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Vietnam was the third country I ever travelled solo having made my way alone through Myanmar and Laos in the weeks previously. That was a while ago now, in 2015. Since then, I’ve travelled solo in Mexico, India, Cuba, South Africa and many more.
Since that first solo trip in Vietnam, I returned several times. In 2018, I lived in Vietnam for months, house and cat-sitting while building up my travel blog. I’m not sure why it took me so long to put together this post, but perhaps it’s because Vietnam feels like such a safe and easy place to travel that I didn’t feel the need.
But we’re all at different stages of our solo travel journies. If travelling solo in Vietnam still seems scary and overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ve been there. I got you. Let’s figure it out together.
Read next: everything you need to know about solo female travel
E-sim data plan
Copy of Lonely Planet Vietnam
Book buses and trains in Vietnam: 12GoAsia
Pre-book your Hanoi airport to city transfer
Accommodation: Browse hotels on Booking.com // hostels on Hostelworld
Tours: GetYourGuide / Viator
Travel insurance: True Traveller (European travellers) / Hey Mundo (other nationalities) / Safety Wing (digital nomads)
Essential reading: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips
Is Vietnam safe for solo female travel?
Yes, Vietnam is one of the safest places in Southeast Asia for solo travel. Violent crime is almost non-existent. The main thing to worry about is pickpocketing in tourist cities but I’ll delve into that later.
More solo travel blogs:
Good things about solo travel in Vietnam
- English is widely spoken
- There’s a clear tourist route down the coast (part of a longer Southeast Asia travel route) meaning other travellers will be travelling the same way as you. It’s easy to bump into people time again and buddy up
- It’s easy to get SIM cards and data to stay connected
- Vietnam has a great hostel scene plus lots of day tours and activities so it’s easy to meet people
- It’s VERY affordable. You don’t have to do dorms if you don’t want to
- The locals are friendly and will want to chat and practise their English with you.
I can’t think of any specific bad things about travelling alone in Vietnam, however if you’re interested in the general advantages and disadvantages of travelling solo as a woman, read the guide linked.
How to get around Vietnam
This depends on your tolerance for a long bus ride! I remember getting an overnight bus from Hoi An to Hanoi once and everyone thinking I was mad and saying ‘why don’t you just fly?’ but I was like, hey, I’m young and I’ll be fine. Plus, I want the planet to be here when I’m old!
Saying that, flights are cheap and will save you a lot of time. If you’re on a tight schedule, I totally get it. So…
Travel by air: most major hubs have a nearby airport like Hanoi, Saigon and Hoi An (Da Nang). At the time of writing, you can fly from Hanoi to Saigon for around $70 and to Da Nang for around $40. I use Skyscanner to compare, browse and book flights.
Travel by bus: these travel up and down the coast, complete with sleeper bunk beds where you can lie down. One option is to buy a book of tickets at any Saigon or Hanoi travel agency to cover your whole trip. Another option is to buy your tickets individually using the 12Go website. A ticket from Hanoi to Hoi An (16 hours) will cost around $20.
Tip – when travelling by sleeper bus, keep your valuables close in a secure bag around your body, preferably under your clothes.
Travel by train: these are generally a little more expensive than buses with the option of seating or a bunk in a cabin. One perk of taking the train is that there are sections with wonderful views, like the journey between Da Nang and Hoi An. They can also be booked on the 12Go website.
Travel by motorbike: the more adventurous way to travel Vietnam! This method of travel is called Easyrider. You can travel the length of the country by bike, either alone or with a driver. A particularly beautiful and famous section is the Hai Van Pass.
How to get around within cities/towns
Here are some safe ways for solo female travellers to get around in Vietnam…
Local bus: in bigger cities like Hanoi, you can ride the local bus. Tickets cost from 7,000 to 15,000 VND and should be paid to the driver in cash. Make sure to have small notes as they may not have change.
Local taxi: when getting in taxis, agree a price beforehand or insist the metre is on. Occasionally, rigged metres are a thing so if it starts jumping up wildly, get out.
Taxi app: my preferred way to travel was by Grab taxi, Asia’s answer to Uber.
Taxi app scooters: if you’re feeling confident, select a scooter on Grab rather than a car. A driver will arrive and should have a helmet for you (please insist that they do!). Although you’ll often see whole families on one scooter, Grab drivers will only accept one passenger per scooter.
Many nationalities qualify for 15-day entry with no visa. For 30-day and 3-month Vietnam e-visas, you’ll need to apply online. Visas vary for different nationalities so make sure to do your research ahead of your trip!
A solo female travel tip I’d offer anywhere is to stay connected. I usually get a local SIM when I arrive somewhere new because it makes me feel safer, plus it’s convenient to call taxis etc.
There are plenty of local stores selling SIM cards. A handy new option, however, is to buy an e-SIM before you arrive. You simply need to scan the QR code that arrives by email and – ta da – you’re online!
Best places for solo travel in Vietnam
Next for the fun bit, where to go and what to do when travelling alone in Vietnam!
Picturesque Hoi An is a solo travel dream: big enough to have a wide array of great hostels and activities, small enough to bump into the same people when you’re out and about.
It’s an unbelievably pretty and idyllic city. Some will say it’s too busy and touristy these days, but to them I say: wait, are you not a tourist, too? You can’t blame anyone for wanting to be here.
Things to add to your Hoi An itinerary include:
- Exploring the Old Town temples and ancient houses
- Crossing the Japanese Bridge
- Relaxing on An Bang Beach
- Seeing where food is harvested in peaceful Tra Que vegetable garden (and try it at Baby Mustard restaurant)
- Eating unique Hoi An street food including dishes not found elsewhere like cao lầu noodles and white rose dumplings
- Taking a day trip to the Marble Mountains near Da Nang
- Checking out all the cute cafes in Hoi An.
A lovely stop between Hoi An and Hanoi is the city of Hue, once the imperial capital of Vietnam. The citadel may have been destroyed during the War with America and China (you may know it as the Vietnam War) but it’s been restored, boasting some of the most beautiful temples in Asia!
If you’re not all templed-out after the Citadel, don’t miss the Temple of Literature and Linh Mu Pagoda on the Perfume Riverbank, the Royal Temple of Tu Duc, Tu Hieu Pagoda, Minh Mang Tomb and the Khai Dinh Tomb. Hue is a history lover’s dream!
Two days in Hue is a good amount of time to spend because you can spend one day at the Citadel and other temples, then another day visiting the quirky Abandoned Waterpark (the first photo in this blog with the roaring dragon statue) with time for another historic stop in the afternoon.
After several months living in Hanoi, it’s one of my all-time favourite places in Asia, if not the world! Yes, it’s chaotic and a little crazy but it’s also very safe for solo female travel in Vietnam. It’s undeniably charming with towering mansions, countless street food stands and cute cafes where locals and tourists while away days over caphe nau or sau (drip coffee with or without milk).
Add to your Hanoi itinerary the top tourist attractions like the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Lake, Train Street, the Women’s Museum, the Water Puppet Show, the French Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Hoa Lo Prison.
As a safe place for solo travel in Vietnam, there’s no risk to getting off-grid and finding lesser-visited areas of the city like charming Ngoc Ha neighbourhood and Truc Bach island on the lake. If you’re feeling adventurous, I wrote this guide to the hidden gems in Hanoi!
Foodies shouldn’t miss trying egg coffee (better than it sounds!) at the many Hanoi cafes, finding cool bars like Polite & Co, eating amazing street food and spending an evening on Beer Corner (Ta Hien) drinking ridiculously cheap bia hoi (fresh beer). Stay in a social hostel in the Old Quarter and I’m sure you’ll meet people to go out with!
I spent 3 days in Sapa and it was one the highlights of my Northern Vietnam itinerary. This mountainous region is known for amazing views, hikes and hill tribes with well-preserved cultural heritage.
It’s easy to visit independently by booking a bus or train from Hanoi and staying in Sapa town where you can book hiking trips and excursions. However, a super easy option (and a social one) is taking an organised trip from Hanoi including accommodation, guided hikes and transport.
There are a few options depending on your time frame and comfort levels, for example:
- Homestay: 2 day, 1 night Sapa trip in homestay accommodation
- Hotel: 2 day, 1 night Sapa trip in 3-star hotel room
- Homestay AND hotel: 3 day, 2 night Sapa trip inc 1 night in a hotel and the other in a homestay (the trip I did!)
Hiking boots are great if you’ve got them but I got by with old battered runners. Depending on the season, the ground may be slippy. I fell over a lot but at least the mud was soft! The hikes should be suitable for most ability levels.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
I’m definitely a Hanoi girl but I’ve still loved visiting Saigon (also called Ho Chi Minh) over the years. It feels slightly more Westernised than Hanoi and lacks the charm of the Old Quarter, but many things are comparable such as the roads of weaving scooters and the grand French architecture.
Things to add to your Saigon itinerary include:
- Learning about the history at the War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace
- Taking a day trip down the Mekong Delta
- Visiting the Cu Chi tunnels used during the war
- Catching a show at the Opera House and visit other places in the French area like City Hall and the Post Office
- Exploring the Saigon food scene by eating at Ben Thanh Market and sampling regional dishes like bún bò Huế (beef noodle soup), bun riêu (crab noodles) and bún mắm (seafood broth noodles).
Harder places to travel solo in Vietnam (and how to do it anyway)
These are places that are great for solo female travel in Vietnam but require a little research…
Ha Long Bay
The best way to travel Ha Long Bay is by overnight cruise. But these usually work out more expensive without a travel buddy due to solo surcharges on cabins.
However, Ha Long Bay is a real Southeast Asia bucket lister so I would advise still going! There are plenty of tours that can be organised from Hanoi including overnight stays on the boat, kayaking and other activities. My word of advice would be to do your research and pick a tour that suits your travel style and interests.
For example, the Castaway cruises are for 19-25 years olds who like heavy drinking and partying. Even at that age, it would not have been the tour for me. Then, there are luxury tours where you’ll mainly be surrounded by honeymooners and families. I feel you could set a comedy show about someone being stuck on the wrong cruise for days! So don’t get caught out.
Ninh Binh is a spectacular part of Vietnam with sky-high cliffs encompassing cave complexes that can be cruised through by paddle boat, or hiked up for breathtaking views.
I’m only listing it as a harder place for solo travel in Vietnam because the attractions are spread across the countryside so you need a scooter. If like me, you’re not a confident driver, this could be challenging. But, like anything, there are ways around it.
One option is doing a Ninh Binh day trip from Hanoi as part of an organised tour. Another option is staying overnight in Ninh Binh town (take a bus in just over an hour) and asking your accommodation to help you organise a scooter tour for the day with a local driver. Of course, if you’re comfortable driving, you can just hire your own scooter.
Tours and activities in Vietnam
Some of the downsides of solo travel include doing all the research and getting lonely. Vietnam is a country where it’s super easy and affordable to book tours and excursions during which you’re likely to meet new people and take a break from doing all the navigating and admin yourself.
Some of the top tours in Vietnam are:
- A 2-3 day Sapa tour from Hanoi
- A 2-3 day Ha Long Bay cruise from Hanoi
- Cu Chi tunnels tours and Mekong Delta cruises from Saigon
- Any type of cooking class, market tour or food tour by foot or scooter. Local guides will help find you the best eats you might not know about otherwise. Use GetYourGuide to find these.
Of course, you rarely NEED tours in Vietnam. There are pros and cons of travelling solo or taking a tour but there are plenty of options if you want them.
Longer tours: if you’re not feeling ready for solo travel in Vietnam, G Adventures offer well-organised, culturally immersive tours. I’ve travelled with them myself before and can happily vouch for them! Browse G Adventures tours.
What to wear in Vietnam
Vietnam gets hot but it’s also a conservative country (although you don’t need to worry as much as during solo travel in India) so it’s important to wear clothes that keep you cool, protect you from sunburn and don’t cause cultural offence. This applies to men as well as solo female travellers in Vietnam.
Although you can wear shorts and short dresses in other places, at temples you should ensure your legs and shoulders are covered. Travelling with a light sarong is a great idea so you can throw it on at temples.
Elsewhere, lightweight summer clothes will do the job. Personally, I like to cover up a bit with cool, breathable fabrics to avoid sunburn. However, Sapa gets cold so you’ll need extra layers if you plan to visit.
Vietnam packing list
Your Vietnam packing list doesn’t need to be extensive. Laundry facilities are cheap and everywhere in Vietnam!
- 4-5 tops/t-shirts
- 2-3 skirts or lightweight pants
- 1 athletic outfit for Sapa hiking
- 7 x underwear
- Sarong/temple cover-up
- Footwear: 1 x sandals, 1 x flip flops, 1 x lightweight runners
- Towel – I use a small microfibre one
- Large backpack and small day backpack for hiking etc
- Secure bag to wear under your clothes on night buses
- Mosquito repellent
- Reusable water bottle (and reusable straw) or purifying water bottle
- Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
Accommodation for solo travellers in Vietnam
Hostels: like other Southeast Asian countries, it’s a paradise for affordable yet high-quality hostels. You’ll pay as little as $5 a night for a hostel bed often including breakfast, coffee and/or free beer nights. This is the most social option for a solo trip in Vietnam because you’ll meet loads of other people. Use Hostelworld to find hostels.
Tip – assess the photos and reviews to check it’s the right type of hostel for you. There are lots of party hostels so avoid these if you don’t like lots of drinking/like getting a good night’s sleep!
Hotels: from modest guesthouses to 5* luxury, there are SO many options in Vietnam. It’s a great place to splash out and treat yourself because you get incredible value for money. You can stay in 5* hotels for as little as $80. I use Booking.com because I’ve stacked up so many Genius rewards now that I always get 10% off, free breakfast or a room upgrade!
Airbnbs: this is not my favourite type of accommodation these days since you pay high service fees, follow a list of rules, get reviewed publically and don’t have access to decent support if anything goes wrong. For the convenience of an apartment, you can find plenty on Booking.com and the first price you see is what you pay. No sneaky fees!
Best time of year to visit Vietnam
Vietnam is huge so has numerous sub-climates. Generally, March to May is considered the ultimate time to visit Vietnam because the north is cold before then. The summer months get boiling hot and very humid but it’s doable if you explore early and stay protected from the sun.
The one time I’d suggest avoiding Hoi An is the flooding season of September-December. Also, check the dates of local holidays like Tet because everything will be closed.
Petty crime in Vietnam
As I mentioned, Vietnam is safe for solo female travellers with virtually no violent crime. But what you do need to be careful of is having your bag, phone or money stolen.
You’d think it would be worst in Hanoi and Saigon and yes, there’s some of this there. But, actually, I have experienced crime in Hoi An 3 different times over the years. This happens after nights out when guys with motorbikes act as taxi drivers to tourists leaving the clubs. They have lots of clever tricks to fleece your money when you pay, and also when you’re buying food from stands by the bars.
On another occasion, they stole my whole bag. Make sure to wear a secure cross-body bag for your phone and purse, and only bring out what you need. Don’t take a scooter taxi home off the street.
My pet peeve is blogs telling female solo travellers not to drink alcohol. You worked hard for this trip, of course you want to let your hair down and enjoy yourself.
You know your limits so, as a capable adult, I’m sure you can go out while assessing your surroundings and staying aware. If you have no one to travel home safely with, call a verified taxi using Uber or Grab.
Safety tips for Vietnam
Don’t carry too much cash: Vietnam is largely a cash-based society. But be smart, for example, don’t do what I did in 2015 and get £100 from the ATM en route to a night out (spoiler: I did not come home with it). Try to withdraw on your way to your accommodation, leave it there (in a hostel locker) and take out roughly what you’ll need for the day or evening.
Wear a secure bag: Shoulder bags that can easily be pulled off by a passing moped aren’t a great idea in Vietnam. It’s fine to carry non-valuable items like this but I would recommend also wearing a cross-body bag with your money and phone.
Do your research: this is a tip for solo female travel in Vietnam but also everywhere. Doing your research about a place before arriving saves you unpleasant surprises or hiccups when you get there. Just by reading this blog, I can tell you’re already doing this!
Well-being tips for solo female travel in Vietnam
Eat where it’s busy: street food in Vietnam is safe to eat and delicious! It annoys me when people knock street food because food poisoning can happen anywhere… My aunt and uncle got it from a fancy hotel in Vietnam! Just follow the basic safety rule of eating where it’s busy and there’s a fast turnover of food. If there’s lots of locals there, it’s a good sign.
Don’t drink tap water: always a bad idea! Since buying plastic bottles is unsustainable, I would recommend bringing a refillable water bottle (most hostels and hotels should offer free fill-ups from large filtered units) or a filtering water bottle.
Get travel insurance: well, duh! I love budget travel as much as the next person (probably more) but the one thing I never scrimp on is travel insurance. It could cost you your life!
I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Get your vaccs: it’s best to check with your healthcare professional but the NHS recommends Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid. Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis may also be recommended.
Safety tips for scooter hire
Riding a scooter is a way of life in Vietnam. Sure, accidents happen and perhaps it’s safer to not ride one at all… but that’s not really practical advice! There are more scooters in Vietnam than people. From locals (who start riding as kids) to tourists, they’re everywhere.
Just make sure you:
- Wear a helmet
- Don’t listen to music while driving
- Never drink and drive!
- Assess your vehicle before leaving the rental place and take photos of any dents or scratches. This is less of a safety tip and more to ensure you don’t get ripped off!
If you don’t feel comfortable driving, don’t. It’s usually very affordable to call Grab scooters or, in rural areas, hire a driver for the day. Plus, it’s great business for the locals! I wouldn’t ever advise driving in Hanoi or Saigon unless you have years of scooter experience under your belt.
What to budget for solo travel in Vietnam
Of course, this is highly dependent on your travel style but I’d say for budget travel (by which I mean staying in hostels, eating street food and taking public transport), $1,000 a month is plenty.
Add a couple of hundred to stay in hotels rather than hostels. If you’re travelling to Vietnam by yourself, don’t worry too much. You won’t blow the budget by staying at hotels or taking taxis as just one person.
Some average costs:
- Street food meal – $1-3
- Bed in a hostel dorm – $5-10
- Private room – from $15
- Bus ticket between cities – $5-20 depending on distance.
Get a travel-friendly bank account
Revolut and Wise bank accounts are open to many nationalities and allow you to spend without transaction fees or ATM fees. They’re a godsend! UK travellers can also use Starling and Monzo banks.
Volunteer to keep the costs down
While ensuring you’re not taking a job from a local or doing anything that could be classed as voluntourism or White Savourism, check out volunteer positions using Worldpackers or Workaway. Both have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities in countries including Vietnam.
Usually, you receive free food and accommodation in exchange for working a few hours a day. If you want to sign up, I have discount codes for both Workaway and Worldpackers.
As someone who personally housesat for 2 months in Vietnam and didn’t pay a penny/cent for it, I would recommend house sitting and/or pet sitting! The idea is that owners go away and advertise for sitters to look after their houses or pets.
I housesat in Vietnam but you’ll find gigs everywhere using Trusted Housesitters. Read my review of the website answering the question is Trusted Housesitters worth it?
How to make friends travelling solo in Vietnam
Making friends while travelling solo in Vietnam is mostly the same as anywhere else
Hostels: the easy one! Stay in any hostel and you’re bound to meet people. For a bonus, choose hostels with social areas, bars and evening activities.
Group tours & activities: browse GetYourGuide and Viator to find cooking classes, food tours, excursions to popular attractions, pub crawls and lots more.
Chat to locals around Hoan Kiem Lake: take a walk around Hanoi lake and you’re bound to meet friendly locals who want to practise their English. If they invite you to hang out with them, do it! (but like anywhere, always hang out with strangers in a public setting at least initially).
Read next: how to make friends when travelling solo
FAQs for Vietnam travel
Is tipping expected? There’s not a big tipping culture like in the US but it’s certainly appreciated. Local wages are low so, if you want to be a good traveller, a little goes a long way!
Is Vietnam good for veggies and vegans? It’s not the best country in the world but it can be done. Bigger cities will certainly have options and I can personally advise when it comes to vegan food in Hoi An!
What’s the weather like? Well, it can switch from baking heat to rain in a moment. Be prepared!
Is English widely spoken? Among young people and in touristic places, yes. Of course, you should brush up on the basics in Vietnamese so you can be polite and say hello and thank you etc.
What’s the currency? It’s Vietnamese Dong (VND) and, at the time of writing, the exchange rate is 23,600 VND to $1 USD. Yes, it’s a lot to get your head around!
How long to spend in Vietnam? I would suggest a month. If you have 2 weeks, be selective and don’t try to squeeze in too much. I have Vietnam solo travel itineraries for 2 weeks and one month you can follow.
How to cross the road in Vietnam
Okay, I may be a Vietnam travel pro but there are some things I’ll never get my head around!
All I can tell you is to relax into it; people will drive around you. Better yet, attach yourself to a local – they got this!
Oh, and don’t sue me if those tips don’t work 😉
Read more solo travel blogs
- How to take photos of yourself when travelling solo
- The pros and cons of solo travel
- Solo female travel in South Africa
- The best places in the world for solo female travel
- Solo female safety guide
- 101 solo travel tips
Guides to solo female travel in Asia:
- Solo female travel in Bali
- What to know about solo Malaysia travel
- Thailand solo travel guide
- How to stay safe as a solo traveller in India
Guides to solo travel in Europe:
- How to make the most of a solo trip to Lisbon
- Solo female travel in Italy
- Is solo travel in Croatia safe?
- A women’s guide to solo Romania travel
Guides to solo travel in the Americas:
Thanks for reading!
Read all my Vietnam posts
See you next time for more travel adventures,
VIETNAM QUICK LINKS
Getting around by air – it’s easy to get between cities by flight. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Stay connected with E-sim data plans that don’t require delivery or collection; just sCan the QR code.
In my opinion, Lonely Planet offer the best guidebooks. Get the latest Lonely Planet Vietnam.
For Vietnam buses and trains, I use 12GoAsia. The search feature allows you to compare prices and durations.
I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
For activities, I use GetYourGuide as they have a huge range of affordable tours.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!