Vietnam is a stunning country with incredible and diverse sights and welcoming locals. From trekking in Sapa, to partying in Nha Trang, cafes and street food of Hanoi or the beaches of Phu Quoc, there is something for every taste.
Whether you’re backpacking from coast to coast or visiting for a week, there is something for everyone. Of course, if you have never been to Asia, it can be daunting to figure out what to bring to Vietnam and what to leave at home. Here is a handy packing list of things to prepare before booking your flights to Vietnam.
Packing list for visiting Vietnam
Vietnam permits up to 30 days visa-free for residents of certain countries. If you are of a nationality not included on the list or staying for longer, you will need to include an invitation letter in your packing list. Do this in order to present it to the authorities at the airport or the border. Generally, you can expect to pay US$12 for a one-month single-entry visa, check the current rates here. Make sure to bring a 4×6 cm passport photo, and a little over US$25 in cash for a stamping fee at the airport. You will have to gather a whole lot of patience too, you will be there for a while.
Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months with several empty pages, as a Vietnamese visa takes up an entire page of your passport. Also, don’t forget to create digital and photocopies of all your important documents in case something happens.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for travelers coming from North America or Western Europe, but it’s recommended to get shots against food- and water-borne diseases such as Typhoid and Hepatitis A, plus Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccinations for trekkers or long-term travelers.
Clothes, undergarments, swimsuits, and shoes are extremely difficult to find if you are larger than a size S. It’s an even bigger challenge for women, especially those with bigger hips and busts. Although Vietnam is abundant with incredible tailors, who can custom make pretty much anything, catering to curves is not their strong point.
Bring loose cotton pants and shirts to protect your skin from the heat and sun and the extremely hot motorbike leather seats. If you are traveling north (Dalat, Sapa, Hanoi), bring warm clothes. Vietnam has a diverse ecosystem, and some areas are not tropical. You will need hoodies, socks and pants.
Essential in any packing list, tampons are not widely used in Vietnam, while pads sizes also range mostly on the petit side. These feminine products are now available in urban centers, but if you are traveling or living here long-term, stock up on your favorite brand or get a YuukiCup, incidentally, you can buy them in Vietnam at Lai Day Refill Station.
When it comes to makeup and skincare, Vietnam’s beauty standards include a focus on lighter skin and bright lips. Many products have skin-lightening ingredients and western brands are often sold at a high markup, so stock up before coming.
With some exceptions, sunscreen is usually expensive and has skin lightening chemicals. So bring your own. Also bring a secure bag that fits flat against your body. Although Vietnam is very safe, snatch theft is prominent, so keep your valuables close and hide your jewelry and phone.
Contact your bank to ensure your credit cards work in Vietnam. Generally, American Express cards are a no-go.
Although you can pay in USD in more tourist-heavy places, it’s easier and cheaper to pay with Vietnamese dong (VND), especially if you go off the beaten track. There are plenty of ATMs around urban areas. Standard withdrawal limit is between 2-3 million VND (US$86-130), and the fees range from 50,000 VND to 160,000 VND. Stores in urban areas most of the time accept credit cards, but you will need cash for street restaurants, markets and in rural areas.
SIM cards are easy to get at the airport or little pop-up mobile shops everywhere. For around 200,000 VND you can get around 20 G of data and a set amount of text messages and minutes. You can also get an unlimited 4G data SIM for a similar price. You are now required to provide your passport to get registered at an official store. Although kiosks at the airport can still sell the SIM card without registration, you are running a risk that it will be shut off at any time. Top ups are available from most mom-n-pop stores on the street.
Plugs are either in a Vietnamese or North American style – bring a global adapter.
An open mind: things happen at a different pace in Vietnam, which makes being here such a relaxing experience. So don’t rush, be patient and remember that you are a visitor in someone’s home.
Packing list for moving to Vietnam
If you are planning on living in Vietnam, you will need to prepare a few more things to avoid a hassle.
If you have a job already lined up, apply for a business visa. Most jobs require a notarized copy of your degree and it’s a long, arduous process to do it through a consulate (and an expensive one at that).
Get your degree notarized and bring it along. If you are coming to Vietnam to teach English, the same applies to your teaching certificates. Be advised that a lot of the high-end schools require specific accreditation, so do your research in advance. Most employers will help you with a work permit, and the process requires a criminal record and notarized documents, if not there’s a comprehensive guide of the process here.
An international driver’s license is helpful to have on hand if you are planning on driving a motorbike.
It’s helpful to set your budget as the cost of living, even in large cities like Ho Chi Minh, is very different in Vietnam. It’s fairly easy to live on 300,000 to 500,000 VND (sans accommodation) a day as a single person.
Vietnam will surprise and bewilder you at first. So get ready, get comfortable and let this beautiful country take you on a wild ride.