If you’re worrying about what to pack for Vietnam, the hunt is over! I’ve spent two months in Vietnam in total, and so I know exactly what needs to go on your Vietnam packing list. The trouble with writing a packing list for Vietnam though, is that the country is so long and thin you’ll be going through every season on your journey.
Meaning, it’s not an easy pack.
If you travel using my two-week Vietnam itinerary then you’ll go from the cold rains to the hot sun. Depending on the time of year you might experience mugginess too. Being well prepared means you’ll be much happier when you’re there, and have everything you need in a place where it’s not so easy to get any clothes above a size 12.
What to take to Vietnam
The Vietnam dress code for tourists is conservative. Don’t be that person that’s wandering around with legs, arms and boobs out at the religious sites, horrifying every local who places eyes on you. Super short-shorts, midriffs out, and very low-cut tops are a definite no.
Absolute essentials for Vietnam
– Your passport. And check your passport is valid for at least six months before your arrival date in Vietnam.
– A valid visa. Depending on your nationality you can either get one before you go or apply on arrival. Make sure you check with your local embassy to check the Vietnam visa laws for your country.
– Travel insurance. I actually have travel insurance with my bank, Nationwide. I pay £10 a month and get it included along with phone insurance and breakdown cover. Before I had this I used World Nomads for my travel insurance and would recommend them to anyone.
– Vaccinations. The FitForTravel website gives you a comprehensive breakdown of which ones you’ll need.
– Working debit and credit cards. Check with your bank that your cards will work in Vietnam, and have $50/$100 stashed in your suitcase just in case.
Toiletries for Vietnam
Vietnam can be quite buggy, especially if you’re by water or up in the north by the rice paddies. You need to make sure you take a good bug spray. Mosquitos are most active at dusk and around bare flesh. Spray yourself liberally and cover up as much as possible in peak times.
incognito® is my bug spray of choice and is suitable for everyone over 6 months. incognito® offers worldwide protection from the Zika virus and malaria-carrying mosquitos too. It’s been clinically tested and is 100% effective against mosquitoes.
I like the suncream, as it’s SPF50 and you only need one application for your bug spray and sun cream in one. You can also get a loofah soap, incense sticks and Hair & Body Wash. I wish I’d had this in Malawi!
You can buy incognito® at Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, Sainsburys and Boots. It’s all clinically tested by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
* I was gifted some incognito® in return for my thoughts. You only need to read the stats and info to see it’s a great choice. Click through on that link to see lots of advice on how to avoid mosquito bites all together.
If you decide not to go with the mozzie and sun cream combo then make sure to pack a few different levels of sun cream coverage for your Vietnam trip.
I like to start off with a strong SPF and work my way down. UltraSun sun cream is my go to, or whatever spray SPF I can get my hands on. It’s definitely better for coverage when you’re travelling solo.
First aid kit for Vietnam
Make sure you include a first aid kit in your packing for Vietnam. Get some paracetamol, some diarrhoea stuff, and bad stomach medicine too. If you do get ill it’s so much nicer to have this stuff on you. Any dodgy tummies are usually caused by a change in your normal diet, and should be ok. But always best to be on the safe side.
Stick some plasters in too. If you haven’t walked as far as you’re going to in Vietnam, your feet might rub.
Also, throat lozenges and hand sanitiser are a good idea to put in too.
Always make sure to drink enough bottled or purified water in Vietnam.
Hair care in Vietnam
The humidity in Vietnam is pretty crazy, meaning your hair might be frazzled. Make sure you take a good conditioner, and some moisturising serum too. You could try some QuinoaPlex treatment to have something nutritious to carry around with you. You just use it after you’ve washed your hair, and then leave it for 15 minutes and wash it out before applying the conditioner.
It will help to add protein into your hair. Otherwise, do a hair mask before you go and when you come back, just for some extra moisture and strength.
More cosmetics for your Vietnam packing list
– Toothbrush and toothpaste
– Shampoo and conditioner
– Micellar water and cotton wool
– Cotton buds
– Shower gel
– Contact lenses
I love the hanging see-through toiletries bags so you can see exactly what you have when you’re travelling in Vietnam.
What to wear in Vietnam
As I said, Vietnamese culture is conservative – here’s a few ideas for what to bring to Vietnam.
– Breathable cotton shorts, tshirts, skirts and dresses. Make sure the skirts and dresses aren’t too short. Please don’t flash your butt to Vietnam. Not good for international relations!
– Vest tops to go with shorts. As log as you’re not at a religious site you’ll be fine wearing these.
– Comfortable trainers. Seeing as you’re on holiday in Vietnam I’m sure you’ll want to walk around a bit. Make sure you’re not moaning all the way and opt for comfort. Good for any hikes you plan on doing, and for rainy cold nights.
You won’t need hiking boots unless you’re hard core trekking, and there’s no need to bring ‘smart shoes’ either. Ditch those heels.
– Flip flops. It’s hot in Vietnam, especially in the south and especially in the summer! You’ll definitely want your flip flops for the beach too.
– Headwear. Pack either a hat or scarf to wear on your head under the hot sun. If you’re going out on boats at all you’ll want some sort of protection against the elements.
– Swimming stuff. You can wear bikinis or swimsuits at the beach areas of Vietnam. You’ll probably see a lot of local people wearing shorts wetsuits but you’ll be fine in whatever you deem comfortable. No topless sunbathing though – not cool!
– Beach cover ups. Kaftans and flowy dresses are a great idea for the beach, especially if you want to be a bit more comfortable when you’re in restaurants and bars.
– Light rain coat. If you’re going hiking up north you’ll definitely want some sort of cover up for the rain. You can buy these there, in Hanoi, but it makes sense to take your own light jacket.
– Scarf / sarong. Scarves are the best when you’re travelling, and an absolute essential IMHO. I used my scarf / sarong as a pillowcase, a head cover when I wanted to sleep, a skirt, a shawl, and more. You definitely need to add a sarong to your Vietnam packing list. Trust me.
– Light jumper. It’s always nice to know you have a warmer jumper if the temperature should drop, or you’re somewhere where the air conditioning has been turned up just that bit too high.
– Trousers. If you feel ready for them, those trousers where you can unzip the leg will be useful. I’m not quite there yet so I just like to pack yoga / sports trousers. Get some elephant trousers when you’re there too. All part of the experience!
And of course leggings are always a good shout to go from hot to cold.
– Underwear. Bras and knickers to see you through to the end. If you’re going in summer you might want more pairs than you actually need so you can change for the evening.
– Socks. Take a few pairs just to wear with your trainers, I like the trainer sock size best.
Don’t overpack for Vietnam. It’s so easy to get your laundry done in the cities that even if you’re in Vietnam for a few weeks you won’t need loads. There are signs for laundry up all over the cities, and it’ll come back smelling nice and beautifully folded. Honestly, clean washing was one of my favourite things about my four months in Asia.
At the same time, pack enough of the essentials for Vietnam. If you’re anything bigger than a size 12 (err, me) then you might find it difficult to buy clothes when you’re there. Some of the shops will advertise ‘Asian size’ and ‘Western size’, seeing as the difference is so vast.
Vietnam travel tips clothing
When you’re packing for Vietnam, think about packing in layers. I’ve travelled to Vietnam in January, February and August and all three were hot, and the start of the year, up north, was cold. If you have a few layers then you can adapt.
Pack a laundry bag – I have a cotton bag I got years ago from a hotel and just put my dirties in there. I really don’t like my dirty clothes touching my new, especially when I’ve been in such a hot and dirty environment, so I make sure to have some kind of system. You could just use a canvas bag or plastic bag to keep it easy.
Electronics for Vietnam
– Take a universal power adapter to Vietnam. Vietnam uses different 2 and 3 pin plug sockets depending on where you are. One with built in surge protection is also a good idea.
– Your camera and charger.
– Phone and phone charger. You can pick up SIM cards anywhere in Vietnam, but seriously, their public WiFi is so good I don’t think you need to. Even when I was out in the wilderness on my cycle ride through Vietnam I was picking up WiFi all over. Make sure your phone is well protected though – LifeProof cases are amazing.
– Portable charger. A portable charger is so useful, especially if you’re using the camera or Google Maps a lot and they’re draining your battery.
More things to take to Vietnam on holiday
– Umbrella. Not only for the rain up north when you’re hiking, but also the sun. An umbrella can be a great idea on the beach to protect you from the harsh midday sun.
– Sunglasses. Obviously you’re going to want to pick up some cheap knock off ones from the Ben Thanh Market, but you should also take a pair with you. Especially if they’re prescription!
What bag to take to Vietnam?
Both times I was in Vietnam I took my trusty Osprey bag,which I’ve used for years. I’d definitely recommend a flat wheelie like this. It can also be adapted to be a backpack, if I need.
I love it.
I also like to use different shaped and coloured bags to keep things ordered inside. Ones I’ve picked up on my travels. If you don’t have quite the collection I do, then buy some travel cubes to help you to keep everything in order.
I’ve never actually felt the need to use luggage locks, but if you’re worried, then there’s no harm in investing. I just feel like it makes it look like you have something worth taking.
You’ll also want a day rucksack for Vietnam, for when you’re sightseeing. I just use a basic rucksack from Vans, but here are a few day pack options for you.
Vietnam packing checklist
- Travel insurance
- Working debit and credit cards
- Some US dollars
- Bug protection
- Sun cream
- First aid kit
- Hair care stuff
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Micellar water and cotton wool
- Cotton buds
- Shower gel
- Contact lenses
- Toiletries bag
- Breathable cotton shorts, tshirts, skirts and dresses
- Vest tops
- Comfy trainers
- Flip flops
- Swimming stuff
- Beach cover ups
- Light rain coat
- Scarf / sarong
- Light jumper
- Laundry bag
- Universal power adaptor
- Camera and charger
- Phone and charger
- Portable charger
- Osprey bag
- Travel cubes
- Luggage locks
- Day rucksack