Vietnam is practically dripping with adventure — no doubt in-part due to the heat. This sun-soaked coastal country is saturated with thick veins of rivers, deltas, and beaches that carry floating markets, longboats, and snorkelers along their currents and waves. From temples to mountains and rice paddies to metropolises, Vietnam boasts the variety of adventures you seek. You will pho sure fall under the spell of Vietnam’s mouthwatering cuisine, overall affordability, and scenic views. Realize why Vietnam tour companies have been a favorite of adventure-prone backpackers for years. Get carried away with adventure travel programs in Vietnam!
From north to south, Vietnam adventure vibes wax and wane, yet remain jaw-dropping locales for a memory card stuffed with HD photos. So, get hoppin’ — there’s plenty of sweetened coffee to drink and noodles to slurp.
Ho Chi Minh City. The largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (also known by its former name, Saigon) is a worthy choice. While the motorbike-clogged streets may seem overwhelming at first, you will soon grow to love the nonstop buzz of the city (the fact that you can buy top notch banh mis and Vietnamese coffees on every corner doesn’t hurt either!). Adventure travel programs in Ho Chi Minh City offer the chance to embark on a more urban adventure, whether that is a sobering but eye-opening look at the Vietnam War (or the American War, as it’s called here) or getting inside views at hospitals and orphanages in the city. Becoming a pro at navigating the concrete jungle of Ho Chi Minh will be an adventure in itself!
Hanoi. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and stands in contrast to the more southern Ho Chi Minh City. In the Old Quarter, you’ll find French-inspired architecture and food and plenty of vendors displaying herbs, silk, and everything in between. Hanoi is a great jumping off point to reach Halong Bay, peppered with limestone rock towers and adventurous kayakers (it may make you feel as though you’ve traveled to Jurassic Park!). Hanoi, Vietnam tour companies offer the chance to island hop around the coast near the city, escaping from the hustle and bustle.
Da Nang. This beachside city is located smack dab between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and it is a perfect choice for anyone who is a lover of turquoise waters, dragon statue bridges, and decadent street food (so...everyone, right?). While in Da Nang, you could immerse yourself in the country with a program that combines sightseeing, volunteering, or adventure trekking through the nearby mountains. You could also have the unique opportunity to build on skills you may have learned at school, and get an in-depth look into the world of international media and photojournalism! Your adventure travel in Vietnam will help you no matter what your future endeavors are, and gaining specific knowledge in a field while abroad is an amazing perk.
Adventures in Vietnam
“Adventure travel” casts a wide net; once you’ve narrowed down what country you’d like to travel to, you still have the daunting task of narrowing down exactly what you’d like to do there. Luckily, Vietnam adventure is made unique thanks to it’s incredible topography and culture — ensuring you won’t (slash basically can’t) make any wrong decisions!
Activities on the Water. Given the country’s size lengthwise, Vietnam has seemingly unlimited coastlines for you to explore. Snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, or taking a cruise are certainly some of the main draws for adventure travelers in Vietnam. The otherworldly spires in the many bays and coves will call your name for years to come. You could also take the opportunity to learn about conservation practices in a country that has long depended on water and the ocean for livelihoods.
Wildlife Conservation & Rescue. Be one of the very few people in the world to not only know what a pangolin is, but also to actively be working for the survival of the most trafficked mammal in the world! Elephant rescue sanctuaries are also on the rise in Vietnam, as tourists increasingly show their support for rescuing these gentle giants rather than exploiting them.
Trekking. Along with its famous beaches, Vietnam is home to some incredible jungle-carpeted mountains. Hike past neon green rice paddies, along impromptu flower markets, and pounding waterfalls (maybe even stopping to rappel down a couple of them, if you’re so inclined!). A trek in Vietnam will awaken your senses and leave you craving a nice cool dip in the ocean by the time you’re done.
Since adventure tours in Vietnam are so varied, your particular experience could be as wild or as relaxed as you want it. Just be sure to check the calendar; if you’re hoping to embark on an outdoor adventure, you may want to avoid Vietnam’s rainy season, which is from October through January. Either way, investing in some quality rain gear might not be a bad idea.
Costs & Affordability
Money — it’s often the main roadblock that makes it harder for Vietnam adventure tours to move from dream to reality. Luckily, southeast Asia, and Vietnam in particular, is one of the most cost-effective travel destinations on the globe!
A quick street food meal could cost you as little as $1.50. Trust your gut (literally!) if anything looks iffy, but usually eating at popular street food vendors is an affordable and delicious experience. In a country known for its world famous cuisine and well-loved by celiacs (thanks rice!), it’s good to know that sampling as many meals as you can stomach in a day won’t break the bank!
Taxis and public transportation could cost between $1 to $5, but you should make sure you have the conversion rates to Vietnamese Dong solid in your mind so you can tell when you’re being given a tourist price over a normal price.
Many programs will include everything except a plane ticket; this could include transportation in-country, food, lodging, and activities. Even if your chosen adventure travel program in Vietnam has all costs included, it’s still important to know average prices so you can be more confident getting around and shopping!
If you are still short on cash, you could tastefully fundraise for your Vietnam adventure on sites like FundMyTravel; while some people might be irked at being asked to give money to help you gallivant around Asia, they may be more willing and interested if they know that your program will have real benefits both for you and the communities you’ll be working with.
Accommodation & Visas
Let’s face it — if you are looking at an adventure program in Vietnam, you should probably know not to expect Ritz-Carlton accommodations. However, you also don’t have to expect roughing it in leaking tents every night! Your individual housing will depend on the program you choose, of course. This could include homestays with families of varying economic means, sleeping under the stars on a private island, or finding a bunk to call home on a multi-day boat journey.
One very important thing to note is that not only do you need a visa to enter Vietnam, you must apply for it before you arrive at the airport. If you neglect this step and hop off the plane expecting to breeze into the country, you might have a long night of disappointment and airport food ahead of you! Luckily, the application process is straightforward if you follow instructions from your country on GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Vietnam is a country of incredible physical beauty, and all of the glowing reviews in the world couldn’t do justice to the sights that will greet you when you arrive. By choosing an adventure travel program abroad, you will be privileged to get an intimate view of the country that few visitors get to see. Whether you’re sweating it out learning Vovinam martial arts or having a more educational adventure learning about lasting effects of history, you can be sure that your mind, body, and soul will be revitalized after your adventure trip in Vietnam.
At the same time, travel in Vietnam can be difficult emotionally. It wasn’t so long ago that your parents and grandparents could never even consider traveling there for pleasure. The lasting effects of the war can still be felt today, and it can be a disconcerting feeling to gain a perspective from the other side of the history books you’ve been taught your whole life. Ultimately, opening yourself up to this kind of learning experience will broaden your mind and may help shape your worldviews into the future.
Add a sprinkle of basil and bean sprouts to your life with a Vietnam adventure. Rest assured that your experiences abroad will be some of the most impactful moments of your life. Traveling in Vietnam will make you say “xin chao!” to a lifelong love of adventure, spontaneity, and — of course — piping hot noodle bowls.