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Where to visit Vietnam for the first time: A Guide for First-Time Visitors

Are you planning your first trip to Vietnam? Prepare to be enchanted by this fascinating country’s diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant cities. Whether you’re seeking bustling metropolises, ... Read more


  • April 15, 2024
  • Vietnam
  • 83

Are you planning your first trip to Vietnam? Prepare to be enchanted by this fascinating country’s diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant cities. Whether you’re seeking bustling metropolises, serene natural wonders, or immersive cultural experiences, Vietnam offers an array of captivating destinations that will leave a lasting impression.

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Discovering the Vibrant Cities of Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City: The Bustling Heart of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the commercial and cultural heart of Vietnam. This dynamic metropolis is a blend of modern skyscrapers, colonial-era architecture, and bustling street life. Wander through the iconic Ben Thanh Market, where you can find an array of local produce, handicrafts, and street food stalls. Admire the ornate Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, a stunning example of French colonial architecture. Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels, a remarkable network of underground passages used during the Vietnam War, and learn about the country’s fascinating history. Ho Chi Minh City is a captivating introduction to the energy and diversity of Vietnam.

Top 5 Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City:

  1. Explore the bustling Ben Thanh Market and sample local street food delicacies, such as banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches) and pho (noodle soup).
  2. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extensive underground network that was used as a hideout and supply route by Vietnamese guerilla fighters during the Vietnam War. Take a guided tour to learn about this remarkable feat of engineering and the resilience of the Vietnamese people.
  3. Admire the architectural beauty of the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, a stunning example of French colonial architecture and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
  4. Stroll through the lively Bui Vien Walking Street, a bustling hub of bars, restaurants, and street vendors, offering a glimpse into the city’s vibrant nightlife.
  5. Ride a traditional cyclo (bicycle rickshaw) through the city’s streets to experience the local way of getting around and see the sights from a unique perspective.

Top 3 Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City:

  1. For First-Time Visitors: Caravelle Saigon – This elegant colonial-style hotel is located in the heart of the city, just steps away from the iconic landmarks and bustling markets. It offers luxurious accommodations, a rooftop pool, and stunning views of the city skyline.
  2. For Families: Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers – This modern, family-friendly hotel features spacious rooms, an outdoor pool, and a variety of dining options to cater to all tastes. The hotel’s central location makes it easy to explore the city’s top attractions.
  3. For Couples: The Reverie Saigon – This grand, high-end hotel offers a luxurious and romantic experience, with lavish suites, an indulgent spa, and world-class dining. The hotel’s stunning interiors and exceptional service make it an ideal choice for couples seeking a memorable stay.

Hanoi: The Charming Capital with a Rich History
As the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a fascinating blend of old and new. Stroll through the enchanting Old Quarter, where historic buildings, narrow streets, and lively markets create a captivating atmosphere. Visit the iconic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the resting place of Vietnam’s revered leader, and explore the serene Temple of Literature, a well-preserved ancient university that dates back to the 11th century. Hanoi’s blend of French colonial architecture and traditional Vietnamese elements makes it a must-visit destination for first-time travelers.

Top 5 Things to Do in Hanoi:

  1. Explore the charming Old Quarter and its traditional shops, handicraft workshops, and bustling street food stalls. Wander through the labyrinth of narrow lanes and soak in the historic atmosphere.
  2. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where you can pay your respects to the revered leader who played a pivotal role in Vietnam’s independence. Witness the changing of the guard ceremony and learn about the country’s revolutionary history.
  3. Discover the serene Temple of Literature, a well-preserved ancient university that offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s rich academic and cultural heritage. Admire the exquisite architecture and learn about the site’s history and significance.
  4. Take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, a picturesque urban lake in the heart of Hanoi. Visit the Ngoc Son Temple, located on a small island in the lake, and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.
  5. Indulge in a traditional Vietnamese coffee at one of the city’s many charming cafes, where you can observe the local way of life and people-watch.

Hoi An: The Charming Ancient Town
Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a captivating ancient town known for its well-preserved architecture, vibrant markets, and delectable cuisine. Stroll through the picturesque streets, admiring the rows of colorful, centuries-old buildings that line the banks of the Thu Bon River. Visit the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, a 16th-century landmark, and explore the charming riverside promenade. Indulge in the local specialties, such as the iconic banh mi sandwiches and fragrant local dishes, and shop for unique handicrafts and traditional textiles at the bustling Central Market.

Top 5 Things to Do in Hoi An:

  1. Wander through the enchanting old town, taking in the well-preserved architecture, historic buildings, and charming alleyways.
  2. Visit the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, a 16th-century landmark that is one of Hoi An’s most recognizable sights.
  3. Explore the bustling Central Market, where you can browse a variety of local produce, handicrafts, and traditional Vietnamese delicacies.
  4. Indulge in a cooking class to learn the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine and create your own delectable dishes using locally sourced ingredients.
  5. Take a boat trip along the Thu Bon River, which offers a tranquil and scenic way to experience the town’s waterfront promenade and surrounding landscapes.

Hue: The Imperial City
Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, is a city steeped in history and cultural significance. Explore the UNESCO-listed Imperial Citadel, a grand complex of palaces, temples, and fortifications that once housed the Nguyen Dynasty emperors. Visit the ornate Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and take a boat trip along the serene Perfume River. Hue’s rich heritage and tranquil atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s imperial past.

Top 5 Things to Do in Hue:

  1. Wander through the impressive Imperial Citadel, a vast complex that offers a glimpse into Vietnam’s imperial history and architecture.
  2. Visit the Thien Mu Pagoda, a picturesque and iconic Buddhist temple overlooking the Perfume River.
  3. Take a boat trip along the Perfume River, which offers a serene and scenic way to experience the city’s waterfront.
  4. Explore the ornate and well-preserved tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors, such as the Tomb of Minh Mang and the Tomb of Tu Duc.
  5. Immerse yourself in the city’s culinary heritage by indulging in local specialties, such as the famous Hue-style royal cuisine.

Da Nang: The Coastal Gem with Breathtaking Beaches
Located on the central coast of Vietnam, Da Nang is a vibrant city that boasts some of the country’s most stunning beaches. Explore the iconic My Khe Beach, often referred to as “China Beach,” and take in the breathtaking views of the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills with ancient pagodas and caves. Da Nang’s modern infrastructure, diverse dining options, and proximity to other popular destinations like Hoi An make it an excellent base for your Vietnam adventure.

Top 5 Things to Do in Da Nang:

  1. Relax on the beautiful My Khe Beach, known for its soft, golden sand and clear, turquoise waters. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, or simply taking a leisurely stroll along the coastline.
  2. Explore the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills that are home to ancient pagodas, shrines, and caves. Climb to the top of the mountains for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscape.
  3. Visit the picturesque Linh Ung Pagoda, a stunning Buddhist temple located on the slopes of the Marble Mountains, with a towering, 67-meter-tall white Buddha statue overlooking the city.
  4. Take a day trip to the nearby historic town of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its well-preserved ancient architecture, bustling markets, and delicious cuisine.
  5. Indulge in the diverse dining options in Da Nang, from local street food stalls to upscale seafood restaurants, showcasing the city’s vibrant culinary scene.

Top 3 Hotels in Da Nang:

  1. For First-Time Visitors: Furama Resort Danang – This luxurious beachfront resort offers direct access to the stunning My Khe Beach, as well as outdoor pools, spa facilities, and a variety of dining options. The resort’s prime location and extensive amenities make it an ideal choice for first-time visitors to Da Nang.
  2. For Families: Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa – This family-friendly resort features spacious rooms, a children’s club, multiple swimming pools, and a range of recreational activities, making it a great choice for families. The resort’s proximity to the beach and other attractions in Da Nang ensures a well-rounded vacation experience.
  3. For Couples: Fusion Maia Da Nang – This all-inclusive, adults-only resort provides a serene and romantic atmosphere, with private pool villas, an indulgent spa, and gourmet dining options. The resort’s focus on wellness and relaxation makes it a popular choice for couples seeking a luxurious and rejuvenating getaway.

Immersing in Vietnam’s Stunning Natural Landscapes

Halong Bay: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
No visit to Vietnam is complete without a journey to the enchanting Halong Bay. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a natural wonder, featuring thousands of limestone islands and islets scattered across the emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Explore the bay’s hidden caves, kayak through the tranquil waters, and witness the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets that cast a magical glow over the landscape.

Top 5 Things to Do in Halong Bay:

  1. Cruise through the stunning limestone islands and islets, marveling at the dramatic, otherworldly scenery. Many cruises offer the opportunity to stop and explore hidden caves and grottos.
  2. Kayak or take a small boat to discover the serene coves, inlets, and hidden lagoons that are inaccessible by larger vessels, offering a more intimate and immersive experience.
  3. Witness the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets over the bay, as the limestone formations are cast in a warm, golden glow, creating an almost mystical atmosphere.
  4. Visit the Sung Sot Cave, one of the largest and most impressive caves in Halong Bay, with its vast, cathedral-like chambers and intricate, stalactite-adorned interiors.
  5. Explore the floating villages of Halong Bay, where you can interact with the local residents and gain insight into their unique way of life on the water.

Exploring Vietnam’s Rich Cultural Heritage

Temple Visits: Pagodas, Shrines, and Spiritual Connections
Vietnam’s rich spiritual heritage is evident in the numerous pagodas, temples, and shrines found throughout the country. From the iconic One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi to the stunning Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, these sacred sites offer a glimpse into the country’s Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Engage in rituals, observe the intricate architecture, and feel the sense of serenity that pervades these spiritual spaces.

Exploring Vietnam’s Diverse Ethnic Minority Groups
Vietnam is home to a diverse array of ethnic minority groups, each with their own unique customs, traditions, and cultural practices. Venture into the highlands and remote villages to meet the H’mong, Dao, Tay, and other ethnic minorities, learn about their way of life, and witness the vibrant textiles, handicrafts, and traditional performances that are integral to their heritage.

Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine: A Culinary Adventure
Indulge in the delectable flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, which is renowned for its balance of fresh herbs, vegetables, and proteins. Savor the fragrant pho (noodle soup), the iconic banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich), and the delicate spring rolls. Explore local markets, participate in cooking classes, and immerse yourself in the rich culinary traditions that have been passed down for generations.

Getting Around: Navigating the Public Transportation System
Vietnam’s public transportation network offers a variety of options for getting around, from the iconic cyclos (bicycle rickshaws) and bustling city buses to the efficient train system and convenient domestic flights. Familiarize yourself with the options and plan your transportation in advance to make the most of your time in Vietnam.

Accommodations: Finding the Perfect Stay for Your Needs
Vietnam offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses to luxurious resorts and boutique hotels. Research your options and choose a location that suits your travel style and budget, whether you’re seeking a centrally located city base or a tranquil retreat in the countryside.

Budgeting and Cost-Saving Tips for First-Time Visitors
Vietnam is generally a budget-friendly destination, but it’s still important to plan your finances carefully. Take advantage of local markets, street food, and public transportation to save money, and consider purchasing a Vietnamese SIM card to stay connected and avoid roaming charges. With a little research and planning, you can make the most of your Vietnam adventure without breaking the bank.

Top 5 Must-Visit Destinations in Vietnam

  1. Hanoi: Explore the captivating blend of French colonial and traditional Vietnamese elements in Vietnam’s capital city.
  2. Halong Bay: Cruise through the stunning limestone islands and explore the natural wonders of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  3. Hoi An: Immerse yourself in the charming ancient town, renowned for its well-preserved architecture, vibrant markets, and delicious cuisine.
  4. Hue: Explore the former imperial capital of Vietnam, with its grand Imperial Citadel, ornate tombs, and rich cultural heritage.
  5. Ho Chi Minh City: Experience the dynamic energy of Vietnam’s largest city, with its bustling streets, historical landmarks, and thriving food scene.


What is the best time of year to visit Vietnam?
The best time to visit Vietnam depends on your preferences and the regions you plan to explore. Generally, the dry season from November to April is considered the most favorable, with mild temperatures and lower humidity. However, the monsoon season from May to October can also be an excellent time to visit, as you’ll encounter fewer crowds and potentially lower prices.

How many days do I need to see the main sights in Vietnam?
The amount of time you’ll need in Vietnam varies depending on your travel style and the depth of your exploration. As a general guideline, we recommend allocating at least 10-14 days to see the country’s major highlights, such as Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. This will allow you to experience the diverse landscapes, cultural heritage, and cuisine without feeling rushed.

What should I pack for a trip to Vietnam?
When packing for your Vietnam adventure, consider the climate and the activities you plan to undertake. Lightweight, breathable clothing is essential, as the weather can be hot and humid, especially in the south. Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary medications. It’s also a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater for the cooler temperatures in the north and during the rainy season.

Do I need a visa to visit Vietnam?
Yes, most foreign nationals, including citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union, require a visa to enter Vietnam. You can obtain a visa in advance through the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country, or consider applying for an e-visa, which allows you to obtain a visa online prior to your trip.

How safe is Vietnam for solo travelers?
Vietnam is generally a safe destination for solo travelers, but it’s always important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Take the usual precautions, such as keeping your valuables secure, avoiding isolated areas at night, and being cautious when using public transportation. It’s also a good idea to research your accommodations and transportation options in advance to ensure a smooth and safe journey.

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