What to Bring

The answer is easy, "Bring very little." You'll be much happier if you can limit your luggage to one bag or backpack. Expect that you will leave with more, perhaps much more.

Vietnam's year-round tropical weather brings much sunshine and rain, so be prepared for both. Combine Vietnam's tropical weather with it's farming culture, and you find it is best to dress casual. Luckily, this coincides well with travel. The good thing is that whatever you need is available in great quality at great prices.

Vietnamese are conservative. It is better to dress similarly. Shorts and sandals are acceptable, but bright colors, ragged clothing, and much jewelry will make you feel out of place. On the casual side, high quality tshirts and polo shirts in western sizes, that do not shrink or run, are available for $3 to $7 USD (U.S. dollars). These would make good purchases early in your vacation.

Vietnam exports silk, so it is easy to buy high quality silk clothing. Nice silk shirts cost less than $10 USD. Dresses, coats, slacks, suits, shawls, table cloths, and raw fabric are also available in various silks at fantastic prices. You may want to shop for silk at the factories or the villages where it is woven, or wait until the last day so you do not have to drag your purchases all over the country.

American dollars are accepted by all the hotels, travel agents, tour guides, and many shops, and are easy to exchange. You will get a better exchange rate for dollars than for travelers checks, so think about bringing cash. However, Vietnam has a serious pickpocket problem so find a way to keep your money close to you and away from clever pickpockets who have seen everything. A money belt or belly belt are advised. Even shoulder bags clenched under the arm are easy targets that may get you dragged down the street from guys on motorcycles. Likewise, don't bring jewelry and other valuables that make you a target.

Be sure to bring your camera. You will want to have your film developed in Saigon before you go home. Their work is fast and excellent quality. You can have 24 pictures printed on Fuji Film for about $2 USD and you'll love the colors.

What to bring (but travel light)

  • Photocopies of passport and visa (stored separately)
  • Money belt
  • Camera and film
  • Raincoat or small umbrella
  • Sunblock lotion
  • Hat or visor
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Polo or button-down shirts (avoid loud colors)
  • Shorts (not too short)
  • Long pants (perhaps only one pair)
  • Swim suit
  • Fork (if you are not good with chop sticks and spoon)
  • Pocketsize tissues (bathrooms often have no tissue)

What NOT to bring

  • Jewelry
  • Large purse
  • Suit and tie
  • Dress shoes
  • Animals, drugs, weapons (of course)