We're Lloyd and Mandy, husband and wife that have been travelling the world since 2021 as digital nomads. We recently spent one month in one of our favourite travel destinations in the world, Vietnam.
Today we're sharing with you our complete guide to Vietnam, including places to visit, what to eat, where to stay and how to get around.
We hope this video helps you plan your trip to Vietnam and that you can enjoy your time in this beautiful country as much as we did.
Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly, and still commonly known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam, with a population of around 9 million, it's Situated in the Southeast region of Vietnam, the city surrounds the Saigon River and covers about 2000 square kilometres.
It is known for its well-preserved French colonial architecture and vibrant street life. Ho chi Minh city attracts over 8 million international visitors each year.
Depending on which way you want to travel the country, this may be your first port of entry, we decided to start our travel in Saigon and work our way up to the north, but it's entirely up to you.
Ho Chi Minh city is quite an eye opener and is a bit of a shock to the senses at first, the combination of sizzling meat from street food karts, constant beeping of cars and scooters, and constant flow of traffic that seems to be out of control but somehow just works, all make for an exciting first experience in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City is broken up into 12 main districts, District 1, in particular, Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi Street, are the best areas to stay in Ho Chi Minh city for first-timers due to its close proximity to the city’s famous attractions as well as bars and restaurants.
We stayed at the Oscar Saigon hotel which cost around 30 USD per night including buffet breakfast, which we thought was a pretty great deal given its central location.
One of the first places you need to visit in Ho Chi Minh City in our opinion is Bui Vien Walking Street, although if you're not into large crowds or loud music this may not be the place for you.
But for us, it was a fun experience people watching while drinking an ice cold local Saigon lager, we didn't stay too late as things tend to get pretty crazy after around 10pm, however surprisingly, everything seemed to shut down around 1am, which may have just been a post covid rule.
Of course the first thing anyone will tell you when visiting Vietnam is to try the Pho, or as it's pronounced 'Pha', and the Banh Mi's, and don';t worry there are plenty of options in Ho chi Minh city with pho stations and Banh Mi bakeries seemingly on every corner.
Funnily enough due to the french colonization of Vietnam in the 1800's, Vietnam has a huge cafe culture and if you're in Ho Chi Minh you have to try the famous Vietnamese egg coffee.
If you're looking to step off the beaten path and try some more local dishes, we highly recommend taking the motorbike food tour run by XO tours, we were driven all around the city tasting a bunch of different styles of Vietnamese foods as well as some pretty interesting delicacies, it's not only a great way to experience the local cuisines of Saigon but it's also a great way to see the city from the back of a motorbike.
Mui Ne is well known for its unique white sand dunes, featuring several lakes and even swamps straight in the middle of sandy terrain.
By the way, we travelled the whole way from Saigon to the north of Vietnam by either bus and train, and we booked everything through 12go Asia, we highly recommend using their website for transportation.
The highlight of Mui Ne was definitely the sand dune tour that takes place at sunrise, although you can expect there to be a lot of other people there as it is the main attraction in town, you can also go on a tour through the local fishing port which was interesting but be prepared for the strong fish smells.
All in all, Mui Ne was well worth the visit, we recommend stopping in for a couple of days to fit everything in, we stayed at a nice beachfront hotel called the Ananda Resort which was only $20 a night and was centrally located, that's probably one of the best parts about Vietnam is the accommodation is so cheap!
Nha Trang is a coastal resort city in southern Vietnam known for its beaches, diving sites and offshore islands. Its main beach is a long, curving stretch along Tran Phu Street backed by a promenade, hotels and seafood restaurants. Our Favourite Restaurant was
Nha Trang is well known for its beaches and scuba diving and has developed into a popular destination for international tourists, attracting large numbers of backpackers, as well as more affluent travellers from the area, it is already very popular with Vietnamese tourists, with Nha Trang Bay widely considered as among the world's most beautiful bays
To be honest, we didn't spend a lot of time in Nha Trang, and during the day it was extremely hot, however by night time the whole city seemed to light up, from street vendors to fireworks and flying lanterns, it truly is a beautiful place to visit at night and as like most cities in Vietnam there are many amazing restaurants and bars to visit.
If you're looking for an extended stay in Nha Trang, there are plenty of budget options as well as 5-star resorts to choose from, you can check out our booking platform for accommodation options and even get up to 70% off hotels.
Hoi An is probably the most beautiful city we visited while in Vietnam, with a population of approximately 120,000, Old Town Hội An, the city's historic district, is recognised as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. Prominent in the city's old town is its famous "Japanese Bridge.
Hoi An is best know as being the "city of lanterns", The Hoi An Lantern Festival is a monthly event that celebrates the full moon. It is held on the 14th day of each lunar month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. However, you can expect to see lanterns in the sky most nights if you walk along the riverfront, or travel on a relaxing gondola boat ride and take in the beauty of the city.
There are plenty of local restaurants to eat from in "Old town" Hoi An, and we managed to find one that served up some of the best bun thit nuong we've ever tried, and best of all it only cost us $2 each.
We stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel just down the road from the old town area that surprisingly, didn't break the bank at only $30 USD/Night including breakfast, and they even let us use there bikes for the day for free, we highly recommend the Eco Lux Riverside Hotel & Spa
if you're looking for accomodation in Hoi An, and we've even heard from some of our followers that mentioned they stayed there because of us and they got a room upgrade!
Da Nang is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port, It is the commercial and educational centre of Central Vietnam and is the largest city in the region, we were actually surprised at the size of the city when we first arrived.
Although we only spent one night there as a transit stop, it is definitely worth visiting as the city is surrounded by many sandy beaches, mountains and sprawling wildlife including the the endangered red-shanked douc langur -- one of the world’s most striking primates.
One thing we did get to experience on our 1 night in Da Nang was the amazing street food, we went to the Helio night markets where we found a huge assortment of street food carts as well as a a beer garden and live music, it was a great cheap option for the night and was also very family friendly.
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and my personal favourite city in the country, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.
One of the most popular places to visit in Hanoi is the infamous "Train Street".
The reason it’s so popular for many tourists is that the train literally passes just a meter away from the houses and cafes along the tracks.
While we had heard that the train ran close to the buildings and had seen videos, we still couldn't believe just how close it would be, right before the train comes, locals rush into their houses, making sure that their kids, pets, motorbikes, or any other belongings are safe inside. Nothing can be left outside.
And then once it passes, everything just goes back to normal, the train only runs at night on weekdays, however there are several daytime trains during the weekend, the best bet is to google the train times when you get to hanoi as they can be subject to change.
Another favourite part of Hanoi for us was one particular street in Hanoi's Old quarter appropriately named "Beer Corner
". (See here in our Hanoi Travel vlog)
It is quite simply the best place for locals, backpackers and expats alike to mingle and watch the night go by while drinking some of the cheapest beer in the world, with some bars charging as little as 50 cents a beer.
Perhaps the best part about beer street is the constant flow of walking traffic and things to look at while you sit on the little plastic chairs on the street, it's a great place to meet other travellers or locals, to be honest i think we went there every night we were in Hanoi as it was just so much fun.
Ha Long Bay
Ha long Bay has to be the most stunning place to visit in Vietnam, just a 2 hour drive from Hanoi, its known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests, the region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking.
But especially the Junk boat tours that take visitors past some breathtaking islands and scenery,
We took a 2 day overnight tour on the Paradise Elegance Boat which was an amazing luxury experience with delicious food and drinks, 5 star service and even a jazz band to entertain the guests at night.
The trip included transportation to and from our hotel as well as food and drinks, and cost us roughly $350, which we think was money well spent as the views from the boat during sunset were simply amazing.
Sa Pa is a beautiful town set in the mountains, located about 5 hours north of Hanoi just a short drive to the chinese border, located in the province of Lào Cai in northwestern Vietnam.
It is one of the main cities with a market in the area, where the ethnic group of the Hmong people still dress traditionally and live very similar lives to their native roots.
This was most evident when visiting the small local town that has turned into somewhat of a tourist destination, "Cat Cat Village"
Visiting cat cat village was a surreal experience and one that we'll never forget, to try to explain the feeling of being there simply wouldn't do it justice, the windmills that run along the river mouth along with the traditional local dances being performed made us feel like we had gone back in time, before the region had been colonized.
After spending the afternoon in cat cat village you can head to one of the many restaurants that serve a local favourite of seafood hotpot, i have to admit we had no idea what we were doing and had to ask the waiter how to eat the shared dish, but we had no regrets as it was simply delicious, although the serving was so large we couldn't even manage to finish it!
We stayed at probably the most luxurious hotel we have ever had the pleasure of visiting while in Sa Pa, which was a treat for us.
The Hotel de la Coupole offers a gateway to the 1920's french indo-china era in Vietnam, The lobby itself stands as a work of art, with amazing geometric architecture and colourful murals and furnishings to create a distinctly bohemian vibe.
The hotel overlooks the town square as well as the mountains of the Sapa region, with its rolling hills and cool, crisp air, if it's in your price range this award winning hotel is a must for anyone visiting Sapa and while it is considered a 5 star hotel, at only $100 a night including the most amazing buffet breakfast we've ever experienced, it is well worth the price tag.
We actually made a review video of the hotel if you're interested in checking it out its here: https://youtu.be/bp2Pqy8idDc
Another popular attraction in the area is the Fansipan cable car, which will take you above the clouds to 3000 metres above sea level where you can see stunning 360 degree views of the valley, however if you're not willing to pay the $32 price tag for the cable car experience you can simply take to the train to the station at the bottom of the cable entrance which is just as breathtakingly spectacular.
The train station was actually attached to our hotel which made it super simple for us to navigate our way around!
While we finished our whirlwind trip from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi in just over 3 weeks, we weren't quite done yet. we had already booked flights out of Ho Chi Minh and had 2 options, jump on a plane back to Saigon, or catch the 32 hour overnight train through the countryside of Vietnam back to where it all started, as you can probably tell, we opted for the latter.
The overnight train named the "Reunification Express" that's run by Vietnam Railways, took just over 32 hours and basically runs non stop from Hanoi to Saigon station, there are a few options ranging from 2nd class seats, 6 berth sleeper cabins, and 1st class sleepers which offer either 4 or 2 berth
We decided to book the first class 2 berth sleeper cabin, mainly for privacy and so we could film the experience, it cost around $150 each which included food, which we weren't expecting and was a nice touch, they also had a beer cart that would periodically travel around the train.
All in all the train ride was a fun experience, it was a little strange sleeping on a moving train but if you're looking for a different experience we highly suggest giving it a go, we documented the whole trip if you want to watch the full video click here:
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Vietnam! It is still one of our favourite countries we have visited so far!