Ultimate Vietnam Packing List

By on Published: April 6, 2020 | Last Updated: April 7, 2020 in Asia, VIETNAM with 0 Comments

Ultimate Vietnam Packing List

The thing with Vietnam is that it’s long and skinny.

Which means it’s a long way from the top to the bottom of Vietnam, both for you, and the weather, to travel

Which often means you’ll experience totally different climates and temperatures, depending on which part you’re in!

Yup, while the northern head of this country can often be stuck in a raincloud, there’s no question its southern booty is probably enjoying a good tropical tanning.

Which makes packing for Vietnam a bit of a nightmare!

But fear not, I’ve explored both the north and south of this country with nothing but a backpack, so can certainly let you know how to tackle the diversity of this country’s weather without being weighed down in the luggage department.

Combining all this knowledge, with a complete checklist you can download too, here’s my ultimate Vietnam packing list.


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Packing for Your Flight to Vietnam

Vietnam, HCMC, Rice Noodle Factory

Before we get started on what to pack for your time in Vietnam, it’s worth taking some time to think about what to wear on a flight over to the country.

Making sure these items tie in as much as possible with the checklist below, will help you keep your packing light as you won’t be doubling up or carrying unnecessary things you won’t wear again until the flight home.

Quite simply, layers are key.

You never know how hot or cold a plane might be and if you want to get some sleep, comfy clothing is king.

This is especially true given flights to Vietnam from North America, Europe or Australia / New Zealand are long haul, so I’d certainly advise wearing things you feel at ease in.

Ladies, I always wear leggings on long-haul flights and love these natural bamboo fibre ones from Boody, which I now never travel without!

I pair them with either a thin cotton top or dress (depending how much coverage you want) and then also take a sweater and a scarf on the plane for extra cosy layers.

The travel wraps from Sholdit, which have hidden security pockets are perfect for travel adventures and I love mine!

Compression flight socks are also a must in my book when it comes to long haul flying as they help you avoid the possibility of DVT and I pair these with a lovely eye mask and ear plugs to ensure I get some good zzz.

A travel pillow will also help you here and I love this one from MLVOC, which I just bought and I’m already in love with its memory foam, high-sided design.

FYI, a travel pillow will also come in handy if you’re taking any long bus or train rides in Vietnam too… which you definitely will!

Gents, if leggings aren’t your thing, then loose-fitting jeans or comfy cargo pants might be a good option, with a t-shirt and thin sweater on top.

Shoes-wise, I suggest a good pair of runners are the best option for your Vietnam packing list and wearing them when you travel there will again help keep your pack weight down.

Personally, I love these black ones from New Balance which are ideal for both city-strolling in places like Ho Chi Minh City, or for walking in areas like Sapa.

 

Packing Cubes and Backpacks

Vietnam, HCMC, Rubber Trees

And now seems like as a good a time as any to tackle the notion of packing cubes and rucksacks, 2 key components in this Vietnam packing list!

If you want to compress your gear to take up less space, as well as have it nicely organised, then packing cubes are the answer my friends!

Yes a godsend to disorganised packers everywhere, I absolutely love these packing cubes from Eagle Creek and personally would never consider heading off to Southeast Asia, or indeed anywhere, without them.

And if you manage to condense your stuff down well, then this whole packing list should fit into a 40-50l backpack.

I never take anything bigger, even when I’m travelling for 6 months at a time!

This 50l Atmos backpack from Osprey makes a great option for ladies as it’s specially designed to fit our bodies.

But don’t fret guys, they do a men’s version as well.

 

What Female Travellers Should Wear in Vietnam

Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Pink Church

Vietnam is fairly a relaxed country that has been used by tourists for many years and women should feel comfortable wearing almost anything.

That said, loose-fitting trousers are best for city days.

These sort of hareem pants are a good option and while you can buy some before your trip, remember they are both easy and cheap to buy across Southeast Asia too!

Tight trousers or leggings are ok too, but just remember how hot and humid it can get in Vietnam when making this decision.

Sweaty-mess is never a good look!

Outside of cities and major urban areas, shorts with an appropriate level coverage are also fine and, at the beach, sarong and swimsuit are perfect.

Strappy tops are ok too, but you may want to consider t-shirts as well, because they cover your shoulders more, therefore offering better protection from the sun.

The one exception is when visiting temples.

Here you’ll need to cover to the knees, as well as the shoulders and chest.

Again, hareem / fisherman pants or other loose, thin trousers are a great option and thin scarves or sarongs can be used to cover your shoulders, whilst still allowing for ventilation in the humid climate.

For more specific ideas about exactly what to wear in Vietnam, check out my ultimate packing list below.

You can also download a Southeast Asia-wide version by entering your details in the box below …

 

Clothes & Shoes for Your Vietnam Packing List

Vietnam, Ho An, Lanterns

1x Thin Rain Jacket

While Vietnam is certainly warm for most of the year, rain is not uncommon either during the tropical rainy season, largely between June and November, in the south of the country, or in the wet season in the north.

Researching when to visit Vietnam, and planning accordingly will be crucial for avoiding as much rain as possible, but you can never be 100% accurate… this is the tropics after all!

As such, a light and thin rain jacket – thin is the key word here – is a must.

This is best, because it even rains here, it’s still very humid.

I highly recommend this North Face Venture 2 for the job and, as it’s black, it goes with anything!

If you are travelling in the north of Vietnam in the colder months there (December and January), a jacket will also help you stay warm.

 

3x Long-Sleeved Tops / Sweaters / Cardigans

Vietnam is not a hugely conservative country and while women travellers aren’t expected to cover up, I’d definitely advise at least taking a few tops that cover your arms.

Not only are these great for sun protection, good for hiking in the sun, or if visiting any temples, they also make a good option for travel days – either flights or buses.

Sometimes, they crank the aircon so much in Vietnam, you need them indoors too!

The north of the country can also get cold during the winter season there and even at other times, such as the wet and damp conditions I experienced in April, certainly had me reaching for a sweater, so I certainly advise packing a couple.

Make sure none of these tops expose your cleavage or stomach or are too tight.

 

7x Singlets / T-Shirts

Choose a range of colours and styles that match the trousers / shorts you’ll select, including more t-shirts which cover your shoulders for sun protection or are good when heading into religious buildings.

7 is a good number of tops to take for your Vietnam packing list as they balance backpack weight with washing needs!

Remember it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get away with wearing a top twice due to the humidity!

 

2x Sun Dresses

A great item if you choose to go to the coast or island of Vietnam .. and why wouldn’t you!

I suggest packing 1-2 light thin sundresses for your travels to Da’Nang or Phu Quoc for those beachy days and fun evenings!

 

2x Pairs of Loose Pants / Trousers

While shorts may be ok to wear in many places in Vietnam, I certainly didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything above the knee in major cities like Hanoi and, as such certainly recommend bringing 2 pairs of trousers when considering what to wear in this country.

I’d suggest more loose-fitting trousers like fisherman pants / hareem trousers as a great option, because they are light and thin, which means they keep you cool, they dry quickly and don’t take up a lot of weight or room in your bag.

Don’t forget these sorts of pants can be bought by the bucket load when you are in Southeast Asia for next to nothing, but if you want to get some in advance of your trip, I love these ones from Hoerev.

NB. You may want to supplement the below pair of leggings for a third pair of loose pants.

Steer clear of any trousers that are thick or heavy in my opinion.

 

1x Pair Leggings

One of my travel essentials, especially ideal when you’re exploring out in the beautiful nature of northern Vietnam, such as hiking around Sapa.

Leggings are also good for travellers on journey days because they can be worn under a casual dress – see the information about what to wear on a flight to Vietnam above.

A thin black pair of leggings will easily match most things going for a natural bamboo fibre like these from Boody will help keep you cool and can be used as activewear too.

 

2x Pairs of Shorts

Like the dresses, but a bit more comfortable moving around in, a couple of pairs of shorts for your Vietnam packing list are a must.

Perfect for the islands, steamy Mekong Delta, Hoi An and Phong Nha, shorts that offer reasonable coverage are ideal for the hot, humid days here.

Personally I always go for denim shorts as they are hardy, versatile and go with most things.

1 perfect of blue denim and 1 pair of black denim usually make up my short selection.

 

1-2x Sarongs

You should never travel anywhere with a sarong in my opinion, especially as they are so light and versatile.

Perfect for using as a beach towel, a shoulder wrap in a temple, a sheet on a bus ride or a dress by the pool … the list goes on.

Check out my post about the 20 reasons why you should always take a sarong travelling for more ideas about why I wouldn’t dream of not having a sarong on this Vietnam packing list.

Consider bringing 2 if you have the space or swapping 1 out for a large thin scarf or wrap that can be worn around the neck or across the shoulders.

 

7x Pairs Underwear

Small and compact, 7 pairs of underwear is a good number if you’re thinking about packing light for Vietnam and save on washing duties during your trip!

 

2x Bras + 1x Sports Bra

I’d advise a sports bra for any hiking or caving you may be doing, especially in the north of Vietnam where these activities are popular.

 

1x Bikini / Swimwear

Well you need something to wear while enjoying the amazing coastline of this country, as well as for kayaking or snorkelling adventures!

 

4x Pairs Socks

I recommend 2x normal length pairs for outdoors stuff and 2x ankle-length pairs for city / sightseeing days.

 

1x Sun Hat

Make sure you bring a sun hat of some description because the heat and UV rays in Vietnam are fierce!

This black cap from Nike makes for a good, versatile choice for thinking about your Vietnam packing list because it’s perfect for all the active adventures you’re likely to have.

 

1x Pair Sunglasses

A must for those strong sunny rays… ah I can feel them now!

Definitely get a UV-protection pair.

 

1x Pair Trainers / Runners

Versatile, comfortable and essential if you want to see all the natural sights in this epic country.

I highly recommend New Balance who create stylish city runners that you can still wear when doing your outdoors stuff too like hiking.

Just make sure the grip and support are adequate.

As I outlined in my ‘packing for your flight to Vietnam’ section, a pair of trainers are excellent for journey days too.

 

1x Pair Flip Flops / Sandals

Personally I love my Arizona Birkenstocks, which I basically lived in during my time in Southeast Asia.

Super easy to kick on and off (which you need to do a lot in this country aka every time you enter a building), Birks also great support meaning you can sightsee in them to your heart’s content and never get sore soles.

Alternatively, a pair of cheaper flip flops are good for beach days.

 

Toiletries & Medical Supplies to Pack for Vietnam

Vietnam, House, Laundry

Thin Toiletries Bag with Hook

Hooks are great for use in hostels as you can hang up your wash bag when you’re in the shower and not leave it on the floor to get wet and dirty.

A light, thin wash bag is also essential for keeping the weight in your backpack down.

 

Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

I also go for shampoo and conditioner bars when I travel to save the plastic and keep the space down!

Although they are a bit pricey, they last for ages.

Say goodbye to mid-travel spillages and bulky bottles people, this is the eco-friendly future!

 

Anti-Bacterial Soap

Keep your soap in a ziplock bag to prevent from getting soap slime on everything you own!

I suggest an anti-bacterial bar as they are great for keeping you clean in tropical climates where you’re likely to be sweating a bit!

 

Deodorant

I always pack a natural crystal deodorant as they last forever (great if you’re travelling for a few months) and are free from many nasty chemicals.

They are also the only thing that stops me sweaty in the Southeast Asia heat!

 

Face Cleanser, Toner & Moisturiser

Great for bringing your skin back to life after days in strong sun and pollution!

 

Natural Sunscreen

Choose a 30 SPF or higher for those hell-strong rays in Vietnam and go natural if you can to keep the chemicals out of your skin.

 

Aloe Vera

This doubles as a great moisturiser, soother and aftersun.

 

SPF Lip Salve

Very important for those strong UV conditions and keeping your lips healthy and happy.

Burt Bees are always my go-to as they never dry out my lips.

 

Tea-Tree Essential Oil

A powerful antiseptic, anti-mould, anti-fungal treatment.

Also great to throw in a few drops with your washing and ideal for freshening up smelly bags / laundry etc.

Get an organic tea-tree oil if you can.

 

Tiger Balm

An ideal remedy for headaches, sore muscles and insect bites, tiger balm is super versatile and a must on my Vietnam packing list, especially of the mosquitoes love you as much as me!

 

Paracetamol, Anti-Septic Cream & Band-Aids

The only medicine you need to take!

Honestly, there’s so many pharmacies in this country you’ll be able to get almost anything you need.

 

Menstrual Cup

The best way to deal with your time of the month when travelling ladies.

Check out the best prices for them here.

 

Strong Insect Repellent
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Razor & Spare Blades
Nail Scissors & Nail File
Tweezers
Cotton Buds / Pads
Hair Bands
Safety Pins
Glasses / Contact Lenses if you wear them

 

Other Useful Things for Your Vietnam Packing List

Vietnam, Hanoi, Hawker
Eye Mask & Earplugs

Key for sleeping in hostels and long bus rides.

This eye mask from Alaska Bear is super comfy.

 

Travel Towel

I recommend Latrek when it comes to the best travel towel, because they are cheap, compact, soft and don’t smell.

Love, love, love mine.

Read a full review here.

 

Day Pack

Definitely needed for hiking, sightseeing and active adventure days, this one from Osprey is perfect for the job.

 

Combination Padlock

Very useful for locking up bags and valuables when staying in hostels, these don’t have to be expensive, just reliable!

Best to get a TSA-approved one in case of any hassle at the airport.

 

Filter Water Bottle

Seeing the amount of plastic bottles in Vietnam is disheartening at best.

Try not to add to the problem and consider travelling with a filter water bottle like this one from LifeStraw.

Not only does this mean you can safely and easily drink the tap water, but it will also save you the money and hassle of having to buy bottled water.

Much cheaper and more environmentally friendly, the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottles have an amazing technology that filters out 99.9% of harmful bacteria and the filter lasts for 4000 litres, which means you’ll likely only have to replace it once a year!

 

Travel Handwash

Great for doing emergency washing, such as underwear in a sink, travel handwash is always a must when I backpack anywhere.

It’s a must on this Vietnam packing list when it comes to rinsing your swimwear at the end of a busy beach day or your sweaty undies after a good day caving!

 

Dry Bag

So useful in Vietnam, I bought one when I was in Southeast Asia and haven’t looked back!

These small and compact guys are great for keeping your electricals equipment dry in case of boat rides, kayak trips, diving adventures, tropical rains or beachy fun!

Check out this top-rated one for ideas.

 

Smartphone & Headphones

Taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home, checking maps, book accommodation and uploading some pics while you’re in Vietnam is a great idea.

Also download some audiobooks and music onto your phone before you leave home – a great idea for journey days.

I recommend Amazon Audible and Spotify Premium for these purposes and wouldn’t travel without either these days.

You may want to consider a waterproof phone case if you’re travelling in Vietnam for a while too, as those tropical downpours can be fierce.

And don’t forget a local SIM when you get to Vietnam, it’s cheap, easy to pick one up and you get so much data it’s crazy!

Learn more in this post I wrote about top tips for backpacking Vietnam.

 

Portable Power Pack

Portable power packs are great when travelling, especially if you’re out sightseeing all day and worried about your phone or camera battery lasting.

I recommend the Anker Powercore, it’s light and can charge my iPhone 7 around 5 times!

 

Camera, Lens, Spare Battery, Memory Card & Charger

I love my Sony A600 mirrorless camera, which I used throughout my travels in Vietnam and beyond.

Light, compact and sturdy, it’s perfect for travelling.

A GoPro Hero 8 is also a great idea to help capture the more active adventures you might have in this country such as hiking or caving.

It’s also great for video!

 

Adapter

How are you going to charge your stuff otherwise?!

Vietnam uses a mix of outlets, but mostly the European style, so get a Skross World Adapter that won’t fail you!

 

Headlamp & Spare Batteries

I never travel anywhere without a headlamp and Vietnam is no exception.

Try to choose a product that uses commonly found batteries and has a red night light function to avoid the bugs.

I love my Black Diamond Storm, which served me very well across Southeast Asia, especially during those occasional powercuts!

 

Important Bits!

Vietnam, Lan Ha Bay, Fishing Boat

Passport & Photocopies

Definitely take a colour copy of your passport with you to Vietnam and keep it with you at all times.

Taking a photo of your passport and storing it safely in your email account is also a good idea.

 

Visa Documentation

Depending on where you’re from of course, but a lot of nationalities do require visas for Vietnam.

 

Immunisation Documentation

Always good to have with you wherever you travel.

 

Travel Insurance Policy

Can’t go wrong with the excellent travel insurance from World Nomads in my opinion.

I’ve used them throughout my time in Vietnam and love their great policies which give excellent coverage and peace of mind!

They include a lot of active adventures as standard, which is great for a country like Vietnam which lends itself to this sort of fun!

 

Credit Cards and Debit Cards

If you’re from the UK, the Starling Banking app can provide you with a current account and debit card that doesn’t charge you for transactions or ATM withdrawals in Vietnam.

 

Flight Information
Hidden Cash in Small Thin Purse

 

PIN IT TO PINTEREST!

 

So that’s it, my ultimate Vietnam packing list, designed to be practical, while keeping things light, I hope I’ve covered all bases!

Have any questions about my list?

Did I miss anything out?

Let me know in the comments box.

Otherwise, you can download a copy of my complete Southeast Asia packing list too, just enter your details into the box below…

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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