As Vietnam is such a long country, you will most likely need to take internal flights in order to see as much as you can in a short amount of time. Why waste money on extra baggage when you can fit everything you need in your carry-on backpack? If you’re thinking “I’m female, I need more space than that!” then think again! Keep reading for the efficient guide on what to take to Vietnam for a 3-week trip.
I recommend taking a Nomatic bag. They’re a perfect size for carry-on, are lockable, and waterproof… just a few features I love.
Side note: I went in June/July.
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My rule when packing for an overseas trip is to be able to match any top with any bottom. Stick to the colors that suit you best and tone well with each other then you’re all set!
100% cotton t-shirts in 5 different colors. Opt for 100% cotton and no synthetic fibers (such as polyester) to stay cool in this hot and humid climate. Vietnam isn't too strict on covering certain attributes but it's best to be respectful and avoid showing large amounts of cleavage. Bare shoulders are acceptable.
1x Long sleeve shirt
A light blue cotton chambray shirt is my favorite throw-over for cooler nights and sun protection.
2x Skirts or Dresses
A lightweight skirt or dress that doesn't require ironing. Can be above the knees but not as short as a mini skirt.
Loose pants and leggings
One pair of loose rayon pants and one pair of black leggings.
1x pair of shorts
Above the thigh is suitable but longer would be more respectful. A loose fit is the best option for comfort but make sure to avoid denim as it's hot, heavy and bulky!
10+ pairs of underwear
10 seems to be the magic number when it comes to underwear. They don't take up too much space but there are enough pairs to only have to do your washing sparingly.
Whichever colors go well under the shirts and dresses you're bringing.
You'll probably wear flip flops or sandals most days but bring a couple of good pairs for all those hikes you'll be doing!
A singlet and cotton shorts pack down nice and small.
Jumper and waterproof jacket
A lightweight rain jacket is great for those unexpected warm downpours. The hills (e.g. Sapa) can become quite cool even during the daytime and a jumper is recommended.
Tip: Wear both of these on the plane to lighten your pack. If you're traveling from a warm climate, just wear them when you're checking in your bags.
Hat (wide-brimmed) – The Vietnamese sun is hot and harsh!
Sneakers/hiking boots – ones you can walk all day in and that breathe. (Wear on the plane)
Sandals – A reliable but nice, comfortable leather pair that you don't mind getting a little dirty. I recommend Wiivv Sandals. They're 3D printed to fit your feet perfectly! Check out my review on them here!
Toiletry bag - lightweight mesh ones work great. A handle is a bonus.
Toothbrush with cover
Lip balm with SPF
Deodorant - roll on
Facewash - under 100mL
Sunscreen - under 100mL
Cotton ear buds - only as many as you will use in 3 weeks
Tissues – just one little packet
Hairbrush (small fold up comb)
Hair oil (or whatever you use to combat humidity!) - under 100mL
Contact wearers: Saline, eye drops, contacts and spares, glasses, glasses case
Pads, tampons or diva cup (if needed, or you can buy there)
Shampoo/Conditioner - under 100mL (can easily buy there if your pack is getting heavy)
Hair ties/bobby pins
Medicines – visit your doctor before you go to get necessary vaccinations
Other health: antihistamines, rehydration tablets, insect bite cream, paracetamol, ibuprofen, birth control, period pain medication, gastro-stop, and any personal medications.
Dirty laundry bag
Wet ones (a few in a ziplock bag) and hand sanitizer
Mesh bags – I use different sized mesh bags as compartments within my pack. They’re also a great way to condense your clothing without having to use those vacuum bags. I buy these from Daiso but you can also find them at Kmart, Target, etc.
Eye mask and ear plugs
First aid kit – including band-aids, antiseptic cream, tweezers, nail clippers
Quick dry microfiber towel
Trtl Travel Pillow - check out my review of the Trtl Travel Pillow here!
Camera and accessories: charger, memory cards, case, tripod, spare batteries (if my bag is a little on the heavy side I keep my camera over my shoulder during check-in)
Music and compact headphones
Mobile phone, charger and power bank
IPad or tablet - good for movies on budget flights as well as booking accommodation on the road and researching sights. I like to use both my phone and iPad together and prefer the larger screen.
Power adapters – Bring one with a plug inlet and USB inlets so you can charge your phone and camera at the same time (for the rooms that only have one outlet!)
Visa – make sure this is organized well in advance to arriving. You can get it on arrival but it will take a few hours out of your trip.
Passport – with at least 6 months left before expiring
Credit/debit cards – inform your bank the dates you'll be away before leaving the country
Cash – I exchanged about AUD$50 before leaving. Cash is easily accessible but there are limits on how much you can withdrawal at a time. The airport ATM's were the only place to withdraw large amounts. Don't exchange cash as the exchange rate is very poor. If you're going to get money out at the airport, make sure to transfer when you have internet before you arrive and know how much is in your account. I accidentally withdrew $30 instead of $300 as I got confused by the conversion rate. Download the currency converter app to your phone before leaving home (check if it requires internet to work)!
Take advantage of the 2 bag rule! You're generally allowed a backpack AND a handbag/camera bag which I recommend putting the heavy items in as it's rarely weighed.
Makeup – personal preference. I brought foundation and mascara for nights out.
Sports bra (unless you're going running)
Jewelry – best not to bring anything valuable
Jeans/denim shorts – hot, heavy and dry slowly
Is there anything I missed? What are your essentials for traveling to Vietnam? Please leave a comment below.
You may also be interested in my Alternatives to Single Use Plastics when Travelling post or The Best Free Travel Apps to Make Your Life Easier When Travelling!
Planning a trip to Vietnam?
Accommodation in Vietnam
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