As someone who has traveled solo for well over ten years (God, my age really is starting to show! LOL), I was definitely excited, but also a bit apprehensive about doing some Vietnam solo travel.
If I’m honest, prior to this trip, I really hadn’t been in Asia for a solid ten years and just didn’t know what to expect from Vietnam and found myself starting to wonder, “what is Vietnam famous for anyway?”
As a result:
My anxiety started to kick in full force and I kept thinking totally random, insane, panic-inducing thoughts like, “O-M-G, what if I don’t get my visa? What if I don’t like the food? What if I don’t make any friends? What if the food makes me sick and I have to spend a solid 3 days in the bathroom? What if I’m unable to cross the street because of all the scooters?”
Talk about dark times inside my head.
After traveling through Vietnam for a solid 3 months, I am DELIGHTED to inform you that about 99.99% of my fears were totally unfounded.
Because in truth:
Vietnam solo travel is a dream.
And that’s not like a roses and perfect sunsets couple’s dream. Although there’s plenty of that too.
I’m talking about being a solo traveler’s dream – making a 3 week Vietnam itinerary ideal for any and all travelers.
Because with easy transportation up and down this long, lanky country and copious amounts of hostels around every corner, you’ll quickly find yourself swimming in a sea of like-minded backpackers and hopping on a stranger’s motorbike as you swerve to dodge a rogue water buffalo while whizzing through dirt roads that are almost as curvy as Beyonce herself.
Since we all know that nothing can be quite as perfect as Beyonce, Vietnam definitely doesn’t come without it’s safety concerns.
In this post, I gonna tell you basically EVERYTHING you need to know about Vietnam solo travel.
Not only will get expert tips on how to stay safe in Vietnam, but you’ll also learn about some of the top places to visit in Vietnam, find out where to stay in Vietnam, get an user-helpful, Vietnam itinerary, discover the best time to visit Vietnam, and even begin to understand how to get around this amazingly beautiful, BUT BIG, country.
A whole lot of info jam-packed into this not-so-tiny-little post about Vietnam solo travel.
If you’re ready, get those jazz hands out because we’re about to kick it…Vietnam style,
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Vietnam Solo Travel Safety Tips
***REALLY want to travel through Vietnam like a PRO? Then check out 29 of my ABSOLUTE BEST, INSIDER VIETNAM TRAVEL TIPS!***
Like every country on the planet:
Vietnam does not come without its fair share of safety concerns. One of which rears its ugly head as soon as you, or that stranger you just befriended, get behind the handlebars of a motorbike.
In truth though:
Most road-related safety concerns lie outside the city limits and in the vast, incredibly beautiful, rice patty laden fields of Vietnam’s vast countryside.
I mean don’t get me wrong:
City driving still comes with its own risks, but it tends to be a bit slower, especially since you’ll constantly find yourself crawling through ridiculous amounts of heavy traffic.
Out on those quiet, backcountry roads, you’ll find nothing but open space…as well as poor road quality, a snake every now and again, and enormous trucks that barrel through the mountains with absolutely no regard for anyone around them.
So, that’s wh, safety rule number one is…
1. Be Careful When You Ride a Motorbike (If you decide to ride one) and Always Wear a Helmet
Before we even talk about motorbike safety, let’s discuss if you even SHOULD drive one.
Because while I know it may seem like a good idea, and a great way to save money, motorbikes can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you’ve never driven one before.
In my humble opinion, I would suggest NOT driving your own motorbike while in Vietnam. Unless of course you know what you’re doing and have tons of experience with it.
Because for me, the risk is just NOT worth it.
I mean, not only are the roads here incredibly narrow and curvy, but drivers here tend to basically do whatever they want on the road, making it even more difficult for you to drive safely.
If you’re planning your very own Vietnam itinerary and only have 2 weeks in the country, why drive a motorbike and risk spending your entire vacation in the hospital?
And lest you think I’m exaggerating about the number of motorbike accident here, I promise you, I’m not
Because during my short time here:
I’ve met no less than three different people who have gotten into serious accidents on a motorbike (all resulting in hospital stays).
One person even died in Ho Chi Minh city while I was there because of a serious, motorbike accident.
Please, please consider carefully if you really want to take the risk and drive a motorbike yourself. And if hopping on a motorbike doesn’t feel like something you’re comfortable doing, then don’t let any of your new solo traveling besties peer pressure you into doing it.
I totally sound like your mom right now but personal safety when driving a motorbike in Vietnam is a HUGE concern, especially since no one is 100% immune from personal disaster while having fun on vacation.
If you do decide to ride a motorbike (as either a passenger or driver), ALWAYS wear a helmet, go slowly, and never, ever, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, drink and drive.
Giant-sized lecture over because we’re about to move on to some other, Vietnam solo travel safety concerns.
2. Protect Yourself Against Petty Theft
Another major concern in Vietnam is petty theft.
Thankfully, you probably won’t encounter any Law and Order type homicides while you’re here since violent crime is extremely rare.
You definitely might find people who will either try to pick your pocket or steal your cell phone while they drive past on a motorbike.
Therefore, to protect yourself, ladies:
Leave those purses and clutches at home (unless you have an extra awesome, anti-theft bag).
Put on an extra secure bra, stuff it full of dong, (the name of the local currency, just in case you thought we were getting super risque here at Girl with the Passport) and always be mindful of passing motorbikes.
Try to carry all your valuables in a secure, anti-theft man purse (AKA satchel) or in your front pockets.
And if that woman of your dreams does try to comes up to you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear, gird your loins because she’s probably trying to pick your pocket,
However, in spite of all my warnings:
Vietnam is still an incredibly safe place for solo travelers, with most cities being totally lovely and devoid of even the most minor of crimes.
Just be sure to keep an extra close eye on your belongings in SUPER big cities like Ho Chi Minh, where petty theft of phones and wallets is all too common (So, don’t walk around with your phone in your hand. Also, be extra vigilant when withdrawing money from ATMs since I caught a guy trying to pick my pocket after I withdrew money in ho Chi Minh).
***Still feeling a little nervous? Well, then you can also travel with some of my favorite safety devices for solo female travelers! These include the Pacsafe Messenger Bag (It has a wire running through the shoulder strap so that no one can slash your bag), a locking electronics bag, a personal safety alarm, and a lock. And for more info on ANY of these products, just check out my post on 24 Travel Essentials for Women. Also, always carry only what you need for the day with you, and leave everything else (credit cards, cash, passport, etc.) securely inside the safe back at your hotel.***
3. Don’t Leave Your Checked Luggage Unlocked During Your Flight to Vietnam
Truth be told, I never check luggage and always travel carry on only.
I PERSONALLY haven’t had this issue.
I have heard many people complain about airport baggage handlers tampering with their luggage and stealing their belongings.
If you are planning to travel to Vietnam with checked luggage (or you’re going to fly within the country itself), then always make sure that your bag is locked prior to your flight.
You could always just keep all of your valuables with you, stored safely inside your carry on bag.
And if the worst should happen and you do suspect something has been stolen:
Always report the incident to the airline and the airport authorities immediately.
4. Don’t Drink the Tap Water
Not surprisingly, much of the water in Vietnam is contaminated with all manner of amoebas and aquatic creatures since it’s usually being transported through out-of-date pipes.
Avoid consuming tap water (that includes using it to brush your teeth) and drink either bottled water or pre-boiled water instead.
This really isn’t a huge deal since most hotels provide you with complimentary bottles of water daily.
If you are in need of some clean drinking water, then just head to your local convenience store and buy a HUGE AF jug of bottled water (You could also just carry a filtering water bottle instead and help save the environment!).
And when you are drinking bottled water:
Always be sure to check the seal first, just to make sure that your water hasn’t been tampered with (This isn’t an issue in Vietnam but just a good, general safety practice)!
***While we’re on the subject of water and plumbing, most of the bathrooms that you will frequent in Vietnam will want you to throw your used toilet paper in the garbage and NOT down the toilet. I know, I thought this was weird at first too since toilet paper always goes in the toilet back in the good old US of A. But, this practice has to do with the fact that most of the plumbing in Vietnam is not exactly top-notch and can’t really handle a whole lot of toilet paper going down the toilet.***
5. Don’t Get in an Unmarked Taxi or Motorbike
This one is just common sense and good practice no matter where you are in the world.
In Vietnam specifically, I always use Grab (the Vietnamese equivalent of Uber) since it’s cheaper than a local taxi and generally pretty safe.
I’ve used Grab literally hundreds of times and have never had an issue (To use it, just download the app on your phone and pay in cash, the amount that the app dictates after your ride is complete since the app won’t accept foreign credit cards without a local telephone number).
But, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that:
Be sure to only use metered taxis and preferably from the larger registered taxi companies like Mai Linh Taxi and Vinasun.
When you can, be sure to give your driver exact change.
I’ve had drivers in the past refuse to give me my change back or give me incorrect change in an effort to try and scam me out of my money.
It is a very un-fun experience, to say the least.
If you do feel like you’re owed money or like something is amiss, learn some basic Vietnamese phrases and say something (in a kind way).
Because in reality:
Many street vendors and taxi drivers will commonly overcharge westerners since they are usually living well below the poverty line and consider most foreigners to be rich and capable of spending more money on everyday goods and services (I don’t blame them but the unofficial tourist tax can get a bit annoying after a while).
If a situation ever gets out of hand and a vendor or cab driver becomes overly aggressive and money-driven, you can always just ignore them and walk away.
***If you ever have a real emergency and need to call the police, just dial 113. However, most operators won’t be able to speak English so that may not be super helpful. Alternatively, you could also call your local embassy or ask other locals for help since most people are incredibly friendly and only too happy to help you if you’re in need.***
7. Be Extremely Careful When Crossing the Street
I’m originally from NYC and I still consider the traffic in Vietnam to be next-level crazy.
Not only are there a ton of motorbikes cruising along sometimes not-so-well-maintained roads, but the majority of the drivers don’t really follow any rules of the road and basically do whatever they want; a reality that can transform something simple, like crossing the street, into a somewhat, monumental task that can feel an awful lot like mission impossible.
The trick to crossing the road safely is to obviously, look both ways before you cross the street.
Once you find a small gap in traffic and are ready to walk across the road:
Hold your hand out, in the direction of oncoming traffic, and make a stop-like gesture, just so that people know to go around you.
It’s just a matter of walking with the flow of traffic and letting motorbikes go around you since drivers will deliberately try to avoid you.
Once you’re used to it, it’s really not as difficult as it first seems.
***Also, depending on where you are and how late at night it is, do be extra careful when going out in the evenings alone. In bigger cities, like Hanoi, it’s usually pretty safe to walk around alone at any time of day. But, I would definitely not walk around late at night, alone, in more rural areas where crime rates tend to be higher.***
Vietnam Solo Travel: Everything You Need to Know About Public Transportation!
Since Google maps generally doesn’t have amazing, up to date information on local bus services in most major, Vietnamese cities (Yup, I’m looking at you Ho Chi Minh), you may want to consider other forms of transportation to help get you around, like Vietnam by train.
Most cities definitely won’t have anything that even remotely resembles either a metro or subway.
And as you probably already guessed:
Vietnam definitely isn’t home to some of the most walkable cities on the planet.
What’s a girl, or guy, to do when embarking on a bit of solo Vietnam travel?
If you feel comfortable doing so, you could always rent a motorbike.
You’ll find shops renting them out literally everywhere, most of which offer pretty affordable rental rates.
Any shop you rent from should ALWAYS provide you with a helmet.
If they don’t, walk away.
Any shop you rent from should also provide you with a phone number that you can call, just in case of an emergency, like a flat tire.
if not, again, walk away.
But, what if you don’t feel comfortable driving a motorbike by yourself?
Not to worry because there are still plenty of affordable public transportation options available to you.
The first of which is Grab, your new best friend!
Just think of it as Lyft or Uber, but for Southeast Asia.
This company offers super, duper affordable rates for both motorbike and regular taxis (FYI: Motorbikes will always be cheaper).
To use this nifty little app though:
You’ll need to purchase a local sim card, unlock your phone (You can easily do both these things at the airport, upon arrival), and download the app to your phone, once you have access to data,
Your next Grab ride is just a quick click away. All you need to do is enter your start and end destination, and grab will take care of the rest.
Not only will Grab provide you with a map, to let you know exactly how much your ride will cost, but this app will also show you where your driver is on that map, just so that you know when to expect them.
Before you ride off into the sunset with your driver, always make sure to check the vehicle’s license plate first, just to make sure that it matches the one in your order.
If it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to cancel the ride and order another.
But if Grab doesn’t feel like your thing, then you can always try Xe Om, or an unofficial motorbike taxi instead.
They can be found all along the streets of Vietnam and are very often offered by some regular guy who has a little free time and is looking for a bit of extra drinking money.
That being said:
This definitely isn’t the SAFEST form pf public transportation in Vietnam and is best avoided late night when your driver could very well be looking for a lot more than drinking money.
You could always skip Xe Om and Grab altogether and just use a metered taxi instead.
Most of them are pretty good and super reliable.
Taxis are, without a doubt, the most expensive form of public transportation that I’ve listed here, but they’re also still pretty darn cheap since, well, most everything in Vietnam is pretty reasonably priced.
Not all Vietnamese taxi companies are created equally.
The only two companies that I’d recommend using are VIna Sun (the taxis will be white) and Mailin (the taxis will be green).
The drivers for both of these companies are reputable and know to put their meters on when you enter the taxi (If they don’t, be sure to make this happen since, although unlikely, a driver could try to drive off route in an attempt to run up your meter. FYI, I also like to track my driver with Google maps just in case they end up accidentally going the wrong way).
But Wait! When is the Best Time to Visit Vietnam and do some Vietnam Solo Travel?
Ahh, I’m so glad you asked!
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Northern Vietnam is either between March and May (This season is especially lovely since most of the flowers in the countryside are in full bloom) or between September and November since you’ll be able to avoid the intense heat of the summer and the regular, afternoon downpours of the winter.
As for Southern Vietnam:
The best time to visit is generally between December and April, when the weather is relatively dry and slightly cooler than during the “hot season” (FYI: South Vietnam is pretty damn hot all year long, so the difference in temperature between the hot and cool-season really isn’t THAT significant).
Now, having said all that, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.
Because in truth, the best time to visit Vietnam is whenever you want really.
There’s talk of ‘best times to visit’, but I think that’s a load of b.s.
Vietnam has a rainy season, which usually falls between April and September, and a dry season, which usually falls between October and March.
Rainy season doesn’t actually mean that you’ll experience torrential downpours all day, every day. It just means that you’ll experience about an hour, sometimes two, of rain, every day, usually in the afternoon.
Nothing too terrible. Plus, hotel prices during this time of year actually tend to be a lot cheaper since most people hear “rainy season” and stay far, far, far away (You might also sometimes encounter a monsoon so packing rain gear would be a good idea).
Rainy season can actually be a really good time to visit Vietnam, at least if you’re looking to save money (And I mean really unless you’re a trust fund baby, who isn’t?).
So, the real moral of this rather long-winded story?
If you’ve got a holiday coming up and you feel the urge, in your bones, to visit Vietnam, then like Nike says, just do it!
***FYI: The weather in northern and southern Vietnam can vary greatly, so prepare accordingly. There are also several mountainous regions in the north that experience incredibly cold winters (and temperatures) that may require you to wear a winter coat. Because yes, contrary to popular belief, parts of Vietnam really can get straight up, COLD!***
10 Amazing Places to Visit in Vietnam (FYI: This list is in no way exhaustive)
Starting in the north and working your way south is a pretty common Vietnam solo travel route.
Hanoi is an obvious first stop for anyone planning their very own, Vietnam itinerary.
Not only is this city located in the northern most reaches of the country, within close proximity of both Sapa and Halong Bay (more on both of those amazing places later), but it’s also the capital of Vietnam.
I pinkie promise that you will NOT run out of uber-fun things to see and do while you’re here.
Super snazzy, mildly cultural attractions like Thăng Long imperial citadel, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, West Lake, the Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Uncle Ho for the win!), and more!
If I were a betting woman (Thankfully I’m not because, with my luck, I’d probably be even more fiscally responsible than I am now), I’d predict that your visit to Hanoi would center around the city’s enchanting, always aesthetically pleasing, old town.
The traffic through this part of the city can get a bit intense with streets that are toothpick-level narrow and packed with hordes of locals who are forever zooming past on their motorbikes.
But, it’s all good since the chaos here just adds to the slightly raucous charm of this amazing place.
Especially since this part of the city is also loaded with a multitude of crowded bars that continually have intoxicated patrons spilling out onto the streets, at all hours of the night (Or morning as the case may be. Talk about a real Hanoi-style hoot and nanny).
All kidding aside though:
There’s really nothing quite like swan diving into the chaos since this part of the city is an incredibly fun and vibrant place to be, particularly at 4:00 am (Sorry, but this Golden Girl in training will NEVER be out that late since I can barely stay up past 10:00 pm).
Aside from the hella awesome nightlife, what really sets this city apart is its unique architecture.
The city itself is located near the border with China, meaning that there is a clear, Chinese influence on the style of buildings that have been erected here.
An influence that has also crept its way into Hanoi’s diverse, local food scene, creating a series of divine, totally innovative, uniquely Northern dishes that DUH, you MUST try!
It’s actually your duty to your stomach to try local favorites like pho (A rice noodle soup with a flavorful broth and a generous helping of meat. For the best Northern-style pho in Hanoi, head to Head to Phở Gia Truyen, at 49 Bat Dan Street), bún chả (A heavy sweet and sour broth with fish sauce, vermicelli noodles, and charcoal-grilled pork. For the real deal, go to the restaurant at 24 Le Van Huu since this is where Barrack Obama and Anthony Bordain dined together), bun rieu (crab noodle soup), banh cuon (steamed rice rolls), xoi (sticky rice), bun thang (fermented fish paste with noodles), and bun dau mam tom (fermented shrimp and noodles).
You better get those elastic waist pants ready now since you’ve got a whole lot of eating to do and not a lot of time! If you want, you could even do a day trip and check out some of the amazing things to do in Ninh Binh since it’s pretty close to Hanoi.
Little Charm Hanoi Hostel (Budget) – If you’re looking for anything budget, Vietnam will absolutely deliver. And Little Charm Hanoi Hostel is no exception since this place actually comes with a pool that has its very own, uber-fancy, waterfall features (feel free to “oh” and “ah” at will). And while the beds here are only bunkbeds (because yes, this is indeed, still a hostel), they’ll cost you just $18 per night and come fully equipped with comfy mattresses, privacy curtains, and individual reading lights.
The Oriental Jade Hotel (Mid-range) – With a rooftop pool and stately rooms that start at just $112 per night, this extra-plush accommodation in Hanoi really is all that and a bag of chips (talk about a 90’s throwback) since it features an all-inclusive breakfast, super friendly staff, and a very central locale that is sure to make all of my solo travelers out there extra happy!
***What, want to know even more about Hanoi? Then check out my detailed, 2 days in Hanoi itinerary.***
2. Halong Bay
While you’re in the north:
There are a few stops that you absolutely MUST make along the way, and Halong Bay is one of them!
Home to one of the best beaches in Vietnam:
Halong Bay sits along the beautiful, South China Sea (FYI, don’t mention the South China Sea in front of any locals since the name and ownership of the bay is a hotly debated topic) and is full of thousands of ox exquisite, karst Limestone islands.
Varying in size:
The majority of these islands are completely uninhabited, meaning that you have ample opportunity to spend a day, or two, out at sea, exploring the area’s dynamic landscape via kayak, cruise ship, or by simply swimming through the Bay’s wonderfully blue water.
Since it will take you between three and three and a half hours to get here by bus, from Hanoi, I HIGHLY recommend spending AT LEAST one night here (Two if you can since your experience will be way more relaxing this way).
Don’t worry about finding a tour though!
Because there are plenty of tour operators, departing from Hanoi, who will be only too happy to escort you to the bay.
And once there:
You’ll get to enjoy a scenic, overnight cruise through the area’s incredible landscape.
If you can, be sure to book a tour that includes a trip to Cát Bà island, as well as a visit to the nearby, floating markets.
***If you have time, and $135 to spare, I definitely recommend this 2 day, 1 night, Halong Bay Tour aboard a 4-star, cruise ship. Not only are the staff amazing, but the boat is in great conditon, the food is DELICIOUS, and the trips was incredibly well organized, making for a fantastically fun, Halong Bay experience.***
3. Sa Pa
Located just five hours away from Hanoi by bus (FYI: Trains to Sa Pa take longer but are over night so you can save some time and money by booking a sleeper car) is the tiny town of Sa Pa, quietly tucked away among the vast mountain ranges of Vietnam.
Established as a hill station by the French in 1922:
Sa Pa is fast becoming an ncreasingly popular destination among tourists and is now at the very center of the tourism industry in Northwest Vietnam.
A lot of the experiences that you’ll enjoy here have are definitely a bit, how shall I say this, OVER-embellished for your sake.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of fun and the people are incredibly kind. But, I seriously doubt the authenticity of it all.
The H’mong women who guide you through the mountains here will hand you a small animal made of grass,
A lovely gesture…that they share with every foreigner they meat.
While this fact definitely doesn’t detract from the wonderfulness of this act, just know that the entire experience is basically being created primarily for your benefit.
That being said:
Go all the same since the mountain views here are magnificent (even if the intense fog can literally, rain on your panoramic views parade) and this region really is unlike any other place in Vietnam.
Just don’t expect to have the town all to yourself since an explosion in local tourism has led to the haphazard development of buildings in a very upward direction.
It’s all good since you’re not really here to enjoy the town but to trek through a stunning, natural landscape that is filled with cascading rice terraces and tiny, hill-tribe villages that the modern world seems to have forgotten.
Lenh’s Family House (Budget) – This is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking to get away from it all. Because while you won’t have easy access to the center of town, you will be able to walk out your front door and into a stunning natural landscape is filled with beautiful hiking trails and stunning waterfalls. The staff here are also lovely and will gladly assist you with tour bookings, as well as any future plans for onward travel. Plus, if you’re keen, there’s even a delicious, family-style dinner on offer that makes for a great way to meet fellow, like-minded travelers. Besides, beds here start at just $8 a night so really, how can you go wrong?
Silk Path Grand Resort & Spa (Mid-range) – Another pool? Yep! One that also overlooks the vast valleys and expansive mountain ranges that first made Sapa famous. So, just think of this place as the very definition of affordable luxury since rooms here start at just $70 per night! And if you’re up for a bit of culture, there’s even an on-site, karaoke joint where you can sing your heart out, as well as a spa where you can relax and embrace all that the luxe life has to offer,
4. Phong Nha
Start chatting with any nearby backpackers about their upcoming, Vietnam itinerary and you’ll immediately notice a common trend.
Sorry, but Halong Bay is kind of done.
Yeah, it’s just way too overcrowded for its own good (This is 100% true, but since it’s still insanely pretty, you NEED to go.).
Now, everyone who is in the know (which includes you) is going to Ninh Binh.
Get out ahead of all those same same but different backpackers and visit Phong Nha before it loses some of its natural charm (Quick, before all the tourists, begin to descend upon this place like a plague of locusts).
It’s a tiny town that really doesn’t have too much going on.
So why go?
Well, just think of it as Halong Bay but on land since you’ll find nothing but lush, green rice fields, with Vietnam’s iconic water buffalo sprinkled in for good measure, and exquisite, limestone formations that soar endlessly skywards.
The real story here extends well beyond the fabulous scenery.
Because beneath the limestone mountains and enchanting rice fields you’ll find the world’s largest cave.
To access this cave for yourself, you’ll need to hire a guide and drop a few grand on a four-day trek through the cave.
If your budget isn’t quite that expansive, then there are other, smaller caves that you can visit, for a WHOLE lot less money.
If you want to do what all the cool kid tourists are doing, then be sure to stop by Paradise Cave with its highly- accessible walking paths, ample lighting, and super cool scenery.
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous then you can always don a helmet, complete with a super snazzy head torch, and book a day, overnight, or a multi-day trek through Son Doong with Oxalis Tours, a fantastic, local tour company that employs a multitude of fantastic, local people.
Phong Nha Tarzan’s Homestay (Budget) – This place is run by a Super, SUPER (I cannot throw enough “supers” in there) accommodating family that helps make this a truly wonderful place to stay. Late arrival? No worries. Early arrival? No worries! Need help planning your trip? No worries. Just wanna hang? No worries. This place is also run like a true homestay, so if you want to get to know a truly lovely Vietnamese family, and don’t expect uber-luxe amenities, then this is a great spot for you, and all for just $9 per night!
Phong Nha Farmstay (Mid-range) – Firepits may sound totally useless when you’re out during the day and dripping with sweat, but come nightfall, you’ll definitely want a cozy place where you can curl up with a glass of wine and a nice warm blanket. The rooms here are also comfy and the grounds stunning, and fully equipped with a spa, a giant chessboard (I mean really, who doesn’t need that?), a fantastic restaurant, and a fab, on-site pool. Seriously, what more do you need, especially when all of this will cost you just $40 per night!
5. Hue (Pronounced “Hway”)
Continue Southwards and the former, ancient capital of the Nguyen emperors is your obvious, next destination.
And while many of the city’s finest buildings were destroyed during the American War:
This city still has an Imperial charm about it, thanks in large part to its scenic location along the Perfume River and its seamless blending of sleek, modern hotels tower with crumbling, 19th-century, citadel walls.
While you’re here, be sure to pay a visit to the royal palace, Thien Mu Pagoda, the provincial museum, and more, especially if you’re total history nerd like me!
Don’t forget to top off all of this historic awesomeness with a few drinks at Brown Eyes Bar, a popular watering hole amongst locals, tourists, and ex-pats alike.
Codo Dorm Garden (Budget) – While the facilities here are basic (read: no pool), they’re still very clean and more than enough for anyone who wants a bed that costs just $12 per night. The family running this homestay-esque place is also super helpful, incredibly friendly, and even includes a delicious breakfast (that features sushi) with the cost of your stay!
Vedana Lagoon Resort & Spa (Mid-range) – Often described as paradise found, Vedana Lagoon offers all of its guests insane perks like a morning yoga class, a pool, free bike, and kayak rentals, beautiful lagoon-side views, and even a luxurious, daily, buffet breakfast. And while all of the rooms here, which start at $75 per night, are located outside of Hue, the hotel’s serene location and stunning, natural views more than make up for its not-so-central location.
6. Hoi An
If you’ve been holding your breath, desperately searching for a place where you can stop, relax, and take dreamy, Instagram pics along colorful, lantern-lit streets, then this is the city of your dreams (PS: There’s also some BEYOND amazing vegan and vegetarian food in Hoi An if you’re into that sort of thing).
Because Hoi An IS 100% that place.
Filled with cobblestone streets, historic, yellow buildings, and vibrant lanterns that magically light up the night, Hoi An really is a city unlike any other in Vietnam.
That being said:
Hoi An definitely isn’t a huge party spot.
If all of Ke$sha’s songs have basically become your personal life anthem, then you may wanna take the party elsewhere and make your visit here a brief one. Just one of my personal Hoi An travel tips.
Relax and take some wicked awesome Hoi An tours. Because honestly? You may just wanna stay here forever since you could easily spend your days here biking through the rice paddy filled countryside, sipping on Egg Coffee at Hoi Ann Roastery, meandering through the quaint, historic buildings of the Old Town (be sure to stop at the iconic, Japanese Bridge along the way), sunbathing at nearby An Bang Beach, or enjoying a fantastic day trip to the My Son ruins,
No matter what though:
Definitely take some time to unwind and enjoy Hoi An’s wonderfully peaceful atmosphere.
Hoi An Farm Village (Budget) – Okay, so while this place may not have a pool, it does sit along a super grammable pond that is filled with its fair share of ethereal AF waterlilies. You’ll also enjoy friendly staff members, comfortable/clean beds with linens, free WIFI, a warm shower with fantastic water pressure, and a delicious buffet or a la carte breakfast during your stay here. So, while this hostel does sit a bit outside of the city center, the fact that rooms here start at just $10 per night and are very near the area’s beautiful, Ha My Beach more than make up for the not-so-convenient location.
Silk Village Resort & Spa by Embrace (Mid-range) – First things first, there’s a pool. And thank goodness for that! But, oh snap, wait, because there are actually two of them, both of which sit nestled within a historic, silk-weaving village that has been transformed into an ultra-polished hotel that sits just 2 km away from Hoi An’s magical, Old Town. Elegant rooms here also start at $50 per night and include a balcony (or terrace), a plush sitting area, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and complimentary tea/coffee making facilities. Heck, there’s even an awesome, onsite. floating restaurant that you can visit if you want to make all of your most fervent Instagram dreams come true.
What, looking for an alcoholic beverage that is a bit more refined than beer?
If you are then Dalat is the place for you since this region is home to some of the country’s few wineries.
If wine culture really isn’t your thing, then not to worry because Dalat is a beautiful city that sits high in the mountains, making it a popular, weekend getaway for locals looking to escape the chaos of Ho Chi Minh city.
And since you’re in the mountains anyway:
Why not do like the locals do and go chasing waterfalls?
Because there are loads of day tours here that leave from the city and take you to some of the area’s many, icy cold, mountain streams, and ethereal waterfalls. You also might stop at a coffee plantation along the way and get to try a local favorite, weasel poop coffee (Trust me, it is 100% safe since all of the coffee here is thoroughly cleaned after it is pre-digested by a local, in residence, weasel.).
You could also stick to the city center and explore Dalat’s enormous central market, take a ride on the alpine roller coaster, enjoy the panoramic views from the Robin Hill cable car, or visit the former royal palace.
Whatever you do though:
Do NOT leave Dalat without visiting the Crazy House, a famous, local, surrealist, architectural gem that is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
And yes, that’s a promise.
Dalat Happy Hostel (Budget) – Located within walking distance of all of Dalat’s major attractions is this, family-run hostel, with a totally down-to-earth vibe that any backpacker’s out there are sure to love. But, you know what else is amazing? The price, since beds here, start at just $6 per night and include a delicious, home-cooked, Full English breakfast. Plus, the owners here are incredibly friendly and always up for a chat as you become their impromptu English teacher (Not to worry though since it’s all in good fun).
Villa Vista (Mid-range) – Beautifully styled, French Colonial-style rooms start at just $50 per night and are perfectly complemented by the hotel’s friendly atmosphere, and fantastic, panoramic views. Well-appointed rooms here also include a TV, a minifridge, a fan, and tea/coffee makers. Breakfast is also available, at an additional cost (But it’s SO worth it), and can be served either in-room or in the hotel’s relaxed, communal dining area.
8. Mui Ne
By far one of the best beachside towns in Vietnam:
Mui Ne itself is a quiet place that is oddly enough, packed with Russians (and menus in Russian too).
And while there are also plenty of restaurants, resorts, and shops to keep you occupied for the better part of a day or two, the real purpose of any trip here is to lie along the area’s perfect, white sand beaches (You could even try windsurfing since there is a ton of wind here) and frolic through the perfectly warm, ultra-blue waters.
When you’ve done about as much tanning as your skin can possibly handle, head for the local sand dunes and rent a four-wheeler (quad bike? is there a difference?) so that you can experience this magical place at your leisure.
You’ll get brownie points if you decide to stop by at either sunrise or sunset since the views here will be extra spectacular.
If you want, you can also visit the local Fairy Pool (You’ll walk through a local stream to see a charming little waterfall) and fishing village since the trip to the sand dunes will take a fair bit of time.
Mui Ne Hills Backpackers (Budget) – A hostel with two pools? Yup, that’s the world you live in, so welcome to this amazingly magical place. But wait, because it gets better since a stay here (Which starts at an insanely reasonable $3.50 per night) also includes a rooftop jacuzzi, a ping pong table, a big-screen TV, and daily happy hours. There are also private rooms if you want ‘em, dorms if you need ‘em, and a/c in all, as well as all of your basic services, like a 24-hour front desk and laundry facilities (Just in case you spilled beer down your top during yesterday’s flip cup competition).
Muine Bay Resort (Mid-range) – If you’re looking to spill out of bed in the morning and walk straight onto a beach studded with palm trees, then this is the place for you. Think massages, delicious food, free breakfast, enchanting views of Mui Ne Bay and Hon Lao Island, outstanding hospitality, a karaoke bar, tennis courts, and a pool…and all for just $54 per night. Plus, this place is located just 3 km from Mui Ne’s famous, Red Sand Dunes, making it super easy to visit one of the area’s most notable attractions.
9. Ho Chi Minh City
This is the big one, and a must-see if you’re planning your very own, Vietnam solo travel itinerary.
It’s overwhelming and exhausting and absolutely epic, all in one.
Because whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.
If you meant to take that Vietnamese cooking class or are dying to go wild at a Vietnamese club, then do all that (and more) here (FYI: Lush has some pretty amazing, Ladies’ night deals for anyone in the market for some).
You could also stop by Nam Silk and get that custom made, purple suit that you’ve always been DYING to own (Talk about being a BALLER) or sample some of the city’s best craft beer at either Pasteur or Heart of Darkness.
Don’t forget to grill your own meat at 5KU and have an absurdly expensive cocktail at Sky bar, which sits atop the iconic, Bitexco tower and offers you amazing panoramic views of the slightly smog-ridden city.
And some things not to do?
Why spend basically any time at all in Bui Vien since it’s basically a backpacker’s sinkhole and total rubbish.
I promise, this city truly is so much more than that. So:
Slowly back away from the massive, rubbish, faceless clubs and visit some of the city’s more notable attractions, including The War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, Independence Palace, Giac Lam Pagoda, the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ben Thanh Market, the Central Post Office, Book Street, and so much more!
***Since I couldn’t mention all of the amazing things to do in Ho Chi Minh here, feel free to check out my 3 days in Ho Chi Minh Itinerary!***
RedDoorz Plus (Budget) – If you’re looking to recharge after those many nights spent in not-so-great hostels, then RedDoorz is a great way to do so but without breaking the bank. Sure, rooms here are basic, but they’re clean and comfortable and start at just $16 per night.
Sherwood Residence (Mid-range) – Located on beautiful Pasteur Street, Sherwood offers guests clean, comfortable, western-style rooms that start at $130 per night. There’s also a pool and a fitness center on-premises, as well as shuttle services (to specific parts of the city), babysitting services, and front desk travel assistance. Plus, if you’re looking to save money by doing a bit of cooking for yourself. then you can also enjoy the small kitchenette that comes with some of the rooms here.
10. Phu Quoc
Surrounded by pristine, white-sand beaches and large tracts of dense jungle:
Phu Quoc is an island off the coast of Southern Vietnam that is rapidly transitioning from a sleepy, tropical oasis into a must-see, beachside destination for Western ex-pats and sun-worshippers alike.
Beyond the mega-resorts that line both Long Beach and Sao Beach, there’s still some room for adventurous souls to get off the beaten path and escape the sometimes not-so-clean waters that lap against the shore.
During your time on this Vietnamese, island paradise, feel free to dive the local reefs, kayak through the stunning bays, explore the island via motorbike, or just chillax on the beach while listening to the waves roll in.
All of which would be closely followed by a relaxing, seaside massage and a fresh, seafood dinner.
Because let’s be real:
Sunbathing the day away really is A LOT of hard work!
Hai Anh Guesthouse (Budget) – Located on the island’s much quieter, east coast, Hal Anh Guesthouse sits just 4 km away from Ham Ninh fishing village and 6 km from Phu Quoc International Airport, making it a bit far from some of the island’s most popular attractions. However, once here, Guests can enjoy clean, simply furnished rooms, starting at $8 per night, that include free bike rentals, free WIFI access, cable TV, a fan, an attached bathroom with free toiletries, an outdoor terrace, laundry facilities, and a communal kitchen area.
Premier Residences Phu Quoc Emerald Bay (Mid-range) – Tucked away amidst a grove of palm trees that sit along one of the island’s many, white-sand beaches is Premier Residences Pho Quoc Emerald Bay, an upscale resort with well appointed rooms that include Wi-Fi, marble baths, rainfall showers, and exquisite, beachside views. Breakfast is also included with your stay, as is access to no less than FIVE different restaurants, a spa, and a fitness center. And all for just $95 per night, which is about all the luxury that I can afford at the moment. LOL.
And NOW, DRUMROLL PLEASE, Your Very Own, 2 Week, Vietnam Solo Travel Itinerary
Hanoi (Day 1-3)
While it certainly depends on the time of year that you’ll be visiting the country, it almost always makes sense to start in the north and work your way south.
Hanoi is where you’ll be flying into.
Do try and give yourself a few days to adjust to the time difference, and the heat, as you explore iconic attractions like the Thăng Long imperial citadel, the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, West Lake, the Temple of Literature, Hoan Kiem Lake, and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Uncle Ho for the win!),
Just don’t rush it since Hanoi is busy and full of hidden alleyways that are just waiting to be explored.
Halong Bay (Day 4 and 5)
You’ll want to book a tour that includes transportation both to and from Halong Bay.
If you can:
Do try and book a two-night tour, although one night out on the waters of Halong bay should be more than enough time to admire the stars, the beautiful blue waters, and the amazing, limestone islands that this place is known for.
Sa Pa (Day 6 and 7)
In a perfect world:
You’ll want your Halong Bay tour to drop you off in the evening, at the Hanoi train station, so that you can hop right on an overnight train to Sa Pa.
However, once you do arrive in this enchanting, mountainside oasis:
Spend your day trekking through the endless mist, rice fields, and vistas that Sa Pa is known for.
After all that hiking though:
Chill out for the evening and gear up for your second day of hiking, which will conclude with ANOTHER overnight journey back to Hanoi.
Phong Nha (Day 8 and 9)
Because you don’t want to waste a single minute of your all too limited time:
You’ll want to get off your overnight train to Hanoi and head straight for the airport, where you can catch a flight down to Dong Hoi (You could also take a bus or train here, but that would take a lot longer).
Once in Dong Hoi:
Have your hotel send a driver to pick you up and take you into Phong Nha, a drive that should last about an hour.
Now, given your limited time in the area:
You could either do a single day trip into a local cave, and overnight in Phong Nha, or head straight to the jungle and the caves, to sleep amongst the bats.
If you do decide to spend the night in the caves:
Oxalis Tours will pick you up from the airport, or any other transportation hub in Dong Hoi, and take you directly to the caves, for a small fee.
Ho Chi Minh City (Day 10 and 11)
After getting transportation back to Dong Hoi Airport:
Hop on another flight and head all the way south to Ho Chi Minh.
This is a stop that you will NOT want to miss since a) this city is awesome and b) this is the most logical place from which to leave the country, once your trip is complete.
While in Ho Chi Minh City:
Be sure to eat as much food as you can, get any last-minute shopping done, and enjoy the city’s many fantastic sites, including The War Remnants Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, Independence Palace, Giac Lam Pagoda, the Cu Chi Tunnels, Ben Thanh Market, the Central Post Office, Book Street, etc.
Phu Quoc (Day 12-14)
And finally, this is where you get to relax.
Sure, two nights is never really enough time on an island paradise, but it’ll have to do since your time is so limited.
Luckily for you though:
The trip back and forth to Ho Chi Minh is pretty quick and relatively painless.
You won’t waste too much time traveling back and forth.
Let this also be the time where you reflect on all you have done and recoup from what has undoubtedly been an exhausting, solo trip to Vietnam!
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT LADIES, AND POSSIBLY A FEW GENTS, MY RIDICULOUSLY LONG GUIDE ON HOW TO DO VIETNAM SOLO TRAVEL, LIKE A PRO.
BECAUSE BETWEEN MY VIETNAM SOLO TRAVEL ITINERARY, MY TIPS ON HOW TO STAY SAFE WHILE TRAVELING TO VIETNAM ALONE, AND MY DETAILED LIST OF THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT VIETNAM, I’M SURE YOU’VE FOUND AT LEAST ONE THING TO ENJOY ABOUT THIS POST ON ALL THINGS SOLO TRAVEL VIETNAM.
SO, IF YOU FOUND THIS POST EVEN MILDLY HELPFUL (AND I PRAY TO THE GODS AND THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE THAT YOU DO), THEN PIN THIS NOW AND READ IT AGAIN LATER!
COME ON, ALL THE COOL, SOLO TRAVEL KIDS ARE DOING IT…