I’m off to Vietnam! In preparation I’ve been scouring my favourite blogs to see what everyone else got up to when visiting the country.
Now my list of things to do in Vietnam is epic, I’m spoilt for choice and being my first time in Asia, I’m just going to be totally overwhelmed as soon as I touch down. I’m only going to Vietnam for a two week trip, but I’m determined to fit in as much as possible.
I want to do some tours in Vietnam, to relax, party, shop, sightsee and I need to end in Ho Chi Minh City for a friend’s wedding, which is going to be awesome. Thanks to the Vietnam tips from a few select travel bloggers the current plan is this…
Ho Chi Minh City
This is where I’ll start and end. After a walk around Ben Thanh market and some lunch to get my bearings the next task will be to get a massage. My body is in knots thanks to the London Triathlon I recently did and sitting at computers for 12 hours+ every day. Sounds like Kristin from camelsandchocolate.com had an awesome time at Jasmine Spa in Ho Chi Minh City – I’ve added that to my list of places to check out. In fact I’ve spent just shy of an hour poring over the menu deciding between the massages. I’ll get back to that one.
“Each of our hour-long massages were about $24 each, which is considered “expensive” for Saigon.”
– I went!
I absolutely definitely want to go on a little boat trip down the Mekong Delta too. I’m hoping I don’t have the same experience as Audrey from thatbackpacker.com, but I guess at least her problem trip made for a good story, even if she was put at risk of avian flu. As soon as I see the shops on boats and locals wearing the pyramid hats I’ll feel like I’ve arrived.
READ MORE: 52 Coolest Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City
I want our two-week trip to cover a lot. I never went backpacking round South East Asia when I finished school, so now is my big chance to fit it all in to two weeks. From everything I’ve read about Vietnam it feels like Nha Trang is party central – Adventurous Kate’s tip off about the party boat is a definite must do as far as I’m concerned. I’m going to check out Mamma Linh’s party boat and snorkeling trip. Looks like for $7 I get to eat, drink, party and check out some paradise islands too. A backpacker’s dream.
“As bizarre as it is, it’s one of the most fun activities Nha Trang has to offer.”
Definitely going to go to the mud baths here too [I ended up at the egg mud baths!]. Check out this cool vid from PositiveWorldTravel.com…
READ MORE: 52 Coolest Things to Do in Nha Trang
More on Vietnam travel
Read more about travelling Vietnam. I’ve been twice now!
Click here to read all my advice on travelling to Vietnam. I’ve got over 30 posts, so you’ll be well prepared.
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One of the things I’m most excited about doing in Hoi An is checking out the custom clothing possibilities. Adventurous Kate got some wicked trainers custom made on the Hoi An market stalls for just $65 (£40). She even got adventurouskate.com emblazoned on the side – I need some VickyFlipFlop flip flops for sure. You can get a custom-made suit for around $130 too.
Loving Will Peach’s article on thatbackpacker.com about what to buy in Vietnam – mmm weasel puke and pig’s trotters, where have you been all my life?
“What western girl wouldn’t want a tight-fitting little silk number to take home and wow the boys?”
I really like the idea of doing a cooking lesson like this one Micheal Tieso from artofadventuring.com did in Hoi An at the White Lotus restaurant. For $18, which all went back into the Project Indochina NGO, he got a private lesson in making Vietnamese pancakes, spring rolls and sautéed chicken. The morning started with an informative trip around the local market, followed by a boat ride before getting back into the kitchen. The best part is no doubt getting to eat all your hard work at the end.
READ MORE: 52 Coolest Things to Do in Hoi An
Loving Justin’s feature on 48houradventure.com about what to do in Hanoi. My main inspiration from this is to see the Hanoi Hilton and check out the markets to spend my dong. Also can’t wait to get stuck into some Vietnamese food here – looks like Justin had a right feast.
[Went there, saw some crazy stuff in Hanoi!]
Entry requirements for Vietnam
You’ll need two things to ensure a smooth entry into Vietnam:
– Your passport, which should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of entering the country
– And a Vietnam visa
If you’re not eligible for a Vietnam visa-free stay, and you’re travelling to Vietnam by air, then apply for a Vietnam visa on arrival.
This way, you only need to submit an online application form and pay the service fee; no document is required. You then get a visa approval letter via email, print it out and take it with you to board the flight to Vietnam. You’ll get your visa stamped upon arrival at Vietnam airport by paying the stamping fee in cash.
The processing time for the tourist visa approval letter is 2 working days. If you’re in an emergency, it can be processed in 2 to 4 working hours, during the weekend or public holidays of Vietnam. This is for people on a last minute urgent trip or who didn’t know they needed a visa until they reached the airport.
One important note for applying for a visa on arrival to Vietnam is that to get the visa letter issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department, you need to work with a travel agent in Vietnam. In this regard, Vietnam-visa.com is recommended as it seems to be one of the most experienced service providers; it has been operating since 2007.
Always check your local government website for the latest and most up to date visa information.
It’s all about the junk boat cruises up here, so my research tells me. I checked out the Halong Bay party cruises from Hanoi Backpackers again as recommended by Adventurous Kate, but looks like they don’t do them any more. Shame, looks like she had an amazing time on that trip.
Maybe at 28 I should be looking at something a little more mature anyway. I’ll always have the party boat in Nha Trang for that behavior. Looks like Jayne from 40before30.com had a great time on a more upmarket Junk Boat – she saw a floating sweet and snack shop. That’s the kind of thing I’m into now, and the monkeys, and the views. A junk boat cruise around Halong Bay is a definite for my trip to Vietnam.
“On the other side was a quiet inlet where some tiny monkeys were swinging through the trees.”
[Yep, yep, did both of those things and decided that Halong Bay was the most beautiful place in the world!]
READ MORE: An Awesome Two Week Itinerary for Vietnam
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Insurance for Vietnam
Travel insurance is more important than ever. Make sure you have your travel insurance sorted well in advance before you leave home. Always read the Ts and Cs, so you know what you’re covered for if you should need it.
SafetyWing specialise in travel insurance for digital nomads, so if you’re visiting Vietnam for longer than normal, then check their options out. They also offer the opportunity to sign up while you’re abroad, to have your children covered, and to be covered in your home country if you’ve been travelling for 90 days.
Check out SafetyWing for all the Ts and Cs and details.
Back to Ho Chi Minh City
And then it’s back to Ho Chi Minh City again via a 2-hour plane from Hanoi. I have absolutely no desire to go down the Chi Chi Tunnels like Dave from theplanetd.com did. Just the thought of those claustrophobic crawl ways is enough to make me feel weak and breathless. I’ll just take his word for it that they’re worth a look.
Instead I’ll be stuffing my face on the streets and in the shops – check out the dinosaur egg full of chips in Adam from travelsofadam.com’s post on getting spoilt in Saigon. Looks epic, and weird. And what’s that thing next to it? His post has got me excited for the wedding we’re going to.
“Weddings in Vietnam are really just about the food.”
Ooo yeah. Not sure about the Balut egg he scoffed though. The fertilised duck embryo is boiled and eaten in its shell and is a popular snack on the street food stalls – have to see how many Bia Hoi’s I have before I can even think about doing that.
I’ve picked up a few top tips along the way in my research. I know I have to watch out for the cyclo drivers’ billing as Jayne from 40before30.com points out – they’re slippery buggers. Kristin from camelsandchocolate.com got some cool dresses made in Ho Chi Minh City – just a note to self in case I don’t get time in Hoi An. And turns out Matt from nomadicmatt.com and Alex from alexinwanderland.com didn’t even like Vietnam.
I’m looking forward to making my own mind up, stepping foot in Asia for the first time and hitting the karaoke bars hard!
Check out all my stories from Vietnam, and what Vietnam was really like, for me!
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