Packing for a trip to Vietnam can be experience (kind of like Vietnam itself.)
For such a small country, the geography can vary in just a short distance. There are beaches, mountains, cities, deltas, and so much more within a few miles.
I wish I knew this before my trip to Vietnam, but the country is over 1,000 miles long. So, naturally the weather changes.
In the north it can snow! But in the south, even in the cold season, it never really snows. Instead, it is more of a tropical paradise.
My biggest takeaways from that trip (about the weather)
- The weather in Vietnam can change every day… throughout the day…. start raining and not stop.
- The weather in Vietnam varies by region.
I happened to visit Vietnam in December, and I traveled throughout the entire country.
Side note: You almost have to fly into Ho Chi Minh City for all international travel. There are only four international airports in the entire country, HCMC, Hanoi, Da Nang, and Nha Trang.
It’s an interesting experience to go from wearing shorts in the Mekong to seeing snow in Hanoi, but that’s the reality for most flights into Vietnam.
So, I decided to create this Vietnam Packing List to help you make sure you are prepared for any trip to Vietnam!
It may seem obvious, but just don’t forget it or forget about it.
One thing I have started to recommend is purchasing a passport case. This makes locating your passport easier, and it helps protect your passport from inclement conditions.
This is also the friendly reminder that you typically cannot travel if your passport expires within the next six months.
If your passport expires soon, please remember getting a passport in the United States can take some time. (About 2 months)
Vietnam is very strict about their visa process.
There are a variety of different visas, and there are a variety of different visa lengths.
I recommend purchasing a 30 day visa, as this is the visa that is most likely to be allowed to extend. You can apply online here, and it cost about $25 for a single-entry visa.
For Americans and most European countries, you will have to apply for a visa before travel. Currently, there are no visas upon arrival.
When I traveled to Vietnam, my visa was a paper leaflet that I inserted into my passport. However, recently, the Vietnamese government are beginning the acceptance and process of electronic visas.
This will make traveling to Vietnam so much easier, as you may not have to contact a Vietnamese consulate.
3. Waterproof jacket
I mentioned this above, but you will need a waterproof jacket for your trip to Vietnam. A majority of Vietnam receives more than 50 inches of rain a year.
The rain in Vietnam is so bad, some hotels offer complimentary umbrella rentals. Yes, seriously.
4. 2 pair of jeans
There are two primary reasons I recommend packing two pair of jeans.
A. In case you decide to visit any temples.
B. In the instance it gets cold. If you travel to northern Vietnam, this is even necessary sometimes. Just research properly for your trip.
5. Tennis Shoes
Comfortable to walk around in. You might even pack a pair of sandals if you want. I don’t recommend hiking boots for a trip to Vietnam, as they are not really necessary.
6. 5 pair of shorts
Vietnam can be a hot country, especially if you decide to stick to the southern portion like Ho Chi Minh City.
There are no religious or cultural norms against shorts that I can think of. The only time is like I mentioned above, out of respect when you visit temples.
7. 7 pair of Socks
Kind of funny how that turned out.. point 7 was 7 pair of socks.
I always carried an extra pair of socks with me in my backpack. It’s a habit, and it’s actually a pretty good one for travelers.
8. 6 T-Shirts
Comfort is key, and I think t-shirts a great thing to pack for a trip to Vietnam. Most people wear them everywhere.
Vietnam is not a country known for its beaches. In fact, I recommend either Bali or Thailand if you are insistent on the beach life.
If you really want to go to Vietnam for the beach life, the best beaches in Vietnam are located in the central portion. (Da Nang and Hoi An) However, these areas are highly commercialized and touristy.
10. Dress Clothing
This is entirely up to you.
11. Layers for winter
Vietnam is a location I do not recommend packing a winter coat for. Instead, I recommend packing an under-layer shirt.
My final note about clothing: Packing for a trip to Vietnam can be confusing. However, Vietnam has numerous laundromats available, everywhere. Do not overpack!
Other Travel necessities
12. Water Filtration
You are going to need a plan for safe drinking water whenever you go to Vietnam.
For most people and locations, the water is not tap-safe. Instead, most people will boil their water at home before they use it.
Whenever people go out to eat, most people will even purchase bottled water.
However, I do not recommend that. I just suggest purchasing a life-straw or some iodine tablets. This will save you and your stomach.
The water is safe to shower in.
13. Water Bottle
Since I’m talking about water, I might as well talk about bringing a reusable water bottle. Just do it, please.
14. Poncho/Literally anything that repels water
If you decided to pack the waterproof jacket and you know your hotel will let you borrow an umbrella, you will be fine. But… if you don’t know, save yourself a headache. They are small, cheap, and can fit in your carry-on.
My last reminder about this: Let me put it this way, Northern Vietnam has four different seasons (fall, winter, summer, and spring). Southern Vietnam has two seasons, wet and dry
15. A good backpack or small bag
I have heard of stories of backpacks getting stolen in Vietnam, and I am honestly not surprised.
I’m not saying Vietnam is a dangerous place, but like all places, you just need to be aware of your surroundings. (Somebody I know almost had their backpack stolen in Vietnam while stopped at a stoplight on a Vespa.)
I like traveling with a backpack. It helps keep me organized, and I hate having things in my pockets.
But some people like traveling with an even smaller bag. Some include shoulder slings. Nothing huge, like 5 L max.
If you really don’t want to draw attention to yourself, avoid the steal-me bags.
It’s going to be necessary. You may think you are safe in the jungles of Vietnam underneath the tree canopy in the Central Highlands, but you aren’t.
17. Bug Repellent
Mosquitos. The horror story of Vietnam. This is even more necessary if you decide to stick to the southern portion of Vietnam like the Mekong. Some mosquitos will have malaria. And honestly, mosquito bites are just no fun.
You may not need this if you decide to stick to the northern portion of Vietnam in December.
I really cannot speak about this, but I would say bring what you will need. I never really saw any large supermarkets or anything. Most of Vietnam is based on a small-shop, local-business economy.
I don’t know anything about the Vietnamese health system, but I would advise you to bring it from your own country. It’s probably cheaper.
Honestly, smartphone cameras are getting to be so good. Unless you need to extra pixels, you probably don’t need anything more for this trip.
Best place to shoot pictures in Vietnam
- Ha Long Bay
- The Mekong Delta Tributaries
- The currency is beautiful, but highly devalued. At the time of writing this article, the conversion rate was about 1USD to 23,000 Dong.
- Once you convert your currency, it will be very difficult to convert back. Even if you can convert the currency back into USD, you will effectively be double-taxing yourself.
- The conversion rates at hotels and airports are absolutely atrocious.
Instead of converting your currency to the dong, I highly recommend just using the U.S. Dollar. Every small merchant accepts it, and it has a higher bargaining power due to a potential destabilization of the Vietnamese currency.
Did you notice I said bargaining power? Vietnam is a country that does barter, and it is awesome.
That is a great thing to remember when you go shopping in the Central and Southern regions.
Honestly, Vietnam is such a great place for budget travelers if you know the value of your currency relative to your own country’s currency. A luxury trip can cost only $70 per day.
23. Travel Insurance
Get it, buy it. Good.
It’s there if you need it, it’s there for peace of mind.
24. Cell Phone
You can pick up a cheap cell phone at any market.
25. About transportation
This is really an oddity for a Vietnam Packing List, but I felt like this should be included here.
There are a few ways to get around Vietnam: plane, bus, scooter. Typically, planes are required for long voyages from places like HCMC and Hanoi. They are cheap and time-saving.
There are some bus options, but they still take at least two days. Some roads are…. less than ideal.
Scooter rental is a good option if you plan on sticking to the large cities. You just need to know how to ride a scooter. Most Vietnamese citizens use these like the western world uses large vehicles.
There are some other options once you get to Vietnam like tuk-tuks and carts. These are used primarily as taxis.
25 1/2 Some motion sickness pills if you get motion sick.
If you are reading this, you know your needs are different. I really like Osprey backpacks, as they have a lifetime warranty.
27. Mosquito Net
If you decide to go backpacking through Vietnam, you are probably going to be hiking through some jungles. Like, really thick jungles with mountains. It’s cool, just be prepared.
For those times you forget to put on sunscreen.
For those times when you don’t want to put on sunscreen.
I highly recommend just packing a hammock instead of a sleeping bag. There are always trees that you can attach your hammock to.
30. Some sort of emergency blanket
This is probably not needed for its purpose, but you might need something to repel some water at any point in your trip.
31. A hiking stick
A stick to make sure there is nothing in brush.
32. More water filtration back-ups
The nice thing about being in the city is you can always purchase bottled water (and then recycle the plastic.)
Unfortunately, for you adventurous folks, there is no back-up option. I highly recommend you purchase a few life straws just in case.
33. Battery Pack
This is really helpful to charge your devices. I don’t recommend anything less than 20,000 mAH.
34. 3 More Pair of Socks
Socks seem to be the one thing that always take forever to dry, especially in a rain forest. For people who plan on backpacking the entire country from North to South, I would actually pack twelve total pair of socks. Crazy? yes. Excessive? no.
35. Microfiber Towel
Nothing fancy. But it does help and dries fast.
36. An accident recovery plan
Things happen in the jungles of Vietnam, and you need to make sure you have a way to contact people in case you get trapped or something happens.
As you can see from above, a Vietnam Packing List can be quite extensive.
I tried to cover everything you will need about this country, but there are always a few things that you may need that I didn’t.
Despite that, Vietnam does have a diverse geography if you choose to explore all of it. For most people, they will stick to the major cities, Hue, Hoi An, Da Nang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. And there is a lot to do there, and there are plenty of excursions that leave from these places.