Like in any country in the area, one of the first things you’ll want to nail down in preparing for your travels is figuring out what to pack for Vietnam. The weather in Southeast Asia can be, let’s say, complicated at times. And however you slice it, your Vietnam packing list is going to need to cover all the bases—from hot sunny days on the beach to wet & rainy ones in cooler highlands.
Start planning your ultimate trip with this complete guide for what to bring to Vietnam…
What to pack for Vietnam: A complete guide
After flights and hotels, one of the first things you’ll need to think about while creating your Vietnam travel plan is covering yourself with a good travel insurance policy. Like many things in life, you often get what you pay for when it comes to travel insurance.
Overall, Vietnam is a safe country. And while the costs for medical care aren’t quite as prohibitive here as in other Southeast Asian destinations like Singapore, you’ll want a policy that will cover all the incidentals.
Even if you’d consider yourself fit & healthy, accidents can (and do!) happen. Road safety, especially in cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, can be quite different than what you’re used to. You’ll also hear plenty of stories of food-borne illness, theft, baggage loss, and scams among travellers to Vietnam.
When shopping for travel insurance, you’ll want to look for a policy that covers all the basics including medical expenses, baggage theft/loss/damage, and trip cancellation. If you’re planning to undertake more adventurous activities like scuba diving, motorcycling, or climbing, you’ll need to ensure that your policy specifically covers this as well.
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Guidebooks & Phrasebooks
- Guidebooks: Although most travel planning seems to have shifted online, carrying around a paper guidebook is always a good idea in that (maybe no so) rare occasion when there’s limited WiFi. As usual, Lonely Planet Vietnam is a solid choice.
- Phrasebooks: If there’s one thing you should expect to experience in Vietnam, it’s a language barrier. Arming yourself with a Lonely Planet Vietnamese Phrasebook can help alleviate some of the frustration. Keep in mind though that Vietnamese is, like Mandarin and Thai, a tonal language. It can be difficult for foreigners to pronounce, especially when relying only on printed material. To take your skills to the next level, consider picking up a book/audio course like Teach Yourself Complete Vietnamese or Routledge Colloquial Vietnamese (audio available free online).
Luggage & Accessories
- Luggage: While your choice of luggage comes down to preference, Vietnam is a quintessential backpacking destination. One of our favourite backpacks is undoubtedly the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack. It’s designed as a maximum carry-on size for most airlines and offers plenty of room and organizational capabilities for shorter trips.
- Daypack: If you’re planning to be out and about for much of the day, you’ll also want to bring a solid daypack to Vietnam. The Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack is our top choice for its compact waterproof design and extra organizational features including a laptop compartment.
- Packing Cubes: When you want to jam everything for your packing list for Vietnam into your travel backpack, nothing will be better than an awesome set of packing cubes. Even if you’ve settled on a different brand/style of luggage, the Tortuga Outbreaker Packing Cubes are fantastic.
- Universal Power Adapter: Vietnam uses Class A, C, and D sockets with a standard voltage of 110 / 220 and a frequency of 50 Hz. To be ready for all of the different combinations, pick up a universal power adapter. This will work not just for Vietnam but for anywhere the wind might take you. As many devices (including those that charge via USB) are dual voltage, voltage converters are not often needed anymore. (Be sure to check all your devices to ensure this is the case.)
- Portable Charger / Power Bank: If the thought of your mobile phone or camera dying brings your anxiety, bring along a portable charger to Vietnam. The Anker Powercore 10000 is a great choice as it’s lightweight, compact, and can charge an iPhone up to 4 times with a single recharge.
- Pocket WiFi: Every traveller knows that finding reliable public WiFi can be a hassle at times. Have access to the Internet 24/7 by renting a 4G WiFi Router for Vietnam.
- Headphones: For the long-haul flight to Vietnam, you’ll love bringing along a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. My own personal recommendation is Sony WH1000X-M3 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones. Both the sound quality and noise cancellation are absolutely fantastic.
- E-reader: Literature-obsessed travellers can save a ton of space and weight in their luggage by leaving their travel books at home and opting for an e-reader instead. One of the best choices is the Kindle Paperwhite thanks to its excellent battery life and non-backlit screen that minimizes eye fatigue.
- Camera: A journey through Vietnam is one you’ll want to capture on something a little better than your run-of-the-mill smartphone camera. Although a Nikon DSLR was once my go-to, I recently moved to a FujiFilm X-20 Mirrorless Camera and couldn’t be happier with the image quality and weight/space savings in my daypack.
Virtual Private Network
Even if you’ve rented your own 4G WiFi Router for Vietnam to avoid unsecured public WiFi, it’s always smart to connect to the Internet through a virtual private network (VPN).
On top of keeping your personal data safe from intruders, connecting through a VPN encrypts all the information you transmit and keeps your browsing history private.
For travellers, one of the best virtual private network providers is NordVPN.
NordVPN offers over 5,600 servers in 60 countries to connect through. The service uses a military-grade double encryption technology that’s practically impossible to hack. On top of that, NordVPN doesn’t keep server logs. None of your online activity is recorded at the server level.
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- Rain Jacket: If there’s one thing you won’t regret packing for Vietnam, it’s a rain jacket. As in much of Southeast Asia, Vietnam’s hot & humid temperatures mean that the possibility of rainfall is always hovering. You’ll want to go with something lightweight & breathable. Check out our top ultralight picks for men & women right here.
- Hat: To lower your risk of sunstroke and heat exhaustion, don’t forget to bring along a hat. In the hot temperatures of Vietnam, a breathable & moisture-wicking hat is best.
- Shoes: If you’re planning to stick mostly to cities like Hanoi, Hue or Ho Chi Minh City, a pair of comfortable casual walking shoes will be an excellent addition to your Vietnam packing list. During rainy season, you’ll thank yourself for packing a good pair of waterproof walking shoes. For more active adventures such as hiking in Northern Vietnam, be sure to pack a pair of low-cut hiking shoes for better traction and foot support. (Check out these top hiking shoe picks for men and women.)
- Sandals: Throwing some beach destinations like Nha Trang and Phu Quoc into your itinerary? Don’t forget to bring along a pair of comfortable sandals.
- Socks: To combat the heat & humidity of Vietnam, pack some lightweight, high-performance, moisture-wicking socks like REI Co-op Coolmax Ultralight Hiking Quarter Socks over your usual everyday socks.
- Travel Pants: To pack light for Vietnam, swap out your regular pants and jeans for some lightweight travel pants. Among the top-rated men’s travel pants are the lightweight Patagonia Quandary Travel Pants. On top of their packability, they’re quick-drying, moisture-wicking while remaining stylish.
- Travel Shirts: Much like your pants, you’ll want to wear lightweight shirts. The lightweight & stylish KUHL Stealth Shirt or the casual REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt are both excellent additions to your Vietnam packing list.
- Sweater: Even though Vietnam’s known for it’s hot temperatures, packing a lightweight sweater isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’re visiting Northern Vietnamese destinations like Sapa.
- Travel Shorts: Chances are you’ll spend most of your time in Vietnam wearing shorts. Stick to something lightweight & moisture-wicking like the prAna Men’s Stretch Zion Shorts.
- Swimsuit: For destinations like Nha Trang and Phu Quoc (or if you’re staying in higher-end accommodations), you’ll want to bring along a pair of swimming trunks. As in much Asia, boardshorts are preferred here to short European-style swimwear.
- Travel Pants: For Vietnam’s balmy climate (and to save weight and bulk in your luggage), you’ll want to swap out your regular pants with some lightweight travel pants. Some of the top-rated women’s travel pants include the casual prAna Halle Travel Pants and them more stylish Anatomie Skyler Travel Pants.
- Travel Shirts: Likewise, swapping out your regular cotton shirts with a lightweight, moisture-wicking shirt like the REI Co-op Sahara Heather T-Shirt is a great idea for your packing list.
- Sweater: For travelling to the highlands of Northern Vietnam (or for the odd cooler night outside of summer), bringing a lightweight sweater or base layer is a good idea.
- Travel Shorts: If you decide to bring along a pair of shorts, lean towards modesty rather than short shorts. For visiting temples, you’ll want to bring along a shawl or sarong.
- Travel Skirts/Dresses: To stay cool in Vietnam, bringing along a skirt/dress is a must. The Royal Robbins Discovery Travel Skirt is a great choice for travellers as it’s modest & lightweight and includes a zippered security pocket.
- Swimsuit: For hanging out on the beach or your hotel’s pool, pack a modest swimsuit or bikini.
- Hanging Toiletry Bag: For keeping your toiletries organized and saving space in your hotel bathroom, bring along a hanging toiletry bag.
- Travel Towel: For days on the beach, stuff a lightweight quick-dry towel like the REI Co-op Multi Towel Deluxe into your daypack.
- Travel Umbrella: The only thing certain about Vietnamese weather is that you’re bound to get wet. Be sure to bring along a compact travel umbrella to prepare for the inevitable downpour. The Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella is a good option.
- RFID Wallet: With all the ever-growing potential for digital theft, don’t travel anywhere (not even at home!) without an RFID-blocking wallet. For travellers, there’s hardly a better choice than the Travelambo RFID-Blocking Minimalist Wallet.
- RFID Passport Protector: Like your credit & debit cards, the digital information on new e-passports can be vulnerable to theft. Bring along an RFID-blocking passport protector like the Zoppen RFID Travel Wallet & Organizer to keep your data safe.
- Travel Pillow: For the long-haul flight over to Vietnam, grab some much-needed shut-eye by bringing along a comfy travel pillow. The innovative BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow is a step above standard pillows as it’s designed to support your chin for more comfortable in-flight sleep.
- Sleep Mask: If you find it difficult to sleep on flights, bring along a sleep mask like the ALASKA BEAR Natural Silk Sleep Mask to immerse yourself in darkness.
- Ear Plugs: Vietnamese cities can get a little clamorous. You’ll thank yourself for bringing along a good pair of ear plugs. Instead of run-of-the-mill foam ear plug, pick up a pair of premium Luiswell Travel Ear Plugs. In addition to blocking out much of the ambient noise, these ear plugs are designed to equalize pressure changes on flights due to altitude changes.
- Water Bottle: In the heat & humidity of Southeast Asia, it’s super important to start hydrated at all times. Pack a Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle to ensure you’ve always got a supply of H20.
- Hair Dryer & Straightener: If you’ve got even the slightest bit of curl in your hair, you may find that the humid weather in Vietnam can make keeping it under control a hassle. Be sure to bring along a hair dryer & straightener to look your best. Instead of your bulky expensive devices from home, pick up the compact dual-voltage Jinri 1875-Watt Travel Hair Dryer and Jinri Professional Travel Flat Iron.
- Oral Care: For your oral care needs, fill your toiletry kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and mouthwash. Local pharmacies should carry most, if not all, of these items should you run out.
- Soap/Body Wash/Hair Care: You may find the availability of your favourite toiletry brands limited in Vietnam. Bring along your favourite soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and hair-styling products.
- Anti-Perspirant/Deodorant: The often intense humidity of Vietnam means you want a stack of anti-perspirant/deodorant handy. The availability of popular Western brands can be limited. Be sure to pack enough for your entire trip.
- Lip Balm: The hot Vietnamese weather can dry out and crack your lips. Pack a good lip balm with sun protection to keep your lips in tip-top shape.
- Sunscreen: To avoid the inflated prices of the developing world, bring enough sunscreen to see you to the end of your trip. Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion is a great pick for Vietnam.
- First-Aid Kit: It’s always a good idea to bring along a basic first-aid kid including items like bandages, a painkiller, an antiseptic ointment, a fever reducer, anti-nausea tablets, anti-diarrhea tablets, and anti-inflammatories.s.
- Mosquito Repellant: Mosquito-borne illness like malaria and dengue fever aren’t unheard of in Vietnam. As you’re travelling throughout the country, particularly in the south and northern areas like Sapa, take all necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites including adding a good mosquito repellant to your packing list for Vietnam.
- Hand Sanitizer: One of the biggest reasons to travel to Vietnam is to eat. If your travel plans including eating street food in Vietnam, you want to carry some hand sanitizer in case there are no suitable bathrooms nearby. Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer does the trick every time!
- Grooming Kit: To maintain your style, don’t forget to pack a grooming kit. The 12-piece Tseoa Professional Grooming Kit is an excellent budget-friendly option for travellers. It includes nail clippers, tweezers, and a pair of scissors among other items. Bring along a travel shaving kit and a hair comb or brush as well.