If you are planning to backpack in Vietnam for one week, you will need to know when to go, what you need to prepare and pack for Vietnam, and of course where to go in such a limited amount of time. Read the below guide for more tips on how to save your money, attractions to visit, and Vietnamese food to try.
With a limited time amount like one week to travel throughout Vietnam, you should consider choosing the best time to travel to avoid any unnecessary stops because of poor weather conditions.
From December to April, the temperature in most places is cooler with little chance of rain. Therefore, this is also the time for many festivals held in Vietnam.
Spending one week on the Tet holiday (Tet 2023 falls in January), you will able to see the Vietnamese in their holiday mode. Or you can choose to see how the local is busy with preparation for this Tet holiday from as early as the beginning of January because the Tet holiday usually falls in February. Another option is the week at the end of March and the beginning of April when they will celebrate Hung King Memorial on the 10th March of the Lunar Calendar (2018 King Hung Memorial) and learn more about Vietnamese culture through this event.
The best time may be the Tet holiday preparation period. You will see how the local shop decorate the streets and their houses, getting everything ready for the biggest holiday of the year. Going on a tour during this period you can also avoid the crowd because the Vietnamese are holding out for the big celebration.
Read more about the best time to travel to Vietnam.
We recommend you start from the South to the North, from a warmer climate to a colder climate, so that you can begin your trip light and buy warmer clothes as you need them, not start with a heavy pack and require to discard clothes halfway through the trip. It’s not economical and not a clever way of packing and organizing your pack.
We start in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) because there is an international airport (Tan Son Nhat) to travel around easily, and facilities are ready for you to spend one night after a long flight.
Clothes: You should bring light, comfy clothes, and a swimsuit – a must-to-bring item when you visit a coastal country. Warm clothes are not necessary for Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, and Nha Trang, but they may be helpful in the Da Lat highlands as the temperature is cooler there, especially around December, January, and February. Long sleeves will protect you from sunburn and insects that bite like mosquitoes. You can easily find winter wear in Vietnam's big cities and touristy places.
Shoes: You may need trekking shoes for Da Lat hills and mountains, and you will need a pair of comfortable shoes or sports shoes for walking around town in Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, and Nha Trang, and a pair of flip-flops for Mui Ne and Nha Trang beaches.
Camera and accessories: This is undoubtedly the thing you will have to bring. There are a lot of beautiful sights for you to capture. Don’t forget the charger, SD card, tripod, and anything else you may need to take some awesome and memorable photos. You can read up on some photography tips from Niclas, who is also an avid photographer and adventurer. Or you can refer to this best travel drone guide for more info on choosing your gadget.
Phone with map app: You may want to consider buying a local SIM card for even just one week in Vietnam; it will come in handy when you need to use the map or make an emergency phone call. Besides restaurants, cafes, hotels, hostels, airports, and shopping malls, it would be hard for you to have any Wi-Fi connection outdoors. It will cost you US$ 2.25 for the SIM card and some credits to top up your choice. We recommend a US$ 10 credit.
Read our blog for more details on SIM card and mobile data plans in Vietnam.
The best map app to use in backpacking in Vietnam is Google Maps. Some locations may not be entirely accurate, but you can rely on them for most tourist attractions and holiday destinations in Vietnam. The route will also work when looking for hotels, bus routes, and restaurants.
Passport and necessary travel documents like visa, travel insurance, and driver's license: you should keep them with you all the time and not lose them. Making copies of them on your phone and emailing them to yourself for backup should help, and it would take a long time to retrieve the documents if lost.
Get a quote for your travel insurance
Credit/Debit cards and cash: credit cards are accepted in some places like hotels, restaurants, clothing stores, and taxis, but generally, cash is still the way to pay for most things in Vietnam. There are many ATMs to withdraw cash, but the transaction fee is high, so you will have to check with your bank first. Continue reading for more details on our budget travel tips below.
Medicine: you will need to bring your medication for allergies (if any) and medicines for diarrhea (Immodium) in case you cannot get used to the foods in Vietnam. You probably won’t need them if you are careful when planning the trip and choosing what you eat, but this is still a cautious step to take. Besides long sleeves clothes, sunscreen, and repellent will protect you from sunburn and insect bites, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Read more on Packing Guide for Vietnam.
Are you a first-time traveler? Check out the Adventure Diary's blog post with their 5 essential tips.
-Travel in non-peak time and save yourself the extremely high price of flights/trains/bus tickets, hotels, and restaurants on your backpacking in Vietnam. Find a ticket online to know about the price before you travel.
-Don’t buy things you don’t need. Hold yourself down to the urge and wants to buy everything to bring with you before the trip and during the trip, especially those touristy souvenirs.
-Check visa exemption. Some nationalities won’t need to apply for a visa if the travel period is as short as one week. But you will still need to submit documents and a fee for visa exemption documents. Read Vietnam visa blog for more details on the procedure and fee.
-Know the exchange rate and any bank transaction fee to avoid wasting on unnecessary fees.
-Save on transportation fares by traveling economy.
-Save on accommodation fees by booking with hostels rather than hotels, especially if you plan to tour most of the time during the day. There are many options in the backpackers’ streets at affordable prices.
-Eat and drink like a local. It is not only to save money but also the best way to have an authentic experience. The traditional foods in Vietnam are pretty cheap, but their taste is just as good as any restaurant (for example, US$ 3 for a big bowl of pho noodle soup). However, always remember safety first. Check out our tips on food safety and drink safety in Vietnam travel guide blogs.
-Bargain hard for the things you want to buy, especially in touristy areas; you can go as low as half of the price, and they may still be willing to sell you.
-Visit attractions with free entrances. There are a lot of places with beautiful views and cultural learning without paying fees such as the Saigon Central Post Office and the beach.
-Getting a local SIM card will save you from the roaming service fee.
-Go to backpacker districts for bits of advice on bargaining and affordable service price.
Check out Vietnam Budget Travel: 11 ways to save money in Vietnam.
One-week Customized Itinerary for Backpacking in Vietnam
Day 1: Inbound flight - HCM
Day 2: HCM - Mui Ne
Day 3: Mui Ne - Da Lat
Day 4: Da Lat
Day 5: Da Lat - Nha Trang
Day 6: Nha Trang
Day 7: Nha Trang - HCM - Outbound flight
Estimated trip cost:
For tips on exchange rates and the Vietnam Dong, check our guide on the Vietnamese Currency.
When you arrive at the airport (SGN), after picking up your luggage, you can go to the information kiosks to buy a local SIM card. Be aware of the pickpockets and mindful of your belongings at all times, even at the airport! You can use a taxi, motorbike taxi, on-demand taxis, or buses to go to the city center from the airport.
For more details, read here for Vietnam airport arrival tips.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the backpacker’s area is located on Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham, and Bui Streets. You can take a shuttle bus or a taxi directly from the airport to this area. This takes about a 30 minutes ride.
In Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, there are many attractions and places to see. If you would like to wander around yourself and time allows, you can visit these free attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
In Ho Chi Minh City: You can have a historical visit to the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace, or admire colonial architecture like that of Saigon Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. Read more on our customized Ho Chi Minh attractions and things to do guide.
In Mui Ne: You may want to explore nature here in Hon Rom, Fairy Stream, Mui Ne Fishing Village, visit the ancient architecture of Posha Inu Cham Tower, Van Thuy Tu Temple or join in outdoor activities driving on the sand dunes and do some kitesurfing. Read our What to do in Mui Ne blog for more information.
In Da Lat: Make sure to go through all the beautiful nature in Da Lat such as Datanla Waterfall, Lake of Sighs, Xuan Huong Lake, Langbiang peak, and Valley of Love, or pay a visit to the strawberry and flower gardens. The night market is also a place to visit for any foodies who want to try Vietnamese street foods. Check here for more places to visit in Da Lat.
In Nha Trang: After going to the beaches, you can go and admire many architectures of different styles here from Long Son Pagoda, Po Nagar Cham Tower, Christ the King Cathedral, and Dien Khanh Citadel. There will also be a lot of places for you to explore marine life like the Institute of Oceanography and Hon Tam Island. Read our guide on Nha Trang travel guide for more destinations.
For breakfast, lunch, or dinner: Bun thit nuong – Grilled pork with noodles, Pho, Com tam – Broken rice, Banh mi
For lunch or dinner: Banh hoi long heo – Woven rice vermicelli and pig organs, Lau tha – surf and turf hot pot, Dong nuong – grilled butterfly lizard, Nem nuong Da Lat– Da Lat grilled pork, Vietnamese pancake, Bun sua – Jellyfish noodles, Banh can
For snack: Banh trang nuong, Banh trang xoai – Mango rice paper
Drink: Vietnamese coffee, soy milk, corn milk, Vietnamese beers
For dessert: Corn sweet soup, Banana sweet soup
How to get to Mui Ne:
At any open bus agency in the backpacker’s streets, you can find daily bus tickets to get to Mui Ne. It takes 5 hours and costs VND 200,000.
How to get to Da Lat:
Going to Da Lat from Mui Ne by bus will take you 3 hours and cost VND 100,000.
How to get to Nha Trang:
The distance from Mui Ne to Da Lat and from Da Lat to Nha Trang is about the same, so it would take 3 hours and cost you VND 150,000 using the bus.
How to get back to Ho Chi Minh City:
You can use the bus which is usually 8 hours long and costs VND 200,000 or book a domestic flight, which is only 1 hour long and costs you VND 500,000+.
For bus schedules and booking details, check out here.
Vietnam is a wonderful place to explore nature, history, and culture. A one-week itinerary is short and will not allow you to see the whole country entirely, so we suggest a route starting from Ho Chi Minh City, going to Mui Ne, Da Lat, Nha Trang, and back to Ho Chi Minh City for your international outbound flight. Our team of local guides recommends any week from November to April to travel to avoid the rainy weather in Vietnam. Make sure to check all the things you need to bring along on the trip and a list of what you should buy to save money and have a great time enjoying Vietnamese foods, visiting museums and pagodas, going to the beaches, and exploring nature.
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backpackers's districts like ta hien in Hanoi or Bui Vien in Ho Chi Minh are where you can make some friends and enjoy cheap drinks