Preparing to leave
To prepare for your journey, begin with things that are critical - those that couldn't be replaced in Vietnam if they were left behind or lost. Passports, tickets and so on are obvious, but the loss of a pair of spectacles or a pair of orthopaedic shoes can ruin your holiday if you can't manage without them - always carry spares.
Don't bring too much
In Vietnam, the dress code is casual. Unless you wish to dress for dinner in the top-end hotels and upmarket restaurants, there's no need to bring smart outfits and accessories. When thinking about travelling to Vietnam, don't be misled by cinema images of hot, steamy jungle. Although the country is located entirely between the Equator and the tropic of Cancer, the northern part of Vietnam has a subtropical climate and can be decidedly chilly in the winter months. However, there's no need to stock up with clothes for all seasons.
Many visitors bring too much luggage, and find that much of it returns home unused. You can buy almost anything you're likely to need in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, so taking lots of clothes isn't necessary. Prices are generally cheap, but bear in mind the price of imported goods is nearly always higher than you would pay in your own country - international brands at cheap prices are either fakes or goods made locally under licence and often of lower quality. Bringing your favourite clothes and buying cheap local garments (and regarding them as disposable) is a good way to cut down on baggage.
If you forget something, it isn't a disaster because you should be able to find a substitute locally. Good quality, ready to wear clothes are easily obtainable, although larger sizes are difficult to find. Exceptions are shoes (Vietnamese feet are generally a lot smaller than those of people in the West), brassieres and women's swimsuits (for similar reasons!).
There are few problems with mosquitoes in the towns and cities of Viet Nam, so there is no need to bring large quantities of repellent. However, a couple of tubes would be advisable if your itinerary involves trekking or travel in forested areas. We advise those based on natural ingredients because 'deet' based preparations sometimes cause rashes and allergic reactions in hot, humid conditions.
Good sun protection is important. Bring your own, as the ratings of locally obtainable preparations are not reliable. If you have sensitive skin, you should also bring an anti-inflammatory lotion in case of allergic reactions in addition to high factor lotion or sun block. The same applies to soaps and toiletries
Women who use tampons should bring an adequate supply as they can be difficult to locate in Vietnam, even in the cities. Sanitary towels are freely obtainable.
Another essential item is a good sun hat - wide-brimmed to shade both face and the nape of the neck. There are plenty to choose from in Vietnam, but if your head size is much above average, bring your own. Also, if you use sunglasses, bring your own - local ones are either genuine and exorbitant, or cheap and fake (good fakes can also be expensive!).
There's no need to stock up with films for conventional cameras. Unless you use unusual formats, all the popular ranges, including APS, are available at reasonable prices. Print film developing is fine in Vietnam, but it's wise not to risk slide films.
Just in case
Avoid handbags and camera bags with shoulder straps, if possible - they're easy to snatch in places where petty crime is common, such as the tourist areas in Ho Chi Minh City (if you're not a hardened traveller, read the 'Safety and Security' page).
Need more information?
You'll find more advice about what to bring and what to wear on these links. If you need advice about a particular item, customs regulations, or whatever, we're only an e-mail away.
Of course, you'll also need a good guide book. Most of the well-known publications have sections about practical details as well as travel information. However, don't be surprised if the reality is sometimes different from what the book describes. Even a new edition is already a year out of date, and much of it will be copied from the previous issue. If you want up-to-the-minute information about Vietnam, e-mail us!