Is Vietnam Actually… Underrated? (Honest Pros and Cons)


Vietnam might be somewhat love-it-or-hate-it, possibly even controversial amongst journey buffs.

It truly occurs to be one in all my favourite locations to speak about, precisely as a result of I’ve had such dramatically totally different experiences there.

There have been occasions after I thought Vietnam have to be essentially the most overrated nation in Southeast Asia. Other occasions, I believed it was the epitome of journey journey, making me wish to scream from the rooftops about simply how good it’s.

Not all facets of Vietnam will at all times please everybody, particularly in essentially the most touristy areas. But dig a bit deeper and you might uncover the different Vietnam. I went from having combined emotions to contemplating Vietnam one in all my favourite journey locations — and right here I’ll attempt to clarify why.

OK, poor your self a drink. We have loads to speak about.

Fair warning: I’m going to be very trustworthy concerning the negatives! Do give the put up a full learn so you can also make up your personal thoughts, as travelling in Vietnam can’t be simply boiled right down to just some fast bullet factors. Needless to say, all journey experiences are in the end subjective.

DON’T go to Vietnam if…

You anticipate jaw-dropping Insta-worthy seashores

This is generalizing, however on the entire Vietnam’s seashores are simply… effective.

A very picture-perfect seashore paradise is tough to search out in Vietnam. Still, given such a protracted shoreline, there are many respectable sandy seashores to go round. The wow-factor simply under no circumstances compares with what you will discover in Indonesia, The Philippines, or Thailand.

Beach in Da Nang

Some commenters have argued this level with me, often mentioning some forgotten native seashore in a spot that’s tough to get to. I agree, there are at all times hidden gems. If you’re on a motorcycle journey by Vietnam, you may cease by some splendidly pristine fisherman’s seashores someplace alongside the way in which.

But when contemplating the seashores in vacationer hubs like Ha Long Bay, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, and Hoi An, I believe it’s truthful to fee these as common.

Ky Co seashore, typically rated as the most effective

Many seashores lack scenic options or are fairly polluted. Snorkelling in Vietnam is commonly disappointing attributable to poor visibility and dynamite fishing leading to an absence of aquatic life.

The finest seashores are within the south, reminiscent of in Phu Quoc and Con Dao. But I believe it’s finest to consider the seashores in Vietnam extra as a facet dish than the principle meal.

You can add some seashore days to your itinerary and luxuriate in some stress-free occasions by the water, however should you simply need magnificent seashores, you’re higher off going to Palawan, one of many quite a few Indonesian islands, and even Krabi in Thailand.

Ha Long Bay
You are ONLY going for Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is an archipelago of over 1,600 islands and islets that includes spectacular limestone pillars rising from the ocean. It’s extremely spectacular and UNESCO-recognized, so no marvel it turned the sight to see in Vietnam.

Sadly, with this additionally comes a variety of overhype and mass tourism. While it’s nonetheless value visiting, you have to settle for that it’s a serious tourism honeypot. Chances are you’ll must share the bay with an armada’s value of cruise boats, must elbow your option to one of many viewing factors on land, and possibly see a good bit of garbage within the waters.

You can enhance issues a bit by taking a multi-day cruise as a substitute of a day journey, or going to less-visited however additional bays like Bai Tu Long Bay.

However, Ha Long Bay shouldn’t be the one nor even one of the best motive to go to Vietnam.

You anticipate clear skies at all times

Okay, actual discuss: Vietnam does not at all times seem like the skilled inventory pictures that’s typically used to advertise.

For instance, that is how Tam Coc is commonly proven:

But chances are high that it’ll look extra like this:

The north specifically has an actual persistent behavior of being cloudy and smoggy. You must be a bit fortunate to expertise the clear skies and sun-draped aesthetic right here, particularly through the Nov-Feb excessive season.

This isn’t a lot a difficulty in observe. In reality, the north is my favourite area! However, the idealized imagery can typically set unreasonable expectations, which is one thing to concentrate on.

The tremendous golden inexperienced rice fields are additionally solely seen on the finish of the wet season (September-October), whereas most vacationers have a tendency to go to Vietnam within the dry season after it’s already been harvested.

You’re unprepared for the scams

Unfortunately, Vietnam has a little bit of a repute for vacationer scams and pushy salespeople. I’ve to confess that on my first go to, I let this bitter my impressions of the nation fairly a bit.

I used to be overcharged by taxi drivers, had a menu switched on me in a restaurant (to 1 with increased costs), acquired harassed by pretend charity collectors, and acquired horribly pressured by tour guides and market sellers into parting methods with my cash. It was all somewhat traumatic.

Sign within the distant north suggesting locals tips on how to behave

To be truthful, I’ve the impression Vietnam has mellowed out a bit on this in recent times. Taxi scams can now be averted by utilizing the ride-hailing app Grab. The scams and annoyances additionally appear to evaporate nearly solely when you’re outdoors of the 5 or 6 most touristy locations.

Still, you typically must be on alert or in a position to ignore individuals to keep away from frustrations. I like to recommend studying up on widespread scams so that you’re ready.

You can’t get pleasure from Vietnam for what it’s

Vietnam isn’t at all times so involved with making a ‘perfect paradise’ for vacationers. Tourism solely makes up 2% of Vietnam’s GDP in comparison with round 20% of Thailand’s, although that doesn’t cease the preferred spots from being overtouristed.

Another actuality is that it’s an industrious nation with a variety of trendy growth round its city areas. As companies diversify away from China, it’s experiencing an financial growth.

If you favor quiet and fewer commercialized locations, you need to zig the place others zag and set your sights past the likes of Ha Long Bay, Nha Trang, and Hoi An.

Long convoys of tour bicyles in Hoi An

Vietnam might lack the famend resort hospitality trade of the Thai islands or, say, Bali. But in case you are motivated to journey to this nation for its tradition, delicacies, pure websites, villages, or buzzing cities, then will probably be really your oyster.

What I like about Vietnam is that it’s principally simply being itself, if that makes any sense, which makes it such an enchanting nation to discover.

Which brings me to…

Reasons to LOVE Vietnam…

The roads much less travelled

If you’ve solely glanced on the headers to date, you might suppose Vietnam is only a horrible place to go. But should you ask me, the alternative is true!

Ha Long Bay could also be ho-hum, however my perspective of Vietnam took a 180-degree flip as soon as I set my sights on some less-hyped locations.

I explored caves in Phong Nha, went motorbiking in Ha Giang, and went to smaller cities like Da Nang and Quy Nhon. Suddenly, all one of the best facets of Vietnam got here into focus.

Away from mass tourism, Vietnam is an absolute thrill and a privilege to discover. Even within the extra touristy stops, you possibly can have an unbelievable time by approaching them with some curiosity.

For instance, learn my information on tips on how to discover Hanoi, which focuses on seeing the native life, diving into the road meals, and wandering the exhilarating markets, somewhat than merely ticking the standard church buildings and monuments off a to-do listing.

The chaotic cities

The large cities of Vietnam — particularly Hanoi and Saigon — are simply among the finest people-watching locations I’ve been.

My very first publicity to Vietnam was within the northern capital of Hanoi. The visitors there’s really not like something I had seen earlier than. Yes… the air is thick with exhaust and your ears will not often catch a break, however I promise the earlier you recover from this the extra enjoyable you’ll be having.

Go to any downtown space of Hanoi and also you’ll see countless streams of scooters flowing by the streets, seemingly ignoring each visitors regulation but someway by no means colliding. You might even see mopeds carrying glass home windows, packing containers stuffed with chickens, and even a complete household of six.

One of one of the best issues you are able to do is to seize a Vietnamese espresso at a restaurant, ideally one with just a little balcony, and watch all of the insanity unfold earlier than your eyes.

The unbelievable highway journeys

Vietnam is famend for being the right vacation spot to discover on a highway journey, ideally by motorcycle.

Even should you can’t drive a bike or moped, you possibly can nonetheless get pleasure from this side of Vietnam. Simply hit the highway utilizing one of many many Easy Rider tour firms, which allow you to hop on the again with a talented native driver.

One of the areas with among the most jaw-dropping surroundings is the northern space known as Ha Giang. Driving the mountain roads right here is one in all my most cherished journey experiences (however take note the roads right here aren’t for newbies).

Besides the northern mountains, there are some famend motorbiking routes within the middle such because the Hai Van Pass. I’ve additionally had an unbelievable time driving across the rice paddies and waterways of the Mekong Delta within the south.

With the liberty to discover your method, you’ll see Vietnam in a unique mild, meet pleasant locals somewhat than scammers, and uncover genuine spots away from the everyday vacationer path.

If you’re interested by exploring Vietnam on two wheels, try our ideas for motorbiking in Vietnam, or try the native weblog Vietnam Coracle, which I like consulting for its many extremely detailed highway journey itineraries.

Incredible ecotourism

The phrases Vietnam and ecotourism aren’t typically stated in a single breath, and no, it isn’t precisely Costa Rica. Nature is commonly poorly protected particularly alongside the coast, however there are luckily some very wild and exhilarating nature areas to discover within the inside.

Phong Nha is without doubt one of the finest ecotourism hotspots so as to add to your itinerary. This small riverside city has fortunately resisted the temptations of overdevelopment, because of a concerted effort to advertise sustainable types of tourism.

Inside the Phong Nha National Park, you will discover huge unbroken rainforests dwelling to dozens upon dozens of limestone caves. Among these are among the largest in your complete world.

I went on an expedition to Hang En, the world’s third-largest cave, which concerned an intensive hike by the jungle in addition to sleeping in tents contained in the cave. The feeling of being inside a pure formation the scale of an plane hanger is solely indescribable.

The tour firm Oxalis Adventure is the ecotourism knowledgeable on this area and I can’t suggest them sufficient. (This shouldn’t be an advert.) If you’ve ever wished to go on a jungle, caving, or river kayaking expedition, they’re your very best wager. They’ll make you are feeling such as you’re inside your personal National Geographic documentary, whereas guaranteeing their work advantages the native communities in addition to nature-conservation efforts.

Besides Phong Nha there are different extremely worthwhile ecotourism areas, reminiscent of Ba Be National Park, and the mountain trekking routes round Sa Pa and Mai Chau.

Sleeping in a tent inside Hang En, the world’s third greatest cave, is without doubt one of the finest issues I’ve performed in Vietnam.

The bustling markets

The meals and produce markets in Vietnam are among the many most enjoyable in Asia to discover. Maybe I’m simply nostalgic as a result of Hanoi was my first time visiting a correct Asian moist market, however I used to be dazzled by all of the issues I noticed.

There have been bottles full of snake wine, buckets full of frogs, and packing containers bursting with reside eels nonetheless wiggling round.

When visiting markets in mountain villages within the north, you might be fortunate to see members of native tribes such because the Hmong of their fantastically coloured clothes.

In the south, essentially the most thrilling markets to go to are the floating markets, which happen solely on the river and the place distributors in small picket boats move by promoting their wares.

Being from The Netherlands the place all the pieces is orderly to a tee, I’ll by no means tire of experiencing the chaos, sounds, and smells of a Vietnamese market — and maybe you’ll really feel the identical.

The phenomenal meals

It’s no marvel that Anthony Bourdain simply stored banging on about Vietnam. Whether you’re braving the road meals (don’t fear, simply dig in!) or choose going for restaurant meals, you’ll end up in a foodie paradise.

Mixing Asian and French influences (colonial rule launched things like the baguette) and having distinctly totally different flavors within the north, middle, and south, it’s not possible to get tired of Vietnamese delicacies.

If you’re not but in control, the most effective issues you are able to do is to e-book a road meals tour with a neighborhood in no matter metropolis you begin your journey.

Taking a crash course in Vietnamese delicacies goes to repay for the remainder of your journey, as you’ll know simply what scrumptious dishes to order past your typical pho soup.

The low price of journey

Oh yeah, did I point out that journey in Vietnam is spectacularly good worth?

You can journey fortunately on a backpacker finances of as little as $20 to $30 a day, with many scrumptious meals accessible for underneath $3 and fundamental non-public resort rooms beginning at $15 an evening or so.

If you may have a bit extra money to spend, you possibly can get pleasure from boutique-quality lodging at finances costs.

You can verify extra particulars in my Southeast Asia journey budgets information.

Cheap and scrumptious meals are all over the place
The long-stay visas

Finally, for a lot of nationalities, it’s now simpler to go to Vietnam than ever earlier than.

Prior to 2023, Vietnam’s visa system was somewhat complicated, with a number of visa sorts provided with totally different necessities and restrictions. And should you wished to remain longer than a few weeks in Vietnam, it was typically harder to take action.

That’s all modified now with the introduction of the brand new Vietnam e-visas. You can simply apply for them on-line and when you’ve got a Western passport, you might be nearly actually eligible for a beneficiant 90-day visa-on-arrival.

This has not solely made it simpler to get a visa for a vacation, however digital nomads wishing to remain longer will now discover it a lot simpler to take action. Da Nang, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City are among the high locations for distant working in Vietnam.


So… is Vietnam value visiting?

As you possibly can in all probability inform by now, I believe Vietnam is extremely value visiting.

Sure, Vietnam is the place I skilled among the most annoying scams, to not point out a number of disappointing cookie-cutter excursions at Ha Long Bay and within the Mekong Delta.

But it’s additionally the place I waited out the rain underneath a thatched roof in Ha Giang province, sipping a candy and creamy Vietnamese espresso whereas conversing with a Hmong farmer purely by Google Translate and agreeing his chickens have been lovely.

Trang An

It’s true… Vietnam isn’t at all times picture-perfect all over the place and the seashores are solely so-so.

Then once more, the cities are an assault to the senses and a road photographer’s paradise — from the ladies sporting their flower-patterned pyjama fashions, to the artisan blacksmiths soldering away within the slim streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, and locals ritualistically burning stacks of mock forex initially of the Lunar calendar.


You might wish to preserve your expectations in verify for the coral reefs, however dive deep into one of many nationwide parks and also you’ll see some jaw-dropping landscapes and among the wildest areas of Southeast Asia.

“A country of contrasts” is a journey writing cliche, but when there’s one nation for which we must always nonetheless reserve this phrase, then let it’s Vietnam.

Qui Nhon

I hope extra individuals go to Vietnam with the correct expectations, as a result of should you do, it’s a novel thrill to find this overwhelmingly vibrant and thrilling nation.

For extra inspiration, don’t miss my backpacker’s information to Vietnam, my 3-week Vietnam itinerary, and these 22 high locations to go to in Vietnam.

Some hyperlinks could also be affiliate hyperlinks, that means I could earn fee from services or products I like to recommend. For extra, see website insurance policies.

Posted FEB 28, 2024


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