It might be just 15 minutes by ferry from the Old Town of Hoi An, but landing on Cam Kim Island feels like being transported into a different time. It’s a welcome change of pace from the busy tourist center, with its expanse of rice paddies and corn fields tended by local workers in their conical hats and ploughs pulled by water buffalo.
From must-do activities like cruising around Halong Bay or crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels, to brag-worthy feats like drinking snake wine or scuba diving in the South China Sea; here are 40 unforgettable experiences to have in Vietnam. See how many you can check off on your trip.
One day in Hanoi isn’t nearly enough, but with nearby attractions like the Perfume Pagoda, the Red River Delta and the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay to explore, and many visitors heading south to Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City, the vibrant capital is often relegated to a day tour. Teeming with historic sites, colonial architecture and glitzy shopping malls, the capital can be overwhelming for first time visitors and while it’s cheap and easy to get around on your own, booking a sightseeing tour of Hanoi will save time and take the hassle out of your trip.
Hue was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty, the last line of emperors before the Vietnamese struggles for independence in the wars of the 20th century. Initially, I thought Hue would be an easy do-it-yourself sort of destination. If you are only visiting the Citadel and the market, that may be the case. But visits to at least the best of Hue’s Imperial Tombs of the Nguyen dynasty emperors are absolute musts, and they all lie scattered outside the city. A cruise on the Perfume River is also recommended, and a perfect way to get to the famous riverside Thien Mu Pagoda, also outside the city. The benefits of a professional guide’s narration and a private driver go without saying, so I combined them all on the Hue City Sightseeing Tour with Perfume River Cruise.
With a favorable exchange rate and an abundance of attractions for mere pocket change, even budget travelers can afford to splash out in Vietnam, but whether you’re trying to stretch out your funds or just don’t want to draw out more cash before your flight home, there are also plenty of free things to do in Ho Chi Minh city. Here are a few ideas.
With its distinctive architecture, bustling markets and UNESCO-listed Old Town, Hoi An is far removed from the cheap cocktails and all-night parties synonymous with South East Asian beach resorts, but the most traditional of Vietnamese cities still boasts some of the country’s top beaches.
Winding through the heart of UNESCO-listed Hue, beneath the verdant peak of Ngu Binh Mountain, the evocatively dubbed Perfume River takes its name from the thousands of orchard blossoms that tumble into its waters during the autumn, infusing the waters with a heady floral scent. The uniquely scented river is at its most enchanting during this time, but whatever time of year you visit, cruising along the Perfume River is a popular choice for a day trip from Hue, with traditionally painted dragon boats setting sail from the banks of the Old Town.
With lavish offerings left at the city’s pagodas, families gathering to feast on local specialties and a procession of colorful lanterns flickering down the city’s waterways, celebrating Trang Nguyen Festival in Hanoi offers a unique insight into one of Vietnam’s most sacred ceremonies. Known as Wandering Souls’ Day or Vu Lan Day and held annually on the 15th day of the 7th month, Trang Nguyen is revered as the day when ‘the living and the dead meet in thought’.
Whether you’re rummaging for bargains, haggling over local handicrafts or bravely munching on a fried tarantula, Ho Chi Minh City’s bustling street markets are the heart and soul of local life, and you can’t leave the city without losing yourself in their midst. Grab some small change, hone your bartering skills and join the locals at one of these 5 best markets of Ho Chi Minh City.
With a prime location at the heart of the Red River Delta and excellent transport links, the Vietnamese capital makes an ideal base for exploring the country’s northern region, and there’s plenty to see and do around Hanoi. From cruising the islands of the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay to hiking in one of the region’s renowned National Parks, these are some of the best day trips from Hanoi.