Articles Featured Articles Vietnam

Why 2016 is THE Year to Travel to Vietnam

Vietnam has long been a pillar on the Southeast Asian circuit. It’s a great value, culturally fascinating, historically rich and an adventure to travel in. People come here to eat food, have clothes made, explore the recent history of the Vietnam War, and bask along the coast of the South China Sea.

In 2016 it’s on our list of Value Destinations for European Travelers, but it’s also a great deal for folks with American money, Canadian, or AUD 

Here’s a list of some of the best adventures the country has to offer:

Indie travel is still possible in Vietnam for around $30 USD per day. That’s a fantastic reason to add it to your RTW itinerary right there. Learn how to stretch your budget and enjoy this country.

Visit Nha Trang, Vietnam’s Happiest Beach Town and relax by the sea for a few days, or a few weeks.

Take some time in Hoi An and get some clothing custom made. Suits, traditional Vietnamese dresses for women, party gowns and more are available, made to measure, by some of the best tailors in the world.

Gorge yourself on Pho. At about a buck a bowl, it’s available, street side, in every one horse town and down every side street from Hanoi to Saigon. Eat it until you can taste the subtle differences by region and recipe. You haven’t been to Vietnam if you haven’t had Pho.

When you’re ready to get out of Hanoi, head to Sapa. Up by the Chinese border, just getting there is an adventure. The landscapes are stunning, the air is clear, and you’ll experience a part of Vietnam that’s a bit less traveled.

travel guide Vietnam

7 Historical Landmarks to Visit in Vietnam

With a booming economy and heavy investments in infrastructure and the restoration of landmarks since 1990, Vietnam has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.

Sandwiched between China, Laos, Cambodia and the South China Sea, Vietnam is comparable in size to the state of New Mexico in the United States. Despite the small size, however, the country is full of cities and landmarks worth visiting. Unless visitors intend on staying an entire month, though, it’s near impossible to schedule visits to every site during a single trip. For help planning your trip, here’s a list of the top seven historical landmarks worth visiting in Vietnam.

1. Ha Long Bay

Located in the province of Quang Ninh, Ha Long Bay, or Bay of Descending Dragons, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bay is comprised of over 2,000 islets, many of which were made from limestone that underwent millions of years of transformation from environmental conditions. Also located on many of the islands are caves, some of which are open for tourists to explore.

2. The Imperial City

Located in Huế, Vietnam, the Imperial City is enclosed by a fortress that’s surrounded by a moat, and was built in the early 17th century for the imperial family of the Nguyễn dynasty. Much of the city was destroyed during war but today restoration and reconstruction projects are well underway.

3. The Royal Tombs of Huế, Vietnam

Located along the Perfume River are the tombs of nine Nguyễn dynasty rulers. Each were individually designed, some by the rulers themselves.

4. Hoi An Ancient Town

Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ancient Town is a beautiful preservation of a trading port that dates back to the 15th century. The architecture of the buildings dates as far back as two centuries and the city design itself reflects the broad multicultural influences common to port cities.

5. Ho Chi Minh City

There are too many sites within Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon when it was the French colonial capital — to list them separately, so instead visitors should put aside a day or two to visit as many sites as possible. The most popular are the Reunification Palace, the Jade Emperor Table, which was built in 1909, and the Municipal Theater whose architecture reflects a French colonial influence. In fact, throughout the city the architecture reflects a French influence that dates back to colonial times.

6. The Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Originally built in 1070, the Temple of Literature is a temple of Confucius and the first university in Vietnam. The architecture and layout of the temple is a magnificent preservation of Vietnam’s culture and history.

7. One-Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam

One of the most iconic temples in Vietnam, the One-Pillar Pagoda is a Buddhist temple built in 1049 by the emperor Lý Thái Tông.

Photo by David McKelvey

Featured Articles Vietnam

Top Resources for Traveling in Southeast Asia

A good portion of indie travelers come to Southeast Asia and spend a considerable amount of time there. Those who take round the world trips often plan their trips around spending as time in the region as they can, and with good reason. The relative ease of travel, the budget friendly nature of most countries, the friendliness of the people, and the natural beauty all combine to create the perfect storm for the indie traveler.

Sifting through all the information out there can be maddening, so BootsnAll wanted to simplify it for you. Here are some of the best articles and resources put together by the world’s indie travel leader for traveling in and around Southeast Asia:

Featured Articles Vietnam

Why You Should Add Vietnam to Your Indie Trip

Vietnam. Some people love it. Some people hate it. There are very few people who just kind of like it or kind of dislike it. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever been to a country that has such a love-hate thing going on with the people who visit it.

I am in the “love it” camp when it comes to Vietnam. Though it was hectic, chaotic, dirty, the traffic was insane, and some of the touts were quite pushy, I was able to overlook those negatives because of all the positives the country brings.

If you are planning any kind of travel in the region, here’s a few reasons why I think you might want to add Vietnam to your indie trip.

  • While the people aren’t as smiley as in Thailand or as laid back as in Laos, they are quite friendly, but you have to open yourself up to them.  If you come across as aggressive and standoffish, then you will get the same treatment from them.  But if you let your guard down a bit, you will find that the Vietnamese people are amazing.
  • If you happen to be traveling with children, then this is the place to go.  I have never seen a culture so enamored with kids and babies.  The men, in particular, go gaga over the little ones.  It might take a little getting used to, but they are so kind and gentle and just want to meet your child.
  • Mountains, bays, jungles, rivers, beaches, big cities – Vietnam has a wide variety of sites for all travelers.
  • The French influence on Vietnamese cuisine makes it stand out among the rest of the food in SE Asia.  A steaming bowl of Pho for breakfast, crazy sweet and strong coffee, home made beer (Bia Hoi) for the equivalent of a quarter – I could go on and on and on about the food in Vietnam – it’s my personal favorite in the entire world.

For more on traveling in Vietnam and SE Asia, check out some of BootsnAll’s most popular Indie Travel Guides for the region:

travel guide Vietnam

10 Days in Vietnam: Itinerary Ideas

Vietnam is a not exactly a small country and offers a lot of things to do and places to see. It’s a country where you can easily find a cheap place to stay but you can certainly afford to spend time in nicer hotels, too. Just pay attention when you want to book a tour. Always ask the hotel/hostel staff and look for credentials. Yes, you might feel ripped off at times and you’ll probably haggle your way pretty much everywhere…but that’s part of Asia’s charm.

The following itinerary is a classic take on visiting Vietnam. You’ll get a chance to see Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang and Saigon.

Itinerary assumptions

Day 1-2 Hanoi

After you arrive and check into the hotel or hostel, arrange for a walking tour. There is a free one run by a student organization, but you can also do a self-guided tour using Google Maps , for example. Make sure not to miss Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Tran Quoc Pagoda, and the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu). Take a walk in the French Quarter, enjoy the local food and get used to Asia (especially if it’s your first time here).

>>read about the things to do in Hanoi

Day 3 Halong Bay

On Day 3 , plan a day trip to Halong Bay , located about 170 km from the capital. It is popular for the rock formations popping out of the water. The bay is best visited by boat. You can either take a bus or rent a car to get to Halong Bay. Then you can catch one of the boats eagerly awaiting clients. Or you can book a tour (ideally, ask the hotel or hostel staff to recommend a good agency). Overnight tours are available and you’ll be sleeping on a boat, of course.

>>read more about Getting from Hanoi to Halong Bay

Day 4 Hue

From Hanoi, take the Reunification express to Hue . All cars have AC and there are 6 connections per day. Catch an overnight train to save money and time (the travel time is between 13 and 15 h). Tickets range from 442000 dong / US$21.20 (soft seat, AC) to 748000 dong / US$36 (soft sleeper AC).

Hue is the former home of the Vietnam’s emperors offering a lot of interesting places to visit. The Imperial Citadel should not be missed and you can also check out the Tombs of the Emperors. Thien Mu Pagoda is the symbol of the city, overlooking the Perfume River. Tip: don’t forget your camera.

Read more about:
>>Train Travel in Vietnam
>>Getting from Hanoi to Hue

Day 5-7 Hoi An

Hoi An is a lovely city and its Old Town is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An doesn’t have a railway station so it’s best to catch a bus (otherwise you need to travel to Da Nang and then catch a bus to Hoi An). A bus ticket between Hue and Hoi An is about US$10 (but depends on the company).

You could look for a walking tour of the Old Town or do a self-guided one . Either way, the Old City is easy to tackle on foot . The sites within the Old Town can be visited by purchasing a ticket (US$5 allows for visiting 5 sites). Don’t miss the Japanese Covered Bridge, visit a museum (such as Hoi An Museum of History and Culture) and check out some old houses .

Also , you can plan a day trip to the Marble Mountains. They are located close to Da Nang. Some Buddhist temples have been built. The views are beautiful.

>>read more about Getting from Hue to Hoi An

Day 8 Da Nang

Da Nang is Vietnam’s third largest city and can be reached by bus from Hoi An. You can consider spending some time on Cham island (tours are available, but again, ask the hotel staff for guidance).

Day 9-10 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

From Da Nang you can catch a train to Saigon. There are quite a lot of museums to visit especially if you are interested in history (and the war history). Don’t forget to visit Notre Dame Cathedral, located in the city center and some of the pagodas.

You’d also want to check out the Night Market and the War Surplus Market. Prepare to haggle for anything and everything.

>>read more about the Things to do in Saigon

Photo credits: Hanoi , Halong Bay
, Hue , Hoi An , Da Nang , Saigon

travel guide Vietnam

What to Eat in Vietnam: Famous Vietnamese Foods

When you think of Vietnamese cuisine you wouldn’t consider it one of the healthiest in the world, would you? But you’d be wrong; with a lot of fresh veggies, herbs, rice and noodles as staples , the Vietnamese cuisine surely fits into the healthy choices.

The Vietnamese cuisine has both Chinese and European influences. Stir-frying in a wok and using chopsticks is common all over the country. Soy sauce is mostly used in the north, while fish sauce is mostly used in the south.

The best food is always found on the street. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things.

Banh Mi

It’s a French roll (baguette) stuffed with a variety of things, including ham, liver pate, cheese, sardines and pickled carrots.

Bo Kho

This is a beef and vegetable stew, served with a large baguette.

Goi Cuon

The famous summer rolls which are made with shrimp or pork, rolled in rice pepper with herbs and served with peanut sauce.


This is the famous noodle soup. The meat of choice is beef or chicken. Noodles are also added to the soup (either chicken or beef broth) and so are herbs such as mint , basil and lime. Bean sprouts may be added , too. The best places to eat it are in the northern parts of the country.

Banh da cua (Crab Noodle Soup)

This is an excellent alternative to pho. The broth is made with crab meat, tomatoes and vegetables. The topping is pork, though (ham or pork meat wrapped in betel leaves).

Bun cha ca (Fish Noodle Soup)

The broth is made with fish, tomatoes , vegetables and herbs. Noodles are also included in the soup and the toppings can be fish cake, fish meat and pork.

Com suon (Vietnamese grilled pork with broken rice)

This is a popular dish and contains marinated grilled pork served with rice and fried egg.

Bun Bo Nam Bo

It’s another popular dish, made with vermicelli noodles, topped with sliced beef and a lot of fresh vegetables. On top of those there’s fried onion and some broth.

Mi Quang

The dish is made with rice noodles , served with boiled egg , shrimp, meat , some broth and basil.

Oc luoc (Boiled snails)

Hello, bizarre food! If you are hungry in the middle of the night, this is the dish of choice. They are boiled with various strong seasoning, so don’t worry about the taste.

Muc nuong (Grilled dry squid)

The squid was dried before grilling. It is served with chili sauce and you must accompany it with beer.

Banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes)

The crepes are filled with shrimp, pork, onions, mushrooms and beans sprout. The best places to eat it are in the southern part of the country.

Nom hoa chuoi

It’s some sort of a salad and is made with banana flowers, which are sliced and served with green papaya, carrots, chicken and sprinkled with fish sauce.

Goi Du Du (Green mango and papaya salad)

It’s both an appetizer and side dish. Green papaya and carrots are found in the salad, sprinkled with the perfect sauce balancing the ingredients.

Bun dau mam tom

This is a tofu and noodle dish, served with mam tom sauce.


It’s served for desert and is a pudding made with sticky rice ,bean jelly, fruit, coconut milk and ice.

Photo credits: Banh Mi , Bo Kho , Goi Cuon , Pho , Banh da cua , Bun Bo Nam Bo , Mi Quang , Snails , Banh xeo , Che

travel guide Vietnam

Getting from Vietnam to Cambodia

Both Vietnam and Cambodia are located in Southeast Asia and both are very popular among travelers, including RTW-travelers and backpackers. In fact, getting from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Cambodia by bus is the typical way to travel between the two countries.

December , January and February are the best months to plan a visit in both countries weather-wise. Needless to say , these are the crowded and more expensive months, too. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can consider traveling during the rainy season, but do remember that some roads aren’t exactly in good shape to be used at that time.

Quick summary

Taking the bus between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Phnom Penh is a very popular way to get between Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s also cheap and takes about 6 hours. It’s also possible to travel by bus all the way to Siem Reap.

Flights from Vietnam to Cambodia

There are airports in Cambodia that receive international flights: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) is the largest in the country but it’s not hub for any airline and receives flights only from Asian cities.

Siem Reap is served by an international airport (REP), which is the second largest in the country, and is hub for Cambodia Angkor Air and TonleSap Airlines. It also receives only flights from Asian cities.

You can fly into Siem Reap from the following Vietnamese airports: Hanoi (Tonlesap Airlines, Vietnam Airlines), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air) and Da Nang (SilkAir). The cheapest route is Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Siem Reap and the single fare starts at US$173 in early April 2012.

>>read about getting from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap

You can fly into Phnom Penh from the following Vietnamese airports: Hanoi (Vietnam Airlines) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air). The cheapest route is Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh and the single fare starts at US$173 in early April 2012.

>>read about getting from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh

Read more about:
>>Flights to Hanoi
>>Flights to Ho Chi Minh City

Buses from Vietnam to Cambodia

There are two by land legal entry points between Vietnam and Cambodia. The border crossing at Moc Bai remains the best bet, except during flooding. This border crossing is used by buses going between Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and Phnom Penh (and further to Siem Reap).

Several buses operate daily between Saigon and Phnom Penh. The travel time is about 6 hours and the time includes the ride across Mekong river. Rates are around US$10-15 for a single journey. Try to avoid the cheapest buses (US$6-7 one way) because the conditions of traveling are typically bad.

There’s also a direct bus service between Saigon and Siem Reap and goes through Phnom Penh. The fare is US$18 one way. Alternatively you can travel by bus to Phnom Penh and then take a boat for the rest of the journey (but that’s the more expensive alternative as the ticket is US$35 one way for the boat ride and takes 6 h).

Photo credit

travel guide Vietnam

Getting from Hanoi to Hong Kong

Hanoi , the capital of Vietnam, is also the country’s second largest city, after Ho Chi Minh City. Although its airport is smaller compared to the other international airports in Vietnam, Hanoi is the main international gateway into the country.

Hong Kong is an important travel destination for Chinese mainland population, but the foreign travelers don’t avoid it, either. Plus, with a history of being a British colony and mixing the west and east is a unique manner, Hong Kong has a lot to offer to its visitors.

Quick summary

The cheapest option to travel between Hanoi and Hong Kong is by train (with two stops along the way). If the budget is not a problem, then you can consider flying as well.

Flights from Hanoi (airport code: HAN) to Hong Kong

Noi Bai International Airport (HAN) serves the city of Hanoi. The airport is located about 45 km from the city center and is hub for Air Mekong and Vietnam Airlines.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is the main airport in Hong Kong and an important passenger hub in the area. It is hub for the following airlines: Air Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, Evergreen International Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express Airways. It is also focus city for numerous airlines, including China Airlines, Virgin Airlines and Air New Zealand.

Direct flights between Hanoi and Hong Kong are operated by Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines and Vietnam Airlines. The flight time is 1h 50 min. In 2012, expect to pay from US$248 one way on Hong Kong Express to US$365 one way on Vietnam Airlines, depending on the day of departure.

Read more about :
>>Cheap Flights to Hanoi
>>Airfare to Hong Kong

Trains from Hanoi to Hong Kong

While there is no direct train between Hanoi and Hong Kong, you can easily travel overland with stops in Nanning and Guangzhou.

You cannot buy the tickets for the entire length of the journey so you need to buy for each segment. It will add up to about $110 one way . Also remember that you need a visa for China and you need to prove your travel plans (onward or return).

In short, here’s how to get from Hanoi to Hong Kong by train:

1. Take the overnight train from Hanoi to Nanning. This is rather new route (started in Jan 2009) . Trains leave Hanoi daily at 9:40 p.m. (do make sure to double check , though). They arrive in Nanning after 13 hours. The fare is US$23 one way for the hard sleeper and US$35 one way for the soft sleeper. Please note that in Hanoi you need to show the passport with the Chinese visa in order to be able to buy the tickets. Make sure to get your visa in your home country (the Embassy in Vietnam won’t issue visas for foreign citizens).

Alternatively, you can take the bus on the same route. There are several daily buses on this route. The journey time is 7-8 hours and the fare is US$25 one way.

2. Take the overnight train from Nanning to Guangzhou. There are three trains leaving in the evening (7:15 p.m, 5:25 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.). All have soft and hard class sleepers and the travel time is about 7 ½ h. The fare is about US$30 for the hard sleeper and US$43 for the hard sleeper. Since you can pre-book this trip in Vietnam, you are left with showing up at the train station and see what options are available.

3. Take the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong : the 182 km between the two cities are covered by trains in about 2 hours. There are 12 trains per day and the single fare is HK$190 (about US$25).

Alternatively, you can take the bus from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. There are departures every 30 minutes, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m, and the single adult fare is US$70. Or you can take the ferry , which takes about 75 min to connect the two cities and the single adult fare starts at HK$147 (about US$20).

>>read more about Getting from Guangzhou to Hong Kong

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travel guide Vietnam

Getting from Hanoi to Luang Prabang

Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and the country’s second largest city. It is also the main international gateway into the country as its airport handles plenty of flights, especially to/from cities in the near-by countries.

Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos. The city is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It mixes the traditional Lao architecture with the European influences , as a reminder of the times when Laos was under French influence.

Quick summary

If you are on a limited budget, the only option is the 24h (sometimes up to 30 h) bus ride between Hanoi and Luang Prabang. Otherwise, you can fly (for 3 times the cost of a bus ticket).

Flights from Hanoi (airport code: HAN) to Luang Prabang

Hanoi is served by Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), which is located about 45 km from the city center. It is hub for Air Mekong and Vietnam Airlines.

Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ) is located just north of the town of Luang Prabang. It is not a hub for any airline but does handle flights to/from some cities in the near-by countries.

Direct flights between Hanoi and Luang Prabang are operated by: Lao Airlines and Vietnam Airlines. The flight time is 1h to 1h 25 min. In 2012, expect to pay from US$146 one way on Vietnam Airlines.

>>read more about Cheap Flights to Hanoi

Buses from Hanoi to Luang Prabang

There are direct buses between Hanoi and Luang Prabang. Your best bet is to have someone at the hostel/hotel you are staying get the bus ticket from the company operating on the route (Naluang Company Travel is one of them, but they don’t have a website). Or you can go to the bus station and make the travel arrangements yourself. Another option is to stroll around Ma May Street and find the best prices from the various travel agencies in the area.

The fare is about US$50 and the bus ride about 24 to 30 hours. All buses are sleepers.

Please remember that you can either have a pre-arranged visa for Laos or get one on arrival, directly at the border crossing.

Driving from Hanoi to Luang Prabang

You can rent a car in Hanoi and plan to drive to Luang Prabang. However, you will be crossing the border so make sure that your rental company allows that. The total journey is 1023 km (drive time: 14 hours). Do make sure to plans several stops along the way.

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travel guide Vietnam

Getting from Hue to Hoi An

Hue is located in central Vietnam and used to be the imperial capital. The main landmark is the Perfume River. Other important places to see include the Citadel and the old city. With a changeable weather, bringing an umbrella when traveling to Hue is a must. And if you dislike humidity, it’s best to come here during summer.

Hoi An is located just south of Da Nang. Its old city has been added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pack your walking shoes, as negotiation the city center on foot is the best option.

Quick summary

It’s easy to get between Hue and Hoi An. The only thing influencing your choice will the budget. Tours cost quite a lot and many people don’t like them. But whether you take the train to Da Nang and then the bus to Hoi An or travel the entire distance from Hue to Hoi An by bus, you won’t pay much at all. The travel time is about 4 hours by bus.

Trains from Hue to Hoi An

Hoi An is not served by a railway station, but the closest one is in Da Nang. The North-South Reunification main line links Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and passes through both Hue and Da Nang.

There are six departures per day. Trains leave Hue at 1:18 a.m., 4:48 a.m., 6:12 a.m., 8:02 a.m, 10:50 a.m. and 7:12 p.m. The travel time to Da Nang is 3 hours.

On the way back, catch the trains from Da Nang at 12:06 p.m., 2:42 p.m., 4:50 p.m. 10:34 a.m., 11:27 p.m. and 6:58 a.m.

Fares start at 67000 Dongs /US$3.21 for a soft seat (AC) one way. You do need a reservation for the ticket, so head to railway station some time before the train leaves (or even get the reservation a day or two before if you can). You don’t really need to book to far in advance though.

From Da Nang, either take a bus or a taxi to Hoi An, which is located about 30 km from Da Nang. The bus fare is about US$3 and the travel time is about 45 min to 1 h.

>>read more about Train Travel in Vietnam

Buses from Hue to Hoi An

You can show up at the bus station in Hue and get a ticket to Hoi An without a problem. You can also get a bus ticket via various travel agents or the personnel at the hotel/hostel you are staying at can get one for you. Either way it’s not expensive (US$5 to US$10 one way, depending on the company).

You can also opt for the “open tour” bus service. It leaves Hoi An at 8 a.m and the travel time is 4 hours to Hue. Or you can opt for a tour from Hue to Hoi An (and back). You can find details and prices here .

>>read more about Bus Travel in Vietnam

Driving from Hue to Hoi An

You can rent a car in Hue and drive the 123 km to Hoi An in about 2 hours (according to Google Maps). Or you can drive to Da Nang and from there rent a motorcycle for the rest of the trip.

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