The thing with Vietnam is that it’s long and skinny.
That’s the shape of the country I’m referring to, just to be clear!
Which means it’s a long way to travel from the top to the bottom of Vietnam, both for you, and the weather!
And what this means in real terms, is that you’ll usually experience totally different climates and temperatures, depending on which part of the country you’re in!
Yup, while the northern head of Vietnam can often be stuck under a raincloud, there’s no question its southern booty is probably enjoying a good tropical tanning.
All in all, this 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 the weather here 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 for your perfect adventure…
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What to Wear on Your Flight to Vietnam?
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.
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!
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 fly 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.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 tend to 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 thanks to its excellent 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!
What Size Bag to Pack for Vietnam?
And now seems like as good a time as any to tackle the notion of luggage size and packing cubes, 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!
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.
Personally, I’d opted for a decent backpack over a suitcase in Vietnam, as it will be easier to get on and off trains, but if you rather take a wheeled-option, then my Vietnam packing list should also fit into a medium-sized suitcase, like this one.
What Female Travellers Should Wear in Vietnam?
Vietnam is fairly a relaxed country that has been frequented by western 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 of coverage are also fine and, at the beach, sarongs and swimsuits are perfect.
Strappy tops are ok too, but you may want to consider t-shirts as well on your Vietnam packing list, because they cover your shoulders more, therefore offering better protection from the sun.
The one exception is when visiting temples or religious buildings in this country.
Here you’ll need to wear clothes that cover you down to the knees, as well as across the shoulders and chest.
Again, hareem / fisherman pants or other loose, thin trousers are a great option, while thin scarves or sarongs can be used to cover your shoulders and chest (ideal because they still allow for ventilation in the humid climate!)
For more specific ideas about exactly what to wear in Vietnam, check out my ultimate item-by-item packing list below.
Ideal Clothes & Shoes for Vietnam
1x Thin Rain Jacket
While Vietnam is warm for most of the year, rain is certainly not uncommon during the tropical wet season, which runs between June and November in the south of the country and between October and April in the north.
Researching when to visit Vietnam, and planning accordingly, will therefore be crucial when it comes to avoiding as much rain as possible.
That said, 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 on your Vietnam packing list.
Thin is best because, even when it 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
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 when visiting any temples, they also make a good option for travel days – either when on a domestic flight or bus journey.
And sometimes, they crank the aircon so much in Vietnam, you need them indoors too!
The north of the country can also get cold during their wet season and the damp and chilly conditions I experienced in April, certainly had me reaching for a sweater.
As such, I advise packing a few thicker top layers.
7x Singlets / T-Shirts
When it comes to singlets and t-shirts, I recommend choosing a range of colours and styles that match the trousers / shorts you’re packing, including items which cover your shoulders for sun protection or are good when heading into religious buildings.
7 is a good number of tops to take to Vietnam, 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 islands of Vietnam .. a sun dress is an ideal item, especially in the central and south of the country!
I suggest packing 1-2 light option for your travels to Da’Nang or Phu Quoc, especially, so that you’re ready for those beachy days and fun evenings!
2x 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 – too much in humidity!
1x Leggings / Activewear
One of my travel essentials, especially ideal when you’re exploring Vietnam’s beautiful landscapes in places such as 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 and I always go for a natural bamboo fibre like these from Boody that will help keep you cool.
As with the sun dresses above, 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, hot Hoi An and active Phong Nha, shorts that offer reasonable coverage are ideal for the hot, humid days in this country.
Personally, I always go for denim shorts as they are hardy, versatile and go with most things.
1 pair of blue denim and 1 pair of black denim shorts usually make up my selection.
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 instead.
Small and compact, 7 pairs of underwear is a good number if you’re thinking about packing light for Vietnam and saving on washing duties during your trip!
Bras + 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.
Bikini / Swimwear
Well you need something to wear while enjoying the amazing coastline of this country, as well as for kayaking and snorkelling fun
I recommend 2x normal length pairs for outdoors stuff and 2x ankle-length pairs for city / sightseeing days.
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.
A must for those strong sunny rays… ah I can feel them now!
Definitely get a UV-protection pair to keep your eyes safe.
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.
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 Vietnam, aka every time you enter a building), Birks also provide great arch 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 in this country.
Toiletries & Medical Supplies to Pack for Vietnam
Thin Toiletries Bag with Hook
Hooks are great when travelling as you can hang up your wash bag when you’re in the shower or any bathroom low on storage space.
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!
Keep your soap in a ziplock bag to prevent soap slime from getting 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!
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, Serum, Toner & Moisturiser
Great for bringing your skin back to life after days in strong sun and pollution!
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.
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.
Great to keep skin hydrated and soft after sun exposure.
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.
An ideal remedy for headaches, sore muscles and insect bites, tiger balm is super versatile and a must on my Vietnam packing list, especially if the mosquitoes love you as much as me!
Paracetamol, Antiseptic Cream, Antihistamines & 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.
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 & Safety Pin
Cotton Buds / Pads
Hair Bands & Hair Brush
Glasses / Contact Lenses if you wear them
Other Useful Items for Your Vietnam Packing List
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 my full review here.
Definitely needed for hiking, sightseeing and active adventure days, this one from Osprey is perfect for Vietnamese adventures.
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 electrical equipment dry in case of boat rides, kayak trips, diving adventures, tropical rains or beachy fun!
Check out this top-rated one for ideas.
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 empty 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!
Great for doing emergency washing, such as underwear in a sink, travel handwash is always a must when I travel 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!
Eye Mask & Earplugs
Key for sleeping in noisy hotels and on long bus rides.
This eye mask from Alaska Bear is super comfy.
Smartphone & Headphones
Taking your smartphone to stay in touch with those at home, check maps, book accommodation and upload 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 godsend 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 with my top tips for travelling Vietnam.
Portable chargers 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 12Pro around 3 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 is also a great idea to help capture the more active adventures you might have in this country such as hiking or caving.
And it’s great for video!
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 You Shouldn’t Forget to Pack!
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 cloud account is also a good idea.
Depending on where you’re from of course, but a lot of nationalities do require visas for Vietnam.
Always good to have with you wherever you travel.
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards
When it comes to paying for things in Vietnam, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups, no sneaky transaction fees and free currency accounts, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Vietnam… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
Hidden USD in Small Thin Purse
SAVE 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 below…