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Vietnam Guide for First-Timers: Top 10 Things to Do

Guide to Vietnam for first time visitors, boatsVietnam is a country with diverse culture, great food, and amazing attractions stretched 3,260 km along the South China Sea.

Not to get lost in this diversity, guest blogger Zara created a Vietnam guide for first timers including all the best things to do there.

Keep on reading!

The sights, the sounds, the rich cultural heritage and turbulent history, all of this and much more makes Vietnam one of the hottest travel destinations in the world.

If you’re saving money to travel the globe, Vietnam should definitely rank high on your bucket list, as there is no shortage of awe and adventure in this expansive country in Southeast Asia.

Travel aficionados will relish the opportunity to learn about the cultural heritage of different regions, all the while exploring the bustling cities dotting the map and adventuring through some ridiculously diverse landscapes that are bound to take your breath away.

Here to help have the time of your life on your next grand escapade is your guide to Vietnam.

Explore the food offering in Hanoi

Different dishes on a table, food guide to Vietnam

When you first touch down in Hanoi, you will immediately notice that the words “hustle and bustle” take on a new meaning here. The city streets are filled to the brim with wandering tourists, busy locals, and of course, more scooters and tour buses than you can count. Upon arriving to your accommodation, it’s time to take on this vibrant city and experience it for all its worth. And you can start by grabbing a bite to eat.

Pack your backpack with all of your roaming essentials, but don’t forget to keep your money and your IDs close, and head over to Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim where street food vendors are numerous and the offering is plentiful. The bun cha should serve as a nice pick-me-up, after which you can make your way to the Old Quarter.

Visit the Old Quarter while you’re there

Street in Hanoi, Vietnam for first time visitors

The Old Quarter was the bustling center of Hanoi for over millennia, and is still a vital part of this Expansive City. Located on the northern side of Hoan Kiem Lake, it offers a spectacular new perspective for tourists who have never experienced the charms of street shopping.

From textiles and fine silk, all the way to handmade trinkets, cheap but beautiful clothing, and much more, this is a place to haggle, have fun, and spend plenty of quality time. When your feet start to feel a bit sore, then you’ll know the perfect moment has come to rest and recuperate at a street bar over a tall glass of Hanoi beer.

Learn about nearby Cambodia here

Experience the coffee culture

Vietnam’s coffee is special, even though their coffee history dates back to the 19th century. When the French introduced the intoxicating beverage to the local people, they started up their own production and have created unique tastes every coffee aficionado will appreciate.

Among the most popular coffee types are egg coffee and weasel coffee. You could construe egg coffee as more of a dessert than a beverage because the mixture of beaten egg whites poured over a steaming cup of espresso gives is that distinct creamy texture you’re bound to love.

Weasel coffee, on the other hand, is probably the most expensive coffee in the world and is absolutely adored by the coffee gurus. While might not want to believe it, the coffee is actually made out of weasel droppings. The weasels are fed mature coffee beans, they poop them out, and you get to drink it once freshly brewed. Yum!

Take on a cross-country adventure

Road in Hanoi, Vietnam guide

Vietnam is an expansive country, rich with sightseeing opportunities and cultural experiences. So naturally, missing a chance to learn to ride a motorbike in Vietnam and drive cross-country to visit every urban gem along the way would be a terrible waste.

The motorbike “culture” here is very popular and everyone can rent or buy motorbikes in Vietnam to traverse cities, go on prolonged outdoor escapades, or simply cover the entire country as quickly as possible. Because you do not want to ride the bus.

You can easily get motorbike insurance in Vietnam for a relatively cheap price tag as well, so you can safely and freely traverse this wonderland any way you see fit.

According to current Vietnam motorbike statistics, there are over 45 million motorbikes on its roads so you can easily learn how to drive from an experienced tutor, but you can also make friends on the road and become a part of this cultural phenomenon. It’s also a great way to reach Ho Chi Minh City and explore the southern regions.

Trek along the northern border

Before you head down south, though, the Sapa region stretching along the Chinese border should definitely be on your outdoor exploration list. This is a true traveler’s paradise, as the vibrant, breathtaking swathes of green rice paddy fields are bound to steal your heart and change you as a person.

Trekking through these fields is truly a unique experience that will take you on a journey of self-exploration, but also help you gain an in-depth understanding of the diversity and never-ending beauty of Mother Earth – an experience not to be missed.

Reach Ho Chi Minh City

Once you’re done with the Northern region, you can saddle up your motorbike and head south. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is another popular travel destination with plenty of unique sightseeing opportunities on offer. Unlike Hanoi, this city has more of a colonial vibe to it, as the French influences have left many historical monuments throughout the centuries.

One of the most notable historic sites in the city’s Notre Dame Cathedral. Ho Chi Minh City is also the perfect base from which you can explore the surrounding region, including the town of Tây Ninh and of course, the famous Mekong Delta.

Even though the popularity of this entire region is deeply intertwined with the brutal events that transpired here during the Vietnamese War, it’s nonetheless a rewarding experience for any traveler, especially those of you looking to learn about the country’s past.

When you find yourself in the Mekong Delta, be sure to visit the floating markets and explore the lush biomes of the swamps. Organized boat tours are available from Ho Chi Minh City. On your Mekong exploration tour, don’t forget to visit the busy town of Tây Ninh and the crowning jewel of Cao Dai religion – the Cao Dai Temple.

Bonus: Best Activities to Try in Vietnam

There are some amazing activities that you should try in Vietnam. Here are the top 5 (click the links to learn more and book those adventures):

Vietnam is an expansive country, one too complex and diverse to be experienced in a single trip. Unless you have a whole month to spend here, you will need to return to pick up where you left off. This guide will allow you to live out the most important experiences in Vietnam, and inspire you to come back and delve deeper into its enchanting culture.

If you're interested in the region, learn more about the best places to visit in the Philippines and fun activities to do in Bangkok

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