Viet Nam Travel Guide

Explore Vietnam

Vietnam Destination Guide A Vagabond Life

Viet Nam Travel Guide

We have travelled extensively in Vietnam and it is a firm favourite. The diversity of the landscape, the amazing people and lets not forget the incredible food makes Vietnam a place that should be on your ‘must see’ list.

Capital: Hanoi | Language: Vietnamese | Money: Dong

Climate: Diverse – from bitterly cold winters in the northern mountains to tropical in the south and on the coast

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Need To Know - Vietnam Travel Guide

Five Quick Facts About Travelling In Vietnam

  1. Vietnam has an excellent, inexpensive transport system which while may seem chaotic actually works well. Buses are the most common and efficient way to get around the country.
  2. Nationals from most countries need a Pre-arranged visa to enter the country. See the Visa tab for more information. 
  3. It is illegal to take photos of some government buildings or military installations – be careful when you are taking photos and ask before hand if you are not sure.
  4. English is spoken in major cities and town and in tourist areas, in remote areas there is little English spoken. It is always advisable to learn a few basic words and phrases when travelling.
  5. Avoid mosquito bites. While Vietnam has pretty much eradicated malaria especially in main cities some cases have popped up along the Laos border in recent years. Dengue is found throughout Vietnam peaking in the summer months. Use a repellent with deet in it and cover up in light coloured clothing to avoid mosquito bites.

Vietnam is long and thin and has several different climate zones.

  • The North has four distinct seasons, with cold winters (temperatures can get down to 15°C in Hanoi and below freezing in the mountains), a hot and wet summer and warm sunny Spring and Autumn.
  • In the Central regions the Hải Vân Pass separates two different weather patterns of the North starting in Lăng Cô (which is hotter in summer and cooler in winter) from the milder conditions South starting in Đà Nẵng. North East Monsoon conditions September – February with often strong winds, large sea swells and rain make this a miserable and difficult time to travel through Central Vietnam. Normally summers are hot and dry.
  • The South has three seasons: hot and dry from March to May/June; rainy from about June/July to November; and cool and dry from December to February. April is the hottest month, with mid-day temperatures of 33°C. During the rainy season, downpours  occur during the afternoon, and  flooding is not uncommon. Mosquitoes are most numerous in the rainy season so take precautions to stop bites.. December to February is the most pleasant time to visit, with cool evenings down to around 20°.

Thai currency is the Vietnamese Dong. ATM’s are widely available across the country in larger towns and cities. If travelling remotely it is advisable to carry some cash.

Visa Policy Vietnam

Many western country can now visit Vietnam on an E-Visa which can be obtained online within 2 days.



Border Crossings

Vietnam shares borders with;

  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • China
Nationals from the majority of countries require either an E-Visa or paper visa to enter Vietnam. See the VISA tab for further details.

Vietnam / Laos borders

Dansavanh / Lao Bao

The first land border between Laos and Vietnam to open for international travellers, and once the most popular.  This crossing is best if heading to for Hue in Vietnam and Savannakhet in Laos. Lao visas are available and buses from Savannakhet to Hue run daily.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa.

Bo Y / Ngoc Hoi

Open to foreigners and convenient if travelling to Attapeu in Laos and Kontum in Vietnam, this border can be a challenge to cross at.  In Attapeu (Laos) catch a mini-bus for Bo Y which leave in the morning. It’s 119km from Attapeu to Bo Y once everyone is processed the mini van continues on to the town of Ngoc Hoi, 18km on the other side of the border. The entire process from Attapeu takes about three hours.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa

Sop Hun / Tay Trang

A bus leaves Muang Khua on the Lao side for Dien Bien Phu on the Vietnamese side 3 times a week at 7 am. As seats are limited it is recommended getting to the bus station early to secure a seat.

In the opposite direction buses leave three times a week from Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua at 05:30AM.

A valid Vietnamese visa is required. Laos visa available on arrival.

Na Maew / Nam Xoi

From Vietnam, this crossing offers access into the Hua Phan province. It is a short ride from the border to Sam Neau. Buses run from Sam Neua to Thanh Hoa in Vietnam taking 10-12 hours. If you don’t want through transport, there are songtheaws to the border from Sam Neua but be aware there is little transport on the Vietnamese side of the border.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa

NamCan / Nam Khan

A busy and popular crossing and convenient if travelling between Phonsavan (Laos) and Vinh (Vietnam).  Buses run from Vinh  to Phonsavan departing at 6:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The trip is 403 km and should take about 12 hours. Through buses to Luang Prabang leave at 06:00 as well, on Wednesdays and Sundays only an is a 690 km journey.

  You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa. Lao visas on arrival are available.

Nam Phao / Cau Treo

Another populat crossing connecting Lak Xao (Laos) and Vinh  (Vietnam). From Lak Xao (Laos) catch a bus 34 km to the border is 34 km and then walk 500m across to the other side. Once you enter Vietnam catch a bus to Vinh which is about 100 KM away.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa.

Vietnam / Cambodia Borders

Bavet / Moc Bai

The first border crossing between Vietnam and Cambodia to open to foreign travellers and still the most popular.  Daily buses run regularly between Saigon and Phnom Penh and the service is both fast and affordable. Cambodian visa on arrival is available here,

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa.

Kaam Samnor / Ving Xuong

This one is a popular river crossing that connects Phnom Penh in Cambodia with Chau Doc in Vietnam with both fast and slow boats making the journey. When you arrive at the border crossing it is common for a ‘fixer’ to collect all passengers passports and take them to immigration to complete all the paperwork.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa

Phnom Den / Tinh Bien

Open to foreigners this crossing is halfway between Ha Tien and Chau Doc and not quiet as straight forward as the 2 crossing listed above. The closest town in Cambodia is Kampot which is a couple of hours away. There are buses from Ha Tien in Vietnam to the border however transport on the Cambodian side is irregular so if you are going to use this crossing it is advisable to do it early in the day to give yourself time tome find transport. Cambodian visas are available on arrival.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa

Prek Chak / Xa Xia

This border crossing is a 20 minute moto ride from Kep (Cambodia) entering Vietnam at the Prek Chak / Xa Xia crossing. You will need a valid Vietnamese visa to enter Vietnam. Cambodian visas available on arrival.

Le Thanh / O Yadao crossing

Remote and tricky this crossing takes about 6 hours to complete and connects Ban Lung in northeast Cambodia to Pleiku in Vietnam.  From the Vietnamese side, buses run from Pleiku to Duc Co, then transfer to an xe-om for the last 20km to the border. From the border to Ban Lung is a trip of about 70km.

You need a valid pre-arranged Vietnamese visa

Vietnam / China Border

Mong Cai / Dong Hung

The Mong Cai Border Gate is in the northeast of Quang Ninh Province, 176km from Halong City, 327km from Hanoi. From Halong City, head along highway 18 to Mong Cai Town, and then across the Mong Cai Border Gate to China.

Pr-arranged Visas for both China and Vietnam are required.

Dong Dang/Ping Xian

Catch a Taxi a taxi to Ping Xian and a bus to Nanning. On the Vietnam side shared taxis run from the border to Lang Son where you can pick up a variety of buses or the train to Hanoi.

Pr-arranged Visas for both China and Vietnam are required.

Lao Cai / Hekou border

The closest border crossing to Sapa and Kunming, some nationalities, including Australians and some Europeans, can buy one-month Chinese visas on the spot on the Vietnamese side of the Lao Cai / Hekou border with processing taking about an hour. Other nationalities need to get their visas  in Hanoi, although it is best to check this before arriving or alternately have a per-arranged visa .

Pr-arranged Visas for Vietnam are required.

Thailand has an extensive and easy to use transport network.


Bangkok is a major international hub and has 2 main airports.

  1. Suvarnabhumi Airport the main airport where most long haul flights arrive and depart from
  2. Don Mueang Airport where budget airlines, regional ind domestic flight operate fro.

There are a plethora of budget airlines that operate in the SE Asia region and flying both within Thailand and around the region is easy and cheap.


Thailand has over 4000kms of rail lines that covers much of Thailand from Chiang Rai in the north to the Malaysian border.Thai trains have three main classes

  • First Class (chan neung) – a two-berth sleeper with air-con on some trains.
  • Second Class (chan song) –  a 4 bunk sleeper with a reasonable level of comfort and half the price of first class.
  • Third Class (chan saam) – the cheapest way to travel in Thailand. Cheap as chips and with a level of comfort to match (think wooden seats). Great fun for short trips but slow and uncomfortable on long journeys.

It is advisable to book if you want a sleeper.


Thailand has an extensive bus network with a bus running to just about every corner of the country. The government bus company is BKS (Baw Kaw Saw), known in English simply as the The Transport Company has stations in every province of any size. BKS buses anre usually clean, cheap and mostly reliable.

Private buses also run many of the same routes as the government buses although sometimes when using a private service you may end up in  a cramped mini-van

The basic BKS bus types are:

  • Local – relatively slow, often cramped and stops at every village along the way and you may share your space with a few chickens. Not ideal for long-distance travel, but may be the only cheap way to get around locally.
  • Express (rot duan) – express buses are still pretty basic but don’t stop at every village (just most!) You will know the express bus by its orange colour. Size varies, with the largest having around 65 seats.
  • Second class (chan song) – the second class bus will skip most stops, but often take a less direct route than 1st class / VIP / S-VIP. Identifiable by its blue and white with an orange stripe colour scheme this bus has usually 45-48 seats per bus, and often air conditioned. Stops frequently for toilet breaks.
  • First class (chan neung) – First class buses take the most direct routes and make very few stops. Blue and white in colour, air conditioned, with more comfortable seats and a snack and drinking water included. Toilet on board for all but the shortest services.
  • VIP – The VIP bus is the same as the First class bus with less seats meaning more leg room and reclining space further. Basic meals are included and freshly laundered shrink-wrapped blanket provided. This bis is blue and white or blue and silver and usually signed “VIP”.
  • S-VIP – Super-VIP is very similar to VIP, with wider more comfortable seats. Great for overnight journeys.


A songthaew is a truck-based vehicle with a pair of bench seats in the back, one on either side — hence the name, which means “two rows” in Thai.

Songthaews are operated extensively as local buses and are generally the most economical way to travel shorter distances. Songthaews are generally caught the the local market.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are found in every Thai city town and village and are the most common form of transport for short distances around town. Always make sure you negotiate your fare before getting in the Tuk Tuk.


Taxi’s are common in Bangkok but rare in the rest of Thailand. Uber op longer exists in Thailand however there is a similar company call Grab that operate in a similar way to Uber.

In Viet Nam is is either hot and wet or hotter and dry.

Packing list for Viet Nam


1 pair lightweight long pants.
2 x pair of shorts
2 x singlets – good for layering and sleeping in
4 x short sleeve cotton shirts, lightweight and breathable
1 x long sleeve sloppy joe.
1 x lightweight raincoat – packable version that packs down into a small bag.
5 x socks
5 x underpants
2 x bras


1 x pair walking or hiking shoes.
1 x sandals
1 x pair flip flops (great for hostel showers)

Shampoo & Conditioner
Bar of Soap
Brush / Comb
Hair Ties

Insect Repellent with Deet


1 x Earbud headphones.Light and small,
1 x IPad
1 x 6S iPhone
Charging leads for above
2 x USB
1 x power bank
1 x Cable organiser which keeps everything tidy
1 x 14” laptop – we run a business so this is essential for us.


1 x GoPro Hero 5
2 x Spare GoPro Batteries
1 x Canon DSLR + lenses
Spare micro SD Cards

Other Stuff

1 x padlock
1 x headlight or torch
1 x Swiss knife
1 x medical kit

Ziplock bag

Umbrella (although are as cheap as chips to buy in country)

Top 5 Things To See & Do In Vietnam
High in the northern mountains of Vietnam Sa Pa is a base for hiking and trekking it is also the home to a number of minority peoples. Take the ove night train from Hanoi fro a fabulous start to your visit to this beautiful area.
The capital of Vietnam Hanoi is full of colonial French buildings dating back French rule, streets traders and busy motorbike. Have a picnic by the pretty Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of the old town. A great place to stsrt your Vietnam journey.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is famous for its incredible waterways where giant limestone Krasts emerge from the sea. Insanely busy with tourism if you want something a little quieter try exploring this area using Cat Ba Island in southern Ha Long Bay as your base.
Hoi An
Hoi An is a beautifully preserved town in central Vietnam with an eclectic mix of architecture showcasing the different cultures that have settle here throughout history. Once a major trading port Hoi An now has over 800 UNESCO listed buildings.
Hue has played a mjor role in Vietnamese history and boasts a 19th century citadel which houses the Forbidden Purple City. The Imperial Palace is still surrounded by walls and a moat and is a fascintaing glimpse into history.

World Destination Guide 

There are 195 countries in the world stretching across seven continents – so there is an awful lot to see.Where to begin? Many people are inspired by a movie they have seen or a story they have heard, or a desire to see the land of their ancestors. 

Use the drop-down on the right to explore the world.

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