There’s so much to do in Vietnam. It’s such an incredible country and I simply love it. Here’s my list of 13 things to do when you visit.
1. Go to Ninh Binh
When I was in Hanoi I decided to visit Ninh Binh. Ninh Binh is two hours away from Hanoi. There are a number of options for visiting. You can go with an organized tour or you can organize a visit on your own. You can also stay overnight but if you are well organized a day trip should be enough. I took the train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh at 6am and spent the day there and got the train back to Hanoi at 6pm.
It was quite easy to find somewhere to rent a scooter beside the train station on arrival for approximately 8 or 9USD. Driving around was simply magical. When you’re there you have to do one of the boat rides and can choose between either Trang An or Tam Coc. I visited the Bai Dinh Pagoda and it was amazing too.
2. Go shopping in the historical town of Hoi An
If you want something tailored then Hoi An is the place to go. The town is famous for it. I didn’t get anything tailored but I had a lovely time walking around and taking in the historical sites, doing a little bit of shopping and just relaxing overall.
If you forgot to pack something, get it while you’re in Hoi An. Let’s recheck the Vietnam packing list to make sure.
3. Have a drink by the lake in Hanoi
I loved having a relaxing drink by the lake in the Tay Ho district of Hanoi at night. Hanoi is a great city and is full of chill bars. Click on my friend’s link if you’re looking for more of beautiful Vietnam and a complete guide to Hanoi, Vietnam.
4. Visit the sand dunes at Mui Ne
I loved visiting the sand dunes at Mui Ne. Mui Ne is approximately 5 hours by bus from Saigon. It was easy to find a tourist office and go on an organized trip with any company. The white sand dunes are a bit further from the city than the red sand dunes and the trips will take you to both as well as the Fairy Stream.
5. Snorkelling in Cham Island
In Hoi An, I organized a day trip to go snorkeling and then visit Cham Island. It was a lovely day out spotting the various sea life and then relaxing at the beautiful beach of Cham Island.
6. Pu Luong Nature Reserve
I spent two days in Pu Luong Nature Reserve. I took a public bus there which was very long and not extremely comfortable but it was part of the adventure. When there I had the authentic experience of staying in a local Vietnamese homestay. I was so shocked by the beauty of Pu Luong Nature Reserve. As Vietnam gets increasingly touristy over the years it’s amazing to be able to find a place that is quiet and calm. Pu Luong Nature Reserve is also mentioned as a top recommended ecotourism destination in Vietnam in this article.
7. Go to Phu Quoc Island
I had a lovely time on Phu Quoc Island. It was the perfect place to relax and drink a few cocktails.
8. Go to Halong Bay
I loved my trip to Halong Bay. I did a one night and two day cruise and it was so great to see the famous Halong Bay. It’s easy to book a cruise online or pay for one in the touristy area of Hanoi, the Old Quarter in any of the tourist agencies. You can pay anything from approximately 60USD for a basic cruise with more expensive ones offering more luxury.
At the start of the bay there is also a huge limestone mountain that can be climbed for some amazing views of the bay. Read the complete guide to Bai Tho Mountain here.
9. Eat bahn mi
A bahn mi is a delicious Vietnamese sandwich which is made of baguette and can include various fillings such as egg, meat and various vegetables. They’re delicious and often only cost a dollar. My favourite bahn mi was at Queen Bahn Mi in Hoi An.
10. Visit the Imperial Palace at Hue
Hue is only approximately a 3 or 4 hour bus ride from Hoi An and it’s a must visit. It was the former imperial capital of the country and when I visited I felt transported back in time looking at the beautiful architecture.
11. Go to the Cu Chi Tunnels
When I was in Saigon I went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. I went with an organized tour organized by my hostel. The tunnels are worth a visit for anyone with an interest in Vietnamese history. Our tour guide gave us information about what went on during the war and we had a chance to go down into the tunnels which was quite scary. It was hard to believe that Viet Cong soldiers spent so much time down in those tiny tunnels.
12. Take a trip down the Mekong Delta
From Saigon I organized a trip to go down the Mekong Delta. You can do the Mekong Delta with kids too. It was incredible to take in the sights on this beautiful and famous river.
13. Try different food throughout the country
The food in Vietnam is very interesting. The food in the south is sweeter than that in the north and it’s interesting to see the different food throughout the country. Check out all the different street food and different restaurants. Here’s a photo of Vietnamese pizzas in Da Lat. If you’re vegetarian you can read about the best vegetarian food in Hanoi here.
Ann Marie Murphy is an Irish travel enthusiast. She loves to travel but finds that living somewhere is the best way to get to know a culture. She has lived in France, Thailand, Korea and most recently spent a year living in Vietnam working with the United Nations. She is a huge proponent of eco friendly travel and believes people should travel with the aim of having minimum impact on the environment. With a friend she founded the website Eco Conscious Traveller – you can also check out the related Facebook page.