Vietnam is one of the most popular countries to visit in South-East Asia, expect friendly locals, spectacular tourist sights, thousands of miles of coastline, bustling cities, tasty local food and lots of authentic travel experiences. Vietnam has had a well-documented turbulent history, but tourism is going from strength to strength and now thousands of people visit every year, many of which return time and time again. This country is one of the most appealing destinations for travellers and we have lots of authentic holidays and gap year trips which will provide you with the experience of your life. There are so many places you could visit and on one of our gap years or small group holidays you will get to see the highlights. View our travel guide, reviews and recommendations.
Discover Vietnam with our authentic holidays, gap year trips & travel packages from specialist international and local travel operators.
On one of our authentic small group holidays of Vietnam you can expect amazing beaches, tasty cuisine, friendly locals and a lot of cultural places to visit. There are so many activities and adventures available all year round. Vietnam has a different vibe to some of its close neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia and while it's advised that travellers draw up their own list of must visit places and book a tour accordingly, there are a few must-see sights that every visitor should consider. First stop for most visitors when exploring Vietnam is either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and these are where a lot of tours start. Masses of motorbikes whizz through the streets in their hundreds, and these must be carefully navigated when attempting to make your way from one side of the street to another. Buses, trucks and cars must also be avoided when crossing the city’s jam-packed streets. There is a real vibrancy and buzz surrounding the Vietnam's cities and visiting it is an opportunity not to be passed up. Trips to the Far East don't usually begin and end in Vietnam, with many travellers heading to nearby countries with an equally fascinating past and you might like to also view all of our Asia tours.
Taking a boat trip to Halong Bay is highly recommended whilst learning to scuba dive in the South China Sea is a thrilling experience. You can visit the war museum in Saigon, see ancient temples or just get lost in the backstreets of Hanoi. If you are travelling solo or would like to enjoy a fun / safe experience we recommend joining an overland trip to see as much of the country as possible. Na trang has a beautiful beach, visit the War Museum in Saigon, watch out for the moped drivers in Hanoi, do a trek to Sapa and visit the spectacular Ha Long Bay. Don't be afraid to barter for prices especially for clothes in Hoi Ann. Phu Quoc island is an amazing destination but prices for accommodation are really high, if you are on a budget try to avoid. The sun, sand and surf at Mui Ne make it one of the world’s premier kite surfing destinations. There are qualified instructors on every corner just waiting to teach you all they know, so beginners need not feel nervous – you’ll be in good (and experienced) hands. The resort itself is worth a few days. Rainfall is negligible, the beaches are some of the best in Vietnam and the nightlife at some of the beach bars could itself be classified as a whole different type of adventure!
If you are wondering if Vietnam is a safe destination, don't worry, the people are really welcoming and its a great country to be based in. Vietnam is a very cheap country especially compared to taking a gap year in Thailand for example, you can usually get accommodation and food for less than $10 a day! Restaurants in Vietnam serve a variety of food which is very tasty and cheap. You will probably spend around $5- $10 per day on food which is really cheap compared to nearby destinations. History will play a part on your Vietnam gap year, and so too will the country's geography.
Blessed with stunning landscapes, many travellers venture west to the Mekong Delta; a watery landscape that's home to a variety of quaint villages and friendly locals. Most Vietnam adventures begin in Ho Chi Minch City (Saigon) or Hanoi, the capital, where travellers can visit the resting place of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam's former president and leader of the Viet Cong. For a mixture of adventure and relaxation, it's advised to head to the beautiful Phu Quoc Island, which is as popular for its adventure excursions as it is for its white sandy beaches. Other places you should think about include Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi Ann, Sapa and Ha Long Bay. You might like to view all of our Asia gap year trips.
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam or are keen on the idea of going backpacking these tips from past travellers might help:
Vietnam is easily accessible from the outside world, you can catch international flights into Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Vietnam is central to the Far East and increasing numbers of airline operators are now offering discount flights from major airports in the region to facilitate travel between countries in the area, allowing you to experience other Asian cultures.
If you are from the UK or a selected number of countries you can get a tourist visa on arrival if you are flying into Vietnam and stay for 30 days. By entering Vietnam via land you will need to get a tourist visa prior to arrival, this can be done in the UK or in neighbouring countries. You will need a valid passport and you will have to pay a small fee.
It is also a good idea to know what the weather will be like when you visit, it's important you choose the right time of year to suit your travel syle. Vietnam has a long hot season and also a wet season and deciding when the best time to go can be difficult due to the weather being different in the North and South, and also because it can be quite unpredictable. Vietnam is busy during peak tourist season around November to March and if you are not a fan of intense heat you might want to avoid this time as temperatures can rise. If a beach break sounds appealing and you are looking for sunny weather in Vietnam we recommend visiting Phu Quoc and Con Dao located in Southern Vietnam inbetween November and June. Or if you would like to visit Nha Trang or Quy Nhon aim to be there around January to September time when you are usually guaranteed sun.
Vietnam is very lucky to be based on the ocean and the whole coast is a magnificent to travel and see. There are lots of ways to travel overland via train, car, bus, bike, tour and there is also an extensive railway network which connects the whole country. The main line runs from North to South making it easy to travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. You can also travel further North from Hanoi and prices vary depending what level of comfort you go for, we recommend going for the sleeper train option with a bed. You could book private transportation through a travel agency as if you go on public tranport they will charge you a lot more than local people and this can work out more expensive than private options. Jetstar also offer cheap flights but please note during the Vietnamese new year celebrations (Tet) which is in either January or February transport can be booked up or more expensive with local people travelling home. Local transportation in cities is very cheap, getting around places like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will cost less than £1 ($1). If you get a local bike taxi agree a price in advance as some drivers will demand a huge sum at the end of the journey.
We recommend using both US dollars and Vietnamese Dong when travelling in Vietnam. Don't exchange money on the border into Vietnam as the rates can be terrible. How much you spend really depends on what level of luxury you are seeking and also what you want to do. If you are willing to eat in cheap places and stay in budget hotels / hostels you can get by on about £10 ($15) per day. On a mid range budget you can get by on around £20 ($30) per day and if you are seeking the best experience possible you can easily spend over £100 per day ($150). Your average hotel room in Vietnam will cost around £3 ($5) but you can spend more and get air-con, tv, en-suite etc. Accommodation is fairly cheap and there is a lot of choice but it is difficult to find real bargains like you can in other countries in South-East Asia. To save money you can east street food and eat in local cafes / restaurants if you are on a budget, this will be very inexpensive and also tasty - just be open minded. Also try to spend or exchange all of your Dong before departing Vietnam as it can be difficult to exchange after, your best bet is find travelling who are heading into Vietnam and might want to change with you.
There is only one vaccination needed to enter Vietnam and that is Yellow Fever and sometimes you might need to produce proof you have had this vaccination if you have entered from a country which is in the Yellow Fever zone. To stay healthy when on a gap year in Vietnam drink lots of water especially during the hot season when the country is really humid. Take a first aid kit and relevant medication incase of illness, sometimes the local food might not go down well and so diarrhoea tablets are recommended. Vietnamese people are extremely friendly and most popular destination locals are used to seeing tourists and crime shouldn't be a problem during your stay but don't get into arguments with local people and if you ever feel threatened or intimidated its best to leave the situation. Always speak to other travellers with their recommendations and advice, its always good to get up to date information which can be difficult to get in a guidebook. Snatch and grab and petty theft is a small problem in places like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, try not to flash valuables on the street and also be aware of your bags and belongings. There are a few scams you should be aware of, try to avoid the tea house scam where someone asks if you will help them practise their English, you then get taken to an expensive cafe or restaurant and have to pay a fortune for the bill. Some others to watch out for include trusting someone to find you a hotel and then getting charged a notched up price.
Don't be afraid to eat local food including street food, this is very very cheap and usually very tasty. Prices for street food might seem cheap but a lot of the times because you are a tourist you will automatically get charged more. With street food there is a lot of choice and so if the vendor won't lower the price move on to the next stall.
It is impossible to learn the whole Vietnamese language in a short period but we highly recommend learning basic words and phrases, this will help when booking / buying things and also interacting with local people. We have put together some useful Vietnamese words and phrases for visiting Vietnam. Learning some of the language is recommended which will help you be polite and interact with local people.