Everything you need to know about packing for a trip to Vietnam


Vietnam is a captivating country that seizes your attention from the moment you set foot on its soil. Nestled within the vibrant tapestry of Southeast Asia, Vietnam offers a blend of rapid modernization and enduring traditional charm. Its culinary delights, warm hospitality, and breathtaking landscapes will leave an indelible mark on your soul, whether you’re navigating the limestone formations of Halong Bay or immersing yourself in the bustling nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City.

As you prepare for your Vietnamese adventure, consider packing wisely. The climate here leans toward the semi-tropical, so lightweight and breathable clothing like airy tops and t-shirts are essential, along with a few layers for cooler evenings. Be prepared for Vietnam’s dramatic downpours, particularly during the monsoon season from May to October, by bringing along a sturdy raincoat.

Given Vietnam’s limited access to certain medications, it’s advisable to stock up on any essentials before your departure. Additionally, consider consulting with a healthcare professional regarding recommended vaccinations for your trip. And no journey to Vietnam would be complete without a curated playlist, essential travel apps, and perhaps a selection of literature inspired by the country’s rich culture and history.

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience in Vietnam, where every moment is infused with intrigue and discovery.




Passport, visa, flight tickets, insurance, local currency cash, credit/debit cards medication (including any prescription, or allergy medications), important numbers, luggage: compact suitcase or backpack and day pack and tips for guides.

Camera, other electronics and chargers, travel adaptor if needed, toiletries, including high SPF suncream, and refillable water bottle (provided by Soca Islands).

Lightweight tops: long-sleeved and tees, shorts, loose-fitting trousers, linen trousers, activewear for hiking, swimwear, sunhat and sunglasses, a light waterproof jacket/poncho, warmer layers for the evenings (when applicable), long tops/skirts/trousers for temple visits, comfortable trainers/sneakers with good tread, and sandals/flip-flops.

Useful extras
Prepaid SIM card (available on landing), an RFID blocking holder for credit/debit cards, long-haul flight heroes: eye mask, neck pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, Vietnam travel apps, compact travel towel, and handheld fan.


What to Pack for Vietnam – Essentials


Regardless of your point of origin, ensure you possess a valid passport for the entirety of your time in Vietnam, plus an additional six months beyond. Safeguard yourself against potential loss by storing a photo of your passport’s inside ID page on your phone and via email. Consider bringing a passport holder as well; it provides a convenient way to organise your essential documents in one secure location, minimizing the need for multiple items to track.

Vietnam Visas
The requirement for a visa to enter Vietnam varies based on nationality. Citizens from 24 countries can presently enjoy short visits (usually up to 15 days) without a visa. For citizens from other countries, like the Trinidad and Tobago, an option is to apply online in advance for a single-entry e-Visa, typically valid for 30 days.

Flight Tickets
Be sure to have a hard copy of your flight tickets alongside the digital version on your phone to guarantee coverage, no matter what.

Travel Insurance for Vietnam
Ensure you have valid travel insurance for the entirety of your visit to Vietnam, encompassing coverage for loss/thefts, medical emergencies, and cancellations. Many insurers will email your coverage details for safekeeping. Additionally, save your insurer’s contact number on your phone for prompt assistance if required.

Currency and Cash in Vietnam
The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese dong (VND), available in denominations of 500,000 dong (approximately 25 US dollars), 200,000 dong, 100,000 dong, 50,000 dong, 20,000 dong, 10,000 dong, 5,000 dong, and 1,000 dong. Exchange services are provided at official exchange counters, identifiable by clear signage, and at banks. Additionally, select hotels and tourist agencies offer currency exchange services for major currencies into Vietnamese dong. US dollars are widely accepted in larger establishments such as hotels, shops, and restaurants. It is advisable to withdraw cash upon arrival in Vietnam and maintain a supply for convenience and emergencies. Card payment and ATM facilities may be limited in certain areas, and having cash readily available enhances the enjoyment of local experiences like street food and draft beer stalls.

Credit and Debit Cards
Credit and debit card acceptance varies in Vietnam, especially in rural areas like the villages near Sapa, where it might not be feasible. While ATMs are plentiful in airports, cities, and tourist hotspots, they often impose withdrawal limits of 4-5 million dong per transaction. Be mindful of foreign withdrawal fees and opt for English-language services when available. Consider carrying a spare credit card stored separately for added security in case of wallet loss. Utilise RFID blocking holders to safeguard your cards against contactless fraud.

Medication for Vietnam
To prepare for potential medical needs during your Vietnam trip, assemble a personalised mini medical kit. Include essentials such as painkillers, DEET-based insect repellent, anti-itch ointment, antihistamines, plasters/bandages, and diarrhea treatment like Imodium. Consult with a healthcare professional about malaria tablets, especially if traveling to rural highland areas. Arrange any necessary vaccinations at least six weeks before departure. Don’t forget to bring along any prescription medications, with prescriptions for each. If you have a medical condition or allergy requiring attention, carry a doctor’s letter detailing the condition and treatment needed. Maintain good health practices while traveling by monitoring food and water consumption, protecting yourself from sun exposure, and preventing insect bites. Remember that tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in Vietnam.

Important Numbers in Vietnam
In Vietnam, dial 113 for police assistance, 114 for fire services, 115 for an ambulance, and 9999 for emergency medical response in English. Your embassy can also offer assistance during emergencies. Ensure you have toll-free international numbers for your credit/debit card and mobile phone providers for cancellation from abroad. Additionally, store contact details for your local embassy in Vietnam, as well as for your insurance and flight providers. This preparation can prove invaluable during unforeseen circumstances.

Luggage for Vietnam
Pack a day bag suitable for hiking and other excursions, in addition to a compact suitcase or backpack. The day bag should have sufficient space for your daily necessities, including a water bottle and camera. Opt for a soft-sided bag for the larger luggage to ensure easy accommodation in transfer vehicles, buses, and trains throughout Vietnam.


What to Pack for Vietnam – Accessories


Travel Adapters and Chargers for Vietnam
In Vietnam, plugs typically adhere to Type A, featuring two flat vertical prongs. Additionally, Type C and Type F plugs, equipped with two round pins, are prevalent. Travelers from regions such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand will require adapters to accommodate these variations. However, visitors from North America and the Caribbean may find their plugs compatible without the need for adapters.

Toiletries for Vietnam
Essential toiletries for your trip include deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand gel. Additionally, pack personal items like a hairbrush and razors. Opt for hydrating spray, moisturizer, and eco-friendly bamboo cleansing cloths for added comfort. Given Vietnam’s tropical climate, prioritize high SPF sunscreen and lip balm with SPF to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.

Refillable Water Bottle
A reusable water bottle will be useful throughout your trip, from the plane journey to city excursions and beyond.


What to Pack for Vietnam – Clothing

Guidelines for Dressing in Vietnam Vary Depending on the Season and Location.


Winter Attire
While Vietnam generally enjoys a semi-tropical climate, winters in the northern regions, particularly highland areas like Sapa, can be cool. If you’re visiting Hanoi and its surrounding areas from December to March, pack hoodies or warm sweaters for chilly evenings. Central Vietnam experiences wet weather in November and December, so bring an anorak or raincoat. Conversely, South Vietnam remains warm year-round, necessitating light, breathable clothing and sun protection.

Summer Wear
Opt for loose, breathable attire during the summer months. T-shirts, cotton trousers or shorts, and thin long-sleeved tops are ideal. Lighter colors help combat the heat, along with linen trousers. Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses and a sunhat. Sandals or flip-flops are essential for beach outings, and a light waterproof jacket can come in handy for sudden downpours during the monsoon season.

Outdoor Activities
For hiking and other outdoor pursuits, prioritize light, breathable materials. Cotton t-shirts and lightweight long-sleeved tops are suitable, along with trousers to ward off mosquitoes. Sturdy trekking shoes with good traction are preferable to hiking boots for most trails.

Temple Visits
Vietnamese men and women generally dress quite modestly, and this is especially true if you’re planning to visit a temple. You’ll need to cover your shoulders and knees, so long trousers and long skirts work well. Large colourful scarves and sarongs are popular for temple visits and they can easily be bought in Vietnam. You will also need to take your shoes off, so you might want to have a pair of socks in your bag to avoid bare feet.

City Exploration
For exploring urban areas, opt for light, loose clothing and comfortable footwear. Dressier attire may be suitable for evenings out, while warmer layers are advisable for cooler temperatures, especially in northern regions or air-conditioned environments.

Cultural Considerations
Vietnam is a conservative country, so avoid clothing that is too revealing. Beachwear is acceptable in coastal resorts, but elsewhere, opt for modest attire.

Consider having clothes tailored in Vietnam, especially in places like Hoi An, known for its bespoke clothing. Prices are generally reasonable, and you can bring photos of designs you like for customization.

Clothing Summary
Pack lightweight tops, activewear, swimwear, a light waterproof jacket, warmer layers, modest clothing for temple visits, linen trousers, an evening outfit, comfortable trainers or sneakers, and sandals or flip-flops. Adjust your attire based on the season, location, and cultural norms, ensuring comfort and respectfulness during your time in Vietnam.


What to Pack for Vietnam – Extras


Prepaid SIM Card for Phone Data
Upon arrival in Vietnam, you can conveniently purchase SIM cards with internet packages from kiosks located at any international airport in Vietnam. They are also readily available in phone shops and stalls across various cities and towns, although sorting it out at the airport is generally more convenient. Typically priced around 200,000 dong (equivalent to 10 US dollars), you can acquire a month’s worth of unlimited data. Many bloggers recommend networks like Viettel, Mobifone, and Vinaphone for their extensive coverage across Vietnam.

Vietnam Travel Apps
Several apps can enhance your travel experience in Vietnam:

  • Foody: Explore Vietnam’s culinary scene with Foody, which provides community reviews and tips on the best restaurants, markets, and cafés in your vicinity, allowing you to delve into the nation’s rich gastronomic heritage.
  • Vietnammm: Gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese cuisine with Vietnammm, offering an insider’s view of dishes available at various restaurants. You can even order food through the app using PayPal, immersing yourself in Vietnam’s thriving food culture.
  • Google Translate and Vietnamese Dictionary +: These language apps aid communication by translating signs and phrases. Google Translate’s camera function instantly translates text, while Vietnamese Dictionary + offers a comprehensive phrasebook and flashcards.
  • Grab: Similar to Uber, Grab provides fast and convenient transportation options, including GrabAbike for moto taxis, ensuring seamless travel throughout Southeast Asia.
  • Coc Coc Map: Access real-time information and photos of ATMs, restaurants, and other amenities in your area with this map app, which taps into local knowledge to enhance your exploration.
  • XE Exchange: Simplify currency conversions with XE Exchange, which helps you understand Vietnamese dong prices and exchange rates, facilitating financial transactions with ease.
  • WiFi Finder: Locate nearby reliable WiFi spots, from coffee shops to office buildings, ensuring connectivity during your travels across Vietnam.
  • Google Maps and TripAdvisor: Utilise these essential apps for navigation and access to reviews, ensuring you make the most of your Vietnam adventure.


Other Vietnam Information


The Climate in Vietnam
In North Vietnam, temperatures are cool from December to March, followed by sunny and dry conditions until the onset of the monsoon season from June to October. Central Vietnam generally enjoys abundant sunshine throughout the year, but experiences wet and overcast weather in November and December. South Vietnam maintains warm temperatures year-round, with significant heat in mid-year and frequent daily downpours in July and August.

Tipping in Vietnam
Tipping is appreciated but not obligatory in Vietnam. In restaurants and bars, a 10% service charge is customary but discretionary. Some establishments may include this charge automatically, so it’s advisable to review your bill to avoid duplicate payments.

If you’re on a Soca Islands trip, tipping your Tour Guide and Driver USD $4 – $10 per day is mandatory.

Many Soca Islanders opt to contribute to a collective fund at the trip’s onset, allowing the Tour Leader to distribute tips to restaurant staff, drivers, and additional guides.

Giving Money in Vietnam
When encountering children seeking money in Vietnam, it is suggested that you refrain from giving cash or sweets to discourage organised begging and promote education. Instead, consider donating to local charities aiding homeless children or supporting organisations like Unicef.