So you want to know what to pack for Vietnam? Vietnam is a diverse country with different weather from North to South, and has everything from cities to countryside and beach towns. There’s also a large variety of things to do in Vietnam which can help you decide what to bring. There are a few things to keep in mind to pack perfectly. So here’s what to pack for Vietnam, and as we love packing light, here’s our carry-on only version (with printable packing list at the end of the post).
Things To Consider When Packing For Vietnam
The main things to consider when packing for Vietnam is when are you going, where are you going and what are the main activities that you will be doing.
For example, the weather will be different at different times of year and different areas of Vietnam (see ‘When to visit Vietnam’ below).
The things you do in Vietnam will help you decide what’s most important to pack. Some activities that you may do in Vietnam include going to the beach, walks, hikes, riding a bike, exploring cities and boat trips. These things will require active clothing, swimwear, good footwear and clothing to protect you from the sun. On the other hand though, there are also opportunities to go out to a nice restaurant for a meal, or going out for drinks in which case you may need dressier clothing and footwear.
It’s also important to consider the culture. Vietnamese people dress quite conservatively, but in most areas they are also quite accustomed to tourism. I think it’s important to dress respectfully, but also know its ok to wear shorts whilst riding a bike or going to the beach for example. Also keep in mind that you will need to cover up when visiting religious sites. This usually means shoulders and knees covered, a scarf will always come in handy.
Another useful packing tip for Vietnam is that laundry is fairly cheap and readily available. I wouldn’t pack for more than 1 week as things can easily be washed.
Packing light is also important as it will be easier to get around Vietnam. You may have access to cheaper internal flights if you pack carry-on only, and if you check your luggage the weight limits will be strict. If you’re using trains to get around, you will have limited space for luggage.
When To Visit Vietnam
The time of year you decide to visit will change what to pack for Vietnam slightly as there will be different seasons and weather to pack for.
People tend to think of Vietnam as having hot weather, and although it can get very hot, depending what area of Vietnam you’re visiting and at what time of year, parts of Vietnam can get quite cold. Even at the same time of the year, the north will have different weather to Central Vietnam and to the South.
I would say the overall best time to visit Vietnam if you’re visiting North to South or vice versa, would be February to April. For more information on the different weather across Vietnam and the best times to visit see our Vietnam Travel Guide.
What To Pack For Vietnam
When packing light, I always try to pack no more than 4 pairs of shoes, but 2 – 3 is best. For the beach towns, flip-flops are great. For walking and bike rides, joggers or comfortable walking shoes are best. Sandals are a good option for the day when you’re not planning on being too active or for a nice night-time option. In colder weather for cities, you might replace sandals with a a flat boot or ballet flats.
What to pack for Vietnam? The clothing you pack will depend on when you are going to Vietnam, where you are going and what activities you plan to do.
Even when you visit Vietnam in warmer months, there can be variation in weather. I would bring a light jacket/jumper for evenings. If you’re visiting during colder weather you will need a heavier jacket/jumper. Packing clothing items you can layer for different weather conditions is also important.
When packing for Vietnam, I think relaxed clothing is ok even for the cities, with something slightly dressier for evenings.
If you’re planning to visit beach towns in Vietnam or Halong Bay, or even just staying in a hotel with a pool then swimmers are obviously a must. Two pairs are great to give them time to dry if swimming each day, but if you don’t plan on doing a lot of swimming then one pair is fine.
For the colder months/areas I would add in a scarf.
If you pack carry-on only, you need to keep toiletries to below 100ml, or you can buy certain toiletries once you get to Vietnam. Things like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner can be easily bought in Vietnam, or you can pack travel size or decant your own from home. Other things to pack include toothbrush, deodorant, shaving items, hairbrush, hair ties, cleanser, moisturiser and makeup. For makeup I keep it simple and pack CC cream, mascara and eyeliner.
Medication in Vietnam can be harder to get with less regulations. If you take prescription medication, make sure to pack enough for your entire trip, plus a little more, just in case. Always pack this in your carry-on so it’s with you at all times. If you need to refrigerate medications make sure to have an appropriate case to pack them in, you can also ask for ice on the plane and make sure to book accommodation with a fridge. If your room does not have a fridge, the hotel may be able to store it for you.
I usually always pack the basics like paracetamol, Ibuprofen, cold and flu tablets, Imodium, simple first aid (bandaids, tweezers, Betadine/antiseptic). For Vietnam I would also pack probiotics and take them regularly, as I find they can help with food/stomach issues. Insect Repellent with a high level of DEET is also essential due to the presence of mosquito born diseases in Vietnam.
Before I travelled full-time working as I go, I would try to avoid packing as many electronics as possible. But now, I have to pack a phone, laptop, camera, and chargers. If you’re not working, then a laptop is probably not necessary.
But I have found a phone to be quite useful, particularly for maps. If you bring an unlocked phone to Vietnam you can pick up a local sim card at the airport fairly cheaply. We love using Vinaphone.
Obviously this is ‘what to pack for Vietnam carry-on only’, so we would say bring a carry-on bag only ;) We both have a carry-on bag, then I have a handbag and Chris has a small backpack.
A small backpack is essential for day trips and long days out exploring.
As for the carry-on luggage, we use Antler Juno bags which we love. Soft cases or backpacks are also great.
The essentials for every trip, Passport, Visa, flight tickets, accommodation booking details, travel insurance documents, credit and debit cards, drivers license (photo ID). I also have soft copy of travel documents.
It’s always handy to have a small amount of local currency when you arrive. Otherwise, there will be ATMS at the airport and in the cities where you can access money using a debit card.
How To Pack For Vietnam Carry-On Only
If packing light is new to you, the simplest guide that helps me pack light is to stick to 20 clothing items (including shoes), not including underwear. Usually, as long as you mix and match, 20 items gives you both lots of different outfits as well as keeping it light. Find all my absolute favourite tips about packing light and how to get in the packing light mindset here.
Another item which helps me to pack light is using packing cells/cubes. This way everything is organised and it helps me to make sure I’m not packing too much of one thing. I try to keep them in categories, so I know if all my tops don’t fit in one cell for example, I’ve packed way too much and need to remove some tops.
Now if you’re thinking, is packing carry-on only even possible, it absolutely is. We have been travelling full-time carry-on only for over a year, travelling to multiple different countries in different seasons. The reason I’m telling you this is just to show you how possible it really is.
Printable Vietnam Packing List
Get your free printable Vietnam Packing List here to help you choose what to pack for Vietnam.
Read More: Our Vietnam Travel Guide