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Backpacking in Vietnam

Until recently, Vietnam was still a black spot on the backpackers’ map. Due to the devastating war, there was simply no suitable infrastructure and the brutal conflict did not leave people unscathed. But a new generation is now in charge in Vietnam and the country is showing its dynamic side today.

Vietnam is still shaped by its own identity in almost all regions, which cannot necessarily be said of its Thai neighbours. The Vietnamese are too strongly welded together in the past millennia. Above all, the Chinese, who invaded the country several times, and were just as often given one on the lid, and also the Americans and French have ensured the inner harmony.

SaPa in Vietnam - Ein Wandertraum

SaPa in Vietnam – A dream for hiker

Experience Vietnam as a backpacker

Backpacking in Vietnam is today a real fun, combined with a versatile adventure. There are old and new things to discover on a tour from north to south or vice versa. You can expect dreamlike beaches with crystal clear sea water splashing against them and shallow lagoons with palm-fringed beaches. During your backpacker trip, experience the lively cities of Hanoi in the north of the country, which is also the capital of the country. But also in the big cities Ho Chi Minh City, Dalat, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, Mui Ne and many others you will find a varied street and nightlife.

You should know that it can get really cold in Vietnam compared to Thailand. 4 seasons in the north are on the calendar. Of course it gets hot, too, and even damn hot. In the south you are in the tropical climes. The travel and the life in Vietnam are still quite inexpensive despite the immense economic upswing. You’ll find something to suit every budget. Whether it’s designer shopping, cheap goods or real craftsmanship, the Vietnamese market has it all.

This also applies to transport and accommodation. You can lie down in a 5 star hotel in the made nest or spend the night in a simple bamboo hut on the beach. If you’re in a hurry, you can use the domestic flights and if you’re strolling, you can take the intercity buses. On your backpacker tour, discover the historic harbour of Hoi An and take a detour to the imperial tombs in Hues. The French also left their mark on Vietnam during their occupation.

You can tell from the magnificent boulevards in the capital. Those interested in culture should be interested in the many museums of Ho Chi Minh City. And if you want to be really cool, then go to the cities Nha Trang, Phan Thiet (Phan Thiết) and Vinh. Away from these seaside resorts, which are also frequented by the Vietnamese bourgeoisie, you’ll find some really lonely beaches. Take a detour to the island of Con Dao in the middle of the Mekong Delta or take a look at the natural spectacle of the Ban Gioc waterfalls in Cao Bang province.

Backpacking in Vietnam - unwirkliche Landschaften

Backpacking in Vietnam – Incredible landscape

Culture in Vietnam

Vietnamese culture is old, traditional and diverse. Over the centuries, cultural tendencies brought along by the invaders have repeatedly crept into their own culture. Some things are really exciting. If, for example, you can enjoy an original French baguette in the middle of Asia, then that’s something. But also the own ancient culture, which is held high especially in the 50 different remote mountain villages, is valid in Vietnam something with the natives.

You stand by your roots and don’t despise your own people in the mountains as backwoods. On your backpacker trip you will surely wonder how helpful the Vietnamese are not only among themselves, but also towards their guests. A very special characteristic of the Vietnamese is cooking on the street. It seems as if nobody has their own kitchen at home. The housewives cook outside. Imagine that in Germany.

You may be in Asia, but Vietnam is not Buddhist. Only a fraction of ten percent is attached to this faith. The rest is Catholic and Protestant. The 13th century Nha nhac music, which you can still experience live in Hue, belongs to the local culture. Many women run in the national dress Áo dài. This is especially the case in rural areas. The design-oriented business woman is more likely to be found in the big cities.

As a backpacker, you can trade almost anywhere where no prizes are advertised. 40 percent are already in there. But don’t overdo it. If you start haggling with the market woman for a few cents, you’re making a fool of yourself. You’ll have to find out for yourself the intermediate step between generosity and gutting. Even in Vietnam, it’s the worst thing when a local loses face. Although sometimes it’s not that easy to find out when that’s the case. If you ask for the way, and the interviewee, out of ignorance of the situation, simply sends you in one direction, only not to lose face. Well then don’t ask.

Backpacking in Vietnam - Fischer

Backpacking in Vietnam – Fisher

Backpacker Route in Vietnam

As in Thailand, the backpackers are often attracted to the country mainly because of the fantastic beaches. Only at the 2nd glance most of them realize that Vietnam has much more to offer than just beach and sun. A journey through Vietnam in the backpacker style leads in the north past juicy green shimmering rice fields up to the fascinating Mekong Delta at the very bottom in the deepest south.

On the way there, there are still numerous geographical and cultural highlights waiting for you, which you should not ignore on your backpacker tour. You can travel to Vietnam in 2 weeks, but then you should take the plane. Better you do Slow Travel and discover the beauties of the country intensively. The best spots, supposedly influenced by the tourism industry, are not always the best. The beauties of a country are often hidden. Let’s take a look at the top highlight in Vietnam for a backpacker trip.

Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)

  • 2 days enjoying Nha Trang beach life The resort also has the best dive spots.
  • 2 days to explore Cu Chi Tunnels 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The Viet Cong Guerrillas have dug the tunnel system.
  • 2 days exploring agricultural and cultural landscape in the Mekong Delta at the very bottom in the south.
  • 2 days of observing, windsurfing and kiting in the fishing village of Mui Ne.
  • 2 days exploring Sa Pa rice terraces in the Muong Hoa Valley in the Fansipan Mountains, where the indigenous mountain tribes Hmong, Giay, Dao, Tay and Giay live.
  • 2 days in the Vietnamese Phuket Phu Quo to really enjoy the beach and nightlife.
  • Explore the 2 days old trading town of Hoi An.
  • 2-3 days Hanoi and the Hoan Kiem Lake experience
  • 2-3 days in Saigon to check out the highlights
  • 1 day visiting Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue on the Perfume River.
  • 1 day boat trip to the picturesque Ha Long Bay, also known as the Bay of Descending Dragons.

Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Vietnam Trip (up to 40 days and more)

  • The route starts with the above mentioned highlights.
  • Enjoy 2 days Nha Trang beach life The resort also has the best dive spots.
  • 2 days to explore Cu Chi Tunnels 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The Viet Cong Guerrillas have dug the tunnel system.
  • 2 days exploring agricultural and cultural landscape in the Mekong Delta at the very bottom in the south.
  • 2 days of observing, windsurfing and kiting in the fishing village of Mui Ne.
  • 2 days exploring Sa Pa rice terraces in the Muong Hoa Valley in the Fansipan Mountains, where the indigenous mountain tribes Hmong, Giay, Dao, Tay and Giay live.
  • 2 days in the Vietnamese Phuket Phu Quo to really enjoy the beach and nightlife.
  • Explore the 2 days old trading town of Hoi An.
  • 2-3 days Hanoi and the Hoan Kiem Lake experience
  • 2-3 days in Saigon to check out the highlights
  • 1 day visiting Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue on the Perfume River.
  • 1 day boat trip to the picturesque Ha Long Bay, also known as the Bay of Descending Dragons.
  • 1 day to experience the Central Vietnam Caves.
  • Visit 2 days of coffee plantations in Buon Ma Thuot.
  • 2 days Chau Doc experience. Native tribes still live there as before primeval times.
  • 4-6 days Mu Cang Chai or Mai Chau – get to know the original Vietnamese lifestyle of the indigenous peoples on site.
  • Visit 2 days Dien Bien Phu. A symbol of the bloody Indo-China conflict.
  • 3 days in Quy Nhon hanging out on the beach. The area is much less visited than Nha Trang or Hoi An.
  • 1 day prison island Con Dao experience.

Travel times in Vietnam

As a backpacker you can travel Vietnam all year round. Due to its long geographical location, the country stretches over several climate zones. So you will always find a nice place. In the north it is more pleasant because of the subtropical conditions than in the tropical south. But it can get much colder up there. Snow is not unknown in the north. 40 degrees plus but also not.

Otherwise, however, the average annual temperatures are a pleasant 27 °C. Depending on where you are on your backpacker trip, you will have a look at the current weather and climate situation under the headwords best travel time in South Vietnam, best travel time for Central Vietnam and best travel time for North Vietnam. Considerable differences can occur.

Backpacker Budget in Vietnam

Budget in Vietnam

Budget in Vietnam

Low budget backpackers are at the right address in Vietnam. The country is still considered a real paradise for backpackers. With a daily rate of 20 to 30 euros – some even make it with less – you can make ends meet. A bed in a dorm costs a button and an egg. The same goes for the catering. Backpackers, who are short of cash, can buy the Vietnamese national dish “Pho” (a noodle soup with meat inlay) for 2 Euros.

Cheaper it comes almost no more to a full-bodied food. A cold beer doesn’t cost more than one Euro. And as far as the budget for the sights is concerned, she wouldn’t have to spend much money on it. The entrance to the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton) costs half a Euro. A little more, about 3 Euro, you have to pay for the top attraction Water Puppet Theater.

Transport costs are also not included. The taxi ride from the airport to the city of Hanoi costs about 12 Euro. The Vietnam Airlines Airport Shuttle will take you there for 1,5 Euro. For a 3 kilometre taxi ride you pay a little more than one euro. Even cheaper are the moto taxis. In Saigon the prices are partly even cheaper. Even Marlboro Kippen is still available for one dollar.

Prices in Vietnam

  • Food simply 2 Euro
  • McDonalds 3 Euro
  • Capucchino 1,5 Euro
  • imported beer 1,5 Euro
  • Coke 0,4 Euro
  • Water 0,3l 0,2 Euro
  • Bus single ticket city 0,2 Euro
  • Taxi 1 km 0,2 Euro

Bus fares and domestic fares in Vietnam

Long-haul flights can be made by plane with a slightly better budget. The flight from Hanoi to HCMC only takes 2 hours. The ticket prices depend on the season, of course. There are a lot of other domestic flights that you can use to get to Da Nang, Nha Trang, Da Lat or Phu Quoc.

You can find out what the prices look like on the homepages of Vietnam Airlines. A flight with the airline from Saigon to Hanoi costs between 50 and 60 Euro. VietJetAir is a private low cost airline. You can fly the same route with it for 40 Euro but you have to pay each service extra. Punctuality is also a problem. Other flight providers are Jetstar Pacific and Air Mekong. Check the offers on the websites.

Rail travel in Vietnam

Travelling by train is still really cheap. There are also a lot of railway lines that you can use. You can go from Hanoi to Lao Cai, Quan Trieu or Hai Phong. From Saigon there are routes to Quy Nhon and Phan Thiet among others. You can find out which train runs when and where on the website . The prices depend completely on the class. There are hard and soft seats. With aircon and without. But there are also routes with overnight stays.

Bus driving in Vietnam

Like everywhere, buses are the cheapest means of transport for long distance travel. However, the journey is quite slow. For the nearly 280 km long distance from Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh City the bus needs 8 hours. In addition there is an agonizing narrowness. In addition, most buses do not go into the city. You have to cover the last part with a taxi or a local bus. Is it worth it? You hardly pay anything for that. It might even be worth renting a car. Especially if you are travelling with several people.

Sailing in Vietnam

Sailing is in any case the order of the day, because some of the hottest spots you can’t get to otherwise. But don’t worry, the trips are cheap. Take a snorkeling trip to the offshore islands Nha Trang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc. It doesn’t cost you more than 7 Euro.

Backpacker accommodations in Vietnam

You don’t need a big budget to spend the night in Vietnam on your backpacker trip. There is something for every budget and every taste. For about 60 Euro you get a good room in a middle class hotel. Low budget travellers who don’t want to stay in a hostel will also find simple rooms for 15 Euro in a simple 1 star hotel.

Luxury hotels can also be found in all price ranges. If there are several of you it is also worthwhile to rent a holiday home or an apartment at the beach for example. Let’s have a look at the average prices at Hostelworld for a bed in a dorm during your backpacker trip.

  • Hanoi from 5 Euro
  • Ho Chi Minh from Euro
  • Hoi An 6 Euro
  • Nha Trang 6 Euro
  • Hue 5 Euro
  • Da Lat 4 Euro
  • Mui Ne 5 Euro
  • Sapa 4 Euro
  • Since Nang 7 Euro

A good alternative are the Bed and Breakfast offers. There you have more peace and can fall back on the insider information of the hosts. This often pays off. While in Hanoi you pay about 20 Euro for a room, in Ho Chi Minh it is only 12 Euro. It’s worth it then. In Hoi An you get a Bed and Breakfast for 12 Euro and in Nha Trang for 18 Euro. It is cheaper with about 12 Euro in Hue. The accommodations in Da Lat are really cheap with about 7 Euro, similar are the prices in Sapa. In Dong Hoi you pay about 11 Euro again.

Camping in Vietnam

Vietnam is not exactly a camping paradise, but camping is well known and worthwhile. Especially if you want to trek through the bushes in the country’s interior on your backpacker trekking tours. Lonely beaches are best found with tents anyway. Try the national parks Cuc Phuong, Ba Be National Park and Bach Ma National Park. There you will always find campsites in the immediate vicinity. Although there are also campsites at the edge of the big cities, you should rather prefer a hostel in the city centre. You are simply closer to everything. This also saves time and money.

Backpacker Trips, Tips & Highlights in Vietnam

You can choose what you want to do according to your taste on your backpacker tour through Vietnam. There are enough destinations for every need. Whether culture, architecture, untouched jungle, mountain tribes or fascinating island worlds and beaches, everything is possible. A backpacker trip to Vietnam is best done on an old Chinese junk in the Ha Long Bay – “Bay of Descending Dragons”, a UNESCO natural heritage site.

The often steep karst stone islands protruding from the sea are visually simply awesome. A very special cave tour awaits you in the Cu Chi tunnels. The huge underground tunnels of the Viet Cong guerrillas are a real highlight. In some places you can still see bomb craters outside and weapon fools can also fire an AK-47.

Wanderweg in Vietnam

Hiking in Vietnam

A further spot, as you absolutely have to see are the rice terraces of Sapa, that were laid out in an almost surreal looking mountain world, close to the Chinese border. Somewhat macabre but definitely worth seeing is a side trip to the famous Hanoi Hilton, also known as Hỏa Lò Prison. A lot of prisoners including the presidential candidate suffered here. Of course, and you also have to visit the old royal city of Hue with its magnificent buildings.

A nice seaside resort with a lot of local flair is Hoi An in Vietnam. The remote mountain tribes who still cultivate centuries-old traditions can be found inland in the mountainous regions of Dalat, Kontum, Ngoc Hoi and Pleiku. Rent a boat and transfer to the Mekong island of Con Dao (Côn Đảo). And if you want to experience the wilderness, visit the Cuc Phuong National Park on your backpacker trip. One of the most beautiful caves in the world is certainly Phong Nha-Ke Bang. You have to go.

Backpacker Highlights in Vietnam

One of the backpacker highlights in Vietnam is a ride on the taxi motorcycles. They even cover long distances. A snake wine is certainly not offered to you everywhere. A real cobra or whatever is in a Saigon Do bottle. Hmmm!!! Yummy!!! If you should look around for first-class inexpensive silk, then you absolutely have to go to Hoi An.

In the silk center you make really good deals. For breakfast you can also take some hot Vietnamese specialities, but why not a delicious original French baguette with side dish? You’ll feel like you’re in Paris, right in the middle of Asia. Enjoy the lively street life in the boiling cities. On every street corner you’ll find yourself in a social meeting point of the city district. You can discover Vietnam in a truly individual way on so-called Motorbike adventure tours or Motorbike Sightseeing Tours. You decide where to go. You should always act when there is no price written down. But don’t overdo it.

Backpacking in Vietnam - Entdecken

Backpacking in Vietnam – Discover the unknown

Backpacker Insider Tips in Vietnam

Of course there are also some insider tips in Vietnam. But now it’s not like you won’t meet any other visitors there. This will hardly be possible thanks to the WWW. But there are others and less. A good example is Mai Chau. While all tourists leave for Sapa, you better go to Mai Chau. That’s where the local visitors go. Everything is less polluted by tourism and much more original.

With a little luck you can still witness the ancient dances of the mountain tribes and not the tourist shows. You surely know the long queues at the borders. To avoid spending a day or a half at a Vietnamese border crossing, go to Chau Doc.

In this small romantic dreamy nest you have the possibility to get by boat to the border in Cambodia without any problems. Backpackers you don’t like there in masses. You also don’t have to wait in the chaos of Phnom Penh for the trip to the border. Spend the last backpacker day in Vietnam in this nice village.

Backpacking in Vietnam - Landschaft

Backpacking in Vietnam – Sunset

Food & Drinks in Vietnam

Due to the geographical location of the country, an almost unmanageable variety of vegetables and fruits is growing in Vietnam. And these are then offered in various dishes such as Gỏi cuốn Spring rolls or cao lầu Noodles with often caustic hot sauces. The best thing is that you can also enjoy these delicacies at thousands of street stalls for a very low price. Whether in the north or in the south eating on the street is cult in Vietnam. A special regional cuisine awaits you on your backpacker trip in almost every region. Roughly speaking, the cuisine in the north is less spicy than in the south.

Food in Vietnam

The basis for many dishes is the fish sauce (nước mắm), which alone seems inedible, but in combination with other spices reveals its variety of tastes. The national dish Pho, a soup, is a must. There is always rice to go with it. No matter what you order, there’s always rice with it anyway.

If you happen to like French cuisine, you’ll find a whole range of French cuisine influences on your backpacker tour through the country because of the long occupation period by the French. An original French baguette topped with herbs and vegetables, that’s something. Near the beach you can enjoy fresh seafood, while inland there are more vegetables and meat. In Vietnam, of course, you can look forward to the famous fast food chains in the larger cities. You’ll have to find out for yourself whether it’s worth it in terms of taste. In any case, not from a price point of view.

Drinking in Vietnam

For very little money you can get a cheap Mekong Whisky on your backpacker tour in Vietnam. But the day after can be devastating. “ruou de” or rice schnapps doesn’t do your head any good either. You should never drink tap water, but always bottled water. What tastes quite good is the local beer bia hơi, which means something like air beer.

The beer is on every corner. Other beers on the market include Saigon Do (Red Saigon) in the south of the country, or Bia Hanoi in the north. In the middle you can drink Bia Huda again. But also try the delicious coffee, which often comes from the country’s own production. And the freshly squeezed fruit juices are also a treat for the palate. Delicious shakes are also prepared from coconut milk and sugar cane.

Backpacking in Vietnam - Traditionelles Essen

Backpacking in Vietnam – Traditional food

Backpacker Visa and Vaccinations in Vietnam

What about the entry requirements for German citizens? You can find out more about this on the website of the Federal Foreign Office. The following travel documents allow you to enter Vietnam as a backpacker.

  • Passport: Yes
  • Provisional passport: Yes
  • Identity card: No
  • Temporary identity card: No
  • Children’s passport: Yes, with photo
  • Still valid child ID according to old model: Yes, with photo


You should know that your personal travel document must be valid for one month beyond the validity of the visa. You will avoid unnecessary stress if you comply with the requirements of the Vietnamese authorities. The visa requirement is also annoying for German travelers. You can fill out and print out the visa application form here and then send it to the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in Germany. Four weeks are then in.

Vaccinations & medical information

If you come directly from Germany, you do not have to prove vaccinations. A vaccination against yellow fever is only required for those entering from a yellow fever area. Dengue and malaria are well known in Vietnam. As a backpacker you avoid the problem by protecting yourself appropriately. Diarrhoea and cholera are unfortunately also a problem due to the lack of hygiene. So be careful with raw uncooked food and tap water.

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