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10 tips for backpacking in Vietnam

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Whether you’re a first-time backpacker or you’ve already caught the travelling bug Vietnam, with its varying scenery and culture, is the country for you. With such a vast array of food to sample, landscape to explore and activities to try, we’ve put together 10 top tips so you can get the most out of your trip.

1)      Explore the islands in Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay (pictured) and its vast maze of giant limestone karsts and secluded islands make for an amazing experience that you will not forget in a hurry. There are numerous tours to choose from, most of which last 3-5 days and leave from Hanoi. Many tours also offer a host of activities such as kayaking, overnight island stays, rock climbing, tubing, trekking and wake-boarding. Before deciding who to go with, be sure to do some research. Ask to see pictures of the boat you’ll be travelling on and seek advice from fellow travellers.

2)      Enjoy the food

The subject of food between travellers in SE Asia is a popular one. From time to time you’ll hear the odd story about someone who’s fallen ill from eating ‘street food’. However, if you stay savvy you should be able to sample the local cuisine without any nasty repercussions. Find places that seem to attract the locals. Just like in the UK, if a place is busy, it’s for a reason – it serves good food and has built a good reputation! If you do find yourself craving western dishes, then be prepared to pay through the teeth for the privilege.

3)      Learn to barter

In Vietnam, you can near enough barter for anything and everything. Play the game but at the same time, be respectful. A useful Vietnamese saying to take with you is “Ma Qua” which means “too expensive.” Say it with a smile on your face, they’ll love the fact that you’re making an effort to barter in their language.

4)      Planning – don’t do too much of it

Having a general plan is always a good idea but don’t micro-manage your travels. It’s a good idea to have a rough idea of the things you want to see and an idea of the route you want to take. However, not pre-booking where you’re going to stay or knowing how long you’re going to stay for gives you the freedom to tailor your trip as you go. So if you fall in love with a place, you can stay there for as long as you like!

5)      Hoi An

Simply put, Hoi An is an incredibly special place. The town itself is beautiful, has stacks of character and is a hugely popular tourist destination. Famous for producing tailored suits and dresses; a bespoke 3 piece suit can cost all of £55! At night Hoi An is whole lot of fun too and just as cheap, expect to find local beer for 10,000 Dong or 9p per glass. That’s 10 pints for less than a quid!

6)      Travel – Hit the Road

Travelling by bus around Vietnam is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to get around the country – if not the most comfortable. If you can bear with the bumpy roads, sleeper buses are a great way to make the most of your time and save on a night’s stay at a hostel.

7)      Hue to Hoi An – A dream motorbike journey

If you want to travel like a local, why not take in the stunning scenery on the back of a bike. Hue to Hai An is a popular route, the journey will take you around a day and you can expect to pay about £25. You can even hand-over your backpack and they’ll transport it to the hostel you’re travelling to at the other end (do ensure you keep all your valuables with you though).

8)      Currency card – Get one

If you don’t feel like being ripped off by your bank every time you wish to withdraw your hard earned cash using your debit or credit card, get yourself a currency card. These are cards which you can pre-load with money before you set off and top-up online while you’re abroad. Plus if you lose your card, or it happens to get stolen, the procedure to get a replacement is relatively straight forward.

9)      Da Lat

Situated high up in a mountainous region, Da Lat has a much more relaxed feel when compared to other towns and cities. If you do visit the town, stay at the Da Lat Family hostel - the place is a marvel. Run by a mother and daughter, conditions are “cosy” to say the least but the delicious dinners and friendly atmosphere make it well worth a stay. Da Lat is popular for its adventure sports and the hostel arranges a range of outdoor adventure trips such as cliff jumping, abseiling off waterfalls and trekking.

10)   Chu Chi Tunnels

There are various tours that leave Ho Chi Minh City for the Chu Chi district. These tours focus on events of the Vietnam War, in particular the Viet Cong guerrilla army who famously created an extensive underground tunnel network that spansover 250km. You’ll be led around the site by a Viet Cong war veteran and you will get the opportunity to crawl through the same tunnels they once used. Apparently the tunnels have been widened for the “Big Westerner” but I can assure you, it’s still a tight squeeze! You’ll also get the opportunity to fire various weapons on a live firing range, all for around £15-£20.

Be sure to download a free copy of How to be a Gadget Savvy Traveller: Vietnam from Endsleigh, for all the vital information you’ll need in case your gadgets go missing.

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