Wondering what to pack for Vietnam? Here’s your complete Vietnam packing list, with our recommendations of what to bring, what to leave at home, and what you can buy for less in Vietnam. Read on to make packing for Vietnam simple.
- 5 Packing Tips for Vietnam
- Essentials to Pack in Your Carry-On
- What’s the Right Suitcase for Vietnam?
- Suitcase Accessories
- What Clothing to Pack for Vietnam
- Essential Toiletries for Your Vietnam Trip
- Travel Accessories for Vietnam
- Electronics We Recommend for Vietnam
- A Final Note About Your Vietnam Packing List
- More Posts About to Vietnam
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
It can be so hard to figure out what you need to pack when you’re heading to a new country! We know exactly how you feel — we’ve played the “What to pack?” guessing game dozens of times.
That’s why we decided to create our ultimate Vietnam packing list. We have been to Vietnam 7 or 8 times (yes, we actually lost count!) and have spent more than a year total in the country, cycling, exploring, volunteering, house sitting, and, most recently, renting a house in Hoi An for two months!
We love the country and its people so much, we just can’t seem to stay away.
Since we’ve spent so much time in Vietnam, we have a pretty good handle on what items you’ll need in your backpack and what you can safely leave at home.
So read on for our…
Vietnam Packing List – What to Bring to Vietnam for All Seasons
5 Packing Tips for Vietnam
1. Pack light: In Vietnam you’ll be hopping in and out of taxis, busses, and even onto motorbikes from time to time. Hotels and guest houses are often down narrow alleys where walking is the only option. Many others have steep stairs with no elevators.
So keep your bag as light as possible – you will thank me when you have a 5th floor room! To do this, leave any “maybe” items at home and bring only the “for sure” ones.
2. Leave formal wear at home: Vietnam is a little rough around the edges, which means you’ll hardly ever have an occasion to dress up. You can leave your Manolos, your suit jacket, and your expensive jewelry at home. Instead, bring casual clothes that will wear well in the heat.
3. You can’t buy big sizes: Almost everything is available to buy in Vietnam, except larger size clothing and shoes. If you are on the upper end of the size scale, it can be hard to find replacement clothes and impossible to find shoes that fit, so be sure you pack adequately. Of course, if you really need something, you can get it tailored in Hoi An.
4. You can buy lots of things for so cheap: Big sizes are about the only thing that’s not available in Vietnam. Everything else, from toiletries to fashion to jewelry and bags, is readily available and mostly super cheap. The one thing you won’t find while shopping in Vietnam is deals on is authentic high-end brands. Real Prada costs just as much in Vietnam as anywhere else in the world.
5. Leave room for luxury. Travel can be tough, so bring one or two luxury items along. I have a cozy travel pillow. Stephen carries a hand-powered coffee grinder. You might want your teddy bear or a comfy but bulky sweatshirt. These little luxuries can go a long way to adding comfort and sanity to your trip.
Essentials to Pack in Your Carry-On
When you’re packing for Vietnam, start with our quick list of essentials. These items, which you should pack in your carry-on, will help you have a hassle-free journey and really are must-haves on your Vietnam packing list!
- Boarding pass for the plane
- Visa paperwork – Our guide to Vietnam visas will help you sort this out in a quick minute.
- Details on how to get from the airport to your accommodation – Are you taking a taxi, the airport shuttle, a bus? Know before you land to avoid your first minutes in the country being overly stressful.
- First night’s accommodation details – Make the confirmation, address, map location, and phone number all offline. It can be hard to find locations in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, so make sure you have as many details as possible.
Also don’t forget:
- Glasses or contacts
- Prescription medication
- Travel insurance – keep your details handy in a few places so you can find them in an emergency
Our pre-flight international travel checklist will help make sure you don’t forget anything essential!
What’s the Right Suitcase for Vietnam?
If you’re a luxury traveller who will stay in 5-star accommodation, pack in whatever luggage you like. For everyone else…
We recommend a backpack or convertible suitcase with straps for Vietnam.
- Most of the roads and streets in Vietnam are rough and full of rubble and dust. Once you leave the airport, a wheelie suitcase will be useless. You’ll either end up lugging it everywhere in your hand or dragging it across so much rough terrain that your wheels break.
- If you think you’ll never be walking anywhere with your suitcase, think again. Many hotels in Vietnam are down narrow side alleys that are not wide enough for a car. Plus, there are always times when you have to walk to the bus station or need to walk to a bigger street to find a taxi.
Keep your bag below 35–40L and under 10kg, which will make it within the carry-on limit on most airlines. If we can travel full-time with that little stuff, you can do it for your trip to Vietnam!
Pro-tip: I pack all my heaviest gear (laptop, camera, etc) in my small carry-on backpack. Airlines hardly ever weigh those, since the bag appears too small to be over the weight limit.
There are three more packing items I recommend for all travel.
- A daypack / carry-on bag for the plane – I always pack all my essentials in this anti-theft bag so that, even if I check my luggage, I have everything I need on the plane.
- A foldable daypack / shopping bag – In the heat of Vietnam, there are some days when I don’t feel like carrying a real daypack. Instead, I used my light foldable pack to carry my essentials.
- Packing cubes – For me, packing cubes keep me from going insane while living out of a suitcase. I think of them as mini drawers for my bag, keeping me organized and making it easy to find anything in a few seconds.
What Clothing to Pack for Vietnam
Once you have a bag all picked out, the next big chore is to decide what clothing to bring to Vietnam.
When you’re getting ready, you’ll want to consider three things:
- What’s culturally appropriate in Vietnam?
- What season are you travelling?
- What region will you be visiting?
Thinking about these three things will help make sure your Vietnam packing list is perfect for whatever kind of trip you are planning.
What to wear in Vietnam
While there is no real dress code for tourists in Vietnam and, in recent years, many Vietnamese woman have started wearing quite revealing clothes, there is still a way to dress that will show your respect for the people and their culture.
How you dress in Vietnam is completely your decision. But here are a few tips if you’re interested in being culturally sensitive.
- Try to avoid super revealing clothes like short shorts with your butt hanging out and boob tubes (more common than you’d think!).
- Tank tops, short dresses, and normal shorts are fine in the cities, where you’ll see lots of Vietnamese women dressing the same way.
- I prefer longer loose dresses and light tops with sleeves since they protect your skin from the glaring Vietnamese sun and show the more conservative locals that you respect their culture.
Men can get away with the typical guy uniform of shorts and a t-shirt, and plenty also wander around in tank tops (though almost all women wish they wouldn’t).
There are some temples and other spaces where you will need to have your knees and shoulders covered to enter. Often you can borrow a sarong at the door, but we always recommend carrying a light sarong because it has so many uses.
Seasons in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the clothing you’ll need will change depending on the season you’re travelling and the region you’re going to visit. Vietnam has several distinct climate zones, all with different rainy seasons and different average temperatures.
Here’s a quick guide:
Northern Vietnam (Hanoi, Sapa and north coast).
Can be hot in summer but in the winter months, it can get very cold and actually snow in the mountains. Rain and fog are common in the winter, too.
Definitely pack layers and rain gear if you’re heading north in the winter. It can also get very hot in the north, sometimes on the same day as it’s cold, so you need to be ready for anything.
Central Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An, Phong Nha).
Being in the middle, this area has the most forgiving climate, too. In winter, especially January and February, it can get down to about 15 degrees celsius, which feels cold on a damp day.
It can also get very hot here, so you’ll need to pack a few extra layers but can probably leave your parka at home.
Southern Vietnam (Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City, Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc).
Almost always hot, sometimes hot and ridiculously humid, you can pack a few less layers if you plan on staying in the south. However, you might want to pack more bathing suits, since the beaches are incredible.
What Outerwear & Shoes to Pack
- Light rain jacket – for those days you get caught in the middle of nowhere in a tropical storm.
- Light fleece or sweater – only for winter in the north or central Vietnam.
- Lightweight closed-toe shoes – bring sneakers or sport sandals but make sure the toe is closed. Roads and sidewalks are rough in Vietnam and you will be kicking loose debris a lot! We love our Keen Sandals because they protect our toes while keeping us cool.
- Hiking or trail shoes – if you plan on trekking in Sapa or Da Lat, bring water-resistant shoes with good grip. On my Sapa trek, I was with many tourists who only had sneakers and they were slipping and sliding on the mucky trails all day.
- Flip-flops – ideal if you’re heading to the beach or to use as indoor shoes in your guest house, hostel, or hotel.
What Clothing to Pack for Women
Note: I give a range of items you need on your Vietnam packing list. Don’t pack the maximum of everything or you’ll have too much stuff. It’s a balance; if you pack more skirts, pack fewer dresses, if you bring more t-shirts, bring fewer tanks!
- 3–5 quick drying t-shirts/tank tops – I’m not a fan of tank tops because they are often not culturally appropriate and lead to the need for more sunscreen / burned shoulders. So I usually pack a range of quick drying t-shirts like these ones from Bluffworks.
- 1–2 light, loose dresses – loose dresses are ideal for the hot weather in Vietnam and make it super easy to get dressed in the morning.
- 1 pair light, loose pants – the lighter the better. If you can’t find them at home, pick them up for a few dollars in the market or local shops when you arrive.
- 1–3 pairs of shorts / skirts – again, try to bring loose ones made of light fabrics.
- 1 light long-sleeved shirt – I love my Bluffworks Azores blouse to keep the hot sun off or as a layer on a cool evening.
- workout / yoga clothes – I bring one pair of cropped yoga pants, a sports bra, and a tank top so I can keep in shape on the road.
- 5 pairs of underwear – I like quick dry so I can wash them in the sink and hang them overnight when necessary.
- 2–3 bras – if you can find them, bring light breathable bras that won’t make you feel like your boobs are suffocating!
- bathing suit – there are plenty of pools and beaches in Vietnam, and you will definitely want to swim.
- sarong – can be used as a beach towel, regular towel, scarf, skirt, picnic blanket and more.
Optional add-ons for winter travel in Vietnam
- 1 pair thicker chinos / jeans – only if you’re travelling in central or northern Vietnam in winter.
What Clothing to Pack for Men
- 3–5 quick drying t-shirts – Bring quick drying t-shirts like these ones from Bluffworks so that you can wash them out and hang to dry overnight.
- 1 pair travel pants – the lighter the better. You’ll probably wear shorts most of the time in Vietnam, but a pair of pants is great for cooler evenings, visits to temples, or nights out.
- 1–3 pairs of shorts – try to bring loose shorts made of light fabrics. Thicker shorts can feel incredibly hot in the Vietnamese climate.
- 1 light long-sleeved shirt – this can be useful to prevent sunburn, for cooler evenings, or to keep the mosquitoes away.
- workout / yoga clothes – Stephen brings shorts and t-shirts specifically designed for workouts so he has something to wear when we do yoga.
- 3–5 pairs of underwear – quick dry underwear are best so you can wash them in the sink and hang them overnight when necessary.
- bathing suit – there are pools and beaches in Vietnam, and you will definitely want to swim.
Optional add-ons for winter travel in Vietnam
- 1 pair thicker chinos / jeans – only if you’re travelling in central or northern Vietnam in winter.
Essential Toiletries for Your Vietnam Trip
The key to keeping your toiletries organized is to get a good bag to keep it all organized. Stephen and I both have this Eagle Creek toiletry kit which is just the right size and shape to keep everything in its place.
Packing tips for toiletries:
- Most common toiletries can be easily bought in Vietnam but, of course, you won’t necessarily find your favourite brand.
- Instead of buying travel sized containers of all the items I want to bring, I use GoToob containers, which are easily refillable, complete leak-proof (mine have never leaked in 7 years of adventure travel), and small enough to carry on the plane.
- Don’t fall into the trap of overpacking your toiletry kit. While travelling, you won’t have the time or the patience to keep up your 7-step skincare routine.
- Keep make-up to a minimum. It just melts off in the heat and is not good for your skin in the Vietnamese climate.
Unisex Toiletry List
- small bar of soap – I keep mine in a mini tupperware
- small bar of solid shampoo – solid shampoo is better because there’s no plastic packaging and it can never leak
- gentle face cleanser – to keep those sweaty pores clean
- moisturizer with SPF – I use this so I never accidentally go outside without sunscreen
- toothpaste, floss, and toothbrush
- lip balm with SPF – I adore my Hurraw balms
- ocean-friendly sunscreen
- nail clippers
- small packet of tissues – for those times when the bathroom doesn’t have toilet paper
- hand sanitizer – for those times when the bathroom doesn’t have soap
- mini first-aid kit – with bandaids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, pain killers, etc.
Optional Toiletries for Women
- menstrual cup – if you’re still using disposable pads or tampons, it’s time to take your periods into the 21st century with a cup, the perfect period tamer for travel
- minimalist make-up – keep this to a minimum! Really, trust me on this. I like to use a tinted SPF CC cream and that’s it. You might want some mascara, lip color, and powder too.
Optional Toiletries for Men
- shaving kit – bring shaving oil for those with light beards or a shaving brush and soap for hairier fellas
Toiletries You Can Buy in Vietnam
- activated charcoal – if you get food poisoning, taking activated charcoal after the first 12 hours can help clear it up.
- mosquito spray – easily found in any convenience store, if you don’t see it, just ask the clerk.
- sunscreen – can be found in any touristy beach area but it is expensive and not always reef-friendly, so bring some from home if you have space.
- small packet of tissues – you will see women selling tissues in the touristy areas of big cities and you’re helping support their family if you buy from them rather than the big drug stores.
Travel Accessories for Vietnam
These are the little extras that will keep you comfy and safe on your trip to Vietnam.
- earplugs – no getting around it, Vietnam is noisy! Earplugs will help you get a good sleep and keep you sane on longer bus or train rides.
- refillable water bottle – most hotels now have a water refill station so you don’t need to buy water in single-use plastic bottles. If your hotel doesn’t have one, ask them to add it!
- reusable cutlery set – I’ve had mine for more than 10 years and take it everywhere
Electronics We Recommend for Vietnam
I wouldn’t say there are any specific electronics you need in Vietnam that you don’t need in other countries. As a general rule, we advise you to keep your electronics to a minimum. They are heavy and expensive, two things you want to avoid!
Here’s what we recommend you bring.
- phone and charger – bring a phone with a good camera and you won’t need separate camera equipment.
- power adaptor – Vietnamese plugs generally take two kinds of power plugs. The European style with two round prongs, and the north American style with two flat prongs. If you have a different kind of plug, you’ll need an adaptor.
- headphones – this is a travel essential for us as listening to music or podcasts is a great way to make long journeys go by more quickly. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must if you’re sensitive to noise, as Vietnam is almost always noisy!
- portable power bank – only necessary if your phone runs out of power after a day of normal use. When you’re out taking photos and videos, looking up restaurants, and navigating with your map, you don’t want your phone to die halfway through the day.
- camera, spare batteries, spare memory card – if your phone isn’t up to the task, you’ll need your camera kit.
- laptop – if I didn’t work online, I would never bring my laptop travelling. It’s heavy, hard to pack, and expensive. So if you don’t 100% need your laptop, leave it at home!
A Final Note About Your Vietnam Packing List
There’s no doubt about it, packing can be stressful. But try not to get too obsessed about having exactly the right combination of clothing and items for your trip to Vietnam.
There’s no such thing as a perfectly packed suitcase.
On any trip, there will be items you pack and never use, and others you wished you had brought but didn’t.
The good thing is, in Vietnam, you can easily buy most of the travel necessities and clothing items you might have forgotten — usually at much cheaper prices than things cost at home.
So, while paying attention to what you’re packing is important, it doesn’t need to be that stressful. Just do your best and adjust to the circumstance you find once you set off.
More Posts About to Vietnam
We’ve written a lot about our adventures in Vietnam — and it’s all extremely valuable info that will help you have an amazing time on your trip. Here are a few we suggest you read next.
We hope this Vietnam packing list is useful while you’re planning your trip. Our goal is to help you make your trip into a transformational experience and packing the right gear can definitely help. Don’t miss our other guides to Vietnam and feel free to email or message us on Instagram if you have questions.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J