Vietnam Adventure: How to Get the Most from Your Mindful Travels in Vietnam

A mindful guide to where to stay, what to eat, and what to see in Vietnam

vietnam adventure

Here’s your complete guide to Vietnam adventure travel. Read on to find your perfect Vietnam itinerary, plus the best food, hotels, what to avoid & more.

Make sure you take a look at these posts too:

Here’s help deciding behind travel in Vietnam or Cambodia

Plan your trip with our Vietnam itineraries for 1–4 weeks →

Add to your travels with our Cambodia Adventure guide

We have visited Vietnam six times in the last ten years and we love the country!

This Vietnam Adventure Travel Guide includes our favourite Vietnam destinations, the best hotels in Vietnam for every budget, our favourite vegan and vegetarian restaurants, our favourite yoga studios, a list of essential items to pack, and tips on avoiding the worst tourist traps and annoyances in Vietnam.

If you need help deciding where to go in Vietnam or some advice for putting together the ideal Vietnam itinerary, this guide is for you.

We hope you love it!

mountains in Sapa Vietnam

Take a mindful trek through the stunning mountains of Sapa, Vietnam.

Vietnam Adventure Itineraries for 1–4 Weeks in Vietnam

There are so many amazing possibilities for Vietnam travel itineraries that we had to create a whole post for our suggestions.

The country is so diverse that if you have limited time, we recommend focussing your travels in either the north, the south, or central Vietnam.

We created separate one-week itineraries for each region with options for extending each segment. Plus, you can easily combine the itineraries to create a full month-long adventure in Vietnam.

(Don’t miss: Take a look at our Vietnam adventure itineraries and get started planning)

Is Vietnam a good place for mindful adventure travellers?

There are so many opportunities for adventure in Vietnam.

For a start, there are lots of places in Vietnam to enjoy nature — like the mountains of Sapa, the waters of Halong Bay, or the exotic beaches of the south coast. Most Vietnamese people are friendly and open, and many speak excellent English, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation with a local and there’s lots of opportunity to learn more about the history of this fascinating region. Then there’s the food, which is plentiful and varied, with amazing options for vegans and vegetarians!

(Don’t miss: For a real Vietnam adventure, here’s what you need to know to do a Vietnam cyle tour)

Hotels in Vietnam are budget-friendly, often eco-friendly and usually privately owned, so you can meet the locals and be sure you’re spending your travel dollars responsibly. Of course, if you want an exotic retreat where you can be massaged and pampered, Vietnam has plenty of those too!

Vietnam hotels: Where to stay in Vietnam.

mindful Vietnam adventure travel

The Elegance Emerald is our favourite midrange hotel in Hanoi.

Accommodation in Vietnam is plentiful and excellent value. A luxury hotel room in Vietnam costs about the same as a room at a crappy Motel 6 in America! But you can also get a great place to sleep for under $10. Here are our best places to stay in Vietnam for every budget.

The Best Hotels in Hanoi for Every Budget
Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City for Every Budget
Best Mui Ne Hotels for Every Budget
The Best Hotels in Hue for Every Budget
The Best Hotels in Hoi An for Every Budget
The Best Hotels in Phong Nha for Every Budget

Restaurants: Vegetarian and vegan food in Vietnam.

vegan restaurants in hoi an

Pho Chay from Quan Chay Hoa in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Vietnam is by no means a vegetarian and vegan paradise. For a start, there is fish sauce hidden in just about everything and meat is a vital part of every meal. But if you know what to look for and where to go, you can get some of the best food of your life, animal-free.

Check out our guides for healthy food and vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Vietnam.

Hanoi Vegetarian Food: The Complete Guide for Vegetarians Visiting Hanoi
Hue Vegan and Vegetarian Food: The Best City in Vietnam for Vegans
Your Guide to the Absolute Best Hoi An Food
Hoi An Vegan Restaurants: Your Guide to Vegan Food in Hoi An, Vietnam

Vietnam solo travel.

I’ve travelled a lot in Vietnam by myself and it’s a perfect destination for solo travel. Here are some reasons you will love solo travel in Vietnam:

Vietnam is safe. In all my travels around Vietnam, I’ve never felt threatened or unsafe. And the includes some late night walks through quiet areas of Ho Chi Minh City. The biggest danger in Vietnam is from the crazy traffic, but I’ve never experienced any problems as a solo female traveller in Vietnam.

Vietnam hotels are inexpensive. Even if you’re by yourself, you can totally afford a clean, safe, central hotel room. No need to sleep in crowded dorms, or book yourself into a place on the outskirts of town. Vietnam hotels are cheap and plentiful – perfect for the solo traveller.

Vietnam bus travel is perfect for solos. In some countries, like Cambodia, you have to hire a tuk tuk to take you to many attractions. When you don’t have anybody to share the price with, the costs mount up. In Vietnam, almost every place can be visited on the bus, which is a very inexpensive way to get around.

Vietnamese people are very helpful. Any time I’ve needed help in Vietnam, people have been more than happy to give it. And if they aren’t able to help you, they will happily find somebody for you who can!

Lots of travellers to meet. Because it’s such a popular destination, it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself having to book tours alone, sit in restaurants alone, etc. I don’t know about you, but when I’m travelling solo, I like to have a few other people around and on my tours. In Vietnam, you won’t have a hard time finding other people to hang out with.


Want more Vietnam travel advice? We recommend these books:


Yoga: Where to practice yoga in Vietnam.

There aren’t a lot of great outdoor spaces to practice yoga in Vietnam. The air in the cities tends to be on the smoggy side and you will attract a lot of attention if you roll out your mat in a public park. However, there are lots of yoga studios in the big cities — though many of them offer instruction only in Vietnamese.

This is where we practice when we’re in Vietnam.

Hanoi at Zenith Yoga

Stephen has taught at Zenith several times and we practice there every time we go to Hanoi. Their two locations offer a variety of styles including Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga, with excellent world-class instructors. We always learn something new when we practice at Zenith!

ZCafe at Zenith Yoga is one of the best and cleanest places for vegetarian food in Hanoi.

Ho Chi Minh City at Mandala Wellness

We haven’t been to Mandala Wellness yet, but we’ve heard great things about it. Plus, Stephen will be teaching there this summer! In their wellness centre, they offer a variety of yoga classes and wellness workshops. They also have a line of delicious-looking cold-pressed juices that we can’t wait to try.

While Vietnam does not offer a lot in the way of yoga retreats, many resorts do have yoga as part of their wellness services. In Mui Ne, where we spent a few weeks this year, you can easily find daily yoga, at least in high season. You will also find inexpensive massages and spa treatments almost everywhere you go.

Tourist Traps: What to avoid during Vietnam adventure travel.

vietnam adventure

The views in Ha Long Bay are incomparable — just try to go in off-season.

What to avoid in Halong Bay Vietnam.

One of the most famous natural sights in the world, Ha Long Bay can get overcrowded with boats, especially during high season. If you decide to take a boat trip in Halong Bay, opt for two nights and three days — the second day usually includes a small-boat trip to a secluded bay. Also, don’t go too cheap with your boat trip or you’ll end up on an overcrowded and dirty ship.

Indochina Junk’s Dragon Pearl was great back in 2009 when I sailed on it and it still gets great reviews now. They also run tours to the less touristy Bai Tu Long.

Whatever you do, avoid staying overnight in the city of Halong Bay. It is particularly uninspiring.

What to avoid in Sapa Vietnam.

Avoid spending the night in the city of Sapa. The wall-to-wall guesthouses and tacky tourist restaurants are the epitome of “tourist trap”. Instead, arrange an overnight trek to a homestay in Hanoi and travel from there. A two-night trek will get you further off the beaten path! I booked with Lily’s Travel Agency in Hanoi and it was fantastic.

I wrote a complete guide to trekking in Sapa for NOMADasaurus.com. Read it before you go!

If you want to go independently, check out Topas Ecolodge for a more peaceful stay.

Should you avoid Vietnam bus travel?

I have read many horror stories about the busses in Vietnam, especially the sleeper busses, which used to be notorious. Most of the bus companies in Vietnam have really cleaned up their act in recent years. I have travelled by bus all through the country and they are not that bad!

Sleeper busses, which are used during the day too, are far more comfortable than an overnight flight, with room to stretch out your legs and lie down. Just make sure you pack a very small bag to carry on board and stow everything else under the bus — you share your seat with whatever you bring onboard.

As long as you don’t expect to get much sleep and come prepared with lots of podcasts or music to listen to, the busses in Vietnam are an efficient and eco-friendly way of getting around.

Avoid the street donuts in Hanoi!

You will not walk around Hanoi for long before a woman with a basket of tempting donuts approaches you. They look tasty but don’t be tempted. The locals won’t touch them since no one really knows what kind of oil they’re fried in or how they’re handled.

There are lots of great street foods to try in Hanoi. Just take a look at our Hanoi vegetarian food guide to find out where to eat!

mindful Vietnam travel

Spending too much time in the cities in Vietnam can be overwhelming.

How to avoid overwhelm during Vietnam travel.

Vietnam can be busy, noisy and dirty. It can also be peaceful and astonishingly beautiful. Make sure you plan some peaceful and remote activities (like trekking or boat trips) to offset the stress of Vietnam’s vibrant cities.

When in the cities, make time to chill out at a cafe or get a fresh squeezed juice to beat the heat. Don’t forget to use all your best yoga techniques for handling the hassle — stay calm, breathe deeply, and let go of the desire to control the situation.

Touts can be persistent but remember to treat them for what they are — fellow humans who are just trying to earn a living. It’s amazing how far a smile and a little eye contact will get you.

Above all, when you’re travelling in Vietnam, just go with the flow and leave some time for meditation!

Packing List: What to pack for Vietnam adventure travel.

Travel yoga mat. Most hotels in Vietnam have hard cold floors, perfect for hot days but not great for yoga. Some are none too clean, either. It’s best to bring a mat if you plan to practice in your hotel room.

Don’t miss our guide to choosing the best travel yoga mats.

Loose and modest clothing. It’s not always hot in Vietnam but it usually is! Loose light clothing is a must. Even though many modern Vietnamese women wear revealing clothes, it’s best for tourists to cover up a little, out of respect for the more traditional culture — and to protect your skin from the sun.

I love the look of this travel skirt! These loose flowy pants look perfect for Vietnam, and this pair of sporty travel pants would be perfect for more adventurous Vietnam travel.

Mosquito bite zapper. You should, of course, always use mosquito spray in Vietnam. Effective mosquito spray is easy to find in any convenience store in Vietnam. Look for small bottles with a spray top and a picture of a mosquito on the side. But, you will probably get bitten a few times and in my experience, Vietnamese mosquito bites are the itchiest in the world. I am totally reliant on my Zap-It mosquito bite zapper these days — it is amazing at taking away the itch. Watch our travel tips video to see how it works.

Flip-flops. Flip-flops have endless uses in Vietnam, from wearing around the hotel, to beach days, to flipping your way around the cities. Everyone, locals and tourists alike, wears them just about everywhere. These folding packable flip-flops look pretty cool and of course, people love their Havaianas.

Your own chopsticks. In Vietnam, chopsticks are usually wooden and most often not very clean. We travel everywhere with our To Go Ware Bamboo Travel Cutlery. It’s perfect for mindful travel in Vietnam (and an awesome replacement for plastic cutlery when you’re getting take-out back home)!

When you head out on a Vietnam adventure, you can experience a huge variety of activities in a small geographical area. Take your time, travel slowly and don’t try to fit too many adventures into too little time! You’ll want to reserve plenty of hours for sitting back and watching the vibrant culture in action. If you stay aware and remember to breathe, you’ll have an amazing trip in Vietnam.

What are your favourite Vietnam adventures? Which did you like the least? Please share them in the comments below.

  Happy adventures, Stephen & Jane

Want to get the most from your Vietnam adventure? This guide answers all your Vietnam travel questions, like where to stay & eat, safety in Vietnam for solo travel, what to pack, and which tourist traps to avoid. Plus we share our ideal Vietnam itineraries for 1 week to 1 month in the country!

Pin for your Vietnam adventure!

Some of the links in this post are our own personal affiliate links. That means that if you buy something using one of these links we’ll earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. We’re not getting rich off of this but it does help encourage us keep this blog going, so thanks in advance! –S&J

16 comments

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  3. Comment by Nicole

    Nicole Reply June 27, 2018 at 11:32 am

    We would like to take our two adult children to Vietnam over christmas break. None of us speak the language. How difficult is it to get around without a native guide? We have traveled to many countries but weren’t sure if we needed one to get around smaller cities, bike tours, etc.? We will have exactly 7 days on the ground so any direction in adventure is great. We are all physically fit for activities and my 21 year old son is Army so would like some of the war sights. Thanks

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 29, 2018 at 1:51 am

      Hi Nicole,
      Sounds like it will be a bood trip though it would be better if you had more time :). You don’t need a private guide to get you around – English is widely spoken in most places tourists go. With only 7 days though, you might want to get a driver if you’re going to try and get to off-the-beaten track places. But it’s easist and most cost-effective to organize that once you’re in the country.

      I hope this helps!

      J

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  5. Comment by David Astley

    David Astley Reply June 18, 2018 at 7:50 am

    I guess if you are a first time visitor to Vietnam, then probably Halong Bay should be on your itinerary, despite how touristy it is these days. But I would put Hoi An and the Mekong Delta above Halong Bay as ‘must-visit’ locations. Yes, Hoi An is touristy too, but it’s more classy than Halong Bay, and there are some great restaurants and coffee shops there. And the Mekong Delta is just so relaxing exploring the rivers and tributaries. If you are feeling really adventurous, the very best way to explore the delta is on a bicycle tour. You need a guide but it’s a slow and easy way to see the villages and backwaters and gain a real insight to how people live in the delta.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 18, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Hey David,

      I couldn’t agree more about Ha Long Bay. Everyone wants to go but it’s no big deal if you miss it, and might not be the best experience in the world. I also loved Hoi An and would love to spend more time there.

      A cycling trip along the Mekong sounds fab – and right up our alley – but we haven’t had a chance to do one yet.

      Thanks so much for the tips! I know our readers will appreciate it. :)

      J

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  11. Comment by Nancy

    Nancy Reply November 18, 2017 at 12:52 am

    What a detailed travel guide about Vietnam! Even though I’m going back to Vietnam for the third time, but there’s still a lot I don’t remember so I appreciate the level of detail you go through in your guide!

    I also think Vietnam is one of the harder SEA countries to travel, but maybe that’s just me. I’m hoping my opinion will change this time around!

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane November 19, 2017 at 12:21 am

      Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for your comment. I think Vietnam has gotten MUCH easier to travel in during the last five years or so. It is much better organized than Laos and Cambodia these days, since the whole country seems to revolve around tourism!

      J

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