What to Pack and What NOT to Bring for a Vietnam Trip

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Why do you need a packing list for Vietnam? Traveling to Vietnam is very different than traveling to many other countries. Many parts of this country lack the basic necessities that many of us are accustomed to. As such, when you travel, it is very important to pack the appropriate things. If you do not, you may be unable to get them there. Here is a list of Vietnam what to pack.

1. Travel Essentials

Passport and visa

Make sure your passport is valid for more than six months prior to departure and that you have your visa sorted. Vietnam does not offer visas on arrival without an approval letter that should have been acquired at least a month in advance. Every country has a different visa requirement so do the proper research before visiting.

Read more: Guide to Visa on Arrival for Vietnam

Cash

You will easily be able to take out Vietnamese dong from an ATM. Make sure to notify your bank before traveling so they won’t freeze your card while you’re abroad. But carrying around some USD cash, around $80-100, is a pretty smart move. Some transactions at tourist sites will be easier made in USD or if you’re renting a motorbike for example.

Read more: Guide to Pay for Purchases, Exchange Currency

Photocopies of your credit cards and travel documents

Make two copies of your passport, credit card both front and back and any travel bookings you’ve made. Leave one set with someone at home, just in case you’re the victim of theft, which is commonplace in Vietnam. You will be thankful to have that information if ever you have to file a report or cancel cards *knock on wood.* Also, by carrying around a copy of your passport, you won’t have to bring your actual passport book out on the streets with you. Booking agents and motorbike rentals will take the passport copy.

A notebook

Write down the addresses and contact information of places you’ll be staying at so that in the event you don’t have internet access or your phone dies, you can always get home safely.

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2. Electronics

Phone and charger

If you bring a smartphone with you, make sure to keep your belongings close and do not use it while walking on busy streets, especially closer to the edge of the sidewalk. Drive by snatchings happen frequently and local police are helpless in these types of predicaments. Make sure to bring a phone charger, although if you forget it, you’ll be able to find one at a mobile store especially in the larger cities. Make sure your smartphone is unlocked or else you won’t be able to use a sim card.

Camera and charger

Same goes for a camera. Be vigilant about a camera and if you need to tote it around, at least carry it on a camera strap cupping it as you’re walking outdoors. Sometimes, outlets can short circuit so be advised that if you’re charging a lot of items, it’s best that you time your charging accordingly.

Universal Waterproof Phone Case

In this day and age, your phones are your connections to just about everything, and you want to have them with you every step of the way. This phone case not only makes that possible, but much less nerve-wracking. The case is a universal fit, and it protects against water, dirt/dust, and light impacts so that you can carry it with you without worrying about your phone getting wet or damaged. You can even use your camera and have full access to the phone touchscreen while underwater.

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Electric adapter

The voltage is 220 volts. Most sockets accommodate plugs with two round prongs. Adaptors can be found at any electrical shop but they might not be that common in more remote areas so just bring your own.

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Headphones

Noise canceling headphones are nice for long sleeper buses but make sure that you’re not packing ultra bulky/flashy pair. Try not to attract too much attention to yourself to avoid becoming a quick target.

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3. Clothing

For the most part, Vietnam will be very warm, if not hot during your visit. That being said, bring lightweight clothing that quickly dries. Some prefer to dress “liberally” to stay comfortable, but easily investing in clothes made out of moisture wicking material can help you not cringe at how sweaty a walk has made you. Also researching the local temperature will help you to adjust your packing list accordingly. Fair warning: there is a ton of shopping to be done in Vietnam, especially on a clothes front, and chances are you will buy clothes or at least have them tailor-made in Hoi An. Make sure you have enough space and do not over pack for fear of missing out. And don’t bring clothes you’re in love with just in case you need to make space.

You also don’t have to worry about a dress code. You can walk out with next to nothing on you, but Vietnam is not very conservative, and a pair of shorts and a tank top are a-ok. Just be comfortable.

If you’re traveling up north during winter times (Oct – Feb), you want to pack a light windbreaker and some long pants because it can get cold. Leggings are great, especially if you’re gonna go up to Sapa and do some hiking.

1-2 pairs of bathing suits

Obviously for beaching and any other water-related activity. No need to be demure, Vietnamese are not crazy conservative. There are tons of beaches in Vietnam and if your accommodation doesn’t have a pool, you can visit another hotel’s pool for a minimal fee.

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2-3 T-shirts

Many religious sites have strict dress codes so it’s best that you bring T-shirts or short-sleeved dress shirts that cover the shoulders.

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1 pair of trousers

Don’t bring jeans, it’s simply too hot and constricting. Bring lightweight trousers, also to be worn when visiting official/religious sites, for example, The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum or the Pillar Pagoda. Jeans will be a good idea if you want to go clubbing or to a fancy rooftop bar (for men, of course).

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1-2 pairs of shorts

Shorts that are made from thick denim will have a hard time drying, especially if you’re looking to do your laundry DIY in the sink. Many laundry services also still air dry.

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1-2 pair of socks

Socks are a must for when you’re chilling in a sleeper bunk and are afraid of whose feet have been in your pod (so to speak) or for sneakers when going on hikes. They also become padding if you buy fragile ceramics.

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1-2 tank tops

When the temperatures are scorching, you may want to just wear these and that’s okay. So long as they’re not crazy low-cut and you’re not wearing them to temples, you are good.

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1-2 dresses

Ladies, you will find more dresses so bring 1-2 that are versatile and not too risqué. Maxi dresses help you stay conservative and cool at the same time.

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Underwear

Usually, the rule of thumb is to bring one piece of underwear per day, plus one extra but if you’re staying there for more than 2 weeks, just cap it at 10 pairs and wash at will. Washing outside of hotels is much cheaper, but of course, less convenient.

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Light sweater

Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be running into very frigid temperatures. But even so, public buses tend to crank the AC quite high and the shifting temperatures might cause a cold so just stay prepared with a sweater to make sure you’re regulating your body temps properly.

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Good walking shoes

It is strongly advised that you go with good walking sandals to let your feet breathe. Make sure your shoes are the waterproof assortment, say Tevas or Crocs, if you’re visiting during the rainy season. Birkenstocks are also a popular choice for travelers. We’re not endorsing one or the other; just make sure you have good sole support. But if you’re going canyoning, you might as well invest in Tevas.

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Flip Flops

Flip flops serve a dual purpose: for the beach and for communal showers.

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Running/Hiking Shoes

These are only necessary if you will be participating in more outdoorsy affairs (think: marathons, hiking, trekking, caving.) But you can actually rent hiking shoes while in mountain areas so don’t feel like you need to pack your own unless you have extremely big feet… those may not be accommodated.

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4. Toiletries

Female Urination Device

Squat toilets are still widely used in Southeast Asia, and when you’re traveling through the countryside there is likely to not be a toilet at all. This may be easy for some, but it can certainly pose problems, especially for women. Fortunately products like this female urination device exist. This device can really make a lady’s life easier because it makes it possible to stand to pee.

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Deodorant

You will get sweaty and stinky. Pack a strong deodorant stick and make sure you swipe some on at the beginning of each day.

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Razors/shaving cream

While razors are easy to come by at convenience stores, they may not be equipped with enough blades to do a proper job. If you’re the hairy sort, bring your own grooming equipment.

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Hair dryer/straightener

Oddly enough, many hotel/hostel bathrooms are not outfitted with hair dryers, even at high-end properties. If you are someone who needs to style their hair, bring a travel-sized tool and make sure that it’s the right voltage as hair styling appliances usually tend to blow fuses.

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Small towel

For extra sweaty days or long hikes, having a small towel will keep you feeling dry. Can also double as a shower scrub.

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5. Miscellaneous

Sarong and/or quick dry beach towel

Keep all towels light. Remember space is of the utmost importance. The sarong is the most versatile travel tool as it can double as a bed sheet, towel, beach cover, scarf, purse, etc. See ways to use a sarong. A quick dry beach towel like a microfiber towel or a Turkish towel are compact and highly absorbent.

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Bug spray

Bug spray is not as easy to come by as you might think and therefore strongly recommended on your part. The mosquitos come alive during the wetter seasons and are particularly nasty on the coastline. Bring your own and be vigilant. Also, if you are doing more outdoorsy-type activities, try to bring sprays with DEET to ward off any mosquitos carrying tropical diseases like dengue.

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Sunblock/Sun lotion

Bring your own sunblock as many of the lotions in Southeast Asia are filled with whitening agents and are fairly expensive. Make sure that you wrap some tape around the bottle cap as they tend to explode midflight, leaving your belongings goopy and stained.

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Aloe Vera

While fresh aloe vera is easy to come by, chances are you probably don’t want to find stalks of aloe vera when trying to soothe a nasty burn. Bring your own bottle of after the sun as the tropical sun beats down viciously.

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Umbrella

While you could easily buy an umbrella, it just so happens that the times you need it most are the times you won’t find it. Bring a small, travel-sized umbrella. Downpours happen but start steadily. Thankfully, the rain in Southeast Asia operates like clockwork allowing you to seek shelter when need be.

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Dry bag

For those doing some island hopping, a dry bag is the safest best for all your possessions to stay in tip-top shape. Dry bags are relatively inexpensive so you should find some on the street, but if you don’t want to search, bring your own.

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Medicine and prescription meds

Bring a mini first aid kit, which should include at a minimum: Immodium (diarrhea stopper,) band aids, Neosporin (aka bacitracin to clean infections,) aspirin, and hydrocortisone cream for itchy bites. If you have special prescriptions like birth control, make sure you’re readily prepared. While some might comment that it’s easy to purchase anything over-the-counter, that depends on where you are and if you’re willing to take the chance on accidentally buying expired meds.

Books

English language books are hard to come by. If you’re an avid reader, bring one or two books (depending on how long you’re visiting) and trade them off at hostels.

Travel-size hand sanitizer

You’ll find that many rest stops and public bathrooms don’t have soap and a lot of the food in Vietnam is eaten by hand. This is the first step to avoiding any pesky stomach bugs while on the road.

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A lock

Staying at a hostel or in a shared accommodation space? Bring a lock for some peace of mind. You would hope one would integrity but better safe than sorry.

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Sunglasses/sun hat

Want to stay fashionable while protecting your skin from harmful UV rays? Sunglasses and sun hats are the healthiest fashion statement around! You can also find cheap sunglasses out on the street, but don’t let the vendors mark up the price.

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What NOT to bring to Vietnam

1) ? DON’T BRING unnecessary books: Packing light is the name of the game in this region. It’s likely that you’ll be on at least one LCC (low-cost carrier) flight during your trip if you’re country-hopping, and many have strict weight limits for bags. Leave the books at home and opt for a Kindle instead.

2) ? DON’T TAKE a heavy coat: While it does get a little chilly in some parts of Southeast Asia, you really won’t need a heavy coat. Instead, stick with clothing that can be easily layered in the event that you get cold, and bring a lightweight jacket or fleece to get you by if there is a cold-snap or storm of some sort.

3) ? DON’T PACK valuables: While violent crimes are less widespread, petty theft and crimes of opportunity can be fairly common, particularly in cities and more tourist-centric areas. Best to leave non-essential valuables at home.

4) ? DON’T BRING offensive or revealing clothing: Much of Southeast Asia remains a fairly modest culture. Make a good impression and leave distasteful items at home.

5) ? DON’T BRING pornography: the sales or possession of any pornographic material is strictly prohibited and illegal in Vietnam, not just for tourist but for everyone. Enforcement is very strict. If you happen to have unlabeled DVDs in your bag, they will be checked at the airport. If you are traveling around Asia, you will have to get rid of any pornographic material in your possession before entering Vietnam.

6) ? DON’T PACK a computer or bulky electronics: They’re heavy, they’re expensive, and they’re not easy to conceal in your room. It’s not worth lugging them around, and it’s too risky to bring such valuable items along for the trip. Take the opportunity to “unplug” from electronics as much as possible.