Travelling to Vietnam can be daunting for many people, what with the language barriers, potential scams, tourist traps and learning to bargain before you buy. Still that doesn't mean traveller's can't experience the best the country has to offer in seven days.
So how can globe-trotters come out on top? Adventure travel companies are a good start thanks to their guided tours that pairs knowledgeable local guides with a small group of like-minded travellers.
Travel companies also offer flexible itineraries to account for the length of your stay and different trip styles which range from sight seeing to free exploration or even staying with locals for days at a time. There's even themed-trips for lovers of food, history, wildlife that maximize the time you have so you can see all Vietnam has to offer.
10 Tips On How To Do Vietnam Right. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.
1. Visit The Old City Of Hanoi
Busy and bustling, Hanoi and its old-city quarter are one-of-a-kind, where old and new are juxtaposed as classic French-colonial architecture meets the heat and humidity of South East Asia and speedy motorbikes.
2. Take A Junk Boat Through Ha Long Bay
From Hanoi, head for a short two-to-three-day trip to the stunning Halong Bay, featured in the 1974 James Bond Film, "The Man with the Golden Gun". Here, the bay’s stunning limestone monuments rise up from the water to create a truly unique setting. Kayak the bay, visit the caves and enjoy food and drink on your own junk boat.
3. Visit Sa Pa
Like Ha Long Bay, Sa Pa is a doable two-to-three-day trip from Hanoi and takes you into northern Vietnam’s mountains. The remote, rugged landscape and tiered rice terraces give visitors the chance to visit hill tribes and learn more about the area’s local ethnicities.
4. Drink Coffee, Lots Of It
As a former colony of France, there’s bound to be excellent coffee in Vietnam and it sure doesn’t disappoint. Dark with notes of hickory and mocha, Vietnamese coffee is often served with condensed milk, sometimes with yogurt and even still, whipped with a creamy egg foam layer on top.
5. Eat Pho
It's one of Vietnam’s most global exports and what better place in the world to taste the delicious noodles in hot soupy broth than its place of origin, Hanoi, where the speciality is called "pho bo" or beef noodle soup.
6. Check Out The Market
From Cho Hom fabric market to Dong Xuan market and Cho Chau Long market, there are many places to take in the culture, colours and the flavours of Vietnam. From fresh fish that are the catch of the day to meat that’s been transported into the city just that morning, Cho Chau Long is a good place to try something new, whether it’s pig’s blood, herbal remedies for shinier hair or fresh coconut water. This is also your chance to try the likes strange foods like meal worms, water beetles or fertilized embryo egg!
7. Hang Out In Hoi An
As you work your way south, don’t miss out on a stop in Hoi An, just south of Da Nang. Named an UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient harbor town was once a trading port in the 15th century and its streets are as picturesque as they get. Today, get a custom dresses and suits made within the day, go for a meal at Bale Well, cooking classes at Morning Glory Cooking School, a bike ride through the countryside or release a lantern into the river for good luck.
8. Explore The Mekong Delta
Heading south via Ho Chi Minh, be sure to explore the Mekong Delta, home to half of Vietnam’s agriculture with rich, vibrant farms and fields that seem to have been stopped in time. Mosey down along the Mekong River by boat among the mangroves and take it all in. Visit production shops to see coconut products being made, see a clay/pottery workshop or get a whiff of the fish sauce factory.
9. Go For A Homestay
If you really want to get the local experience, try staying in the home of a local Vietnamese family to get an idea of the day-to-day life. Get a home cooked meal and in some cases, homemade rice wine!
10. Karaoke The Night Away In Saigon
When all is said and done, the modern city of Saigon (also called Ho Chi Minh) is somewhere between Bangkok and Hong Kong, with its shopping districts and nightlife scene. It’s a nice place to wind down your trip and pick up some last-minute souvenirs before heading home.
Gizelle Lau's trip was made possible in partnership with Intrepid Travel