
  • phone holder – so you can look at the map easier and faster, they can be bought in Vietnam but best to get from your home country in case you are using a new model
  • dry bag – place items that you will need often so you can reach them easily

TIP: Have this list of international hospitals all over Vietnam handy

Accessories for safety

Trouble and bad people are everywhere, however, if you come prepared, you can avoid or lessen the chances that these issues might happen if you pack some of these things:

  • padlocks – get a good one that is not too heavy to carry
  • RFID wallet – for passport and bank cards
  • money bag/waist bag – bring one that is thin enough to place on your waist and hide under your shirt
  • filtration water bottle – to avoid buying bottled water all the time and to make sure that you only drink clean water
  • head torch/torch
  • whistle
  • copy of your prescriptions – must be translated in English


Toiletry for women

These items are mostly cannot be found in Vietnam, therefore, you must bring them with you from your home country:

  • menstrual cup/tampon – tampons with applicators are almost impossible to find
  • toothbrush heads – if you use an electric toothbrush
  • makeup – some international makeup brands are not available here
  • shampoo, hair conditioner, body gel – you don’t need to pack big sizes/bottles, they can be bought here easily and cheaply.
  • toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • sunblock and moisturiser/lotion – most moisturiser or lotion here have whitening
  • first aid kit – plasters, gauze pads,  painkillers, menstrual cramp pills, rubbing alcohol, antiseptic cream
  • perfume
  • hair products – for curly hair
  • tissue/wet wipes – pocket size, they are easy to buy here

Toiletry for men

A few basic toilet items and ones that you cannot get in Vietnam:

  • shower gel and shampoo – easy to buy in Vietnam
  • shaving cream – not impossible but not cheap
  • deodorant
  • electric shaver
  • toothbrush heads – if you use an electric toothbrush
  • perfume
  • sunblock and moisturiser –  most moisturiser or lotion here have whitening
  • first aid kit – plasters, gauze pads,  painkillers, menstrual cramp pills, rubbing alcohol, antiseptic cream
  • tissue/wet wipes – pocket size, they are easy to buy here

OTHERS: Unisex


Here are a few electronics and gadgets that you must pack both to keep you entertain and to help you with planning, during travelling, and to keep in touch with your family and friends back home.

Standard gadgets to pack

  • smartphone – will help you in many ways; digital maps, mobile banking, contacting your hotel/hostel, contacting your family, to download your bus, train, and plane tickets
  • camera – your smartphone can be good enough, while other travellers bring digital cameras or action camera
  • phone chargers – pack at least two sets of phone chargers
  • headphone splitter
  • external hard drive – at least 265 GB to save those photos
  • Power bank – 2 pieces would be better
  • 2 SD cards – for your camera
  • universal converter

For entertainment

  • Kindle/ebook reader – to kill time on those long bus journeys or flight connections
  • iPod/music player – again, the bus journey can be really long
  • laptop – unless you will use it for something else like work or you will be travelling for a really long time, perhaps it will not be smart to bring a laptop
  • chargers – for every gadget that you will be bringing
  • headphones/earphones – never ever leave without these


If you are having a hard time to decide what to bring, check out these packing tips:

  • Pack only what you need – sounds easy but I understand it’s not, with this, you should remember to forget about the phrase “in case I need this”
  • Pack the ones you really need and cannot buy in Vietnam – like lotion without whitening or tampons or clothes of your size
  • Do a trial packing – if you can’t fit everything in your bag or suitcase or you barely can close it, remove 1/4 of it (decide which one is your least favourite) and pack again
  • The ideal weight – how long will you be travelling for, what season? for one month of hot seasons, you won’t need more than 15 kgs
  • The heavy and big ones – unless you are on a bigger size, you should a buy winter jacket and other heavy accessories such as shampoo or shower gel in Vietnam, much better is pack a soap instead

We hope that this Vietnam packing list article has been useful to you and we helped you packed the essentials without over packing. If you have any questions, drop them in the comment section below.


Heading to Vietnam soon, are you? If you are unsure what to pack for your trip to Vietnam, check out this Vietnam packing list both for men and women. Just pack the travel essentials, there are tips too! #vietnampackinglist #whattopackforvietnam #vietnamtravelessentials
Heading to Vietnam soon, are you? If you are unsure what to pack for your trip to Vietnam, check out this Vietnam packing list both for men and women. Just pack the travel essentials, there are tips too! #vietnampackinglist #whattopackforvietnam #vietnamtravelessentials