After weighing the pros and cons, most can agree Vietnam is a great travel destination. As with other travel destinations, there are certain things you should bring with you to minimize hassle during your trip. Use the following list to appropriately pack for your travels.
- The Essentials
- Appropriate Luggage
- Appropriate Clothing
- Appropriate Shoes
- Bathroom Supplies
- Sun Protection
- Insect Protection
- Proper Information
Passport and Visa!! – In addition to the originals, keep photocopies or scanned copies of your passport and visa in case you lose your passport.
Travel medical insurance information – Keep a printout with you.
Cash – Keep enough cash with you as many stores and restaurants only take cash. Many tourist restaurants and stores take credit card but they will often add a surcharge of 2-3% on top of the international transaction fees you will incur through your credit card company. ATMs and banks can be found throughout the city if you need to take out cash. Money exchange booths are also plentiful, especially around tourist haunts.
Money belt – Remember, like any large city, be cautious of petty theft and use a money belt to keep your money secure.
Soft shell bags – If you plan on taking bus or train rides in the region, soft bags are recommended as the overhead luggage compartments can be quite small. Keep in mind that the baggage tariffs on internal flights and flights in the region can be quite high so soft shelled bags can save a lot of extra weight and therefore a lot of money.
Daypacks or backpacks – For short excursions, treks and day trips around the city, a daypack is essential for carrying a water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, and shopping. A secure and sturdy daypack is the perfect thing to keep all your belongings with you as you go about your day. And, any souvenirs you buy along the way can be kept safe in your bag without having to carry extra plastic bags. Be careful with how you choose your daypack – a bag that sits close to your body and has thick straps is advisable as thieves can cut the straps and take your bag before you even realize what has happened. It’s a common scam in Vietnam.
Note: If you are planning on a serious adventure tour across Vietnam on a motorbike, consider packing much lighter than normal and plan to stash your gear on a motorbike rack. 15kgs or less is what is recommended.
Moisture wicking clothing – In Ho Chi Minh City, rainy season is from June to November and dry season is during the rest of the year, although it stays between 25-35C throughout the year. Lightweight clothing is important for this kind of weather.
Light rain jacket – For the rain, a light jacket is fine but a plastic poncho may also work well. You will see many locals wearing ponchos while riding their bike in the rain so the poncho may be more suitable if you plan on doing cycling or motorcycling tours around the country.
Walking shoes – Ho Chi Minh City and other cities in Vietnam are very conducive to walking, once you get past the occasional motorbike driver on the sidewalk! You may find that you end up walking several kilometres a day so good walking shoes are a must.
Activity based shoes – If you plan on doing outdoor activities or trekking, special shoes are very important. If you forget to bring them, many hostels and hotels can provide shoes that guests have left behind but your size may not be available. Even buying shoes here may be difficult if your shoe size is larger than that of the average Vietnamese person.
Brand name medication – The medication regulations in Vietnam are different than in other countries such that over-the-counter medicines are both cheap and readily available. Many of the brand name medicines like Pepto Bismol and Tylenol are quite expensive but their non-brand name counterparts are very cheap. If you prefer to take a certain brand of medicine, bring extra!
Special medication – Some non-mainstream medications may be difficult to find here. Bring enough for your stay.
Toilet paper – It may be beneficial to keep toilet paper with you while traveling, especially on long bus rides. Most hotels, hostels and restaurants in the city have conventional toilets but many bus stop bathrooms have squatting-style toilets without toilet paper.
Female supplies – Sanitary napkins are easy to find here but tampons are not.
UV protection – The sun is very powerful here so high SPF lotions or sprays are a must. Even local residents protect themselves from the sun by wearing long sleeves, hats and sun umbrellas! Of course long sleeves in this heat is not very pleasant but neither is sunburn!
Aloe vera gel – Aloe vera gel in a bottle is very difficult to find here but fresh aloe vera is readily available at the market. Using real aloe vera is very soothing but it is not efficient or practical when traveling by bus or train so bottled aloe vera gel can be quite handy in these situations.
Insect repellent with Deet – Dengue fever and malaria are transmitted by mosquitos so an insect repellent with Deet is a good thing to have. Although malaria is rare and is confined to the rural areas, dengue fever is more prevalent.
Cortisone cream – Bites can be highly unpleasant and the last thing you need is an infection from scratching too much!
Chargers and backup chargers – Remember to bring all necessary chargers for your electronics. Pre-charged battery packs are very useful for long bus and train rides.
Shape converter – Most hostels and hotels will have outlets that accept multiple plug shapes but the voltage is still 220V. A shape converter may come in handy for outlets that don’t accept your plug type.
Computer-like gadget – A smartphone or iPod is a great thing to have! WiFi is readily available almost anywhere. You can call home for free or use GoogleMaps, which works very well in Ho Chi Minh City. A laptop might be too bulky to carry around and too expensive of an item to have stolen. When you are using your phone on the street, make sure to do it discreetly and away from the curb. It is all too easy for someone to grab the phone while on their motorbike.
Travel books – Travel books can be invaluable here for important information about hospitals, money, embassies, and more. Keep in mind that the latest edition of a travel book is usually a year out of date so locations and phone numbers for restaurants or stores may change. Fortunately, the location of public service offices are usually less transient.
Translation cards – If you have food intolerances, make sure you print out your translation cards before you come here.
Location information – Have with you the addresses, phone numbers, location and maps for your hotels before arriving so that you can relay information to your taxi driver.
If you forget any items, most things are available here but at a premium. Proper packing will ensure that you have a relaxing and hassle-free vacation!
If you want to do an off-beaten track Vietnam tour, you can book our Ho Chi Minh City or Hoi An tours.