Young Pioneer Tours

A First Timer’s Guide To Visiting Vietnam

Vietnam is an often misunderstood and misrepresented place in the eyes of the West. In reality it offers a diverse range of experiences to cater to the needs of every visitor. So, if Vietnam is on your travel itinerary for this year and you are a first-time visitor, we will point you in the right direction. From ancient temples and imperial citadels to war museums and traditional villages, Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage and history provide endless opportunities for exploration. Whether it’s trekking in the mountains of Sapa, cruising in Halong Bay, or exploring the caves of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam offers plenty of adventure.

Where to stay

Finding accommodation in Vietnam is relatively easy, as the country offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. Here are some accommodation options and tips for your first time visiting Vietnam…

Hotels: Vietnamese hotels range from budget-friendly options to luxury resorts. In major cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang, you’ll find a wide selection of hotels catering to various budgets and preferences.

Hostels: For budget travellers and backpackers, hostels are a popular choice in Vietnam, as they offer affordable accommodation either in dormitory-style (which can be very sociable for lone travellers), or private rooms for those seeking more privacy.

Guesthouses: Guesthouses provide a more authentic and intimate accommodation experience in Vietnam, generally run by local families, who will help immerse you in Vietnamese culture, and experience daily life firsthand.

Boutique Hotels: Vietnam boasts numerous boutique hotels and resorts that offer a unique blend of luxury, comfort, and personalised service. From beachfront resorts in Phu Quoc to boutique hotels in Hoi An’s ancient town, there are plenty of upscale accommodation options to choose from.

What To See

Vietnam is a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a wide range of sights and attractions for visitors to explore. Here are some top destinations and attractions to see in Vietnam…

Hanoi: Vietnam’s bustling capital city, Hanoi, is a vibrant blend of ancient traditions and modern developments. Must-see attractions include the historic Old Quarter with its narrow streets and markets, Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, and the Temple of Literature.

Hoi An: This charming ancient town, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its well-preserved architecture, lantern-lit streets, and rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore ancient temples, shop for tailor-made clothing and handicrafts, and sample delicious local cuisine.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon): As Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City offers a dynamic mix of modern skyscrapers, historic landmarks, and bustling markets. Highlights include the War Remnants Museum, the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Ben Thanh Market, and the vibrant street food scene.

Cu Chi Tunnels: Located just outside of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels offer a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s wartime history. Visitors can explore the vast network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and learn about guerrilla warfare tactics.

Sapa: Nestled in the mountains of northern Vietnam, Sapa is known for its stunning terraced rice fields, ethnic minority villages, and trekking opportunities. Visitors can embark on guided hikes through scenic landscapes, interact with local hill tribes, and experience traditional Vietnamese hospitality.

Mekong Delta: The Mekong Delta, often referred to as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam, is a vast network of rivers, swamps, and floating markets. Visitors can take boat tours to explore local villages, orchards, and rice paddies, and sample fresh tropical fruits and seafood.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park: This area is home to some of the world’s largest and most spectacular cave systems, including Son Doong Cave, Hang En Cave, and Paradise Cave. Visitors can explore these natural wonders on guided cave tours and admire their stunning rock formations and underground rivers.

Da Nang: Located along Vietnam’s central coast, Da Nang is known for its beautiful beaches, scenic mountains, and vibrant city life. Must-see attractions include My Khe Beach, Marble Mountains, Ba Na Hills, and the Dragon Bridge.

Nha Trang: This coastal city is famous for its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs. Visitors can enjoy water sports such as snorkelling and scuba diving, visit cultural attractions like Po Nagar Cham Towers, and relax at luxury resorts.

What to Eat

On your first trip to Vietnam, when it comes to food and meal times, you’ve got to try some of these “must-try” dishes that are generally on offer…

Pho: Sample Vietnam’s famous noodle soup, “pho,”  which is made with beef or chicken broth, plus rice noodles, herbs, and meat.

Banh Mi: Try a Vietnamese baguette sandwich, known as banh mi, filled with various ingredients like grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.

Bun Cha: Indulge in bun cha, a Hanoi specialty featuring grilled pork served with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce.

Fresh Spring Rolls: Enjoy fresh spring rolls filled with shrimp, pork, vermicelli noodles, and vegetables, served with peanut dipping sauce.

Ca Phe Trung: Vietnamese egg coffee may not sound appealing, but it is a deliciously rich and creamy coffee topped with whipped egg yolk.

Remember to also try out street food vendors, as some of the best and most authentic Vietnamese cuisine can be found there, just exercise judgement on the hygiene levels.

Travel, Safety and Shopping

Travel: Getting around Vietnam is convenient and affordable, thanks to its extensive network of buses, trains, and domestic flights. You can even use a luggage shipping service to make the flights even more relaxed. Visitors can easily travel between cities and regions to explore all that Vietnam has to offer.

Safety: Vietnam is generally considered a safe destination for travellers, with low crime rates and a welcoming environment. However, as with any destination, it’s essential to take standard precautions and be mindful of your belongings while travelling.

Shopping: It can often come as a surprise to first time visitors that Vietnam is a shopper’s paradise! It has an abundance of bustling markets, boutique shops, and artisanal craft villages offering a wide range of goods, from handmade textiles and ceramics to traditional artwork and souvenirs.

These are just a few highlights of what Vietnam has to offer visitors. Overall, Vietnam’s combination of cultural richness, natural beauty, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality makes it an ideal destination for visitors seeking a memorable and rewarding travel experience, so book your flight and enjoy.

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