[All content and prices updated November 2012]
Why you should add Vietnam to your Indie/RTW trip
- This country has that intangible quality that not all countries have - energy. That energy may be a bit misguided and overwhelming at times, but it's an energy that's difficult to match. If you're looking for something different, Vietnam is it.
- If you travel for food, there aren't many other countries in the world that offer better cuisine. And if you stick to the streets, you'll find the most authentic, and cheapest, food available.
- The people may be a bit rough around the edges, but once you get used to them, and if you are patient and open yourself up, you'll make amazing connections.
- Options. From big bustling cities in Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), to beach towns like Nha Trang, to mountain towns like Sapa, to wonders like Halong Bay and the Mekong, and everything in between, this is a varied country that can tickle the fancy of any traveler.
- Cost. Like the rest of the region, Vietnam is cheap to travel in by western standards, and your dollar can go far, or you can get pampered on a higher budget.
Indie Travel Tips
Vietnam is firmly on the tourist trail in the region, but there are still plenty of ways to have an indie travel experience here:
- Wander the chaotic streets of Hanoi, darting in and out of traffic and making connections with locals by trying the amazing food tucked away in small alleys. If you really want to see how the locals live, get up early one morning and wander to Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of the city. It looks like the rest of the city (minus tourists) is here for an early morning walk, tai chi session, game, or conversation. Even at 6am, the city is alive and bustling!
- When the heat ultimately gets to you, head to the highlands and go for Dalat. This quirky little town is popular amongst Vietnamese travelers, particularly honeymooners, and while there are western tourists here, there are far fewer than most other places.
- Hoi An is one of, if not the, most touristy city in Vietnam, which is usually a giant red flag. People come from all over the world to get clothes custom made for them. But shopping in Hoi An is an experience. Sure, you can get some great deals, but it's the communication with shop owners and tailors that can be memorable (both good and bad). Trying to decipher which ones are good and which ones are solely around just to rip you off can be like a game.
- The Mekong River is still an important part of the country, and skipping this region would be a major mistake. Puttering down the river through floating river markets is a memorable experience that show how the locals still do it in the south. Homestays are available here, too, and if you are heading to Cambodia next, look into crossing the border by boat - there's nothing like heading up river and being greeted by hundreds of waving, smiling children on the river banks.
- Skip the popular bus passes that are sold in Hanoi or Saigon and instead just buy tickets as you go. They aren't much more expensive, and you can really come and go as you please instead of being tied to a set schedule.
Vietnam is a polarizing country. If you gathered a random group of 100 travelers, chances are good that 50 would say they loved Vietnam and 50 would say they hated it. There is rarely any middle ground. The key to being one of those who loves it, in my opinion, is to do your homework - by reading and learning more about the country before arriving, you're setting yourself up for success. Those who don't like it typically get caught off guard by the pushy touts and hectic atmosphere, but if you know that's coming and can plan for it mentally, it makes travel in this beautiful Southeast Asian country a treat.
What to see
There is much to do and see in Vietnam - too much for a one-page guide like this - so make sure you check out Indie Travel in Vietnam for $30 Per Day
to help plan your trip.
For more on transport in Vietnam, including both arriving to the country and getting around while there, read the Transportation section of Indie Travel in Vietnam for $30 Per Day
If you want to know about your accommodation options, including costs, visit the accommodation section here
. You can also browse, search and book hotels
right here on BootsnAll.