Just like any other country in South East Asia, Vietnam is a backpackers’ glory and when traveling solo you are most likely to spend little time alone. Still, just like in any other country it is nice to be prepared before hitting the road all on your own.
Vietnam is rated as one of the most popular destinations for solo female travelers, as one of the happiest countries in the world and as one of the safest destinations of the world. I can definitely vouch for those three aspects and would definitely recommend you to book your flights, now. But first: here is your solo female travelers guide to Vietnam!
Uhm, how ‘bout everywhere? I’ve spent a little over three weeks in Vietnam and had one itinerary planned. So I can’t really tell you about the things I didn’t do obviously. I didn’t make it to Ho Chi Minh, but started in Hanoi and made my way down south to Hoi An. If I had more time I would also have gone to Sapa and down to Ho Chi Minh.
If you (just like me) don’t have enough time to make it from north to south I would recommend you to fly into Hanoi (every backpacker I met said Hanoi was way better than Ho Chi Minh) and go to Hoi An afterwards – with stops in between or with a direct flight depending on how much time you’ve got.
Definitely don’t miss the Halong Bay and if you got more time go to Sapa. I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to visit Sapa for myself but I heard such good stories about it: Sapa is an absolutely beautiful piece of Vietnam where you’ll find the more traditional Vietnamese people.
Vietnam has long, rocky roads and the public transport doesn’t work as well as you want it to. Of course, you can definitely go everywhere yourself or follow a group of backpackers who do, but just know that it can take you a while to go from A to B. For longer distances you can take a flight or a night bus – which are insanely cheap and surprisingly comfortable (even for a 180 cm long chick like me). At places like Halong Bay and Sapa there are plenty of tours you can go on. Most of these tours depart from Hanoi so you don’t have to worry about transportation. Because I didn’t had much time and didn’t want to spend my days being stuck at traffic I booked my tours through Vietnam Backpackers Hostel in advance – which I definitely can recommend! I had the best time.
If you want to travel smaller distances you can rent a motorbike (scooter) a bike or take a taxi.
Like most backpackers do you can easily wear your shorts and your tank tops. I was recommended to not do so and to wear conservative clothing, however I didn’t notice any hostility around the parts I traveled. In fact: most Vietnamese people wear about the same clothes as I did. If you go to the country side of Vietnam (like the Sapa region) you should be a little bit more careful with what you wear as the people who live there are definitely more conservative.
Also if you want to enter pagodas and temples you should wear something that covers your knees and shoulders otherwise you can’t enter.
As I said before: Vietnam is rated as one of the safest destinations of the world. Still, while you won’t notice a lot of harassment here are some things to be aware of:
While walking over the streets you might want to wear a good backpack or fanny pack. Especially in Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An there are a lot of men on scooters who try to grab your bag when they drive past you. So make sure you don’t walk around waving your handbag and be careful walking in the middle of the streets in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh. I believe this isn’t such a problem in Hanoi, or at least, I didn’t hear anyone talk about it.
Still talking about scooters: just be careful and do not try to rush through the streets. That definitely doesn’t work when there are thousands of scooters driving around you. If you want to cross the street just walk slow so scooters can calculate how to avoid knocking you over – sounds weird I know. You’ll get it after a couple of times. But yeah: while Vietnam is relatively safe the biggest problem of the country is the number of people that die in traffic. So make sure you aren’t going to be part of those statistics.
Don’t hop on the bag of every scooter you see. Especially in Hoi An – around the bar-area there are a lot of Vietnamese trying to persuade you into a scooter lift home. The staff of our hostel strongly advised us to stay away from those scooters so I am going to advice you the same.
Be careful where you hang out after midnight. Cities like Hoi An and Hanoi know a curfew. At 12 O’clock at night every bar and every shop closes down. There are a couple of ‘underground’ bars that are still open and that you can access. We were advised to only drink beers (from cans) in clubs and bars that are still open after 12:00 /12:30 because drinks like cocktails can be mixed with a wrong (toxic almost) alcohol or even with drugs. Also if you see drink offers that are so ridiculously cheap that it sounds to good to be true.. it probably is. These drinks are mixed with the same wrong, cheaper alcohols, which leaves you feeling really sick. The bars that close at midnight are overall respectable so you don’t have to worry about your orders here.
– Vietnam is a communist country. While I didn’t notice this most of the time (except for the fact I had to hand in my passport everywhere) it is good to know
– Vietnamese people speak incredibly good English so you don’t have to worry about that as a solo female traveler, which is always nice!
– Religions in Vietnam are very diverse but most people are atheist
– Don’t worry if you haven’t booked anything in advance yet. There are plenty of hotels, tours and hostels in Vietnam
– Don’t book a tour at the first tour company you come across: where there are tourists there are scammers. Always book at a respectable agency.
– Vietnamese people are very happy to play your host as well as they are very curious. Always be polite – remember you are still a guest of the country
– Drink bottled water and be aware for ice in your drinks. Especially during your first few days in the country. It is very easy to get sick in Vietnam when your body isn’t used to Asian food.